Tis’ the Season to Create Opportunity

Tis’ the season…

for true insanity!  The kind that comes in the form of 

gift brainstorming

decorating

celebrations

shopping til’ I drop

(let me toss in the excitement of presenting at my first conference)

and…. oh, yes…

planning engaging lessons that supersede that of the jolly ol’ man himself!

Now that last one is a dooooozy!  So how on earth can we as educators keep learning at the forefront of the holiday season.  Quite simple… just ask our students!

What would you like to do in math for the next couple of weeks? Their eyes were wide open to match their little voices that were going nonstop as they talked over one another to get their idea out.

We had just finished up celebrating our Chick-fil-A luncheon reward for embracing flexible seating in the classroom.  Our local Chick-fil-A in Robinson Twp. had closed one store to build a new and better establishment across town.  In turn, they offered out their used furniture to anyone interested.   My fellow colleague Olivia, who formally worked at their business, called me up to see if I was interested.

Interested? Ummmm… YES!  I brought home tables, chairs and stools that have added more awesome options to our already flexible classroom.  But the one thing that I felt would take our learning right over the edge was the ENTIRE LIGHT UP MENU BOARD!  You heard me!  Yes, I’m the one that looked over at the heap of metal stacked up, ready for the dumpster and said, “Any chance I could have those too?”  I remember the look on the manager’s face as if that was far from something that she envisioned we would desire.  “SURE!”, she said.  Oh yes, this was the game changer I was looking for… math would never be the same in the most exciting way possible!

Rewind… If I am being totally honest, the menus sat in a stack for almost 3 months.  They were huge and heavy.  The idea had gone from complete excitement to… what was I thinking?  Then the day came.  The reward luncheon was about to unfold and what better “decoration” to have than the menu boards, right?  I brought each one in with the intention of having a simple “REAL-WORLD” math lesson and then off to the stack they would go again.  I mean, come on… where on earth was I really going to put all of them?

But when the hype of Christmas came barreling in, and I found myself questioning my plan to move into a new unit so I had to ask the experts… the students themselves!

“Let’s run our own restaurant!”, one said.  WHAT? HOW? WHEN?  We haven’t even learned decimals yet… or money.  Wait, we don’t even know the first thing about running a business.  How will this take shape?  All these questions whirled though MY mind.

HOW WAS I GOING TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

Crazy how I thought this was a PROBLEM that had too many hurdles to make happen.  In reality, it was an INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY with a personal invitation to authentic learning at its finest!  Even crazier to think I felt it was MY problem and not an opportunity to problem solve in the most authentic way possible.  A restaurant… WOW!

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A new space was created for the menu boards

Well my friends, that is exactly what we will do for the next 2 weeks of school.  I smiled and said, “Let’s get this plan in place.  Remember, we have to connect it to our learning goals… whose in?”

“WE ARE!”  And off they went.  The research began instantly.  They began talking about managers, shift managers, cost, employee responsibilities, resumes, interviews, and so much more.  We have reached out for a little more support from Chick-fil-A to donate bags and paper products to give our “business” life!  Students are ready to bring in their kid friendly cash registers, along with additional play-dough and other materials they have listed.  Over the next week, my students will be creating their own math journey.  One that I know will leave a lasting mark.  All of this excitement has unfolded because I simply asked one question.

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Tis’ the Season!

Student Mantra: Crushing Goals

CRUSHING GOALS has become our daily mantra in The Ingenious Lab.  When you walk in on any given day you will here the sounds of…

“YES, I did it!”

“Ahhhh, sooooo close”

“Look Mrs. Nan, I made it to the next level!”

or

“Can I have just another minute… I know I can do it?!”.

This is incredibly rewarding for me, but it didn’t happen over night.  These are the same students who despised math fluency in August and barely completed a set amount of math facts in under an hour.  These are the same students who found little to no value in the NWEA assessment and whizzed through it just to put their heads down.  These are the students who groaned at working on phonics when they felt they were past that skill even with gaps in their foundation.  They honed in on what came easy for them and snubbed the challenge of other skills and subjects.

Does this sound familiar?  Do you find that children have already predetermined what they are good at or not before you even get the chance to show them otherwise?  Do they simply push aside areas that require critical thinking, perseverance, or maybe a fresh mindset?

