5 things that I did (better) this year
This year my wife and I moved from Tanzania to Muscat, in the Sultanate of Oman. We loved Tanzania, our kids were born there, but it was time to move. So this year has been one of challenges aplenty: helping a 3 year old say goodbye to her whole world, dragging her one year old brother along as we said goodbye as well. We started setting up a new home in a new country, finding new friends, and learning about a new job in a new school. We learned a lot, and it has been tiring (in a good way).
Here are my professional “done betters”, some of which I had never done before, so doing them better turned out to be quite easy. Technology in Tanzania was very 1.0 for a few reasons, whereas here in Muscat we are pretty well equipped to engage in all of the very exciting and redifining stuff that we (you, me, my PLN) all talk to each other about.
1) Develop my PLN – Learning about PLNs was like a grand piano falling out of the sky and landing on me. I had no idea such a thing existed one year ago. Now I am swimming in new ideas, I have tens, yes tens of followers to bounce my ideas off of, and I find that the very existence of my PLN gives me a peace of mind that things are possible. Why wouldn’t they be when there are all those people out there who can help me brainstorm through things?
2) Organize my mind and space – always a challenge for me. I am Italian, and not to reinforce stereotypes, but my nature is to talk with the children and put a pile of paper down as we laugh about something, and then spend my entire prep looking for that pile of papers. This year my wife came into my classroom kind of like one of those make over shows, and helped me put in place some systems that have worked.
3) Slow down – This one is very concrete. Someone (sorry that I have forgotten who you were!) advised that you shouldn’t use a tech tool for less than a month if you want a lower elementary class to really know it. This was solid gold for me. Voicethread lasted more than 2 months, first exploring our Wants and Needs, then looking at Food Chains, and now reading poetry.
4) Let the questions run the show – I am cheating on this one. Really, what I did this year was realize something important, which has started to transform my practice. I remembered that the questions have to be in charge of all of the learning. Some people call it getting out of the way of learning. I think that I was asking good questions, and the children certainly were. But what hijacked things was my fear of losing sight of the Standards and Benchmarks if I let the questions really take control of the learning. Then I read Jeff Utecht’s post on the S and B’s (the one that calls them crap), and the chains came off. Letting the questions really live is essential.
5) Assessment – Well, I’m more organized (see #2) and it is easier to use my assessments when I know where they are. But beyond that, I have been more able than in the past to see how a student learns, and use that information to plan for them. This process, in my opinion, is easier if the S and B’s are put aside a little (not out of sight, just aside). That way you can really look at the learner, and not on what he or she has or hasn’t learned.
Thanks to @mbteach for suggesting a reflection like this.
Photo: naturalturn (Flickr)