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My EduParent Perspective: Balancing the Two A’s, Advocacy and Accountability

My EduParent Perspective: Balancing the Two A’s, Advocacy and Accountability

If you have children in school, logging in to the online grading system is a necessity. Many of them even have alert settings and getting those alerts is critical to you supporting your child.

This is especially important for high school students.

In a perfect world, my son would tell
me every little detail of his life and for the most part, he does. However, when it comes to grades…my son often holds back and understandably so. I am his mother but I am also a teacher and it is sometimes difficult to turn the “super critical edu” part of me off.

I am working on it though.

Today I saw that my son had a zero in a class because he didn’t turn in a student information sheet that I know I signed. A part of me was annoyed with him for not turning it in and the other part of me was annoyed with his teacher for assigning a grade to an information sheet.

So, I emailed her to inquire about the purpose in doing that. Why would his grade be reflective of my signature in lieu of his work?

Long sigh…

She replied and after a short discussion followed by the exchange of a digitally signed signature sheet, I realized that sometimes I have to choose my battles. During this exchange, I actually shifted focus to building the relationship with my son’s teacher.

My son’s success depends on it.

One more thing…
After inquiring about grades in another class, my son’s teacher checked and found that he made a mistake in not giving him credit for something that he did. This too, was due to a few exchanges of building the relationship.

If you are thinking that these are things that my son could’ve done himself, you are partially correct.

The reality of being a black teen in a largely non-diverse environment is that student led advocacy is often misinterpreted as insubordination.

My visibility and involvement means that maybe he has a chance to navigate a few more of these waters by himself…with me watching from the distance.

The Geometry Project, aka When Your Mom is A Tech Specialist

The Geometry Project, aka When Your Mom is A Tech Specialist

About a week ago, my son was assigned a geometry vocabulary project that required him to choose 30 words from a list and visually represent them. The instructions were as follows…

“You are to find these images in the real world. You can personally take pictures, find them on the internet, or find the items in a magazine. You must manually or electronically mark the picture so that I can identify the geometric term in the picture. You will organize these items to present to me in some manner such as gluing the pictures to posterboard, create a “book” of the symbols, or you can do it digitally and burn it to a CD or email them. However, just copied images won’t do, put them in a power point or Prezi presentation. Be Creative!”

My son, the same kid who said in his blog post that he was not going to “do a basic ppt”, fixed his mouth to ask me to head to the store at 11pm for glue and poster board.

That was not an option on any level!

Instead, I handed him my ipad and showed him how to use Haiku Deck which enabled him to use its internal image search to connect his terms.

While this project may seem pretty basic for a high school sophomore, I was pleased to see him not only do it…but do it excitedly. To him, Haiku Deck was new. It was also super simple and to use.

My Haiku Deck Pro-Tip for math vocabulary: Each of my son’s slides had exactly one term. When searching, I taught him to think of a real world object that may have characteristics of the geometric term, and search for that object instead of the word. There were a few words that my son did not know and I knew immediately because the image did not match which meant that we were able to discuss and make better connections.

Of course, a project such as this had its “issues”. We do not own flash drives anymore…so a CD was out of the question. My son exported his Haiku Deck to Keynote, added a few diagrams where needed and then uploaded each keynote image into Animoto which is an auto video creation tool…very old school. However, it was new to him and will probably be extremely new to his teacher.

To turn it in, I shared one more tip with my son…a bit of an homage to him wanting me to buy a poster board. I showed him Tackk.com a digital storytelling/poster tool and encouraged him to create an account which could house his slideshow, and video.

You’ll have to click the image below to view it!

See on Tackk.com
You can also check out his animoto video below!

Inside the Kid’s Homework: Writing Repetitive Math Facts

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 10.00.38 PMEvery night Braeden will be required to write his multiplication facts three times each and since this is a strategy that has been repeated without question over the years, many will swear by its perceived effectiveness.

Before presenting an opinion, let me remind you of a time long ago when teachers used “discipline sentences” to punish kids for things like talking in class. I remember writing “I will not talk in class” 100 time and I did it by writing all of the “I’s” followed by the “wills” and so on. We called this “columnizing” because we didn’t write whole sentences but columns of repeated words. To be clear, it didn’t work to keep me from talking then and it’s not the best practice for math now.

