Friday, October 2, 2015

Reflection is the Most Powerful Learning Tool

This past week I had the opportunity to speak about the "Exceptional Teaching" that takes place within our school district. What an honor! What a challenge! What a great opportunity to look back on the work our district has done. It's impossible to prepare for something so important without revisiting and reflecting on where you were, where you are and where you are heading. Preparing for this important presentation gave me the perfect opportunity for a "full career" reflection.

I began by thinking back to the early years where I was a special education teacher. If I knew now what I didn't know then! Those first three years were extremely difficult, but they were very rewarding at the same time. I credit those years for teaching me the skill of perseverance. There were so many days where I felt like such a failure because I couldn't teach the way my students needed to learn. But I was young and determined to meet their needs and so I did. Through hard work and perseverance I met my students needs and pushed them, and myself, to believe more is possible than we ever believed.

Next, I reflected on who I was when I started teaching third grade. More importantly, I reflected on where I was when I left third grade. You see, I thought I was a great teacher...but there was still so much I didn't know. Teaching third grade taught me the importance of teaching curriculum. It taught me the power of integration. Learning shouldn't be segmented into hour long sessions of subjects, but weaved together like the threads in a blanket. When I taught third grade I switched from a clock watcher who got the content in, to a time manager who realized that learning wasn't divided into exact hour blocks, it's a craft, not a science. I realized though, after several years in third grade that I was missing something. I was missing the skill of collaboration. I shut my door, I went in and changed the world for 25 kids every year but that was it. It ended there...I wanted more.

So when the opportunity to become a technology learning coach for grades K-5 became available, I took it. I felt excited and terrified and constantly wondered if I had made the right choice. I made that change because I thought I could share my love for project based learning and integrated curriculum through the lens of technology. If I was sharing, I was collaborating right? Well...maybe, but maybe not. In that first year of my technology coaching position, I really was learning technology. I learned about our systems, what an LMS system was, the difference between public and private networks what a server actually was and where in the heck the "cloud" was all foreign and new and gave me a different view on learning. I had so many things to learn and no matter how many times people on my team stopped to explain something to me, it really came down to me learning as much as I could through experience and practice to really learn "technology". Which of course made me stop and reflect. How are students learning in our classrooms? Are they with someone who is trying so hard but despite hours of work hasn't really met their needs yet? Are they sitting in the classroom of a clock watcher or a curriculum dictator? Or...are they knee deep in rich, hands on, inquiry based learning? Learning that ebbs and flows with their needs. Learning that matters to them because they know "why" it's important. Is their enough interest to make them fall in love with wondering and wanting to always know more?

With all these powerful reflections, I sat down and thought about my classroom now. After three years of constant learning. Learning how to integrate technology in the classroom, learning how to collaborate on projects, learning how to show others that school can and should be different than what it was 12 years ago when I started in education. I learned that reflection is the really powerful tool that is missing in many of our classrooms. How are we teaching our students to reflect and know how to apply their insights to how to move forward? I have many ideas...and I can't wait to share them. This blog will start to look a little different from here on out. I'm hoping to use this as a tool to share ideas of ways that I think classrooms and schools could move forward. I hope you'll join me!

A special thanks to Dwight Carter, my co presenter for our State of the Schools presentation. Dwight was such a great reminder this week that the work of innovation, of changing the way we "do" school and of following your dreams is really key if you want to change the world. I'm looking forward to our next presentation...

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