An Open Letter To The Graduating Class Of 2020

Dear Graduate, 

Your time is finally here, you did it! You made it through. 

You survived the endless group projects. 

You walked the hallways and sidewalks of your school’s campus for years, and now you’re walking them for the final time. 

You created new relationships. 

You slacked off at times and worked hard at other times. 

The hours you clocked doing homework, staying up late studying for tests, and re-watching powerpoints have finally paid off. 

You are applauded for your dedication to your education. 

You are inspiring others to push on to graduation as well! 

You are our future. 

Our future doctors, electricians, lawyers, agriculture scientists, professors, journalists, and more. 

And now you’re about to embark on a journey none of us have had to go through before. You are pioneering a way for us all, stepping into the unknown.

Because of the Coronavirus shutdowns, many of you aren’t finishing your schooling in a traditional way, and your graduation ceremonies have been canceled. You are packing up, heading home, and resorting to a completely online platform to finish.

There won’t be a day for you to zip up your graduation gown or put on your cap, which is absolutely heartbreaking and scary for most. It seems unfair, and it truly is. But please know this- Just because you were robbed of your opportunity to walk at graduation does not make you less.

It absolutely does not mean you are any less of a student or graduate.

It does not mean you didn’t work incredibly hard.

It does not take away those endless nights of studying or editing papers.

It’s hard to go through something so big in your life and not have the proper recognition for it.

It’s scary to be the first, and maybe only, that has to go through this unique situation.

Here’s your recognition, while not sufficient, please know that we recognize you and applaud you. We see the hard work you’ve gone through and the time you’ve put in. We see the hurt you have for not being able to walk at graduation.

You pushed through the hard times and made it here today. 

We are proud to call you our future.

Congratulations graduating class of 2020!

Four Day School Week: The Pros And Cons

Your typical school week: Monday-Friday with the hours sometime between 7 am- 4 pm. But slowly over the nation, schools are switching to a four day school week. Class runs Monday- Thursday with an added 40-60 minutes each day to compensate for the lost time by not having the schools run on Fridays. Sometimes even starting school earlier in the school year, or keeping kids a few days later in the spring to again, make up for the lost time. 

At first, this may not seem worth it. In the end, the time spent at school is the same, just spread differently. So what are the pros and cons? 

Pros: 

Schools that have shortened to four days saw an increase in student attendance. 

Utility bills were less, as well as a decrease in labor costs and bus expenses. 

Teachers are less stressed and happier because they have an extra day for their weekend. 

The fifth day of the week can be used for tutoring, school activities, and collaboration between teachers and peers, still leaving Saturday for free time, instead of taking up the entire weekend. 

Cons: 

Students who are special needs or behind academically had a harder transition to the shorter week. 

Juvenile crime rates went up significantly. 

Longer days of school can be harder on the students, especially the younger grades. 

Childcare expenses can become a problem for working parents. 

The research is scattered for four day school weeks, a study in one state shows thousands of dollars saved, with reading and math scores going up, while another school shows no money saved and test scores dropping for a few years before they start to rise again. 

One thing that does seem fairly consistent in the research is the first five or so years of adapting to the new schedule for schools with negative side effects before seeing improvement in the later years. This alone is a big reason districts are hesitant to change. But overall, will the change improve long-term results? Is it worth it at the cost of potentially putting students through a few hard years? Some are saying no, others are saying yes. 

What side of the fence are you on? What other pros and cons do you see?

Inquiry Into SDG’s: Quality Education

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. For more, click here

The purpose for the SDG of Quality Education is to “Ensure inclusive & equitable education & promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

While this goal focuses largely on developing countries, rooting out educational disparities anywhere will aid in this effort. This week’s provocation is designed to get kids thinking about why disparities exist and how progress might be made.

Resource #1: The work of Matiullah Wesa (great article on GlobalCitizen, and his Twitter account is packed with documentation of their efforts).

Resource #2: If You Build It by OCP Media

Resource #3: Cogs by AIME Mentoring

Resource #4: 7 Insane Ways Children Get to School via Global Citizen

Resource #5: Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Provocation Questions: 

  • What does quality education mean?
  • What does it mean for a child to receive quality education?
  • How does educating children impact families? Communities? The world?
  • What is our responsibility to ensure everyone receives a quality education?
  • How does the idea of what makes an education quality change over time?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Attitudes: Commitment

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Anyone who works with kids knows that much of that effort is a balancing act. And when it comes to balance, commitment involves quite a lot of that balance. Think about it–we want kids to develop the skills to stick with things even when it’s hard, but we also want them to learn to recognize and honor when specific pursuits no longer work for them (ie, notion of abandoning books that aren’t doing it for you, trading soccer for theater, etc). Inviting kids into the conversation about how to build commitment while honoring autonomy is key. So as you take a look at these incredible examples of commitment, you might consider how to invite dialogue on this element of balance as well!.

Resource #1: “Be A Control Freak / Lily Hevesh” by Telia Carrier via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: Stukenborg by Charles William Kelly

Resource #3: The Genius of Marie Curie by Ted-Ed

Resource #4: “A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights” by Kate Hannigan & Alison Jay

Provocation Questions: 

  • What does it mean to be committed to your work?
  • How does commitment impact our work as individuals? As communities?
  • How do we balance commitment with trying new things?
  • What is our responsibility to be committed in our work?
  • How does commitment change over the course of a person’s life?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

“Taking Context Seriously” to Cultivate Student Ownership

In the video below (recently shared by AJ Juliani in my PLN — thanks, AJ!), Todd Rose shares the following story (starting at 22:07).

In the 1960’s scientists were puzzled why the infant reflex to “walk” disappears after around 2 months, later returning when they are ready to walk at around a year old. Based on a method of averages, they determined it had to do with the fact that our brains mature and therefore suppress that reflex. This belief ended up in pediatrics books, which landed babies getting checked for developmental brain delays and remediation if their reflex didn’t go away by 2 months. Fortunately, Esther Thelen later proved this false; by looking at individuals rather than averages, and by varying the contexts with each of these babies, she discovered that at 2 months of age, infants’ thighs simply get chubbier, rendering their legs too heavy to lift that way.

“So here we have this really complicated story about brain maturation that we’re sending kids off to remediation off of, when it turns out it has nothing to do with that, just by taking context seriously.”

As an educator, the phrase, “taking context seriously” jumps out to me. We know we are in the business of working with people. We know learning is a messy process. We know that we need to see our students as individuals first.

Yet all these truths seem to take a back seat when it comes to testing, GPAs, and report cards.

Why? Because we consistently sweep away that context of the individual in favor of finding and measuring up against that ever-supreme average.

 

Fortunately, research like Todd Rose’s is finally shedding light on just how misleading the average is when we are looking at the individual (he makes the point that it can still be very valuable when looking at large groups, but that when it comes to individuals, average does not exist). Though the longstanding belief has been that we use the “average” because it matches the largest number of people, the truth is that we are so complex that the average actually ends up matching virtually no one.

So in education, it’s when we “take context seriously” that we find out where a learner really is on their journey.

We take into account all the nuances and complexities of the individual to not only analyze just how far they’ve come (ie, taking into account poverty, developmental delays, etc) but to identify their strengths that will help them work toward mastery.

As Rose says later in the talk,

“Empower students with self-knowledge to make choices on their own behalf.”

We have the tools in our 21st century world to help our students understand their own contexts and leverage that knowledge to take ownership over their own learning process. We need to resist the idea that certain skills and knowledge need to be attained by certain, average benchmarks in time because these averages, in fact, apply to so few people.

Our individual contexts are just too unique to be lumped into the average.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Note, at the end of the Google Talk, Rose addressed some excellent audience questions, including how we measure success in the education system in lieu of the average. Rose shares two fascinating possibilities I also wanted to share here:

1. As tech is giving us greater opportunities for individualized learning, we’ll soon see a shift, especially in higher-ed, toward “Micro-credentials and competency based measurements” instead of the traditional semesters/grades system.

2. We need to use clearly defined, competency-based outcomes to measure success. To know how well an individual is doing, we need benchmark them against their own progression in that competency, and you don’t have to look at anyone else’s progress to know that. (“A diploma with a 3.2 vs. “I have these competencies.””)

Weighing the Pressures of Preparing for the “Next Level”

“They have no study skills.”

“They’re so unprepared for college studying, like organizing lecture notes.”

“Those high school teachers are letting my kids retake tests, and it’s making them lazy.”

These were a few sentiments I heard among a few other parents (one of whom was a college professor) while waiting to pick up our kids. That teachers just aren’t sufficiently preparing students for the next level.

This has had me asking myself tough questions ever since. A lot of them.

Like this one: Amid all my soap-box preaching about student ownership, what if, after all we do to teach our children to own their learning, they find that somewhere down the line, ownership is impossible?

When we try to focus more on powerful learning & less on “doing school,” are we doing our students a disservice for later expectations?

Where’s the line between building our kids up for what’s coming, and focusing on all their developmental needs now?

Or even, if I want my 1st grader to someday get into the university of her dreams, shouldn’t I do all I can to help her get “ahead of the curve” starting now? 

But then…

I see articles like this that suggest that kids who wait to start kindergarten for a year have fewer problems with ADHD & hyperactivity. Which makes me think (especially since kindergarten is the new first grade) that all this prep for the next level is perhaps taking its toll already.

And I see posts like Taryn Bond-Clegg’s sharing her dream of a system that supports rather than hinders a culture of student agency. Which makes me think that every action that focuses more on the here-&-now of our student’s needs helps us move closer toward a better system.

And then I see articles like this that remind us all that best practices are always the bottom line for the present:

We do not sacrifice good instruction because those in upper levels are not there yet. Instead, we employ what we know works, and we spend time mentoring those above us in what we do.

 

I still don’t have all the answers. But in the end, maybe college level study-skills can just — wait until college…

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry: How Do People Get Their Food?

An inquiry provocation is meant to help us stretch our thinking beyond what we normally consider. It’s designed to plant the kind of seed that, as it grows, inspires us to continue reconsidering and rethinking the world around us. We learn to ask more thoughtful questions, make connections to existing understandings, and develop consideration and empathy for others.

Thus, this week’s provocation on how people get their food isn’t just about food. It’s about getting us to consider broader concepts (including, but not limited to, PYP units of inquiry such as How the World WorksHow We Organize Ourselves, and Who We Are). I would love to hear if/how you use these resources with your class!

#1 of 3: Atlas of Beauty image

Mihaela Noroc is a Romanian photographer who travels the world with the goal to capture beauty in all countries. Below is a recent photo of a woman doing her grocery shopping in Myanmar.

via Mihaela Noroc’s Atlas of Beauty Facebook page

#2 of 3: What I Eat, Around the World in 80 Diets

Photojournalist Peter Menzel documented what individuals around the world eat each day.  See here for several of his photos along with the fascinating stories of each person.

#3 of 3: Amazon Go Concept

Amazon has developed a smart store that allows shoppers to grab their groceries and go without standing in line for payment. According to Futurism, “The store is powered by sensors, deep learning artificial intelligence (AI), and computer vision, which allows it to detect which items a customer has selected and even when products are returned to shelves.”

Provocation Questions:

  • How do people eat differently?
  • Why do people eat differently?
  • What do people’s eating habits tell us about their lives?
  • How is the way people get their food changing over time? Why?
  • Why is it important for us to consider how people eat differently around the world?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto