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!

Endless Possibilities

To believe YOU CAN strengthens every fiber of your being.  To believe YOU ARE WORTHY humbles your core.  BUT to be BELIEVED IN creates endless possibilities.

I can’t help but wonder who our children would be if everyone believed in them.  If every teacher, coach, parent, and community member believed in every child.  Yes, every child.  Not just the “good” ones.  Not just the easy ones.  Not just the naturally talented or goal driven.  Not just the ones that are independent and pursue life with ease.  Not just the ones with the best attitude or demeanor.  Not just the ones with the solid foundation.

All children

I watch as teachers pin students when they are being inducted into an Honor Society.  That teacher was chosen because they made that child feel special… believed in.  They made an impact that lasted beyond 180 days of school.  What if every child felt that way… or better yet, what if every teacher made every child feel that way?

I watch as coaches cheer on players, help them to overcome mistakes, brush off tough games, and instill confidence.  That coach made a difference because they made that child feel special… believed inWhat if every player felt that way… or better yet, what if every coach made every player feel that way? 

I watch the community member that takes time to listen to a child.  To remind them they are visible.  To give them a family beyond the four walls of their home.  To be seen… believed inWhat if… 

Are you the one who believes in every child?  Are you the teacher they need in their life? The coach?  The parent?

YOU ARE MAKING AN IMPACT on EVERY child… it’s up to you whether it is positive or negative.

Oh, the endless possibilities in believing!

Endless Possibilities (1)

The Championship Game

Opportunity lies ahead with PSSA’s!  A challenge is knocking on our door AND the anxiety decreases as we talk about the opportunity it provides.

change.pngIt paves the way to our learning.  It is a road map to each child’s knowledge and ability.  It is the compass for future teachers to find the direction to each child’s learning.

PSSAs are not as closed minded as we make them out to be.  Hands on?  No.  But they do allow for voice and choice if we see the opportunity behind each question.  This is our championship game!  We got this!  How?  We need to Innovate Inside The Box

Flip The Mindset

Each child gets to choose which strategy works best for them.  Do they prefer the traditional method?  Drawing pictures?  Counting on their fingers? Partial products? Trade-first?  These are simply methods that each child may choose from… their choice to show their voice on how they know the concept.

Are they curious as to why they need to read the article, passage, or summary?  Each child has the choice to read the questions before they read the passage.  This does not have to be such a mystery to them if they truly want to switch things up.  What if they get to a question and the problem is that they cannot remember what they just read?  No worries!  Their choice… they can simply go back into the passage and find what it is they are looking for to complete the question.

Take Action

However, if never given the opportunity to use their voice to choose their learning how will they see it so clearly when it lies in their path?  Time to hit it out of the park and empower every child with opportunity!

Batter Up!

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 

 

Beyond Flexible

I am a huge fan of flexible seating.  Why?  Because it speaks to me… to every child.  It is a language all on its own.  It says … come in and choose what works for you!  Choose what is best for your learning.  To me “beyond flexible” is a respect to all languages of learning…. it builds a culture of value, trust, and respect.

Respect for differences. 

Respect for prior knowledge.

Respect for one’s strengths… because everyone has them! 

By providing flexible seating I am “speaking and interpreting many languages to learning.”  It is the “multilingual approach to learning”… each child’s own personal language.  I am letting each child know that I am privileged to learn with them and I cannot wait to see what they have to offer in their own way27C9FC8A-82E4-4FD5-87A4-F31C751D79DEBut why stop with seating?  Why not go beyond and have flexible learning too?

It makes me think of how I choose my shopping experience.  I am in the moment.  My moment looks different based on my day… my mood… my energy.  I am the one who likes to walk in to a store that offers a variety.  I want different.  I don’t want a carbon copy of someone else.  I don’t want everyone to know where I bought it just by glancing at a “label.”  I am different and I embrace it, just like I embrace the different learners in my classroom each day!

George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset,  made a strong point this week (during the IMMOOC YouTube live session)… one that resonated with me.  He mentioned that when leading there are times “I am literally trying to figure this out right now.”

Thanks George…  that is me!  That is my shopping style!  My life style!  My learning style!  I am wrestling with what I want… what I want to wear.  I may not even know until I see it.  I feel my shopping is similar to students’ learning.  I feel they wrestle with their own learning and it may change from subject to subject like brand to brand.  They may not even be in touch with their own likes or dislikes, yet they are trying to win at the “game of school” through one experience.  Shouldn’t they come out with an amazing outfit of learning designed just for them?  Shouldn’t their learning be flexible too… the kind that goes beyond differentiation?  Isn’t it their own learning language?

“It’s more than just a skill level.  Each student has a different set of interests and passions and prior knowledge.  Each student has a different set of questions.  Each student has a different system that works for them.” –A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, authors of Empower

 

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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!

 

 

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.