My word of the year is INTENTIONAL. This evening I went out with a searchlight to find ideas for what intentional actually means. I'm happy to say that my word lines up with my intentions. First step towards embracing intentionality: figuring what in the world I mean by that.
I totally forgot to write my Saturday blogpost. I'm going to blame the puzzle. This post is for me and anyone who needs a little encouragement.
We are a learners. We are rivers. Flowing over what we learn, taking some things with us and leaving other things behind. We will slow down at times to soak things up and reflect. Other times we will go at a rapid rate and not have time to ponder. No matter. All of our learning matters, even when we forget.
We must be as forgiving of ourselves as we are of the people in our lives. Every now and again letting things be good enough. Everyday forgiving ourselves for not meeting our incredibly high expectations. Know that all the million of tiny things we do in a DO day matter. Our students may not remember most of their year with us. But we are pouring our hearts, love, energy, knowledge, guidance, and spirit into them. Our students are rivers, too. We are part of the rain that makes them who they are becoming.
Breathing is a literal and figurative word. Taking time to take deep breaths will make us calmer and more focused. Metaphorically breathing means taking things in. Pausing. Being where we are. Telling us to allow ourselves to breathe sounds ridiculous. But we do have permission to breathe. To be. To live in the moments. We must breathe to be alive.
Create: to bring something into existence
To create is to live. Our students need to create and so do we. What are we creating that excites us, drives us, gives us a sense of accomplishment? It may not be what we think...sure we create killer lessons and memorable experiences and loving communities. Yes, we create and share on Twitter. But what about in other realms?
This is not one more thing we must do. It is one more thing we allow ourselves to do. We are all creative souls. We do and something comes of it. Cooking. Reading. Playing. Conversing. Cleaning. Painting. Writing. Walking. Breathing. We are always creating. Our space. Our bodies. Our minds. Our hearts. Sometimes we create quiet by doing nothing at all. We are created to bring things into existence.
Sharing builds a strong web around us. When we share our ideas on Twitter, in the teacher's lounge, or with our administration it feels like a risk. But is it? Hoarding ideas may be way more riskier. We need to have an openness to receiving what others share as well. To allow our pride to stop us from sharing is a small, sad thing. When by put our ideas our there, they either come to life or turn back into dust. Either way, we are better for bringing our ideas to life. Hopefully others are, too. So we must not fear what others will think. We share and we encourage others to share as well. And our web becomes not impenetrable, but stronger.
And most of all, remember that we are in this mess together and there is no perfect way.
I firmly believe that having a grateful stance makes me more positive and happy. If you're not in agreement with me, check out this article, "Giving thanks can make you happier."
Another belief of mine is that reflection strengthens my learning muscles. An article from Harvard Health highlights reflection as a strategy in its article, "4 Ways to Become a Better Learner."
This year I decided to take these beliefs into my classroom in a systematic way. Here's what I did:
1. My students worked collaboratively in Book Creator to create a template. I gave them questions to choose from and they could also create their own questions.
2. I created a Gratitude and Reflection Journal Library in Book Creator. Every student made a copy of the template and made it their own.
3. During a "dead" period right after recess, students write in their journals. They can write, draw, speak, or take a video.
It has become a habit of action, and I hope it is becoming a habit of heart, too.
Here is our template as an ebpub book!
Today I took time for a little morning retreat. I turned off my phone, got cozy in my study and curled up with my journal and a pen. I'm not gonna lie, it gave me great pleasure to just sit there in the sunlight. Insight #1: Let yourself sit with a pen and paper more often. My walking buddy put it this way, "Let yourself just sink in today."
Here are the steps I took to reflect. They just evolved as I listened to myself, but I am going to put them down in this post. Mostly because rewriting things helps me remember and think through the words. But also because my process may support someone else in his or her goal setting journey.
Step 1: What skillset am I using when I am the most inspired/excited/joyful? (taken from Ted Talk by Ashley Stahl)
Step 3: Brainstorm Ideas from What I Love:
Step 4: Who am I?
I am a Jill of all trades.
I create. I learn. I share. I reflect.
My goal is to:
Step 5: Thoughts
Step 6: Organize
Step 7: Possible Action Steps
Step 8: How to focus? Use hashtags to keep myself focused.
Step 9: Tentative plan
It's not perfect and it is not exact, but I feel better having a plan.
To recap in a different sort of way:
I love interacting with other educators who are mavericks in their own rights. One way I do this is by posting things on Twitter and responding to different posts.
I am going to give myself permission to read. I listen to books all the time, but to sit down seems like a luxury I can't afford. Not true.
I love learning and I want to share what I learn with others. Especially those who do not have the time to read, but still want to learn. That's why I am focused right now on #tiny.
Sharing with others has an added benefit---it helps me hold myself accountable. Big thanks to all of you who are encouraging me on my journey, share freely on Twitter, have a heart for teaching, growing, and expanding.
tI was on a #pd4uandme chat this morning and Dave Black asked, "Anybody else have a learning reading or planned learning over break to share?"
I replied, "I hope to work on my website, adding ideas, etc. Also want to dig into Nearpod more."
