Monday, October 26, 2015

Creating Culture: A #flipclass #FlashBlog

Hello #flipclass friends & visitors!

In this week's #flipclass chat we are discussing classroom and school culture and have been asked to blog about how we create culture in our flipped classrooms and/or schools.

I have blogged about embarking on a journey to create a better culture of communication in my classroom and am attempting to use a strategy called Accountable Talk (it was proposed within our board as a numeracy strategy to get kids talking about their thinking - so I thought "two birds, one stone". I am going to try to reflect on how I think this is going and how I think it helps to create a positive culture in my classroom.

First of all I would like to acknowledge the light bulb moment I had recently - I have to change my own mind set and habits to really make this ever work. I am not there yet. It is difficult. It is a work in progress. I still struggle to stay out of it completely. But perhaps that will never stop. Sometimes a question needs to be rephrased, or an example is needed to clarify.

This strategy makes discussions take longer at first, so requires a lot of patience and a lot of direct instruction around why and how it can/should be used. I am trying really hard to interject its ideas into conversations I am "eavesdropping" on within my class and trying to speak less and less during full class discussions. My goal is to merely become the facilitator of the conversation (i.e. help them still speak one at a time and remind them when they need to rephrase to maintain a positive discussion).

I have witnessed a few groups of students putting the strategy into place more often in their own conversations (hooray!) but ultimately I hope to see it more. I am getting better at it (slowly) myself and it is starting to rub off on the students. For example, I gave my Grade 11 physics class some discussion questions at the start of class surrounding Newton's first and second laws. They were given time to discuss in their groups first and then I usually pick one or two for full class discussion (so that I can make sure we are all on the same page).

My biggest struggle at this point is how to help a conversation get started when they are not sure how to begin (without going back to my old habits that lead to student-teacher conversation). But that will have to be a bigger thought for another day. But I am seeing them getting used to my madness - one student flat out realized "she's not going to give us this answer, I need to just say something". So he did. And it helped kick off a conversation with multiple participants and all I had to say was "who agrees? why do you agree? what can you add? ...". It felt amazing. They were starting to get it - and it sounded like they were trusting each other, and pushing each other to be better without a single negative comment. It was as if the conversation was building them up, instead of threatening them to need to be right. They were no longer seeking my validation, they were seeking explanations that they could understand - that they built themselves, without needing to use my words.

The part that felt the best was talking to that student who started it all off after the fact when he added "I also get why you do this now. It is easier for us to help each other because we are learning this together." He added on to this idea by clarifying that because they were all trying to learn it they could relate to the difficulties and struggles in a way that I couldn't.

This is why I think of myself as a coach now instead of as a "teacher".

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