My 2019 #oneword- FOCUS: Yes, It is a Revisit!

Last year was a whirlwind of a year. Every ounce of me relied on my #oneword of 2018 Brave. I had to be brave in our process of moving states, finding a new job, relocating my kiddos to a new school… and that was just the big stuff. Who knew finding a hair stylist and nail technician would also require bravery… but a bad haircut and horrible pedicure taught me to bravely face my reflection both on the surface and deep within.

word of the yearSo, here we are and I have never known so clearly what my #oneword should be… FOCUS. Funny thing, it’s been my word before. At first, I thought about changing it. I mean, who has a #oneword twice, unless they really sucked at it the first time, right? And then I really started reflecting. There has been A LOT of change for me and my job isn’t anything like it was for the past two years. I am in charge of guiding, designing and directing the path of our organizations learning and curriculum. I am also a BIG IDEA person. If you are familiar with the Compass Points Protocol, I am an EAST all the way through. This is great for dreaming, for vision casting, for pushing the limits, for designing with the end in mind, but not for details in implementation and making sure there is mastery before introducing something else. It wasn’t that I hadn’t mastered FOCUS, it was that I needed to revisit it. I needed to reel myself in. I need to constantly remind myself to FOCUS.

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 8.42.20 PMLet me back up a little and let you know how I came to this clarity of thought. First, our Admin team began reading “Leading With Focus” by Mike Schmoker in mid-November. It has been a true challenge to my “speedboat” approach to learning and thus my leading. I also reinforced what I  remind myself of often, “If you are leading where you are so far ahead of everyone else, you aren’t leading you are alone.”

Second, I am one that has a hard time “narrowing down” ideas into details, however, I had been tasked with facilitating professional development for a group of educators that serve a group of students that are some of our hardest to reach. My plan? Fostering Effective Student Goal Setting. How am I going to do this? Have the teachers select their #oneword, create a vision board and then identify achievable step by step goals for themselves, then take the hands-on learning and they had and devise an approach to do the same with their students.

Will this be effective? Well, we will see after January 7th.

Am I optimistic? Yes. Why? Well, you never try something you aren’t willing to do yourself. I have written down ideas, plans, goals around my #oneword before, but never fully done a vision board. I did one this time, and I discovered when you do this you work from your innermost passions.

Where do students derive their motivation? From their passions. Not only that, but the vision boards share visually what words can’t capture and at a deep relational level that a simple written word or goal does not capture. And that is why I am optimistic. I am hoping that this exercise in identifying their #oneword, then creating their vision board and then finally creating simple, actionable, attainable goals that will be shared with their teachers will create the path for a trajectory of positive change.

IMG_1620For me, I know that taking my #oneword FOCUS and creating this vision board is giving me the guide for leading learning with my organization, for my family and for myself. Additionally, it is helping me with another aspect that I have recently discovered through Brene’ Brown’s book “Dare to Lead.” I want to lead in such a way that whatever our focus we do brave work, have the tough conversations to move forward and I show up with my whole heart. That requires vulnerability and in the spirit of that, I am sharing a picture of my vision board for my readers.

I hope that you find inspiration and encouragement with your #oneword as I have and will with mine. I want to also share that in addition to my personal #oneword my family also has a #oneword they select each year. This year it is BALANCE. To me, it is the perfect intersection of words. If you want to read more about my family’s #oneword you can find it on my family blog: “2019 and Our Family’s #oneword.”

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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)

Message in a Bottle- Learning about Theme

Message in a Bottle Amazing Grace

letter for Amazing Grade MIB

Letter Journey to a New Land MIB

Journey to a New Land Message in a Bottle

I want to share a very engaging lesson our 3rd grade team did on theme. The idea came to me through my teaching team partner Kristin Carlile @kjcarlile. She does an excellent job crafting reading lessons for our team and this one was not one that we needed to keep to ourselves. She is an incredibly resourceful teacher and used an idea similar to the lesson I am blogging about from Scholastic @scholasticteach. We had already been doing read alouds with the kids and identifying the genre, summary, big idea of the book and the theme. After about 5 days of this being modeled with read alouds and various independent acitvities i.e. readers response journals, tickets out, and small group instruction through readers workshop we presented a new and creative acitivity. Kids were partnered up and given the following task and rubric.

Message in a Bottle

At the beginning of the post are some student products after working on it during Readers Workshop for a day. Would like to have given more time to this activity. Definitely will revisit as the learning was profound and the engagement unprecedented.

To finish this post I will leave you with a short list of books that are great for this activity. There are many more and I encourage you to find titles across the genres so that students can see how theme occurs in many genres.

Book list:
“The Honest-to-Goodness Truth” by Patricia McKissack
“The Mitten Tree” by Candace Christiansen
“My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” by Patricia Polacco
“Thank You, Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco
“Too Many Tamales” by Gary Soto
“Charlie the Caterpillar” by Dom Deluise

Good luck with your Message in a Bottle activities… may your students discover a lesson of a lifetime!