Your Intentional Empty Space

AKRosenthal (43 of 199)

I would like to offer youwhat I was given:a blank of sheet of paper.What will you do with your intentional empty space,with your fresh start?

-Jason Rosenthal

It is the time of year when many people start summarizing their learning and thinking ahead to what both the holidays hold and the new school year beyond that.

I am no different and with less than two days on the calendar, the countdown is surely on – although the making and creating hasn’t slowed down in the classroom!

My introspection this year takes a different turn as I am once again deeply inspired by a member of the Rosenthal family, Jason Rosenthal. Husband of Amy Krouse Rosenthal – one of “my people”. Jason suffered a deep loss when his wife Amy, 51, passed away from ovarian cancer. Recently he shared this loss and his subsequent journey into uncharted territory of doing life without Amy, in a recent TED talk:

 

Saying goodbye in International Schools can be a grief filled process. There is happiness, sure. Celebrations of friendships made. But there is definitely grief for friendships ending, or in my case, friendships that could have been – the year just goes so quickly to make all the connections you wished you could have!

In saying goodbye and in starting a new experience either in the same school with new colleagues, a different school, or a whole new life experience (hello ‘Adult GAP Year’ – I’m talking about you!) we are all gifted the opportunity of a figurative blank sheet of paper. The chance to create our own new reality. An intentionally empty space into which we get to create our fresh start.

What will you do with this gift?

How will you honor those you are parting ways with?

What will you do over the summer to prepare your heart for new students, colleagues, experiences?

In life, Amy was a great source of happiness and really made me smile. In death, she has taught me to think more deeply about the gift of every day. She clung on to life fiercely. Even before she was dying.

#intentional

This might be my word for the coming year. I’ll keep you posted.


further reading…

You Might Want To Marry My Husband = Amy’s love letter to Jason

Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation

The Hardest Pill to Swallow

Tonight I read a post by Taryn BondClegg about trusting her students. It is worth the read and I will imagine many (most?) of us will recognize elements of ourselves in her writing.

I posted an almost knee-jerk reaction to her post in the form of this comment:

I worry/am concerned by this issue and how it pertains to grit/persistence/stick-ability. So many ideas end up in the “too hard” basket when teachers step back and trust the students. I wonder: were they interested to begin with? what DO they stick with (i.e. have they a record of being able to stick with something?) what constraints/parameters/scaffolds have been present in their past that have not added to their ability to “do for themselves”? how might we create opportunities prior to Exhibition for this kind of agentic learning? And then 1000 x over: What am I doing wrong?! The tension keeps me motivated and at the same time, when I see children afforded SO much in terms of the education/schooling they are getting and the levels of apathy (despite/because of?) our intentions, I do become frustrated. Learner agency rejected has to be one of the hardest pills for me to swallow.

Sonya terBorg

The hardest pill to swallow.

Learner Agency rejected.

 

Despite my visceral ‘ramblings’ I do think there are some points worth fleshing out although to what end, I am not sure (yet!). They are questions I grapple with and, to be clear, they may differ from the questions that led Taryn to her original post.

How might we create opportunities for agentic learning throughout the PYP?

Are we starting with the learner in mind? 

What are we doing for kids that they can do for themselves? 

And more recently, I am wondering about the source of the apparent apathy when learning constraints are lifted and learners are part of the decision making process.

Next year, I am shifting focus from PYP to MYP. At my school, that means working with students during X Block. After an initial planning meeting with a focus on next year, we agreed upon this cycle by Kath Murdoch (with a couple of tweaks) from her book “The Power of Inquiry”. When posting earlier on Twitter about types of inquiry cycles, Jane Ross, an educator-extraordinaire whom I admire greatly for her work in STEM, STEAM, iTime, and developing a Maker Mindset, reminded me that “the cycle itself isn’t as important as a really great question.”

fullsizeoutput_1c25.jpeg

Which has made me think about how important that initial “focus” portion of the inquiry is and the role we have in helping kids develop their questions that will lead to really deep and motivated inquiries. Cue Twitter (again) and a tweet by AJ Juliani: Crafting Your Own KADQ – a blog post by @GingerLewman on writing a kick-ass driving question.

There are no words to express how great this post is and I really hope it helps (as I re-read it multiple time) clarify the type of support and scaffolding I can work with kids on to help ensure that they are starting their inquiry at a point of entry that is motivating to them.

So, my initial wonderings and knee-jerk reaction to Taryn’s post, led me to reflect on what I am doing and hopefully, how I can do it better, thanks to the input of the Twitterverse. For anyone that doubts the power of the PLN…..that is yet another pill I will not swallow.

Reflections in Design

We do not learn from experience.

We learn from reflecting on experience.

-John Dewey

 

I read this great post from Jackie Gerstein about reflection in the maker space. I loved her cards and with many students from Grades 1-5 who are just beginning their learning journey in English, I was wondering how I could take this idea of reflection cards and eliminate the need to read in English.

The answer: Visible Thinking Routines. Specifically, Color, Symbol, Image.

My kids love to make. I want them to reflect on their time in Design but I also want to dedicate a very large chunk of our time together to making. So I needed something quick. Simple. Super easy. Something we can do in the two minutes after packing up.

So I have made a set of cards. Some colors, some symbols (thanks Keynote updated shapes!) and some images (thanks, Unsplash!). My plan is to have this deck of cards at the ready and to have kids reflect on their day in design:

What color was your day in design today?

What symbol represents you as a designer?

Which images describes how you are feeling as you leave design today?

What symbol matches your plans for our next design lesson?

What color matches your thinking in design today?

What image represents the way you worked with others?

Which symbol describes you while you were making?

What color represents how you feel about your prototype?

 

We are trying this out tomorrow. I will update this post to report how it went!  Other single subject teachers: how do you have your students reflect on their learning in your class?

If you want to download the color/symbol/image slides: Reflections in Design.

Exhibition, Design, Action!

My grade five learners are coming to the end of their self-chosen design projects. At the moment they are choosing how they want to reflect on their learning and what questions they want to be asked.

I am adding a question to their list:

How will this project inform your thinking for your work in the PYP Exhibition?

We have had a few false starts.

We have had a few failures.

We have had a few who have not used their time to best effect.

None of this matters, in my opinion, as long as this knowledge feeds forward into their next project. If they take what they learned, what worked, what didn’t, and they move forward in their learning.

So, to that end, we will be starting a new design project in a week or so in which they think about their Exhibition and think about what they are wanting to achieve. To that end, I saw a graphic on Twitter that was co-created by IB PYP teachers as a culmination of ideas from Twitter. I have recreated this graphic with some pictures to share with my learners. I want to support them in figuring out their purpose within the Exhibition and designing and creating something that moves them closer toward achieving that purpose.

Action

I like the idea of thinking about purpose and then creating and designing according to that purpose. Whilst doing this, I will be working with our IT Coach to look at how best to visually engage our audience by tapping into the work of Keri-Lee Beasley and her Design Secrets Revealed book on iTunes. This book provides a wealth of information about graphic design and effectively engaging your audience through the principles of design. It is a MUST for any teacher undertaking #pypx who can’t bear another presentation in rainbow colored Comic Sans font with ALL the transitions 🙂

 

If you are a single subject/specialist/integrator, how are you connecting with your learners undertaking the PYP Exhibition?


 

A note on student agency…

Recently, a new blog “Educator Voices” has started. A blog designed as “a place to share and celebrate how we are pushing the boundaries, shaking up the system and challenging the status quo.” It is a blog focused on making school different and there is a lot to say about student agency. I encourage you to check it out and engage in the comments on blog posts. This is a tipping point in education and in “school” as we know it. None of us have all the answers but if we keep sharing our ideas and championing each other, we are likely going to get closer to serving our kids in the best ways possible.

It Started With A Tweet…

PYPSST.001

It started with a Tweet:

Kristen and I worked together at Yokohama International School. She has a wicked sense of humor, a reflective stance on her role as a teacher, and plays a mean game of Settlers. She is also a PYP Coordinator in India, looking for ways to move teachers forward in transdisciplinary learning with specific focus on single subject teachers.

Kristen followed this initial tweet up with another offering a link to a google doc for single subject teachers to ‘sign up’.  For what? We weren’t sure…yet. Then we started to chat, and, in the spirit of teacher agency, we thought it best to turn it back to the teachers via a Twitter chat: #pypsst

We know Twitter isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we hope this will be a start and will at the least, connect some teachers with colleagues in similar situations in different parts of the world. Having been both a homeroom teacher and a single subject teacher, it is definitely a different position and one which needs some navigating and tweaking to “get right” – however that might look for you.

The first questions for the first chat are below. Take a look. And feel free to join in – single subject teacher or not (lurkers welcome too!). We look forward to seeing where this might go.

UPDATE: I signed up on the google doc early on. There are now more than 60+ names and a bunch of questions/areas of interest that people want to pursue. Take a look and see if there is anyone you or someone at your school might connect with!


 

A note on student agency…

Recently, a new blog “Educator Voices” has started. A blog designed as “a place to share and celebrate how we are pushing the boundaries, shaking up the system and challenging the status quo.” It is a blog focused on making school different and there is a lot to say about student agency. I encourage you to check it out and engage in the comments on blog posts. This is a tipping point in education and in “school” as we know it. None of us have all the answers but if we keep sharing our ideas and championing each other, we are likely going to get closer to serving our kids in the best ways possible.

CONTROL

I wrote this post in 2013.  I could have written it yesterday. Sometimes I feel like change is so slow, that it is painful. And yet, even though I know I need to relinquish control, have I really done that…YET? Sometimes I think it is a lot easier to theorize about change than to follow through with it. You?

 

read this post on Inquire Within a couple of weeks ago and it has been sitting with me ever since.  Such good ideas in it! Please go and read it.

The post talks about all the ‘c’ words that are often used to describe education and learning in the 21st Century:

cwords

 

 

The author, Bo Adams goes on to suggest that all of these very important C words could all be ‘ruled’ by one BIG C:

control

 

CONTROL

“Control in the sense of ownership, investment and engagement, degree of agency and autonomy. Control to exercise choice. Control to pursue curiosity.”

And here is where I am really won over:

…in the giving of control, I believe we provide student learners with more opportunities to practice the skills organically and authentically than if we assign them work organized into the seven “Cs.” Through the autonomy of control – motivated by the control of choice – we naturally invest ourselves in those seven “Cs.” When we feel in control, we learn to take control, and we develop our capacities to maintain good control.

-Bo Adams

This is brilliant – and at the same time, can be really hard for adults to do.

We are in the middle of our PYP Exhibition and it is all about the kids being in control of their own learning.  There are guidelines and supports in the form of checklists, workshops, and mentors, but ultimately, the kids are in control. And that can be hard for teachers and parents to deal with but so worth it for everyone if we can learn to back off a little and trust in the process, trust in the child, and be mindful of where they are at and how we can best support their learning.

Giving control of learning to the child doesn’t mean sitting in the corner with your feet up and letting them flounder.  It means becoming an observer, a guide, a road map of sorts – ready to be referenced.  It means being attuned to what is going on in your classroom and being prepared to ask for clarification from the children in your class.  It means posing the right questions, sharing the right provocations, providing the appropriate amount of time for them to work their magic.

It also means modeling the characteristics we expect in our children:

  • We have to take risks even (or especially!) when we don’t know what the outcome will be.
  • We have to believe in our mission and vision and make sure we are not just talking the talk.
  • We have to be a beacon of change if we are expecting our kids to do school differently.
  • And we have to be prepared to let go of control ourselves, so that our kids can see what that looks like.

What kind of educator are you?

One that thrives on being in control or one that is prepared to let go, even in the face of possible failure?

One of the people I look to in terms of someone who reimagines education is Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy. In his book, The One World Schoolhouse, he says the following:

sal khan

 

To me, this is what CONTROL is all about.  Creating a nurturing and supportive classroom environment in which children are actively engaged in their own learning.


 

A note on student agency…

Recently, a new blog “Educator Voices” has started. A blog designed as “a place to share and celebrate how we are pushing the boundaries, shaking up the system and challenging the status quo.” It is a blog focused on making school different and there is a lot to say about student agency. I encourage you to check it out and engage in the comments on blog posts. This is a tipping point in education and in “school” as we know it. None of us have all the answers but if we keep sharing our ideas and championing each other, we are likely going to get closer to serving our kids in the best ways possible.

We(chat) Are The Champions

quote.jpg

In the PYP Exhibition we have mentors. How this plays out can look different from school to school. As the PYP Exhibition is a culminating experience of learning from the PYP program, it has been common practice in many schools to expect all teachers from the whole school to participate. To that end, I have worked in schools where each child had their own mentor. I have also worked in schools where we have one mentor per group of children.

In thinking about authentic connections and about student agency, I am thinking about how we can help kids during the exhibition connect with people who can help move them forward. This may be their mentor, or it may be someone else who can offer fresh ideas and expertise.

At One Stone – an independent and tuition free high school in Boise, Idaho – they have Champions. Anyone can be a champion – just join their Facebook group and you’re in! A champion is there to do just that: champion the learners. Cheer them on, bounce ideas off, listen, offer feedback, critique, provide expertise. You don’t have to do anything until you see or hear something that catches your eye, sparks your interest. And then you’re in until…well, until you’re out. Sometimes they need champions to listen to pitches for a few minutes, give feedback on presentations, offer help with translations, or just bring sandwiches. Your commitment lies in your willingness to say yes when an opportunity pops up that you connect with.

How might we harness this protocol for #pypx?

What about a WeChat group of PYPx Champions?  You join because you want to help but you don’t want to commit to a certain time each week on the off chance that what you can offer meshes with what the kids need. You join because you know a lot about a bunch of things but not really enough to consider yourself an expert on any one thing. You join because you love learning and you hope that someone wants to share their learning with you. You join because you’re a teacher and you can spare 15 minutes to listen to some song lyrics and give feedback but can’t spare the time to be a mentor on a weekly basis.

What about a Human Library? We have floated the idea of human libraries before. Having a bank of human resources from within our community that our kids can “check out”.  This requires the big humans “checking in” first and classifying their expertise and is a lot of work for something that might not be used.

What about seeking Feedforward? Sam Sherratt recently shared on Twitter:

I checked with Sam, and the papers are “a printout of a google doc students use to capture their latest thinking and that “consultants” can leave feedforward in. Also links to their blogs.”

I like all these ideas, to be honest. But then I think about them in the context of student agency. And even as I type this, I think: “Am I confusing agency with intrinsic motivation”? To explain: the first option, that of WeChat Champions, seems most geared toward agentic learning. A call goes out, people respond and join the group, and then things only move forward if the kids reach out to people in the group. No one needs to alphabetize the humans in the library, no one needs to print the google docs. But will all kids be served by this model? Will some slip under the radar? Will only the intrinsically motivated reach out to the group for support?

OR, do we need to scaffold by having the library or printing the google doc? Perhaps, like most things, it is about balance, about having options, and about trial and error and figuring out what works for your particular cohort of kids in this particular moment?

How do you support your kids during #pypx or within other units to connect with people who can help move their ideas forward?

 

A note on student agency…

Recently, a new blog “Educator Voices” has started. A blog designed as “a place to share and celebrate how we are pushing the boundaries, shaking up the system and challenging the status quo.” It is a blog focused on making school different and there is a lot to say about student agency. I encourage you to check it out and engage in the comments on blog posts. This is a tipping point in education and in “school” as we know it. None of us have all the answers but if we keep sharing our ideas and championing each other, we are likely going to get closer to serving our kids in the best ways possible.

 

12 Ways to Practice

Today on Twitter, I came across a tweet from @growthmindset1 with a link to an article: Wynton’s Twelve Ways to Practice.

This caught my eye because the tweet said the rules applied to “anything”.

Today, our kids in G4 were scheduled for Creative New Undertakings – an NIS remix of the popular “iTime” or “Genius Hour”. A couple of kids I am working with had pitched an idea in the previous session, spent one CNU day on it, and then gave that idea up because it was “too hard”. They were preparing a new pitch and I could see that “lack of a teacher” (which was their reason for their previous idea being too hard) was also going to apply to their new idea. And, the idea of them giving up didn’t sit well with me.

With me. 

Yes, I am aware that this is not all about me, but there was something in the ease of giving up that I didn’t want to encourage. The students had spent a lot of effort thinking about their idea, researching it, pitching it to a mentor teacher, getting their idea approved, and now dismissing it. They probably spent more time preparing than they did in actually trying the idea out.

But why did it bother me so much? Cue the article about practicing. A lot of what is mentioned in this article are the very reasons we take on ideas like CNU. We want our kids to choose something and practice it, play with it, solve problems, create products, and make connections. We want them to learn more about themselves as a learner and what it means to persevere and have grit within a context of their own choosing.

I haven’t shared this with my students, yet. They spent the last part of their day pitching their new idea to our Pitch Leader and have decided to split their time between the two ideas between now and the end of the year. I am really happy with this outcome and really appreciate the collaborative approach we have taken as teachers when working with our students. Today, as a teacher, I felt supported and validated, and I felt that we did something good for these two students. Whether or not they become experts is not the point. For me the point is that they learn a little bit more about the type of learner they can be.

How would you have handled this? Did we deny their voice and limit their agency or have we listened and guided them? Is there value in letting them choose to give up so quickly into a project?

Here is a graphic of the 12 Ways of Practicing. I love to draw but I was drawn to playing with the shapes options in Keynote so have done this one digitally. If your students have Keynote, the built-in icon library can be customized really easily – a short cut version to using the Noun Project for icons. For more ideas on Keynote take a look at this amazing post from Tricia Friedman at UWCSEA,

12 Ways to Practice.001

 

PDF Download: 12 Ways to Practice

International Women’s Day

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?”

