Building Things … Together

If things go as scheduled, I’ll be “delivering” a staff-development session next week to an audience of one.  There could be two, but one of the participants will probably still be at the hospital with her son, who was critically injured in an accident earlier this summer.  “So what I really hope you can do,” said the Relevant Power, “is to develop some lesson plans and resources and things for her students to do while she’s out.”

That shouldn’t be a problem.  The One Remaining Participant is intelligent and “with it,” and she’s already familiar with most of the material to be “delivered” because it was “delivered” last spring.  And last fall.  And some of it, like the ACTFL proficiency standards, has been “delivered” for years.  So we should have plenty of time to build things together … with and for Ms. M and her students.

When I found out about the accident, my first response was shock and disbelief, of course, and then came profound sadness and concern for Ms. M, whom I’ve known and worked with for almost twenty years.  Why didn’t she call? I wondered.  “Do you have her cell phone number?” the Relevant Power asked me.  I looked … and no, I didn’t.  I looked again, and I found an email: “I don’t have a cell phone,” Ms. M had told me a few months ago.  But by then, while I was still sad and concerned, I was also starting to think about what we could do for Ms. M and her students … and for their principal, who’s an old friend of mine as well?

What could we put together and build together to help her students put things together and build things together until Ms. M returns?

In some ways, that’s an old, familiar question; in other ways, it’s an exciting new challenge.  I’ve never tried to build a joyful learning community that will build meaningful things together when I wasn’t directly, physically or virtually, present. Neither has the One Remaining Participant, though both of us are quite familiar with teaching and learning online.  And yet I have a feeling that we just may be able to build something wonderful out of a truly tragic situation.

Expect some updates about that next week!

This morning, as I was thinking about how the One Remaining Participant and I might go about our task next week, I “just happened” to find Laura’s Google+ share of Terry Elliott’s blog post in response to Ibrar Bhatt’s blog post about “Curation as Digital Literacy.”  As I read the two posts and participated in the conversations on Laura’s share, on mine, and on John’s curation-post, I kept realizing that we were all doing the four-fold process that Terry Elliott extracts from the Fast Company infographic about Maria Popova that Ibrar Bhatt had shared:

  1. Find something timeless to curate.
  2. Fit it into a pattern that makes sense.
  3. Find a larger context for why this matters.
  4. Share widely.

I also realized that when I set out to build, sustain, or strengthen joyful learning communities near or far, that’s what I’m helping successful community members to do … and what I’ve been doing, too, as I share our stories and reflect on our shared and individual journeys.  For various iterations of the Latin Family, including Ms. M’s students as they begin (or, in a few cases, continue) their language-learning adventure, the first step is to find something timeless … or perhaps I want to say find something deeply meaningful, something about “them” (the Romans, their language, their history, their culture) that really speaks to “me,” the new language learner and Latin Family member.  Finding it is the first step … but why does it really speak to me?  Figure that out, and you’re into the second step of fitting it into a pattern … and as you do that, you’ll find other, related “somethings” that enlarge and deepen the pattern.  Keep going, and you’re into the third step, the larger context … and by now you’ve probably formed or joined a small working group that will build meaningful things together around the shared “somethings” that you all love.  Build those meaningful things, share them with the immediate joyful learning community, get their feedback, revise, improve, and share widely, and the fourth step of the cycle is in place.

I guess I knew all of that on some level, but now I really know it.  Thank you, everyone!

It seems that some Greater Powers That Be in These Parts, concerned about the low “level of rigor” they’ve seen in classrooms in These Parts, believe they’ve found a solution with James Webb’s framework of Depth of Knowledge, another four-fold framework that moves from “Recall and Reproduction” (Level 1) through “Working With Skills and Concepts” (Level 2) and “Short-Term Strategic Thinking” (Level 3) up to “Extended Strategic Thinking” (Level 4).  Part of my “delivery” next week fill focus on Webb’s framework, with some presentation (Level 1) and a couple of activities (Level 2) designed to help All Those Participants work with, and begin to understand, the skills and concepts of more complex teaching and learning tasks.  What then?  I’m not sure.  If there’s follow-up training, either at the schools or on future staff-development days, I hope the training in Webb’s framework will follow Webb’s framework.

But there might be a Shiny New Poster instead.  Those help!

But in any case, I hope Ms. M’s students will find themselves moving up Webb’s framework as they form and strengthen joyful learning communities even when she’s not there with them.  And as I compare Webb’s framework with the curation framework that inspired this post, I see all kinds of intriguing connections and possibilities.  Thirty-six hours ago, when I woke up sad and overwhelmed by Ms. M’s situation, I couldn’t have guessed at these results.  But the power of joyful community kept being revealed.

I wonder what else we’ll discover in the days and weeks to come!

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Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 5:12 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] haven’t heard from my friend Ms. M, whose family tragedy inspired Friday’s blog post, and I haven’t been in touch with the Relevant Powers at her school, or with my other friend […]


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