Entering the #MYPscience Classroom – Seeking Connections

Some facts:

  • My undergrad major was Chemistry. I graduated 10 years ago.
  • I worked in a raw materials pharmaceutical lab. That was 9 years ago.
  • I am certified to teach Chemistry. I passed the PRAXIS 5 years ago
  • I’ve tutored a few students in science during the last 5 years.
  • I’ve never taught a science class.
  • I will be teaching an MYP 5 science class for the remainder of the 2016-17 school year.

So there’s all that. My biggest fear is that I won’t be able to find the balance to be both a good teacher and a good instructional coach (without going insane). Oh…and I’m currently coaching track & field too. My biggest hopes are that I will make meaningful connections with students and positively impact student learning. Weighing it all, this is a great opportunity to get back into the classroom and experience teaching science with a supportive & collaborative 10th grade teaching team.

As I start to tune in to both the content and the pedagogy of teaching science, I’m looking to connect with anyone who:

  • has successfully transitioned from 1 teacher to another during a school year.
  • teaches MYP 4 or 5 science (I’m especially interested in integrating ATL skills, the IB Learner Profile, concepts, global contexts & statements of inquiry in everything we do).
  • uses protocols with (HS) students.
  • uses visible thinking routines to help (HS/MYP) students better understand science.
  • integrates technology in the teaching & learning of (MYP) science.
  • balances the responsibilities of leadership & classroom teacher.

#AISQ8 has some amazing educators and I’m excited to collaborate with the department. However I’d love to expand my PLN as I take some risks this year. Say hi, suggest educators I should connect with or whatever you see fit. Sending lots of gratitude into the universe!

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Consciousness & competence: I have questions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about unconscious incompetence. It’s nothing new and there’s lots out there that you can read about consciousness and competence [Learning a New Skill is Easier Said Than Done, Consciousness & Competence, & The Four Stages of Learning among many others]. There are a variety of ways that these have been interpreted (see articles). I understand that learning is a process and we all need time and support to achieve unconscious competence.

But I have questions.

Should we be striving for becoming unconsciously competent? If you’re unconsciously competent, are you still learning? Are there skills/areas that you can never become truly competent in without continual learning and growth? Is the education sector one of those? Many US states mandate continuing education credits for educators. That could imply that the journey to competency is never ending.

For some reason it seems that unconscious incompetence is a plague in adulthood. It’s pretty common among children too but we can easily forgive them.

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge. “We Are All Confident Idiots

Truth time: I have a difficult time dealing with unconscious incompetence in adults. So I have to remember how important ruthless compassion is (thanks Danielle LaPorte!). And I’m sure there are times when I am unconsciously incompetent and I want other people to have compassion for me. But it’s just so dang difficult. Especially when you’re consciously incompetent or consciously competent and people who are less competent think they are experts. How can I support you if you can’t recognize that you need support?

How do we get out of the unconsciously incompetent black hole? And why would we? It’s pretty blissful. I’m sure there are studies out there with some hypotheses. I would love to see studies done specifically about educational technology and educators. How can I use my new found passion for instructional coaching (I’m consciously incompetent BTW) to help educators who are stuck?

While sitting on the couch with my husband last Friday I had what felt like an epiphany (and this also makes me feel quite vulnerable to put on-the-line). I entered teaching 100% incompetent. And I most definitely knew it. I came to education via an alternative route. Never in a million years did I think I would be a teacher. Pretty much my entire family was in education and I was sure that it wasn’t for me. And then Jeff and I moved to South Carolina. And I was offered a job teaching French. There weren’t many (read: any) other job prospects so I started teaching HS French in the fall of 2009. Extenuating circumstances meant that I entered the classroom in August with NO training. I had to teach the entire fall semester before I had official training through the state department. Luckily I had a great support system both at home and in the district. Last week I put two and two together…I wonder if my route to education (which was incredibly atypical) is the reason that I am able to be consciously incompetent. And if this is the case, what can be implemented to help all educators have some level of conscious incompetence? We love to talk about growth mindset. How are competency, consciousness and growth/fixed mindset intertwined? What can I do to support these teachers, to learn and grow with them instead of feeling the push back from ‘experts’? If anyone has the answer, I’d love to hear it.

