Sharing Joy and Learning

Our #tiegrad cohort was honoured to welcome Dean Shareski to class last Thursday night. I have been orbiting Dean’s work on Twitter after being given his name a couple of years ago when I became a STAR Discovery Educator. When our cohort first learned that Dean would be joining us, he was identified by certain traits: “Oh, the pants guy”, “The Jumping guy?” and I said “The Joy guy”. He is recognized by the fun that he brings to the spaces he occupies. Besides the late night Twitter games, my favourite Dean lesson comes from his TEDX talk on Joy in Education.

When Dean spoke with us, three themes resonated with me after our talk: Joy, Sharing, and Learning.

Joy

This link to an article about Joy in School by Steven Wolk was shared. One thing that stood out to me was the difference between Joy and Fun. He quotes Random House Dictionary with the definition of joy being “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something good or satisfying.” It’s easier than expected to find Joy in our schools, as simple as offering choice, freedom to explore, getting outside, and creating. I’ve learned that over time I have had to defend some of my choices as an educator: giving my students freedom to choose their own course of study in #geniushour, teaching outside, or engaging in 10 unstructured minutes of play with another class. My happiest days are the ones when I go home with a sore stomach from laughing too hard. You don’t get those moments when you stand at the front of the room reading aloud from the textbook for extended periods of time.

So, how can I make Joy a priority in my teaching? I think that it might be the same way I set every other goal: put it in writing and share it with my people. Get help on it. Commit and re-commit to doing it.

While trying to find evidence of Joy in my classroom, my one source of pride and hope is the fact that many former students return daily to my classroom. They come to share their stories, to laugh and to reconnect with old friends. In my daily practice I try to provide as much choice as I can. Choice in assignments, choice in working space, choice in topics to learn. I wish that I was given similar choices in how I assess my students’ learning.

Sharing

I struggle with this. I enjoy sharing great ideas that I come across, and I re-tweet on Twitter frequently, giving credit to the original sharer or author. However, when it comes to originality, I don’t feel like I have a lot to share. I am also sometimes a little put-off by some sharing that comes across as a little aggressive. When a blog link is shared out by the author 8-12 times targeting different hashtags or chat forums, it feels a bit much. Authoring and then sharing an idea repeatedly moves from generosity to commercialism quickly.

Where’s the balance? I prefer to look at Dean’s message about sharing to be more about connecting. He called the “moral imperative”. I agree with that, it is no longer about closing your doors and keeping the best ideas for yourself. It is about sharing the good and knowing that it will grow and return to you with even more layers of icing and awesome. I will continue to share where it feels right to do so. I do not keep my ideas to myself, and part of my current job is to share how my students use technology, so it is important that I curate great resources and ideas to bring to my colleagues. So, sharing is essential, even if your primary role is connecting other peoples’ brilliance with people who are looking for those particular ideas.

Learning

One series of questions posed by Dean that had me thinking was about learning. He asked us:

  • How did you learn from others?
  • What did you contribute?
  • What will your students say if I ask them how they think that you learn?

The first question was easily answered: everything! I learn from everyone I encounter: face to face, through Twitter, through my amazing cohort, and at conferences. I love speaking with people, hearing their ideas and feeling inspired by the great things happening. I wouldn’t be on the teaching and learning path that I am on today without the interactions and support I have had along the way.

The second question is harder. I try hard to share. I have a few colleagues that I feel like I do an “ok” job of sharing the right thing at the right time. I have had a few ideas land well on Twitter, but mostly I feel like I pass along the brilliance of others.

