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Making Connections

"Making connections is our most crucial learning tool, the essence of human intelligence; to forge links; to go beyond the given; to see patterns, relationships, and context" (Marilyn Ferguson).

I am taking a break from my weekly observations and finding some time to reflect on all that I have learned from my colleagues. I find that if I don't take time to reflect, I often struggle to make sense of the wonderful takeaways from my learning experiences, and wow...I have learned so much over the past few weeks as I visited various teachers and different departments. 

Two really awesome things have happened since I've started visiting classrooms, and they have reenergized me as a teacher and instructional coach: 

1. Students are excited to see teachers when they visit other classrooms
I have met so many new students over the past few weeks. As I observe different classes, I like to ask the students what they are learning and to show me their learning artifacts. The more classes I observe, the more students I meet, and the more students recognize me. In addition, many of my current and previous students sit in the classrooms I visit. With this, they seem happy to see me and share what they are learning.

Now, the awesome part....they are starting to ask me to visit other classes they are in. Yes....the students are inviting me. Can you believe that? They are excited for me to see what they are learning in other classes around the building. Talk about a #whatsup moment! Also, many of my current students will come into my class and share with others at their table that "Mrs. Wilson visited my _____ class" and then ask me questions about what I observed. Students like it when we take an interest in what they are doing in various classes, and I think it is pretty crazy (in a good way) that they invite me to their other classes when they are excited about a certain activity, lesson, or project. 

2. There are so many cross-curricular connections at our school 
I know...this is nothing new; however, I had a really cool moment last week when I was visiting a World Language class. As I wrote last week, I sat in various World Language classes and struggled to listen and comprehend due to the language barriers. While the language was different, the skills that the teachers taught and assessed were very similar to my sophomore English curriculum. Specifically, the speaking and listening skills that I teach were a central part of the World Language curriculum. In Mr. Ben Tatham's class, he showed me a rubric that he has his students complete while they listen to their peers' academic conversations. We talked about the assessment itself and various ways we make it work in our own classrooms. I plan to "steal" some of his ideas - including recording student conversations and peer evaluations -  for speaking/listening assessments, and even better...during one of our conversations, he stated that he "would love to see how English classes assess student speaking and listening." He was totally right - it would be a great learning experience for him, or any other teacher, to see how his students are being assessed in another class on the same skill. I immediately invited him into my classroom for a future academic discussion. What a great learning experience for both of us!

As the quote explains above, I believe that "making connections is our most crucial learning tool." My classroom visits have enabled me to do just that - make connections with both teachers and students. In turn, I have learned so much about our school, our students, and our awesome staff. I hope I can motivate others to make connections and visit various classrooms, as there is no greater learning experience than being right in the action!  #whatsup