September 12: Products

Students are making some great progress on their shelters they’ve been building. A few have even finished construction. They’re coming up with a pretty wide variety of ideas for solving the problem of paper construction without any type of adhesives. I really enjoy when projects get to the stage where I’m just offering feedback or suggestions and helping locate supplies.

I think my favorite part is when students slowly begin to see each other as resources. I have to encourage them to get up and look around at what others are doing. For many of them, it goes against everything they know about school. They are constantly being told to do their own work or keep their eyes on their own papers, so when I tell them to go look at what someone else is doing they often look at me like they think it’s a trick. But then, they see I’m serious and they start having conversations with peers and borrowing ideas and it is super rare that they actually copy anything. Mostly because they are not all working to create identical products. They have developed their own unique plans to solve their choice of problems, so getting an idea from their peers is just good learning.

Here’s just a few examples so far. I’m looking forward to creating a whole gallery soon.

September 11: Weekends

I forgot to write yesterday. Well, maybe I didn’t forget because I definitely thought about it, but I just didn’t do it. It’s the weekend and I just didn’t make the time, and I’m ok with that.

My family works hard during the week. My wife and I as educators and my kids as students. This return to school has been both physically and emotionally draining. It’s not just the work part, but it’s also still adjusting to being around people all day for eight plus hours. That’s not something we’ve done for a long time.

So when the weekend hits, it’s a time to unwind and let my brain and body relax. Sometimes that means skipping a day of a thirty day challenge. Instead, I sat on the roof for my morning coffee, I read my book, walked the dog, took a nap and went to hang out and laugh with friends. It was just what I needed so that tomorrow, I can show up for my students again.

September 9: Mystery

Made it. It’s finally the weekend.

I had part of a project go missing yesterday. One of the characters from our build a shelter project disappeared. I have to be honest, I feared the worst, that a student had picked them up and taken them. I hate feeling that way, but it seemed quite possible. My hope was that it had just been accidentally knocked to the floor and lost to the cleaning crew.

It turns out it was possibly some weird combination of all of the above. Once it was discovered that Lint Balle was missing, I did what any design teacher would do and made missing posters.

I posted them on the doors to my room and one outside our MS office as well. I also notified the students via Google Classroom that Lint was missing. Some of my DT 1 students thought I was starting some sort of new game and came to class excited to solve the mystery. Once I explained, they were slightly disappointed but eager to help with the search as well. The DT students were a bit more distraught since Lint was a part of many of their projects. They mostly just asked why I didn’t make another one. 🤣 I had to explain that I didn’t actually make Lint, I just found them in my house. Ironically, deepening the mystery of where and how Lint actually came to be.

At lunch time, a colleague approached me and sheepishly told me that they in fact were the culprit. Somehow Lint had turned up on their desk in the room next to mine and not knowing what it was had simply tossed it in the trash. Gut wrenching news. But at the same time, a relief that I knew what had happened. It will always be a mystery how it got there, but now we know the truth.

I’m a bit disappointed in myself for assuming foul play from students. I have some particularly challenging personalities in one class this year, and my frustrations got the better of me. Just one more thing I need to continue to work on to be a better me. I need to continue working on building those positive relationships with those kids and finding ways to connect.

In the meantime, this afternoon I did what needed to be done and closed the mystery by announcing to my students that the disappearance of Lint had been solved.

Because school should be fun and we all need a little chuckle heading into the weekend.

September 8: Creativity

Today started with two hours of Map testing. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

In my classes today, we had a lot of fun. This was my 2 class day and they’re both DT 2 so we’re in building mode. They’re working on building shelters for their clients out of only paper. It has been super fun seeing them come up with interesting ways to connect their paper and make it stand on its own. There’s a little bit of everything, from making tiny paper pin joints to just twisting paper together, they have developed some great solutions.

