As teachers we are in a position where we can not under estimate the influence we have on the students we teach. Yes they are students, learners, children, but they are ultimately people! People with emotions, hopes, expectations and dreams, sometimes laced with fears and anxieties.
Giving learners choice to embrace passions, express emotions, make connections & share understandings in an environment that feels safe is the first step.
Empowering them express fears and anxieties, knowing they are supported and that will be there time and opportunity to work through each one.
These are the challenges we face while trying to meet learning outcome expectations, academic growth and keep parents, peer and administration happy.
Relationships underpin the level of success we have as teachers. The difference we make. Or NOT!
When we have taken time to build relationships with our students there is a 'feeling' a 'knowing'. I acknowledge that some students are 'easier' than others, but therein lays the challenge.
How connected are you to your students?
Do your students think you know them? Do you take time to 'talk' to them about there interests, what sport they play, their favourite foods? Do you notice when they have dark rings under their eyes, or are looking pale, when they have had a haircut or are clearly just not in a good head space when they arrive to school?
If you do notice; do you stop and check in - every time?
When a student wants to talk to you - do you make time for them?
None of this is easy, we all know that days get busy and timelines and deadlines must be met. I challenge myself on this all the time. Why am I meeting deadlines and planning and going to meetings if I don't know all my students well enough to know what their passions are or what interests them? To know if they think they are learning, if they have goals or expectations that involve needing support from me.
Building relationships with students and colleagues is powerful. It when real connections are made, when people value people, expectations become valued. The willingness to assume positive intent and build trust becomes second nature.
So by working to build relationships with depth and meaning we take learning deeper, students develop confidence and operate in an environment where there is 'at least on significant adult who can make a difference' everyday!
There is a reason why students connect with some teachers . . . are you one of those teachers?
Maybe now is the time to think about how to make the effort to change the dynamic in your class, which students do you know the least about?
As the teacher you can be the agent of change . . . you can lead the way . . . it will be worth the effort!
You are not too busy. You do not have to much to do. You do not have more to do than other teachers.
Be present, know your students, give them choice to embrace passions, express emotions, make connections & share understandings in an environment that feels safe.
Empower them to express fears and anxieties, knowing they are supported and that will be there time and opportunity to work through each one.
I started writing this blog post and then I hit save and thought I would finish it later.
So now is 'later'.
I was talking to two other teachers about technology and here I am back on the blog finishing 'that' post I had started a few weeks back.
Originally we were talking about how we use technology and how technology is or isn't supported. The idea of one to one devices, shared devices, purpose of other peripherals, printers and on and on. We have come so far from when technology - or rather how to use technology had to be 'taught' in a lab and was not connected to the day-to-day learning. To be honest that situation was not that long ago but was certainly not in the 'school life-time' of my Grade 5 students.
When technology becomes seamless as a functioning feature in the learning within the classroom it is powerful. We all have the horror lessons when 'it won't load' or 'it doesn't work' but when it does work and it is seamless it is one of those moments when you mentally go 'Yep.. this is all good!'
Students expect technology to be part of their learning the same ways as it is part of their life.
The question that still comes to mind is the fact that despite the occasional 'it won't load', and frustratingly slow internet.
"Why are we still talking about integration of technology as if it is new?"
I am not saying that technology isn't changing; the new gagets, apps, software and hardware are constantly changing. Will teachers ever 'know everything'? I hope not! But then teachers are not supposed to know everything. But technology is here to stay and those who embrace it as a tool to support teaching and learning will move forward with their students, in the 21st century (we are 17 years in now!)
We need an environment of open-minded thinkers who are willing to look at technology as a tool to enhance learning opportunities. An environment where technology is a tool to enhance or enable or support learning, where people are all actively up-skilling themselves, inquiring into the what and how; working with students to find solutions, to be creative and to take opportunities to build understanding and consolidate knowledge.
