Monday, November 7, 2011

Why blog?

We are readers, from novels to a plethora of PD books to articles to websites/blogs. We cannot get enough literature in our hands! What dawned on us, though, was text message reflecting was not doing our personal growth justice. .... and what do we know the most about learning? Reflection is KEY for making the information stick. You need to turn the information around and around in your mind (like a socket wrench) in order to make connections and allow that new learning to stick AND them BAM! (as Emeril would say) Dendrite growth... To us personal reflection is powerful, but what makes us grow even more is having a reflective dialogue. Therefore, a blog seemed like the next logical step for us... conversation is our fuel! {and now that Ann added BAM! to our cooking metaphor I can't get enough of it!!!}
Reflection can be the most overlooked action in the classroom. I know several years back I would only get to it if there was "time"... SERIOUSLY? Was I kidding myself? What could be more important? Well, honestly, nothing. Our students, just like us, cannot move forward successfully without owning the learning. They need time to process, practice, and reflect some more. When was the last time you walked out of a workshop as a expert? Didn't you have to go back into the classroom and "try it" in order to make it work in your own world? And then didn't you have to tweak it, practice it, and try it again and possibly again? And then the next time you used the strategy didn't it start to morph into your own? We only become experts over time... which is why I get a little irritated with my "past" self. Time was all we had. I just didn't make an effective use of time for my students or myself. I do not dwell on my past hook-ups, I just use my old thinking and experiences to revamp what I am doing now.
In being reflective about my past practice, I knew that I needed to change things because I was not effectively reaching ALL students.  I was teaching recipe by recipe, and when we did reflect it was because the recipe called for it- or because my oven cooked faster than the recipe called for so we used the "extra" minutes to reflect. 
We now know, especially after repeatedly using this action in the classroom, that without reflection students struggle with hanging onto the new learning. Reflection allows them to recode the information to make it their own, connect the new learning to prior knowledge, and find a way to apply the new learning in their daily life.  It's the Metacognitive process of genuine thinking that provides the opportunity for true learning. Allowing students to ponder:
  • Do I like this new food?
  • How is this food/meal like ones I have had before? How is it different?
  • If I could, what would I change about the meal?
  • If I could cook a meal of my own, what would it be? What ingredients/tools would I need?
  • What spice do I wish the cook would have added to this meal?
  • Is the meal too "big" or too "small" for me?
As you can tell, we really like our cooking METAPHOR! But when you think about it this way, it makes complete sense. When we just serve a meal and then clean up the dishes and then do it all over again, is anyone getting any pleasure out of the experience? Imagine sitting at the dinner table in silence, with no discussion regarding the meal you just prepared... Don't you want a thank you for your hard work? Don't you want to KNOW you have reached your audience??? Allow students the opportunity to provide you and themselves with feedback; it's the only way you will know what to dish them up next!

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