Of course, there are also some students who are just stuck. They look at the challenge and just say, “I can’t do that”. I realized today that sometimes I get frustrated with those students a bit too quickly. I need to take the time to step back and recognize there is more at play than just a student giving up. There is a story behind the decision that goes well past the walls of my classroom. W

ith that in mind, my new mission is to stop and take a breath before I react to these students lack of progress and think more about how to help them see their own potential. How do I help these students find success and confidence in these challenges? I need to help set up some small successes for them so they can start to see a clearer path.

So as I challenge my students to stretch their own creativity, I need to practice what I preach. I need to stretch myself a bit and find ways to keep these students excited about learning and problem solving, because I want to set all my students up for the win, every time.

September 7: Running

Almost to the end of the second full week of school and I’m tired. Being back in person is awesome and exhausting. Like trying to go from walking a mile a day to running a 10k in a week. My knees hurt, my head hurts, my feet are tired and I honestly can’t believe I’m still awake at almost 9pm.

It’s not just the physical tired either. Trying to stay ahead on my lesson plans, get videos made for back to school night, sit thru staff meetings, figure out proctoring Map testing and all the other usual teaching stuff along with that side gig of being a parent means my brain is fried. I started playing games on my phone again. That’s when I know my brain just needs some time off.

But it was a good day in the classroom. We’ve made it to construction stages in all of my classes so there are paper shelters being built in DT 2 and paper flying machines being developed in DT 1. It is so much fun to hear the buzz of creative problem solving going on in my room again. It makes all the stuff I just finished complaining about worth it. seeing students fully engaged, working together and wanting to keep working past the end of class is the best.

I’ll try to add some pics of student creations next time, but for now, I’m turning in with achy knees and a grin on my face.

September 6: Connections

Sometimes a favorite part of my job doesn’t have anything to do with teaching. Last night a friend from an old school reached out to me to ask some questions about the programs we use for student management systems and grading and all that fun stuff. I didn’t have all the answers to his questions but I knew the right person to put him in touch with, so I did.

Our new Tech Director is a great guy and when I mentioned it to him he was quick to say yes. By the end of the day he had already reached out and was working to set up a time to talk to my old friend.

It feels good to connect good people and to know that my connections can help people out from time to time. I guess you could also say that some of the same ideas apply in my classroom. I’m working to help students see each other as resources and have confidence that their own skills are worth sharing. Whether it’s thru feedback protocols or just encouraging them to ask a peer for help before asking me, I feel like it is important for them to see the power of connections and sharing.

September 5: Reading

I waited too long to write this tonight. My kids are playing mini basketball in the hallway, and I’m really ready to just read my book (The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle) and fall asleep. But alas, I’m only 5 days into this challenge so here we are.

Digging this book, its, different.

I’ll go with the reading theme today. I always like to check out what books students are carrying around with them, hopefully reading, and maybe add something to my list. It is a great conversation starter and often a good ice breaker for some of my quieter students. Today was no exception.

I have a student who has barely spoken so far this year, but they were first into my room for class today. I did the usual and asked about the weekend and what they like to do in their free time. Of course, the initial answer is “Nothing”, I mean, it is middle school. But with a little more probing I got an answer of enjoying reading. From there we went into a full on conversation about what they were reading. I have to admit, I was so pleased to get them talking to me, that I can’t remember what the book was. They gave it a less than stellar review anyway. Now I have a connection with the student though and hopefully they feel a little more comfortable in my class.

I keep a mini whiteboard displayed in my room with “Mr. Harwood is reading…”. I actually used the laser cutter to add my face and those words to it so I can just update the book. A lot of time passes between students commenting on it, but every now and then they will, and I know they see it every day.

September 4: Weekend, Oops

So maybe I’m cheating a bit and writing this on the morning of the 5th and maybe that isn’t the greatest start to a 30 day challenge to miss a day less than a week in, but maybe I’m modeling for my students that it is ok to miss a day.

Since I said this would be reflecting about my work, I spent Saturday doing work around the house. The cleanup, fix stuff, take a nap kind of work. I fixed two of my Ghana bracelets that had broken by re-stringing them and I’m quite happy with the results. I also sewed a button back on a pair of pants that had been waiting for me to fix them for about a year. But last year, working from home, it just didn’t seem to important.

