Having a “Can Do” Attitude…

Image result for can do quotes

I have had the unique experience of transitioning from Middle School as an instructional coach to Elementary as an Assistant Principal.

If you put a kindergarten parent side by side with a parent of an entering middle schooler, I am sure their fears and concerns would be very similar.

One thing I think educators and parents have in common is we often rescue our children when rescuing them only inhibits their potential.

When I was at my district’s convocation, George Couros reminded us of the importance of the learner’s struggle and the learner working through the “problem.” He showed us a video where a boy had created a “marble maze” with several dynamic and intricate pieces. The boy hypothesized that it would take him at least 100 attempts to make the maze successful. On his 4th attempt he achieved success. The setting of his goal, working through the challenges and momentary failures, and then being successful on his 4th try was amazing. Why, because he persevered and never thought “I can’t do” only that “I can do.”

I wonder, if we had seen this kiddos plan and intervened as his educator or as his parent, would we have limited him unintentionally in an effort to shield him from “failure?” Yet, without any input or intervening this child was successful and celebrated, that while his first three attempts were not a successful attempt, his fourth was, and was way sooner than his projected one hundred attempts before he reached success.

I have come to see how I as a parent, educator and coach can either encourage growth and a “can do” attitude or limit it (even if my intentions are to protect the learner). This past weekend, just before our district began our new school year, I learned of how Target took a new approach to their Back to School advertising campaign. They believed in the “can do” of children ranging in ages 8-17 and let those children develop, design and ultimately launch a series of seven commercial.

Here’s what happened when coroporate Target went from a corporate advertising team to a advertising dream team of students:

http://www.today.com/video/meet-the-team-of-kids-behind-target-s-new-back-to-school-ads-747775555841?cid=eml_onsite

My favorite part of this is that they felt that the adults “listenened” and “learned something from us.”

Going forward in this school year, how can we change the moments when we say “I don’t think our students/children can” to opportunities where we say “I know  you can!”?

I challenge anyone reading this to stop the next time  you catch yourself thinking my child/student can’t and re-think… how can I provide the opportunity so my child/student CAN? It will be a great adventure and in the process our children/student will know that we listened and we learned something from them.

Anyone Can Do a Training, No One Can Tell Your Stories…

TechnoPalooza

 

In the last two days of July my district hosted an amazing Professional Learning Event called #TechnoPalooza 2014.  There were amazing presentations by myself and others both within my district and outside of my district.

As I moved on from those two days and reflected on the learning, connecting, and collaboration that took place, one thing rose to the surface.  In every situation where an individual’s learning was impacted, it was through a story or stories shared.

I heard feedback about my colleagues presentations as well as my own presentations, and each conversation started with… “I loved the story you told about….” or “I appreciated the story you told how you reached a student through… I related to that.”

Recently, Hayley Sample, a 4th grade English Language Arts Teacher that I work closely with as her Instructional Technology Coach, shared how she completely redefined storytelling and publishing  through the use of Google Forms, Showbie and the BookCreator app that was featured on my Instructional Team’s Blog “Making IT Click“.  Her story was so powerful that her story was re-blogged by the creators of the BookCreator app on their blog site.  As I write this, Showbie is discussing with Hayley the possibility of  re-blogging here story as well.  She was also a presenter on this topic at TechnoPalooza… what resonated with participants?  It was the power of her story, the learning experience and the impact it had on the  students in her classroom and beyond.

As I thought about the presentations and workshops I have led this summer, I have come to realize that the stories we tell of personal struggles, triumphs and transformation as we share the skills are what truly encourage others to try the techniques, tools and ideas we offer.  I am mid-way through the book “ROLE Reversal” by Mark Barnes and it’s the stories he shares through out, but especially in chapter 5 (Moving from Grades  to Feedback) and chapter 6 (Evaluating while Evolving), that fire me up to transform classrooms to a Results Only Learning Environment.

As I think about the transformation and growth in my own professional learning, it has never been because of a profoundly skill driven course I have taken that has pushed me forward, but rather, the stories of passion, heart (and heartache), and difference made.

I have included the presentations I gave at #TechnoPalooza below.  However, without the context of the stories I tell, they seem somewhat empty to me.  I share them without reservation, as I know, anyone can use my presentation, but no one can tell the same stories… those are  uniquely mine and those I share my learning journey with.

