It has been so long since I've blogged. I'm trying to make it a goal of mine to blog regularly because I think it's good to reflect on practices, update everyone on what's happening in the building and hopefully promote an online community.
I really can't even believe we are back to school already. Summer just flew by! We started off on our first day by setting the stage for the rest of the year. The IB Team decided that our focus would be on the IB Approaches to Learning or ATLs. The plan is to thread this theme throughout the late start PDs. This will help with consistency and it will give groups a focus for the year.
One thing to remember about the Approaches to Learning is that there are 5 skill categories, 10 skill clusters, and over a 100 skill indicators. These DO NOT have to be covered all by one teacher or department. We will collectively be covering these as a building. I'm confident that these are all skills that we are promoting and teaching every single day. The only change is that we collectively and collaboratively need to work on teaching these skills more explicitly.
"They are not an add on to the curriculum, but are an integral part of assisting student achievement in each subject." - Diane Mckenzie
It's hard to do things differently. Especially if you're in the teacher groove. Some of you may know that I have taught at all levels in this district. I'm not a stranger to switching roles and taking on new challenges.
When I first started at the high school, I just came from the elementary. I was laid off from my Response to Intervention role at Keller and Oakland and was fortunate enough to be called back to teach Visual Arts at Northwood and Addams. In late August, there was a last minute change and I was moved to ROHS. To be honest, that was the BEST move for me. I always wanted to teach at the high school level and now I finally was getting the chance. I learned a lot in the first three years teaching Graphic Comm, Visual Imaging, and Web Design. But if I could go back and change one thing about how I taught those first three years at ROHS... I would change my assumption that students come 'knowing' certain things and they automatically come with certain skills.
I found myself assuming many things. I assumed that since they were 16, 17, and 18 and that they knew how to save files. They knew how to self-manage. They knew how to submit work. They knew how to team. They knew.... Why did I think that? Well, of course, because I told them to do it. Duh. :) Now being in my 10th year of teaching (Yeah, IKR? Crazy) and my 7th different teaching assignment, I realize that telling and teaching are very different. We all know this, but it's really easy to get into the 'telling slump.' Teachers provide opportunities for learning. They create experiences where students can problem-solve, ask questions, and think deeper. Sometimes this is a good reminder. I'm actually reminded again, now that I'm writing this.
It's really easy to get into the 'telling slump'
It wasn't until I was given a Web Design class that I fully realized that I had to change my instruction. I had never taught Web Design. I'm not going to lie... I was scared. Coding is not one of those things that you can just teach off the cuff. Well, at least I can't. Those who know me, know that I'm a perfectionist. I have a plan. I'm organized. I wasn't a stranger to writing curriculum. Creating something from nothing is my specialty, but... teaching another language to students? Rut Roh! I realized that I was in a 'telling slump'. I mean, don't get me wrong, I had great moments of awesome teaching. The moments in which you leave at the end of the day and think, "Man. That went sooooo good!" I had to take what I learned from my elementary colleagues and differentiate like crazy. Technology classes are difficult because there isn't a large group that has the same ability level or even close to the same with some outliers. They are allllllll over the place. This combined with constant student absences... (It's really the same story for all classes) what do you do? Well, I know what I had to do. Change.
I had to model like mad, create video tutorials, create different leveled projects and assignments, and have student teams. While one group was working on one task and the other group working on another task, I was able to pull students that needed more one-on-one instruction. Organized Chaos. This. Was. Not. Easy. BUT it felt soooo good. I walked out of work more days thinking, "Man. Today was soooo good!" And whenever that happens... I feel like it's a win.
My own story hopefully highlights the idea that sometimes we have to slow down. Be cognizant of the telling slump and find ways to explicitly teach the skills that students will no doubt use the rest of their lives. As we move into our Approaches to Learning journey this year, take a moment to reflect. Are there times in which you could take a couple extra minutes to explicitly teach skills? Are there things you assume students know already? Do you need help? If so, reach out. We are all in this together. :)