Connected Learning – Curriculum Reflections (by Nicole Martin)

A foolish person thinks “I already know that.”

He keeps anything new from coming into his mind.

A wise person thinks, “I don’t know the whole story.”

She opens herself up to even greater wisdom.

-Haemin Sunim

Many times I read education-related books and watch TED talks and find direct application to my professional education experiences. They help me grow and evolve in my thinking and practice. The best ones, though, have direct implications in both my personal and professional realms of life.

Recently I participated in a How to Personalize Learning book study. I believe that learner agency promotes students to strategically drive their own learning and prepares them to be future-ready, regardless of what the future might look like. Authors Bray and McClaskey define seven elements of learner agency (voice, choice, engagement, motivation, ownership, purpose, and self-efficacy) that help to personalize learning based on passion and need. And while there are direct implications in this book for educators and my work at Mount Vernon, I’m finding that there are also direct connections to my personal life.

First time making short ribs!

I’ve become fascinated with healthy meal preparation and exercise opportunities. Over the last several years I’ve learned that I would rather learn to prepare a new meal every night than to eat the same few foods over and over again. The same goes for exercise. I’d rather choose a new workout on a site like Beachbody on Demand than to do the same one every day. I have cultivated a list of blogs, health nuts on social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, and exercise programs that support this interest. I’m engaged in this healthy living lifestyle – I own what I put in my body and how far I choose to trail run.

Trail Running way down yonder on the Chattahoochee

Like Bray and McClaskey describe, my learning has been much deeper and more personalized because I’ve had ownership and choice in how I’ve learned more about the intricacies of being fit and healthy. I’m learning because I’m passionate about it, and I’m motivated to learn more. And this is what we want for our students, too. We want them to uncover an interest, curiosity, or passion and to dig deeper to learn more. We do this as adults. Why don’t we offer more opportunities for students to pursue their interests and passions?

After viewing Eduardo Briceño’s TED Talk “How To Get Better at the Things You Care About,” I was inspired to spend more time in the “learning zone” observing, reflecting, and adjusting rather than in the “performance zone” executing. (My husband assured me this doesn’t mean to sit and watch the exercise video before I do it myself!) Deliberate practice positively benefits growth. Briceño encourages us to share mistakes, ask for feedback and model ongoing learning. So for me, that may mean sharing out and reflecting on what doesn’t work in life and in the school building as well as what does work, from innovating personalized learning experiences for students in the classroom to a meal prep gone horribly wrong to an inspiring trail run on a new trail.

In my quest to become healthier, I also encountered the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down. Author Haemin Sunim, a meditation teacher and former college professor, shares short essays and prompts on all facets of life, from relationships to the future, and how they can improve when you intentionally prioritize mindfulness. Slowing down means taking the time to read and learn and grow in the areas I’m most interested in right now, both for work and for life. Slowing down means enjoying the ride and noticing your surroundings, like the amazing bulletin board near my office telling the story of student learning as well as the sound of the bubbling creek on a trail run. It means fostering deeper relationships in both work and life. Sunim’s book is a great reminder to downshift out of fifth gear (my husband’s Jeep has a sixth gear – I refuse to use it).

By complaining that something we have to do is

Too hard

We add another layer of difficulty.

Take a deep breath, and then just do it.

-Haemin Sunim

Our own adult life experiences showcase the need to prepare students for a world that continues to change and evolve. Few of us are the exact same as we were a month ago, a year ago, five years ago. We have had to adapt and change, and I believe that learners of all ages who maintain a growth mindset and see themselves as lifelong learners will grow the most, regardless of the work vs. personal purpose. My recent reads have complemented this idea.

No matter my age or stage of life, I hope you’ll find me in the learning zone indefinitely.

Connected Learning – Curriculum Reflections, by Nicole Martin, MVPS Lower School Head of Learning and Innovation, and MVIFI Team member

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