Dancing in the Classroom

It’s funny and also embarrassing, and, Ross and I have laughed about the fact that I seriously doubted him and his thesis topic after our first initial, awkward meeting on the phone.  I have since reconciled and have “outted” myself admitting to Ross I doubted him and questioned his authenticity as a scholar.
You see, I am an ardent pacifist who had minimal respect for those who choose to serve in the military. This was my worldview, once upon a time, early in my teaching career, and actually before my epistemic transformation via my student Major Ross F. Lowe. I HAD always disliked being in close proximity to military types. My younger brother served with distinction in the United States Marine Corps. The USMC provided him with a strong foundation for life and, despite the opposite mindset, we wholeheartedly respect and love each other. I must shamefully admit while I was enrolled as a student I detested being in the same class with military veterans or ROTC candidates.  When I became a teacher, I would “grind my ax” on the unsuspecting students and “take them to task” for their jingoistic, testosterone poisoning positions in MY class much to MY pleasure. These military students, usually arrogant males with questionable haircuts, just disgusted me. And now I had this military white guy of European descent who wanted and expected my mentoring to write a thesis on the topic of slavery! I unfolded my hand and did serious palm to face plant and muttered “good grief” to myself. Thank God and General Patton that Ross couldn’t see my visceral reaction as we were communicating over the phone and not using Facetime. I just had to laugh at my perceived misfortune.
As time progressed over the next few semesters, Ross jumped each of the hurdles (Andy’s mental land minds or land mines) designed to challenge this white guy enamored with African-American 19th Century slave trade. Why would he choose such an antiquated, antebellum topic which has already been extensively researched? Why me???
For the record, as a means to ease students into the initial writing process, I strongly encourage all students to write a “Preface” explaining WHY they have chosen their topic and what factors led them to this decision. They can write in a first-person format and there is no word or page limit. I was sure that Ross would write a narrow-minded, anti-climactic, non-scholarly paper of no value. A waste of my time loomed and this seemed inevitable.
However, Ross complied. In a couple of weeks, I had a draft manuscript in my inbox. I begrudgingly opened the document fully prepared to be underwhelmed, bored, and ready to apply some of my hypercritical feedback.
It was then I learned that Ross had actually spent much of his early formative years in Africa with his family in the 1990's. His father was serving in the United States military. It was very evident that Ross had been profoundly touched by the African people, their culture, and his heart was full of empathy for the injustice and inhumanity resulting from the forced bondage and human degradation from the African slave trade. These were his people. The military had done a good deed and this is significant to me and my evolution as a human. Nelson Mandela was an remains an icon. His 1995 book, Long Walk to Freedom, chronicles the oppression and rise to power of wise man who brought about positive change, equity, disparity, human rights for all. Now the world celebrates what would have been the centennial of his birthday.
Ironically, during our two years of work on completing the thesis research on African slaves and the exodus to America, we both discovered some very personal parallels. I currently live in the city where the largest African slave trade occurred on American soil. I shared this knowledge about THE WEEPING TIME" with Ross.
 
“The 436 men, women, children, and infants, all of whom had been born on his [Butler] plantations, were brought to a racetrack in Savannah, Georgia, and put in the stalls used for horses. There they waited, some for days, others for weeks, for the auction to begin on March 3, 1859.”
Ross would incorporate this tragic episode, along with other horrendous true stories of American history in his thesis.  To add to the research base and increase the validity and reliability, to give voice to the disenfranchised and marginalized souls of yesterday, to enlighten readers that the implications from the human degradation that are alive and active in Dixie today, to closely examine the misery and depravity in a state where 9 innocent souls were gunned down by a distraught white racist teen whom they had welcomed into their circle of faith as a noble last gesture at a Bible study in a church,  to expand on the depth and details of human destruction by accessing slave narratives, to dust them off and bring them into the light of modernity...that’s what he accomplished with distinction.
It sounds insignificant in comparison, but what have I learned? Much...and not just about the atrocities surrounding the African-American slave genocide. It is another worn out cliche, and I’ve already exceeded my quota in this reflection, but NEVER judge a book by its cover. Ross taught me this through his personal displays of courage to expose the hideous nature of yesteryear so that we could be more well-informed and gain a deeper understanding. To have humanity and act accordingly as we all should.  His story deeply resonates and continued to be impactful on me. The opposite was expected. Truth surfaced.
Admittedly, I’ve changed.
Below is the framed African painting which Ross presented to me at the group celebration we had after the 2018 APU graduation ceremony in downtown Anchorage. When I view this work of art it serves as a reminder that I still have much to learn when I do my dance in the classroom.
African dancers wearing native attire dancing.
Native African art. Gift from Ross Lowe. (2018)

