Category: culture and community

How to Avoid Being Napolean Bonaparte

How to Avoid Being Napolean Bonaparte

I’ve long held a suspicion that there is a difference between an administrator and a leader, but now I know it is the truth. My current school has suffered through major changes several times since I’ve been here and now it looks to restructure again with its expanded campus. Needless to say, this has provided a lot of fodder for me to consider what is my role at the school and made me reflect on what is the distinction between someone who sees themselves as a someone who “ticks off the boxes”, my definition of an administrator,  or someone who is in fact in command of the school, my definition of a leader. As I see, you can’t lead people who don’t want to follow you, but you still can be an administrator who manages things lovelessly.

Music Genre

And the difference between the two is what are the values of the person in charge: completing paperwork or developing trust. Whether or not someone at the top is an administrator or is a leader, they influence the culture of a school, but the outcomes of their decisions permeate all areas of school life. The perspectives they hold about education plays a major part in how school policies and procedures are shaped and implemented.

Some of the fault in exercising power comes from the fact that the higher you climb in a hierarchical structure (which most schools ascribe to), the more you are the target of criticism and complaints. How you handle being the target of these remarks and gossip makes a huge difference. You have to ask yourself: Do I want to be liked or do I want to be trusted. The nuances in this perspective cannot be underscored enough. To put simply, if you think of your title like winning a popularity contest then you will always be defending your title. If you think of your title as earning a vote of confidence, then you continue to work toward maintaining and developing the strengths of your organization.  When you are in a “title”, there is hubris and then there is humility that becomes the norms of a school.  You get to decide which will define your use of power.  Douglas MacArthur said it best:

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.

As I wrap up my school year and prepare to move to another school, I will store away the memories of these experiences. Although I will not be in a leadership title next year, I have come to understand that “words without actions” are meaningless, so I feel strongly that titles without real leadership qualities are void of any value. I am a bit disenchanted with any grabs at power at the moment because I have witnesseleadershipd first hand at how detrimental it can be when people thirst to be given power or maintain control over others. I have come to feel relief in taking some time to redefine what I am and how I can best serve my new school community and the field of education at large. Alas, that will be my new focus–out beyond the 4 walls of my school–and look to how I might contribute to making a difference, not just in the International Baccalaureate, but in the larger conversation that is taking place in education: What really matters for our learners as we look to the future?

What about you? What are your thoughts about school leadership? What perspectives am I missing?

Why Classrooms Must Have Daily Habits of Mental Hygeine

Why Classrooms Must Have Daily Habits of Mental Hygeine

I think most of us can barely remember a time in which computers and the internet weren’t a part of our lives. We would have to go to libraries and read encyclopedias to gain knowledge on a topic. When internet search engines first appeared, information was at the tip of our fingertips, and I believe most of us have witnessed how the internet has become the go-to place for fact finding, replacing book learning at an alarming rate. However, for our digital natives, they don’t really know where the information ends and an opinion begins, as I have written about in Critical Consumption, however, there is a value of expressing an opinion as a source of identity and purpose for our students. In particular, how constructing less myopic viewpoints and developing broader perspectives are a becoming a necessity as we evolve in the workforce, of which education is supposed to prepare students for.

Listening to all the voices around them, streams of opinion. not information overload but opinion overload-that’s what social media has brought us. Everyone has a point of view and everyone gets a vote in my life.

Greg McKweon, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

If you can harken back to a time in which the main influences on our children were limited to mostlythe listener our families and close-knit members of our community, primarily in schools, churches, and other organizations that families participated in. In the past, they just had to manage the pressure and influences of a smaller group of people, but now that has really expanded to include so many ideas of pop culture. Nowadays the World Wide Web has the opportunity to expose students to a variety of ideas and theories, particularly on social media, in which ideas are narrowed into sound bites and memes; it’s easy for kids to get swept away by the flood of emotion and beliefs. I think it’s not so much finding our voice but hearing our voice in the midst of the deluge of ideologies and our culture’s status quo. They are being drawn into belonging to the larger world in which students might find themselves acting in ways in ways that are not really true to their nature. In other words, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with this onslaught of energy and emotion that is bombarding them, in the physical world and in the virtual world that they experience in their on-screen life. So we must help them to calm their minds and begin to trust their intuition, instead of impulsive reactions. But in order to do that, students must begin to develop habits of mental hygiene, in which they are clearing up the debris left behind from an experience (on or off-screen) or a conversation with a teacher, family member or friend, and the resulting feeling from that interaction.

