Sunday, 24 February 2013

A First Time for Everything

Reflecting on Milestones and Celebrating Successes

Over the last few weeks I've had a number of occasions to reflect on "the first time…" If you're a parent like me than you are probably well versed in the concept of "firsts" --- steps, words, etc.

This summer I went camping on my own for the first time with my boys. It was also my first time leaving my camera at home and only taking pictures with my smartphone. Recently I finally put together a photo album of the best pictures and sat with my boys to reflect on our trip. Looking at the album we reflected on my eldest son's first time cooking a hot dog, first time camping without mommy, and first time taking a picture with daddy's smartphone!

Approval vs. Affirmation
With our boys in a Montessori program, I've learned that when a child excitedly informs their guide (teacher) that they've completed a task (a characteristic of first time experiences), they are not told "Good Job" or "Well Done", but rather "You did it!" or "Congratulations".  Instead of training children to depend on a subjective note of approval from an external source, this is designed to ensure that the children are affirmed in their own recognition of an objective sense of self-satisfaction. It's the difference between tentatively asking the teacher "did I do it right?" vs. confidently informing the teacher "I did it right!"

To this end, I had some of my own FIRSTs that I'd like to share. Not for your approval, but simply because I see myself as that Montessori child recognizing my own milestone and running up to the guide (my Twitter PLC) to proudly exclaim "look what I've done!"

Cooking Class
Due to our school's reorganization at the end of September, I now have the challenge (and privilege) of adding a grade 7 Family Studies class to my teaching assignment. This is a huge addition for me. I am already responsible for teaching Science and Technology in our DT lab (including responsibility of the major areas of Safety, Tool Maintenance and Material Inventory), as well as teaching Information Technology, and generally being "the computer guy" in the school. Between all the classes I teach in IT and DT, I have 23 classes across 3 grades and multiple levels (regular, gifted, MID, Behaviour, LD/HSP). Family Studies makes 24. As such I have been reticent to really get into the cooking side of things, preferring to stay in the theoretical (nutrition labels, healthy body image) and the technological (designing cookie cutters to print out on our 3D printer) as these things are more within my comfort zone.

On Friday December 14th however, I took the plunge and did my first cooking class. Recognizing the significance of this "first" experience I took time during the class to "live-tweet" what was happening, since ongoing documentation is an important part of self-evaluation. Of course with technology comes problems, and I couldn't get reception for some reason so I've had to post these tweets after-the-fact. You can see my tweets organized here on Storify - a program I am also using for the first time!

As a result of this “First Time Focus” I am pondering how to be more diligent at this practice in my own classroom. Report Cards are supposed to reflect the reaching of milestones, but how often do milestones coincide with a board determined report card date? Why should celebrations be limited to these structured times without reflecting the fluidity of individual learners! I'm wondering if I can use BYOD to get students to document their DT projects at the end of each class, and then compile a photo album at the end to assist them in preparing a self-evaluation.

Too often we have trained students that self-evaluation is the lowest kind, and that the evaluation that reflects real learning and leads to good grades comes from the teacher alone. The pendulum needs to swing back a bit I think.

February 23, 2013

(SIDE NOTE: as a result of writing this blog I've decided to try changing my teaching a little bit… yeah for professional reflection! ATTACHED HERE are my notes on ideas I might try with my next set of classes in Semester 2. If you have feedback that might help me tweak these ideas, practically or theoretically, please send me a note on Twitter or in the comments section)

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