#LCInnovation: What if…

What if…

the way isn’t the right way?

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I sit down, get my focus on, and layout what I think are the perfect plans for the upcoming week.  I take everything into account from each child, the skills, where education is today, to where it is going tomorrow.  I really think this way of planning is the right way… looking at all angles.

Asking myself questions such as how can I…

Ditch That Textbook?

Infuse ISTE Standards into my lesson?

Remake Learning “Pittsburgh style” by creating opportunities to design, make and create?

Reach every child at their instructional level?

Inspire students to innovate or iterate through inquiry based lessons? 

Hook my students into knowing down the door to learning?  LCL Dave Burgess style

Empower every child to own their learning and have confidence to act on the 30 Second Pitch

and the list goes on and on. 

Yet, as I am reading Katie Martin‘s book Learner Centered Innovation, it has me asking what if the the way I am planning isn’t the right way.  To be clear it was a blend of reading her book and taking part in the #LeadLap Chat she moderated on Saturday morning that really pushed me to take action on this “what if“.

As any chat goes, I type away my gut instinct in seconds flat.  I hit the “tweet” button and find myself staring at my best plan yet… 

What if YOU answered Katie’s question?  What if… 

 

Be the Million Dollar Decision

I remember my hiring day vividly.  Jubilation for me and feelings of betrayal to the small community that did not get the teacher they had hoped for… the one that they nurtured through the district as a child, the one that learned from them, tackled hours in the classrooms with them, and was hand picked to complete a long term sub position that very spring.  I was the new girl in town.  The unknown.  The crazy redhead ready to take on the world with one very big smile.  The one who wore a pale pink suit with matching shoes to my interview to stand out from the traditional black.  The one who didn’t know a single teacher to lean on or to have a glimmer into the mindset of a school not yet connected to technology.

I was not from the district… not from the county.  This was NOT common practice.  I was the Junie B. Jones, the Clementine, the Outsider.

Fast forward to 2016… the hiring process was about to begin and the buzz among the teachers was  intense.  Each had their own connections and experiences with whom they felt would best serve…

Ummmm…

well that is where I stop and question.  Best serve… who?

students?

or them as teachers?

See the perfect sub kept the ball rolling.  The perfect sub completed the task left by the teacher.  The perfect sub kept children quiet and out of trouble.  The perfect sub was compliant and maintained perfectly compliant learners.  So what’s wrong with that?  Who wouldn’t want to return from an absence to the work completed and no behavioral reports?

I was  with several of my colleagues when an intense discussion unfolded… one that included our then new Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jacie Maslyk.  Teachers started asking about the possible new hires and with all due respect Jacie just listened and did not comment.  Then one teacher decided to throw out their pitch to have a particular substitute hired, which then opened the door to other names of “future ready colleagues”.  This is when it happened…

With confidence like no other, without hesitation and very matter of fact, Jacie said,

“You need to understand that every hire is a Million Dollar Decision!” 

Mic Drop! or was that a pin?

Silence settled over the room.  Their eyes told a story.  Were they thinking what I was thinking?  Were they wondering the same thing as me in that very moment?

I sat there wondering, after 21 years of teaching… if I were interviewed today… WOULD I BE THE MILLION DOLLAR DECISION?  I immediately knew the answer… NO!  I was sick to my stomach.  What had happened to me?  Why wasn’t I good enough anymore?  (This was not a pity party… this was legit!)  More importantly, what on earth was I going to do to be BETTER?

PERSONAL CALL TO ACTION!  I believe You must DO BETTER to BE BETTER! (spin on Maya Angelou)  Where would I start?  Who do I ask?

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I started in-house by taking Jacie up on whatever she had to offer.  Summer PD, opportunity to visit other classrooms, visit other schools, be a part of a team of teachers within the county striving for innovation, reading her book STEAMMakers, and yes,  I joined twitter as Jacie had challenged each of us to do.

