T Sale's Blog

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Batter Up

I listened with interest the other day to Mr. Booth’s comparison of our educational pursuits to the Rockies baseball team. He compared the statistics compiled about the players to the data we will be collecting about our students, and spring training to the interventions that might be necessary if students don’t demonstrate their mastery of essential learnings. I like sports analogies, so I thought it might be interesting to extend this one a bit. Let’s see, the players who surpass expectations are rewarded monetarily and often have the chance to choose the next venue where they will take their skills. That’s true of outstanding students, too. When the team as a whole fails to make adequate yearly progress, it’s the manager and coaches who get blamed and replaced; yeah, that fits. The Rockies demonstrate their skills for a nationwide TV audience; well, some of our students are having their blogs read by people all over the world. And any guy who walks into Coors Field is welcomed to the team, no matter how good or bad he was at minor league or high school ball, and even if a player hits below the Mendoza Line year after year, or misplays routine ground balls even after extra help from a coach, the team isn’t allowed to send him to another club or simply tell him that he can’t play for the Rockies any more, and the coaches typically work with up to 35 players at a time when they are doing drills; some of the players have special contracts that say they don’t have to be able to hit curve balls or sliders, and others can “opt out” of conditioning drills if they feel that the drills might be offensive….

It’s hard to apply analogies to what we do, because it’s a unique professional situation. We’re not running a corporation, or a factory, or a baseball team. But it would be nice if we were able to draw more parallels between schools and baseball, if all our players came to us with the skills necessary to succeed, and our job was to take them to greater heights, not reteach the fundamentals; if there were a minor league where we could send students to polish their game until they were ready for The Show; if we were responsible for fewer players so that each one could get more reps on every practice day; if the community built us a new stadium with state-of-the-art amenities as a reward for consistent excellence; if people at Sports Authority were buying official MLB jerseys bearing the names of students who were rated advanced on the CSAP test….

Even then, I imagine that the players would be driving fancier cars than the coaches.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I Sing The Body Electric, Part 2

I’m here to sing the praises of some of the technical innovations that I first learned about in 21C but which have since become more important to me for personal reasons. My daughter left January 1 for a year of study in France. Since she has been there, I have talked to and seen her on Skype, used Google Earth to look at the neighborhood where she’s living and the school she’ll be attending (Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris), and viewed some of the pictures she’s taken on Photo Bucket. It made me think about “just in case” versus “just in time” learning. I learned about the existence of Skype and Google Earth and played with them during 21C sessions, and though they were fascinating, they were never that important to me until I had a reason to use them. It made me realize all over again why students often seem disinterested by the “just in case” learning we traditionally foist on them. Whether it’s technology or literature or any other skill or knowledge, the real challenge is to give the students a reason to use it – a real reason, not just an exercise to see if they can. I find this realization daunting because, to me, it makes planning a lesson so much more uncertain and complicated. I’m used to trying to convince students that they should read literature, for example, but I’m not so practiced at showing them why they need to read literature.