While at a public house with a few of my education friends, we talked about ideas on how to make the 2015/2016 year more effective and more efficient. Initially, the conversation focused on defining what does it mean to be efficient and effective. Does that just mean we get to scores that are favorable in a shorter period of time? Does that mean that we just get the increase percentages set out by the district after each benchmark exam? It wasn’t clear if student achievement mean more that an associated score.
Is it effective and efficient for students? How? Or, is it effective for the adults? How? They believed they didn’t consider what’s best for the kids and their families in the long run. Or, if they did, it wasn’t very clear on the immediate and the long-term benefits for a more effective and efficient learning experience.
I shared with them the reflection from a teacher in vista California who told me that the part of the brain that reduces the fear, increase his confidence, is the same part of the brain that has empathy and relationship building. I shared with them a Facebook article I posted a few weeks back that talks about how directly connected the feeling of safety, the feeling of comfort, and the feeling of confidence are directly linked to successful pathways. One of my friends said she wasn’t very clear with that argument considering she knows a lot of shy people who are very good at school. One of our other friends, responded that that’s a different type of confidence. That is the social confidence type. You can still develop confidence in subject area knowledge. The challenge is that having that type of confidence is not as valuable anymore as it once was– this alone isn’t enough. The reason is that knowledge, the knowing of stuff, can be looked up much easier. Even if the answer isn’t available on your Apple Watch, I’m sure you can find someone in your network who can begin to point you in the direction of the answer. So, I regrouped and asked the question again: how can we be more efficient and effective this coming year?
To bring additional context into that very loaded question, I shared with them the conversation I had with my boss last month. We agreed that creating successful moments is way more valuable than putting all of the energy in test preparation. Learning strategies and skill building with content area goal as prompts can be super effective. The main reason is that success and victories can be seen and experienced immediately. If we smart reflect, we can smart adjust to create more victories. Soon, A student and or a teacher can’t stop, turn around, look at the path they had covered and realize how far they’ve come and, most importantly, why. How can we create more successful moments? How can we capture the stories along the way, how do we showcase and share?
After a pause and a wonder look around the room, a good idea we shared. Why don’t we take our main learning goal for the unit or the week and asked the students to collect as much evidence as possible on how and why this matters beyond my classroom? I added, they can use a variety of media tools to collect evidence. They could interview their parents, other family members, and even neighbors.
For example, I took some teachers on a photo learning tour in Philadelphia and we talked about the science and the math behind the art of photography.
Right there, on the spot, I read an email to my friends from a teacher in North Carolina who shared that she will be asking additional questions at the start and at the end of each unit to see how students can make the content area and skill set connections more obvious for her and for themselves. For example,
how do you plan with this information?
how does this help you produce new information?
how and why is it important to present, reflect, and adjust other things in your life with this unit’s goal(s), where do you see those connections?
how do you get other people to know what you did and how you thought it through?
SsWe agreed this is difficult, but one of my colleagues said that this sounds like fun. Fun + hard (challenging) is key to greatness, too!
Immediately, someone else shared a cool idea from the relational comment made earlier. What if students and teachers, after knowing the content area goals for that unit or week, they can generate new questions based on left brain and right brain themes. She referred to Dan pink’s book on the need to focus on right brain thinking, A Whole New Mind. After being asked to elaborate, she threw out some ideas. Since most of the questions already are focused on logical, knowledge-based, sequential, and mathematical– what do questions look like if you asked students to generate ones around empathy (connect), symphonic or big picture (Why), creative (what if), relational (patterns)– what would some of those look like? The mind is in just a computational tool, it’s an emotional machine as well. Stories are a bridge between the two, she shared that Dan Pink makes this clear in the book, too.
Our table was silenced after that idea. I could just feel everyone’s energy thinking through series of questions they would ask about, I guess, anything. I thought this was a brilliant idea. Instead of just assessing one tiny part of the learning journey: do you know what or not? We leverage deeper reflective questions that we can collect evidence on/ for.
Could this create the necessary successes and victories to help the school ultimately achieve their reality of scores and testing? What if we strategically merged a social and emotional, right brain approach to weekly learning goals? What if there was a concerted effort to connect the content area calls with what it looks like outside of the classroom? What if this was our standard? Can this cast a wider net for us, increase our chances to make more victories?
Efficient and effective is an interesting term because after this conversation, I realized that ,for me, to be efficient and effective means to use the right and the left brain regularly and to showcase that we are doing it on an ongoing basis. The key is to make measuring this relationship CLEAR, relevant, meaningful, and applicable to everyone.
I really appreciated this conversation. I felt like I called time out, went back to the review station, looked at the video tape of our last game, fast forward it to the concerns, and begin to identify patterns. Afterwards, I paused, looked at these patterns, and began to write down ideas on how to dot connect new ideas and ask new questions, see new possibilities for our upcoming school year.
Is it scary? Yes. Is it exciting? Yes. Does that sound like fun? Yes!