Username:

Password:

Forgot Password? / Help

Tag: joy

0

The Real Value of Teachers

abstract-valueteachers3

 

I’m so upset. I watched the news about California teachers and education today. They mentioned the teacher shortage, but the reasons they gave didn’t even touch on what is really happening to teachers and education around the country. When they said that California has the most crowded classrooms and highest teacher to student ratios in the country, I’m not sure others around the country have a clue what this means. We’re talking 25 to 30 little ones in K-2 classes. In some high schools, math classes are over 40 for each teacher. Secondary teachers are responsible for up to 150 kids and teaching multiple subjects in 45 minutes periods. I don’t know how they do it.

By 2013, the state’s student-teacher ratio had reached 24-to-1,
compared with the national average of 16-to-1.
Report on Teacher Shortage in Mercury News, CA 1/23/15

On top of that the focus of education has been wrong for the past 12 years and longer. Teachers are the ones held accountable for the test scores, so why would kids care about the tests? The focus on testing has taken away the love of learning and frustrated teachers, administrators, kids and parents. We have a generation of people who went through this system who think this is the only way to learn. The focus hasn’t been on learning–it’s been on meeting test scores and instruction not on who we should be focusing on: each learner and supporting how they learn. Teachers are more like middle managers jumping through bureaucratic hoops and accountable for test scores and grades.

Now this is going to change, but not many people are aware of it changing or want it to change. They only know what they know or have been exposed to. Teachers are burning out and leaving the profession. It costs more to keep training and retraining teachers. There has been so much professional development on how to teach to the test, manage classrooms, and other mundane tasks that people who went into the profession feel dummied down. There is a sense of “compliancy” built into the system that blocks creativity and fun. We all need to have some fun when we learn. Let’s get it back!

The report was talking about districts offering a $10,000 bonus for new hires, but that won’t take care of the other issues or bring in the right people to the profession. The teaching profession is less and less attractive to Millenials (18-34 year olds). Many realized they didn’t care for school, just learned to “do” school to get out of school, or they just don’t want to be part of it. Many of them were in the system when testing went crazy. They also want to be more in control of what they do, be respected and valued by members of their community. Millenials tend to be skeptical about systems and also are concerned how they can pay their bills. Housing costs in California and other parts of the country are skyrocketing. A one time bonus won’t pay the bills. A majority of the Millenials have extreme student debt, a degree that doesn’t get them the right job and other reasons why they just don’t trust the system. There are many who dropped out and taught themselves skills in the technical field — all on their own taking classes online or watching YouTube. Why? Because in the Bay Area that’s where the jobs are along with bio-technology, robotics, etc.

So what can we do about this problem?

Look at the teaching profession like Finland did in 1983. They had the same issue and realized they needed to turn everything upside down. Teachers needed to be valued, supported and highly respected compared to other professions. So Finland changed the teaching profession. Kids start school at seven. They got rid of standardized tests except one at the end of high school. They built a system of support for teachers and pay them well. Read “What ever it takes” Smithsonian.

Now with the new ESEA re-authorization from the Department of Education, we will be focusing more on learning. There is a surplus of funds in California and more money will be going to school districts. Let’s do it right this time.

I’m going to put a plea out to superintendents and school boards: Stop spending money on “stuff” and rethink how you are going to rebuild your most prized resource: teachers! Here’s some ideas:

  • Rethink teacher education and build or partner with K-12 laboratory schools so the focus is on learners right from the beginning.
  • Increase salaries for teachers so the profession is competitive with other professional services.
  • Provide mentoring and ongoing coaching support for teachers.
  • Build in collaborative time every day and encourage co-teaching models.
  • Develop communication plans that showcase learning not increased scores.
  • Build partnerships with businesses, non-profits and higher ed to support a competency-based system.
  • Look to retired educators to work or volunteer as advisors or mentors.
  • Offer ongoing job-embedded professional learning opportunities for all teachers.

 

The reason why I focus on personalizing learning is because we are all learners. When we stop learning, what do we have? It is about building the capacity to want to be lifelong learners and never lose that curious part that makes us who we are. Every moment can be a learning opportunity. But when school is tied to rewards and punishment, grades, and extrinsic forces, why would anyone want to be part of that type of system?

