Friday, July 1, 2011

I believe learning is personal...

I believe that effective education is about people, always. We must reach people on personal levels to foster relevance in what they learn.
 flickr photo via epSos.de

My former principal, Mark Jones, confirmed this belief for me during our first meeting two years ago. I had just started my first administrative appointment as a vice-principal at Mattie McCullough Elementary School, a thriving K-5 school with a technology focus.  He told me my initial responsibility was to get to know the kids at our school and also their parents… sit back a bit and learn how things flowed in my new school. I took his advice and it proved to be the best advice I received during my first year as a school administrator, and very much aligned with my personal philosophy pertaining to engaging students.

In my previous placement as a middle school counselor before coming to Mattie, and as a teacher working with kids manifesting severe emotional and behavioral challenges before that, I learned the value of learning kids’ stories. I was eager to learn the stories of the people that represented the culture of my new school. I believe that every student has a personal learning story, and I think of that story as containing three main components: the student’s past; the student’s present and the student’s future. In a more specific context for me as the teacher, these components translate into the story I need to learn about (past), the story I need to help write (present) and the story with the happy ending (future). Our stories define us, and it's so important that schools are environments that encourage people to share them.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflections on fun and learning...

 flickr photo via nigelhowe

During the last week of school this past week, my class and I spent some time reflecting on our year together. I answered many questions about the middle school my students will attend next year, and we spoke allot about the lessons we learned this year that could be applied in sixth grade and beyond. Today on the last day of school before summer break, One of the cards I received from a student had these words embedded inside the thank you message...
If you're learning and not having fun, that's bad.
If you're having fun and not learning, it might be bad,
But if you're learning and having fun... that's good.
I introduced this simple logic to my class at the beginning of the year, and we've used it to help define the tone and culture of our classroom all year long, so I was happy to see the words inside my student's thank you card.

Over the course of the past year, our understanding of this logic evolved to become a major element of our classroom value system. We grew to believe that learning should be fun, and when it is, it tends to stick... just like this message did for my student.

Next year I'm committed to an even greater effort to make sure that fun is a primary element of the learning that takes place in my class.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thinking, feeling and being in schools...

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

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