Relationships and Adaptability: Tools of the Revolution

Last week we enjoyed videos and performances by our Year 12 students as we got ready to send them off to their next chapter.  As I watched those videos and thought about the high school experience through the eyes of a Year 12 student, I tried to figure out what they felt like they learned in their time here.  I’m sure if you asked them formally they would mention things like Physics or English but those certainly aren’t the things they focused on in their videos.

Relationships.  Without a doubt, relationships were the main focus of each of the six videos shared by the Year 12 students.  They celebrated the strong bonds formed over the last few years. They recognized the ups and downs, rejoicing in the unity of their particular cohorts. The power and strength of those bonds built through hard work and resilience demonstrates just how important it is for the success of students to have strong social-emotional skills.  

Our counselors have recently done a lot of work to help incorporate some of these skills into the every day curriculum.  That work is an essential part of our school’s mission but also to the what we’re trying to accomplish academically. Students who “demonstrate integrity, respect and empathy toward others” and “respond with confidence and reason to an ever changing world” aren’t created by studying a textbook, doing lab experiments or writing research papers.  These skills lie deep within the social-emotional lessons that our students need to learn. Kudos to the work our counselors have done recently to integrate more of these skills and lessons into the curriculum, there is still more to do though and the work must continue.

The other thing that came through in the Year 12 videos, albeit more implicitly, is the idea of being adaptable.  Many of those stories start off highlighting the nervousness of being put into a new cohort, working with different people and being completely out of their comfort zones.  Over time, however, as they learned to adapt and find their place within their new classes, these Year 12s showed an incredible ability to adapt and make the best of the situation.  I see this as more than being resilient. Resilience, while very important, means bouncing back from difficulties and continuing on. What I saw in our kids was more than that, not only did they bounce back but they adapted as needed to continue forward…a very big step!  

As teachers, we can learn a lot from these students.  It’s important to remember just how crucial it is for us to build relationships with our students, who are constantly changing and growing.  Additionally so with our colleagues, developing a program that meets the needs of a diverse range of learners doesn’t happen in isolation, building strong relationships with colleagues creates a positive work environment.  I frequently stress the importance of positive relationships (I would argue they’re the most important thing in a school) and it was interesting to see our Year 12s focus on their importance as well.

Generally speaking, younger people are less set in their ways and more adaptable than their more experienced (older) counterparts.  As we learn, grow and gain experience in the world, it is important to remember the we must remain flexible in our thinking. Being able to adapt is the hallmark of a successful educator.  We are in a professional field that is entering the early days of a revolution, more than 100 years of doing the same thing has proven insufficient for success in education. We, as the leaders of that change, must adapt and grow to ensure the success of our students.  

We’ve got a little over two weeks left and we’ll be doing a lot of celebrating and reflecting during that time.  Take a few minutes every now and again to think about all that our students have learned over the last year. Additionally, think about how we can adapt to improve the learning process for them next year and beyond.  It’s an exciting time to be an educator, the revolution is coming, what will be your role in the process?

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Refocusing on Students

Last week I said that I was going to start sharing interesting articles, blogs and other resources to help you think about how you can grow as a teacher.  This week I want to give you some things to ponder related to the topic “Refocusing on Students”. Aren’t the students what it’s all about?

Most of the articles that I plan to share are things that I’ve linked and saved as I scroll through Twitter, coming back to them later because they’re usually so long. SO…with that in mind, I’m only including two longer articles for those who are interested but I’ve also included some great tweets that are aimed to get the juices flowing. 

So, without further ado…There is a lot of good stuff here to inspire any educator!!

Is it ALL about student engagement?

How do students learn?

Classroom culture is essential…

How can my classroom be more rigorous?

If half your students fail….

Every child has a story

 

How could the way you interact with your students and manage your classroom be improved?  Here are 10 great ideas to begin working on immediately.

 

A great piece about how focusing on the strengths (instead of weaknesses) of an English Language Learner can help them grow

Earth Day: Ending Plastic Pollution

Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 2018 around the world…Earth:)

This year’s focus was on helping End Plastic Pollution.  For those of us who are educators this couldn’t be a more relevant topic; in our lifetimes the amount of plastic created and discarded has grown exponentially.  If we don’t educate our students (the next generations) about the dangers of this epidemic, then it’s very possible that the plastic waste in our world could choke the life out of this planet.  

I want to share some great resources for your (and your students’) learning.  Have a look at these and please find some inspiration to make steps toward, not only ending plastic pollution but also educating our students on how to create a greener lifestyle.

Inspiration:

Check out these videos to better understand what’s happening to our world.

Plastic Ocean (video)

What Really Happens to the Plastic You Throw Away (video)

 

IF They Can Do It, So Can You!

Individuals, corporations and governments all over the world are working to help solve the problem of plastic and pollution.  What are you doing to help?

