Passion for learning

Here’s my attempt at a description that comes to mind from some things I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks.

When a teacher’s passion for making a difference in kid’s lives, for the subject, for being a coach, for reading, for math, for using technology, for asking questions, for telling stories, for creating connections, (among so many other things teachers do) combined with the art of teaching it creates amazing opportunities for learning.

They create a culture in which everyone is respected, supported, and loves being a part of.  They take risks.  Kids are excited to come to class and bummed to leave.  They’re engrossed in their learning.  There is joy in discovery. There is passion for learning.

The A in STE(A)M.

The A in STE(A)M.

Why art matters. Art touches our heart and soul. It can pull at someone’s heartstrings. It is emotional labor.  The artist creates (in any medium available).  The art can be found in putting a vision of design into the project.  The art and design draw us into the story, project, music, product, brand, company, blog, website, etc.

The art, combined with the engineering, math, science, technology and the human-centered empathy creates solutions, products, and services that keep us engaged. Regardless of career, we can all be artists. Engineers designing bridges. Software engineers designing VR and AR learning games. Product designers creating new technological hardware. Authors writing a novel. Speakers engaging an audience in a talk. Artists drawing with pencil and paper and digitally. Musicians creating poetry, music, and telling stories.

We need to teach that art is an aspect of everything we teach, learn, create, and touch, moreover, how and why we should all become artists.

Goal Planning

It’s a new year and there’s been a lot of posts on social media about New Year’s Resolutions, goal setting, etc.  I’m really not one for resolutions but am all for goal setting, and more importantly, goal planning.  A new year is a good time to reflect upon accomplishments and challenges.  However, I believe all of us do better with goal planning.  A goal, or objective, will unlikely be met if we are not actively evaluating and taking actions to reach our goal.  Think about all of those forgotten or never reached New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s hard for adults.  Imagine how hard it is for students.  If we are not engaging with them to discuss their goals, they may never reach them.  Our students set goals at the start of the school year and now is the perfect time to connect with each of them to check-in on their progress.

Plan. Do. Check. Act. (Repeat).

Now is the time to teach our students how to create an action plan, manage a schedule, reflect, and take actions towards their goals.  It’s also an opportunity to consider student-led conferences to discuss what’s working and what isn’t and their challenges and successes from their perspective.  Allowing students to lead the conversation.  There are many ways to stay organized offline and online, like journals and Google Calendar, where students can reflect on daily/weekly progress and add daily/weekly action items to reach their goals.  Goal planning can also involve students identifying other important teachers, coaches, and parents that can help students reach their goals.  Finally, the whole process of creating an action plan and reflecting upon learning promotes and teaches metacognition.

Ideas:

  • Use calendars, task lists, and journals (offline or online) to break the marking period or year into manageable windows.
  • Use journals (offline or online) for weekly reflections.
  • Provide students reflective prompts.
  • Give students specific, targeted, and empowering feedback.
  • Use motivational and inspiring quotes.
  • Consider portfolios to showcase progress and final goals/objectives
  • Teach students how to track progress on any of the online programs that they use.

Please feel free to share your ideas and strategies in the comments section of this blog post.  Happy goal planning!

A map vs. a compass

A map provides a picture of a specific location. It can show you the routes you may take.  If you stay on the roads, you know the path you’re going to take.

A compass always points the direction you’re heading.  It allows you to get on and off a course.

A map shows you the known ways.

A compass gives you the freedom to discover new ways.  It allows you take your own path while still getting you to your desired end goal.

A map tells you what is interesting.

A compass guides you to find your interests.

A map is a representation of the world.

A compass helps you navigate the world.

It’s good to understand how to read maps.

It’s better to use your compass and follow your own path.

It’s even better to discover new paths, ideas, points of interest and share the map you’ve just created.

Project-based

It’s been said over and over again that today’s economy does not need the factory model education system.  We know that we are so far past that.  So why do we still beat this drum?  Haven’t we changed?

The argument is for cross-curricular and inter-disciplinary projects for students. With such easy access to information, there are so many opportunities for the integration of content and skills from multiple disciplines into every class.  The assessment of skills can be infused into challenging scenarios that connect to life and events outside of the classroom walls.  The scenarios can be tough to create, but teachers tend to be creative, engaging storytellers.  Better yet, use an actual real-world problem.  Even better, have students FIND the problem that they want to solve!  You may argue, “But there are basics to learn.”  Well, there’s small group instruction and digital tools that help facilitate practice and assess the basics, while the rest of the class can be for collaboration and problem-solving.  The problems and projects are how we really engage our students, helping them discover interests.  We live and work in a project-based and problem-based world and economy, so why not engage our students in that type of work?

It’s NOT the teachers, the principals, administration, or really anyone on the “front lines” that are actively promoting a factory model of teaching.  I’m very lucky. I rarely see kids in rows being talked at for an hour. My assertion is that we need more real-world, problem- and project-based activities in the classroom.