Questions and Curiosity

Can you prepare learners to question and be curious or is it something they are born doing? I think all kids are born questioning life and everything out there and are so very curious about what lays ahead but something changes it. Blaming just the education system sounds a bit harsh but it truly might be. Kids are brought to school to learn and grow and become future leaders….or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. On the contrary students come to school and are immediately immersed in the collection and the connections are stifled. I don’t do it purposefully, more out of habit and sense of feeling rushed to cover content. It’s much easier to tell Johnny we can visit that question later in the day and move on with our “have to know” content. Much easier but much less impactful. 

I didn’t learn like I know my students need to learn. That’s why the transition from learning styles seems to be so difficult. What I do know though is that allowing my students to take the time to be curious and ask questions, reinforces those connections and creativity.

Lead to Tow

I’m not a great storyteller but I like to think I’m a phenomenal listener. I like to focus on the smaller details that others usually miss. Watch facial expressions and reactions of others and build on what I’m hearing. Professional learning doesn’t exist consistently in my district….yet. We are making small gains but not quickly enough for my liking. When given the opportunity to choose who I attend PD from I’ve learned who tells the best, most relatable stories and that’s where i go. Not only is it entertaining, but it makes it relevant and I take more from it. 

My role as the presenter is to gain the trust of my audience and allow them to follow me on the journey that we should all be going on together. I don’t want them to feel like it’s every man for himself. Trying as hard as I can I will not have every educator in my boat at the same time though. Some will just not care enough at the time to buy in, others will have hesitations due to other buy-in that didn’t last. The only thing I can do is continue to tell them the story and offer to take them along even if it’s on a raft being towed behind. 

Change of Scenery

 If you’re ever comfortable where you’re at…..you need a change of scenery. This is true for students and adults! Adults aren’t much more willing than students are to make those changes though. Kids need to see adults and their peers work through those times that they are unsure of the outcome and really get a sense of what it is like. I was never ok with having my students correct my mistakes or help me through tough content up until about 3 years ago. I realized then that this was what the majority of my kids needed in order to feel like they could open up in class and participate with less fear! What they have to know is that uncomfortable feelings don’t last forever!

Are you a connector or collector?

Teaching our students to make meaningful connections should be the goal of every educator. Easier said than done though. Something that we feel shouldn’t be so difficult to implement almost feels like a never ending losing battle. Why? Is it because we have to begin to undo the years of collections and fill that void with connections?

I believe that, like myself, many educators are just a product of their own learning experiences. We weren’t taught to make connections so how can I feel confident in my abilities to teach my own students to do so. Maybe that’s the point. Comfort has only gotten us in a repetitive cycle and it’s not looking like someone, or lots of someone’s, are going to jump ship anytime soon to change it.

Maybe stepping out of your comfort zone one class at a time is where the change starts. 

Reform or Revolution?

I find it quite difficult to think that our education system today is nothing more than the carrot and stick. State standards, tests, and grading are nothing less than a show of who can master which concept. My students do not master all concepts in 5th grade for a variety of reasons. Some within my control and theirs, others not so much. 

I would be lying if I said the majority of my teaching thus far has been the carrot and stick. Embarrassingly I have never experienced anything different until starting here at Lamar. How could I possibly teach any other way?

 Sir Ken Robinson is such a phenomenal speaker. His level of bluntness is amazing! Sometimes that’s exactly what we need to hear for it to register. I hold on to the line where Sir Ken Robinson states that reform is of no use anymore. It simply improves a broken model. Our system needs to be completely transformed for any chance of making a difference in our children. 

I would love to believe that my evolving learning philosophy will completely change what goes on in my classroom next year. That is an unrealistic expectation to place upon myself. What I strive for next year is to see change in my environment with my students and allow them to excel in ways that haven’t been offered to them yet. 

TED. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution! | Sir Ken Robinson [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I&feature=youtu.be

There’s No Crying in Professional Learning

Professional learning is so ineffective because it’s the same year after year. On the off chance that we are given something new and improved during one session, the expectation of implementation is unrealistic given everything else that is asked of teachers. This has been my gripe for years! I love some of the concepts and strategies that I have been introduced to but I have no time left over to dig deeper into them and find a way to implement faithfully. 

The Mirage reports were full of dollar amounts being spent on all of the professional learning that teachers are offered. I could honestly say I have no clue where that money is spent in my district minus the coaches that each subject and grade level has. Referring to this previous school year, I did not attend a single professional learning event that was put on but someone outside of my school district. I also was not offered any opportunity to attend or participate in anything that was not related to my specific content of math and science. Professional learning has so much more to do with reaching teachers on a personal level outside of the classroom that isn’t always focused on the subject taught. 

Can my organization change? Yes> Are they willing? History is telling me no. My part in Professional Learning is so small it’s almost non-existent. Starting with a small grain of change is better than none. 

Redefine, Reevaluate, Reinvent

New Culture in the Making?

From the moment we are born our parents speak uniqueness over us. As adults, we push for kids to find what makes them unique and embrace it! When those same kids step into a classroom their unique qualities just about disappear. It becomes extremely difficult to continue to march to your own beat when you are seen as nothing more than a pass or fail score on a test. This is the new normal. Maybe not so much new. Douglas Thomas nails it when he says that normalization is toxic.  Teachers are treated like all other teachers. Students like all others. Individualization and creativity is nonexistent in so many classrooms. 

I know I feel such a push to cover x,y, and z that there is little to no time left to teach creatively. No time for students to learn how to learn in a way that is productive and customized for them. Many of my students attend after school curriculum programs. I had almost double this year than what I have had in the years before. One of my parents opened up about what they love about it and why they chose it and it all boils down to the fact that their student is being given the opportunity to pull all of her interests together in one educational setting. This particular student loves to learn and her passion for it had started to dwindle as she moved through grade school. Why isn’t this something that all public schools offer? Why do we feel that our classrooms must be schedule constrained and an environment solely focused on successful scores?

TEDx Talks. (2012, September 12) A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video]. . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U