Month: June 2016

The learning continues…

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I am committed to taking a positive approach to teaching and learning…join me in the journey?

5 classes are now finished, and I am very much enjoying getting to know my students individually, and applying what I’m learning to deliver a more effective learning experience for them.

As mentioned in my previous post, we began the first class with a discussion around positive learning experiences, and how they personally contributed to that learning.

The follow up to that activity was one on one meetings between the students and myself. The stories they shared were humorous, inspiring, emotional, and insightful; it was wonderful to see how positive their body language was, and how animated and excited they were as they reflected on the joy of those experiences.  I can’t stress enough how eye opening those 15 minute ‘chats’ were. Using the questions on the hand-outs as a foundation, the students shared information from their lives in their home countries, and how life has changed since they came to Canada (70% of this specific class are from countries other than Canada). Without exception, they love this ‘new world’ (this in no way minimizes how much they miss their families back home).

One topic we discussed this week was values…a potentially hot topic when dealing with cultural diversity; having 5 different cultures represented in the class it was inevitable that there would be varying opinions regarding what each holds close as a value or guiding principle. I’m happy to report that, once again, the class discussions were rich with mutual learning and respect. The class started with an exercise that dealt with one of my values…punctuality. Based on the various student arrival times to class, I was fairly certain that this was not a shared classroom value. Here is a brief overview of that activity.

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  1. As students arrive pass out coloured mini clothes pegs (one colour to those arriving early, another for those arriving just on time, another for those arriving late)
  2. Introduce the topic of values and the importance of understanding and respecting the values of those we work with (the context is a class of business students).
  3. Let them know that I have a high value of punctuality, but that I realize it may not be a shared classroom value.
  4. Explain the meaning of the different colours of clothes pegs, and have student divide into those groups.
  5. Stage one discussion is to dialogue around whether or not punctuality was a shared value, and how their opinion was reflected in their actions.
  6. Stage two, mix the groups up so that each group has representation from the ‘early arrivers’, ‘on timers’, and ‘late arrivers’. In these groups they are to discuss how they feel about the actions of others, and how they are impacted by other’s actions.
  7. The final instruction…I would not be in the room to facilitate the discussion. I explained that I didn’t want my presence to in anyway influence the discussion.
  8. After what I thought was an acceptable amount of time I came back in the classroom, but was immediately told that they needed more time! I was thrilled that the self-directed discussion was so energy filled.

The activity went well, I could hear laughter, the murmur of discussion, and also silence. The ah-ha learning? It appears that I was the only one that was really bothered by people coming in late. The collective opinion was that if you come in late and miss some of the learning, it’s your choice and the responsibility is on your own shoulders. The tension came when I asked how they feel when someone shows up late for a meeting or event that they have planned…would they be OK with that? At first I was faced with shrugged shoulders and comments such as, ‘it depends on the situation’. However, as small group discussion continued, they did agree that this would not be so favourable.

So, how are those perspective reconciled? I would suggest that the outcome is indicative of how truly values based we all are. In organizational behaviour we talked about stated values and actual values; perhaps this is an example of that being played out individually. It also made me consider how my values are lived out…in this situation, I needed to be willing to accept tardiness if I truly want the classroom to be about my students, and about shared values. I need to be true to my value of punctuality by showing up on time (in this case, early), prepared, and ready for whenever the students show up. I also need to honour those students who are punctual and start class on time…even if only 3 students are there! I think it’s also important to add that from experience, the cultural mix has an impact on the outcome of such a discussion. Students in other classes I have facilitated included punctuality in their classroom agreement (or code of conduct).  The learning for me? A reminder that every class is different and unique. What works for one will not necessarily work for another…even if the subject material is the same.

And so the learning continues…for me, and for my students.

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