Sunday, February 20, 2011

A gift of time

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." George Bernard Shaw

My colleagues and I enjoyed a most fabulous gift this week - a gift of time for learning and collaboration. I've yet to meet an educator who does not appreciate the value in professional development of teachers and the importance of self-assessment of our practice. Yet, so often this important work is an 'add-on' to a schedule that is already full. I feel very fortunate to work at a school that supports teachers in their own learning and strives to find innovative ways to use technology to improve our practice and thus ultimately the learning experiences of our students.

We were provided with an entire day to work as a grade level team with members of our Learning and Teaching Technologies department to discuss the big ideas from an up-coming unit of inquiry. We explored the enduring understandings and concepts until we shared a common understanding and were then able to create resources that would support student engagement as they tuned - in to this unit of inquiry's key concepts.

This was such a worthwhile exercise! As we began our day there was a lot of head nodding and agreement that, yes this is the big idea, the key concepts and the lines of inquiry make sense. Being very busy people, it would have been easy to have left the discussion there and gone back to our own classes believing we all were about to guide our students' to a deeper understanding of this transdisciplinary theme. Fortunately, we did have the time, and through the sharing of our ideas, our own understandings ~ and misunderstandings ~ came to light. Hearing different perspectives and articulating your own beliefs to others clarifies for us as teachers what is really important and worth while for students to learn. It is only by taking the time to have these conversations that we can develop a curriculum that is meaningful.

There is much talk of 21st Century Learning and the need for education to change to meet the needs of our children and for our society's future. And yet, for most of us, we are still working in traditional systems that support traditional ways of thinking. How can we transform our schools into authentic places of inquiry and learning if we do not provide teachers with the opportunities to grow as learners themselves?

Why do I find this one small example of collaboration important? Using Aristotle's idea that "we are what we repeatedly do,"  one can conclude that, "[Collaboration] is not an act, but a habit." Instead of scheduling collaborative meeting times, how can we change what we do to become collaborative? How can this become a habit? What other habits might we develop as we move toward a 21st century learning environment?

Teachers need time to explore these ideas and reflect upon what this will look like in practice to bring about meaningful change in schools. At a recent workshop on curriculum, we viewed the following RSA video of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson. It has inspired me to look more critically at the habits I have developed as a teacher.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day events when working in a busy school. It's important to take the time to reflect on why we do the things that we do. Authentic collaboration with others enables us to better explore the question, What's important in a 21st century education?

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Creating a new blog is always exciting, but it can be a bit overwhelming, too. Where does one start? What will be the focus? As a teacher it is so easy to become frazzled with the many demands on our time - authentic assessment, differentiated learning engagements, 21st century learning, empowering students, inquiry based learning, setting smart team goals, articulating professional growth plans, collaborating on unit development - and on and on and on it goes, until sometimes we are spinning so quickly we forget what we were doing in the first place!

I have always been impressed with the teachers I have met who are able to retain a sense of calm amid all of the buzz. These ones who have time to talk and help, even when the pace at school is hectic. I have been very fortunate to have worked with many wonderful educators and it is through my interactions with them that I have learned the most about teaching and learning. Attending workshops and staying up to date on research are important, but I have come to realize that taking the time to reflect about what we do and why we do it, and sharing this with others, is perhaps the most valuable of all professional development opportunities.

And that is why I started this blog. I hope it becomes a place where we can share our reflections about our practice and learn from each other. I'm not sure what format would best support this type of blogging - so any ideas are most welcome!

To get the ball rolling - what (or who) inspires you?