Sunday, May 13, 2012

Playground Project Reflection 

  What I would really like to tell everyone is that I developed this project last summer and have been rigorously working on this day in and day out for months to make it perfect.  However, there is nothing farther from the truth then that statement.  
  This thought actually trickled into my mind when I was on a Saturday morning date with my daughter mindlessly digging in the sand.  I was trying to conjure up some ways to make learning the mundane math material (dare I say it) fun!  I thought 'here I am, a grown man, having fun digging in the sand and the school I teach at does not have any recess equipment for the kids.' Then I put my two thoughts together: fun and a playground.  'That's it - I'll have the students create their own playground!'
  With that one thought I was quickly off and running with ideas overflowing my brain, like an unwatched pot of boiling water.  First, the essential question came to mind. Then, the learning goals - then lets have the students create businesses.  All these thoughts keep coming to mind. The students will have to create a budget.  The budget will include buying equipment, making purchases, including tax on products.  They will to use a variety of math skills addition, multiplication, percentages, and so on. We can use Google Earth to purchase the land next to the school so the kids have to figure out the perimeter and area.  I was firing off these ideas left and right ready to finish this entire project in one day.   Then...I heard this little tiny voice, 'Da-Da' oh how I was quickly brought back to reality.  Then I realized family first - I'll have plenty of time to work on this during naptime.  
  What started out as a tiny little thought turned out to be one of the most interesting, educational, not sure where the road is going to take us journeys that I have ever been on.  I believed that I already had a motivated, overachieving math class to begin with.  Once I explained to the students what we were going to do - students were already talking to their neighbors on what they wanted their playground to look like.  On a daily basis the students were diligently working, asking intriguing questions to one another, performing at a level I had never see them reach.  I realized that the students were driving and I am just along for the ride.  You know what?  I enjoyed each and every minute of the trip! From the minute we started until the minute we stopped students were collaborating, creating, and taking control of their learning.  It was one of those moments when you really realize why you became an educator. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Over the course of the last two years I had the opportunity to be involved in PLP, first as part of a local team that developed a professional development plan for my school, and then as part of a cross-continental (Is that a word? Eh - even if it's not, I like it so I'm using it!) team whose work you have seen here.

Working with people from all areas of the continent is not an easy task. As I've mentioned before just simply trying to find a time that works for busy people in 3 different times zones was a monumental accomplishment. Once we found common times to talk and focus our project, then we all had to find the time to make the connections and put the wheels into motion in our classroom. As challenging as this was, I'm thrilled to have been a part, I look forward to the connections I have made with some amazing educators, and I'm especially grateful for the ways I have personally grown:

1. Last year when I started PLP, I liked using technology, I really wanted to use technology in my classroom, and I just had no idea where to start. Through my participation in PLP many of the things that were on my, "Man, I'd really like to do that!" list have been added to my, "Doing!" list. These things include blogging personally and for my class, having my students blog, having my students create a variety of projects, using Twitter for professional development, coaching other teachers online, and connecting with other educators and their classes using Skype.

2. I have become more transparent with my learning and my teaching. Through reflections on my blog, which have slowed down tremendously these last few months but will be back soon, I have been able to look closely at what is working in my classroom, what isn't working, and what I would like to do differently next time to make the learning experience more meaningful for my students.

3. I have tried to give my students more of a voice in their learning. I've always been a proponent of having my students choose projects to show their learning, but I never really gave them much voice in the actual learning piece. This year I allowed students to our curriculum by adding their own questions about the topic to our studies. While I am far away from actually flipping my classroom and giving the students full control of their learning every day, each project based learning activity gives me one more baby step of experience towards changing my classroom.

4. I've learned that when it comes to my students doing the same thing does not equal fair. I need to look at all of my students and adjust the way we do our projects to best meet their needs. With so many different and distinct learners, completing projects the same way for all students would just not provide everybody with the skills that they need to be successful when they move on from me. While I have always been one to differentiate for students, I've been doing more and more of that for all students not just for those students for whom it's required by law.

There are many other ways that I have grown as well, but these are the four big ones that specifically relate to our project. While all good things must come to an end, I'm hoping that this is not one of those things. I'm looking forward to continuing the partnerships I've established with the other teachers on my  this team next year so my new group of students can benefit from connecting with other classes from around the world!