Experimentation

Joy

This post is cross-posted on the slowchated blog. This week’s #slowchated will focus on JOY in education. To participate in this week-long one-question-per-day chat, you can jump in here –> #slowchated

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

~ Albert Einstein

Oh, Albert. Such a smart cookie you were. I would take Albert’s statement just a bit further in adding that the act of awakening joy in others brings joy to the awakener as well. It is utterly and beautifully cyclical. How lucky are we educators to have this honor? Helping a student find joy in learning, is one of the best feelings I know. IMG_1241

One thing that I know I forget far to often (my husband and children can vouch for this) is that it’s important to experience joy away from one’s job. For every ounce of joy I experience in the classroom comes an ounce (or more) of frustration (usually due to some layer of bureaucracy). Doing the things you love and spending time with people who bring you joy outside of your school provides a balance that is vital for preserving one’s career … and sanity. So …

… Q1: What brings you joy outside your classroom/school?

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How often do we make a conscious effort to focus on the joy of teaching and learning? How often do we remind ourselves that learning should bring the learner joy? How often do we design learning with joy in mind? It’s hard because of the demands of people and entities outside the classroom constantly clamoring for our attention. Despite those demands, the classroom should be a place of learning and joy. I would even go so far as to argue that in order for learning to take place, there must be some element of joy involved–or maybe more accurately, learning will be more likely to occur of there is joy in the process. This is not a scientific fact; it is merely based on 15 years of working in the trenches of public education. This brings us to …

… Q2: What brings you joy in the classroom or school where you work?

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[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.

~ Jim Henson

What do you share with your students? Are you a real person to them, or are you the person who they believe keeps a cot in the closet and lives at school? We need to humanize ourselves to our students. It’s part of the give-and-take of relationship-building. If you want to understand your students, you need to know them, and in order for them to trust you, you need to reveal who you are to them.

I’m not suggesting you need to share every detail of your life, but how about sharing that you raise chickens? or paint watercolor portraits of your friends’ pets? or that you climbed a mountain last summer? or that you cross stitch pop culture icons in your spare time? or that you collect dolphin figurines? or that you love to sit in a hammock and read book after book all summer long? or that your great-grandpa was an Arabian prince? or that your dog died and that it makes you sad? or that when you see a snake or a turtle in the middle of the rode that you stop and move it to the ditch so it doesn’t get run over? or that you are an alien from outer space just trying to fit in? (There was a teacher at my elementary school who told her kids this. She never ever denied it. In fact, part of me still wonders …)

Why not share those things with your students? Every teacher will have a different comfort level regarding what s/he does and does not share, but share something. When you share, your students will usually share in return or be one step closer to sharing. Dr. Gary Stager says that being an interesting adult is one of the best things we can do for our students. I agree with him and I strive to be a weirdo for my students every day!

This is the perfect intro to Q3: What are some ways we can share our personal joys (and passions) with our students? IMG_1278-1qa3znf What teachers do in the classroom can affect a child for life. That’s one of the reasons why our profession is so totally rad, but also so totally scary. When a student walks into my classroom, I set the tone in my instruction, in my reactions, and in my expression of learning. It’s not always easy! It’s easy for students (who often seem surprised to see us at the mall or in a grocery story) to forget that we are human too and humans have off or bad days, so I need to ask … Q4: When you are having a bad day, what can/do you do to set a positive tone in the classroom? HOMEWORK: Think of some images that represent joy to you & have them at the ready for tomorrow We are a visually driven culture, so let’s talk about Q5 (which is not really a question): Share some images of what joy looks like to you (inside or outside the classroom/school). Look at all this joy!

IMG_1280(1)Q6, the final question of the week asked: If you could send one message of joy to your students, what would it be?

You responded with …

How joyful!

My wish for all educators who read this is that you always remember how much fun and joyful learning can be and that you do what you can, when you can to ensure that your students have a joyful experience in a place that can set the tone for an entire year of their life and potentially for their whole entire lives!

Let’s Build a School!

