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Learning at its Best

Getting Smarter Together

I love working with kids.  Those of you who read my writing, or know me, know this about me. They energize me, make me think, bring me laughter, tears and questions, and they constantly amaze me.

I’ve been teaching for a very long time and people often ask me when I am going to retire.  My answer is that as long as I love walking in the door of the school, being there with kids and doing a good job teaching, I intend to keep it up.  When the day comes where I wake up and think “I don’t want to go to school and work with kids any more,” I’ll be out the door….but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

And, while I have to admit there have been years where I would have said, as I woke up, “I don’t want to go to school and work with those adults anymore,” this is NOT that year.

There are some amazing educators in my building this year.  Literally almost half of our staff is new to the building, and it’s simply due to natural attrition and growth.  MOST of those are either brand new or within their first three years of teaching.  Some of us veterans have laughed about being surrounded by energizer bunnies, but seriously, every time we turn around someone is doing something else creative or suggesting something new, or trying out blogging or something like Pinterest or some other collaborative venture.

And, everyone is taking more time this year to talk and share with one another, since every grade has new members to the team–so we are learning from each other, pushing and leaning on each other and stretching one another in many different ways. I’ve had several chances to share some learning opportunities with my staff and they have eaten them up–things like KenKen for math, International Dot Day (which some of them knew about and already had plans for), and skyping with a graphic novelist, Stephen McCranie (which all of my 3rd, 4th and 5th grades will do in late November!) A fourth grade is participating in the Global Read Aloud Pernille Ripp facilitates, and our fifth graders are keeping their reading logs on kidblog!

I know some of this isn’t so exciting to some of you who quadblog or participate regularly outside of your classroom, but the widespread aspect of this collaborative and connective work is incredibly exciting to see.

We have a first grade teacher who is presenting in two weeks at our county conference on how she uses Pinterest to support things like our math Investigations program, Responsive Classroom, and Daily 5!  Two of our new K teachers are taking on after-school clubs, and 5 of our staff are participating in a book club around Making Thinking Visible.  We’re crazy busy, but it’s all done with smiles and a great sense of comraderie.

Every single classroom has undergone a thoughtful revision of spaces, furnishings and decorations, to make our learning spaces more kid-friendly and less adult-driven. And, not only are the adults seeking opportunities to learn and grow…Kids are seeking opportunities to be leaders as well.  Recently a group of fifth graders set up a double elimination round of a card game called Golf. (We play a variation of the nine card golf.) Second, third and fourth graders demanded to be able to sign up, so kids are playing at lunch and recess to get all the games in. Our Friday “Talent Show” at lunch always has performers. Kids regularly stay in my room at lunch and recess to work on their own projects–movies they are making, digital fabrication, wikis, or science tricks they plan to perform.  It’s pretty astounding….and on the days we offer our Coder Dojo in the afternoons, the room is full of kids of all ages, K-5, until the middle schoolers start showing up–and then the room has kids in K-8 all working on coding and programming. I organize that–but I’m not the expert–we all learn together.

And I guess that’s my point…this year, in my school, more than any other in my career, I think, the notions of learning and getting smarter together is simply PERVASIVE.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s between an adult and kid or kid to kid or adult to adult.  We learn, we grow, we collaborate, we connect, we choose to work hard to learn. That’s pretty cool.

About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning


4 thoughts on “Getting Smarter Together

  1. Yay!

    This all sounds amazing and heartening to the max. I just read your “Technology – How Did I Get Started?” post, so I’m wondering, also, about how these folks around you got started not only with technology, but also with collaboration. Along a spectrum that runs from individual initiative/history to ed-school-taught-me-everything-I-know, where are their entry points into this awesome space you’re creating together (and also with kids)?

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | October 22, 2012, 5:24 am
  2. Hi Paula,
    I was struck by your comment above regarding that what you describe may be old hat to some readers’ who are actively involved in social networking projects. It concerned me because it implied, to me at least , that we always have to strive for something bigger and better and more innovative by using another tool that is the new rage. As someone who considers myself a moderately active social networker (is there such a phrase?) I think any examples of teachers exploring multiple ways to engage children is a very positive thing, and if it’s happening school wide then it’s even better. On another note, I would love to connect with the teacher who is using Pinterest for Daily 5. How can I do that? Thanks for an uplifting post.

    Posted by Elisa Waingort | October 22, 2012, 6:37 am
  3. Paula, It is so great to hear that the learning culture and climate AMONG ADULTS in the building this year is about thinking together, sharing together, taking risks together and doing new things with learning–because it supports and enlivens everyone. And because I’m always thinking about transformation of the whole system, what troubles me is that this appears to be RANDOM. If the same mix of folks didn’t happen to appear in the building this year? How would it have been? The wonderfulness of this year appears to be so happenstance, accidental…and therefore fragile.

    Questions for you:

    What could be done, say at a district or state-wide level, to make the example of your school this year widely known?
    What are the key attributes of the climate of sharing and experimentation?
    What started it and what sustains it?
    How would you replicate it next year?

    I’m so glad you’re happy! This will mean good things for the COOP, and all learners, all year long!


    Posted by Kirsten | October 22, 2012, 8:53 am
  4. A nice thought to end a long day. Thanks for the inspirational post, Paula. I am also fortunate enough to work with a very awake faculty. Cheers to learning from your colleagues!

    Posted by jackwest1972 | October 23, 2012, 12:26 am

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