Who’s with me? Let’s all work together to change the system, focus on our learners, bring back creativity, joy, and fun and value our teachers.

1

Reflecting on Reflection

Reflection is a powerful tool. Today I woke up and wondered why I haven’t written a post in so long. I paused, thought about it, and realized my life has been spinning the last two months. Usually the words just come to me, but these past months have me working every minute. I am a co-founder of Personalize Learning, LLC with Kathleen McClaskey. We are being written into many Race to the Top applications around the country. My eCoach has been approached to support different groups Communities of Practice, so that is growing at the same time. It’s very exciting, but I need to write about ideas that may not be about the work I do. I love to write. These ideas come to me, and I need to put them down. Even if I am working 20 hours a day, I need to stop, pause, and reflect.

So reflecting on reflection came to me. Actually reflecting means capturing the moment when it happens.  Today is the day for me to capture the moment.  First a quote:

Reflection is what allows us to learn from our experiences: it is an
assessment of where we have been and where we want to go next.
~ Kenneth Wolf

For the last two months, Kathleen and I have been writing every day supporting different RTT-D applications. The last week, we have been bombarded with calls from districts and consortiums of districts wanting our support. We are getting requests from schools and organizations from other countries. Today I need to stop and breathe and reflect. I use Gibb’s Model of Reflection:

Gibbs Model of Reflection

What happened?

Kathleen and I developed a model for personalizing learning over a four year period that meets the requirements of the Race to the Top application. We defined the differences between personalization vs differentiation vs individualization and ended up having Porvir in Brazil create an infographic in Portuguese around our chart that we translated in English. We were hired by Grant Wood AEA in Iowa to talk to their superintendents and now are doing a webinar overview, offering an eCourse and webinar series, and setting up a Community of Practice across the state. That was just the beginning. We are getting requests from all around the country and Mumbai, Singapore, and more.

What am a I thinking and feeling?

I am excited about the interest we are getting. Now about my feelings. I haven’t had time to reflect on everything that is happening so fast. This is good. Pausing. Reflecting. I think I got too excited about the interest and stopped thinking about me and what I love to do — write. This also made me think about kids today and all that is on their plates in school — especially middle and high school kids running from class to class in schools with crazy bell schedules. I need time to reflect. I don’t know how kids do it — starting and stopping thinking– thinking in one subject and then jumping into another subject.

Personalizing learning means creating time to reflect, pause, and have flexible schedules that allow for risk-taking and reflection. There is no time for risk-taking or reflection when you are preparing for a test or writing an application.

What’s good and bad about the experience?

Good

Kathleen and I are revisiting and refining our model and process. It is getting better every day. I am excited about what we are coming up with and know there is still lots more to do. Every school, district, teacher, and learner is unique — there is no cookie-cutter answer to meet the needs of everyone involved.

Bad

My feelings are that I’m overwhelmed. Guess that’s the way kids feel daily. I get it. That’s why we are doing what we are doing. School does this same thing to kids that is happening to me right now. Overwhelmed. No time to think about thinking. I say that reflection is very important and needs to be part of every day. Pause. Think. Reflect. Write.

What sense can I make of the situation?

Kathleen and I complement each other. We both bring a lot to the table. I live in California where the education bubble burst some time ago. Professional development budgets crumbled and professional developers fight over the same dollar. I thought this was happening everywhere in the US. Kathleen, who lives in New Hampshire, opened my eyes to what is happening in New Hampshire: competency-based learning in all the high schools and 1:1 iPad schools in the Northeast. We interviewed leaders and transformational teachers and found CESA #1 in Southeastern Wisconsin where Jim Rickabaugh shared how there is co-teaching, learning plans, and learning changing. British Columbia is transforming learning across the province where Dave Truss shared about the Inquiry Hub. So much is happening in other places around the world. Why couldn’t it happen here in my backyard?

