At least that is what I am seeing from my limited point of view.
Today was marked by our annual New Teacher Induction meetings where we work with our first-year staff on method and practice. It’s always an eclectic bunch, as we always have a nice mix of veteran teachers who have changed districts mid-career and recent college graduates. The perspectives range from those blinded by the frustrations of working with students for the first time to those who’ve been through their share of the trenches.
Today’s theme was supposed to be Non-Linguistic Representations and how we can use them to aid students in accessing learning via more than the traditional input of chalk, talk, write and remember. As usual, when a lesson goes the way I want it to, or better yet, in a direction I did not anticipate, it leaves me with more to learn than those who were originally considered the students in the equation.
In introducing the theme, I asked them to read and discuss (we used body voting to have them split the room apart–which do you prefer Starbuck’s or Dunkin Donuts?) a recent post on Scott McLeod’s page in which he quoted Robert Fried’s The Game of School:“
What sprang out this small quote from both veteran and new teacher alike was an overwhelming sigh of relief that someone had verbalized this in such a manner as this. From pre-school teachers to senior level math teachers, the value of the three key words in this quote: curious, confident, enthusiastic, drew response. Whether that passion from the students was for math, writing, reading, or science, did not matter to them. They wanted the gestalt for their students, and they really wanted it.
I can’t say I was surprised, as getting our teachers out of the classroom is difficult to do–they are passionate and committed to what they do; they common phrase among our high school staff is “you’ve got to be in it to win it.” What surprised me most was the demand they placed on making sure we help them teach students meaningful things that they will use and that make sense in their lives immediately. Breaking away from this discussion was difficult, and it ran way over the time we allotted for it in both sessions, but we knew there would be more time for this discussion.
Sir Ken Robinson’s work has been making the rounds lately, and I am a sucker for his 2006 TED talk regarding creativity and education. This group, I was sure, had not heard this yet, so I paired it with a short excerpt from Pink’s A Whole New Mind, and asked them to do some synthesizing: take Robinson’s contentions about the role of public education in regards to creativity, take Pink’s assertion that we need an integrated mind for the future, and come to a new understanding about your own practice and your own understanding of what your students need.
What we got never materialized into a whole group discussion, but in moving between the groups, I caught people talking like their hair was on fire in some instances. This day struck a chord, at least with me, and I’d love to solicit some feedback about the day in the form of an exit card (probably should have thought of that beforehand). How did it relate to non-linguistic representations? Not as cleanly as I would have hoped, but in discussing the need for students to access information visually, use mental imagery, and portray their understanding of concepts in visual as well as verbal/linguistic forms, our groups were able to see the need for strong non-verbal learning.