Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blog Post #1: If I Built A School

IF I Built A School

Me? Given a chance to build my very own school with my own ideas? No restrictions or limitations? Oh, the possibilities!

While reading Krissy Venosdale's blog post "If I Built A School," a million ideas were running through my mind. One thought: How creative is she? Another thought: She has obviously had a dream to build a school for quite sometime! A dreamy thought: I want to teach at that school! And after I completed reading her post "If I Built A School," my last thought was that I want my own children to attend a school that hires educators like Krissy Venosdale who blatantly exhibit a passion for making the learning experience for children not only interesting, but extremely exciting. If I was elementary, middle, or high school age and walked into Krissy Venosdale's school that she described in her blog post, I would literally think the experience was just as awesome as taking a trip to Disney World! Colorful walls, comfy nooks and crannies to collaborate, a cafeteria that is like a coffee shop, science labs stocked full endless supplies to experiment with, a TREE-HOUSE in the library, and classrooms overflowing with all of the latest technology? Who am I kidding? I want to attend that school right now! How absolutely incredible would this school be? Something else I found interesting in her blog post were her thoughts on curriculum. Krissy Venosdale writes, "Curriculum would be a loose road map based on standards that's traveled through. Digging deep, not covering the curriculum, would be the requirement." With the wheels in my brain turning, I then go on to listen to Sugata Mitra's "Build A School in the Clouds." The wheels in my brain came to a halt. No school? Only learning experiences? Based on Sugata Mitra's experiments in less-fortunate, foreign-speaking countries around the world, if children are given something that puzzles their brain, like in this case, a computer in the English language, the children WILL figure out not only just how to use it, but how to use it efficiently, and teach others how to use it too! So now not only could the future possibly hold loosely followed curriculum, but no school at all? This is quite fascinating to me. Sugata Mitra has a very valid point when speaking about where did what we currently learn in school come from. The current teachings come from many, many, MANY years ago. Many, many years ago this type of education worked quite well. But what about now? Shouldn't a child's education be relevant to "now?" Isn't an education supposed to prepare students for the future? After reading Krissy Venosdale's blog post "If I Built A School" and Sugata Mitra's speech "Build A School in the Clouds," I have gathered my thoughts, and started building my dream school with their ideas still in mind. Here we go!

My Dream School

If I built an elementary school, it would be massive in size! I would throw away the school zoning maps and invite any and every student from all over to attend my elementary school. In the school, I would have hundreds of large classrooms. In each classroom, I would place no more than fifteen students, so those students would each get plenty of one-on-one attention that is needed from their instructor. Each student, K-6th, would have access to their own individual iPad that is kept in the classroom and is not taken home with them. Activities would be completed daily on the iPads, whether it be a cool game that helps second graders recognize their sight words, or a history project for fifth and sixth graders. Like Krissy Venosdale, I would want colorful walls in the hallways with students' artwork hanging on all over the walls. In several areas of the school I would want nooks and crannies that have comfy chairs, bean bags, rugs, and small refrigerators with FREE water and fruit for students to snack on in order to kill the afternoon munchies. In these nooks and crannies students could meet up to discuss class projects, good books, homework, and ideas about their future. In my elementary school, I would want awesome art instructors for each grade level that students visited daily to express his or her own creativity. PE wouldn't be running laps around the gym Monday through Thursday and kickball on Friday. PE would be constructing daily exercises that they can and need to be used the rest of their life along with informing students on healthy eating habits. Music, dance, running clubs, and art clubs would all be offered as extra curricular activities. I would want all the teachers and principles in my school to be OK with change. I would also want weekly meetings for teachers to discuss the latest and greatest in the technology world, and to discuss any and all new tools each and every teacher uses in his or her classroom. The ideas for my dream school go on and on, but here is a closer glimpse of the detail in the classroom...

What I Want My Students to Know

First of all, I want my students to know that I, their teacher, am their absolute biggest fan! I want my students to know that I genuinely care about their success not only in my classroom, but their success throughout the rest of their life. I want my students to feel confident that they have an instructor that will provide them with the opportunities to learn about EVERYTHING imaginable that will prepare them for their future outside of my classroom. I want my students to know that I expect them to respect one another, along with respecting me. Most importantly, I want my students to know that I have dedicated my entire life to each and every one them. Their success is what will make my career so incredibly fulfilling!

What I Want My Students to be Able to Do

I want my students to think of school as learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Learning new material or learning how to use a new piece of technology can be intimidating and scary, just like your first time on a bike with no training wheels. So you are on your bike and you get ready to push off the ground to start the momentum and you put both feet on the pedals. An adult is behind you to help build your confidence, and help you get back on your bike if you happen to fall off. Think of me, your teacher, as the adult behind you on the bike. If you are stuck on a math problem, I will be there to encourage you to try a different way to solve the problem. If your grades are slipping, I will be there to remind you that what you are exposed to and learn every day in class is key to being successful in our world. So after about the third time you fall off your bike, you finally understand that you cannot lean to far to the right or left or you will fall off! Attempt number four on the bike, smooth sailing! Now you can ride your bike to your neighbor's house, which happens to be your best friend's house. Learning how to do new things is a process. I want my students to be able to try over and over and over again until they get that difficult math problem correct. I want my students to rely on me for encouragement, because I can promise my students that I will provide them with positive reinforcement daily. I also want my students to have the drive to become educated human beings, and I know their drive and passion for learning will start with me.

My Primary Way of Teaching My Students

Hands-on, hands-on, hands-on! Continuous lecturing will go through one ear of the student and out the other. I know this, because I was once in elementary school also. Each student having access to a computer and/or iPad in the classroom will be key to carrying out my daily lesson plans. What better way to teach a student than handing an iPad over to them and saying, "Here. I believe in your ability to figure this out on your own." I want my students to be able to explore technology on their own and be able to tell me about cool things they find online. This builds a trust between the teacher and the student, and gives the student a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I will also include project-based learning in my classroom on a regular basis. I want my students to work together in small groups where they will learn from one another and learn to work together as a team.

The Tools I Will Use Daily In My Classroom

The tools I will use daily in my classroom will be crucial in carrying out my lesson plans. I will use the smart board, iPads, and computers and all of the following tools will be used by myself and my students on a daily basis. I will consider myself and the students as tools in the classroom because each day the students will all be learning new things, whether that be the student learning from myself, or the students learning from one another.

The Role My Students Will Play In My Classroom

The students in my classroom will play many roles throughout each and every day. They will play the role of the student where they are receiving instruction from myself. The student will also play the role of a teacher in the classroom. Students can learn so much from each other's discoveries and also mistakes. My classroom will be very verbally and physically interactive. I want to have tons of feedback during class time and I want my students to feel free to come to me with any kind of question. The classroom setting will be very physically interactive with hands-on projects that keeps their attention at all times. I will provide my students with the most efficient way of learning new things in the classroom, starting and ending with project-based learning.