The final question is easily answered by my students. We talk about learning all of the time. I talk about how I learn (and how I don’t learn). I talk about my process and the resources that I need to feel successful. As part of building our community we had frank conversations about what worked for each person, and we built respect and understanding for the shared learning space. There is a sense of empathy in the room knowing that not everything is supposed to be easy, and that we are all in this together. I have shared openly when a Professional Development opportunity was disappointing (and why) and about what I do when I am “stuck” in my Masters work. I model crowd sourcing in my classroom by refusing to stay stuck by myself. I ask my students for help. I did not choose my learning project alone, my students offered direction and guidance. I also show my students how to reach out for help respectfully on Twitter. I discuss how I need to WRITE notes to learn material. I also discuss how my teaching is biased toward teaching in the style I learn best. I reflect on my learning and teaching with my students, and ask them to do the same. It’s an honest dialogue and a shared experience that opens the door to getting help that otherwise may not have happened. Truly learning together has provided all of my students the opportunity to be leaders in unexpected ways. By the end of the year, everyone is identified as an expert in some way – even me.

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the best parts of this profession, Dean. You left our cohort inspired, recharged, and seeking Joy.

IMG_0430As a completely unrelated aside, I wore orange pants while completing this blog, and spent the afternoon engaged in Joyful play with my students. I am trying, Dean.

Barely Breathing

Update on my #LearningProject

I am going to propose this Learning Project Plan in a similar fashion to how some of my students propose their Genius Hour projects, with a rationale, a guiding question, an initial resource list, and a learning target.

My project is on mindfulness and meditation.

Rationale: My husband calls is “busy brain”. He can immediately tell by my body language how present I am. I can feel myself constantly trying to untangle problems, plan for upcoming events, and worry about things that may or may not happen. I have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night as I think my random thoughts. I have difficulty sustaining attention on one thing for too long, as I become increasingly aware of my enormous “to do” list.

My husband, who has known me for almost 18 years, tells me that this is a learned behavior and it is fairly new to me. He actually thinks that it might have developed on the job. Working with 30 Middle School students means that my attention is always needed. No matter how well my students learn to collaborate or network with each other, there is still a need for me to be available, “on”. As I meet with one student, there are still 3 others with their hands up, an amazing learning event happening between a small group in the corner that needs to be recorded in some way, an awareness of the clock, and CONSTANT interruptions (bell, announcements, fire drill, broken technology). I enjoy my days with my students, and I often get back more than I give, but I don’t think that I let go of being “on” when my students go home for the day. My thoughts race. My heart races. My mind wanders from one unfinished idea to the next.

My students are participating the in the #onelittleword challenge as a New Year’s Resolution this year. My #onelittleword for this year is “Balance”. I think that giving myself time to meditate, reflect, and learn to be mindful would help me to find balance in many areas of my life.

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I teach mindfulness and Self-Regulation in the classroom. I am actually quite proud of how my students are able to think about their needs in relation to attending a fairly structured school. Students spend time thinking about how their body feels in various situations during the day and learn to make any needed adjustments to feel better if needed. I feel like I can share ideas and help support others in their path to mindfulness, but I don’t actually embrace any of the ideas that would support me in my own needs. I am wondering if this is a case of those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach???

Guiding Question: What elements of mindfulness and meditation will help me to develop more peace of mind, support a more balanced and healthy lifestyle, and teach me to live in the moment?

Initial List of Resources:

This should get me started. I haven’t even skimmed Youtube yet!

My Learning Target: This is a personal learning experience that will be subjectively evaluated through my own reflections. I am hoping to note an improvement in my mood, energy levels, ability to respond to stress, sleep patterns and a calmer mind.

This is a lot to ask in 12 weeks! I believe that this will take longer than 50-100 hours to be transformative. I will take this initial time to find resources, to find what works for me, and to practice regularly. I am hoping that I can develop habits and routines that will serve me long after this course has ended.

I will share out my learning through regular blog posts where I evaluate my response to the tools I am using, new tools I have found, an overall summary of daily check ins (I am wondering if I need to create a simple rubric for self-evaluation?), sharing out new knowledge, and a reflection on areas of improvement or need. The Wii Fit game has a great meditation and yoga section that I can also use to test my stillness and breathing. I have only mastered keeping the candle lit once time!

Other ideas to keep focused and to get support might be to reach out through Twitter and this blog for help and ideas.

Reflective Teaching – Day 12

I am falling behind in the Challenge! Oops.

Te@chThought‘s Day 12 Challenge is: “How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?

Great question! I am not really sure how I want my teaching to change. I hope that I will still make learning a priority for my students and myself. I hope that students will have a greater role in the running of our class community and in choosing what and how they are learning.

I feel that the biggest area of change I hope to see is in how I deliver feedback. I would really like to use eportfolios for students so that they can build their own collection of learning artifacts. I would like learners to receive feedback on their work from teachers, peers, parents, administration and from specialists. A portfolio seems to be a living, breathing document of learning, where report cards seem to be the end of a conversation.

Another area for improvement in my teaching might be finding more diverse ways of engaging learners in other topics. I tend to rely on using technology and learning methods that work well for me! I hope that my teaching evolves in creative ways!

Reflective Teaching – Day 3

Te@chthought‘s Day 3 blogging challenge is: “Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.”

There are a few areas that I would like to improve in this year, but one that is most obvious to me (and keeps me up at night) is my most embarrassing bad habit. I have a tendency to allow clutter and chaos to reign when I get busy. So, the area that I would like to immediately improve on is managing my work flow for efficiency and organization. I am somewhat organized, but it does not translate well! I find myself in a panic when I get snowed in at home and I think about the chaos on my desk! My planning is done, but actually finding everything. . . that is another story! I stack the papers that I don’t know what to do with on my desk (I plan on dealing with them later), notes, and the endless administrative paperwork also end up in these piles. At the end of this school year, I finally excavated to the bottom of one of these piles and found stuff from October. Embarrassing. 

I am not sure how to improve in this area. I have tried several ideas: 

  • deal with the paper clutter immediately: file it, recycle it, respond to it, just do something!
  • tidy once a week – completely
  • tape my mailbox shut so that nothing new can be delivered until the old stuff has been processed

None of these worked for me! Dealing with the paper that my school produces could consume my entire work day. This was not an efficient tactic. Tidying once a week really helped – as long as nothing got scheduled or interfered. Once I left my pattern, I had difficulty getting back. And taping my mailbox did not work at all. The office had scissors. 

Having a teaching partner made me try a lot harder last year. But, you can see from above that I did not manage to deal with my piles completely last year! 

I think that the best strategy for me has been to schedule my time/work more efficiently – and stick to it! Acknowledge when I am off schedule and make an immediate correction. 

 

30 Day Blogging Challenge

I was introduced to the 30 Day Reflective Teaching Blogging Challenge from te@chthought through Shauna Pollock‘s work on Twitter. I know that I am 3 days late, but I would like to jump in. Things are stressful in British Columbia in the teaching community right now and I did not feel like I would want to blog about teaching, but I am craving the reflection and planning that usually connects me to teaching. 

Day 1

Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!

I usually don’t set my goals for the school year until I meet my students. That has not yet happened, so I will start with some general, simple goals:

  • co-create a safe, caring community for my learners
  • find ways to support students in learning to the best of their abilities
  • encourage my colleagues to try new things in their practice
  • attempt to facilitate the spread of BYOD in my school
  • focus on the bigger picture: stress less about the small stuff
  • learn daily
  • celebrate frequently
  • share regularly. (keeping in mind “Obvious to You, Amazing to Others” – it may seem unimportant or previously shared, but by sharing it here, it becomes a form of content curation for me; a record of what I’ve tried and how it went.)
  • take care of myself. Follow my @fitbit goals and be healthy. Eat well, be active, and SLEEP. Surround myself with positive people. Be loving and generous.
  • listen better. This is a struggle for me! 
  • make friends and connect with others
  • take risks, try new things, be open to new ideas. 
  • give credit and lift up those around me. 
  • give my students a voice: in our classroom, in the community and around the globe. 
  • make choice a priority for my students

This list is a work in progress, but it gives me a place to start.