Posted in Why Unlearn?

Introduction to Unlearning June 23 – August 17.

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Over the past 5 years, as an educator,  I have been on an unlearning journey. I have gradually transitioned from a traditional classroom to a more modernized classroom that reflects our ever changing world.  In the last year I have had the opportunity to share this experience at a few conferences via workshops, through my blog and twitter. I have been fortunate to be contacted by people who are interested in what I am doing. The most consistent comment / question that I get is, I love what you are doing, but where do I even start?

Everyday I challenge my students to seek out problems and find solutions. Therefore, I am going to walk the walk and will be taking the leap into the edupreneur world.

I am excited and nervous to announce that I will to be offering an online course / workshop for teachers who are interested in modernizing their classroom but just don’t know where to start.  The course will run for 8 weeks and will include the following:

  1. Why we need to unlearn.

  2. The importance of a Professional Learning Network in our unlearning journey.

  3. The gradual steps taken to let go of a traditional model to a more modernized approach to the classroom. (5 Steps to leaving the traditional model)

Each of the Step modules will include:

  • A video overview of what change was made to my traditional classroom.

  • Student Voice / examples

  • Links to the people / educators / resources that influenced the change.

  • Changes in assessment from traditional to reflective / gradeless.

  • Discussions: networking / brainstorming with other participants and myself.

  • 30 min one on one consultation with me / module.

You can check out a promo video here if you would like a little more information.

The course will be $299 CND / $249 USD.

The first session will run from June 23, 2019 – Aug 17, 2019.

Come and unlearn with me, register today here !!

Any questions please feel free to ask. Please share with anyone else who might be interested.

Cheers, Rebecca

Posted in Why Unlearn?

Why not more Destreaming?

Screenshot 2019-06-18 at 4.04.45 PMhttp://www.thereckoner.ca/op-ed-is-grade-nine-too-soon/applied-academic-jeffrey-liu/

In the Ontario high school system we stream students in grade 9 and 10 into either academic / applied or locally developed and in grade 11 and 12 into either university / college or workplace / essential designated courses.  When we stream our students, we create an “us” versus “them” mentality. We (school system, parents, society, students) create a hierarchy, which in turn makes students who are not at the top feel that they are not smart or not good enough.  Why are we ok with this?

This past semester I had the opportunity to work with students who have many different post secondary destinations.  Some will go off to the workplace right from high school, some will come back for another year, some will take a gap year, some will go to college and some to university.  As a result my class became a de-streamed classroom and it was amazing.

Destreaming is often a bad word at the high school level.  In the traditional method of teaching (the way it has always been done), teachers find it a necessity to work with a group of students who are similar in ability, who are working on the same content and assignments and who are all capable of working at the same pace.  However, if we shake things up in the classroom and personalize learning, find out who our students are, what their strengths and weaknesses are the destreamed classroom can happen.

What happens when you destream a classroom?

When you put a wide range of abilities and strengths in a classroom, so many amazing things can happen.  The incredible things that I witnessed this semester are proof that when you provide personalized learning, have students recognize their strengths and weaknesses and work to those strengths, extraordinary things will happen.  

A.N.D. (Abilities NOT Disabilities)

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Over the semester my class teamed up with another class at Woodroffe high school.  Both of our classes had a wide range of abilities in it. My class was a grade 12 destreamed class, who were studying child development and gerontology and the other class was a Junior General Learning Program.  Together we created a social enterprise called A.N.D. We focused on everyone’s strengths and worked as a group to raise over $400 and spread awareness about different cognitive disabilities. They had booths around the city, they made compost bags and fire starters to sell by donation, they made friendship bracelets and friendship beads to hand out and they spoke to younger students about the importance of kindness.  Each person in both classes contributed in the best way that they could. The different roles included:

  • Creating a logo
  • Creating a brochure
  • Creating a twitter page
  • Creating a website
  • Creating a video
  • reaching out to community
  • Making the compost bags
  • Making the Fire starters
  • Making the friendship bracelets and pins
  • Giving a presentation
  • Creating slideshow for the presentation
  • Organizing booths at malls, outside of stores and at City Hall
  • Talking to people at the booths


Focus on growth vs comparing students

If we look at each student as an individual and celebrate their strengths and weaknesses everyone can be successful.  For example, in my classroom each student comes to the table with different skills and abilities. Each student learns in a different way and should be allowed to flourish no matter what way that it is.  My philosophy is to focus on the growth of each student rather than comparing them to others in the classroom. In order to achieve this, there is a lot of ground work that needs to be laid for students to buy in.  The students who have not been successful in school still struggle with this, even though it allows them to feel good about who they are and what they can accomplish. Unfortunately, they have always been made to feel that they are not good enough because the do not fit the one size fits all “school” model and have always felt inferior to those who have had success in school.  On the other hand it is just as difficult for the students who have done well in school. They struggle with not being at the top, their identity depends on it and are not ready to move over and let those “below” them have success. When we are able to break that cycle and celebrate everyone’s strengths magic happens.

