How can we already be at the last F2F for Season 9? I feel equal parts “we were just getting started” and “why is Season 9 spanning three years?”. I have been fortunate to share time and space with many of you and it has been so nice to plug back into the C21 network, though looking back, I could have blogged more.
As I sit at my kitchen counter just after midnight, reading the amazing posts that have poured in over the past few weeks, I find that I have pondered long enough and am ready to write. It’s quiet in my house. Everyone’s asleep and my brain is on fire. This is a time of night when I often find a flow state.
This year, I set out to accomplish a lot. I wanted to be the person who was a relentless iterator. I was going to try everything and see what worked. Here is a more specific list of what I was hoping to explore.
- I set out to learn as much as I could about Competency/Mastery-based learning. In March of 2020, I did a lot of PD around Designing for Online Learning through GOA and felt like this was a logical progression.
- I also set out to be a better Instructional Coach for my team of English and Modern Language teachers.
- I set out to try to create tasks where feedback was inherent in the task – an idea coined by Grant Wiggins way back in retort to the idea of not having time to give appropriate feedback. I figured a pandemic when time is of the essence would be a nice time to figure this out.
- Most of all, I set out to leverage the pandemic to shift the way learning looked in my class and do all the things that Grant Licthman has been yelling at me through his books #EdJourney & Moving the Rock.
- Oh yeah, and my great friend @gvogt and I are setting up a PD experience that we’re hoping to take on tour when things open up about Unleashing The Inner Crazy (43 second video) – scroll down near the bottom of Graham’s blog to see what we’re up to.
Seeing as time is such an issue, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the process.
Competency/Mastery-Based Learning – I took three courses from Global Online Academy of 5 that are offered in their program. Each course was a week-long and were rich with collaboration, discovering and applying. The courses were called From Grading to Feedback, From Time-Based to Performance-Based, and From Educator-Designed to Co-Designed. Readings like Anti-racist Grading Starts with You by Cornelius Minor to No Need for Speed by HGSE send me to all kinds of neat places and I’m still trying to work it all out.
For my instructional coaching – I have the pleasure of partaking in the CISOntario Coaching Community monthly Zoom that C21 alum @ddesvignes & current C21 superstar @acaplan host with Mary Gauthier from Greenwood. I haven’t been able to attend all of them but it’s always great learning when I can.
I have also been listening to Elena Aguilar’s 3rd coaching book Onward and I have the workbook that a colleague and I have started to use to see where it might fit with others.
Feedback inherent tasks – As a French teacher it’s kind of nice to set students into authentic situations and facilitate an experience, allow them to find ways to engage with one another and create personalized vocab lists. This is the main type of activity that has students have the ability to try something, and know whether or not they have the vocab, grammar, sentence structure to be able to do the task. I’m still working this one out so all ideas are welcome!
The biggest shift I wanted was for students to take ownership of their learning. Student Agency and voice are at the core of my educational philosophy yet, it seems like with every new class I get, it’s the same struggle. Is this for marks. Let’s talk about learning. We get there in the end and I love the conversation starter “What is school for” and this video on Purpose sums up what I often see. Finding a shared purpose can take time.
Unleash is going well. We’re offering a short session at the Pedaogical Potluck so come on by! It’s a labour of love that began when we were hosting the CAIS Student Leadership Conference. Graham was in town checking out some programs at the school and it was a Friday before C21. A group of 12s approached me about offering a workshop. I had said I was exploring Student Voice and they said “You’re In”. Naturally when your friend is visiting your school and your hosting a National Conference, you rope that friend in. The idea has evolved since then to focus on teachers and Graham’s brain is beautiful, it’s something you might need to see for yourself.
I have three big takeaways from my journey this year and they are in no particular order.
1. Ask your students how the learning is going for them often and listen. I started with interviews as a part of the GOA courses as well as Blended Learning. They will tell you what’s working and what isn’t. This is easy to do with teenagers so why not. Throughout my reading on Mastery Learning, and I forget where it was mentioned but it talked about how exams and m/c are seen as ways to prepare students for university. This author argued that when students are in high school they are programmed for 85% of their day. They get to decide how to spend 15% of their time. When they go to university, that flips and now we expect them to organize and thrive in managing 85% of non-structured time without them ever having had the chance to build agency throughout high school. I really loved this, and it really speaks to Student Agency
2. Assumptions as a language teacher are dangerous. As a part of our JEDI work at Lakefield, we are making more intentional use of pronouns and asking students for their pronouns if they are comfortable sharing. As a French teacher, this has huge implications. I apologized to my students for correcting them on their use of adjectives, their written work because I was making a massive assumption that they identified with the sex assigned at birth. It’s something I am doing a lot more reading about and would love to hear how others are trying to get at non-gendered language in French, Spanish and others.
3. Make time to Connect, Lean and Laugh with a network! Surround yourself with people who inspire you, support you, encourage you, push your thinking, etc… Lucky for us, C21 does that for us but look to branch out and create your own coalition of the willing within your schools. But also connect with others outside of your school. Our 8pm evening chats or one-on-one calls with #Bloom were what kept me going a lot of time. Hearing from @rcook @elavergne @mkurenoff @cspeilman @pmao @pcobban @jsheppard @nbrooksbank @jbairos really helped to spark new ideas in me, connect with great people and laugh… the laughter and the smiling on those calls were so great, it’s a wonder we didn’t connect every night.
4. Reconnect with your why. Why did you get into teaching? Charlotte @cspeilman talked about being the teacher she always wanted to be in her blog , so why did you get into the game? For me, so much of it was about making things experiential, preparing students for anything (I used to say the future). Back in 2002, my application to BEd programs was anchored in “If we teach students to learn, the curriculum will cover itself”. Needless to say, it took me a few tries to be accepted and when I finally was accepted, it wasn’t to a program that welcomed 400+, it was Queen’s OEE who accepted 25 students that year. I still chase adventure and try to inspire students at my school to do the same.
With the student experience in mind, consider this…
“Lawyers who finally pass the bar exam on their second or third attempt are not limited to practicing law only on Tuesdays” – Wormeli, 2011 – Reassessments and Retakes: A Necessary Part of a School-Wide Grading Policy