My Life Policy

I was considering deleting the MATH RESOURCES corner of my website. After 10 years of teaching math, teaching faculty how to teach math, training employees at corporations how to thinking mathematically, logically, and solve problems, I had reached the point in life when it was time for another challenge. I no longer needed this web resource and after scrutinizing the website analytics, the MATH RESOURCES, a free and open resource, was on the chopping block. If you are not familiar with the "Creative Commons" I would urge you to consider adding this "copyleft" approach to your work. cc logo It has been my policy to "pay it forward" when I am the recipient of another human's kindness and benevolence. I call it my "life policy". On February 14, 2018, I received an email generated via the "Contact Me!" form on my website. I was glad that it was a legitimate correspondence and not some Russian spybot probe with nothing better to do than to bombard my blog with malicious code and anti-Hillary sentiment. Evidently, the zealous nature of Akismet anti-spam plugin was working. The valid email was from "Wendy" who was writing on behalf of her sister "Mia". Wendy wanted to express her sister's gratitude for my "helpful website". Mia was specifically referring to the Math Resources I had aggregated, synthesized, reviewed, and posted in the "Learner Portal" corner of my website. Ironically, you must solve a mathematical problem in order to gain access to these Math Resources, and this is a potential paradox in an of itself. The logic behind mandating the successful completion of a math problem centers on website security and determining the visitor is not a Russian spybot probe attempting to wreck havoc and make me vote for Trump. Wendy also wanted to pass along a MATH RESOURCE LINK which Mia had found helpful in her work as a MATH VOLUNTEER with students and with the school's MATH CLUB. In other words, Wendy and Mia were BOTH paying it forward by contacting me and sharing their appreciation through sharing a link they found useful. After checking out this submitted and shared link, I deemed it worthy of inclusion and have added it along with a short description here. Scroll down the page and the link is located in the section entitled "EDUCATIONAL MATH GAMES ONLINE".
3d character sitting on WEB domain sign.
Sharing ideas via tech
While reflecting on this life event, I can't help but think what the world would be like if the positive energy generated in a random act of kindness was sustained by a perpetual quid pro quo mindset. When we give, we live. When we deny, a part of us all dies. We shouldn't give because we feel obligated or guilty and under pressure. Never pass up the opportunity to "pay it forward" even if it takes two weeks or more to recognize the significance of a random act of true kindness.
 

There’s a teaching method tech billionaires love — here’s how teachers are learning it

From DIGITAL LEARNING TODAY, a Flipboard magazine by Jonathan Wylie

   Over the past few years, Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have all endorsed a teaching method known as "personalized learning."

It involves students guiding their own lessons with the help of technology, while teachers take on more of a coaching role if problems emerge. For its apparent benefits in getting kids up to speed in reading and math, advocates have claimed it could — and should — become the future of US education.

But personalized learning is so new, many teachers still need to learn how it works.

Starting this academic year, one of the largest school networks using personalized learning, Summit Public Schools, is hosting a residency program to address that skills gap. Across eight locations in California, 24 teachers will spend one year learning the skills to personalize students' education in the future.

"We are modeling teaching through the student learning experience," Adam Carter, Summit's Chief Academic Officer, told Business Insider. This year, approximately 330 schools serving thousands of students in 40 states will use the Summit Learning Program in some capacity, whether online or in-person.

 Summit residents will learn how to teach personalized learning in the same way kids learn from it. Summit Public Schools

Four days a week, each resident teacher will be paired with a teacher in a Summit school. They'll spend the remaining school day working on their own. All the while, they'll learn about the strategies that makes personalized learning so appealing, according to leaders like Gates and Zuckerberg: Socratic discussions, small group workshops, and self-guided coursework.

The teachers will also convene in similar groups to learn about the style of teaching they'll be relying on. In that way, Summit hopes to generate a group of teachers that understand personalized learning inside and out because they, themselves, have learned through the method.

"Not only does this experience build expertise," Carter said, "but is also builds empathy for students." 

   By putting teachers in the same position as students, Summit expects them to develop greater empathy. Summit Public Schools

Summit doesn't expect personalized learning to become the default mode
of instruction in all schools, Carter said. Rather, the network wants
to continually adapt to what research says is most effective for helping
kids learn, even if that means abandoning personalized learning. Those
kinds of insights are determined by things like the needs of a given
school and its surrounding community.

The current research seems to support Summit's model for now. A study published last year
found that kids in 62 schools using personalized education scored
higher on reading and math standardized compared to kids learning
without personalized instruction. Many who were below-average scorers
ended up above-average.

In other countries with successful education programs, the
personalized model seems to be a deciding factor in success. Students in
Finland and Peru,
for example, receive personalized learning through cleverly designed
classrooms and mobile devices that allow students to work at their own
speed.

Residents in Summit's new program will ultimately earn a California
Preliminary Teacher Credential from Summit Public Schools. Summit may
also offer teachers a full-time job if they excel in their position.

"The real barriers to personalized learning have always been
structural," Carter said. "What we’re trying to do is provide new
structures that are more about students and less about how things have
always been done. The desire is there. The know how is there and the
systems are there. This is possible." 

Top 11 Teaching and Learning Articles of 2016

 It's that time of year to reflect on the "Best" books, movies, etc. and in this case "Best Teaching & Learning Articles of 2016" as ranked by Faculty Focus, an excellent resource for the teaching professor. Each article is approximately 700 words.

The ranking is based on a combination of factors, including e-newsletter open and click rates, social shares, reader comments, web traffic, reprint requests, and other reader engagement metrics.

11. Why Are We So Slow to Change the Way We Teach? 
10. Backward Design, Forward Progress
9. The Ugly Consequences of Complaining about ‘Students
8. Three Focusing Activities to Engage Students in the First Five Minutes of Class
7.
Student Engagement Strategies for the Online Learning Environment
6. A Memo to Students about Studying for Finals
5. Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement
4. A Practical Approach for Increasing Students’ In-Class Questions
3. Supporting Transgender Students in the Classroom
2. Ready to Flip: Three Ways to Hold Students Accountable for Pre-Class Work
1. A Memo to My Students Re: College and the Real World


One Person’s Approach to an Annoying Issue

It happens to all of us: you unsubscribe from an unwanted marketing email, and a few days later another message from the same company pops up in your inbox. Comedian James Veitch turned this frustration into whimsy when a local supermarket refused to take no for an answer. Hijinks ensued.