In the hands of great artists, pencils can create amazing artwork but periodically they need to be sharpened. Can a dull pencil can still be used? Of course. But is it as effective as it could be for as long as it should be? No, it's not.
You see, when a pencil is sharpened, it is taken to a blade of some sort that shaves off the pieces that are no longer needed in order to make it a more effective tool. This simple analogy is why I've chosen my #OneWord2017 to be "sharpened." I need to be sharpened. I am in need of constant growth and improvement. I need God to remove from me the parts of me that are making me less effective in all aspects of life (inside and ourside of my home) and make me a more effective tool for His purposes as The Artist.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NASB
Did you know that there are kids who have zero access to books in their home? Zero. As in NO BOOKS. Check out the graphic below that I borrowed from this great piece from Scholastic on the topic of access to books.
Thanks to my good friend Todd Nesloney, I had an awesome opportunity recently to attend the Scholastic Reading Summit in San Antonio, TX. Information like what you see above is what prompted me to reflect on this topic.
As a science teacher attending a reading summit, I felt a bit out of place. However, as I begin to listen to people talk I realized that I was exactly where I need to be. I have done a mediocre job during my seven years of teaching of providing opportunities for students to read in my classroom. I have, in the past, had maybe fifteen to twenty books the students might be interested in picking up to read and occasionally, they would.
Hearing from "living legends" like Donalyn Miller, John Schu, and Matt de le Peña, forced me to come to the realization (embarrassingly enough, for the first time) that it is my responsibility as a teacher (of any subject) to give students opportunities to read. Yes, even in science class. And I don't mean to open up their 27-year-old science textbook and read it. I mean allowing them to read for fun. To read what they want to read.
Reading with choice.
Reading for fun.
Reading for growth.
Reading picture books.
Reading novels (yes, even graphic novels).
Part of my job is to provide them this opportunity to grow and to stretch themselves.
"But they're not learning science" some will scream. They're LEARNING!
Yes, I have to teach the standards. I am aware of that and I do this (I think I do it fairly well, in fact). However, I am also aware of my duty as an educator to develop a love and passion for reading in my students and give them a chance to do it.
So, I am throwing these reflections out there to all non-reading teachers with the hopes that we can join forces in fostering a love for reading books of all kinds in ALL of our students.
Yes, even in science class! :-)
This post was co-written with Todd Nesloney. You can find it on his blog here.
“Connected Educator." Two words that have changed both of our lives. Two words that truly define who we’ve become and where we are going as educators.
They are also two words that oftentimes make very little sense to those who aren’t drinking the “Kool-Aid” of connecting on social media. Todd often describes it as similar to visiting Disney World. You just don’t get it until you’ve been there.
Both of our lives have been drastically affected, personally and professionally, since we chose to get connected. Besides the typical amount of learning and sharing that takes place, when you choose to connect with other educators online you also find individuals who want to be on your team. Who truly want to see you grow and be a part of that growth as well as grow themselves.
Sometimes it’s so easy to stay behind the walls of our campus and never venture out. It’s not until we step outside of those walls that we hear perspectives and ideas that otherwise, we would have never heard.
We think of the way that both of us met. Todd was presenting at a conference and Brent ended up attending one of his sessions on the flipped class. Through later connecting on social media to further the conversation, and then again face to face at a few edcamps, we’ve become great friends.
More so than that we’ve been able to connect and learn in ways that so many in our profession are still missing. There are still so many who don’t see the value in social media for professional reasons or who don’t understand or feel the need to connect with others outside of their own campus.
We both often think, what else can we do? How do we get them to “get it”?
In the end, we believe it comes down to actually experiencing it for yourself. As connected educators, we believe it's our job (and yours) to find ways to bring others into this understanding. To not make social media feel like this “exclusive” club that’s hard to break into or be a part of. We have to find those who have yet to drink the Kool-Aid yet and serve it up ice cold, sip by sip. Connect them with our circles, invite them into our conversations, and introduce them to this world that has so profoundly affected our careers, and on a larger scale, our lives.
Our challenge to you is to find (at least) five educators from your campus who are not connected and get them connected. So what are you waiting for? Get your Dixie cups, stir up some Kool-Aid, and start passing it out for free.
Brent Clarkson, M.Ed.