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I am on a quest.  Many of us are.  The journey we all tend to has many destinations yet no end.  Kind of like time travel.  Freaky eh?  Relinquishing to this concept is a huge step for educators and for schools.  Many educators (or is it schools?) need a finale just like an opera.  We need an end, a goal to reach, a consequence of action.  When you finish grade 4 with proficiency you go to grade 5.  When you “make to throw snowballs you go to box, and you feel  shame.” 

We must step back and say in an Einsteinian way (or is it Hawking) “There is no end.”  The perceived end is just another beginning.  We are not selling a product anymore.  It is not about how much we can squeeze into a mind.  It is not about how we were taught or how we learned.  Instead it is about harnessing the innate power of the human mind for adapting, learning, and using new tools that will only allow us to do more of the same.  Kids are different these days because the world is different in which they were born.  Yesterday my 3 year old Skyped with his grand-uncle (Nova Scotia) as if he was born with the ability to do so.  I was blown away.  He used the touch pad, bent the screen to his height, folded his arms across the desk, buried his chin in and said “Hi, Papa.  Is it morning there?”  It should be noted that I have never explained the concept of a rotating earth to my son!  He picked this up from looking at the weather on the family Wii I assume!

I digress.  I am reminded of the 1.21 Gigawatts scene in Back to the Future(s).  What took Dr. Brown 50 years to develop was completely revamped after one trip to the future…..he went from 1.21 Gigawatts, Plutonium and Lightning bolts to a rotten banana peel and a Coca-Cola can to power his machine.  Technology changed but his curiosity and need for more learning never ended.  Actually it was only the start of the trilogy.   What a great set of films. 

Now.  I am not saying there isn’t a need for goals.  On the contrary.  I use my own personal SMART goals for my learning.  Learning is the key.  The goal is to get to the learning, demonstrate the learning with results and then move on.  Saying that there is no “end” is not synonymous with saying there is no need for goals.  Goals have a place in education.  SMART goals, as we are all taught, are the best way to work through to results. 

Is is possible to make the ultimate goal of education a SMART one.  Can we actually quantify and qualify that which we earnestly attempt to accomplish daily with children?  Here is an example.  A horrific Earthquake happens in Haiti and the next day a kindergarten student hands me a toonie for the “water jug bank”.  I made one announcement.  No note home.  No special reward for bringing in money first.  Certainly no SMART goal.  Just a child and a conscious need to help.  I believe we must combine our learning goals for our students so that academic goals and social/emotional goals are intimately tied.  This is the key to learning in the 21st century.   Students with a deeply embedded and well developed social conscience will do marvelous things for our world.  In setting academic learning goals we must incorporate big ideas that have social conscienceness at their heart.  If we had done this before now what would the world look like today?  Oil depletion, CO2 levels, Glacial melt?  I wonder.

We have done enough damage here.  Let’s start fixing the place up.  Let’s exercise that which every parent hopes to do with their own kids.  Let’s give our children a better life than we had.  (And we had it pretty good at the earth’s expense)  Let’s help them to understand what a good life truly means by first understanding that they want to contribute to the conversation.  We have already been to the box.  Let’s let our kids out so they “can get free.”

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I have referred to myself as the lead learner in the school now for about 3 years.  With mixed reaction.  I believe that is exactly who I am.  However as Stephen M.R. Covey states in The Speed of Trust, always being a learner and failing to produce results has a negative impact on the competency realm.  I intend to produce results by strengthening the bonds of professionalism that tie our teachers together.  I intend to produce results by strengthening the bonds of Trust between all stakeholders in our learning community.  And I certainly intend to produce results in improving student achievement through improving instructional practise.  I will do all of this by embracing the fact that the adults in the building are the ones that must do the learning first.

What to learn?  Learn about the students interests, abilities, current performance.  Learn about instructional strategies that are research based and tested.  Learn about each other and our organization.  Most of all learn from each other.  Our new focus in education is the “House” model of problem solving without the belligerent harassment and belittling. 

The modern Professional Learning Community or Learning Network exists to embrace real challenges and problems to the instructional – achievement gap.  Key questions: 

  • 1.  What do kids need to know and be able to do? 
  • 2.  How do we know they can? 
  • 3.  What do we do when they aren’t able to? 
  • 4.  What do we do when they can? 

I have added a 5th and final question that is much more complex to answer: 

  • 5.  How do we know that what we did made the difference?

The whole focus is on adult learning.  Professional adult learning about how and why students learn or don’t learn.  It happens around a table with equal players a facilitator and a piece of student work or data in the middle of it.  Often Protocols are used to maintain structure and norms.  Professional Learning communities embrace the unknown in an effort to better understand the student and the strength of instructional practises.

Learning is the new teaching.  Some schools have even embedded this PLC time into a monthly schedule in order to facilitate this learning and establish true Professional Learning Communities.  Schools of now embrace these opportunities and focus their attention on the accountability of closing the instruction – achievement gap rather than the accounting of crossing off curriculum expectations and moving on.

Just Found:  Teaching as Co-Learning -James Shelley

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