COVA (Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authenticity) is a learning approach that I was unfamiliar with prior to beginning my digital leading and learning journey. As a veteran teacher, I would like to believe that I offer the students with whom I work the options that COVA brings, but I can say that I do not always do that. Implementing COVA into my classroom meant that I needed to understand how it was working for me as a learner.
Most of my learning throughout high school, undergraduate, and graduate classes did not incorporate COVA. So when I began working through the Digital Learning and Leading program, I struggled with the idea that there was not a specific outcome which the professors were looking for. I remember being frustrated and annoyed over the open-ended nature of so many of the assignments. I wanted to know exactly what I needed to do and how I would be assessed . I wanted a rubric that would show me what I needed to do in order to earn the A I wanted. When I realized that none of that would be an option, I decided that I would need to begin trusting the process. I needed to focus on what I could learn from the work I completed and less on getting that A – and this paid off. Through much reflection and interpretation of what I believed to be applicable to my situation, I was eventually able to become more creative and begin steadily embracing COVA. I was able to create final products that were useful to me and my organization, but I learned about my own abilities and voice. I now believe in my ability to create something authentic.
I believe the biggest shift happened with my mindset. I was used to figuring out what teachers/professors were looking for assignments and was able to provide them with what they were looking for. As we know now, this was not going to work within the DLL program, so my mindset needed to shift. I began approaching the assignments as learning opportunities where I could choose how to express my learning and understanding within a context that was authentic to me. Once this shift occurred it was easy for me to begin to see how what we were reading, learning, and discussing would be able to be implemented in my professional setting.
When I first began forming my innovation plan I realized how excited I was to create something that was authentic and something that I could really use in my classroom. I started to create a plan that I knew I actually wanted to implement and through this I realized I had my own voice and held the key to my own learning. The innovation plan that I created has already started working through the beginning steps and I am actually really excited for it. Unfortunately, I am not as far along as I had hoped to be because of classes, teaching, coaching, parenting, etc… but I am happy that I have started it and am beginning to make the time to work on it. I am very excited that I was able to speak with two colleagues and have them work through the planning and initial steps of my implementation process with me. The valuable support and feedback from my professors and classmates in this program have allowed me to strengthen and focus myself to continue on this innovation path.
Knowing what I know now, I recognize that I should have embraced the change earlier than I did. Throughout this program, I have realized that COVA and CSLE have helped me to shift and redefine my learning philosophy, as well as my teaching philosophy, to include elements of both of those. Through teaching and learning my perspective has shifted, but I believe having COVA and CSLE really helped to define this change in an organized and clear way. I don’t know how exactly I will be able to embrace the ideas in all of my classes, but I know that baby steps are important. I will need to practice and change various kinds of philosophies before I have a COVA and CSLE focused learning environment in my classroom. I have already made changes to my classroom that follow important aspects of each, and I find myself becoming more and more excited about making more changes in the future. However, I am realistic in regards to recognizing that I will not be able to instantly apply all aspects to every assignment I give. I would like to begin with one to two assignments per marking period and continue with this approach until, eventually, my course assignments will only be COVA and CSLE focused. In order to help my students ease into this, I will use examples and encourage communication, both of which really helped me when I was frustrated and panicked in these classes. I believe that making changes in my classroom gives me more confidence when trying to implement a greater change in my high school as a whole.
Next year, I will have ninth graders. While the shift from teaching twelfth graders to teaching ninth graders is difficult in regards to maturity, the ninth graders always bring fresh excitement about learning. Something that has been lacking in my class is the ability to have students understand why the classes they take in high school are important. With the world changing so quickly, students cannot seem to understand why they need to know the parts of a plant or animal cell in order to graduate when they could easily look it up on their phone if they ever needed that information. Through the help of this program and learning about COVA and CSLE I have decided that I would like to try a new approach with my ninth graders next year. I want the students to find value in what they’re learning in their regular education classrooms. I want the overarching goal for my students to find the purpose in their course materials. I want them to determine a reason why their class information and content is valuable, and if they can’t do that, they will need to find a way to make it valuable and authentic to them. The students will be the ones choosing the way to tell me about what and how they are learning.
I believe the COVA approach will go better in my classroom than with my innovation plan. Students are young and excited and open to new things, but telling colleagues that we are going to be implementing a new program will be challenging. Some will shut down immediately, some will complain that it creates more work for them, and others will choose not to participate. The best way to approach such challenges is to gain trust. I cannot expect colleagues to follow anything I ask of them without having their trust and respect first. To do this, I need to know my stuff – have my research, present it in a quick and efficient manner, show the positive outcomes and possible benefits to this new way of learning, and to instill some passion into the teachers who lost their spark. I feel more confident in myself and my abilities after working through these classes, but I believe what I am most proud of is my ability to change. From the new perspective I have gained, I have learned that what was once a daunting and impossible task is now an exciting reality for me. As Drew Dudley highlights in his presentation below, everyday leadership deserves credit (TED-Ed, 2013), and that is what I am doing.
TED-Ed. (2013, August 15). Everyday leadership – Drew Dudley [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAy6EawKKME&feature=youtu.be