- Emergency Preparedness Distance Learning - October 18, 2016
- Educational Renaissance: Veteran Teachers Vest in Change - October 10, 2016
- Breaking out of the Norm with Breakout Edu - April 29, 2016
- Mini Thought Bubble on Performance Assessments - April 12, 2016
- The Sensibilities of Mind Mapping - March 15, 2016
- Pioneering Nearpod - January 28, 2016
- Classroom Work Flow Before the Holidays - December 15, 2015
- Surviving the Doldrums of Education - December 1, 2015
- E-Sub Plans for Educators - November 17, 2015
- Presenting Missing Histories - November 2, 2015
I would be remiss if I did not gleefully gloat about the one thing the teaching profession offers in comparison to similarly ranked careers. Of course I'm referring to vacation time. I absolutely love having vacations during holidays. My equally elated spouse insists on taking in new ventures, enjoying each full minute of an unstructured afternoon. Thus we left behind the exhaustions of 2013 in pursuit of hope and revelry of this new year.
Already I am back in the classroom organizing and reorganizing schedules that fly out the window with school cancellations, snow days, ice days, days below zero. Nevertheless, I can shift my frustration and build positive enthusiasm as I reminisce on this past December vacation.
Educators need outlets that do not question their expertise or provide reason for argument. I am so fortunate to have my athleticism as a means of escape. Years ago, escape meant ski racing for Rossignol, biking for Specialized or chasing my husband all the way to the 1999 Olympics. That pace of life is no longer possible to keep up yet thrill seeking need not be left to the elite. Thus the discovery of riding a fat tire bike on winter snow. A four inch tire hugged by a heavy wide frame, race ready shifters and derailleur. It rolled harmlessly over woods terrain leaving a tread but no ruts. I climbed easily over the recent snowfall that wasn't deep enough for skiing but too wet for walking. Tentative speeds were replaced with aggressive cornering, bridge climbing and downhill plunges. The aptly named Surly Moonlander, did not skid out from under me, it did not fail me. Confidence replace doubt, I aimed up and over a small rock ledge that had deterred me all summer. My brother in law caught air, sailing expertly over our GoPro camera for the Facebook video we would post later. I did not sail yet I did not fall. I rolled and bumped at high speeds, zipping off course, breaking a fresh trail making my own way without regard to rules or cares. My heart and stomach fell back into place and for the duration of four hours I only thought of school twice.
Here's what I was thinking. My students would love this. How can I fit thrill seeking into my curriculum? Is adrenaline rush part of the Common Core? It should be. Taking risks is a healthy part of learning, it's a healthy part of growth. Trying something new gives people an impetus for conversation. So often teachers revert to the safety of a tried and true lesson. Students bemoan projects that end in constructed outcomes that end in predictable assessment scores. Can I recall moments in the classroom where students were working at individual paces yet pausing to cheer each other on? How often do these moments happen in a given year?
I remember using clickers on a unit test last year. Each student sat with an open notebook, the test and a device that calculated their instant raw score. Students reacted with shock or confusion, an "ah man". When offered a chance to converse, share notes and scores, they began speculating which questions were undoubtedly right or probably wrong and then at a certain moment, begged to retake the test. While a retake is not as exciting as a cliff jump, student interest in pursuing knowledge, collaborating to recording a higher score gave each student the chance to walk away confident. Their happiness might be the impetus for something even greater with the next days work.
Taking risks while flying through the familiar woods of Stowe, Vermont reminded me of something else. I had fun and this fun revived me. I plan on carrying this enthusiasm past the school mandates, the parental frustrations and the student anxieties. I plan on keeping an open mind while encouraging students to focus on design and possibility in the lessons we learn. Fat tire bikes were not around when I was racing 10 years ago even though the idea was. Similarly, clickers are replaced with iPads and the changes in how students interact with information is dizzying. It reminds me that some ideas are worth a second glance, no idea is too preposterous, and the more we redo the things we already know the chances are that everyone walks away happy.