Learning Philosophy

My learning philosophy is based largely on my experiences as a student and as an assistant in the classroom. Perhaps, the most important aspect of my philosophy is that students learn best in an environment where they feel they are respected, shown kindness and care. They learn best in an environment where they feel its ok take risks and make mistakes. It is my job as a teacher to create this environment.  My relationship with each student is the most important tool I have in the classroom.

I believe in fair learning opportunities. We all know that students learn at different paces and to provide a fair education, I must meet them where they are. Students learn best when provided with high quality, authentic learning experiences that allow them to make connections. Students must have a reason to want to learn what they are learning, and apply it to their life. I believe that there must be a passion to want to learn something to achieve this type of learning. If we observe our students and see where their aspirations and passions lie, we can use that to tap into some very strong learning.

As a teacher, this allows me to have flexibility in filling in gaps in learning and stretching those who already have some knowledge.  To achieve this, it is important for me to act as a facilitator of content rather than the expert. In doing this, I hope for my students to explore the content and what they are passionate about, as well as create connections to their own experiences. I feel that this is another of my top focuses as a teacher because I know that I learn best when I can make sense of things in my own way. Everyone learns and takes in information differently; therefore, I must provide the opportunities for students to make sense of things in their own way.

In addition to passion and application, I believe that constraint needs to be implemented to help unlock potential. Authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown write about constraint as a key component in authentic learning (Douglas and Thomas2011.) The constraint in a situation sparks creativity and gives our minds a place to start working.

Dan Pink speaks about what motivates us in the video above (Pink2010.) Motivation is a powerful learning tool; it explains why many of us will spend hours on end working on our classroom lessons, environment, etc., knowing we probably won’t ever be compensated for our time. Pink explains that mastery, autonomy, and purpose are the three factors that impact motivation the most. This makes sense, as many of us constantly seek to better ourselves and make an impact on the world. When I think of myself I see me as a learner and would love to the opportunity to make an impact on the world while I am learning.

All the above Ideas pretty much sums up what I believe is the key to learning. We all want to have a purpose for learning that meets our personal passions and inspirations and align those inspirations in a way that let us make a difference. Most importantly, learning is meant to be natural, and we love to learn when it happens naturally. Now that I have defined my learning philosophy, I can link it to how I teach to inspire my students. I need to link learning to each of my student’s goals and aspirations to produce passion. I need to bring learning back to that level of natural exploration and communication among peers. I want to inspire my students to have an attitude that “failure” is not an option.  I want to inspire my students to love learning and to understand what it is in the most authentic sense. It is important to make these considerations as I plan and create my learning environment for my students.

Annotated Bibliography

Thomas, D., Brown, J. S. (2011, January 4) A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change

In this book the authors describe authentic learning and compare authentic learning to traditional learning taking place in schools. The authors argue that creating a learning environment that supports authentic learning will increase student success and passion to learn. The Authors encourage utilizing play, collaboration, and imagination to create a learning environment. 

The authors successfully argue their point by offering real life examples of authentic learning occurring. These examples let us look in on the lives of individuals who are learning at such a deep level. The examples provided by the authors, as well as the research provided in the text create a convincing and inspiring point of what we can do to inspire the next generation of learners. 

Pink, D. (2010, April 1) RSA Animate: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc.

In his video, Dan Pink describes how the current carrot and stick model of motivation is ineffective when mental effort is involved. Pink showcases research studies that help him to make his point. Pink then describes what research has found to be successful in motivating people when mental effort is involved.

Dan Pink effectively utilizes the research effectively in this video. The research not only helps him to make his point that the current method of motivation is ineffective, but Pink also uses the research to offer a solution to motivate people. Pink takes the data and makes it accessible for others in an engaging way. 