Disclaimer: I know many educators who are not unconsciously incompetent. But I’d really love to find a way to help those who are.

Seriously: Read this article if you haven’t: We Are All Confident Idiots. Well-written and research-based.

@SirKenRobinson makes me think

In May I started a draft post after watching Sir Ken Robinson‘s Changing education paradigms TED talk (or watch all 55 minutes). The entire talk (along with his other material) is gold but there was about a minute of it that really got me thinking and brainstorming.

Although I’m not currently in the classroom, my brainstorms usually go to language teaching (specifically French). Inherently, languages are fluid and social. No wonder students learning a second language get so frustrated – the answer isn’t always at the back of the book! But we spend a lot of time teaching languages like they are black and white. Why do we spend so little time allowing our students to actually be social and experiment with the language? [I say ‘we’ because I have absolutely been guilty of this in the past.]  World language classrooms are the perfect settings to open up to the actual world that students are learning about. It can be incredibly time consuming and challenging to make it a reality…but aren’t the rewards worth it? Won’t students who understand why they’re learning about culture and language and are able to see the immediate benefits be more likely to be engaged and ‘buy-in’?

“Collaboration is the stuff of growth.”

Robinson focused on collaboration and group work. Although these could (and should) happen outside the classroom, the most logical place to start is within its walls. How could my classroom have looked different if I had done a better job at embracing collaboration and group work?

Skits – We did a fair amount of scripted skits. Although students learning a language need to actually learn and practice, when was the last time you went to another country and acted out a memorized conversation? As students progress throughout the year (and years), I could have transitioned to more realistic skits. The end goal would be to give students a scenario and let them go…more like improv than acting. Students would be allowed to help each other if needed, but only in the target language. Language is a constant improvisation, so I why did I do so much acting in my classes? 

Exams – I never did partner or group tests or exams. What if I had given students the choice? Option 1: take the exam individually, as normal. Option 2: take the exam with a partner, however you are only allowed to speak & discuss the test in French. I wonder what students would have chosen and what learning opportunities it would have opened up for them.

Maybe someday I’ll go back to the classroom and be able to experiment. 🙂

p.s. Sir Ken Robinson recently sat down with Thierry Foulkes. He has a couple videos up with French subtitles!

Input needed: tips to cultivating a thriving PLN

Jeff and I have a few upcoming presentations we’d love some input on! Please fill out the embedded Google form below…then check it out as the answers populate. Please feel free to use any of the information gathered for yourself!

At PEAK in a couple weeks (…10 days) I’ll be presenting an hour-long workshop on how social media can make educators lives easier.
Session title: Making the Web Work for You
Session description: Come learn how social media and other websites can save you time and energy while also enhancing your lessons. By the end of this session you will be on your way to creating a thriving Personal Learning Network with other educators around the world. It may be helpful to bring your own laptop or tablet.

In January, Jeff will be presenting a 4-hour workshop on getting involved on Twitter and blogging.
Session title: Becoming a Connected Educator
Session description: Thousands of educators all around the world share their thoughts, ideas and lesson plans with each other every day, and you’re only 140 characters away from joining them. In the first half, you’ll learn how to leverage Twitter and other forms of social media as a means of finding new ideas. In the second half, we’ll get you set up with your own blog so you can start sharing with the world.

Check out my Diigo library for some of the resources we’ve previously found.

Teaching: A Love/Hate Relationship

Recently I read John Spencer‘s two part series “What I Forgot When I left the Classroom” (part 1, part 2). I’ve been thinking about my place in education ever since.

I grew up in a family full of educators and vowed I would never be a teacher. I majored in Chemistry and minored in French at college. I dabbled in working on a dude ranch, in a pharmaceutical lab and as an English assistant in France. I followed my husband to South Carolina and was substitute teaching while looking for a job in a chemistry lab. When a job to teach high school French fell in my lap, I took it. We needed money and I needed a job.

