"Engaged Teaching is about re-integrating a fragmented view of education that often separates social and emotional learning from academics, skills from content, heart from mind, inner life from outer life, and student learning outcomes from learning contexts."
What a unique discussion. I find it rare in all of the PD that I have been a part of that we focus on ourselves as teachers and how our state of being helps or hinders us from exceptional teaching. Toward the end of the webinar, Mark talked about how being present in the moment is part of self preparation for teaching. By this, we have to let other distractions go, so that we are capable of being our best. There was also a lot of discussion about being able to "open your heart" to your students. In order to do this, one has to be aware of what opens/closes their heart. Being a better self observer helps us know what our triggers are.
I really took these messages to heart. It is true that the daily grind of things can lead us to "close our hearts" to students, thus cutting them off from who we truly are. Stress has lead me to react as opposed to respond to situations. Being aware of what triggers me to react is the first step to recognizing when emotions will affect the situation and taking a moment to breathe, then step back into the present moment. Mark said that "doing nothing is one of the hardest things for humans to do." However, pausing for that moment to gain control of emotions or to reengage the students is very powerful and helps keep an engaged teacher and classroom as well.
"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." - Buddha
What does failure have to do with learning? What is the connection to helping students achieve 21st century learning skills?
J.K. Rowling's Harvard commencement speech was outstanding! She was able to articulate how failure, though not enjoyable at the time, helps us get to a place in our lives where we can truly succeed and be truthful to who we are. So how can failing help students achieve 21st century skills?
Invention - like Rowlings said, when everything is stripped from you due to failure, you make due with what you have, not what others think you should have
Technology Literacy - I don't know about you, but it's the times that I've done something wrong that make remember what to do right!
Collaboration - If you know what DOESN'T work for collaboration, you can try other ways to make it successful
Information Literacy - after failure, one is likely more open to listening to different points of view
Self Direction - reflect and change strategies
Critical Thinking and Reasoning - analyze and apply knowledge to new situations
Change is inevitable and change is good. Paulo Blikstein, assistant professor at the Stanford School of Education’s TED Talk “One Fabrication Lab per School: the FabLab@School project”, said it well. No one is asking about the skills being taught in hunting or calligraphy because those skills are not obsolete. In order to move forward, we need to decide what skills are obsolete and replace them with new, 21st Century skills. My stance on that continues to be that those changes must come from the top/down, as teachers are not in the position to pick and choose which standards they feel are relevant. Our country is in need of educational leadership who can really push for these types of changes.
Until that happens, however, teachers can still make important changes within the classroom that do not deflect from the current standards. Having had the opportunity to serve on this year's 21st Century Cadre, I have a better understanding of what these 21st Century Skills entail and am able to move forward in my career keeping these skills in mind as I plan.
In order to support the wide-spread implementation of 21st Century Skills within the classroom, I see a benefit in having administrators be a part of the 21st Century Cadre. I feel that if administrators were given the knowledge and tools that we were, they would better support our initiatives at school. It currently feels that the only ones making changes are those who served on the cadre. Though we give opportunities to share, there are few who partake. It hasn't felt that the effort we have put in has been highly regarded, yet I strongly believe that education would change this. Once one understands the importance of 21st Century Skills, then the buy-in is there.
As the school year was winding down, I was still on the hook for some PD of my own. Through my personal experiences over the last few weeks, I have been able to make some important connections between what motivates me to learn and what I can do to provide motivation to my students as well...
Sometime during the last couple of weeks of school, I was asked whether or not I wanted to participate in creating the 3rd grade rubrics for the standards-based report card. I had been on the committee to develop the 3rd grade standards-based report card, so it was quite logical that I would continue my work and help with the rubrics. The only problem was, I could see a brilliant light at the end of the tunnel called "summer vacation" and I wasn't exactly thrilled to hang out for 2 days longer than my peers just for funsies. I initially dismissed the invitation thinking, "No way! I know this is a very important task, but I can't stand to think of looking at standards for the first 2 days of my summer break!"
Then it happened... positive responses started to trickle in from my colleagues with whom I had worked with throughout the year on the standards-based report card committee. What happened next? If they were going to be there, then I would, too. I absolutely loved working with this group of people, so I knew the task at hand would be enjoyable. I committed to 2 more days of standards.
Lesson #1: If students have fun and enjoy the group they work with, they are more motivated to play an active role.
So, we all got together the first Thursday/Friday after all the other teachers were finished working and looked at standards once again. I could have been planting flowers, wedding planning, hanging out at the swimming pool.... (I can think of many more pleasant options)... but here we were. Once again, our team kicked into high gear and cranked out rubrics for each of the 60-some EOs listed on our 3rd grade report card. As we had in the past, we worked diligently and efficiently, but our conversation from 8am-4pm was not all about standards. We giggled, joked around, and talked about summer plans, yet we managed to get everything finished the first day we were there! Our team was one of the first to complete the task, and we had few corrections to make the second day. We were also able to assist other teams on the rubrics required for their grade levels. The best part other than turning out a high-quality product in a relatively short amount of time? WE HAD A BLAST DOING IT!!
Lesson #2: When students work on a project, I need to give them grace for "off topic" conversations. From my experience, this type of chat helped our camaraderie and helped contribute to a very successful working team.
I heard the best quote from the Auzzie in the video "Learning to Change-Changing to Learn" regarding 21st Century skills:
"It's the death of education, but it's the dawn of learning."
I love it.
I just watched the video a second time, but instead of hearing it through a 3rd grade teacher's ears, I heard it through those of a mother. I have 3 children, preschool - 2nd grade, and although they are learning the building blocks of reading, math, science, social studies, and foreign language now, I look for opportunities for them to grow as teens and young adults. In the video, one of the women was talking about how classrooms could open the door to NASA and labs being created at MIT. What a phenomenal opportunity for all young learners to truly see and experience the organizations who are making huge contributions to science and our global market. I remember being a high school student and trying to figure out what career to pursue. It was so difficult, as there was little opportunity for me to see and experience the variety of options. Through the changing learning environments, where social media and connection in general are becoming main stream, not only will our young learners have the opportunity to see more options for their future, they will be able to collaborate with larger entities for projects before college even rolls around. I invite this change and will continue to see how I can support the changing learning environment to best suit the needs of my students and my own children as well.
I'll be honest. It's my first year teaching 3rd grade, and I look forward to our TCAP testing being finished. Why? Well, because now we have powered through the curriculum, making sure all of the tested materials have been taught, and now we can move on to more applicable uses of the knowledge through projects. You know, the things kids get excited about (and so do the teachers) because it's FUN! Don't get me wrong, I don't think the first 7 months of school have been boring, nor was it a waste of our valuable time, but there was certainly a race to fit in as many lessons as possible. Now with 4th quarter near, my team and I are starting to talk about our animal research project and the math board game kids get to develop. These projects will certainly allow the students to use their creativity and I look forward to watching them have a chance to create! I'm not saying there is no room for creativity prior to 4th quarter, but I feel that we have the time for students to work on extended projects now.
How am I going to integrate more 21st Century Learning into everyday lessons with my current curriculum?
How do I best utilize the technology our school currently has without reinventing the wheel?