Shaking up the Educational Arena

I love professional development almost as much as I love baked macaroni and cheese.DSC01869

OK, that’s not even true, but I do really enjoy and look forward to all things PD-related.

Communing with other educators, swapping classroom lesson ideas, being the student again (instead of having to prep all of those materials for a lesson)…the list goes on for why I count down to PD days the way some people countdown to the Super Bowl.

With all of those positives comes discomfort for me though.

PD forces you to reflect on what part of your practice may be drier than a bone in the Sahara.  I can’t lie. I’ve designed lessons so boring I was bored teaching it. They didn’t seem boring while planning them, mind you. But then I get inside the classroom with the kids and realize this ain’t going to work. It happens. But, I have to learn from it and learn how to minimize the amount of lessons like this that occur every year.

Enter Lee Crockett and Jeff Utecht.

Eloquent (I just taught my kids that word so I’ll be using it a lot over the next week or so) speakers, I left their sessions full of ideas on how to transform my classroom.

I’ve decided to focus on what Lee Crockett calls problem solving fluency while using many of the flipped classroom ideas that Jeff Utecht discussed.

As I already told my students, I’m concerned about them.  The vast majority of them All of them are opposed to the current government. Any chance they get they criticize the government, and most want to change Venezuela in some way.

After returning from a taxing online learning model, it was extremely clear to me just how much independence the students lack. Without a teacher guiding them every step of the way, they were completely lost and flooding my inbox with e-mails.

In short, they are not problem solvers in any sense of the word.

How can they transform a country in crisis if they can’t follow multi-step directions? How can they transform a country if, when I’m away from internet for 24 hours like I was when traveling to Brazil, they panic about the work and “can’t complete the task or find the handout”?

The kids were silent when I posed these questions to them.

(Don’t worry. Venezuela is a very blunt culture. There were no complaint e-mails or phone calls the next day.)

There is one boy who is an amazing problem solver, but the rest struggle because they “want to be right.”

“It’s OK to be wrong sometimes,” I explained to them. Working at a high pressure school with all of the stereotypes that come with it only got me a classroom full of blank stares.

That’s OK though. I’m beginning the series of Google-based lessons Utecht recommended (here and here) and have already taught the kids Crockett’s problem solving process. We’re weaving in real-life examples, and I’m trying to make my classroom relevant to the kids’ needs.

I’m shaking up my educational practice so the kids can shake up their society in whatever productive, responsible way they think is best.

To me, that is why I went into teaching in the first place.

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