What learning should we celebrate in school?

Reflecting on my reflections.

I’m going to get all metacognitive here and go for some introspection. For the past week I’ve been writing a reflection of each of the six questions brought up in the #mschat for the week of Dec 3rd, 2014. I’m sitting here feeling a few different emotions but mostly I’m feeling empowered.I didn’t know I would really rethink some of my teaching practices after going through this exercise. After taking a few days away to reflect without writing and celebrate my son’s 2nd birthday, I’m ready and raring to go. It has invigorated my thinking about pedagogy and has inspired me to continue with this thought experiment for another week. So without further adieu, here we go.

What learning should we celebrate in school?

Interesting question. I’m a firm believer in celebrating achievement but I before the chat started, I was having a hard time getting my head around what the moderator @Blocht574 meant by ‘celebrations’.  I had an opportunity to think about the question before #mschat go going and had prepared a few tweets before hand. My first comment was a call for clarification.

  • Can we define ‘celebrations’? Is it a class party? or celebration of the victories that come with effort and learning triumphs?

The word ‘celebration’ to me carries a few different meanings. My inclination was that a celebration was some sort of class party. I was a little disappointed that it seemed that I was going to have to figure it out on my own… Which I did as the chat progressed. Most other participants felt that these celebrations of learning fell into one of two camps.

  1. Small, informal celebrations intended for one student, or a small group of students, who worked through a particularly difficult process and overcame some sort of challenge.
  2. A large semi-formal to formal Wall of Fame (or Fridge of Fame) where the entire class is celebrating a culmination of learning. Shout outs/awards to specific students for going above and beyond what was required.

***A quick aside*** One thing that I’m beginning to notice in many twitter chats that I’ve been attending is that there is this pervasive feeling of pressure to write something witty, introspective, or profound. I often feel out of my element because I am a much better conversationalist face-to-face and have always struggled with writing cogent thoughts that are funny and witty and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It reminds me quite a bit of Fakebooking… the phenomenon of people posting to their Facebook pages all the awesome stuff they do but none of the reality of what they struggle with. One of the reasons I made a point in this particular chat to express what I struggled with later in the questions… OK enough of the rant, back to the chat.

Most participants were eager to share: Here were my first contributions to the conversation:

  • We should celebrate the victories that are only found through discoveries that are hard fought.
  • Celebrate moments in time that hold special meaning JUST FOR THAT CLASS. #buildingrelationships

I was hoping that people in the chat talked about some of the things they struggle with when trying to organize or promote celebrations in class. I was a little bit of a let down when it felt like everyone had the most amazing idea for promoting celebrations of learning. Some of their celebrations I agreed with, some I didn’t. Let’s take a look.

@mr2gaw mentioned:

I like to celebrate failures with the Ss because it typically means they tried something new. Can’t nail it the first go around.

I think I know what he was trying to get at in this tweet but to me the idea of celebrating a failure is different from ‘supporting’ a student through failure and helping them arrive at success. I like to celebrate the accomplishment of achievement. That’s not to say that we need to look at failure with through a different paradigm, one that makes failure not as an end to a process but as a moment of reflection and refinement or pivot to try a new approach.

@mrgranito said:

Sometimes it’s the small celebrations that keep the Ss motivated and on task.

I have to agree with this sentiment. Personally I usually celebrate by giving a little shout out at the end of each class to people who stepped outside of their comfort zones for the day (another little tidbit that I forgot to mention during the chat) or a wink or nod just to that one kid who I sensed ‘needed it’ during a class. Never forget that is often the little things that make a big difference.

@ezigbo_ mentioned something that is near and dear to my heart when he said:

A new learning. If you didn’t know it but now you do, that’s progress.

This is the kind of philosophy I take to my students daily. People in #mschat and #edchat have heard this sentiment from me before. “Always try to be a little bit better today than you were yesterday”.

My takeaway from this part of the chat was that teachers go to great lengths to ensure students feel that learning is cool, learning is fun, and learning is a lifelong process that even adults struggle with. Teachers acknowledge students’ efforts when they are knee deep in the mess of learning and feel as if they are lost in the weeds with no way out. Teachers create a safe environment where students can be sure that someone is watching, admiring and waiting to praise their efforts when they pull through a failure or achieve a success.

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