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.

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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)

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!

Reshaping what we do…

I had plans this summer.

Plans to read the following professional books:

summer prof reading

Plans to catch up on my personal reading for enjoyment:

photo.PNG personal reads

 

 

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.

photo 3photo 2 photo 1

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.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

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?”

#EdCampNOV8

Click on the #edcampNOV8 Thinglink (at date of post Thinglink cannot be embedded in a WordPress blog)
The Northwest ISD IT team, that I am a part of, hosted our first #EdCamp.  It was an exhilarating experience and I was amazed at all the new #EdCampers that attended.  I created the Thinglink above as a celebration, curation and brief reflection of the event.  Additionally, I have a fun 20 second video that I took capturing our autonomous learning #EdCampers moving to GoNoodle a free dance/exercise based online program for situations like indoor recess or incentive built physical education activities.