Making Poetry and Politics

Right around the end of each school year I piece together a reading list for the summer, then I go to my school and public libraries and start clearing the shelves. COVID forced me to amass a summer reading list out of the books on my shelf at home. As a result, I managed to read several books that I have owned for months or decades. Some were better left on the shelf, but some have been a delight.

Even though schools and libraries are now open, I’m continuing the trend and recently picked up “The Buried Mirror” by Carlos Fuentes. Part history book, part Latin American polemic, I first read the book in its native Spanish (“El espejo enterrado”) in 1998. Some time later I bought the English version, put it on a shelf, and never looked at it again. Until now.

Fuentes opens the book with reflections on the relationship between Spain and the New World. Above all else, he characterizes the relationship as “a debate with ourselves.” In the process he evokes a W.B. Yeats quote:

And if out of our arguments with others we make politics, advised W.B. Yeats, out of our arguments with ourselves we make poetry.

Fuentes, p. 15

The original Yeats quotes is as follows:

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.

Let’s not let slip the opportunity to quarrel with ourselves. Let’s, in every occasion possible, make poetry.

Why add pre-assessment to the classroom learning experience?

Before you dust off last year’s book of lesson plans (giving many the benefit of the doubt…), consider this:

Should I make pre-assessment a part of the learning experience in my classroom?

It’s a big question, really. So by all means ask it, but make sure you understand what it entails…

Pre-assessment is not an activity, it’s part of your students’ “assessment strategy”

Pre-assessment (the act of demonstrating your current knowledge or skill prior to instruction) must figure into the overall plan for assessment.  A pre-assessment must assess the same knowledge or skills that are on the end-of-unit assessment and most, if not all the formative assessments in-between.  Which means that the teacher needs to have the framework in place before students begin the pre-assessment process.

Pre-assessment will expose kids to failure…and that’s a good thing!

Students should NOT perform well on a pre-assessment.  If they do, they should move on to something else, or at the very least, learn what they’re about to learn so that they can demonstrate an even higher degree of mastery.  Pre-assessment forces students to confront the notion that they don’t know something.  And much to our own chagrin, school isn’t set up for that reality.

What if pre-assessment were a small, easy step to change the reality of school?  If students establish a “I don’t know A, so I’m going to learning by doing B” schema at the beginning of a unit, might that change their mindset going into the first graded assignment?  (My answer: Only if the teacher crafts the language he/she uses around that schema)

Pre-assessment just might change your curriculum…permanently and perpetually

If a pre-assessment identifies what a student knows/doesn’t know and can do/cannot do, the results of that pre-assessment must affect the students’ next steps.  And odds are that those next steps do not match the scribbles from last year’s lesson plan book.

What if a pre-assessment were followed up with the question, What should we do next (first) to increase your performance on the next assessment?

A skilled teacher may be apt to answer this question, perhaps even for every student in the classroom.  But students can often answer this question for themselves.  Who then owns the curriculum?

Pre-assessment has the potential to significantly impact:

  1. The framework and progression of a unit of instruction
  2. The students’ mindset of learning, doing, and learning about how they’re doing
  3. The ownership of the curriculum itself

At the very least it helps improve your design potential and student mindset.  At the most, it redefines the learning experience in your classroom.

Why are “bloopers” celebrated while “mistakes” are feared?

Near the end of every student video project is the bloopers real. It’s, by the look on their faces when the project ends and the bloopers begin, they’re favorite part of the project by far.

How strange that in a video project mistakes are captured and unnecessarily added to the end, while in 99% of school life mistakes are feared, avoided, hidden, covered over, judged, or even punished.

What can we do about that?

In search of school-wide Essential Learnings/Questions

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

  1. see title–that pretty much explains it
  2. I hope to expand my learning network, so feel free to comment if you subscribe to this blog, but by all means SHARE THIS with your own network!  I’d love to meet the people that make my people so darn interesting.

Here’s the task:

Imagine that for some reason a school decided to eliminate content-specific departmental structures.  Rather than learning Art, Science, and Spanish, students learn a set of core skills and content that will prepare them for the next levels of learning, a life of citizenship, a successful career, and a life worthy of the investment of time living it.

What do you consider the essential learnings or essential questions that students would explore throughout their academic studies?

Whether you’re an educator, a parent, whether you work in public sector, private sector, or don’t work at all, I’d love to have your input.

Comment below, reply to others’ comments, challenge me and others, combine ideas.  Have fun.  I hope it’s not just me and the crickets…

Connectivity vs. connectedness

A little while ago I tweeted this:

It was an honest extemporaneous tweet, but I realized about a week later just how powerfully I have come to feel about this.  Recently I switched to Diigo from Delicious.  Prior to doing so my Facebook:Delicious time was probably 50:1.  More often than not my bookmarking routine was:

  1. half-read
  2. bookmark
  3. forget
  4. full-read someday while culling the bookmark herd
  5. forget again

Since exporting my Delicious to Diigo, my Facebook friends are messaging me to ask if I’m OK.  I’m more than OK.  I’m fantastic!  I’m reading bookmarks that my two Diigo pals @boadams1 and @occam98 have helped to highlight and comment on.  We’re debating facts, opinions, statistics, referencing other articles, and finding possible connections to our daily practice.

All this and I only have two friends!

Whereas I used to log in to Delicious to “check in,” I’m now “checking in” to Facebook.  In Diigo I’m having short but high-impact dialogues with esteemed friends about topics that delight or trouble me deeply.

For years I’ve enjoyed connectivity to content on the web.  Finally, I’m gaining connectedness.