The goal for me and the students is to look at where they are at the beginning of the course and track their growth.  All students can learn about child development and gerontology in their own personalized way. I can meet them where they are, figure out what skills and abilities they bring to the table, where they want to go in life and see how we can work on and refine the necessary skills that they will need.  For example, for one student, just coming to class and being a part of something might be where they are at right now. They may need time to build the confidence that was stripped of them over the years of feeling inadequate in school. If they are able to show up on a regular basis, participate and even do some work, then they have been successful and have grown. Whereas, another student may come to the table with a whole different set of skills. They may know that they want to go off to post secondary and will require certain skills once they are there. They can do projects that push them further in their own growth and work on skills that will allow them to be successful in their future. Both of these students can have success, it is not compared, it is about personal growth.

If we were to get rid of labels and hierarchies we will create an equal playing field for everyone.  For some reason some people are not ok with this, it challenges their idea of what has always been and some how demeans their own value.  I would argue that three quarters of our students / society have felt this way in school at one time or another, so why do we continue to value only a quarter of our population?

Thanks for unlearning with me 🙂

Cheers, Rebecca

Posted in Why Unlearn?

Gas to Electric

habits

Last year I bought a new car.  I was driving a large SUV and wanted to find a car that was better for the environment and cheaper on gas – I live out in the country and do a lot of driving.  I really wanted a Tesla, but I didn’t buy one, here is why:

  1. Expensive
  2. Concerned about charging stations – if I wanted to travel from Ottawa to Hamilton (where all my family lives) I would have to stop at least once to recharge which would take at least 45 minutes and I usually don’t stop along the way.
  3. Limited infrastructure  – charging stations, concerns about charging it at home and at work etc.
  4. The fear of the unknown – I’ve only owned gas fueled cars before

I know that driving an electric car is where I need to go next, but when I bought my last car I wasn’t ready to make the change.  Ultimately, if I am going to drive an electric car I will have to change what I know about driving I will have to change my habits, I will have to unlearn what I know about owning a vehicle.  When it is time for the next vehicle, I will be ready.

In education we have a similar situation.  Many people see the need for change, but have not wrapped their heads around or come to terms with how to make the change from gas to electric or teacher lead / grade driven to student lead / reflective practice.

Five years ago I decided enough was enough and I made that transition from gas to electric in my classroom.  I went from the teacher telling the students what and how to learn to a facilitator that provides a framework, suggestions, guidance and support to students.  

As a gas fueled teacher I was the one always in control.  I had my students learning what I thought was the most important.  I had all my students complete all the same assignments and learn all the same things.  I assessed my students all the same way and I focused mostly on the content of the course rather than on skills.  

As an electric fueled facilitator I now expose my students to different issues / organizations, professions in the field that we are studying,  I let my students passions / interests drive their learning, I help connect them with community, I challenge them to get out of their comfort zones, I support them in creating networks that will help them now and in the future. I help my students find their passions and help provide them with skills that will allow them to pursue those passions all while obtaining credits.  My role is to coach them in their learning and to help them reflect and learn from what they do in the classroom. I have given up a lot of the control.

It has taken me five years to get to where I am, I get that it takes time to make the shift. Throughout my journey I have had many conversations with curious educators who want to make the shift. I have had the opportunity to share what I am doing at a few conferences and PD Days and the most frequently asked comment / question is usually, I love what you are doing, but how do I make this happen?  What I have found is this can’t be answered in a 50 minute session or over coffee.  Therefore, I am excited to announce that I am in the process of creating an online course / workshop to help guide educators looking to make the shift, but just don’t know where to start.  It is still in the infancy stage but for those who enrol, it will be a place to learn and understand your own why, a place to network with other educators and finally a place to brainstorm and reimagine your classroom. 

Who’s ready to make the shift from gas to electric?

Thanks for unlearning with us.

Cheers, R 🙂