Who Grew More, the Student or Teacher?

Two years ago the grade 6 and 7 teachers at my school, along with our principal, made an important decision. Little did I know that this agreement would change my beliefs about what is best for student learning  nor did I realize this was the nudge I needed to take  risks and make changes in my teaching.

Men in black

Then there were 4.

Men in black with star

Now we are 5!

In June of 2011, after much consideration, the upper intermediate teachers decided to move from 3 straight grade 7 classes and one split to 4 combined 6/7s. Notice I used the term combined, not split. There is a very significant difference in how you teach a combined class versus a split class.

This was not an easy decision for me as I had been teaching grade 7 for many years. I was in a comfortable spot where I knew the curriculum  well enough  to be able to develop new approaches to what I did each year without having to learn a new curriculum. I had so many questions of what this combined class would look like and how the parents and kids would react after the years of tradition that had taken place at our school.

DSCF2049As a collaborative group we decided to take the leap,  to start a new journey. As we took this turn, we also were starting an inquiry on the use of technology and student engagement in the classroom. We also made a decision to run a two year program – the grade 6s would stay with their same teacher for two years. Thirdly, we made a conscientious decision to change the language in our classes to ‘learning’ language.

Our first two year cycle has come to an end; the grade 6s we started with are now off to 100_4596high school and ready to fly. As I reflect on this journey I am amazed, thrilled and a little dumbfounded at all that has transpired. What is even more powerful is that the students have recognized how far they have come in the two years and articulate it clearly to anyone who might ask.

What made the most impact on the change in student learning? I don’t know if I can prioritize this. I doIMG_0951 know that having the students for two years allowed growth for all. If you were to tell me that Mary (made up name) would grow from a timid, sometimes socially inappropriate, and disinterested child to a leader in the class as well as the school and a deep, reflective thinker I would have scoffed. If you would have told me that Johnny (again made up) would go from the highly disorganized, lose everything, one line writer to the focused (not all the time but most of the time), love to help others learn, and writer of thoughtful, detailed pieces I would laugh. But these as well as 11 other powerful stories did take place. The 13 grade 7 students who walked out my door on June 28th, 2013 are not the same students who walked in September 5, 2011. Some may say, “Maybe this growth would have happened anyway even without the same teacher for two years.” Who knows. What I do know, from my perspective, is that I am incredibly thankful to be the teacher who did have them for two years to witness their growth and did have the chance to push them to find their own potential. I am lucky to have been part of their world for the past two years.

Creating a combined class rather than a split class was also instrumental for the students.IMG_1031 We did all of our learning together (except Math); there was no split curriculum or sitting in separate parts of the class. Each student had an opportunity to work with everyone in the class, sit beside everyone, build relationships with everyone. The students did not see themselves as separate but as a family. As we reflected on this at the end of the year the students very clearly stated that it was the creation of the family unit that was incredibly important to them. They felt that we all built trust together and that we learned together.

Finally, the change of language. This is harder to describe. I made it intentional to promote the concept “we are all learners.” I was not the keeper of the knowledge. In December of 2012 one of my grade 6 students wrote on my blog,

IMG_0997Mrs. Middleton

It’s Slapshot one of your students and I’d just like to say that I think your an amazing learner and critical thinker. By the way you take time to write out these posts and are not afraid to share your learning with the world is just amazing! You are one of the only teachers I’ve ever had that has made learning fun, and it’s an honor to have you as my teacher but most of all a fellow learner. It’s not just us that learns but you can learn from us. Like just today you said to Skywalker in class that you could never come up with “International classmates” by yourself. That just shows how much you have pushed our thinking in the past 3 months.

Thank you for making this the best year of school yet and more to come.

Slapshot

This was so powerful, a wow moment – my students saw themselves, as well as the teacher, as a learner.

