Recently, I led Extended Sessions on “Prioritizing Play” at the Learning2 conference hosted by the American School in Japan.
This was my third L2 and my second time as an L2 Leader. As I began researching for this event I realized that I was accumulating a mountain of material. How to condense this into 2 and a half hours?
With my decisions made and my presentation curated, I began. I am not “a natural” when it comes to working with adults in this more formal ‘classroom’ type setting. And despite polling the participants in order to tailor the session to their needs, I had that nagging doubt that I may not be leading them in the direction they needed or wanted to go.
My first session was high energy from the get-go. Keen participants, eager to share, eager to debate, discuss, and to reflect on their own learning. I was able to connect and relate and share ideas. I finished the session and it felt “successful”. This was reflected in the generous feedback I was given.
Great presenter – this should have been a whole day workshop. Too much good stuff to pack into the short time.
This session was amazing. Great presentation, lots of resources, approachable and knowledgeable presenter. Thank you
I thoroughly enjoyed the session and found it to be very informative.L2 Participant Feedback
The second session felt different. A little more hesitant. A little more resistant? Pockets of energy and enthusiasm but a lot of critical thinkers. Deep questioners. We never got into the flow of the topic unlike the previous day. And I wasn’t able to turn that around. I left the second session buoyed by some of the personal connections I made but ultimately deflated by my inability to turn the discussion around. And my feedback reflected my reaction to the session. Numerically, I went from solid 4’s and 5’s (out of 5) to a more solid 3/4 mix with a healthy dose of 2’s and a few 5’s. One ‘other’ comment: “It was a bit draggy” leapt out at me, and I took that to heart. But then I looked at the other comments. When asked, “What is one “takeaway” you are going to act on?” some participants responded:
|L2 Participant Comments|
|Incorporating more play into my schedule.|
|Continuting to explore resources|
Using play as a means of assessing students skills.
|Integrating play into my teaching seamlessly, and understanding that it’s ok for children to walk away from playing.|
|There are different types of ‘play’, for my group of students I will be more focused on guided play and games.|
|Useful resources shared the presenter|
|Have students write their own rubrics, think about ways play can capture standards that aren’t included in a given lesson, give every child a ball!|
|Prioritizing play is something I want to make time for. Letting go of “norms” I’m used to as a teacher, and embracing the authentic learning that can come out of this is something that inspires me to make more effort to include it in my lessons.|
|Incorporating play, unstructured and structured play, in and outside the classroom to enhance and optimize learning.|
|Play is important for learners of all ages! Include play more often|
|Ask students to define Play in their own words|
|Use play activities for reinforcement or breaking into a new unit.|
And I realized that whether or not I scored a 2 was beside the point to some extent. I just proved what Dylan Wiliam et.al say about grades vs. feedback. I had looked at the numbers and based my success or failure on these alone. Yet the comments suggest that the participants have been thinking, reflecting, and learning, despite what their numerical scores might say.
I still stand by the lower scores and will endeavor to make explicit the learning outcomes the next time I present. Perhaps these were unclear? Perhaps our jilted way of ‘dragging’ through the session meant that we disconnected from our intentions? One strategy I would like to try next time I present is to have the participants reframe the learning objectives for each stage of the session. If my first objective is made clear, how can each participant then make it personal?
L2 talks are one of my favorite parts of the conference. The entire playlist is on the Learning2 Youtube page
If you haven’t seen an L2 talk before, here are some of my favorites (although truth be told, they were all pretty great!). This is a nice selection to get you going, constructed around the conference theme “It’s personal”.
Teaching Isn’t Magic – Geoff Derry
Geoff and I only “Twitter-knew” each other until we met in Tokyo. Through our interconnected network of friends and acquaintances, we started to see that our connection ran a little deeper than international schools – we both worked at Camp Pecometh on the Eastern Shore of Maryland back in the 90’s. It was a riot to meet Geoff and to share Pecometh memories and to marvel at how small the world feels sometimes. Geoff’s talk is pure magic.
Weirdness is a lot of things – Mike Bycraft
Mike is interesting, creative, a maker, a dad, a husband, an educator. And he’s weird. He delivers a personal talk about the power we all have to be like his 2nd grade teacher and embrace weirdness: “It does look a little weird. But that’s o.k.” -Ms. Taylor
Filling the Space – Tricia Friedman
Tricia is a good friend and a great educator. She is someone who is able to reflect deeply, care generously, discuss respectfully, and strive tirelessly to advocate for equality in all realms of life. Her experience as a queer educator and the support she offers ally’s, form the basis of this challenging talk.
Together We Are Better – Ben Sheridan
Ben’s talk on Professional Capital (Human/Social/Decisonal) and how that intersects with his own quest for a new tattoo, combine in this engaging talk about the power of being vulnerable in order to create something meaningful.
Culturally Responsive Teaching – Gary Gray
Gary’s talk is powerfully engaging. “You’re too black. You’re not black enough” – a call to teachers to embrace culturally responsive teaching. All educators need to read this and ask themselves if their students are seeing themselves in the books, movies, lessons in your classroom.
Photography Can Change the World – Dave Caleb
Visually stunning and a message that matches, Dave’s talk was inspiring for it’s depth, it’s beauty, and it’s meaning. A long-time fan of Dave’s photography, this was an L2 highlight for me. Every element of this talk could branch off into their own talks on relating to others, revealing truth, bearing witness, proving facts, protect what’s important, and celebrating our amazing world.
Information is already up on the website and the call for L2 Leaders is out. Come and join us at Nanjing International School next year and be a part of the L2 conference experience: a conference by teachers, for teachers. As Chair of the hosting school team, I am very excited to be a part of this conference and I am looking forward to seeing the ideas grow and develop as we prepare for next October. Mark your calendars!