IB, NGSS, and Dr. Seuss

So school has officially started and I feel like the teacher I always wanted to be. So many of the things last years group taught me, I am actually using, to build relationships and set the tone for a great year. The kids are responding. Another teacher came up to me to let me know that a student told her, “Mr. Lockhart’s class is my favorite. It is a safe place and he cares.” Can’t express how much this means to me.

My school is an IB MYP school and with that we have decided to do grades a little different. We have separated out the Approaches To Learning (ATL) (these are in many ways VERY similar to NGSS SEP), the skills students use to access the content, from actual Achievement assignments. We even have a category called progress that allows the student to struggle and work through material without it impacting their grades. I will probably write a post soon that will walk through this but it has been amazing the discussions I have had with my students. They are working harder and taking more chances because they are not worried about the grade. Isn’t that what learning should be about?

I told them on day 1 that throughout the year they will fail, and during our first design challenge they did. The goal was to build the tallest free standing tower with 3 sheets of paper and 6 in. of tape. They designed, constructed, evaluated, and reflected. They then repeated the process.

As they reflected on the activity and what they learned from it a couple of themes came to light, 1) Time and material management, 2) group selection (+ and -), 3) Not having a well thought out plan, and 4) NEVER GIVING UP. Even though they “failed” (did not meet the goal) they walked away with valuable life lessons. I told them that I want them trying. If you fail ok, but what is your next step? Always be thinking about what you can do to improve. I am here to help.

After doing this activity I wanted to know who these students were and what they cared about. I have no chance to reach them unless I show them I care and that they are special. So I read them The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I did not read it for the science content but rather the second to last page. See IB MYP has these things called Global Context. It is a way of helping students understand their role and responsibilities in a global society.  On the next to last page the Once-ler tells the boy, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” But I did not stop there. I asked my kids to design a graphic that took it one step further. “What do you care enough about that would cause you to take action?” See we all care about a lot of things but only a few that we would actually take the time to do something about. Family, friends, faith, illness, environment, sports, the list goes on and on. Many of my students have never thought about what they care about. But during this activity they were starting to think of ways they could use their passions to HELP. So by the start of next week I will have a wall full of the passions of my students that they are willing to use to help.

Now a wall is nice, but it will be my goal to help them see that the NGSS: SEP, DCI, CCC and IB: ATL, Learner Profile, and focus on community service, will give them skills and tools to make a difference. Because each student is in my room for a reason, and UNLESS you (student) care a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Loving my Job,

Nathan

Reflecting and Preparing

Last school year was one of the most difficult school years of my young professional career. I was faced with a group of students that were dealing with some mental health issues, crummy home lives, and an expectation that I hold their hand through everything. I wished I would have known this going in. I approached the year like any other except for the excitement of NGSS! My plans were big and expectations even bigger. Little did I know that I was in for a year of hard lessons.

Lesson 1: I underestimated the challenges.

We jumped right in with NGSS SEPs and talked to kids about how we would be developing these throughout the year. We looked at the progressions and determined that we were in the lower elementary years and no where near the 7th grade levels. We agreed that it was OK and we would spend the year working on them while focusing on improvement. What I didn’t take into consideration was how difficult this would be. Students have “learned” a certain way for 6 years and have developed habits that are HARD to break. My frustration would often show with the students I couldn’t afford to lose. I spent the rest of the year working to earn their respect and trust.

Lesson 2: Earning the respect of my students.

I screwed up with several students. Once I realized that I was the problem we sat down and talked. I made the changes they requested. It was amazing to see how this impacted the kids as well as me. This year’s students will have a better teacher then my students did last year.

Lesson 3: NGSS is DIFFERENT

My students wanted the answer, the right way to do _______, and reassurance that they were doing it correctly. When they struggled they would give up. This was different then just teaching kids facts to memorize. I knew right away that I couldn’t do this alone. I began to work with several teachers in the district to bounce ideas off of and learn from their experiences. I also sought out a Professional Learning Network through social media. Following blogs and twitter feeds like #ngsschat, and #Sci4allSs allowed me to learn from teachers and experts from around the country. They gave me a new perspective and reminded me the importance of the Framework for K-12 Science Education. This was a must read this summer and really helped me understand the standards.

Lesson 4: Students are the key

I know this shouldn’t have been a lesson, I should have known this. While participating in Next Generational Instructional Design Network this summer we did an activity called Shark Tank. I love the show but did not think the same for this activity. We were going to begin the planning of a unit and then pitch our ideas to students. In my head I envisioned the students coming in and being yes people because they were scared to tell a table of adults their true thoughts. I didn’t expect quality feedback and believed it would be a waste of time. I WAS WRONG. As we shared ideas you could read so much into the student’s facial expressions and responses to our questions. Their passion for people, community service, and helping showed through in a way that I never imagined. For me they changed the focus of the unit from very straight forward to engaging students. This was not something difficult and it did not take a lot of time, but the ramifications of these conversations allowed us to make changes and move forward on a truly engaging NGSS 3D learning experience.

What is new this year.

  1. A renewed excitement for getting to know my students and allowing them to drive the learning.
  2. I will be more patient with my students and work through their learning habits to get them to be independent thinkers and problem solvers.
  3. A true focus on phenomena based instruction while using all three dimensions (Cross Cutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, and Disciplinary Core Ideas)
  4. An increased presence on social media
  5. Inviting students into weekly planning meetings and allowing them to share their opinions on what we have created. If they can’t get engaged then we MUST do something different. My hope is that this will also empower them to have conversations with their other teachers…
  6. I want to support the elementary teachers in our feeder schools and work with my department to bring back a passion in science education.

Hope everyone has a fantastic year and I look forward to learning with you.