It can. It is but in pockets, but not the way I was hoping. Some large corporations are coming in and spouting that they can personalize learning by adapting the curriculum and blending learning with learning labs and algorithms. They can “Personalize” the learning for students. Sorry — but personalizing learning means starting with the learner — changing teacher and learner roles. That’s why we made our chart and had to do what we are doing. We see the importance of knowing how learners learn best using Universal Design for Learning principles which then changes teaching and learning. Motivation — Engagement — Voice. That’s what works. Technology can support this but not be the only thing that personalizes learning.  Whew!!  Pause. Reflect.

What else could I have done?

Take time off every day and pause. I need to stop and reflect every day somehow. When I write, it seems to put everything in perspective for me. I still write my column for CUE, but this site is for me to share my thoughts and findings. I will never go months again without writing something even if it is another reflection about my reflections.

If it arose again, what would I do?

Write on the calendar in big letters: Pause. Reflect today. 

It is important to capture and treasure every moment. This is my learning environment that is personal to me. I forgot that every day I am learning something new. How cool is that?

10

18 Predictions for Educational Trends in 2012

Something is happening in education. Do you see it? Education is changing. Textbook companies realized they have to change. Everything is going digital. Many online courses are now open and free. Educating children is different than it was a few years ago. But what does that mean for schools and teaching? Learners are different. Learners are demanding to learn when they want to learn wherever they are and in anyway that works for them. They use new tools that are not allowed in most classrooms. They do it anyway. They are dropping out of school or taking classes online. Parents are looking for alternatives. Learning matters!

Maybe you noticed that students are taking responsibility for learning how to do this or that on their own…that is, mostly outside of school. They need to know something so they google it or ask others. The teacher is no longer the only expert in the class. Teachers have less professional development or access to resources so they are trying to figure things out and still teach to the test. That part has to change. Teachers may not want to change because they only know what they were taught — to be the expert in the class. They are being evaluated by test scores so the pressure is on them. But, even with that, teachers are asking other teachers for help in the next classroom, going online or figuring out things on their own. Some teachers are realizing that their students have the expertise they need especially when it comes to technology. As a coach working with teachers I realized that I had to see how and why everything was changing. I cannot assume that professional development, curriculum design, and instruction will be the same so I had to rethink my coaching and how I support teachers and schools.

2012 Predictions

In doing this, I thought I’d make several predictions on what education could look like and what I’d like to see in 2012:

  1. Teachers understand how each student learns. They use different methods of assessing how each student learns best and along with each learner keep track of their learning.

  2. Assessment is ongoing since learning is not a constant. Learners are collecting evidence of their learning and reflecting on their learning.
  3. Teachers collaborate with teachers that teach the same subject or grade to design or adapt instruction that is individualized. This means instruction is paced to the learning needs of their students so students can pace through the content at different levels based on their learning needs.
  4. Teachers share content and lessons online and realize that it’s not that important to reinvent the wheel or keep content to themselves anymore.
  5. Teachers are no longer the hardest working people in the classroom. They are appreciated as a facilitator or “guide on the side” instead of the only content expert. Teachers are more like a coach encouraging students to find their strengths and go with them.
  6. Learners determine their strengths and weaknesses and share their expertise with other students and teachers.
  7. More instruction is flipped where teachers and/or students find or create and upload lessons as videos or on websites to the Internet so learners learn the content out of school and then do the real work in the classroom.
  8. The classroom can be anywhere at anytime. Learning can happen anywhere. Everyone is a learner and a teacher. More learning is mobile and on mobile devices.
  9. Students have access to what they need when they need it. If a school or district does not have the resources, the learner brings their own device to school. The school represents the real-world and all devices are allowed. Everyone is responsible and trusted.
  10. Homework is different. Learners watch videos and lessons, learn about content, and learn from each other out of school. They take more control of their learning. No more busywork.
  11. Forward thinking IT departments allow YouTube Education, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media so students can use real-world tools in school.
  12. Schools and universities accept prior knowledge, realize that experience matters and students are open to challenge a course or test.
  13. Assessment is not just about test scores. Learners collect and reflect on evidence of learning. Assessment is ongoing and everyone is part of a feedback loop and supporting each other.
  14. Teachers are not evaluated by test scores. They have a coach or mentor and are part of a team that supports each other. Teachers collect evidence of learning in their classroom as an ePortfolio.
  15. Students lead parent conferences with their teachers. They own how they are learning and ask for feedback and help in monitoring their progress.
  16. Teachers, parents, and other learners are part of each learner’s learning team.
  17. Professional development involves more collaboration and support for teachers based on their own needs. Coaching teachers and students involves designing assessment strategies, facilitating collaborative planning sessions and redesigning learning environments, guiding student experts who flip the classroom and create websites for the classroom, and helping behind the scenes with ePortfolio design.
  18. Learning is personalized. Creativity and curiosity is back in the classroom. Learning is passion-driven and joy matters. Learners drive and own their learning.

