The Good in the World…

It has been a long time since I have written in my own professional blog. Hundreds of posts have been crafted in my head. Yet, they never make it here, to the place and space for those ideas to become more than murmurings and ideas of my own. A place and space to share my own learning with hope that it becomes part of a collective process to inspire, encourage, challenge, empower and grow us all as lead learners.

I haven’t been completely radio silent. Every week I write a blog post for my campus. It is designed to come from where we have grown, the pulse of our present need, and provide focus for where we need to go. This is where some of my murmurings and ideas have found their place and space: SRE Longhorn Learning.

Still, I find other things that I want to share in regards to impact as an educator that do not fit the purposes for my campus blog if I want to keep it focused to the needs of the campus.

Still these other things need a place and space. For that I come back to the “Tag… you’re it!” personal professional blog to share. I will have to say, it’s been a battle. I have reasoned with myself it wasn’t necessary. However, I couldn’t shake that there was a need for me to write again in this space and place after I read a recent post “Why Aren’t You Blogging More…” ,from the blog “The Principal of Change” by George Couros. I was challenged. I stopped the excuses.

In George Couros’ post that I mentioned, he says “be kind, be thoughtful, don’t overthink it.” So this is where I begin to share again. It starts at as a murmuring about being kind and thoughtful, and maybe leads to an idea…

Today I was asked to help one of my sweet students. He is an adorable little boy who, like many adults, doesn’t like the things he creates or his belongings to be moved or “messed up.” He was upset. His Rube Goldberg project that consisted of a chain of dominoes had been “messed up” by another student and thus ensued a disagreement. After some deep breaths, empathetic listening and talking through things, I shared some wisdom. I suggested he apologize first. His sweet little five year old brain felt he had been wronged first and it puzzled him that I asked him to apologize first. So I explained, sometimes to help others see what upset us, we first have to be the one to say “I am sorry.” I reasoned with him, “If we say sorry first, we lead the way. We are the leaders for making things peaceful.” I then asked him, “Do you want things to be peaceful and to get along with the friend you were upset with?” He nodded. Then he shared, “I don’t think I can do it by myself.” As I offered to go with him, I pondered… if only, when we struggle to make amends, we admitted we can’t do it by ourselves and accepted the help of others would so much be resolved.

We walked back into the classroom. He walked right up to his classmate and genuinely offered his apologies… his classmate in turn apologized with the same measure of sincerity. The Rube Goldberg project was back on and the students were at peace.

peace-quotesThere is good in the world. This moment is evidence. So I encourage us all… be the first to apologize, even if you were the one wronged. Be the leaders for making things peaceful. These students learned a valuable lesson in life. Let us continue to be the example and look for ways to be thoughtful and kind. Let’s work to create a world that creates peace for the future… for our students.

 

 

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Genius Hour Comes Full Circle…

As this year came to a close it marked four years ago I closed the end of a school year as a classroom teacher. It was four years ago that I stepped out and tried Genius Hour in my classroom and it was four years ago that I began to put together my story to share with others in my region of Texas and later the state of Texas the message of Genius Hour.

About mid-February of this year requests for proposals to present for Summer professional developments in my region and state started to hit my inbox. I had pursued and presented for the last three years on the topic of Genius Hour. Personally, my life as a mom and event coordinator had become exponentially busier. I had not gained a lot of traction where I had the most direct influence to implement Genius Hour. I felt like, while I whole-heartedly embrace Genius Hour, I did not have the same relevant message to share with audiences when it came to the implementation of Genius Hour.

As I was making the decision to “stand down” from presenting, a teacher in my district on another middle school campus reached out to me. Amy Nolan, an 8th Grade Speech and Communications teacher, contacted me to tell me her story with Genius Hour. Evidently she had attended two of my sessions over the past three years and had taken the leap to implement this past year. She was full of enthusiasm and full of individual student success stories. Crazy thing… she said it was all due to me. What?!?!? How could this be?

