Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Nobody Said It Was Easy...

Today here is a soundtrack from my mind as a read a blog post, here are some lines from Coldplay's, "The Scientist":

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start.

This chorus came to mind after reading the blog post entitled, "The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher" by Steven Conn and posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Thanks for the great writing that caused me to reflect on my practice and the purpose for what I do.  The following are my thoughts on point from Conn's post, so perhaps read it first.
Just some of my thoughts  as I read the blog are below.

So you don't use rubrics, not at post secondary education? Now, not everything requires a rubric, but major assignments/tasks should at least be put forth with, at the very, very, very least a set of expectations so that students know how they will be evaluated. Scaffolding anything we do provides the structure for success and better student product. Even when we evaluate teachers it is an open conversation where we inform the teachers of the domains we are looking at.  I even allow teachers to select several they would like me to pay particular attention to.  Its not just about rubrics its about information and everyone knowing how they will be evaluated.  I expect this for myself and I will ensure I give it to teachers and students.

As far as failing, there is nothing wrong with students struggling and failing, as long as they learn why they failed.  If you do not provide them meaningful feedback then how will they improve.  If they do not know how they are evaluated how will they learn? We need to ensure we nurture a growth mindset in our students, so they can see where they fell short when measured against criteria and how to improve for the future.

Yes technology has opened the lines of communication.  However, we need to take control and set limits of when you are available on email, twitter, FB or a chat room in a LMS.  We still have the control to set reasonable limits for students.  Students need structure, they crave it.  If you set ongoing communication framework for students, and have regularly scheduled hours for this communication to occur, then we can avoid the last minute rush of panicked emails, texts and DM's!

Face-to-face meetings with my prof?  That was horrific time for me, I would have prefered to build my relationship first and then move towards face-to-face interactions.  This is what technology allows us to do.  It is an evolution not a de-evolution!

When I was a student in school I was ahead of most, not because of my intelligence, not because of my time management skills, not because of my prioritizing, but because I learned how to play the game.  I was engaged only when I needed to be.  I drove teachers nuts.  Loads of potential but no motivation to play the game 24/7.  I did what I had to do in order to get by, I wasn't engaged.  I had figured out a framework for success without it being shown to me.  I was luckily, all my classmates were not.  By providing students with outlines of how they will be assessed or chunking larger tasks into parts we are providing a framework and structure for students who haven't figured out the game.  We are merely leveling the playing field for all, not spoon feeding.
When Conn states, "I can teach in a meaningful way only if students are prepared to learn" I can agree.  However that's where my agreement ends.  It is our role, our job, our task, or moral imperative to ensure that students are prepared to learn and are ready to learn.  Simply put in the words of Coldplay, nobody said it was easy.  We cannot just throw our hands up and blame students, parents, government, technology or the education system.  We must make all of these work together for student success.

We can do all the above, while still challenging our students with intellectually stimulating tasks. All the while, providing rubrics in order showing them what to do and how to do it.  This is our task. This is our job. This is what we signed up to do!  Conn is right, we cannot drag them around the dance floor, it takes more than two to do the educational tango.  However, engaging students in the learning process through rubrics, descriptive feedback, open communication, critically thoughtful assignments and providing frameworks for success are all steps in that dance.  Remember, nobody said it was easy...

Feedback and thoughts please....

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