Learning: Buried treasure?

This year as I journeyed as a Flip Class teacher, a surprise consequence was that I reconnected to my own learning. This post is written from my learner self to my teacher self. 

When you tell me the objectives of learning right of the bat, it feels like we are going to do paint by numbers. If you already know EXACTLY what we are going to learn, is it really learning?  When you tell me what you want me to know, how to say it, when to say it, do you expect me to be inspired? I want my learning to be magical, complicated and mysterious. A journey that is unique and intricate. I want to be an explorer who is brave, fierce and fully engaged in discovering answers that only I can find.

When you spell everything out so obviously, so blatantly, lacking in nuance, there is no room for me to imagine, to connect or to interpret. I want to puzzle about things, I want to get trapped in a sticky web of interwoven, subtle ideas, that I have to struggle to get out of.

I want to wrestle with ideas and thoughts, like I AM Crocodile Hunter. When you tell me exactly how to do everything little thing, down to the most boring, obvious, and tiniest detail, it crushes me, like the strong man CRUSHING a tin can.  My sense of adventure and purpose are sucked out of me, liposuction style.

When I can’t create, dream or imagine, it feels like running into a concrete wall. You come along, just when I am getting started, swooping in like a super-hero, your solution to the problem, freezing me up, like the Ice-Man. Your way is so perfect, so clean, so easy for you, but those are your solutions, not mine. I have a lot of ideas, questions and solutions of my own.

Let me do it, give me the space, the time, and the opportunity.

I will. Cause it’s my buried treasure.

My learning is intensely personal, emotional and valuable; gleaming, but hidden. I did not really want you to do that anyways; to help save the day. I wanted to figure it out for myself.

And you know what?

When you do that, it snaps me shut; treasure chest closed and double locked this time.

Don’t tell me to do something that you find boring yourself. Like fill out a worksheet for 125 points, whose answers are on Goggle. Like really who cares what the Latin root for Rubidium is? If I did care, I would look it up! Are you surprised when everyone copies the answers from one student? We would “copy” the answers from the textbook, so what is the difference?

When everything is so obvious, it offends me; it insults my intelligence. In case you didn’t know I am intelligent; I have just locked it up in a chest for safe keeping. No one around here seems that interested in it anyways. They seem more interested in me being quiet, polite, well-behaved, and compliant.

When you don’t trust me to do something my way, when you lay out the criteria so tight and prescriptive, I am suffocatedYou have decided what you want and I am not inspired by what you have decided for my learning.

I want big, meaty complicated, crazy hard problems. Problems that I discover for myself. I want to immerse myself in the discovery process. I don’t want or need, a guided path that is 1 person wide, straight as an arrow to follow along. I want to build my own path.

Let me go, let me be wild, let me discover and hear my own thoughts. Let me feel my way through my learning. Let me stumble, fall and pick myself up.

I will.

Let me waste time, to value my time. Let me talk with passion about topics that inspire me. Find inspiration yourself. Show me what it looks and how it sounds. Be ridiculously excited about your own learning. Embarrass and impress us with your passion.

We want to see that. Bust out of being a “teacher”,  show us that you are a passionate full-on, risk taking learner.

Show us your buried treasure.

Excuse me, I think I am having a revolution.

One year ago I embarked down a path without even so much as a hint on where it was going to take me.

I did know however beyond a shadow of a doubt, that something was “broken”  in my classroom. After 20 years, the tried and true tools in my teacher tool box were no longer working.

Frustratingly, I could not even fully articulate exactly what was broken, it was more just a gut feeling I had. The bottom line however, I was investing an immense amount of energy in maintaining the classroom as I had known it. I was fighting hard to hold on….and losing. 

I had seen the inspiring, philosophical and viral videos of the week (don’t get me wrong I LOVE those), tasted the flavours of the month and been peppered with all the buzz words; UBD, PBL, Rigor, AFL, Scaffolding, Collaboration, Rubrics, Failure is Not an Option and finally……drum roll please……. 21st Century Learning. I dutifully went to conferences, I listened, I read books, I ran technology club, I did ALL I could to figure it out.

I KNEW the world was changing. I knew it…. but no one, NO ONE, told me how to move from here to there. No one explained how I could SAFELY transition from this traditional content and results driven paradigm of yesterday’s system that had demanded in the first place that I build the skill set I now found myself with.

One year ago, 2 colleagues and I set off to Colorado and attended a Flip Class conference with Aaron Sams and Jon Bergman. This is where my revolution began.

They provided no script, no binder with lesson plan templates and no exact description of a Flip Class. At the time this was very puzzling.

I started making videos, I reworked my old units, I  screencast 90% of my Biology 12 course and loaded them on You Tube.

Now this may not sound like the start of a revolution, so I’ll say it again.

I screencast my course and uploaded to You Tube. I used the skills I already had in my tool box to re-invent myself.

