It’s possible! The Modern Learners theme for the next year and likely the next decade is “It’s Possible!” December is normally a time. I spend some time looking back on the year and looking forward to the next. This year, I’m spending December reflecting on an entire decade. I’m thinking about it at a deeper level than the side by side pictures of 2009 and 2019 people are posting on social media. I’m thinking about my “defining moments” of the decade. The ones that have changed my views and more importantly MY PRACTICE in the field of education.
Before I get too far into the reflection, I have to say I usually spend most of December searching for the perfect paper planner too. Paper planners have NEVER been something that has worked for me, but knowing that doesn’t prevent me from wanting one. I’d love for you to drop a note in the comments or send me an email if you have the perfect planner suggestion for me! Digital or print…I just want a cool planner!
🤦♀️ Can’t Believe I Had to Do That
In 2009, I was a high school English teacher. My school required that I make Accelerated Reader 10% of my students overall grade. I remember explaining to parents at conferences that simply not doing AR (aka not reading a book) would automatically reduce a student’s letter grade by at least one level. 🤦♀️ OMG! I can’t even…seriously…the reflection mortifies me!
In 2019, I have many conversations with many people about grades and whether or not they do more harm than good. It is my experience with Accelerated Reader being a mandated 10% of a student’s grade that serves as the basis for my belief that grades do not tell us whether or not a student has learned.
I’m dreaming about schools in 2029 being gradeless. With the work of Teachers Going Gradeless and Mastery Consortium, it’s definitely possible!
I’m NOT asking you to Change; I’m Asking you to LEARN!
In 2010, I was hired as a high school special education teacher. That is where I met the students who taught me the most about learning. It was here that I realized the thousands of mistakes I made in my English classroom. It was here that I began to study Universal Design for Learning, and it was here that I decided the experience of school needed to change.
In 2019, I’m serving as the Wisconsin Statewide Systems Coach for UDL, a partnership between the Department of Public Instruction, and the regional service agencies throughout the state. The work is just beginning, but it is great work that I feel really good about.
I’m dreaming about a 2029 where Universal Design for Learning is the lens through which school experiences are shaped. Based on the work I see in my state and across the globe, it’s definitely possible.
It’s Possible to Focus on Learning
In 2012, my career path led me to becoming a principal in a small, rural district where I served just under 400 students PK-12. At this school, I realized that to build a culture of learning, everyone must learn. Teachers too. This is where I coined the epigraph of my life. “I’m not asking you to change; I’m asking you to learn.”
In 2019, I share that mantra with my 31 local school districts and our Modern Learners Community all the time. I know many of them have adopted it in their work. I’m working with school leaders around the globe to design school experiences that create the conditions for all people to be learners.
I’m dreaming about a 2029 where the focus of schools is on learning. We think it is now, but having asked hundreds of school leaders to define learning, I promise you we don’t have coherence around what learning actually means. Over the next decade, I dream of seeing a shift from testing and accountability to getting focused on learning and being comfortable with our inability to measure it as we currently do. Begin with the simple question, “What do you believe about learning?” Do this and find coherence at your school. Focusing on learning in schools is simple and it’s definitely possible.
How have your practices as an educator changed over the last decade? Come on over to Modern Learners Community and share your experiences there! We’d love to support you on your learning journey in 2020 and throughout the entire decade to come!