009-Mastering Mastery-Based Learning with Jen Page

In case you’re wondering, I’m NOT an experienced hiker.

Recently, I had a day off and I went for a hike. Knowing that I was interested in doing some more hiking, my wife purchased a quality day pack & a year-long subscription to the All Trail App to help me plan my excursions into the woods. On this particular day I had decided to try a hike that was rated as “difficult” on the app at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Berks County, Pennsylvania. About two miles into the hike I was trying to figure out how in the world someone would consider this to be hard–but then I came the sign you see to the right and I quickly realized that my hike was about the get tougher.

At this point, I had a decision to make–was I going to turn around and return on the easier path I took to this lookout, or would I push on and try the Skyline Trail? I’ll admit, my initial response was to turn back and I did just that. As I was retracing my steps and heading back to the starting point I was finding excuses to justify my decision–after all, I’m not an experienced hiker and my knee isn’t totally rehabbed from surgery I got in March. As I sullenly sulked back the path I reminded myself that I came here with a purpose today–I wanted to push myself past my comfort zone and the limits I had set for myself when it came to hiking. My original intentions were to hike further, however, a new opportunity had arisen for me. Now, instead of hiking further, I had the opportunity to hike a more difficult path.

Resolved to push past the discomfort & try something new, I turned around and headed for the more difficult Skyline Trail. As I peered over the edge of one of the bigger boulders I’d have to traverse I started getting second thoughts–so in an attempt to commit myself to the challenge I jumped–down the boulder to a spot that would make it nearly impossible for me to turn back. That decision to move forward and not turn back was difficult in the moment but incredibly rewarding and it’s exactly where many of us our in our teaching methods as this incredibly different and difficult year draws to a close.

Ironically enough I was catching up on my podcast listening on my way home from the hike and I heard the latest Cult of Pedagogy episode from Jennifer Gonzalez entitled “No More Easy Button: A Suggested Approach to Post-Pandemic Teaching.” In this episode, Gonzalez urges her audience to resist them temptation and slip back into some of our old habits because they are easier. Instead, she says, we need to use the experiences we had this past year to help us push our practices further and grow as educators.

So why the heck am I rambling on about all of this? Simple–the challenge I’d like to tackle as a teacher next school year is to become more adept at instituting mastery-based learning in my 8th grade social studies classroom. This is why I’m so excited about my interview with Jen Page! Jen is currently a middle school social studies teacher that worked with a small group of her colleagues to develop a credit score simulation for her students. This simulation, meant to run for the entire school year, would be a way to not only help her students understand the often-confusing world of credit scores, but to also track and evaluate their own habits as a student. I really think you’ll enjoy this episode! Check out the resources listed below (you might want to keep this page open as you listen) and feel free to reach out with any questions, ideas or stories of success you may have for Jen or myself concerning this simulation!

Resources from Jen

  • Financial Literacy Simulation Info: This Google Slide deck contains nearly everything you’ll need to get started with the simulation including some detailed explanation and links to help you run yours.
  • Financial Literacy Simulation: Here it is, the “meat and potatoes” of Jen’s simulation. This two-columned chart will give you all the information you need to better understand how, and why, to run this simulation. You’ll hear me reference this chart a number of times throughout the episode.
  • Financial Literacy Simulation Rubric: Here is the rubric used by Jen and her colleagues each quarter to determine each student’s credit score.

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