Creating the Best You

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Meeting the needs of our learners is a complex task. First, it’s important to consider those we serve, to really get to know them and build relationships. What I did last year won’t necessarily work with my students this year, and vice-versa. Constantly adjusting our sails, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, heck sometimes even minute after minute, is all part of this profession. New ideas are brought forward, best practices change, and we must consider this as a whole in order to create the best version of ourselves to then reach those we serve. Doing something a certain way just because “it’s always been done this way” shouldn’t fly anymore. This has been on my mind a lot lately.

Last year, I was blessed to be a part of a new staff that opened up École Sage Creek School, a brand new school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Although last year was the most challenging year of my career thus far, I learned a lot and grew a ton! One of the things I truly appreciate is that we didn’t label our school as a “project based learning school” or a “21st century learning school”, or any other label, but instead we focused on pulling in and utilizing all of these approaches and many teaching styles to best meet the needs of our learners. I love this reminder from Katie Martin in her book, Learner-Centered Innovation:

“The best educators do not use just one approach or follow the curriculum to the letter; they get to know the learners and create the context and experiences to meet their needs. We can become fixated on labels such as blended learning, project-based learning, or personalized learning, but the reality is that, to meet the needs of the learners in our classrooms, we need to utilize a variety of approaches depending on the learners and the learning objectives.”

This is one of the reasons why I rely so heavily on my PLN (personal learning network). Through the sharing of ideas, experiences, and reflections, it’s easy to find inspiration and real life, current examples of things that worked well, and of things that maybe didn’t. Having those conversations while exploring and reflecting on the process is how I learn best and how I grow as an educator. Knowing our learners is crucial, but then getting inspiration from others as they share their strengths and passions, and tweaking what they do to make it work in our own settings is absolute gold. That is something that Dave Burgess and Shelley Burgess understood from the very beginning when they established Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. after self-publishing Dave’s own book, Teach Like a PIRATE. They have continued to build incredible communities of educators around a array of different teaching styles and philosophies; there is something for everyone in their line of published books (you can take a look here to see the 50+ books and read the first few chapters)!

This summer, Michael Matera led #HiveSummit, which was a free, incredible 14 day virtual conference with 9 thought provoking educators. Again, this was a fantastic example of people coming together to share what they’re doing and what they’re passionate about that’s working well for them, which enabled so many to learn and grow alongside them. Michael’s video with Dave Burgess caught my eye as it was exactly what I had been reflecting on. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the video:

“When we think back to our own education, I can’t say that any of my teachers where exactly alike… They are their unique teaching self” -Michael

“That’s one of the big parts of the Teach Like a PIRATE philosophy: what is unique about you, your particular strength and talents? Your voice that you add to your classroom is what makes you most powerful and effective with students. Learning how to tap into that in your personal passions and bringing them into the classroom is a big part of what we do.” -Dave

“That’s one of the things that people misunderstand about Teach Like a PIRATE. They think that it’s one way of teaching or one way of doing something… You don’t have to choose one style, you can take the best of what Michael Matera does with gamification, the best of what Quinn [Rollins] does with using toys, you can take the best of Matt [Miller], take the best of project based learning and design thinking, and all these things and weave them together with your unique style and voice to create the best you.” -Dave

“Teach Like a PIRATE is not about you teaching like me, it’s about you taking your strengths, your talents, your voice, what’s unique about you and then weaving them together with some of these human nature ideas from Teach Like a PIRATE to create the best you.” -Dave

With the month of September at its end, and with a whole month or more under our belts with our precious students, I challenge you to try something new. As you continue to build on those crucial relationships, go ahead and find inspiration from somewhere, take something that’s working well for another educator and give it a shot. Maybe dressing up to create an experience for your students like Dave does isn’t your thing (or maybe it is, go!), but you’re ready to dive into an inquiry project! Maybe you want to focus on students being leaders in the classroom, or trying out sketchnoting. We are not all the same, thankfully, but we can all agree to keep working to be our best selves. Look around, great things are happening, and you can learn and grow from others, benefiting you and your students. Go ahead, jump in, and please, share the process so we can learn from you, too!

ps – Although #HiveSummit was during the summer, the videos are currently available again! You are sure to find incredible inspiration in these videos, which might just be the extra push you need to try something new! Take a peak, you won’t be disappointed! You can sign up here and check out the lineup of speakers here! Enjoy!

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