How Agile & SCRUM Make Me a Better Teacher | Jessica Cavallaro | 3 Min Read

After being sent home last March the world has shifted dramatically. The assumptions that were held as true seem old and antiquated. Educators have been on the front line of this shift. After being sent home for “two weeks” on a sunny Friday afternoon the perception of purposeful education has to be reimagined. 

It quickly became clear that taking lesson plans from the classroom to virtual was not functional. Educators need to adapt at lightning speed to the needs of their students, but the world of virtual teaching was too new and too fresh. There was so much going on. Everyone was emotional and mentally drained. Educators, students, and parents were pushed beyond reasonable boundaries watching the systems that we were familiar with dissolve in front of us. 

Over a year later it is clear that education has shifted and desperately needs an overhaul. The current education system is preparing students for jobs that do not exist. The rote memorization, assembly line, “do as you’re told” world of careers has evaporated with the automation and rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  

What we need are problem solvers. People that can think creatively and with empathy. People that can spark charge and create a tide of innovation. People that fail fast, reflect, reassess and move again.

Is our educational system providing that?

Agile and Scrum

After a sad ending to the 2020 school year, I dove into my  “Summer of Learning.” I needed something to supercharge my brain and breathe energy into my creative side after being drained by months of online teaching. 

While searching through courses I found an introductory course to SCRUM. 

SCRUM? What an unusual name. It captured my interest immediately. 

SCRUM is a framework used for project management. This was a light bulb moment. There are people who are employed to run projects? Project-Based Learning (PBL) but with adults and real products? How had I missed this for so long?

SCRUM is a lightweight framework that gives teams the autonomy to work through large projects in a flexible, transparent, and adaptive way.  There are basic procedures to follow, but at its core, it is about giving teams the power to make the best decisions for their work and optimized communication and collaboration. 

I had been running my classroom through project-based learning units for a few years, but SCRUM opened my eyes to how much better this process could be. Students could create their own teams, plan their own projects, use visual project boards to color code and organize their tasks. They would be responsible to each other to establish and achieve their own learning goals, which would mean constant communication and transparency. 

This was the answer to distance or hybrid learning. In the spring we saw how isolated and desperate our students were in their houses, most without the strong social connections to keep in contact with the kids they saw on a daily basis in the classroom. They were withdrawing, only communicating with adults, staring at a screen, completing busywork. What if the Agile SCRUM framework was implemented over a project-based learning unit? 

Students would choose their own teams, build their own project boards, and keep in constant communication to set goals and achieve their shared outcomes. The framework would cherish students at home or in school. It functioned whether the class was in person or at a distance. It would keep us together, no matter what the craziness of 2020 threw at us. 

Their work would have a purpose. They would have autonomy.  There would be a human connection and constant collaboration.

This was my lightning bolt moment in July 2020. SCRUM and Agile were the tools that would save the 2020-2021 school year. 

The Agile SCRUM series is a bi-weekly set of articles from Jessica Cavallaro and Roslynn Ferguson of Pine Crest School (FL). 

Jessica Cavallaro

Jessica Cavallaro is the co-founder of The Agile Mind, which interweaves Agile frameworks into K-12 education. She is passionate about the benefits of project based learning and creating purposeful education to drive innovation through inquiry. She is an advocate for developing systems that give students agency. Jessica earned her Bachelor’s degree at Pace University and Master’s in Education from Mercy College.

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