community, Community, COMMUNITY?

To which level of community are you and your learners connected:  community, Community, or COMMUNITY?  How connected are you and your learners to a community, any community?

This week I attended the Trinity School 60th Anniversary Speaker Series featuring Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs since I am invited and included in this learning community.  Dr. Jacobs asked

“Who owns the learning?”

How do we use technology to broaden the learning community for the children in our care so that they own their learning?  How do we use technology to broaden our own learning community so that we continue to learn and grow?

I’ve been thinking about the literal meaning of being a member of a community which has inspired me to ask:

  • Do the learners that assemble in my classroom form a community?
  • Do the learners in my school form a community?
  • Do the faculty in my school form a community?
  • Are our learners’ parents part of our learning community?
  • Are our learners’ parents part of their child’s learning community?
  • What about the authors, teachers, learners, etc. outside my school – are they part of our community?
  • Are the teachers that learn with me at conferences part of a community of learners that contribute to the success of my learners?

We talk at length about community.  Being a community member is highlighted in our Best Practices Statement, our Vision Statement, and our Mission Statement.

In our faculty’s Best Practices Statement we say:

“As members of our school community and the wider community, [our] faculty strive, individually and collectively, to be teachers that model lifelong learning, joy, professionalism, and integrity.”

From our Learning for Life Vision Statement:

“We begin knowing we must model and promote lifelong learning in a global community.  We commit to use technology and research to help us learn these essential skills.

From our Mission Statement:

[We are] a Christian, independent day school for boys and girls, which seeks to develop the whole person for college and for life through excellent education.”

From our Philosophy:

“Throughout their school experience, young people encounter opportunities to question, to reason, to express themselves, to discover and pursue a passion, to risk, and sometimes even to fail and to learn from that failure.”

I have to ask myself if my learners are in a community that is restricted only to the 26 people that assemble during Xnd period.  Are my colleagues or the parents of my learners invited to be in our Xnd period learning community, creating Community?  Are our national and international colleagues, friends, and experts invited to join our Xnd period community, creating COMMUNITY?

How will learners own their learning, and how will they encounter opportunities to question, to reason, to express themselves, to discover and pursue a passion?  With whom will our learners question, reason, express themselves, discover and pursue a passion?

How open are we, really, to these ideas?  What actions do we take?  How are we modeling learning and owning our learning?

To which do we belong: community, Community, COMMUNITY?

To which should we belong: community, Community, COMMUNITY?

Completing the Square / Leading by Following

On Saturday, September 17, Bo Adams and I were privileged to provide the keynote address for the 2011 Regional T³/MCTM Annual Conference.  Conference Director Jennifer Wilson facilitated a wonderfully effective learning opportunity for teachers, administrators, pre-service teachers, college professors, and others.

From the beginning, the program cover-art fascinated Bo and me. The conference theme was “Completing the Square,” and the image pictured a puzzle with a missing piece in the center. To build our keynote address, Bo and I imagined what that missing puzzle piece might be that would truly complete the square. Additionally, we threaded our talk with the idea of Leading by Following.

Believing in the powerful nature of stories, Bo and I told four stories to illuminate some puzzling issues facing educators today:

Puzzle 1: Why do we talk so much of teaching when it’s about LEARNING? Or… “How could they not know this?” [Assessment for Learning]

Puzzle 2: How can we make learning experiences more meaningful? Or… “When are we gonna use this?” [Contextual Learning]

Puzzle 3: Why are teachers and admin “US and THEM” when we all want our students to learn? Or… “You are a fool!” [Learning Partners]

Puzzle 4: Why is teaching an “egg crate culture” when we know learning is social? Or… “WE are smarter than ME.” [Learning Communities]

What do you think the missing piece might be? What completes the square? The following slide deck will lead you on the path that we explored during the keynote. We loved being in this community of learners at Brandon Middle School. It is always a privilege and pleasure to spend time learning with committed and curious educators.

Cross-posted with Bo Adams on his blog, It’s About Learning.