 

Presentation on “Curation for the 21st Century”

Curation Palooza

and “Genius Hour.”

image of GH site

I also had the privilege of co-presenting with Library Media Specialist, Sue Fitzgerald (Blog: The Unpretentious Librarian).

We shared with participants…

“Letting a Tech Club Find You”

Tech Club palooza presentation

“Blogging as a Reflective Educator”

Reflective educator palooza

and “Blogging by Choice”

Blogging by Choice palooza

No matter what  expertise you bring to the table in whatever environment, your stories are what make your wisdom and ideas palatable to others.  Anyone can present the tool or technique, but only you can share the stories.  Share your stories… the world is waiting for your unique perspective that may be just the story that pushes that person to transform their own  learning and the learning environment of their classroom, campus, district, etc.

 

What is a #growthmindset?

Recently a fellow colleague, @LisaDegnan1 and #newbie blogger (Blog: Teaching and Learning With and Through Others) shared the excitement of self-directed autonomous professional development.

Lisa Degnan

Lisa Degnan and Husband

With her permission I am “re-blogging” her post titled “Best Summer Professional Development”

“Have you ever written curriculum?  Looking at the standards, breaking down the TEKS, and creating assessments that will address the standards has been one of the best professional development opportunities that I have had this summer.  It sounds tedious.  It sounds kind of boring.  Yes, even to my ears it sounds CRAZY!  But when you place great educators, creative thinkers, and motivated people in the same room… GREAT things begin to happen.

Sure, I have had some great PD opportunities this summer.  They have been fantastic.  I have notebooks of things that I would LOVE to try this school year.  I brought all that knowledge with me to our day of writing assessments. 

As our curriculum writing team began to formulate assessments, I was thinking of the many principles I was learning through my book study, Learning Targets: A Theory of Action.  The following quote from the book was something that I heard buzzing in my mind as I worked alongside my fellow writers: “The most effective teaching and the most meaningful student learning happen when teachers design the right learning target for today’s lesson and use it along with their students to aim for and assess understanding.” 

Knowing and understanding the learning standards for reading became key in developing assessments that would help identify student weaknesses, help drive teacher instruction, plan for future remediation and embrace real enrichment opportunities. And guess what?!  It WAS fun!  Working alongside knowledgeable educators that pushed my thinking and my level of understanding was FUN. It was also one of the best learning experiences that I have had this summer.

Professional development can present itself in a variety of ways.  It is the phenomenal speaker at a convention.  It is the inspiring Twitter chats that involve some of the brightest thinkers in the world.  It is staff development that causes you pause and rethink.  It is – for me – being in a room with a group of creative, inspiring, bright people that have come together to create assessments that are focused, purposeful, and challenging.  It may not have looked fancy and we had to pay for our own lunches, but what we did in one day – was nothing short of amazing professional development. 

We all have the ability to do this type of soul searching professional development with peers that inspire us.  We can do it each week with thoughtful and intentional lesson planning.  We can talk to other dedicated professionals and ask for their input, their insight, and their opinions.  We can change how we have done things in the past to incorporate what we know is best for our students. It is part of being fully present.  It is part of loving what we do.  It is part of being highly effective educators.

My thought for today is… #JustDoIt !  You will be so glad that you did.

Lisa perfectly captures the unbridled joy of learning.  When you are you are driven from within the reward isn’t the professional development hours you receive, the possible payment you may be given for time spent writing curriculum or the accolades or praise from others, but rather the joy one has when they know they have met the target… the achieved synergy of ideas that affirm why we do what we do… the flip of a switch that makes the struggle getting there the energy that drives one to keep going.

dan pink flip switch quote

I too am reading Learning Targets by Moss and Brookhart.  What is exciting to me is I read this once before shortly before I learned about #geniushour in the spring of 2013.  I really liked what the book was saying, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.

learning targets

It did plant a seed.

The student being self-directed and assessing their own learning stuck with me.

