Wow. I can't believe we are already in marking period 2! Time in education always seems to fly by. There are so many things I always plan to do and there just never seems to be enough time. I wish I could multiply myself like Michael Keaton in Multiplicity. That would be pretty awesome, but I digress... I started an email to parents on what was happening in the Raven Innovation Lab, but I thought, "This would be a great time to get back to blogging." So here I am, blogging away! :) #woot
I ask my students to blog every week. It's possible that they feel it's 'busy work', but I find it helps with growth, at least it does for me. Thinking about your own thinking/process and why we think the way we do and why we did what we did is hard. Even saying it sounds weird. :) I personally reflect on everything I do. It actually hurts my brain, but in such a good way. I'm not sure how I got here. I would like to think it was some awesome teacher I had once upon a time that instilled this in me. I'm getting older now, so I can't remember that far back, but I'm sure that's the reason or that's what I'm telling myself. :P Reflection is really a skill that I think needs to be practiced. Just like playing an instrument or becoming a better designer. The more you do it, the better you become... and the whole point is to always try to be better.
The marking period started off strong. I would say that I spend the first few months convincing students that it's OK to fail. I love seeing their faces when I tell them I want them to fail and fail miserably in this class. Judging by their expressions and responses, this is a message that they do not commonly hear in their other classes. They have been taught that there is ALWAYS a right or wrong answer. A + B = C. If you don't pick the 'right' answer or do the 'right' action you will definitely have a negative consequence that heavily impacts one's grade. One of the goals of the course is to foster confidence. I want the students to feel confident to take chances - take a risk. With risks there are possibilities of failure. That's life. It happens. The important part of the process is what you do after it happens. Students in the iLab engage in what I call failing forward. Trying something. Failing. Reflecting on why their process didn't work that time. Trying something else. Failing. Reflecting. Researching. Planning. Repeat. It's an endless cycle. I find that this process promotes critical and creative thinking. Two skills that entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and others have said are the skills of the future. A few years ago everyone kept saying it's coding. I agree that coding is a lovely skill to have. However, what we failed to see is that in order to be a 'coder' one must have developed certain other skills to be successful. It's like being a boss of an employee that is a master of Photoshop, but can't come up with any design ideas. Are they really valuable to the company? Maybe that's a bad example, but that's all I have right now. ;)
Anyway, the process is frustrating, no doubt, but there is so much growth that happens within the process. I too, am learning and growing every day. It has been a process for me to just get to this point in my teaching career to have this mindset.
The iTeam this year has engaged in so many experiences already. We have went through design challenges, interviews for empathy, screencasting, 3D modeling, 2D design, team trips and finally lots, and lots of researching, planning, creating and reflecting.
We are now moving onto product development and marketing. Students will be gaining new technical skills and problem-solving how to use a piece of equipment. One of the things I love about this class is that we are learning together. I do not pretend to have all of the answers (because I definitely don't). I model how I would approach the problem and propose possible solutions for us to try. When those don't work we start proposing solutions to move the team forward together. Learning and growing together. How cool is that?
Upcoming the iTeam will be creating an actual product to sell. We haven't fully moved onto the next step of the project because we are still working through some technical issues. What the students don't know is that they will be working independently to start, pairing and negotiating ideas and then pitching their best marketable idea to the team. The team will decide what direction they will go. This should be an interesting real-world experience. It's moving beyond concept to actual practice. They will be developing, marketing and selling. The money made will go back to the team and they will have to negotiate what they will buy for their next learning experience. This is the first time I have done this. I'm pretty excited to see where the students take it. Much of the class is student-led. I give them a framework to start. The team is starting to realize the box they have been working within and that it's ok (encouraged!) to work beyond the boundaries.
