Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Unique Opportunity

Now that summer break has officially begun, I can relax a bit from the end-of-the-year hustle and bustle. As each year ends in my professional journey as an educator, I reflect on how grateful I am to be in a profession that has such an impact on society. This year was my 43rd as an educator, and while the general public chooses to bash our school systems or bemoan that our students are not prepared to think critically, I disagree.

While we can do things better (especially with testing - don't get me started). our students are learning. It's just that they learn differently and are more likely to let us adults know when they don't see the relevance in what or how they're being taught. Students today have so many opportunities to learn outside of school and to connect and learn from others. I can tell you unequivocally that when our students are given voice and choice in what and how they share their learning, skeptical adults would be impressed.

Earlier this year, our fourth graders began a unit called "Wave of Immigration" to address social studies standards about the history of Hawaii.  At the time, the news was focused on the plight of the Syrian refugees, and the teacher saw this as an opportunity to expand the unit beyond a period of time in Hawaii's history to the present and what was happening in the world. I was impressed with the questions these students came up, and they decided as a class that their driving question was "Will immigration last forever?" They explored and discovered and then shared their ideas through discussions and essays. They created slide shows about the different immigrant groups that came to Hawaii and positively impacted our multicultural society. Students even related immigration to natural disasters, something they had studied earlier in the year. In the end, they decided as a class that immigration will last forever because of push and pull factors, and as military dependents, these students were able to communicate how immigration impacted them personally. I was impressed and truthfully, their driving question made me think more deeply about immigration than I ever had before.

My point is that as educators and as adults, we cannot get complacent. We need to model for our children that we are also learners and that they can teach us. Teaching and learning is not dependent on one's age or life experiences.

This week, I have a unique opportunity to network with a group of educational leaders from public and charter schools to learn more about Project-Based Learning as part of the Hawaii Innovative Leaders Network with support and guidance from the Buck Institute for Education.  This is a 2-year commitment, and I look forward, not just to the face-to-face meetings, but also for this opportunity to connect with other educators and to expand my professional learning network.

Our school has made a commitment to transition from teacher-directed interdisciplinary units to student-centered project-based learning. Our vision states that we will "empower learners to explore, discover, create, and share." PBL is a process that can be used to support deeper learning and give us the tools to truly be life-long learners who can make a difference in this world.

What a gorgeous venue for our HILN Leader Launch! I never knew this place existed. 

A wonderful learning lab for the students


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  2. Curious to see where the journey takes you all this next school year.

    1. I will certainly keep you updated, Carmen! It will be a messy but wonderful journey!

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