Mindfulness in schools is one of those movements that are empowering students to create that space in their thoughts and in their emotions which can really make a positive impact over time. It is like “brushing one’s teeth” for the mind, and there have been several documentaries made about the transformation of students when they engage in this practice. Some schools are replacing detention with meditation and dramatic shifts are taking place in the culture of those schools. It’s like an emotional reset button and a powerful tool to use in our classroom. The 15 minutes you spend on watching this video below will really help you recognize why mindfulness is so vital and critical to bringing into our classrooms.

As someone who practices mindfulness and can speak first hand to its benefits, I know that it takes courage and effort to bring it into schools. There are a lot of myths about it, however, it is becoming less fringe and more mainstream in our cultures.

There are 5 main areas in which our attention can be focused upon which will yield the neurological benefits of mindfulness practice. You can do one or more of these in a session with students, and it can take anywhere from 2-20 minutes, depending on age and your willingness to develop these habits with students.

Concentrating on:

  1. Our breath: where we are breathing and the quality of that breath.
  2. Sensations in body parts: scanning our body, finding areas of tension and relaxation.
  3. Sensations of our emotion: where our emotion arises from and how does it make us feel.
  4. Thoughts:  our thought based on time, so is the thought that we are thinking on from a moment in the past or a possibility of what will happen in the future.
  5. Attention to details: noticing and appreciating smells, sounds, and sights.

Full disclosure here: I’d like to tell you that I fully implement daily meditation practice with my students, but I only do it half-heartedly for a myriad of reasons, least being the amount of interruption that I get from having my classroom be a hallway for others.  (Yes, my classroom is a hallway.) However, I do try to incorporate mindful acts in our day with brief moments of focus on our bodies, minds, and thoughts. I usually do 3 belly breaths, a mindful stretch when we line up, and a reflective question of the day. Sometimes we go on “listening walks”, and lately we’ve been trying to look more closely at nature in order to find patterns.  I’d like to do more, but that is where I am at in my journey to create mindfulness in my classroom. I do make attempts at carving out mindful moments in my day in a variety of ways, and I think this is a good first step.

As an IB educator, there is a desire to develop mindfulness and wellbeing in our students. As the Primary Years Programme (PYP) begins to embrace the ATLs (Approaches to Learning) that we see in Middle Years Programme (MYP), I know that more schools will begin integrating mindfulness into their school communities. Next year, I’ve been thinking about how I might do a proper routine incorporating mindfulness so I can make an earnest effort in this movement. I’ve been thinking about making a simple tool like a spinner that shows our emotions and having students rate how they feel before we begin our exercise and how we feel afterward by moving the hand of the spinner. Focusing in on our current state of emotion and evaluating where we are at the beginning of this journey and where we end up at the end of the practice is so important because it cultivates self-reflection and provides personal feedback of our experience.

I don’t know how others might have experimented with mindfulness and meditation in their classrooms, but I’d love to hear stories and share experiences. I know that these skills are actually as important, if not more important, than academic skills that we teach our students. And I think if more of us shared our struggles, then that could increase the willingness of other educators to try to create “an oasis of calm” and a culture of compassion in our schools and in the lives of our students.

I encourage you to leave a comment.  I’d love to hear how you teach “mental hygiene” to students.  Also feel free to connect with me @judyimamudeen or through this website.

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How to Escape the Trauma of a Door Closing (#IMMOOC)

How to Escape the Trauma of a Door Closing (#IMMOOC)

The door has closed. It was the last Twitter Chat for the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC). A part of me feels empty while at the same time incredibly full. I learned a lot through our engagement online and was surprised at how much fun it was to do a “virtual book study”, all the while improving upon my consistency with my blog, using Twitter to connect with like-minded professionals and expanding my horizon when it comes to thinking about innovation in schools.  It wasn’t like any other professional development that I have ever done, which in and of itself was innovative–how genius!

