I must first begin this blog with where my mind is on education and learning. I am thinking about how teaching-and-learning as a construct is the balance of meeting where students are cognitively AND taking them where they need to be, for the jobs that do not even exist yet. I remember Eleanor Duckworth’s class “Teaching and Learning” — a class about generating, developing, and exploring the crafty dynamic between teaching and learning. The class followed the moon for an entire month, an activity which would seem like it is irrelevant to the goings-on of gaining a deeper understanding about teaching and learning. However, for those of you who have been in the field for a long time (I am going on my 10th year), you might be reminded of the kinds of challenges you aim to present to your students. Focusing on the moon helped me understand the intricacies of teaching writing, of maintaining a vibrant and supportive environment in which students may come to know ways they reflect or deflect our sunlight and ways they impact and create their own world.
I think the sun and the moon are two bodies that beautifully mirror the life of teaching and learning. In a few weeks when student-learners and teacher-learners are embarking on new and experienced journeys, their dynamic dance will revolve around the gravitas of their innate desires. As I said before in a previous post, our school is embarking on virtual learning, essentially online textbooks and practice exercises, for the student to take with him anywhere he goes. The challenge of the teacher is to create an engaging space that supports the critical thinking of the students around particular challenges, to help the student become the learner he needs to be for the unforeseeable future.
When I am preparing for the school year, I like to touch up on creating ways for learners to understand and create the protocols for learning, for designing the space they excel in learning. For English I thru IV, this is about creative collaboration, Socratic methods, Participation and Discussion, Feedback on Blogs, and Oral Presentations. Sandwiched between all these standards and goals are the learner and teacher. Ideas for creating and recreating the initial space we will learn in come from the “Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration” book. Students need spaces to show off and they need spaces to hide. They need huddle rooms and silent rooms, spaces for solitary thinking and spaces for shining a light on each other’s well-being. I am tinkering with the idea of taking off our shoes for all my English classes.
I am beginning to see more and more of my colleagues post pictures of their new classrooms. Spend time in the room and surrounding spaces you know you will inhabit with your learners. Explore every nook and cranny. Bask in your uncertainty and buy a lot of poster-board and markers for the students to add aesthetically pleasing (pastels usually do the trick) tones to the room with their work. Decide if this work will be digital or print. Do a little math everyday for the fun of it.
If you’re pressure-prompted to come up with ideas for the classroom, read the opening lines of a Social Psychology book. You will always find little nuggets in the 50 lbs of hay.