Tag Archives: adaptation

Building the New

On my busiest and most stressful days I like to remind myself that my life is a compilation of my past choices.  You don’t make choices in your life just once. You choose and then with each and every day that passes you choose again and again the things that matter, make you happy, and are worthy of your time.  So I remind myself that I get to choose EVERY DAY. The alternative to this (for me) is seeing only the obligations and requirements before you. When I get in this mindset, I tend to get frustrated by all of the immediate WANTS that I can’t have because of all of the MUSTS on my to-do list.

Last year at about this time I decided it was time for a new challenge. I’d been offered several jobs over the previous year that while interesting, were not the right fit for me or my family, or weren’t the direction I wanted to go.   So I sat down with my wife and we talked about what the right job would look like. I was really worried (afraid even) about how a move would unsettle the many pieces of my life that were in balance; being present for my wife & kids, teaching and the classroom, traveling and presenting at conferences, my consulting work, writing and publishing, all of the pieces of life that go together to give each day meaning.

Shortly thereafter I applied and was hired to be a Social Studies Department Chair.  This year has been about adapting to that role, getting to know the people in my department, getting to know the school and community and working to reconstruct a strong classroom and course curriculum.  Surprisingly the hardest part of this was rebuilding my classroom because I had so many ideas about what I wanted that new experience to be like for my students.  You have to surrender the comfort of habit to build something new and ambitious.

The upside to the change has been the growth that comes with challenging yourself and the opportunity to help others grow as teachers. That is what I have loved about twitter from the very start (back in the wonderful early days of #sschat) and my favorite part about working with teachers across the country. There is no better feeling than hearing what passionate teachers or students want to accomplish and then helping them to get there.   Despite the challenges, actually more BECAUSE of the challenges,  I’m loving the job, and I’m glad I made the leap for all that I have learned.  I have gained so much and I feel i’m in a place where I have much to offer.

While the actual jobs skills are important, the most important things that I learned were about what is and is not important to me.  Crisis makes you prioritize and clarify.  I have an idea of where I want to go now, and what I have to do to get there. My vision for the next few years is taking shape.  That is exciting, and it is what led me to make the change in the first place.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 3.53.19 PM

One of the things that I put aside in order to find balance was writing, both articles and for this blog. In hindsight I think that was a mistake.  The time I spend writing has always helped me to sharpen my thoughts and serves as an outlet, something that I now see would have been welcome this semester. Rather than taking my time, I think it would have been a welcome opportunity for expression.

So I’ll be adding a new interest to the topics on Go Where You Grow; Leadership. It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about.  Not leading so much as the type of leader I want to be, which I find is not so much the “authoritarian” as it is the “Grower in Chief.” I also intend to be better about posting what Amy Burvall (@AmyBurvall) calls  a #Rawthought. I have always been a big fan of incomplete posts about unsolved problems that feed the thought process but I’ve not been good about posting my own.

That said, here is a thought to complete this post.  Despite the risks and challenges of this year, and despite the time and difficulty involved, I feel I’m in a better place, with a better vision of my future and where I’m g(r)o(w)ing.

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Change Can Be Scary: Who Does the Connected Classroom Leave Behind and How Can We Help Them?

I am 12 or so weeks into having iPads in the classroom, and each week, new revelations occur.  An area of focus this week has been answering this question: “What type of student will thrive in the 1:1 classroom and what type of student will struggle?” The obvious follow up to that question is then “What supports can I create for the students to help them adapt and thrive.”  

Today in class I was doing an activity using Hindu god cards.  (Find more about this specific activity here).  The goal is to generate questions about the values that are represented and symbols that are present in the Hindu religion.

In the past I have provided some lecture instruction prior to the activity. This year I did not.  I am less likely to do so in general because I am growing used to the students seeking the answers themselves. I can create a lesson that generates interesting, compelling and student generated questions.

As these types of lessons become more common I find that there is one category of student is likely to get frustrated, even agitated by them: The high achieving and intelligent student used to high instruction, heavy content classes. These are good, even great students who want to do well and are eager to be told how to do so.  They are used getting the answers and learning them.  They are highly intelligent. They excel on tests and projects and will be the one with many questions about “the right way” to do things.  They are masters trained in the art of the teacher centered classroom.

And they are going to STRUGGLE when faced with the changes caused by open ended and interpretive lessons that are becoming a part of my 1:1 classroom. They wonder when I am going to lecture and start giving notes and they wonder why there aren’t more worksheets and packets for them to complete thoroughly. Very often, their parents are wondering that same thing.

I believe that very shortly they will adapt and learn how to be successful and grow more comfortable but in the interim  I will need to develop a completely different set of supports to  help them to adapt.  I will need to have a dialogue from the beginning to explain how and why the model has shifted.

In the end it comes down to the “Why” behind your classroom.  You need to know the “Why” behind your what you do and begin sharing it on day 1.  Sharing these goals and helping to develop a set of class values is key. If students know why you do what you do, they can trust you, overcome their initial discomfort, and succeed.

These graphics are what I devised to share my vision with my students. They will be on the wall in my classroom.

The Old Model: 

The New Model: 

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