Big understandings realised in my own learning…

Since the last time I posted, which was nearly two months ago, I have been tuned into my own learning like never before. My learning during this time can be compared to being on a roll when building a puzzle and several pieces fall into place in a short space of time and a bigger picture emerges. 

What has caused this avalanche of learning? A combination of things: my own intrinsic motivation driving me to get better at noticing and naming what was happening, reflecting on and refining my teaching pedagogy, professional learning with Sam and Chad, positive responses from both my students and Charlie’s students to our team teaching efforts, positive responses from my own students to the changes I have implemented in my teaching, talking to colleagues, professional reading and probably other things I haven’t yet identified.

So much has happened…

Essentially I have been trying to live the following quote as I realised the importance of doing so more than a year a go but it’s taken me this long to understand what that looks like and how that feels – and I’m still learning… “Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you understand well, perhaps teaching will be different from before. “ Lori Malaguzzi

Some of the things I have learned from the changes I am implementing in my teaching practice…

  • team teaching opens up opportunities for me to notice things about my students’ learning while they are learning and allows me to meet individual needs more effectively
  • creating purposeful engagements and asking pertinent questions saves me time as I can support my students to make connections to knowledge and skills they have acquired which they can transfer and use in that context
  • creating simple learning engagements that tap into the essence of the learning and doing so in a way that students can connect to the concepts on a personal level, sets students up for powerful learning
  • taking the time to set the mood for learning saves time as students begin the task with the right intentions (sustaining the mood is not always easy though 🙂 )
  • knowing my students interests, strengths and insecurities enables me to takes the steps necessary to engage them in their learning
  • creating space for other options and possibilities that I may not have considered opens up learning for my students and for me
  • only teach students what they don’t know and can’t teach themselves
  • investing time in reflection empowers students to understand themselves as learners

Some of these understandings I have known and lived for a while, but in the last two months they have all  come together and as a result I have gained a different kind of clarity and my understanding of the familiar has grown.

On Friday we held a mini exhibition in Year 4 for the first time. To me it seemed like a logical culmination to our latest unit which falls under the transdisciplinary theme “How We Express Ourselves” (PYP).  Fortunately for me, my colleagues were open to the idea and prepared to go with the flow. Even more fortunately, our students loved the idea.

In the creative process leading up to this day, and in every opportunity that presented itself in other curriculum areas, I tried and tested (not always intentionally)  the changes I shared above.  I learned so much (as much from my mistakes as my successes) and have been so excited.

I felt it was time to write this post so that I could clarify my learning and capture the big understandings for my own benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creating authentic reflective learners who feel empowered to take ownership of their learning…

Every day I reflect on my efforts to support my students to take ownership of their learning. This is a dual process of me letting go and them taking ownership. Recently I decided that I also want to celebrate successes in their learning more explicitly- even small ones. Some of my students become anxious and put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well. They can be harsh judges and I want them to notice positive developments in their learning.

Having read Sam’s recent blog post on mindfuness , it dawned on me that it was time to introduce another two layers to our reflections on our learning. We have been using the following three questions to guide our reflections in our bubble catcher journal: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? and How am I doing? From there my students would set goals for the following week and develop a plan of action for achieving their goals.

The challenge for several students has been in developing a relevant plan of action to help them achieve their goal. I have also recently read an article on positive education (“Positive education: positive pyschology and classroom interventions” by Martin E. P. Seligman and others) and decided to combine a strategy Sam uses with one mentioned in the article.

Sam’s: What skills will you need to achieve your goal? What attitudes will you need to demonstrate to achieve your goal?

Seligman et al’s: What Went Well?

A new strategy for reflecting…I began by instructing my students to close their eyes and picture a recent event in their lives, in which they were involved, which had gone well. I asked them to notice what they were doing and how they were feeling during the event.

We then shared their thinking and I scribed. We were able to sort their responses under skills used during the event and attitudes demonstrated during the event. They then had another go with this strategy.

From here I asked them to set a goal for themselves. I then asked them to identify which skills they would need to use and which attitudes they would need to demonstrate in order to achieve their goal.

Without prompting a few students commented that this would be really helpful. We then talked more about ownership of learning and how identifying the skills and attitudes we will need, could help us to achieve our goals including that of taking ownership of our learning.

I am excited and hopefully they are too.

Start with the positive…

Video

Start where each learner is at every time! Start with the positive.

Today I watched Rita Pierson’s TED Talk: Every child needs a champion I drew great pleasure from her very important message to build relationships with all of your students. In my role as teacher, one of my responsibilities as I see it, is to advocate for each and every child under my care. (Sadly, not every teacher agrees.)

2+ versus -18
I don’t always succeed at focusing on the 2+. I can become frustrated and focus on the -18 instead. I can forget to understand what’s happening and focus instead on not being understood.
I totally agree with Rita, focusing on what the child can do and using that as a starting point for the conversation about where to go next is crucial to that child’s self belief. To quote from the TED talk, “-18 sucks all the life out of you. +2 says I ain’t all bad!” Starting from the positive tells that child you believe in them and in their potential.

You won’t like every child…
I also agree with Rita when she states that you will not like every child that comes under your care, BUT it is important that they never know this. For obvious reasons. I work hard at building positive relationships with my children, but being human, I don’t always get it right. Negative reactions (even small ones) can undo a lot of positive groundwork when students are feeling vulnerable.

2+
Tomorrow, as a reminder to myself to focus on the positive first, I am going to put up a few signs around my learning area which simply says 2+ . No doubt my kids will ask why and I will share this story with them. Maybe they will want to use the 2+ as a reminder to focus on the positive first in their interactions with others.