Friday, October 21, 2016

Are You Stuffing the Suitcase or Are You on the Adventure?

I was recently at a conference and as I was packing up to leave,  I was struggling to get everything stuffed into my suitcase. I am sure we have all been there before, where we think if I just sit on it, I know I can get it closed. However, many times it does not work and we end up having to take stuff out.

As I was going through this process, I began to think about how this relates to education and how we often try to stuff as much information into short spans of time in order to meet the testing deadline. I had to stop and laugh because my suitcase was a great example of how this approach to teaching is not successful. Unfortunately, I must admit that I have spent the majority of my teaching career stuffing the suitcase. This has resulted in frustration for my students and myself ultimately leading to learning that only lasts until the test is done.

This year I have decided to stop stuffing the suitcase and get on the adventure of learning. I have been fascinated with makerspaces and have decided that this year I am going to have a makerspace classroom. I spend 10-15 minutes on a mini lesson and then students choose stations around the room to explore and practice the skills taught in the mini lesson. I do not set a timer, when students complete a task or are ready to move on they do so on their own. I either rotate through stations or stay at one station to provide more instruction one on one or small group. This small change in my approach to teaching has had an amazing impact on my students. (I should pause and say that I teach 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade special education. They are now excited to come to school even though it is tough for them.)

As part of being on the adventure I ask students to share what they have learned in a short video reflection. These reflections have been great! My students love to do them and it is a great way for me to see who understands the concept and who needs a little help.

Are you ready to stop stuffing the suitcase and get on the adventure? If you are I suggest that you start by reading the book The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and check out his book study on immooc.org.