Friday, November 25, 2016

Learning: It's Not a Race

The educators proudly exclaimed that they were ahead of everyone on the expected scope and sequence.Yet does being "ahead" infer being "better" or "worse." I believe it's neither one or the other when education is concerned.

Learning is not a race. What's important here is the following:
  • Helping each child progress with strength, engagement, and empowerment from one expectation to another. 
  • Teaching all expected standards in student-centered, brain-friendly ways.
  • Making time to integrate important concepts with other rich learning goals to make it timely and meaningful
  • Creating learning/teaching pathways that respond well to the context in which you teach.
  • Making sure that students have mastered foundation skills, concept, and knowledge so that they can move forward with rich and meaningful math learning (see Khan's mastery TedTalk)
It's important to share a loose-tight guide, path, or standards with those you team with, but it's not always important to be at the same place at the same time or to be "ahead" of others. What's important is that you are teaching each and every child in sensitive, targeted, and loving ways.

For example this year my teaching team responded to research by spending several days at the start of the year with team building activity and focus. The research points to the value of creating strong classroom community before reaching into mostly academic teaching goals and activities. We did that with a focus on the Global Cardboard Challenge and a number of other teamwork activities building notecard towers, the spaghetti-marshmallow challenge, and the Three Words video--all rich and meaningful ways to build a culturally proficient, collaborative grade-level team. Further I employed the coordinate grid unit to further build team since it was new learning for everyone and learning that everyone could access--this builds confidence and strength at the start of the math year, and as noted on state standards, fits nicely into the expected development of the student goals and standards.

That put us a bit behind the other grade-level teams with regard to the system-created scope and sequence. There's an unspoken subtle pressure to be at the same place at the same time, however, last year's efforts demonstrate that even though I taught the standards in a somewhat different path, my students achieved similarly on the district-wide assessment in May. I don't think educators have to be lock-step when it comes to teaching/learning, in fact research supports this. Teaching is not a robotic act--there's important variation to consider. I do believe we have to teach the standards, but also make sure that all students have the foundation skills for those standards first. Essentially we have to teach students first, content second, and we have to take a deep, personal/contextual view of the teaching expectations and our students to lay out a formidable, meaningful, engaging, and empowering learning path.

I'll resist the subtle competition to be "ahead" and instead continue the path of teaching the students well while also listening carefully to my district-wide colleagues to gain inspiration, knowledge, and collaboration to teach all of our students well. Onward.