This past week I asked students to write about what they are thankful for. The theme is gratitude. One of my students wrote about how she is thankful for all of the small things that we often forget during our days. Not to steal her thunder (thanks Sleepy Genius!) , but I would agree. I am thankful for all of the small things. I'm thankful that I am happy and healthy first and foremost. I take for granted good health, but I think about it often during my day and I'm thankful I am physically able to move around and engage in the activities I do daily. I'm also am thankful that I have good people in my life and I continue to surround myself with positive people who push me to be better, think deeply and live largely. I constantly tell my students that having academic success is important, but surrounding yourself with good people and continually trying to be the person you want to be is ultimately what will matter at the end of the day. I would argue that being the person you are proud to be is almost all that matters at the end of the day.
Lastly, I am thankful that I get to work in a profession where I get to make positive differences. I tell the iTeam this all the time and maybe it's cheesy ... but they are the BEST part of my day. I love that it's a small group. They have dubbed themselves the iTeam in past and it has stuck in year two. It really is a team. Because it's a small group they have to develop some sort of working relationship. You can't hide in this class. As a teacher, what I love is that their friend group expands naturally and they no longer need the class to bring them together. They initiate it themselves. One thing I have learned about my K-12 education is that every student needs 'their person'. This is what makes their school experience. This is what they will remember when they look back on their time at ROHS and this is what I try to do for students. Connect them together so every student can find 'their person'.
The team and I spend about 1.5 hours (lunch included) together and I love every moment of it. I genuinely look forward class every day and I am bummed if I have to miss class for a meeting or a workshop. I think... or I suspect... this is how one knows they are doing the work they should be in life.
Maybe this is a bit selfish, but I am grateful that I get to have this feeling of satisfaction and good work. There was a moment during college when I could have chosen a different path. Actually, I distinctly remember this moment and this one moment changed my life forever. So now here I am. Just a teacher who loves what they do. :) I only hope that all of the students at ROHS will find something they love to too. #thankful
Here are some photos & quotes from the iTeam. Enjoy! Give the team a follow @ROHSiTeam !
When I was growing up I wasn't allowed to leave the table unless I ate everything on my plate. My brother and I were constantly educated on why you only take what you could eat, not be wasteful, and be thankful for what we had. At the time, it seemed like a punishment. "Why can't I just take what I want? It's there and it's ours." Now, years later, I find that I ALWAYS finish what's on my plate and every day I'm thankful that I have food in my belly and a roof over my head.
Being at the dinner table was something that didn't mean very much to me growing up. It was a time where we had to eat together. Set the table together. Talk together... We didn't have devices then. Remember, this was the time of AOL and Land line telephones... If someone called on the house phone we weren't allowed to get up and answer it. We had to spend time with the family. My parents thought it was the most important part of the day. With two working parents and not enough time to connect - this was our time. In reflection, I would give anything to have those moments back. I'm thankful for every family moment that I didn't fully appreciate at the time, but helped form who I am today, how I see quality time, family, and relationships.
I've mentioned before in my 'Racial History' post about my feelings on adoption. I have always felt a deep sense of appreciation that I know others don't. I have always seen family through a different lens. I have never been the person who has thought, "What if my life could have been better?" I have always been the person who thought, "I can't believe my life has been this good." Being raised in a family full of love was something that I have always been thankful for and it's something that I am lucky to carry with me. Below is part of a letter I wrote to my extended family. I am thankful that I was raised by extremely kind individuals who loved me and didn't follow the linear definition of family.
I am thankful for everything that I have, the work I get to do every day, and all of the differences I have yet to make in the world. Because at this moment, I am physically and cognitively able to do this work. My health and ableness is something that I have taken for granted in my youth, but now think about fairly frequently - wanting myself, my family, my loved ones, and everyone who surrounds me to be happy and healthy.
What I'm most thankful for are all of the things that money can't buy. All of the moments you can't hold in your hand. Take a moment to reflect on your life, family, and gratitudes. It doesn't matter if it's today, tomorrow, next week or next month. Reflect on what you are thankful for.