Three and a half short years later I’m certified to teach Chemistry and French but I’ve left the classroom. I’ve also moved halfway around the world to Kuwait. I’ve grown a ton as a person and would (mostly) do it the same again. I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be in the classroom and have even had the chance to teach some French this year. And I don’t know if I can go back. I’ve thought a lot about it and have created a short list…

Things I miss about the classroom:
1. Students. And the relationships that we were able to foster during 3 years of being “together.”
2. The ah-ha moment when a lesson comes together perfectly!

Things I don’t miss and still have nightmares about:
1. Grading.
2. The hard work of creating relationships with students.
3. Managing a classroom and cultivating respectful individuals.
4. Hours and hours spent lesson planning.
5. Creating tests and giving them.
6. Grading.
7. Proctoring standardized tests.
8. Interacting with angry parents.

The list could go on and I’ll probably add to it in the near future. I’m young and my career is in its toddler stage, but I still wonder about what the rest of my professional life will look like. Will I feel the pull back to the classroom? Will I stay involved with education technology? Will I stay in education?! I look forward to seeing what life has in store for me and looking back to see how I’ve grown.

For some other recent reflections…Sunday & today.

Use Google Story Builder in your classroom! #gonegoogle

The last week and a half has been a whirlwind! Last Monday I was asked to take over two French classes (again) for an undetermined period of time. I spent a couple days trying to wrap my brain around that. On my way out of the building on last Thursday, I ran into our superintendent. He informed that they had hired a French teacher…and that she would be taking over classes this week! I taught Sunday and Monday…and now I’m free again! From thinking that I would teach French for the rest of the school year to knowing it was only a couple of days – it’s been crazy. I do have to say I’m relieved that they were able to hire a qualified teacher (she’s from France AND has teaching experience in the Middle East) and that I’ll be able to continue focusing on my job as Technology Coach.

Last week I saw a post on the Google Drive Blog about the Gone Google Story Builder. Google suggested using the Story Builder to write songs or a story. My mind immediately went to the possibilities for education. This looks like a great tool for language teachers! The Story Builder is exclusively for dialogue which seriously restricts students…but that might be a good thing. This could be an option for students in English classes who are focusing solely on dialogue. Students in World Language classes could turn in the text to skits using the Story Builder. In Social Studies, students could create dialogues between historical (or present day) figures.

I played around with it myself a little for a French class. There are two important things to know – you can only create 10 characters and 10 exchanges (2 characters could each speak 5 times, 10 characters could each speak once). This does limit dialogues a bit, but I think it would be ideal for quick in class assignments. Once the story is built, you can choose music (or not) and share the link. Click here to view my story. Enjoy! 🙂

New Beginnings

As you may (or may not) know, my husband and I moved to Kuwait to begin our international education career as Technology Coaches at an International Baccalaureate (IB) World school in Kuwait. We arrived LATE Friday night and have been in orientation with all the new staff since then. We’ve been constantly busy (in a good way) setting up our apartment and getting to know the other new teachers. Today was the first day with the entire staff back to school. It’s been an interesting journey so far.

We were hired as Technology Coaches in February and are still figuring out exactly what that will look like. Today was a great day for as us we got more information about the 1:1 iPad roll-out (we aren’t really involved in the logistics..yay!) and had time to meet as a team (me, my husband and the other coach) to creating a job description that we can share with faculty & staff. Our goal is to get the message across from day 1 that we are here to help teachers meaningfully integrate technology into their lesson plans.

The Big News: The school has been scrambling for a French teacher since finding out 2 weeks ago that the hired teacher needed to stay home for a family emergency. Yesterday I was asked to take over her part-time load (3 French classes) until they can find a permanent teacher. I agreed, with the clause that it is truly temporary (maximum 1 semester). Although everything can change before school starts on September 4th, I am currently teaching 9th and 10th grade French (both part of the Middle Years Program – MYP) and 11th grade French (Diploma Program level 1). I have incredibly mixed emotions and I’m going to try really hard not to stress until Sunday when I know for sure if I’ll be starting the year in the classroom on Tuesday.

I hope everyone has had a great start to the school year or is eagerly awaiting the first day of school!