Tagged: dave keller

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #6

Teachers can’t win an argument with a student

Dave Kellerfavicon I learned another valuable lesson this week. Don’t argue with students. Care about them. Work hard with them. But don’t argue with them.

This tale ends with my student, Scott, failing a major assignment. I knew he would fail even before he turned it in. For the last three months, I’d been working with him in my spare time: poring over his writing, correcting logic, giving suggestions on organization and effective word choice.

The evidence of his impending failure came two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon. We had scheduled a writing conference because his latest draft was terrible. It was a gorgeous Sunday when I rolled into school to find he was canceling our meeting so that he could hang out with his friends. My patience was pushed to its limit. He was going to fail, and my months of work with him were about to fizzle, leaving no concrete accomplishment.

But what really made me angry was his excuse for not meeting with me. “I have to cancel our meeting. I have no choice.” His friends were putting on a show, and they were demanding he cancel with me so he could attend their event.

The next time I saw Scott, I pulled him aside. The conversation started calmly with my saying that I was angry with him for canceling our meeting. He countered by saying he had no choice. I pointed out that he did have a choice, which was one of the reasons I was upset. That is when he began to argue — and when I lost it. At the time, it felt like I was using blistering logic to show how Scott’s points not only were wrong but also were hurting him and those around him.

In retrospect, it seems like our disagreement was a case of teen logic vs. adult logic, so I’m not sure I won. (Scott may have seen me as the high school equivalent of Charlotte Dial at Brooklyn Success Academy.) But even if I did win the argument, I really lost in the ways that matter.

When Scott began to argue, I forgot the lessons of the author LouAnn Johnson who warned teachers against arguing with students in her book, My Posse Don’t Do HomeworkShe writes that adults will always win arguments because they have most of the power. While winning might feel good momentarily for the teacher, Johnson points out that a teacher’s job isn’t to win a fight but rather to help a student.

In my case, Scott failed a very critical assignment that I was trying to help him pass. I would have gladly lost the argument with him if it would help improve his work. He lost the argument; I lost a chance to help him succeed. In the big picture, lose-lose.

Since the incident, I’ve repaired our relationship as best I can — going out of my way to compliment the improvements I see in his work, chatting with friendly banter, and generally showing him I have no hard feelings. My efforts seem to have worked. Friday, he gave me a hug as he joyfully told me that he just received an acceptance to his first choice college. He thanked me for my letter of recommendation. In the biggest picture, this situation turned out to be a win-win. A Donald Trump kind of win. Probably because of a lot of hard work and not because someone won an argument. 
favicon

Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont High.

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #5

Chromebooks in Classrooms: What does the usage data show?

favicon This just came across my virtual desk and it seemed worth sharing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 12.01.07 PM

The graph shows usage during a week (24 hrs a day) for the entire K-12 Piedmont Unified School District, which has about 2,600 students. First, some context: 2015-16 is the first year my high school and middle school have gone 100% 1:1. This means every 6-12 grade student has a Chromebook that they can take home.

Here is a little more data:

Snapshot in time – At 10:00 am Thursday December 3:

  • 390 student Chromebooks were in active use.  
  • 186 high school students, or roughly 22% of school population
  • 118 middle school students, or 18% of school population

The week of 12/8, students spent:

  • 3,806 hours on Google Docs,
  • 377 hours in Membean, a personalized/adaptive vocabulary service for 6th-12th grade students
  • 360 hours checking grades on Infinite Campus,
  • 305 hours on the Math textbooks piloted for 6th-12th graders
  • 109 hours on Newsela, with differentiated nonfiction current event articles for  3rd-6th graders
  • 96 hours using Desmos, an online graphing calculator
  • 87 hours listening to Pandora music
  • 45 hours using Kahoot, a fun classroom quiz game
  • 36 hours in Scratch coding

The week before Thanksgiving also showed the 187 high schoolers using their Chromebooks to apply for college: 173.7 hours were spent at admissions.universityofcalifornia.edu.

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - IserotopeAs a result, our teachers, students, and families are trying to understand the benefits and problems associated with so much technology.

The reaction from faculty has been mixed so far, but one thing is for sure: These numbers are causing quite a stir. What strikes me is that 3,800 hours were spent using Google Docs. Almost a third of computer time is spent writing text or reading text curated by teachers. Of course, it is hard to tell how Docs is used. Some of my Docs activities are digital worksheets. If that is the predominant use, then Chromebooks are a modern version of the mimeograph (or “ditto machine” for those who remember the pungent, blue paper).

However, some of my digital activities teach students to evaluate each other’s writing (using Google Forms). I also use technology to quiz or review (using Socrative and Kahoot), to increase collaborative work (with Docs and Teacher Dashboard), and to promote research while evaluating sources. These uses of technology are showing good results.

Students report liking the computers that are now part of their academic toolbox. They say their organization is improving and collaboration is easier in many ways. For example, online flashcard decks are routinely shared, as are student-generated review sheets and research. When it comes to reading, students seem divided on which they like best: paper or digital. I use a digital textbook and many digital sources but can’t tell whether digital has improved students reading or learning.

