Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Study of Lesson Study, or, One More Thing We Aren't Doing to Support Teachers

They are doing this program on WBEZ by American Radio Works, Teaching Teachers, about teacher prep programs and teacher practices in the US versus other places. These kinds of things are difficult for me to listen to, because of both the state of things now and the old, rusty feelings from when I was teaching (and when I quit). But the radio just stayed on through the program, so here I am accidentally listening to it and accidentally writing about it.

And it is indeed hard to listen to. Just now, a former math teacher just articulated exactly the pattern of events that led to me quitting all those years ago: 1) He'd identify an issue in his teaching he wanted to solve; 2) He'd go to a training or professional development on it and get great ideas; 3) He'd come back and implement it in his classroom, but he or the kids would have questions he didn't have answers for; 4) At the end of the day he'd sit down at his desk under a towering pile of student work needing review, discouraged because lessons didn't go well, and with no one to talk through his ideas and efforts, no way to see anyone demo new ideas, no way to practice methods, and no time to process anything except--on his own time--that paperwork. He felt alone, exhausted, and without any way to learn and get better, so he quit.

In the US, teachers are expected to "just figure it out," "just make it work." That's not the practice anywhere in the world with an effective education system; and even more challenging, even the most individual, solo learners do not have any time to learn and grow. Many countries have "lesson study" (Japanese method) or similar practices, where teachers in schools have plenty of time to get together and work on a specific teaching problem by sharing ideas--and that puts the focus on better teaching through practice and professional collaboration, not "better teachers." This is a mid-century American method that many countries adopted from the US but that is pretty absent in the US now. This is among the various topics the program addressed.

There are Lesson Study groups anew in the US, thanks in part to Tom McDougal, the guy whose story I summarized above--here's his organization. In the US it's mostly in math classes but in some others, too--there's one in Chicago for learning how to teaching using the Common Core framework. But teachers in the US mostly need to find a way to do it on their own time, if they are interested.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

And now, this breaking news from last February!

Long Time No See!

You may recall that on February 24, in partnership with Chicago Wilderness and Educelerate, H.e.a.r Chicago Talk looked at educating future eco-leaders, with a focus on fostering diversity. I feel honored to have had the speakers we did and the audience questions were incredible. The recap is below. But first...

Where has H.e.a.r. Chi Talk Been? 

Engaged Green Education people!
H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk is a one-woman production and, I discovered this spring and summer, subject to the vicissitudes of circumstance. One of my goals has been to find partners and resources so as to stabilize the forum's place in the world, though that goal clearly remains unmet (more on goals and purposes later). 

This one woman is swallowing her shame along with her second cup of coffee right now and imparting to you, finally, news of the Fabulous February event, as well as thoughts on the Flighty Future of our Feisty little Forum.

H.e.a.r Chicago Talk: Green Education recap 

We had an AMAZING group of speakers and an equally incredible yield of audience questions.

Pete Leki created the Gardens and Ecology Program at Waters Elementary. He offered a poetic description of the Waters program's foundation and growth, accompanied by an evocative montage of photos.
Audience questions for Pete are listed here. Themes (rooted in the realities of CPS today I think), include: How can such school programs survive a challenging district environment? and What is the relationship between shifts in school culture and gentrification, and how can that relationship be disrupted?

Kellen Marshall is a PhD Candidate in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology 
Department at UIC and the director of research at Eden Place Nature Center. She presented, via video presentation, some of her research on the gap between educational and experiential requirements typical of conservation careers, and corresponding paths typically taken by Black high school and college students. 
A slide from Kellen's presentation
Audience questions for Kellen are listed here. Themes include: How can new and more pathways into environmental work be created? and What changes must be made in both the field and the community to foster diversity in the field?

Dr. Jo-Elle Mogerman is Vice President of Insitutional Planning and Inclusion at the Chicago Zoological Society. She presented the principles and practice of a program at Brookfield Zoo that provides Chicago youth with authentic conservation experiences.

Audience questions for Jo-Elle are listed here. Themes include how to support conversion from internships to careers, and how to track that conversion.

