Every since Joe Wood introduced me to the book "Ish" by Peter Reynolds 4 years ago, I have looked at myself as a learner and the adult learners I work with in a different way. SPOILER ALERT: in the book, Ramon realizes that if he sees himself as an "ish" then there is no need to strive for perfection. It is okay to be artist-ish. When I share this book with students, teachers, administrators, all learners, I stress that when you are an "ish" you are continually growing and learning. It is the perfect moniker for me because I know that no matter what I know or can do, there is always room for more learning and improvement, I am an eternal "Ish".
I have the privilege of modeling being an "Ish" for the teachers in my district this year. Interestingly, Friday our third day of the new school year was very "Ish-Ish":
I began the day helping a fourth grade class log into their GAFE (Google Apps for Education) accounts for the first time. We had students who did not exist and about a third of the students were asked to change their passwords (not good). Luckily patience and flexibility reigned and we worked through the issues.
Later that day, I worked with a multi-age 2/3 STEAM class. We began by reading "Ish". I asked the students to think about something they are really good at and gave them a quiet moment. I then asked the students to think about something they wish they were good at or were working at being good at. Then I began reading. At the end of the story I asked the students to raise their hands if they have something they are "Ish" at, here are some of the responses:
tennis-ish, karate-ish, reading-ish, math-ish, drawing-ish, video game-ish...
I informed the students that during our time together each week we will be actively practicing "Ish-es". Sometimes we will have successes and sometimes failures and ALL times we will learn. There was a collective sigh of relief as we embark on our year-long journey.
My pre-assessment activity took place after the students got logged onto chromebooks for the first time. The student pairs built straw towers. I call it a pre-assessment because the classroom teacher and I were able to assess the students risk-taking level. I was surprised that there were 3 students who were so frozen with fear of failing they completely gave up, even after pep talks from the teacher and myself. At the end of the 15 minutes the towers were a little sorry looking and the students were forgetting that they were "Ish-es". I took pictures and told them that this was our first try and that this is our starting point. We will look back at the end of the year and see incredible growth. Next week we will use the chromebooks to do some research on building straw towers and let them do some planning before they try again.
The year of "Ish" has begun!