This is the latest in a series of blogs from the teacher cohort.
By Lindsey Lamm
I did it. I had an entire timeline, ideas laid out from beginning to end, a goal toward which we wanted to work, and genuine excitement for this program implementation. School life got in the way. That’s the easiest way for me to say it. Though we still may not have a definition of fluency when asked, I do believe we have stumbled upon some amazing practices, ideas, and philosophical changes for the better in education. It hasn’t been easy, though. I thought this blog post could focus on the lessons I’ve learned from the kinks in the process, in hopes that others could feel encouraged should they choose to join us on this journey.
1.) The best-laid plans will still need to be adapted and changed. These changes could be due to the group of students with whom you are working. Some groups need more time than others to pick up routines. Changes could happen due to the nature of the school culture. Responsibilities need to be shared, changed, or eliminated, causing us to absolutely need flexibility at all times. Finally, plans could change because you hear a fabulous idea that, with a bit of work, could make all the difference in a positive way in your classroom. Remember implementation is a marathon, not a sprint. You may even feel like you are losing ground at times. Keep at it. It gets better, and the results for the kids are ALWAYS worth it.
2.) Kids will surprise you if you choose to truly listen to them. Knowing your kids and how to balance choice on their part, student voice, and the proper amount of guidance to minimize frustration is the hardest part of this process. It’s amazing how capable they are when they get over the hump of thinking differently, a skill fluency requires.
3.) Try implementing fluency practices INTO EXISTING CURRICULAR PROJECTS, not starting from scratch. Stop implementing technology for the sake of “doing technology”. You’ll drive yourself crazy as a teacher, as we don’t have the time for it, and the kids will not have the fully-encompassing experience necessary to truly grasp the concepts being taught. In the end, we want students to be competent in using a plethora of tools, applications, and software to allow them to dig deeper into the root of a problem to help find a plausible, researched solution about which they can get excited.
4.) Meet the kids where they are, not where you want them to be or where you think they are. When we start focusing on where they “should be” or where we “think they are,” projects and instruction becomes teacher-centered, not student-centered. We take away student voice when we are doing all the talking (because we think the kids should know something and they don’t) or when we are presenting situations that are at a level one depth of knowledge for our students. In order for fluency to happen, students need to grapple with an issue, not immediately take a side and be done in ten minutes. Students HAVE TO THINK when it comes to this process. Very rarely is there one solution path and one correct answer.
5.) You HAVE to be OK with allowing the students to guide the process – This process is a learning experience for everyone involved. The teacher cannot lead the process. Parameters can certainly be set. In fact, in the elementary classroom, they must be set, as students are still learning and getting away from the idea that the teacher always has the correct answer. Fluency is truly a culture and philosophy change, not a project.
Every time I meet with these people, I have ideas that can be used. We learn from each other as we try to figure out this definition of Fluency. Those are the lessons I’ve learned so far. I can only hope the projects this year allow for even more growth for our classroom.