October 11th, 2023
|Hello Selwyn Families!|
This school year’s Thoughts on Teaching and Learning series will share the perspectives of Selwyn’s teachers about what they’re doing in the classroom. This month, I’m sharing thoughts from Lisa Biles, Selwyn’s 7th and 8th grade Humanities teacher. She also has a new title this school year, as she’s serving as our Curriculum Coordinator. She’s working with teachers across every division to ensure that our curriculum is aligned grade-to-grade and division-to-division. She’s also working with our student data from tests and assessments to develop strong instructional practices and ensure student mastery of the material we teach. Here’s Lisa’s thought about teaching and learning—
In college, my favorite professor had a mantra that he would repeat, sometimes several times in a class period. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” As cliche as it is, this sentiment has stuck with me over the years, and I find myself thinking about it quite often.
Selwyn has had quite a few changes this year. We have restructured our divisions, added new teachers and moved others around, changed up administrative roles, and shifted to more experiential Fridays. As we began discussing these moves throughout the prior school year, I will admit that my first reaction was nervousness over the thought of change. However, it did not take long for my college mantra to kick in.
The field of education has, overall, had a very rough time with change. At times it has been too static with a focus on memorization, obedience, and test results, and at others it has jumped from one buzzword to another, especially in the area of literacy and reading instruction. Right now, education is in a near constant state of change in an attempt to adapt to the modern world.
In fact, it is not so much adaptation as it is reinvention. Innovation has skyrocketed in the past decade. The exponential growth in technology has been astounding. Societal change is driven by technology, and as a society changes, its educational needs change as well. An article on www.teachthought.com delves into modernizing our thinking about learning domains. The focus is more on networks of learning spaces, curating and using knowledge, adapting as changes are emerging, the dual nature of the physical and virtual worlds, and critical assessment of the information onslaught we face daily. Modern learning can be summed up in this single quote from that article: “Understanding is perishable and performance is fluid.”
This is as far away from my own educational experience as is possible, and even what my own children experienced as well. Which brings us back to Selwyn, our mission, and our recent changes: Collaboration and flexibility are key to modern education no matter which study, best practices white paper, or recommended standards you look at. Our restructuring of the divisions has allowed us to focus more precisely on developmentally appropriate daily collaboration within the divisions.
The Lower School has taken advantage of this new dynamic to provide cross grade-level groupings that better meet the developmental needs of the students. Whether these groupings are ability based or interest based, each student is getting attention that is tailored to their own individual needs. Not only is this a confidence builder as there are many opportunities for a student to be the mentor or expert on something with this approach, but it also improves communication and listening skills. Having watched our Lower School faculty embrace these changes, I see a strong team of teachers who are working together and focused on our mission of creating empathetic and innovative global citizens. Learning is joyful and individualized in our Lower School, just as it should be!
The biggest change for me this year was my team moving from the upper elementary to the middle school level. Middle School is an emotionally fragile time for students who are dealing with puberty and mood swings, trying to juggle fitting in while building independence, and grappling with self-esteem concerns while dealing with academic and social stressors. This is the time when the little kid and teenager inside are both looking out from a single set of eyes trying to figure out which one will be dominant that day, minute, or even for a few seconds. For myself, looking at middle school with an elementary teacher’s eyes has been enlightening. Sometimes it is the goofy side of me that they need, sometimes it is the taskmaster, and sometimes it is the surrogate mom who lets them know that everything will work out. I tie this feeling back to the new way of looking at learning domains. The networks we move in, the feeling of duality, figuring out what to do with knowledge and where to place our trust: what better analogy is there for a student in middle school?
The changes we’ve made this school year allow Selwyn to keep moving forward together and looking to the future.
L, Darina. “How Fast Is Technology Growing Statistics [Updated 2023].” Leftronic.com, 6 Feb. 2021, leftronic.com/blog/how-fast-is-technology-growing-statistics/.
“8 Learning Domains of Modern Critical Pedagogy.” TeachThought, 4 Feb. 2021, www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/21st-century-pedagogy/.