Monday, July 13, 2009

My First Day

As usual I was the first to arrive to the institute. I immediately sat as close to the front as possible. People started to trickle in a little before 8 am. It seemed as if people came in groups. They were probably from the same school or district. I am sure by the nature of the institute I would so on find out.

Introductions confirmed my assumption. The entire group varied from local Chicago area to Australia. Once the Australian participant spoke, I realized I was not the farthest traveled in the room. My guess about people in group was under estimated. One particular group was a total of ten. They came from Aurora, OH. The group was also a mixture of teachers and administrators. The Australian participant had an interesting role as principal of professional development for teachers. Image teachers getting special help with their development on a regular basis.

Soon after the introductions we acted as learners and were immersed in a PBL scenario. Right before being immersed, the facilitators requested we do the following things:
  • Suspend our disbelief
  • Engage in the situation with an open mind
  • Recognize that you don't have to know everything
  • Be comfortable with some discomfort
  • Know that your emotions and intellect are connected
  • Engage in intellectual risk taking
  • Own this problem
  • Look to the problem for direction and coaches for support and guidance, not the answers
  • Work the problem
These points would soon be realized in every way as we worked to be advisers to the Illinois Department of Transportation. I was completely prepared to suspend my disbelief, engage, not willing to know anything, own the problem and work the problem. However, I was not expecting to be uncomfortable often and feel so emotional in a moment of discourse.

The problem involved personal air vehicles and deciding whether Illinois should use them to alleviate congestion. I was very shocked to be uncomfortable at two different points in the process. I was not sure at what we were supposed to do in an activity and once I did have more information it still didn't seem to be possible to complete. I don't like having things uncomplete. I go between charging through and giving up. I experienced both of these thoughts in a span of 20 minutes. I am so sure my students feel the same way with some of the projects I completed. The weird part of it all is that it was not as if the facilitators were not helpful during the process or could not help me more. It was just a personal issue I had to overcome.

The second time to be uncomfortable was towards the end of the project. I was charged with leading how we would put our presenation together for our recommendation. I had an uncomfortable dialogue with the person charged with writing the comments down. It started out as something I thought was simple. We were dividing items into why we said yes or no to a recommendation. It turned into an elaborte discussion of the meaning behind the topic of current transportion system. I moved from uncomfortable, defensive, confused and finally common ground. It was an amazing moment for me. I got to see what is healthy dialogue between participants in a PBL. It is okay to disagree and then finally come together.

The day wrapped up with looking at the experience from a teacher's perspective. We discovered the careful planning that occured in the background. We wrapped up the day with HOMEWORK. I was so amazed that they gave us homework to do. It was an easy assignment. Read an article, make notes and be prepared to talk about it tomorrow. The article is very insightful and reminds me of why I support a constructivist pedagogy. I can't wait for tomorrow.

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