I also tried to instil in each of my students that it was the journey that was important, the journey is the learning, not some end grade. Students came to embrace this and stopped asking, “Is this for marks?” or “What is my mark?” They came to own their learning. Two years ago I was wondering how I could move my students from being observes of their learning to owners of their learning. Well they have done it and I cannot believe how  powerful this piece is and how proud they each are of their growth.

Haley and IIt was a very difficult good bye this past June for me. It is hard to say farewell to those who have been such a part of my life for so long. I can feel a sense of satisfaction and a lot of pride that these  students will succeed in their lives because they have taken on the ownership of their learning, they are wanting to succeed for themselves. I also am thrilled to know that 15 of my students will be walking back through my door in September ready to take the lead in our class, to build new relationships and to continue their growth where they left off. How exciting for us all.

I cannot imagine going back to the way it was in June 2011; too much of who I have become happened because of the changes my colleagues and I made over the past 2 years. I am extremely excited to continue this journey and see what else transpires for me in this wonderful profession I am a part of.

To end this year each student created a reflective animoto of their growth – where they have come from and where they are now. I have shared three with you here but all of the reflections can be found on my website at Student Reflections. These are  powerful examples of how far each has come in their own growth as well as the growth of the learner.

Student Reflection

Student Reflection 2

Student Reflection 3

I would like to hear of changes others have made this past year or two that have made a difference in your teaching and student learning. Please share a story or two of what has made an impact in  your teaching.

Its About Choice

In January after I wrote my post about Juggling the Learning I had a number of educators give me great advice. One of my readers stated, “if something on Twitter was important to you, it will find its way at just the right moment. On a Saturday morning in May that is exactly what happened. At just before 9:00 am I opened twitter to take a quick peak. There on my screen were a number of tweets reminding everyone about the liveclassroom2.0 session just about to take place on Genius Hour.  Even though my plan had been to tackle a pile of marking I decided to switch gears and join the session. I am so very glad I did.

UnknownI have been watching the growth of Genius Hour for just over a year. I met with Gallit Zvi, one of the driving forces behind GH, last summer to discuss passion based learning that was starting to pick up speed, and followers, throughout our school district and North America. I had planned to begin Genius Hour some time in the fall of 2012 but for many reasons this did not happen.

Even though Genius Hour has been on my “to do” list for the year I cannot add insight intoUnknown-1 how well this is going in my class.  Instead, after listening in and being a part of the liveclassroom2.0 session, this helped reaffirm in myself that what is happening  in my room, even though it is not attached to a specific approach to learning such as passion based learning, is valuable and is right for my students. I realized that I needed to acknowledge what was working and not chastise myself for what I have not done yet.

There were many comments made during the session about student choice, student ownership, student motivation and student engagement when teachers have implemented Genius Hour in their rooms. Even though I have never done GH I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with many about the importance of these things. I believe my students are engaged, are motivated, and are encouraged to own their learning and because of this I can see their enthusiasm and feel their positive energy each day.7228077_orig

Over the past couple of years I have been asked how my students have become owners of their learning. What is happening in my room that students have been quoted as saying,   “learning in this class is fun”? I believe at the base of much of the shift is CHOICE. “You always give us choice to roam our ideas on how we can make projects our own instead of giving us a straight assignment where we don’t get to do what we want. Like for presentations you give us the chance to express our understanding how we want to do it.” (Grade 7 student) When given a choice, no matter how  minor it may be, students feel like they are in charge and have a say in how they learn. This is making a difference.

Often teachers are worried about losing control in the room if students are given choice. Many hear ‘chaos’ when ‘student centred learning’ is mentioned. I have discovered that making some relatively small changes will have tremendous impact on how students feel about their learning.

One small adjustment that is fairly easy to implement and can have big results is lettingIMG_1697 students choose where they are most comfortable  learning. In our class we have tables to work at, bean bag chairs, a love seat, an open common area right outside our door, and a stand up desk with a moveable foot bar (would love more of these as it is in high demand by those students who need to be moving all the time). Students will even choose to sit on the bare floor with their backs against the wall. This would be uncomfortable for me but not for them.  If students are not required to be in a specific location they move to where they are comfortable and can focus. They choose their spot depending on their needs and the needs of their learning. Rarely do they make poor decisions as they value the freedom of this choice.

