Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

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?    

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

To TAG or NOT To TAG… that is the question!

Do you tag your “PLN” when you post?  Why?  Please share with me!

I recently was given a challenge by someone whom I consider an incredible mentor in this crazy EDUawesome life of mine.  The challenge was to make my writing so good that I wouldn’t need to tag anyone to my blog posts.  I was floored!  What about my relationships… my people?  The ones that give me feedback, direction, and…

well enough said… challenge accepted.  I cannot say no to a challenge!  BRING IT!

It is so interesting to see how this unfolded for me…

My life as a blogger was born on September 27, 2017 during Round 3 #IMMOOC created by George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset.  It was a natural path for me as I have been a lover of writing from the young age of eight.   I wrote a lot as a child…

scraps of paper ( a LOT of scraps folded up as small as possible)

the back of composition notebooks

in my head… my safe place.

My first “legit” journal came in 1988 from a close friend.  It was a birthday gift for my Sweet 16 (Thank you Amy).  Whether it was intentional or simply a coincidence it was a priceless gift that I needed in my life.  It was absolutely perfect… and it was for ME!  MY EYES ONLY!  This is where my darkest secrets were kept.  Ones that I felt the world could not handle.  This is where my break ups went down… my friendships were built… my dreams were first committed to a pencil mark.  See, I never used pen… that was too final for me.  I had to have the chance to let it all out and then tweak and code what I didn’t want others to really know if they stumbled across it.  Yes, I still have it!

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This became my personal portfolio of emotions… my paper footprint.

Fast Forward to 2017… the worst timing possible for me to give up MORE precious family time.  I was just pulling myself back together from the loss of a dear friend, my beautiful extended family was living with me during a military transition in their life, my amazing mother in law had been ill with countless diagnoses including lung cancer, my dearest friend diagnosed with breast cancer, a commitment to book studies, a mentor, a Virtual Co-op, my sons need me, my husband needs me, and the list goes on and on.

So why sign up for IMMOOC?   Best said by Tara Martin, the BookSnap Queen herself,

#IMMOOC Family Reunion

I like to describe #IMMOOC as a book study on steroids (aka huge muscles). This multifaceted learning EDventure is beyond mind-blowing due to the diverse talents, viewpoints, and experiences of each participant.

However, it’s so much more!

It really is about the connections; it’s ALL about the people. Every round, new members join the course, and together we become an EDU-family–spanning the globe. We encourage and challenge one another, and in many instances become face-to-face friends.

Round 3=#IMMOOC Family Reunion with new family members!

Including YOU!!

No” simply wasn’t an option!  See, I was a lurker Season 1 and 2.  Why?  Well, I didn’t know how to share my writing publicly.  The only time I wrote I wrote for me… MY EYES ONLY!

Then came the first video… Alice Keeler!  What a hoot!  I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, and learning!  Wow, was this fun!  I was nodding my head, talking to the computer, carrying on as if Alice was talking to just me… preaching the gospel of EDUtruth!  The hour flew by and I was empowered to start my first blog.

What do I write? (That was my first question of course)  That was when I knew I had to simply write from my heart… my experience… my belief.  As one of my incredible mentors would say, write from “MY WHY!”  This wasn’t about being right, or politically correct… it was about sharing… letting others into my world!

This was the day T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. finally went down on paper.  Prior to this moment, it was solely mine.  In my head.  My conversation.  Mine to use in my classroom because it was my foundation for learning and so it became my philosophy for education.  It was mine… and now it needed to be EVERYONE’S… at least an EDUspin for others!

Since that first blog, my writing and reflections have grown stronger, deeper, and more powerful for me.  My thoughts need to come out.  Just like the child in class that I pull to the side… where a journal is born… where we create a special cover for that “personal space” to write.  Where we take a digital approach to this paper masterpiece and start blogging to connect… to build relationships in our isolated universe of thoughts! 

So what about that challenge?  To Tag or NOT to Tag?  Here is how it went down:

Dec. 29th The Silence is Deafening no tags 175 views in 3 days

Dec. 30th The Elephant in the Room~ connecting with mental illness 142 views in 2 days with 6 educators tagged that are EDUconnected to this post

Jan. 1st #OneWord2018 pure “Goodness” no tags  36 views in 2 hours

Where does this leave me?  I want to hear your thoughts.  I know I need to follow my heart… because that is where others will “read” my writings.  I love to blog, but it isn’t just about me.  It revolves around my Why… and that in itself has changed.  My Why is connected to people… my tags are different every time.  They are personal.  No doubt, there are a few that are tagged more often than others, but it is a connection.  A relationship I have built.  One that happened through #IMMOOC  #tlap  #DitchSummit and more!

