One of the prompts for this week’s “short blog challenge” during the Innovator’s Mindset #IMMOOC online book study (Season 3, Week 5):
“How do we share openly and regularly to further our own learning and development?”
That is the question! This is so hard for so many of us to do as educators. Both parts are hard: the “openly” and the “regularly”!
Many teachers find the “openly” part difficult, as it puts us in a perceived place of vulnerability. At the high school level, we rarely collaborate or share our classrooms due to doubt. Will people judge me? What if my lesson doesn’t go perfectly? Why does anyone else care what I have to say? All of these doubts hinder us from engaging in learning and collaboration with others.
For time-strapped teachers, the “regularly” part is also difficult. I just finished sending an email ‘disbanding’ our #IMMOOC book club for the remainder of this season. My colleagues were too overwhelmed trying to meet together weekly, like this whirlwind #IMMOOC challenges us to do. Our group members might be a bit sad that it has come to this, but I’m sure most are ultimately breathing a sigh of relief! Of course, regularly doesn’t have to mean weekly, but, inevitably, regularly becomes occasionally, which often becomes rarely. And sadly, amidst marking and report cards, our own learning and development often is a low priority.
Fortunately, trying out voluntary book studies as a staff has pushed some of our school staff members to further our learning and development. As a result of doing book studies together:
- we’ve tried new literacy activities (Thanks Kylene Beers!).
- we’ve adopted some school wide literacy initiatives, such as a high school wide Word List
- we’ve had great conversations –the kind that never happen as you fly past one another in the hallway at school
- we’ve shared openly and developed new ideas together
This fall marks the 21st year that I have taught high school Social Studies (and English) in Room 124. That’s a pretty long time. In fact, I am the first teacher to ever have occupied this room, since I started teaching at this school the year that it opened. So it felt pretty weird today telling class after class that within a week or two, they would have a new teacher, as I would be moving on to a new job.
Here is the October 11 version of my new job process…..a flashback if you will, that didn’t get published immediately:
Today is Wednesday. This past Friday I went for an interview for a temporary Instructional Coach- a position that has come about mid-semester due to some unexpected provincial funding. Saturday I was offered the job. Monday night after Thanksgiving Dinner, I was making sub plans for a Tuesday Instructional Coaching event hosted by a neighbouring school division. Today I was telling my students that I’d be leaving them. This has been a whirl-wind of a week. (And that doesn’t even count Saturday, when my family spent the day moving my parents off of the farm that has been in the family for over 100 years!)
Fortunately, they didn’t cheer and dance at the thought of getting rid of me! I was most surprised by the reaction of my last period of the day class. This is my non-academic crew; the ones that don’t love being at school, but stay because they know that it probably makes sense to endure it in the long run. I have taught most of these students in a previous year, and some of the poor lads and lasses have been stuck with me for three years in a row. Some of the most surprising characters took it almost as a personal insult that I was leaving them. Some asked if I had my calendar mixed up because it wasn’t April (when April Fool’s Day comes along). Luckily, the remainder of class time was a distraction with a lively simulation of capitalism as we had a “wicket factory” for the rest of the day.
Although there are many uncertainties about this new position at this early stage, the heavy weight of reality of “leaving home” is a certainty. I won’t have been out of this classroom for this long of a time period since I was on maternity leave with my twin babies almost 17 years ago! Of course, that seems like just yesterday, too.
And of course, change is good. But it can still be scary, even when you are an adult with very exciting possibilities before you.
One of the topics for Week 2 of Season 3 of the #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course) asks us to examine George Couros’ 8 Characteristics of an Innovator and discuss which of these we might exemplify. In IMMOOC Season 1 I wrote about risk-taking and resilience. and in Season 2 about being reflective.
This time around, I will reflect once again on the innovative habit of “being reflective”, but without re-reading what I wrote last time – this will make for some interesting real life research! The first thing that comes to mind as I think about being reflective is that it can be a curse.
My son has just started his college undergrad courses on the road to becoming a teacher. In his first month of college, he is doing an observation practicum in a kindergarten class. Yesterday he was labouring over his first journal-type entry as a “reflective practitioner”, as his text book describes it. So this got me thinking about how very naturally and continually I reflect on my teaching practice. I guess the habit has been ingrained since my pre-service teaching days when I had to do post-lesson reflections, written down on paper.
Of course as full time teachers, most of us do not have time to sit down and formally journal about the successes and failures of our many lessons a day. Despite this, my lesson plans and student handout materials are scrawled with suggestions and changes for next time. My methods and work are constantly evolving, although not always in significant shifts. Often the changes are to increase clarification or because I’ve found a better source, or often, a new technology tool/approach that I think would be engaging for students.
Thus the curse: being reflective causes a teacher more work. I often am jealous of my colleagues who are not wired to be as reflective. They can make a lesson once, and whether it was mildly or wildly successful or not at all, they can go on to teach it semester after semester with nary an alteration. I do not have this ability. I am often jealous of those who can just keep teaching the same ol’ thing. Semester after semester. Year after year.
Often jealous, but not always. In the end, why do I go through the torment of reflection and the resulting revision? Because it is probably best for our students. If we expect our students’ best work, and require them to revise and rework their submissions, knowing that they can create a better piece of work, it would be hypocritically if we were not willing to do the same.
This is our staff’s 3rd attempt at doing a book study together…. but a very different approach.
Some EBHS staff will get together to participate together-ish in the 3rd online edition of #IMMOOC with YouTube lives sessions to watch, Twitter Chats, blogs posts and commenting on the blogs of others. This will undoubtedly push some members out side of their comfort zone….just what an innovator should do. I’ve personally participated in the first 2 online #IMMOOC sessions, and am glad I’ve finally been able to get a crew to join me (from the many who purchased his book when he was at our 2016 Teacher’s Convention). Here’s to trying something new! I hope we can stick with it!
Post Script: Wondering how it went? Click here