Pivot! Pivot! Sound familiar? Remember the famous Friends episode when Ross was yelling for his friends to pivot when he was being backed into a corner carrying a couch up the stairs?
After being a traditional teacher for a really long time, all of a sudden I knew it was time to pivot. I knew that I had to do something radically different to engage my learners. I was tired of my classroom being a place that none of us wanted to be. I had two choice - change or leave education. I just couldn't continue to do the work without purpose. I didn't want to continue doing work that wasn't meaningful and I didn't want my learners to have to do work that wasn't meaningful.
So, I made the choice to change. I'd be lying if I told you it was easy. It wasn't. I doubted myself for so long. Had I made the right choice? Was my new approach impacted my learners in a positive way? Did I have any idea what I was doing? But, as I began to watch and listen to my learners, it became evident that they had found their joy in learning again. They were asking questions, becoming more curious, and seemed excited as they came into my classroom...it was night and day. Something had shifted, changed. I also began to realize that I was more excited about being in the classroom every day. I looked forward to learning with them and helping them make connections rather than spoon-feeding them information to regurgitate.
I wanted to share three very intentional decisions that I made in order for this to be my reality:
1. I became a connected educator. - I needed to see what learning looked like beyond my classroom, my campus, and even my district. I needed to know and understand the risks that other educators were taking and how it was impacting their learners. In order to do this, I became connected. In other words, I created an account on Twitter that I only used for education. I only followed educators and only allowed educators to follow me. In this journey, I became connected to the Genius Hour community, and if you don't know my story, it was Genius Hour or passion-based learning that changed everything for us.
2. I stopped writing lesson plans and started designing experiences. I learned from reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess that experiences could be very powerful in the classroom. In doing so, I began to do my own research and realized that it was my job to do so much more than just write lesson plans, I needed to shift to designing experiences. I looked up the definition of experience and started to ask myself every day if what I was designing was going to leave an impression on my learners. If it would, it was a go, if it wouldn't , it was going to be a waste of time.
3. I began to ask how my learners would learn rather than asking how I would teach. In asking how I would teach, I was not focusing on the objective or the goal. You see, it didn't matter if I taught the content and they didn't learn it. In order to decide how I would deliver content, I started asking how my students would learn that content. And, it changed everything. I began to ask for feedback more often and really pay attention to how they responded to the learning experiences that I designed. That small shift in thinking gave me the focus that I needed to create real change in my classroom that provided a real return on my investment.
That's it. Those are the three small shifts that I made in my classroom to pivot my teaching practice and begin doing what made sense for both me and my learners.
Do you need to pivot your practice? Do any of these shifts make sense to you? What small step might you take to begin to create the change needed in your classroom to make learning meaningful. Share your thoughts in the comments below.