Courage and Vulnerability

It takes courage to try new things as an educator. We have to accept that things won’t always work out, and not every idea will become the next greatest idea in teaching. That being said, we have to be able to get back up from those failures and keep going. This was one of the many great messages highlighted in Brené Brown’s SXSWedu talk Daring Classrooms. As I was watching her video I was reminded of a conversation I had with my grade team at the beginning of the year. As we talked about our plans and hopes for the year, my colleague who was new to the school said “I’m very comfortable with chaos. I’m ok with messy, and I’m ok with failure. It’s part of the process.” 

To me this was an example of her embracing our vulnerability as educators, and as a learning community. We were trying to do something new and different, and there was a strong chance that things would go wrong. It takes courage to step into those situations.

As we have been developing our learning community this year, we have been working to create a place where students are confident, able to voice their opinions and challenge teachers and students alike in respectful ways. I thought Browns examples of the difference between shame, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment were particularly powerful. Understanding the difference between these concepts can be helpful for educators and their students in creating communities built on empathy and understanding.

This also reminded me of a session that I attended by Rosalind Wiseman and Charlie Kuhn from Cultures of Dignity. In the session, and in this post, they talk about the difference between respect and dignity. They highlighted that these two words are often used interchangeably, but there is a big difference. While respect must be earned, through our actions and experiences, everyone has the right to be treated with dignity.

Independent learners

The goal of new pedagogies is to enable students to become independent learners who design and manage the learning process effectively. This has been something we have been focusing on in my learning community. 

Early on we established that we would like to offer targeted workshops to our students based on their passions, interests, and learning needs. We also wanted students to have time to work through their learning processes and explore their passions independently. This meant we needed a way to create a flexible schedule where students could participate in workshops they were interested in, and also have the support they needed while working independently. 

Sample Master Schedule

Each week through conferencing with students and formative assessment we develop a list of workshops that will be offered. The students then sign up for the workshops they need or are interested in, and then fill their remaining time in their schedule to work independently. Teachers who are not running workshops are conferencing with students and checking in with groups. 

Something that we have added since the beginning of the year in order to help students have clear goals and outcomes for their time is short fifteen minute meeting at the beginning of each day where students take time to look at their schedule and set goals for themselves. We also use this time to reflect on their goals from the previous day.

A blank schedule for students to fill in with their plan and goals.

This system, combined with units of inquiry that provoke student driven personalized inquiries is giving our students more opportunities to develop the skills they need to effectively design and manage their learning process.