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

IMG_5558

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.  

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!

 

 

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?

how-teacher-learn-1024x559 (1)

#LCInnovation: What if…

What if…

the way isn’t the right way?

how-teacher-learn-1024x559

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?

unknown

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

00714AF4-BC12-453A-BE8D-6BB3A01E516E

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

09871250-8248-4871-837E-23180C0FC7FC

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?