Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I don't know why I love this scene from POLLYANNA so much, but . . . .

I found this clip from the old Disney movie, Pollyanna, on YouTube today, and it surprises me how moving this is for me.  Check it out:

It's kind of a cheesy scene, and a little melodramatic.  But it's a turning point in the movie, and a turning point for the minister, a major character in the film.

If you aren't familiar, it's about a small town with a powerful, wealthy woman (Pollyanna's Aunt Polly) running a large part of the town's business, including telling the minister what he should preach about.  Pollyanna shows up and makes a sad town into a happy town.  (It is a Disney movie, of course.)

My parents bought us a VHS copy of this when we were little, and we watched it quite a few times.  We didn't have cable, so we watched movies like this a lot.  I think I've seen this movie 20 times.  (I remember trying to destroy the movie because I hated it so much.  I'm glad, now, that I failed.)

So, who cares about an old Disney movie?

I suppose the point of all of this isn't religious conversion.  It isn't really a religious message.  It's the Abraham Lincoln quote:

If you look for the bad in mankind and expect to find it, you surely will.

I think this is a really useful way of cultivating positive relationships with students.  It's sometimes easy to see the "bad" in students.  I think we can all tell stories about students who struggled in school.  It's much more useful, and much more effective, to look for the good.  If your goal is to be an effective teacher, noticing and focusing on the "bad" can make you seem negative, pessimistic, and adversarial.  Focusing on the positive can help the student like you more, help you like the student more, and help you develop the kind of relationship that can turn into the leverage you need to manage a challenging situation or control a classroom.  

I'm not advocating a false sense of positivity.  Teachers need to be realistic when they reflect and assess their own teaching.  But they also need to be leaders and managers of people.  And I think people respond better when you are trying to like them - not trying to find reasons to dislike them.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Engagement and Learning

So, I'm planning to start posting more about my Professional Growth plan here.  I'm going to do some research (reading and studying, as well as "action-research") about engagement and its links to learning.

I hope the links are obvious.  What I'm after are the specific ways that I can promote engagement for my students - who are, of course, specific people.

The reading list is long and somewhat difficult.  I'm planning to include the challenging theoretical research on engagement as well.  I'd like to really make this count, and I think a superficial reading based on secondary interpretation of research findings will not suffice.  I enjoy the challenge of reading difficult theoretical text.  I'm finding more and more that I'm reading "beneath" myself.  Which, of course, can be a lot of fun.  But I don't want my overdeveloped literacy skills (from years of grad school) to lapse.  And I might as well use them for something useful.

So here's an initial list of sources on engagement.  For this list, I'm focusing on books.  And I'm not going to include full bibliographical information yet.  I don't think it's necessary in this context.  And, at this point, it's supposed to be a weird list.  My goal isn't reading what's "expected" (or only that), but to read as widely as I can.

  • Schlechty, Philip.  Engaging Students.
  • Bugess, Dave.  Teach Like a Pirate.
  • Marzano, Robert et al.  The Highly Engaged Classroom.
  • McGonigal, Jane.  Reality is Broken.
  • Stager and Martinez.  Invent to Learn.
  • Zhao, Yong.  World-Class Learners.
  • Schmoker, Mike.  Focus.
  • Pink, Daniel.  Drive and To Sell is Human.
  • Darling-Hammond, Linda et al.  Powerful Learning.
  • Keene, Ellen Oliver.  To Understand.
  • Beers and Probst.  Notice and Note.
  • Lehrer, Jonah.  Imagine.
  • Wagner, Tony.  Creating Innovators.
  • Robinson, Ken.  The Element.
  • Maiers, Angela.  Passion-Driven Classroom.
  • Ferlazzo, Larry.  Self-Driven Learning.
  • Hattie, Doug.  Visible Learning for Teachers.
  • Lemov, Doug.  Teach like a Champion.
  • Vygotsky, L.S.  Mind in Society.
  • Loomans.  The Laughing Classroom.
  • Willis.  Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student learning.
  • Stronge.  Qualities of Effective Teachers.
  • Archer.  Explicit Instruction.
  • Whitaker.  What Great Teachers Do Differently.
  • Bomer.  Time for Meaning.
  • Wilhelm.  You Gotta Be the Book.
  • Hillocks.  Teaching Writing as Reflective Practice.  
  • Gambrell et al.  Best Practices in Literacy Instruction.
  • Calkins et al.  Pathways to the Common Core.
  • Gardner.  The Unschooled Mind.
  • Himmele and Himmele.  Total Participation Techniques.  
  • Layne.  Igniting a Passion for Reading.  
  • Kittle.  Book Love.
  • Tovani.  So What do they Really Know?
  • Dewey.  How We Think.
  • National Research Council.  How People Learn.
  • Wilhelm.  Engaging Readers and Writers with Inquiry.
  • Anderson.  10 things Every Writer Needs to Know.
  • Echevarria.  Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners.
  • Miller.  The Book Whisperer.
  • Wormeli.  Fair Isn't Always Equal and Summarization in Any Subject.
  • Wilhelm.  Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension.
  • Diller.  Practice with Purpose.
  • Farr.  Teaching as Leadership.
  • Copeland.  Socratic Circles.
  • Erickson.  Concept-Based Curriculum.
  • Winebrenner.  Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom.
  • Kingore.  Differentiation.
  • Kagan.  Kagan Cooperative Learning.
  • Saphier and Gower.  The Skillful Teacher.  
I won't promise that I'm reading everything on the list.  I hope to consult many or most of these, and then some.  I'm hoping that I'm researching widely and deeply.  And some of these I've already read and already used.  But I think going back through my shelves and digging up books that I used to think about more often is a good habit, and will help me try many different things and think critically about their effectiveness.