Funny how sometimes when you decide you might be done with something, events and circumstances say otherwise. Shortly after Amy shared her story with me I received an invite from a neighboring district to present on Genius Hour and within the same week an invitation to present to pre-service teachers at Texas Women’s University. I knew I had to accept, however, not as a sole presenter, but as a co-presenter with Amy. My message with her current experiences and successes brought relevance and fresh experience to the table.

As Amy and I planned, Amy realized there was yet another educator that was impacted by the Genius Hour message shared by me. This was yet another Speech and Communications teacher at an additional middle school campus in our district, Tambra Goode. Through Amy sharing with Tambra the information from one of the presentations of mine Amy attended, Tambra ran with the idea of Genius Hour. From the information shared via a PLC came the Truett Wilson Middle School “Project Change The World.” Of course, she too needed to be part of the story.

Ashes Matches Sparks Flames blog picToday, all three of us shared our stories with another group of educators in a neighboring district. I love how my presentation has evolved to include an even better way for students to begin the process of discovering their passions via Amy Nolan’s design called “Ashes, Matches, Sparks and Flames.”

We are still fine tuning the pieces of our presentation together, but now my story has come full circle. What I have shared is now being implemented and shared with those that I inspired and then inspired others. I am renewed and inspired once again as I first was with this message of Genius Hour. I am reminded again of how important it is for our students to learn from a place of passion, to learn with a desire to serve others with their learning, and confidently share their passions through uniquely and creatively designed processes and products. As Derek Sivers states, “Everybody’s ideas may seem obvious to them… but what is obvious to me may seem amazing to someone else. We should just put it out and let the world decide.”

I am once again renewed in my message of Genius Hour and it is all thanks to Amy Nolan and Tambra Goode taking the time to let me know that the message I shared impacted them and the many students they taught and will teach.

I wonder how many who have impacted me along the way needed to hear the difference they made in my life and as a result impacted the lives of my students? I am making my list right now. Make someone’s day and let them know. Let’s be part of bringing it full circle.

(To know more about Genius Hour, please visit my Google Site: Genius Hour by Kirsten Wilson)

Resolutions, Intentions, Goals… Always Progressing

2016 new goals

From the moment the ball dropped and we ushered in 2016 I have watched the goals, mantras, claims of personal “one word” and resolutions come across my various social media feeds. To say the least, I am amazed and sometimes a bit subdued. I admire the ambitiousness and timeliness of my virtual and face to face colleagues and friends commitments for 2016.

I almost talked myself out of even writing my own #goals. Then I read my assistant superintendent, Dr. Rob Thornell’s blog post about the topic (Make 2016 About Goal Accomplishment). It prompted me to reflect on my goals from last year, the things I had accomplished and the progress I plan to make this year. So then I felt compelled to at least write it down and share with a few of my close mentors and friends.

steve mariboli goals 2016

Then my virtual #blogamonth colleagues and PLN tagged me in a post. It urged us all to “jump start” our blogs. We had all had changes in our educational careers in 2015 and, at least for me, my blog(s) had taken a back seat. After some thought, and encouragement from this precious group of educators, I decided to go ahead and share my #goals for 2016.

blogamonth 2016

They are a little late, but here goes…

My #goals for 2016 are meant for all aspects of my life. In each of the following it is meant to impact my family and friends, my personal and professional life.

  1. Grow… mostly this is about my spiritual growth, but I am in an ever constant state of learning and growing. This requires me to journal more, read more and seek more opportunities to learn from others.
  2. Listen…I could explain, but this blog post “People Who Possess This One Skill Are More Likable In Social Settings” says it best.
  3. Celebrate… I have so many times in my life I could have celebrating small accomplishments, moments, blessings and I postponed or waited because it wasn’t “THE BIG THING” I was striving for… well no more!
  4. Invest… see #2 and pour myself and my resources into things that create meaningful results.
  5. Be Gracious… allow myself the opportunity to reset; give myself and others a break; laugh and cherish life in every moment.be kind and gracious
  6. Be Real… blog from the heart, bravely share mistakes/failures, share imperfections, own the “I don’t know,” and mostly ask for others to share this journey of life, learning and experiences with me.
  7. Be Healthy…keep running, be more consistent with weight resistance and core (pilates/yoga) training, make healthy food choices, and above all GET MORE SLEEP (4 hours a night is NOT sufficient)!
  8. Pursue with Passion… go ALL IN, don’t let a list dictate what’s going to be done (I am a habitual and obsessive list maker/follower), do whatever it is because it “drives” me.

consistency in 2016This list won’t happen all at once. Some of these things I have done, but I let go of them in my daily doing of life and are bringing them back to the forefront. It will be done a few things at a time, with thought, purpose and intention. Sometimes it may be awkward, it will be messy, but most of all it will bring me to a better place within and make me a better me.

