Saturday, October 26, 2019

Dissecting challenge

There's a challenge before me that's interrupting the flow of teaching and learning, yet I can't quite put my finger on where that challenge lies. Thus the need for dissection.

Planning and prep
I like to stay about a week ahead with planning and prep, yet I find that some lessons planned don't go as well as expected. Why? For starters a Triple E threat in the area threw the science curriculum off course--we had many outdoor explorations planned for the start of the school that laid the foundation for science to follow, but due to the threat we haven't been able to explore the woods. We made adjustments, but that did throw a wrench into that curriculum. Also because I'm trying to deepen the math curriculum with more performance tasks, that has created some new learning curves that take time and lead to some unexpected results--results that move the curriculum in varying ways for many reasons. Further, I'm still reaching for those just-right learning experiences that motivate and energize this active group of learners--what really inspires them to keep going, persevere, ask good questions, and learn with strength and vigor? What has motivated students in the past, doesn't work as well with this group so I have to keep thinking about that--what leads to engagement and flow with these learners?

These learners come with many wonderful supports by way of educators, programs, and materials, and while this is terrific, this also requires time to best coordinate these supports for the best possible programming and teaching. What is the best way to work together to support these energetic learners? How can we use our time best? What ways can we tweak the schedule for best effect?

With an energetic group, the classroom seems small--there's not a lot of space to move about, work quietly, and engage in learning the ways I like to teach and learn. Further there's little extra space in the school to spread out as well. Soon some of the big projects that demand a lot of materials will be done, and that will make more space. How can we find/make more space?

As I get to know this multi-dimensional group of learners and the many support personnel that come with them, I have learned some aspects of teaching and learning that do and do not excite them including the following:
  • They are good listeners overall when it comes to read aloud. They especially love when the teaching assistant in my room reads aloud since she's so good at it. That's a keeper.
  • They truly enjoy personalized attention in quiet spaces--whenever we can find those spaces and make that time, that works.
  • They enjoy a good movie that focuses on the themes they are curious about--that brings the group together.
  • They love recess and could play all day.
  • They're often hungry, but forget to eat during snack times, so they need reminders about this.
  • In general they're not too keen about detail work--the kind of work that makes them think hard, write, and persevere--there's work to do to grow those learning muscles. This is not true for all.
  • Some haven't found their curiosity spots yet--when it comes to our curriculum, they're not as curious about the topics as students in years back--I have to keep thinking about how to introduce these standards in ways that inspire them, excite them, and make them want to continue the learning outside of school.
  • In general, several have expressed a disinterest in school. In fact we talked about that on Friday and the ways that Native American cultures of old taught by apprenticeship, a much more active, interest/skill-based way of teaching. They liked that. It would be fun to take these learners on an adventure where they were learning in active, hands-on, ways that meet their central areas of curiosity. 
During the past few years, our team has worked hard to create a curriculum program that matches the standards and inspires children too. This year's class is challenging that program in some ways--they want a somewhat different learning program, a program with greater personal attention, choice, and lots and lots of time for play. In some ways, some of the learners seem overwhelmed and that's what translates into their great desire for play and free time. Is it the busy world we live in that overwhelms them? Is it their own personalities that drive them to desire something more or different greatly? Is it their synergy? I'm not exactly sure, but just dissecting the challenge to see what's at the root of this challenge helps me to begin to address it. Onward.