When I first starting teaching in an IBPYP school I was both excited and a little wary of my ability to 'perform' to the expectations. It wasn't long before I realised that everyone else was also on a journey and that actually my thinking and teaching pedagogies were 'inquiry based' already. That was just the beginning of an exciting adventure that changes and develops more each day.
Lets fast forward 8 years . . .
I am a a teacher who works with students, I don't have 'the answers', I don't want 'the answers'.
The longer I teach the more I understand that the journey I am on is one that will never have 'an answer' but will be filled with questions, wonderings and possibilities and that energises my thinking.
If I think about the impact of having time to connect our thinking and learn and understand over time, one short story about a student in my class has made me think about how we make connections to take learning further.
I have a girl in my class who was new to learning English, she was quiet and quiet understandably has been reluctant to engage on a whole class level unless she was 100% sure she was 100% correct. This is completely normal and as to be expected. We always say students show us in their own way when they are ready for the next step. So, a few weeks back she started asking questions, then she started initiating discussions with peers, all that was great and made me smile to see her development.
Then last week when we were planning the final assembly for the semester with the students, they were brainstorming ideas to be more interactive with the school as well as how to give an 'overview' of our learning. Needless to say we were going around and around, when out of nowhere our newly confident Ms X says ' I think we should explain the big ideas while some students build a model on the stage so that everyone can understand what is going on'.
The excitement that that one statement generated was tangible in the room, the other 36 students ran with it and came up with a great presentation, when Ms X says ' what about making connections?'
We asked 'Can you explain more?'
She said 'when I was in Grade 2 we learnt about what is good for eating for your body and in Grade 3 we learnt about food security and they connect.'
We said 'Did you understand about nutrition in Grade 2 - you were new to learning English?'
She said, 'No I didn't really understand what was going on but I could see what was happening'
I said 'So how could we connect that to assembly.'
Her response was simple ' I could say . . .
"Can you make any connections between our learning and yours?
We wonder what learning connections we will make next semester….. "
Students when given time and space they need to learn make the connections. I wonder what connections we will make next semester as well.
How do you value the connections you have with those you work with?
The experience of working with teams of teachers is empowering for me, it challenges me to think about my teaching everyday. I am inspired by conversations in the coffee line, by enthusiastic recounts over lunch and even by the tired face I walk out the door with in the late afternoons.
As teachers we have the opportunity to constantly reflect and add value to the learning experiences of both our students and our colleagues - if we choose to.
I am also discovering a whole new network of 'virtual' colleagues, educators from all over the world who are energised, interested and interesting, who inspire me to 'drop-in' on @twitter chats and to take conversations further. This new #PLN is growing and changing and I am continue to be amazed at the possibilities.
So why did I name this post 'Get your game on...?' because that is exactly what the energy of enthusiastic educators does. It encourages us to have our head in the game, to challenge our thinking, to muse over new and challenging ideas, makes us open to possibilities and thinking. We have the amazing opportunity to connect with people we may never meet as well as those who are in the next room or building.
Why does this matter? It matters because students matter.
When teachers are talking and thinking about student learning. About students making progress not just focusing on their grades but about the progress they have made over a period of time. About the fact that teachers can impact change, they can make a difference then it is a celebration for students, for teachers and for learning.
So 'Get your game on . . .' there is lots of play left for all of us.
I had a great conversation with a some students earlier in this crazy busy week - about perfection.
If I am honest I was happy I had made the time to sit on the seat outside the class to connect and chat with them, but I seriously had so much work to do I was trying to keep the 'to do' list away from my 'front thinking' while I engaged with my delightful 8-9 year olds.
The joy in their voices about being risk takers, and trying to learn was inspiring. One of the students said
' If I was perfect it would mean I can't get any better . . . but I want to keep getting better . . . so I am happy - I don't ever want to be perfect.'
That single comment has been playing in my head like a track of a song, going round and round.
Firstly, what a great self image this student has, a believe and a drive to want to continue to grow and improve - not to want to reach for perfect but to look for more than that. Her friends were less articulate but were open to the same thinking and expressed the idea that 'perfect' was not necessary.
Secondly, I now challenge myself to think in the same way, I have a small stickie note on my laptop that says 'no need to be perfect', just a small reminder that it is ok to do the best I can and to be balanced. Sometimes allowing or giving ourselves permission is actually liberating, making yourself an agent of change.
Most importantly it has me thinking about how I can build on this attitude and utilise the positive energy about learning, progress and improvement to impact the wider group of students in my Grade 3 class.
We are currently inquiring into the idea that messages are created to target specific audiences with a focus on advertising, media and persuasion. So it is a perfect chance to create a provocation to start the students talking, thinking and questioning.
I am quite excited about the possibilities . . . I have:
- borrowed books - starting with literature and asking groups to discuss the concept of 'perfection' in the stories
- created a puzzle of pieces for students to respond in a brainstorm to questions about being perfect
- the question wall is ready to go . . . now I need students to fill it with questions
- set up some small short videos for a viewing station to tune students into perfect verses not perfect
and finally the entry pass for the morning is to answer the question on the board before they come into class.
"Is being perfect important? Why? or Why not?"
I know I have students who will say YES and others who will say NO but that is what makes this exciting, challenging thinking and maybe just maybe it will make a difference for one of my students, it has already made a difference to me.
I saw this message printed on the side of a box that was let outside my classroom. It was there for a few days and every time I walked out the door I found myself smiling as I read the side of the box.
I started to think about that phrase, 'Open a World of Possible' . . .
Then I had to take a photo, not sure what I was going to do with the image, but as it was playing in my head so that was enough reason to take a photograph!
If I applied that simple idea to my students and their learning what could happen?
My approach to student learning is individualised and I have to have a really good reason to stop self initiated learning ideas. This gives students ownership to drive their learning but comes with responsibilities and the expectation that they will set goals, have a clear purpose, reflect on learning and can demonstrate understanding through making connections and reflecting. So yes my thinking is already about making 'learning possible' but there more that I could be doing so now I need to open that question to a wider audience.
So today I am going to ask the question . . .
'How can we open a world of possible?'
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!