How This Town Produces No Trash (video)

You Can Live Without Producing Trash (video)

Four Years of Trash:  One Jar (video)

Apple Says It’s Facilities Are Now Powered By 100 Percent Clean Energy

IKEA using mushrooms to create packaging for shipping

Plastic Waste Can Fix Our Roads (video)

An enzyme that eats plastic

Scientists Make Renewable Plastic From Carbon Dioxide and Plants

‘Zero Tolerance’ Plan for Plastic Pollution

 

Classroom Connections

These resources can help educators better engage their students in the fight against plastic and pollution.

Climate Education Toolkit

How Small Steps Can Create Outdoor Experiences in Schools

How Access to Nature During the School Year Can Help Students Thrive (in case you need more evidence for WHY!)

 

The Future?

One final idea about where education could go

Could Urban Farms Be the Preschools of the Future?

Luck, Who Needs It?

Last week we sent our Year 12 students off to their study time before Unas (national) exams, which happen this week.  Speaking with them I shared that, I don’t believe in “good luck”…

They’ve studied hard for many years, they’ve practiced multiplied times for this exam specifically and they’ve demonstrated that they can be successful students many times over, so why do they need luck?  The answer is, they don’t!

Really, luck isn’t something that we should be encouraging our kids to rely on, or even think about, in the first place.  It’s as though we’re telling them that their results are out of their control and up to fate, ouch! So when I spoke with our students the other day I reminded them of the things that they had in their control over the next few days before their exams, the things they could still do to help themselves.

First off, when I spoke with them it was Wednesday afternoon so they still had a little time left to practice, review and cram the last bits of knowledge into their heads.  Hopefully by this point they have studied and practiced enough. They’ve been learning everything they need to know for a long time and with only a few days to go they should be building their confidence by reviewing the content and affirming their knowledge for themselves.  They should know what they need to know by now…luck won’t help them!

Secondly, they can prepare their bodies for this upcoming week by being physically and mentally healthy.  Getting enough sleep is essential for teenagers and not just the night before an exam. Our students should have healthy sleep routines that allow them the eight hours necessary for their brains to clear the toxins out each night and ready their brains for learning.  If they’ve not yet developed these habits they can at least get a few solid nights of sleep leading up to the big day. A rested body and mind will provide them with the energy and ability to focus that no amount of luck can match.

The final step that our Year 12 students should focus on, instead of luck, is how they approach the actual exam itself.  By preparing, studying and getting the ideal amount of rest, our students can set themselves up for success. On the day of the exam, however, nerves can really destroy even the most well-prepared student.  I’ve shared with our Year 12 students, on multiple occasions now, that nerves are normal and healthy. However, when it comes to nerves we have to work to ensure that they don’t consume us. So, when our Year 12s enter their exam room today they need to find their seat, close their eyes, identify their nerves and acknowledge them.  Once they’ve settled their mind and realized, “okay, I’m nervous and that’s normal,” then they can set those nerves aside and focus on the task at hand. No amount of luck will make nerves go away, but acknowledging them and setting them to the side will allow the preparation to take over and lead the way to success.

Our students are ready, they should be confident and eager to prove that their hard work and preparation has paid off.  I left them the other day with these three tips and hopefully the confidence to excel this week, and…just in case they don’t buy what I’m selling…a wish of “good luck” 🙂

Preparing Students for an Unknown Future

I hope everyone had a chance to rest, relax and sharpen the saw a bit over the holiday.  We’re back for the final stretch of the year, it’s going to fly by!

During the holiday Amy and I traveled to Shanghai to visit friends and see how the city has changed since we left there almost three years ago.  Shanghai has been a land of opportunity for a long time now, especially over the last 15-20 years. As such, new restaurants, stores and other entrepreneurial opportunities have popped up quickly.  While we were visiting I had the chance to talk to a few of my friends who’ve been able to take advantage of this hotbed of opportunity and it got me thinking about our school mission and how we’re preparing our students for a booming world economy.

I don’t know the secret combination of all the ingredients but I think I’ve figured out the recipe for success that so many of these young entrepreneurs have followed.  It starts with an idea, or many ideas, targeted on an identified problem or void in a community. From there it takes time, effort (lots of effort), planning, organization, and what many of the people I‘ve spoken with called ‘good luck’.  I, however, believe that the ‘good luck’ factor isn’t truly named at all, we should be calling this last bit ‘preparedness’. And here is where I believe that we, as a school, come into the equation.

See, we’re the ones preparing these students.  We’re preparing them for the unknown, for the future that is still (at best) a foggy and murky idea of what their lives could possibly hold.  So how do we do that? Are good lesson plans, homework and final exams the answer? What about service learning, interdisciplinary units and Education Outside The Classroom?  What happens if we integrate ATLs, technology and TOK links into all of these things? Do any of the combinations from above prepare our students for the future?

Therein lies the biggest question – what future are we trying to prepare our students to meet successfully?  Are we content with preparing them for university? Should we be preparing them for life beyond university? What if our students don’t attend university, will they be successful?

My nudge to you this week, as we prepare for the final quarter of the year, is to start considering some of these questions.  As part of the three year Strategic Plan currently under development we are thinking about a lot of these questions and what the implications of their answers could mean for how we prepare students.  Take some time to contemplate these questions and debate them with your colleagues. I’d love to hear from you or be a part of any of these conversations, it’s fascinating stuff and there are certainly no ‘right’ answers!