My students needed a fire lit under them and I was determined to do it!  They needed a purpose to tie into their learning.  They needed to be passionate about their learning.  They needed to take pride in their work and the journey they would go on to achieve success.   I was committed to making that happen and you can too!

Ways To Make Goal Crushing Achievement Happen:

  1. Kids need to have fun… it makes them tick!  Find their joy and tie it in to the purpose of what they need to learn.  For my students their joy stemmed around creating and making, spending time with friends, and having options to choose from that would fit into their current world of interests.
  2. Find out what they want to be or what they enjoy outside of school that could connect to a profession.  They are never too young to visualize their future.  This may be a moment of hope for a child.  Hope that they can be what they want through determination and hard work.  That their future does not have to be defined by their current situation.  This is about building a relationship with them beyond the skill, yet listening to their passions to bring relevance to what they are learning.
  3. Give options for seating.  How they learn is a major factor in how much they learn.  Flexible seating has been at the forefront of education for a few years and we as educators owe it to every child to jump on board.  No two students are alike and we need to help them learn their strengths and weaknesses and then empower them to know what they need to succeed.  Do they need to stand?  Do they need an outlet for their fidgeting?  Do they need to bounce?  Do they need to stretch out and put on music?  Most do not know.  Most students have been told how to learn and now they simply want to sit by a friend to get through the day.  Is this really how we want to define learning for them?
  4. Celebrate their successes… you may be the only one who does!  No “buts” involved.  They don’t need to hear “you did great, but…” what they did wrong or that they could have done even better.  They need to wrap themselves in that moment and celebrate!  HUG them, high-five them, do a dance, shout it from the desktop, just make that child relish the moment of success.  Believe it or not once they become self-motivated they will no longer hinge their successes on your personal feelings, but instead on their own!
  5. Have student conferences!  These can be as little as 2-3 minutes in length.  You must take the time to speak with love and care for their well-being and growth.  They are not able to create goals if they do not know where they are at in their learning.  They need concrete examples and then an opportunity to create a plan with you.  Make this happen for every child!

Be a GOAL CRUSHER for and with every child!  Their learning depends on it!

 

L.E.G.I.T. Relationships

Here I am ready to host my first twitter chat.  Some may think, come on Kristen what’s the big deal?  Me on the other hand, well I see the big picture… the one that was built on L.E.G.I.T. relationships. Built on trust.  This is a big deal to me.  This chat isn’t just a chat for me.  It is an affirmation of my growth.  It signifies that I have taken myself and I have stretched my own limits.  The ones that I bound myself by in my own mind. #TRUST

I thought I used to put myself out there by going to conferences or signing up for local workshops.  Going to a conference is great, but let’s get real… it isn’t enough.  It isn’t the conference itself that creates a new path for your learning, it’s the relationships you build while attending them and then continue to nurture beyond that point.  The conversations that drive you to reconsider your own view point or maybe even your own philosophy.  But even then I  would find myself returning to school… to my room… to my own little ol’ opinion without ever seeing or talking to those educators ever again.

Fast forward… 2016 became the year that I found myself needing more.  So much more in fact that if I didn’t find what it was that I was searching for, I would consider leaving the profession that once filled my cup on a daily basis.

This was the year

… the walls of my own learning broke down.

… that I reached out.

… I found that I had a world of educators waiting in the wings to move forward with me. #LEGITeduRelationships

Twitter itself has been a springboard to so many incredible relationships.  Ones of inspiration and of immense respect.  This is where I met the foundation to my #PLF (As my friend Tara Martin dubbed it… Professional Learning Family) in #IMMOOC.  A Massive Online Community of Educators pushing the mindset to create change for the better.  This community was formed around the inspiration and leadership of George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset.  When IMMOOC came to an end, I had to find myself another book… another group of educators to add to my world… the ones willing to push one another as #IMMOOC did for me.  That is when #tlap was sent my way.  The fuel to my fire was right in front of me.  With one simple Amazon search I had Teach Like A Pirate, written and published by Dave Burgess, in my hands the very next day.  This is when the snowball started to roll…