Beginnings of Lesson Study ~ We rather than me.

Our Learning for Life vision statement calls us to promote six essential actions:  integrated studies, problem-based learning, utilizing 21st Century learning spaces, teachers working in teams, balanced assessment, and global citizenship.

Our Algebra I PLT (professional learning team) reconfigured the start of Algebra I to take our first team steps toward implementing our vision.  We always start the year with solving equations and graph interpretation.  Instead of using the book, we attacked interpretation of graphs with Age Estimation and Phases of the Moon.  And, we did it as a team.  There were class periods where all four Algebra I teachers were in class with our learners.  We took our first steps toward lesson study.  We watched one of us teach and studied the lesson.  We then made adjustments to the lesson before it was delivered to the next set of learners.

While I could go into the details of how each lesson was adjusted, improved, and became our lesson rather than my lesson, I think there is a larger lesson for me to learn.  I’ve collected emails and peer observation notes about my team’s view of the process of lesson study and its impact on learning.  With their permission, I share observations and reflections from my team.

From WB’s Peer Observation:  August 19, 2011

DD had several moments during the class when she asked JG, BC, or me how to handle a technology situation. I thought that it modeled something important to the students—we all are learning, especially when it comes to the effective use of technology in the classroom. I was thankful to see her meekness and readiness to receive input from other teachers and the students.

From JG’s Peer Observation:  August 20, 2011

I just loved seeing BC with the students standing at the big graph on the back wall discussing the characteristics of the moon while they were graphing as shown in the attached video.  Isn’t it great that they used the phases of the moon to help plot the data points?

I loved the sense of community that you can see in the video.  Everyone was up working together to produce a common graph.  All learners in the class generated questions and answers; the students were not waiting for the teacher to give them the answer.  The lesson integrated earth science with graph interpretation.  The children worked together, and at the same time, saw us working together.

Email:  Thursday, August 25, 2011 9:42 AM

 JG, WB & BC,

Thank you for all the work you’ve done for us on Algebra I.  JG, I feel good about my Phases of the Moon lesson I did myself;  I feel like the kids were much more engaged in the learning than they are with Sit-n-Get.  I appreciate the work you are putting in the course and your team-teaching approach.  I love that we feel comfortable to speak up in each other’s classes when we think of something that would add to the lesson.  I welcome y’all’s presence anytime.

WB, your help with Schoology has been awesome.  I am learning about it bit by bit.  Thank you for taking such a big job on your first week here.

BC, you have helped me out several times when I was stuck with the SmartBoard, software or what comes next.  I would love for all of our Alg I students to feel like they had four teachers.


We have more to do as a team to complete our understanding and implementation of lesson study, but we have made the first step.  Our lessons are improving as we build the implement them together.

Wait, Listen, and Learn – edu180atl: jill gough 9.9.11

We all strive to seize the teachable moment.  How often are we successful?  Today, armed with day two of my lesson plan, I had a choice to continue with the plan or move out of the way to allow student-driven learning.  We started class by picking up where we left off from the previous lesson.  The first question launched was a high-order question.  This question sparked more questions and some rich thinking out loud.  I finally physically moved to the seat of a learner and joined the conversation as a co-learner.  At four separate moments in class, a learner turned to me and apologized for high-jacking “my lesson plan.”  The planned lesson did not occur; it could wait.  The lessons learned and the questions asked were richer in content and context.

Isn’t it interesting that the learners worried about my plan?  How conditioned are we?  How can we unlearn and relearn so that we listen carefully to questions?  How do we become a team of learners where the “teaching” responsibilities change quickly as the questions themselves?  How empowered to our learners feel to lead learning in a new or different direction?

What did I learn today?  Sometimes I should wait, listen, and learn.  I should facilitate learning by following their questions.

About the author: Jill Gough is a learner, challenged to teach and learn in our changing world. She risks, questions and seeks feedback to improve. You can follow her on Twitter at @jgough.

Image by Jill Gough.


[This post was originally published as “edu180atl: jill gough 9.9.11.”]