At our school most things are chronicaled off of our school year calendar but at the end of the calendar year we take time to reflect back on the calendar year. It's a fun time to look back at what was happening in what we consider our previous year and melt it together with the beginning of our current school year. For the second time we put together our top ten moments in social media. Thanks to Michael McDonough for sifting through all of the posts and helping create our list. Enjoy watching a bit of our history! What would be your school's top ten?
While watching “The Backwards Brain Bicycle”, the phrase “It’s like riding a bike” took on new meaning. The video made me think about my journey as an educator.
Relearning something that we are used to doing and doing well is hard. There is a tension between the established learning environment in our schools and creating a new learning standard that integrates the curriculum and allows students to use the material to construct new knowledge. In the past, the road ahead has always been relatively clear, as far as goals in classrooms. Tests to pass, answers to be able to give and yet now the bar and the end game is a moving target in the real world. Our students must take STAAR, AP and IB exams along with the ACT and SAT. These tests take place without the use of technology or the access to reference content. Measures are not currently in place to assess student performance constructing new knowledge or a learner's ability to collaborate, create and problem solve.
We must find ways to make sure that our students are graduating ready to thrive in a world where these unmeasured skills are essential. Shifting methods and systems in learning brings a lot of uncertainty, particularly where “good” already exists. As educators, we naturally fear failure because we know our work matters, and it matters every day. It’s not just the personal sense of failure that scares us; it’s the impact on our students that can cause us not to want to try new methods. Innovation is risky because it involves giving up things we are good at and taking on work that we may not be good at yet. Change increases the chance of failure. Working in an environment that supports teachers and administrators when things don’t go as hoped is critical. We must not be afraid to give up the way things have been done in the past for what is right for students today.
The bike video has me thinking about where I am as an educator learning to “ride a bike” differently. I believe that I can make it a few feet further than I could last year but there is still a lot of falling going on. One of my son's who is a senior in college wrote the following message to me in a note at Christmas and it meant so much.
"Thank you for showing me what it means to be truly passionate about something. I am in awe of your passion for education. I see how much time and effort you put into doing your job, and I can only hope to one day find something that I am remotely close to being as passionate about."
I do love my job! Here’s to 2017 and moving forward with those that are ready. Creating the future while managing the past takes vision, commitment, continuous learning and most importantly great people. Our school culture is changing, and it's the educators that are opting into new learning that are making that happen.
Now I need to decide on my #oneword for 2017. What's yours going to be?
Unity, that's the topic that members of the #CompelledTribe were given to blog about this month. To be honest, I wasn't sure where to start in reflecting on that word until I read a quote this weekend.
I realize that I cannot control the chaos and unrest that we see on our news stations right now across our nation. As educators, I believe we all have to begin in our community, reality, and schools. There is great wisdom in Mitch Albom's words above. If we can all do these three things and inspire and lead our students to strive for them in their lives, I believe we will take a step towards the power of unity.
When you devote yourselves to others, you give a large part of your time, your resources and your heart to those around you.
When you devote yourself to your community, you are considering those around you and their needs and not just your needs.
When you create something that gives you purpose and meaning you are connecting with your passion and sharing that with others.
It is my belief that we all do not have to agree on everything to experience and thrive from being united. We are each responsible for our actions. If we can instill and model these simple ideas to our students, we will be stronger.
I remember sitting in a meeting two years ago and listening as teachers shared how upset they were that hardback textbooks were not being purchased any longer. Going from hardback to digital has been bumpy but looking at what students now have access to I would never go back to where we were. Today, our 1:1 classrooms have the ability to meet so many more of our students where they are at.
We hear the term differentiated instruction a lot. We know that students in the same class cannot possibly all be at the same place in their learning. When faced with large class sizes the logistics of efficiently differentiating curriculum is challenging.
There are at least four different elements that teachers can differentiate within a classroom.
Classrooms enhanced by technology provide support and structure to students. The technology can allow scaffolding to be in place for some and enrichment for students who thrive on challenge.
Students for whom English is not a first language can become frustrated when presented with information that meets their English comprehension level but is far below their cognitive level. These students benefit from supplementing verbal and written information with videos. In the past, teachers did not have access to resources that could individualize the material available to their students, now they do.
Four resources that a teacher can use to differentiate are listed below.
What tools have you found that help teachers differentiate within their classroom?
What makes us, us? What defines us as a school and allows us to consistently improve? I have asked that question over and over again. The answer was right in front of me and I didn't realize it. The people.
