Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Unspoken Gift

So I get to my classroom only to find a gift; a copy of the article Characteristics of a 21st Century Classroom on my desk that was given to me by my new principal. It felt like an unspoken homework assignment had just been handed out, so I have taken the time to sift through this article very closely this evening.

The article is a quick read but I will pull out this snip:

The focus of student learning in this classroom is different. The focus is no longer on learning by memorization or recalling information but on learning how to learn. Now, students use the information they have learned and demonstrate their mastery of the content in the projects they work on. Students learn how to ask the right questions, how to conduct the appropriate investigation, how to find answers, and how to use information. The emphasis in this classroom is on creating life long learners. With this goal in mind, students move beyond the student role to learn through real world experiences.

I am fired up! My principal gets it ~ clearly he understands the bigger picture of the challenges that we are faced with and this gift that he has placed on my desk means more than he may yet know. For over two years I have been steeped in the theoretical versions of what a 21st Century Classroom looks like and for the first time I feel as though I am ready to walk the walk.

I believe the role of the teacher changes dramatically in this kind of classroom environment. I must say that it is an easy class to manage when you are giving lectures, teaching memorization or simply having student recall information. However, the management of a 21st Century Classroom can be an absolutely exhausting experience if there is not a great deal of back work done to setup procedures and routines. The snip below really spoke to me towards that end:

The teacher must know how to:
  • establish a safe, supportive, and positive learning environment for all students. This requires planning on the part of the teacher to avoid safety risks, to create room arrangements that support learning, and to provide accessibility to students with special needs. The teacher is skilled in managing multiple learning experiences to create a positive and productive learning environment for all the students in the classroom. Classroom procedures and policies are an important part of creating a positive learning environment. The teacher evaluates and implements effective classroom management techniques in a consistent manner. She uses routines and procedures that maximize instructional time. Students know what is expected of them, and the teacher knows how to effectively handle disruptions so there is no adverse impact on students' instructional time.

Doesn't that sound like an amazingly diverse and exciting classroom to be a part of? I have been pushing myself to create a classroom like this on a daily basis. My expectations have shifted and the way I view myself as a teacher has shifted as well and it's helped me embrace the expectations mentioned above. It's not easy! I will say that again...it's not easy to conduct business like this in a classroom but it's exhilarating when it works well. I am still a work in progress and I have miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

At the end of the article my principal wrote down this question: "John, another valuable comparison...Have you taken the time to celebrate the 21st Century skills, experiences, & opportunities you have given your students?"

Not yet, but I can't wait to get back in the trenches tomorrow to start celebrating.

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