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Lead from the Start: February 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Short Track Blogging

TheJLV posted this excellent self analysis of why he blogs. Here is my response with frosting on top.

Ah, to be so well read you can actually feel the warmth of your readers. I totally agree Bill (Ferriter of the Tempered Radical), that a small group of colleagues is the best medicine but I started blogging because of you, as did others.

One of the reasons I read you (Bill) and Jose, besides our personal connections is that you both write with indelible passion. It is this passion that inspires me more than content even. Whenever the Olympics are on I am reminded of this fact. Watching someone who has trained for years, practiced, competed, won, lost, given so much to their passion, and then to see it realized in the public light is inspirational. Just like you guys.

Bill you are like a down hill skier, charging through the profession like a bat out of hell.
Jose, more of freestyle mogul skier, skill combined with style. Thanks for the lift up the hill brothers.

I meant to write "incredible" instead of indelible (and I actually wrote inedible) in that comment I left for Jose and Bill.

I have more respect for Bill and Jose than any other blogger out there in the edublogsphere because they always lay it on the line without compromising their professionalism. Jose replied that he liked indelible (from Mirriam Webster: that cannot be removed, washed away, or erased). I like it too. I think that is part of why I blog, I have passion for my subjects that can't be washed away. I also realize that what I write, in this viral world, is permanent, even though I may be able to delete a post, once it is out there is out of my hands. I blog to explore perspective, my own, and others. I have always tried to expand the limited possibilities of my students and families and hopefully, I do a little bit of that for teachers in this blog too.

I have also been thinking about my Olympic sport analogy. I think I am sort of like a short track skater, I look for openings that other may not see and try to squeeze into them to create an opening for success.

Image from:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Education Hero: David Weikart

One of the founders of child centered learning is interviewed. Thanks to High/Scope and the American Radio network for recording this and releasing so that we can see and hear the man. I told a young man recently, "I can always tell when another man has the capacity to be a great preschool teacher. Its in his voice and how he talks. You can hear patience in his voice and a passion for learning in his approach to conversation." You can definitely hear that in this interview from David Weikart. His approach to pre-k as an experiment has been a major influence on my decision to get into educational research and leadership. With out his groundbreaking and foundational work I am sure that Head Start would have been de-funded a long time ago.

Interview with Perry Preschool Founder David Weikart from American RadioWorks on Vimeo.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Nod to Insanity and National Standards

Jon Becker recently skewered several arguments about the direction education "needs" to go in. He did it so well, I couldn't help but respond in a comment to another false assumption about the direction of schools.

On Educational Insanity Kevin commented,
I think the point Mr. Becker is trying to make is that we need to first decide what we want a graduating senior to know and be able to do, before we can talk about the “how” or “why” of school change. If my analysis of his post is correct then I would agree with him. Too often I find in schools that we try to make decisions in a vacuum without ever deciding what it is we are aiming for. As educational leaders we should be asking ourselves first “Where are we headed?” It is the basic concept of backwards by design. Figure out your endpoint and then decide how to get there.
The idea of backwards design, when it comes to the purposes of education is one of those ideas that sounds good on the surface but, would fly apart upon implementation. Backwards design assumes that we are able to know where we want to go based on the information we have now.

Most of the jobs young students will have in the future haven't been invented yet.

Just watch, as we try to come up with national standards, how narrow we get with the purposes of school. If you try to make everybody (including the USED) happy all the time, it is hard to say anything meaningful beyond common sense ideas like, everybody should be able to read, everybody should have some ideas about probability. These ideas have already been put forward by various national organizations. The national standards will be nothing new, they will only make what we need to teach kids more specific, and less meaningful.

Kevin, I don't think we need to incorporate backwards design at this point. When we throw the purposes of education up for delineation it actually makes the purposes of school less democratic in our current society. There are so many "influencers" out there that do not have students' success and welfare at the center of their arguments that by clarifying the goals of schooling we would defacto narrow those goals. The loudest voices in a backwards design would the ones with the most to gain in the process, industry. At least the way it is now, teachers have the opportunity to squeeze in some Plato, or Joyce, Jack Kerouac, or Abbot and Costello into a discussion on language and meaning. In a backwards designed classroom we will always be chasing the lion's tail, trying to catch up with a changing society. Students will be doing this because of what some policy maker or eduwonk has deemed important instead of what they have decided for themselves. The more specific we make our goals, the less meaningful they will be. The less specific we make our goals, the more opportunities there will be for students to find meaning. Maybe we should start thinking about the shape of the pegs, when we design the holes, instead of the other way around.


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