Time to pen something as to ‘where we are right now’ – the reality!
One term has been completed.
What I know is this … these spaces have the potential, if we let them, to be transformative for our learners. They need to be willing to unlearn and relearn. These spaces also have the potential for us as educators to be transformative. We need to be willing to commit to the philosophy that things don’t have to be done the way they have always been done; but also willing to be unconventional because doing what we have always done before in these flexible learning spaces is defeating their purpose.
What I know is …I am loving it! It is also WICKEDLY exciting to have a new co-teacher who is just as passionate to continue the journey with.
BUT there are things you need to know.
I have been learning about collaborative teaching and learning for a number of years. So to finally be in a collaborative space and following this pedagogy is beyond exciting.
What I know now is this … how important it is to have done the preparation. To have made significant enough changes in our own mindset and practice so that we are not simply bringing traditional mindsets and pedagogy into a new space. For me, this blog post from Claire Amos resonated when I read it back in 2015 and resonates still today. Working in an ILE certainly does require courage as she says. Courage with pedagogy that is different to traditional classrooms because this involves constant risk-taking BUT also courage on a personal level because working in an ILE is isolating. The time needed to collaborate with the team takes up all the spare time.
Working collaboratively with another educator is a very different from what many of us have done for many years. It is not as simple as put two people together with the standard ratio of learners and things will be as they always have. This blog post suggests co-teaching is “two adults who regularly make decisions that impact their kids’ social, emotional, behavioural, and academic progress”. It is not saying we make decisions for them but we are constantly discussing how we can make the most impact on progress – on all levels. This is a different beast!
This blog post from Steve Mouldey was also valuable when getting my head around how co-teaching would look like in a collaborative space. It is possibly something to go back to now and discuss with our team whom I consider all learning leaders. Another graphic which we have seen since and one Steve writes about too is this one. I think now is a good time to sit and discuss what this looks like in our collaborative space.
Working collaboratively, however, is not only about the time spent in the classroom with the kids – as we have found out. Working collaboratively also involves planning collaboratively, instructing collaboratively, reflecting collaboratively, and assessing collaboratively. So what this means is – every moment you get to collaborate at any stage of this process is vital.
Working collaboratively means finding time to collaborate on all these levels. I am not planning, instructing, reflecting, assessing like I have done for 20+ years – on my own anytime and anywhere I wanted to. It is different now. This now has to be done with my co-teacher when it suits both of us. What we are finding is that any moment we can grab to discuss what has just taken place or what is the next thing to take place, or something which happened with a learner on an emotional or social level, or the Wifi which wasn’t working properly so the particular task wasn’t attempted so we need to come back to it, or someone needed one of us to do some just in time teaching, or someone else has completed something and need guidance as to the next thing – OR WHATEVER IT MAY BE – this sort of collaboration needs time. So what we are finding is, we use any time we can grab to have these quick conversations which often means using interval and lunchtimes as well as every afternoon for the deeper conversations.
By its design, working in an ILE, although we have our collaborative team to talk to, is isolating. It takes courage to be in this position because it often looks like something else.
The courage needed to work collaboratively with modern pedagogy is the other side. When you are working in a space like this with twice as many learners it is different. It requires constant energy (no time to sit and check emails), it requires connecting with 60 kids rather than 30 about who they are as learners (are my intrinsic learners having their voice heard? Are my self regulated learners being challenged enough? Am I personalising the learning enough so everyone is having success?), are we providing enough scaffolding for all our learners (like a traditional classroom there is a huge range of ability – and this is doubled), are we holding some back unnecessarily (are there some learners who are self regulated enough to move on), do we have the resources needed to encourage a particular pathway of learning (we are encouraging problem-based/project-based learning but is there the time/resources available to make this happen). There are so many things to consider when practising true modern learning. There is also the risk that not running reading, writing, and maths groups the way it has always been done, looks like we are not ‘teaching properly’. Understanding true personalised pedagogy this is key … by everyone.
Then … hanging menacingly over all this self directed, engaging, authentic, relevant, and empowered learning are the expectations to get learners meeting standards. When you are practising personalised learning even the term standard contradicts everything an innovative learning environment is about.
Nothing and no one is standard.
This becomes the biggest hurdle to leap … and worthy of a separate blog post!
To conclude, what is happening in our ILE is exciting and it is this that brings me to school everyday at 7.15am. I absolutely believe in this pedagogy or to push the boundary even more … heutagogy
The reality then … there is so much more to this than a modern space with two teachers and 60 learners.
THAT is the tip of the iceberg.
I would love to hear from other educators with their ‘reality’ stories:)
Some other readings of interest: