Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction

#IMMOOC Week 3: Permission=Trust; Without it We Have Nothing

TRUST: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

This is the one word that can make or break a relationship… all relationships!  Do you trust me?  Do you trust that I have your best interest at heart?  Do you feel it in my core?  I know that when I look in your eyes I am conveying trust.  When I tell you that I honestly believe that taking a chance on change can lead to amazing things.  Do you see it?  Do you hear it in my voice?  The confidence I have to make this decision.  The grit that runs deep in my soul that will take this to a new level.  Do you trust me? #truth

Years ago, I remember laughing with my colleague as we took in the advice of asking for forgiveness rather than permission.  The laugh was half-hearted because we felt the true depth of not being trusted.  If you had asked anyone if we were trustworthy, the answer/word spoken would have been yes, yet when we tried moving forward we were continuously met with the word/action of no.  I wish I could say that I was always able to take the higher road, but I am human and found myself breaking.  I looked to bid to other positions or to possibly leave the district as a whole.  I wanted to find innovation the easy way in place of creating it with roadblocks at every turn.  Where was my grit then?  It was there, but “the innovation-squelching effect of no” was “spreading like wildfire” in ME! -Innovator’s Mindset #truth

THE POWER OF “NO” VERSUSES A CULTURE OF “YES -Innovator’s Mindset

This didn’t just end with me.  The power behind no stayed with me and I found myself saying it more and more within my classroom and within my building.  How did I take “no” and spread it like a virus so quickly?  I had always been a YES GIRL!  Yes, I can make that happen!  Yes, I would love another student teacher!  Yes, I can have that done in no time!  Yes turned to no.  I told myself it was a compliance issue, a form of respect that I simply had to follow the rules, but was it?  Was I being spiteful?  Was I using my restrictions and limitations as an excuse for not being innovative?  Did I take this word “no” so personally that I then stepped down from committees and took on the negative attitude of… get someone else to do it?  What was happening to me?  I don’t suppose the onlookers saw this as clear as I do now.  I love what I do too much to allow that to truly be seen.  But I felt it.  I felt it in my core.  I am positive you could see it in my eyes.  The glow wasn’t there… the drive had been stolen from me with one repeated word… NO! #truth

CHANGE CAN HAPPEN ONE PERSON AT A TIME -Innovator’s Mindset

I looked over and saw my new Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jacie Maslyk standing in the doorway.  I walked over.  She asked me what I would like to see happening in my classroom.  I chuckled.  The same half-hearted laugh I had become accustom to at “work”.

Side note:  My passion for teaching had been sucked out of me and for the first time I found myself going to work each day.

Was she serious?  Does she really want to know?  Do I TRUST her?  If I open my heart and tell her how I really feel will this be another smoke blowing session or does she truly care?  Is she setting me up?  Is she going to take my words and use them against me?  Or does she actually see me as an “investment in place of an expenditure?”

I took a chance.  I saw the trust in her eyes.  She cared… I could feel it!  I opened up and told her I wanted to break down the walls to learning!  I wanted to go beyond the compliance that had been demanded of me.  I wanted to relight the energy in my students… I WANTED TO LIGHT THE WORLD ON FIRE! Okay, so maybe those weren’t my exact words, but I promise you she felt the message.

And that is when it happened… I decided to once again ask for permission.  Do you know what she said…  “Why not, we wont know unless we try!”  I started reading book after book.  I got on Twitter and started building my #PLN that turned into my #PLF.  I jumped into educational chats and found myself looking up the definition to #IMMOOC for the first time.  I felt my soul on fire… I was ready to Teach Like A Pirate again.  Thank you Dave Burgess!

“Our job sometimes, is simply to be the spark, help build confidence, and then get out of the way.” -Innovator’s Mindset

On that day, Dr. Jacie Maslyk was my spark!  She believed in me.  She trusted me.  She has built a trust WITH me and in turn we have relit the spark in our children, continue to build confidence, and are getting out of the way!

Is this #truth or am I just blowing smoke?  Well, a few weeks ago I was surprised by Chevron/Steelers with Week 1 Leader in the Classroom Award.  This award was beyond anything that I could have imagined.  It wasn’t for years of service or for having a big heart and loving my students (which has always been a given), it was for remaking learning… for being INNOVATIVE in the classroom.  I was blessed to receive $1,000, a Steelers’ authentic jersey, tickets to an upcoming Steelers vs Patriots game, and front page of the Sunday paper.  Beyond all of the beautiful gifts that were presented to me, the one that meant the most was when I heard “Leader of Innovation in the Classroom“.  That my friends, is the biggest YES ever!

“IF WE WANT MEANINGFUL CHANGE, WE HAVE TO MAKE A CONNECTION TO THE HEART BEFORE WE CAN MAKE A CONNECTION TO THE MIND”

-Innovator’s Mindset

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?

8-Characteristics-of-the-Innovators-Mindset

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?

You-Decide-SuperShuttle-Options.jpg

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

change by george.png

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!