Category: innovation

#IMMOOC: I Used to Think, but Now I Think…Shifts in My Teaching Practice

#IMMOOC: I Used to Think, but Now I Think…Shifts in My Teaching Practice

In one of my first professional development sessions, I  remember we had to read and reflect on the book Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life  by Spencer Johnson. At the time, American schools were embarking on a major shift in their methods of teaching by using cooperative groups instead of desks lined up in rows. I was chatting with an Australian colleague about it, sharing a laugh about how “innovative” cooperative learning groups were early in our careers– it’s hard to imagine that there was a time that putting desks together to form a group was once an edgy idea in education. Desks seem like an ancient artifact of our former educational paradigm. My how far we have come in such a short period of time.

During this week of the IMMOOC, we are exploring our beliefs about learning, taking a stroll down memory lane and considering the question:

What is one thing that you used to do in education that you no longer do or believe in? Why the change?

That question is actually quite provocative because I’ve changed so much as an educator, and I would say that being an IB educator continues to transform my thinking, as we are on a mission to develop student agency so they can co-create a world that works for everyone.

1

So as I put students front and center of their learning, who I was as an educator has radically changed from when I first began teaching and it continues to be in flux.

As I review the major shifts in my mindset, I thought I would use this Visible Thinking Routine , that encourages reflection. Just like cooperative learning, I remember this whole idea of wanting the students to share their ideas openly as quite a fresh approach to teaching and learning not all that long ago. It’s rather funny how much has changed in a remarkably small expanse of time in education, huh?!

But anyhow, I digress:

Here are 10 beliefs that have been changed over the years of being a teacher

I used to think that….

  1. it was the students’ job to get along with me and my rules, but now I know, there are no rules, just expectations of decency which are reciprocal and I must respect students in order for them to respect me.
  2. tests and quizzes were true and accurate measures of a child’s capabilities, but now I think, those are “snapshots” of their learning journeys and rarely define the true depth of their understanding and knowledge.
  3. I was the only expert in the room but now I know that there is more intelligence and talent in the room than mine alone.
  4. “good students” were obedient ones, but now I know that all students are “good” and have unique ways of showing it.
  5. my voice was the most important one to listen to, but now I know, that it’s the student’s voice.
  6. I was the teacher, but now I know, I am the learner as well.
  7. “special needs” were only for students who had “learning disabilities” but now I know, everyone has special needs because we are all unique learners; this is just good teaching practice to recognize and adjust the learning to accommodate our learning styles.
  8. labeling a child defined who they would become, but now I know, these labels are temporary and mostly unhelpful in cultivating their confidence as learners. Those labels are to help me more than them in identifying their needs as a learner.
  9. kids couldn’t be “trusted” to be in charge of their learning, but now I know, we are born deeply curious and students remain that way if we permit this curiosity to flourish in our classroom culture. We should trust their instinct for learning.
  10. ideas in education are stagnant and fixed, but now I know, with the research coming out on our brains, the best of teaching and learning is yet to come–and I hope to be a part of that shift.

Here is one belief that I think will always be unrevised in education: Teachers who spend time building relationships with their students will always stand out as exceptional in a child’s life and push students beyond their boundaries.

 

What do you think? What is something that you used to think, but now you know it to be different?–and what idea do you think is timeless and will always be preserved in the teaching profession? Share in the comments below.

 

#IMMOOC: Finding Opportunites for Innovation

#IMMOOC: Finding Opportunites for Innovation

I was recently reading Dave Burgess’ blog about how change is built and not announced. He used this beautiful analogy of building a snowball that really resonated with me and how I think about innovation:

No matter what your position, you can create change. If you are struggling to do so, maybe you’re trying to pick up all the snow at once. Just grab a handful, pack it tight, and then start pushing. Change is a lot easier when you’re rolling snowballs downhill.

-Dave Burgess-

In this week’s IMMOOC, we are exploring our definitions of innovation and what they can look like in our school’s context. Change is an inherent part of innovation. In the book, Innovator’s Mindset, George Curous shares some of the challenges he faced with defining it as he took on his role as the Divisional Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning. He contemplated Simon Sinek’s ideas on leadership, ruminating on how impactful organizations are when they dig into and articulate a clear “why” behind their existence and then move toward changing the what and designing their system of how to match their cultural values. Cultivating an innovative culture doesn’t require transformation -it requires information on what is ideal for our unique group of learners and school context, refining the current practices and classroom spaces so that it is optimal for learning. “Change for the sake of change” is not the point of innovation. George explains that “Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better“, as we consider what would help spur the intellectual and emotional growth of our learners. When we keep the focus on the kids, innovation happens organically and with purpose.Anytime teachers think differently about.png

As I step into the classroom this week, I have the intention to think differently about our learning community and find the opportunities for innovation. If I think back to Dave’s snowball analogy, I’ll need to keep my awareness on the “small handfuls of snow” that I can pick up and build upon so that I can create some momentum with the innovative ideas that will best serve our students.

When “Me” Changes to “We”: 6 Things to Consider With Teacher Collaboration

When “Me” Changes to “We”: 6 Things to Consider With Teacher Collaboration

When I arrived at Vientiane International School, the primary school classroom walls were taken down either altogether or partially during the summer. This left no choice for teachers to figure out how they might manage this open concept idea. Would teachers coexist, cooperate or collaborate? How would they approach this new initiative by admin and how would they manage this new relationship to sharing their “teacher territory” with their peers? These were looming questions that began our teacher prep week at VIS and the context for the ideas I share.

Let’s be clear, there is a big difference between “coexisting”, “cooperating” and “collaboration”,  so I’d like to dissect these terms.

collaborateCoexisting in a space means that you both “live” there and tolerate each other and are friendly, but you are doing your own thing. Cooperating means that you are developing a relationship with another person because it is mutually beneficial to do so;  on occasion, you plan something together or share resources on a needs-based basis. Collaborating means that you co-labor together, working together toward a common goal, which could be done in parallel with each other, in supporting roles or as a tag team. It is a very powerful model for learning but it’s not an easy one to pull off and takes some time to develop a strong working relationship with the team of teachers.

According to the work of Ochan and Bill Powell,  there are 6 things that need to be considered and agreed upon before teachers begin to embark upon this professional journey:

  1. Roles and responsibilities: Figure out who is going to take the lead in what learning area. What systems and routines do you want to use in the classroom?
  2. Attitudes:  Assess what philosophies and practices you share in common. What can you agree upon?  How can you share joint-ownership for the students and the learning space?
  3. Planning: What are you going to plan together? What are you going to plan on your own? How will you share your planning with each other?
  4. Delivery of Instruction: How is the learning going to look? Will it be done in large or small groups? What will the groupings be based upon and what model of collaboration will you employ?
  5. Assessment of Student Learning: What tools and procedures will be in place to evaluate student progress? Who is assessing what students and how frequently will this be done? Where will these assessments be kept and how can team members access them?
  6. Evaluation and Reflection on the Learning:  How can teachers provide feedback on the effectiveness of the learning? How frequently will this be done and in what format? What norms must be established so that feedback is seen as a positive habit of reflection?

Looking at these 6 areas for collaboration, you can imagine the level of candidness and trust that is involved with teachers. You have to think collaboratively so you must find ways in which your ideas intersect with one another in order for mutual respect to be developed. You may not agree with everything but if you can articulate what is non-negotiable and develop shared values, then your team can rally around that.  You have to find the opportunities to connect and identify with each other so that a positive working relationship can start to form, as you begin to see the classroom as “ours” and not “my”.

As I start to begin this process with an unfamiliar group of teachers, it does seem a bit daunting to “nail this” straightaway. Our PYP Coordinator, Chad Walsh,  has really challenged us to examine our willingness towards collaboration. Just today my Grade 1 partner reminded me to not call one side of our space as “my” and “your” room and instead refer to it as “literacy” area and “maths” area.  I appreciated this gesture but it made me very aware that my thinking and language will definitely need to refine as we undergo this transformation. But the willingness and eagerness to try something new are shared by all the members, which makes this effort so much easier. As long as we work on these 6 areas, I know that we will reach the highest levels of collaboration.

What do you think is the most important area to focus on first as you develop collaboration between staff?

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.

 

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

Hard Fun

Hard Fun

You’ll find the future where people are having the most fun.

-Steven Johnson

I’ve been a bit obsessed these days with Steven Johnson and I can’t get the idea of the adjacent possible out of my mind. I’m slow reading his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, savoring his detail of the history of innovation.

And he has a new book out about play: Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World–now I know what I want for Christmas!!

 

As I consider the parallels between of innovation and education, the big ideas from constructionists seem to be at the intersection of these two fields. Guy Claxton says it best when he answers the question, “when is learning?-when there is disappointment or surprise.” Then the concept of hard fun really becomes foundational when we consider how our classrooms become the petri dish of ideas for the future.

So this notion of challenging and stimulating engagement of a task or project, what I am calling hard fun, has some requirements:

  1. Time in order to think, plan and execute ideas–this seems almost implicit.
  2. Complexity so that students can call upon their prior knowledge and develop interdisciplinary skills.
  3. Intensity so that one gets lost in the idea and has to grapple with the challenges that present themselves in the learning.
  4. Connection, not just between subject areas but with people, as students look to each other and experts for collaboration.
  5. Relevancy, which is not only obvious for the students but also encapsulates the concept of shareability, in that this project or idea can be consumed by a larger audience.

I think if we approach learning more in this way, with a more playful approach to exploring curiosities, innovations might naturally emerge. And I know Steven Johnson would argue that curiosity, not necessity, is the mother of invention.

 

 

 

Like Minded? Let's Stay Connected!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 739 other subscribers

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.

Personal Links

View Full Profile →