Some faculty are alarmed by the amount of time spent on activities that are not directly related to classwork, claiming this data shows that over 50% of computer use is not related to academic work. For example, 11% of Chromebook time was spent on YouTube and 360 hours were spent checking grades.

Like much of the data gathered by Google, these stats are interesting, colorful and fun—but might not tell us much about student learning. However, I am excited to see what future conversations about this information will reveal about our students’ lives at school.

If you have an observation or question about the data, please leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you! favicon

Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont High.

 /  By  / comments 1 comment. Add yours!

TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #4

Some Days Leave a Mark

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - Iserotopefavicon Friday started out as a great day. It was my birthday. I was taking advantage of the Starbucks rewards card, which meant getting a no-water, extra-hot, Venti soy chai latte for free. It is the little things (or Venti things) that make me really happy.

In addition, Fridays start with a collaboration meeting. I was going work to with a colleague that I had not worked with in a really long time, and I was looking forward to the meeting. In Friday’s classes, students were going to do really well analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of political arguments. I arrived on campus before anyone so as to enjoy the soft morning light, dissipating fog, and the quiet. Early morning is my time. Everything was looking up — until I read my email.

The email that changed my morning was delivered late the night before, after I had gone to sleep. It was from a student that I had been pushing to get his work done. I wasn’t giving him any breaks, and I was holding him to high standards. He was struggling.

Suicide was the important word in the email. But it didn’t really stand out. He used it rather casually. I had to read the email twice in order to get the full weight of its meaning. Reading the note a third time, I began to wonder where the student was at that very early morning minute.

After the fourth reading of the email, I urgently felt the need for more information. Off to the counseling office I went, hoping to find someone who knew the student. Nobody there. Heading back to my room, I ran into the other early-morning teacher. (I’ll call him Brent.) He is a man of few words. When Brent saw me he said, “He actually used the “S” word.”

It turned out that my student was in early to meet with Brent. The student gave Brent the same speech I’d received in the email. This was oddly welcome news and led to a series of events, which ended with the boy in a psychologist’s office by 8:30 am. Although not a morning I’d like repeated, there was a sense of accomplishment and reassurance. My student was getting professional help.

Later, I got back to reading email. I found an unread one from my student’s mother buried in emails from the day before. She was replying to something I had sent earlier in the week warning about her son’s incomplete work. There are some choice phrases accusing me of being uncaring. The email hurts.

Sometimes when you get hit, the blow leaves a mark. This day left a mark. favicon

Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont High.

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #3

Despite the disappointments, I love the start of school

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - Iserotopefavicon Today is the first day of the new school year. I love beginnings. The start of the year is so much fun. I’ve got dreams for my students and my classroom.

This year, new technology is coming to students. New content obtained over the summer from three weeks of professional development and two online classes is also on the way. Then there is the energy from students excited about the start of a new year. Even the new superintendent gives an inspirational speech, which gets a curtain call.

Trying to get to sleep last night was tough. It was hot, and I was nervous about the first day of staff meetings. But when the alarm went off at 6:00am, I still bounced out of bed. As I drove up to the school, there’s an earthquake. Moving earth is always exciting and seemed to be a good sign. But it is almost as if the earth sets events on an irreversibly negative trajectory. My new electronic key not only opens the school door, it sets off the building alarm, which was just repaired.

Thirty minutes later, I get to my classroom and find a peculiarly strong odor greeting me at the doorstep. I ask random people for the use of their noses. What is that smell? Ignoring the putrid odor, I turn to the blank wall in my room where new art will hang. It is so dirty; tape and heavy duty 3M products won’t stick. I’ve brought a mop to clean it, and soon there is a bucket of dirty water and a wet, muddy wall. I leave the wall cleaning for the first department meeting of the year, which is dominated by complaints. The details are pedantic. The positive comments can be counted on one hand.

The complaints follow me out into the rest of the campus. Complaining is everywhere. Teacher complaints are dominated by two topics: 1) our 1.5% raise is looking more and more anemic given the ballooning administrative staff and the arrival of new state money, and 2) many class sizes are bigger than they have been in years. The phone rings. It is the auto shop telling me I won’t have my car fixed for three days. Attacking the phone, I dial the auto insurance company only to discover they won’t return my calls. The phone rings again with a call from my real estate agent who informs me that yet another bid on another house is a loser. I finally go home depressed and dejected.

Some days as a teacher are disappointing. In this profession, it helps to have extraordinary optimism and cheerfulness so that the disappointing times don’t define the work. While I’m neither optimistic nor cheerful, I’ve found that the difficult days are usually the ones dominated by adults, and true to form, the start of this year is no different.

As soon as the students show up, I’m back to loving the beginning of school. There is the big smile and authentic “How are you?” from Sydney. The joyful reconnections with Megan and Tyler and Sutter and Kevin. How Nikitha and Clair stop by before going off to college just to say goodbye. Three students begging to be my T.A. Four students asking for letters of recommendation. A new World History curriculum focused on climate change that inspires. “I’m really looking forward to your class” from more students than I can count. New first-day activities where students are actually getting to know each other. “Thank you” from countless young people as their first class with me ends and they pile out of the newly decorated room. Oh, how I love the start of school, despite the disappointments. favicon

Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont Highfavicon

 /  By  / comments 10 comments. Add yours!

TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #2

I share. Do students care?

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - Iserotopefavicon Being gay in the classroom is more than being happy. But what is it? Last September, I began coming out to my school. I was really interested in how being out would impact my experience as a teacher and how my students would respond. I had high hopes that being more authentic would improve the classroom experience for students and their learning. Looking back on the first six months of this experiment, I get a little giddy with excitement because it was fun.

My first step was to attend a Gay-Straight Alliance meeting. It was the first GSA meeting of the year, and everyone was excited to be back at school. Kramer, a student of mine from the previous year, invited me to the meeting. She made me feel really welcome when I showed up to a room of students I did not know. Telling my story on the second visit to GSA was nerve-wracking: a little like being on a roller coaster.

Once I began my “coming out story,” I knew I couldn’t stop and get off the ride. My stomach was doing that vertigo thing it does when falling or at the edge of a cliff. A mix of fear and excitement with a Red Bull chaser.

To my surprise, the students seemed totally unfazed. Is that the teen reaction to everything? I began to wonder whether being gay was so normalized that kids expect a range of sexual orientations in their teachers?

During the meeting, there were at least six students who talked about their identities. They all acted as though this was totally normal. They used terms like pansexual, queer, lesbian, asexual, gay, bi, and others that were totally unfamiliar. I was off to Google.

A week or two later, I got a random hug from a kid that I barely knew. This is really a big deal for me as I’ve never been a huggy kind of guy. But here I was, in the middle of the breezeway with a member of the GSA administering a hug for absolutely no apparent reason. I didn’t know her name. Didn’t have her in any class. Had only seen her once before but never had said more than two words to her. A random act of kindness or a gesture of appreciation?

Maybe the GSA wasn’t as unfazed by having a gay teacher on campus as I thought. Wasn’t sure how I felt about blurring the line between teacher and student with hugs, but there was a lot of the school year left to sort that one out.

I’m still investigating a lot about being openly gay on campus. By now, most of the faculty and student body who know me know I’m gay. How important is this? For the most part, the community seems unfazed. If students are unfazed by a person’s sexuality, does it matter if teachers are out? My hunch is that it does matter to some students. But does being out have a positive impact on my teaching? There are many questions to answer and just enough of the year left that I might actually get some answers. favicon

Ed. Note: Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont High.

 /  By  / comments 5 comments. Add yours!

TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #1

Helping Sonia and other struggling readers

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - Iserotopefavicon Sonia is a girl in my 10th Grade History class that really struggles with reading. She tries hard and wants to do well, but her reading skills make mastering course content very frustrating.

Every year I have students like Sonia. She has a well-cultivated look, is rail thin, well-known if not popular, and says she wants to be a model. Whenever she is bored, she pulls out a phone with a cracked screen and jabs at Instagram photos. For teachers she is a bit of a behavior problem and has a prickly personality reserved for us adults. At the start of the year, she eyed me warily whenever I worked with her one-on-one.

Every year I have countless conversations with the frustrated parents and counselors of students like Sonia. Everyone wants to help the Sonias of our school get better grades, but few have found a way to help these struggling readers. This year I’m trying a few new things in my classroom and am having some limited success.

The teacher’s manual I grew up with says teachers can help struggling readers in activities in which heterogeneous groups do close reading together and then “report out,” where these small groups present what they’ve learned from the text to the whole class. The idea is that skilled readers support those who struggle when students work as a team to answer guiding questions.

Through my years of teaching, I have been frustrated with this method for a few reasons.

  1. Students like Sonia hide during small group work, presumably because they don’t want their problems with reading to be known.
  2. No matter how I structure the whole class “report out,” I rarely see the entire class engaged in listening and learning together. In other words, the traditional method lacks student engagement.

This year, I’m trying three things intended to increase the engagement of all students:

  • Groups of 3. When students are in groups of three, there is better overall engagement. I’ve seen Sonia playing a leadership role in her group of three, which never happens in larger teams.
  • Opinions matter. Close reading questions that call for opinions increase engagement. I see more disagreement and deeper conversations when I use opinion questions. Sonia rarely attempts the type of question that requires a right answer. However, she constantly answers questions that call for her opinion.
  • Students in circles for discussions increases engagement. After a few tries of circle discussions, students begin to talk to each other (not just the teacher), they listen more closely to each other, and I can see them building knowledge together. As for Sonia, she struggles to participate, but I see her paying attention the entire time and really trying to find a way to get into the conversation.

Sonia doesn’t look at me as warily as she used to. She still doesn’t understand much of what she reads, but I’m content with her progress in baby steps right now.

However, I’m left wondering whether baby steps are enough. I don’t think it is, so next I’ll change the way I am supporting Sonia’s reading of the textbook. favicon

Ed. Note: Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont High.