Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Starting the Year with a New Perspective

Sometimes new learning is painful because it awakens you to past practices that you no longer believe in or support. At times like these, you have to give yourself the opportunity to change without too much despair.  After all, that's what life is about--growing and changing.

So, after a summer of lots of reading and PLN idea exchange, I find myself returning the classroom with a new perspective.  It's like traveling to a foreign land; I have to keep reminding myself of my new priorities and lens so I don't lapse back into the old ways--ways I've now deemed less desirable.

First, by nature, I like to get the job done--create the list, check off the boxes and move forward.  Now, rather than quickly moving down the list, I want to take the time to stop each day and discuss the list with my students asking, "What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How can I help you?  Do you have new ideas?  Putting students at the center is my goal; the standards take second place to that.

Also, I'm deskless this year.  You wouldn't think that such a small change would make such a big difference, but it does. In a sense, it levels the playing field.  I'm not longer the "monarch with the big desk," now I'm one of the team sharing spaces for learning and interaction around the classroom. Going deskless has changed the feel of  my room--it's much more of a workshop than a traditional classroom.

And, I'm letting children talk more. Yesterday, rather than hushing or changing the lesson, I let the exuberance happen.  I listened to the noisy, emotional voices and realized they were sharing their ideas with excitement and enthusiasm.  Adults wouldn't react any differently.  I want to make more time for student voices.

Then, when a few somewhat sarcastic remarks were shared, I surprised them by saying, "Hey, that's a great idea! Would you like to take charge of that."  Students were surprised as they expected to rattle me a bit.  They didn't think I'd take their thoughts seriously.

I delegated much more.  Rather than putting up the self portrait gallery in a perfectly uniform, organized way, I let the students lead the creation.  It's not exactly how I would do it, but it has a lot more spunk and child-like spirit to it.  It makes one smile to look at it.

We'll still meet the standards, but I'm letting students take a lot more responsibility in the process.  I'm slowing down and listening to their ideas.  I'm putting them in the "driver's seat" of their education and I'm playing the role of coach, mentor and guide.   I'm writing this today as I don't want to revert back to the ways of old--I like this new way of teaching, one supported by my PLN and research.  I wonder what challenges, triumphs and new learning this journey will bring as the year progresses.

Have you shifted your perspective?  How has that changed your daily teaching repertoire, classroom set-up and student-teacher-parent collaboration?  It's a revolutionary time in education, and I'm happy to be part of it.  I'm also looking forward to reading about your new perspectives too.