We have worked hard over the last four years to tell our collective story. Allowing the community & world to see how our students are being challenged and meeting that challenge.
What is important to realize is that apart from our collective story there are a few hundred individual stories of educators that are woven together that contribute to our school's story and help make our students journey remarkable.
Over the summer I have spent time reflecting on the educators I am surrounded by. I have the opportunity to visit and experience a large number of classrooms. I believe there are some common traits that shape and influence each person's individual story and impact their personal narratives.
They value relationships, the relationships that I see formed every day are special and authentic. They are empathetic; they let others know that they are not alone and validate the emotions and circumstances they are experiencing. Relevance, the here and now is at the forefront of what they do on a daily basis. And lastly, they are brave. They speak up for what they believe in, whether it's the popular thing to do or not and they take chances and try new things knowing that they may not be successful. So there you have it, relationships, empathy, relevance and bravery combined together.
As educators we are at one of the most challenging and exciting times that our profession has ever experienced. The silos of the past are being flattened and the ability to connect and grow along with other educators has never been more powerful. This summer George Couros spoke about the opportunities available to connect and collaborate and reminded us all that "It is now a choice to work in isolation." I believe that the educators in my building can become even stronger and more effective by connecting with others facing similar challenges day in and out.
I was challenged to identify something that I wanted to work on in this coming year. Sharing and acknowledging many of these individual stories is something that I want to include in our school's story over the next year. Connecting professionally as educators with others across the globe, as well as establishing connections for their students outside of our walls. Authentic real connections, learning and products being made and shared.
We have amazing educators and students in our story! I can't wait to share out things that they are trying and ways that they are creating, collaborating and growing. There will be plenty of bumps to share in our story this year, but that's gotten to be a badge we can wear proudly. So here we go!
It seems like a simple question, "What are we going to do in here?"
This past week I had the opportunity to help lead EdCamp Leadership Texas. In preparation to host EdCamp Leadership, we set aside time to make sure that the facility was ready for the event. We began setting up by visiting the classrooms that breakout sessions would be held in. Then we moved into the main space that educators would gather in. As I entered the room with my principal, he looked at the large space and said, "What are we going to do in here?" What an awesome question as it sent us in a totally different direction from what we normally do.
In the past, whenever we have set the room up, it has been rows of tables with chairs. His simple question turned into an experiment of how we could arrange the tables and chairs in a way so that people could interact and meet each other. We spent about a half hour experimenting with different configurations. We moved things around until we came up with a different footprint for the room. We needed to accommodate 100+ people. After the event, we reflected and discussed how we felt changing the flow of the room and arranging the tables in a new way brought a different energy to the room. We simply needed to think inside the box that we had and not do what we had always done before.
At EdCamp Leadership, I also had the privilege of meeting Christine Dismuke, @cmdismuke2 . She passionately shared her experience with classroom redesign and the positive effect she has seen it have within her own classroom. I encourage you to check out and share her blog, The Deskless Tribe.
The topic of space & design is a conversation we need to continue to have as educators. Considering the space and how it is best used during professional development is now something that we will always do. I will look at learning spaces in general in a different light moving forward.
If you have experience or insight on learning environments, please share what you have learned.
As summer hits the midway point, it's time to start thinking about welcoming your faculty back to campus. Are you looking for some creative, fun, active ideas? I have a few ideas to share from our campus, Ipadpalooza in Austin and ISTE in Denver this summer.
The first is an experience that we offered on our campus last year. Using Goosechase, our faculty participated in a scavenger hunt. We are a comprehensive high school with a large zone. We chose to do a scavenger hunt for a few reasons. We wanted teachers to have an opportunity to meet teachers they didn't know. We let teams form on their own with one rule. The one rule was that there could not be more than one other person from a department on a team. Teams formed in groups of 5. We also wanted teachers to explore the geographic zone in which our students live. The scavenger hunt was also an opportunity for teachers to visit and thank the businesses that support our school throughout the year. In Goosechase, you can pre-select missions that they have designed or design your own. We had a creative member of our admin team design our tasks to make them specific to our community. Many of the missions he just tweaked from an idea that Goosechase provided in their mission bank. Each mission was worth a different amount of points. The teams set out in cars to compete for the grand prize which was a half day off during the year. Teachers are motivated when you give them "time". The feedback that we received from the scavenger hunt was wonderful. Funny stories of the time spent together in cars and getting to know each other were shared during the post hunt debrief. Throughout the scavenger hunt, teams posted pictures as they accomplished a mission. Posting to social media earned them extra points. The images that came in were great and shared the story of the day our teachers had with our community. Great PR as well. Watch a one minute video of a Goosechase scavenger hunt. *Please note that there is a fee to run a Goosechasewww.goosechase.com/solutions/k12/ Scavenger Hunt as a large event or school wide. Teachers can use the tool for free with individual classes.
