Friday, May 15, 2015

Best Practices

As the 2014 Indiana Teacher of the Year, my year of service was the 2014-2015 school year.  During that time I had the opportunity to take a sabbatical from my classes and to support education around the state.  I did the latter, but did not take the sabbatical.  I remained in my classroom teaching six sections of Latin I, II, III, and IV, which included A.P., I.B., and independent study students and sponsored one of the largest chapters of the Indiana Junior Classical League.  Suffice it to say, it was a wonderful and exhausting year!

Highlights included working with schools of education at Indiana University, Indiana State University, Ball State University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Huntington University, Taylor University, and St. Francis University.  These opportunities allowed me to see the great work that is being done in our schools of education to prepare the next wave of Hoosier teachers and to share with them many of the things I have seen in the field.

 Speaking of being in the field, it was a true pleasure to visit many different schools and districts across Indiana.  Of course, the best part was spending time with students, who were always eager to show me what they loved about their school.

There were times when I was able to address and work with members of our legislature and the Indiana Department of Education.  This even included my film debut as the narrator for State of the Classroom, a piece that looks at the challenges students face outside the school and the amazing Hoosiers who are working to help them.

I found it most fitting the last act in my year of service was to deliver the keynote address at Ball State University School of Education's Best Practices Conference.  This was an event that saw teachers from around the state sharing their best activities, their best strategies, and their best ideas with each other.  It was fun and exciting.  It provided an opportunity for teachers to share and to learn, to enrich each other's lives from all they have experienced in the infinitely complex and vastly wonderful world of educating students.

So where do I go from here?  I have received countless questions about teaching at the university level, publishing, and even running for office.  I can tell you that Gary Abud, the 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year, and I have been working for a year on a soon-to-launch educational radio show.  Our producer is working with iTunes, and we will have more information for everyone in the next week.  I am also working on establishing an educational leadership conference at one of our state universities in 2016 that will feature U.S., Hoosier, and international education leaders.  I am speaking at multiple events this summer, and as nearly as I can tell, while my year of service may be at a close, my years of serving the education profession have no end in sight!

Thank you to the many people who have supported me throughout this wonderful experience.  Were I to try to name you all, this post would crash the Internet.

A special thank you goes out to all those who read this blog and follow me on Twitter @intoy2014.  Keep reading, for I will have much to write about this shared journey of

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Students Want Challenges

After reading the war writings of Julius Caesar in the original Latin and then exploring some Greek philosophy in translation, our Latin II students bring it all together with a project involving Steven Pressfield's The Warrior Ethos.  They must discuss three of the tenets from the book with regard to Caesar, their own current life, and what they plan to do in the future.

In one of his sections, Pressfield talks about why people join the military or want to be soldiers.  For some it is a rite of passage.  They want to challenge themselves. They want to grow.  Emily, one of my freshmen, chose this and applied it to her life at the moment.

Life in high school can seem very stagnant; we follow the same schedule every day and see the same people every day for the majority of the year.  I am craving some of the action, risk, the need to challenge myself, just as this tenet describes of those wishing to join the military.  I need a rite of passage into adulthood that does not involve taking standardized tests.  I want to challenge myself in a different environment than I am used to seeing every day and I want to learn and mature and become a better individual as a result.

There is a move away from high stakes testing for many good reasons.  Some opposed say that this is a move away from academic rigor, yet as my student clearly indicated, this is not the case.  Emily is an intelligent student who it seems has obtained wisdom as well.  In her own words, she wants "to learn and mature and become a better individual."  After fifteen years in which tests have played a far too significant role in life, she has indeed learned something.  She knows what she needs and wants, a proper rite of passage into adulthood that is suitably challenging to provide growth.  She knows that this does not involve testing.

I would argue that our school provides much of what Emily needs.  Ours is a rich curriculum that offers varied opportunities for students to explore their gifts and worlds in which to exercise them.  Yet even we are bound by exams sending the message to students that grades are the most important measure of achievement and the most important of the rites of passage.  We know this is not true and frequently say so, but when our actions do not match our words, students become confused, or worse, believe the message of the exams.  Fortunately some students, like Emily, know that there must be something else.  Hopefully she and others like her are able to explore a world beyond tests as they travel the shared journey of discovery that is true education.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dear Mr. President

What happens when students from one of the country's newest and most innovative education programs want to take their dreams, hopes, and concerns to the President of the United States?  They make a compelling 12-minute video featuring their peers and established educators.  2014 National Teacher of the Year, Sean McComb, and I had the honor of being part of Raeanne O'Day's and Hannah Iskow's work.  Please share this widely, not because Sean and I are looking for press, but because these creative future teachers are telling and showing our country what education can truly be.