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Introvert out of her comfort zone

So in the last two years I have been taking on more opportunities that I would usually pass on. It has been tow years of representing my whole school in the innovation grant and this meant preparing reports, collecting data and presenting our program to may people. Many things i am starting to get used to but then I was talking with my PLN group on twitter and an idea was proposed. Why don't you apply to present at an ignite pd session. So being energized and supported by a colleague I jump in and applied. Then I realized what i did. Fear started to take over as I am an introvert teacher.

So then the email confirming me to present comes along and I realize i must do the unthinkable and present my views on education. Oh I can do this. 20 plus years of experience in two provinces means I have seen a lot of change and ideas and I can talk about my thoughts. So I go about making my presentation and speech to go with the slides. I set up the great road trip with a friend to Langley ignite 35 where we both will present. No problem right... Road trip... great times, great laughs.. We talked through traffic and ferries and solved our issues in education... A great time. But then we get to the venue........ Real nerves start in. I see the topics everyone is doing and they are so uplifting and my point was to make people think. Oh well introvert must get over the fears and do it. It was great fun and I survived. Would I do it again... maybe.. but new connections were made and great ideas shared over a glass of wine.

So I figured I should post my planned speech was for memory sake.

Hi I am April McKnight, I am a math, science, techie geek who has been teaching for over 20 years. I started my career in Manitoba and came recently to BC. My friends know I am the seven year itch girl as I never stayed in one school for longer than that.

Over my years, education has changed greatly. As we are in our change of curriculum in BC, it has started to make me think and remanence about all the changes I have gone thru in my career and really in my life as a student too.

So lets look back to a classroom from when I was a student. Yes we sat in desks in rows and looked towards the board and teacher. We displayed our work on the boards. We stored our books in our desks and listened to announcements on the intercom. Wow have we changed..

Oops I think we did it again… Here is the classroom I was in yesterday. Yes we have desks and white boards and bulletins showing work. But what has really changed… Oh yeah we have a smartboard. Technology the great changer.

So now you are probably thinking of your class. Has it greatly changed from the 80’s. Are we fitting what a school can give us or are we fitting the classroom to our students. This really made me think back in my career. What were the future promises back then.

So now you can see the classroom I started my student teaching career in. It was the so called future of classrooms in Manitoba. Yes we had computers back then and each student was to do all of their work and research at their personal station. So now here I am 20 + years later and this is not what my classroom is like. We even have schools now banning personal electronics. Whatever happened to this futuristic classroom and why didn't we go there… So this made me really think about our changes and what we really changed in our schools.

So I started looking at some of my students textbooks and the amazing front page of history. These books stay in use for eons. I even have a student in my current small school who is proud to show me that his mom used the exact same textbook as him. Houston we have a problem…

So then I venture where no math teacher should ever go…. The book room of our school.. And bang the first thing I see is all the VHS tapes and then the collection of textbooks that have been there for years.

Now how can this be. So I looked at the graduation requirements for students now and I realized we are still teaching the courses we took as students. Yes we are doing better with electives and various courses but the requirements haven’t changed since I left high school but that brings up an issue. We are producing more of my generation but the world around us has changed. Are we really educating our student for their future or are we still preparing them for our past..

So of course, I took time out of my calculus class to talk this over with my students. We started talking about part time jobs and what their starter job was. Cashier, Shelf stocker, Gas jockey, Lawn cutter… All great starts but wait, will those jobs exist for their children and their first jobs. Nope Kiosks are taking over McDonalds and Roomba has a new automatic lawnmower as well as their vacuum.. So I ask the students what would their childs first job be… they all seemed to agree that their child would be a programmer and a techie for the first job.

Here are the top four jobs for my students’ careers. Am I preparing them for this future…really.

Now remember these are the top four jobs they found but it really makes you look at what we are doing to change. Should we be looking further than just a curricular change and start looking at a whole change of the schooling system.. Think for a second about that..

Ok really we have changed. Most of us have developed ways around this issue as educators. I am sure everyone here has robotic clubs, science fair groups, sewing, debating…. And so on. Back in 2010 we developed a high altitude balloon project and flew three different balloons with payloads to space and took pictures of the curvature of the Earth. STEAM at its best, as we and the students learnt and developed all parts of the project. Design process and project based learning at its best. I know you are probably thinking I was doing this project with the top students of the school but no we were a mix of boys and girls from grade 9-12 and all learning styles even fully funded students.

And yes I still left there. But change is good. And I came to BC to a school on the cusp of great change. I am teaching at a small high school from grade 7-12 of 75 students. Yes we stay open and offer as many courses as possible. How you think. We are running a flexible timetable where students have 2 or 3 teacher run classes a week and 2 seminar classes a week for each course. Students are are given the rock show of lessons and do the independent project based learning during seminar. This allows us to offer more student any course in house that they wish for. It cut our DL courses down to almost nothing. Well we still has students taking equestrian and arabic courses online. It has also opened up the passion block twice a week. We run term courses based on what the students find interesting. We have done many different options like golf, martial arts, cake decorating, robot wars, solar power irrigation and underwater ROVs amongst many others.

So now I keep thinking. New curriculum is a great thing. New style of timetables and classrooms are amazing. But lets look at changing the whole and not just the parts.

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.

Thank you

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