Additionally I hope my efforts to make personal progress in turn enriches, inspires and encourages others. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see others succeed, and when I have had the opportunity to be part of that journey I thrill in the knowing I was a part of something great with someone else.

Adams quote for 2016 goals post

May we all inspire others through our own pursuit to be always progressing.

Ways to #pumpitup Now and All Year

Over the past two weeks I have had the distinct privilege of hearing keynote presentations from George Couros, Michael Wesch, Dave Burgess and Travis Allen. In every message the ideas of wonder, risk-taking, relationship building and passion.

As we embrace the beginning of another cycle of instruction we have the unique opportunity to reflect, re-frame and redo. As one of my colleagues said, “Education is the only job where you have the opportunity to take an approach to a lesson, an assessment, and/or management technique and take action to do it differently and better than before.”

I could offer some very concrete “to dos” to start the year, but I think there are already some very good blog posts out there that have already done that. So what I want to offer is some suggestions that will help you stay connected with your inner passion and your students.

1. Create the opportunity for wonder in your classroom.

Move from posed questions and known answers to a learning environment that creates controversy, ambiguity and wonder. Design learning for wonder, not answers. Is the learning you are asking of your students “worth it” to them? Are you offering them an experience that is worth crying for?

Within this opportunity relationships are key. It takes risk to wonder, to share one’s passions and to fail. Are you, #1 modeling that and #2 creating a safe learning community that fosters a learning habit of wonder. Will your students want to take chances in your learning environment and more importantly are you taking chances right in front of them.

Michael Wesch2. Embrace the limitations around you.

My superintendent spoke to our campus leadership about a “beautiful constraint.” It requires one to ask propelling questions, have “can-if” thinking, see the gifts within the perceived limitations and ignite motivation. As Mark Bearden said,”The limitation became the impetus for a better outcome.” I finished reading “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell this summer. Over and over again, in different ways, the overwhelming lesson was that perceived privilege or disadvantage was not always the truth. Many times what was perceived as a privilege was a hindrance and what was perceived as a disadvantage was the tool to move toward success. (Read the book… it talks about a “growth mindset” without ever mentioning the popular educational catch phrase.)

A great way to demonstrate this idea is captured in the following TedTalk “Embrace the Shake” by Phil Hansen.

3. Learn something hard.

Often we educators become completely immersed in our profession. We do what we do well. Why can that be a pitfall? We lose touch with the struggle it can be for our students to learn something new and sometimes just learning in general. How can we truly understand our students and their difficulties if we are not putting ourselves in those challenging situations as well? Dave Burgess asked us in his keynote “What are you passionate about outside of your profession?” and then went on to add, “It is a must for us to find a passion outside of our profession to be relate-able to our students. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with this.” His advice? Rekindle that passion, now. We want our students to graduate knowing us “not just for my curriculum, but who I am.”

If you haven’t read Dave Burgess’ book “Teach Like a Pirate,” I highly recommend it. Not only does it have practical strategies to transform your lessons into amazing learning experiences it will leave you more passionate about your first calling… teaching.

These are my 3 things that I believe will help any educator #pumpitup in their classroom, building, and learning community. I am excited about this upcoming year and can’t wait to get this year started.

How are you planning to #pumpitup now and throughout this exciting new year?

Living the digital Life… It’s not a Generational Thing

Everyone has a storyRecently my twelve year old daughter asked my husband and I the following question: “I feel so upset when elderly people tell me I don’t have it as hard as they did, was life more difficult then than it is now? I think it’s different and we have challenges that they didn’t have, but it’s not any harder or easier… right?” Good question.

