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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IMMOOC Week 4 Sum It Up

Let’s Sum It Up this week… refocusing our lens on “Empowered Environments

How do you view assessment?  Is it a tool? A grade? An outcome? Is it yours to fulfill? To steer? or is it your studentsdownload

Let me be blunt with the help of A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, authors of EMPOWER (paraphrasing their points)…

In place of being committed to your curriculum, are you committed to student interest?  

Do you create plans based on choice or are you inspiring possibilities? 

Bottom line is that my professional responsibility is to teach the skill… many skills to many different types of learners.  I don’t take that lightly.  My professional responsibility is to also create an environment to which every learner is opening doors to their learning… to their interest.  This is not about just differentiating their learning, it is about lighting a fire under each of them so that they in turn can choose how they want to show me that they mastered the skill.  I am turning “the possible” into “possibilities” just by shifting the focus from me to them!

When I taught internal conflict during my most recent novel study, students had to choose a quote and create a way for me to assess their understanding.   I had students creating on Scratch, i Movie, Squishy Circuits, Design and Challenge in Maker-space, Bloxels and more.  I wasn’t flustered about the variations in creativity.  I wasn’t concerned about how I was going to put a grade in the grade book.

I knew the skill they needed to master… and so did my students!

 

I Can’t Go With Them

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

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

EMPOWER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY I

to

I CAN

in one shift to their learning.

#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… 

 

The EDUCandyCounter

The right book changes everything!  As I prepare for my next journey with #IMMOOC Season 4, I can’t help but feel like a kid in a candy store.  The choices appeal to my core in all facets of my life just like different candies speak to me on different days… in different moods.

#IMMOOC 4 is like walking up to the M&M candy counter and tossing in every shade of chocolate goodness you could possibly desire.  Whether it is my Innovators’s Mindset that draws me in to each book’s positive energy or my personal take on life that leaves me inspired to be better and do better, the choices #IMMOOC 4 is offering has me at the EDUCandyCounter with bag in hand!

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It really is all about the right book.  The book that opens your mind and allows you to wonder…

“What if ?”, say Katie Martin.

So I ask.. what if every student found the right book?

How do you help your students find the right book?  What happens when they simply can’t find their way to the gift of reading?

As a child, I couldn’t find my way until one of my elementary teachers read Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  I just connected.  I wasn’t exactly a hillbilly, but I had very little.  Billy Coleman, a 10 year old boy, was growing up in the Great Depression so he too had very little.  What he lacked in money, he made up for in G.R.I.T..  He set himself Goals and took Responsibility for himself.  He Imagined excellence in place of perfection to find happiness in all that he achieved.  Not to mention his Tough mindset that created opportunities for himself in place of self pity.

It was the right book to help a 10 year old girl see that she had the power to shape her own experiences.  You could say that her Innovator’s Mindset helped her to work within her restraints to achieve success.   A mindset that kept her from blaming the situation that could have lead to a poor outcome of isolation.  The right book changes everything!

How do you open that possibility up for your students?  What book could EMPOWER every child?  Every child… every walk of life!

Maybe the bigger question should be… what are you reading to create experiences for yourself?

As Katie Martin says in her new book Learner Centered Innovation, “What’s in Your Sphere of Influence?”

Your learning, your growth, your sphere… what does that look like for you?

How do you shape it for yourself? 

 

Take a Risk and Get Into the RING!

Introducing first…. from the innovative mindset of education…  He hails from Edmonton, Canada and was rated by many as the best influence on change in education… and for best change agent of the last decade.  With a leading book in education, sought after keynote, and leadership consultant…  Weighing in on student voice and giving their education a purpose.   He is a former teacher champion, principal champion, and CHAMPION FOR ALL STUDENTS AND EDUCATORS…

GEOOORGE

COUROSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

Yes, that is how I think of #IMMOOC… it is powerful and commands attention.  It is a game changer for all educators.  Just imagine what this season will be like when we LEVEL UP OUR LEARNING with Innovator’s Mindset, EMPOWER AND…  Learner-Centered Innovation

Whether you lurk or take the risk and join in, you grow by being part of the experience.  JOIN US… you know you want to!  

How do I get in to the #IMMOOC ROUND 4 ring you ask? 

  1. SIGN UP… just do it!  Once you add your name to the list of EDUrisktakers you have already stepped forward in your thinking. (sign ups will be posted soon!)
  2. YOUR VOICE AND CHOICE will steer your learning… you decide how much you can give and in return that is what you will take away.  Big or small the takeaways ALWAYS impact!
  3. DON’T FEAR THE BLOG… this may be the biggest issue for many educators.  Worrying that they do not know how or may not know what to write.  THAT IS HOW MOST OF YOUR STUDENTS FEEL EVERY DAY!  This is your safe place just like you provide to your students… growing together in place of isolation is powerful!
  4. TWITTER CHATS… you won’t receive a personal invite in a fancy envelope.  This is a platform open to EVERYONE.  Type in #IMMOOC and you will see the questions posted.  It is a typical Q and A style format.  You will see Q1 for Question 1 and you will respond with A1 for Answer 1.  Just don’t forget to put #IMMOOC at the end of your answer (If it isn’t there automatically) to keep your response in the chat itself.  
  5. BE A CONTRIBUTOR not just a consumer… WE NEED YOU!  If everyone simply consumed we would be self absorbed mirror images of one isolated way of thinking.  Give… get into conversation… SMASH up your ideas with others and let EDUrelationships form for the betterment of your students, colleagues, and YOU! 
  6. Most often there are weekly videos to watch and reflect on… this is usually the jump-start to your blogging.  There is no one way to reflect.  This is your blog… JUST SPEAK YOUR TRUTH and others will chime in!

Here is your opportunity… get ready to do something AMAZING

change by george

 

 

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?