I just returned from the 2017 Tri Association Annual Educator’s Conference in Costa Rica. As usual, the conference was a well-organized whirlwind of ideas and inspiration. Now that I am back home, I wanted to take some time to reflect on and internalize what I learned. As I looked through my notes, I found a number of quotes from conference speakers that really stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to share them with you so that they might have the same profound impact on your teaching. Here they are:
“Modern historians don’t produce five-paragraph essays. They produce things like documentaries.” Heidi Hayes Jacobs
I attended a two-day pre-conference delivered by Heidi and Allison Zmuda entitled Projects, Capstones, Quests: Designing Personalized Learning Experiences for the Modern Learner K-12. I was thinking of ways of integrating their project-planning ideas into my 7th grade Social Studies class and asked Heidi for ideas about delivery ideas. That’s when she dropped this quote on me. It made me think about the kind of delivery options we give to students (essays, presentations, etc.) and the ways in which our students currently communicate and will communicate in the future. Are we really preparing them for their future? Or, are we taking what worked for us and bringing that into our classrooms? I realize that we have to rigorously prepare students for the challenges ahead in college, but why is it okay to use bad learning practices to prepare students for bad learning practices?
“Add ‘independently’ to the end of all tasks for students because we want them to be able to do them on their own.” Heidi Hayes Jacobs
This is another HHJ quote that resonated with me. Sometimes I feel like I am too involved in classroom instruction – I am talking too much during discussions, I provide too much advice/changes when grading student writing. I need to be more like a coach and have students more involved in their learning. Instead of taking out my trusty red pen and writing comments like “new paragraph”, or “capitalize this”, I should have students discover their errors and do their own repairs.
“Every teacher needs to model reading and unpacking passages because each teacher and subject looks at things from a different point of view.” Douglas Fisher
At the conference, I delivered my own presentation, entitled All Teachers are Language Teachers. My premise was (and is) that language development is not just the responsibility of the Language Arts teacher. All teachers need to play a role in helping students discover and effectively use academic and content language. So, when I heard Dr. Fisher drop that quote, I felt just a little vindicated. I also felt terrified because I was presenting just after him and my version was definitely not as articulate or research-supported as his! Anyhow, it was a good reminder that it doesn’t hurt to develop student language skills in all subject areas since we will all bring something different and new to the table.
“When it comes to class discussions, the one who is talking the most is the one who is learning.” Douglas Fisher
Ugh. Did this one sting. If I am truly serious about developing student discussion skills, I need to do waaaay less talking!
“Eighty percent of new ideas come from practitioners, not researchers.” Michael Fullan
I took this quote from Michael Fullan’s keynote What Matters Most: The Role of Coherence Making and Deep Learning. Going to professional conferences can be a humbling experience for teachers. There is a lot of “stop doing this” and “you need to do more of that”. So, when Fullan’s words were a needed reminder that teachers can make a difference – we are in the classroom every day and sometimes we do amazing things. Maybe if we can do more in terms of sharing those ideas and experiences with each other, we can make a bigger difference.
There were lots more gems I jotted down in my notes, but these are the ones that really moved me. Hopefully, my other takeaways will turn up in future articles.