COVA (Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authenticity) is a learning and teaching approach with which I was not familiar before starting my digital leading and learning journey. I’d like to believe that as a veteran teacher, I offer my students these options and routes in my classroom, but I cannot say I always do and all at the same time. It takes a lot of courage to implement COVA in your classroom, and in order for me to figure out how I was going to do that, I had to first understand how it was working with me as a learner.
When my colleagues and I started forming our innovation plan, I realized how excited I was to create something that was genuine and authentic, and something we could really do and use in our real-life careers. We started to create a plan that we knew we wanted to actually implement, and it was through this innovation plan that I realized I really had my own voice and held the key to my own learning in the program. I would definitely say I was NOT ready for it– but it came, and I embraced it with the help of my colleagues and friends. In addition, the valuable support and feedback from my other classmates and professors has allowed me the strength and focus to continue on this crazy path.
Knowing what I know now, I probably would have embraced the change earlier than I did. What I HAVE done, however, is I have promoted this program in my building. There are plenty of new and more veteran teachers looking for a valuable master’s program or learning experience, and through my recommendations, I know of two other teachers who have started the program and love it. Selfishly, I want other teachers in my building to take this program so that there are more of us to work together and be even stronger agents of change. I am not one to stir the pot on my own, but I am definitely down for some change if I have a team alongside me!
I can honestly say that yes, I’d love to change my organization, but even more importantly and more relevant to right NOW, I want to change ME and my classroom. I have already started thinking about all of changes in my classroom I can make. I also signed up to teach a hybrid learning course next year because of the skills and confidence this program has given me. I know that I am capable of taking on such a complicated task and I am looking forward to it!
COVA and CSLE philosophies were new to me– but as I’ve gone through the program, my learning and teaching philosophies have changed drastically to include elements of both of those. I don’t know how, exactly, I will be able to embrace the ideas in ALL of my classes, but I know now that baby steps are important, and that I will need to practice and change various kinds of philosophies before I reach my goal of having a COVA and CSLE focused learning environment in my classroom. One thing is for sure: I know that I have been inspired to refresh my teaching and learning methods, and I am so looking forward to having some extra time this summer, as I will have a break from the whirlwind, to really start making those changes to next year’s classes.
I have one overarching idea about implementing COVA in my classroom. Next year, I will have primarily ninth graders. This is my favorite age to teach because they are all still excited about learning and ready for their fresh start as high schoolers. One thing that has been lacking in my class lately is the ability to have them understand WHY the classes they take in high school are important. With the world changing in the way that it is, they can’t seem to understand why they need to know the Pythagorean Theorem in order to graduate when they could just look it up on their phone if they ever needed it (and why on EARTH would they?). As well, even in my English-language arts classroom, they tell me that it doesn’t matter if they have read Lord of the Flies because they can just look up the summaries to write papers and complete quizzes well. So through the help of this program and learning about COVA and CSLE, I have decided to try a new approach with them. I want them to find value in reading and writing about literature. I used to think that I would give them three things to think about: People, Ourselves, and the World (POW). But through the true philosophy of COVA, by giving them these three ideas to focus their learning, I am limiting their possibilities. Instead, I want the overarching goal of my course to be for my students to find the purpose in the course materials. I want each of them, every time we read a book or write an essay, to come up with a reason why it is valuable, and if they can’t they will need to find a way to make it valuable and authentic to them. I will still show them the POW outline, but THEY will be the ones choosing the way to tell ME all about what and how they are learning.
I think the COVA approach will go better in my classroom than with our innovation plan (the part that involves professional learning). Students are young and exited and open to new things (usually). But telling my colleagues that we are running a new PD program and they are able to learn what they want and how they want will be very challenging. Many will shut down immediately and complain that it just creates more work for them if they have to decide a plan of what to learn. Many others will simply choose to not participate and claim that since there don’t seem to be any guidelines it must not be a “real thing” that we have to do. The best way to approach these challenges is to gain trust first. I cannot expect my colleagues to follow anything I ask them to do without having their trust and respect. To do this, I need to know my stuff. I need to have research, and it needs to be presented in a quick and efficient manner, such as in the way we created this Prezi. I need to be able to show the positive outcomes and possible benefits to learning in this new way, such as with this easy to understand infographic about the six sources of influence, and I need to instill a sense of passion in some of the teachers who lost that spark a long time ago. It is so easy to lose the spark in this field. Administration issues, parent emails, scheduling conflicts, papers to grade, whiny students, etc. can all degrade a teacher’s inspiration to be an educator. But there are people who are made to help them come alive, and I will take on that role as a digital leader in my district.
The following two videos follow the same philosophies as COVA and CSLE. They explain two important ideas that I now subscribe to: 1) Teachers can be the future of education and 2) We need to teach students how to learn.