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Claim your own growth

Photo: Grow by David Joyce on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I learn a lot in conversation with others. I learn so much blogging. There are some insightful people who take their time to read me and respond to what I say. This post was initiated in one such exchange with my friend Scott Johnson. Reminiscing on my learning a few months ago when attending the Edtech Team Brazil GAFE Summit, I poured out what resonated with me regarding the use of portfolios and how they fascinate me. Scott chimed in with the following words:

Clarissa, I’m interested in the portfolio idea as a form of claiming our efforts as authentically won plus as a tool of being a conscious learner. Sometimes we need to remind others that we are serious about our growth.

There’s so much packed in those two sentences.

Life is not easy, and professional development is most definitely an effortful endeavor. It requires commitment, a vision, and a purpose. We learn so much on the way but so many of us end up not keeping track of our development by engaging in some kind of self-reflection. To me that’s the true purpose of a portfolio. It’s a way to track your progress, to take stock of what you’ve learned. But it is only when we engage in reflection, when we actually examine the curves and the paths we chose to take along the way that we are able to attain a more concrete sense of achievement, of development. It is your reflecting on your own development that makes you aware of your own learning. And I guess that openly engaging in that reflection and declaring yourself to the world impacts your self-image and your self-worth more deeply than we might perceive if we go about our lives in auto pilot, just reacting to whatever experiences happen to us along the way. Being aware of your own achievements makes you care about achieving anything to begin with.

It is all about reminding yourself and the world that you are serious about your own growth. That you care. And that you purposefully work for it.

This blog is my portfolio. Here I have shared so many reflections on what has happened to me along my way of professional and in so many levels my personal development. This is my way of claiming my little bit of space in the world. As my friend Scott put it:

Clarissa, in art class we did portfolios to demonstrate that we had some claim to a place in the world. Not just dreamy and lost in ourselves but tangible actors with presence. This was very hard for some I think they had never been asked for THEIR thoughts and as students we were used to only being asked for what others thought.

Tangible actors with presence. Engaging in self-reflection and declaring our learning and our worth to the world is powerful. Forming our own opinions about ourselves is powerful. Asking ourselves the questions that enable us to dig deeper and find our hidden talents, our voices.

How do we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there? To show what we can do? Some are confident and just blast ahead but that leaves a lot of students behind. And even confident people can hesitate when they feel less than competent. How to remove the barrier of not being “good-enough-yet” might be possible with a portfolio where a student can see their path and understand it as growth from effort?

I believe that we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there by leaning on people who care, who believe that we all have something unique to contribute to the world. I believe that we all need to go through the “not-good-enough-yet” feeling and conquer it – not be paralyzed by it. Going through that process is an important part of your growth. We need a support system, a group of people who are willing to start the reflection process. We need other people to read us and talk to us about our reflections. That’s how we grow.

How can we start a culture of self-reflection on one’s own professional development? I guess we need to value our own answers to questions like What have you achieved so far? What are your goals? What is your vision? If we want to create a portfolio culture among our students, we first need to inspire and support teachers along the way. We need to create a sandbox for teachers to feel as learners and engage in building their own portfolios. Teachers need to experience first-hand the empowerment that comes from claiming their own growth.

Thank you, @scottx5 , for taking the time to talk to me here.

Looking forward to hearing from you, and from whoever feels they have something to say on all this! That’s how we grow.

Google Hangouts: Not Your Regular Test Validation Meeting

An important component of the assessment design cycle is validating the instruments, and to that effect we count on the group of teachers working with that particular level/course. This collective validation process used to take place in the form of a traditional meeting which took place in our school’s Main Branch, usually in a room big enough to accommodate a group of around thirty teachers (sometimes more).

I’d already been adopting some group work dynamics in order to optimize the use of time, hopefully enabling teachers to make the best of the experience of collectively analyzing the test. In a nutshell, I wanted a productive, pleasant atmosphere where not only the outspoken individuals had a go at critiquing and sharing their views. I wanted all of them to feel comfortable enough to voice their concerns and suggestions to tweak the assessment instrument at hand. Teachers worked in small groups of five to six people, appointing a spokesperson who would be in charge of communicating the group’s opinions/suggestions regarding the test.

That had been working quite well. So, it occurred to me: they worked so well within their small groups, usually sitting with fellow teachers from the same branch, who have been sharing their experiences on a regular basis. I couldn’t help but wonder if we could make the validation process even more practical. That was when I had the idea to try out Google Hangouts for Test Validation Meetings. This is how we did it.

Let’s Hangout

Teachers were asked to attend the Validation Hangout at their branches; therefore, they worked with small groups of fellow teachers with whom they connect/exchange every day. They appointed their Hangout representative/spokesperson and went about their business of analyzing the test.

Adjustments along the way

The three Hangouts we had this semester were two-hour-long events. In the first Hangout, I took the groups through the test exercise by exercise, asking them to look at one part of the test at a time. That ended up being as time consuming and noisy as a regular meeting.

