Once a learner, always a learner..the power of inquiry.

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“Most importantly, remember that you do not need to reinvent the wheel. YPAR does not involve completely disregarding the skills and activities involved in traditional research projects; instead, it takes those skills to the next level with an infusion of purpose and critical agency.” 

This piece of information was really eye-catching when reading the article, Revolutionizing Inquiry in Urban English Classrooms: Pursuing Voice and Justice through Youth Participatory Action Research. Where to start? The title of a specific section in this article and the number one inquiry that keeps me up at night…So, where do I start? My mind is filled and moving fast with ideas involving invention, creativity, voice and interests. I want to implement these ideas, but always lean on the question, where to start? And now, after reading a couple articles, I still remain “wobbly,” but at the same time reassured that I do not have to start from scratch, but rather use what I have and take it to the next level. So, what do my students and my classroom have? They have background knowledge. They have rules of grammar and an abundance of vocabulary. Why not help them connect with their community and others just like them outside of their community and in the target language. Antero Garcia’s story keeps me engaged. He felt stuck. I feel stuck right now. I loved reading about his ability to take what they were reading in class and alter the assignments. Instead of student-produced analytical papers, his students took the historical social movements from their readings and created a play, produced from research and data, about a real-world issue in their own backyards. I have so much respect for this teacher and his students. He managed to still “teach” the content and then have them demonstrate their understanding through a meaningful and creative and student-centered way. Technology is evolving and so are our students. As long as we are mindful of our technology usage we can do some pretty amazing things!! But, even after reading about Mr. Garcia’s experience, defeating his wobble and seeing some flow, I am still brought back to my wobble..where to start? The Hispanic community continues to grow in the our district. I think it would be rewarding and memorable for the students to become involved within their own community. They could educate the community about getting involved in the school district. This continues to be a growing problem, so why not have the students create a welcoming and comfortable environment for the families. And I strongly believe by creating these opportunities for my students the language and culture of Spanish would be exciting and engaging! In general, it would make the learning experience better!

According to Susan Lytle, in her article, At Last: Practitioner Inquiry and the Practice of Teaching: Some Thoughts on Better , she explains how a doctor took the stance of a learner in order to better her and her treatment. He paid attention to date and her specific situation. I think any human being would be appreciative of this experience. It is never a warm and alleviating encounter with a doctor when they are just spitting out medical jargon, but when a doctor creates an atmosphere that betters you by providing you with specific data about you, it is reassuring.  Throughout this article, Lytle, tells us about the life of Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public health consultant. It’s evident that improvement and betterment that come from change are necessary in all fields. Gawande mentions that despite the obstacles that arise, we are still obligated to improve/get better! His 3 simple requirements in order to be better include, diligence, to do right and ingenuity. These 3 requirements are absolutely manageable!  We expect earnest effort from our students, right? Our principals expect earnest effort from us, right? YES! We should be doing what is expected of us and put forth the effort that is necessary when completing tasks. Last year, I started implementing a flipped classroom here and there. Through observation and data collection I found that students were really thriving while watching the content-filled videos as they were moving at their own pace. It is my duty to continue to create videos and practice so that they can continue to improve and by doing so I better their learning environment and experience. Lytle also writes about a teacher at the Community College of Philadelphia. She faces a moral and ethical dilemma in her class as students enter because  they have not scored high enough on placement tests, despite the fact that they have been accepted into the college, therefore they have to take and pass non-credit courses. I can relate to this situation, as a learner. I, too, had to take a non-credit course my first year of college. It was a writing course. While I felt defeated and set low expectations for myself, I ended up on top because my professor, like the teacher described in this situation inquired: What am I doing here? What am I doing it for? Who am I to be doing it? He made us feel significant. He encouraged us to explore and write about our interests. He provided constructive and meaningful criticism. He made us better writers. And now as a teacher I find the “to do right” requirement in order to become better relate-able. As a middle school Spanish teacher, my class can become a “dumping ground” for students who do not have any other courses to add to their schedule. And in most cases, they come in discouraged and unmotivated, which I get. They are taking a course they want nothing to do with. But, I do not let that effect my relationship with them. As the year goes on, I motivate and encourage them to see their potential and push them to their potential. Being consistently diligent goes hand in hand with ingenuity. We must continue to invent what is best for our students and we do this by being resourceful. We need to create what works for them, observe them and their work, use the results and continue to make things better. Reflection must be present and consistent.

I reflect on lessons, reactions and responses daily, mentally and sometimes make notes, and now I am going to dig deeper and explore who I am becoming as a connected learner and continue to investigate connected learning…

10 Self/10 World Questions:

Questions about myself as a connected learner…
1. How can I get my students to connect with each other?
2. How can I encourage my students to connect to the world?
3. How can I learn to connect more through my students?
4. How can I connect more with my colleagues?
5. Which one (or some) of my colleagues would be the most beneficial to connect with?
6. How can I connect more with other language teachers?
7. Where do I begin when connecting online?
8. Should all of my connecting be done online?
9. How can I connect with my students’ parents?
10. How can I connect with administration about the importance of becoming connected?

Questions about connected learning and equity…
1. Who (students and parents) has access to technology?
2. Can I create equity in connected learning if resources are not available?
3. What technological skills are necessary to possess in order to connect?
4. When connecting, does everything have to be available online? Is printing still an option to those who do not have access to online connection?
5. How can connected learning contribute positively within the district?
6. How can I implement equity into my foreign language classroom?
7. How can I aid my students in becoming more open-minded through connected learning?
8. How can social media be used effectively and safely with the district?
9. Will connecting internationally aid my students?
10. How can myself and my students participate more actively in our already established networks?

Which one (or some) of my colleague(s) would be the most beneficial to connect with?

As connected learning and technology continue to grow so does the desire and motivation to grow with it! Teachers continue to want to better their themselves as teachers as well as the learning environment for their students. Teachers are continuing their education and exploring formally and informally online and not online in order to find new and engaging techniques to bring to their students. Last week, there was a technology conference in Hershey, PA. Five teachers from the middle school attended the 3 day conference. Upon their return, they were refreshed, motivated and ready to share. While not all teachers are quite ready for change in order to better their lessons and learning environments, so of us are! I sat with two of the teachers and was briefed on A LOT of great tools and ideas to bring into the classroom. One of the teachers I met with is a computer teacher and the other is a science teacher. The science teacher has been utilizing apps like Quizizz. He implements a flipped classroom, therefore his students watch a video about the periodic table at home and then played during class time, check it out!  He really is creating a playful and engaging environment. (Feel free to check out some of his work @MrRyneAnthony). Despite the differences in content among the 3 of us, we can learn from each other. I have been invited to observe the new implementations in their classrooms. Through observation I will be able to collect data in order to better my classroom. By connecting with my colleagues I am able to leave my comfort zone and create what my students need. So, how can we emphasize the importance of connecting? And I think the most important question to come from this idea would be, how and when can we find the time to connect? 😉

By connecting with my colleagues I am able to leave my comfort zone and create what my students need.

Check out my Pow Toon! above, which highlights what I want to get from making connections with colleagues.

 

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