In My Future Classroom…

Though I know stepping away from the classroom for the time being was the right decision for me, I can’t help but continually dream about my future classroom upon my return. Today, I realized I need to get it down in writing for several reasons:

  • To create a working blueprint as my PLN continues to teach and challenge my thinking.
  • To establish personal accountability One of my worst fears is that I’ll instinctively return to old habits and comfort zones despite all I’ve learned and will continue to learn in this interim!
  • To remind myself and others that meaningful change is possible no matter our location/circumstances. My last classroom was at a PYP school where student inquiry and concepts-over-content are thoroughly embraced, and I’m not sure I’ll have that same opportunity again. However, no matter my future environment, I want to plan for what will be within reach instead of worrying about what won’t.
  • To concretely reflect on and prepare for the day I interview for my next teaching job. Thanks, George Couros, for inspiring me to do so with your recent post on interview questions for innovative teachers.
  • To encourage other teachers to share their classroom visions for next year, whether they have been away from the classroom or not. Please share! I would love to collaborate and learn from your vision, too!

So here we go. In my future classroom

…my students will have choice. The default has always been teacher control unless there’s a good reason for student choice. Why not change that default to student choice unless there’s a good reason for teacher control? Daily 5 literacy centers. Student-led conferences. Conversations about metacognition to help students internalize their own learning process and needs.

…my students will have voice. In our local community, I hope to help our students search out ways to apply and extend their learning in our classroom, school, and neighborhoods. In our global community, I will be on the hunt for networking opportunities that best suit their needs and audience, from blogging to building PLNs.

…my students’ parents will have a window. Our classroom and student blogs met this purpose beautifully in the past. But I’m also open to new possibilities when I return based on what would be most accessible for parents–Facebook, email, even home visits. I’m also looking forward to watching new platforms unfold by the time I’m back in the classroom.

…process will be proudly displayed and celebrated. I used to love our publishing parties at the end of writing units, and while I don’t think I’ll necessarily abandon them, I hope to search out ways to better celebrate the process along the way. Visible Thinking Routines have particularly caught my eye in recent months as a great way to better bring that process out of obscurity.

…my students will be seen as individuals first. Blind demands for achievement and performance are not about students–they are about rigid notions of “accountability” and timetables.  And when we allow ourselves to be swept away by these demands, we risk losing sight of our students as individuals. The lyrics from Donnie Darko’s  “Mad World” recently reminded me of what this can feel like for our students:

“Went to school and I was very nervous

No one knew me, no one knew me

Hello, teacher tell me what’s my lesson

Look right through me, look right through me.”

I will make the effort to look beyond data sheets and behavior issues so that my students know that I see them. That I see their perspectives and preferences. That I see their strengths and interests. That I see their stresses and victories. After all, real learning is messier than a benchmark chart would have us believe.

…learning will be valued above “doing school.” I used to think compliance was a tool for helping students learn respect, discipline, and cooperation. Now I know that it often ends up diminishing learning–not to mention that it’s less effective at instilling the above values than I thought anyway. I’ve also learned that activities and tasks can have the appearance of learning while actually being bereft of deeper, concept-based understanding.

…assessments will be ongoing and meaningful. My heart recently sank as I read Bill Ferriter’s “Are Grades Destroying My Six Year-Old Kid?” But his final recommendation reinforced my resolve to be part of the change when I resume my teaching career:

“Students — especially those who struggle to master expected outcomes — should be gathering and recording evidence of the progress that they are making on a daily and weekly basis.  More importantly, they should be actively comparing their own progress against examples of mastery and setting individual goals for continued improvement.  Finally, they should have as strong an understanding of what they’ve mastered as they do of the skills that they are struggling with.  Evidence of learning has to mean something more than “here’s what you haven’t learned yet.”

I constantly see new tech for facilitating this kind of ongoing assessment (So far, I’ve found SeeSaw and Google Classroom particularly appealing). But I know that it will be about much more than the tech–it will be about my attitude in helping my students take authentic ownership over their learning process.

What did I miss? What’s on your list? Please share below in the comments!

Featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

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Mary Wade

I taught 5th grade at a PYP International Baccalaureate school in Utah for 4 years, and am currently on extended parental leave until my kids start school. In between the roller-coaster adventures of motherhood, I enjoy educational blogging so I can stay in the loop and keep learning! Snapshot favorites: Student voice & choice. Twix bars. Global classrooms. Calvin & Hobbes. Outlandish sewing projects. Teachers learning from teachers. Modeling daring to students.

4 thoughts on “In My Future Classroom…”

  1. Mary wrote:

    But I know that it will be about much more than the tech–it will be about my attitude in helping my students take authentic ownership over their learning process.

    —————-
    This is the tricky part, Mary — particularly because it’s not even about your attitude towards helping students take authentic ownership. It’s also about the attitude of your administrators and the parent population of your building.

    One of the sad truths is that we DON’T believe in giving students ownership over their learning in this country. We’ve created a system where learning is evaluated and measured by authorities — and often, those authorities function beyond the classroom. We’ve attached high stakes to outcomes — and high stakes encourage decision-makers to take more control over classroom decisions.

    The norms of today’s education push against the practices that you believe in — and that’s what makes change so damn difficult.

    The only advice I can give you is some advice I picked up in Twitter this week: Don’t think about scale when driving change. Make an impact where you can and when you can. If you think about scale, the changes that you do make will seem inconsequential and you will be disheartened. If you think about impact on the kids closest to you, you are more likely to see success in your actions.

    Anyway — I dug this post!

    Bill

    1. Thanks, Bill. The possible limitations imposed by my future admin’s (or district’s) attitude haunt me every day. I’m afraid I was terribly spoiled at my last school with a principal and curriculum director who were all KINDS of encouraging when I asked to tinker with new approaches & tech!

      But that is great advice–it’s especially heartening when we consider that the scope of our impact reaches even further when we write, share, and collaborate with other educators in the blogosphere/PLN. I know you’ve had a definite impact on my professional learning course-corrections over the last couple of years!

      Thanks,
      Mary

  2. Hi Mary,
    Having the time away from the classroom is a great opportunity to reflect, refine and plan. You are off to a good start by visualising those aspects you will apply to your classroom environment in order to empower your students. They will thank you for it, if not with their words, with their learning for life outcomes.

    1. Thank you, Norah! I’m grateful to have this blogging opportunity to organize my ever-shifting thinking over these years, and I hope it will benefit my students!

      Thanks,
      Mary

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