I attended a presentation by the leadership team of a brand new school that will be opening in Flat Bush next year. While sitting and listening to the presentation, my mind was juggling a multitude of thoughts and ideas. Firstly I was fascinated by our need to constantly rename and reframe what we do as educators. The principal is now a Leader of learning and teachers/educators are learning coaches. I am used to hearing about modern learning environments but this school wants to be an innovative learning environment – an ILE not MLE. I have recently visited Hingaia Peninsula School and I have been to Stonefields. There are decisions to be made about what we call the learning spaces – hubs or studios or something else? I came home inspired to look at all this more carefully and so jumped on the net.
To me one needs to think about how we (by this I mean students and teachers) manage learning as well as where the learning will take place but of course what we are going to learn is equally important. So I began to reflect that my Student Planner approach manages the routine of learning – maybe I need to look more closely at where we learn. Already my students move around and find the best learning environment for them but maybe I need to be even more adventurous. Attending a BOT workshop a few months ago, I heard that the difficulty for Catholic Schools is how to try to achieve a modern learning environment in existing buildings. So that got me to thinking – how can I manage my existing environment – maybe I can join with the classroom next door. Our two classrooms are connected with a wet room and a cloak bay. What if we turned the shelving in the wet room into work space and then put down a carpet in the Cloak Bay and put in bean bags and this became the reading area – possibly fitting in a kidney table for reading groups. So I emailed a colleague, set up a shared google doc and our creative juices are flowing.
Finally I have got around to recording how my Student Planner has worked this year. In my defence, I have spent heaps of time refining the process, allowing students to reflect on it as a tool for their learning and then responding to their suggestions.
I began the year by reading through the reflections of my students from last year. I had decided I would follow the same process as last year of “teaching” the Student Planner process in term 1 and then introducing it in Term 2. But after reading the reflections (I was most impressed by the depth of the reflective thinking) I decided to introduce it from the second week of Term 1, using the first week as a getting to know each other and our learning styles. Why would I deny my students the benefits my previous students so eloquently listed in their reflections?
Once again the students quickly saw how the Student Planner gave them the opportunity to be the “Boss of their own learning” as they planned when they would do tasks and as the terms progressed, how they would do these tasks and how they would present their learning. At the end of Term 1 only three of the students felt they either did not like the Student Planner or were struggling with it. But by the end of Term 2, two of the three now reflected on how the Student Planner was helping their learning.
This year I have done a much better job of explaining the reflection component. We have experimented with different types of reflections. This has tied in very nicely with the learning goals we set at Parent/Teacher/Student Conferences. These now become part of our reflections on the Student Planner. The children either reflect on how they have used a task to show their mastery of a goal, ask buddies for feedback on a goal they are working on or set new goals after reflecting on a piece of work they have done.
Constant reviewing of the processes have led to the students suggesting quality controllers (or QCs as we decided to call them). Students who had completed tasks to a high standard and /or showed great mastery in a task took on these roles and then students would have their work assessed by these QCs before submitting it for assessment or feedback. Some students who felt this denied them being “Boss of their own learning” opted out of this and then had to ensure their work was at acceptable standards.
The children are still constantly coming up with suggestions for improvements. They would like the Student Planner available on the class page on the Monday (I am released on a Monday for IT and elearning support so only hand out hard copies of the Student Planner on a Tuesday) and would like all task material available on Monday too in case they would like to get a head start on the work. They have also requested a computer book in timetable to allow more equitable access to devices. So the Student Planner (and its routines) is certainly a living, breathing, evolving tool. Our collaborative partnership with learning in Room 20 continues to make us all love coming to school.
I have been feeling guilty for a while now about not adding posts to my blog. We have just started our journey as a GAFE (Google Apps for Education) school and so I am tossing around ideas of how I can use the many opportunities GAFE offers. While playing around with Google Sites I began to reflect on how best I could record what I know is my own personal teacher inquiry – my Student Planner approach to teaching. This led me to look back at my Scrapbook Teacher blog. Reading back through the entries, I realise what an awesome record they are of my teaching and reflection. I am also disappointed that I have not recorded my journey for this year. So this post is the start of addressing this. Looking at the blog about how the government treats teachers made me realise we are no better off – in fact with IES we are probably even worse. So now I need to become more disciplined at how I balance my many tasks as a teacher (which needs to include blog entries) and still have a home and personal life. But as it is late now – I must turn off my computer and go to bed to read a book. Knowing me, my dreams will be filled with teaching ideas as I have spent most of the evening on my computer doing teaching related tasks – good thing it is my passion!