I am taking a break from my regularly planned All Tied Up posts about necktie knots to finally get around to sharing my One Word for 2021. I am hoping that, by the end of this post, I will have made a connection between my word and this series in general.
For those who don’t know, #OneWord2021 is part of an ongoing practice of changing how we approach goals at the start of each year. It was inspired by the book One Word that Will Change Your Life, co-authored by Jon Gordon (author of The Energy Bus), Jimmy Page and Dan Britton. Educators around the world, especially, have embraced this movement by selecting one word that will drive their focus for the year. Some select a word for professional purposes, some for personal, and some for both. The amazing Lindsay Titus, founder of Define YOUniversity, recently offered a live webinar to help people through the process of selecting their word. (I was unable to attend due to a prior conflict.)
When I was in high school, I auditioned for a school play my freshman year and I did not make the cut. I didn’t even get a tiny bit role. To be fair, I did not plan, rehearse, or even consider what it meant to audition for a play. I literally walked in, read a bit from the script, and walked out. Several of my friends, on the other hand, received small roles, as did my older brother and his friends, who had been involved in plays and musicals for several years.
Wanting to be supportive of my friends (and also as an excuse to spend time with them during rehearsals, I took a role with the tech crew as one of the spotlight operators along with another of my best friends. The teacher who oversaw the theatre department assigned two students to each spotlight so that when the older students graduated, the younger ones would be able to continue operating these crucial theatre tools. By the start of my sophomore year, the other students who had been trained having either graduated, taken onstage roles, or moved on to other hobbies. As a result, I was the undisputed chief spotlight operator for my high school, running the follow spots for every play, musical, and special stage event the high school had.
Nowadays the spotlights are often programmed and run via computer rather than directly by students, but I continue to reflect on my experiences with the old-fashioned spotlights and what they taught me about teaching.
This is a special edition of the All Tied Up series because it isn’t about a necktie knot, but rather a knot that I learned at a Scouter training event a few years and wanted to share today as part of my Twitter #KnottyThursday series. (I am going to get back to necktie knots next week as I work on finishing out this series at long last!)
Spoiler alert: I am 99% certain that this post is going to feature my #OneWord for 2021, but I am not going to tell you what that word actually is.
I love flowers. I love the burst of colours, the shapes, the symmetry, and the way they liven up any room they are in. (I would probably like the scent of them, too, but I haven’t had a fully functioning sense of smell since my late teens.) Flowers help bring beauty and kindness to the world and that is something we could all use a little more of, no matter where we live or what we do.
Project-based learning (PBL) is not new to education; in fact, it has been argued that Aristotle and Confucius used project-based learning in how they taught. However, it seems that PBL has had a major resurgence over the past few years as schools and districts have looked for innovative ways to help students develop skills critical to success in the 21st century, such as creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.
Much has been written about project-based learning. (For example, see these eight books that have been reviewed on MiddleWeb.) Some of these books focus on the logistics of planning and implementing PBL. Some focus on the nuts and bolts of what PBL really is. Some focus on how to do PBL within a specific content area while others present broad practices that work in any setting.
Over the last three years, I have read dozens of books, attending half as many workshop, and watched more webinars and conference sessions than I can count on how to do PBL. There are many questions that are asked and answered in all of these professional learning contexts, but there is one question that I have only come across once: Are there learning experiences that should not be given to students in a PBL setting?
You’ve been there, I’m sure. You have been asked to serve on a committee or take on a task in your building or support another teacher or add one more student to you already bursting-at-the-seams-even-with-COVID-restrictions class and your principal or a district administrator approaches you and asks you if you can do one more thing.
You’ve already had The Talk. Several times. You know, the “if you are going to add something more to my plate then it would really help if you would take something off my plate” talk. Heck, you may have even seen your school leaders retweeting those quotes from Hans and Jennifer Appel about what is and is not the plate, or the snippets from Todd Whitaker’s “Shifting the Monkey” and you are thinking, “Uh oh. I don’t want to come across as not being a team player but I really can’t take on one more thing or I may just break completely.”
There is also that niggling feeling in the back of you mind that maybe, just maybe, your teacher’s union should try to get the phrase “other duties as assigned” stricken from every single job description in the district so that you can just say, “Nope, sorry, not my circus, not my monkeys.”
The concept of preparation has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From sermons in church about preparing for the end days (or just preparing for rainy days) to the Scout motto to test prep classes in high school to my teacher preparation courses in college, I have been inundated with the call to be prepared.
I was recently listening to some older episodes of Dave Schmittou’s Lasting Learning podcast and he shared some thoughts that had come to him while he was at church. He promised his listeners that he wasn’t about to preach to or at them, but rather wanted to share where his mind went during that sermon. Likewise, I recently read a passage of scripture that had this phrase and it caught my attention: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
A lot has changed in K-12 education in the past few months as we have collectively adapted to the challenges and, yes, opportunities, presented by educating a generation of students during a global pandemic. While many remain hopeful that this pandemic will end soon, none of us yet know when that will be, and so schools and districts around the world have made a the quantum leap forward in utilising instructional technology in ways that only a few were doing just a year ago.
Many educators, upon hearing my job title of Curriculum Coordinator for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, often assume that my role includes instructional technology. However, I am not the instructional technology coordinator for my district, although I do support teachers in using the technological tools available to them. Rather than being the person who vets and introduces and trains staff on using tools, I am the person who trains teachers on how to use tools within the context of innovative and progressive pedagogical practices.
Education jargon swirls about us every minute of every day as we are at work, much like the annoying flies and gnats that seemingly swarm around me every time I go camping or hiking.
I imagine this constant quiet noise of jargon is one reason why we often refer to them as “buzzwords.” However, there is some jargon that we use in education that cannot and should not be simply buzzwords.
One of those terms is “student voice,” which is often paired with “choice.” Just looking around my desk, I count no fewer than ten different documents, posters, cards, and books that have this term on them somewhere. But what do we really mean when we say that “student voice and choice” are an integral part of our modern education system?