What we should do before we say no to challenges.

2 weeks ago our vp @kkeerybi  issued us a challenge.  No worksheet week.  Wow!! How do you teach without using worksheets or photocopying?  For some people this was quite a challenge.  Note she didn’t say we couldn’t photocopy she just said think carefully about what we were copying.  I took this as ‘before we hit that button think carefully about whether we really need it; how is it going to further the learning of our students?’ This was not the first time I had heard this.  10 years ago when our school opened, our then Principal Kathy Clarke had said the same thing to us.  10 years later we are hearing the same thing.  Since this time, we have spent a ton of budget on photocopying, and lots on technology.  We have bought smartboards for most of our classrooms, overhead projectors; laptops carts; i-pads.  Students use their own phones, iPods, iPads; laptops to help enhance their own learning.

Fast forward to this month.  We finished up writing our report cards.  One of the learning skills areas that we evaluate our students on is Initiative.  The criteria for this category is:

  • acts upon new ideas and opportunities for learning;
  • demonstrates a willingness to take risks;
  • demonstrates curiosity and interest in learning;
  • approaches new tasks with a positive attitude;
  • recognizes and advocates appropriately for the rights of self and others

I am sure that many of us put a ‘N’ (needs improvement) or a ‘S’ (satisfactory) on some of our students report cards.  ‘So and so is encouraged to try harder when he has difficult challenges instead of giving up easily.’  Or ‘name is encouraged to try new ways to share his learning instead of using ways that he has become comfortable with.’  As teachers, do we ever think of using this same criteria to see where we ourselves stand in the learning process?

Then Kristi put out the challenge. How many of us shut it down right away.  Did we think about approaching this new task with a positive attitude or did we immediately get annoyed?    Did we decide to willingly embrace the risk and look for strategies to see how we could make it work?  Did we see that this could be a new opportunity for learning – learn how to use the smartboard better; embrace Google docs and learn how to use it to the best of our advantage?  Did any of us become curious about this opportunity for learning and research ways we could make it work?

My take on this is that we keep saying that we are coaches; we are co-learners; we are learning along with our kids.  We ask our kids to self-evaluate their learning BUT do we as ‘learners’ ever take the time to evaluate ourselves.  Maybe if we did, the next time we are issued a challenge such as this, instead of shutting it down, we will review the criteria for INITIATIVE before making a decision.

About jcorbinh

I am a grade 8 teacher who absolutely love teaching language and math and would find it extremely stressful if I had to choose between the two. After 20 years of teaching I am still passionate about my job and enjoy learning new things with and from my students. I try to incorporate new things to motivate and encourage my students and integrating more technology into my lessons has become one of my major goals.
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2 Responses to What we should do before we say no to challenges.

  1. Kristi Bishop says:

    We all need challenges and initiative is certainly a fine thing to aspire to, in kids and in adults. I know you are frustrated by the same choir singing with the same silent ones looking on, but I have to have confidence that sometime that choir will grow. Not everyone will join in as enthusiastically and wholeheartedly as you have but I do see progress. Plus I love that the challenge gives the choir members another opportunity to say “yes it is possible. I do it. The kids love it.” I do think too, with persistent effort, eventually it will become harder for others to ignore the challenges. Then I’m glad they will have role models like you to show them the way.

  2. Aviva says:

    Jo-Ann, I love your thinking here. I never really thought of this connection to initiative, but it’s actually such a great link. So how could you help others see this as an opportunity for taking initiative, trying something new, and approaching challenges with a positive attitude? Maybe as others share their successes, those that initially questioned the challenge, might reconsider it.

    Maybe No Worksheet Week is too extreme a change for people that rely heavily on worksheets. Maybe it needs to be a Reduced Worksheet Week first. What do you think? I was heavily behind this week, but then again, I’ve probably made less than 40 photocopies all year long. Was the week really requiring me to make a big change? No. I was just hoping that it would lead to some good professional dialogue and a greater look at our own practices.

    I don’t know how many people at your school tried this Week out, but if there were some vocal ones that did, maybe what they shared made a big difference (even if it doesn’t seem like it did). Maybe they’re getting others to think, and maybe even consider some of those worksheets. This small change would make me happy. Usually small changes lead to bigger ones later. What do you think?


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