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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Making Shift Happen - A Time For Reflection

It is July once again; a time for reflection.

This past year has been the best year I have ever experienced in my teaching career. This is due in large part to the learning that I have experienced this year and the teaching networks I have been a part of. I am more aware than ever that while we are often the only adult in our classroom, teaching is not by any means a solo pursuit, it is meant to be something that is done in community.

The entire paradigm of teaching has shifted. No longer is a teacher the impart-er of knowledge and information; a teacher is now a role model for learning. More than ever this year, I developed a learning stance, and became the chief learner in my classroom, and that made the year fun and exciting for me, and learning a contagion for my students.

Creating strong learning networks that I could go to for advice and ideas was really important to me this year. I am so grateful to all of the very excellent Grade Six teachers in our board that lent me their ears!  I am also grateful to my friends in other boards who acted as objective listeners to my sometimes fantastical ideas. And lastly, I'm extremely grateful to all of the incredible educators I have met in my virtual network via Twitter, Google+ and ETMOOC.

Today I started tutoring a 12 year old boy in Math.  I asked first to look at his report card, and saw that he averaged about a 67% in most subjects. In the Learning Skills section, I noticed that it was stated he needed improvement in "Self-regulation" and "Independent work". I pointed this out to him and asked if he has trouble focusing and paying attention.  He said "Not really". I said "is your class rowdy and do the students fool around a lot?" He said "Pretty much". I asked him to describe a typical Math lesson. He described a class where the teacher taught the lesson at the front of the room for the first half hour, then assigned the questions in the text book for the second half of the period. He mostly ignored the lesson and the questions while he socialized with his friends.

I asked what part of Math he found most difficult, he didn't even hesitate before answering "percentages". I asked him to complete a Proportional Reasoning Diagnostic from our Ministry's Closing the Gap on the Math Gains website. It was apparent he didn't understand the relationship between fractions, decimals, percentages, rates and ratios. We started with factors and multiples, quickly moved to numerators and denominators, then equivalent fractions. I was amazed at how quickly he caught on.  Within one hour he was solving rate problems by converting to a unit rate.  So why didn't he learn all of this in school?

It is no longer okay to teach the way we were taught!  For so many of our students, (I would argue especially our boys), it just DOESN'T WORK!

Although I've had an excellent year in the classroom, and am well aware that I still have so much more to learn, I am leaving the classroom for a temporary hiatus to go back to the Curriculum Department. Hence the name change of my blog! I am going to attempt to Make Shift Happen! We classroom teachers need to change the way we are teaching so that we reach the students most at risk in our classrooms. Every child has a right to succeed and it is our duty to make sure that that happens. I'm hoping that I can support teachers in making that shift happen in their classrooms.

I'm scared though, scared because I know how teachers feel about enforced PD and enforced "Professional Learning Communities". My blog post and the comments that ensued on the PLC vs the PLN (Professional Learning Network) were an eye-opener for me. My challenge this year will be to find a way to be a co-learner with my fellow teachers and support them in making shift happen. I am really hopeful that I can inspire and motivate my colleagues the way I have been inspired and motivated by my PLN. I think the key elements are voice and choice, I just don't know yet how to ensure those elements are embedded in my work with teachers.

I will once again welcome your ideas and opinions. Your comments and emails will be more important than ever to me on this portion of my learning journey.


  1. Good luck, Lorraine! I know it is not easy being with those teachers who are not lifelong learners, is it? You will encounter some of those. Ones who don't want to be in any kind of PD--sad, but true.

    My suggestion is to find those who are inspirational in their buildings, those who are already making shift happen. Start with them! And have fun. You will bring some fresh ideas to what collaboration, lifelong learning and networking can be.

    All the best in your new position!


  2. Hi Denise,
    Thanks for your support! Just watched Grant Lichtman's video on 21st Century Skills that Sheri Edwards tweeted. Going to let it curate and then I might write a post about it.
    I don't understand why everyone doesn't take on a "learning stance". But I think it has something to do with seeing the need to develop into "self-evolving learners" the way Lichtman describes.
    I know the mantra is always "go with the goers", and I will, it's just that I know the "goers" are going to get there one way or another anyway; that makes me feel superfluous.
    It is those challenging ones, those that believe "Old School is the best school", those who say they are "not comfortable" with change that I want to make a difference with. I've come to believe that the vast majority of educators out there do what they do because they care very much about their students and believe what they are doing is in their students' best interest.
    I will blog along the way...

  3. Voice and Choice. That is certainly the best advice to follow, and you gave it to yourself. How do we give voice to those whose voice seems anti-change? How do we find the hidden fears behind that stance so they can move on with choices that will fit with their voice?

    I have not found the answer, but I have not yet given up either. Excellent post.

    Glad you liked the video -- it was so powerful to me as well.

    And guess what Lorraine? I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award – a way to discover new blogs and learn more about the bloggers. Visit my blog post about it to learn more about the award AND me: Liebster: Discover New Blogs Keep the learning going!

  4. "Keep the Learning Going" - I think that will be my new mantra Sheri!

    Yes, it is finding those hidden fears and helping people get past them. It is allowing them to give voice to those fears without judgement that is the challenge.

    Thank you so much for the nomination, now I'm going to go find some great fellow-bloggers to nominate!


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