Today, while Braeden was working, I heard him say, “Should I stop when I get to 33 or 36?” I glanced at Braeden’s paper and saw that he was “columnizing” his repeated facts and in doing so, he skipped a number and made a mistake which threw off his pattern. He knew that something was off but again, he wasn’t connecting to the facts themselves but to the pattern that he knew he should have had.

Braeden’s method of fact writing was for no other purpose than to finish the task. It wasn’t about learning the facts. It was completely about getting through the assignment in the fastest possible way.

This method is not teaching the memorization of the facts themselves but the practice of writing numbers and patterning which may sound appealing except that to “remember” facts, one must first write down the pattern. Some teachers may argue that parents should monitor their children and make sure that they are not recording facts in this way but instead, writing the entire problem before going to the next. I actually did that with Braeden and as he was writing, he was also singing his math facts…turning them into his own little song.

Again, I am not advocating for writing in this way either but the song that Braeden made was quite joyous and memorable.

If the intent is that students learn math facts, then the follow through to that should be that the practice of learning them should be up to the student.

Braeden said…

“I would have rather made my own flash cards. I could have also made a few patterns on each one to show the multiplication. I would have loved to do that instead of writing these over and over. My hand hurts. I’m tired. Can I play minecraft now?”

Bonus Braeden Minecraft Challenge: Create a structure in minecraft utilizing various representations of this weeks facts up to 12 from the perspective of area. Don’t forget to include signage for each one.

From the Parking Lot: Reflecting on Change in Edu

There is this myth that change in education comes as we place more devices into the hands of kids. This statement is one that is both a truth and a lie.

We talk often about learning not being about a device. It isn’t. However, access to technology is definitely imperative.

Why? Simple…

Access provides opportunities for kids to reach information. In the last few months, we’ve definitely seen why such access is critical as lack of access is blinding. That’s what it’s like for anyone without it…especially kids.

Tools, as important as they are, play a small part when it comes to change.

The rest?

YOU, the educator
YOU, the admins
YOU, the parents
YOU, kids

The moment that we accept that we are no longer the key holders to all of the information and that kids bring valuable experiences to the table is the moment that change can truly happen in education because this requires a thought shift on one of the toughest mountains…mindset.

I don’t know about you but I didn’t teach any brainless drones. Every single one of my kids came in with their own perceptions and perspectives of the world that they lived in.

My job?

To help them question…think…process…develop… Create…innovate

The room numbers outside of our classroom doors are just that…numbers

Learning is everywhere.

All of us?

Learners

Notes from Khalil: The First Weeks of School

Notes from Khalil: The First Weeks of School

I love spending time talking to my son about his day. I will also say that my life as a technologist is fueled by his opinions on how kids should use technology for learning as well as when they should not. While talking, I handed him my laptop to write his thoughts. Below is his reflection

I don’t like the first weeks of school because all the work is too easy. You’re always learning stuff that you already learned from sixth grade and up like lab safety. It doesn’t change but teachers act like it does. It’s terrible to be able to sleep through an entire lesson and then wake up to make a 100 on the assignment.

I’m taking Geometry this year and right now we are learning about points, lines and planes. It’s funny because we spend the whole class naming points. It’s not hard but there are always multiple students who don’t get basic stuff. It’s planes though!! The question said, “What points are on this plane?” The points are right there and people still ask what it means. Maybe I’m just highly intellectual. I’m probably wrong but it is frustrating.

I have a project this week to name shapes using power point. I’m probably not going to do a power point because it sounds basic. I’ll do a video instead and somehow I’ll make it more interesting.

In history, I’ve been taking notes all class period. We have to take Cornell notes and we get a grade from them. I’m not even in AVID but I have to do it. I just realized that I’m going to have to study my notes because we’re probably going to have a quiz. A good teacher would do that I think.

In English, we’ve been reading and writing essays. We’re reading a book called The Monkey’s Paw. I actually read the whole thing because I love reading and putting my emotions into the story.

One more thing, I wanted to be in theater but they put me in sports marketing. Hopefully I can change this because I really do like to act and perform in front of people.

It fuels my heart to bring joy to others from the stage.

 

Conversations With My Son: Your Mom is “THE Rafranz Davis”

The first thing that my son said to me yesterday was… “Hey mom, you got called, “THE Rafranz Davis” by one of my teachers.” Oh great! The context of this statement came about because my son wasn’t paying attention in his computer class which meant that he missed the directions. So, of course…the natural response fromContinue Reading