Am I ‘ashamed’ or ‘guilty’ of having made a mistake recently in my planning for 8th grade Social Studies recently?
I think I am ‘guilty’ of not thinking coherently or clearly enough what the objective of this exit ticket to the unit on ‘Conflicts Within Nations’ was.
I used Flipgrid to record individual reflections of why internal conflicts start within countries. The questions are below:
- Among the two conflicts that you researched what were the similarities? Explain.
- Among the two conflicts that you researched what were the differences? Explain
- Is the internal conflict within your researched resolved? Why or why not?
These were essential questions but they only served an assessment purpose for me. If the questions had been answered in a collaborative manner and an ensuing discussion had happened the learning would have been much richer, genuine and inclusive.
As a teacher I remember that I had been running out of time and needed to start the next unit on ‘Human Rights’ and I had barely managed to grade the Flipgrid reflections as a summative exit ticket to the unit. The students were given a rubric but mostly everyone ended up responding in a similar manner. To make the learning more challenging what if I had changed things and done the following:
- If the students had a discussion based on the three questions that were asked in the Flipgrid reflection within their groups (3-4 students). Then they would record their shared reflections in a group (one or more people participating) in a Flipgrid video. The responses would have incorporated other students’ thoughts. A google form reflection on how and if their thoughts changed during the process of starting the unit and ending it would have been useful as a teacher to observe how much everyone listened. These reflections would then be posted on the classroom wall for a gallery walk. OR
- What if everyone did an individual flipgrid video on the same three questions as above but the whole class could see/hear the responses in class? They would jot down quick notes and we would discuss why and how the responses were familiar or different.
How would the learning change then? I think the learning would have been more meaningful for students and relevant to their prior experiences and inclusive of other opinions different from them. Also, I would have caught on to what might be missing in the content that was taught in the unit. Third, students would not learn in isolation. They would learn collaboratively.
Leveraging Technology for collaboration and knowledge creation
Unfortunately, technology also has the ability to isolate students as they work towards their own goals in a classroom as they all have equal access to technology. In the process of learning if they remain isolated they can not benefit from diversity of thought, skills and abilities of their peers. Therefore, technology has to be used in collaboration so students do not lose social skills or the ability to compromise/negotiate, introduce their own ideas and work together with division of tasks within groups. Students will learn more deeply only when they work together by pooling their resources.
Also, if they collaborate on their learning the end product creation will be multi faceted and reflect the background of each student in the group. An example, is a former student who was Brazilian, a writer, blogger and photographer. As a project for the unit on ‘Internal Conflicts within Nations’ she picked the Tunisian blogger Lina Bin Mehenni during the Tunisian Revolution when researching the Arab Spring. Her group consisted of two other members, another avid writer and a female Arab student. Therefore, they followed their interest and collaborated together to follow Lina’s life during the Tunisian revolution and its aftermath. The group ended up discussing the role of women in Tunisia, Lina’s role in informing the outside world about the Arab Spring in Tunisia, how she raised support and gave them ideas for how others could do it.
Integrating technology with new pedagogies for deep learning
As this new generation of students is swayed by social justice, I find this the most effective means to ‘unleash deep learning’. For example, students can use technology apps such as givelively to try ‘Peer to Peer’ fundraising for a project of their own choice by making their own ‘Peer to Peer’ page or joining one for a cause that they believe in. Watch the video here. Therefore, raising funds for a cause such as the Rohingya Muslims becomes much easier. This came up in internal conflicts in Social Studies and how people who have historic rights to their land are treated (Native Americans, Aborigines, Rohingya to name a few).
How students become independent and effective learners
As a teacher if after planning the unit, I set up specific checkpoints during the unit then I would like to give them the freedom to use a range of technological tools to achieve their end. They should also have a right to decide how to showcase their end product. I do think that when we push our students to break the classroom walls (metaphorically only!) they will manage the learning process more effectively.
How do you teach ‘courage’, ‘shame’, and ‘guilt’?
For me, courage can only be shown if failure is shown side by side i.e. I have to model failure in class to be able to teach courage, consciously. It is not easy to admit your mistakes or that you do not know as much as you should in a classroom filled with students but it has to be done to show courage.
Also, if I can teach students the difference between ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’ where ‘shame’ focuses on the person and ‘guilt’ focuses on behavior. It is much easier to focus on changing behavior rather than yourself especially, if you do not have a healthy self esteem already. I think that giving a personal example of something that I am ashamed of and then one thing that I feel guilty about would be a good starter.