Relationships within my #PLN have transformed my way of teaching.

EDURelationship Facts:

  • I had 240ish connections in September 2017 (one year of being on twitter)
  • After IMMOOC I had 700ish
  • Before my SAS Conference in Hershey (December) I had 800ish connections
  • During the conference I went over 1,000
  • Today I have an amazing 1,244 connections to incredible educators on #Twitter alone!
  • I have 400 TIMES the connections from #Twitter than I personally had in my own district from the start of the 2017 school year

I now have published 24 blogs in just over 3 months.  A sense of pride has emerged, a desire for more, a need to grow.  Yet I am left wondering…

To Tag or Not to Tag… that is the question!

Please share your thoughts with me

 

 

 

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

The Elephant in the Room~ connecting with mental illness

the quiet one… the loud one

the picker… the tapper

the distracted… the focused

the respectful… the belligerent

the rule follower… rule breaker

the meticulous risk taker!

There are so many ways I have heard this elephant described.  I could probably add 100 more terms and phrases to this list without hesitation.  It is usually followed up with…

he doesn’t look like anything is bothering him 

he just checks out

he wouldn’t have to ask so many questions if he just paid attention

he just won’t let it go

and my favorite… how does he continue to earn poor grades when he is so bright?  Twice Exceptional?  But if I’m being honest the statement is more like…  this is what gifted looks like? #truth

How do you describe mental illness?  How do you view the elephant in the room?  I know an elephant.  I have raised an elephant who is best friend’s with my incredible son.  My son met his elephant at the age of 8.  Prior to this friendship, my son was a compliant rule follower… a straight A student… a role model for others.  Yes, they are separate… their own.  My son.  Mental Illness.

Then the day came.  The meeting.  The joint kinship.  The one that introduced my son to distractions, rule breaking, meticulousness ways, perfection, and repeated behaviors to sooth and calm his new friend the elephant.

I saw the changes.

I saw the elephant!

My gut knew from an early age that the tendencies were there… the kinship… the illness.  They were one with their own identities.  Our family walked on eggshells of anxiety… we reassured to the point of exhaustion, we centered our lives around the elephant in the room without saying a word.  We started to speak it’s language.  We fed it.  We calmed it and tucked it in at night.  We were literally raising an elephant alongside our beautiful son…

the elephant in our room…

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER

We faced it head on.  Therapy 5-7 days a week.  We exposed ourselves and our son to his anxiety.  Yet, the whack-a-mole effect of OCD did not go away.  It simply became a part of our existence.  Yes, our existence.

This is what we as educators need to understand… the elephant is NOT GOING AWAY!

Need I mention that I have a background in Special Education.  An emphasis in Emotional Support.  A Masters Degree in MOM… yet listening to fellow colleagues struggle with the elephant in the room leaves me… speechless.  

So where do we go from here?

Let’s start by acknowledging that mental illness is a part of OUR lives.  NOT just a child’s life… OUR LIVES!  We are in this together.  We must educate ourselves.  We must find a way to understand a child’s way… their being in order to educate them to the best of THEIR ability! To bring out their best… to let their light shine so bright that it puts their elephant in their shadow (in place of just the opposite.)  They deserve it!

Have you ever tried to walk in their shoes?

My son is now 15.  He battles mental illness better than many adults I have come into contact with in my lifetime.  He has strength. He has courage. He has empathy.  He has GRIT.

He said to me, “Mom, tell my story… it will help other kids.”

Yes, Trent, I will.

 

 

 

 

 

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Guaranteed Impact: make it POSITIVE!