I’m not going to draw this out any more than I need too. I’m just trying to make sure I have something for the day. So I’m off to get ready for Sunday. Should be some building going on in class today. Flying rescue machines and paper shelters. Looking forward to a good week.

September 3: Working with my kids

Today is Friday, so it is the weekend here in Jordan. That means I do not have a class to reflect on today, but since I signed up for a 30 day challenge, I reckon I’ll write a little anyway.

This is the first year that both of my own children are in the middle school with me and also the first time I have ever taught one of them. My oldest is in one of my design tech 2 classes. I was not sure how it would feel, and to be quite honest I was a little worried about it feeling awkward. Now it has only been three classes, but so far it has been pretty cool. I get to see him as a learner and interacting with his peers and he gets to see what all the fuss is about all the other middle school students before him saying I am the best teacher ever. Ok, maybe I made that last part up, but it is cool that he gets to see what I do everyday too.

It also means I have an insider giving me feedback. We work out together in the afternoons and he is, so far, eager to talk about the class and give me his insight into how things went and what he thought about some of the work we’ve done so far. It has been pretty awesome to hear him be excited about what we are doing and to talk about his ideas for the current project.

We talked a lot about him being in my class over the summer. He would occasionally pitch to me ideas for projects he might work on and ask what sorts of things I had planned. We also discussed what he would call me. It was a bit of a confusing space. Would it be awkward if he called me ‘Dad’ in class or should he call me ‘Mr. Harwood’ like everyone else? We weren’t really sure. But we found out this week that Dad works just fine when he called me over for some help during class. None of his peers flinched and he just kind of laughed when he heard himself say it so we both just shrugged and moved on.

It was also pretty awesome to hear him share his thoughts on our designs of the day. I can totally see how it would be weird for him to answer my questions in front of his friends, but he has jumped in and shared his thoughts. I also have to brag a little too as my heart swelled when during one conversation he pointed out the toxic masculinity that was embedded in the design. It was hard not to run over and hug him. Sometimes, it feels like you’ve been doing things right.

Alright, I did get his permission to write about him today, but I won’t ramble on any further, but I will add a pic or two of us.

Summer fun with my boy
We also occasionally get to rock together

September 2: Messaging and learning

Today was just 8th grade, DT 2. These classes are fun and totally different personalities as groups. I started the class with the usual Design of the Day, but I prefaced it with a little information about the article I noted in the last entry and how it has me thinking about how we categorize things and label them good or bad. I like sharing my own learning and thought processes with students. There were some quizzical looks and some nodding of heads as I shared.

We went on to discuss this image

unless you puke, faint or die, keep going!

thru the lens of feelings, and purpose. It was a fascinating discussion that went much longer than the 10 minutes to which I try to limit our openers. Some students felt that it was motivational or at least with good intentions. Others spoke up and said it was pretty ridiculous and even intimidating. After several minutes of discussion, I revealed that the image is actually in a school building which led to a whole additional round of discussions about users, intended audiences and appropriateness.

I’m excited to have more of these types of conversations, and now I need to work on ways to get more students involved. I recently saw this idea for Turn and Learn instead of Turn and Talk, and I may add that soon.

The rest of the class was setting up design journals, adding links to the spreadsheet and then getting to work on sketches for their shelters. I went back this morning and added pronouns to the characters even though I knew it wouldn’t update for the students via Google Classroom. Just wanted it for future uses. We also decided as a class that shelters should not be bigger than a 30 cm cube. Trying to limit paper and hopefully increase success as it should be easier to build paper structures that are smaller.

I also did a spontaneous and quick introduction to orthographic sketching. I want to work on pushing students to create more quality work this year. Instead of just random quick sketches, I want them to produce useful sketches with measurements and at least close to scale. It was semi successful as students were creating some pretty cool drawings. Maybe I’ll add some of them later.

Now I’m just happy it is the weekend.