Sunday, August 6, 2017

The DEEP end!?!?

Really, July!? It was just too hot out and you couldn't handle it anymore, huh? Fine... we'll see your departure and raise you 180ish days of inspiration and learning! #winning

Welcome back, my friends to what I anticipate will be an amazing 2017-2018 school year! I do hope you prioritized some down-time for yourself this summer! While the Leiker's didn't take as much time off as we would have liked, I definitely found some time to soak in the summer sun at the pool... unfortunately, it was for Owen's swim lessons, so it wasn't always as relaxing as one would hope. We had him in the pool last year for lessons at 6 months old and things went very well, but THIS year... as an 18 month old... not quite the same experience. While he was screaming "Mommy!!!" from the top of his lungs, mid-back float, I was off to the side wondering why his swim instructor took him straight into the deep end and didn't let him waddle his way in so he could get comfortable with the water first (thinking that would have helped). I was talking to one of my colleagues about this, whose son is a swimmer, and she quickly said, "Getting in the pool at the deep end will feel the same to him as getting in at the shallow end. He's either going to feel water on his legs with the safety of running out of the shallow water, or he's going to feel water on his legs knowing he has to swim to get out. You do want him to swim, don't you?"

Ughhh... she got me! And that made so much sense! It's the same "sandwich effect" I often despise as school years unfold. (I'm guilty of this myself.) You know, where you ease your students into your learning environment & talk about how they'll learn, watch them problem solve their hearts out the bulk of the year by actually using those learning strategies, then ease them out with "standardized test prep" the last month or so. If PBL, or any good inquiry-based learning experience, is so impactful with our students... why do we ease them in and out of it instead of just making that the place where they swim all the time?!?

The start of the school year is crucial. To acclimate students in your class to you, to one another, to the a culture of learning and engagement! So why not start the year in the deep end and begin with a project where they're learning the "standards" of your school culture and applying them as they begin to navigate your class, subject area, hallways, cafeteria, parking lot, etc.!?  Have an open house coming up in the first few weeks? WHAT A GREAT PRESENTATION FORUM! Have students investigate your syllabus, essence of collaboration, importance of the PBL process, etc. in the first week or so and prepare a presentation where they can showcase these "standards" to their parents? (THEIR FIRST PRESENTATION! impressed will those parents be, huh!?)

Yes, your students will need support from you in this process. That swim instructor didn't throw my little Owen into the pool without being their to catch him and support him as he learned the skills needed to go under water and kick his way to the wall.  You can't open the doors to your school/class and say "PBL TIME!!! GOOD LUCK, LITTLE ONES!!!" without having a floatation device off to the side at the ready to support them through their learning and experience.  But if you expect to ease them into new learning.... know that it will be easier for them to run out of the pool screaming for the familiarity of what they know from worksheets and direct instruction every day and having you answer all their questions instead of getting them to think for themselves. Instead, I challenge you to take them to the deep end so it becomes necessary for them to learn to problem solve (swim) their way to new conclusions.  I will also say... "brace yourself." They will probably 'scream' a little in the process because it's new and uncomfortable. But, it's in the supported discomfort that real learning happens.

Peace, love, and pool time,


P.S. Now, after this summer's swim lessons, Owen DID learn to come up from under water, turn to face the wall and kick his legs to propel him forward. Despite the screaming, he really WAS learning and now enjoys jumping in from the wall all by himself!

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