Words to live by…

In the midst of the reshaping that I wrote about in my last post a dear friend and mentor lost her 8 and 1/2 year battle with cancer.

Jan wasn’t a fellow educator when I met her.  She was a parent of a student I taught.  We bonded through our love for her daughter.  Our relationship continued after her daughter left my course.

She encouraged me to pursue my Masters in Educational Administration.  She challenged me to grow spiritually.  She modeled for me how to be a partner in a marriage.  When the day came, she coached me into motherhood.

She lived life passionately, with purpose and love.  She was called to be a deaf interpreter in her late 30s. From the time she pursued this passion until her death, she impacted children and adults in the deaf community in a profound way.  She educated them, loved on them and advocated for them.  Her profession of interpreting was done from a place of passion built on relationships.  Were goals met? Absolutely.  Did learning and growth occur? Ask the lives she impacted.  Were there challenges, some thought impossible to overcome? Certainly.  How was she successful? She focused on the people.

At her Life Celebration Service the pastor shared her “Top 10 List for Life.”

10- Love everyone.

9- Forgive often.

8- Always kiss goodnight.

7- Remember that strangers only exists if you let them. Everyone is a friend you just haven’t met yet.

6- Laugh at others if you must, but laugh at yourself for  growth.

5- Don’t wast time wondering what it would be like to do something, do it.

4- There is no such thing as “too purple.”

3- Growing up is over-rated.

2- Never forget to take your binoculars.

1- Life may present you with challenges, and hurdles that the world would have you believe can’t be overcome.  The world would have you believe that your response should be despair, but ultimately God is in control.  While you  might not be able to control your situation in like you CAN control how you choose to respond to it.  If you choose hope and joy, then even the dark days that may come, the days of sunshine can far exceed them.  The choice is yours.

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Jan, myself and her family, Christmas 2000


As I reflected on my dear friend’s words of advice I began to think about my own practice and the teachers that I coach.  I thought about how my friend lived by these ideals and knew through personal observation and the results of her work that it was by focusing on the main thing, PEOPLE. She never concerned herself with unimportant details.  It was about the work of developing friendships, connecting with people, enriching each others lives and expecting the best results in all situations.  She was never too busy to share a moment over a Sonic cherry limeade, hold your hand in a difficult moment, or come grab you for a quick get a way when you needed an escape.  She was passionate about life and about the living.

For her, how she chose to live her life was a calling and an example to others.  She lived a passionate life.

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As the quote states, her passion was not random.  It was purposeful, intentional and measurable.  Her impact was felt by everyone she met.  Was her work something that could not be replicated?  I think not.  She gave us the blueprint.  We don’t have to live it precisely as she wrote (frankly I don’t think there is such a thing as “too red” :-)). However, I do think it is my calling to build relationships.  I am passionate about learning and learners, both adult and student.  How do you say that is measured? Hmmm… well I know it can be measured in lives changed, hope rebuilt and passions discovered. It is also measured in ways that will not be realized in this world, but in heaven by the ultimate assessor of success, Jesus.

I am thankful for my friend, Jan.  Her life example reminded me of what is most important.  It isn’t how much I do, how I dress, how incredible the decor in a classroom is, but how I treat, love and mentor others.

Take away: Keep it simple, don’t get bogged down in the unnecessary details, and build genuine relationships.

Reshaping what we do…

I had plans this summer.

Plans to read the following professional books:

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Plans to catch up on my personal reading for enjoyment:

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I had plans to participate in all my usual Twitter chats.

I had plans to post multiple entries to my blog.

Then I had an amazing week.

I presented Genius Hour to four different audiences.  That, all by itself, was incredible.  On top of that, my #geniushour PLN noticed the extra follows and chatter for Genius Hour and in true PLN form tweeted out their support and encouragement.

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When I wasn’t presenting at both Texas ASCD #ignite14 and Coppell ISD’s #iDesign14 I attended other sessions including #twilebrity Jimmy Casas’ (@casas_jimmy) session on Twitter and Canadian #twilebrity George Couros’ (@gcouros) keynote address and session on blogging.

At first I was going to add to my original summer reading plans.  I wanted to add “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Making Thinking Visible” by Ron Ritchart to my already big pile of summer professional reading.

In Jimmy’s session, I was inspired to work more on my “branding” and begin formulating a way to utilize social media with the campuses I support to build a dynamic interactive community that moves beyond the school.

To say the least, my head was starting to spin, and I was beginning to wonder, while all this is good, was my wanting to do so much going to turn out as an epic fail? Is this enthusiasm for more plans going to create an effective result where I had gone a mile wide and inch deep in my learning and not the other way around?

I think the hardest thing about loving learning and working with kids is the human need for sleep.  I have so much I want to do and yet I require a certain amount of sleep.  So as I contemplated this dilemma on my last day of the week’s professional learning events, I walked into George Couros’ (@gcouros) keynote.  I love his compelling argument for a connected world, and what I began to realize was what I valued most about this week were the connections that I made both face to face and through Twitter… not the original plans that I made. I also realized that this life of learning that I love, can take over your life if you let it, and yet there is nothing powerful to be shared if you don’t capture meaningful moments of life and share with others.

As the keynote wrapped up,  I was torn between trying to find a corner of solitude to reflect and joining George’s session on “Blogging as a Professional Portfolio.”  I reasoned that there would be time to reflect later and opted to attend George’s session.

He shared very clearly why a blog serves a very clear and real purpose to show who you are as an educator and, even more, connects you with the world in a very intimate and human way.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the lecture hall when George shared his most recent and very personal blog post about the loss of his dog.

In this moment his very professional and personal blog challenged everything I had thought a blog and portfolio should be.

Another plan added to the list.

Then I went back to the epiphany I had during the keynote.

I realized…

I am not going to be doing all I originally planned to do.

In a way I am doing what we, as instructional engineers, do every day with resources and planning for focused student learning.  We have tons of resources, but its important for us to use the ones that are just right for the learners, learning target and the desired outcome.

I have tons of learning opportunities and multiple directions I could go with the plans I had made and the added ideas I gathered this week.  However, would going full ahead without a reassessment of the situation be the best for me and for those that I would share with through this blog and through Twitter? Secondly, would this allow me to go into the depth this week revealed I desperately needed?

My first response was to start completely over with everything, reading lists, branding, blog, portfolio and family planned events.

I even tweeted about tossing this blog and starting over.

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This conversation led to the following…

1.  I will read books that support my passion for student driven learning that helps me to further the philosophy of Genius Hour in classrooms and develops a deeper understanding of Results Only Learning Environment (See ROLE Reversal Observed post).  I am giving myself permission to not get every professional book read on my list.

2.  I will be more intentional about capturing the moments around me in ways that let those around me know me on a more personal level and, in turn, I want to get to know those in my PLN and beyond on a more personal level.

3.  I will allow my blog to be a work in progress (organizing and categorizing for my audience) and begin to create a more dynamic platform that will provide a place for my continued reflections as an educator and person, but also showcase how my personal self and professional self intersect as a life-long learner and leader.

4.  I will be fully present for my family, friends and community.  I love my Twitter… but I must step back.

So I am in a state of “reshaping.” I am not throwing out the body of work that I began, but taking it and working it into something that better reflects me.  A “reshaping” that honestly and transparently connects with the world that has embraced me.

So pardon the mess and moving around that will occur on my blog as I work to “reshape” it.

Don’t hold me to the original list of books.  I do plan to read “Drive”by Daniel Pink and will do the “ROLE Reversal” by Mark Barnes Twitter Book Chat end of July.

Becoming more personal with  my professional learning community is probably my greatest challenge.  I am not naturally an open person, and sharing for the world intimidates me.  But I will do it.  I will JUMP!

My family will be only too happy to see my step back from Twitter… however Twitter may need to steady itself for the inundation of family related Tweets. You have been warned!

My First Loves...

Will you be “reshaping ” plans you made this summer for learning? How are you approaching your”reshaping?”