Thank You Monsieur Monet!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22nd, 2017 by dkerr

​So a couple of weeks ago I took a trip with our Grade 4 students to Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny, and it was easily one of the most inspiring experiences that I’ve had in quite some time. Not just because it was ridiculously surreal to be standing on the Japanese Bridge looking at the waterlilies, but because of the way that the students were so engaged in their learning. It really got me thinking about a few powerful approaches to education that should be seriously considered when rolling out curriculum…things like connecting students to the natural world, giving kids real world experiences, teaching across disciplines, and using the local community to enhance and underpin student learning. With this particular field trip, all of these approaches were very much on display, and it was an educational experience that kids will remember for a lifetime.

 

The unit combined all aspects of the curriculum, and it blended magically together in a way that brought the learning to life from every possible angle…Math (linear perspective, natural frames, angles, distance and proximity), Art (of course), French Language Acquisition, Music (we sang French songs all the way there and back), Science (biodiversity, physical and life science), Literacy (journal writing, poetry, biographies, small moment writing activities), Social Studies (regional geography, French history), PE (active touring and game playing in the gardens), and so much more. That’s the power of these types of authentic real world, real life experiences that make learning so deep and rich and meaningful for kids.

 

My 4th grade daughter is still singing the French songs every chance she gets, she’s looking for linear perspectives and natural frames everywhere we go, she has a new-found and deep appreciation for the Artistic beauty of our natural world, and she has started to learn that school doesn’t have to be single subject specific, it can be just days full of learning that’s blended all together and connected…so good. Oh yeah, here’s where I want to celebrate and recognize the educators in our Lower School for bringing these experiences to life for our kids…so, so impressive. Thank you!

 

You see, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea of traditional, stand alone subjects, especially since I read about how Finland will be eliminating many of their classroom traditions in the next few years, and getting rid of specific subjects in favor of project based/phenomenon based learning. I’m intrigued by this, and I’m curious how that all plays out. I love how many schools and some countries are looking critically at how to engage students in their learning in this day and age, and honestly, I believe that even a few small changes can start a real paradigm shift in how we “do school”.

 

As a small example, we have an opportunity coming up here at ASP over the next year or so, as we design and develop a new Early Childhood playground. It’s so exciting to be thinking about how we can bring the natural world into our current space, and how we can engage kids through creativity, nature, play, and curiosity. The right design with this project can be a powerful spark that will open up a wider conversation around traditional school, and how we can move forward in all areas of our educational delivery.

 

Anyway, let’s keep talking about this as we move forward, and let’s continue to find ways to blur the traditional lines of curriculum, let’s continue to engage our kids in experiential learning experiences, let’s get out in the world and connect with our community and surroundings, and let’s continue to collaborate together to give our kids similar experiences like the one that inspired me so much just a couple of weeks ago…thank you Monsieur Monet! Have a fantastic short week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher 

– William Wordsworth

 

Related Articles –

Mother Nature – The Greatest Teacher

Explorable Places

Teaching Outside the Classroom

The Atlantic – Students Learn on Field Trips

Edutopia – Absolutely Awesome

Interdisciplinary Study

 

Inspiring/Thought Provoking Videos –

On-Line Bullying

Community Based Learning

Place Based Learning

Gratitude on a Community

Monet’s Garden

200 Down, A Lifetime to Go!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8th, 2017 by dkerr

​So this week I’m celebrating a bit of a milestone of sorts, as this is my 200th Monday Musings post. This blogging journey began over 7 years ago, and has followed me through three schools, in five different countries, across four continents, and it has literally changed my personal and professional life in immeasurable ways. Honestly, the decision to begin sharing my thoughts about all things education with my faculty, and then eventually out to the world (thank you TIE) has been the best decision I have ever made, and now It’s such a part of my routine that I don’t think I could stop even if I wanted to.

Since I began back in August of 2010, I have changed and grown and learned so, so much. I enjoy looking back at my older posts and reflecting on the things that I wanted to dig deeper into at the time, and seeing now how in some cases my thoughts around a certain issue have evolved and even in some cases, changed. If I’m being truthful though, these posts were, and still are, a selfish way of staying current with the ever changing educational landscape, and when I began as new (green and overwhelmed) Assistant Principal in Shanghai, I felt like I had so much to learn, and so much to prove. It was scary at first, and I remember being so nervous when I hit send on my first blog post to faculty, scared that people were going to disagree with me, or push back on how I viewed a particular topic in education…putting yourself out there can be scary for sure, but here’s the thing…you’re not growing if you’re not opening yourself up to critical feedback, or sharing your thoughts about your philosophy, your approach, your expertise, and your practice.

It took me a long time to open myself up in this way, and to become vulnerable and exposed on a weekly basis, but you know what, as a educator, it’s the only way forward in my opinion. We all have so much to share, and so much to say, and it’s not okay to keep it all to ourselves. We can only get better as a profession if we share with one another, and ask questions, and continually learn and try and push the envelope, and celebrate what’s working, and fixing what’s not. We talk so much about providing meaningful and timely feedback to kids, we see the benefits of self and peer assessments, and we think so much about students leading their own learning, but what about us? How much are we taking those risks like we ask of our students? Putting yourself out there is scary…sharing parts of your practice and expertise is scary…asking for feedback and opening yourself up to being uncomfortable and vulnerable is tough…but the reward so, so, so outweighs the risk.

You see, the best part of my week is not the time spent on my topic research, or the writing on Sunday mornings, it’s the responses and comments and feedback that I receive after I hit send. What I send out is nothing compared to what I get back…counter arguments, disagreements, related articles and videos, and saw sharpening feedback that always leaves me learning, and questioning, and seeing a topic from all sorts of perspectives. Sharing my thoughts over the years has made me a better leader, and it’s given me the courage to admit that there is so much in education that I still need to learn…and get better at.

Anyway, 200 posts down and so many more left to go. It still amazes me how much there is to talk about in education…I just can’t seem to find the end, and when I think do it all changes right out from under me! Maybe I’ll eventually put these into a book, or turn them into a doctoral dissertation, or maybe I’ll find a new way of sharing…who knows. What I do know however, is that sharing your thoughts, and opening yourself up to feedback, and embracing a little bit of vulnerability in your practice will only make you a better educator…I know that for a fact! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing – Elbert Hubbard

 

Related Videos –

Collaborative Culture (John Hattie)

 

Inspiring Videos –

No One Eats Alone
Bucket List Adventure

 

Related Articles –

25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently

Teacher Development

How a Good Teacher Becomes Great

Exceptional Things That Great Teachers Do

How to Get the Feedback You Need