It became a reality in the spring 2013 when I implemented #geniushour in my classroom.  For some reason, I was able to play out much of the approaches suggested in Learning Targets first through a situation where each student had their own designed target for learning.  I learned a lot about being specific as I coached my students and refined the process of feedback from me and their peers.

feedback book

This spring, a full year since I read Learning Targets the first time, I wanted to learn more about effective feedback.  I shared this desire with a mentor, Principal Cathy Sager, who recommended I read Feedback: the Hinge that Joins Teaching and Learning by Pollock.  This further refined my thinking and practice on feedback.  One of the most convincing arguments for student led feedback was in a story about a high school teacher, Ian Mulligan, who, at first thought the process of student led feedback would take too much time.  What he realized was “when students sought and received peer feedback frequently in class, there were fewer interruptions or disruptions, and students stayed more focused so they actually covered more material more deeply than before.”(Pollock, p.52)

While reading Feedback  I visited Coppell Middle School East to observe Results Only Learning Environment(ROLE).  I saw the power of good scripted feedback.  I was obsessed.  I wanted to consume anything and everything that could create a learning environment where learning was purposeful, effective, focused and, most of all, student-driven.

I was having FUN, much like Lisa.  FUN knowing that I was putting the pieces of a puzzle I began long ago.  This puzzle started when I studied the Autonomous Learner Model by George Betts in the late 90’s.  Then the puzzle took a more definable shape when I found a way to take the benefits of what happened in #geniushour and apply it to concepts and targets in content we are responsible to teach through the discovery of the ROLE approach.

It doesn’t stop there.  I continue to learn via conversations, conferences, Twitter and blogs (just like Lisa). But the biggest “Aha!” has been as I re-read Learning Targets while reading Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pairing the practical “how to” of Learning Targets with the philosophy of Drive has me sleep deprived IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER and I don’t care.  Why?  Because I can’t wait to share and work alongside teachers like Lisa as we transform instruction. My mind won’t stop thinking of the possibilities.

ROLE book

What is even more crazy is that I am reading another book called ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (If you want to join me I will be hosting a book chat July 29th- September 2nd: https://sites.google.com/a/nisdtx.org/role-reversal-book-study/) .  It seems to take the philosophy of Drive and research of Learning Targets and melds the two into a dynamic that results in a complete overhaul where the best of how 21st century learners construct knowledge is met.

I continue to hold true to my “one word” FOCUS.  This addresses my FOCUS on student driven learning/motivation.

If we design a learning experience where students are self-driven and self-motivated as discussed in Learning Targets, Drive, and ROLE Reversal then they should be having just as much FUN learning and growing as Lisa and I do.  They will truly have developed a #growthmindset.

How are you having FUN in your personal professional development this summer?  As Lisa suggested, #justdoit!

Genius Hour… a process

In early May I jumped in with both feet and tried the “Twitter-trending” concept of “Genius Hour.” It was a learning process throughout the “pilot.” My students loved it and I can’t wait to share with others the concept of “Genius Hour.”

There are a couple of things I learned in this process:
1. Surprising to me, students struggle already at the age of 8 and 9 to really be able to “brainstorm” things they are passionate about
2. Even with limitless parameters students tend to stay inside the box when presenting learning and more needs to be done to get them to present in unique ways… too much Prezi or Power Point and not enough original creation. Coaching skills are a must!
3. Even though there is plenty of room for growth, students were passionate about the learning that they did and they went deeper with their learning and were deeply connected to the learning that they developed
4. Students recognized the need to be passionate about something, the impact that passion can have on their future and learning is and can be fun
5. Reflection was essential throughout this process and at the end of the initial session “next steps” are essential so that they see this as not a terminal project but an ongoing continuum of learning
6. Next time I will put more emphasis on students determining how their learning and “creation” can be shared to IMPROVE their community, state, country, and/or world

Since completing the school year and dismissal for summer break, I have started a Summer Session Genius Hour that I shared out through email and my neighborhood Facebook page. I have less participants than I had hoped for but the four I have, including my own two children made strides tonight at our initial session for the summer. I did have one student who returned for the summer session and she shared out her presentation from our end of year Symposium. The others were able to see a product and one astutely recognized that even though that was the presentation of learning on that topic at that time, it was an ongoing process and the initial product could continue to evolve and change over time. It was a great session and we plan to meet back together as a group to share, discuss and critique each other in a couple of weeks. I have made myself available in the meantime for coaching sessions and helping to facilitate their pursuit of their learning about their passion.

The students left eager to keep going with their ideas and I can hardly wait until we come together again to share our passions!