As the summer draws to an end and my thoughts turn towards the school year ahead, it is the perfect time to reflect on the wonderful year that was and all I learned in my time as a DocuMentor.
Firstly, I need to express my deepest thanks and gratitude to Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano for pushing me out of my comfort zone and deep into the importance of 21st Century learning, as well as my amazing cohort who offered support and encouragement during this year of growth.
The single most important thing I learned this year was that literacy is no longer all about the 3 R’s: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. This phrase was coined in the beginning of the 19th century. That was 200 years ago, and although these skills are still relevant, it is our job as teachers to ensure that we are providing an education that is rich and meaningful for our students, all the while preparing them with the skills that they need for the future.
I am a pretty traditional learner and when I began this journey, each step into using technology as a tool was a painful learning curve. Creating QR codes, working a Twitter account, blogging, learning to use various apps to enrich my lessons and increase student engagement…so many new skills to figure out.
Every new skill put me in an interesting position…I was a teacher, but also a beginning learner…and in some cases, students were grasping the technology faster than I was.
“Look Morah Shira, I made the movie go fast!”
(A Kindergarten student who figured out the fast-motion feature while documenting his fellow classmates.)
This experience taught me a lot! Not only is it OK to show the students that I am learning alongside of them, but it is crucial. After all, it fits right into my very own educational philosophy… to encourage a life-long love of learning!
It is also empowering when I trust my students to take the lead. This was evident when I entrusted my Kindergarten students to become responsible for documenting their own learning. Not only did they rise to the challenge, but it became part of our time together that they looked forward to and cherished, all the while gaining skills as photographers, videographers, interviewers, and seeking out the learning taking place in the classroom.
In the past I may have thought that my students were too young to use these tools, especially if I wasn’t 100% comfortable with them, but now I see how every opportunity teaches them skills which are building blocks for the future.
“Can we take our iPads now?”
Another success in Kindergarten was while using the Pic Collage app during our 5 month Tu B’Shevat inspired tree investigation. Where the students were inspired to own their learning in a supportive atmosphere where they stepped into the role of teaching each other!
…”I don’t remember how to do it”
…”I know how! I can show her!”
During this time, I embraced a new way of approaching my lessons using Visible Thinking and an Inquiry Mindset based on Project Zero’s Think…See…Wonder. and the updated KWHLAQ. These strategies amazed me. I had often just jumped into lessons assuming what my student’s prior knowledge was. It was amazing to see how wrong these assumptions often were when I began the lessons by asking what they knew. Together, we successfully practiced these skills as we investigated how the tree changed… thinking, seeing, and wondering anew each season.
As a teacher, I often encourage my students to be unafraid of trying new things. Not to be afraid to make mistakes and to work with them instead, editing or changing your work in order to make your mistakes into masterpieces. I know that I am helping to make a difference and that they are embracing this growth mindset…but guess what, I am too!
…”Mistakes are how we learn!”
This year as a DocuMentor I had to learn to practice what I preach. I am also a learner…and need to continually push myself to be unafraid of trying new things! There is still so much that I don’t know. I have begun but am still at the start of my journey as an educator for our rapidly changing future. One of the biggest obstacles I faced was myself, being vulnerable, and the humbling aspect of exposing my growth and what I still need to accomplish.
So as I look forward to the new chapter that this upcoming school year will bring, I can embrace the challenge with open arms. I happily anticipate the transformation it will have on myself as a teacher and a lifelong learner!