Now find time.  I hadn’t read a book in years! GOALS!  I was going to read this book… her book!  I became engaged in the material… the words were jumping off the page because they reminded me of my childhood… I was a maker, as all children should be.  My game changer with that book came when I was looking for a bookmark.  I glanced at a dollar bill that I had laying on the table next to me.  That was it… The Million Dollar Moment!  I quickly snatched it up, folded in in half, and placed it in the book.  That dollar became my reminder.  My incentive.  My mirror… if I were interviewed today, would I be the Million Dollar Decision?

I wasn’t in that moment, but I was determined to be.

Joining Twitter: CLICK HERE to connect with me

Why was joining twitter the biggest game changer?  Well for one, I was as good as I was nurtured to be within my district, and this one is on me.  (I own it because I was waiting for others to impact my learning when I could have been empowering myself all along to be better).  I always took on new initiatives, I always volunteered, and I always tried new things.  So why wasn’t this enough?

Simple… there was SO MUCH MORE OUT THERE!  Twitter gave me a connection to discussion on NEW topics, opportunities to connect with others that opened doors to my learning, EdCamps galore, and an array of conferences that would fit me.  Twitter helped me build relationships.  These relationships opened my eyes to new ways that I could learn by reading life changing books such as Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess, EMPOWER by A.J. Juliani and Jon Spencer, and so many more.  It gave me a chance to find EDUrelevance behind SnapChat by creating BookSnaps with Tara Martin.  It encouraged me to join learning platforms such as IMMOOC, DitchSUMMIT, and personal Voxer Chats with an array of educators.  Twitter connected me with society… entrepreneurs, universities, and businesses.

My journey over the last year and a half has set me on the right path… the one that takes me from hire to retire.  The one that helped me point my EDUcompass in the right direction.

Do you want to be the MILLION DOLLAR DECISION for your students?  What questions are you asking yourself to fulfill that vision, that goal, that EDUresponsibility?  After inquiring as to what questions may come into play with hiring today, I was left struck by the following:

  1. How do you use technology to enhance your instruction?  Not add to instruction, but infuse.  Not what YOU use it to instruct, but how your STUDENTS use it to create.
  2. How do you collaborate with others… beyond the four walls of your building?
  3. What is your digital-footprint?  If your name was googled what would the world find?  What would it tell the world about you as a person and educator?
  4. What are you reading?  How has it impacted you?  your teaching?

I was hired by the Hopewell Area School District on a beautiful sun shiny day in 1997.  Why did I get hired?  I believe on that day, I was the Million Dollar Decision

Today, I am ready for another interview, are you?    

#OneWord2018 pure “GOODNESS”

I’ve been pondering my #OneWord for 2018 over the last few days.  Many words have spun through my mind, but yesterday I actually experienced one that spoke to me.

Pure “goodness” is what I witnessed as we drove home from the mountains in the frigid cold of winter.

A bitter day.  A mere heat burst had just come through and lifted us up to 9 degrees.  Not the type of weather you want to be out in.

As we sat in our cozy warm truck we thought nothing of the hours of driving ahead.  Never once did we think we would need anyone but ourselves to make this simple journey home… one that has been driven countless times.

Never once did we think we would need to rely on goodness in this world.  In a society that lives with such fear and ugliness.

Do you worry?  Do you fear harm coming your way… often wondering if pure goodness still walks the earth.  I am not a natural worrier, but I do have others in my life that are… that find it difficult to trust, especially once they are scarred by fear.

I live in the moment.  Generally not worrying about what lies ahead.

I believe in good. 

The moral compass of goodness.36189A6D-24D9-4235-ADF3-DEAF074039D3.jpeg

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the world is not filled with kindness and those paying it forward.  But as much as I feel goodness is a lot like acts of kindness, I do see a difference.  As I create and instill this value with my students, these random acts can be calculated and in the safety of our own terms and conditions.  Yes, they are amazing and wonderful and need to happen… even if we have to create the opportunity ourselves.  However,  I feel goodness spontaneously spills over in a moment… not necessarily a choice but rather a “moral or value” to live by.

goodness (ˈɡʊdnɪs)
n
1. the state or quality of being good
2. generosity; kindness
3. moral excellence; piety; virtue

Pure goodness is what I felt yesterday… moral excellence in another person.

As we drove down the highway, our check engine light came on and we had to pull over.  Just as we came to a stop, we put our hazards on warning others of our situation.  That’s when I witnessed goodness… a vehicle pulled up behind us without hesitation.  Let’s face it, most people drive right by those in need… most likely assuming everyone travels with a phone these days and the chance of something bad happening overpowers the good.

We were lucky enough to not need assistance so we waved him along.  He waved back and off he went down the highway.  Pure Goodness rang through me.  I had warmth in my soul.  It felt to me to be beyond a random act of kindness.  To me it felt that the traveler lived in the moment of goodness… the right thing to do… so pure. 

This moment stayed with me for the rest of the ride.  I never actually met the person, nor did he physically do anything to impact me, but his goodness had a lasting effect.  The kind that changes the world.  The kind that changes it for the better!

So I choose GOODNESS… PURE GOODNESS!  I want to be able to give another person that same rekindled spirit and belief that there is goodness in the world.  I want to act on what I believe and not live in fear of what the world has shown us through the lens of destruction.  I myself have been a part of that destruction on a smaller scale.  Maybe not news worthy, but so not okay nontheless.  Oh, I mess up… life gets tricky.  I have chosen a less admirable path over time… truth.  I make no excuses.  I own it.  Now, I am empowered… with a better choice.  I will take this opportunity and I will own it! 

As Pirate leaders and teachers, we refer back to a compass quite often as we steer learning and leading within our districts and communities. Having my compass continuously point to good is so challenging when I am faced with negativity and unkind words.  It is so crippling to have others choose negativity towards my actions of an open mindset.  A mindset I have been blessed with through the actions of George Couros, the author and speaker that is changing the face of education with an educational best seller “Innovator’s Mindset”.

This year my compass will point to goodness.   The pure kind to which my actions will live in every moment.  I won’t overthink the reaction.  I will not fear the negative closed mindset of individuals too afraid to create positive change.  I will not fear being disliked.  I will not fear being called out by closed mindsets.  So go ahead… 

Call me out…

because I will become the good!  Compass set… I will strive for pure goodness!

 

 for more #EMPOWERING music CLICK HERE

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Make it a GOOD YEAR: BLIMP Worthy

Did you ever catch a glimpse of the Goodyear Blimp and think WOWZA… now that is AMAZING!  Think about it… simply stated this MASSIVE balloon floats through the sky and takes your eyes off of just about anything that you are doing!  Did you ever read the history of the blimp?  The key words are “momentum, unique, expand, and creation!”  Sound familiar?  The ride in education is just as eye opening!

What if our students caught a glimpse of the New Year that is about to begin in our very own classroom AND had that same reaction?  Wouldn’t that be EPIC?  That’s what I am aiming for… I most definitely want to BRING IT in 2018!  I am committed to making learning BLIMP Worthy for my students!

I decided to go back to my T.R.U.E G.R.I.T foundation and from there I build my “G” for new Goals!  I have learned over time to keep my goals attainable with a twist of Risk that could possibly fail, but worthy of learning through.  Overall this year, I am honing in on the and R in T.R.U.E and G and R in G.R.I.T.

T: Take Risks!  I am a natural born risk taker so this area can be… let’s just say interesting for me.  I am a sharer by nature because that is the way I learn.  I love to attend conferences, but I never once thought of speaking at one myself until one day  I was hooked when this one simple idea was planted in my head.  So… I took a risk… I submitted my first proposal to speak at a conference in February and was approved this past month.  Risk!  I must model this for my students, colleagues, and my PLF!  I will own it, whether that makes it a hit or not is yet to be seen, but I will BRING IT to The Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning (MACPL) right here in Pittsburgh! 

R: Resilience~ Be Tough!  This amazing movement in education is tough!  Push back from all angles makes it so challenging to move forward. Each day brings a different hurdle… 

  1. Educators who have a different philosophy or simply fear the change.
  2. Parents that are left with questions of uncertainty for the change is so skewed from their own experiences in the classroom.
  3. Students who find the simple change in structure challenging by bringing an unknown to their compliant predictable world.

We must be tough… we must keep our focus on every child and stand strong for what every child deserves!  How do I stay resilient?  

I will continue to surround myself with positive mindsets and goal driven educators through twitter chats, Voxer PD groups, book studies, conferences and other possibilities on the horizon.  I will remind myself of what I have been taught by incredible educators in my life and will seek new relationships to create a stronger mind within myself!

G: Goals!  Blimp Worthy Goals! 

  1. My #1 goal is: To find the standards to which I am accountable for beyond my professional portfolio that reflects the Danielson Framework
  2. Create categories in my blog so that I can build a portfolio of my learning, as well as my teaching by connecting my actions to the betterment of education.  
  3. Create a blog for my class on WordPress!
  4. Place #EDUAwesome books in the hands of others!  Share my blessings of the many DBC books in my possession so that others can see “Change is as an opportunity to do something AMAZING!” –George Couros change by george
  5. Bring  30 Second Pitch to other classrooms! I must open doors for students beyond my own room… they need options so that each child can make choices as to where their learning can go.  In place of the compliance that traps a child into being dependent upon a teachers response of yes or no, we need independent thinkers that are empowered to create opportunities!  Empowerment… that is what I believe future employers dream of in an employee and the 30 Second Pitch can Bring It! #growth

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R: Responsible!  I am accountable for how I serve my students, leading my team (Lead Like A Pirate), and how others feel about the change in education via my positive projection.  I will foster goodness through my conversations, actions, and teaching.  I will hold myself accountable for thinking inside the box in which I serve, while continuing to break down the walls of a closed mindset in education!  

I am looking forward to a GOOD YEAR… what can you do to create the same for you and your students?

Creating Change Agents

Most often people choose teaching as a profession because they want to create change… change for the better!  Some will even tell you that their own experience was so negative they felt compelled to become “the change” that children need in the classroom.

Do you feel our children deserve more… do they need more?  If so the question is… are we delivering instruction in a way that will create this opportunity?

I often wonder why so many graduates are cramming for interviews.  Literally, I have witnessed interviewees grab hold of books such as Innovator’s Mindset (George Couros),  Teach Like A Pirate (Dave Burgess) and STEAMMakers (Jacie Maslyk) right before interviews in order to gain the edge on hiring.

Why are they cramming?

Do you feel our future teachers continue to prepare the same way as teachers did 5… 10… even 50+ years ago?  Are we helping to create change or are we still teaching and learning in a way that is no longer relevant in today’s society?

If we are given the opportunity to create change in education why wait until teachers are graduated and in the trenches to fire them up with incredible learning opportunities?

Let’s look at what current educators are doing to move the world of education forward and in turn pass this practice down to our future educators.

Let’s connect with future teachers.

Let’s make change.

Dave and Shelley Burgess of Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. have gifted education with a platform that works as a springboard for innovative teaching.  Are these revolutionary resources accessible to every college student preparing to be a teacher?

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If not, we must ask ourselves a very important question… Why are we preparing our future with the same mindset we are trying to alter?

Are we creating experiences for our students? Are we still using the traditional checklist that no longer reflects the future of our students or better yet the future of the work force!?

What is guiding our future teaching practices?

In my opinion, you cannot advance a student’s depth of knowledge with a five day death march of a story that was taken from the required/chosen anthology.

Has anyone asked their students?  Do students really want to read the same story over and over for mastery?  Mastery of what?  Who needs skill when you can memorize the central idea of a story by reading and rereading day after day?

Don’t get me wrong, we are all in tune with Bloom’s Taxonomy and how to embed higher level thinking into the traditional way of learning, but that is simply not good enough anymore!  Our children deserve more… they need more and we must deliver our instruction differently to serve them the best possible way.  Our children need to be engaged in their learning where by they are empowered to move their education forward by choice and not through compliance.

It is not a free for all… there is accountability for all of us.  There is definitely a place and purpose for philosophy, domains, and pedagogy.  But who ever said that it had to come from the same mindset and discipline that was used all those years ago.  We must have accountability to change with the times!  As George Couros of Innovator’s Mindset so eloquently states,

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING!”