I located my own coordinates on learning and found educators around the world to learn and grow with me.  I questioned the coordinates of my students,  parents, colleagues, administration, and community… was I meeting them where they were at?  I empowered myself to take charge of my own learning.  This was when I realized it had to happen for my students too!  #30SecondEmpowerPitch was born!  Yet, when I had a conversation with an incredible mentor in my life, I found that I was still not there… the place I was looking to be connected to in education.  He asked me what my goals were and I didn’t have an answer… I had not created any up to that point!  I had hopes and dreams… I had imagined a more powerful way of learning for my students and myself, yet the reality was I had not taken myself serious enough to create a plan… to commit myself to goals.  That was when I jumped into another #twitter chat, and this one called me out on my dreams.  This chat wanted to know more.  Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess, authors of Lead Like A Pirate, questioned what I would be willing to do to make these dreams happen!  This was my moment of truth.  #LeadLAP

I sat down and gave myself goals.  I felt these goals would push me to take risks and continue to ignite my learning along the way.

  1. Create a book study for my colleagues to reignite and nurture their passion for learning/teaching. #tlap
  2. Create a personal website with standards to hold myself accountable for connecting with others and building stronger relationships.
  3. Blog on a regular basis (for me 6-7X/month was huge!)  This past month was the first time in 8 months that I had not achieved that goal.
  4. Enter into #PD that is of value to me and my students.
  5. Create a class website to empower my students to share their voice beyond our four walls.  #30SecondEmpowerPitch
  6. Read ReAD and READ meaningful books that will create a stronger relationship between myself and my profession.
  7. Engage in chats with others around the world to push my thinking.
  8. “Fill buckets” full of thoughts on where I want education to go… create opportunities for all educators and students.
  9. Build a #PD Lending Library for educators to borrow books (This is getting it’s final touches to be ready for red tape ribbon cutting in the fall… thank you Dave and Shelley Burgess)
  10. Host a twitter chat #MasteryChat

Tonight I get to check off my last goal just in time to create new ones!  Thank you to The Grid Method for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to chat about one of my many passions!  Without L.E.G.I.T. Relationships, none of this could have happened! Thank you to my powerful #PLF… my family beyond my four walls.  #tlap #LeadLAP #IMMOOC #MasteryChat #4OCF

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Shout out to my awesome PLF!

 Thanks Mike Mohammad (IMMOOC PLF) for creating the top pic and to Laura Steinbrink (4OCF PLF) for creating the bottom pic!

Hidden Faces Behind Innovation

Innovation is magical!  It is the face of change!   As George Couros , author of Innovator’s Mindset would say, “An opportunity to do something AMAZING!”  It comes in many forms and around many bends in life.  Do you see it?  Do you hear it?  I do!

Where are you looking when you are trying to make change?  When you are trying to move forward in an EDUworld that thrives on comfort and consistency.   Sometimes it is hidden in the conversations I have with my own children.  Other times it is hidden in a sidebar conversation with friends.  Often, it is there…  hidden behind the faces right in front of me.  The question is am I looking?

Look right into the eyes of a child… and like a switch that flips, your ears will perk up to the words they are speaking.

Did you ever notice that eyes sparkle and dance when change is for the better?   I love to see dancing in my children’s eyes.  

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My 15 year old son Trent sat down with me to have small talk. That talk ended up changing everything for me as a mom and an  educator.  “Mom, I love Mrs. Steff.” (His former ELA teacher in Junior High).  I said, “Wow, that is pretty awesome… tell me why?”  He went on to tell me she fought for him (tears as I type).  When he wasn’t interested in the required readings she had given,  she did everything in her power to open up the rubric so that he could connect to his passions of fishing and the outdoors.  It was a game changer.   His attitude towards work looked different.  He was  enjoying the game of learning.  Yes, this is powerful!  Change for the better… behind the scenes, yet not forgotten by my son.

My 11 year old son Jack said, “Mom, I love Mrs. Shadish (His former 5th grade teacher).”  “I see that Jack… tell me why?” He went on to tell me “she got him.”  She understood what made him tick.  He needed to move about the room and she let him.  He needed to be trusted and she did.  He needed options and she was willing to make this happen.  She built a relationship with him that fostered learning.  His growth was outstanding.  He went from proficient to advanced in his area of “weakness” on the state assessment.   The response that came from him when he received his scores shattered my heart… “See mom, I’m not dumb.”  Mind you he is an intelligent little guy that qualified for gifted and special education (for a “thought to be” learning disability in reading) all in the same evaluation.

We are creating our own legacy with the children we share our lives with… yes, sharing our lives!  Making a lifetime impact that gives a child reason to believe in themselves and in learning.  Innovator’s make this happen every day.  As Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate and President of DBC, INC, would say… “hook them”

How do innovators make this happen? They…

  1. Build Relationships
  2. Dig Deeper
  3. Trust and gift it
  4. Are Passionate
  5. Create Experiences
  6. Empower
  7. Sell Dreams, not products“, as Steve Jobs’ said.

What hidden faces can you bring to the forefront so others can be inspired?  Here are a few magical innovator’s that have impacted my life and the life of my students:

Spread the wealth… Share this post and tag a few hidden faces of innovation that have inspired you!

 

 

Beyond The 5 Day Death March

(Note to readers: this was the reality of a 3rd grade classroom… where readers go from learning to read (K-2) to reading to learn (grades 3+).  From the viewpoint of one who has walked the walk and talked the talk… yes, this WAS my story, both as a teacher and a parent)

It started something like this… OK kids, lets open up to our new story (that is for those of you who have never read it before).  We are about to read to self, read to someone, listen to, word work, write about, and then regurgitate all the facts after 5 repetitive days of this same story.  We do this so that we can show “mastery” of all concepts that we didn’t have to use, let alone master, because we have now memorized the entire story.  (all in one breath, ha!)

Monday-Friday… left, left, left, right, left…

The weekly reading story that was pulled from the Anthology… the one attempting to serve all students of all abilities and passions, as the one and only focus for reading.  This went on for the duration of 5 solid days for years and years and years.

AKA… The 5 Day Death March!

Then I would say… Did I mention that there will only be 5 questions on your assessment.  They will be super similar to what we have reviewed and discussed in length over the last 5 days.  Let’s not forget the 8 vocabulary words that you may already know, but I still need to see if you can pick out the definition from 4 options.  No worries… I won’t ask you to put them into context.  Just memorize the meaning and you will be fine (DOK 1).

Oh, then I’m going to give you a cold read to show that you now know how to use all the skills that you didn’t need to master in order to memorize the story.  I know you practiced them on a worksheet and excelled, but I have to say that I am a little concerned you can’t carry that over into other work.

Drum roll please… Take home the GRADE!Image result for quotes about grades

Scenario 1: “Let’s put that A on the fridge”, says that proud parent that does not realize their child put forth no more than DOK 1 to earn the grade that they put so much worth on… ugh! (false sense of confidence for child, parent, and teacher)

Scenario 2: “Oh no, what happened on this test?”, says the student, parent and teacher who sees the GRADE.  How did you get an A on one reading test after reading it for 5 DAYS and yet you cannot do well on these weekly cold reads!  (confidence plummets for child and now ____________ fill in a response)

Scenario 3: Oh, another “A”… I need to talk to your teacher to see if you can be challenged a bit more.

Scenario 4: “Did you just fail that test after we to read to self, read to someone, listened to, word worked, wrote about, and so much more?  What do you mean you don’t like that story?  It’s not your kind of genre?  You were bored and checked out?”, says the teacher continuing to teach the 5 Day Death March!

Join Me… Push On!  Be the Million Dollar Decision for every child!  To know better is to do better… right?

I am a BELIEVER that all children should learn the skills to read and comprehend all text placed in front of them.

Focus in on student need with:

I am a BELIEVER in possibilities… the kind that can relate to all scenarios listed above!

So let’s switch up the scenario!  Let’s level up the learning for all students.  I know it can happen with a simple shift.  Why isolate reading to an Anthology?  Consider mixing together your resources.  Blend together Science, Social Studies, and Math with reading skills through Project Based Learning (PBL)  PBL shines the light on:

Let students march to their own beat.  One day full of passion far surpasses 5 days of…

left, left, left, right left.

March Madness

ButtonMakers Pattern TemplateIt’s March… what vibe are you giving?  Have you gone mad with assessments piling up or yet on the horizon?  Are your students feeling pressure or are they welcoming it… feeling empowered to take on the world?  To show off their MAD SKILLS!

Where are you… your mindset?  Are you on the countdown or upswing… planning life changing lessons (Dave Burgess, #tlap) and embracing the new life around you?  The kind that is a steady reminder that we are always growing whether it is day 1, 80, or 180.

