Thursday, August 18, 2016

New Position Requires a New Attitude

Hi everyone!
I am in a brand new (freshly created) position in my school this year.  I am teaching a 4th special called "Discovery".  The idea behind this course is to help children to find what they are passionate about and to learn new things in a creative or innovative way.  OR they can learn new things any way they can and share them in creative or innovative ways.  Basically, I am creating this class as I teach it.
So where did I begin?  Well, that's quite easy...  It all began with a yes.  My principal came to me, along with our intervention teacher, and they asked me if I would be willing to change what I am doing and teach this 4th special.  I had thought about it and said no to myself prior to this conversation, but I found myself saying yes when I was asked.  Does this happen to anyone else???
I had no idea what this course would look like or sound like or even where it would happen (other than in the school building).  I still said yes.
I attended the Columbus Museum of Art creativity summit, which was lovely.  At first very little was resonating with me as something I would do for my position, but then quietly, slowly, ideas started to percolate.  It didn't matter how I did it as long as I have the kids the opportunity to wonder, investigate, build, create, etc.  They need it more now than ever.  I reread my notes from the week at the museum and so many quotes  and notes from the experience began to make sense in the light of this new job.
So what did I decide to do?  I decided to begin.  I didn't have to figure it all out before it started.  I just needed to know how to begin.  I decided to do the following:

  • k-1 Makerspace focusing on STEAM.  
  • 2-3 Genius hour
  • 4-5 Passion projects
I have been sharing some of these ideas with the kids in 2-5 and they are very excited!  My k-1s are thrilled to be able to engage with science, technology, building, art and math.  I sat with a little guy in kindergarten today who doesn't speak any English.  He and I built several structures together, smiling and laughing and speaking to each other in our own languages.  It was so touching to have that common work between us even though we have a language barrier.  
I am really enjoying the work so far, but my attitude had to undergo a change...  is still undergoing a change to be able to open up to the possibilities.  At first, after 22 years of teaching academics, with a primary focus on literacy, I felt a bit benched.  I didn't like that feeling at all.  To be honest, I still struggle with it a bit.  I see others giving the fall benchmark assessments and I am not giving them.  I am not analyzing running records or looking for strengths and needs for the students in reading, writing and math.  I am not on any of the committees that I was on for years.  It's hard having academic value and then losing all of that.  
I am trying to take this as an opportunity to stretch myself as an educator though.  Obviously I needed this challenge if I put all of my worth into my abilities as a reading and writing teacher.  
So, to adjust my attitude...  I am going to see this as another room in my teaching house.  It's the attic.  I can still visit all of the other rooms, but my focus needs to be there.  The kids need this.  They need me to show them that what they care about matters and that they can independently continue to learn outside of the classroom walls.  
I am also excited to involve the community.  So many of the kids are talking about learning about things that I don't know how to do yet.  I can learn, but I can also ask for help.  I am excited to have that relationship with people in our community and hopefully make them aware of the value that they have to give.  
It's all a big adventure and I don't know where it will go, but thank goodness I get to see. :)