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My Burning Question(s)

Slicing every day in March!!
#DigiLitSunday

+Margaret Simon has challenged #DigiLitSunday bloggers to think about this: what is your burning question?

My first response? I don't have just one burning question. I have many burning questions. There is so much that I still don't know even though I've been teaching for many years. You'd think that I would have things pretty clear by now - structures, routines, and lessons established in my head and replicated from year to year. But, of course, the fact that every year we have a new group of students entrusted to our care means that, while some things can stay the same, many things cannot. We have to reinvent our classrooms from year to year to meet the strengths and needs of our students.  

When I reflect on this prompt, I invariably start with the should know's and don't know's before coming up with burning questions. Although I'm sure that's not where this question was hoping to take us, I feel compelled to get those out of the way first. So, here it goes...

I should know how to structure writing and reading workshop so that I don't have to think about this anew at the beginning of the school year. (Burning question: how can I use my writer's notebook to help students better use theirs?)

I should know how to set up stations in math so that they run smoothly all the time. (Burning question: what purpose do math stations serve and how can I keep them running smoothly from week to week without too much maintenance on my part? Well, maybe that was two questions.)

I should know how to stay focused on what's important for students' learning without getting sidetracked by the latest mandates. (Burning question: how can I put mandates into perspective so that I don't lose focus about what my students truly need to grow as learners, thinkers and innovators?

I should know what I know and don't know. (Burning question: how can I narrow down my professional learning focus to one area at a time and do that well before moving on to something else?)

But, I don't think it's about a universal idea of knowing and not knowing. The prompt that +Margaret Simon has teased me with is about the questions, that emerge from listening and getting to know a new group of students throughout the year. These questions, although similar from year to year, reflect the students that are in my class right now. 

So, another burning question that has emerged from this rumination is:  how can I guide this group of students to engage with learning this year? 
  • How can I tap into the interests of this group of students through the topics I am required to teach during the year? 
  • How can I start with the interests, expertise and concerns of this group of students first and stick to those despite the multiple demands on my time and energy?
  • How can I convince this group of students that math is another lens from which to view, explore and understand the world, in much the same way that reading and writing allows us to do this? 
  • How can I figure out ways to effectively weave the interests, expertise and concerns of this group of students through what we're learning...without getting derailed by demands, mandates and outside issues?
  • How do I keep my focus on the students that are with me right now?
I do know why all of this is important. I even know how to do this successfully (I've had many experiences to fall back on), yet I get sidetracked by external distractions that, in the large scheme of things, don't matter for my particular group of students in any given year. 

I do know what works and when I'm not sure, I can engage in research about what to do to help students (and me!) learn better. 

Wow! That prompt took me down a long-winded path to arrive at a response that feels right for this moment. There is always more. 


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