Sunday, June 1, 2014
This past Thursday evening a valued member of my PLN, Cori Coburn-Shiflett was wrapping up our weekly Region 5 chat on Twitter and asked for a rather thought provoking "take away" response. The request was for the posting of a picture that would serve as a symbol, characterizing our school year. My first reaction was to sort through the photos on my IPhone and look for the appropriate image to serve as my symbol. Initially I wasn't really sure what I was looking for, then it hit me right between the eyes. The Castle at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World was my symbol. When I looked at this picture, I saw "magic" and I realized that there were not many other more appropriate words to describe my 2013-2014 school year.
Suddenly, after thinking unsuccessfully for days about a topic for my monthly blog, I had "magically" found my inspiration. For the past several weeks I have been reflecting on my growth as an educator as well as the growth of my students throughout this school year. I recently recalled the ideas of author/educator Dave Burgess about creating "engaging educational experiences" for students. Dave advocates transforming the classroom environment into a place that captures the attention of students and that allows the students to engage in the ultimate learning experiences. In other words make the environment in which they learn and the learning that takes place "magical". It is not surprising that Dave has a passion for magic, as well as education. After seeing his workshop one has no trouble understanding how he works his magic, engaging and empowering his students. The Teach Like a Pirate movement that has resulted from Dave's book of the same name, inspired me to create my own classroom magic throughout 2013-14.
There was the " Day of Wow" in which our classroom environment was transformed into a place that inspired the passions of my students. Various topics were presented from a " red carpet" platform and were of a a riveting nature that engaged one and all. There was the " Match my Inspiration" quote activity where students and teachers brought in inspirational quotes during Black History Month in an effort to highlight the struggle and resiliency of African Americans. There was the Women's History Month presentations in which students researched various women based on individual interests and then presented their findings to a curious and engaged group of their peers. There was the Women's History Month closing "chat" activity exploring the impact that women have made and continue to make in our society. This activity included a mock hashtag, student generated questions and a period long discussion that was moderated by a student. Most recently, students constructed their Egyptian Mummies. This culminating activity to our unit on ancient Egypt allowed students to work cooperatively in groups producing well written biographies about wealthy Egyptians, while designing artistic sarcophagi. On all of these occasions the passions and the enthusiasm of the students was obvious. The learning environment and the level of student engagement throughout consistently took on a magical quality.
As teachers we do not wave a magic wand and achieve magical outcomes from our students. We plan relentlessly and implement strategies that allow our students to embark upon magical journeys. We hope ultimately to put them in a position to achieve"magical "outcomes. We strive to empower our students to create their own magic as well but this is not easily achieved either. We achieve this only after creating relationships with our students and by taking the time to understand their passions and interests. When we see the faces of our students " light up". When we observe their passionate approaches. When we witness their enthusiastic presentations. We then know that we have accomplished our goal. We have helped to make learning magical for our students.
In a year that has featured monumental changes with the addition of Student Growth Objectives and new evaluation models, the business side of our profession has created new challenges to overcome. However the development of my PLN, the reading of quality educational blogs and the utilization of limitless resources on Twitter, has re-energized my commitment to my craft. I can always seek their guidance and support and rely upon their positive attitude to help me produce that classroom magic. As I move closer to closing the book on another school year I am grateful for the opportunities to create magical moments in the lives of my students every day, and I cherish the opportunity moving forward to do so for many years to come.