Recently I reconnected with an educator I hadn’t seen for a while. I cherish these opportunities because a fresh set of eyes can betray the things you take for granted.
It is so easy to become complacent in our actions, behaviours, standards and expectations especially when we work in a busy environment where it is a constant challenge to keep our eyes on the big picture. When an “outsider” comes in and can feel the culture, see the interactions, hear the conversations and see the environment without the blinkers we develop over time, it can open our eyes to things that have become “part of the furniture”.
I consider myself a passionate professional, whom does not shy from a challenge nor turn a blind eye to things I deem destructive or inappropriate. Yet I was surprised to acknowledge that my own complacency over certain things was potentially being detrimental to myself , my staff and my school. Huge wake up call and one I am extremely grateful for.
So who is providing you with a fresh perspective? Is it adequate to discuss your professional practice only with those within our own schools?
The past 2 days I have attended the Hawker Brownlow Teaching and Learning Conference in Melbourne, Australia. This has thus far been a great experience for myself and five other staff from my school. I have in the past attended conferences as part of a group of staff however this experience has been substantially different. This conference has seen all 6 members of our staff using twitter and the result is that our learning and discussion is amplified.
With each of us attending different workshop sessions, twitter has enabled us to share the ideas and expertise in the room with each other and those back at school. The discussion this has created when we reassemble and the connection we have with staff back home who are joining the discussion has been compelling.
In the past, my reflections at a conference would be limited to chatting with those in the room or reflecting with my peers at a later time. Twitter has provided the avenue to connect with people across the room, outside the room and beyond the building. I can’t help but feel a genuine appreciation for how it has increased my learning potential and opportunities to connect with people beyond my school, region and state. The last session I attended today was led by Bill Ferriter (@plugusin). I have followed Bill on twitter for several months and today in his session he promoted twitter as a powerful tool for developing a PLC. It’s not often you get the chance to connect with an international presenter, yet Twitter certainly facilitates this in a way which otherwise would not have occurred.
Looking forward to more learning and connecting in the next two days!
I have just returned from a weeks holiday away in a beautiful part of South Australia sharing time from Boxing Day through past the New Year with my two growing children, close friends and their family. There are many fun things I will remember about this time away and the laughs, food and antics we shared, but it was a reminder about the amazing “unschooled” youth that has me reflecting most.
As a teacher, a parent of primary aged children and as an adult it is easy to forget the joy that a young child or “unschooled” child experiences and the exploration they instigate. I have spoken previously about the machinated practice of schools (see The Power Game) and this time away was a reminder that young children naturally seek answers, create problems to solve and ask questions that may or may not have answers, all without ever setting foot inside a classroom.
I watched as young children giggled, laughed, guffawed and explored the beach. I saw them take risks, make mistakes, and try again. I heard them challenging each other, asking for help and advice. The best part though, not a “no, that’s too hard” or “you can’t do that” to be heard in reply to a child’s idea from any adult. I was so blessed to witness two beautiful parents and the way they engage with their young family. I was impressed by the way they supported their natural inquiry, never suggesting that it couldn’t be done.
Whilst we all (adults included) had immense fun burying small children, seeing the buckets of sea creatures collected, building elaborate sandcastles complete with tunnels, motes, bridges and Hobbit homes built into the facade, it was a comment made by the grandmother of a 5yo that struck me. She said of her freshly “schooled” grandson that “he used to be such a dare devil, he would try everything but now he goes to school he is much more resistant to try things” (paraphrasing). Now whilst you might suggest that as we grow older we understand the consequences and the risk involved in certain acts, I can honestly not imagine how a child of 5 would grow such wisdom in such a short period of time. We know that schools play a role in restricting and inhibiting our risk taking and natural creativity through the conformity to classroom management and getting through the curriculum. (seeSir Ken Robinson TED talk Schools Kill Creativity).
We need reminding that it is innate to question, to explore and to test. As parents, as educators as friends and family we should value this human quality and we should always endeavour to foster it. Next time a small child, a student, a friend or a peer asks “Can I?” or “Can we?” take a moment to think before it is an automatic “No” because we are too busy, or it is a bit hard. You might actually be missing an opportunity.
Whilst writing this post I also read this from Will Richardson in Born to be Taught?
Why, I wonder, do we stop seeing kids as creatures who were born to learn and, instead, start seeing them as born to be taught?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we changed our mentality from “Can we?” to “How can we?”
Upon return from my break and back to digital technology, my Principal (@LunnissTony) also shared this TED talk which further endorses our need to foster creativity. Check out Beau Lotto and Amy O’Toole – Science is for Everyone (here or below via YouTube) as he explains that “the best questions are the ones that create the most uncertainty”.
This is young Yasmin. She is exploring how she can bury her own feet and mums after seeing her cousin being buried. She experimented with different ways of getting her feet out including: digging them out with her hands, wriggling her feet out slowly and kicking and shaking her legs.
After reading ‘The “Why” of Writing’ by George Couros I was inspired to tell my own classroom story of how the “Why” of writing has impacted on one of my students in particular. Teaching special education, especially students with speech and language difficulties means that communication can be a challenge. Imagine struggling for 14 years to be heard, understood or even have the opportunity to contribute. Imagine people turning away because they can’t understand you, the frustration of wanting to tell, explain or ask but your ability to move your tongue means you cannot make the right sounds and your words become distorted and unclear. Imagine struggling to write, sitting in a class where you practice basic sentences that are functional but not expressive or meaningful over and over again. See the student disengage with learning, with people, with ambition.
If we really want to improve the literacy of our students, we need to look just as much (if not more) at the purpose, at why they are writing, as to simply the strategies and process. I have seen the evidence within my own family, that the why of writing means more than anything.
I too have seen the powerful impact that purpose can have.
Enter a dynamic, resourced classroom with people who take time to listen, to figure out your language, who share experiences and take time to ask for help to understand. The language barrier becomes their challenge to overcome not hers. Enter the iPad and laptop. Enter edmodo and email. Welcome to the world of immediate response! Welcome to the “why” for writing.
I have seen this young person blossom, become engaged with her world, make new friends and contact old ones. She enters the classroom desperate to talk about our conversation on edmodo from the night before and never leaves before being reassured that I will check for a message or remind a colleague to check for theirs. Within 5 minutes of entering the classroom, she can be “logged on” and sending messages to peers, to me, to other staff. She constructs meaningful sentences and is motivated to “get it right” because she is desperate to be understood. Responses and replies reinforce and motivate her to keep going.
Having the “why” has engaged her in literacy, increased her self confidence and enabled her voice to be heard. It drives her learning and the improvement follows! I am excited to see in the near future, how blogging will impact her and her peers as we start connecting with people all over the globe!
Aren’t we responsible to find the “why” for all our students?