    These predictions may seem like dreams to you, but I really believe they can happen. It is all about our children — right? We need to teach less so everyone can learn more.

0

The Authentic Learner: Who are you?

Kris De Leon wrote in her article Learning to Trust Myself

Man Thinking“I am starting this blog to help people who are now asking the bigger questions in life – Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?

I often hear people talking about how important it is to be real and authentic. So how do you be authentic when you don’t even know who you are? I asked myself these questions several months ago. I tried very hard to be the upbeat, positive person that everyone seemed to like. Was that really me? Or was I trying to cover up some things about me that I knew people wouldn’t like? Was I just pretending to be someone else just so they’d like me?”

This made me think about what the authentic self is for each of us and what that means as a learner. Each of us learns in different ways depending on our background, our parents, our environment, and so much else. I looked at these questions on Be Authentic and Self-Empowerment and thought “why aren’t we using these same tools to determine who each learner is?”

Here’s a few questions I would look at using or adapting to determine who each child is and their authentic self:

  • Who am I?

  • What is my story?
  • Am I ‘my story’?
  • What is my potential?
  • Where am I stuck?
  • What is my identity?
  • What are my fears?
  • What are my hopes and dreams?
  • What do you enjoy doing most?
  • What concerns do you have about your story now?
  • Is your story really your story or someone else’s?

Young children may not know how to answer these. Their parents may be directing what they need and want without being aware of it. There are other ways to determine how each child learns best: Multiple Intelligences, Universal Design Learning strategies, Learning Styles, etc. I’m not even sure who my authentic self is. I know I love to write and learn from others. I do know that I learn best by doing my own research, brainstorming with others, and taking a chance to try something new. What about you?

If each learner understands who they are and how they learn best, then they can help drive their learning with their teacher. The teacher shouldn’t be the hardest working person in the classroom. That’s what it is now. I coach teachers around the country and see how hard they work. Many teachers work too hard where students should be the ones working the hardest. Learning needs to be hard. Learning means you are learning something new that you don’t know yet. It means you are challenging yourself to reach out of your comfort zone. When you learn that something you didn’t know yet, it is rewarding and powerful.

So what if we spent more time in the early years working with parents and guardians to help students figure out who their authentic self is so they know their authentic learner?

8

Creativity, Failure and Learning

Science 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills include three areas of creativity:

  • Think creatively.
  • Work creatively with others.
  • Implement innovations.

The elements for these skills include:

View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.

Traditional school doesn’t allow for people to take risks and fail. Glenn Wiebe wrote in Are You an Under-taker or a Risk-Taker?

“One of the reasons that we as teachers don’t take risks is our fear of failure. We’re afraid that our state tests scores won’t be good enough or that we’ll look silly in front of kids or that the technology won’t work or that we’ll get calls from parents or…

But we also know that failure is often a prerequisite to success. Teachers take risks because they understand that screwing up is not necessarily a bad thing. Risk-taking involves possible failure. If it didn’t, it would be called Sure Thing-taking.”

Standardized TestNothing in life is a sure thing-taking. That is except the answers on a standardized test. Life is not a standardized test or we would have everything labelled A, B, C, or D. Today is so different than yesterday. Look at the economy. Who knows what’s going to happen with the stockmarket? Look at jobs and unemployment. What type of jobs will be available for us in the future? Many jobs we used to offer are no longer an option. Because of that higher ed is changing or needs to change. So why am I talking about failure?