The next idea for team building is to design an Amazing Race for your faculty to compete in. Janelle Maurier shared her free iBook at IpadPalooza. The iBook, Professional Learning AppMazing Prescription, is available to download for free in the iTunes store. I can't create a link to it but if you go to the itunes store and search you will find it. It's an electronic interactive book with great ideas to create your own race organized using the tool Thinglink.
At ISTE, Josh Gauthier shared additional information about creating an Amazing Race. His presentation can be found under ISTE in Denver 2016 "Amazing Race Instructions". Theme music from the Amazing Race can be played in the background when you introduce the challenge. The feedback from educators that had participated in this in the sessions I attended was positive. These two resources should get you going in the right direction to create your own Amazing Race!
The next idea is Breakout EDU. The Breakout EDU bus was onsite at #ISTE2016 and Breakout EDU CEO Adam Bellow's along with Steve Dembo from Discovery Ed ran a great session on PD. The Breakout EDU approach creates a gaming challenge for teams to work in.
Breakout EDU does require a basic kit so that the games can be played. Kits can be purchased through Breakout Edu or the can be assembled by a school by gathering the supplies that are listed at Breakout Edu's website.
Over 200 Breakout EDU games have already been written. Some of the games are more polished than others. Any of the games can be adapted to your own needs as well. Breakout EDU games are all Open Source. You’ll need to register with Breakout EDU and then access the games and their details behind a password protected site.
The last idea that I have to share is a team challenge that you can create on you own. Design challenge activities for teams to complete and award badges along the way. The challenge could include activities similar to the challenges described for the Scavenger Hunt or Amazing Race. List each challenge on a shared Google Doc in view only mode. As team's completed a task they could submit their evidence through a linked Google Form. Once a form has been submitted for a task a designated group reviewing submissions could issue badges to the groups. Badges can be created and awarded in Badgelist or Credly. Badges could be worth different amounts of points as well. A leader board could be updated throughout the challenge on the Google Doc. If funds prohibit using the Goosechase platform a Badge Challenge could be an alternative solution.
Each of the team activities listed above are great options to strengthen teams. They are also all learning activities that teachers can apply to any content area. After you run one of the challenges encourage teachers to imagine the ways in which students could also develop challenges for courses and flip the role of teacher and student in creating the challenge for other students to complete.
What other team building activities have you heard of or experienced?
Mojo is the moment when we do something that’s purposeful, powerful, and positive and the rest of the world recognizes it.
Summertime is the perfect time to fill your cup of mojo! Here are TEN surefire ways from the Compelled Tribe to keep or get back your mojo this summer.
Exercise – @Jennifer_Hogan
I find that when I get to exercise, it keeps me motivated, energized, and confident. Exercise is a time when I can disconnect from the world and just be “inside my head.” It allows time for ideas to percolate without interruption… time that I value and appreciate. It also provides the whitespace I need as an introvert. For me, it encourages creativity and problem-solving while the endorphins are being released! Done consistently, it’s a true mojo-maker!
Connecting – @jon_wennstrom
For me, I draw energy from being around positive people. Connecting with educators during summer learning sessions, sharing and learning from others on Twitter about books we’ve read, and of course blogging and reading blogs. I’m definitely an extrovert and being around other educators helps inspire me and always leads to new ideas to implement and helps me keep my mojo!
Theater – @sandeeteach
I love Broadway musicals, plays, and other theatrical productions. It’s a way for me to escape and immerse myself in a story. One of my favorite theaters spoofs popular shows. For example, this year two of the shows will be “Indiana Bones Raiders of the Wal-Mart” and “Captain American Fork The Worst Avenger”. (American Fork is the city where I grew up.) The actors and actresses are masters of improvisation which makes for a night of laughter. Another favorite theater performs in the round which is always a delightful experience. There are beautiful theaters in downtown Salt Lake City for Broadway musicals and outdoor shows in many local communities. For a few hours, I can lose myself in another world. But upon further reflection, I always relate the experience to teaching because that’s just what teachers do. We get ideas that benefit our students from everywhere.
