Place based education as service learning

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One of my favourites (if you can’t tell by how loved it looks).

When we talk about the importance of place, especially when you put educators or teachers in the search terms, we often get information on place based education.  We’ve been really trying to connect to our community lately and I’ve revisited this book in order to look how to make some meaningful connections.

One of my big take aways, especially as a member of an international community, is that community based education helps us to become a member of a community rather than an observer of that community.

As international students and teachers it is easy to get lost in developing a sense of place. It is easy for us to cling to our old identities and stay in our same ways.  However, when we move to get out of the community, when we try to get ties to our new place, we change a little who we are.  We stop being passive observers of a culture and start becoming members and co-creators of a community.

Previously we’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to bring HDB community garden members into our garden.  We start by building community (at least my thought at the time was) by opening our doors, bringing people in, and then working together.  However, we moved from that to go to their garden. How are they doing it, what can we learn, how can we help?

I think it goes back to this idea of listening, and this idea of watching systems. When we really understand something, when we try to be a part of it (rather than trying to insert our views right away, we can make a bigger difference in ourselves and then the community.

So, if we can start building on our service learning, and really try to develop a place based curriculum. I wonder how effective we could be in transforming ourselves into members of the community.

Is anyone in an international school doing this really effectively? Care to share some ideas?

Separate but together

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I’ve been thinking about this idea this week, not only in my doctoral journey, but often times as a teacher we represent more than one, but often we’re just on our own.  A classroom sometimes can feel isolated, like we’re in our own cage beside people also in their own cages. I’ve been wondering how to work with the people outside of our small little community to make a bigger difference.

As a class I think we’re more free range than most, we’re outside almost every day, we’re getting dirty, we’re learning lots in different spaces, but we’re still kind of doing that on our own.  How can we break out of this cage and do more than just be with us, how do we start mixing with the other classes and maybe make a bigger difference?

 

Being across homes.

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Looking for a new home

Just finished re-reading “Being Across Homes” it explores this idea of how we are different people in different places. As an international educator I feel like I have many different homes.  The place my parents consider home is in Ontario, my home is now in Singapore, but a place that will always sort of be home is Phnom Penh (pictured above). While all those places played a vital role in shaping who I am, and who I was, but I feel like each place I was also a somewhat different person.

A lot of the article talks about how community shapes us by giving us social clues, or opportunities to be who we are, or become who we are supposed to become. The people around us help mold us and help give us clues on how to act, and we respond differently to these cues in the different places we are in.  While much of this did not delve deeply into how places shapes us as people, it did talk a lot about how we are different people in different places.

From this idea I was wondering about the importance of a true self, or most true self.  Is there a person we are “supposed” to be, or static kind of true who we are? Or do the places and people around us continue to shape us and help us grow.  From what I read, fundamentally we have specific characteristics, but can we actually embody other forms of action based on where we are and who is around us?

 

Hubard, O. (2011). Being across Homes. Teachers College Record, 113(6), 1255-1274.

How is it connected?

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 Some rights reserved by ShinyPhotoScotland

As a class we’ve been looking at connection in our brain unit. Last night was our parent curriculum night. I’m a team lead with seven new teachers on my team (including myself).

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to support my learners, my parents and my colleagues and wondering how all of these things are connected.

I’m not sure, but it seems like in previous years I’ve been pushing myself to help in some way, or be present or be something. This year I’m trying (rather unsuccessfully) to listen and just make sure other people are heard.

Parents want the best for their kids (so do I, but it’s not really about me), so last night I tried to listen, and be available for the real worries the parents feel. I tried to support my team by acknowledging and listening about stressful situations, because they are real and time consuming and at times encompassing. I try to listen to what my students are actually saying, to see how they see connections, without me trying to put too much of my voice in their work.

I think a lot of teaching is about making others better, not really taking part in the process, but encouraging and suggesting and at times teaching specific skills, but only when the students really ask, and really need the help.

I think it’s probably the same with parents and team mates, the more I work on making them better (and the better they want to be, not necessarily the better I want them to be) the more likely they will achieve success.

It’s hard though. Stepping back, removing my self and trying to just focus on other’s needs.  It’s hard not to take some things personally, it’s hard to just get things done on my own, my work, my study, my life. But I think it will become easier, at least that’s my hope.

Building a community

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 Some rights reserved by RMLondon

 

This week, based on heaps of meetings, and one more coming up, I’ve been thinking about how best to form engaged communities of practice. I’m wondering how and why we share things with others (or maybe even do we share with others). If we are sharing, what benefits does it bring us, does it limit us in any way?

As our teams change and adapt to new situations, I’m wondering how we can get the best out of each person.  When we empower people (even if they might not want to be empowered) how do we get them leading effectively?

As we’re forming a new grade 5 team this upcoming year, I’m wondering about the first steps. How do we get there as a team, how do we as individuals know what we want to share?

I’ve been reading all over the place lately (which isn’t good for my doctoral research) some Adam Grant, some curriculum design, some IB material, and I’m wondering how we can get people from the team effectively leading in areas they may not feel supremely comfortable in.

I still have a feeling it’s about really knowing the person and helping them be their best, and trusting them with the process, but is there a way I can help them with specific skills first (or is that even necessary).

Anyway, been thinking a lot about August.

This is one of my saddest year ends in six years. Having this group of kids has helped me really love teaching again (I’ve been out of traditional classroom teaching for maybe six years). But it’s made me a little sad about the upcoming holiday. I’m going to miss them.

Working in teams

IMG20170913085153So I’ve still been really focused on what it means to work on a team or group. I’m more or less planning for next year and how I can help my team be a little more group oriented.

I’ve been thinking about the idea of developing team identity and what that means. Senge was big in organizational development earlier in my educational career, and now I’m wondering about how best to work with a small team in a big organization. What does that mean, how do we develop identity and how can we work with our team to make a difference in our team.

I think first for us is identity development. Not just grade level, but actually understanding who we are as individuals and what that means for us as a group. What do we really know about each other, how can we bring about bigger change as a group, seeing ourselves as part of a bigger whole? I’m not really sure of everything just yet but that’s my plan.

Adam Grant’s give and take is also going to be a part of my summer reading, trying to get things moving for a more successful team. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Aikido Conflict Management

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 Some rights reserved by javiergak

This week as our exhibition unfolds we’ve been looking at what to do when people disagree.  Since we are in groups discovering our own process, there are bound to be disagreements, and we were wondering what are some of the more interesting ways to interact with each other when these types of situations arise.

When I was doing my master’s we looked at the idea of using aikido as a conflict management style. The hope in aikido is that the relationship matters. There should be a win-win resolution. When we are working with others, physical conflict might not happen but if we can apply the same principal of win-win to our verbal conflict we can hopefully work towards a better resolution.

Aikido also hopes for resistance and letting force flow through the situation. When we think of disagreements from this point of view, we can hopefully focus more on what the problem really is (not what is superficially being presented) and we can let the negative feelings or connotations flow past us.

If you’re interested in learning more, there’s lots online, or you can check out this article