When a child walks into your life, what thoughts race through your head?  Are they thoughts of…

excitement? Excitement for the opportunity to have someone’s precious child in your life.  A chance to make a difference.  A gift of time to impact their life… to open doors and encourage them to walk through!

wonder? Wonder of who they are under that smile… frown… or look of fear.  Wonder of how you will connect and build a relationship that will set sail the journey of learning together.

worry? Worried that you may not be able to connect.  Worry that they may be the most challenging student you have had to date.  Worried that their own life may hold them back from trusting you.  Worry that you don’t have enough time in a day to make a difference.

judgement? Judgement of who they are…

When you walk into a child’s life, are their thoughts the same?  Are you setting the stage for a relationship with EVERY child…

Do you make school exciting?  Do you give them a reason to be there?

Do you create a connection to every child or do they wonder why they don’t fit in your world like others do?

Do you foster a caring environment?  One that eliminates worry from their life… possibly the only stretch of time in their day to let their shoulders down.

Do your students feel judged?  Or do you give every child a “Planet Fitness: Judgement Free Zone”?

This Christmas I received a very special gift from a very quiet and reserved child.  A child that walked into my room withdrawn, with limited social interaction, lack of engagement, and little interest in school.  None of this due to home life… as a matter of fact he comes from a beautiful loving family that builds him up and sets him off each day to conquer the world trusting that his teacher will bring out his best.  

This precious child handed me a special gift.  Then he did something that caught me off guard… he insisted on opening it for me, which warmed my heart to the core because he was so invested in the moment.  He unwrapped a snow globe that took my breath away.  It had a 3 dimensional silver snowflake with the words WISH*LOVE*HOPE that sparkled while music played and snow floated effortlessly within the globe.    He said, “Oh Mrs. Nan, I know the snow globe is nice, but look what it says to you.”  To which I looked at the inscription that read:

“Students may forget what you said, but never how you made them feel.” 

Tears of joy streamed down my face.  Not the first time my students have seen my emotions.  Why?  Because they impact my life!

Over the months we connected.  We found his passion of art and embedded it into his learning through sketch-noting (THANK YOU Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome in my EDUAwesome @Twitter PLF)  This child is now engaged.  He is building relationships stemming from the one that we created together.  He is happy to be in school and moving his bright mind forward with each given day.  He is a #LeadLearner with Sketchnoting, #MakeyMakey and #Osmo in class.  He has found relevance in learning and a purpose for being a part of a learning community.  He is empowered! 

I start my Christmas vacation with heart full… of love and joy for I know that I have lived by my own advice…

You WILL have impact on EVERY child… it is up to you whether it is POSITIVE or negative!  

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So with that I leave us with my favorite George Couros quote from one of my favorite books, Innovator’s Mindset:

Merry Christmas!  May your holiday be as bright and beautiful as YOU! 

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

The Power of a Keynote: an investment in our future!

Why does one go to a conference?  What draws a person in?  The conference mailings arrive weekly in my mailbox at school.  For some I open, but for most I toss them straight into the garbage.  In order for it to grab my attention it needs to provide me with more than my daily growth within my PLN and twitter.  (Twitter alone nurtures my love for teaching and can be done from the comforts of my home.)  It cannot just be a buzz word.  It must be legit.  So for me it is the keynote.  The person chosen must be relevant to teaching and learning… not only for my students, but for me.

So how did #SASInstitute2017 get it right?  For starters, they sought out one of the most powerful influences in education today… George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset!

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George is key to my attendance.  It really is that simple.  I am an educator making positive change in the classroom.  I am pushing myself forward every day without a conference, so for one to grab my attention, be worth my financial investment, and hold value to my students and to me, it must have impact!

IMPACT: the kind that pulls on every emotion possible! The kind that changes me for the better!

Truths that were spoken by George… hard core truth:

Truth:   “Learning is your job so stop whining and settle down.”  (I about jumped up and gave him a standing ovation!)

Truth: “If you do not have a twitter account you are no longer relevant to teaching!”

Truth: “If you still have a computer lab, the question is do you have a pencil lab too?”

Truth: “Isolation is now a CHOICE that educators make!”

Truth: “Do kids do it because of school or in spite of it?”

Truth: “Data driven is the stupidest term in education!”

Truth: “Stop making excuses!”

Truth: “What serves kids the best?”

Truth: “Make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear!”

Truth: “CHANGE IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING AMAZING!”

