Sometimes we have a great experience that we really can't explain the way we want to. What made it so great? Trying to explain makes it sound less than it was but you just want to explain anyway. Not being one to shy away from a challenge I am going to try to explain regardless!
As you know I teach a Grade 3 class in an IBPYP school with a fantastically diverse group of students.
My ongoing challenge is making sure I connect with each student. I try to build relationships with students that are based on them as a person, this takes time and effort but everything I believe about learning and growth comes back to relationships.
Taking time to ask questions about their new something, being available before school for a conversation or even just a 'Hello, how are you?' has a huge impact on the students and on me. (No statistical data here - just my observations)!
Knowing my students, learning how they think and what works for them empowers me as a teacher, differentiation on a personal level. This is not about 'liking' students it is about 'knowing' them.
Building relationships and trust in the learning environment has growing benefits, supporting students to be risk takers, asking questions and sharing ideas that may or may not connect, providing an avenue for thinking outside the box.
Connection to students and their learning build community, encouraging parent engagement is a challenge. Empowering students to invite parents into the learning space to show, share and talk when they have something to share, not just when we have scheduled meetings really takes collaboration to a new level. The spring board for conversation between a student and their parent and the teacher is unlimited. This takes a level of risk taking from the teacher as well.
As a teacher I have to demonstrate what I encourage students to be and do.
It means accepting that it is a process of learning, we don't have to 'be ready' for parents, we can share at any point through the process. It means having confidence in my students that their passion and connection with their parents will encourage ongoing parent engagement in their child's learning.
Having a growth mindset means that we are open to possibilities and opportunities, that we can fail and learn from the failure, that learning doesn't end it is an ongoing process that challenges us to think and build understanding.
I am empowered by my students everyday, their wonderings and questions, connected or not, come in conversations that happen inside and out of the classroom, my challenge is prioritising my time and thinking so that those conversations happen.
Great conversation happen when you least expect it.
After the success of our 3WC this week I started thinking about the next item to be added to my think about it list and it led me to the topic of PYP assembly.
My Grade 3's cheered when we said "It is Grade 3 assembly in December" - ". . .Woo Hoo" Why?
We, as teachers, sign up to 'host' assembly, we actively tried to choose a month that we could make connect with the classroom learning. In December we will be inquiring with a How we express ourselves focus, so December it was.
At our school we have some general agreements about time and place and we are working on some of the physical elements of seating, stage and sound as well as procedures and they are evolving as a result of student action and inquiry.
But I still wonder why students cheer?
So the obvious thing was to ask them. Their responses were varied, however there were three main lines of response:
1. Our parents come to see us (Great a relevant and dedicated audience)
2. We decide what happens at assembly and can make it how we like it (Great student voice and control over what happens)
3. Other people in the school see us and know who we are (Back to relevant audience, coupled with a desire to be acknowledged).
So now of course I am questioning what we are doing, once a year our class lead assembly, every month classes can and do sign up to be involved but there are many classes and students and only 30 minutes. Nothing unusual here but that the students can clearly see purpose and relevance for the experience. When I asked if they wanted assembly more often the majority of students said no!
So I asked 'if you like sharing and having control and you like your parents to come why don' you want assembly more often?' the response was simple, you can only share some stuff - not what we are really doing.
My reflective question is now . . .
'How do we create opportunities for students to have a relevant authentic audience
where they have voice and control over events and provide an avenue for
people to know who they are?'
' . . . Should we?' YES!
If we are engaging in purposeful inquiry that has relevance and meaning then it seems to me that the desire to want to share learning and responding to the learning of others connects naturally to what we are doing and makes logical sense, generally we are social beings.
The challenge is looking for, or being open to, a range of possibilities, creating a culture of open discussion and reflection where opportunities to extend sharing to a wider audience become common place rather than an 'event'.
We are lucky to have lots of collaborative meeting time so the next Grade 3 meeting discussion will be centred around this challenge. I work with an amazing team of educators who are open minded and creative so lets see where this takes us.
I was in @twitter chat recently and noticed that lots of tweets were being made that made assessment seem like an 'extra' it is restricting pedagogy and then I decided I would ask some friends and fellow teachers what they thought. Well the words 'teaching and assessment' start teachers talking quicker than almost any other topic I can think of. Oh second to 'reports'!
Is it ok? Should it happen? What kind? For who? Is it just political? The questions and responses come flying thick and fast. Mostly with well argued thinking and justifications. It is really quite an amazing thing that there is so much passion connected to assessment.
Passion that seems to evoke emotion and energy into why we should or shouldn't do it seems to me to be a wonderful thing. If the focus on assessment is on learning and identifying goals and opportunities to progress and extend thinking. I guess it comes down to purpose.
As a teacher in an IBPYP school assessment is fluid and very much part of the inquiry pedagogy in my classes, checking for understanding, wanting students to improve, empowering students to take ownership of their learning, knowing what they know so they can move forward...what is wrong with any of that?
I think the link between mindset and time management are very clear. When you see assessment as informing and supporting teaching and learning and not as something that is extra and takes more time then their is a shift that happens in classroom practice.
Formative assessment in my mind is probably the single most helpful thing we as teachers can do with our students. It is not something new, great teachers have always done it, but for many it is a case of 'oh I do it when I have time'. What a missed opportunity. Knowing what my students are thinking and what they know, underpins the provocations and resources that we make available to facilitate inquiry, support understanding and encourage the connections that they make.
When we check for understanding, we are doing so to ensure that students are successful, that students have an understanding of the concept. Formative assessments are for learning! By embracing formative assessment, teachers are aware of students through the whole learning engagement process. Formative assessment more accurately reflects student level competency of understanding.
As a teacher, I do what I do.
Every now again something happens that catches you by surprise. A student smiling at you when you don't expect it. A parent making a comment or being taken to tears when expressing their joy when listening to their child share their learning.
We use 3WC's as a reporting tool, a component of our Reporting to Parents Policy that has been in place for the last 7 years. Each year my experience with students has been interesting and informative.
This week we have 3 way Conferences (3WC). The last week leading up to it has been an amazing experience, busy, insanely busy but in a really positive way. Student energy in the rooms has been high, they are engaged, excited and a bit nervous about the prospect of having their parents come to school to talk 'just about me and my learning'
The preparation was a wonderful inquiry into learning.
Through REFLECTION we can create goals to target LEARNING
Function Perspective Reflection
Using concepts to drive our inquiry was the natural progression when moving from thinking & reflecting to organisation. It is wonderful to see how excited the teaching team became when we had the opportunity to interact with students while they were identifying the learning in different things they wanted to use to support their conversations.
Our students are very keen to talk about their work, show process and talk about how they can take their learning further. As one boys said 'I don't just want my parents to say 'good work' I want them to understand what I was thinking and then they might feed forward so I can keep learning.' I love the power of student voice.
Looking forward to Wednesday . . . the next step forward.
I work with some amazing educators, their open-minded attitude to current thinking is inspiring. The growth mind set in our PYP faculty is dynamic.
The way we think and the way we approach teaching and learning opportunities reflects the mindset we have.
Simply put - mindset is the way you think about things.
The collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape your thought habits. Habits affect how you think, what you feel, and what you do. Your mind-set impacts how you make sense of the world, and how you make sense of you.
In my mind it is about belief, if we believe that a student will succeed and we tell them that we believe in them, the difference in the attitude or mindset of the student is tangible.
"In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence." Dweck 2012
Once you have a growth mindset it becomes who you are, it is not a conscious thing. Look for the possibilities and expect to see continual change and grow with it. It is exciting!
I have decided to embrace the world of Twitter olwen@notjustup2u Actually I signed up for Twitter a couple of years back but really didn't take the time to connect. It was one of those 'This looks interesting' moments that had no follow through. My PYP co-ordinator is a huge tweeter and was always talking about it so I finally decided to start exploring.
The realisation that I was a very small fish in a massive pond took me back to going from primary school to high school. That feeling of ' will I ever find my way' and 'every one else gets this - and I don't' struck home to me really quickly.
I am an IBPYP teacher and am a huge advocate of inquiry based learning. So time came to step up and be an inquirer . . . learning never ends - I am now a few months into my active Twitter life and I am amazed at the opportunities for Professional Development, conversations across the world with like minded educators who challenge the boundaries and ask questions to encourage thought about what is possible.
Having a PLN that is global is amazing. I find myself sitting in Vientiane, LaosPDR at 8.15am on Saturday morning taking to someone in Florida and Northern Canada about the possibilities for connecting learners in our respective schools. So coffee finished, chat finished and the weekend has just started, feeling inspired and connected, like I said 'Learning is contagious!'
Teaching in an IBPYP school; interests: student agency, technology integration, growth mindset & the continuous cycle of improvement that is the world of education, learning and being!