For me, teacher appreciation week 2017 began in the Dominican Republic where our school was wrapping up its fifth annual service trip. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the whole experience and the love and learning from the children at Orfanato Niños de Cristo. But I had a special appreciation for our team of teachers, those who agreed to join me in giving up a weekend to take 21 teens out of the country and those holding down the fort back home. And caffeine...I was very grateful for caffeine.
As I recovered from some lack of sleep and settled back into the flow of the week, I reflected on the experience of teacher appreciation. A week is a short time to spend in acknowledgment of the nearly Herculean feat teachers are called upon to perform on a daily basis (see every little thing, connect with each child, monitor ongoing progress, gather data, read the data, differentiate on the go, meet those standards, teach creatively...but ace the test...oh, and don’t forget to smile!) But still, it’s important we pause and bring awareness to what we ask of teachers, and how much teachers put forth that is unasked for and often done without anyone else knowing.
As this week progressed, I found myself thinking about the impact of the work being done by teacher trailblazers in the blended learning space. For these teachers, there are unique contributions being made for which we should all be appreciative. Through them, we are engaged as a profession in the transformation of learning from a passive, industrial experience to an engaging, personalized, and meaningful one. Here’s my top 5 list...please share out yours #BLinAction as we bring teacher appreciation week to a close.
#5: Empowering Human Connection
Blended Learning teachers have all stumbled upon the hidden gem of technology - the way it helps connect humans on a deeper level. This is especially the case when teachers open multiple pathways of communication between peers and between their students and themselves. As a BL teacher, you come to see the children who are disappear in a large face-to-face group; you hear their voice and bring recognition to the importance of that voice. Through this deeper knowledge and connection with our students, we build a bridge for those who would otherwise remain inside and insecure in the power of their voice.
#4: Cultivating Leadership & Agency
The best Blended Learning practices follow the PAACC hallmarks: personalization, agency, authentic audience, creativity, and connectivity. By following the PAACC model, blended learning teachers are not just planting seeds for tomorrow’s leaders but providing leadership opportunities in real-time today. Students who have choice and voice in their projects and who co-author their learning path alongside their teachers are engaged in personalized leadership and relevant learning.
#3: Modeling Growth Mindset
Teachers who innovate embrace a “fail forward” mentality. They realize there is no “good at” or “bad at” in the process of tinkering with technology. Everyone is learning alongside one another, trying out new ideas and committing to reflection and iteration. This is immensely helpful in contributing to a positive faculty culture, but it is also critical to shift the mindset for student from an early conditioning centered around good or bad, talented or not talented, succeed or fail to one that is much more centered around process and growth day to day.
#2: Adventurous Learning in Action
As an adventurer myself, I highly appreciate fellow adventurers in my pack. Blended learning trailblazers see new tools or models, and they get excited! They ask questions like where can I go with this? What can I see and do? Where and how far can I take my students using this? There’s a gearing-up-for-action mentality that plays out, and just as gearing up for an adventure in life sparks anticipation and excitement in a travel group, so too does such gearing up in a blended environment spark anticipation and excitement for students to learn.
#1: Teaching the World 1-1
Blended Learning trailblazers are teaching 1-1 in a group environment. They are coaching, personalizing, and communicating on an individual level with students even in the midst of group movement and conversation. But that’s not all. They are teaching everyone because they share practices and engage in collaboration and conversation both within their schools and within PLNs.
For all these reasons and more, thank you, thank you, thank you to the teacher trailblazers out there! Each day I learn from those around me, and through this process remain inspired, challenged, and hopeful of the adventurous future before us.