Great slam poetry by Taylor Mali that honors the efforts of teachers
A few years ago I was presenting at the International School of Manila in the Philippines. One of the keynote speakers at the conference was a fantastic poet named Taylor Mali. Taylor is a former teacher turned speaker, consultant, and workshop leader. He specializes in slam poetry. The messages in his poems deeply support the efforts of teachers and the sacrifices that they make to better the lives of the students that they teach. Taylor's slam poetry is powerfully moving.
I remember him performing his 'What do teachers make?' piece to an audience of a couple of thousand at the conference. The words he spoke made me feel so proud to be a teacher, so proud to make such a difference in the lives of the students that I taught. I recently came across a link on Twitter to Taylor's 'What do teacher's make?' video and had to share it on my blog. Check it out below. I'm sure you will find as much value in it as I did. Thanks for reading.
Learning from our passions creates greater purpose in our teaching
My wife @neilasteele loves to post her favorite quotes up around our house. She likes to use non-permanent marker and write these quotes on different walls around our home. I love waking up in the morning and seeing a new quote on the bathroom or the kitchen wall. These quotes always get me thinking. Her latest one about passion and purpose really struck a chord with me, so much so that I needed to take a picture and blog about it.
Passion is what life is all about and when we look around each day, we can see both young people and adults engaged in their passions. As this quote says, passion brings a sense of purpose. Embedded within our passions are a constant stream of learning moments which push us to reflect on life's true values.
As educators I think it is critical to share what we learn from our passions with our students. Think about your passions and the roller coaster of emotions, both positive and negative that are associated with pursing what it is we love to do. As we pursue excellence, we encounter so many obstacles and with these obstacles come a plethora of choices. Every choice we make has either a negative or positive consequence. Sharing with your students some personal experiences you have had with your own passions can have a profound impact on your learners. Being willing to share your successes, your failures and why you have made the decisions you have can help your students to better understand and connect with the fact that we are all human and that we all have unique thought processes that shape our decision making.
When sharing my passions with my students, I keep my stories short and sweet. Major things learned both good and bad. Most importantly I share how I transfer things learned to life in general, not just my passions. Whether it is my passion for cooking, running, golf, or American football, I believe their are a load of authentic and genuine learning experiences I can pass on to my students to find value in, especially as they pursue their own learning and their own passions. The 4 photos below sum up my true passions in life. I have learned so much from each of them. The learning continues! Thanks for reading.
Creating your ideal teaching and learning environment
I cannot count the number of times on Twitter that I have seen questions such as "If you could create your own teaching environment in PE, what would you do?" or "If the sky was the limit, how would you change your program?" etc.
I know that many educators are bound by the curriculums in which they teach. There are certain things that are non-negotiable, things that they must accomplish. I am here to tell you that although this is the case, you still have the power to imagine and create your ideal teaching environment and to shape very authentic and genuine learning in the programs in which you teach. Imagination is the fuel that powers creativity. Imagination is what gives us hope. Imagination is what allows us to visualize great things that we want to achieve in life.
So, please use the powers of imagination to push your teaching to new levels. Imagination requires us to think outside of the box and to do these things differently. If you want to create sustainable change in the way you teach, define exactly what these changes will look like. How can you flip your teaching and empower your students to take ownership over their learning. How can you better engage them? I promise that all of this is very possible while still adhering to the curriculum requirements of your program and your school. Take a risk and do something different. Not only will it kick start your creative juices, you will feel new sparks of motivation. I live this approach every day and it's what keeps me going! Trust me, it works. Thanks for reading.
What did you learn this past year? What's next?
As I look back on my own year of teaching, I can see areas in which I have grown. When I reflect honestly, I can see other areas that I wanted to develop further, but due to time constraints and taking on too much, I was not able to address these areas. I am a bit disappointed in myself for not making these areas more of a priority, but, as educators, we already have so much on our plates, so it is understandable that at times we cannot achieve everything that it is we set our minds on achieving.
Goal-setting continues to play an important role in who I am as an educator, but the reality is that we must also be willing to give ourselves a break from time to time if we are unable to meet certain goals we have set for ourself. As we move closer toward the end of the year, what I do feel is important is looking back on what you have learned as an educator. Really reflecting deeply on your accomplishments and major things learned helps to set the stage for future learning and keep motivation thriving. The door doesn't close simply because it is the end of the school year. It remains open to new possibilities that exist that will help us grow as people and as educators. So, as you move into your summer vacation reflect on 2 key questions~ What did you learn this past year? and What's next for you?
I still have a few more weeks of school left and really look forward to blogging about something new I am going to try out with my students. In the meantime, thanks for reading and happy teaching!
Taking advantage of a unique opportunity to try something completely new
You can imagine how I felt when I first received the news that we are going to be unable to use our teaching space for the last part of the school year. Although, there is an amazing building project taking place at Nanjing International School which includes a state of the art new double gym (which will be in addition to our existing double gym), we were given notice that the entire teaching area must shut down the last part of the school year. This was a last minute decision based on the needs of the contractor.
The main reason for this is that the existing gym will have its walls and floors all redone in order to be ready for August. This is all great news for our PE program, however, it takes away my teaching space at the end of the year. The current units that are scheduled to be taught cannot proceed forward due to not being able to use the gym. When I first heard the news, I wasn't pleased of course, but I began to contemplate opportunities that existed as a result of this unique situation. I was getting my head around the idea of having to create new units based on the fact that I didn't have the gym or the movement composition room and that my only teaching space is outside.
I had an AHA moment and began to run with it in my planning for this end of year challenge. I have always been a huge advocate of students designing their own learning in the units I teach in elementary PE. Why not let them create their own end of year units? The uniqueness of this situation will provide me with what I feel is a perfect opportunity, something I have always wanted to do. To let the students not only design their own learning, but to create their own units.
I intend on sharing with my students the learning outcomes covered in PE so far this school year. I will allow them to select their own learning outcomes to be addressed or even create their own when deciding upon which unit they will explore. One of the main challenges they will face is how they will show me what they have learned. Added to this is how they will address their learning outcomes and assess themselves.
To not let this idea get crazy out of control, I plan to allow a maximum of three groups in each class, meaning that there will be a maximum of 3 different units happening at once in any given class. This means that the students will have to work together with a group to create their unit and the learning that will take place. They must consider their learning environment, possible inclement weather, and the resources needed as well. Key questions will include:
What are the learning goals in your self-designed unit?
How will you be able to show what you have learned?
What resources to you need from the teacher?
How will you manage your time to ensure that you stay on track?
Why is your choice of units a valuable learning experience for you?
Yes, it will be difficult to keep track of everything, but I believe it will be manageable. Yes, the students will need loads of assistance from me. However, in my eyes, this is a great chance for them to be responsible for their own learning. I plan on explaining, to my students, the obstacles that I face, as their teacher, in setting them free like this. Managing all of the different learning will require a lot of work, but I want to truly embrace what I feel will be a wonderful opportunity for my students. What is the worst that can happen? At minimum, my students will be allowed to explore, play, and have fun provided that they have a focus and purpose rooted in learning outcomes.
If all goes according to my vision, I will have totally engaged and autonomous learners who feel a sense of empowerment. They will feel that I trust and respect them and their desires to truly explore something that matters to them. Win-win if you ask me! And the uniqueness of my situation justifies the genuine effort I am going to put into this learning experience for my students. Will I crash and burn? Possibly, but I am willing to give it a go! I will be blogging more about it as the last part of the year begins to unfold. If you are interested, stay tuned for more. I have no idea where this could go!!!
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.