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Significant Learning Environments

How to Build Safe Learning Environments for Students

 

 

I recently bought my dog a new “squeaky” toy. I would laugh as I watched him sling it around but when he bit down on it where it would squeak he would immediately run away. I eventually noticed him “investigating” different parts of the toy till he figured out which part of the toy made the “squeaky” sound and surprisingly that is the part he avoided if he could. I said to myself my crazy dog but in reality meaningful learning had taken place while he was having fun. As educators we need to make changes that would allow students to engage in their learning. The word “play” has become a bad word in the school system. Students now are not expected to have fun and learning is not supposed to be easy or engaging. I think with blended learning, as a teacher I would relinquish some control in the classroom by becoming a facilitator and this would allow students to bring in their own passions, creativity, and imagination into learning

In his book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown discuss what true and meaningful learning is and how it looks in different situations. Thomas and Brown argue that natural learning is much more powerful than the traditional style of learning that happens in our schools. I immediately thought of my dog, which is why I included him in my blog.  I watched him explore that “squeaky” toy, and he was completely engrossed in the task. Through his own exploration, he discovered where the squeak came from.  Natural learning is so potent that it is something we should all try to tap into when teaching.

 

In the video above, Douglas Thomas discusses some of the keys to tapping into natural learning. Passion is fundamental to pure and natural learning.  Thomas also credits imagination as being a key piece in pure and natural learning.  The last but equally important key in authentic learning surprised me. Thomas argues that constraint is needed to unleash the potential of natural learning. After reflecting on this for a while, it began to make more sense. I strongly agree that pure and natural learning is powerful and significant. The challenge is now how to build natural learning into the foundation of my learning environment. I have not planned everything out so I can accomplish this, but I do have the first steps in place to make this a reality.  I will transition myself from the sole information source in the classroom. I will several sources of information on hand in the classroom such as peers, and hey the internet. I plan to become that facilitator and taking a step back and letting the students work at their own “natural” pace.  I also plan to think of creative constraints to use when assessing my students.  This will help spark imagination and creativity with my students.

In my final step I plan to learn what my students’ passions are.  This can come in more ways than one such as observing them individually and see what grasp their attention in school or by simply asking them their hobbies. Once I do that I will cultivate that passion to spark natural learning.  This plan adds to my innovation plan that will enhance the blended learning experience because I will be creating a natural learning environment as a foundation. This will increase learning potential and student achievement within the blended learning station rotation model.

I think my greatest challenge is the shift to creating a significant learning environment.  . It is no simple task and I don’t believe it can be made without ensuring the proper foundations are in place. Another challenge is still being held accountable for teaching distinct objectives. To meet this challenge I will build peer tutoring and online learning as a platform to learn required content. I also plan to match student passions to the objectives. This will allow me to build natural learning into my class environment upsetting the administration. Adopting this plan into my school can have a great impact over time. I’m sure other teachers will notice how much fun my students are having while they learn, and they will wonder what’s going on in there. Their curiosity will lead to asking me questions and in turn I will show and help them set up their own plan to creating a significant learning environment in their classroom as well. The domino that will take place will be rewarding and remarkable.

Getting peers to think more holistically about students and learning environments is a challenge within itself. Educators have been drilled and trained for so long to shove information at our students that we tend to have a very tapered view about learning. Our focus needs to be on the students and how they are learning. Most teachers want to have happy and creative students, and this can happen when students are learning naturally.

My view of learning is much broader now than ever. Everyone is different, and we learn best when we learn naturally. Yes I can admit that I struggle to see the whole picture of learning, but my view is broadening every day and it is defining who I am as a teacher.

References

Thomas, D., Brown, J. S. (2011, January 4) A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change

Thomas, D. (2012, September 12) A new culture of learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U

Image retrieved from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/create-safe-learning-environments

 

 

Self-Differentiated Leadership

I have always wanted to be a leader. My mom used to tell me when I was younger I always wanted to be a boss. I had no problem “telling” people what to do. But being able to tell is not the only quality of “leadership material”. I believe that most people feel this way that just tell people what to do and it happens. But, despite this some manage to become effective leaders.  These last few weeks have shown me that not all of our leaders were born with a natural ability to lead, and it doesn’t require special qualities to be an effective leader. Effective leaders choose to learn the tools to become a leader and use those tools to make their leadership effective. Even if you have no plans of ever being in a leadership role, some of the tools that leaders learn can improve other areas of your life as well.

In recent posts I have stated how we as people let our hearts be the determining factor in almost every situation. We tend to let our emotion lead most of our everyday decisions. Because we let our hearts and emotions leads us then as a leader we have to start with the heart. Start with a goal, and form that goal into a “why” statement. When we share the goals that are set in our hearts others and let them why then watch how it can and will inspire others to help us with our cause. Effective leaders start with the heart. My plan to lead our organization to effective change is to start with a powerful why statement that strikes at the heart and gets others motivated to want to change. You can view my “why” statement here.

Influence is a powerful tool to start change. Most effective leaders use several influences to lead. This classed introduced me to this wonderful book Influencer: The new science of leading change by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Mayfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. This book introduced to me the “influencer model. This model is so important because it displays what motivates and influences us as humans.  To effectively create change leaders will use most or all sources to make that happen. I also plan to use every one of these tools to influence our group to make powerful changes that will affect the lives of our students in a positive manner.  You can view my influencer strategy here.

Effective leaders realize that discipline is the next step to implement and execute change.  The Four disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals written by Chris McChesnsey, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling gives us disciplines, to execute effective change in our organization. The key ideas of these disciplines is to focus on a few important goals, look to change what can be changed to meet those goals, measure said changes, and create an accountability system. These ideas help us to stay focused on what is important in accomplishing change. Effective leaders are disciplined in execution. Here is my outlined execution plan that will ensure our blended learning initiative is successfully executed.

Until earlier this week I had poorly preconceived notions about leadership. My thought was that effective leaders knew how to regulate and control others. This is not the case. Instead, effective leaders know how to regulate and control themselves. This idea comes from the book, a failure of nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix by Edwin Friedman. This notion that an effective leadership stems from the ability to separate one’s own feelings and thoughts had a huge impact on my ideas of leadership. This idea put leadership within my reach. This is why I now believe that we all have the capacity for leadership. Leaders don’t have special social or emotional powers, but they do know how to effectively self differentiate.

If I am to bring about a change on our campus, I have to be a self-differentiated leader.  Friedman says that “leadership through self-differentiation is not easy; learning techniques and imbibing data are far easier.”  I see this in our every day school lives.  According to Friedman, the biggest challenges a leader faces are emotional triangles and sabotage.

Emotional triangles form in every kind of situation.  In fact, Friedman states that there is no such thing as a “two-person relationship.”  I can apply the same principles to leaders in our school.  There is the leader, the staff member, and the new idea of blended learning in the classroom.  How the leader handles the third wheel is what makes a self-differentiated leader.  I know there will be resistance.  I know there will be anxiety and stress.  The second challenge I will face is sabotage.  As a matter of fact, sabotage is “evidence of one’s effectiveness.”  By focusing on the larger picture and not the technique, I can remain strong while “swimming upstream.”  I should also look to other teachers who are motivated and resilient.

In conclusion, to become a self-differentiated leader and ensure the success of a blended learning initiative, I must focus on being totally self-aware of emotional triangles that are ever-present and realize that others will always try to bring it down.  I have to maintain a sense of myself, watch out for the symptoms of emotional triangles and sabotage, and focus on my responsibilities as a leader.

 

References

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Mayfield, D., McMillan, R., Swizzler, A. (2013, May 14) Influencer: The new science of leading change. 2nd ed. Vital Smarts L.L.C.

McChesney, C.,  Covey, S., Huling, J. (2012, April 24) The Four disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. Free Press.

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., McMillan, R., Swizzler, A. (2011, September 16) Crucial conversations; Tools for talking when stakes are high. McGraw Hill.