Monday, September 9, 2013

Summer of Development

I do not know where I picked it up.  Perhaps it was from my passionate professors, Dr. Michael James and Charles "Bud" Church?  Maybe my mentor teacher at Claude Chester Elementary instilled it in me?  It could have been engrained in me by the expectations of my first principal at Jeffrey Elementary? Whomever it was, I thank them for instilling in me a desire to continually refine and reflect on my practice, and to grow as an educator even during the summer months.

This summer has been no different, and I have grown tremendously.  From conferences, team meetings, and readings, to participation in numerous conversations virtually and face-to-face, I have found voices that have challenged and reinforced my practice, and have energized me to explore new ideas.

My biggest takeaways from this summer are ideas that have energized me and have transformed themselves into some of my professional goals for the coming school year.

To hear my students' voices: Sparked by Stephanie Harmon's talk at the iPad Summit in Atlanta, GA, I continue to investigate ways to foster student voice.  This year, I hope to provide a teaching space that will provide a number of tools, both traditional and technological, for students to share their own personal understandings of the content we study together. I also hope to provide a collaborative and creative atmosphere where students are challenged to generate their own ideas as I facilitate learning and guide discovery. Learners will take more ownership of their learning and spark curiosity in their peers.  With support from my PLN (Greg Kulowiec and Shawn McCusker from afar and Page Lennig and Jonathan Werner locally), I will continue to refine and reflect on my strategies throughout the year.

To develop an individualized experience for each unique learner: With our grade level moving to a one-to-one iPad format, I am working towards a deeper and more individualized curriculum.  We have always aimed to do this and have seen successes, but adding the iPad as another tool will make a tremendous difference. Not only will we be better able to connect to students' passions and interests, but we will also be able to better monitor and assess learning.  We will also be able to document student work at every step of the process.  We will be able to show brainstorming sessions, revisions, and final presentations in a number of different ways.  To better utilize the new tool, I have created a learning space that is flexible in facilitating whole class instruction while also providing quiet spaces for small groups to work.  The new space will also promote a culture of meaningful conversation of which I will be an active participant.  I hope that my conversations will look more like a spider web rather than a game of tennis, always returning to the teacher.

To honor the true pace of learning: It is easy to add more to the plate, but it is hard to take things off. This year I hope to maintain a pace that encourage investigation, reflection, respect, and community.  
I revisited one of my favorite books, Time to Teach, Time to Learn by Chip Wood and was once again struck by how many times we interfere with children's natural tendencies to learn through investigation, exploration, and play.  As I plan units with my students, I hope to keep in mind that our journey should be a relaxing one filled with wonder and excitement.  

I am about to start my 16th year in the classroom.  To be honest, I still get butterflies.  However, I know that I have a strong Professional Learning Network to support me, and familiar faces near and far who can help me grow as an educator.  I am also lucky to say I have eager and curious learners as part of my network, and together we will do amazing things.  Have a great year!

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