On Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at RewirEd: a digital symposium for classroom teachers and school leaders that was held in our Board. For my last session, I went to listen to Jennifer Faulkner talk about Students As Teachers. I’ve seen Jennifer speak before on multiple occasions and even on a similar topic, but she’s always a wonderful speaker that gives me lots to think about, so I was excited to attend her session again.
While there are many parts of this session that I could blog about, it was actually the introduction that’s causing me to reflect right now. Jennifer began by giving us a paper handout and asking us to complete a Minds On activity independently. Right away, this caused a problem for me: as usual, I didn’t have a pen. I couldn’t help but send out this tweet to Kristi, my previous vice principal and once again, educational kindred spirit (as she would have likely also been without a pen):
Then I had a choice.
- I could have sat there and done nothing.
- I could have started asking around for a pen.
- I could have started causing problems because I didn’t have a pen and couldn’t do what was being asked of me. Why not make some noise?! 🙂
- I could have figured out a way to use the tools that I did have to complete this task.
My solution was actually a little bit of everything. I started by just sitting down and looking around at everybody else working. Then I asked Jennifer if she was handing out pens with the paper, as I didn’t have one. 🙂 This comment caught the attention of a few others. Apparently Jennifer’s label of me as a “troublemaker” (while said in jest) was accurate. But then I decided to problem solve. I took a photograph of the paper, and used Explain Everything to complete the task.
I reflect back on this experience because I didn’t follow the rules. I didn’t ask for permission to do what I did. If a student in my class made the same choice as I did, how would I react? How would you?
Over the years, I’ve become better at giving students choices in their learning. I’ve thought more about what really matters.
- Does it matter what tool students use?
- Does it matter if they choose an option that’s different than the ones I suggested?
- Do they need to ask for permission to make changes, or can they just do so?
- Have I provided opportunities for differentiation, and if not, have I taught students how to do so on their own?
My Grade 1’s often still come to me if they’re considering an option that’s different than the ones I suggested. Our conversations often include these questions: “What are we trying to learn? Does your choice show me that you’ve learned this? If so, can you do it? If not, what other choice might?” I think that these discussions are for both the students and for me. The truth is that sometimes when students come to me with their suggestions, I’m tempted to say, “no.” But asking these questions remind me of what’s important, and allow the students to take ownership over their learning. I think this matters.
I think that there’s value in having “educational troublemakers” in our classrooms, schools, and PD sessions. They give us new perspectives. They help us make changes. Their thoughts often result in good conversations on both pedagogy and tools. They make us realize that maybe there are other ways. I’m okay with sometimes being an educational troublemaker, and I’m happy to know and collaborate with others that have caused this troublemaker to think of things differently. A special thank you to Jennifer for always supporting my troublemaking. What have you learned from educational troublemakers? How do you support a range of thinking and doing in the classroom, the school, and professional development opportunities? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences!