Friday, March 20, 2020

Practice Going to Distance Learning

Though I have not sliced regularly this year, I know I can be vulnerable in this
community and find support. Time to dust off the blog and get back to writing. Many thanks to the writing team at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!

What a day here at Singapore American School. Our leadership decided early in the week to alter this week's schedule, so that we could prepare and practice in case our school needs to move to distance learning after spring break. We had a preparation day in the high school on Wednesday with no learners on campus and today was distance learning in all courses day one. 

Our #1 priority?  Learn together. 

Yes, I may be on team blue (our code for those who can offer tech help with specific tools or practices), but things aren't as smooth in practice when it's a first run at doing it together. 

My personal learning came during our virtual advisory sessions.

Here, we have thirty minute advisory meetings with kids twice a week. We practiced virtual advisory last night and we began our distance learning day with a "regular" advisory session this morning. 

Lots of takeaways from the practice! 

Mind the details.

I didn't get our invite correct for our second meeting. In trying to pay attention to the phone chat, to the Zoom chat, and to the Zoom live while calendaring the next day, I posted our second invite on the wrong day at first. 

I realized it last evening and created a new invite for the correct day.

Do one thing at a time. 

Doh! Moment number 27 for me, for sure. The multiple emails that the Google calendar invitation sends confused a few folks. As it would, right? 

Slow down.

I popped into the advisory meeting early. I looked around, played with the buttons. I  got set up with a slide deck. I loaded a Kahoot and popped out. Then, I took another meeting call before heading back into the advisory Zoom.  I ended that call and popped back into advisory using the meeting link that I had posted to Thursday. 

A lot of folks were missing. 

Hmmm.... why is that? I wondered. Uh oh... 

My co-advisor texted. Then a  student shared a screen shot in our WhatsApp chat group: 

Ah, I could see the problem .  A couple of us were using the Zoom meeting invite that I'd corrected and posted to Thursday. Others were using the incorrect invite that I had not deleted Wednesday.  

In the moment, it was hard to communicate the solution--sending a photo of the Thursday invite certainly did not work, I learned.  Chat was happening in several places at the same time. It took us a minute. Eventually a student sharing the Thursday link to the WhatsApp chat got everyone pointed to the correct link.  

We got through it, but it wasn't pretty.

All said, there have been so many silver linings to be thankful for here in Singapore.

What a gift we got of time and space to learn together. Quite a gift when I think about the time that teaching friends around the world have been given (or not given) to prepare. Practice is important. Kids are gracious and kind. They hung in there until we connected and all were accounted for. Well, all plus one… 

“Who’s Jack?” an advisory student said.  “Is there some Jack stranger in here? Who is that?" I was in the middle of switching to the grid view so I wasn't the first to spot Jack who appeared as a name, not a live video, in a black box. "Hmm... Jack...? We had a Jack in our advisory two years ago," I said as I clicked to participant options.

And that was the just the Jack it was. Not a stranger, a pleasant surprise from a former member of our advisory. Jack moved after ninth grade and remains in our chat group. It was our Jack, not some stranger Jack.  I wish we had paused to really connect.

The practice we did today better prepared us for an uncertain future.  Anxiety and stress levels are challenging--even during these practice sessions.

Our leadership teams and the high school technology team has done incredible work preparing us for distance learning. The THC team started preparing us more than 42 days ago. As a faculty, we've been talking about continuity of instruction and learning (#COIL). We've talked and practiced with tools for video conferencing. We've been thinking about this for more than 42 days. 

We've had learning sessions. We have guidelines. We have a support portal--created in the last week!

We have technology coaches and instructional coaches on hand for troubleshooting and support visible in the halls.  The grace and kindness colleagues are showing one another and their students: incredible to witness.

Practice does not make perfect. It makes permanent. I got some great distance learning practice in  this week. And, I was lucky to catch colleagues doing amazing things as I walk the halls offering support. 

We dwell in possibility here.  It is part of our culture. The possibility of distance learning has been leadership's radar. So has the health and well-being of kids and faculty.  

What a gift of time and learning it has been. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Fail to Learn

How do we treat failure in our own learning lives? How do we talk about failure or mistakes or errors with learners in our classrooms? What is failure, really?

I don't know that I ever asked learners in my classroom to talk about failure together. When I read Andrew Miller's book Freedom to Fail this summer, his ideas around norming failure resonated with me.

Miller suggests we start early. When we're setting up classroom communities, consider having a discussion about what it means to fail. Make the discussion text based. Give students media to explore in order to form their opinions and develop their thoughts:  failure quotes, poetry, essays, videos, clips, vines, tweetbooks... other media.

Can you imagine? 

I tend to collect, so I started gathering quotes and looking for texts I could use for a text-based discussion. Miller's ideas brought Michael Jordan's I Can't Accept Not Trying immediately to mind. I wondered what else I could find?

I could see how such a discussion could help me establish learning routines and cultivate community. Miller's work has me wondering how to talk about failure in ways that make it central to learning (and not evaluation). Surely, there is an advisory lesson in here.

Each year when new faculty join the educators at Singapore American School we get a preview of their work and learn a bit about them. Our introductions to the "newbies" as many call them begins in the second semester of the year before they arrive. Andrew Miller joins Singapore American School as a Director of Personalized Learning from Shanghai American School where he most recently served as an instructional coach.  

Friday, September 6, 2019

Paraphrase Friends

Day Two of Adaptive Schools training with Ochen Kusuma-Powell from the Thinking Collaborative energized and encouraged. Layered and nuanced, when the day ended I walked away thinking about topics I could dig deeper: into strategies I could practice, and into ways of being intentional.  Masterful facilitation, I appreciated how Powell designed the environment and modeled feeding feedback back to the group by my making it visible and memorable. She posted the patterns she saw in our exit protocol: stealing the idea for future groups.

How do you create an environment for professional learning?
How do you make feedback visible and meaningful to learners?

In the afternoon we reviewed the Seven Norms of Collaboration, We went beyond reading and naming the seven norms:
Posing questions
Putting ideas on the table
Providing data
Paying attention to self and others
Presuming positive intentions

We took time to really process the first two. We met with eye contact partners from across the room. What does it mean to pause? If pausing is our "wait time," what types of pauses may we take when working in groups? While we may recognize paraphrasing as "reflective listening," there is more to paraphrasing than that. We talked about the different kinds of listening we can hear when group members paraphrase to organize another's ideas or to abstract another's ideas.

Teaching speaking is a glow area in my own practice and istening is definitely a growth area. At this time, I am most interested in developing my listening and paraphrasing skills.  Paraphrasing as Powell said gets at how to teach (and assess) listening.

We practiced three types of paraphrasing: acknowledging, organizing, and abstracting. When you acknowledge you restate what a person said in your own words,  being mindful of pronouns.

The pronouns piece will continue to resonate. This is a growth area for me as a group member and as a facilitator. As one person in my table group said, sometimes paraphrasing sounds like a put-down. For instance, when a person says "I hear you saying ..." that can sound to some like "You are saying this but I can say it better when I repeat it." akin to be "explained' by someone. Another seeming put down mentioned is when a participant says, "What's she's saying is..."  which to some feels like words are being put in their mouths.

There are many types of paraphrasing and each gets at a specific type of listening (Powell).

Acknowledging Paraphrases: demonstrate reflective listening. Listener restates what was said in his or her own words being mindful of pronouns.

Organizing Paraphrases: demonstrate analytical listening. Listener categorizes what the speaker has said.

Abstracting Paraphrases: demonstrate inferential listening. Listener connects what the speaker said to concepts to communicate what was inferred.

So Friends, let's practice. Watch this clip, "Phoebe's Running Style" from Friends.

Pharaphrasing in these ways is a growth area for me. I'd like to think I'm good at reflective listening, summarizing what I hear, but I am not as good at minding my pronouns and organizing or abstracting ideas in the moment, when I hear them. Those will become goals for me this year.