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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Going Back to 7th Grade…#shadowastudentchallenge

shadow a student imageI am not sure many know how deeply I love working on a middle school campus. This passion for investing in middle schoolers comes from a less positive place in my own life. When I was the age of today’s middle schoolers it was not a time that would be categorized as “fond memories.” In my youth it was a time noted by descriptors like: awkward, unaccepted, unloved, misfit, and misunderstood.

Today I champion the cause of the early teen. The middle school student is enthusiastic, passionate, constantly challenging and exploring their world and defining who they are. They hold fast to the ideal, “if you can dream it you can do it.” They believe, as I do, that they will change the world.

When I took on the “Shadow a Student Challenge” I decided to shadow a student I had come to know earlier in the year when she enrolled at my campus in late November. I had already gotten to know a little bit about this delightful 7th grade young lady, “D,” while helping her get acquainted with our district’s student issued device, online learning management system and district provided Google account. I was eager to spend a day with “D” and get to see how school-life was through her eyes.

I joined “D” first period in Theater 2. She was in a collaborative group with two other students (one was absent) and were already working collaboratively on the finishing touches of a skit in Google Docs before the tardy bell rang. As the bell rang they never looked up, and with minimal distraction the teacher took roll as the rest of the class worked in the other groups pieced together around the room. All of the students were collaboratively writing a modern day Greek myth script. About 10 minutes into first period they all moved to a make-shift stage (raised platform (stage) with chairs in rows for the audience). Each group presented their skit. The audience provided feedback on different techniques used with dialogue and how they transferred the original Greek myths into a modern day skit. My knowledge of Greek mythology was a bit rusty, and my understanding of theater techniques were greatly lacking, so I decided my feedback would neither be necessary or beneficial. I did note that when “D” and her partner performed their skit with the assistance of a “stand in” for the absent student in her group, her explanations and justifications during the feedback/questioning after the performance came from a place of passionate understanding and deep well of knowledge. Not to mention, this girl can act.

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We went from Theater Arts to Science for second period. There was a sub for this class. Her teacher was writing curriculum as part of our district curriculum writing team. The class was mid-way through a “Biome Project.” Students were working in groups. I was impressed how “D” took charge of the group. There was one student that was sitting back and “waiting for it to get done” but “D” persisted and would not let her sit and do nothing. Her persistence with that student indirectly motivated the other group member and before too long all of them were working collaboratively to complete their “biome project” via Google slides. I probably slowed them down, as I kept asking questions about vocabulary (I was needing a refresher) as they added certain academic vocabulary into their slides at the appropriate places. I was able to show them a couple of tech skills to create a more visually pleasing slide presentation. Now their information is not just being shared through text, but they now have images and symbols to represent their knowledge.

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The next class period was a double blocked PreAP Language Arts class. At this point I was in dire need of a restroom, but classroom policy is to wait until the 45 minute break. I tried to pay attention, but I was constantly watching the clock and wondering how can 45 minutes seem so long!  We worked on revising and editing both for the “Do Now” and in two different passages with different multiple choice questions over the passages. I have to say it wasn’t like when I was in school where we diagrammed sentences. Many times when it asked us what the best transition word would be for the situation, I either didn’t like any of the multiple choice options or thought more than one answer could work. Aye yi yi! Whew, was I glad to make a run to the restroom when our break came! I asked if “D” was going to take a break too, and she replied,”No, I am going to read while I have a moment.” When the second half of the class began  we took a summative assessment over our revising and editing skills. I couldn’t wait for my results so I asked the teacher if I could grade mine… I have some work to do! As a former 7th grade Language Arts teacher, I was not real thrilled with my score of 84%.

Our next adventure was lunch. I was truly amazed at how many students DO NOT eat lunch! Oh was my mama instinct in over drive. “D” didn’t completely abstain, but all she had was a bag of Doritos! Not even a water or milk (probably why she isn’t having to go to the restroom!). How do these kids brains function without some sort of fuel for their thinking? I also noticed how many students were on their devices. I asked “D” what they were doing. She said that many of them were working on homework either due after lunch or due tomorrow; or they were playing games. I also notices that there were a few side conversations, but many were doing their own thing side by side. They were in what preschool teachers would call “parallel play.” I hesitate, though, to say they weren’t interacting. I observed and noted that students are more accepting of one another now than when I was their age.

After lunch we headed to Lifetime Nutrition and Wellness. They were learning about the 6 Essential Nutrients. The teacher had provided a document and a PowerPoint on his Moodle with information for us to reference as we filled out a note sheet on paper. “D” worked with one student while l worked with another at the same table. It was a solo project, but we talked quietly with one another, asked questions and conferred with one another. We didn’t finish the work for the class. “D” had homework- finishing the notes on the 6 essential nutrients.

At this point we had to go one hall back from where we were to get to our 6th period class…Texas History. It did seem like the school grew by 200 people during this passing period. Not sure why all the congestion, but “D” navigated it like a stealth lion. I, on the other hand, stepped on a few people, was stepped on equal to my own personal trampling. Oh, and I needed a restroom, again! We pushed our way to Texas History and then I ran to the restroom. I made it back into the classroom just as the bell was ringing… and lucky for me the teacher was still talking to another colleague in the hall and didn’t notice I was not yet in my seat! We had a bell-ringer activity and then moved into finishing up questions based on information in their textbook. Many students opted to grab one of the classroom copies of the textbook rather than reading the digital copy located in the teacher’s Moodle page. I asked “D” why she would rather grab the actual book instead of accessing the information in the online textbook. Her response, “I remember it better when I read it from a ‘real’ book.” Hmmmm…. something more to contemplate.

The next class I journeyed to with “D” was 7th Grade on-level math. It took a little time to refresh my skills but before long I was working the problems with the rest of my table group. I liked the format of the class and “D” and her classmates seemed to respond well to this style as well. The teacher utilized a “catch and release” style of instruction within a workshop model framework. The constant conferring between table groups, sharing out with classmates and the teacher’s continual monitoring and specific feedback made me feel like I was a mathematician rockstar. It seemed to have the same effect on “D.”

As we were getting ready to head to the last class of the day, “D” was picked up early for an orthodontist appointment. Frankly, I was secretly relieved. We were headed to P.E. and at this point there wasn’t much fuel left in my tank! Being a 7th grader is hard work.

This day is still rolling around in my head. I have reflected over and over about this experience. One thing I know for sure #shadowastudent should be an ongoing event. I would love for students to select teachers and administrators to shadow them, rather than us picking them. Perhaps we could do “mini-shadows” by class instead of by day, and shadow more frequently.

empathy

 

Every time we have an opportunity to “walk” in the “shoes” of another we gain perspective. I have loved this experience and the new perspective I have gained. All that aside, I am just excited to have spent the day with “D.” She has made an impact on me, and I hope, in some way, I have made an impact on her.

For  more information on the “Shadow a Student” challenge visit: http://shadowastudent.org/.

 

Is it time for a ROLE Revolution?

On Sunday I had the privilege of hosting #txeduchat.  The topic was “Results Only Learning Environment” based on the book ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19).

For a review of the book I refer my blog followers to my good PLN friend Joy Kirr’s (@joykirr) post on her blog last year ROLE Reversal Review.

Some may wonder why I have become so interested in this approach.  I have posted about my observation of ROLE at Coppell Middle School East.  I have further examined the idea of student driven learning and creating an autonomous learning environment.  My last post “What is a #growthmindset?” explains the connections that have occurred from the reading, conversations and professional learning opportunities I have had in the past few months.

All of this learning has me wondering… no inspired…. hmmm, no, more like fired up. Yes! Fired up.

I learn and lose sleep in my passion for learning. I gain great satisfaction and contentment when I set a goal, and even though it is a challenge, through perseverance reach that goal.   Why would I not want the same experience for my students and teachers? A joy for learning, if you will, well defined in @shareski’s presentation, “Whatever Happened to Joy.”

Yet, we continue to try to take some of the pieces of student-driven learning theory and retro-fit them to an antiquated grading systems and one-size-fits all curriculum. Instead of completely renovating from the ground up.

Every day I learn more about the ROLE approach.  I want to bring it to classrooms in my district, as I have never seen students transform into self-driven learners with such authenticity as I have with ROLE.  This approach seems to be made to stick.

#nbtchat meme

There are a few parameters with a true ROLE classroom… no homework and no grades.  Teaching must follow the workshop model approach and discipline is not an issue.

Intrigued? So were those that joined me when I hosted the #txeduchat on ROLE.

The following is a snapshot of the Tweets and links that were shared.

Q1A1 aA1 bA1 cQ2A2 aA2 c

@markbarnes19 blog post on Homework

A2 fQ3A3 aA3 bA3 dA3 cA3 fA3 hQ4Mark Barnes A3

@markbarnes19 blog post on Feedback

A4 aA4 bA4 dExample of Student Rubric for peer/self evaluation by Charles Cooper @thrasymachus

A5 aA5 bA5 cA5Q6A6 aLinks to school doing a ROLE Type approachSedbury School links: http://leewaysudburyschool.org/testimonials

http://sudburyschool.com/testimonials

A6 c

There was a real sense of urgency for change.  Many wanted to know how.

Challenge to be brave

Suggestions and inspiration were shared.

For integration and becoming paperless:

Going paperless with ROLE

For taking it back to classrooms:How to get it goingTo continue the dialogue and stay connected:

Mark Barnes FB gradesTeacher’s Throwing Out Grades FB group sponsored by Mark Barnes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachersthrowingoutgrades/

As well as the upcoming book chat on ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes.  Anyone is welcome to join #suummerROLE if you are wanting to revolutionize education.  July 29th we will be discussing chapters 1 and 2.

I am ready to revolutionize education.  I am eager to put in motion ROLE.  I look forward to continued conversations about student-driven learning that fosters joy and autonomy.  If you still need some convincing I leave you with this:

Anti WS memeWill you join the ROLE Revolution?

 

Link to #txeduchat archive for July 13, 2014:

http://txeduchat.com/2014-twitterchat-archives/07-13-14-chat-archive