Over the last two school years, I have had the privilege of being a virtual cooperating teacher for future educators of Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.  Education majors are required to take a technology course their freshman year.  One of the professors is Dr. Sam Fecich and she is a change agent!  She is connecting our future teachers to classrooms while instilling skills for both the future leaders in education as well as the current classroom teacher.  Her students are building their PLN (Professional Learning Network) on twitter and engaging in meaningful learning with a variety of resources including books posted above.   Dr. Sam, along with the education department of GCC, is making change in current practice… investing in our future!

If we really want to educate future teachers to be AMAZING CHANGE AGENTS we need to communicate at all levels.  Colleges, universities, public and private school systems, along with the community and work force… we must sit down at the same table and break bread together.  We need to share in the same meal, prepared by the same hands, and with immense compassion and understanding have the conversation that WE share in the responsibility to MAKE CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!

Why?

Because…

When you know better, you do better!

 

 

 

 

Student Voice Shines with Project Based Learning: Igniting Empowerment and Instilling Empathy

Increasing student empowerment and engagement is wrapped up and delivered in “Life Changing Lessons“.  The gift of Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of intense impact… the kind that continues to give, as if you are unwrapping it for the first time throughout the entire journey.  It creates a student driven environment that is begging for more… more opportunity… more hours in a school day.

Project Based Learning is a connection beyond your four walls… a chance to open up the windows, blow off the door to learning, and ignite global impact with student empowerment!

I recently posted “A Walk In My Shoes” (One Ah Ha Moment within the Voice PBL) on twitter and have received countless DM’s asking how to get this VOICE PBL started.  So this one is for YOU!

The Voice PBL that I teach is one of great magnitude.  It covers concepts from every subject in a depth and understanding far beyond a worksheet.  This is a way to take Common Core Skills/Standards and light a fire under learning! Before the Driving Question is even asked, I hook them in like a pirate  …

It starts with the universal language… MUSIC!   

Students are given a choice to write/draw/sketch their interpretation on a variety of music shaped cutouts or use of poster paper to sketchnote

  • Allow students the freedom to personal space in the room… on floor if desired
  • Quiet space… lights out… reflection time!
  • Copy and paste each URL into google for each song
  • I do not show videos.  This is auditory only!

This is a quiet journey that typically lights up quickly because the students (UM… and ME) cannot contain ourselves… we end up singing and dancing… moving to the beat of our own hearts!

First up:

Man in the Mirror-From A Joyful Noise (It’s shorter than Michael Jackson’s version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9paJyh8t_sE

This is a WOWZER!  Students stop in their own tracks when they realize that looking in a mirror can give them so many answers… so much POWER! (C-H-I-L-L-S)

Count on Me- Bruno Mars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc6T9iY9SOU

Every student responds to this song thinking of a time they needed someone or were there for someone.  This is the moment most of them start putting the pieces of their voice together.  

Firework Kidz Bop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2s-9Kyumgo

Thank you Katy Perry!  What happens when you don’t light a firework?  That’s right, NOTHING!  Let that speak to each of us… we must light learning up if we want to see what is inside!  Fireworks splatter their drawings with thoughts and ideas coming from within! 

Fight Song Rachel Platten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8qDOGLCSFo

Drop the Mic… this song allows every student and every teacher to connect!  This is the song that opens up their little world to you.  Are they struggling?  academically? behaviorally? socially?  Is there worry on their mind?  Are they scared of something? Do they lack self-esteem?  Are they the “little girl with the crooked pigtails?” (Getting R.E.A.L. with Tara Martin)

I actually play 7-10 different songs and it is never enough, but the song pick changes from year to year because my students change and I need to make sure that my choices will resonate with each of them.

#Sketchnotes

So about that Driving Question…

DQ: Why Might Having A Voice Matter?

Empowerment/Empathy/Citizenship/Government/Family/Bullying/Debate

Where do we go from here?

Students pick a song and add creative movement to the lyrics.  They now understand that they can express themselves in many ways.  This is one more life changing moment for them.

This is a video of my amazing students from last year interpreting “The Fight Song”.  (My current class in interpreting “The Man In the Mirror” which they will definitely post on YouTube soon!)

Is this “just a free for all” Ahhhh… NO!  This is a creative way to connect an incredible amount of skill in a unique way to impact all students.  Skills are endless!

ELA:

  • Books from Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days to The Invisible Boy by Trudy Luwig
    • This is where “Walk In My Shoes” was created.  This very lesson is a blog in itself… soon!
  • Choosing a book that shows your voice in a way you haven’t been able to… we end up reading 30+ books in a 4 week time period!
  • Use song lyrics to discuss parts of speech (highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.)

Math:

  • Creating Conjectures and Arguments
  • Collaborating and critically thinking to solve a problem
  • Writing and reasoning

History:

  • Choosing a person of impact such as Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., President Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, and so many more.

Government:

  • Voting
  • Being a Good Citizen
  • Debate

Let’s not forget that doors are blown off to this process!  Students learn (to):

  • blog
  • code
  • design
  • create
  • paint
  • draw
  • dance
  • sing
  • poetry
  • build
  • invent
  • 4Cs

This list is endless because students CHOOSE their own project that in turn answers the Driving Question.  They also choose their Authentic Audience to which they powerhouse to impress!  My former students created this video showcasing ALL of their voices and then chose YouTube as their “Authentic Audience”.

I can’t wait to see what this year’s students choose!

While leading my book chat on “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess, I posted this reflection for my fellow colleagues to ponder:

Untitled presentation
Teach Like A Pirate Book Chat #tlap

     If there were a “Life Changing Lesson” that “I could sell tickets for” I believe this is the one!  I hope that this was what YOU needed to get started…

Go light them up and find out what’s inside! #VOICE and #CHOICE

 

Don’t Agree With Me! it stunts my growth

My growth mindset is perpetually developing to the point that it becomes a relentless voice in my head.  I find myself rereading books and blogs, buying more books, listening intently to keynotes and conversations, and connecting with others outside my experience.  Still, I sit wondering about the unknown.  The unknown that creates an excitement of learning something new!

The excitement is what intrigues me about

others, 

teaching,

students,

LIFE!

A growth mindset requires thinking beyond isolation.  Collaborating is essential… if done correctly.  It is not a matter of grouping a handful of people together and assuming there is balance.  It takes action.  Action on the part of those facilitating and those collaborating.   Empowering the collaborators to bring their game… contribute, listen, question, and create.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
[kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n]

NOUN
the action of working with someone to produce or create something:

So when others agree with me, I cringe.  Not so much if it is a give and take conversation, but more so when I throw an idea out and it is jumped on without hesitation.  Taken and run with as if there is no room to grow.

It is simply a thought… an idea… a lightbulb moment!  It is one raindrop in a very big puddle.  One small fish and in a very big sea.  One crayon in the Ultimate 152 Pack!  So why are we just going with it?  Let’s create a rainbow of colors.  Let’s create a collage of ideas!

collage portrait

This is where my frustration gets the best of me.  Where I shut down and don’t want to give.  Not because I am the educational hoarder that must sign my name to every idea so that others give me credit, or worse yet don’t get to use at all (Not that I have ever been around that type… sigh).  Oh no, I am the giver of ideas.  I want to make things happen together.  I want others to toss their idea into the ring, grab my hand, and take me along for the ride!  I want to create life changing experiences together!

As Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate, would say,

“I want to bring it!”

I am an idea generator.  My mind accumulates ideas faster than I can write them down.  I am not the best refiner by nature.  Execution of plans becomes a hot mess of moments that fall apart if I don’t stay on top of my game.  I NEED OTHERS!  I need balance and I NEED GROWTH!

Bottom line is…

Our classrooms are no different.  We need to remember that we have all types of learners and they all need to grow.  There are the idea generators, the makers and creators, the refiners, and the executors.  Collaborating is at the forefront because it creates a better overall learner.  Collaboration isn’t about one type of learner tossing an idea into the ring and the group takes off without feedback, discussion, and questioning.  Students would have little success being wrapped up in an isolated idea that simply needs more!

I am a student. 

We are all students. 

We need one another to grow!