Last week, I shared an overview of the Personalized Learning Flow that incorporates the Personalized Learning Framework developed by the South Carolina Department of Education. I shared this flow with Ms. Christal Stevens, fifth grade teacher at Cross Elementary School in Cross, South Carolina and author of I Don't Want to be a Princess (The Amazing Azaria). She was able to take the flow and make it her own. She is our guest blogger this week as she reflects on beginning her journey to personalize learning in her classroom.
Reflection by Christal Stevens (@MissChristyle)
When I was initially presented with the idea of a Personalized Learning classroom, I was exhilarated, yet yielding to the idea. I was open to the concept of transforming my classroom decor to a more ravishing look that would attract my students, however after learning more about Personalized Learning it was so much more than the furniture. I had a few drawbacks to the concept of giving up complete control of my class, of not having my classroom led by me, and being scared of the unknown. Let’s face it, I’ve never done this before and was worried about the possible results of my students’ learning. I didn’t want to sacrifice their education for another educational fad. There were so many things that were racing through my mind that it clouded my judgment to the bigger picture. After meeting with David on multiple occasions and researching the concept, I began to develop a clear vision and plan.
One thing that I enjoyed the most about the process was transforming my classroom. The first thing that I did was ditch the desks. My principal was all in when I presented her with the idea of having cafe type of tables and stools in my room. So, she allowed me to purchase six high top, circular tables with retractable stools. I also added a love seat, bungee chairs, lawn seats, short stools, and pillows. Now, the students have different options for seating and can choose how they best learn. It is hard to say which is the most preferred seating because they use all of them equally. But, the bungee seats are the most requested.
My biggest hurdle was the instructional transformation, I couldn’t picture myself giving up complete control of my students’ learning. But, as I started with the process, I became more and more familiar and my nerves started to ease after I saw the learning that was taking place. Honestly, I cannot see myself going back to the traditional way of teaching ever again! One thing, that I struggled with was keeping the pace of my high fliers. They would master the standards during the pre-test, so the only thing they would only have to work on was their Enrichment Assignment, and they would fly through that as well. I knew that I needed to challenge them a bit more, so I would think of creative ways to challenge them during their enrichment phase.
The fear of my students talking and playing during the time when they’re supposed to be working, scared me. Before beginning any instruction, I explain Personalized Learning to my students emphasizing on Owning Your Learning. I gave them several real world related scenarios in which they would have to be responsible self starters. Getting students to buy into their own learning is a constant conversation that I repeat daily. I talk about accountability, perseverance, self-starters and many other words to get them to see the importance.