I have just finished my first-year teaching. I can tell you; it was nothing like I had expected. There were many challenges I was completely unprepared for. If it weren’t for the support of my school administration and the advice of my learning community, my year would have gone much differently. There was a huge learning curve for me, and I probably learned more than my students. I have been reflecting on my own learning environment and the ways that it allowed me to grow and learn in the most effective but most intense thrown into the deep end way. I feel like I can take from my own learning environment and apply it to my classroom. I recognize that learning never stops and emulating an environment in my classroom that is like real world experiences will result in the most long-term learning.
It would be an understatement to say that this year was a challenge. With no degree in education, I had much more to learn than you would think. I am often left overwhelmed. Especially in this program as I learn more about learning environments and effective leadership sometimes the amount, I must learn just feels like too much for me. I then try and activate my growth mindset and think how great that I get to learn all of this now and begin my teaching career with the most effective classroom that I can. I am having to reframe the way that I view the classroom. To wrap my head around how I can “create” a significant learning environment, I cannot view the classroom as just a place that we all go but more of an experience. When students come into the classroom it cannot be as mundane as come in and sit at your desk, but it needs to be an experience where they are fully immersed in the world of math and science.
After reviewing A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for A
World of Constant Change, I felt most connected to the author’s perspective of play. What I love most about my job as an elementary teacher is the ability to play at work. In my personal life, I make it a point to play every day whether that is surfing, diving, frisbee, or a simple swim. In my life, I feel that play gives me a healthy balance between all aspects of my life and serves as maintenance for my mental health which is crucial when facing end of year burn out. In the classroom, I often hear my students say that they do not learn anything. At first, this is very alarming to hear as a teacher, but I have learned to take it as the biggest compliment they could give me. Upon further investigation, I always find my students have learned something, but we spend so many of our lessons playing that it never feels like work. My students perform much better in my science class than math and I truly believe that it is due to the ease with which I can make science feel like play time. I really struggle to make math engaging and make it feel less like class. The best days in math are when we play review games or hold math related competitions. My students look forward to these days and often count down until our next unit because we have a weeklong review before changing gears. The effectiveness of play is something I have observed in my own classroom and was fully reinforced after reading A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for A World of Constant Change. I feel most connected to and inspired by the idea of play. By far, this will be the easiest principle for me to implement into my classroom. While I feel challenged by it, it is closest to my heart and sparks my why.
Other principles outlined in the book challenge my head and my heart a little bit more. Since I do not have a traditional background in education, this type of rhetoric and approach comes less naturally to me. In the growth mindset spirit, I am not without hope. I know that I can successfully bring these ideas to my classroom. I will start first with the ideas of systems thinking in the classroom. I love this approach especially for science. Like play, systems thinking can be easily tied into science curriculum. As a science minded person, I quickly gravitate toward implementing things into my science curriculum more than math. Implementing this idea into my math curriculum would effectively create an extremely significant learning environment. I feel that connecting ideas such as socio-economic, socio-technical, and other interdisciplinary ideas into the classroom will prepare my students to be independent learners and more successful in many aspects of life. I hope to bring this idea into my classroom by utilizing a variety of lessons. My students are already involved in a project-based learning program as well as an experiential learning style. I hope to add to their learning environment by also including blended learning and a station rotation model into the curriculum. I believe that this approach creates a significant learning environment while still meeting the student where they are. Meeting the student where they are is the foundation of my school’s beliefs and a major part of my why. This also creates the learning environment that I hope to achieve. By including a wide variety of lesson styles, I am also accommodating different learning styles allowing for the most effective learning environment that I can. This ties into systems thinking by teaching students to succeed in many different circumstances by connecting ideas from different subjects into different lessons. A majority of my higher education has been spent learning connected and systems thinking skills. By using this approach from a young age, all aspects of the book will be tied together. Systems thinking covers connectedness, social challenges, curriculum for understanding, culture, and building skills. While this approach is all encompassing, it is also very challenging. A goal of mine is to learn these skills and implement it into my innovation plan.
The broad principles outlined in A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination For A World of Constant Change has been a moving change of perspective for me. The outline is very broad and allows for creative implementation but still gives enough structure for effective use. Once again, I am left feeling overwhelmed yet hopeful for the future of my career in education. I often feel like the more I learn the less I know but I know with the support and insights of my colleagues, I will be successful in my Innovation plan to design a blended learning station rotation model while at the same time creating a significant learning environment.
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Dwayne Harapnuik. (2015, May 9). Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE)
[Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ-c7rz7eT4
TEDx Talks & Thomas, D. (2012, September 13). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas
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Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for aworld of constant change (1st ed.). CreateSpace Independent Pub