This morning, 55 five and six year olds came to school with their families to learn all about school.
Think about that….
These families are beginning on a new journey. This journey is different for many, but overall the experience is very similar to the first day of school that we have all had. When we really think about school, images pop into our mind. Rows of desks, teachers up front all ready to share their knowledge and a big A+ posted on the wall.
What is with the big A+? Why does society place such an emphasis on the grade? What really does the grade mean? What is the purpose behind it?
Right now, I believe that we are also on a journey of new beginnings. The focus of school has shifted to the learning. What does learning look like? What does it mean to go to school and leave at the end of the year? What are the essential learnings that each and every child should leave school with when they spread their wings off to new and bigger beginnings?
So I ask you, WHY? What is the purpose? Why is it important that we share with our students the essential learning that should happen? Why is it that we have to provide a learning goal to our students? This short video explains the purpose of why better than I can ever explain it. Watch and reflect on the purpose of why.
After watching this video many, many times, I reflect on the purpose we are giving our students in school. School is not about getting a good grade. School is SO much more. It is about learning. Learning to work hard, learning to get along with others, learning about concepts and skills that we will take with us. Don’t we want our students to find relevance in what we do? Let’s give them the why behind school.
The time is now! Now is our new beginning!
Kindergarteners that start in the fall will graduate in 2031. These little people know more, expect more and will experience more that we all will. They deserve more! Let’s begin this conversation around learning. I challenge you! How do you measure success in school? Is it just a grade, or is it way more? Let’s teach our students to be curious, perseverant when things get tough, challenge them to learn more and be more. I know we can all agree that learning is the center of school and life. What do you believe?
In the past couple of weeks, there have been moments of feeling overwhelmed. Every time I turn the tv on, I am reminded that the world is not as safe that I want it to be or even need it to be for my own children and all children. How did this happen? Why does this keep happening????
I have spent many hours working with teachers and listening to concerns about their students. Teachers just have a gift to see and know that something just isn’t right and they will do anything they can to help a student, whether it is with math facts, a snack or even something as powerful as a smile. Teachers care! Teacher love! Teachers worry! Every single teacher that I know accept and treat all students as they are their own. So, when I have been asked in the past week why the teachers of these “mentally ill” students didn’t do anything, it creates a volcano inside of me. I want to scream and tell the world that the teachers did do something. Teachers probably contacted the family, had a heart to heart with the student, asked for help from the counselor, administrator or nurse and laid awake at night worrying. The teacher used every tool in their toolbox to reach this student and yet, tragedy struck. It is not the teachers fault. It is sad that as teachers, we have to be equipped with skills that are not in the job description. Teachers hold many roles, and holding a gun is not going to solve the problem that is occurring in schools today.
Let’s be proactive instead of reactive. Join the #ArmMeWith movement and help change the path!
The week before winter break has arrived! As I walk through the halls of each school, teachers have embraced the holiday cheer with fun leggings, themed ties and ugly sweaters. They often make small comments to me like, “only 2 more days!” or “we got this!” I have to admit, these are the days that I used to have anxiety over when I first started teaching. I used my free time to dream up activities to fill EVERY SINGLE minute of the day. Any unstructured time was not a recipe for success in my mind.
The normal patterns of school are disrupted.
The winter break used to bring a time of reflection. I would sit and create lists of things that I wanted to change when the students arrived in January. It wasn’t big changes, but little tweaks in management and classroom structure. I wanted to go back and make sure that learning was going to happen. When I think of this now, I realize how much I was over-structuring my class and making more opportunities for students who were compliant to be successful, but adding barriers to those students in which compliance was not their strong suit. What I needed was something to disrupt my patterns in teaching.
That disruption came the day my son brought home a spelling tic-tac-toe. Don’t get me wrong, if I were to google differentiated spelling, these amazing tic-tac-toe boards are an option. I loved these things, and then I had to do one as a parent. Yuck!!! As I observed my son week after week, I realized he was learning to memorize his spelling words by writing them as a rainbows, making a crossword and more. He was “doing” school and being compliant, but he was still a terrible speller. This rocked my world. All of my research around differentiation led me to believe that spelling tic-tac-toes were the right thing to do. I would have observations from administration that told me that they were a great opportunity for students to choose their learning, but I wanted to be distinguished. That one column to the far right on the Charlotte Danielson framework was my goal. I needed to change my patterns instruction to create patterns of learning.
How do we move from school-centered to learner-centered? This is a crazy thought. I had to do something crazy. I was going to get a way from spelling all together. What?? No spelling tests? How was I going to give a grade? The grade was not my priority, the learning was. I decided that I was going to help students learn that spelling words correctly was an essential skill and teach them how to find words to learn that were relevant to them, not me or a textbook. As a result of my change, other things started to happen. I was more engaged in discussions with my students around what they wanted to learn, and I wasn’t spending my weekends correcting papers only for them to throw them away. The students were doing the work and I was facilitating the learning.
So…back to the chaos of the days before winter break. Why are students so unruly and challenging this time of year? It could be many things, but I often wonder what the students would say is the reason. It also could be that we are all ready for a break and a fresh start.
What are you going to make a list about over break? What pattern are you going to disrupt? What are you going to challenge yourself to do to become more learner centered? Go for it! You got this!! I will be cheering you on and supporting the confusion that comes with it!
Have you ever had one of those days when you seek inspiration? Today was one of those days. I find myself in a role of change. It is not that I am wanting change, but I realize that my thinking is always being challenged by those around me.
It is times like today that I walk the halls of the school and inspiration seems to find me.
I ran into a teacher who shared with me how she had taken her students out to experience the snow and the cold. She lit up talking about a student that may have found the walk in the woods to be a challenge. This student never complained, always moved forward with a positive attitude and shared the experience with her peers. When asked if she needed to take a break, she said “no.” The teacher casually asked her if she wanted a piggy-back ride back to the school. “Yes!” She jumped up and continued to school with her class. She truly is an inspiration! Facing life seeing that any challenge is just an experience that makes her stronger.
Inspiration can be found anywhere. We ask students daily to overcome challenges and it seems natural for them to persevere without complaint.
I was chatting with a student about her reading intervention and she said that she was trying to reach her goal of learning over a 1000 words. She quickly showed that she had already met one of her smart goals and was excited to work on the next one. What??? Another goal?? Where do students find the inspiration to always be changing and growing? Do we challenge ourselves as teachers daily to change and grow? What are your goals? If you reach one, do you celebrate? I hope so. Do you set another one? This year is making me push myself more and more and set goals that I thought I would never accomplish. With hard work, blood, sweat and tears, I will face each of the challenges with the knowledge that another challenge lies ahead.
Some days, a text from a friend saying “keep paving the way!” is all I need to find the inspiration to keep moving forward.
This last week, I had the privilege to attend the MN Middle School Conference in Bloomington with an amazing group of teachers. George Couros was the keynote speaker. If you haven’t heard of him, you are missing out. He not only took time to chat with our small group, he inspired all of us with his message. As the author of The Innovator’s Mindset, George shares his belief on how our mindset around education impacts the learning that happens with our students. Do we have a fixed mindset, a growth mindset or an innovator’s mindset?
Education is changing quickly and we need to learn and grow with it. George used the analogy of using UBER. Here was his example.
Crazy, isn’t it?? We have to move forward, learn from one another and celebrate the challenge. Check out George’s blog below!