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Jennifer’s Blog Posts

Transformers

by Jennifer Emberton

March 2020

 

“Mommy, why do you have the Transformer sticker? You don’t even like Transformers.”

A declarative statement from my new home school student. “Well, yes, I do like transformers, but not in the same sense as you.”

Growing up in the ’80s, my toy box had a few Transformers, Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbies; yet it’s the Transformers that stuck with this southern teacher. When used as a verb, transform means to make a dramatic change.

Wow. Doesn’t that sum up what teachers and students across our state are doing during this time? Not to mention, all the leaders and community members. 

When school buildings closed in March, teachers changed how they did things. They took the leap. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time, similar to the time I shifted from teaching language arts to social studies. The content was different, but the students were the same. The instructional skills were different, but the method of instructional design was the same. I was the same, yet I had transformed to find my groove in this new area.

Transformers taught me to look for the patterns – the things that will remain even after the shift. 

How long did it take you to get a Transformer toy to transform perfectly? Does anyone get it on their first try? I’m not that lucky. 

Transformers were a good reminder for me during the shift we are seeing to virtual instruction. I remember this and tell myself to breathe. There’s no need to get frustrated when no one gets it on the first try, just reflect back on the transformation process. It’s a process that we will grow from and growth isn’t always easy. It’s filled with frustrations, starts and stops. It’s normal. Change is always coming at us. Everything in nature changes. No matter what we do, it just happens. 

Now what gets me, is there’s no controlling it. Each night at dinner, our 11-year-old sighs, rolls his eyes, and complains as his brothers “chew too loudly.” Anyone else have this?

One night, I asked him why he can’t overlook it. Wise words emerged from this 6th-grader.

“Mom, it’s, like, my thing, the thing that’s hardwired into me. I can’t help it. Like how you need structure and control – like that. You can’t help it, but you need it.”

As an adult, isn’t that the truth? We all like the ability to know what’s coming and prepare. However, all we really need to do is keep moving the pieces. Every move is a result of what we have done before. We don’t have to know, we just have to move. 

On March 16, Kentucky teachers took action. We moved. We didn’t have to know what to do, we took a leap of faith.

Remembering that this leap was a process helped me slowly climb the ladder of inference. 

This mental model helps me as I select data, interpret it, draw conclusions and act. By separating out each step, the ladder of inference provides a way to move strategically from one point to another (Boudett et al., 2013). This method allows me to notice and wonder without making quick judgments based on limited data. It reminds me of the transformation process. 

What am I noticing about the shift to virtual instruction through non-traditional instruction days? 

  • Teachers are going out of their way to maintain contact with families. 
  • Google tools (ie: Classroom, Meet, Drive) are the foundational platform for many users
  • Videoconferencing tools/norms/techniques are flooding news feeds on all social media platforms
  • Blended learning techniques are necessary.
  • Equality of access is being questioned and different methods are being approached proactively.

Here’s what I’m wondering:

  • Student voice: Where’s the student voice? How is it evident during this time? When will samples emerge and what might we look for to find it? What are the kids thinking?
  • Parent engagement: What does it look like during this time? How do we find it to showcase? Are all parents equally welcomed (even the less tech savvy or more tech savvy)?
  • Technology: Are users spending more time learning these tools? How many users have never utilized technology to teach/learn? Do users understand how to apply effective multimedia practices?

Based on the evidence I have observed, one fact is clear. Teachers are soaring to transform for their students. That’s one step up we can take on the ladder.

References

Boudett, K. P., City, E. A., & Murnane, R. J. (2013). Data wise: A step-by-step guide to using assessment results to improve teaching and learning. Harvard Education Press.