Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day Three!

So today I must give a shout out to the gentleman that brought me to AHS in the first place - Mr. Karl Fisch. If you read the first blog post of this blog you will learn all about his "Did You Know?" video that has inspired a transformation in education, business, and many other areas of the world. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend that you go on YouTube and search for it. The video went viral a few years ago and is now highly popular and is into its second or third version - after being converted from its original PPT into a variety of other formats and posted all over the Internet. Well this came across my desk today from our principal at AHS, and was forwarded by Anne: "I thought you would be interested to know that the world famous power point of “DID YOU KNOW?” produced and created by our very own KARL FISCH is being shown to all the incoming new members of The United States Congress. Congratulations Karl!" Yeah, and you know what the coolest thing about this is? One, if you ever met Karl you would never know that he is world famous time and time over. Two, I actually talked to this guy and work with him - his office is down the hall from mine. Karl is what I would like to call a guy you aspire to be someday. The kicker is that today, and every day I am at AHS, he is there inspiring me time and time again through his award winning blog (Check it out!), kind words, and awesome attitude when working with faculty.

In the classroom today it was back to the daily grind. Four classes today, I know a full load, but they were all very enjoyable and I look forward to getting into the second week and taking over even more responsibility in some of my classes. First period was pretty basic, I talked with Anne and Kristin about the day and met the last faculty member of the department this morning. Then spent the time planning for class and getting my life in order - or at least you could say that. Second hour I went to Anne's 9th grade Honors class and District Technology Guru, Mike Porter, was there (I met him at NCTE along with Karl, Anne, and Kristin). He came in to talk to the students about setting up their Wikispaces (like Wikipedia only students have their own pages and only they can edit the pages). They are preparing for their world premiere with Dan Pink next week and a whole lot of other educators from around the globe. So it was great to be in their class and help the students get everything situated for next week - then the unexpected/expected happened (if you work on or around technology at all I would say somewhat expected) the Wikispaces server crashed and right in the middle of the lesson. Great for Mr. Porter and the rest of the students, as they could not finish their Wikispaces. What amazed me about this whole experience second period was two distinct things. One, how Anne was able to craft and come up with a meaningful lesson pulling stuff from yesterday and today without the use of the computers - completely off the top of her head. I know for some teachers it isn't that hard because they do that all the time (Jeff I'm talking about you here!), but for an aspiring teacher I really struggle with going off the book and with my gut. It must be a learned skill that I just haven't learned yet. Secondly, it constantly amazes me what students today know about computers. In the down time, while we were waiting for the server to come back up, Anne asked the students what they were planning on doing with their wikispaces in terms of their project. They have to take the book, A Whole New Mind, and write a paper, but this isn't just any old paper because it will be "wikified" in the end (students will add links, video, audio, flash animation - you name it these students will probably add it to their page). One student wanted to write his own code and create a flash animation of a brain rotating around - just for this project. Another student wanted to embed a song into her wikispace that started when the webpage came up - that involves manipulating the code so that everything works in the end and she was totally up to it. Another student was correcting Mr. Porter about how to do stuff in an easier fashion on a Wiki and yet another student was completely done with his new Wiki before Mr. Porter even started. I felt completely out of the loop with how much these students know how to use. Then again, I had to take a deep breath, consider myself at times a Digital Immigrant, and then realize that technology is a tool that I just need to know about it and then know people like Mr. Porter that can help me out in the classroom. So that was my second period.

From there I went on to my 10th graders with Kristin. This was an awesome period where I got to interact with more students as they continue their own creative writing. Kristin taught the whole period and I just assisted with the teaching. I look forward to taking over parts of this class next week.

