Be On Time For Life

“Be on time for life!”  What a powerful statement to hear from academy award-winning actor Benicio Del Toro, as he addressed the 2018 graduating class at his Alma Mater, Mercersburg Academy.  I was honored to be a guest at this celebration… watching with pride as my god-daughter Madeline Lauther graduated with goals, ambition, and an undeniable drive to make life better with the opportunity she has been given.

IMG_5579It may have been one of the hottest days this spring.  A blazing 87 degrees at 11 am in the open courtyard of the academy, yet I sat glued to every word Del Toro spoke.  He found a way to meet the graduates where they were on their journey.  He took his own experiences in life and related them to the mindset they most likely were in… the one racing so that you are not late for life.  Questions loomed in their eyes.  Fears were evident.  Yet the excitement surrounding opportunity was unmistakable and inspiring.  I walked away feeling that if every 18 year old could hear these words of wisdom, they would be better for it.  This was not about which college of university they were going to attend.  This was not about a higher education.  This was not about the elite or the privileged.  This was about life.  This was about T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T.  Let me share some  quotes that resonated with me:

“Why give up before trying.”

“Re-imagine the line… have conviction!”

“If you don’t believe in it, why would I?”

“Turn frustration into accomplishment.”

“Lead movements of change.”

“Understanding where someone is coming from is the start to knowing where you are going.” 

IMG_5593Del Torro may be an award-winning actor, but that wasn’t where his focus was while at the academy.  He was a basketball star and an artist.   He had no idea that acting would be his path.  He himself felt like he was late for life on more than one occasion.  The quotes above that he shared were powerful… not because they came from an actor, but because they are L.E.G.I.T. .

To truly appreciate the humbleness that comes from this man, let me share his view on himself.  Del Toro says, “I like to take things very slowly. When you start to become a movie star, it’s easy to believe that you are Superman. That can fool you. That’s why I prefer not to pay much attention to fame. The truth is that I don’t give it much thought. I don’t suffer. I don’t hang my photographs on the wall. Without realizing it, you can enter a vicious circle and think that you really are a superhero. That’s the moment when you get yourself in real trouble.”

Then this happened…

“THERE IS NO-ONE LIKE YOU AND NO-ONE WILL EVER BE YOU!” -Benicio Del Toro

mic drop!

ce4b7048-77b0-42db-b80c-a849d91d1465.jpegNo one like you… wow!  So profound… truth!  That is how I viewed each graduate as they walked onto the sacred grassy platform to which they only step upon for graduation day.  Every single graduate dressed in their own style… their own vision… their own voice.  The appreciation of individual differences was most evident when Valedictorian, Xiang “Victor” Li replaced his speech with something that he had passion for… music.  He shared with each of us, ““I have always hated speeches because I have never figured out where the thin line between meaningfulness and cringiness lies, so, pretty much what I’m saying now is I can’t and I won’t do a speech.”  In turn, this is a snippet of the gift he shared with all who attended…

Passion fuels the fire in each of us.

L.E.G.I.T. relationships support these passions.

Be on time for life! 

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My god-daughter, Madeline Lauther

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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!

One Purpose

Every day is our first without my beautiful mother in law, my friend, my confidanteour mom, nana, wife, aunt and sister.  As a family, we will have a minimum of 365 firsts in the next year.  With every day being a new different for each of us… the same rang true with our Easter.  A day full of so much purpose… a day that reminds us that she is truly in a better place because He lives!  Yet a place that is removed from us for now.  Our family needed to get away.  We needed to escape the daily reminder that nothing will ever be the same.  The constant change of life was gripping our hearts and at times squeezing our purpose right out of us.  We have gone from a family of 6 to 5 just like that… 1/6 of our heart was no longer beating the way it had for so many precious years.

One purpose

3F8C2CB3-37F0-4126-9A34-63EBA429D5B8We set off for Canada.  A bucket list moment for the kids was to see Niagara Falls and we were determined to make it happen.  They have seen some of the world’s most beautiful sights and this was one yet to be seen by them.  My father in law was on board.  An immediate “yes” was his response to our curve ball of a holiday plan.  He may be one of the strongest people I know.  The love of his life gone after 50 years.  Twenty-four hours/seven days a week simply different.  Yet his focus stays the same.

