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Archive for June, 2007

… however we’re defining “next-gen” nowadays. Oh and I’ve met Darren, who’s good people.

I only ask on account of my impression that math, maybe more than any other secondary subject, lends itself least to this self-directed, participatory culture promoted by the next-gen crowd. Not unrelatedly, liberal arts bloggers (English and Social Science, specifically) outnumber us by a pretty wide margin.

It should go without saying that lecturing isn’t necessarily an effort to make the teacher feel smarter, more powerful, to subjugate her kids, or any of the other whack motivations next-gen teachers throw around in an concerted effort to get uninvited from my birthday party.

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Even on the days I want to put teaching down, to drop that job just for a day and pick this one up singlemindedly, I can’t. I produced a short for the primary-age division of Mount Hermon last week, a weekly kick-off piece that outlines the camp’s five rules.

Five rules, five sketches.

For perhaps the first time in my short career cutting video, every joke landed, every pocket of tension I sewed into place was tense, every moment I wanted to play big played big. Not a perfect movie by any stretch, but there were no surprises.

I aspire to “no surprises” in my teaching, a goal which doesn’t stand opposite spontaneous, lively instruction, a goal which isn’t inflexible to learner needs. “No surprises” means not tightening the bolts on an elaborate learning moment only to watch it collapse because I overestimated our readiness or overestimated student interest or didn’t incentivizeEr, weird. I thought I was making up a word there. it well enough. Surprise!

For the first time in my career, I planned a linear lesson that didn’t surprise me. For the first time in my career, I produced a short film that didn’t surprise me. Frustratingly, at a time when I’d rather take a mental break from teaching, I find both accomplishments to be thoroughly interwoven.

Both involve a peculiar form of time travel, one in which I not only trek into the future and watch my own lesson/movie unspool, but in which I jump into each student’s/viewer’s head and track her emotional and intellectual state throughout every moment of the lesson/movie. When writing a lesson or a movie, I have to get out there, a day or more into the future, and pay particularly close attention to anyone thinking “I don’t get it” or “I’m bored.”Hollywood has literalized this process substantially with focus group testing. Figures if a joke falls flat in front of a small crowd at a mall in Laughlin, it ain’t gonna do much better when the film opens nationwide across 2000 screens.

Given the inexactitude of both time travel and telepathy I hope no one will jump on my case for admitting I’ve been kinda terrible at both skills for most of both careers. They grow easier, though, as I grow more empathic to the needs and expectations of my audience and as I ponder my flops in both fields. It’s also growing clearer that the harder I work, the more everything, or at least these two things, connects.

I seem to be shutting down for the summer. The creative void that blogging filled during the school year is satisfied daily by video editing and DVD authoring. The stuff I’ve been working on nowadays is a little abstract, maybe too abstract for my teacher audience, too high-minded certainly, but what the hay, I’ll try you out.

Luckily for all of you, a coupla folks are stepping up to fill the gaps.

Tony Lucchese‘s been a consistent and bright presence ’round here, especially recently, clarifying one of my posts for an intractable commenter long after I had lost the patience to engage. He’s going the career-to-classroom route and taking some upper-div math courses right now after a long absence. He’s a good time in the feedreader and he’s only going to grow more relevant as school kicks up again in *checks watch* 1,224 hours. See you then.

Way back when, I called H. the best blogger who doesn’t blog, a great writer who wrote on an annual basis. She’s done with that pace now.  She’s also a weird contradiction in terms, a smart blogger with a soft voice, the sort who’ll cop to a class management deficit and then turn around to teach at San Quentin for the summer. Her recent post, Circumventing the STAR regime – some useful tips, is just savagely funny stuff, worthy of national syndication.

My thanks to both of them for keeping the blogosphere spinning this summer.

T.V. is such an eager punching bag. One look at a set-top box offers up a flurry of reasons to knock it around. Denouncing t.v. is a popular pastime for many and teachers tend to mix it up more than most. Among educator circles, t.v. has come to symbolize the coast-to-coast 24-hr. live transmission of ignorance and has absorbed blame for worse than that.

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Summer Shenanigans

Jonathan‘s taking Europe. Greg‘s taking Africa. Todd‘s turning Japanese. Dana‘s got a book club running. Scott‘s got his resolutions. Robert‘s got too many bullet points to summarize in a sentence.

If I’ve ever commented on your blog I’d like to see a full rundown of your summer plans on my desk by the end of the week. Or on your blog if that’s more convenient for you.

My abbreviated list:

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