Musings from the Plains
This past week has highlighted that if you give staff and students the freedom to creatively explore a subject, the outcomes are phenomenal. The energy levels that they showed truly amazed me and trust me they tend to be pretty high in our normal lessons.
Now, I can spew how we used gamification techniques, planning rubrics, targeted activities, differentiated challenges and so on but none of that matters compared to what our students brought to the table.
Creativity, Imagination & Energy.
There was a sense of community, there were tears, there was grit, there was resilience, there was passion, there was risk taking, there was learning, there was collaboration, reflection and action and let’s just stop writing all the learner profile buzz words as well.
I can tell you about the teacher that came in, looked at the energy in the room, got shocked and walked out. “Oh My! This is Computer Science Week!” Or I can tell you about the group of parents that came in on a visit and ended up in the Innovation Lounge when activities were on full swing. What a way to sell your school especially when their children say out loud “I want to go to this school”.
I wish I could bottle the energy up and share it with you all. If you are interested in finding up what we got up to, please go through this Twitter collection or the YouTube vid at the end.
Computer Science Week 2018 highlights
In the end, students loved the experiences we setup for them, they engaged with the subject and brought something new to the table for each activity they took part in.
So as I sit here reflecting on the week and the lessons learnt, which student showcased what potential or how a particular child that we normally find difficult to engage with in lessons was observed leading from the front, one thing is clear, we have got to ignite that passion in our lessons as well. My teachers were on point this week and they skipped lunches, they stayed back, each day their energy quotient went up to match the students and the students responded in kind. A feedback loop of sorts and it was amazing to be part of it.
But is it sustainable every day?
So how do we go on from here, the challenge for every educator who sets up something like our Computer Science week is, what about the lessons after the event and also what about the other teachers and I do apologise to the colleagues who had to bear the lessons after us. Trust me, I have been at the receiving end of that in the past as well.
The answer to it, yes. That passion I saw in colleagues was always there and just like the kids they need a planned approach to bring it out. If you think of each lesson as a mini event and build on the principles we used in the week, there is no way lessons will not be as engaging.
The reason for designing such events is not just for the students but for teachers as well. In my view, it is one of the most effective form of teacher development, learning through action. No amount of lectures or courses one attends can ever hope to match the hands on learning that my colleagues went through this week.
Try to remember your favourite teacher, the one who got you excited about a subject and inspired you to want to do well. A great teacher has the ability to make not only the topic interesting, but also the process of learning, opening up students’ eyes and hearts so that they have the acquisition, critical thinking and self-reflection skills needed to make the most of the opportunities that are offered to them.
By training and allowing teachers the freedom to focus on the process of engaging students and inspiring their interest in learning, instead of being forced to focus on the outcomes and results of assessments, we ensure engaged students, who take ownership of their learning and develop a life long passion for the subject.
The question I will leave you to ponder with is, how do you go beyond the basics to ignite a passion, curiosity and fascination in your learners?
Books hold tremendous power over our psyche.
Nothing compares to a good book in firing up the human imagination. They help us unite in a way like no other. Stories have true power to bring about change and open us up to ideas and new thinking, thinking which we would never agree upon if someone spoke to us about it.
One of the sessions over this term whilst using the Book Creator app with primary students, resulted in some great stories and fun learning. It was a pleasure revisiting some of my childhood classics like Enid Blyton, Dickens and discovering new ones like My Family and Other Animals. How I missed that one is a travesty but I guess better late than never.
I also noticed that as we grow older, we don't share as much about the books we read. It starts becoming more of a personal thing.I witnessed this when our Primary children were so enthusiastic in talking about the books they read and sharing why and what they liked. In Secondary it is often more guarded, perhaps a more reflective view that isn't shared as often. At IB level, it is like getting blood out of stone. Even teachers fell foul to this. I wonder if the fear of being judged plays a part in it or conforming (or not as the case might be) to a particular stereotype or agenda or we simply just become selfish.
It would be interesting to find out how reading for pleasure changes as children get older. From being almost a daily thing when you are young (at least in school) to being selective as you grow. Perhaps other commitments to your time take precedent or the enforcement of certain texts as part of academic studies plays a part. It makes some of us switch off and move on to other mediums like music, films, games and so on and that I guess is the true travesty.
I think back to a visit from JK Rowling at a previous school. Inspirational does not even begin to describe it. It was a life-changing event for some of the children. There were tears, excitement, enthusiasm by the bucket load. Even those who haven't read Harry Potter (well the series has only sold 500 million so bound to have a few billion who haven't read it) were inspired as I found out when I talked to teachers and students around the school.
Why was it so good? Despite her being such a lovely lady, it was her persona, how she praised everyone who asked a question, to how articulate she was with her answers. How her passion for reading and writing stood out and how she connected with the children. How the human element shone so brightly. Her politeness, calmness and that fire when Potter lore was discussed with some true fans in her interactions. That is what perhaps translates in her stories, that ability to connect, which has made her such a success. So how does all this help teaching?
Well, I think you picked up all the traits implied and if we as teachers can tap into those then our learners are truly going to foster a love of learning right on par with the love of books.