Final thoughts on #IMMOC. So much shared and supported in the process.
As someone who teaches internationally, I live in an expat bubble in which most of our schools are incredibly competitive in our area. Contact with other educators outside my school is very limited and rarely inspiring–not that educators at other schools aren’t doing great things, but the collaboration relies on face to face interactions and maybe some email tag.  Outside of attending workshops, I go onto forums, read and comment on blogs and go onto FaceBook groups, but the level of responsiveness and interaction is limited. If you challenge or question someone’s idea, for example, they can ignore you rather than respond, which kind of defeats the point of posting things online–if you didn’t want to share and engage with others, than why did you bothering posting in the first place? (Just sayn’)

Innovation (and enjoyment) flourishes when teachers collaborate to learn and practice new strategies. Isolation is often the enemy of innovation. George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset

Up until now, it’s been a lonely process-especially when you go into leadership (more judgment/less support) -and sometimes it often feels like I’m peddling uphill. I’ve really felt limited by my circumstances so it’s easy to make an excuse and shrug off growth.  It was fantastic to be with other educators who were willing to struggle and could maintain the level of commitment that was demanded in our engagement. When George asked us to “innovate inside the box”, it was a relief to feel okay with where we were at, not just in our professional journeys but also where our school was in the bigger scheme of things. Collectively we had a common purpose: we questioned, we tried, we reflected and we were vulnerable. We were learners. As something that happened virtually, it sure felt real and authentic. But, sigh, it’s over now. I will miss these shared challenges with fellow educators, but does it have to end? How will I manage the trauma I feel when a special experience like this comes to an end?

Well, truth be told, it doesn’t have to be over!  It is my choice to let the journey begin rather than end. I can consolidate the changes in my mindset and yet continue to build upon this new perspective. I can stay connected with these fellow IMMOOCers in our FB group and on Twitter. I have become followers of them on Twitter and I’ve subscribed to many of their blogs so I can continue to engage with their ideas and continue to encourage their great work. The support doesn’t have to end just because the MOOC did. And I hope that they too stay connected to me and continue to challenge my effort and ideas. I’d love that! Because, as George Couros reminds us, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing“.

The desire to be innovative and awesome at what we do is likely right under our noises.
And if there is one change that I’ve made throughout these past 5 weeks, it is recognizing that I am not really destitute and languishing.  I don’t need permission to be innovative. I can start where I am, and honor that people may be at other stages in their willingness to innovate.  Moreover, instead of seeing my “box” as a closed door to opportunity, I need to find those windows in which I can crawl through–to reach and inspire my students and support the teachers who I know want to be the best version of themselves. There’s a lot of great stuff that may seem hidden from plain view but it’s there, and for the next 2 months, I can do the best I can and finish the year strong.

So with that in mind, I decided to stay committed to the process and signed up for a 6-month course with AJ Juliani in his Innovative Teaching Academy (#ita17). I’m so excited to go deeper and really put this mindset to work–sharpen the stone, sort of speaking. I know that there are other IMMOOCers who are along the journey with me, which makes it even more exciting.

I don’t know where you are at as an educator right now, but I swear to you that you are not alone and if you are diligent and patient, your tribe will emerge. You can jump on this crazy train if you like. I invite you to connect with me @judyimamudeen or shoot me an email. There is no need to wait for tomorrow to be awesome today.

One last parting quote from George Couros Innovator’s Mindset:

We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.

Let’s stay curious, find the YES in the no, and be problem solvers. Together we can be the change that we wish to see in education.

 

Reflect and the “How” will Come

Reflect and the “How” will Come

It’s the final stretch of our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC) and I thought about how much of these ideas I have put into personal practice. George Couros reminds us that ” without reflection time and having the opportunity to connect your own ideas and personal learning, it is harder to go deep into the ideas or retain and share them.”

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“I reflect, therefore I learn”.  George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset

 

I’ve been trying to implement D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect), with some days better than others, so it’s a practice that will require practicing. I’ve decided to use my Way of Life App to make me more conscientious by tracking this habit. But outside of formally tracking it, it has begun an inner mantra within me when it comes to my classroom: Next steps……

If we only teach students the curriculum, we have failed them. #InnovatorsMindset

As I read that passage, it got lodged in my mind and made me wonder how I could move out of my comfort zone–not just for the sake of doing so, but because it was important for my students. My students are my WHY, even if I have a limited compacity of figuring out how to empower them. And in the case of the Early Years, it’s very easy to discredit little children because they are small, egocentric, with limited skills and life experience. But they are voracious learners who genuinely enjoy challenges in the quest to be “big”. Shouldn’t I capitalize on that?  I wanted them to experience the feeling of engaging and impacting others through sharing. As soon as I made that intention, the HOW organically began to emerge.


