L.E.G.I.T. Summer~Week 1

Here I am 3 weeks into summer vacation and I am finally starting to feel it unfolding. Maybe more like I’m settling in to the relaxed vibe that the word summer exudes.  When I think of a legit summer I think of the sun shining down on my face and the hours of the day getting mixed up in my mind where I start losing count until my stomach tells me it is past lunch or maybe even dinner.  Where no one seems to care how the day unfolds as long as we each have voice in the unfolding… where we meet each other where we are at.  Oh, the possibilities!  It’s been years since I had a summer opened up to possibilities, one that can refuel my passions and spark new ones along the way.  This is my summer!

Today starts my 5 week  L.E.G.I.T. Summer Journey with ME, MYSELF, and I.  This is what I need to be a better me.

A better me serves others greater.

A better me leads in an outstanding way.

A better me ignites the passion in my learning as well as others.

I need to remember how to find my joy, my smile, my heart, and simply my love for life.  Not that I lost it completely, but at times I find my own joy secondary when it is actually possible to nurture both at the same time.  As many know, this past year I lost my precious friend, my confidant, my mother in law, my go to person.  Some may think enough time has passed.  Many remind me she is in a better place so I should not feel so bad.  Some even think that it may be easier because I have the summer off to focus on relaxing and regrouping.  I only wish others would stop speaking for me.  Stop thinking for me.  Just stop.  I wish others would not try to remind me about the beautiful place she is in without me.  I miss her.  I am lost without her each day… especially on each family adventure because it is yet another “first” alone with the boys… all 4 of them, including my beloved father in law.  I am trying, but my girl is gone and I sit here alone in my thoughts trying to take in the goodness around me.  Trying to put on the smile that so easily swept my face when she was by my side.

My thoughts take me back to another person’s story.  When I first heard this young man speak, my heart ached for him.  I remember just wanting to hug him.  After losing mom, I went back to YouTube and searched for the video again.  Crazy how I thought he knew how I felt. Someone I had never met.  Never even talked to.  Yet, by sharing his story he entered my heart.  Just like him, I was jealous… she was gone from me. Happy.  Happy without me.   I found that this video met me where I was at… uncomfortably jealous, wishing the best that this world had to give, and yet knowing it was not enough.

Starting with the L in L.E.G.I.T. is what I need most, as that in itself can make or break anyone!

The L stands for: LOCATE their coordinates- meet them where they are at!

I chuckle at the thought… how do I meet myself where I am at if I don’t even know that answer myself?  I feel like my very own GPS has gone ROGUE and is spinning around  signaling that I am off the grid.  How do I locate myself?  To me it starts with one question!

What brings me joy?  When you think of the feelings that come with this one word, than you know why it starts right here.  If I can answer this question I will at least know where to start on this journey.

  1. Start simple.  As simple as fresh air… it clears my mind.  The kind that you get when you sit on your porch and sip your first cup of coffee in the morning.  The kind that you breath in when you are on a walk when there is barely a sign of life around you.  The kind that blows through your hair as you sit close by the water and allow your mind to drift off into the place that holds your heart… your soul.
  2. Laughing… I need people around me who lift me up with their simple abundance of joy.  My true person is silly.  Prior to the worries of others, I was a “jokester”, or maybe the joke!  I do not need a circus act, I just need life’s humor that reminds us to not take things so seriously.  I need those who don’t overthink my actions or attempt to outdo the ones around us, but just live in the moment… simple silly fun.
  3. Love… the kind that is unconditional.  The kind that allows me to be me and does not cast judgement.  The kind that doesn’t ridicule my passions, but steps out of the way so that I can relish in them.  The kind that puts their hand out and holds mine when I am a little unsteady.  The love that knows a hug solves most every problem.  The kind that I held on to my entire life, even when the darkness of clouds tried to threaten me with storms.  I will always reach out to goodness… it is my survival skill.  It is what created the person I am today.  The purest of love is true goodness.
  4. Growth… as much as I like to relax and take in the quiet beauty of nature, I must have opportunity around the bend for growth.  Whether I am headed to a conference, a workshop, reading a blog or an eduFAVE book, I need to be gaining ground in my own world.  I love to write.  It isn’t just a passion for me, it is a survival skill.  When I was a child I needed it.  I need ONE trusting “person” to pour my soul to.  I needed ONE “person” in my corner.  I needed “ONE” to tell me NEVER give up!  That I should dream… DREAM BIG and MAKE IT HAPPEN!   That ONE was my writing.  For me, keeping it in was debilitating.  Not letting it out in search of better was keeping me stagnant… being stagnant is suffocating for me.  I need to know there is more out there AND that with hard work I can obtain it.  When I write it, it becomes real and I own it.