Before we know it we will be half way through the 21st century . . . so embrace the technology and work with students . . . technology integration in life is not new for our students, they were only born 11 years ago. Their parents use cell phones, digital cameras, they talk on Skype and Face-time, they use Facebook or email and they probably have bluetooth in their car and apple TV for Netflix.... and who knows what else!
You have 'tec-sperts' in the room ... work with them!
If you don't know who they are - Find Out!
I spoke to a student recently who asked me what seemed like a simple question,
'What do you think about?'
I didn't have an answer, I stopped and looked at him. Not sure how to answer him. I said, 'I think about lots of things, I think about the past, present and future; I think about my family and my work, my students, the list is so long; I think all the time."
He looked at me, with wide wide eyes and said, "I knew you thought about us."
I smiled and said 'Yes, I think about all of you." He nodded and smiled. end of conversation.
The power of questions. That student doesn't know but his simple question has floated around in my head a lot since or conversation " What do you think about?'
We have those internal conversations ... the ones where we are trying to make sense of a situation, to reason pro's and con's; to justify decisions, or just to make choices. Conversations that no one else hears but that drive us to think constantly.
"What do you think about... really think about?'
I started to think more about the question, did I miss what he was really getting at? Maybe he was asking what my interests or passions were? Maybe what current affairs interest me? maybe it was simply a question that was looking for reassurance that students were part of my 'thinking'.
So what do we think about?
What do you think about?
By encouraging students to ask questions they provoke thinking and discussion, for themselves, each other and teachers. The more questions we ask the more opportunity we create to make connections, build links and foster a culture of wondering and inquiry.
The next level really is when our students are asking the questions, driving learning and taking opportunities to find out, develop understanding and share knowledge through conversation, debate and discussion. This is the point where students feel safe, empowered and are engaged as learners.
This is the point where teachers can engage with students, facilitating learning and provoking thought by asking questions, challenging ideas by sharing different perspectives and developing the understanding that learning is not 'done'.
Often the end point is another question.
" .... what do you think about?"
How do we measure what happens in our classrooms?
We evaluate, assess, annotate and observe. We plan and create and discuss. We focus on learning and teaching and more learning.
Last week, during an in-house PD (thanks @whatedsaid ) we were looking at our practices and were identifying if what we were doing inspired or enhanced learning for students.
So do we inspire or enhance learning?
I guess simply put the engagement worked 'cause it has made me think.
To explain further... I am still thinking about this question!
For me, learning is the centre point of what I do and this is underpinned by relationships. For me functioning healthy relationships with student require some 'tough times' but are, for the most part, a series of interesting conversations where we challenge each others thinking and have robust discussions. Where we both have responsibilities that centre around learning.
So do I plan engagements that are inspiring? Do I say inspiring things? Is it even up to me to provide the inspiration? After all, will what I find inspiring be the same thing that will set the 'trigger' of something inspirational for another person or student? How can you know? Do you need to know?
Ultimately developing a varied, balanced learning space that provides opportunities and choice and accepts ideas that excite my students is going to be the 'inspiration' - a teacher who see possibilities as a positive and sees learning as the centre of what we do.
Is the fact that you think about learning as being inspirational enough? That you have the desire to create opportunities for possible interactions or experiences that may be inspirational. Is that, how, as teachers we 'inspire'? Maybe the fact that I am still questioning and thinking is demonstrating that there isn't an easy answer, but does there need to be an 'easy answer'?
The enhancing of learning, on the surface seems to be quite easy.
There were lots of examples of learning interactions and engagements that could clearly 'enhance' learning.
However the more I think about it, the more I question this as well.
If to enhance is to make learning 'better' to enable students to 'do more', to 'improve' or to develop thinking, to take learning further, then ultimately, doesn't that mean that the student is invested in their learning, they have been 'inspired' to take the 'enhanced' learning opportunity and inquire further?
For now my thinking is to 'Inspire' and 'Enhance' means to be engaging, be open to possibilities, create a balanced, interesting learning environment where students have, choice, responsibility, can take risks, reflect, set goals and 'grow'.
So... Inspire or Enhance ??
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!