This year was my second time attending Ed Camp Ottawa. The first year I was fairly quiet, but came away with a ton of questions.
But this year was different. I didn’t take a single note. I shared a LOT more. I also learned a lot. I think one of the most amazing parts of Ed Camp are all the different elements of education coming together. Some of the most amazing voices in the room were the students who were remarkably articulate about their needs and how we can meet them. I also learned a lot from the student teachers. Their questions forced me to look at what I do, think about why, and wonder if there are things that I should change (obvious answer: yes). This year I leave with one strategy I know I want to try in summer school next year, a renewed passion for the work that I do, and a few places I can go to work on learning how to code, something I’ve been thinking about for a long while now. I can’t wait to get started. If you have never gone to an Ed Camp but you have a stake in education, I strongly encourage you to sign up.
This quote came across my newsfeed today and I was instantly repulsed.
While I understand that a person can attain a position of relative power by selfishly clinging to what they know that others don’t, this is antithetical to what we do as teachers. We believe in lifting others up and helping them succeed by sharing what we know. When we collectively share our knowledge, we can build on what others do, and as a group, raise ourselves to new heights!
Sharing is also essential for innovation. It’s the iterating off of what others have done, maybe combining the best elements of different ideas, that helps us to grow, create new and better ideas, and ultimately make the world a better place. I’m not sure if I am an innovative teacher. I try to learn from as many people as possible and adapt what they share to what I hope will best serve my kids. What I do know is that other teachers breaking this rule is what has allowed me to grow into being a successful teacher. For this reason, I will share what I know so that others can learn from what I have done, and as many students as possible can achieve success in their lives.
This year I have been thinking a lot about grades. In Ontario, we have the Growing Success document that tells us what we can and cannot do when determining student grades, but I find parts of it to be a little ridiculous, especially when it comes to grades 7-12. For these years, we are expected to evaluate students based on levels of achievement, but then convert that level into a percentage for report cards. For parents who never experienced this as a student, it is very confusing! If we aren’t supposed to evaluate using percentages, why report with them?
For my part, I have been moving away from grades. Occasionally if students have a finished, published work, I will give them a mark, but mostly I have been giving them feedback. In part, this is because my students generally really don’t care what their marks are. In part, I don’t feel like any grade is final until the year is over and there’s no time left. If a student wants to take some of their own time, solidify their learning, and demonstrate their increased understanding, I take it! I make notes along the way, but try to use it more to plan next steps than anything else. My question is this: is what I’m doing good for my students? Is there a way to meet my aforementioned goals in another way? Are there any Ontario people who have done away with marks altogether? How does that work?
George Couros, in his March 15, 2017 blog post, quoted an unknown person as saying “To innovate, disrupt your routine.” It stuck with me. I have all sorts of questions now. I am an occasional teacher (substitute for all you non-Ontario people). I sort of have a routine right now because I’m in a longer term position for a little while, but generally speaking, I NEVER have a routine. How can I disrupt something that I don’t have?
Or if I don’t have a routine, does this mean that I’m innovating all the time? Certainly I’m constantly creating, whether it be all of my lessons right now (I have nothing as a back catalogue of activities) or whether it be adapting a plan left by a teacher to try to engage and empower students and hopefully make that day’s learning stick, all while trying to develop rapport for the many kids I’ve never met before.
I don’t know what the answer is here, but I really wanted to pose the questions and see what the universe throws back at me by way of response.
This week, we have been challenged in #IMMOOC to write 3 blog posts under 200 words. It seemed like a good challenge, and being March break here, one that I could do. But for some reason, I haven’t. Instead, I have been playing with my website. By playing, I really mean learning and doing.
I set up the Book Reviews section and added my reviews for Writersfest. I gave myself a spot to review new books.
I learned how to set up a subscription to my blog because I know that for the blogs I read regularly, I get emails to let me know when there’s a new post.
I learned how to add an image to my sidebar because I have been meaning to add my #DitchSummit badge since December!
Finally, I set up a class website for my class because it’s something I should have done ages ago.
I haven’t exactly been innovating, but I have been learning. And doing.
I am part way through my second time doing #IMMOOC, but I have yet to do an actual blog post about my IMMOOC experience.
The first time around, I got the book late and didn’t have my blog up yet, so my experience was limited to mostly “lurking” (i.e. reading what others had to say). I was also reading the book in as many spare minutes as I could find. The Innovator’s Mindset is a great read. But when it came to everyone’s blog posts, I have to admit that I lost interest. Too many of them seemed too similar or just talked about what was already in the book. I saw the same quotes over and over again. It made sense as people were responding to what they read, but I couldn’t get into the idea of taking somebody else’s words and writing about them. I wanted action!
Despite this, I felt guilty for not being a more active participant. I felt like maybe I was letting myself down. Then I read this amazing blog post about an experience that came out of IMMOOC. This is what I wanted to be a part of. With this in mind, I gave myself permission to let go of the responding to all the blog posts as long as I was taking steps to become more like the educator that I want to be. I went after it. I went to EdCamp, loved it, made a bunch of local humans who also think with Innovative Mindsets, and found the confidence to take some next steps. I set up my blog. I tried cool things when I had the chance. I found other books that would make good supplements to The Innovator’s Mindset. I grew as an educator, and more importantly, as a person.
This time through, I have already read the book. I am one of the veterans of the group. I got my blog going around the end of November or early December and have some experience with writing posts. But for some reason, I still can’t seem to find a way to respond to the prompts or participate in the “normal” expected way. I still don’t get excited about sharing what the book means to me. I do, however, continue to try out new things in my class that I’m hoping will work for my students. When I do, I try to share in a timely fashion, although I can admit that there are a couple of posts still brewing from the last couple months. I very much put relationships first to the best of my abilities (I think that’s this week’s topic?), I put in my very best effort to be innovative in my approach to what I am teaching (is it innovative to take interesting ideas that you have found elsewhere and put your own spin on them?), and I try to embody the innovator’s mindset, while being careful to hang on to the good stuff from what is already out there.
So #IMMOOC friends, I may be terrible at responding to the regular IMMOOC prompts and suggestions, but I am out there doing my best to live the mindset that we read about and discuss. I am growing a Professional Learning Network of incredible and inspiring teachers, both near and far, have learned about some awe-inspiring and innovative ideas of how to bring the world to my students through the power of technology (and the helpful guest speakers of #DitchSummit), and look forward to continuing to learn and grow with you, if in a rather unconventional way.