Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lessons learned as I prepare for my new role

As I have now started my new role as our districts "Math and Science Lead Teacher" I look at my blog truly as my journal.  When I read my posts from time ago, I have to say that I have changed my "tune", my out look on education, and my technique of sharing.  Over the last 9 years, I have learned many valuable lessons which include:

1) You can never mandate anyone to grow, get better or learn, your only hope is to motivate someone.  This is not only true for the students who are in your desks, but also for your colleagues.  If you have a new way of thinking, and truly believe that this is superior, simply yelling louder than others, or talking about it over and over again will not only annoy others but ultimately turn them off from ever listening to you again.  Also, any idea you have heard or created may not yet be fully formed to be introduced or implemented.  Which brings me to...

2) You may be wrong!  Sure you went to a PD session which illustrates the newest, coolest, bestest (yes I used that word), thing in education, but stop and think and ask; Are you ready to answer all the questions that may arise?  Do you understand everything that was presented? Does this really mean other ways are wrong?  Are you the expert?  Most likely the answers to all of these are NO, and so be ready to stop, think, breathe and reflect on the PD.  This, of course, should not discourage you to try it and see how it fits, but don't go running to others and start telling them to change now.  Which brings me to...

3) Most times (if not all) there is not only 1 way of doing things.  Alike in math, the solution is much more important than the answer.  Furthermore, the journey has more valuable lessons than the destination (Man I love 1 liners!)  Ask any educator what do they want and I am sure the response will be similar to "All of my students to succeed", and so we all agree on the answer.  However what may work in classroom A with Teacher B, may not work in classroom C with Teacher D.  There is nothing wrong with that, nor should this change!  Which brings me to...

4) You can have high standards, and high collaboration without standardization.  Many confuse collaboration with 3 teachers working together on a task and simply splitting the work.   This is not collaboration; this is assembly line workers.  To collaborate means all working on the same task on all parts and offering suggestions.  We must also realize we can't democratize what is best for one's classroom.  Meaning, simply because the majority feel one strategy is best doesn't make it so.    Also, teachers should be able to attain the autonomy and professional judgement throughout the entire collaboration process.  Which brings me too...

5) Some autonomy may be taken away as it truly is bad teaching.  An example I think of is "Right minus wrong".  This practice to deduct marks based on wrong responses (which truly is taking off 2 marks) is an archaic practice and should not be defended by "teacher autonomy".  However, yes this goes against the first lesson I learned.  Therefore, as educators, we need to understand "why" something needs to be removed, and then offered an alternative solution.  This, I would hope, should be something that rarely occurs in one's classroom. Which brings me too...

6) Alberta has some KICK ASS teachers!! In my most current school, in schools I have had chances to work with, and in fact teachers outside of Alberta I have met some seriously amazing educators.  Students are extremely lucky to be in the presence of these people as I have met the most passionate chemists, physicists, writers, historians, religious believers, and artists in the last 8 years.  My only hope is that I continue this journey over the next 20 years.  However, if I feel like I need to change then then I shall look at my lesson 1.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

League of Legends game club

Due to the perseverance of two students, our school recently has started a League of Legends game club.  The plan is to have students create teams up to 5 and play after school on various days.  When I held the first meeting, over 120 students, out of 1600, came to sign up.

This caused a problem as I struggled on how to organize such a large group of students!!

However, I then realized a game club had something unique that most other school teams/clubs struggle with:
  • I don't have cut anyone, as I am not governed by number of uniforms, playing time, and the constraints of the physical world.
  • All skill levels are welcome; beginners can play against beginners, and experts against experts.
  • Students literally can play from anywhere in the world, and ultimately play against any other high school in the world.
As I chaired the first meeting, which started after the cheering and high-fives stopped, I heard one student say "Finally a place where us misfits can go!".  Immediately it hit me!  Most schools foster academics with honour rolls and awards, they encourage athletics with sports teams and ribbons, and they strengthen the fine arts with band and theatre productions, but what about the "techies"?

Now,  I understand that most (hopefully ALL) schools try to allow each student some connection to their community, but at this time I had realized that at least one student had yet to have a connection with ours.  The discussions that began after my introduction were mind blowing.  Students asking "Can we have T-shirts?", "Can we make an official tournament?", "Can we play in the gathering area on the big screen for all to watch?" and of course "Can I play during class time?" (which was a quick No!)

Some students in the crowd showed such excitement and enthusiasm it was near impossible to calm them down.  We may have just hooked more students into knowing that "School is actually pretty cool!"

How did this begin?

Two years ago, I was introduced to the game League of Legends by a student.  As a gamer myself I immediately got hooked!  It is free to play, spending money won't make you have an edge, and utilizes team play.  During the summer, as I was playing, a student asked me if we could start a club.  I thought it would be an amazing idea!

During a weekend, two students and myself came to the school and developed a Prezi around "The benefits of gaming".   The prezi was then presented to our Superintendent, and Associate Superintendent of learning, and we were approved a day as a "trial".  I selected the lucky (and trust me they felt extremely lucky) 20 students to play the game while the Superintendent spectated.

The trial was a success!!

The game club has been approved, and now we are organizing our school's first League of Legends tournament with prizes to be school wear branded with logos of the game, and other technology.

I am glad that my student pushed me to start this club as I have already seen the positive impacts it can have on the culture of a school.  For information on the amazing benefits of "gaming"  I encourage  you to read the following: