I grew up in a family where learning was not bound to the classroom. In fact, my parents often took us out of class for family vacation. School was valued, and when we were there we were to apply ourselves fully, but we also were taught that you could learn anywhere. We went sightseeing. We explored new worlds through books. We had conversations about life. We learned together, and we enjoyed it.
But we were also really good at school. Teachers would ask, "Why do you Diephouses always have to read such long books?" for book reports. We received good grades, and we enjoyed the work it took to get them. Homework was never a battle. We thrived in school.
I loved school so much that I became a teacher. Now I realize that teachers hate it when students skip school for family vacation and that there are students who are unmotivated to "do school." Not everyone has a family like mine who cultivated a culture of life-long learners.
My first two years were survival mode. I learned curriculums. I made worksheets. I graded worksheets. After all, this is how I played school as a little girl.
Then I attended the Google Apps for Education California Summit in 2012, and my mind exploded with possibilities. I realized that learning didn't have to happen alone or with a worksheet. Instead, it's important that students know how to collaborate and communicate their information in a variety of ways. I've gotten to know my students, and I want to see their individual gifts and talents appear in their assessments. I want to give my students freedom in how they express their learning. Because after all, it's the learning that's important.