Dave responded, "What kinds of things do you want to add to your website?"
I was stumped for a second and realized that I don't have any kind of plan plan. Oh, plenty of lottery balls bouncing around in my head, but not an actual plan.
I replied, "Basically it is a time for me to get organized and make a plan for the year."
What do I want to share? What do I want to do? Basically, what are my hopes and dreams for the year? I am taking Monday to think about my Messy Tech journey. I am going to take this post to do some pre-planning. In my heart of hearts, what am I passionate about and what do I want to do?
Wait. I remember seeing a video teaser this morning for a Ted Talk called, "How to Figure Out What you Really Want." I'll be right back. How to Figure Out What You Really Want | Ashley Stahl | TEDxLeidenUniversity
Okay! Wow. That was good. I thought my pre-plan was going to be a list of technicalities, but instead I have a plan for some heart-work.
1. Do a self- audit.
Sounds like a plan! Some serious self-reflecting before specific goals. A colleague of mine said she was going to make specific goals for the different subjects she teaches. This simple gesture of sharing inspired me to think about my specific goals, too. I'll be back next Saturday with a report. Best to you in your end of the year reflecting!
-I doled out a mock quiz on Friday. The purpose was to get my students ready for the end-of-the-unit test. The unit test is hard (based on how students should perform at the end of the year) and contrived (I’m not sure I could pass it). The purpose of the test is to get ready for the high stakes test in the spring. I feel compelled to expose the students to the format ahead of time.
Spoiler alert: They do not do well on the quiz.
I’m not going to lie. I freak out a little. I feel like a lousy teacher. I wonder if they put forth any effort in at all and by the way what the heck is going on here?! Instead of going on a walk like I had hoped to do I react and obsess. I feel desperate to get them up to snuff. I think, “I need to give my kids a boot camp for constructive response.” No, wait. “I’ll cut and paste their answers into a document and “make” them grade the different answers. Then they will see the error of their ways and all will be fine.
Plot twist not-twist: This is not a good place to make decisions from.
And this is why I am blogging. Just two weeks ago I talked about chilling the f**k out and here I am again. I say to myself, “Jill. Are you not even listening to yourself?” But here’s the thing. Muscle memory does not reprogram easily. Brainwashing does not rewire with ease.
It’s a swim upstream. But I am going to keep reminding myself and surrounding myself with people who will remind me, too.
Remind me that I need to free myself to teach the way I know is right.
It’s as simple as that.
Remind me to get my students ready “for the test” life by:
Twisting and contorting myself to teach to the test will kill me.
How am I going to respond instead of react?
Here are some questions I can ask myself when I see this pressure-panic part of me exposed:
Tuesday at school the internet was down. All day. I did not panic. I have tricks up my sleeve. But no doubt about it, I was flummoxed. I had plans. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I had things I wanted the kids to wrap up. But they could not. Because their project were tucked away in a place that was not accessible without wifi. Dang it. I really wanted to finish those before break. What did I do? Patched things together, pulled out the Scholastic News, had my scholars read books that they could hold, and the like.
I had to reflect on my day. There was something unsettling about it. And I figured it out. Here's what I learned about myself that day:
1. I feel way more confined by time than I knew. I couldn't just break out and do something totally different. Art. Engineering. Music. Science. Hands-on things that teach students so much. I felt the pressure to "keep teaching" because that test is coming whether I like it or not. I did not realize I felt so constrained. It was a real eye-opener.
2. I am more of a control freak than I thought I was. Why didn't I turn it over to the kids and ask them what they wanted to do? I know in my heart of hearts that they would have had brilliant ideas. I am not giving students as much choice as I think I am.
3. I have a hard time switching gears. They were so excited about practicing and performing the plays they wrote. They just had to do it that day because we start poetry next week.
It's like the scales came off of my eyes. I did not know I felt such constriction, wanted so much control, and do not easily switch gears. Makes me sad. Because that is not me.
As the universe works in mysterious ways, I had already been playing with the notion that my class was becoming too structured, teach-to-the-test, too teacher-centered. I was pondering what I could do to get back to my heart practices and deeply held values.
I like to summarize my thoughts and give myself an action plan. So, here goes. I have succumbed to "backwards planning" that has me teaching to the test. I have tightened the reigns so much that I am not allowing the creativity and choice I value in my classroom. I have been more teacher-centered than student centered.
Action plan? Simple. Integrate more opportunities for messiness of learning. I may not get as many grades in. I may not get the top score in my evaluation because I'm not following the (optional) plan. There may be more noise. .
Creating is messy.
Letting students drive their own learning is messy.
Collaboration is messy.
But, inspired by my PLN on Twitter like Emily Potter and her stop gap motion turkeys, I feel inspired to be true to myself and to leave room for my students to be true to themselves.
Last Thursday we had our first after school session of our "Science of Learning" workshop. Inspired by Visible Learning/John Hattie's work and Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning by Pooja K. Agarwal and Patrice M. Bain, I decided to have an afternoon workshop where we:
I had a plan. It started out well. I "taught" them about Growth Mindset. We webbed out our learning. We played a Quizizz about Growth Mindset. Now time for the fun! Write a script.