What are optimal conditions in which to learn, for you, and for students? What a great question. I have spent the last decade really grappling with this question, but not taking time to really try to come up with the answers.
When I became what I called a “connected educator,” I learned so much. I became the chief learner in my classroom.
I passionately tried to teach my students to love learning and go for broke. Some of my thoughts from 2012:
Then I moved to a new country, where the culture is so different. The educational values are not what I was used to. Education here is what I describe as more traditional. Students and parents are more competitive and good grades and being on the honor roll are the pinnacle. I have weathered my share of storms as I try to navigate this new educational landscape.
Now, this week, for the #8WeeksofSummer challenge, I was asked the question about what are the optimal learning conditions for me and my students. Today, I have a more nuanced answer than the 2012 writing above.
I have never before stopped to articulate what I think about the colliding of my experiences in eastern and western schools. I’ll take a stab at it today, but really these are just some random thoughts: I’ll keep grappling!
- East or west, I am still the chief learner in my classroom.
- I use technology in the classroom, but not as extensively to connect and collaborate as I did when I was teaching in Iowa. We use Google Drive to write poetry, pen pal letters, novels, and more. We write blog posts. We create cool things like animations on brush.ninja.
- I don’t sit at a student desk any longer. Actually, I didn’t sit at the student desk or teacher desk when children are present. Now, a student is usually sitting in my teacher desk during class.
- I am up front at times, but always strive to get the students speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English.
- Teaching English language learners has been a long and upward learning curve for me.
- There are so many wonderful opportunities to bring English to students who are learning to use the language. English truly is one of the windows to the world.
- I am working hard to teach a love for learning. I am constantly on the lookout for ways to do this beyond the seemingly all-important grades–I ask students constantly to self-reflect and subsequently self-grade, students help develop the rubrics used, we have Pearls of Wisdom, geniushour, we use Instagram hashtags that bring language use outside the classroom (#arsvocab and #arsreading).
I don’t think I have answered the question, but here are a few optimal conditions for learning worldwide:
- Have a loving and respectful relationship with students. (Last year and the coming year, I have had the joy of knowing my students since they were in kindergarten, as I was their teacher then too. What a better way to love your students than to have loved them since they were little!)
- Keep the foundation firm. Teach the curriculum that will help them grow as English users, whatever it takes.
- Trust students to own their own learning. (Optimally, when we can get away from the grades, I believe students will rise to the occasion and enjoy learning more. It’s still a hope of mine that we can take the percentages away from the report cards through grade 5, and just report how they are doing on learning the standards.)
I guess these are conditions that work for me and students.