One purpose

We arrived.  Pictures were being snapped by the second.  We were all thinking the same thing, but no one spoke of it.  We smiled.  We created new moments.  We shopped, turning to tell her to look, but she wasn’t there.  We ordered drinks wanting to ask for her favorite, but didn’t or couldn’t.  I watched my father in law settle in to his first trip away… without her.  I watched my husband make the best of every moment given without his mom.  In a far off distance, I heard a child say, ” Nana, look!” and I prayed my own family didn’t hear the reminder of the absence we were all feeling to our core.

Then it happened.  Trent, my 15 year old son and sparkle of Nana’s eye, decided he would join me for a trip to the spa…. something I would have done with mom and was about to do alone.   We arrived and were greeted by the kindest woman.  She immediately took us under her wing to this new found “a la carte” spa treatment.  She noticed Trent’s age and let us know he typically would not be allowed to join me, but that she felt he was mature and was welcome.  She handed each of us an oxygen canulla and told us to insert it in our nose and drape behind our ears.  We were about to refresh ourselves with this gift of oxygen… rejuvenation.  Trent and I looked at one another, and proceeded as if we were speaking the same language.  In that moment, this woman had no idea that mom/nana was on oxygen for the last year of her life as she battled the deadly disease of lung cancer and lost.  She had no idea that mom hated oxygen and loved it all at the same time.  The same way we felt in that moment.  We were taken aback, yet found comfort.  The hum of the concentrator.  Mom was right there… exposing us to an anxiety that neither of us were prepared for, yet embraced.  Nana found a way to get him in the spa to be with me… something so like her to do!

One purpose 

Easter arrived.  I decided to stop at Starbucks before we left the hotel.  I opened my wallet and saw my gift-card from a special friend, Tamara Letter.  A dear friend whom I never met in person, but one I hold dear to my heart (My PLF).  One that reached out to me when mom had passed away to tell me I needed to take a moment for myself and when I was ready she would buy me a coffee to sit and reflect.  So I did.  I reached in and pulled out that card… and I smiled. #kindness

We packed into the car and headed for home.  No Easter “best dressed” this year.  No ham in the oven.  We were in our comfy clothes made for traveling.  Our meal would come at a rest stop or random restaurant with an OPEN sign lit.  Yet, we did have one constant.  A bond that defines our family.   We were all thinking of the same person… and smiling.  Mom loved Easter.  It was a time in the year she knew the birds would start to sing, the flowers would start to bloom, and the breath of life would shine down in the warmth of the sun.  With winter on it’s way out, you would catch her smile grow… a little wider and a little brighter.  She would find balance again.  We drove home with the sun shining down on us.  We reminisced about the beautiful moments…. the new memories we created.   We smiled.  Dad reminded us all that the one thing we cannot stop is change.  Profound connection between my family life and my passion for teaching.

One purpose

Mom’s purpose redefined over the years from daughter and sister to wife and mother.  The one purpose that she held above all was creating joy for others, especially her precious grandchildren Trent and Jack.  She could do this with one simple action.. her smile!  Our family created joy together this Easter.  With her, without her, and always through her.  The kind that radiated from her.  Her legacy lives on in each of us.

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Nana and her boys Easter 2016

 

One purpose

creating joy!

#ThatSmile 

 

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.  

change by george

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!

 

 

Innovating Inside the “Box”

It is a challenge to think of innovation inside the box, but even more challenging for me when I ask myself… what box?  Is that the teacher box?  The resource box?  An empty box?  Or the student box… the mind of a child?!

Really, what if the box were the child?  How do they view their experiences and opportunities.  How do they see change?

Change is inevitable and in many ways inspirational!   As George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset, reminds us…

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING!”

So why does change worry so many or worse off scare so many?  Do we create an environment that makes it intimidating for a child or is it exciting, inspiring, and AMAZING?  Every child has their own home-life, experiences, conversations, access/resources, goals, desires, mental/physical health, ability, and support…

or lack of.

What about the child facing changes each day when their own life may look so different.  Change is a good thing, right?  Have you asked a child lately?  I have.  For some, change isn’t for the better.  Life for them doesn’t reflect innovation or even embrace it.  Whether it is a mindset within their surroundings, a comfort-zone of knowing the predictable, or a lack of resources, I simply have students that shun the change that I have brought to their learning… to their world.  To the one thing they considered safe and predictable.

So how do we bring upon change that is within their grasp… their means… their box?  What would life look like to them if we simply did not change because our resources were less limited than that of a neighboring district?  Are we then sending the message that they are just stuck in a situation that they have little to no control over?  Are we validating excuses to define our situations and outcomes?

