My 101st Post: a (re)Birthday of Sorts

 

steve peterson

steve peterson

I just realized that the last post was my 100th since I started this blog in October 2012. This is a good time to reflect. Interestingly, that post deals with some of the same subject matter as the first post — the insanity of posting predetermined “learning goals” for all of our day — a post that I never published because I was nervous about what others might think.

The symmetry seems significant. First, the fact that I’m still struggling with this issue now for at least two years shows either how intractable the problem is, how unable I am to effectively deal with it, or…something else that I haven’t imagined. Yet, the fact is, this blog has allowed me to identify and explore the ideas that seem most important to me, to my life “inside the dog” where it is sometimes too dark to read the story of our shared life of learning. I had hoped to use this blog to flick on a reading lamp. And, while sometimes the chandelier inside contains a rather dim bulb :), the light sure has helped me see better.

Second, the fact that I can talk about these concerns now while earlier I was silent means that I have begun to find a voice, my voice. I do not pretend to have all of the answers, or even to know all of the questions, but this blog has helped me become a better, more articulate thinker. Writing just does that for me. It helps me think by giving me words. As a result, not only can I say what I think, I can also know what I think. Writing is magical. It calls forth ideas like a silkworm spins silk.

Finally, this blog has put me in contact with other thinkers whose ideas (and spirit) have meant so very much to me. I’m thinking especially of

  • Vicki Vinton (To Make a Prairie), whose weekly posts always range far beyond the subject of reading and into the joys of real learning. Much of what I have been thinking about here has benefited from conversation with Vicki and her marvelous band of readers, from Vicki’s insightful thinking about learning and what readers really do, and, well, from the generous spirit that glows in the words of her blog;
  • the dynamic duo of Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris (Burkins & Yaris) whose explorations of the Common Core model for me what true inquiry looks, sounds, and feels like, and whose prose takes on the feel of poetry, whose partnership in blogging helps me see what collaboration at its best can become;
  • Mary Lee Hahn and Franki Sibberson (A Year of Reading), another dynamic duo whose blog has informed and enlightened me for longer than any other (though I just started commenting on it about a year ago.) I love their consistent, insistent sharing of their ongoing learning and their creative souls. Here’s to you, Mary Lee, for your poems and your mosaics and your student-made videos and…And to you, Franki, for your inquiry and your technology and for sharing your classroom journey. And to both of you for some powerfully wonderful book reviews!;
  • Julieanne Harmatz (To Read, To Write, To Be), a new friend-across-a-distance whose writing about her classroom contains such clarity and grace, whose stories of classroom celebration are poignant and always generous of spirit, whose descriptions contain the kernel of what learning can be, even within the confines of a school-day classroom;
  • Fran McVeigh (Resource – Full) another new friend, a fellow Iowan who I’ve never met in person but whose comments on others’ blog posts are impressive and thoughtful, for her immense base of knowledge and passion for learning and teaching, for her unflagging willingness to share all that she knows with others.

There are so many others whose work has inspired me, though they do not really know it; folks like Kevin Hodgson, Paul Solarz, Michael Doyle, Christopher Danielson, Bill Ferriter, and many more.

So, to the first 100, it’s a wrap. I will see what the next year brings. Cheers.

6 thoughts on “My 101st Post: a (re)Birthday of Sorts

  1. Steve,
    What provocative content for an important post! I have reconciled myself to talking about “Learning Targets” and posting those in professional development and in classrooms. We need to have a common target – adults and students in order to even understand the learning and the subsequent journey.

    Thanks for the honor of being included in your post. I’m humbled by the company of all the other great bloggers you mentioned. Without Twitter I would probably not have “met” any of these great bloggers, yourself included. I love that we can be a virtual community and connect when and where possible to continue to think and learn together!

    We are blessed to have so many thoughtful readers and writers who love to share!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Fran. I do so benefit from thinking and learning in conversation.

      And, yes, I agree that some general learning goals are important, if for no other reason than that they help us not waste time and stay on track, and, at best, they can serve as a location for an ongoing conversation. Maybe my heart sinks when I think about learning goals for so many subject areas — math, science/social studies, reading, writing — changed frequently enough that they can create a whirlwind of reactive thought-lessness, and the question in the back of the learner’s mind: what does the teacher want me to do now? Maybe my heart sinks when I consider how often a learner’s struggle for meaning does not live in the goals. Some learning goals arrive before the learner and continue their life after the learner has moved on. That’s what bugs me as an adult learner, the mandated structures, the lack of involvement in my own questions, my own sense-making. I feel my own best learning happens in the space created by curiosity and the desire to know more. If learning goals can take this into account, I’m a much happier camper!

      Thank you so much for stopping by to chat!

  2. Steve,
    First, congratulations on your 101st post! Reading your thoughts always gets me thinking about things that matter.

    Thank you for pointing out a few blogs I have neglected and for honoring me. Our conversations (I actually hear them) via blogs have made such a difference in my thinking, and this post is no exception. It brings up a big issue; I share your concern and struggle.

    What we want is a learner who wants more. It seems if the goal is clear and doable it’s a good thing. And if we allow room for students to set and realize their goals all the better and more effective. Everyone wants success and getting it is good. What we don’t want is that learner who is continually wondering, as you mention, what does the teacher want. We also don’t want the learner that gives up because it seems impossible (and maybe it is for them, this year). Is the problem with goals the bar we set, who sets it, or having a bar at all? What if we have progression of learning and a way of seeing ourselves on that progression that shows us how to get to the next step. That way we satisfy all of those who want accountability, including ourselves. Sounds good theoretically, but the creation of those tools is daunting when you look at the many things student need to accomplish. Daunting but maybe a goal for educators? In the meantime we struggle to do this for our students while living in a world that categorizes kids. And that gets me to the thing that bugs me the most — when the powers that be (sometimes that’s us) define students as being advanced, proficient, or below grade level. That just bugs me.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!
    Julieanne
    .

    • Julieanne. I missed this reply for some reason! (Too busy, I guess…) I’m sorry!

      I couldn’t agree more with the idea that this is a daunting task, maybe too daunting to make it doable for the long term? At times like this, when things are really daunting, I often sort of fall back on the notion that these are kids who need the best me to be present in the classroom, like, really present in mind, body, and spirit. Sure, keeping track on paper (or electrons) is important, but keeping track in the heart is even more important. If I’m honest with myself, I can usually tell if I’m losing track of where a kid is in their journey. This knowledge is not something I can put before someone else numerically all the time, but my sense of accountability comes from my concern (as does yours, I know…) When I feel myself getting bogged down, losing track of where they are, that’s a sign that something has to change. For my sake, but most especially for their’s.

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