Kinda hit me over spring break that the end of another year is darn near upon me. Two more months and schools done- the crazy summer "break" begins. First week will be spent helping chase 70 some odd 8th graders all over California... The next week will be spent babysitting a nephew, then two weeks of "vacation", and maybe a week or two of trying to get some projects knocked out in there somewhere, and then a week or two of getting ready to go back to school.
Can we cancel summer this year?! Just kidding!!!
Been thinking a fair bit on changes that are happening or might happen... Will be interesting to see the education scene next year. Common core is here (at least, until the next lawmaker sees fit to adopt another new program) so there will be all kinds of changes with that. Funding, of course, is anyones guess. Will the state decide like so many others that problem solving and higher thinking (read: hands-on problem solving / the classes I teach) are worthless and decide that money is better spent somewhere else?
This is one of my constant fears. I think I do a pretty good job already of involving aspects of all other subjects in my classes. Having no real set standards or other teachers to align instruction to, I'm pretty free to pick and choose what I want to teach my students. My tech classes are centered around the design process and problem solving. I involve a fair bit of writing, research, math, and science with the engineering and technology end of things. Definitely heavy on the hands-on part. I'm looking forward to adapting Common Core to my classes, if I can make it through the pages and pages of red tape. My other classes are more focused on trying to develop some actual hand skills, but we still use a fair bit of math, reading, and writing.
After 3 1/2 years of teaching, I finally feel like I'm finding my groove. I know what I want to do and have been making steady progress towards those ends- a "new" computer lab in my shop, the 3D printer, updating engines, tools, technology, etc. The more I feel like I understand the teaching game, the more I feel like I have hoops to jump through that while not necissarily bad, they are detracting from the time I could be spending preparing myself, my lessons, or my students to be more successful.
My question is where do I (we?) go from here? I know my classes make a difference to my students. I took classes very similar 20 years ago- and they made a difference to me. Unfortunately, the classes I took are no longer offered at the school I went to. The shop is as I understand it pretty much gone. What happens when all we have left is a classroom, with 35 kids sitting there jacked in to their computer clicking through a presentation? How does that teach them to generate ideas, work collectively, choose a possible answer, test it out, and evaluate and then present their solution?
Enough rambling. I have no idea where I'm going with this. I do feel that students need more oportunities to INVENT something. Not just follow a set of directions and assemble a gizmo- actually sit down and figure out what needs to be done, how they plan on doing it, and then attempt it. I say attempt on purpose- failure can be a good thing. In the words of Samuel Beckett:
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
Learn from our mistakes by MAKING them in the first place. Gotta start somewhere. What are you going to have YOUR students invent this week? Just be sure that you, as the teacher, are there to help pick them up from their "failure", turn it into a learning experience, and point them in the right direction. Kinda hard for a computer presentation to do that with a student, eh?