PYP, Teaching

Rising Above

On Friday morning, I met with about half of my class parents to share with them about the upcoming PYP exhibition, to answer their questions, and to get a feel for where they were at in their understanding of the work ahead. I shared the following slideshow with them:

For detailed notes about each slide, take a look at the post on my class blog.

In addition, I shared a number of documents with my parents: an eight week tentative plan, single subject integration, language arts integration, exhibition rubric, weekly reflection criteria, and student contract. I also gave everyone a copy of the 16 Rules that I posted about earlier in the week.

After the meeting, I went back to my classroom and when my kids came in from recess, I told them that they would be working on the tasks we had discussed the previous afternoon, focused on our exhibition.  This is what “work” looks like in my classroom:

I was asked a lot of questions from my parents about final products, accountability, level of involvement, and how to “know” if kids are working and/or learning anything.  Here is what I know to be true:

  • if you set high expectations, kids will rise to meet them (and then exceed them)
  • kids are inspired by kids and will feed off each other (in a good way!)
  • kids know when they are working hard and when they are hardly working
  • kids don’t want to waste their time any more than we want them wasting their time
  • what looks like “wasting time” to us, is often a valuable learning experience for kids
  • kids have a way of viewing the world that often exceeds our world view

I think we all have kids in our class who struggle.  Their struggles may be with confidence, time-management, organization, academic skills, social interactions….the list goes on. Undertaking a unit of inquiry of the magnitude of the exhibition is a real challenge – for any 10 or 11 year old. But does that mean that because it is hard, we shouldn’t do it?  No.  Because:

Source: seesawdesigns.blogspot.com via Sonya on Pinterest

When I asked my kids “Who is ultimately responsible for your Exhibition journey?” I got a resounding and unanimous “We are!!” from my kids.  And I trust them, so I trust that this is true.  They know they have the support of their teachers, mentors, parents and myself, and now they just have to trust in their own abilities.  It is really hard to let go of some of that control.  To sit back and to watch where the journey takes each child without constantly wanting to move the rudder and steer them where we think they should go.  

I am learning that the Exhibition is a great learning ground for students: it is a chance for them to shine, to showcase their skills, to develop new skills, to become independent, and to experience hard work, failure, success and learning. As adults, it is also a great learning ground for us: a chance for us to trust we have prepared them well, to take a bigger step back, to guide without overshadowing, and to trust in the process and the journey.

What I know to be true is that I am seeing, already, kids rising. Rising to the challenge.  Rising above my expectations.

More than ever, I believe that children learn best when personally invested in what they are learning about.  And it is a pretty awesome thing to watch.  

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21st Century, Innovation, Math

Reason #4565 Why I Love the Khan Academy

I couldn’t have said it better myself!  This is what I want to keep on an index card to pass out to those people who either have never heard of the Khan Academy (seriously?) or who scoff at it’s relevance or purpose in our education system.  In fact, I just may whip a few up when I finish this post!  Leave a comment below if you want me to send you your own!

“This has absolutely nothing to do with replacing teachers. When we talk about getting lectures out of the room, that’s because we think we can move teachers up the value chain. That they are better off forming the bonds and connections. That’s what you need a human being to do and for a really great teacher to do. Khan Academy takes some of the more traditional stuff off the plate and now, all of a sudden, the classroom becomes a richer and more stimulating experience.” ~ Sal Khan

For more of Sal’s comments, click here.