There was a very interesting article on Edutopia today (if you don't follow Edutopia you better start) about mistakes students make. The article talks about how a history of mistakes leads to students responding emotionally to "red ink" on assessments. I won't reveal too much about the article, but it is a good read.
This article led me to think about my role as a leader and whether a history of mistakes may lead me to avoid taking risks. Much of what I have read about effective leadership talks about the need to take risks if change is to be implemented. This change is all around us in education, from planning, to assessing, to supporting students, and we are looking at everything we do with a critical eye. To begin implementing this change, risks need to be taken and therefor mistakes are inevitable. I can do one of two things, avoid the risks or tackle them head on knowing there will be challenges. In order to take these risks I need a network of support to help guide me, either with advice or simply listening to me talk about my challenges. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by supportive people during my career; from my wife to my colleagues to my supervisors, they have always "had my back". When I have made mistakes they have been there to help me look at them as learning experiences.
As I continue to grow as a leader I need to be aware of the emotional response I will have to mistakes I make along the way. I also need to continue to lean on those around me for support so I can take the necessary risks needed to implement change.
For the past six weeks 27 students in my grade 11 & 12 Life Transitions class have been taking part in an independent learning project. The initial seeds for this idea came from a discussion with a principal who talked about a similar initiative at her school, inspiration hour. I introduced the learning project to my students, telling them employers want people who can learn and can do so on their own. At the beginning I was very nervous about a project that turned 100% of the learning over to the students, however as the days passed I began to see some positives emerging. Students had to first come to grips with the idea of learning whatever they wanted, this was all very new to them. What I noticed over the course of this project was the pride the students had in what they were learning about. I had students coming to me in the hallway during breaks telling me what they were working on, what they've learned, what they've created, and what they were planning to do next.
Recently, Alec Couros, a professor at the U of R, tweeted a link to one of his student's website. I was shocked to see it was the portfolio of this students' learning journey in his class. I saw many parallels between his assignment and mine, I also saw a few things I am going to "borrow" as my students repeat this process in May and June.
So, what did my students work on? Here is a sample of some of the projects that happened in my class:
It is important to note that some students really struggled with this process. Some students had trouble with managing their time while others had a hard time settling on a project. For these students I challenged them to think about why they struggled and reflect on how their learning style was at odds with this process.
Needless to say, I am very excited about repeating this process. #education #learning
The following video examines what it takes for students to be truly successful, grit.
Recently I was with my two oldest children, Bobby (7) and Eva (3) at an art gallery in Saskatoon. This is one of our favorite spots because there is a room for the kids to create and display their own art. While on our last visit I was excited to see this painting of Danceland by David Thauberger. I grew up in Watrous, Saskatchewan and this dance hall was located at Manitou Beach, a short car ride, or a little longer bike ride from town. It was neat to see this picture, not because of the wonderful ability of the artist, but because of the memories that it evoked. I loved going to dances at Danceland for many reasons, the music, the atmosphere, the girls, everything seemed just right. But it wasn't just the building that created the memories, rather it was the people I was surrounded by.
When I think of how this building makes me feel I start to think of other places that also "take me back". The house I grew up in, the town skating rink, the ball diamonds, the old theater, my elementary and high schools, the Witch-path (only residents of Watrous over a certain age will get that reference), all of these places bring up feelings. Fast forward to today and think about our children who are currently laying down their "old memories" right before our eyes. What part will you play in those memories. How will your students remember you in 30, 40, or 50 years?
What are your "take me back" places?