Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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A Megadose of Vitamin Sea

15 years since we last dived… and we came back to the same place, Gili Air.

Transition years can be full-on and exhausting. New country, new role, new friends, kids, colleagues, tech, language, environment, expectations, opportunities. Embracing the new and trying to avoid old traps. Parenting through transitions and creating new memories. Overcoming challenges when things go wrong or culture shock hits.

We’ve been fortunate to land in a city and a school racing towards the future. Beijing five years ago was a hard no, but we tracked the environmental data, learned from friends and have arrived at a time when I think the transition is easier than ever. It is getting cleaner, there are technical solutions to almost all communication, transport and shopping issues (WeChat and Microsoft Translate are awesome). People are friendly and there are loads of things to do. The only thing static about Beijing is the air.

It is very, very dry.

Sadly one of the things we loved we’d had to leave behind in Japan was the ocean. And for a family like us that has been a challenge. The move overall has been great and I needed to make a dramatic change in work-life balance and stress. I think we’ve been doing OK with that and need to protect it with the new role next year. Breathing sea air is not much use when you’re too stressed and burned out to jump in.

So it was brilliant to get back to Indonesia for a week, for a megadose of vitamin sea. The last time we visited Lombok, almost 15 years ago, I was just finishing up as an ESL teacher. Hesty wanted to learn to dive, and I had a question to ask. I spent everything I had (it was not much) and took her to Gili Air. She learned to dive. We got engaged. I left for the PGCE, she finished her degree.

Soon enough I was back in Indonesia, in a new IB school in Jakarta. We saved up, got a proper ring, got married and had Anya. Moved to Bandung and had Samudra (“Ocean” in Indonesian, via Sanskrit). Seven years in beautiful Japan and now Beijing.

Fifteen years since I last dived went by in a heartbeat. We made it back to Lombok with kids big enough for an adventure. One Bubblemaker, one Junior Open Water diver, three surfers, four ocean lovers. We saw turtles and corals and spoke lots of Indonesian. We learned about the work of the Gili Shark Conservation team and helped out on a beach clean. We were encouraged to see that although so many years had passed and development had inevitably taken hold, the changes were not too dramatic. Lessons are being learned from Bali and there is a swing towards more sustainable choices.

This is where our heart is. We will be back.

This was super cool. Gili Shark Conservation told us about their work and mentioned that they could ID turtles. Sam was fired up to find the turtle we saw while we were snorkeling near Manta Dive and get a photo. One day the current was strong and visibilty was low. Then one day we saw it… and my GoPro camera door was open. He was gutted. I ran up to the dive centre and luckily another guest lent us their camera. We got the photos. A few days later, they sent us the pics, we sent them in and Andre from Gili Shark ID’d it as a new turtle: “H40 Samudra”! Awesome!


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Making Learning Visible in Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences

“Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” 

(Vygotsky, quoted by Ron Ritchhart)

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 2.05.10 PMI really enjoy parent-student-teacher conferences. (I’d rather do more of these and less report writing, but that’s a different post.) Even with a limited time-slot (my last couple of schools have been 10mins), we have an opportunity to strengthen a home-school connection, build a relationship with families and really put the learner and learning front and centre.

I love being a science teacher, and parent-student-teacher conferences are a prime opportunity to share that. Just because it’s high school, doesn’t mean it needs to be too serious.

Over the last five years or so of teaching, I’ve set up recent investigations or phenomena for students to demonstrate, explain or solve for their parents. 

The conference begins with a warm introduction, a check on languages used and then the student demonstrates the phenomenon to their parents. I keep some prompts and visuals around the table, to be used as the conversation develops. I don’t prep students – I want to see how they go, and how much of their learning they can make visible to the parents.

In this part of the conference, the students and parents can communicate in their most comfortable language.

It’s important to me that this is a positive experience and gives me a couple of minutes to see how they interact. If a (rare) difficult conversation needs to follow, I know better how to judge my message. In most cases, we build on the observations, and follow our own little lines of inquiry. Occasionally I pick up some new science vocab in my students’ home languages. With multilingual students we always talk about how language development is supported in the class.

Of course, parents to come to conferences to hear how their child is doing. 

That’s great, and we work on the basis that if something was wrong, they’d already know; there should be no surprises in a report card or parent-teacher conference.

This means that we have the chance to have a growth-focused conversation about the learning:

  • How can they use our resources and rubrics for moving up?
  • Do they understand the best-fit approach and use of command terms?
  • How do our “feed-back feed-forwards tables” work for focusing on what’s important and what “note to self” is there for next time?
  • What are they struggling with and how can I help?
  • Where to next?

 

As parents we want to know our child is cared for and is learning. We want to know how we can support them, and we want to trust you as their teacher. 

This is how I feel as a parent-educator, and it is echoed in many interactions. Taking this opportunity to celebrate their child and their learning is more than just a little fun – it’s who we are. Occasionally I’ll provide parents with some online resources, or mention some of Ron Ritchhart’s “9 Apps for Parents” or “10 (+1) things to say to students every day” for “at home” discussions.

Next time I’ll put out some of the recent multilingual understanding map resources he shared as we reflect on the year in learning.


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Aspiring to the Life we Live (or, Why we only post the good stuff)

I quite like social media. I like sharing photos on Flickr and moments on Instagram. I like sharing learning on my blogs and Twitter and family stuff on Facebook. I like the little connections (and reconnections) that come out of a comment or a “hey we’ve been there too” coincidence. My media are journals for different audiences, though mostly for myself.

But I tend to only share the good stuff.

Because when days are long, work piles up, patience frays and bodies fail, it’s reassuring to see what we’re working towards and who we’re doing it for. To me, it’s like a protective mental health strategy; being prone to worrying and anxiety, my timeline is a reflection on the positive, a force to push the stresses or concerns from valuable mindspace.

Of course, it didn’t (or did?) help when I read that we only have 940 weekends with our kids. Time and childhoods pass so quickly. Finding the balance between building a good life for our kids and enjoying it with them is tough. When I look back on these years, I don’t want to see voids of time where “Daddy was too busy to…“. So I’ll take the snaps and share the smiles.

The images of the good times will survive the fog of the slog.