WC

If you enjoy Twitter conversations on education and you’re not yet familiar with #slowchatED, I highly recommend having a look. Rather than juggling questions and answers at the breakneck pace of many popular discussions, the #slowchatED model offers the opportunity for conversations that may benefit from a little more reflection. We push out one question per day over the course of a week, and throughout the week, participants are welcome to share their ideas as they are able and at their own pace.

Using the #slowchatED model, I’d like for us to design a school together, looking at individual aspects of school models over the course of the discussion. We’ve discussed similar questions in other Twitter groups, but I don’t believe that we’ve given ourselves sufficient time to explore our own ideas in depth, nor have I see much discussion of what an actual schedule, org chart, etc. would look like, if we had a say in their creation. With this particular discussion, I’m hoping to see not just theoretical ideas but actual concrete and specific solutions to the problems we’ve all dealt with. It’s one thing to give our opinions as critics, but it’s another thing altogether to offer real solutions to the problems we regularly discuss from the point of view of designers—we need to start doing more of this kind of work. Though each question below is broad enough for a Twitter discussion of its own, we’ll use them to work toward our own designs for successful school models in this way:

Q1 What does your ideal school calendar look like (i.e., daily schedule, teaching vs. service days, etc.)?
Q2 What does your ideal physical space look like (e.g., classrooms, offices, community space, etc.)?
Q3 Describe the ideal organizational structure of your school. Who makes decisions and how?
Q4 How do you hire, train, and retain quality teaching talent? Outline your ideal supporting PD program.
Q5 What else makes your ideal school unique or what wild idea would you love to try? What did we miss?
Q6 Write your school’s mission statement.

I’m eager to hear a variety of thoughts on these questions, but I’m even more excited for the ancillary conversations that will be born from our discussion. In particular, I’m curious to know what I haven’t yet thought of as being of central importance for school design. It will certainly be the case that the room will be smarter than any individual, and thanks to the variety of points of view and the general diversity of opinion on Twitter, I expect that these questions will be just starting points allowing us to explore school design more deeply. I hope that we push each other’s ideas to give us the opportunity to dive deeply into what we think is fundamental for school design. There will be no wrong answers!

With these questions as our starting point, how might we design a school? This is your perfect world in which you get to build your perfect school. Assume that there are no restrictions or limits for our designs; but however imaginative and revolutionary they may be, let’s also try to build a school that’s feasible. At the end of the week, I’ll invite everyone to reflect on our respective school designs and capture your model in a blog post of your own to share what you learned in the process. I can’t wait to see what we each build over the course of the week of Feb. 9 on #slowchatED.

Unfortunately there will be daily problems for you to solve, Fortunately….

Hi everyone. Our daily stories are built upon a torrent of conflicts.

  • How to get rid of those ants.
  • How to motivate the unmotivated.
  • How to share something new.
  • How to stay healthy.
  • How to spend more time becoming a better teacher, while spending enough time with friends and family.

I started #slowchatED last year because I wanted to create a deep pocket of learning in the sometimes shallow pool of Twitter chats. As of now #slowchatED is one of the few regular slow chats on Twitter. A chat that runs an entire week instead of an entire hour. Where other chats are a waterpark ride, #slowchatED is a lap pool. Well, for some people that’s not enough. Some people want to practice scuba diving in our lap pool and go deep. I’m going to blow out the bottom of the pool and allow each of you to explore the story of your problems using a children’s book. This book:

Final Edit Fortunately

Go to this blog post to read more about using Remy Charlip’s book in your class. 

So here’s the technique:

Each day I will pose an “Unfortunately” problem for you to solve. You can solve the problem with words, links, blog posts, songs, videos, photos, drawings… whatever. Once you tweet your “Fortunately” answer then the fun begins. Either myself or someone else will throw an “Unfortunately” at your solution and take the discussion deeper. All stories are a series of conflict, resolution, new conflict, attempt at resolution, resolution that makes things worse, conflicts that make things unexpectedly better and so on.

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Who knows where our story will lead?

We will continue this for the entire day. Solutions being provided and new challenges getting in the way of easy solutions. We will add depth to the width of our exploration. Once I throw down the initial “Unfortunately” feel free to play antagonist or protagonist. You can even come to the aid of one of your fellow teachers and save the day… for now.