This went on into a discussion about research used to be making a trip to the library, decoding the Dewey decimal system to find the right book and spending hours looking through microfiche film versus now everything is just a Google search away. True that this may be, my daughter quickly pointed out that today learners have to know how to tell the difference between reliable sources and unreliable sources. #Win for the digital citizenship that has been consistently taught by her teachers and library media specialists.

This conversation got me thinking and changing my filter for how I see life being lived via the use of digital devices. I know how I use my digital tools… but how is my daughter’s generation using it?

Often it is assumed that these kids, who never knew a world without a personal computer, lap top or cell phone, automatically have technology skills. It is also assumed that those of us that who received all or the majority of our education before computers or ease of access to a personal computer lack the technology skills to survive fluently in today’s world. I know I don’t agree with either of these assumptions.

The digital connected world of today has created a leveling of the accessibility to information. Wifi, smart phones and more digital content than there are stars in the universe have made this possible. The question is… How are we leveraging this knowledge? What do we do with this knowledge?

I have been contemplating this for some time now. It is going to take a community of learners young and not so young, willing to listen to one another, willing to take risks, willing to communicate in different and new ways, willing to learn from one another and willing to collaborate.

We all can sit in our igloo of isolation and claim that one group of individuals or another has it harder than another, but that isn’t a benefit to anyone. A community of learners is ageless, fearless, pride-less, knowledge-seeking, group-minded, passion-focused and connected.

Every day, many times a day I learn from other educators and students. Honestly, as an instructional coach I am not the keeper of knowledge, but merely a one of many vehicles to pass on information, ask questions, brainstorm ideas and facilitate transformational learning. Almost anything we want to know we can Google, YouTube or utilize Social Media to access that information. However, it is when we connect with others beyond surface information to create, solve and collaborate that all our lives are enriched. Both the pre-digital device learner and post-digital device learner need that and best thrive when they leverage their digital resources via this approach.

I know this not just because the job that I do, but as a parent of two savvy digital kids. Some would say we are too connected to our technology. I disagree. I know my children, their passions, their fears and their weaknesses… and they know mine. Together we learn from one another and grow. This happens because of how we leverage our learning both digital and non-digital. Just ask my son who watched a YouTube on the “Not-so-Secret” In-N-Out Burger Menu to know what a “Flying Dutchman” was and ordered it on our last visit, or my daughter who sent me a Pin from Pinterest for a “Snickers” Frappucino when I offered to pick up a Starbucks drink on my way home from a meeting. Beyond food I see my students and my own children utilize technology with everything. Want to learn a new song on the piano? Watch a YouTube tutorial. Want to improve your Minecraft skills? Read three or four of the top Minecraft blogs. Stuck on a problem in Math? Check out the tutorials on Kahn Academy. The list goes on and on. The trick for learners of all ages is not finding content, but creating original creative content of their own. So as we move forward in this digital age, it isn’t what we each do alone, but how we move forward collaborating, learning and creating together.

How are you connecting and creating a community of learners young and not so young? How are you and those around you leveraging your digital resources? What has access to digital resources done to create greater access to knowledge in your learning community?

Achieving Balance…or NOT!

balancequoteThere is a lot of talk about balance, work-life balance. At one time I read a book about achieving balance. It recommended you plan out your day and prioritize what percentage of your day gets that amount of your focused attention. While in theory that sounded like a great idea, in reality it didn’t work… at least not for me.

I am naturally a guilt ridden person. It seems to have been part of my DNA. When I attempted the prioritize and percentage-ize approach, my guilt compounded. If, for example, I had spent too much time working on developing new relationships with people and not enough time building my professional learning… I would kick myself. This did not seem like balance. Balance was supposed to bring me a sense of contentment, happiness, if you will.

Since that time I have been married for 20 years, become a mother of two (now 12 years old and 9 years old), owner of numerous pets, and home owner 5 times over.  I have also been an educator for over 15 of those years.

Colossians 3 v 14I have learned that it is important to have goals, a schedule, a plan, and, of course, a life.  Most important, though, is a life that has purpose and that doesn’t always seem very balanced… but is very fulfilling. My day may be scheduled with all sorts of tasks, but the most important things will be the moments I didn’t plan for that utilize the purpose I was designed to fulfill. I cannot turn away an educator, student or parent in need… whatever that need may be. If I am to truly believe students come first, or rather people come first (Love others above all else), then when a need arises that becomes what must be addressed. Their need is the most important thing happening to them, and in my role, if I am to put people first, I can’t turn them away because it simply doesn’t fit into my pre-planned schedule. So how do I stay the course on my own journey and impact the lives of others? I plan for the unexpected. Never do I put more on my calendar than an unexpected event can’t be accommodated. If I have a very busy schedule one day, I plan for a more open day the next. If I have a deadline coming up, I work in time to accomplish that task piece by piece so that I am not with my back against a wall to meet that deadline and faced with a dilemma at the same time of someone in need.

So I believe there is not a real “balance” per se. You plan for the unexpected, set goals for yourself, and ultimately seek to fulfill the purpose you were designed to be. Some days your schedule may look like a perfect pie-chart of prioritized percentages, but if you are like me…. the pie chart is never the same on any given day… but the life I leave is divinely wonderful. I am satisfied with my life when I end my day, my week and my school year knowing my impact and connections with students, educators, parents and community has made a difference in the lives of many in such a way it will send ripples of positive change for years to come.

How are you choosing to choose the life un-balanced but completely fulfilled and purposeful?

Learning Is “Egg”cellent Even for the “Egg”spert

EggspertFor the past few springs in our district our Elementary Science Coordinator @tkmotley attempts to provide every elementary classroom K-5 a “live animal” for the life science curriculum. In first grade this means “chicks.” Yes, the furry, yellow, cheeping kind.

However, the “chicks” don’t come chirping. Our students, district-wide, get the thrill of waiting 21 days and learning about the developmental process along the way before the the little yellow chirpers break from their protective white shell.

The “potential chicks,” or eggs, are kept in an incubator in each campus’ library. A live U-Stream video through a webcam is set up so that parents, students and teachers can monitor the progress 24/7. Along the way the first grade students research, learn and develop an understanding of this animal’s life-cycle.

In the past they relied on safe research databases like NetTrekker, books and other resources for the majority of their information. This year, however, some of the campuses wanted to bring in an outside expert, a poultry science major.

Now for some finding this type of expert might seem daunting, but not me.  You see, I know one personally. This wasn’t just any expert, this one happened to be my very own husband. We met while attending the University of Arkansas. We actually worked together for income, while in college, at a poultry research facility ran by the College of Poultry Sciences at the University of Arkansas. So this Poultry Science Major, my husband, coaxed by me, agreed to a Skype session with 6 first grade classes at one of the elementary campuses I support as an Instructional Technology Coach.

I have done other Skype sessions for a variety of purposes with a variety of experts. So it started off as just another session to transform learning for the teachers and students I support.

The session was perfection. My husband, Eric, shared with them his knowledge of egg hatching and chickens, the process, specific technical terms beyond their own need-to-know academic vocabulary, and graciously answered all of their questions with the right amount of detail and specificity a first grader should have. He carefully addressed the questions of morbidity and shared statistics of viability, without a single child becoming upset.

When it was all said and done, the teachers were ecstatic, the students were buzzing with new information, and my husband was grinning a big dopey grin.

Later, once I was home, we talked about the event. He was thrilled. Mind you he hasn’t been near any kind of poultry in over 15 years and presently works in a plant the produces confections (candy) of all kinds. However, today he was the “Egg”spert for over 100 first graders and his knowledge was valued.

What I learned from this is that often the expert for any event like this receives just as much as the students with which the knowledge is being shared. Connecting real world people to our classrooms is not just needed for the students, it is invaluable to those we invite to share their knowledge with us.

Connecting one another on a global level, connects us not just through knowledge but through our humanity.

On a side note… Eric plans to connect with two classrooms, maybe more… and he cannot wait.

How are  you connecting your classrooms with the world… or better yet how are you sharing with the world the opportunity to connect with your learners?