It could continue to a class activity with Padlet share of something we feel guilty about (so students can remain anonymous) and then a Padlet share of something we feel ‘ashamed’ about ourselves (again anonymous). As a teacher this would be a valuable lesson in not using ‘shame’ in class and being aware of its negative results.
A Courageous Classroom and Dealing with Vulnerability
A courageous classroom is one where we have rules of engagement …. Where the students and I realize that we are co-learners and they are not the only ones expected to learn. Yes, the teacher can lay the framework for the unit but she is not the one ultimately responsible for all the projects and how they are done. If a classroom can recognize that they are equally invested in learning the classroom becomes ‘courageous’ because we are all open to change that may be good for us.
For me showing vulnerability means that I openly accept my horrendous ability to memorize dates. The fact that I do not know everything. The fact that I need to be better organized. After admitting this, I have no doubt that students will follow suit and also be able to acknowledge a weakness or two. Maybe we could do a round around the classroom.
What does ‘Shame’ look like in my classroom?
I am sorry to say but yes, shame does show up in my classroom when
- I do not wait long enough for an answer during an animated class discussion.
- It also sometimes shows up when I do not acknowledge a student’s answer and move on to another student.
- Last, there is name calling or self deprecatory jokes made by students about their mental ability. These are never made by me but usually by a student him/herself. I always counter of how well equipped they are to answer the question. And I tell them that they are ‘almost there’ to make it less hard.
Recognizing learners as equals for true learning
I have not yet been able to recognize students as ‘equal’ learners in my classroom. They are investors in the planning of the process and the respondents in the end reflection but have not yet become equal partners. I believe when I am able to flip the classroom to project based learning the students will become more equal partners in the learning process. That means all English and Social Studies should be taught through project based learning.
At present, before any start of a Social Studies unit the class brainstorms what they want to know more about. During the unit we mark off the questions that have been answered. Also, many times these questions are the ones that are pursued by the group. At the end of the unit we also go over what they liked/went well and what they did not like/learn from. Therefore, the students have a say in the direction they want to pursue under a topic.
Showing and Teaching: Humility, Hope, Faith, Love, and Critical Thinking
Humility can best be described by embracing diversity of religions, cultures, languages and ways of completing a task. It is also expressed by understanding that we all have different weaknesses and strengths. When we formulate classroom groups to work together I try to group together students with different strengths, (strong reader/writer, artist, most practical) so they can complement each other.
And I think that hope, faith and love can only be taught if students can see those around them practicing these values. As a teacher they have to be able to see me practice these values in class and I have to be able to show them the other side of the coin. If this means using Skype in the Classroom to connect students to others from developing countries then we are showing them how the rest of the world lives.
If we push our students to think of how to work for achieving the UN Sustainable Goals then they will have newer insights, ideas after using Skype in the Classroom. It will force them to become critical thinkers as they formulate strategies to pursue a sustainable goal that they are passionate about in their community.
Thus, educational content should be balanced with what the students want to learn. The teacher should have checkpoints, ideas for technology that can be used, BUT be open to other ideas from students.
Second, there should be an emphasis on expanding the project outside the classroom walls because that is where students are forced to think critically and create new knowledge along the way.
Third, we also need to showcase empathy and place value on helping others which can be done through a website simulation such as SPENT. Students will appreciate what they have and know that they have the capacity to make an immense difference in their world.
Dearth of Economics and Financial Awareness
Most students especially those not working during school need an education in economics to learn what is entailed in taking a college loan, buying a home, leasing a car, opening a bank account or getting a credit card. They need to know about college loans, interest rates, disposable income, leasing rates, rent, mortgage rates and savings. Using a website for lesson ideas such as Econedlink would help a lot with financial readiness as students leave high school for college. For example, the lesson on whether to buy a home or not can be done collaboratively by placing students in groups and then showing the input they come up with (worksheets). They can then discuss their collective input. These lessons if done as part of project learning in high school would make students more financially prepared for life away from their parents.
Self Reflection, Supporting Learning Experiences and Accommodating Learner Differences
As a teacher, I need to practice humility with the students. I am humble with my peers but need to do it to a greater degree with the students that I teach. I also need to be able to connect students with their areas of interest to mentors, internships, online programs etc. that will highlight their strengths and let them explore the areas that they are most interested in.
Learning experiences and learner differences are best addressed in group work that is project based so the strengths and weaknesses of one is supported by the other. The end product and activities are decided by the group.
This is when the teacher makes the groups which I am still in favor of as students who do not normally interact are forced to work together. They discover each other and in the process learn to work with others who are different from them.