Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Toilet Paper Example

Monday I was able to visit Bell's Skating Rink and the PTL Skating Party. One of the things students did was bring a roll of toilet paper in order to receive a discount on their admission. The skating rink has a toilet paper activity for the skaters and that is what all of this TP is used for. Here is how the activity goes. Each skater is given one roll of toilet paper. The DJ plays two songs and during that time, the skaters have to unroll all of their TP and try to cover the entire skating rink. Then, after the two songs, the DJ informs the skaters that they have another two songs to PICK UP all of the TP. The boys have to gather as much as possible and bring it to one location. The girls also have to gather as much as possible and bring it to another location. Whichever group picks up the most toilet paper wins. Now, I have never written so much about toilet paper, so I hope I am making myself clear and you understand the activity. If you are reading that they unrolled a bunch of TP on the ground, then picked it up, and called it a game, then you understand so far. Its actually a very simple idea.

Here is why I tell you about this experience. I was very intrigued as I watched all of the students unroll their toilet paper. If there were 75 students on that skating rink, then there were 75 ways to unroll the toilet paper. Some students threw the roll, picked it up, threw it again, picked it up, etc. Some students held the toilet paper, then dropped the roll and dragged it until it was empty. Some students held the roll, dropped the end of the toilet paper and unrolled it that way. Still other students pulled, ripped, and dropped. Some detailed students literally placed the toilet paper on the floor one square at a time. The point is that all the skaters had the exact same goal. They needed to cover the floor with toilet paper. The way they went about accomplishing that goal was different for each skater. I can see a parallel in our classrooms. Whether we are teaching content or skills, there is an objective for each lesson. There is something we want our students to learn or accomplish. But what you have probably noticed with your students is that each student reaches that objective in a different way. There is a time for uniformity, and there is a time to allow students to explore their own path (and possibly even allow them to make mistakes and learn from them). We need to recognize and celebrate the times in our classrooms when the different abilities, skills, and processes are seen in our students.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Resolutions vs Old Goals (2012 Version)

Last year I wrote a post comparing New Year's Resolutions to the goals we set back at the start of the new school year. You can view it HERE. The following is an update on that post which I wrote in my staff memo today.

I wonder what a comparison would look like between my “goals to reach list” and my “goals reached list.” I am sure that my “to reach list” is much longer that my “reached list.” It seems to me that we are constantly setting new goals, and often we do this before we have reached our previous goals. Throughout the year we have opportunities for a new beginning and setting new goals. January is an obvious time where we set new resolutions, June we may set goals for the summer, and August is another time where we make a new list for the beginning of the school year. Although I will not completely discourage anyone from setting New Year’s resolutions, I would encourage all of us to take a look back at some previous goals that you have set. Don’t forget about the goals you began reaching back in August. They might have been personal goals for your classroom, or the more formal goals that you set for yourself in your Professional Growth Plan. No matter what you do, the most important thing to do is to use goals and resolutions to work toward becoming a better professional educator. Each and every time we improve as teachers, Central Lutheran becomes a better school.

Image: HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012, Koshy Koshy, uploaded via flickr December 28, 2011, Creative Commons License