The evolution of my beliefs of learning

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At the beginning of this course, I believed that learning was a creating knowledge process. I still agree with this information. Dweck’s work on fixed vs. growth mindset shows us that it is possible for us to continue learning when we make the focus on the actual process of learning instead of focusing on the content. We need to celebrate even small strides in the learning process and be comfortable tackling difficult problems and wrestling with them over the course of our period of solving them. As I sat through pre-conferences during workshop week, I noticed that my new co-workers frequently told me that our students were smart. My immediate follow-up to this was asking if they were a hard worker. As teachers, we collectively are apt to begin to think about and discuss students in terms of how smart they are, but we need to refocus frequently and think about how much students are willing to work to understand the information.

I also was thinking about organization in the classroom as we began the school year. It can often be difficult to myself let alone provide an organizational structure for my students. I am realizing more and more through my actual teaching experiences that the more that I can provide students with a consistent schedule, the more willing they will be to complete the tasks that we need done. For example, this year at my new school Mondays will be computer days, Tuesday will be instruction, Wednesday and Thursday will be guided groups and Friday will be assessment. By following a simple schedule, I can provide students with the consistency that they crave without them realizing that they are also going to be more organized. 

I also have come to the understanding that I need to explicitly teach more problem solving. I need to work with students to understand the process of solving difficult problems. I need to give students the opportunity to witness an adult solving problems. I can do this by integrating more modeling and teacher talk into my curriculum.

Beginning the Year

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Today was my first day at my new school. I am anxious to get started and make decisions for my school year. I want to be prepared and ready for any situation! However, as teachers, we all know that regardless of the perparation that we do ahead of time, we will never be fully prepared for everything that happens in our classroom.

In one of my unguarded facebook binges (reading all the random things in my news feeed) I found an article called “For A More Ordered Life, Organize like a Chef”. The article states that “according to Marketdata Enterprises, Americans spend nearly $10 billion a year on self-help and personal organization products. The market is huge, partly because most colleges and grad schools don’t teach basic organization. But culinary schools and professional kitchens do.”

Why don’t we teach organization skills? I try to teach some basic skills to my students in middle school. I know that if I do not teach them how to organize I will never get work turned in. I will have students that attempt to complete an entire months worth of work in the 48 hours before the deadline! I focus on skills like writing things in planners or putting things in the correct binder section. I make students use one notebook for math and a different one for language arts. What skills do I need to add to my list of skills to teach middle schoolers?

This article also decribes the process of “mise-en-place”. For chefs this is the practice of “gather(ing) and arrang(ing) the ingredients and tools needed for cooking.” One statistic was that chefs may do 6 hours of prep work for a 3 hour dinner service. I know they do! I see them in the kitchen when I work at the golf course. When they get to ‘go time’ during dinner service everything that they need is never more than an arms length away. They can access everything that they need immediately!

How can I do this for myself in the classroom? What things do I need to mise-en-place so that I can be as effective in my teaching as the chefs are in their cooking? I’m thinking beyond maintaining an organized desk, I worry about how to I keep my materials for small groups organized and available at a moments notice. I think about how to I create a space where students can find and access the resources they need quickly and easily without needing lots of assistance from me. As I begin work in my classroom this week, I will think about creating a space where everything that we need is available at a moments notice just like the chefs at the golf course organize their station.