The lights go out and it’s just the three of us                                                                                                                           You, me and all the stuff we’re so scared of

~Bruce Springsteen~

We’ve had a busy few weeks at my school as we approach the March break in Ontario. Into year two of a new reporting timeframe, educators are adapting to the reality that with report cards going home in early February, the cycle and flow that we grew accustomed to has been altered (and change is scary).

Principally, the past practice was to use the last few weeks of February to assess, evaluate and report, which meant we could say things like “…this is important stuff, report cards go home soon!” to keep things in order and in response to the question “Why do we have to do this?”

Then we would all take a well-deserved break.

Now February and early March are filled with learning and teaching. With the next report card months away at the end of June, February now is the beginning of a learning cycle, not a culmination. Our thinking has had to shift and this is kind of scary for us. Fortunately, we have really brave and curious teachers at our school and they are eager to adapt and grow. So, I’ve been doing a lot of co-planning, co-teaching and professional inquiry, especially in our grade 7 and 8 classes, where the “why” question is not easily answered.

We’ve been exploring ways to build inquiry into our learning tasks; just in math for now and, soon in language and the other pursuits. We been thinking about ways to use the question “Why?” and adding the questions “How?” and “When?” and, “Why not?” as the launch pad for our learning.

Much of this was prompted by a spike in student actions that were not okay to us and required some responses (read disciplinary) and some reflection on our part as a team. We realized our older students were trying to tell us (and show us) that they needed something different and personal. We have decided to look upon this as their invitation for us to change; an invitation we decided to accept.

Early feedback from our students (and teachers) is this is good stuff. We are talking more with each other (and not at each other), we are using more complex and creating contexts for learning about number and taking the time to support our students to work in small teams to solve problems. We are all smiling more, and laughing more.

This is a much nicer way to lead up to a break, I think:)