For hundreds of years, people were preparing for factory jobs. That’s why schools were set up in that model. They needed to know how to follow orders and not question. Failure was NOT an option. Candidates for most jobs now need critical thinking skills and to stand out of the crowd. They need to be remarkable. The only way you can be different is to take risks, fail, and come up with new ideas. You also need to build up a network of people you can ask because the world is changing so fast. You won’t find the answer in a book. You may not even find the answer online. You will need to know how to collaborate and work together as a team. Each of the team members will bounce ideas off of the other members of the team; some ideas work, some don’t. You learn from things that don’t work.

Thomas Edison with Light Bulb

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

We want our kids to be inventors, thinkers, team players, and innovators. The only way to do that is to create a learning environment that encourages failure or new ways that won’t work. I believe the secret to success is failure. We need to create an environment that challenges students so they struggle with unfamiliar or difficult information. Why make it easy for someone to learn? Why is it that teachers are working harder now than ever? The students need to be the hardest working people in the room and challenged so they are excited about the topic.

When you look at children playing a game that challenges them in a good way, they are motivated. They don’t win right away. They get feedback right away. What is the fun in winning right away or all the time. The fun is in challenging themselves beyond what they know. I know myself and how I am writing and taking risks to write down new thoughts. I learn from you. I learn from others. I don’t have to have the right answers all the time. That’s what learning is all about. Challenging yourself to change; trying new things and failing and trying again.

National STEM ChallengeHere’s a new challenge: The 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge that opened today is a multi-year competition whose goal is to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. Go ahead and show your students this challenge. It is open to multiple ages. They have until March 2012. Have them experiment, fail, and come up with something amazing. They will learn so much.

1

Making Change with Good Questions

Make Just One ChangeToday I’m talking to Sara Armstrong about Good Questions. Before I attended Sara’s session at the Fall CUE conference on Good Questions Good Searching, I thought I was asking good questions. Now I know I wasn’t going deep enough. Sara shared a book, Make Just One Change, that opened her eyes to a new path that is straightforward to help us ask good questions. So I decided to ask Sara about the book, the process, and why it is important to use this process in teaching and learning. Info about the book with discount code if you want to purchase it is at the end of this post.

Q.Why are good questions important?
A. Good questions really help us think deeply about a topic. When we develop a project for PBL, good questions drive the process that kids go through to understand the topic. This processes laid out in Make Just One Change provide specific ways for teachers and kids to think more broadly than in the past — techniques that can be applied in all areas of the curriculum.

Q. Can good questions help students be more responsible for their own learning?
A. By empowering students to get to good questions, we can help them make better choices for good research, they can organize their work, and they will begin to think more critically. Actually students can use this process to determine the path or topic they are pursuing in any curriculum area. And the role of the teacher is vital. The authors, Rothstein and Santana, specify a process to help teachers refine the topic so it is not too broad or too narrow. Teachers, too, get better at their role of posing the main theme for kids to spark their brainstorming aspect to getting to the good questions.

Q. Can teachers use this process with existing curriculum?
A. Yes. Any curriculum. Any time. As we’re trying to instill more responsibility for students, the classroom changes to include more student voice and choice about anything they are learning. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking math concepts, cyberbullying or any topic, students can learn from their peers when they ask each other good questions about the topic. I had trouble with learning geometry and wishes she had had the ability to ask good questions with her peers. When a teacher allows discussions about the topic and asks “how are we going to do it?” students own their learning and are more engaged in the process.

Q. What is the questioning process?
A. The process involves meta-cognitive, divergent, and convergent thinking. Here’s a condense version:

  1. The teacher defines a topic.

  2. Students discuss the rules for brainstorming.
  3. Students brainstorm questions about the topic.
  4. Students prioritize the questions.
  5. Students analyze questions as open or closed and then prioritize those.
  6. Students use the questions to help research, complete their project, and learn the material.
  7. Students and the teacher reflect on the process, what they learned, and what they would do differently next time.

Sara ArmstrongSara highly recommends this book and is designing how to use good questions for good searching and good research. That will definitely be another post. Thank you Sara!

Interested in this book, go to http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/144 and mention sales code MJAP11 for a 20% discount. If you have any questions, you can leave comments here are contact Sara directly at saarmst@telis.org or go to her website (www.sgaconsulting.org)

The authors of Make Just One Change, Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana of the Right Question Institute, shared a new podcast from Harvard Education Press. Harvard EdCast: Make Just One Change.

