Overdue round-up

Things have been so busy in the last week that I haven’t had time to put my thoughts down on my blog. Leaving out the personal stuff (my wedding is this weekend), here’s what’s been going on:

Presentation to the board: On Saturday our Associate Head of School and I gave an hour-long presentation to the board on the topic of “Trends in Education.” Our PowerPoint (yes, we used PowerPoint — sorry) was actually titled “Disruption Technology,” but that was just our internal working title. I’m not interested in summarizing the whole presentation here, but a few highlights include:

  • One member of the board referenced Thomas Friedman’s book That Used to Be Us, and I wanted to get into a tangential conversation with him about it. There wasn’t time, so I’ll make my point here. We had a slide in our presentation about the STEAM movement and how it reimagines STEM. That’s the whole reason why STEAM appeals to me: instead of focusing our education here in the US on skills that would have us competing with Asian nations in the STEM areas, it aims to continue the legacy of companies like Apple that have distinguished themselves from the crowd via innovation and great design. We should hope to continue to be the source of ideas for the world. Why do we want our kids to grow up and do the low margin stuff?
  • A highlight that was actually a lowlight occurred when I was a little too strong in my stereotyping of home-schooled kids. In truth, I respect the home-schooling movement, and I was trying in the moment to explain how it could become a more worrisome competitor for schools like ours. The State of Pennsylvania has a free online high school that is designed to be a tool for home-schooling, and although it is not yet on par with what we do (in my opinion, of course), it might be . . . soon. Our Director of Admissions helpfully corrected my comments by pointing out that we have been very welcoming to home-schooled kids who apply to attend our school. I regret that the correction was necessary!
  • The key success of the presentation is that it got the people in the room to embrace the idea that we need to be thinking about technology as we draft our next strategic plan. That was the outcome I was hoping for, but I and my co-presenter didn’t want to just write that on a slide speak it as our truth. We must have done our job correctly since the members of the board were able to reach the conclusion we hoped for without being led by the nose. I’m not surprised by their insight; they are a wise and experienced group. I am surprised that I made it through the presentation without totally embarrassing myself. 

PSA to Department Heads: Two days after the board meeting, I found myself with 30 minutes on the agenda of the Department Heads meeting. I was there to tell them about what I’m doing with blogging in my class and how the English department is planning to incorporate blogging into our summer reading assignments. I had overprepared for the board meeting, so I was underprepared for the Department Heads. Fortunately it was a friendly crowd, and I received lots of useful feedback. I was glad to hear several department heads express their support and suggest that they would pick up the ball and run with it next year. In other words, if the students come back from summer vacation with academic blogs already set up, they can see themselves and their department-mates assigning those students some blogging assignments from time to time. I wish that I had spoken far less than I did and left more room for questions and comments. There were many friends in the room trying to get a word in to show their support, and I kept doing most of the talking. If they are reading this, I apologize. 

#gsgrammar: In the midst of all of this, I held an online review session for the big freshman grammar test. The session ran from 8-9pm on Sunday night, using Twitter. I had about six active participants and something like eight lurkers (out of a freshman class of roughly 115 students). I was hoping for twenty-plus participants, so I was disappointed, but the format and all of my preparation worked well. I printed out the review questions, then took photos of them with my cell phone, and then tweeted them out at a rate of roughly one every four minutes. I ran through sixteen questions in all (eight in each of two formats), and the students who participated got a solid review experience. It was interesting that some adults who follow me on Twitter (teachers, of course) started reacting to the questions. There might be room out there for a weekly grammar quiz open to everybody, not just our students. I haven’t Storyfied the chat yet. Sorry; I’ll try to insert a link later. 

That’s all for now. Busy time. 

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