Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Educational Force Awakens

Principal ponderings...
A long time ago, in a school far, far, away...
It is surprising that it has taken me this long to write a post connecting education to Star Wars.  Of course many have been waiting 38 years for the 7th movie to come out.  I doubt many of you who read my blog have been waiting that long for this post.  I could say that my husband is forcing me to type this post.  But no, I decided it needed to be done.  So here goes...what can Star Wars teach us about teaching and learning? (Turns out I came up with 7 lessons to be learned...not necessarily one from each episode, but I figured it would be an appropriate number to come up with!)
1. Yoda's famous line..."Do or do not...there is no try."  Besides being a ringtone on my husband's phone, this famous line can be found everywhere.  In terms of education, I'm a little on the fence with this one.  Yes, we do want our students to just do learning.  But if I am thinking with a growth mindset, then I am going to expect to see a lot of trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and learning.  So I am going to have to contradict Yoda and say yes, there is try.

2. Obi Wan Kenobi was the legendary Jedi Master who trained Anakin Skywalker and mentored Luke Skywalker.  He is a wise man; there is no such thing as luck in education.  You don't just get lucky and teach amazing lessons.  You have to work hard at that.  Students don't just get lucky and learn everything that is taught to them.  They have to work hard to see results.  Teachers and students can't rely on luck; they have to put in the effort to get the results.

3. In the scene depicted above, Princess Leia is sending a message to Obi-Wan.  She records her message using the droid R2-D2.  First, I will say that thankfully teachers aren't the only hope for our students, but they certainly play a very large part.  Teachers are the ones who are going to help them master a new concept.  Teachers are the ones who are going to reteach them when they don't get it the first time.  Teachers are the ones who are going to get to know them so well that they will be able to tell when students are having an off day or need some extra attention.  Of course, this scene also makes me think that some students are able to get the help message sent to you, while for others there is a breakdown in the communication system so we have to always be aware of when our students need us.  Everyone remembers this line from the movie, but not everyone remembers the first part of the message..."I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit.  My father will know how to retrieve it.  You must see this droid safely delivered to him on Alderaan."
It was clear that information, important information was in the file.  And not to give anything away, but in the newest movie, Episode IIV, there is another droid carrying important information.  Basically, information saves the day in many of the Star Wars movies.  As educators, we know all about information being stored, shared, used to solve problems, etc.  And while the information is important, what's most important is how the information is used.

4. Ah Hans Solo...he certainly has some pretty simple, straight forward advice.  What I would take from this line?  You might teach a lesson one day that was out of this world amazing.  Or maybe you taught a unit and every single student rocked the assessment.  Or maybe you have set up a routine in your classroom and everyone knows exactly what to do.  That's great, but don't get cocky!  As we all know every day, every moment...things can change pretty quickly.  Don't think every lesson will turn out the way you want.  Don't assume that your students will get it every time.  Don't be surprised when some days nothing goes as planned.  Don't fall into a trap of being complacent.  Keep yourself open to change and be ready to learn from every experience.

5.  Well this one is a no-brainer for all of us in education.  Clearly, we all know that a child's mind is truly wonderful.  In fact, our students' brains are amazing!  To think of all that they soak up, take in, process, plan, explore, question...it's fascinating.  But it is good that Yoda can remind us of this key fact.  Thank goodness kids are so full of creativity and have no problem thinking outside of the box on a daily basis.  Let's make sure we don't get in their way!

6. Thank you Obi-Wan for reminding us to keep a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.  The Jedi Master, always full of good advice, knows the importance of failing.  Only if we fail, will we improve.  Think of those students who need reteaching or need to talk about and see their mistakes.  Then once they have an understanding of what they did wrong...we need to let them know how much more powerful they became, how they learned from their mistakes.

7. Leave it to C-3PO to present some rather depressing odds.  Sometimes, in some situations, with certain students, the odds are stacked against us.  But it's important to remember...even if the odds are 3,720 to 1...someone has to be that one.  And isn't it just the greatest feeling when you are the teacher that helps that one student?!  No matter what the odds are, don't give up on any student.  There's always a chance that you will be the one to reach them.

I think that's enough wisdom from Star Wars for now.  I know the force is strong with all of you Jedi Master educators.  And I can feel the strength of the force from our young Jedis in training.  As you battle time constraints, copy machines and evil budgets, always remember the power that is within all of you.  Don't let yourself get pulled to the dark side or impromptu parent conferences in the hallway.  Remember that it is your duty to keep awakening the educational force.  In the words of Yoda, "Much to learn, you still have."  And of course...

Currently reading:
I finished listening to the book Three Times Lucky.  I'm glad I chose to listen to this book because the Southern accents of the narrator made me enjoy this mystery even more.  And the main character is a spunky little 11-year-old that you can't help but cheer on as she tries to help solve a murder and find her "upstream mother."  I also finished reading the MCBA book Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace.  I certainly enjoyed the connections to music throughout this book.  This week, I am excited to listen to The Tale of Desperaux.
When I was a 2nd grade teacher, this was my absolute favorite book to read aloud to my class each year.  We would get to the end of a chapter, and students would beg me to keep reading "just one more."  And then I would love it when I would see my students copying Kate DiCamillo's style in their writing.  So I decided I would listen to the story again...because I love it!
I am reading another great author this week...Sharon Creech.  This week I am reading Hate That Cat.
I also started reading the book, Annika Riz, Math Whiz.  This book was written by the author that wrote Kesley Green, Reading Queen.  

Event this week:
Monday - Martin Luther King Day, No school
Tuesday - 4th grade chorus rehearsal 11:00-12:30, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Library Fund Committee Meeting @ 8:15 in the library, Jackie Reis, Media Relations Coordinator from DESE will be shadowing Liz in the am, 2nd grade chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym, Joint staff meeting with SU in the MSN Pit from 3:30-4:30
Thursday - 4th Grade Evening Concert in the PAC @ 7:00
Friday - Liz and Dianna at PBIS training with SLT @ Prescott in the am

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Have you checked out the front bulletin board?  Take a minute to read some of the reading resolutions and post one of your own!
  • I stopped by the Student Council meeting and saw the members doing some communication activities to practice leaderships and communication skills. 
  • Walking down the hallway, I happened to see Mrs. Collentro doing some counting practice with a student.
  • The special education teachers spent some time together in a training discussing how to best help a student with significant reading difficulties.  
  • Nancy, our behavior specialist, took some time on Friday morning to meet with the paras on her caseload and talk about how best to prompt students.

Check it out:
Take three minutes to watch this cool video called "The Tree."  I would say the force is strong with that little boy!  Great visual of growth mindset and how one person, a little boy, can do amazing things when he puts his mind to it. 

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