Saturday, January 22, 2011

What a Way to End the Day

Steven Johnson, in the Ted Talk below, explores where good ideas come from. What, he asks, is the space of creativity? He shares one study where a researcher filmed the work of scientists in labs to see when the "lightbulb" moment came. And it didn't come when a scientist, working alone staring silently into a Petri dish, suddenly yelled, "Eureka." Instead, good ideas grew out of the weekly lab meetings, where scientists shared what they were working on, what didn't work and some of their hunches. Good ideas came from connecting their thinking.

I was lucky to be in the midst of such a space of creativity at a recent visit to Ecole Davis Road Elementary for their bi-monthly Professional Learning Community meeting. One meeting is held during the day while the principal takes the students in a school-wide activity (later this week, he'll supervise a 'read-in' in the gym) and one meeting is after school during their staff meeting. The business is 15 minutes and the rest of the meeting is devoted to PLC time.

Each meeting has a rotating chair and recorder. When I visited, it was Sean's turn to chair and he began the conversation by suggesting the focus: to reflect on their Family Math Night (planned during previous PLC meetings). We've had lots of positive feedback, he said, but let's think, too, about what didn't go as well as we'd hoped so we can improve next time. They quickly went around the table, noting what didn't work and simultaneously thinking of ways to improve, building on each other's ideas. After each person had their say, they had a plan for fewer stations in each room, a method to try out the games with buddy classes prior to the evening, an idea for engaging parents in participation and a right-now solution for allowing the kids who didn't attend the evening a chance to engage in the games - they would have a cross-grade activity next month with the games that worked best. This led to an idea to use the math games as a culminating activity for the upcoming math sequence (a generous gift from another school - June Bouchard and Ann Grant at Quarterway) and the decision to use the next PLC meeting for planning.

Glancing at the clock to signal the wrap up, Sean said aloud what I'd been thinking, "At our Family Math Night next year, our awesomeness will be even awesomer." The meeting finished with a reflection, as Sean put it, on "the purpose of a true PLC, student achievement." How can we connect our Math Night with achievement, he asked. Hands shot up. What's fun is worth taking time for; it's a good reminder not to get caught up in the text book. I keep asking myself, are my weekly math games making a difference, are they getting it? And I know the answer is yes. And what's important, they still think it's fun. They think math is fun.

And then came one of my favourite parts - another creative idea at two minutes before the end of the session - let's build a games toolkit matched to the IRP strands. A flurry of decisions about time, dates, funding, where to store the games - and at 4:00, they rose.

Can you imagine ending your day so joyfully?

For more on our PLC series
If it's important
Seaview Elementary
Bayview Elementary
What do we value?
McGirr Elementary
North Oyster Elementary

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I not only see the twinkle in Helen's eye, but also the collective twinkle in the assembled staff. What a great idea - a games toolkit matched to the IRPs. Way to go EDRE!