Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Week at Warped Speed

(Photo by Richard Shaw)
The last week has swept me up and carried me along at warped speed. It was full of travel, conversations, connections, some disappointments, and lots of smiles. It only seems appropriate to now take some time for reflection.

Last Friday, I left Maryland before sunrise to travel to the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. My colleagues and I were welcomes openingly into their school to observe the unique learning environment and practices students and teacher engage in daily. SLA is amazing example of student-driven, Project-Based Learning. We spent the day visiting classrooms, talking with students and teachers, and engaging in the very natural learning that takes place here.

Sitting down with Chris Lehmann was one of the highlights of this trip. If you have never spent time in Chris' openoffice, it is hard to explain the experience fully. Chris addresses every single student that passes his office (the doors are open on both sides to allow full access for everyone). He says hello, compliments, and encourages everyone. His love for people was felt when we talked with students and teachers alike. To quote one, "Working for Chris is the best thing that could ever happen to anyone." It takes an amazing leader to make individuals feels so special, yet at the same time build such a strong, collaborative community.

After our visit, my colleague and I continued up the coast to New Jersey. Here, we attended #Edscape, hosted by Eric Sheninger and New Milford High School. Not only did we attend amazing sessions, we had the privilege of hearing George Couros speak as the keynote. On top of that, I met up with a many people I had connected with previously and made some new friends. The learning, the connections, the heart and soul of the event, it was all so much more than I expected. I left for home feeling so incredibly grateful for the learning and conversations I was able to have with some of the most visionary people in education. 

I traveled back to Maryland and the week carried me along, but I was brought back to conversation that I had with George over the summer at ISTE. He asked me what I would change after listening to a speaker. I am often brought back to this question when reflecting upon experiences. I have engaged with some of the most important, forward-thinking visionaries in education. What have I learned? What did I take away? What will change?

The change for me, this time, is not to make any big changes. As I visited SLA and talked to so many different educators, I realized I am on the right track. I saw so many of own practices and my students' habits in the students and classrooms at SLA. I offered my own connected educator experience and shared the story of our school at Edscape. I showed others how we design our own curriculum, offer our students amazingly relevant learning experiences, and bragged all about our kids and teachers. 

I realized, for the first time, that it is time to just give these new practices a chance to become natural. I was encouraged and supported. The change for me is to not add anything new. The change becomes perfecting the craft of implementing everything that is currently new. My change, will be to not change everything, but to sit comfortably in the new that already exists, looking to how we can now improve and get better in this current space.

In an age when change and evolution of culture is happening so quickly, when do we stop and narrow our focus? How do we balance change and relevance with the chance to practice and do something well? As teachers, is there a space where both these thing exist? In trying to navigate this slippery slope, we must always ask what is best for our students, reflect upon the decisions and progress we have made, and always keep our eye on our goals.

As I reflect on these experiences, I will be mindful of what is happening now with my teaching and my students. We will change and grow as the world around us evolves, but we do this with purpose, never comprising the practices we have made current commitments to. 

We will be thoughtful in what we currently practice, ensuring that we are not locking into everything new, passing idea. We will focus on the important learning and growth taking place currently, always being open to the change that is best for us. When the time is right we will embrace that change. Right now, we sit mindful in our current learning space.

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