Posted on April 28, 2013
While there's thoughtful, intentional, challenging yet fun learning in the classroom, there's also the notion of "performance" as you will soon see this coming Friday, May 3, 12:30pm, in the gym. Kani Ka Pila, this year's May Day theme, captures the local tradition of impromptu singing "jam" sessions when those who can play a guitar or ukulele or who can sing or dance spontaneously make music together. Literally, "kani" is sound, and "pila," musical instruments. If you knew a hula, you danced (with some coaxing) while others sang or played instruments. Nothing was scripted. We sang and danced, from the upbeat to the more somber, and if you didn't know the words, well, almost every family had a collection of Hawaiian songbooks with traditional and hapa haole songs, and we'd sing until the wee hours. We won't be singing and dancing until midnight, though I suspect you might be wishing we could! And oh, the fragrance of lei will sweeten your memories of past May Days growing up in Hawai`i. Come early for a parking space and seat in the gym. Doors open at noon. The students shown in this photo were rehearsing the final song at a recent school assembly and spontaneously sang and danced as they exited the dining room! What fun!
The faculty and I gathered for our last week of informal inquiry lunch meetings. Lately we've been sharing our students' inquiry processes via students' observational drawings, "theory" sketches (students' speculative ideas to explain a phenomenon), and responses to thinking routines. Student teachers, who are now ending their three weeks of solo teaching, have been eager and confident about explaining their students' learning. This is the fourth year of inquiry lunch meetings. Sometimes referred to in the education world as "communities of learning" or "professional development communities," several faculty have requested that we continue these informal conversations next year. The framework is simple: we begin with small talk until everyone arrives with lunch, then transition to a variety of professional conversations about pre-assigned reading from a journal or book (we've been reading Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs), students' interactions with iPads and apps, and, of course, student work. These lunch meetings provide an intimate setting for deeper, mindful conversations and a space for open reflection about our work with students, certainly some of the best professional development opportunities among colleagues. Initiated by teachers and supported by the principal, the inquiry lunch meetings have become integral to our professional culture.
Many teachers' recent blogs have documented students' inquiry processes. Notice the images of student work -- sketches, photos, writing -- which provide an inside view of how students learn. There is substance, description, and commentary in many of the blogs. Notice again that these are not quizzes or tests, which, as final products, do not reveal the different levels of thinking our children are demonstrating or how they come to an understanding. These various qualitative assessments inform your child's placement on the performance continua in May, and some of these pieces may be selected for your child's electronic portfolio as evidence of their progress. How vastly different our reporting of student learning in the 21st century is today, compared to our 20th century experiences of report cards with simple letter or numerical grades and little or no explanation to support the evaluation. "Preparing children for the 21st century" should be corrected to "preparing children in the 21st century," and this is what we do at Mid-Pacific Institute. This future is now.
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey