Monday, July 25, 2011

Challenge!



"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves" Victor Frankl.

I had the difficult situation this year, when I kick started the year all excited and OTT with my ambitions and visions for the school year, at having to change myself. It is easy to sit back and blame the system or the parents, the school leadership or the board, the children's lack of ability or focus, but it is not easy to sit back and face the fact that we may be the issue.

I was planned, well planned, in fact, I may have a slight anally-retentive-gene that features in my life as a teacher. I was ready, the classroom was set up incorporating most of the 7 spaces of learning (Ewan MacIntosh), the class garden was ready to plant in, the books were labelled, the iPads, iPods and laptops were all ready for the learners to tap, type and text, the theme was set - CHALLENGE.

Oh heck, did anyone bother to THINK about what kind of year THAT might make??? CHALLENGE?! Why didn't we call it the year of BLISS or CRUISE-Y, or the year of JOY or EASE. But no, somewhere in our psyche we considered it a wonderful 'big idea' to call it 'challenge'.

And challenge me it did. From the first week I knew that the children couldn't cope with what I had planned for them. I pondered what was wrong with them...I looked back at my initial assessments and observations and couldn't rationalise why this seemed like a very different group of children from last year...

Then it finally dawned on me (actually, this process took me 6 weeks of tearing my hair out, gnashing my teeth and moaning to myself and a few colleagues about THAT class of mine) - this class are NOT last year's class. They were a whole new bunch of learners and the problem *GULP* might be -

ME.

Oh dear. Yep. That was it in a nutshell. The real 'challenge' I was now faced with wasn't 'how do I change these kids?' instead I was slapped in the face full on with the realisation of 'how do I change ME?' My attitude. My expectations. THEIR expectations of me were more important than mine of them. My goals for them were not fair or worthy of their time - if I wanted this group of individuals to learn and function in an eLearning class, I was going to have start from where each of them were, NOT where I was. That was a lightbulb moment the size of a small nuclear detonation.

Okay, so I was highly skilled in some things, highly unskilled in many others, learning madly along the way, but why had I not considered that this is EXACTLY the sort of attitude my class needed me to show them?! I have taught for so many years with little or no stumbling block of this nature - eLearning presents its own new and unique problems and I had just blindly stumbled in, thinking I could start from where I was and assume they would catch up! No, no, no!

So it began - the change in me. I planned WITH the children. We plotted their learning pathways and checked their skills as they were learnt. We shaped our classroom together and pulled apart the key competencies one at a time to really look at what they mean to us as learners. We walked through failure to achieve success in our learning. We have developed the class wiki and blog together, with full control of the majority of content being theirs. I have yielded power and decisions and it has felt dangerous, daring and excellent. The class are all on a learning journey from the driver's seat. I am only along for the ride, kind of like a driving instructor who is terrified half of the time and thrilled with how quickly they learn the rest of the time!

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves" Victor Frankl.

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