3919197_origAnother avenue of choice that has shifted the ownership piece in the class, is how students are able to demonstrate their learning. It has been a rare occurrence this year that I ask for the same product as a summative piece. As long as they are meeting the learning outcomes, and are following the criteria, they can choose to demonstrate their learning in their own ways. It is not uncommon for projects to come to me as booklets, posters, power points, prezis, google presentations, voice threads, on ipad apps such as Book Creator and the list goes on. Currently the students are showing their learning of a measurement unit and the projects are all individual and unique. 3525026_origSome students are working in partners, some on their own. Some are using technology, some are creating models, and some are hand drawing the designs. Students  value the choice, therefore are able to showcase their learning to a higher standard then if I prescribed the how and what. “I also have changed in the way I make my presentations because before all I could make my projects out of was a poster board, but now I have the “CHOICE” of how I want to do my projects and it has made me a better student because I don’t like when I only have one option of how to do something because I have different ways of expressing my learning and when I get choose my way of doing something I do much better.” (Grade 7 student)

So even though I have yet to try Genius Hour in my room (it is at the top of my priority list), many of the benefits that have been witnessed by educators who are doing it are also what I am seeing each day in my room. By allowing for student choice, students will become engaged in their learning and the ownership piece will evolve naturally.  I only wish I had learned this years ago!6721354_orig

Juggling Our Learning

It seems that my blog entries are not what I originally imagined I would be writing when I Unknown-1first started to think about sharing my learning back in June. I had visions of sharing my success stories of using technology with my students, of helping others start to think about what they are doing with assessment in their classrooms and hopefully inspiring others to make some changes. But as life is never something we can predict, nor can I know what is going to really cause me to want to write and share. I have leaned more towards sharing who I am as an educator and the struggles and successes I have faced with implementing my ideal model of learning.

imagesEarly in December I was hit with a nasty bug. I was off work for just over a week but even once I was up and around the bug did not disappear for over a month. Since that time I have thought a tremendous amount about why I was so run down and what it was about my world that needed to change. My doctor asked me that week if my high level of stress was something that I could control. Yes, was my answer. He shook his head and said quietly, “You need to make some changes.” I can honestly admit that I was burned out.

For many teachers burn out is no surprise. After 22 years of teaching I seem to be working more, and spending less time away from work. I have been reflecting on why this is and what changes I need to make so that I can continue to do what I am passionate about – moving our children forward, helping them achieve their potential.  I have been wondering  if other educators are feeling the same way. I have wondered if there are others, such as myself, who want to do the very best for their students but are struggling with juggling the learning.

This is what I have come to realize – even though technology has changed the face of my Unknown-2classroom, has changed how I look at learning and has definitely impacted the learning of my students in a very positive way, it has also been a major factor in this burn out I now feel.

I am not a digital native, I am an immigrant in every sense. I still prefer to take notes with pen and paper, I still love the feel of a good book in my hands when I read at night, I still like to edit on a hard copy. Yet, I have embraced much of what technology has to offer. I love the freedom of learning, I love the connections I have made with fellow educators around the world, I love giving my students choice in how they learn, what they learn, and how they wish to share their learning. But what has happened to me, personally, is that technology has occupied much of my learning to the extent that I am always feeling I do not have enough time to plan, or to properly assess the learning of the students.

imagesOver the past year I have spent hours with my laptop, my ipad and my iphone around me and really do not accomplish much. I find myself jumping between work emails, student emails, twitter and reading and responding to approximately 10 of my students on-line journals. In the past, prior to this inundation of technology I would have been able to focus on a task and accomplish a goal such as get a plan in place, at least a rough outline of a unit I need to be teaching. This is what I battle on a daily basis. I have never spent as much time as I do now on my job. I regularly work 10 to 11 hours a day (this is at school) and still work most weekends as well. I get up each morning 1and a half hours before heading to work so that I can check in on student emails, parent communication, maybe check in on their websites, on their learning, their homework, read twitter and even look in occasionally at Facebook. All of this has contributed to the feeling of burn out. I have to wonder how many other teachers are doing exactly what I am doing and if they too feel that technology has added, rather than eased the work load.

