As we opened second semester in my classroom, we did a variety of reflective activities that will help us make the next 18 weeks as productive as possible. We spent a day reestablishing the norms for our classes, and one of the things I asked my students was what they expected from me each day. Each class came up with a variety of things, and I was impressed. Here is the list of adjectives from my 5 classes:
This is the fifth post in a series about my journey with Standards Based Learning and Grading.
It’s all about learning…standards based learning
Standards set? Ready to jump in? Awesome…bring on the learning!
Once learning standards have been established, they must be unpacked for all stakeholders. This involves breaking them down into manageable pieces that relate to instruction, knowledge, skills, and understandings. For me, know, understand, and do statements create meaning out of standards that can seem a little overwhelming to students. These statements are easily adaptable for entire units of study or particular standards. I use them to guide instruction and learning experiences in my classroom. My students use them to inform decisions regarding formative practice and pacing. The know, understand, and do statements serve as checkpoints along the journey to mastery.
As 2014 opens, I am accepting a challenge from members of my PLN to choose one word to focus on and lead me throughout the new year. My word is courage.
Courage to be autonomous
First and foremost, I will need to find the courage to be autonomous in my classroom. Autonomy is at times difficult with all the mandates, rules, and requirements that are handed to us as educators. My charge is to provide the best learning experience possible, and I have to rely on my research and professional judgement to make decisions while staying within the parameters of my district’s expectations. This can be a fine line to walk, but essential to my students’ success.
Courage to treat all kids fairly
Once I find the courage to be autonomous, I will be able to help my students in the best ways possible. Differentiating for their needs is not always easy or orderly. It will take courage to continue to learn about them, further relationships, and challenge them to improve more than they thought they could. To be treated fairly, I must address my students’ needs on a daily basis. I will pass my courage on to my students as they take learning to new levels. Many of them have been in overly cautious learning environments for too long and still struggle to see their potential.
Courage to try new things
I’ll admit it…I am a recovering perfectionist. It continually takes courage for me to try new things and innovate. I am always reminding myself that just because something worked very well for one group of students, it doesn’t mean that it is the right choice for my current kids. When I try new things, there is always this little voice reminding me that it probably won’t go as planned, and of all the little things that could go wrong. Over the years, I have gotten much better at pushing forward and ignoring that voice, but to be honest – it still takes work.
Courage to help my colleagues
This year more than ever, I want to help other teachers. I got a taste of working and learning with my colleagues this fall by introducing twitter to the staff and working with small groups to demonstrate new digital tools. It has taken a different type of courage to open up and share my practices with my peers. Starting this semester I will embark on a new endeavor with them. We will be forming peer observation groups – voluntary, collaborative groups of teachers committed to learning and growing together. We will observe each other and have reflective discussions on how to improve our practice. I am so excited to bring this new opportunity to our staff.
Courage to write
In June of 2013, I started my blog. I had been encouraged by various members of my PLN to start one, and I am very glad that I found the courage to start writing. It has been a powerful tool to share my thoughts and reflect on my teaching. This year, I want to continue with that same courage to write. I was never a “writer” in school. It takes bravery for me to push the publish button every time I blog.
Courage to leave an impact
Finally, I want to be courageous enough to leave an impact with my students. I love that students are happy when they arrive to my classroom, and sad to leave. I am constantly talking about learning and growth rather than points or grades, and they are slowly changing their mindset. If I could leave them with only one sentiment, it would be the quote from John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”-Viktor Frankl
One of the most difficult, yet very important lessons we can teach our students is how to handle adversity. All too often kids learn to quit when they are down and when something doesn’t work the first time, that it won’t in the future. Is this the message we want to send? That one try at something is enough? That when you feel like quitting it is acceptable to do so?
I believe that sometimes we miss the message that the quote speaks to above. That when we cannot change the situation, we must adapt ourselves and find the path to success no matter the obstacle. I am not arguing that we lose ourselves, morals, values or judgement along the way. But our students need to know that they can manage varied situations. We do not always have control over our situation, but we control our response. We can find success in a variety of ways, and sometimes it takes quite a few tries to realize our goals. We can take a time when things are not ideal, and persevere to achieve rather than make excuses for why things did not go as planned.
This quote also speaks to the fact that it is a challenge to change ourselves…to adapt. This is no easy feat, and students need support to figure out what changes need to be made. We as lead learners must model how to handle adversity to guide and inspire our students to try it for themselves.
Challenging adversity and adapting ourselves to find success pushes our boundaries as people. It is an exhausting experience, but builds strength and confidence. I believe that once our students rise to a challenge presented and triumph, they realize that the only person standing in the way of their success is the one that looks back at them in the mirror.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”-George Bernard Shaw
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Steve Jobs
As the year comes to a close I want to take a moment and reflect. The quote above is one of my absolute favorites. Too many of our students have been given one of these labels during their school careers and show up to my high school impacted from it in a negative way. We have misfits, rebels, troublemakers, round pegs, square pegs, and rule breakers…and we need them all. I love having this wide variety cross the threshold into my classroom. But these labels can be dropped at the door for one that suits all of us in different ways every day. We are learners.
All of our students need relationships and connection. They require a sense of belonging at our schools and in our classrooms. We need to appreciate the varying lenses with which they view the world. Although we may never fully understand every situation, simply trying to learn more will create a meaningful bond and show our students they are valued. It is modeling this caring, compassionate behavior that will guide our diverse learners to form positive relationships themselves rather than negative ones. Care and compassion are lacking in our world, and it’s time to change this.
As I have said before, I don’t want to recreate the status quo with my students. I want them to push the envelope and go beyond barriers set before them. This generation will lead us forward into uncharted territory, and they have the genius, creativity, and intellect to make this world amazing. We need people to create positive change in our world, and to do that the next generation must know how to take a risk. They must understand that they may fail. They must recognize that at the moment of failure, it is their reaction that determines their future. At the moment of failure, it is time to learn, grow, and be relentless in the pursuit of success.
So this is my salute to ALL the learners that I encounter. Here’s to each of you, as we move to the new year. The world demands divergent thinkers and personalities. Show compassion and accept each other for who we are in order to move forward together. Consider the wide-ranging ideas, even ones that may seem crazy, and let’s push forward to change the world.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Setting the standards
This post is the third in a series about my journey with Standards Based Learning and Grading.
Removing the Behavior
|image from venspired.com|
This post is the second in a series about my journey and growth with Standards Based Grading and Learning