To help encourage conversations and dialogue about adjustments we make as we learn, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What adjustments have you made to help improve your own learning and/or the learning environment for others? Making Adjustments for Learning (Week of 11/17/19) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Blake's Guiding Lights
Blake's Core Values: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, Reflection
Our Essential Question: How can we cultivate and curate the progression of student learning and growth?
Our Mission: Blake Middle School believes in a living mission statement, based on the concept that our community seeks and respects knowledge, integrity, character, wisdom, and the willingness to adapt to a continually evolving world.
As much as I do not want to admit it, it seems as though the cold weather is here to stay! As Katie was finishing up her yoga teacher training this weekend (proud of her for doing this!), the kids and I had a relatively quiet weekend - doing some errands, a little bit of yard work, and time to just ‘hang out’. It never feels as though we have enough time to do just that!
There are a number of influences and considerations that contribute to our learning and the experiences we want for our students (and ourselves, for that matter), and I appreciate and admire the collective willingness to try and ‘do it all’. I also recognize that I can contribute to a feeling and sentiment of being overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and ideas that are out there. I firmly believe that we need to be open to change and have a willingness to consider everything (as I often reference one of my favorite quotes from Ted Sizer)…
The two posts below, along with the responses from last week’s topic/question, serve as reminders for the ways that we can make adjustments to help continue our collective growth as a learning community. I welcome and embrace questions, resonance, dissonance, and dialogue they may provoke (my door is always open)...
Topic/Question (Week of 11/10/19): How does ‘taking a break’ help with the process of learning?
- Sometimes a pause in one's work allows for fresh and different perspectives when the work is returned to.
- Yes. In fact, I think clearing one's head helps in a wide variety of situations.
- Being with family and friends can help renew the idea that we are all here for each other no matter what.
- It helps you cool down and take a break from what you’re doing.
- When I come back, it makes me feel better. It also gives me a new perspective.
- Because it’s your choice
- It helps you think.
- Taking a break helps you unwind for a bit, and refocus on the topic your working on. It lifts your spirits and is something to look forward to when your doing a boring task.
- The break let’s your body and mind catch up to each other. It allows your brain the time to make connections while it relaxes a bit with your body.
- So then you get a chance to restart your mind
- It helps when you’re learning when your stressed because you have a lot to do or when you just need a short break to put yourself together.
- It helps our minds calm down and let’s us take a sigh of relief, which will allow for better concentration and productivity in the classroom.
- It gives my brain a chance to process things without me:-)
- Taking a break just lets you forget everything that was cluttering your brain, and make it easier to try again. Sometimes you can work yourself into a frenzy, and you just need a little time to reset.
- It helps me from being overwhelmed by learning
Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies
by Jessica Minahan (@jessica_minahan) in Educational Leadership
The title of the post may lead one to believe that these strategies only apply to ‘a distinct cohort’, but these strategies hold true for all students and adults. The foundational element of a safe and supportive learning environment is true for everyone, and the strategies and information within are pertinent and critical.
Neurobiologically, students can't learn if they don't feel safe, known, and cared for within their schools (Aupperle et al., 2012). When teachers are proactive and responsive to the needs of students suffering from traumatic stress and make small changes in the classroom that foster a feeling of safety, it makes a huge difference in their ability to learn.
- Expect Unexpected Responses
- Employ Thoughtful Interactions
- Be Specific About Relationship Building
- Promote Predictability and Consistency
- Teach Strategies to ‘Change the Channel’
- Give Supportive Feedback to Reduce Negative Thinking
- Create Islands of Competence
- Limit Exclusionary Practices
Assessment Works Best When Students Are in the Driver's Seat
By Anne Vilen in ASCD Express
Vilen’s post affirms the belief that we need to make sure that students are understanding feedback and also play an active role in their own learning. This means we must make adjustments to our practice, and this post espouses the principles that foster self-assessment: Teach Students to Say Where They're Going; Teach Students to Reflect and Identify Missteps; Teach Students to Set a New Course. These shifts in assessment practices will help to keep the learning relevant, transferable, and sustainable.
As teachers we want to teach our students the important things—the fundamental concepts of disciplines, academic work habits (perseverance, critical thinking) and skills, as well as how to be a good person, with the confidence and competence to contribute to a better world. But if standardized tests don't measure these things, how do we know if our students have learned the important things?
We need student-engaged assessment, a system of interrelated practices that position students as leaders of their own learning. Often it takes place in students' own heads while they are learning. It's the kid in the back row wondering, "Do I understand this? What questions do I have?" It's the student who pulls a draft of her paper from her backpack and thinks, I need to rewrite this conclusion. What did my workshop group tell me again?"
Think of "student-engaged" assessment like driving a car. Students who are engaged step into the driver's seat, tentatively at first and often with the teacher coaching from the passenger seat. What are the coaching moves that enable students to become confident drivers of their own learning?
In American life, one of the most important tests a person takes outside of school is a driving test. For many good reasons, you have to perform—demonstrate your skills, not just fill in bubbles on a paper. Student-engaged assessment invites us to create opportunities for students at all grade levels and in all subject matters to metaphorically read the driving manual, take the written test, practice on the road with lots of feedback from an expert instructor, and finally demonstrate the skill for a real audience.
At the end of the day, as the driving examiner writes "passed" on the form, the student knows that she drove smoothly, followed all the signs, and brought the examiner back safe and sound. She also knows that she could have gotten a teensy bit closer to the curb in that parallel parking spot. That assessment, inside her head, is the one that counts most because it motivates her to continue learning well after the test—in fact, for the rest of her life.
Having read these two posts several times over the last couple of weeks, I found them to be affirming in the sense that our mission we have embraced for all learners in our community is one that encourages all of us to learn, adapt, grow, and reflect. By continuing to assess ourselves, we will increase the ‘knowledge base’ of our own learning and the learning of others.