0

Noticing what gets your attention

I started several Scoop-its to curate the resources in one place to use later.
Apps for The Student-Centered Classroom
Creativity, Innovation, and Change
Making Learning Personal
Communities of Practice for New Learning Environments
Curate Your Learning

In doing that I’ve been noticing what people like and follow. It seems to be the Apps and Tools. I know we as educators say not to focus on the tools but it doesn’t seem that way. I notice this at technology conferences and, as a reader, the proposals submitted and accepted.

It seems that adults and teachers have technolust just like the kids. What does that mean for the classroom? The other Scoop-its are about change, pedagogy, communities of practice, and all the things that teachers tell me they want to understand for their own professional learning. However, when you go to a conference and the speaker is talking about change, the future, pedagogy, the room is not full.

For years I have done Tips and Tricks about this tool or that app and the room is overcrowded. It’s like a feeding frenzy. I do a session on change and the steps needed for change, and there’s only a few there. But I know those that are there are really interested.

What I’m wondering is how to take this technolust attitude and use it to make change. I am working with teachers to move to student-centered learning environments. In the process, they are learning new tools that engage and motivate students — and them. School is just not engaging — especially if you read out of the workbook. Kids are bored. They are digital whiz kids now.

How about adding a Smackdown at the end of the week and let three kids share a new tool or app they found for 2 minutes each? Then you as the teacher look at slowly changing the classroom and make student experts.

Think we need to shake things up here and look at the bigger picture. It’s not about the technology. Right? Technology is just a great way to make change.

0

Creative Thinkering

In this article in Psychology Today by Michael Michalko on Creative Thinkering, he explains why experts miss opportunities to be creative. Experts tend to specialize and miss the bigger picture.

The paradox is that people who know more, see less; and the people who know less, see more. Phillip Reiss invented a machine that could transmit music in 1861. He was dissuaded from converting it into a telephone because every communications expert in Europe convinced him that there was no market for a telephone as the telegraph was good enough.

When you review the history of inventions, most inventions might have started out as mistakes. Penicillin was invented from a mold that was not supposed to happen. This made me think about education for the last 100 years or so. The industrial model was designed to train people to do specific tasks to meet specific goals. They followed orders. They didn’t question authority. There was no opportunities to allow creativity or inquiry. The teacher did the thinking for the students. The textbooks did the thinking for the teacher. The teacher was the expert. This is mostly what teachers know and were taught.

Sorry, but this model is not working any more. Where are the factory jobs for the students who graduate from the factory schools? Everything is changing. Management is changing. Technology is changing how information and expertise is delivered and shared. Student-centered means that the teacher is allowing student choice in different situations about different topics. Most children can figure out how to use an iPad, tablet, laptop or smartphone. They grew up digital. They are learning to be curators of their own learning. This Ted.com video from 2007 shows kids teaching other kids without any guidance.

Michalko wrote in his article that if you already consider yourself an expert, you might stop imagining a possibility.

If we experience any strain in imagining a possibility, we quickly conclude it’s impossible. This principle also helps explain why evolutionary change often goes unnoticed by the expert. The greater the commitment of the expert to their established view, the more difficult it is for the expert to do anything more than to continue repeating their established view. It also explains the phenomenon of a beginner who comes up with the breakthrough insight or idea that was overlooked by the experts who worked on the same problem for years.

I see every child as gifted and unique. We need to stop asking how smart are you and consider what Garner wrote, “How are you smart?” Personalize learning so the learner discovers concepts and ideas and more. Why think the teacher needs to be the expert or that each child can only learn from one expert or one textbook. It’s time to rethink what learning, thinking and creativity is and how important it is to let go as a teacher. This will make the teacher’s role more exciting. Just imagine the joy, engagement, and excitement in the learning environment. I like the idea of tinkering, playing with ideas, being creative, and taking risks.

What about you?

0

Who are the Experts Now?

Traditional education expects you — the teacher — to be an expert on your content area, collecting and analyzing data, finding relevant resources, designing curriculum, classroom management, differentiating instruction, understanding standards, parent-school communication, and more. I’m overwhelmed just observing this. I work with teachers around the country. It’s the same everywhere. How can one person know and be expected do so much? Teachers in the US are working harder now than ever before and are undervalued and underpaid no matter what people are saying. I see it. I know. They are grading papers when they should be enjoying their families. They are spending their own money on supplies.

Teachers are our heroes. Let’s be real on what teachers can achieve in the current learning environments.

No one can be an expert on so much. No other occupation expects their employees to not only know their field but be expected to teach it and be measured on the success of their clients who are so unique, different, with their own set of gifts and problems and issues. In public schools, there are larger class sizes, less money per student, and a more diverse student body. More new teachers are being assigned to poorer schools without the support they need, and are expected to do more with less. I watch it and just shake my head.

Here’s an idea:

Since each of us including each student has strengths, let’s identify them and use the experts.

Student Experts

  • Have students identify their strengths, their passions, and their interests.

  • Create a student list of experts.
  • Ask students to choose what skills or knowledge they have where they can help others.
  • Put that list on the board.

I am a coach. I work with teachers on their prep time and collaborative planning time. I mentioned to teachers to have students ask three students before you and that sometimes works. One teacher I was working with this week (Tiffany fourth grade teacher at Live Oak Elementary in San Ramon USD, CA) mentioned the idea of student experts. She said when she told students to ask three people before her, they asked their friends who said “I don’t know.” Then they came back and asked her. It just didn’t work. So Tiffany worked with her class to find student experts.

I’ve shared the idea of student experts before, but I think we need them more now than ever. Tiffany’s students are experts on:

  • different technologies

  • lunchtime duties
  • paper monitors
  • different content areas

Think about your classroom. Your students at any age even Kindergarten have strengths and they love to help others. When you teach others, you learn more. When your students teach each other, they learn more. Teachers then don’t need to know everything and how to do everything anymore. They can ask the student as the expert in the classroom to teach and coach them.

Using student experts makes a class stronger. The teacher is more of a facilitator and guides the learning process. It’s pretty awesome.

0

There You Go -- Being Ridiculous

If you look back ten years (2001), can you ever imagine people walking around talking into their earpiece? or having a smartphone that does everything? At that time, that would be ridiculous or you would think that the person talking to them self was crazy. You probably would have walked a really wide circle around that person. Now lots of people walk and talk into an earpiece or headset. It’s not ridiculous anymore. Right?

I read this article “IDEO: Big Innovation Lives Right on the Edge of Ridiculous Ideas” and it got me thinking. When you visit Google or Apple or other innovative companies, there’s a lot of chaos, playfulness, laughing, and experimenting. They encourage brainstorming lots of ideas even if they seem crazy. You never know when someone will come up with a new idea or tool or app.

The important thing for schools is what results you get from an environment like this. You give permission to play right from the beginning – early childhood. Play is purposeful. Pre-schoolers play real world games like pretending to drive, being a doctor, and imitating what they see D.Bootcamp at Stanfordfrom the adults in their lives. Look at the d.School at Stanford where they are redesigning spaces, bureaucracy, and executive experiences. If you look at IDEO and why they encourage playing at work, you see a hands-off culture where everyone can create and experiment and try lots of different ideas that push boundaries. Many of these ideas may seem ridiculous to others but someone may come up with something amazing. So can this kind of environment work in schools? I say “Why not?”

Think about your classroom where students are part of your team like a start-up company. Look at some of the IDEO examples and think about you and your kids redesigning the space. Tell them to make it playful. Move things around. I like to have an area for kids to sit on bean bag chairs and another space for pacing or for people to stand up. Who knows what kids will come up with if they get to move when they feel like it. Stop forcing kids to be what they’re not.

Have students look at the curriculum with you and take one topic and have them reinvent it so they own it. Tell them to be creative. Come up with a problem they can solve. Let them be ridiculous. They may design a new app or game. If you just let go, you can personalize learning for each child by letting them explore, discover, play.

I remember one of my teachers would come to school dressed up as a famous historical person. That was ridiculous. I loved it and remember it. Now it’s time for kids to have permission to be creative, playful, and ridiculous.

Pages:123