We have been watching teaching videos with our principals to build consensus regarding effective learning environments. During these sessions I'm hit over and over with the same strong sensation, one that I felt when observing classrooms during Instructional Rounds training. Everything seems so rushed.
I've been in the school system for a while now in one role or another, I have my degrees, and I have plenty of contextual knowledge that I can connect to during a classroom lesson. I think I'm relatively safe on the assumption that if I am having trouble keeping up with the teacher, at least some of the students are having trouble as well. Making sure the students understand what is expected of them is critical to task completion, as well as to their confidence and connection to the community, all of which are vital to the learning experience.
Beyond what we what have typically tried to accomplish with our learners, we must now support them in becoming better critical thinkers. When we ask questions, the responses that students give right away will be based on recall and will represent low-level understandings. Deeper and more critical thinking requires time for deeper understandings to take hold. This means making time for those processes to occur in the lesson. It means questioning in a different way. It means spending more time on what matters, and not rushing in and giving an answer before students have had a chance to consider the question.
One of our teachers said this the other day: "The best answers in my class come after twenty seconds of wait time. I need to have the patience in my class to let the kids think longer. I need to get comfortable with more dead air."
Overall, I think this is one of the things we do well in BC. We tend to value mindfulness, thoughtfulness, and the power of giving our kids time to ponder. I think its one of the reasons our system is effective. I also think there is more potential there.
We are currently in the process of building a student survey to help us determine the success of our Education Plan in our School District. One of my favourite (draft) questions is "Do you have the time to think deeply every day?" It is important as a organization to collect evidence that convinces us we are doing what we think we are doing. As well, the data we choose to collect sends a message back to the members of the organization of what it is that we actually value. If we truly value deeper thinking and we really want to start Counting What Counts, we need to slow down and ask these types of questions.
Needless to say, our survey isn't quite ready. We need to think about it for while yet.