I hope you don’t hear this question today. But, if you do, here is what I would say in reply:

When women (and girls) have the same access as men (and boys) to

health care

education

positions of leadership

economic freedom

speaking roles in films and plays

seats on boards

jobs in tech

paid parental leave

When there are only leaders, executives, bus drivers, fire fighters, pilots, electricians, and scientists.

NOT women leaders, female executives, lady bus drivers, women fire fighters, female pilots, female electricians, and women scientists.

When we have pay parity.

When we have protection against sexual discrimination.

When we stop calling girls “bossy” and boys “leaders”.

When this list

of things to say

is considered ridiculous because

“of course” is the standard response.

THEN we can have a day in which we celebrate humanity and hu(wo)manity in equal partnership with each other.

Until then, let’s use today to #pressforprogress and to keep moving forward to #makewomenvisible

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced $170 million in funding for women. It will be used over the next four years to help women exercise their economic power through managing their own businesses and bank accounts. As Melinda Gates writes for Quartz:

“When money flows into the hands of women, everything changes.”

Melinda Gates

Please support women globally.

Click here to loan $25 to a woman seeking financial independence and a better way of life for her and her family, through KIVA

Please support women locally.

Look for opportunities to support entrepreneurs, business owners, and people seeking money to make a life-changing difference in their lives, right in your own community.

Please support young women in education.

Young women and girls need to be visible in education. How are you ensuring gender parity in the way we represent women in sciences, math, economics, design, computing, sports, and the arts? We need to make it easy for all kids to see that things are man-made and WOman-made.

#pressforprogress

I am grateful to work in a school that values inclusion and enjoyed the opportunity this morning to share breakfast and think together about the role of women in our curriculum and the importance of ensuring equal voice in decision making and ideation.

IWD.016

 

Be Like A Tour Guide

My fifth graders are currently knee deep in their projects of their own choosing. As we started today, I reminded the class to write a goal for today’s session (small, achievable, focused). There was a bit of murmuring and we started to chat.

“I don’t like it when the teacher doesn’t tell us what to do.”

“Yeah!”

“Me too.”

“Same!”

I asked the students to tell me more about that.

“I like the teacher to be like a tour guide. Someone who shows you all the places to go. Tells you what you are going to do that day. Stuff like that.”

Me: “But what if the tour guide says you are visiting Paris and you get excited because you really want to go to the Eiffel Tower, but the tour guide walks right past the Eiffel Tower without stopping and you don’t get to go there?”

Student: “If the tour guide was a good tour guide, they would know that I wanted to stop there and they would find out where other people wanted to stop too.”

Student: “The Eiffel Tower is famous so it would be worth stopping there. We should stop there.”

Then there was some whispering. And so I asked the student to speak up.

“Well, you could just be letting us choose our own projects because it is easier for you. You get to tell us to come up with the ideas and then you can sit back and get on with your own work.”

The discussion continued and ultimately, we talked about TRUST. I explained that I was taking a risk in letting the kids choose their own path. That I had to trust that they would use the time wisely. That they would choose to do things they were interested in. That they would ask for help. I reminded them that in every lesson, I asked each student, “How can I help you?” and that I trusted them to answer me in a way that would help us both know what to do next.

There was still somewhat of an underlying grumble about “not knowing” and “it’s really hard” – there were definitely kids in their stretch zones, bordering on panic.

I don’t see this in my four year old when I tell her to play. When I tell her she can make something. In fact, I barely ever tell her that she CAN play or make something – she just does. At what point did we make kids such passive participants in their own education?

When I was a Learning Technology teacher (similar role to a tech coach) in Germany, I was working with a 5/6 year old class who were doing an investigation into work and jobs. As we were sitting together, about to go interview various people in the school about their jobs, I asked the students “Do you have a job?”. Super quick, one student responded, “Our job is to sit quietly and wait for the teacher to tell us what to do.”

Sit quietly.

Wait for the teacher.

To tell us what to do.

5 years old. And that is what they think their JOB is?

 

What are we doing to change the way we structure our classrooms so this is not the first thing that pops out of a child’s mouth when asked what their job is? I have shared this graphic before, but it has a lot of reflective questions that every teacher could ask themselves in relation to voice, choice, ownership, and agency.

IMG_0821

And what about the second comment about the Eiffel Tower:

“The Eiffel Tower is famous so it would be worth stopping there. We should stop there.”

How do we decide what is ‘worth knowing’ or ‘worth stopping at’? What role does knowledge play in the quest for student agency? (starts digging through Wiggins and McTigue and Erickson and Wagner to revisit previous understandings about knowledge and learning). (Thanks, Simon, for bringing this up on the weekend! Good to talk about the place of knowledge in an agency-centered learning environment).

Where are you at in your quest for student agency?