A week ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to Skype with Claco founder, Eric Simons. We chatted mostly about his awesome teachers’ collaboration site, www.claco.com, and the 21st-century tools that it provides educators. I won’t bore you with details of our entire convo; however, I would like to share one snippet that has resonated within me since that day.
During our introductions, I told Eric that while I was working as a classroom teacher, I earned my Master’s in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. Later, he asked this question: “What would [working in curriculum] look like for you?”
Huh. Nobody had ever asked me that before. I didn’t have a prepared answer for this question, and I didn’t want to waste Eric’s time by thinking too hard about it, so I just let my heart take over and do the talking.
In response, I said something like, “I want to focus on math. I want to make math fun and make it meaningful to students. Math shouldn’t be boring or else it won’t be learned. I would like to make project-based activities that inspire students and interesting games that help students learn how to apply the material.”
As you notice, I didn’t talk about writing for textbooks or publishing assessments. The thought of designing better multiple-choice questions for those awesome standardized state assessments didn’t even cross my mind. Worksheets and dittos? What are those?
My heart, and my right mind, went straight to authentic lessons. Real-life math, in other words. Authentic lessons – in any subject – should be interesting, relevant, and motivating. Authentic lessons may include project-based learning, technology, scaffolding, or everyday puzzles that require higher-order strategic solutions. Unlike textbook-driven and scripted layouts, these creative lessons motivate students. Most of all, these types of “outside-the-box” lessons prepare students for life outside of the classroom walls (where they sometimes must rely on their “outside-the-box” thinking). This is what students should be doing…this is what students would rather be doing. And so would the teachers.
My past few months have been completely devoted to dreaming about ideal math lessons. Sometimes my dreams lead to the creation of inspired projects and activities that I know I would want my students to learn from. Other times, I just listen to my dreams and smile, knowing that I am doing my part to support authentic learning experiences everywhere. My heart knows what students need, and authentic learning is it.