I have to say, I landed a dream job this year. I don’t think this position exists in many places around the world. It is the perfect balance of teaching, curriculum building, leading, presenting, program development and designing collaborative spaces.
That being said, I have learned so much this year. It is exhausting and amazing to move to a new country and school. I love seeing how different schools and systems work differently. Everything from the schedule to homeroom structures to communications to curriculum to human dynamics is different. It is always sometimes better and sometimes more challenging than other work places. When you put yourself into this newbie position, you are vulnerable, you have to depend on others and you learn, learn, learn and do your best.
I didn’t have goals this year besides surviving and develop a Design program at ISB. I had an action plan to work with which definitely helped out. More importantly, I was very lucky this year to have a large amount of amazing people around me – both professionally and personally – new colleagues, old colleagues; new and old friends. And that is what made this year amazing. Not perfect. But a great first year, for sure.
First, I’ll start with things that I am proud of accomplishing this year:
- Creating a Design and Engineering Team to develop a K-12 Design Process for our school that connects design thinking with NGSS Engineering and can be used throughout our school – in classrooms, enrichments, After School Activities and even in our own practices of creative problem solving. We still have some work to do as our program grows, but I feel like we collaboratively created a process that we can all work with. I have developed standards and rubrics based on this process and will continue to make more support materials for teachers to use.
2. Being very active in classrooms – this was not so much my doing than the openness of the teachers I work with. I was frequently invited to co-teach, facilitate and work with many teachers this year. It was great to get to know our students, community and teachers so well in the first year.
3. Designing collaborative spaces for design thinking and engineering to take place. It was amazing to have an idea and over Winter Break a new design lab was born for MS and HS students. It is a great space (although basic) for students to tinker, learn, prototype, create and learn. To add on to this experience, there will be another space for ES students and teachers to use next year as we develop the Design & Engineering Program through the whole curriculum.
4. Collaborating on Personalized Learning Experiences
Before I arrived, ISB had a lot of great opportunities for students to follow their passions, interests and curiosities to choose their learning. Middle School students sign up for enrichments – anything from band to yoga to robotics to textiles to game design to Genius Hour and everything in between. I was able to jump in and help coach and co-teach Genius Hour which was a fabulous experience. I worked with amazing teachers and we worked together to create a similar design in which students followed the design process to identify problem or opportunity and create a solution. I help facilitate other enrichments, and I learned a lot working with other teachers. I was able to “take over” One Day, which is a day that all MS students to design their learning. It was difficult to take it over when I had only experienced it through Twitter the year before. Due to a teacher leaving, I’m excited to be facilitating for the Passionate Project Class in HS, which will allow many middle school students opportunities to design their own learning experiences as they move through high school.
And now on to things I feel like I missed the mark on and need to work on more next year:
- Working with high school – Middle school is definitely “my space”. This MS being full of exceptional teachers who welcomed me in all the time, I didn’t always leave a lot of time for HS. I need to work harder to get into the HS. Students are enjoying the experiences they have in middle school and I don’t want their design thinking skills and creativity to take a back seat as they enter high school.
- Evaluating what I do and how it connects to what my role at this school is. This year, I rarely said no. I wanted to learn more about the curriculum and my colleagues because in my role, relationships are everything. Some work I took on, was beyond my job description, as it is with most teachers. However, next year, as I work with a new colleague coming in and have a better sense of the school, I need to articulate my role better and stay focused on what I can do well and impact student learning the most. I know this is something I will always struggle with and I feel like I want to do more and really be a part of a community, so I need to maybe even simplify this goal and think that if I take something on, I need to take something else off the plate. This is a big school with a lot going on, so there is always something to do.