Friday, May 17, 2013

Time for reflection - May 17 Crumble

The year is ending, and classrooms are beginning to look empty.  This last week I had a group of five eighth grade girls ransack my office and pack up books, photographs, and supplies.  They just showed up one day at lunch, and, like a band of hungry vultures, pecked my office clean.  Then they had the nerve to show up the next day and complain because I had unpacked some of my boxes so that I could do my job for the next two weeks!  I have some nerve, I know.  I love middle schoolers.  Sincerely. 

This week I've felt a little revitalized, and I thought I'd give the area of metacognition a good shake down as we all prepare to take off our educator hats for at least a few weeks and rest.  As many of us know, reflection is such a key component in becoming a better anything, and there is no better way to know oneself as an educator than to reflect upon oneself as a learner and a person.

One of the foundations of Project CRISS is a skill called metacognition, which many of you know means thinking about one's own thinking.  How do I, as a learner, learn?  I almost think that this reflection is more important for teachers than it is for students because, cognitively, these kiddos are still in stages where they haven't got a clue how they learn and are looking for us to supply them with those answers.  If we can't show them our confidence in our ability to detect our own learning styles, then how can we show them how to explore theirs?

Several years ago I conducted a refresher geared toward learning styles, and it's been a while since I preached that sermon, but I recall one revelation that many of us had after we all took the VARK learning styles assessment together and a multiple intelligences assessment.  It was like light bulbs went on all over the library as we started sharing our learning strengths with each other!  After I took those tests, I realized why I get frustrated when I sit in lectures or when somebody tries to tell me how to play a game.  My auditory listening skills stink, and I tune out after the first few instructions. 

But something even more amazing happened that day.  My ability to connect to my colleagues expanded because I was able to identify each person by his/her learning style.  I also began to notice that we bring those styles into our interactions with others.  Anybody ever notice me staring at your hair or interrupting a lengthy conversation with a completely new one?  Yep.  It's because my ears have shut down.  I don't mean to do it.  I am a better emailer and texter than I am a face-to-face conversationalist - and it's not because I like to hide behind my computer and my phone.  It's because I can't focus on my ears for too long.  Knowing this about my colleagues made it easier for me to communicate because if I knew I was working with a person who was kinesthetic - I showed them how to do something rather than type them out an email with directions. 

It even made a difference in my relationship with my husband - who is completely kinesthetic.  My strengths are my read/write ability and my musical/rhythmic ability.  Instead of frustrating him with lengthy instructions about things, I try to show him.  This is a challenge for me, as I produce better with my words, but to improve our (already amazing) relationship this is what I do.  With my daughter (the technology and visual girl) it is even more of a challenge, but I am learning.

My point is, friends, if we are willing to put forth the effort in creating engaging and meaningful lessons geared toward the highly-rigorous Common Core Standards, we have to be willing to go all the way.  Our kids will meet us with what they have to offer, but if their brains aren't wired for what we're giving them - good luck!  You can rebuttle this with the idea that as they get older learning isn't going to be geared toward their intelligences, and that they need to learn how to adapt - if you want, but the fact remains - we have these kiddos now.  Our job is to pack them with confidence, skill, and the ability to learn without being directed.  What better way to do this than to empower them with the idea that their way of learning may be different than others and by giving them ideas to adapt that way to today's education.

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