Find a good read, or two – @Vroom6
There are lots of ways to find joy and rejuvenate during the summer months. And, I am all about work hard, play hard. With that, one of the greatest joys I get from the summer months, and a way in which I keep my mojo running full steam ahead, is by catching up on some of that much needed reading that took a back seat during the school year. Often times the days we are in session with students and teachers are filled with more scripted reading and writing. So for me, it is the summer months that I get to find that much anticipated new release on best practices in our field. Whether striving to become a better leader, or a better learner, it is the books that I carry with me to the beach, the pool or the park that I enjoy the most.
Dream big together – @allysonapsey
When my mojo needs a pick me up, I dream about what could be for our students, but I don’t do it alone. Just like everyone else, I find myself focusing on the trees rather than the forest from time to time. When monotony sets in, I push back by collaborating with the amazing teachers I work with. I am astounded after each conversation–we feed off each other, we divide and conquer, and we multiply our creativity for the sake of our students. Through these type of conversations this year, we came up with an amazing service learning project, we started plans for a Makerspace, we piloted new
reading initiatives, we shared professional reading that has inspired us and so much more. While we are dreaming big together, we are building stronger relationships, laughing, and challenging each other.
Pause and Reflect – @KarenWoodEDU
When my mojo needs some rejuvenation, (and it sometimes does), I first take a few minutes to reflect. I find that sometimes my initial desire to “rejuvenate my mojo” may have my efforts focussed in the wrong areas or in areas which may not be productive for educators or students in the long run. Reflection leads to focus and clarity. From clarity goals can be set and then the fun begins! Once my goals are established I jump in full force and do so with collaborative efforts. It is very important that the shared vision of success is truly understood by all. The last strategy I feel is essential for rejuvenating mojos is time to step away from work. I admittedly do not do this well, however I find when I can clear my head (by going to the beach, going for a walk, kayaking, swimming, or practicing yoga/meditation, etc.) I return refreshed, focussed, and ready to ramp up my mojo and the mojos of others around me.
Get into some music! – @PrincipalStager
I was a music major in college and a music educator prior to becoming a principal. Whenever I need to get my mojo back or need to decompress, I find a piano and PLAY. I play in a group at my church so I have the opportunity to play rather often. I understand not everyone has the ability to sit down and play a musical instrument, but when I don’t have a piano to play, I drive in my car or just put my headphones in and JAM! There is nothing like a great playlist of uplifting and energetic music to get your energy back and your cup overflowing! This is my sure-fire way to get back on track.
Make a “bucket list” – @jodiepierpoint
I decided to make a “bucket list” of things I wanted to accomplish within a year, but I’m finding summer is a perfect time to accomplish them. Things such as volunteering and baking cookies for friends have been real pick me ups! Training for a quarter marathon has led into a half, simply because I’m out with great friends chatting while I’m doing it. I check my list all the time, call a friend, and pick an activity to do – it’s a great way to rejuvenate not only myself, but others too!
“What if People” & Quiet Time – @Debralcamp
I do my best thinking when I am with people that like to say “what if”. There is something about the words “what if” that allows walls to come down. When discussions are lead with the words “what if” it takes away the threat of there being wrong answers and allows for brainstorming to happen in a way that doesn’t in a lot of conversations. I find it very motivating to be pushed and pulled by other people’s thoughts and ideas. Positive energy comes when people work together and create as a group. There is a collective product that is created as well. I find on the flip side that quiet time and reflection after being with “what if people” takes me to a space in my head where more ideas can be generated. Revisiting and reflecting again with the same group consistently allows for new ideas to develop and to be tried. (They don’t always work but the process sure is fun and motivating.)
Balance – @Abond013
Often times when I am feeling overwhelmed, I find that I need to prioritize. It is important for educators in any role to find time to take care of themselves. We need to give students our best and that is challenging when we are running on empty. Besides exercising, traveling, and spending time with family or friends, I find that fueling my passion keeps me going. For example, if you are passionate about literacy, continue to take interest and learn more. Surround yourself with people who share your passion.
Transition defined is the passage from one state, subject, or place to another. The morning of our graduation rehearsal this year I read a post by Seth Godin on transition. The post struck a cord with me. What did our system look like to transition our seniors out successfully? We have a comprehensive plan in place to transition our 9th-grade students into our high school. Yet, we had never formally reflected on how we transition students out of our school four years later.
Research has shown that three core factors are critical in transition. They are; the need to feel safe, the need for information and the need to feel connected. As our seniors move towards their next big adventure, we need to address all three areas.
We cannot control the setting that our seniors are transitioning to. But, we can make sure that we have resources in place for students to explore their options. Students need to establish a sense of trust and knowledge with their chosen destination. A dedicated College Center serves as a physical and emotional location for students. College counselors provide support, encouragement and follow up for students. As students narrow their choices and make their college selection, they need guidance. Seniors need to see how and where they can connect and find their place in the environment that they are transitioning to.
Clear lines of communication between the school and students need to be in place. Information should be accessible in a variety of ways to both seniors and their families. Resources should be available in a comprehensive state on a school's website or LMS. Communication should go out in chunks through social media, email, and individual announcements. Ask for feedback from families. Is there anything that is not clear or confusing that we have posted? Work to make it as simple as possible. Graphics are critical to simplifying information whenever possible.
Seniors need to feel safe. Anxieties for seniors rise as they begin to realize they will be leaving family and friends. Seniors need to know that while they are leaving high school, they will always have a home at your school. The emotions and feelings that seniors are experiencing need to be validated and acknowledged.
Graduation is a celebration and an exciting event. Students walk away with their diploma and final paperwork at graduation. Schools have an opportunity within this paperwork to include personal letters and notes from faculty. When personal items are included with the documents that a senior takes away from that evening, it magnifies the connection, and those personal notes stay with their official paperwork for reflection years later.
This year we added a final communication to our senior families with links to social media postings along with good wishes after graduation. Going forward, this is something that we will continue to do.
Godin's state's in his blog post, "Humans remember the transitions, because it's moments of change and possibility and trepidation that light us up."
What tips do you have to share on transitioning seniors out of high school?
When do students at your school feel empowered? This was the question posted one day last week in the #CompelledTribe Voxer group. Voxer chats often stretch my thinking and send me into a zone of deep reflection and the question posed about students being empowered led to an answer that surprised me!
There are many times in classes during the day that students feel empowered at my school, but this discussion pushed my thinking deeper and past the classroom to a unique answer. Students at my school are empowered at lunch.
Our campus, of 3,500+ students, has one common lunch period. You are probably thinking we have the world's largest cafeteria. Actually, we don't. At lunchtime the entire first floor of our building becomes our lunch area and food is sold not only in the cafeteria but also in many satellite locations on the first floor. However, what happens at lunch isn't all about nutrition.
During the 43 minute lunch period students not only have a choice about what they eat, but who they are with, where they are working, what they are working on or in many cases what they are learning about. Individual choice is empowering. At lunch 115 student run clubs/organizations meet at scheduled locations & dates. Each club applies and is approved by the school and has a faculty sponsor. The focal point of organizations that students are a part of varies greatly. The interests of student lead clubs include, but are not limited to: careers, philanthropies, hobbies, cultures, the arts, and academics. Organizations throughout the year compete for space within the building to hold luncheons to raise money for charities, to host professional speakers, or conduct and participate in competitions. The break in the middle of the day allows students to shift gears and engage in activities in ways that are different from their academic class periods.
Teacher’s classrooms are open for academic support during lunch, however it is not uncommon to find students simply hanging out with a teacher because they want to spend time with them. Relationships matter and time is critical for bonds to form. Students are empowered through relationships. The common break mid day allows for time to be spent with others. Counselor’s offices are also popular destinations, as students know this is a great time to spark a conversation or seek advice.
At a scholarship interview last week, a senior shared her experience of joining a club as a freshman and how it established a connection that made her love coming to school. She spoke about how the organization she was a part of offered a place for her to be comfortable be herself and that in turn gave her confidence interacting with other people. The club connected her to the larger school and gave her a platform to experience leadership. She shared about having opportunities to coordinate communications, gather resources, and organize people in authentic situations allowed her to grow. Connections empower students.
We spend a lot of time discussing curriculum, course work, and rigor and not very much time talking about extra curricular, real life events, and student’s choices. When students are self-selecting and making choices according to their true interests they develop passions. When a student becomes passionate about something, that is when self directed learning begins to happen.
The choices, relationships and connections that students make at lunch empower them. I have always loved the energy that I feel on our campus at lunch, and through reflection I now better understand why it's my favorite time of the day.
In what ways does your campus empower students?