In the Fall the internet at my school was shut down – actually almost all of Vancouver was shut down. It was a surreal feeling walking through the halls, walking into the office, and being in my classroom. The feel was one of calm. People were having conversations that were not rushed, people made eye contact instead of sideways looks as they typed out emails or sent texts, our principal had time to visit with students and staff alike without having to work at her computer, answer emails, fill in grants and applications or check on communication. The atmosphere in the school was one of calm, staff and students seemed more relaxed even for that one day.

So what does this tell us? How do we embrace 21st Century Learning yet keep the balance that is so very necessary if we wish to continue to be of value to our students and to this profession?

I started the New Year with the word “Balance” at the top of my priority list. I tried to keepimages this in mind as I headed back to work after the Christmas break but it did not take long before I was once again running on full speed. I have made a conscious effort to check twitter less often (but I honestly feel like I am left out of some great opportunities for my learning) and I am making a conscious effort not to surround myself at home during the evenings with work unless I absolutely have to. I am still loaded on weekends though, so I need to work on this! I love the growth I have experienced as I integrate technology into my teaching but I need to learn to set limits and stick with them.

Unknown-1I would love to hear from others. How have you balanced your learning, your work load in the age of technology? Is this an issue that is bigger and more concerning than just my world? If so, what are some possible answers? How do we keep up with the ever changing environment of learning without burning out? I am tired just thinking about it!

Small Changes = Big Results

Sometimes it is the little things we do that make the biggest impact for others.

This year has been another year of change for me professionally. I have continued to reflect on what it is I am doing in my classroom and whether or not I am meeting the needs of my students and what is best for their learning and personal growth.

Even though I have always loved and embraced changed I still kept some things the same. How I managed my class is at the top of that list. Having students sit in partners, but always facing the front, allowed me to be in control; it helped to ensure I could get students’ attention and they were less distracted by their peers. What I was not doing was allowing the students to learn how to self monitor their behaviours, taking ownership of this and allow them to make some choices as to how they learn best.

So I decided to make some changes. My first decision was to get rid of their desks and bring in tables. (Thanks again to Joy Kirr for her inspiration and to Yrsa Jensen for always supporting her teachers and their visions.) My classroom is not overly large so it was a challenge to fit in 14 tables. Finding the best set up was difficult as we were restricted by space. The students and I, at first, put the tables in a similar format as the desks had been.  The tables were still facing forward but we changed the angle with which they were placed. We had two to a table and they loved the extra space to work. It was an okay start.

But after two weeks I decided it was still too restricting and the students were not yet able to make choices with how and where they learned. So we pushed tables together, turned some, rotated others and used our space as best as was possible. The result – students move and shift easily depending on what is happening in the class, what type of learning is taking place. They can work with others or on their  own without having to shuffle desks. And we can work with 2 full classes (almost 60 students) in the room and each is able to contribute to the success of the group, being a part of the team. Amazing to see.

One other small change I have made to the set up of the room, which has made a big difference in student choice for learning, is a reading nook. When students were given the chance to design the space in the classroom they all asked for an area to sit, read, visit, learn. By convincing my husband to let me bring in our love seat that was not being utilized at home, by sending out requests to parents for a coffee table and bean bag chairs, by going out and purchasing some plants and a lamp, we were able to fulfill the vision of the students.

