Exploring the brain

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We’re looking into the brain right now in class. The students started exploring google expeditions and the brain tours are really interesting. Students were able to zoom into the brain, check out inside parts of it, explore the central nervous system and just get a really good understanding of the different parts by seeing the connections.

I was wondering about the different ways we could “see” the brain to tune us in, and I hadn’t used google expeditions before so wanted to try it out.

My main dilemma was whether to guide them or not. I chose to let them explore. I feel they learned a lot more this way, because they had the opportunity to see what they wanted when they wanted and explore a little more deeply into the ideas that connected to them.

 

How is it connected?

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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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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.

What’s a team?

 

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I used to be a coxswain, the small (I can’t believe I used to weigh that much) person steering the boat and getting the team working together. I’d never been a captain before, or someone who led something, and this was a strange position because I was doing something other than what everyone else was doing, but I was essential for keeping people moving together. It was an amazing opportunity and a ton of fun, mostly I learned a lot.

We just finished the exhibition, one of the major reflections we have from this is how to pick teams? How can you pick an effective group (can you)? I guess what the boils down to is, what do we really want from the groups?  PE teachers want teams to be fair as in equally matched, previously we picked our exhibition teams surrounding what passions do we share, we are looking to picking groups that will have people contributing equally (if that’s even possible).

When we were rowing, your team had be aligned. We had to move together. So if your stroke was outpacing the rest, they had to slow down. Is that what we really want out of our students? Of our grade level teaching teams? Of our schools? I wonder really what a team is in this regards, or if the term team is really what we’re looking for.

The Exhibition

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This is my first year teaching a class that is going through the PYP exhibition.  For the past seven years I’ve been a part of it, either as a mentor or as someone who helps prepare the presentations. I’ve always loved it, and always wanted to play a bigger role in it.

This year, especially with my class, I feel like it’s been pretty great. The students were pretty good at finding a problem and being able to look at something they felt was important to them. They’ve come up with questions and lines of inquiry. It’s been exciting to watch.

I guess most exciting of all, especially from my point of view, is when the students encounter problems with their group mates. It’s interesting to see how they go about approaching the person they think is the problem, and how they come up with solutions to figure out how to make something work.  Sometimes it’s been really successful, other times, not so much.

Some of the groups have really changed their focus and ideas, while others have stayed pretty consistent. It’s just interesting to see the amount of effort that goes into it from a student point of view, and makes me wonder how well I manage my time.

One of the most rewarding aspects for me so far has been seeing how their idea of action has evolved. It started with just wanting to raise money and now it’s going for more personal transformation. Instead of students working to raise money for a cultural group, they are looking at how we can recognise racist thoughts in ourselves. One group is taking students into a green screen room to talk about how some people don’t get access to education using visual displays, it’s great to see action taking on personal aspects.

 

Value laden curriculum

 

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This week in class (both my doctorate and my grade six class) we have been looking at values and beliefs.  I feel like I explicitly teach the PYP values and explain my own personal values (not that my values, or the PYP values are the values to have, but rather it forms a part of who I am, so students should be aware of them).

Our school had an incredibly provoking speaker come in last week. Peter Daglish works in many different roles, but one of them is with the UN habitat organization that does work in Afghanistan.  He mostly talked about how he works with kids, and what kids can do to make a difference. Again it was very values oriented.

I’ve started to wonder, especially since I’m going to focus mostly on qualitative research, about how important it is to have values, and how we plan with people who have different values than we do.

The learners are headed into the exhibition this week. We as a class are digging deep into our values and beliefs so we can start to take some action. We think that if we know who we are and what we believe it’s easier for us to take action.

It’s going to be an exciting unit.

Is content important?

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Reading Schwab (1973) for my curriculum class has made me think a little differently about how I approach the idea of content (and personal content mastery) in my teaching.

Being a part of the IB, and firmly believing in concepts, I’ve always kind of thought that having a mastery of content might not be that important.  I thought that good teachers can ask good questions to get people to deeper understandings, even if they don’t fully understand.

Since reading this article though, I think I may have missed some key points (hopefully because I have a solid knowledge of all the required understandings). If we as educators don’t really know the content how can we ask good questions or lead to a desired enduring understanding. Backwards design is a powerful planning tool, but if we don’t know what the end goal is (or we’re unable to do the end goal ourselves) how can we get students there?

Working in the outdoors has always been easy for me, and other people have told me they’ve felt uncomfortable outside, they always wanted to know what they could teach.  I was always slightly confused by this (I guess because I felt like I knew enough of the outdoor content) but they need to become masters in their understanding.

I guess I’m wondering if we need to be more focused on content for PD at times. Like make sure our teachers really and fully understand the content of our place so they feel more comfortable sharing what they know.  If we can really download some local knowledge about our place, we may be better able to teach about it.