Most Memorable Blog Posts of the Year – 2014

This is my third annual recognition of the most memorable blog posts I have read this year. Like in 2012 and 2013, I cannot say for sure if they were the most viewed or shared. They just stuck with me, even to this day. Anne Lamott stated in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions About Writing and Life that “good writing is about telling the truth”. Maybe what sets these posts apart for me: These writers told the truth, with so much clarity that I couldn’t help but read and respond to them.

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned by Grant Wiggins

This guest post garnered 285 comments. As the title states, an educator takes the role of a student in the high school school where she works. She discovered three things: 1) Students sit all day, and it is uncomfortable, 2) While they sit, they listened passively in 90% of the classes, and 3) She felt like a nuisance when raising her hand to ask questions and participate. This instructional coach concludes with three ways she would change her instruction if she were back in the classroom.

Technology in the Classroom: Embrace the Bumpy Ride! by Kathy Cassidy

Kathy, a 1st grade teacher from Canada, acknowledges what many educators experience in the classroom: Integrating technology into instruction is messy. She offers smart advice to other teachers, such as considering what learning you want to enhance when bringing in tech, and recognizing the unique ways digital tools can provide a global audience for students. Kathy encourages the reader to reimagine technology as an essential part of a connected classroom.

My Memory of The Giver by Dylan Teut

In response to other readers’ sharing their experiences regarding Lois Lowry’s classic title, this first grade teacher shares his own. Dylan laments about how points and prizes were awarded to the students who read The Giver in the appropriate time allotted by the teacher. He was not awarded anything, and was actually punished, because he had taken his time to read and immerse himself in this excellent story. Dylan recognizes that this practice almost killed his love for reading, and probably did for some of his classmates.

Don’t Hate the Standards, Hate the Test by Starr Sackstein

Starr, a high school English teacher and a guest blogger for Education Week’s Work in Progress, points out the difference between the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the new computerized assessments that attempt to measure students’ proficiency in them. She points out that the only difference between previous state standards and the CCSS is that now everyone is speaking the same language. Starr also lists a variety of benefits that the CCSS has provided, such as being skill-based instead of content-heavy.

That’s a Great Question! by Tom Hierck

This post found me at just the right time. It was July, and I was already starting to think about school, which involved getting nervous about the upcoming principal and teacher evaluations going live. This education consultant’s suggestion of reframing our challenging situations as questions helped me come up with a good approach for collecting artifacts to support teacher’s professional practice goals. For more on this topic, I recommend Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question, the best education book I read this year.

Something to Hang Your Hat On by Ben Gilpin

A principal from Michigan reflects on his process for working with students who come his way due to poor choices they made. It was prompted by a project he did years back as a 5th grade teacher, related to selecting careers and thinking about the future. This year, he has taken a similar approach by asking students who visit his office a series of questions regarding themselves, their current mindset, and what they think their futures might entail. Ben’s attempt to help his students reflect and set positive goals is admirable.

When Adults Test Young Children…Common Core Map for Primary Grade by Mary Ann Reilly

This post about the ubiquitous national standards focuses on what the ramifications might be when we test primary age students. Mary Ann reflects on her own young child’s experience with an online test, selecting answers out of interest in language instead of picking the “right” answer. She worries that our country’s affinity for multiple choice tests will stifle student creativity and experimentation. It is hard to disagree with her.

Related, check out the best education-related video I watched this year by Peter H. Reynolds, author of many children’s books:

 
The Common Core is Not a Person by Ann Marie Corgill

By just the number of posts in this list alone, it is clear that the Common Core has been a huge focus this year. According to Ann Marie Corgill, Alabama’s Teacher of the Year in 2014-2015, why is that? It is the teacher who makes the difference. The standards are there to provide guidance, and not to dumb down a child’s learning experience, one of many misconceptions flying around that Ann Marie attempts to clear up. She finishes up her post by inviting anyone interested in the CCSS to come visit her classroom and see them authentically addressed in her instruction.

Blogging with Freire by Steve Wheeler

This post prompted me to buy Paulo Freire’s classic education resource Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Okay, it is still on my bookshelf collecting dust, but I am closer! Steve openly wonders what the author would think about the participatory nature of the Internet and how his ideas for progressive instruction might be applied. He links six quotes from the text with how blogging allows for more equality among learners and thoughtful ways to connect with others online.

Reading – It’s Good for You! by Liz Burns

Liz, a librarian, has grown tired of the constant discussion about the role of fiction in readers’ lives. She feels there is too much focus on encouraging people to read literature because it is “useful” (this post was prompted by a New York Times article). Why isn’t it okay to read fiction because it is fun? Liz asks. She acknowledges that this focus on extracting knowledge as the main purpose of reading is driven by the high stakes testing environment. People should read for pleasure and not see it as a waste of time.

What posts inspired you to respond and share them with others? Please share in the comments, and have a great New Year’s Day!

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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