Cool Social Media Sharing Touch Me Widget by Blogger Widgets

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Open Stance to Learning

I've heard this phrase more often in the past year or so and it often makes me think....

What stance to learning am I exhibiting each day?

In the past few years I have become more willing to tell students that "I don't know" or that they should "google it." Often, it's not that I truly don't know or that I can't fathom an answer to the question that I'm being asked; rather, I have committed myself to demonstrating that I might not have all the answers. More importantly, I have been trying to model this for my students as much as possible - so that they understand that the process of learning is never-ending and lifelong in its scope.

Lately, I've been saying to students who approach me with a question (that I know they could google or find out an answer using their own device): "I'm a teacher - not a teller. My job isn't to tell you the answers but to teach you the best way to get to the answers." Sounds cliche, I know, but it has slowly begun to take shape in the mindset of my class.

When we have an open stance to learning, it is important that we truly appreciate the value of this lens. When we are open to the questions of others - it often allows us to consolidate our own views or alter them in some way. Through discourse and reasoning, educators are sometimes even able to open the eyes of colleagues who hadn't considered certain ideas before.

Physically, an open stance to learning, is leaning forward in our chair during a discussion. It is making eye contact and nodding your head to the speaker. When we show positive body language and ask clarifying questions, we emanate interest and intrigue. These are the same behaviours that excite us when our students show them during class discussions and lessons. We certainly want to see engagement and activated thinking in our class - but can struggle to buy in to the same ideas when conversing with colleagues during professional learning activities.

Be open to the ideas of others - both the tall and the small. Learning is a loop but each new pass offers new views and fresh perspectives. Be bold enough to notice the changes and identify the possibilities.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Be Vulnerable! Who Can Fix My Code?

Modeling can be everything as an educator in today's classroom. During this week's "Hour of Code," I tried to put that idea to the test...

Be the thing you want to see.

I signed out as many ipads as I could get my hands on for a 1.5 hour block of time. I started the lesson using the projector and screen at the front of my room and plugged in an ipad to show them the "Kodable" app as our first activity. I had already created a class "Kodable" account - so now I can track the progress of my students on skills such as; variables, strings, loops, sequences and functions. I showed them my solutions to the first 2 easy levels (first telling them to put all the ipads face down on the table and hands-off) and then turned the time over to them to explore and learn. 

About half-way through the time, I asked them to exit "Kodable" and try "Tynker." There was no explicit teaching this time. Except, I also picked up an ipad and started the "Tynker" app. I worked away at the first couple of puzzles and then hit a brick wall. After trying a number of solutions - without any being successful - I realized that this was a moment for learning.

"Who can fix my code?" I asked out loud - while my ipad and current incorrect code was being projected at the front of the room. I immediately saw 4 hands go up. I chose someone - a student who does not often raise his hand during lessons or class discussions - and invited him to come up to the front and change the code that I had used to try and solve the level. He changed a couple of things and ran the code - but it still wasn't successful. The next thing that happened is what I was waiting for...
Two other students instinctively got up and walked to the front to help the first student "fix the code." For the next couple of minutes, I had a group of three students (representing both grades 7 and 8) working together to solve a problem and modeling their strategies for the rest of the class to see. They did end up fixing my code. They were successful. And all the while, I watched as a common problem became the source of inspiration to collaborate and problem solve.

We often ask our students to try new things and take risks in their own learning. How often, though, do we sit back and observe? If coding matters - and as the teacher in the room - I have never modeled coding (and the problem-solving; trial-and-error; failure and success; risk-taking that it demands) - then I have not validated it to my students as being important enough for me to learn. 

Some of our students will want to code. Some will excel at the independent learning style that many of the coding applications require. Some, though, will put up walls and struggle when the code they write doesn't work. It is those students that, not only, want to hear us say that it is a valuable skill to learn; but also, watch as we (their teacher) struggle with a new area of learning. How we approach learning and risk-taking is evident everyday in the classroom. Be flexible. Be vulnerable. Be a human being. 

We no longer hold all the answers and information. Tell them that. It is now a journey of learning together and the things you choose to model should reflect your own next steps and challenges as well. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You Matter!

Students matter.

Learning matters.

What you do in the classroom everyday matters.

There, I’ve said it, and I mean it. It’s true. In the lives of the students you teach – you matter!

Sometimes, we don’t hear these things enough…

In a job that can get you down – and make you feel defeated at times - a reminder every now and then that you are doing work that matters is everything. We leave our jobs each time only to continue playing them out over-and-over in our heads. We are responsible for so much and the potential that we see and try to support, grow and develop can often seem like a daunting task.

I am inspired everyday by teachers that care. I am empowered everyday by those of us that choose to push, prod and challenge our students. Regardless of what life looks like for our students outside of the school walls, we can make a difference in the lives of our students.

The job can seem thankless, at times, but make no mistake about it – you matter.

That moment when a student lights up and smiles and exclaims, “I get it!” Now that is priceless.

So, take a moment. Celebrate. Let it soak in. You have an incredible position of responsibility. You are doing the work that matters. Teaching touches lives and our future world will thank you.