This is my responses to the reflection questions at the end of Chapter 1 - "Relationships" from the book "Innovate Inside the Box" by George Couros and Katie Novak.
1. How do you build relationships and know your students as individuals inside and outside of your classroom?
I'm not afraid to admit that this has always been one my biggest area for improvements. Going all the way back to student teaching, I can very clearly remember my cooperating teacher writing in one of my "evaluations" that I had a great grasp of the content, but had taken more time to start to develop relationships with the students than most. And as I have dived deeper into design thinking and reflected on the mindsets of design thinking, I consistently identify empathy as one of my biggest areas for improvement. Now, that's not to say that I don't think I have developed relationships with my students - I do. But I think I could do better to develop more and deeper connections with my students.
Over the past few years, I have spent the first week of class not focusing on content, but rather engaging my students in design thinking challenges and other team-building exercises to try to bust the stigma that math classes often get. However, I realize that there are many other things I could have been doing to help build relationships at the same time. Now that I teach a course that only lasts for 26 days, building relationships is even more important. Moving forward, I am planning to take inspiration from some of my awesome colleagues and friends and run some relationship-focused station activities on the first day of my rotation to get to know my students better and address some of the "housekeeping" items that need to be taken care of. By doing this, I'm hoping that I'll be able to start to develop relationships earlier in my class rotation and I will guarantee that I will have a conversation with each and every student on day #1.
2. Think of two or three teachers who influenced you as a student, either positively or negatively. How has that made an impact on you today?
When I think back to the most positive and most negative experiences I had in school, they all come down to the relationships I had with the teachers. Last week I shared the story of my 8th grade science teacher who most influenced me in education and empowered me to be the student I was. This was 100% because he cared for every single one of his students and realized that knowing his students as a person first would make them more successful, engaged, and motivated in his classroom.
I am lucky in the fact that as I write this reflection, I can't recall one teacher that I sincerely despised. I have negative memories of some teachers, and those memories always come back to teachers who made it seem that their students were annoyances and never seemed to have a smile. George's quote from chapter 1 really stuck with me: "Students are always watching: what do you want them to see?" As I reflect back to these negative experiences, I realize that I am sure I do things that make students think they are not the most important thing to me in that minute - as they should be when they are in my class. My goal for this week is to focus on making sure that students see me always focusing on them and to save the "other stuff" for other times.
3. Share a story on social media about a time that you saw an impact of "relationships" as a learner or teacher.
I started the post discussing how I feel I have struggled with building relationships to a deep level, but also acknowledging that I do know I have had an impact with creating relationships. Just last year, I had a student who hardly said a word when she walked into class each day. She had a great group of friends she worked with in class, but never said much. Throughout the year, as I got to know her more, she started to open up, so that by the end of the year she was always talking and striking up conversations. To go along with that, I saw her confidence in her math abilities rise, and she showed great improvement. She always had the ability, but she believed in herself more. This year at back to school night, she came up and we talked about her summer. I have her in class again to start this year and every day she comes to class with a big smile and a welcoming, " Hi Mr. Barge!" Seeing students break out of their shell and become more comfortable interacting with their peers, adults, and being more confident students are always the highlights of my year and remind me why I really entered education.
This is my responses to the reflection questions at the end of the Introduction - "Because of a Teacher" from the book "Innovate Inside the Box" by George Couros and Katie Novak.
1. Think of one educator who had an impact on you as a student in a positive way. What did they do that made an impact?
Mr. Bodley - 8th grade science. If you want to talk about a teacher that knows how to create relationships with his students, I can't think of a teacher I had in school that was better at it than Steve. He had a way of motivating us to be the best version of ourselves not only in his classroom, but all the time. He made his content engaging and empowered his students to explore their passions. I distinctly remember having his class when the tsunami hit Indonesia in late 2004. When we returned from Christmas break, a few friends and I wanted to do some type of fundraiser to help support the rebuilding cause. We approached him to help us because we knew he supported us in every way, not just in science class. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time in his classroom as a pre-service teacher, and saw even more evidently the power of building relationships with students. When I am struggling for inspiration or looking for a way to connect with a student, I often think back to how Mr. Bodley treated his students with compassion and respect and try to emulate those actions.
2. Think of a challenge in your lifetime, be it personal or professional. How did you learn and grow from that experience.
My first year teaching was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I loved the people I worked with - students and adults - but I was not ready for the challenges that faced me in a school and social environment that was much different than anything I was used to. I quickly learned many lessons that stick with me today; here are the top two:
I was fortunate to be able to be part of a year-long cohort that focused on experiencing the design thinking process and using that to address a need in our school building. (This is also where I first heard George speak.) After that program, I realized that Design Thinking was something I needed to be using in my math classroom. I had always struggled with how to connect my math concepts to real-life and how to make my class more "problem-based", and I saw Design Thinking as a great solution. I started by replacing one test with a Design Thinking project. My students tackled the challenge, 'How Might We Show Our Knowledge of Operations with Rational Numbers?' The projects I got back were more than I could have imagined! In one of my proudest teaching memories, one of my groups decided to hold a bake-sale fundraiser and show how they used operations with fractions and decimals in their budget and record keeping. They held the fundraiser at the workplace of one of their parents, and I stopped by after school to get my baked good! At the end of the project, the donated almost $150 to a local charity. Through that process, I learned that when you give students control, they will amaze you. From then on, I've tried to find any way possible to incorporate design thinking, and I'm thrilled to now be teaching a course where half of the focus is specifically design thinking. I can't wait to see what my kids accomplish!
When I saw that George Couros was coming out with a follow-up book to “The Innovator’s Mindset”, I couldn’t wait to get my copy. I had the opportunity to attend a workshop in the spring of 2017 where George spoke, and I was instantly struck by the passion he had for creating positive learning experiences for students through the Innovator’s Mindset. I read his book not long after, and have re-read it each school year since as a source of inspiration and a reminder to myself of the experiences that I can and should be providing for my students. This past summer, I revisited his book again from a different perspective, as I ran a professional development workshop to spread the message of the Innovator’s Mindset to other teachers in my district.
I started reading George’s new book tonight, which he wrote with Katie Novak. The book, “Innovate Inside the Box”, begins with a forward from Katie Martin. She shared her experience with meeting George for the first time and how he challenged her to share what she had learned with other educators, knowing that others could benefit from what she had to share and that she could benefit from the feedback from others. This is a message I have heard from George multiple times - as educators, it is important that we share our learning with others. I always enjoy watching the Twitter videos that George posts with attendees where he speaks sharing their learning and reading his blog posts.
So, I decided to challenge myself to share my learning as I read “Innovate Inside the Box”. After each chapter, I have challenged myself to write a blog post - even a short one - reflecting on what I learned. I don’t kid myself thinking that it will be easy - I have tried blogging in the past, but never make it stick. But as I start the new school year in a new role teaching Computational and Design Thinking, I knew there was no better time to do it. I’m going to be asking my students to take risks, and I need to model that myself. I need to embrace the Innovator’s Mindset; I truly believe that this journey will lead to
something new and better for me, and I embrace that.
This quote that Katie Martin shared in her foreword really stuck out to me:
It all starts with being vulnerable, so I’m going to try. So, that being said - look for my first reflection tomorrow (hopefully) on the intro - “Because of a Teacher”.