Learning and the 7 Stages of Grief

By Kathryn Kindrat – Middle School Teacher, Seba Beach School

Throughout my life I have learned so many new things, I continue to learn every day, and I am excited to continue learning… that doesn’t mean it has been easy. I recently read a Twitter post about a poetry project, made by a university student doing her practicum in Calgary. She and her cohort student teacher partner developed an incredible inquiry based poetry unit, the likes I have never seen before. In her words:

Our Grade 6 Humanities classes completed a three step writing method that culminated in a kinetic poem. Each phase required students to delve deeply into their thoughts and wonders, broaden their knowledge of poetry and powerful writing, become familiar with different computer programs and websites, and tap into their creativity.

Students documented their work using the online notebook program Evernote which was synced and shared so we could monitor progress instantaneously. We placed emphasis on the process rather than the product and assessed students by giving them formative feedback on their written reflections completed after each phase. The student’s ability to communicate their understanding and experiences was our evidence that meaningful learning took place.

To bring their poems to life, students used Keynote to create text animation. I was amazed how quickly they mastered the program and how they naturally collaborated to share their knowledge. Watching the finished products proves that richer language was used to communicate deeper messages and this makes these poems worth producing.

– University of Calgary student teacher, Lisa Nguyen           http://calgaryscienceschool.blogspot.com/2011/11/poetry-that-moves.html

I must note, I consider myself to be fairly current in both new technologies and teaching practices, still I was blown away. I think you will understand what I mean if you check it out. Here is a blog post that will give you a quick intro and some product examples: Poetry that Moves.  And here is the actual class website that outlines the complete process: Poetry Project.

I am ashamed to say, after the initial feeling of awe wore off, my next reaction wasn’t one of excitement; rather, I boarded a roller coaster of emotion and had one heck of a ride. Naturally, as a teacher, I buried any negativity I had, and swore not to speak of it. Then I thought about the, Obvious to You. Amazing to Others., video that we watched in our first session. I reflected on the idea that perhaps my shameful feelings, and the journey that I went on, are things that others could relate to, identify with and perhaps find comfort in, and maybe, I would feel better about the situation if I said something out loud. So here it goes.

Learning and the 7 stages of grief

Shock and Denial

As I looked over the website, the first thing that popped into my head was, yeah this is great, but… there is no way this is the work of a normal grade 6 class, they must be advanced and highly trained in the inquiry process. And I bet the unit took forever! There is no way to actually accomplish what she did while covering the rest of the curriculum objectives… and on and on. Then came the guilt came rushing in.

Pain and Guilt

I felt bad, like I wasn’t being the teacher that my students needed me to be. I had these physical pangs of guilt, thinking about how a university student is utilizing all the newest technology to its fullest potential, at the same time engaging and guiding the kids through the inquiry process. She not only facilitated some incredible learning, she documented the whole thing online, including video reflections made by the kids that actually showed their learning as it happened. UGH! I started beating myself up, thinking of how I needed to do more, be better…

After a little bit of ice cream and Jersey Shore (nothing makes you feel better about yourself than Jersey Shore), I thought about it again. That is when I got mad.

Anger and Bargaining

I thought to myself, of course she is able to do this amazing unit; that is all you have to do in your practicum! I am juggling 3 grades, with twice that in levels and adaptations, I coach, I take care of a home, I am so exhausted from all the work I do already, how can I possibly do MORE?!! I quickly realized that I was pissed off, not because this girl has it easy because that is not true, but because I care A LOT about the work I do and I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to give my students the best possible education I can. I just want to find a way to reach all of my students, deliver all of the content, create lifelong learners and maintain excellent relationships with every student. Is that too much to ask? Am I just not good enough?

Depression, Reflection and Loneliness

I was upset. I felt sad and alone, because I was sure that no other teacher would have this kind of reaction to witnessing such a powerful learning opportunity. Somewhere between berating my abilities and wallowing in self pity, I started reflecting on my own teaching practices and the things that I can do well, and realized something… I am not doing so bad.

The Upward Turn

I started thinking about some of the new technology and engaging activities that I have introduced/explored with my students, from using Animoto, Edmodo, YouTube, Glogster EDU, edublogs, to performing comedy routines, hosting critical thinking contests, participating in online debates and group poetry; the list goes on. I started thinking about what I could do, instead of the things I couldn’t.

Reconstruction and Working Through

I began brainstorming ways that I could adapt the unit and the process to fit with my kids, the context of the school and the resources available to me. I started getting excited at the possibility of introducing them to something they have never done before, not only in terms of the final product and technology, but also in the process.

Acceptance and Hope

I realized that before I could truly open my eyes and begin learning from my peer, I had to accept that learning can be uncomfortable at first, it can be downright depressing! I started to think about how it might be possible that kids go through similar emotions when tackling a difficult story, or a new math problem. Do they see other kids going through the motions easily and get mad that they are not yet at the same level? Do they feel bad about their own abilities? With support, can I help them get to that “Upward Turn”? Something clicked for me; I am not alone, learning something new, especially those big learning moments, can be hard, it is a journey, for better or for worse. Now I am at the hopeful stage. I am going to give this unit a try, I have no doubt that it will be difficult, especially the first time around, but I know we can do it.