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The energy in itself… the mere magnitude of educators buzzing with enthusiasm has drawn me in to conversation.  Conversation that I don’t normally engage in.  (Don’t laugh too hard… I have the gift of gab, but I’m talking about the choice to put myself in conversation.)  The truth is, I don’t like the downers… the fun suckers… closed mindsets.  Most groups I have encountered at school conferences have always included closed mindsets.  One that sucks the positive life right from my soul.  But this conference is different… the buzz is about George.  His truths.  His innovative practices.  His doors he opened… for us!  His relationships he nurtured… with us.  In turn, I have engaged beyond the keynote… into small groups… lunches… dinners… downtime.  I came with an amazing group of educators, connected with my twitter family, and am growing each day with incredible educators!  The power of a keynote has created an opportunity for me to do amazing things!

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Game Changer: George Couros and yours truly!

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Fabulous colleague and goal driven friend, Donna Steff

 

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction

30 Second Pitch: Engage-vs-Empowerment #IMMOOC

If we are truly trying to transition learners to leaders, don’t we also need to transition from today’s buzz word engagement to the future of empowerment?

A powerful and impactful challenge flag was thrown last year by my new administration… 100% engagement for all students, all day… and yes, every day!  That was a challenge that I couldn’t wait to get ahold of within my classroom.  It was absolutely incredible to see my students embody my love for learning.  Was this for the day?  The week?  The month?  That is when it happened.  The moment I realized that engaging my students was only going to be sustainable if I empowered them!  WOW! That was a moment!

A moment“… that was what I needed to give my students.  I started with asking them to pitch me an idea in 5 minutes or less.  I gave a little criteria, but I didn’t want to close their minds to revolve around my thinking, so a laundry list of stipulations went right out the window.  I simplified and initially gave 5 minutes.  FIVE MINUTES is a LONG TIME!  Either they know what they want or they don’t.  Period.

Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate, says, “I’m more than willing to take advantage of and influence everything around me to increase my students’ chances of success.”  Yes, that is my thought exactly!  How can I teach like a pirate?  Here it is- challenge the holder of the hookThey need to hook ME!  My students need to be the ones creating the hooks too!

EMPOWERMENT:
-authority or power given to someone to do something; the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights

This definition is embedded in my brain so I reread Innovator’s Mindset, again and again!  I needed an example… something concrete.  I absolutely love how George Couros shared his moment with engage vs empower.

“So instead of trying to create engaging content for my students, I decided to turn it over to them.  Deep Learning occurred- they understood and remembered what they taught each other.  I had given my students control over their learning, and the change in atmosphere was palpable.” –George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset

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Then the moment came when a student came to me and asked for the use of Ozobots outside of tech stations.  YES, I was that teacher… the one excited and willing to bring as much technology in as possible, (Thank you donorschoose.org and my supportive community) but ONLY used it in isolated learning moments… UGH!  Weekly, even daily isolated moments, but I literally separated it from the content!  What was I thinking?

So, on this particular day it just so happened that I barely had the 5 minutes to spare… no time to hear why or how they could possibly make this applicable to character, setting, and the plot of our story so I challenged them to tell me in 30 seconds or less.

#30SECONDPITCH

Mrs. Nan, I can CREATE a setting based on the chapter we are in today.  I can CONNECT it to technology by using Ozobots.  I may need to go on to the computer to look at a coding idea that I have, but that isn’t a big deal because “Rachelle AKA RESOURCE” is an expert and can show me.  Oh, and then I can turn the Ozobot into a character and have it navigate the setting.  AND I would really like to blog (MOMENT) about it after! #micdrop

WOW… the excitement in my student literally infused the pitch into my mind in LESS THAN 20 SCEONDS!  It reminded me of  Jacie Maslyk asking me what my “1 minute elevator pitch” would be like.  My response, “What is an elevator pitch?”

“It’s that 1 minute when (insert name of famous person) walks into the elevator with you and you have your chance to tell them your brilliant idea before the elevator doors open again. It’s your brief moment to grab their attention, pull them in, and convince them that yours is the next great idea.” –Jacie Maslyk, STEAMMakers

This was it… the moment the 30 Second Pitch came to life!

