My BIG Connected Change: Learning to Stop and Smell the Positive

Since the beginning of this school year, I’ve documented our struggles with my nephew’s worksheet and packet filled 3rd grade class along with the hours of homework that he has every night. I’ve been so vocal about it that the backlash within my community has been somewhat obvious.

There has been a major change and had it not been for Steve Dembo and Adam Bellow, I would have surely missed it. Please allow me to explain.

At the end of connected educators month, I happened to click the link leading to a CEM Cafe where Adam and Steve were speaking. I have so much respect for those two that I was certainly excited to join the conversation. At one point, Adam was asked about his son’s worksheet packets which resulted in Adam speaking briefly about many of the same experiences that we were having. Steve, being the all important voice of reason that he is, made a statement that literally haunted me over the next few days.

In a nutshell, Dembo expressed that not all worksheets were bad for kids and that some were even powerful mediums to help kids practice certain skills that they needed. The statement that I connected with most was that we shouldn’t focus only on the worksheets because there are other things going on in classrooms that are great.

In other words, when we focus on the negative…we will almost certainly miss out on seeing the positive.

I don’t know exactly when it happened but there have been small changes in Braeden’s class. In the last month, in lieu of a day full of worksheets, Braeden and his peers have been working in teams to do problem solving activities. In addition, two days a week the “homework” is completed at school which frees Braeden up to do other things that he loves to do. These two important changes are ones that I would have missed had I been only focused on the worksheets.

By focusing on the worksheets, I also didn’t think about the concepts that Braeden was learning in school and how they contributed to his creativity at home. He comes home, researches further and incorporates those ideas into his art projects.  Kelly Hines, during her DEN Fall Virtcon, closing keynote reminded me of that. It’s odd that even as I heard it at the time that Kelly spoke, it didn’t resonate with me until much later when I “heard” Dembo and stopped focusing on the worksheets.

After Christmas, Braeden and his team will do something that he has never done before. They will collaboratively design a math lesson to teach to the class. The “inner pirate” in me is smiling. (Yes, I gave his teacher the book)

The more that I focused on the worksheets, our home conversations changed to just being about the worksheets. When I stopped to recognize the other  learning moments that Braeden was having, I was able to see how much he was growing academically and how much his teacher was definitely trying.

My biggest “connected” change was due to clicking a link passed via twitter and then reflecting on what I heard. We should all do this more often.

The change that stands to happen within us is the single most important reason to be connected.

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