This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Melanie Riddle
As Cohort 3 enters their third year of the Data and Technology Fluency Project, it is evident through our collaborations and projects that we are all evolving as learners and educators. We have been given the time and support throughout these years to grapple with meaningful education topics and achieve realizations about how humankind learns best. These conclusions ultimately change our teaching and we reach a point where we cannot revert back to our old ways.
In order for teachers to launch such a rich, humanizing learning environment, we also need support from our colleagues, administration, and communities. As I see it, the following are the three most critical pieces to authentic learning and the success of Fluency in our classrooms.
Trust- First, we need to trust ourselves in the process and in our craft. We are humans working with humans to create and sustain thriving communities in a successful society. Embracing growth through missteps and successes will cultivate citizens who take risks that will benefit us all. Giving everyone the respect and grace they deserve throughout their learning will build long lasting bonds and trust. Administrators need to take a leap and have confidence in their teachers to do what is best for the children entrusted to them. Through the Fluency Project, I heard Don Wettrick speak and a principal asked him how he could help his teachers create time and space for innovation. His reply was, “Get out of the way.” In order for leaders to get out of the way, they need to trust teachers.
Time- Teachers don’t need more time to teach. We need more blocks of uninterrupted time to connect curriculum and implement projects with inquiry in mind. I don’t think there would be many complaints if we were given time to collaborate and design instruction together. Fluency would be at the forefront of our collaborative efforts because we would be trusted to design units with authentic learning in mind. Also, quality time with our students builds relationships that lead to student voices emerging through their work.
True Passion for Learning and Learners- I believe Lucy Calkins said that in order to be a good writing teacher, teachers had to be writerly. This statement is true for all learning. Teachers need to find their passions and remind themselves what set them on fire for the profession in the first place. Our kids will see the fire in us and it will ignite their zest for learning. It is easy for our flames to be snuffed out by unfunded mandates, numerous policies, and lack of trust, but we will cultivate curiosity and our students will thrive when we remind ourselves why we chose this profession in the first place.
The question we should always be asking ourselves is, “ What is best for our children and their learning.” This is the heart of The Fluency Project.
Melanie Riddle graduated from West Liberty University in 1999 with a major in elementary education. Melanie began a career as a teacher at St. Francis Xavier school in a fourth grade multi-subject classroom. She has recently been a part of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, National Board for Certified Teachers cohort, and a fellow with Empatico. Melanie currently is a member of Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Melanie’s special interests include spending time with family, reading anything she can get her hands on, and knitting.