Thursday, 5 April 2018

Lost - The Pitch

In Medias Res

This is Part One to a series of posts I hope to complete about my journey to explore the first season of the television program "Lost" with Grade 7/8 teachers and their 12-14 year old students in the spring of 2018. Spoiler: I am in the middle of it as I write - and I am having some success. Hope you will join me on this journey....(cue "Lost" Intro Music)

I had a problem I needed to resolve.

I was in my 7th month as an Instructional Coach to four schools, and I was not getting into enough Transition Years (Grade 7 & 8) classrooms. I am not saying I was never getting opportunities to work with these classes. I had done some coding and a little math with a couple groups and two of the teachers had embraced my Football Pool approach to Data Management. However, there were several TY classes I had not worked with, and I knew it was important for me to make connections with these teachers - particularly if I was going to stay in this role for up to three more years. I realized that it was up to me to remedy this. I needed to make these connections.

I caught a break.

I was asked by two principals to present some professional development I had received on efficient decomposition strategies (for large numbers and fractions). The schedule gave me the chance to work directly with TY teachers, which allowed me to network. The sessions seemed to be well received and this gave me my opportunity to make a pitch.

Lead with a good story.

When I taught Grade 7 and/or 8 in the late aughts (2005-2010) I began to make use of the first season of the television show "Lost" as anchor for a multitude of cross-curricular expectations. I recognized, as I was watching it, that it had great utility as a vehicle for student engagement. My hunch was quickly supported: my students absolutely loved the series.

There were two clear byproducts of this success. 

  • Improved attendance: I had been teaching at a school where punctuality & attendance (both physical and mental) was often an issue. This was particularly true in the more senior grades. Additionally, some students took great liberty with permissive parents who allowed them to leave early if they were "feeling sick" - even when they regularly had miraculous recoveries in time to meet their friends at dismissal. The "Lost" unit remedied this in a number of ways. First, absenteeism dropped and punctuality improved. Second, students began to engage more in class discussions and curriculum based activities. Finally, spontaneous departures due to unexpected illness, showed a steady decline. I began to get used to the question: "Mr. H. - are we doing some "Lost" stuff today?"  "Of course," I would confidently say and, over the course of the few years I ran the unit, I found more ways to connect the series to curriculum expectations in as many areas of study as I could.
  • Improved performance: I would not say that the unit was a panacea to the academic malaise that infects many adolescent writers, readers, mathematicians & oral communicators. It did, however, help many show significant improvement. Students embraced new language and invested more meaningfully in heady discussions. They willingly engaged in purposeful and respectful deliberation around rich & mature topics that challenged a black & white reality they may have accepted for years. These moments were powerful and felt important. They were certainly rewarding to experience as an educator.
These realizations would also become the backbone for my Masters' research - but that is a discussion for a future blog.

So, I made my pitch.

Through conversation, and email, I began to sell my idea - with great enthusiasm. Four teachers expressed interest in hearing more. However, March Break was upon us. This was fortunate, because I had another hurdle to overcome.

More on that next time.

(Cue Cliffhanger "Lost" End Credit Card.)

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