I will leave you with this final thought, you are not alone. Cliché yes, but also true. I encourage others to talk about, not only their successes but also the journey, including all of the hills and valleys that they encountered along the way. If we tell ourselves or others that new learning should be easy, or come naturally, we are bound to give up if it isn’t or doesn’t. As twisted as it sounds, I prefer to think about learning as grieving, I know I will go through some tough moments, but if I give myself time and the benefit of the doubt, I will pull through and be stronger for it.

How does this relate to specifically to being a learning leader in the area of technology? Though the learning curve with technology is steep, being young and involved, I was naïve enough to think that nothing could scare me, but as I am learning, there is always something new – something better. We always have to be ready for that big scary plunge that takes us outside of our comfort zone, and to embrace all of the crazy feelings that are part of the package.

Things they do not teach you at University

As the teaching years go by,
I stop to think and sometimes sigh.
They never mentioned any of this in class,
Now I come across these mentions so fast.

For they taught us about inclusion,
Assessment, ethics and diversity.
but they left some things out in my university.
I write about moments that stopped me in my tracks,
making me think they never mentioned this to me.
So I share these moments at a cost to you that’s free…

1) How to work the photocopier
Now you may laugh at this one at first,
But to a student teacher, this thing is cursed!
Im sure we have all received emails on it being jammed,
And we all place bets on who was the one that crammed!
We also talk about who used the ink,
Who used it all, who was the Stink?
It never fails that it runs out of paper for me,
Making me ask the question, refill it or just flee?
But my favorite is when you try to get things unstuck,
Following the pictures slowly makes me feel like a schmuck.
Then there is scanning your documents in,
Then asking for help as your patience wears thin.
For the copy is sideways and keeps saying error,
Then comes our secretary to ends it’s rein of terror!

2)The Christmas Concert
Oh, hears to the magical time of year,
When everyone gets the schedule of cheer.
Practicing songs, actions and standing position,
As kids sing old, new and funny renditions.
They do not tell you what it all takes,
To make it flow nicely without any mistakes.
Then comes making the costumes and painting the set,
Getting it to match for the juggling reindeer duet.
I have also learned to be lined up and not to be late,
The minute they call you or you sit behind grade 8!
The concert is fun to watch and lovely to hear,
But I never get to for in always in the rear.
And one more Thing I forgot to mention,
It was my own fault, a lull in comprehension.
Little did I think about the school parking lot,
Until I’d parked and the school was a tiny dot.

I just wish at some point university would tell you these things,
So when thrown in the rapids, we would at least have water wings.

To be continued……..

A Picture’s Worth 1000 Words

Recently, we had Grade 8 students working in small groups create cyberbullying presentations to share with our Grade 5 and 6 students.  While they presented to their own LA classes, I recorded their audience particpation on my iPad.  It was AMAZING!  At first students were “performing” for the recording but eventually they forgot I was there.  The data I collected was fabulous.  For the vast majority of our students it reinforced our perception of their listening skills but for some it was eye-opening.  When I shared some of the recordings with individual students they were unaware of their behaviour – they really did need to be able to see it to believe it! A picture is worth a thousand words!!

Prep: Learning Leader Program: Session 1

We are looking forward to our first cohort session for the Learning Leader program starting on either November 30 or December 1 (depending on your preference).  As discussed in the first post, please ensure that you have the following completed:

 

  1. Set up a Twitter account.
  2. Set up an “Evernote” account.
  3. Read the following blog post: The Blended PLC.  This will be the model of this group.  There is a blogging component.
  4. Fill out this survey when you are done the above 3 steps: Learning Leader Survey

As the focus of this program is to build towards becoming a networked teacher, a lot of our time will be spent creating our own digital identity, and having an opportunity to connect with educators all over the world to build a Professional Learning Network (PLN).  Below is a diagram of the “Networked Teacher”:


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by courosa

 

Although some of our work will be using the iPad, it is not the “focus” of the program.  With that being said, please bring both your iPad and a laptop to the first session.

Below is the (planned) agenda for Session 1 (4-5:30):

    1. Introductions
    2. Using Evernote (iPad)
    3. Writing a blog post on the “Learning Leader Blog”
    4. Twitter (if time)

You will be sent some information prior to arriving to the session to login to the Learning Leader blog.  Please ensure that you keep that email so that you are able to contribute to the blog.

I am very excited about this opportunity. If you are interested, I encourage you to look at this Dean Shareski video on “Sharing” that has made a huge impact on my own learning. Again, this is optional, but it is definitely worth the time to watch.

If you have any questions that you feel may be applicable to the whole group, please feel free to write them in the comment section.

See you next week!