Teaching/Blogging History, Again

For the first time in three years, I’m teaching a history class this semester!  While I enjoy the Civics, Government, Econ, and English I teach the rest of the time, history will always feel most like home.  I’m trying something that might be a little crazy: a 100% open inquiry course, where what we learn is entirely based on students’ questions stemming from current events and issues.

This is very much tied into my thinking of the C3 Social Studies Framework, so I’m trying to blog pretty regularly about the course at C3teachers.org.  The first piece on the class is up now:

After a year of lauding hosanna’s towards the C3, during the past month my relationship with the framework fundamentally changed; I started to actually put it into an action.  And while my first thought at all times was still, “wow, this is brilliant,” as I spent more time thinking and planning about my teaching for the second semester, the more present thought was more often, “wow, this is going to be hard.”

For the rest of the school year, I’m hoping to use this space to share thoughts on my continued relationship with the C3 as I try to implement it in one global classroom.  In this first post in the series, I want to give some context for my work.  While every school is unique, mine is especially so in many ways and it is important for readers to realize early on that I have rare freedom and flexibility. In subsequent posts, I’ll discuss the challenges I encounter, how I try to deal with them, and share my inevitable failures and hopeful triumphs.

Read the whole piece at C3teachers.org.

Moving Social Studies Forward

This Wednesday at 7 pm, there’s  a webinar hosted by the Center for Teaching Quality discussing the new national C3 Framework, which I love.  The webinar will feature Kathy Swan, the lead writer of the framework.  If you’re interested in joining the webinar, register here.  Here’s a full description of the webinar:

The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards has been developed by CCSSO to guide and enhance the rigor of standards in civic, economics, geography, and history. Though states will be developing their own standards for these subjects, the pedagogical shifts implied by the framework will be felt in social studies classroom across the country. Find out from one of the framework’s authors–a practicing teacher–how you can begin to prepare. Bring your own challenges–we’ll devote part of the webinar to finding solutions together.

More urgently, Monday is the deadline for giving feedback on new New York Social Studies Framework.  My take went up on Chalkbeat NY this week (the re-branded Gotham Schools). There’s also a very thorough and thoughtful news piece on the Frameworkfrom Chalkbeat’s Patrick Wall.

If you’re a stakeholder in New York Education, please take the time this week or weekend to respond.  Before then, please forward this to all Social Studies teachers, administrators, and concerned parents that you know.  Here is the link to read the new Framework and submit feedback:

http://www.engageny.org/resource/new-york-state-common-core-k-12-social-studies-framework

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/K-thru-12socst

Here’s my piece: Continue reading

Thoughts on C3 and Common Core

I think I’m officially out of the habit of blogging at this point, but I have written a couple of pieces for other places recently:

  • I have a piece up at C3Teachers.org.  If you’re a Social Studies teacher and you haven’t checked out the new C3 Framework yes, I highly recommend it. The site will be something special too as it expands over the course of the year.
  • I was also recently asked to write a piece for the Education Funders Research Initiative discussing how NYC is doing on implementing Common Core:

Our current system, in which students who are not meeting standards in third grade are overwhelmingly not meeting standards in ninth grade, does not work for these students.  As the report highlights, “despite this variability in students’ prior educational experience, New York City high schools are now expected to graduate every student” (3).  It is insane that high schools are expected to change the course of a student’s previous nine years of education in four years.  If our goal is truly to ensure that academic achievement gaps are closed, then we need to offer students and schools the time to do so.  With that time, students can actually develop the skills of problem solving and persistence that are crucial for future success.  If we shift measurement, and therefore accountability, towards growth on authentic tasks, we can then actually have a real conversation about how to make that happen for all students.  This is a radical proposition, but given the overwhelming evidence, it seems only radical steps will serve all students, rather than just the ones for whom the system is currently working.

 

Teacherpreneuring

I haven’t been quite sure how to write about this, but I’m featured in a new book that came out last month. Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave advocates for a very attainable vision for the teaching profession.  Barnett, Ann, and Alan do a masterful job of capturing the work of seven brilliant and inspirational teachers who are leaders in their school and communities.  I’m thrown in as well. It’s well worth the read, but more importantly, it’s worth sharing with others, be them powers that be or lay people with strong opinions on education.  Here’s a nice little teaser video that captures the main arguments:

Also, I did a little teacherpreneuring of my own last week, traveling down to DC for an Alliance for Excellent Education Project 24 webinar on Data Driven Decision making.  My presentation is about how not to use data to make decisions.  You can watch it here, and click on my name to jump to my presentation.  The questions were interesting and are worth watching.

Teaching the March on Washington for JOBS and Freedom

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.  Over the past year, I had the great pleasure of being part of a group of teachers put together by the Shanker Institute who met with participants and historians in order to plan lessons to help students think about the impact of the March, and how its memory has shifted over time.  The lesson are available here for free.  My lesson, which is probably worth looking through for most adults as well, looks at how popular memory has failed to capture key components and emphasis of the march.

A few recent pieces of writing

Two pieces I wrote were recently published.  One – What Works: Collaboration, humility and audacity  - sums up the first year at Harvest Collegiate:

Over the past year, I have had the honor, privilege, and daunting task to co-found a new public New York City high school, Harvest Collegiate High School. The proposal for the school was set forth by Kate Burch, then an NYC teacher and now our principal; I joined the team last January and helped move us, along with a team of experienced teachers and a social worker, from an idea that existed on a dozen sheets of paper to a fully functioning school with 126 ninth graders when we opened this past September.  As we finished our first year at the end of June, I looked back and realized that without a doubt, this was the best year of my teaching career.  By any measurement — student learning, attendance, student and staff morale, excitement from incoming students and families — things went outstandingly well.

As I think about this incredible past year, I think about the infusion in it of both audacity and humility.  It’s audacious to start a school, but I think we did it with humility for how much we could do well, for the giants whose shoulders on which we stand, and for our place in the larger political/educational world.

The second piece is in my role as a member of the “Team of Experts” for the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Project 24: From Rocks to PowerPoint: Technology is a Tool.  It seeks to remind people that as districts rush to implement new technological platforms, we need to remember that technology is a tool, not an end:

One of the earliest lessons I teach students in my Global History courses is that technology is not something that was newly invented, but rather, it’s anything humans create to help make our lives easier. Language was a good starting place for humans.  A lot of progress has been made from there: parchment, ink, pens, paper, the printing press, telegram, computer, iPhone, etc. Thanks to technology, the communication that defines our humanity became more powerful over time.

Another lesson I teach my students is that we’ve also made pretty big advances in the technology of murder.  For thousands of years, humans used technology like rocks and sticks to kill people.  Humans worked their way up from there as well: slingshot, bow & arrow, sword, rifle, machine gun, nuclear bomb.  Over time, we got a lot better at destroying humanity as well.

I think it’s important to keep these two extremes in mind when thinking about building up a technological infrastructure for schools and districts.  Technology has the power the amplify our humanity, but it also can deaden it. Technology is the tool, but it’s not an end in itself.

National Social Study Framework; Teacher Prep; Using Data to Support Teachers

I’m catching up on sharing a few things I’ve helped produce recently:

First, I wrote a piece for the Shanker Blog this week: Proposed National Civics Framework Shows Great Promise.  Please take the time to read and then take action; I believe the C3 Framework is a huge step forward for our field:

Simply put, the proposed C3 Framework is brilliant. It is exactly what our nation needs to ensure civic life and participation is properly valued, and it is what the Social Studies teaching profession needs to ensure our discipline retains its unique and essential role within our education system. It is brilliant in its conception, its modesty and its usefulness as a document to inform policy and practice. 

Second, I was part of a team put together by the Center for Teaching Quality that wrote what I hope is a very insightful report on teacher preparation, TEACHING 2030: Leveraging teacher preparation 2.0.  As Barnett Berry describes the document:

I encourage you to dive into this report, written by educators who work with students every day. Their insights on “Teacher Prep 2.0” provide a much-needed antidote to the current debate, and their thinking on “Teacher Prep 3.0”—led by Emily Vickery—should lead the next generation of discussions and action around teacher-education reform.TEACHING 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation 2.0, penned by 17 classroom experts, transcends the current divide and sets a path for ensuring that every teacher is ready to teach what students need to know, now and in the future.

 Finally, I am a member of the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Project 24 Team of Experts.  In that role, I gave a brief webinar presentation on how we use authentic data at Harvest Collegiate to support student and teacher growth.  You can watch it here.