It's no small feat for me when as the mother of a one year old, I get the opportunity to go to a slow flow yoga/mediation class. So, I take advantage of the few moments to myself. In this class, the amazing instructor would teach a short series of moves, then she would say, "Now see what you can do. Be in this space and work on the moves that you need to work on. Let's freestyle." We did this several times, to go and do what you needed to do. Some in the class repeated the same pattern taught by the instructor, some slowed down and really focused on one or two moves, and some took it further and pushed their limits.
It got me thinking, it's this what we want out of student choice?
I often times feel like in education, we say we offer students choice, but it's option A or option B. And I chose both of those options ahead of time for my students. Is this really student choice? Why are we afraid of really letting students make choices and decisions? I found in my own practice that I would struggle with these same issues. And at times when I did open the door of choice for the first time, my students (middle schoolers) were flabbergasted when I gave them this opportunity. They were kind of weirded out. Is this a trap?
As educators, we teach so much more than content, like problem solving and decision making. It's all part of it and depending on your students and the relationship that you create with them. That relationship and your actions will tell them whether or not you are okay with them making their own decisions and choices. Those are big steps towards releasing control to your students. Relationships are hard and it can take awhile to build that kind of trust. But, at the same time, the longer we take, the less opportunities we able to offer our students in the long, yet very short run that we get with them. We only get to spend 9 months of their lives with them, no wonder we feel the urge to rush all the time! It's important to try new things and allow them to be a part of that process. Learning & teaching it's a never ending cycle for everyone in the classroom.
But, man when you release control... Freestyle time is magic. I honestly think that when learners get that opportunity to just go and explore and choose for themselves what they need for their learning, that is when magic happens. That is when the training wheels are off, questions occur, and new paths are generated right before our eyes. For me, that is the super exciting time, to see that ownership of learning and confidence grow. You see failure. You see success. All at the same time. But as the educator, part of the magic is that the students decided that themselves, we allowed them to imagine, play and grow with that knowledge. Some will practice to get the hang of it, some will slow it down to better understand it, and some will go to places you will could have never predicted.
As it is the last day of school for so many it's important to take time with our families and renew our souls (try a yoga class - it always does a world of good for me) to get ready to get back to our students. But, do take a little time to think about where you want to be as an educator and how you are going to get there.
I just stumbled across this video, that is going to give me a lot of food for thought over my break, enjoy.
I've been thinking a lot about STEM programs lately. It is a very common word/language that is bubbling up in schools. And I feel like a lot of companies are putting the label of STEM on things that don't quite deserve it. There is a lot of activity out there that is being called STEM that I'm honestly not quite sure lives up to the amazing possibilities of its name.
So, I guess that has been leading me down a path of trying to sort out what STEM means, how could it be defined. As a former science teacher, I get the S in STEM and now as an edtech consultant, I understand the T, and as a maker and science teacher with the NextGen standards, I've been learning more about the E and how that can frame the process. For me the M is everywhere, but not truly fleshed out (for me at least). What I guess I'm saying is that I feel pretty comfortable with most of those letters :) - but I think that a lot of teachers turn away from STEM because one of those letters scares them.
I think it's also important to think about some of the trends that are going on right now past STEM, there are many people talking about design thinking, and more people exploring the maker movement. I feel like some are even using the words interchangeably. But, I personally don't feel like they are the same. I feel like engineers are driven by questions, looking at systems and structures and questioning their integrity and could it be better, striving for a constant loop of improvement. I feel like designers are driven by people and developing that ultimate connection through empathy. I feel like makers are simply driven by curiosity of possibilities of what if? But there is a TON of overlap and commonalities of these types and honestly a Venn Diagram fails to provide enough room to allow me to pursue this train of thought.
But I'm super curious, what do you think? What commonalities do you see between makers, designers, and engineers? Do you even see them as linked or separated? I'd love to talk through this more, so leave me a comment and let me know what you think.