Saturday, October 4, 2014

Adventurous Learning

Ok. It's time to get everyone up to speed on all the things going on for this Teacher-Dad! 

1) I interviewed for a new teaching position in late May. The interview was over Skype to a panel of 6 teachers and admin. Oh, and it included a lesson on the Law of Sines. 

2) I was offered the job in early June. Apparently, I rock Skype interviews! :)

3) The offer was just too good to pass up, so I accepted.

4) Announced our move with the exciting news that we are expecting our 5th kiddo (December due date)! 

5) At the end of July, my wife, father-in-law, & I drove our 4 kids and 2 cats in 2 vehicles 2400 miles from Fairbanks, Ak to Washington State.

6) We've been here just over 2 months and we're 5 weeks into the school year.

7) And mixed throughout all that my wife has kept her business going, and I've been working with a teacher-buddy on a new Podcast... So yeah

Wow... I have to admit that I've read over that a couple of times, and I'm overwhelmed by it all! How did this happen?! Why make a change? How did we know it would be ok?

The statement I hear the most when I tell our story is, "Wow, you guys must be adventurous!" This is followed by, "I could never do that," as the person then slowly walks away shaking his head and glancing back at us with a look mixed with confusion and envy. 

I have to admit the word "adventurous" has never been a word that anyone from my childhood could ever use to describe me. I was scared of my own shadow! I was frequently wrapped up in my own self doubt. It's hard to take chances and be adventurous when you don't believe in your ability to accomplish things. 

I see this fear or lack of self confidence a lot in my math classroom. I hear that phrase, "I could never do that" or a variation of it all the time. But it makes sense. Here we are as teachers asking kids to be adventurous and step out of comfort zones to learn new things each day. We are asking them to trust us and take chances to make them smarter and stronger. Some naturally walk into a room with self-confidence, but many don't. So how do we help students open up and be adventurous?

I've thought a lot about this over the last several months, as I've looked around at the changes my wife and I decided to make for our family. I've watched what my kiddos have gone through adjusting to a new life and new surroundings. It hasn't been easy. Stress levels have been pushed. But we knew they would. 

The truth is, I could never have done any of this without my wife. Throughout this entire process I've been able to collaborate with the person I trust more in life than anyone. We've problem solved, critically thought, and planned all of this together. We trust the intelligence of one another, and use that trust to take well thought out and agreed on chances.

It's that part right there that matters the most and translates right into the classroom and to parenting. How can we as teachers and parents create that collaborative trust between our kiddos and between our kiddos & ourselves in order to help them have the comfort of taking learning chances? The answer is in the relationships. It is in how welcoming we are as teachers. How open are you with your kiddos? Do they trust you won't let then down or let them fall? Can they see you taking your own chances and at times missing the mark? How do you respond in those moments? 

The best teachers let the kids get comfortable. They manage the room with mutual respect and not as a dictator. Each kid has a voice and is encouraged & supported to us it. We create a blanket of comfort that the kids wrap themselves in and use to take learning chances. They ask questions, get correct answers, and start believing that they too can take chances. So when they do hit a hurdle, they don't use it to define themselves in the class, but instead use it to learn and grow. They can use that fall as a time to collaborate with trusted peers to reflect for learning and not as a tool for added self-doubt. 

Our victories as teachers and as parents are directly linked to those trusting relationships and the comfort our kiddos have in taking adventurous learning chances. I'm proud that I've modeled that in my life, and can now focus on continuing to work toward making my home as well as my classroom a trusted place for adventurous learning.

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