April 23, 2014

Depth and Teaching

Today I am thinking carefully about my career goals, actions, and results?

I am wondering about where I hit the mark, and where I have room for growth.

I am looking at the mountains that separate me from my best work too, and wondering how to ascend those mountains with strength.

The questions that lead this analysis include the following.

1. Are the children in my midst engaged, inspired, and happy?
For the most part, I will answer yes to this question.  Over the past few years, I have devoted my study and work to changing the classroom choreography in ways that enhance engagement, inspiration, and happiness.  Is there room for growth, certainly, but substantial gains have been made.

2. Is the learning program successful?  Are children advancing in ways that make a difference in their lives?
This is a much more complex question, one that I want to address and explore with greater depth and many more questions:

a. What are the specific learning goals?  How do we assess those goals, and do we meet the goals?
The goals and assessments are many, and in many cases we meet the goals of identified learning objectives, but in some cases we do not meet the goals. This is an area of school life I want to think more specifically and deeply about.  I want to consider the goals we have, and which goals are the most important. I want to think about how we relay those goals to the learning community inclusively.  I want to decide when a goal is so important that we will not accept a child's inability to reach the goal, and when the goal is secondary--not as important as others, and a goal that some children may not reach for multiple reasons. 

b. Is our goal list complete? Are some important goals missing from our vision and agenda?
This requires deep thinking about current goals, students' needs and interests, and the overall movement of learning and knowing in today's world. A point of consideration for our collaborative teams and summer study. 

3. Am I an effective educator?
This is a complex area of consideration as an educator's role is a multi-faceted role.  Most educators, like me, have a fairly solid understanding of their strengths and challenges. The key is to share the strengths, and embrace the evolution the challenges call us to face.  No educator is completely effective as it's a role requiring constant reflection and growth, but no educator is also without merit or strength, and that is important to recognize too. 

The summer is a good time to reflect on the overall teaching program, and a good time to strengthen the areas of challenge.  Leading this work with the questions above is helpful.

Slack and Simmer

Alfred sat at his desk doing what appeared to be nothing.

He shifted and squirmed, left for the bathroom, returned, and still produced no work.

I watched and wondered, and then I asked, "Do you need any help? Are you thinking?"

He nodded.

I went back to my work, and then about an hour later, he had produced a magnificent story.

He needed the time to think.

At Poughkeepsie Day's STEM to STEAM and Beyond Workshop,  Pam Moran @pammoran supported the need for "slack"--think time.

When we rush students, we essentially boil their ideas rather than let their wonderful ideas simmer.

We should provide time in classrooms for the simmer--the fine interaction of thoughts, ideas, speak, and creativity.

Likewise, educators need time for the simmer too--we become frustrated and overwrought when our days turn into lists of tasks, rather than focus on fine ideas and student learning.

Hence, as you choreograph the students' day, make time for "slack and simmer," the think time necessary to do a job well.

Mind the Mountain

What mountains separate you from your best work?

Which mountains do you continually circumvent in search of an easier route?

Why do you resist the view at the summit--the potential of the mountain's ascent?

Mind the mountains in your midst.

Don't avoid their majestic beauty and challenge.

Begin the climb, step by step.

Connect the Dots

One school struggled from an issue while another school noted their success in the same area. Why didn't the schools exchange the information, and connect the dots?

One professional emphasizes a new approach, an approach that another professional has used and refined for years. Why didn't they connect the dots, exchange their knowledge, and grow the program together?

A professional reached out to another with feedback and thoughts, and the other never responded and replied. Was it position, gender, age, role, or education that prevented the feedback and left the dots unconnected?

When we don't connect the dots of our knowledge, vision, emphases, and success, there's a lost opportunity.  Our strength comes from our collective work, and when we hold our work too close because of competition, fear, or apathy, it is our students that lose out.

Let's connect the dots.