When this program began, Lesson Study was merely a concept to us. As a pilot cohort we immersed ourselves into an unknown endeavor. It required our constant dedication and feedback in order to push the design and criteria of our own program, for ourselves and for the future. At times, notably during the first cycle, lesson study felt confusing and challenging. As time passed, we continued to  improve, and the concept of Lesson Study began to feel less obscure. Each member collaborated across grade levels to develop three series of lessons that are authentic to our teaching challenges and our student’s needs. During the start of the final cycle, a change had happened and a discernible feeling of expertise could be felt across the room. 

We as a cohort decided that we would like to create a video together that could be shared on to the new cohort, for the following year. We seamlessly divided and conquered to explain the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of Lesson Study. An abundant amount of words flew onto pages and then out of our mouths, as we filmed ourselves discussing Lesson Study and its benefits. We stepped into this program as novice, but brave, explorers of Lesson Study and are graduating as proud, and experienced, masters of Lesson Study. 

I felt empowered to guide the direction of my research and inquiry during the past year. Most significantly, I was able to deepen my understanding of how students can be joyful and successful learners through Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Play Based Learning. My research and experience lead me to understand that in order for students to learn, they must feel safe and comfortable. In order for students to feel safe and comfortable, a teacher must establish trust and develop a relationship with students. In order for trust and relationships to develop, authentic conversations must be had and listening must be practiced. Only then can students be ready and able to learn. Young students are especially sharp when it comes to detecting human intentions, it is extremely important to be present and attentive when tapping into their minds, feelings and interests. In order to broaden my understanding of my students, I had to dig deep and be bold. Through this course, I was empowered to hold courageous conversations with my students about their homes and lives, as well as inequities in the world around us. Students can learn more about their own identity by hearing and learning about their peer’s identity and cultural background. From these courageous conversations, my students held rich student-lead conversations and developed the mantra, “We are better together.”

Once students are feeling understood by their teacher and peers, and are feeling safe and comfortable in their environment, they are mentally and emotionally ready to learn. Learning can be delivered in many ways! We use play in every subject matter, because play increases engagement and helps solidify learning. It is often thought that learning is a gift from teacher to student, but it is also a gift from student to teacher. The teacher is not a keeper and distributor of knowledge, they are a facilitator in a classroom full of teachers!  Each member of the classroom works like a family and we are all crucial to each other's development. We need each other to discover, to change, to innovate, to listen, to build community and to be successful. We truly are better together!