Just a few of many audience
questions for Mike
Michael Rizo is an Urban and Community Program Specialist in the Office of International Programs of the US Forest Service. Mr. Rizo talked about his work in partnership with El Valor Children and Youth Services engaging Little Village families in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly via cultural associations as well as ecological ones.

Audience questions for Mike are listed here. Themes include how to replicate a culturally specific program in other neighborhoods and how to extend successes into school and career as participating children get older.

I recommend you take a look at all the questions that came out of the evening!

Whither Goeth H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk? 

Each time we have a H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk, I am inspired by great speakers and thoughtful questioners. But nature-based education holds special interest for me, and the Chicago Wilderness/H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk partnership was pretty dreamy for me.

It was clear from the AMAZING questions we got from the audience that our eco-inquiry wasn't over after that event, had barely even started, in fact...we had convened an incredible group of people and now, rather than move to a new topic, I want to dig more into the questions and themes we touched on.

But how? A second green-education forum, a roundtable or study group, set up differently so as to discuss some of these questions in depth? Is that the same as a H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk, or something new?

H.e.a.r. stands for "Hope for Equity, Authenticity, and Relevance in education." Its goal has been to provide a positive place for educators to share ideas about teaching and learning. I have many conflicting thoughts about the extent to which this has worked and whether it can work in its present form and the current education conditions in Chicago. 

I confess that at least some substantial portion of my long silence has been bafflement. Where do I go from here? What are people getting out of these forums? Perhaps I should focus on just one topic? Perhaps the forum isn't needed at all? Who is the audience? Is it possible to create an event that better appeals to both teachers and informal educators?

I just don't know right now what my conclusion is. I was hoping to know that before publishing this, but,'s been a long time and I want to hear from you.

Action! Plan!

No H.e.a.r. Chicago Talks are yet planned at this point. Please:

1) Read the talk summaries and audience questions from Pete'sKellen'sDr. Jo-Elle's, and Mike's talks. Comment on the blog, on Facebook, or by email your favorite questions for each speaker. I will collect, publish, and forward! Perhaps people want to address these questions in another forum. I'd love to facilitate that.

2) Think about your experience with H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk. Comment on the blog, on Facebook, or by email on what YOU want to see. What need can it serve? For whom? What does it need? And/or, want to talk about it over coffee? Contact me.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wild Things Conference this past Saturday, and Chi Talk's wonderful partners this round!

Last Saturday was the biennial Wild Things conference, an incredible gathering of regional conservation/ecology/wildlife professionals and volunteers. I live-tweeted throughout the day, and many others did, too--check out #wildthings2015 (and click to "view all tweets" and not just top tweets) for a pretty good overview of the impressions and topics of the day. You can learn more about Saturday's awesomeness in a more comprehensive way on their website.

One hot topic was Educating Our Future Conservation Leaders--the very subject of our next H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk! (That's February 24, y'all, at a bar with a fireplace.) I'm very excited to be partnering with Chicago Wilderness for this round. I mean, like, very excited. VERY EXCITED! Chicagoland natural areas are my happy place, and the educational possibilities of nature my greatest professional interest.

I'm also partnering once more with the fantastic Educelerate, a networking forum for people interested in innovation in education. Their primary interest is the tech side of things, but Educelerate's founder, Chris Nyren, as well as participating "Educelerants" have been incredibly great in their open minds and enthusiastic interest in H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk topics. Thank you, Educelerate!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk: Green Education

You might recall this round's theme was going to be "Access," but we are moving that to later in the year, to guarantee that we have a wheelchair accessible venue.

So! I am very excited to be partnering with Chicago Wilderness for this round's theme: GREEN EDUCATION. Topics will be around engaging young people in environmental leadership, up to and including choosing careers in conservation and sustainability. We are particularly interested in ideas for fostering a more racially and ethnically diverse future of conservation.

Our speakers are TBA and will represent a variety of youth conservation education entities. Got a great idea or experience, yourself, on this theme? Please consider sharing it on February 24! Submit your idea here or email me at