With a new school year comes another year of professional learning. I am super lucky to be a part of a group of teachers at my school who are embarking on a second year of unlearning together. Last year my Principal, myself and four other teachers met almost every three weeks to talk about school and the need for change. We had some really great discussion, some disagreements and some aha moments. It was amazing to have a safe place to share ideas and not feel judged. Amazing things happened in classrooms as a result of our time together. If you are interested in seeing / reading about some of the other teachers experiences / unlearning journeys you can check out The Stoppels Show blog or Jess Packer-Quinnel on Twitter and Liz Coolen on Instagram.
This year I am privileged to continue working with the group above, but am also lucky to get to work with a new group of teachers who are interested in learning more about community based learning. There has been a huge push in our board to make learning more experiential so this year our professional learning teams are called the XLPLT (experiential professional learning team).
We had our first meeting a week ago to talk about what the XLPLT was all about. My Principal went over what we did last year and what we hope to do this year. He asked me and the others from last year’s team to talk a little bit about what we are doing in my classes. We also spoke about the journey that the teachers in our PLT took to get to where they are today. It really made me reflect on my past PD experiences and what is necessary to let go of in order to completely change up your practice.
I have done a lot of PD over the past 17 years. I worked on a PLT that focused on critical thinking, I worked on a PLT that looked at engagement of at risk students, I participated in lesson studies and I attended numerous workshops on how to make my lessons better. All of these have been very important in my growth as a teacher. I learned a lot by working with my colleagues and found great ways to change up lessons and to embed critical thinking and engagement into my practice. However, what they didn’t really look at was the structure of the traditional education system and how it is outdated, systemically racist, focused on preparing students for a work world that doesn’t exist anymore and not preparing our students for their future.
In this years XLPLT we are obviously interested in finding ways to have our students become critical thinkers and engaged, but more importantly we are more excited about how to change up our classrooms so that they reflect the modern world. So, what are the things that a teacher needs to do in order to make this happen? Below is what I have come up with.
- Understand why this change needs to happen – more specifically understanding your WHY for doing it.
- Let go of control.
- See students as partners. Give them a say in what and how they learn.
- Realize that learning can happen differently than what we know school to be – and value that learning just as much.
- Let go of hierarchy and grades – see the brilliance in everyone.
- Embrace failures, reflect and learn from them.
- Connect learning to community.
- Focus on teaching / using 21st century technology.
- Have students become creators rather than consumers.
This is not an easy task, but by looking at the work that they are doing at Beaver County Day School in Massachusetts, it is possible. Check it out here Why ‘Unlearning’ Old Habits Is An Essential Step For Innovation However, closer to home it is evident that it is possible too. After about 8 months of working together on our Unlearning PLT I interviewed the team on what unlearning meant to them. Here are their answers.
So, what will it take for you to make the change, what is your WHY?
Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