These are my coordinates… Simple… Silly… Loving… Growth.  They are all built on relationships.  I am blessed with so many incredible people in my life.  Beyond family, I have the gift of my PLN/PLF.  My PLN meets me where I am at.  They accept me, push me, laugh with me, love me, grow with me, and celebrate with me!   Life is good.  #Tlap  #LeadLAP  #MasteryChat  #REALedu  #IMMOOC  #CelebratED  #JoyfulLeaders  #4OCFpln  #TeachBetter

What are your coordinates?  Share… tell your story.  Let’s meet and grow together!

 

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!

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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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!

m&m

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? 

 

#OneWord2018 pure “GOODNESS”

I’ve been pondering my #OneWord for 2018 over the last few days.  Many words have spun through my mind, but yesterday I actually experienced one that spoke to me.

Pure “goodness” is what I witnessed as we drove home from the mountains in the frigid cold of winter.

A bitter day.  A mere heat burst had just come through and lifted us up to 9 degrees.  Not the type of weather you want to be out in.

As we sat in our cozy warm truck we thought nothing of the hours of driving ahead.  Never once did we think we would need anyone but ourselves to make this simple journey home… one that has been driven countless times.

Never once did we think we would need to rely on goodness in this world.  In a society that lives with such fear and ugliness.

Do you worry?  Do you fear harm coming your way… often wondering if pure goodness still walks the earth.  I am not a natural worrier, but I do have others in my life that are… that find it difficult to trust, especially once they are scarred by fear.

I live in the moment.  Generally not worrying about what lies ahead.

I believe in good. 

The moral compass of goodness.36189A6D-24D9-4235-ADF3-DEAF074039D3.jpeg

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the world is not filled with kindness and those paying it forward.  But as much as I feel goodness is a lot like acts of kindness, I do see a difference.  As I create and instill this value with my students, these random acts can be calculated and in the safety of our own terms and conditions.  Yes, they are amazing and wonderful and need to happen… even if we have to create the opportunity ourselves.  However,  I feel goodness spontaneously spills over in a moment… not necessarily a choice but rather a “moral or value” to live by.

goodness (ˈɡʊdnɪs)
n
1. the state or quality of being good
2. generosity; kindness
3. moral excellence; piety; virtue

Pure goodness is what I felt yesterday… moral excellence in another person.

As we drove down the highway, our check engine light came on and we had to pull over.  Just as we came to a stop, we put our hazards on warning others of our situation.  That’s when I witnessed goodness… a vehicle pulled up behind us without hesitation.  Let’s face it, most people drive right by those in need… most likely assuming everyone travels with a phone these days and the chance of something bad happening overpowers the good.

We were lucky enough to not need assistance so we waved him along.  He waved back and off he went down the highway.  Pure Goodness rang through me.  I had warmth in my soul.  It felt to me to be beyond a random act of kindness.  To me it felt that the traveler lived in the moment of goodness… the right thing to do… so pure. 

This moment stayed with me for the rest of the ride.  I never actually met the person, nor did he physically do anything to impact me, but his goodness had a lasting effect.  The kind that changes the world.  The kind that changes it for the better!

So I choose GOODNESS… PURE GOODNESS!  I want to be able to give another person that same rekindled spirit and belief that there is goodness in the world.  I want to act on what I believe and not live in fear of what the world has shown us through the lens of destruction.  I myself have been a part of that destruction on a smaller scale.  Maybe not news worthy, but so not okay nontheless.  Oh, I mess up… life gets tricky.  I have chosen a less admirable path over time… truth.  I make no excuses.  I own it.  Now, I am empowered… with a better choice.  I will take this opportunity and I will own it! 

As Pirate leaders and teachers, we refer back to a compass quite often as we steer learning and leading within our districts and communities. Having my compass continuously point to good is so challenging when I am faced with negativity and unkind words.  It is so crippling to have others choose negativity towards my actions of an open mindset.  A mindset I have been blessed with through the actions of George Couros, the author and speaker that is changing the face of education with an educational best seller “Innovator’s Mindset”.

This year my compass will point to goodness.   The pure kind to which my actions will live in every moment.  I won’t overthink the reaction.  I will not fear the negative closed mindset of individuals too afraid to create positive change.  I will not fear being disliked.  I will not fear being called out by closed mindsets.  So go ahead… 

Call me out…

because I will become the good!  Compass set… I will strive for pure goodness!

 

 for more #EMPOWERING music CLICK HERE

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!  

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

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