Some questions demand you to change

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These questions are challenge my practice, but I’d rather stop identifying this by the century.

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What are your personal and career goals for 2015?

THE YEAR PAST

1) What went well?
2) What changed for the better?
3) What were the gifts of 2014?
4) What and who are you most grateful for right now?
5) What do you need to let go of or complete to start 2015 anew?
6) What’s your theme for the past year?

THE YEAR AHEAD

7) What changes would you like to make?
8) If you could celebrate just one accomplishment at the end of 2015 what would it be?
9) What are your learning goals for 2015?
10) How will you boost your positivity this year?
11) What and who will inspire you in the year ahead?
12) What’s your theme for the year ahead?

Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick) is a work-life and leadership coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto. She is the author of Ease, a book offering strategies to manage overwhelm in times of ‘crazy busy.’

I’ve had a wonderful conversation with my wife this week, pondering our responses to these questions. I have an ambition to reiterate the activity as a meditation on my teaching this last year. Chadwick’s article elaborates helpfully on each of these questions. Take the time to read it.

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Meet the Modern Learner

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Thoughts on Critical Reflection, by Mark Barnes

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Six What If Questions That Great Teachers Ask Everyday

If you’re a teacher and you’re not questioning your methods daily, you might want to consider another profession. Great teachers always think they can do more for students. Outstanding teachers feel like they can be better. The best teachers ask themselves questions every day that begin with, “What if?”

1-What if my homework assignments are a waste of time?
2-What if my students use mobile devices?
3-What if my planned class activity is boring?
4-What if my room is noisy and chaotic?
5-What if I don’t grade this?
6-What if the Common Core is just another bad idea concocted by bureaucrats?

I came across this this morning as I was waiting for my coffee to be finished running through the coffee maker. This week I sat down with my young colleague, and intern to complete her evaluation for the University. I dreaded doing it but I think we had a good conversation. Underlying the conversation was my conviction that I could not adequately do her justice on the check list provided by the University. She even express this thought herself as we work through each item together. While all good teachers constantly evaluate themselves, and ask themselves similar what if questions to the ones posed above, the fifth question really strikes home.

One question I would like to add to his list is “What if I am doing harm?” Another question that we have been encouraged to pose to ourselves is, “Whose interests does this serve?” Good people with power should live in the tension between empowering conviction and paralyzing doubt about their actions.

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5 Hypocritical Rules

“So what things are we expecting students to do that we would probably not submit to as adults? Expect them to work hard all day with few breaks. Silent hallways. Only go to the bathroom during breaks. Do hours of homework. Be ready to show mastery on the same day.” 5 RULES WE IMPOSE ON STUDENTS THAT WOULD MAKE ADULTS REVOLT

I agree with Ripp, we impose unfair expectations on children and teenagers as we rush them through the factory classrooms. Much of it is crowd control. The spaces we design for learning rarely accommodate the natural flow and interaction of large groups of people. They certainly take little account of the natural needs of introverts and extroverts.

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Take the Step Back

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This last week was student led conferences. Better than half my teaching career these biannual meetings were parent teacher interviews. The parents and I had some great exchanges. Some were even candid. Even then it often felt like the student aught to have been there. Remember, we invited the students into the room, but largely to listen. It has taken me decades to transform my conferences into genuine conferences led by the students. I must be an old dog. When my students get to the point where they ask, “Do you have any questions?” I assume this is the moment parents start grilling me. Indeed, this is what usually happens because they are old dogs too it seems. A couple this week addressed their questions to the students. It was salutary for me. I won’t forget those interviews. The parents kept their children at the centre of the conversation, responding to their brief presentations. Student led conferences need to work because our students have things to tell us.

The student pictured above surprised me during the conference. Each week during genius hour she was absorbed in creating the model she is proudly explaining to her parents. I might have talked more with her during the last month. She shared her thinking with my intern. I guess that is one outcome of stepping back during the intensive three week break. Sometime during the last month her maker project took on greater meaning to her. She used it to work through her thoughts on materialism and where contentment comes from. She explained this to us from notes she had developed. Genius Hour worked.

Genius Hour is not working well for many of my students. It is too new for all of us. As much as they all love the activity, most don’t know how to focus on a question they genuinely care about. I have not yet developed the strategies that will guide them. We will keep at it. I celebrate the moments when my students find a way to tell me it’s okay to step back and let them guide their own learning.

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Teaching Organically, Students First

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The thing is, though, that the fruit is the part of the plant that serves us. Sure, obviously fruit also serves the plant; it is the reason why generations of plants have and will continue to grow on Earth. But the cultivating of a plant’s fecundity serves only us; the plant will make enough fruit and seeds to serve itself; any more is a useless energy-waster for the plant. Teaching, Learning, & Education by Chris Baker

Like most of us, I have one of those gardens in the classroom that is somewhere in between Chris Baker’s carefully tended garden and the wild Forest. I think the saving grace for all of us is that while we may cater to outcomes-based learning and careful assessment, Our students by their nature demand that we allow them to grow in their own directions as well. I cannot even imagine a classroom where there are no digressions or spontaneous moments where the student takes charge and the excitement builds into authentic learning and sharing.

What a wonderful ride teaching has been. And it is not because I created wonderful units and excellent tests but because I saw people grow.

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Understanding a Growth Mindset

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The light within

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Again and again, young people remind me of the beauty, depth, and potential within us. I am so grateful for the constant demonstrations that keep me grounded. We all learn through modelling, but the authoritarian structure of schools reinforces the self centred assumption that the teacher is the primary model. We forget the students have had many mentors before us. They come with so much.

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EdCampHOME

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Saturday I attended my first on line EdCamp at the suggestion of Kelly Christopherson made during this last week’s #saskedchat on Twitter. I had a good time, despite feeling guilty about ignoring my wife for a few hours during our coffee hour. My conversation on the Maker mindset was helpful. I came away with some ideas to try in my classroom. My curiosity was satisfied about the EdCamp format, and I would like to do it again on line, but also attend an EdCamp somewhere here in Saskatchewan.

As we talked about Maker Stations I arrived at the conclusion that my assumptions about implementation were different from those of the people leading the conversation. My making/20% genius hour hacks into the Saskatchewan curriculum in multiple places, and it is classroom based. The students in my class are doing it on their own with my assistance. I was hearing discussion from other participants about strategies for getting administrative support for school and district programs. They were excited about their progress with this. I had the impression that they were under great pressure to align student projects to curriculum to justify their programs. It felt like a very different plan. My take away from the conversation was to invite parents into Making and start offering students some focus questions based on our curriculum. Damn, I’ve forgotten the term they shared. It might take the form of a wonder wall, where students pose questions or challenges.

The EdCamp format was comfortable and democratic. There were initially two windows to attend to. The first was the conference home page with chat stream and a shared Hangout where the organizers could introduce and moderate the conference. The second window was a space for proposing and voting on discussion topics. The moderators created Google Hangouts for topics generating sufficient interest. We joined the group we wanted, and then chatted and shared. The EdCamp closed with a return to the the larger group.

I would like to attend a live EdCamp and see how that works. It seems a democratic form of professional development. There are times when professional development needs to be planned in advance, but so often, we fail to anticipate the real or emergent needs of teachers.

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