Tagged: Hero Path

Unleashing Learners’ Superpowers

Heroes quest for knowledge and crave adventure. Their journeys consist of trials–tests of strength, skill, resourcefulness, and endurance. With each challenge, heroes are expected to be courageous, take calculated risks, and prove their worthiness. Fortunately, heroes find mentors–teachers who provide guidance, wisdom, and feedback during training, and help each hero recognize their unique gifts.

While heroes appear superhuman, they must face the truth: like all humans, heroes are flawed. The greatest adversity is self-doubt, a conflicted mind, the temptation to give up. Heroes must look inward to conquer their darkest fears. Only then may they return to impact society and leave a legacy.

When we replace hero with learner in the classroom, we witness the impact of personalized learning. When we empower learners, we unleash their super powers. Empowering learners to explore the unknown requires courage–for educators as well as learners. It is not easy for educators to unlearn what they know and what has traditionally been expected of them.

Accept the call to adventure. Join our hero’s journey on a quest to personalize learning. If you are unable to attend the 8th Annual National Convening on Personalized Learning, follow the Twitter hashtag #PLconf17

Want to “Foster Powerful Learners“? Unleash their superpowers!

We never know what our learners are thinking or capable of creating. When we provide time, tools, space, and opportunities to make their own connections, students will remove their masks and use their powers to answer questions educators would never consider asking. 

Attendees of Not All Heroes are Created the Same: Unleashing Learners’ Superpowers will be treated to a session featuring the voices of my heroes. Four courageous students will reflect on a year’s worth of challenges, adventures, and personal transformation on their quest for understanding. They return from their journey to share their stories, guided by essential questions from the Epic Final Exam.

Stage 1: Separation from the Ordinary World

  • What did you discover about yourself as a learner?
  • What was your call to adventure? Did you initially accept or resist the call?
  • How did crossing the threshold in this course force you out of your comfort zone?

Stage 2: Initiation – Trials and Challenges

  • What was your most memorable adventure in this class?
  • What was the most challenging obstacle for you this year?
  • What academic risks did you take throughout the year?
  • What was your greatest achievement?

Stage 3: Transformation – The Inward Journey

  • How have you transformed throughout the year?
  • What traditional habits and thinking did you have to unlearn in order to transform? Reflect on your growth and self-understanding.

Stage 4: The Return – Impact Society. Leave a Legacy

  • What new knowledge about the world have you gained by studying the content of this course?
  • Use the literature you’ve read to answer the essential question: “How may an individual impact society?”
  • Discuss your contributions to society. What have you created that did not exist before?

Throughout each stage, participants will receive supernatural aid and tools to support their quest to personalize learning. Before the session ends, heroic educators will be well on the way to crafting the story of their next educational journey.

Unleashing Learners_ Superpowers - Google Slides


Days 6-7: The Inspirational Mentor

The function of the mentor is to prepare the hero to face the unknown–to accept the adventure. The mentor gives the hero the supplies, knowledge, and confidence required to overcome his or her fear and face the adventure.

The mentor also provides aid, advice, or magical equipment when all appears doomed. Even in the depths of a foreign swamp, the wise mentor may impart wisdom, with or without words. The hero in training might not initially comprehend the lesson until years later, but will eventually learn to use the power of the force, likely passing this knowledge to others.

We all have to learn life’s lessons from someone or something in order to grow. I would not have survived the journey without my mentor’s guidance and stability. And so many laughs along the way.

My mentor is also my most influential colleague (now retired). She is a master educator—a model of professionalism and best practice. Her leadership establishes an environment of professional excellence, trust, individual empowerment, and self-worth. I spent fourteen years the beneficiary of her guidance as she transformed our department into a cohesive, progressive team. 

Through decades of shifting educational trends, the mentor shows the ability and willingness to adapt by using creative problem solving to find solutions. With an emphasis on self-improvement, she maintains a growth mindset—with a vision of progress—consistently focused on the best interest of students. She is an advocate for human rights and celebrates individuality in a diverse world. She believes all students can not merely learn, but succeed, if given a voice and an opportunity. Therefore, she inspires critical thought and challenges individuals to communicate their thoughts. My mentor is also an expert communicator. She speaks with eloquence and poise, with the knowledge that language is power. However, the wise mentor always listens first, thus earning the trust and respect of those in her presence.

My mentor encourages others to take risks while providing support when it is most needed. She gives generous advice, but prefers to guide learners to find solutions without simply giving answers. As a result, students and colleagues develop a natural curiosity while discovering their passions and strengths. She maintains an optimistic vision for education with integrity, compassion, and a sense of humor.

Clearly, my mentor is a selfless, compassionate leader; she takes pride in the success of others with no expectation of personal accolades. Her reward is in the lasting relationships and shared memories with those she continues to impact.

Like a Sherpa guiding a climb, my mentor showed me the way. Now it is my turn. 

PBL: World Perspectives’ MAP of Authentic Learning

World Religion Wall

Project-Based Learning, the key to learn with a purpose

Learn with a purpose–for the sake of knowledge, reflection, and individual growth. Take ownership of your learning by thinking, questioning, and exploring beyond the hour we spend together in the classroom. My students receive this message daily. Some figure it out and thrive in my classes; others simply hear the words, go about their business, and continue to ask how many points an assignment is worth. I’m sure several turn up the volume on their iPod and tune me out before I start talking.

English: This image outlines the basic path of...

English: This image outlines the basic path of the monomyth, or “Hero’s Journey”. Non copyrighted, free work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In order to earn English credit, all juniors are required to take World Literature and Composition. The course is structured thematically around the stages of the hero’s journey in which we receive a call, cross a threshold separating us from the known world, face the trials and tests of initiation, transform our thinking and understanding of life, and return to our world enlightened, poised to impact others.

I am fortunate to teach at a comprehensive high school which takes pride in its reputation of offering opportunities for every student. Students take AP courses and generally perform well on standardized tests. They go on to have college and career success. There is a comfortable–almost secure–definition of appropriate, acceptable, and normal we choose to abide by and conform to. We claim to be tolerant, open-minded, and even accepting of differences; but this is where our flaws are exposed. While the majority of our students are considerate and respectful, many are apathetic or unintentionally offensive. The only plausible explanation is that we have always done it this way, as if to justify our good intentions–our way of life.

Detail of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sa...

Detail of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio, 1509, showing Plato (left) and Aristotle (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But Plato acknowledges our flawed perception–that which we choose to overlook or ignore–and challenges us to question reality. What are the images cast in shadows on the cave wall? What exists beyond our known world? Many of us have no knowledge or understanding of life outside the cave, but are we to blame? Can we trust those claiming to be enlightened: the Form of the Good?

Too much talk…not enough action

This is the rationale I shared with students in my two junior classes before proposing their final exam:

The title of this course is World Perspectives. We spend months studying cultural themes and human behaviors; we analyze the archetypal journey and reflect on our metaphorical quests for personal understanding; we study religions of the world, while claiming to appreciate and respect diversity…yet, we do not transform beyond knowledge level–comprehension is assessed, but action is rarely taken. Therefore, little change occurs in our life patterns.

Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno...

Gustave Doré’s illustration to Dante’s Inferno. Plate I: Canto I, Opening lines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Epic heroes model strategies for overcoming struggle. Siddhartha shares the secrets of his enlightenment–that teachers can relay information and provide knowledge about life, but they can not teach experience. We walk the allegorical path beside Dante through the Dark Wood of Error into the depths of our conscience with only a guide to point us toward spiritual salvation. We even analyze our flaws–no one wants to end up like Oedipus, right? So what have we learned? Do I provide authentic opportunities and real guidance or am I a hypocrite preparing to give another meaningless final exam? How does our 11th grade study of world literature impact our perspectives?

THE RETURN: Completing the Journey

*After surviving the trials and tests of the journey, we must return–transformed–to everyday life with greater wisdom

*We discover our gift and may become a great leader; we are spiritually enlightened

*We must contribute to our society (possibly renewing or even saving it)

*Like Gilgamesh, we must leave something behind–a MAP for others to follow (an acronym for My Awesome Project or My Action Plan…I couldn’t pick one title, so we refer to our PBL quest as MAPMAP…creative, I know)

Essential Question: “As you complete this year’s journey, how will you use your knowledge to impact life on a personal, societal, and global scale?”

Use the following steps as an initial guide:

1) Establish a concept of the “Others” based on the psychology of human perception

2) Identify discrimination, prejudice, bias of those considered “Others.” We generated the following list:

{disability, religion, race/ethnicity, gender, height, weight, sexual orientation, age, education, social class, social theories/politics, nationality, appearance, language, labels/stereotypes}

3) Select one topic to further explore

4) Narrow your plan to include a summary of the issues, challenges, investigations, scenarios, or problems

5) Frame an essential question to guide your actions (MAP your journey!)

6) Establish your purpose and audience

7) Commit to a goal: How far are you willing to take your learning according to Bloom’s pyramid? What action will you take?

C = Comprehension level: learn about the topic, collect information, knowledge (share with teacher, continuing a comfortable pattern)

B = Application level: teach others, urge others to join your cause (share with the class, the requirements of a typical class project)

A = Creation level: take action, publish, utilize technology, transform yourself, impact others (share with the greater community, crossing the threshold into an unknown world)

Here is a sample of guiding questions my students will explore throughout the final quarter of the school year:

*How can we create a more open-minded and accepting society?

*How does clothing and style influence the treatment of individuals?

*What would the world be like without the conflict created by religious separation?

*How can adolescents use social media to positively impact others?

*Accepting the fact that discrimination is a natural part of high school, how can adolescents survive the bullying and harassment they will face due to their appearance?

*Why do our appearances lead to ridicule and what can I do to raise awareness?

*In what ways can we prevent our peers from harming themselves both physically and mentally?

*How can I change standardized testing to measure everyone’s unique talents? (we had a quality discussion about Caliban while studying The Tempest)

*How can I create awareness about human rights to an online audience? (already a member of Amnesty International looking to have a greater voice)

*How can I make students aware of hurtful words made in school that people are unaware of?

*What can be done to support gay members of our school?

*Is it possible to create a community that will not reject ideas or judge others based on age?

*How can lyrical messages in music be used to inspire individuals to preserve freedoms, fight injustice, and put an end to discrimination?

I am impressed by the variety and depth of their questions and the number of students accepting the challenge to venture well beyond their comfort level. Normally, students would be coasting to the end; I could predict everyone’s final scores if given a written exam, paper, or presentation. Contrary to typical exam performances, students will close this year at their academic peak, with mostly A’s in the grade book.

So what’s in it for me? I am excited to watch my students transform, separate from their known world, and make something of their learning. I want students to have lasting evidence of their education. Next year as seniors, they will have something substantial to write about when applying to college or interviewing for a job. I am proud to share the impact of their discoveries with anyone willing to listen. Real creativity and problem solving is taking place without limitation, unrestricted by standards or curriculum. Autonomy has no answer key. My students, in turn, observe their teacher in the role of a learner challenging traditional lessons; at this point in the school year, I have renewed motivation and a quest to complete.

My Awesome Project…My Action Plan