Readings to Wrap Up 2018

November and December have been a bit busy and I haven’t stayed on top of this as well as I would have liked (and there are still a lot of pieces from the past couple of weeks that I haven’t even read yet).

This piece from Tom Woodward, Digital Survival Skills, is full of ideas on how to make smart decisions about apps and other digital tools we use. Plus, Tom always has fabulous endnotes in his posts. This piece is full of good advice.

No point in creating a miserable experience for yourself even if it’s “highly productive.” Set up workflows and patterns that energize you and make you happy.

I frequently share pieces from Jose Vilson and I’m likely to keep doing so as long as he keeps writing them. This one, You Don’t Have to Like It (Students Watch and Talk About Us, Anyways) addresses the importance of students’ stories and voices in schools.

Our society vastly undervalues student opinion as a matter of course. In the way of efficiency and so-called rigidity, we continually push for institutions that force schooling upon students, not education for and with students.

Sherri Spelic‘s brilliance is not new to me, but this piece really made me sit back in awe. Most of my colleagues don’t attend conferences and I am often asked, after I return from one, to share my learning. I struggle with how best to do this and, as a result, I rarely do anything. Sherri’s strategy here is awesome.

I drafted an e-mail which included links to the blog post I wrote, to the conference website and to the hashtag tweets, as well as some photos from the session I led. I want people to know where I’ve been, what I gained and what I’m bringing back.

Not only does that share her conference experience, but it’s a great way to reflect and think about the highlights of the conference.

Continuing with people I already knew were brilliant, Marian Dingle wrote You Didn’t Want to Know, a piece about Twitter Math Camp, that I’ve needed to read more than once. There is so much here about making conferences (or other events and spaces) truly welcoming to all. As one who looks like the great majority of people attending the conferences I attend, I am exceptionally grateful to Marian for taking the time and emotional energy to write this piece. It is a lens I lacked and the more I read pieces the more I am able to take on this lens.

Instead of asking what type of flowers the guest likes, how about inviting them to co-create the visit with you? Plan the activities, meals, and décor? This is easy if the imagined space always included educators of color, much more difficult if it never did. This is the renewed thinking that I crave. I don’t want to feel welcome in your conference; I want to feel that I belong in ours. I want to feel that I am creating it along with you. Why did you never think to ask me? Why didn’t it feel hollow with my absence?

Going perfectly along with Marian’s piece is this one from Julia Torres about NCTE, another conference. From my vantage point, following the conference on twitter, Julia rocked that conference. Reading her piece helps me remember how much it takes for someone to do that, especially an educator of color. Julia’s piece also goes beyond conferences and is a reminder of what it means to be a person of color in our society.

It might help if people understood that for those of us who have been historically or consistently underrepresented in the field of education, these “instances” that people would like to see as one-offs or isolated events are anything but that.  It is exhausting to always have to be the one to point that out.  I can’t speak for everybody, but I can speak for myself when I say that whenever I go into spaces where POC are not the majority, I hope things like these will not happen.  Yet, they always do. I feel cut by them, and this is what makes attending educational conferences so exhausting.

One of the treats of going to VSTE, even briefly this year, was getting to spend some time with Karen Richardson in person. Like so many of the people linked here I get to see her online often, but in person rarely. She wrote Just Because You Can Look It Up, Should You? It gets at the question of direct instruction vs student exploration. A question that is more complex than it appears at first glance and more complex than many people believe.

I saw a comment on Twitter recently suggesting that teachers should never tell students things that they could look up. It struck me as one of those zero sum statements that are not helpful as we try to navigate the changing relationship between teachers and students. Teachers have expert knowledge to share that can help students move forward with their own learning more efficiently. Finding the balance of when to share and when to encourage students to explore on their own is, in my humble opinion, part of the art of teaching.

I have been amazed for quite some time at Audrey Watters‘ ability to collect and curate educational news stories every week. Some weeks it has been difficult for me to read her collection because it is painful. Actually creating it must have been far harder. Audrey is doing work that is rarely happening in education and she is doing it exceptionally well. I have learned so much from her writing over the years and I look forward to that continuing, even if in a different format. So I’m sharing here her last Hack Education Weekly News. But what I’m really doing is saying that you should be reading her, following her on twitter, learning from her in any way possible if you aren’t already.

Kevin Hodgson is a favorite of mine because of the various ways he uses his site and his writing. He clearly uses it for his own reflection and learning. He also writes about his writing process and helps us see what he is doing and gain new ideas and strategies. (He does a lot more but this is where my brain is about him right now.) In Writing a Song about Watching a Writer at Work you can see some of this. It’s amazing. So is the song,

Just for the fun of it, read this piece, An Interview with Santa’s Lawyer, from John Scalzi, a sci-fi/fantasy author. Just a quick taste…

Because he has a round belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly.

Which is not true, by the way. I’ve seen Santa out of uniform. That dude is ripped.

On another note, this piece from Teacher Tom is a great example of how teachers think through events in their lives and use that understanding to better support kids.

I’m an adult person, not typically prone to these sorts of aggravations, yet a mere thup-thup-thup threw me completely off my game for a time, causing what others would consider inappropriately strong emotions, so strong in fact that I had taken measures to remove myself. Imagine being a child, less mature and experienced. Imagine being unable to pinpoint the cause of these strong, prickly feelings, not having the option to remove yourself, or the experience to do so, nor the self-control to not lash out.

And one last just-for-fun post from KQED’s Mind/Shift. Quick snippets from teachers about gifts they have received from students.

Jill Lowery, a grade school teacher in Des Moines, Iowa, sent a simple, sweet story: “I was given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with one slice of bread, folded in half, stuffed in a plain white envelope.”

It was from a first-grader, and the bread was a little crusty by the time Lowery got home. But she wrote, “I was amazed by his ability to think so sweetly of me.”

2018 has offered many great pieces of writing (and there are probably more currently waiting in my RSS reader, sigh). I’m looking forward to what 2019 brings.

2 replies on “Readings to Wrap Up 2018”

  1. Thank you, Jen for kicking off 2019 this way. Your post reminds me to spend time with the wonderful gains of the recent past and to also share the gratitude for those gains with the folks who made them happen. Your example consistently inspires me.

  2. […] connected. I emptied it completely and decided to just start with the people Jen Orr mentioned in her blog post. I recognized all the names as thoughtful people who were doing good work around creativity and […]

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