You know you have already heard it… ONLY X amount of school days are left.  The countdown is on for students, parents and teachers.  Don’t get me wrong I have those days when the sun is shining and I think… ohhhh poolside would be nice.  Or the day that feels like 17 rolled into one.  But that doesn’t mean my life with my students turns to madness.  The question is…

if we had a March Madness bracket with awesome lessons planned for our students, where would yours land?  Would you be willing to throw it in the ring with the competition?  

if we had a March Madness bracket for EMPOWERED students, where would your students be?  Would they be sprinting to the front of the line… stepping up to add their name to the bracket? 

Is our role really any different from day 1 to 180?  Just like day 1 our goal should be to create empowered learners that are off the bench, jumping, clapping, ready for their call to step up and shoot.  Don’t leave before the buzzer. How would you feel if your leader, coach, or biggest fan stepped aside a quarter into the game… or when the last quarter started and the score was tied?! Every day is day 1.

If you are looking to bring your A Game in the last quarter try one of the following:

  1. Grab a book!  Dave Burgess Consulting, INC offers over 40 incredible innovative reads that are life changing to every child through educators like you!  Are you into STEAM and Makers?  Bring out your creative genius with books by Jacie Maslyk or Laura Flemming for go to quick action plans!
  2. Join a twitter chat!  #tlap #Leadlap #LearnLAP #MasteryChat #DitchBook #KidsDeserveIt #PlayLap #STEAMMakerChat #IMMOOC and so many more!
  3. Find or create your own PD… look into #4OCF with Rich Czyz and find many ideas that can be implemented at the drop of a dime.  Message me and I can add you to the incredible VOXER Chat led my Matthew Larson.
  4. Locate an EDCamp near you!  Close to Pittsburgh or ready to shake the winter blues with a road trip?  Join us as my district host Pittsburgh’s very own camp coming up in 2 weeks!  CLICK HERE to register!
  5. Make a REAL connection with the your students by bringing #BookSnaps into your classroom!  Book Snap Queen Tara Martin will walk you and your students through the learning process with one simple HOW TO VIDEO CLIP
  6. What about starting your own BYOB to build relationships in your building?  Bring Your Own Breakfast and hang out on Payday Friday!

Where is your creative spark (grab Katie Martin’s new book “Learner Centered Innovation” to help you find it)  What are you doing to keep the momentum so you aren’t left on the bench when the driven are playing?

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I Can’t Go With Them

I have had more conversations around this topic than any other in the time that I have been teaching.  It has looked different, sounded different, and has been reacted to differently.  Yet, my response is always the same.  No, I cant go with them… and would you really want me to?

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Building a legacy for your learners is never about you.  Once you humble yourself to recognize that one simple statement, you will then build up each child so that they are ready to take on the world… with or without you!

EMPOWER!

When I first read the incredible book EMPOWER by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, I felt like they had been inside my head as they were writing.  It spoke to me… it was an outlet for my thoughts.  The quote  “Student choice is the heartbeat of ownership and empowerment was exactly what I had been trying to say.  I felt vindicated.  I felt… heard.

Do I want a child that can only learn through my method?  My style?  My way?  Or do I want every child learning through their method… the one that shines a light on their strengths and passions.  One that shows their own unique style that they learn to love and appreciate.  A style that they can channel their knowledge and learning through for a lifetime and not for 180 schools days with ME.  Their way… their choice… their voice so that they can learn to make decisions that they are able to own through personal experience.

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Empowerment is one of the most exciting words for a human-being, yet it scares the pants off of most.  This struggle is so real for educators.  You must be willing to take the RISK… but no one is saying you have to do it alone!  Or worse off without preparation or backing.  This is where I reach out… to a new book, a Twitter Chat, my PLN built by ME!  I am only alone if I chose to be (Not so much the exact quote of George Couros, but the truth is embedded)… there are educators around the world ready to support me at the drop of a hat because I have empowered myself to build these relationships.

This mindset is the same for my students.  One that they must be flipped for and by themselves within the first few weeks of having me.  It is scary for them.  It is exciting for them.  It is messy.  It is CHAOTIC.   AND at times like herding cats, but…

We must breakdown their mindset of compliance before we can build up EMPOWERMENT in their learning! 

I create this opportunity for my students with the 30 Second Pitch… it encompasses Mindset, Research, Connect4, and their Moment all wrapped up in one.  They must plan and pitch their idea to me in 30 seconds or less.  Not an easy task, but it takes them from

MAY I

to

I CAN

in one shift to their learning.