Went to a conference today. The first thing teachers ask when they hear you are attending a workshop is "Where is it?" Then you find out what kind of food you will get. I heard it was good food. The rumors were true. Annnnyway..
Usually, I am physically forced to attend workshops. I'm not great at doing things like.. sitting still and paying attention.
Those who can, do.. those who can't, teach! :)
This workshop, however, was one I was actually excited about. It was about gifted children with special learning needs. The information presented could apply to all groups of children, in my opinion.
Dr. Susan Baum presented, and she was just dynamic. I told her I wanted to follow her around the world and just listen to her talk. So, not only did I get a top notch lunch, I got practical advice I would actually use, as well as about 15 cups of coffee! COFFEE! (unrelated to my difficulty sitting still, I am certain ;) ).
Dr. Baum made me think. We were told we were going to complete a group project. We were given four options and asked to put them in the order we would want to do them. Our options were:
Being a word nerd, writing was my number 1. Drawing and Acting were a tie for second, and Building was my third. Hand me a pencil and keep your Legos.
Then, Dr. Baum switched it up. We actually had to work in our areas of weakness. I headed to the block table, where our assignment was to show the relationship among the various classes of the Middle Ages. Hmmm. We discussed. We built (punny!) on each others' ideas. We worked out a pretty cool little structure. I was pleased.
Next, we worked in our areas of strength. Our little group of writers decided to write a poem. I was excited. I love writing poems! I love wacky rhymes and nonsensical words. This, however, was a disaster (in my opinion). We ALL thought we knew best. Our group disagreed on just about everything, and even when it seemed like we agreed we really weren't understanding what the others were saying. I let myself fade into the background, uninterested in getting involved in the volatile dynamic. I began to remember why I disliked group work (unless I was slacking and letting others do the work.. AKA high school).
As we discussed later, I shared my thoughts with the group. I know everyone didn't feel the same as me, but here are my reflections:
In the building group, I felt safe sharing my ideas. No one felt comfortable with the activity. We were all unsure. I think this led to us being more open to LISTENING to each others' ideas. In the writing group, I was worried about looking or sounding stupid. I disliked the argumentative tone of the group so much, I actually left the group for a while. I found various reasons I needed to walk around the room. I felt jealous of another group that I thought was working better then mine.
Soooo.. now I take what I learned into the classroom. It can be scary to try to do new things. I was uncomfortable with the building idea. After working with the writing group, I understood to a greater extent why my students go into "shut down mode". I work very hard to foster an atmosphere of acceptance and cooperation in my classroom. My room is safe. You won't be laughed at for making a mistake or taking a risk. I LOVE out of the box thinking. I want to encourage it from my students. I want to try MORE to take students' out of their comfort zones. I also need to closely observe groups - I got nothing out of the writing activity. I was too aggravated. I've been trying this year to incorporate more art into the classroom - I need to think bigger. Technology! Music! Drama!
I need blocks!