30 Second Pitch

  1. Mindsetthis is your creative moment… approach it with excitement and use your creative juices!
  2. Connect4: Explain how you can connect your idea to technology BEYOND our 4 walls of learning!
  3. Research: Call on your resources!  Collaborate ~ Communicate ~ Dig into your idea! #WhoIsYourCrew
  4. Moment: This is YOUR TIME TO SHINE!  How will you do it?  #VoiceAndChoice

I have shared this with a few of my colleagues, as well as many parents, who have been curious as to how on earth I can justify the use of this technology (Hour of Code, Sphero, Ozobot, Osmo, Edmodo, Canva, Snap-Circuits, Bloxels, Makey Makey, EdPuzzle, Scratch, and more) in my room.  How can I possibly teach the “curriculum/book” and also have time for this?  Well, to be clear, I actually teach skills.  The PA Common Core skills that are a foundation to the success of every child in 3rd grade.  How I teach that skill is choice… and not just mine.  When I really want to know how to make something happen (the thing that will light the world on fire) for my students, I simply ask!  They always tell. #empowerment

Note: Thank you JESSE REESE for the incredible “piece of art” you created out of my very sloppy notes!  YOU ROCK! #grateful

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Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment

#IMMOOC Week 2: “Save a life”: OBSERVE, STAT!

The journey I am on with Innovator’s Mindset continuously resets my inspirational compass.  This is now the third time I have read this amazing book by George Couros, yet it impacts me like it’s my first.  Maybe it’s the way I am observing others this time through; reading posts and listening attentively… or simply because my eyes are literally understanding some of his words for the first time.  #observe #reset

I  can’t help but think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves as educators.  We often think we need the answers to everything STAT, as if we are in the ER, not the classroom.  Do we take time to observe?  Even the ER doctor must observe, right? What if a doctor jumped right in without observing?  Would we end up in surgery for a sprain that only needed wrapped?  Would we find ourselves taking an antibiotic for a common cold?

Think about the first time you meet a child’s parents a mere two weeks into school at the annual Open House.  What is the first thing they are compelled to ask… How is my child doing?  That is a loaded question that comes with an incredible amount of responsibility.  If you answer with “great”, that may mislead the parent into thinking that everything is just fine when there may be concerns.  If you answer with, “okay” that opens the door to questions and a very awkward moment in front of others.  Let’s not even go to “not as well as I would like” because that simply shouldn’t exist in the first couple weeks of school, right?  Especially when you are the amazing teacher you hope to be which in turn should bring out the “amazingness” in every child, STAT!  What is so bad about saying, let me tell you about #observeme and how that impacts both my students and myself.  Why not open the door for an innovative approach that could benefit their child and remove the arrogance we embed into ourselves with the need to know everything? Observing leads to goals… isn’t that what we are searching for?

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Observing can lead to amazing things, including the characteristics of an innovator’s mindset.  Isn’t that why facilitating is becoming the new teaching?  That is for another day… another blog!  Observing will give us:

  1. A New Perspective: How do they solve problems without me? Do they need me and how much?  If I am always posing the problem will they ever truly be able to solve it?  What about a scenario? Can they see the problem themselves without me?  Tossing out an idea, a skill, a concept, or event will allow me to observe their strengths and weaknesses so that I can in turn plan my next move.
  2. Individualized Goals: What do they need verses what do I want to give?  Is learning really about a pacing chart or a map?  I have students in class that were born at the same time others were crawling or even walking… all in one class!  Do you know how many milestones a baby has in their first year of life?  What on earth would I be doing right if I thought each of my learners were on the same “growth page”?  Did one baby sit and wait for another to crawl before they were allowed or tempted to walk?  Goals!  Each student must have goals that are focused on their own individual growth.
  3. Empathy: Who are they from the inside out? How do they show this to others and what does that tell me about them?  Observing a child’s reaction to a situation can speak volumes.  It is a map to their life experiences.  Are they able to have empathy?  Are they able to infer what is happening for others in that moment?  Can they truly put themselves in the other person’s shoes?  THE DAY MY LIFE CHANGED: It was the day that a child showed up for school sweating profusely.  To lighten the moment, I asked him, “What on earth were they serving at breakfast this morning?”  He wrapped his arms around me and said, “Oh Mrs. Nan, I missed breakfast.  I missed my bus this morning and had to run to school so I wouldn’t miss being with you.”  Tears rolled down my face.  I knew what that meant.  Would his peers?  Do they actually need to know or would they be able to show compassion and empathy without the tough details.  As I dried my eyes, I observed one child hand him a cereal bar that she had brought for her snack that day.  WOW-heart in my feet… this my friends, is why I teach!  This is what will make them the best they can be!  This is what opens doors to their minds and to learning.  This will always be the day that I knew I was helping “to create a school where students, staff, and parents are beating down the doors to get in… not out“.  Thank you Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess for helping me to Lead Like a Pirate!
  4. Habits of Learning: Who do they network with?  How? What foundation do they come with?  Do they have T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. ?   Do they attempt to work alone?  Do they use the 4 C’s… Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity?