As stated in this week’s IMMOOC Podcast, the phrase “Don’t Over-complicate It” stood out to me along with many other #EDUAwesome moments with Katie Martin, John Spencer, Aj Juliani and Brianna Hodges.

Brianna Hodges, Director of Digital Learning at SISD, talked about the social concern and her creation of “A Heartbreak Story” to bring empathy and compassion for the child that does’t fit into the box we have created in education and society as a whole.  This hit home with me… that was me!  I had very little, but I believe that is why I was so innovative from a very young age.

I was forced to think within my constraints so that I could feel a glimmer of the “AMAZINGNESS” George talks about.  As a child, my projects looked nothing like the store supplied ones that my peers brought to class.  I had to find something within my home that could portray the concept being taught.  I chose to empower myself by using what was available to me and finding ways to borrow or seek out resources from places like my local girls club or library.

I had to dream a little bigger. 

Dig a little deeper. 

I had choices to make each day… either I could take full advantage of every opportunity or allow it to slip through my fingers.  I needed a teacher who would create better opportunities for me… someone to bring better learning to my world.  I needed innovation… it was a sense of hope… a brighter tomorrow that I yearned to be a part of in this world.

As an educator I feel the restraints… the limitations of not having resources at my disposal.   I have a classroom of students with a WIDE range of experiences so how can I bring change for the better to each of them?  What do I have to offer?

I continue to empower myself by connecting to other educators, writing grants, borrowing materials, and creating my own opportunities with professional development.  Empowering myself to develop my own skills has been key to the successes my students have gained.

I must be a part of innovation… to create a sense of hope… a brighter tomorrow that my students yearn to be a part of in this world.

I must create change…

Amazing change…

I simply must innovate inside the box, the mind of a child.

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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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#IMMOOC 4 Week 1: Breakthrough

Innovation is not set aside for the elite.  It is not a term meant to be used in education alone.  It describes a global effort towards betterment.  It is necessary that we not only recognize innovation, but that we find our own role in it.

When it comes to innovation, I find myself intrigued with EDUicons and their story… they are the epitome of innovation… of breakthroughs in all walks of life.  I reflect back to history’s “greats” and look for parallels.  How did they get there or here?

In Katie Martin‘s Book, Learner Centered Innovation, she continuously asks “What if ?…”  She also challenges us to look at different points of view.  From the administrator, to the teacher, to the student, Katie targets the idea of… “BE THE CHANGE”

“What if ?… and begin to create the change that you wish to see in your context.” –Katie Martin 

Think about Albert Einstein‘s mindset.  Would you consider him a problem solver?  An innovator?  A person looking to improve life for all? A CHANGE MAKER?

“We cannot solves our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them”.  –Albert Einstein

Albert

Problems are a way of life.  Problems are a sign that we are trying.  Without them, that means we’re staying inside our comfort zone of a hamster wheel and allowing life to continue status quo.

In 1915, Albert Einstein published his personal masterwork on the general theory of relativity.  How did this happen?  I suspect it was a result of him pursuing his passions.

Interestingly enough, from the Encyclopedia World of Biography it states, “He was a poor student, and some of his teachers thought he might be retarded (mentally handicapped); he was unable to speak fluently (with ease and grace) at age nine. Einstein’s formal secondary education ended at age sixteen. He disliked school, and just as he was planning to find a way to leave without hurting his chances for entering the university, his teacher expelled him because his bad attitude was affecting his classmates”.

This puts me right back to something Katie said during the first IMMOOC Season 4 podcast with George Couros and AJ Juliani.  When talking about her son she stated, “school simply does not align with his strengths!”  At that very moment I felt like Katie was speaking for me as a child and my very own two sons… it was powerful!  I personally was not “caught in the middle of the turning point in education” as Katie so eloquently puts it.  But my sons are… right in the middle!

One teacher wants them to find their passion… let me rephrase… relight the passion that other teachers put out. 

One teacher demands a shared Google Doc, while the next doesn’t even know what a Google Doc is.

One has flexible seating, which allows for my son’s inattentiveness to have laser-focus, while others continue to call him out on inattentiveness in a compliant, rows of desks, teacher centered world.  

The BREAKTHROUGH IS HERE… the serum to save education… to save our children’s love of learning… to create change… to be a part of an innovative world!

What is your role?DVYI6RGXkAIHfXf

What will you do with it?