It is commonplace in a Primary Years Programme (PYP)  IB school that classroom teachers hold an end of unit activity with parents in order to showcase the learning and create connections with our families. However, it is not a mandate at our school, because some units lend themselves nicely to sharing while others do not.  In my own classroom, I always find some way for parents to come and engage, but not always as an end of the unit celebration. Yet, I rarely invite other classrooms into my classroom. When I taught upper grades, sharing the learning was more easily done because students do more projects. But when you teach younger kids, these events are more teacher contrived and directed. I wondered if I could actually do this with 4-5-year-olds–could these students actually lead others in presenting their learning?  I know the answer to this question is YES, even if I didn’t know the HOW to empower them.

During this unit, one of our key concepts was Reflection, so I often would do a powerpoint of pictures of the ways we’ve been learning about our central idea, which in this case was: We appreciate the patterns in the natural world and the ones that we create. (It was under the How We Express Ourselves Transdisciplinary Theme). These provide “check points” in their understanding, and allows me to see their reactions and engage them in a discussion. During our final reflection (last week), it occurred to me that this was a unit that naturally lent itself to an end of a unit parent presentation. However, I wanted to try an end of the unit presentation that involved a larger community and invited classrooms as well. I felt in this way, my students could start seeing themselves as leaders in learning, even if they are “little kids”.  I knew they needed to have the experience of leading others, and I believed that it was possible for them to do so.

People never learn anything by being told; they have to find out for themselves.

-Paulo Coelho-

So, I had to get this out of my brain and into their hands. During morning meetings, I asked the students, and they all agreed–let’s invite our friends from other classrooms. Game on! So we listed all the different ways we learned using a modified version of this Visible Thinking Routine. In these discussions, they generated the ways they “liked learning about patterns” and then I guided them in the sorting process into subject areas, which we have been referring to perspectives (another one of the Key Concepts during this unit). This was the Connection part of the routine. (I didn’t draw lines, I circled them in different colors and then reorganized them based upon these perspectives). Then from these groupings, students voted on what they liked best in that category and why they liked it–the Elaboration part. This took a couple of meetings before we determined the “winners” in these categories. Once we had streamlined the activities, I offered some ways that we might share these activities with them and they had to give me agree/disagree with thumbs up/thumbs down, which then became the activities for our end of the unit presentation.  Some students added their thoughts as well, which made us choose to use boxes for organizing the activities. This was the final “guide” that was created for the event and was given to parents and other teachers:

 

guide
If I had more time, I would have made this more student-friendly with pictures and less text.

 

We had 2 group sessions: the first was with parents and 1st graders and the second one was with the 3-4-year-old class and KG class. The groups saw a very brief powerpoint about the overview of the unit of inquiry. Then my students grabbed 2 visitors (ex: a parent and a buddy) and showed them one of the activities listed. I didn’t demand that they do rotations, nor did I give them time limits as our visitors explored the different activities with them. I really wanted to keep this event open-ended so that I could observe and consider how my class was interacting and engaging with others. For example, were they genuinely sharing their learning or were they just doing the activities with these adults and peers shadowing them?–In other words, how active or passive were they in their presentations?

Here are some photos of the event.

Obviously, this is version 1.0 of creating a student-led end of unit presentation but overall it was very successful. Although I set up the activities, they choose them and my EY4s led the visitors around without prompting. I was actually quite proud of their level of independence, especially since I did not prepare them for their roles with any instructions. So I was surprised that most of the visitors got to explore a multitude of activities and could accurately rate their favorite on our graph–I really thought that my students would just stick to their favorite of favorites and not move them along into the other activities.  The visitors seemed genuinely interested in the activities and my kiddos felt a sense of pride in their selections. On our graph, the “art prints” were the least favorite activity and when I asked them why they thought it was rated so low, they all agreed it was because it was “too messy”.  This really made me chuckle out loud, as well as ponder how much aversion there is to “messy” play. Something I am going to think about more deeply as we entered into our next unit.

I don’t think that this event would have been as successful if I hadn’t spent the time reflecting on my students’ learning, thinking of their “next steps” and giving them the opportunity to develop the mindset of being leaders in their learning. I wonder what impact this will have on my students, as well as the classes who were invited. However, I think small steps, made often enough can make a big impact in the learning within a classroom. I wonder what will be the overall result of this event–will my students began to see themselves differently? Has this helped them to demonstrate another level of maturity as they develop agency in their learning? As I pose these questions, I will observe and continue to reflect on the impact student-led events like this have on my learners.

 

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Opening Doors to Open Minds

Opening Doors to Open Minds

During this week’s Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC) YouTube live session, George Couros talked about the impact a Chick-Fil-A Stuck in a Rut Commercial made on him. Here’s the scene: an employee is dug deep into the floor and a colleague observes that “you are really stuck in that rut”, to which he replies, “Really?, I thought I was in a grove.”, to which the colleague says, “Classic, Rut-Thinking”.  I too was impressed by the message of the commercial and how we easy it can be to think that “good” is good enough when it comes to teaching and learning.

As someone who works in an International Baccalaureate  PYP school, there’s a lot of planning that goes into creating a unit of inquiry, and it’s easy to think that what I did last year should be okay this year. However, it’s not the WHAT, it’s the WHO that matters. And the unit shouldn’t be about me, it should be about the kids going deep with their conceptual understandings. And when you put planning into that perspective, then it’s easy to see that units of inquiry area tale of 2 classrooms going to shift and be updated to the current group of students that you have. I’ve heard it said it before, “if it ain’t broke, IMPROVE it”, and I think that is the essence of innovation as we evolve in our understanding of excellence, inviting kids to the party, with more voice, choice, and reflection.

In our PD, we looked at some of the ideas in Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, and discussed the “elephant in the room”–the emotional system of our brain that likes to keep things the way they are. And I think as educators have been conditioned in a lot of ways to be in isolation, keeping our classrooms doors closed to others, which has created systemic reluctance to be vulnerable and let people in to observe our teaching and learning.  I’ve been working on shifting that and having more peer observation. I think this has been a positive experience overall, but still, there’s a passivity because everyone wants to be friendly.  However, with time, more difficult conversations will emerge–and what I mean by that is not conflict on staff, but more like colleagues asking the right questions in order to push the limit line of one’s potential. It’s not the “great advice” of another teacher that will change the teaching of another, instead, I think it will be the great questions that provoke one’s thinking and inspire them into action. And I feel that these questions will be the antidote to that “classic rut thinking” that we all face in our schools. Nevertheless, it is the opening of doors that is helping others to open their minds to the possibility of what they might be able to do with their students.

 

 

 

 

Equal is Not Fair

Equal is Not Fair

In some ways, I am lucky to be a small school. We don’t have grade level teams that demand that we all do the “same” thing in our classrooms. However, homework and communication are areas that are fraught with disagreement, as teachers feel compelled to do what is the “norm” and may not strive to be creative. Conformity kills innovation. I’ve been in many a staff meeting in which we have to reach a consensus, and decisions may not be what’s best for their student’s needs but may be the whims of parents or what is easiest for teachers. We end up settling on “good enough” so that we can strike a “middle ground”.  As a teacher who feels that I got one shot with the kids I got this year, I cringe when we create a status quo school culture and, ultimately, I feel that makes teachers less than who they want to be.

George Couros points out why administrators impose these constraints in the Innovator’s Mindset:

The fear that drives leaders is not always about failure. Sometimes, the real fear is of success. If something works, other educators in the building would be expected to do it, thus creating more work for everyone…innovative intiatives ..might create superiour learning opportunities–opportunities  that aren’t offered in another learning environment. If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest levels, not the lowest.

I hope that in the future, school leaders choose to raise the bar and not lower it, in an effort to be democratic.  Because what may be equal is not fair, especially when one wants to inspire teachers and students

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

Have you ever read the book, Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferris?  In the foreword, Arnold Schwarzenegger reminds us that  “The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” And I think that this idea is the basis of so much of the book that I am currently reading now: Innovator’s Mindset by George Curous.

Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), a concept that encourages students to read and consume information. But few schools focus on encouraging students or educators to “Drop Everything and Reflect. How might we all be impacted if we took time out of each day to think about what we have learned and how it impacts our next steps?

George Curous, Innovator’s Mindset

I’m in the midst of Week 2 of #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset MOOC) and when I read that idea, I took pause. I teachcharacteristics-im and lead an IB program in which reflection is a concept and skill that is developed in our curriculum. But when I read that sentence, I wondered, how often am I REALLY getting the kids to reflect on a daily basis? And, furthermore, how often am I really taking stock of the learning? I think I may take this for granted and I want to assess how and in what ways is reflection happening at our school.

I totally agree with George Curous: “As leaders, we cannot tell others they should be innovative while we continue to do the same thing. The characteristics we look for in our teachers and our students-empathizing, problem finding and solving, risk-taking, networking, observing, creating bouncing back and reflecting-should be embodied in our work as well.”  One has to walk the talk to talk the walk. So I’ll focus on being more observant and reflective, which I know will lead me to problem-finding/problem-solving, another key characteristic of the innovator’s mindset.

In particular, this week I am seriously looking at how frequently we reflect on learning and the quality of that reflection. Things that I am going to be reviewing this week include:

  1. The language I use–my teacher talk. What types of questions and responses am I giving students? How are they responding to me?
  2. The dialogue between students. What types of conversations are they having? Do they talk about their learning outside of the classroom?
  3. The discussions amongst teachers? What do those conversations reveal?

I have a little notebook that I keep to write down planning ideas and I will use this notebook to make these observations. In particular, I’ve set a timer on my phone for my DEAR time, in which I will Drop Everything and Reflect in this notebook regarding the learning for the day. Although I do find myself to be a reflective person, I do not have a daily habit like this so I’m curious to how this might change my practice. As I look over at my notebook now, I’m thinking that I might need a new one after this week–not a lot of pages left. lol

Perhaps you might want to explore this idea as well. What if you had a set time in which you reflected? What impact do you think this might make for your teaching, let alone your life?

 

 

 

I am the Force, and the Force is Within Me.

I am the Force, and the Force is Within Me.

If you have seen Rogue 1, the latest Star Wars movie, then you know what my title is all about. As I interpret it, it means tapping into the field of our inner potential to overcome challenges and obstacles. I think, as educators, we grapple with this all the time, especially when we contemplate whether or not we are making a positive impact in our classrooms and in our school community.

Recently I reread Ron Ritchart’s Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools. In case you don’t know the 8 forces that shape a school’s culture of teaching and learning, let me give you a cheat:

  1. Expectations (of learning)
  2. Language (teacher and student talk)
  3. Time
  4. Modeling
  5. Opportunities (powerful learning moments)
  6. Routines (Visible Thinking routines)
  7. Interactions
  8. Environment

As I was rereading the parts I had highlighted and bookmarked, it got me thinking about the 2nd term. We have quite a few staff members leaving, myself included, and there is the danger of coasting instead of pushing the boundaries. I recognize that as a leader I have the choice to either uphold the status quo or to compel myself and others out of our comfort zone and demand more of ourselves and our kids. After watching an episode of Impact Theory with Dr. Moran Cerf, it got me thinking even more deeply about the need to move outside comfort levels:

It all comes down to the narrative that you tell yourself… Because the narrative you tell yourself, about yourself, is the most important thing you have; and if you tell yourself a story about struggle and inadequacy, not being good enough then that is going to reinforce your literal identity. The day I stopped thinking of myself as smart, and I started thinking of myself as a learner-that changed everything…it became this identity that is anti-fragile because if you told me I was stupid, it didn’t matter, it just compelled me to learn more.

Tom Bilyeu

I loved that! And as I listened to the interview, it really inspired me to alter our staff meeting. I felt that we all relate to this idea of “the learner” and that the love of teaching and learning could drive our practice to the next level.

