Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Our Thinking Got Bigger!"

This year, I left the classroom to take a new position as our district's Innovative Strategies Coach. The first few weeks of school, I thought, "What have I done? I miss my students, I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm not sure I know enough to make a difference." Fortunately, I have teachers that have invited me into their classrooms to work with their students.  Last week, I stepped into a second grade classroom. The teacher had asked me to come in and work with students on teambuilding and discuss the importance of teamwork. I started with a divergent thinking game (thank you Tiki Techs in Hawaii) that required students to make connections. It goes like this. Students stand in a circle and one student stands in the center and says, "I'm a tree!" Another student steps into the circle and becomes something that might be next to it or connected to the tree in some way. Here's how it went:

"I'm a tree!"                    
"I'm the grass!"
"I'm an apple!"
"I'm a bush!"
"I'm a butterfly!"

The fifth person stays in the center, everyone else returns to the outside circle, and we start with the butterfly. We continued this game until everyone had taken a turn. Students stepped into the circle and became more trees, the ground, and a leaf, until suddenly someone became a bear. Next, we had a hunter, and then, a hurricane. Yes! Things were changing.

Photo: Luc Viatour
Before we moved to our next activity, we debriefed for a moment and I asked the second graders what happened. I told them I noticed that at first, everyone was choosing some of the same things and thinking of simple objects. I asked them what changed. One little boy raised his hand and said, "Our thinking got bigger!" The clouds parted, the sun shone down, the choir sang! It was one of those golden moments in teaching when a student puts into words the exact thing you were hoping for and says it better than you could.

We finished with a short teambuilding activity and I left with a huge smile. I thought about that comment all weekend. That sweet second grader summed up my purpose in this new role. I need to help teachers with their thinking. I need them to see new connections and say, "Our thinking got bigger."

In order to do that, I need to stretch my thinking. I'm keeping up with Twitter, I have a stack of books next to my bed, I'm reading blogs and watching Ted Talks. I'm having as many conversations with teachers as I can and observing them in classrooms. I'm modeling new strategies and co-teaching students. I love my new job! No, I don't have all the answers. Yes, I am making mistakes along the way. However, I have a new passion for learning and I am challenged and excited to share as many innovative strategies as possible.  My thinking is getting bigger!

By: Kami Thordarson, Innovative Strategies Coach

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