Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Year in Review

Over the past school year, I did several things.

I (somehow) passed two different online classes while doing most of the work the week before the respective class reached its conclusion.

I let my motivation fall so low that I was unable to pull it back up for the remainder of the year--to the point where, for most of our fourth quarter, I found myself saying, "I can't wait for next year, because so-and-so-mistake-from-this-year won't happen again!"

I managed, once again, to rewrite a large part of the district "you will take this class this year" flow to satisfy my needs.

I watched my productivity fall below an acceptable level--to the point where only a major scare was able to push it back up to where I wanted it to rest.

And finally, I made a promise to myself that next year, everything will be in overdrive. I've already started my preparations for each different organization I'm running next year, and I have plans in place to finally make a dream of community WiFi a reality.

This year will not happen again. Trust me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reflections On Myself

So here I am. It's after 11:00 at night, on the last day of break, and what am I doing?

Trying to finish work for school I technically should have done several weeks ago.

Yeah, yeah, I know--bad idea. Believe me, I've heard it all before. You're reading words written by someone who registered for his college classes on Tuesday, January 3rd, when he received the paperwork before Thanksgiving break. I have a habit of minor procrastination. While we're on this topic, it's probably a good time to mention that I have yet to start the coursework for my online AP microeconomics course, all of which is due at the end of this month.

So...why? Why do I consistently do this to myself?

I'm not sure I know the answer. I do feel like I have an overdrive I can turn on when I need it. This summer, I sequenced most of the MIDI files (if you don't know what that is, it's sufficient to know that it's a lot of work) for a local production of The Producers within the space of a week by working from 6:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M., with breaks only for marching band practices and for rehearsals for my own play, Annie. But, although I do sometimes enjoy cranking out work in this frenzied manner, after a while, it becomes somewhat tiresome.

Do I think I learn more or produce better work when the pressure to finish as quickly as possible is on me? Certainly not. I know that I am far less efficient when I am working like I am right now than I would be if I, as common sense would dictate.

Rarely, I will successfully map out a work schedule for myself, and stick to it, and get whatever it is I'm working on done ahead of time. And it is a nice feeling. But then, I'll lapse back into my old ways. So even though I've tried other solutions, I don't stick with them.

However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am, in some aspects, extremely self-motivated. I've engineered and worked on a massive trebuchet, developed a Beowulf cluster, performed some of the harder piano pieces ever written, and made first chair flute in our Allstate band (and believe me, I practiced ahead of time for that). I can work to achieve a goal...sometimes.

Looking through that list, the distinction is obvious: I work on what I want to work on, pushing aside that which bores me (and, let's be honest...compared to a ten foot tall trebuchet, what isn't boring?) for what grabs my attention. Some of my friends here in La Junta don't do this. They prioritize, thinking about what work's due date is closest and therefore should be done first.

Reread that last sentence. Think about it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We Are Not Alone

I just received an interesting rant via Facebook (excerpts reposted with permission):

"[I'm annoyed about how] some tests are purely memorization and how hardly any intellect is used at all... we just had a biology test that was like that and you could ask me anything about what we just learned and I couldn't tell you simply because I don't know."
 I asked why.
"Basically the test itself is written on the board and everyone can either copy that or literally make a copy of someone elses notes or pure memorization. It's very frustrating, especially when we get to topics that get more complex and you need to know those things from before."
 I empathized, and got:
"The way I see it is grades reflect how much you care rather than how smart you are. I know several people who are smarter/sharper/cleverer than me who don't get very good grades."  

Often times, it feels as though I'm the only person around here who worries about the meaninglessness of grades. I need to remind myself more often that this is not the case. This conversation helped me keep my perspective, and gave me hope that other students share my concerns. And after all, these concerns may be the only thing with the potential or power to bring about change.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three Reasons I Hate Grading

Reason 1.

I am tired of overhearing statements like:

"I don't like the teacher, but I love the worksheets."
"That class is an easy A."

Reason 2.

A grade can (huge emphasis on "can") show how much of a curriculum you've mastered. But what happens when you get rid of the curriculum?

Reason 3.

Grades have become all school is about. If we removed the current idea of a "grade," then we could get down to actually learning things.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm Still Here. And I'm Still Thinking.

First off, an apology. I've learned several things about myself this year, and they tend to be along the lines of "I don't have the energy for this." Between performing in a musical, working in the tech department of our high school, taking nine classes during school, and the typical stresses of being a teenage male...reflecting here has been one of the things pushed onto the back burner.

But I'm back now.

Twice over the past few days, I have found myself trying to explain to others why I don't think worksheets and lectures and droning on and on can really give me the background that I need and want to have.

Then I found something else. Chris Ludwig recently wrote (in this comment on his blog):
"In fact, our job as teachers switches over to being what some are calling “curators” of information, pointing students to some of the best resources. That’s how I see my role at this point in time."
That's going to become my new motto. Teachers should be curators or librarians of knowledge, not mailmen delivering it in packages. When learning becomes oversimplified, it ceases to be learning and becomes memorization.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Hate Schedules

Disclaimer: At the end, I get whiny. Sorry.

Physics. Third hour. It's the class that, right now, I live for.

We've been modifying the designs for our full-size trebuchet, and I'd say that we're about ready to go full scale. You can read another post all about it if you want to. (Our small-scale model is currently capable of flinging a ball bearing approximately 25-30 yards, and we're aiming for one that will launch a pumpkin...a long ways. We won't say how far just yet.)

I'm still somewhat amazed at how well the execution of this class went. After the first week, the entire class had divided itself up into several groups, one working on designing a hovercraft, another on the trebuchet, and another is off in the "corner" playing around with video analysis.

Here's the best part, though: We (both my group and the others floating around) are not confined to a specific workspace (or, for that matter, a specific worktime). In fact, the vast majority of the trebuchet's construction has been done in the unofficial office of myself and another team member.

But like I said's third hour. Only third hour. 9:41 to 10:34 (9:17 to 9:59 on Wednesdays).

Every day, I have to go through this, and it's annoying. I can't help but envy Shawn Cornally's class for having 80 minutes to work with--on a good day, my team and I might get forty-five minutes to really work with. Every day, just when we get into the swing of making improvements, the time to leave comes.

Of course, it's not quite as bad as I'm making it sound. I'm in the office at lunch, and quite a few team members have been coming in after school. We do get a chance to develop our ideas, and we're even considering scheduling in some Saturday worktime.

So, let's back up and think about what we have. Here is a group of high school students, working on a project for school as often as they can. No one is forcing us to do this. There's not a grade attached to it. There wasn't a worksheet telling us how to do this. We're doing it because we thought it would be fun.

And once it's built and flinging pumpkins into the field behind the gym, we might just sit down and look at why it works. We'll learn some mechanics while we're at it. We've already had a few mishaps which forced us to sit down and figure out what broke and why, and I've learned the hard way that if you get a TV cart packed with equipment rolling, it will keep rolling, even if you're in the way.

However, I'd still like to see a better way of scheduling classes so that I don't have to pack up my trebuchet every day to go sit in a desk for the rest of the day. So then my question becomes: Why not?

Why not give students time--just time, no strings attached, to work with? Trust me. If you give us the chance, we'll eat it up. We're tired of sitting in desks and doing "activities." And we're tired of not knowing what the things we are doing really mean. In third hour physics, we have a chance to change that. And nothing could be better.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A New Year

This blog began as a blog for a class. And although I think that, as I began blogging, keeping this blog with that class blog was appropriate, this year, I'll run it differently.

Here's the link to my physics blog.

And here's my chemistry blog.

(Confession time: I would like to move over to WordPress, but I really don't want to bother with rolling over this blog yet, and really don't want to use two different platforms at the same time. Maybe later.)