I am observant.  I notice… the smallest details.  The big impact.  The positive.  The mindset of all!  My journey continues and by observing I WILL LEARN… not for a moment, a day, or a week.  I will learn for a lifetime!  #ObserveMe

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

#IMMOOC Week 1: Setback or Serendipity: choosing the road less traveled.

Overcoming adversity builds T.R.U.E.G.R.I.T … small setbacks build character.  Setbacks come in different forms, especially in education.  Many see change as a setback, something that will disappoint and have complications.  The fear of change has always had an influence on the mood of teachers, students, and parents alike.  You can see it in a person’s eyes.  The fear that creeps over them when you are trying to explain what is about to take place.  The questions forming in their minds with every word spoken.  You find yourself in that moment choosing which road you are going to travel.

Do you continue to move ahead with change or do you comply and conform?  Do you actually have a choice?

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Have you ever sat in your first in-service day of the year to hear the changes that are coming your way?  The kind of change that is done just for the sake of change and not necessarily for the better.  You find your entire body tightening up as if  you cannot take one more word.  You wonder how all your optimism could possibly leave your body in 20 seconds or less.  You spend the following hours telling yourself to wipe away the negativity so that you can get back to your happy place.  The place where you just redecorated your classroom that awaits smiling, optimistic, and excited children.  Is this a setback?  My guess is that the change in which creates that tense feeling is most often not change for the better,

I’m one to choose the road less traveled.  Yet compliancy is at the forefront.  Compliance is not just a term we use with students.  It has been a professional responsibility that has inhibited my teaching and growth for many years forcing me back on a one lane highway… traveling in one direction with head on traffic.  George Couros (author of Innovator’s Mindset) states, “Compliance does not foster innovation.  In fact, demanding conformity does quite the opposite.”  Where was George when I needed him for his perspective?  The right perspective can help make the impossible possible!

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” ― Shel Silverstein

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Then there was the in-service day that did change!  The one that went from a hot sticky auditorium (with a lecture on how we need to be better before we even get our fresh start) to an air-conditioned banquet hall with the high school’s marching band loudly playing the fight song just for their teachers.  The change that gives you chills and resets your inspirational compass so that it points straight forward.  My guess is that the change that gives you chills is the kind that George Couros is talking about… Innovation!  The kind that has your innovative administration ( Dr. Jacie Maslyk  Dr. Michelle Miller #PLF) challenging you to open a #twitter account and connect with other educators in the crusade to remake learning.   The kind of administration that TRUSTS you with social media.

What about that change?  George Couros says, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.” #InnovatorsMindset

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My current administration has brought on many changes… positive changes… innovative changes!  We now have permission to choose how we will teach the common core standards in our own individual classrooms in place of being on the same page, on the same day, just like all other classrooms in the district.  We now have tech-fest where lead learners step up and share their knowledge to help push our district forward.  We now have trust to choose #flexibleseating as an option for a learning environment that challenges and encourages all children.   We now have permission to blend our curriculum so that we are no longer teaching the same concepts in 3 different subject areas according to the map.  We now have district goals to engage all students every day, all day- to show purpose, passion, and pride in school and throughout the community.  This change is AMAZING!

For me it is always my mindset that turns things around.  Setback or serendipity? I’ll choose the road less traveled!  As George Couros says, “We need to make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear.”

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Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction

T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T.

T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T is the foundation to success in learning!  Grit is the stubborn refusal to quit!  It is something that was not only instilled in me as a child, but a CHOICE that I made for myself.  I find that it is what my students need most to have success in today’s learning environment… one of opportunity with Voice and Choice! A world that is in need of makers and innovators with true grit!  George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset states “Having the freedom to fail is important to innovation.  But even more important to the process are the traits of resiliency and grit.”

