How do you move something huge? Something that must go but individually you struggle to get it even to lift a hair? You gather others. You work together. Eventually you can nudge that item to a different point.

Or, you move the little bits. One at a time. Little by little.

Once I began teaching I found that once things are established it can often be hard to change. What influences taking the risk? My career in education started by a simple question as I wrote about in Baptism By Fire. How could I continue to grow and be challenged? What would happen if my internal drive ran out?When I began teaching that was my fear. I was not going to be that educator. I would not give in to complacency.

My first observation provided the key. I had planned and planned. I did an awesome job “teaching” why elements form the number of bonds they do. Low and behold my principal was disappointed. He shared: “The kids should be doing the most work during a class period, not you”. He came back and I adjust that next lesson according to that statement, students were building models and determining symmetry, on their own with me montiroing. Needless to say, it went over well that I had listened, understood, and adapted based on his nudge.

That comment also motivated me to find professional development that was specifically connected to student centered learning activities. While my budget had been set he was the first to commend me for utilizing the opportunity to learn those strategies. Two year later, after he moved to superintendent, he wrote my letter of recommendation to be a member of the high school POGIL initiative with the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning group where I later became an associate editor. It was the initial nudge that started the process which forever impacted my career.

Member of the POGIL project were National Board Certified. At the time I wasn’t. “You should think about it. You could do it. I’ll help you”, words that forever changed my life, again. That professional nudge caused me to sign up, join a cohort group, pursue, and now I am helping others do the same.

As I began to appreciate these nudges I began to give them out. Encouraging people to apply for programs or try a new technique. Linda has shifted to a more project based classroom. Brad attended an ECET2. Rebecca and Darlene are in the their second year board certification. Amy is a master teacher. We shifted to doing pd during faculty meetings. The list goes on and on.

In the past year I have professionally nudged some who hadn’t moved, which is OK too. They are learning. Seeds are planted. Eyes are open.

And I have continued to be nudged. Nudged to write for NYSUT’s Educator Voice by our union president where I began two articles but had time to only finish one. But it will be published (I think) and I am happy with its quality. The reflective practice I achieved through that article helped me remain in the classroom as long as I did this year.

I began the year nudging and continue to do so. I nudged Linda to attend an ECET2, she did and loved it. I nudged people to present at our upcoming professional development day, a few have had their sessions filled and they are renewed from both being asked and the preparation that has gone into presenting. I nudged people to let others know the impact of their work, a mutually beneficial process.

I was also nudged into my new position. This wasn’t a hard nudge from anyone. It was many little nudges, many little “you should do it”, “you should try it”, “you are at the perfect point” to someone who was seeking a huge challenge. I have found it is good, really good. Something I now appreciate more than I could ever communicate.

Be aware of the nudges coming your way. Nudge others to move when you see an opportunity that they may not. Sometimes that is all it takes. Someone else verifying what they knew, someone else shining a light on one of the many ways.

We aren’t moving always moving boulders. We are moving people. Or just helping them to move themselves, even just a bit. Those little bits, they make a big difference.

#teachstrong  #blog 365 #renewal

A Momentous Shift

imageLooking back on my high school classes I remembered the classes where I was engaged as an active student. The classes where the activities were hands on and I wasn’t just jotting notes. Where conversations about the content naturally grew and I could make connections between the content and my life.

When I chose to be an educator, I vowed to make sure my classes were somewhere that I would have enjoyed being in. Teaching chemistry, this wasn’t easy. There are millions of power-points on various topics but in 2005 there were few other resources that I could get my hands on. And so I searched. I knew, in the first few minutes of the POGIL workshop, that this method would be appropriate and effective with my students.

The method, process oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL), uses cooperative groups to work through learning cycle activities. The activities have models with strategically developed explore, concept development and application questions for groups to work together on. Upon trying one the next year in my class the bustle of student voice, high level of engagement, general level of energy and student comments told me that this was the way to go. My students would be OK with this pedagogy.  I needed to integrate more of this style of lesson. The written activities in 2006 were for college level. I began to modify those in existence and/or write my own.

The benefit to not having a continuous flow of activities actually helped me assess their value. The days after my students did POGIL’s vs. other types of learning they:

-stated the class period went quickly

-had less problems or issues understanding the material the next day and even the next week

-demonstrated better long-term retention on summative assessments

The results facilitated my ‘momentous shift’ in creating the classes I teach today. Fortunately my first few years adopting the high school POGIL initiative was created and I was accepted to become apart of it. Through the initiative four books of classroom tested materials AP Biology, AP Chemistry, Biology, Chemistry were published.  Those were followed by an AP Chemistry lab manual that was developed in collaboration with PASCO.

Utilizing the POGIL activities I noticed the students were developing a strong interest in the material. They began asking questions that I wasn’t yet equipped to explain. The students began driving the pace the class was going. They thrived with content and shared an abundance of ideas helping to guide me on what to do next.

I now integrate POGIL activities using a variety of models ranging from online simulations to lab results. It isn’t the same thing every day. Everyday activities run and flow differently based on the students and topics. While I have integrated other strategies this remains a cornerstone of my practice.

POGIL webpage

POGIL implementation guide