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!

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!

 

Innovating Inside the “Box”

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

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

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

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING!”

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

or lack of.

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

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

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

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

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

I had to dream a little bigger. 

Dig a little deeper. 

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

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

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

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

I must create change…

Amazing change…

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

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March Madness

ButtonMakers Pattern TemplateIt’s March… what vibe are you giving?  Have you gone mad with assessments piling up or yet on the horizon?  Are your students feeling pressure or are they welcoming it… feeling empowered to take on the world?  To show off their MAD SKILLS!

Where are you… your mindset?  Are you on the countdown or upswing… planning life changing lessons (Dave Burgess, #tlap) and embracing the new life around you?  The kind that is a steady reminder that we are always growing whether it is day 1, 80, or 180.

You know you have already heard it… ONLY X amount of school days are left.  The countdown is on for students, parents and teachers.  Don’t get me wrong I have those days when the sun is shining and I think… ohhhh poolside would be nice.  Or the day that feels like 17 rolled into one.  But that doesn’t mean my life with my students turns to madness.  The question is…

if we had a March Madness bracket with awesome lessons planned for our students, where would yours land?  Would you be willing to throw it in the ring with the competition?  

if we had a March Madness bracket for EMPOWERED students, where would your students be?  Would they be sprinting to the front of the line… stepping up to add their name to the bracket? 

Is our role really any different from day 1 to 180?  Just like day 1 our goal should be to create empowered learners that are off the bench, jumping, clapping, ready for their call to step up and shoot.  Don’t leave before the buzzer. How would you feel if your leader, coach, or biggest fan stepped aside a quarter into the game… or when the last quarter started and the score was tied?! Every day is day 1.

If you are looking to bring your A Game in the last quarter try one of the following:

  1. Grab a book!  Dave Burgess Consulting, INC offers over 40 incredible innovative reads that are life changing to every child through educators like you!  Are you into STEAM and Makers?  Bring out your creative genius with books by Jacie Maslyk or Laura Flemming for go to quick action plans!
  2. Join a twitter chat!  #tlap #Leadlap #LearnLAP #MasteryChat #DitchBook #KidsDeserveIt #PlayLap #STEAMMakerChat #IMMOOC and so many more!
  3. Find or create your own PD… look into #4OCF with Rich Czyz and find many ideas that can be implemented at the drop of a dime.  Message me and I can add you to the incredible VOXER Chat led my Matthew Larson.
  4. Locate an EDCamp near you!  Close to Pittsburgh or ready to shake the winter blues with a road trip?  Join us as my district host Pittsburgh’s very own camp coming up in 2 weeks!  CLICK HERE to register!
  5. Make a REAL connection with the your students by bringing #BookSnaps into your classroom!  Book Snap Queen Tara Martin will walk you and your students through the learning process with one simple HOW TO VIDEO CLIP
  6. What about starting your own BYOB to build relationships in your building?  Bring Your Own Breakfast and hang out on Payday Friday!

Where is your creative spark (grab Katie Martin’s new book “Learner Centered Innovation” to help you find it)  What are you doing to keep the momentum so you aren’t left on the bench when the driven are playing?

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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.

#IMMOOC 4 Week 1: Breakthrough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your role?DVYI6RGXkAIHfXf

What will you do with it?