Middle School Humanities Teacher Kate Brooks, recently shared this article [edited for brevity] by Thomas C. Murray, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, with Villa teachers and staff. He's singing our song! Our faculty Curriculum, Project Based Learning, and Outdoor Education Committees have been examining exactly these kinds of questions as they continue their deep dive into authentic learning experiences for students and for their own professional development.
1. What will you do day one that has your kids running back for day 2?
When I think about my very first day teaching, it was filled with assigning classroom numbers, handing out textbooks to be covered, filling out index cards, going over my classroom rules, etc. I can’t imagine that my students went home day 1 dying to come back on day 2. I completely changed that in year 2. When your students get home from the first day of school, what will they share when they get home?
2. If students saw the classroom design before the first day of school, what learning experiences would they expect?
Learning Space design has a profound impact on the way students learn. Research indicates that design empowers, or hinders, learning. What research are you using to design the classroom space? If we are going to create a generation of problem solvers, collaborators, critical thinkers and doers, and ultimately those that can create new cures, find new solutions, and solve tomorrow’s problems, isolating them for 52 minutes at a time will not lead to the desired outcomes.
3. How will you make learning personal and authentic for your students?
I can guarantee that no child I taught can remember a single worksheet I handed out as a classroom teacher. Yet, to this day, I’ll hear stories about the experiences that they had; those things that they remember almost two decades later. Why the difference? Dynamic, authentic experiences are personal in nature. Simply put, the brain responds differently to each and I believe one’s heart responds differently as well. What experiences will change their outlook on a topic? What experiences will quench their thirst for learning?
4. How will you take ownership of your learning?
As a teacher, how will you own your learning this year? I’ve never met a teacher who doesn’t want or push students to take ownership of their own learning. If we expect students to own their learning and see it as their responsibility to grow, we as educators must have the same mindset.
5. How will you help build a dynamic, kid-centered school culture?
Who is responsible for school culture? Every adult in the building, that’s who. I truly believe that every adult in a building either builds a positive culture, or tears down the culture, one step at a time, one day at a time. Do you build the energy up? Or do you suck the air right out?
6. How will you intentionally build relationships with and between your students?
What if you took the first few days of school to focus on building culture and relationships? What if the first few days were filled with team building experiences? How would such a mindset then impact your relationships with students? Brain research has shown that without an effective relationship, effective learning will be near impossible.