Monday, July 31, 2017

From Reality TV to Growth Mindset

During the school year, I don't watch much TV, but I do indulge during the summer.

For those of us who love dance related of shows, World of Dance (WOD - the one with Jennifer Lopez) was an exciting new program this summer. The question among dance fans became - which is better - WOD or So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD)?

Image result for quote about learning growing and changing
I gave WOD a few watches, but I didn't love it, and I couldn't figure out why.

The choreography was amazing.
The dancers were at the top of their genre.
The judges gave valuable, relevant, and well-thought out feedback.
Each piece of the show is excellent.

It took me awhile to pinpoint it, but I finally figured out that WOD doesn't have my favorite element of SYTYCD - growth.

In case you aren't familiar with SYTYCD, here's how it works:
In the beginning, dancers are experts in one style (jazz, animation, tap, etc). Over the course of the show, we see them forced out of their comfort zone, struggling with new, different, challenging work, and persevering over the struggle. They get feedback and use that to inform their future performances - they make changes, learn and grow. It's visible and the best part of the show for me. 

This summer I've also enjoyed catching up on old seasons of Project Runway and Food Network Star. On all of these creative based reality competition shows, it's not about the product (I'm vegan and not really into fashion), but I love to see how they tackle the problems, work (or struggle) together on teams, develop innovative solutions, and adapt to critique. When something doesn't work, they try something else. It's growth mindset in action.

It's all of the things that school should be about but sometimes isn't.

Schools should be places where kids want to be. Where they see the relevance of their work, and they want to do it.

We, as educators, must create space for this type of work, learning, and growth in our classrooms. They need to understand how the skills are transferable. 

If they can think creatively to solve this problem, here in our classroom - then they'll be able to think creatively to solve some other problem we can't even imagine yet in the future. We can't practice solving that problem because we don't know what it is, but we can help students get the tools they'll need with the time comes.

How can we take the spirit of these shows and embed them in our curriculum? Share your ideas!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Just a Teacher

A few days ago, I was given the incredible opportunity to attend ASCD's Leader to Leader (#ASCDL2L) conference as part of the Emerging Leader Class of 2017.

The Emerging Leaders are an incredible, inspiring group of people. Each person I met was as accomplished and successful as the next. I just kept thinking - how do I fit in here? I'm just a teacher, just regular old me!

Part of the weekend involved creating an action plan for your work in the next year. People were coming up with incredible ideas - write a book, design a website, develop a business, create a new program. I was at a loss. I'm just a teacher, what can I do?

Now, there was nothing these amazing individuals did to make me feel less. This narrative was created entirely inside of my own head, a feeling like what I've contributed is not as valuable as what someone else has contributed. Although I'm still not sure exactly what the future holds for me professionally, I've realized that whatever I decide to do - the change has to start with me.

There seems to be a dark and diminishing political smog surrounding teaching and public schools, and I have allowed it to impact how I see myself and my work. I've bought into a narrative that is simply not true.

Words matter - I am not just a teacher. I am a teacher! It's time to reclaim the narrative. My journey is starting with what I tell myself about what I do, and how I portray it to the world. 

As teachers, we are our own best advocates, and we need to feel empowered, as individuals, to do the work required to write our own story. 

Yes, I am a teacher, I love it, and I can't wait to tell you more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Real Talk - RtI and Equity

Real talk.

I'm late to the game on equity in schools.  I've started reading, and reading, and reading. I've taken coursework examining pieces of the problem like racism, poverty, and privilege. I seek out my own resources - getting books after they come up at Edcamp conversations, on Twitter chats (thanks #EduColor), blogs I've read, or podcasts I follow. Anytime I see an article come up even remotely related to the topic, I read it.

All because I believe that when you know better, you do better.

But, confession time, I know- but I'm not sure what to DO. I know all of this information about equity in schools, but what to actually do with all of that? I try to be aware, and examine, and confront my own biases. I reflect, and change, and adjust my teaching practices - but it doesn't feel like enough.

I'm putting this into the universe because I have to be honest about where I am.

I have a lot of questions about my role as RtI teacher and what that means for equity and my students. I get wrapped up in questions about standardized assessments, "researched based" practices, and the legal requirements surrounding RtI. Am I part of the problem? 

For now, I'm going to start there - with my classroom and my school. I want to do more, go bigger, broaden my scope - but I need to start with what I have direct control over. Me.

So, I'll start with these questions: How does RtI fit in with equity? What does an equitable RtI system look like?

I'm not really sure. Time to start researching, reading, reflecting, questioning, discussing, and changing.