It’s Okay If They Try It Their Way

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, then we must teach the way they learn.

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While at baseball practice Tuesday for my 6 yr. old, I was working with my 10 yr. old on his pitching. He has a strong desire to move from his current position to become a serious shutdown pitcher for his current team. I’m flattered because he knows that I was a pitcher…he’s seen all the newspaper clippings, photos and heard all the stories from my dad. However, when I work with him, the results are disastrous. We have been working for months and no matter what I did or do, he doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Then I realized something, if my son has a passion for something, then he must have his own way of approaching the situation. So, remembering to be swift to listen, I said, “How do you want to pitch?” He went into his wind up, a little awkwardly in my opinion, but threw a perfect strike. The ball had the sweetest rotation with a slight drop at the end. His form was not perfect, by my standards; his approach had no structure…but the results were phenomenal because he had complete ownership of how to demonstrate mastery.

Mind blown, I began to reflect on my teaching when I had a classroom. It was always important to me to present several approaches to solving a math problem, but I would always ask my students after I was finished how they would solve the problem. Sometimes, it wasn’t the way I taught it. They may have taken elements to the approach I provided, but always adapted the solution to the way they would naturally think.

Then I thought about how my daughter would bring home a graded assignment that was flawed according to her teachers because she didn’t put her thinking in the suggested order, but still came to the same conclusion…sometimes in a more insightful manner. I would be completely disturbed, but continued to encourage her to find her own way.

Are we as educators so sold on our instructional processes to where we refuse to listen to our student’s way of thinking?¬†How can we encourage innovation if we don’t allow our students to be creative in how they problem solve?

It’s Ok for my kiddos to try it their way from now on. As a matter of fact, the results might be a little better using their approach as opposed to mine. Valuable lesson learned in meeting my students and my own children where they are.

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Just Say it Already!

What blends in gets forgotten. What stands out gets remembered.

A few days ago, after doing some observations in a staff meeting, a teacher pulled me to the side and asked me for my opinion on an idea she had to increase student engagement in her department. I thought her idea was brilliant and I asked her when she was planning to present it to her team. Her eyes immediately dropped and I began to see the excuses formulating in her mind. I immediately stopped her and began to tell her my story…

I used to struggle in the Ed Tech space because my first and strongest concern was how others would judge me based on what I said. I wouldn’t participate in most discussions or group chats, thinking that people wouldn’t value my two cents. I would hesitate to say something only to hear someone else say the very same thing I was thinking 10 minutes later in the conversation.

Why-its-imperative-brands-have-a-Voice-of-the-Customer-programme-770x289In my own space, you couldn’t tell I had any introvert tendencies. I was bold, confident and in control of the learning space quite naturally. The audiences were those who already knew me and had great respect for my opinion. I was comfortable there. The problem was I was not growing…I was already the expert in the room. Hence the fear of leaving the comfort zone and testing the waters of unfamiliar learning networks.

I’m beginning to get over that now…I’ve changed job, started presenting and began to realize that I wouldn’t be in this position if I didn’t add value to the group. So, looking for opportunities to just say it already has been my new passion. I may look foolish to the so-called sage on the stage, but that is only because I may have said exactly what he wanted to say before he had the chance. That was a difficult transition for me. Now, I look to influence others to make that step as well.

Going back to the teacher, I explained to her if she doesn’t say it, someone else will. I implored her to not squander her opportunities by waiting on others to take the risks. She needs to stop blending in and make some noise instead. Just say it already! you’ll feel better when you do. This is the advice that I still give to myself everyday so that I can continue to meet each learner where they.

Annoying Quesitons

“We get there when we get there! Now shut up and sit back in your seats!” – my mom

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I haven’t had much chance to write, let alone do anything else since the massive undertaking of deploying laptops to every high school student in our 6 pilot schools began in December. It’s been a interesting journey, but 2 questions kept banging in the back of my head during the entire process. Funny things is, every parent hates these questions during long trips with kids in the back of the car; “Are we there yet?” and “Why?” The first question was forbidden on our long treks from Kansas City, Missouri to Louisiana during my childhood, but I always would ask why. That only infuriated my mom further. Yet, as an adult, when my own kids ask these questions over and over and over again, I myself get quite annoyed. However, during this pilot, these 2 questions prove to be the most important questions that we need to be asking ourselves on a daily basis if not more often.

WHY?: It is vital that every decision we make, every move and countermove we put in place, every protocol we write needs to serve the purpose of serving our students. So we have to actively ask why we are even doing what we are doing. Are we handing out a laptop to fix the way a student learns. No, we are trying to fix the way we do this thing called education. Like Marva Collins, founder of the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago said, “Don’t try to fix the students, fix ourselves first. Good methods makes poor students good and god students superior. When our students fail, we, as educators, too, have failed” So we must always be in reflective mode to ask if we are fulfilling the ultimate purpose of making learning better overall for our students.

Are We There Yet?: Forces us to know what our end goal should be. Now as we learn more about the 1:1 process, it is possible that the end goal can change as we grow. However, we need to be asking “Are we there yet”, to continually gauge where we are in the process which then determine any changes we need to make to support the “Why”. At the beginning of my week, I look at my calendar, (when it’s filled out) and determine Why I’m doing what is on my schedule and then during the process, I ask myself if I am making in progress toward that end goal. By mid-week, I truly need to evaluate what I’m doing in order to ensure the expectations are met or exceeded in the end. In actually, this is how I either stay focused and/or go insane depending on where I stand in the process.

Though these questions may seem annoying in some settings, fore me, when building a 1:1 environment they are essential if we want to truly meet are students where they are.