#Rhizo15 Weeks 4 & 5, with a look ahead to Week 6, CLMOOC and my work in the LA Writing Project’s Summer Writing Camps

Week 4:  Teacher-less learning

I belong to a group of teachers at my school that works with the instructional coach to plan professional development.  We had a meeting earlier this month at which we discussed using lesson study as a framework next year for improving our collaboration and guiding our own professional growth.

We talked about identifying questions as a starting point, and I shared the question that’s been on my mind for awhile:  “How can I help students learn how to set objectives for their own learning? How can I involve students in making meaningful choices about their own learning? How can I help students to explore their own interests for meaningful learning?”

This led to a discussion about how Chris, our history chair, tried to implement Genius Hour unsuccessfully, just as I did earlier this year.  We came to the same conclusion: that students needed more support in independent learning.  Paradoxically, because our students have rarely been asked to take an active role in their learning, they often don’t know what to do when we give them options.

I’m excited about the possibilities of exploring this question next year. I’m looking forward to CLMOOC 2015 (you can sign up here) for this reason as well, as a space where I can (among other things!) begin to think about designing my professional learning for the upcoming school year.
The connection to Rhizo 15’s Week 4 prompt:  we won’t be depending on an administrator to be the “leader”; while we may ask for some administrative support, we will take charge of our own professional learning.
The question I identified – how to help students make meaningful choices regarding their own learning – also ties in with Week 1’s idea of learning subjectives.

Rhizo15 Week 4, I’d Like You to Meet the LA Writing Project

My full-time work is at a high school in El Monte, but I also wear the hat of co-director of the LA Writing Project (LAWP) Young Writers’ Camp (YWC).  This summer, we hope to focus not only the learning experiences of the students, but also on how the YWC teachers can benefit from the professional learning experiences the camp can provide.  I hope to be able to model some of these possibilities with my own work, starting with my blog.

My question about helping my students set objectives has become central, as three spaces of learning – Rhizo15, LAWP, and CLMOOC – converge.

Week 5:  Rhizomes As Invasive Species

The idea of rhizome as invasive species is intriguing.  I’d like to add this idea to my list of unwritten blog posts.

This list, waiting for June and more time to think and write, keeps getting bigger.  Kim Douillard‘s recent posts, such as this one, and a post on Friday by Deanna Mascle entitled Taking Time Out, have contributed to my nascent realization that I can’t continue to “wait till June” to write.   I have to restructure my practice so that I have time to write on a regular basis.

Maha wrote a post about the resistance of weeds that made me think of weeds as a metaphor for unintended learning outcomes (i.e., outcomes not intended by the teacher, pacing plan, policy-maker, standardized test).  This got me to think about Heather Flores’ argument in Food Not Lawns that we shouldn’t pull up any plant, “weed” or otherwise, unless we know exactly what the plant is and how it relates to other organisms in its ecosystem.

One person’s weed is another person’s nutrition, decoration, medicine…

I also started to think of the metaphor of monoculture vs. polyculture.  As I wrote on Maha’s blog, we are dominated in the United States by a kind of monocultural pedagogy:  we lack biodiversity because we are driven by policy-makers to create neat rows of a single crop.  For example, when we differentiate, we are not differentiating to respect or cultivate multiple outcomes; we are differentiating to provide access to the same, teacher-determined outcome.

Now, there are probably some outcomes that all students should get to.  I suspect that everyone needs to be able to write effectively for an audience, for example.  But there are so many possible ways to get there…

Week 6:  It’s Already Started, But It Never Really Ends

I have some ideas about how I want to write a “practical guide” to rhizomatic learning, but (see Week 5, above) I don’t have the time right now to put them down on paper, as it were.  However, I do want to point out this excellent work by Whitney Kilgore & Autumm Caines:  a Google Doc with step-by-step directions on how to teach and learn rhizomatically.  I’d like to build on their work by writing my own guide for the public high school context.