Every day, whether it is before school, during class time or at recess and lunch this space has become the hub. It is the space that all want to use and use it well. Before creating this space I did not realize that we all need different spaces to learn – some prefer a table, some prefer a corner on the floor while others want the couch as their place to be no matter if it is reading, writing, drawing, thinking. When given the chance, we all choose what works best for ourselves. One size does not fit all!

Now that we have implemented many little changes to the learning environment in our room I feel that big results have happened. I truly love walking into the class each day as these changes have brought about a sense of comfort, a second home. Students have proven that they can make good decisions for how they want to learn and my need to control this before was so very unnecessary.

About a week ago, at the end of the day as the students were walking out the door, I had a parent come in and without saying anything but a teary ‘thank you’,  gave me a very big hug. I responded with  ‘you’re welcome’ but was confused as to why I was receiving the hug. She explained that  her daughter was excited to come to school each and every day, she loved being at school and loved the learning and that she had shown so much growth in her own desire to learn this year. What better gauge, that some small changes I have made is making a big difference for my students,. is there than that.

Little changes, such as creating a new learning environment, can make a world of difference for our students. And is that not what we are here for? Releasing the need to feel like I am in control and by allowing students the chance to take this on themselves, tremendous growth can occur for all. I love what Yrsa Jensen, my principal, always reminds us – “but it’s not about you, it’s about the kids!”

‘Building Communities’ follow up

Two weeks ago I wrote a post on how I was building community in my classroom this year. I had decided that it was important to focus explicitly on celebrating individuality, as well as team building. I wanted to see if it would make a difference in students’ risk taking as learners.

When I last left off I had been ruminating on the fact that I did not feel I was moving forward, that the class did not feel like it was a community yet. After just two weeks with the class I was not surprised that it had not instantly occurred but a bit disappointed nonetheless.

After I wrote the last post, we had a turning point in the class. Could it have happened without the work I had already put in to building community, probably not. But including one new idea into my class shifted the thinking of many of the students and shifted the way they saw each other.

One strategy that some teachers use to create community in their classrooms is class meetings. I had often thought it was a good idea but never found the time. Obviously I did not feel it would make that much of a difference so did not put this on my priority list. I guess I simply undervalued the impact a meeting could have where concerns are aired out and listened to by all.

Since the beginning of the year there had been an underlying issue circling the class, causing much negativity and a lack of celebrating individuality. The issue had finally come to a head and I felt that it needed to be dealt with quickly or we, as a class, would never make the leap from the focus on self to a belief that ‘together we are better’.

So I asked our school councillor to come in and be a part of a class meeting. He has had tremendous experience in ensuring the success of these types of meetings and I was looking for support as I travelled this new road. We started by moving all the desks and leaving an open area for all the chairs to be in a circle. The openness allowed all of us to make eye contact and to feel like we were an equal part of the group. When I shared with the group that we were to have this meeting, I referred to our class as a family. It was important for all of them to feel safe and know that family keep matters private – that we did not gossip to others, that family can trust in each other and that family was there to help each other.

I will not go into the details of what transpired over the forty-five minutes we had but suffice to say, I was overwhelmed by the students’ empathy, by their accurate observations of what was happening in the class and insightful comments on how they were treating one another and why it was as it was.

Since that meeting I have witnessed such a turn around in the class, I often stop to marvel at how far they have come in such a short time. Now instead of being quick with their sarcasm or quick to laugh at an individual for something done or said, the students are much more accepting of the differences each other brings to the class.  They have a deeper understanding of particular needs of specific students and are more willing to help by being positive rather than demeaning. I had a student ask me just yesterday when we would be having our next ‘family’ meeting. I have booked another spot  for this coming week and am looking forward to the discussions we will have.

After reflection I understand that having the meeting alone, without all the work I had done previously, would not have ended with the same results. So even though I had felt that I had not moved forward with my students in building community, I was wrong. What I could not see was that the students were believing that ‘together we were better’, that a sense of trust was growing and most importantly a focus on respect for self and others was instilling in the students a sense of what is important for us all.

