It has been a journey long in the making. It started as philosophy shift, rethinking educational systems and recognizing flaws. We were building factory workers in an age of disappearing factories. Students needed to leave high school just like their classmates several decades ago because the work they would do required them to rarely think outside the box, create new things and challenge existing ideas. For quite some time the real-world has rewarded those who do those things, but our schools continued churning out the same product. We changed how we thought about school first.
We wondered if we were alone in this. Quickly we found our answer - no, we were not. Many schools around the country, and world, have been shifting their philosophies and putting those shifts into action. Communication, observations and a lot of learning of best-practice went into preparing for a leap into personalized learning. The next step was changing the physical layout of our environment. With learners in mind, the arrangement, norms and structure of every inch space was changed to accommodate different instruction and learning styles. The second phase of the journey was the setup.
For quite a while we taught to the middle. The slower learners were left confused and behind, zapping most of their drive to continue. Students who were self-driven and motivated, well they usually got bored and disinterested. Personalized learning was a perfect solution to trying to benefit all learners, no matter where they are in their own learning journey. We needed to give something up and teachers have long cherish … control. Being receptive to learner’s needs can create the feeling of lost control. Maybe we don’t know exactly what we’re teaching tomorrow, but if a learner requests something it might be a good idea to give when they need. Helping them advocate for themselves and become self-aware has been an important piece of training. We may not be allowed the opportunity to pace a week or month like we used to, but learners taking ownership of their learning is a payoff ten-fold.
So, we have begun. There is already a Google Doc we used to write about things we want to do differently next year, but for the most part it has been a good start. Learners worked together to establish their own norms and expectations for each space. Learners create their own schedule for their day based on their needs. Learners prioritize their time and what teachers offer. Learners are doing things with their learning, not just returning a few memorized facts to their teachers when test day comes. Learners listen to music, lay on the floor, hangout with their friends and laugh. Learners are being allowed to be themselves and experience freedoms many of us teachers did not feel until we left the nest for college.
There may be things to improve and change next time, but Team Innovate is putting learning into the hands of learners. Sure, they may be a younger and little smaller than us, but they are people. It is amazing to see what impact can happen when we treat learners like the individuals they are.
Who knows how few people will stumble upon this first entry, but I wish for it to be meaningful in some way, great or small. As a teacher, we come across children from every avenue imaginable. Some come to us worried about which pair of Nikes to wear that day, some worry if the leader of their friend group will talk with them at lunch. Others, meanwhile, worry about things like hunger and abuse and neglect at home.
Today is a Friday going into a three-day weekend. All students, but it seems especially sixth graders, experience difficulty focusing or sitting still on days like today. These days can be a struggle and very tiring. We may have swirling negative thoughts about a few individual students or the student body as a whole.
I realized something today, and with it came a punch-in-the-gut feeling that I have it all wrong - as do many people in school, unfortunately. See, many students get to leave school and go home to happy families that care about each other; but there’s another portion of our students that don’t. It tore me apart when I realized perhaps some of our students aren’t squirrelly on Fridays because they can’t wait to hangout with friends, or shop or visit their cabin. What if some young people in our classrooms misbehave because it has become their way of coping with what lie ahead? Maybe home for them isn’t so happy or caring. Maybe they are scared.
This is most likely the case for only a few students, but just a few is too man. Therefore, my mindset shifted today. No matter if a student is in personalized learning or general, gifted or behind, rich or poor, silly or quiet, we need to love them all. We must err on the side of building real relationships, not stressing over content and agendas. I don’t know exactly where students go when they say goodbye each afternoon, but if going out of my way to make sure they do it smiling, I’m going to play it safe and try.
Maybe one more smile is what they need to prepare for what comes next.
Just read a rather short, perfectly written article about how to become more creative and get yourself better. It can be at anything, really. Better at typing, for instance. That's a direct result of typing, which I'm doing right now. But even things such as getting better at thinking. So far, in the past few moments I have had no real concrete direction for this blog post. And that's the point. I'm creating right now. I'm thinking fast and my fingers are trying to keep up. Already I can feel the slow opening of creative energy in my mind.
Just sat for ten seconds. Maybe I was thinking too hard. Back on track now.
I want to be better at a lot of things. I want more than anything to succeed and be proud of the accomplishments that are yet to come. Something I have felt for a long time is how cool it could be to create something new, valuable and exciting - a tool or idea that people would use and something that would make their life more fun, enjoyable, easy, practical, interesting, etc.
So I got on Twitter and searched for posts on the hashtag "bussinessideas." I found a few posts of ridiculous ideas and the hashtag was their way of punch-lining their joke. But I came across a good one, finally, that encouraged writing. So what you may call this is my first attempt.
I want to be creative and make some sort of impact on as many people as possible. Who knows, maybe I will, maybe I won't. Realistically I could be the only person who ever reads this ... but I'm going to try it. What's life without trying a few new things along the way? If we only redid and rethought exactly what other people have already done and thought, nothing new would ever be created, invented or done.
Fifteen minutes ago this blog post didn't exist, but it has since been created. Likely this isn't going to change anyone's life ...
But creation is creation.
I am not an expert of my site yet. Originally I was going to write a post about what was happening around me; it was meant only to test out the blogging piece of my site. When I started, my wife was cleaning bottles, Elias was asleep upstairs and my Camelbak was full of water. Several minutes later, Kristin is upstairs because Elias wouldn't fall asleep. He's into rolling around in his crib. My water is gone and now the four ice cubes I tossed in are weak, sad little puddles of water.