Then the next day a new “Unfortunately” problem will raise it’s ugly head.

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Hey relax…. you’ve got more than an hour to answer these questions. That’s why they call it #SLOWchatED

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Can’t wait to see what rises to the surface. Enjoy the moment and get ready for #slowchatED starting Monday Jan. 12th.

The Topic: A chat about how “Unfortunately” the problems in your life are neither simple nor finite.

PS if you have any particular “Unfortunately” dilemmas you would like me to propose for a day please DM or Google DM me your ideas. Thanks…. your faithful skipper and the old man of the #slowchatED sea,  David Theriault 

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Monday 1/12/15: Q1 “Unfortunately” Your boss put you in charge of the new [terrible idea] “task force” Your first meeting is this Friday. #slowchatED

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Tuesday 1/13/15: Q2: You wanted to create an awesome classroom environment but UNFORTUNATELY you are the traveling teacher this year. #threerooms #slowchatED

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Wednesday 1/14/15: Q3: 

Q3bThursday Jan 15th, 2015: Q4

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Q5: Friday 1/16/15 Use the #slowchatED to participate

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Here is the archive of the entire #slowchatED chat: there was no question six on Saturday because I attended edcampLA. Hope you enjoyed the topic and discussion. See you soon.

Defining Our #EduFuture (August 18-24)

 old school

“The future” is a loaded term – one that evokes tremendous flights of imagination AND trepidation in myriad art forms.  Most science fiction looks into the future (or, like Star Wars, looks at societies from “long ago” that are clearly more technologically advanced than we are) and sees a mixture of fantastical technology and dystopic social realities.  The list is long: in the recent film Elysium, the technology exists to cure terminal cancer by simply lying down in a machine for a few moments, but this is only accessible to the wealthy who have fled Earth to live on a (really cool looking) space station; the rest of humanity lives in squalor and disease.

Our vision for the future – at least through the lens of science fiction – is rife with deep anxiety and stark dichotomies.

Is science fiction arguing that, the more powerful our technology becomes, the more fractured our social dynamic?   (more…)

Experimentation Week: Get out there and try something new!

 

You’re out for dinner at one of your favourite restaurants about to order your favourite menu item (which you’ve eaten multiple times before because its delicious!) when all of a sudden the waiter tells you about tonight’s special – something wild and exotic that you’ve never tried before, like octopus ravioli. It sounds enticing and you want to order it, but you’re reluctant to pass on old reliable – spaghetti and meatballs – because you know it will make you happy.

The age old dilemma of trying something different and new, or sticking with what’s comforting and predictable. It comes up a lot in teaching. Do you you pull an old lesson plan out of the file box or play with an idea that’s been nagging you? The latter has more potential for excitement and discovery, but can also result in complete and utter failure.

As I reflected on all my colossal classroom flops from the past year, one thing that struck me was how much – despite hair-pulling frustration at the time – I had gained from every single one of them. In fact, I actually learned quite a lot more from experimenting and failing than I did by succeeding with tried and tested methods.

This made me curious about how other teachers approached the subject. One thing that became clear during last week’s discussion was how unafraid teachers are of taking risks with their craft. For most, experimentation is central to being an effective teacher.

(“Worth his salt” – I like that expression. It sounds old schoool!

Good on ya Barb! I hope I can say the same thing 25 years from now. Thankfully, we have teachers like yourself to connect with on twitter. I loved how eager everyone was to share their own learning experiences with experimentation in their classrooms…

(Well, the ego’s not THAT important…is it?)

(As a perfectionist, something I have to remind myself constantly!)

 

I’m totally stealing some of these. So many new ideas!

Of course, teachers expressed the need for a supportive environment, where risk-taking is encouraged and failure is accepted…

 

We even heard from some Ed leaders on how they inspire their teachers to experiment!

(The risk-taker motto!)

(Love the open-mindedness here!)

In the end experimentation is what school’s all about: Imagination, investigation, discovery, learning and FUN!

 

After all, what does anyone have to gain without getting out there and trying new things!