 

Future Ready Schools

What if school didn’t look like this?

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I know what you’re saying, my classroom doesn’t always look like that.  Maybe it never looks like that.

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Chairs, technology, walls…”school”.

If you asked most people (teachers, students, non-education people) what they expect a classroom to include they would have a pretty common list:  teacher, students, desks/tables, board (smart or otherwise), books, computers. And, if you really pressed them to list absolutely everything…walls! 

This, however, is where the problem lies – these constructs of a classroom and/or school are old, they are antiquated, they date back beyond my grandparents.  What else that we rely on so heavily today is done/made the same way it was 100 years ago? 50 years ago? 20? Think about it, look around you, what is one relevant thing that is the same as it was 20 years ago?  Computer? Phone? Books? The clothes you’re wearing? Nope…everything has changed – except education!

Every industry is working to improve their product; working to make them more cost-effective, make them more user friendly, make them more green, improve functionality or performance.  Yet education, by and large, remains the same.

How are we, educators who are meant to be preparing our students for the future, supposed to do justice to a process that prepares kids for a future that includes so many unknowns?  

The answer is breaking away from the deep-seated rituals that have become school.  We must offer students the chance to truly engage with their learning, get their hands dirty, and live a life of active (not passive!) learning.

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What is this was a “classroom”…everyday??

But how?  

Well, that is for each school to figure out on their own.  How are they going to commit to being a school for the future?  It will take courage, it will take forward thinking and it will take lots of time and effort.  The results, however, will easily outweigh everything. If we keep doing things the same way, we’re going to keep getting the same results.  If we’re preparing for a dynamic future, we need a dynamic present – flexible, engaging, adaptable and inspiring…

Take a look at these schools and see how they’ve already begun to challenge the construct of school and the classroom.  These are all forward thinking schools (listed here from closest to traditional to least traditional, according to me)…they’re all awesome and all have room to improve.  However, what they have in common is that they are all schools for the future!!

Perhaps your school isn’t ready or able to make such a leap forward right now, that is fine.  However, what are you doing to create a dynamic educational experience that prepares students for the future?

I was tempted to explain these programs in brief but was concerned that an oversimplification of these wonderful programs just wouldn’t be fair.  So, I’m STRONGLY encouraging you to have a look at these programs (or at least a couple) and evaluate them yourself.

Carpe Diem School in various locations

Western Academy of Beijing – Capstone Program in Beijing, China

Roosevelt Innovation Academy in Lima, Peru

Summit Public Schools San Francisco, California

Green School in Bali, Indonesia

High Tech High in various locations

Khan Lab School in Mountain View, California

NOMAD in San Francisco, California

Think Global School in…well…nowhere and everywhere at the same time (if you look at one of these, this is it!!)

 

Explore, Experience, Learn

Last week was another great week for your Year 10 students (wow, they’ve been busy lately!) as they went out into the community and got the chance to see a side of the “real world” that they haven’t necessarily seen before.  

The opportunity that Work Experience Week offers for our students is one that I’ve not seen offered before, it’s a wonderfully unique experience that gives our students the chance to go beyond their comfort zone and begin thinking beyond Sekolah Ciputra.  The preparation, the actual experience and the reflective process all help our students experience the world in a totally different way than we could offer from a classroom.

Beginning well in advance of Work Experience Week, our students began the planning and preparation needed to earn themselves a position working with a business or organization.  They prepared job application letters, many of them went for actual interviews and they began thinking about what it would take to enter the workforce (if only for a week) and what it would mean to carry that responsibility.  By the time the Work Experience Week finally arrived our students were excited and nervous, but ready for the opportunity in front of them.

With more than 50 businesses and organizations involved in hosting our Year 10 students this year, there was certainly no shortage of diversity in the experiences that our students received.  Having opportunities at jobs with the Jawa Pos, any number of event organizers, or even just down the hall in the PYP, our students have been able to find something that is interesting, exciting and speaks to their own personal tastes.  Work Experience Week has given our students a glimpse into the future and helped them learn a little more about what lies beyond the walls of our school.

My nudge this week is to you and your departments…How can we continue to inspire our students beyond the walls of the school?  We’ve put a lot of time and effort into some amazing IDUs over the last couple of years but none of them require leaving the comfort zone of the school building.  Is there a way to take an existing IDU and move beyond the walls? If not, are there new potential IDUs that could help us expose our kids to the culture and opportunities that lie beyond the comfort zone of our school?  Perhaps you won’t act on this nudge this week but, in the future, when you’re working to plan IDUs or other engaging units, I’m asking you to think beyond our ‘bubble’ and get our kids out into the world!

 

“Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind.”  – Rebecca Solnit

“Keep exploring. Keep dreaming.  Keep asking why. Don’t settle for what you already know.  Never stop believing in the power of your ideas, your imagination, your hard work to change the world.”  – Barack Obama