June 12, 2012

Day 30 - A Reflection

Amy Park

And just like that, 30 days have come and gone.  Our first PD challenge is complete and although the process of doing something everyday for 30 days was extremely beneficial, it’s in the reflection that we are truly able to understand and appreciate what we have learned along the way. Analyzing and questioning the events and experiences that have unfolded allows us to decide which things we plan on keeping, modifying, or getting rid of completely as part of our practice and daily lives.

Our first school-related challenge involved video recording our students as they discuss, share, and reflect on their learning/understanding.  This was an extremely relevant and insightful challenge.  Through these short clips, we were able to gather evidence of learning in a non-traditional way.  This served as formative assessment for both the students and us, as their teachers.  By playing back the clips, we were able to identify what students were thinking and why.  We also were able to address any misunderstandings that the students may have had.  Based on these conversations we reflected on how we taught or addressed certain topics and made adjustments as needed.  Using an app called Evernote, we were also able to tag (identify) which students were recorded and the topic they were talking about.  Organizing the clips in this fashion,  serves as a digital record for us to access at a later date.  Also, we have shared the link to the Evernote files with parents, which allow them to see a glimpse of their child as a learner in our class.

Because at any given time we have 50 kids in our class, our next challenge was to keep track of whom we called on during discussions. There was a time when we felt that we were calling upon the same kids over and over again.  By being more cognizant of whom we call on, we were able to involve more students in the conversations.  Although not always easy to track, our heightened awareness brought attention to those kids who sometimes seem to get lost in the shuffle. When more kids participate, the entire class benefits and the sense of community further expands.  As teachers, we want to ensure that all kids feel safe and comfortable sharing their ideas and thinking.  We also wants our students to understand that all ideas are valued and all voices should have the opportunity to be heard. It is often during these class discussions that our students share their most powerful learning.

Our final two challenges were directly related to our physical health.  We are all aware of how important it is to live a balanced life. We have made a consorted effort this year to incorporate active living  in our personal lives, as well as to model this for our students.  The #3kaday challenge helped us to not only become more physically fit, it also served as an opportunity for us to debrief, reflect, and plan collaboratively while we ran.  Our jogs became valued time for us at the end of each day.  The #plankaday challenge was an added bonus to our running.  To be honest, what motivated us to get through 3 minutes of planking was knowing that the @plankpolice would be after us if we didn't! Planking each day also served as a metaphor for this form of PD, in the sense that although we started small (i.e. less than a minute) we saw tremendous improvement by the end of the month - our perseverance, commitment, and pure determination paid off.

As team-teaching partners, it was incredibly valuable to go through this challenge together.  It opened up even more avenues for conversation (and sometimes debate), as well as provided opportunities to reflect on our journey along the way.  We intend to continue filming our students (check out our class website to see some of our videos) and being constantly aware of who we engage in classroom discussions.  Despite a recent fractured hand suffered by Deirdre, we are continuing to log many kilometres on the running trails near our school.  As for planking, well let's put it this way, we have blocked the @plankpolice from our twitter profiles.

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