I feel like my husband, who is also an educator at the same school as me, discuss the what if’s of education daily. In years past we’ve discussed opening our own school and what we would want it to look like. There are so many what if’s! The two biggest most often discussed are developmentally appropriate practices and the grouping of learners.
What if we were able to teach in a developmentally appropriate way ALL the time?
This is one of my soapboxes I could talk about all day long. With the standards being written by people who don’t understand child development, many times we are trying to teach and have learners master concepts they just aren’t ready for. More and more time is spent on getting them to read earlier, do math problems earlier and less and less time spent on the foundational skills, social development, and fine motor skills. I see these gaps creep up daily in my grade 4 classroom when learners can’t cut, fold paper, have major gaps in number sense, and have a difficult time working in groups because they lack the social skills necessary to work with others effectively.
WHAT IF, we as professionals were able to spend time once again on the foundational skills, spend time outside, instill a love a learning, instead of pushing our kids to ‘run before they can walk’? I believe our learners would be more prepared to take risks, share ideas, and be critical thinkers. We would be setting our learners up for success. We don’t push kids down the stairs so they can be the first to do it, so why do we push them to read and write before they are ready?
What if we placed learners based on what they know vs. by grade/age level?
Now this ‘what if’ is a hot topic in the discussions with my husband whose training and experience is in the gifted education domain. It is difficult to wrap one’s head around, however, it could possibly be so amazing for the learners if it happened. Much of our, sometimes heated, discussion stems from me and my traditional beliefs about classroom set up. I want to have learners in my room who excel in different areas and be able to show and help others understand concepts in different ways than me. However, it always comes down to thinking about the reading levels in any of the grade levels I’ve taught. No matter the grade level, I’m teaching a class that typically spans at least 2 grade levels (7-10 DRA levels) if not more than that. Wouldn’t it be nice to teach a class full of learners whose range is 4-5 DRA levels? Would I be able to better meet their needs and help them grow more if this were the case?
WHAT IF, I am a fantastic reader and writer, why should I be placed in grade 4 just because of my age? Would I be challenged more, grow more, care more, if I were in a room with others who were close to my same level? While I maybe a fantastic reader, I might not be super great at Maths. Could I fill in gaps, work at just the right pace for me, and be challenged in a room full of others around my same level?
There really are so many what if’s to think about when making decisions about the young people in our lives. I am loving the opportunity to think about some of these, learning from others, and sharing with others. What if we all took a chance and did something out of our comfort zone this week?
As I sat in my garden relishing the tiny bit of sun and the birds singing after the snow melting, I began thinking about this weeks learning. It is so wonderful to be engaging with others who want to grow and do what is best for kids.
There are many times the critical questions for innovation are discussed at length among educators. Many times there is agreement in answers and that’s where the conversation ends. If there is no action, the conversation was nice, but so what. The question I would add to this is the, HOW. If all stakeholders aren’t willing to sit in the muck of the HOW, then innovation is not likely. The HOW is where it all happens. If you believe students should be problem finders, problem solvers, be challenged, HOW will you change what is happening daily for them? Are you willing to change scheduling? Are you willing to relinquish some control in your classroom? Are you willing to take a risk and see how it goes?
But I need to back up. The type of conversations that need to happen involving any of the questions for innovation stem from a certain type of environment. Something that resonated with me from the Youtube chat was the conversation about the difference between discussion and arguments as well the reasons to build relationships. Just as we believe building relationships with our learners is the first step in building the type of culture we want in our classrooms, the first step in being able to have ‘real’ discussion instead of arguments, must be to build relationships with the people on our teams, in our buildings. Who can give it to you straight? Who can you go to when you’re looking for encouragement? When trust is built, it will be easier to have difficult discussions. Another part, which is difficult for me at times, is to check the ego and not take things personally. Change is hard work, failure is inevitable, but when you trust the people around you, you can pick yourself up, grow and see great things happen.
The HOW of providing an environment of innovation is modeled through leadership, whether that’s teacher leadership or all the way to superintendents/heads of schools. Being open to doing things a different way, asking colleagues how their classrooms run, going and visiting classrooms, being vulnerable with your colleagues. I have worked in places where this type of environment is apparent when you walk in the door and ones where I’ve had to seek out others willing to have these types of conversations and attitudes. If there’s no model for you, you be the model, share with your colleagues your learning, risk taking, be vulnerable.
I actually look forward to sitting in the muck of the HOW. It’s where creativity, problem solving, and ultimately great things happen for all involved. How can you embrace ‘the muck’ this week? My own challenge is to find ways for voice and choice in a historical fiction writing unit while providing appropriate support for all the learners in my room.
Hi there, my name is Anna and I am currently a 4th grade teacher at an International school outside of London. I have taught 3 and 4 year olds, kindergarten and 1st grade in a variety of settings in my 16 years of teaching. I have also worked with ELL’s, their teachers and facilitated and taught in a dual language program. All this time was spent in Texas! In addition, I’ve been in very innovative districts as well as those that aren’t so innovative. My family just recently moved to the London area to experience all that living in the UK and near Europe has to offer.
I began reading Innovator’s Mindset last year when I was able to take some time off because of a different move. It was difficult to begin as I so missed my coworkers and kids. Now that I’m back in the classroom full time, I’m more than excited to begin reading again and to participate in this IMMOOC.
The prompt that stuck out to me is the one with the quote, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.” This was the life I lived in my former district as well as the mantra for my family at the moment. Change was our best friend. A best friend whom we fought with often. However, once ‘the fight was over’ and we tried this ‘new’ thing out, it was simply amazing what happened for kids. There were so many new things, but typically all made a positive impact in the learners lives.
I want the best for the kiddos I spend most of my time with. I want them to be able to think for themselves, feel comfortable taking risks. Perhaps most importantly I want them to feel comfortable making mistakes and knowing I, or someone, will be there to catch them. I want them to know I’m there to help them learn through those mistakes to become their best person. I want them to be caring, critical thinkers as they move through this world.
When I am afraid of doing something new I’ve begun thinking of worst case scenarios. In most cases, there is nothing ‘real’ to fear. I am more than excited to get started on this journey, even though I’m not confident in writing my thoughts at all.
“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”