guest post #44 – yvonne neilson – @yneilson1

Light bulb moments.

I love it when students help me to reflect on my classroom practice.  I have often asked students to give feedback on units of inquiry, activities, assessment tasks and my performance as their teacher.  This can seem a daunting thing – teenagers can be the worst critics.  But just as we want to know the students so we can plan relevant learning experiences for them, I feel that it is also important for me to understand how the students see me.  Then I can do what I need to, to help them relate better to me and therefore the learning experience in my classroom.  However, I especially love when students give me unsolicited encouraging feedback, particularly in the form of ‘light bulb’ moments.

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Picture the scene:  After a huge build up, practicing the safe use of microscopes, discussing the needs of a yeast population in a conical flask, we were in for a disappointment.  The yeast populations I had been nurturing just died.  The samples carefully dropped onto slides confirmed that there was nothing worth looking at.  There was nothing I could do about it, and I’m not about to lie to my students and make another batch.  So instead of looking at the microscopic, I changed the plan and took them outside with big fat chalks to upsize our learning.  The students drew a pond on the ground, and half-filled it with a lily pad population that doubled in number each day.  Alongside their pond, they drew a tally chart showing the population each day, starting with one on day one.  By the time their pond was half covered with lily pads, we could draw a (very rough and quite inaccurate) graph on the ground.  From this we observed the J-curve and discussed the growth of the lily pad population.  We then compared this to the J-curve of the human population, and considered whether this population growth could continue indefinitely. It was agreed that it couldn’t, so an S-curve emerged.

The light bulb moment came when a student remained after class to tell me “Miss Yvonne, I think I really get it now.”  Music to a teacher’s ears, and encouragement to look for further ways to be creative with learning experiences.

This learning success was built on in the following lesson, when I showed the students pictures I had taken during the class, including the final lily pad, tally chart and the two graphs.  They had 30 seconds to explain each image to the students who were away the previous day.  The light bulb kid really did have it, and had retained it until this session.  We went on to decide that the graphs could be improved, so I used the Smartboard pen to edit each graph, highlight the J- and S-curves and then list the limiting factors they thought would prevent continued population growth in each case.   This, if the student’s reaction is anything to go by, was far more exciting than getting the microscopes out.  A sign that I have prematurely abandoned an ‘old’ technology, perhaps?

I was so chuffed to have had this spontaneous student feedback, I had to share it with my colleagues.  By chance, it was my turn to give a 30 minute inspiration session at the PD meeting the following week.  This seems a good point to admit that I was nominated to write this post by someone I admire enormously for her energy, enthusiasm and ability to inspire her learners and other educators.  Apparently I have ‘much to contribute’, but from my perspective I’m all about being inspired by other professionals, learning from their experiences and developing their ideas in my own practice.

My original plan for this 30 minute inspiration session was to engage my colleagues with some of the great blog posts, online articles, pintrest boards and websites available to inspire each of us in our different subjects and our general professional practice.  It was also a great opportunity to plug the fabulous book ‘Don’t Change the Lightbulbs’ by @rlj1981, and the whole #sharingiscaring ideal.  I used QR codes to share a range of online ideas with my colleagues, and then campaigned for us to start up Teachmeet Arendal.  This was a perfect time for me to slot in a 2 minute nano presentation and shout about chalking up success in my lesson!

I am totally sold on these tools for professional development and I hope that this can be a start in local teachers networking and sharing good, best and better practice.  I don’t hold myself up as a shining example of teaching excellence, but I am committed to being a lifelong learner, modelling these skills for my students and colleagues.  Whatever I get from others, I pledge to pay it forward in the true spirit of collaboration!

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