Monday, February 17, 2014

Well...despite my best intentions, time has passed quickly since my last entry.  To say it has been a busy year is an understatement.  Thankfully, the recent days off due to weather have given me time to slow down, reflect, and do a little catching up.  I am going to try to remember what a "gift of time" the days have been when we get the news about making them up. :)  Anyway, I wanted to share a recent Project Zero classroom experience.  Not too long after the first of the year, I received a postcard in the mail I had written back in July.  Honestly, I had totally forgotten about it.  I must say, it was perfect timing and I have kept it on my desk to read over and over when things are getting crazy.  Here is what it said:

Remember the feeling you had at this privileged you are to have been a part of PZC. Real transformation happens over time.  Reflect, revisit, and return to the key moments of PZC which gave you such inspiration and guidance.  I cannot wait to see how all of this comes together for you. No matter what, SLOW DOWN!  Your students need this to become the deeper, creative thinkers you want them to be.

In Project Zero love,

I am so thankful to have this constant reminder about what is important for my students and my focus as a teacher.  Though unit plans, common assessments, formative instructional practices, etc. are important aspects of our current educational existence, ultimately they are only the tools by which we scaffold our students towards their future 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Tame and the Wild

Our first day of class was a springboard for the rest of the week.  In the morning session, David Perkins, spoke to us about his ideas on thinking for understanding.  Just in case the fact that Mr. Perkins teaches at Harvard's Graduate School of Education is not enough of a reason to believe he is qualified in this area, here are some of his credentials:
David Perkins received his Ph.D. in mathematics and artificial intelligence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970.  As a graduate student he also was a founding member of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Project Zero Classroom started as a basic research project investigating human symbolic capacities and their development.  Since 1967, Project Zero has examined the development of learning processes in children, adults, and organizations.  For many years, he served as co-director, and is now senior co-director and a member of the steering committee. Perkins conducts research on creativity in the arts and sciences, informal reasoning, problem solving, understanding, individual and organizational learning, and the teaching of thinking skills. He has participated in curriculum projects addressing thinking, understanding, and learning in Colombia, Israel, Venezuela, South Africa, Sweden, Holland, Australia, and the United States. He is actively involved in school change. Perkins is a co-founder of WIDE World, a distance learning initiative for practitioners. He is the author of numerous publications, including The Eureka Effect (about creativity), King Arthur's Round Table (about organizational intelligence and learning), and Making Learning Whole (a general framework for deepening education at all levels).
So let me say in no way do I claim to be an expert of his teachings at this point. However, I hope this redelivery of his message is beneficial, in some way, to those viewing it.

The Tame and the Wild Redelivery from Wendy Henderson on Vimeo.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Reflection

Most of us know the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, and have probably even shared its lesson with our own children or students.  The idea of "slow and steady wins the race" is applicable to our lives in many ways.  After attending Harvard's Project Zero Classroom this past July, I propose this story has another application to us as educators.  Perseverance is certainly an important part of teaching students.  Even more important is slowing down and taking the time to teach students in a way that fosters thinking, not just memorization of facts and ideas with no real connection or application.  This idea was a thread which wove its way through every class, session, and study group meeting I attended at Project Zero Classroom.  True education is about helping students become the future adults we will want to exist with in the world one day.

Now I know what you are probably thinking...that is all well and good, but my school district requires me to cover a certain amount of information in a certain amount of time and there is no way I can slow down!  I thought the same thing at first, but seeing is believing.  The idea of slowing down in order to teach for thinking and understanding was not just a talked about proverbial concept these educational gurus wanted us to blindly accept.  It was modeled throughout the entire week from the moment the first session started.  In fact, I often found myself thinking about how nice it was not to be rushed from place to place and information hurled at me in such a way that I was lucky to retain, at most, 10%.  We were given time to discuss and reflect many times throughout the day.  The pace of the classes was such that I walked away understanding what I heard, my mind racing with all the ways I planned to use the information in my classroom.  Even now, almost a month later, I can tell you about every session and class I attended.  I now know from my own personal experience that teaching for thinking and understanding with a slower, reflective pace really does work.

The new school year is now underway and My Project Zero Classroom notebook is not tucked away on a bookshelf with the many other professional development reference materials collected over the years.  It is out on my counter and open.  I refer to it during my planning a minimum of once per day.  It has been so easy to incorporate what I have learned into my established lessons and routines because I was allowed the opportunity to truly in internalize the information.  I want to share what I experienced with anyone who will listen.  As a means of redelivering, I plan to use this site as a tool for modeling thinking and understanding. My hope is for others to have access to the information, to experience it at their own pace, and, in order to foster true learning, have time to reflect.

Even though Harvard's Project Zero Classroom was a phenomenal experience, I certainly do not claim to have all the answers.  This is just another step towards making me a more effective educator. My own experiences, trials, and tribulations can be further enhanced with honest conversations among educators willing to be a "tortoise" with me...because, after all, it was the tortoise who won the race!