Friday morning our group was back at the SEC (Schindler Education Center) at 8AM to work on finishing our project. We worked on putting together our unit on the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing and it was no small undertaking. We made a 13 page website with subpages beyond that and it included numerous activities for each of the seven traits of writing with each having a culminating project to serve as an assessment for each trait. Great stuff and a great group.
We worked until 2PM when we were all to present our projects to each other in the classroom. We were drawn to present first and my team did a good job of showing what we had done.
The other teams presented their work and I was again very impressed with the work of these students/teachers. They all did so much cool stuff with little time. If I had access to all of the links, I would put them here to show off their work. One of the other groups presented a unit on math which was geared toward middle level students and the other three groups had units on Digital Footprints and Internet Safety. They were all very well put together and made use of awesome tools and programs. I was quite impressed.
By 5PM we wer finished and it was time to head out on our own again for home or where ever we needed to go. It was a short goodbye, but it did seem as though we all had been through something pretty powerful together. I hope to have the chance to meet up with all of these people again.
Once my group had finished presenting, I automatically began to reflect on the week I had been through and what I had done, along with what we had done as a group. I have a tendancy to over-analyze things at times, especially when they are important to me.
I tried to put my thoughts off until I had at least started on my way for home two-plus hours to the northeast. Once in my van on the road to home, I started to think more about the past week. I had been feeling quite anxious about everything over the week. It was intense and not entirely comfortable. To start with, I had gone down to Cedar Falls with a great deal of excitement about being involved in the UNI IT Cohort for 2014 because I had been thinking about this avenue of study for three years at least and had finally committed and been accepted into the program. I had spent some time meeting virtually through Zoom with our cohort, but had not met face-to-face with any of the students or professors yet.
The following reflections in no way should be taken as being negative statements about any of the people invovled. I am impressed with the caliber and intelligence of all of my fellow members in this program. I am shooting for honesty and vulnerability here (after hearing Scott McLeod talk about powerful blogging.)
The images that I tend to create inside of my head of things like this cohort are not fairy tale type images, but they often are more positive than reality. I am not an unrealistic dreamer, but often am more positive and optimistic than reality proves to earn.
I was so excited to be part of this cohort and program, I think I created unrealistic expectations in my mind. The reality was less awesome. I hope I never cause my students as much anxiety over as extended a period of time as what I felt last week. Some of the anxiety was about what we were to do. It was a very impressive project we had to complete in a limited amount of time with limited supports. I know part of that is by design and did bring out some strong levels of creativity in groups. I found it stress inducing and tough to navigate. I never had the moment of powerful belonging or affinity with the other students in my cohort that I had hoped for and imagined. I teach in a small district with few other like-minded, progressive educators, so I was looking forward to meeting others. I had very little time to even have a conversation with students outside of my project group and I was 20 years older than all of the members of my group. The age difference seemed to dampen the connections we shared.
This lack of a chance to connect with others and feel some camaraderie was truly a bummer for me. I do not mind working hard on projects. I did. I enjoy learning new things. I did. I just feel like I barely had a chance to talk to any of the other students face-to-face which was part of what I was looking forward to most. I worked hard, did my best not to grandstand or take control of my group or of conversations, and still felt rather isolated and alone at the end of the week, much like I have for most of the eight years I have taught so far. Bummer!
On another, more optimistic, note, I do think I will be able to develop some relationships and professional friendships if I work at staying connected with several of the fellow students I met in our cohort. I was hoping for more of an opportunity to do that at UNI. I look forward to working on that over the next two years!
I think I gained more knowledge of the programs and technology-related tools available to enhance education. That was great! I headed into this week having made the very conscious decision not to take on the role of Know-it-all. I tried not to talk too much or to take over or direct conversations or discussions in directions I wanted to go. This is almost second-nature to the teacher in me and my personality as a whole. I enjoy talking and sharing to a fault. There are worse faults, I think.
I met, in virtual form, several people I have held in high reagard from the greater education world and listened to what they had to say. This was a great chance to learn from some very unique drivers of nonconforming education. Awesome!
I was able to witness some of the most creative and innovative educators from around the state who are part of this cohort present on various technologies and show-off (deservedly) some of the great things going on in their classrooms. I gained many great ideas and was inspired by much of what I saw! Wow!
To bring this reflection 360 degrees and close it up, I think I gained things as an educator from attending the week on campus part of this UNI IT Cohort. I think, in the end, I would have gained more in respect to building a stronger PLN (Professional Learning Community) if we had even more time, but that will hopefully happen in the future. I thought it was one of the most intense mental workouts of my life and I would not trade the chance to have experienced this for much else. It was tough, but in the end, worth the effort. I am happy I waited to write this reflection until today. The time has mellowed my reaction.
I will grow from this!
Thanks goes out to my group members and to the other students involved in this Cohort, as well as to the professors and other guests we spoke with. Education is a process!
Have you ever been through a similar situation or process? How did it turn out?