After getting some feedback from them, which they gave via a Google Form Survey, we decided it would be best if I gave them about 40 minutes to work on their own first, and only then start gathering their feedback. That worked better. (That and using the mute button to lessen the noise, of course!)

However, the third time around was the best, indeed. We decided groups should be given even more time to look over the entire test before the feedback-giving stage. I gave them an entire hour, and it really paid off. The feedback stage ran more smoothly and rather fast.

Project Success

  • Convenience: teachers were free to attend the Hangout at a branch of their convenience, which most of the times meant the branch closest to their homes;
  • Capacity for collaborative self-management: teachers had to organize the analysis process themselves, preparing to report their impressions and suggestions to the Course Supervisor (yours truly) and the other branch groups in a clear and concise manner;
  • Agency and accountability: they worked hard to convey their opinions and provide pertinent suggestions, relying on the expertise of their own groups;
  • Voice: working with smaller groups of familiar faces made the more reserved people comfortable to speak their minds, something which tended not to happen with the large face-to-face traditional (very loud and somewhat messy) meetings;

And, last but not least,

  • Modeling innovation: teachers had the chance of trying out a new tool which they might find useful for other professional development opportunities.

This is an experience I would certainly like to replicate in the future, and which I would recommend other admins try out with their teaching staff.

What’s next?

Hangouts for Professional Development and innovating the adjacent possible.

Our Why #ccourses

I have already mentioned in another post how I stumbled upon Connected Courses, how it was basically a call to arms from my friend Maha Bali and how I extended that call to another friend Carla Arena. I’d browsed some of the pre-course resources available on their site and remember finding it most invigorating to read Mike Wesch’s reflections on why the whys are so critical for the whole open and connected learning environments to thrive. I then watched the amazing video suggested for inspiration, This is Water by David Foster Wallace, and was absolutely blown away by it. All that had really struck a chord within, yet little did I know that it would yield precious fruit so soon. I guess that’s my why for sitting here and writing this post right now. I feel truly compelled to make a record of the process which naturally ensued after that in order to reflect on the project that blossomed from it and, of course, to share it with all of you guys #ccoursers #rhizo14ers #edcontexters #clavierers and all.

So the following day I shared the link to the This is Water video with a fellow course supervisor in my institute. He watched it, was blown away by it, and moved to share it on with other fellow course supervisors in my institute. I have to say that I had no idea that what it might have happened right there and then, the moment I shared that link with my friend, was that a seed was being sown, and his subsequent sharing it forward would be the watering of that seed, which began growing, and showing, and stirring the creative juices of those it touched.

Flash forward a few weeks. Yesterday night I came across Jim Groom‘s tweet on Mike Wesch’s video Why We Need A “Why?” and was instantly reminded of the exhilaration I’d felt when I first read his words on the importance of ‘whys.’ It was while I watching this amazing talk by @mwesch that it dawned on me that I’d already been put into motion to make an old project fly, one which had been sitting in the back of my mind since the beginning of the year, even before I went on my rhizomatic learning experience, even before starting my blog. I’d been longing to find a way of nurturing stronger connections among my fellow course supervisors. I truly wanted to see the ten of us be part of a close-knit group, reflecting on our educational leadership identities, exerting/exercising our agency, in the hope of boosting our professional self-confidence.

So it was that about three weeks ago I seized just the right moment to share my idea of a collective website/blog with my fellow supers. The idea itself had sprung up from the depths of my mind a while back, but it hadn’t yet been aired up to the point of being ready to get out of me in the form of a ‘what if’ sentence. The idea was instantly embraced by all. It was as if it’d been there all the time, just waiting for it to be articulated into words somehow. The next step was to find our why. Somehow I instinctively (creative juices spilling out) drawn by the idea that we needed to have our very own ‘why.’ Together we managed to come up with our mission statement, our why. And it is amazing to see how all this movement to fly this collective venture has generated just the kind of flow, the kind of dynamic which is naturally bringing us closer together, both professionally and personally. We are connected.

We will launch our collective site soon, probably this next week, and we are very excited and happy about it. It is just awesome to see how empowering it is to allow yourself to be moved by your ‘why’, and yesterday, watching Mike Wesch talk about it, made me realize the magnitude of the journey we’ve just embarked on as a group. I am certainly sharing Mike Wesch’s talk with my fellow supers for more inspiration. I have a feeling that these words might linger and yield new fruit within the work we do as teachers and administrators:

quotation1If you’re animated by the ‘whats’, by what you’re supposed to teach, you’re gonna be constrained by the model of learning that that entails, which is to say just how to deliver that content. But if instead we’re animated by a ‘why,’ then suddenly the ‘hows’ become open.  ~ Mike Wesch

So, I guess we have found one of our ‘whys.’ Thanks to #ccourses for the inspiration.

To connections and to learning!