Just when I thought life couldn’t really get any busier, I started the hardest parts of my Chinese visa process from Vietnam for the job I’ll be starting next year. It’s almost like the universe has decided to test how committed I am to my new mindfulness practice. It’s almost funny. Does that kind of stuff happen to anyone else, or is it just me? Anyway, moving on to my (seriously) delayed post for week 4.

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 Connection, extend, challenge

I love that each week of this course has given me new morsels of goodness to savor in the resource tab and continues to push my thinking about pedagogy, good practice and the evolution of education. Being an absolute EdTech geek, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the information shared in this week’s COETAIL tab as well as all of my classmates’ posts. For today’s blog post, I’d like to use a visible thinking routine called ‘Connect Extend Challenge’ that we often use in leadership or curriculum meetings to frame discussions. (By the way, if you haven’t checked out Harvard’s Project Zero, especially their course on visible thinking, I would highly recommend it!)

Connections that I made to this week’s content were countless, but here I’d like to focus on a couple of the strongest.

  • The first comes from the Living and Learning with New Media paper when it discussed the concept of geeking out and how it has afforded youth the opportunities to “exercise adult-like agency and leadership that is not otherwise available to them.” This year I have been doing a tremendous amount of work with members of the curriculum and academic leadership teams around defining what student empowerment, one of 4 fundamental dimensions of teaching and learning at our school, looks like. This process has been long and arduous, but absolutely worth it. We’ve had to ask ourselves and our stakeholders what we believe about children and their rights to personalized learning experiences. And in doing that, we’ve had to challenge each other and our own beliefs to advocate for the students we serve, not just while they’re in our care but also as they move on from our school.
  • The second was around designing learning experiences for students. In the A.P.L.E. guide and blog posts shared this week, it circled back to the idea of starting with the ‘end in mind,’ a concept I’m familiar with from when I read Wiggins and McTighe’s book on Understanding by Design in grad school a few years ago. Looking at my COETAIL project for Course 1 compelled me to dust off my copy and dig a little deeper for inspiration. Within my current role as a homeroom teacher, I find that the learning goals remain my true north, which felt validated by my readings this week.

The extension for me came as I considered what elements of geeking out and leveraging the power of these new media outlets I could use in my classroom practices. Could I encourage them to pursue passionate interests by connecting with a community of like-minded people online? Should I be learning more about online gaming and YouTuber subcultures to be able to connect them to more meaningful learning while I have them at school? Would I be able to reach out to these people they idolize by using social media in an effort to provide an authentic audience for sharing their work? Or would it be enough to do as Kim Cofino suggests and make it relevant by bringing in small aspects into daily lessons?  

The challenges with this have come from trying to balance our roles as evaluative authorities of learning (operating within confines of content standards and test results) and facilitators of authentic and meaningful life experiences that will prepare them for the ever changing world that surrounds them. While I don’t believe these things are mutually exclusive or that the balance can’t be achieved, the reality is that the day-to-day struggle can wear you down. And I would be lying if I said I hadn’t seriously considered leaving the field of education altogether.

Letting the Learning Lead

Moving between an EdTech coaching role and classroom teacher role this year has been tremendously challenging, but so grounding for me. I have days when I just come home and cry from exhaustion and wonder if the students learned anything that day. But then I have days like today when I feel like a real-life superhero. Today I put extra intention into everything I did in an effort to revisit my #OneWord for 2019 and align with my new skill of mindfulness and here’s some of what happened…

  • 5:00 Alarm went off and I didn’t press snooze!
  • 5:30 Yoga class
  • 6:45 Arrive a work, make cup of tea, meditate to visualize an awesome day
  • 7:35 First 2 students arrive and are greeted with a smile and a ‘Good Morning’
  • 8:00 A gamified, no-tech math review for tomorrow’s test- FULL engagement

  • 10:10 Recess duty where I saw all students following expectations! Made video to share with learning community to reinforce and celebrate student awesomeness

  • 12:50 Full-on meaningful tech integrated writing lesson to highlight and annotate a persuasive text before applying it to their own revisions

It’s not often that so many things go well in a day for me, but when they do, I remember exactly why I chose this field. Today’s integration and use of technology was led by good pedagogical practice and strong learning goals. I hope to have far more of these days, so I can share these experiences with my colleagues and PLN because it was amazing.

Could it be that this mindfulness thing is working?! Stay tuned as the journey continues…

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