Monday, September 22, 2008


In a recent 5280 magazine article, University of Colorado head coach, Dan Hawkins discussed the idea of not being average. He talks about how easy it is to be average. How easy it is not to push the edge of things. How easy it is to find a "comfort zone". Well, today was one of those days when i wanted to find average and just go with it.

In a time when scores and student achievement is very important, I will not even discuss NCLB here, I wonder if what I am trying to do in the classroom is worth it? I was very excited to create a PowerPoint this weekend that included a discussion and video clips that dealt with Quantum Mechanics (and Star Trek). I thought that the students would be "into it". One hour was, the other was not. First we had a great discussion and that led to questions above the material covered. Things that just made everyone think. Things that were not average.

Then came the other class. This is when I realized that the students are actually high school students enjoying Homecoming week. The second group was not interested. (I should say here that there were probably some people who were interested but I could not hear them over the others.) So, I started thinking about ways to convince the class that their own conversations were not as important as the conversation that the group was having. Daily quizzes? (Who am I trying to teach a life lesson to me? or them?) A new seating chart? (The tried and true approach of teachers everywhere.) Just waiting for them to stop talking? (Wow...lost time.) Having a heart-to-heart discussion (Will it make a difference?) I just don't know what the correct approach is.

So, I guess if I do not want to be average, I should bring this up to the class and have a discussion with them. For now, I know that I am trying to do all that I can to guide them in the learning of chemistry, using abnormal approaches. This might be causing some of the issues. This is after all, "Not education as usual" (appears in AHS classrooms) and they are responsible for learning. So, I will try to help them through this also.

As for the average...Coach Hawkins says it best, in a video, if you don't want to work, stick to intermural sports. This is the Big 12.

That is afterall what we are trying to do, get the students to think bigger than they are and bigger than they have before. Learning is messy and it is not easy. If education was easy everyone and anyone could and would be doing it...they aren't. We do need to "go big" and that means we need to keep on working.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

STEM in Colorado

Some people might know that Karl Fisch and I gave two talks in Texas (one in the Presidential Library at Texas A & M) last school year to people who are involved with the Texas High School Project and STEM. This is an attempt to reorganize education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Well today, when I got home from football, there was a mailing from the University of Colorado at Denver. Since I earned a Masters degree there, I get their quarterly mailing. Inside of the mailing is information on a STEM workshop/conference in Denver in October! This is great. I am very excited about the change that this refocus in science education could cause. My only area of concern is that if I was not a CU alumn, I would probably not know about this. Is there someone in the district that finds out about this stuff and then is suppossed to give it to the teachers? Is there another way to get this information to the people "in the trenches"? I know that the state government is looking at this as a way to re-energize the study in these fields but I wonder if it is going to move past the "at risk" sections of education and into the areas where all students could benefit? (This is starting to sound like a rant...I guess that happens when you are passionate about something and you feel like it is not getting the attention that it deserves.)

Anyway, this last summer, I decided that I was done complaining about the changes that happen in education and the ones that are talked about and not acted upon. I made a decision that instead of whining and feeling bad about the decisions that were made "for us" teachers, I would start acting when I felt led. That means no more going to workshops and conferences and complaining about the lack of "useful" information. If I was only going to complain then I would try to add to the positive conversation. I would try to make it a little better for teachers. I decided that the best way to not feel like everything was happening to me was to become active in the creation of important material in education.

I starting thinking about ways to get science students to read and write in the content (see post here). Ways of getting the students to "buy in" to what education could be. Not what it is, or was, when I liked it, but what it could be for them.

So, after reading the short STEM article and looking at some web pages on the concept in Colorado, I email the person in charge in Denver. Now, I wait. You see, I asked if there was a way that I can get involved in STEM changes in Colorado. I guess you could say that I am "all in" and I think this is the change that education in these fields needs.