Sunday, September 25, 2016

Are you a TRUE risk taker?

We often ask our students to take risks and dig into the unknown.  We encourage and support the idea of “failing forward” and see a fail or an error as an attempt towards moving successfully towards the goal.  As educators we do the same to each other; “Let’s try this”, “That didn’t work, let’s explore it another way.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for that.  I do the same the things.  I encourage and support risk taking in my classroom.  I’m the first to offer suggestions to others. I’ve recently thought deeper about this though.  As educators, are we truly “risk takers”?

I’m talking the vulnerable, put yourself outside your comfort zone, risk taking. Nothing to do with education.  We’ve got that.  When’s the last time you really tried to do something new?  Something you were afraid of doing?  Something that looks like you’d like to try, but never have done?  What’s holding you back?

Many people speak about the benefits of yoga, and my running coach even suggested it to me.  I never thought that I would physically be able to do it, so I never tried. People kept talking about and how much they enjoyed it so I let myself be very vulnerable, went in early, talked to the instructor and found a way to make yoga work for me. I now go to classes four to five times a week!  Had I not tried and taken the risk, I would never have known how much I enjoy it.

It’s time for us to really take risks, to put ourselves in the shoes that we ask others to do daily.  Is it taking an art class?  Cooking class?  Karate?  Sky Diving?  What is something new that you can learn to do?  What risk are you willing to take?  

I want thank Sean Wheeler @mrwheeler for the inspiration for this post.  At an EdCamp just this weekend he prompted us to think of what “learning” truly is.  What are we willing to learn?  Thank you Sean for encouraging vulnerability in your building!  I encourage everyone to attend an EdCamp at some point.  Perhaps this can be your future risk!

Monday, September 12, 2016

"I Can't"...."I CAN!"

“I Can’t”

Growing up these were two words that I wasn’t allowed to say.  It would have been extremely easy for me to say them too.  “I can’t tie my shoes.”  “I can’t swim.”

But I had a father that said, “You will, you’ll just have to work harder than everyone else.”
I learned that for most obstacles that I face, I truly can do them if I work hard and think outside the box to make things happen. It may take more effort, it may be messy, it may look different, but I get it done!

It’s a lot like differentiating instruction for our students. We all agree that not all students learn the same way. Some are visual learners, some auditory.  We all have the movers and shakers that just need to move and touch to learn best.

Unfortunately, at times we hear “I can’t” from teachers.  
“I have a class of 30 students.  They’re all over the place.  I can’t possibly meet all their needs.”
“He just can’t keep up in my class.”
I can’t change the curriculum.  It’s what the students will be tested on.”

It’s true, meeting the needs of all our students is difficult, but it’s not about changing curriculum or trying to help someone keep up, it’s making the lesson accessible to the student where the student is at the current time. It’s going to be messy, it will look different, it will take a lot of time and a lot of effort, but it’s what we must do.  Students will never be successful if don’t meet them where they are. We must embrace the “I can” attitude for the sake of our students.

It’s exciting to see educators embrace the “I Can” attitude. A perfect example is @ohawk04  & @JasonSavage22.  These two rock star teachers worked together to allow students that would typically not work in the school store, and made it happen. They found ways to make it work.  It may be messy, it may take extra effort, but every Friday, our school store is filled with smiling faces of students that CAN. They CAN help other students purchase t-shirts and snacks.  They CAN use the cash register. They CAN because their teachers believed they could.

I think back to my internship site last year when I was able to observe an English class. There were two teachers, the general education teacher and the intervention specialist.  The students were in two groups and a group of us left and went to another room.  Not being part of the staff I had no clue what teacher I was with.  These teachers worked with all the students.  They believed that all students CAN. They worked with students on IEPs, students identified as ELL, but as an outsider I didn’t know this until the end. These rock stars worked together to meet the needs of their students as they studied Shakespeare.  Did it look different? Yes.  Did it require extra planning and time? Yes. But it worked, and worked well!

Our students are worth the “I Can”. Roll up your sleeves and dig into messy!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Yours? Mine? No, OURS!

“That boy who wears all the eyeliner and dresses in all black.  Do you have him this year?”

“Jessica is one of Kyle’s students.  I just have her in my inclusion math class.  Ask Kyle what you should do.”

“It was those ELL students that sit in the back of the cafeteria.”

“Did you see that girl crying in the hall again last period. Who is she?”

“He’s one of the new foreign exchange students.  He’s from Japan or China, I think.”

“You know, the girl in the wheelchair from Kathy’s class.”

“They just can’t keep up in my class. I don’t know why they’re placed in my class with no support.”

“Hey, Jenny, 'your boy' was just sitting in my class listening to music and drawing again.”

These students all have names.  They all have stories. Do you know them?  
They aren’t just Kyle’s or Kathy’s or Jenny's.
Not just yours.
Not just mine.

They’re OURS.