This simple act provided me with an immediate and sturdy bridge to the future. My teacher time was repurposed, my role in the class redefined and my energies were freed from the tyranny of status quo maintenance. I safely transitioned from the “trapped outdated me”, to the “new connected, having a revolution me”. The Flip Class single-handed, disrupted old patterns I was trapped in: I saw my class new again.

 In growing into my role as a Flip Class teacher, I moved squarely back in charge and directly connected to my own learning.  I discovered my voice anew, one that I had started my career with, but had been eroded and diluted over time. My desire and ability to provide the same opportunity for my students grew; I did not need the flavour of the month or scripted lesson to catalyse change. I knew change, I had embraced change I had…changed.

Flip Class did not demand I change, nor did it tell me EXACTLY with excruciating and insulting detail, how I should. Flip Class trusted that with my experience, intuition, support and feedback of my PLN, students and self, figure my classroom out. The Flip Class nudged me gently, like a mother bear to her baby cub, to let go of what I knew to be true and to re-learn what it meant to be a teacher. I discovered that yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks. Flip Class gifted me the time, energy and inspiration to imagine, “no holds barred”: if you could build your class from the bottom up, what would you build?  

One year ago, I embarked on a journey… that lead to a personal revolution.

Sick of review worksheets? Bingo!? Everybody loves BINGO. Review gold.

Under the B…….

Before the Bingo session, make up Bingo cards and decide on your 5 categories for review. For example, mine today were 1. Respiration 2.Divisions of Nervous  3. Endocrine 4. Neuron Structure/Reflex 5. Grad Trivia.

I always have one “fun” category, students LOVE this! Silly Trivia, Cartoons, Music are all possible examples.

Rules for BINGO as below:
1. Give students 5 small pieces of blank paper. On the front side of each students write the category.

2. On the front of each sheet student come up with a question and on the back side they place the answer. Specify that low-level or obvious questions are NO GOOD. Challenge them to look through their materials, and come up with thoughtful questions. Encourage them to really dig into all their materials (some students even get organized during this phase). Due to space constraints, answers should be kept to a few words. 

3. As students finish their five questions, they come up to front and write their ANSWERS on whiteboard. (remind them to write neatly as classmates will have to copy their answers down, can’t you tell they followed this instruction?).

Students write answers on board.

4. After they have recorded answer on board, drop q/a sheets into bucket at front.

5. After all answers are up on board students select their favorite answers to fill up their bingo cards.

6.  After all that commotion, I get students to swap bingo cards. This allows for more winners.

7. Decide on Bingo pattern. We usually play for a line in first game.

Full Sheet and ready to Play!

8. Ready to play! Select sheets randomly from bucket and read ONLY the question. Students can circle answers and then use different symbols for subsequent games.

9. Students must yell BINGO! Usually I will check over their Bingo card to verify. Prizes awarded to bingo card maker and bingo card player.

10.Next game, 2 lines, blackout, the sky is the limit!!

Perfectionism + grade driven + the need to please = learning?

I sit at the front of the class. I come to class everyday ON TIME. I have highlighters, pens, pencils, eraser ready to go. I greet you with a cheerful “Hello!” every day. I smile and nod at you all class.

I like class best when you give notes, then I know exactly what you want me to know and how you want me to say things.

Just tell me exactly what you want, I will do my best to deliver. Just tell me, OK?

I get anxious when you ask me open-ended questions, I mean what exactly DO YOU want me to say?

Just tell me OK?

I have very good grades. In fact, I spend a lot of my time worrying about my grades. I get pretty anxious before tests, I always think I will fail.

I always double-check every mark that you gave me. I usually just want to know the mark, I don’t really want to go over the test. Who cares, as long as my average is high, right?

I get frustrated when you ask questions that you did not give us the exact answer to. That last test, you even had a question where that expected us to know that ice floats. You never even taught us that! I try hard to give exactly you what you want, but sometimes I am just not sure and that shuts me down.

I would never want to answer a question if I was not 100% certain that I had the exact correct answer.

I don’t really like school, it stresses me out a lot. But I have to get top grades.

I hate when we waste time in class to do labs or group work, I would much rather just do notes and worksheets. Just tell me what to know and I will know it. Some activities are just a complete waste of my time, I mean they are not even for marks? What’s the point?

School is actually pretty boring, but I am good at it. I can usually figure out exactly what a teacher wants to get a good mark.

I am just trying my best to keep my marks high. I hate when I make mistakes, I hate it. When I do, I obsess over it forever. I don’t give my opinion on a topic and I don’t really have one. Why would I? I just want to know what you think is the right answer, that way I can just study that stuff and get a good mark on the test.

Just tell me what you want me to say for the test and I will. Just tell me OK?

Sometimes I think you don’t like me. I ask you questions and you don’t always answer them right away. I just want to know exactly what to put down. I don’t want to start something just to find out I did it wrong, what a waste of time that would be. I would just rather wait for you to tell us. How can I do well if you don’t tell me exactly what you want?

Have you met me?