Forth period I went back to Anne and her British Literature class of all seniors. These students are just incredible. They remind me so much of who I was as a senior. Today what they did was watch The Last Lecture on YouTube. If you don't have a clue what this is, look at my previous posts, or have never seen the lecture I highly suggest that you take an hour out of your life and look it up on YouTube. It is the type of lecture that could be watched almost daily and you would learn something new each day. That good. So the seniors are watching this lecture, reflecting on it, and learning from it in preparation for their own "Last Lecture" at the end of the semester. How Anne teaches this class makes me want to return to high school and take my senior level English class again. I can't wait to take over this class in a few weeks. They will probably push me the hardest to be the teacher that I always hope that I can be. The 9th graders can and do push me, but I feel some sort of pressure from these seniors. A good pressure to perform, to teach them, to challenge them, and to not let them down their last semester of their senior year. It will be a challenge that I can't wait to reach head on.

For lunch we had a special celebration of a department member's marriage. It just amazes me that the whole department can sit down to lunch and all get along, much less be social with each other. I have never, ever seen another department this large get along so well. If I was looking for a model of a family I would search no further than the Language Arts department at AHS.

Fifth period I went to Kristin's American Literature course, which I must say I got lost to on the way for the second time in my history at AHS - Go Randon! Anyway, this class was fantastic. They are also, much like the the 10th graders, are doing creative writing. I helped circulate the room and assist with minor problems that the students were having. I also got another opportunity to see Kristin in action. Both Kristin and Anne teach in such different styles, but are so similar that it is really nice to see them both teach. Kristin used this really cool example from the TV show "Lost" to teach her students to write using all the senses. It was a really cool example and one that the students really responded to. I was impressed.

Finally, the sixth period. This is the period is once again the one that I teach. I walked in with a few different activities on my mine - reminding them of some activities that I completed overnight and then working right into the CSAP preparation (the Colorado test of basic skills). From here I went and introduced the position paper - a paper where the students are required to take a position on a topic, complete extensive research, do a works cited, and then here's the kicker - they actually have to do something about their position. They, in addition to the position paper, need to make an action plan of some specific, physical action that they can take to make the world a better place. So then I gave them this pep talk about how long this paper is going to be and how they are really going to have to work at it to succeed and really cause world change. This was proceeded by Anne giving them a complete pep talk and covering basically all the points I wanted to tell my students about in just a minute. Anne felt really bad after class, but in the end I still get to teach the class and the students were inspired twice - by Anne and by me to really make this paper personal and to really create world change. Then we did some brainstorming activities where I had the students really consider what they cared about, how they could really create world change, and then moved them to action. From there they started actually generating lists of information of possible topics and then eventually compared those notes with one of their partners. Class was really hectic all period and at times the students were very confused as to what was going on, but there is always tomorrow and they should have a good enough idea that got them ready for the lesson tomorrow. I just really think that they need to have confidence in themselves that they truly can write a great paper, create an action plan, and then go out and change the world. One thing that Anne and I talked about after class was that world change does not mean addressing issues that take place over seas, as it can be right here at home. I look forward to pushing these students to really work hard, set the bar high, and cause some deep reflection that would result in action of world change. Yes, they are only 9th graders, but that doesn't mean that they can't change the world.

To end class, after the bell rang, I gathered all the students around a globe that I had Anne find somewhere to use as a prop for today. I had them all put their hands on the globe and gave them a little pep talk about how they truly can go and change the world. Then on three, with every 9th grader holding on to the globe, we all decided together that our mission, our assignment for the next five weeks was to indeed go and "change the world!" It was one of those moments that teachers, at least I will, remember for the rest of my career. Gather a group of unsure 9th graders around a globe and giving them the confidence that with my help and guidance as a teacher and their efforts as students completing this assignment they will indeed change the world. It is a lesson and a point in my career that I will not soon forget. Everyone gathered around a globe, in unison, saying that we will all go out and change the world. That's a relevant, rigorous, and real world assignment for you No Child Left Behind!

After school I rushed off to women's soccer practice. It is nice to be back in that realm of soccer, only in a different role as a coach. It will be quite a learning experience coaching and working with a women's team all at the same time. But then again, what during student teaching isn't a learning experience?

One final thing, I just wanted to mention that I found out today that my cooperating teacher Anne is also blogging about me and my first day. You can read her perspective by clicking here: Anne's Post about Mr. Ruggles. That's all for now. Off to do some prep. work for tomorrow and the future!