Monday, February 23, 2009

How Important is My Toolbelt?

In Toolbelt theory for everyone, Ira Socol states, “And everyone needs a properly equipped Toolbelt to get through life.” I think this was a perfect example of how everybody learns to cope with everyday life. That is what our schools are supposed to teach us. My teachers taught me the tools to add to my “toolbelt” so that I can be successful in life. I also needed to know how to find new tools if I needed them and how to learn how to use them once I got them. My learning didn’t end once I graduated from school and then decided that I’ve gotten all the tools I needed in life. Even as a teacher, I am constantly on the lookout for new tools and how they can make a difference in my life and others.

Recently, my husband and I did some repairs and painting on a rental house rather than paying someone else to do it. While we were working, sometimes I needed a ladder but when my husband worked on the same area, he didn’t need the ladder. We achieved the same goal but I used a different tool than he did. Neither one of us assumed that I was incapable of finishing the job because I needed the ladder. At different times while we were working, we used different tools but at the end of the week we were proud that we accomplished all that we had planned to do. Isn’t that the way learning should be in the classroom? I think Ira was right on target when he states, "Disability" has little or nothing to do with this. Everybody needs this skill set.” Giving students the ability to learn different tools for different situations should be taught to every student throughout their school career. During the local Council for Exceptional Children’s meeting, we talked about Universal Design for Learning. Karen Janowski was the guest speaker and shared with us the UDL Tech Toolkit. The question that kept coming up was why teachers didn’t do this in the classroom and how can we get them to do this? I’m not sure we ever came up with a good answer to this but we had a great discussion.

Ira also states “The only way to allow students to assemble this essential toolbelt for information and communication is to throw open your classroom and let the world in.” I think this applies to all of the filters out there used to protect our children. I believe the people in power are really trying to protect our children, no matter how misguided their intentions may be. I think it is very important to keep the lines of communication open with the people in order to show them how these tools can be more of an asset if allowed rather than a liability. At first they may be resistant but if I can show them examples of how I can use this tool and get others to use it and show their examples, it may help. I also think it is important to think of why people may be opposed to using this tool and have an answer ready for this before the discussion. I don’t think change will happen overnight but I can’t stop trying.

I also think that that Ira’s quote involves teachers trying new things. I need to be more open to new things and how they can apply to my lessons. Of course I think it is important to learn the new tools but I think it is most important to see how they can be used in the curriculum that I am teaching. I don’t want to have my students to use a tool just to use it. I want them to use a tool in a way that will help them create something new in the context of what I am teaching. Without this connection I think I am wasting my time. If I don’t see a purpose for learning something new, I will not waste my time learning it or I will put it aside and never use it again so I don’t want my students in the same position. I think as I see new tools I need to think about how I can use this in my classroom rather than how I want to learn just to use this. Once I see how it can be relevant, then I can focus my attention to the particulars of using the tool.

I feel this toolbelt theory is so important to being successful in life. This is important for all students of every level from elementary school through post secondary school. I will continue to add new tools to my toolbelt and get rid of the ones I no longer need. I will also make sure that these tools are relevant to my needs at this time. I know that my toolbelt can be changed often and changed according to what I need to do but it sure is comforting to know that I have different tools that I can put in my toolbelt if I need them.

Original image: 'Pegboard'


Lisa Parisi said...

Great post. I love the analogy to your home repairs. Just one suggestion for us all...don't forget that the tools that we as teachers are comfortable using might not be the ones that will help certain children be successful. Introduce many tools to your students, whether or not they are tools you personally would use. You never know when you'll hit the right tool for the right child.

loonyhiker said...

Lisa: Thanks for the suggestion about sharing many tools. You are so right! We don't want to limit them just to what we use.

irasocol said...

Thanks so much for this Pat, great storytelling and placing the conversation into the classroom. And thanks Lisa, I realize that I offer up so many tools that I don't use, whether I'm discussing building, or cooking, or fiction writing, or literacy, or school skills.

It isn't about my needs, or me determining what they need.It's about what they need, and how they figure that out.