T: Take Risks!  I once heard someone say, “If you are living safe, are you really living?”  I suppose I have lived a lifetime in a small period with my amount of risk taking.  Safe to me is close minded.  Safe for me makes my heart stretch and my neck tense.  Safe learning keeps me in a box when there are valuable resources within reach.  Risk taking is natural for a child until fear is learned.  So what does risk taking look like in the classroom?  For me it is giving up control.  It is facilitating in place of direct instruction. It is believing that my students can do it without me!  It is failing in front of 27 admiring minds and allowing that vulnerability to be a teachable moment for both sides.  Take Risks… it is life changing for your students and YOU!

R: Resilience~ Be Tough!  Resilience is key to pride!  We aren’t proud of easy work the same as that of the tough stuff.  We get tough through resilience! We must be tough-minded to push ahead in our learning and grow “through” our mistakes.  Look at a child with a participation trophy vs one that earns a trophy by winning the game.  Which one truly has pride…the kind that is felt to the core?  Resilience is nurtured through setbacks and hurdles.  It is brushing yourself off and getting back in the game of life.  We must allow ourselves the time to rethink, try again, and grow.  In turn the resilience filters into the picture.

U: Ultimate Listening Skills! This has major impact on you and the one speaking.  Make eye contact! Shut down your own thoughts and truly listen… not to have something to say back, but to take in what is important to the one speaking.  Process what is being said and show that you care by staying engaged in the conversation.  Communication between partners and groups thrives on careful listening skills.  

E: Empathy & Understanding!  Without empathy we live in an isolated world of our own thoughts and needs.  You do not need to understand to show empathy.  You need to put your own judgement aside and allow for others to be vulnerable.  This should never be confused with the “feel good society” mentality.  This should never be thought of as “everyone’s a winner”.  This is acceptance that we are each different with our own story.  We each have a chapter in this thing called life!  We each have a way of learning that changes and evolves just as our mind does.  We each have a story that builds bridges or breaks our learning.  Modeling empathy in the classroom shows respect and that is one thing that nurtures goodness.   

G: Goals!  This is part of achievement… the cornerstone of success!  Goals should be achievable and with growth in mind.  Goals are not set to stay at the same level of learning, but rather to propel you forward!  This is where I put students in charge of their own learning.  They must recognize from a young age what learning they have already acquired and where they could possibly go from that point.  Being done with a math lesson in 15 minutes, does not mean you take out a novel to entertain yourself because you do not know what to do with your time.  Reading is essential and if the book is relevant to math, I am certainly open to it.  But if I do not empower my students to grow within the content area in all ways possible, have I truly done my job?  I must open doors with options so that each child can make choices as to where their learning can go.  Independent thinkers that are empowered to create opportunities is what I believe future employers dream of in an employee!  #growth

R: Responsible! Being responsible is of great value to everyone.  A child that has their bag packed and unpacked at home for them will not know what they have, or scarier yet what they need.  A child that blames their parent for not having what they need in school may be the same child that blames the teacher for not having what they need at home. Placing blame is not beneficial for a child, so taking the time to teach responsibility in all settings tells the child they are in charge of their learning and that they can control outcomes at a young age.  

I: Imagine Excellence vs Perfection! Striving for perfection is setting yourself up for failure that can be detrimental both in and out of the learning environment.  Striving for excellence is a forward thinking mindset that allows you the opportunity to meet setbacks head on and grow!  I’m not claiming that failure does not have positive outcomes.  A former colleague and current director of Educational Strategy Robomatter, Jason McKenna, shared with my students that “failing fast is key!”  Reflecting on the process and communicating throughout helps to catch failing moments in place of failing outcomes!  Students who are unable to fail and grow from mistakes, because they expect personal perfection, are in need of a mind shift to excellence.

T: Tough Mindset!  Lastly, a tough mindset is where I feel the foundation of learning starts for educators and children alike.  A mindset that is tough enough to fail, to have confidence in one’s self, to persevere when moments are heavy, to stretch yourself beyond the comfort zone that could keep you stagnant, and the one that can make or break all growth within the educational system!  

Note: Maybe “Leaping Like a Pirate” should be the subtitle to this blog because that best describes my everyday mindset.  I am one to leap… feet first!  Sometimes into failing moments and other times success.  Not because I enjoy failing or feel like I am a failure, but more so the small chance of success intrigues me!  “T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T.” is my foundation to leaping! Teaching like a Pirate is what takes my grit to a new level!