Tag Archives: reflection

School… a place for learning?

Dewey Quote

From: http://missklohnsclassroom.blogspot.com.eg/2012/10/what-weve-been-up-to.html

It has been a while! Last post – beginning of July. Now, I’m in Egypt and pondering the same questions with new friends!!!

So… How do we bridge the gap between what we know is best and the constraints of the current system that we are in?

A system that is largely dictated by university/college and employer expectations and guidelines as well as parent perspectives on what education/classroom learning SHOULD look like. Is this fair? Can we change this? Is it already changing?

Then, I come across Will Ferriter’s post on a Will Richardson TEDx Talk. Both are worthwhile to spend some time digesting and reflecting on! What resonated to me is the idea that, when something happens that makes us want to learn more… we dive in deep for the sake of our own curiosity. How can we, as educators, create those events that make students want to learn more about what we are TRYING to teach?
We have talked long and often about the disconnect between what we know about how learning best occurs and how we ‘do’ learning. So, let’s work on connecting some of these concepts, within the constraints that we face, as we work on eliminating the constraints.
Here are some concepts we can immediately use to engage our students more (many of these can be hit by developing Project-Based Learning activities – see previous posts on PBL):
  • Make it fun
  • Make it with a real world application
  • Make it relevant to young lives, now
  • Make it social
  • Make it for a real audience
  • Make it challenging
  • Make it from the ideas of our students!

Reduce Conflicts… Increase your EQ

From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/ CC License - Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/
CC License – Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Due to a fortuitous convergence of related articles I have been thinking a lot about Emotional Intelligence, whether we can change it for ourselves and how one’s EQ relates to interpersonal conflicts.

Unless you live in a bubble you’re likely exposed to POTENTIAL interpersonal conflicts on a weekly (if not daily) basis. I say POTENTIAL because we have a fair bit of control over whether these actually develop into conflicts. Having two teenage children, right now, I have been reflecting A LOT on how to reduce interpersonal conflict (that should give you a clue as to how often these potential conflicts develop!). Occasionally, conflicts at work also occur… So, I read a useful article on “Five Secrets for Mastering Conflict” published by the “VitalSmarts” folks who are behind Crucial Conversations and CrucialSkills. Skills for Change. Change for Good.

Essentially, before having a crucial/difficult conversation…

  • Be truthful without being brutally honest. I like to call it compassionate honesty.
  • Get your facts straight first and link them to your feelings… don’t just share your feelings without facts, it turns people off and causes them to tune you out, fast.
  • Don’t listen defensively, listen with true intent to understand the other’s perspective.
  • Take honest responsibility for how YOU have contributed to the situation.
  • Instead of being afraid of saying something because you fear the costs, if things don’t go well, consider the costs if you don’t say what needs to be said and try to think positive about how the conversation could turn out if it goes well.

The possible problem with all this is that these skills directly relate to one’s Emotional Intelligence. So… if your EQ isn’t great, what do you do? Can an EQ be increased? The good news is, it can! It’s not easy but there are some basic, positives to get us going down the path to improvement. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the Harvard Business Review, there are 5 key points to consider:

  1. We CAN change our EQ but long term improvements require plenty of hard work and guidance/feedback. Luckily, our EQ tends to naturally improve with age.
  2. Interpersonal Skills is the most coachable characteristic of one’s EQ.
  3. To improve, we need specific and accurate feedback – like, 360-degree feedback and other specific, accurate coaching processes.
  4. Since some techniques and processes are better than others, focus on the ones that are in the “cognitive-behavioral therapy” realm NOT the “self-esteem/confidence-building” realm.
  5. Some people are simply more coachable than others… this is not a reason to give up! This is a reason to do a coachability pre-assessment to help initially map the journey and increase the effectiveness of the coaching.

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_Intelligence_2.0 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_Intelligence_2.0
    This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

The bottom line is, if you really want to improve, there are concrete ways to do it that can help you develop better interpersonal communication skills that can help reduce conflict. Here is another resource on improving one’s EQ:

Where learning lies…

Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.

This was a long article! It was worth every minute. Take some time. Quiet time. Give yourself enough time to read this AND reflect. Then, think about how to foster those learning moments that happen naturally.


Reflection: Is the “Why” of a school administrator the same “Why” as a teacher?

From DepartmentOfEd Flickr https://www.flickr.com/ photos/departmentofed/8102546041. CC use https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

From DepartmentOfEd Flickr https://www.flickr.com/ photos/departmentofed/8102546041. CC use https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

I have been fortunate to have spent the entire school day in several elementary, middle and high school classrooms in the past month. Why do I think this is fortunate?

Because, the fact is, we don’t often have the opportunity to witness a wide variety of teachers and students, in the classroom learning environment, for extended periods… and, it’s incredibly valuable!

I firmly believe that school administrators SHOULD spend as much time in classrooms as is practically possible. It can really help us concretely connect to the WHY of our jobs, it helps us connect to students, it helps us witness exemplary teaching (and, sometimes, not so

From US Army Corps of Engineers Europe District Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/europedistrict/4595576424. Under CC license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

From US Army Corps of Engineers Europe District Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/europedistrict/4595576424. Under CC license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

exemplary teaching)… in short, it gives us meaningful material to reflect on as we consider what we want our learners to achieve, how we know they are (or, aren’t) achieving that and what we need to do to ensure their success.

We all see with different lenses. This can be one of the greatest strengths for a learning community that is focused on the same questions and issues… as long as we truly consider the entire range of observations that come from our community.

Trust flows from a respect for each other’s ideas and the more we share our learning experiences and ideas with each other the more we can tackle the questions that answer why we are here, why we are educators… it is the same why. We just may have different ways of moving forward on supporting our learners.

QUCK POST: “The Hard Part”

If we can keep honoring teaching perhaps the US will finally develop a culture that values professional educators the way many other countries (with great student learning results) do…

From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ peter-greene/the-hardest-part-teaching_b_5554448.html

From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ peter-greene/the-hardest-part-teaching_b_5554448.html

The metaphor from this article really jumped out at me:

Teaching is like painting a huge Victorian mansion. And you don’t actually have enough paint. And when you get to some sections of the house it turns out the wood is a little rotten or not ready for the paint. And about every hour some supervisor comes around and asks you to get down off the ladder and explain why you aren’t making faster progress. And some days the weather is terrible. So it takes all your art and skill and experience to do a job where the house still ends up looking good.

Read it… it’s good. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-greene/the-hardest-part-teaching_b_5554448.html


Refreshment reflection!

Laiya Road Trip

Laiya Road Trip

I just read an article that really built that fire within me! Full of great advice, it reminded me how important reflection, refreshing oneself, and passion are for us, as educators. If you think about the teachers that really made a difference in your life OR those that you work with or know whose classrooms you just love to visit, this is why! They are (or were) reflective and passionate. Those two qualities bring with them so many more positive attributes. These are the lifelong learners who are always striving to improve their professional practice!

Age is no predictor – I once worked with (I was a beginning teacher) a teacher who had been at the same school for over 30 years. He wasn’t burnt out. He regularly ‘refreshed’ (that was what summers were for, he said). He was recognized by students, parents and faculty as the most dynamic teacher at the school – even after 30 years of service. When you walked into his classroom, he was excited about each lesson he guided students through. He was thirsty for knowledge, loved trying new things and was incredibly humble! I know he would’ve agreed that each of these 10 suggestions are essential to ‘stay fresh’:

1. Get to know your assessments.

How are they linked to learning goals and standardized assessments? You might be teaching something that isn’t that interesting nor really something the students NEED to know. Take a look at what the essential goals are and make sure you’re squarely focused on them… you might surprise yourself.

2. Unpack your standards.

Here are 3 important questions to ask for each standard:

  • What thinking process does the standard demand?

  • What thinking skills will best help students develop that thinking process?

  • What content and skills will students need to learn?

This will help you plan more interesting lessons while getting students to ‘go deep’ on the learning.

3. Understand your own why.

How would you answer, “Why are you teaching this?” Can you find a good reason that you are personally connected to and fired-up about? See if you can, it will also spark that passion for learning in your students!

4. Collect things that interest you.

This is pretty self-explanatory. There’s no doubt that ‘realia’ is far more engaging than ‘sit & giit’ lectures – especially if you have a personal connection to it and can make a story about it (ask me about the wadding and shot I use to use when teaching about the Revolutionary War or my Dad’s coupon ration booklet from WWII…).

5. Read outside the field of education.

It’s amazing how refreshing it can be to read a novel or piece of non-fiction unrelated to education… and, then find yourself making connections back to what you teach without realizing it. Those are the best connections!

6. Be reflective.

One of the most valuable things teachers can do is reflect on their practice. And yet our lives are so hectic during the school year that we rarely have time to just sit and think about teaching.

Spend some time this summer reflecting on this past school year. What worked? What didn’t? What do you need to cut? What do you need to add? What skills do you need to develop to be more effective? I also like to reflect on who I am as a teacher and how I can make my teaching style more accessible to my students….Rather than trying to make yourself into someone else’s idea of a good teacher, spend time reflecting on who you are and how you can give your students the best possible version of yourself this coming school year.

I can’t say it any better than Robyn Jackson (above).

7. Shadow someone.

Self-explanatory (again) but Jackson makes the point that it can be very enlightening to shadow someone in an area outside education, as well. We can learn from ANYONE!

8. Learn your teacher evaluation instrument.

Think about what an exemplar teacher could look like (using your school’s criteria). Be it.

9. Write your assessments.

Ok… maybe not what you were thinking of spending your time on. How else can you REALLY get to know your curriculum, though? This will definitely keep you focused. Be creative!

10. Spend time not thinking about teaching.

Try to enjoy the time that you have off – focused on other interests. This will REALLY refresh you and will give you beautiful memories to tap into at those difficult moments! Life is too short to NOT spend some time enjoying the smaller things (sunsets, ocean breezes, a hard workout the company of loved ones and children’s laughter – hopefully my own! – are a few things I treasure).

Have a wonderful year!!!

Manila Bay sunset

Manila Bay sunset