Yay! I completed the Kick Start Your Blog Teacher Challenge – Advanced. It was a good challenge and I’ve not only learned more about blogging but of various other things like art and science whilst visiting other participants’ blogs.
I love a good challenge. I once made a croque-en-bouche (though without the traditional pan) because my husband said that an Orange poppy-seed syrup cake was too plain. I recently also made a Mocha Truffle cake because my (always yummy) chocolate mud cake was becoming a staple, and thus ordinary. (Just for fun and to practice some #ksyb skills, I’m putting in a photo gallery of these two creations…..please oblige).
What makes a good challenge?
- Success is possible. Though success cannot always be guaranteed, I need to be able to see that I can achieve the objectives. For the #ksyb, I had a choice between Beginner and Advanced. After only a year of blogging, I certainly didn’t think of myself as advanced but decided I probably wasn’t a beginner either- this turned about to be a right decision for me. The #ksyb site even said “There’s no pressure — you can join and leave the challenges at any time.” plus there were promises of support and mentors, if needed. A 30-day challenge was not easy but certainly do-able, I thought.
- Opportunities to learn. A good challenge allows me to do something I haven’t done before or at least do things differently. I started blogging for various reasons and was fumbling along with much resourcefulness and use of Google. Passionate to learn especially in improving my practice, I really did see #ksyb as a chance to learn. Ditto for the cakes above – first time I’ve ever made them.
- Personally relevant. A good challenge means I gain something: new skills/techniques, insights/perspectives, relationships, inspiration and the like (you get my drift). It is personally interesting. I could see that my blog needed kickstarting and #ksyb definitely came at an opportune time.
- Flexibility to be me. Ok, a challenge followed to the letter can be a good challenge too. However, challenges that allow for my own creativity or individuality provide extra motivation for me. #ksyb certainly allowed that with multiple options and even extension activities. I can call this point differentiation but only educators seem to undertand that term. Really, when we differentiate we allow for individuals, right?
- Completion provides a sense of satisfaction. It can’t be too easy as I have to be able to stretch myself. This point is like the flipside of #1, i.e. Failure is possible. It is possible for challenges to provide a sense of satisfaction even if objectives aren’t met (some call it failure). Failure that generates learning allows one to transcend the “negativity” of failure. I think that even if I didn’t complete #ksyb (read: fail to complete) it would still have been good because each activity in the challenge had features of a good challenge.
With #ksyb, I was able to put myself in learner’s shoes (re: Teacher, be a learner), pretty much along the lines of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. I gained more than kickstarting my blog, the original objective, towards expanding my PLN. Visiting other blogs as part of the challenge was a stroke of genius. I felt some pressure – self-inflicted, I assure you – which helped motivate me. I felt affirmed in many ways by comments in my blog posts and seeing what others have written as well.
I am a bit sad that it is over but I am glad as well.
How can this experience translate into better teaching?
How can we design teaching programs that provide good challenges for the learners in our classrooms? Does it even make sense to look at teaching programs as challenges for learners?