My goal was to develop an environment where students felt safer to take risks in their learning. I believe this is happening as some of the students who are normally too shy to contribute are now becoming a part of the conversation. I am seeing students enter the class each day with smiles on their faces, excited to learn, willing to step out of their comfort zones.

I cannot wait to see where out next class meeting takes us, cannot wait for our tables to arrive so that we are not connected to individual desks and cannot wait to see how they work together on their next team building exercise.

It is very clear to me that I need to ensure each year building community is a part of my yearly program, and not just something I ‘fit in’ the first two weeks of the year.

Building Community

There are so many things I want to achieve this year with my students. I have ideas swirling around in my head so much so that I wake up at 5:30 am on a Saturday morning and climb out of bed to write.

One of the many changes I have made to my teaching this year is the idea of  explicitly focusing on building community in the classroom. Building relationships and making connections has always been a priority for me but somehow it has occurred without the explicit teaching. I know that I connect with some students better than others but it is not about my connections alone that I need to work on but the trust built within the entire classroom community.

This year I decided as part of my diploma program work to develop a field study which will focus  on community building. I recognize the importance of building relationships and even though it tends to happen quite naturally for most teachers when you spend 6 hours a day with your students, I realized that I was not creating an environment where all students were willing to take risks in their learning. Some grew in leaps and bounds, but not at all. A huge task to get everyone there – yes, but is it worth the effort – absolutely.

My field study is centred on the question, How can I create a sense of community where students take risks in their learning, sharing their thoughts openly and feel safe to work with any of their peers in the class?

Through my research around community building I realized that I needed to focus on highlighting the individual child first. That if we don’t recognize that we are all unique with special qualities we will not be able to come together and build solid relationships. Our mantra for the year is, ‘Together we are better!’

To focus on individuality the students have been working on assignments where they can think more deeply of who they are. All of my students are creating an Animoto similar to many I have seen on twitter where through text and images they can share with the class, and the world, what makes them special. Students are also creating a visual collage, once again using images such as photographs, magazine pictures, and images they have created, to highlight their personalities. One of the students suggested that we make one  very large class collage; great idea! Once each individual collage is completed we will be putting them all together around the classroom door. “Together we are better!”

Finally, the students will be completing two written pieces, an I Am poem and a memoir. These will be shared with the class, part of an identity day, and some will choose to add these to their websites. Once again, the focus is for all of us to see the differences and also the similarities we have as a group. I am looking to see if students will connect with others that they would not have done otherwise.

To develop community  I decided to try a few new things I read about through twitter and other resources (I love what knowledge my PLN has brought to me).  The students have come up with a name for our classroom, it is now called the COOL zone, the Class Of Outstanding Learners.  I have also allowed the students to take control of the designing of the classroom. I let them know that nothing was permanent and that they needed to make it their own. In groups they created layouts of what they wanted the classroom to look like. I was thrilled with their ideas as I had not thought of the arrangement they finally decided upon. They also incorporated what they wanted for the walls to share their special qualities. I could see their excitement as they made decisions and knew that it was their home.

One other piece that I am in the middle of doing to help build community is to get rid of the desks and bring in tables. A big thank you must go out to Joy Kirr (@joykirr) for her inspiration and sharing of what she has done with tables this year. I believe that the classroom needs to be a place that we all are a part of and that we do not need to take personal ownership of any one desk. A few of my students are struggling with this concept but many are truly excited. They cannot wait for the possible freedoms that will come with being able to move more freely depending on the learning needs. Hopefully the tables arrive next week.