During omindset-outline-graphicur staff PD session, we spoke candidly and asked questions about the concept of “YET”; how we can embrace those parts of us that professionally are “fixed” and encourage the growth mindset in our practice and most importantly in our students. What was funny is that inadvertently every aspect of the Ron Richart’s cultural forces came up in our discussions and reflections today. When we got into our collaborative groups to share and rework our professional goals, there was a greater sense of synergy, purpose, and creativity.

I really look forward to hearing what ideas emerge as we go through this process of achieving our professional goals,  as well as the collaboration and peer support that we can offer each other as we engage in more risk-taking in our classroom practice.

Just as “I am the Force, and the Force is within me”, I know that it is also true for the great teachers that I work with, and moreover, our students. Now I  just can’t wait to see what amazing things come out our second term.

A’ Wondering about Educational Technology

A’ Wondering about Educational Technology

Have you eve thought that at one time in human history cave art was a huge technological leap. As as we evolved and paper was invented, scrolls were considered controversial forms of educational technology; according to this research, ancient philosophers felt that if things were written down, then it depleted your memory. Quite surprising, huh? Thus our current digital technologies are no different: there will always be people who embrace technology wholeheartedly and those who resist it.

Nevertheless, iPads and other tablets have infiltrated so many households that to not use them in the classroom would be a sin. At our school, we have a BYO-ipad policy for students in grade levels 3-5. And as educators this type of technology transcends so much of what we can do with pen and paper. But where to begin?

I’ve been really inspired by the presentation by  Tom Daccord & Justin Reich as they strive to guide teachers through the murky waters of using iPads in the classroom. I appreciate how succinctly they spell out the taxonomy of their use with 4 levels: Consume, Curate, Create and Connect.

ipads

Although I get enthusiastic about using apps for education, there are some thorny issues that we have been discussing, especially with regards to research skills. Not only has there been much debate over having students use books vs. internet websites as primary sources of information, but whether using apps like Notability or One Note to curate content really helped students digest the information and convert it into personal knowledge. As I reflect on the graphic above, it makes me wonder if these are not really levels, but the process by which we should take students through a project or problem that they must solve as they research ideas using the iPads. As more of our classrooms begin to shift to embrace these technologies, I think we need to consider how we can go deeper in our learning so that, not only does the technology evolve, but also the thinking in our classrooms.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching with Intention: 4 Ways for Improving Formative Assessment

Teaching with Intention: 4 Ways for Improving Formative Assessment

I’ve been binge watching webinars by Dr. Dylan Williams, and if you don’t know who that is, well am I glad you came to my blog because I am going to share of some of his techniques for embedded formative assessment. His ideas have really made me take pause when it comes to assessment for learning in my classroom. There’s no way I could distil all his wisdom into this blog post but I will offer you 4 techniques that he has shared in one of his recent books on assessment.

  1. Plan your questions!  Questions should be clearly focused and link to the key concepts of the lesson. The questions should be worth asking and answering. Those questions should “hinge” on the direction that the learning needs to go next.
  2. No hands up, except to ask a question. This can be a powerful technique in improving student engagement. With this strategy, you ask the question first, then pick a student at random. Picking students at random can be as simple as using Popsicle sticks with student names on it (put the names BACK into the container though so they don’t think that their turn is over and they disengage), or using a tool like Class Dojo which can randomly select students (although awarding points for their answer is not necessarily encouraged).
  3.  Wait! And Wait AGAIN! After posing a question, give it a 3-5 second pause. Dr. Williams suggests that you let the students know that you are providing them more time to think so that students don’t rush and give more thoughtful answers. And then after a student answers, give wait time again so that students can reflect on the idea given. As teachers we shouldn’t be in a hurry to validate or correct answers. We should allow students the opportunity to respond to the idea shared.
  4. Avoid questions altogether. It has been suggested that asking questions shuts down discussion because there is a “right” and “wrong” answer. So, if you have reluctant learners, sometimes its best to provide a statement and have students evaluate the idea and give justifications for their response. For example: “Donald Trump claims that the election is rigged.”  Right now, especially if you are an American, you began to think whether you agree or disagree with that statement. You can imagine how discussion could ensue from this statement, right?!

So hopefully these ideas will elicit some inspired action in your classroom this week. And if you can’t do them all, then what can you do? What is one small step, one idea, that you can take to improve how your generate and use formative assessment in your classroom?

 

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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