So how has this been going so far, have I seen changes yet in my students, has a sense of community been built? Honestly, no. But as I was reflecting on some of my frustrations with my colleagues on Thursday I realized that I cannot expect miracles (even though I want to) as we have only spent 2 full weeks together as a class. Building trust, building relationships will take time. I also need to recognize that many of the students are coming with a baggage load of issues. It will take time for me to build personal relationships with each, to help them move forward out of some very negative mindsets. I knew the group coming my way would not be a walk in the park, (are there ever any?) and so I need to be patient. I need to keep on doing what I am doing and not get frustrated when we take a step forward and two back. Relationships and connections do not happen overnight.

I am wondering how others build community in their classrooms. Have you found certain strategies that work well, are there specific techniques you work on to build trust and a place where all students feel safe in, to take risks in their learning? I would love to receive suggestions that I could use in my teaching this year.

I cannot wait to see, even in a months time, if the feel in the class has changed, if students change how they interact with each other, and if they begin to accept one another without judgement. I am excited when I think of the possibilities that this community has for the growth and learning of each child. “Together we are better.”

Exposing My Vulnerabilities

In the middle of June, after attending a workshop by George Couros (@gcouros), I made a commitment to myself to begin publishing my thoughts, reflections and questions on a blog. Well here it is, the middle of August and nothing has been done. It isn’t that I didn’t want to get on with it, I had put together my ‘About Me’ page about 3 weeks ago, but I have been hesitating to take this risk.  Putting my thoughts out to the global community means that I need to be very aware of what I say and the learnings I want to share. It means that I open myself up to  judgement but it also means I open myself up to the knowledge and sharing of others.

In November of this past year I was introduced to Brene Brown through a TED talk in my university course. Her session was entitled “The Power of Vulnerability” and the key message conveyed was that vulnerability “appears to be the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.” But it is also “the core of shame, fear and our struggle for worthiness”. Watching this TED talk, as well as her follow up discussion a few months later, “Listening to Shame“, had a monumental impact on who I am and what I want to do in the classroom. As I continue to hesitate to take the risks of creating a published blog, revealing my thinking, my worries, my questions around students and their learning and my own struggles within  my learning, her words ring in my mind about exposing our vulnerabilities as they are not a sign of weakness but rather something that is courageous.

Brene also spoke, in her second talk, about how many of us feel the need to present ourselves as perfect. But if we are to find the core of happiness and creativity then we need to be vulnerable; to be vulnerable we need to admit we are not perfect. This idea has been magnified for me in many ways this past year. Going back to school to further my education has caused many moments of stress, anxiety and  feelings of “do I know anything at all?” Incorporating technology on a daily basis has also brought up insecurities and struggles. For me to evolve I needed to show that I did not know it all, and that often times the students were quicker at learning a skill then I was. Talk about exposing vulnerabilities.

I found it very interesting during my course work this year that my peers were hesitant to share their thoughts not only in class, but also on our blog site. Ultimately what my peers were feeling in our class is exactly what most of our students feel each day. They are hesitant to share because they do not wish to sound ‘dumb’, they are taking a risk in their learning. So here I am wanting my students to take risks, to open themselves up to failure to ultimately grow as a learner by sharing openly in class and by writing blogs that communicates thinking, questions and reflections  yet I am  not doing so well at being their role model; I need to push myself to try new things, and look to others to help me be better.

This is why I am taking a risk of writing a blog – I want to inspire my students to take those same risks as the rewards of growth will far outweigh the moment of fear. To take a risk, to show our vulnerabilities is to be courageous.

This blog will be a place that I can reflect on my journey of implementing Genius Hour and attempting Project Based Learning. It will be my place to reflect on my continued exploration and growth around Assessment For Learning, as well as establishing ePortfolios with my students.  I will also be looking for feedback on my journey, to seek advice from those who have already travelled this path. This will be a place that I will be taking risks to share my own vulnerabilities as an  educator as I hope this will allow me to be a role model to my students and to others teachers who have been hesitant to ‘dive in’ and to ‘dare greatly’.

Do you agree with Brene Brown in that we need to accept and be open about our vulnerabilities if we wish to be truly happy and fulfilled? I look forward to reading  your thoughts.