Fishbowl of Reflection

Sometimes I feel as if blogging gives people an inside tour of my jumbled, redheaded mind! This year my reflections are as disjointed and varied as the year. A true reflection of the year and it’s many changes and surprises. However, good, bad, beautiful, or down right painful I know reflection has to happen for me to grow and effective change to take root.

Here are my top 3 take aways from the 2017-2018 school year.

1) All students, K-12, crave consistency and expectations. Even those that scream from the rafters, “You can’t make me!” They expect to come to school and have the rules reinforced fairly, consistently, and across the boards. When I talk to students outside of classes, filled with anxiety, and frustrated the common complaint isn’t “Mr./Mrs./Miss Teacher made me —-” No! Their common lament is, “But Mr./Mrs./Miss Teacher lets me ___, so it isn’t fair that this teacher isn’t!”

My reflection on this growing epidemic is it’s past time to develop a cohesive plan! I am optimistic about the work MTSS is doing to develop the plan. I want this plan to work. Just like I want every other initiative to work that time, effort, energy, and resources have been devoted to in any district. After all, we know how valuable time is and we want our buildings to be safe, effective learning communities. From my point of view, when a district selects an initiative it’s based on research and best practices so we should give it a go!

I trust that the group of educators in this committee did their due diligence and spent their time researching, exploring, crunching our data, & making informed decisions. I also understand that it takes all kinds of people to run a school and our personal philosophies may not always mesh but if we want our boat to stay afloat and sail smoothly into the sunset we need to work as a team. I encourage everyone to buy in and give 100% to enforcing this plan. If all adults; admin, teachers, custodians. cafeteria staff, instructional aides, etc. reinforce and reward similar incentives and consistently expect the same behavior I am confident change is imminent.

2) Change is hard! I still think I’ve developed a bit of whiplash from my head moving back and forth from one change to another! I have developed empathy for the poor bobble heads whose purpose is to bounce back and forth.

As I’ve eluded to in past blogs, change is never easy, but it can be re-energizing! I am nervous, overwhelmed, and tentative too, however I know that change is healthy. I also know that some of the greatest changes in my life; marriage, parenthood, new jobs, etc. came when I shifted WAY outside of my comfort zone and trusted that change would be good for me and others.

Amongst the avalanche of changes this year, we’ve experienced changes in leadership, changes in initiatives, changes in expectation, and it is scary and leads to uncertainty. Through my uncertainty I’ve found trust. Trust that all change brings progress. I want to be here to see that progress come and be an integral part of it. I’ve committed myself to buying in and being a change agent.

Most leaders come in and have the luxury of formulating a vision and then taking action to make a vision reality. Building the vision and forging action towards it simultaneously is no small feat! The time to embrace change, fail forward, and advocate for ourselves and students has never been easier than now when change is the norm! I encourage everyone to embrace this season of change and try one thing you’ve always wanted to do in your classroom, but didn’t because there wasn’t time, it might not work, or it seemed impossible or impractical.

3) Our students may be “digital natives” but they are not digital dynamos! I know I’m a tech coach and I just said students aren’t doing dynamic things with tech. Yikes! Let me clarify!

The basics are MIA! It may appear to educators who are allowing students to use devices that they’ve got it all together, but please allow me a bit of grace here when I say they make their work harder for themselves. Just because we give a student a device doesn’t mean they know how to leverage it to empower them as learners. It doesn’t even mean they best know how to use it.

What students have is a lack of fear and a willingness to use tech that some adults don’t. Adults read manuals, explore menus, or stick to the same devices they’ve always used because we like our comfort zones!

Students aren’t afraid to push buttons! This curiosity is healthy and great! It leads to discoveries. However, without formal training and instruction button pushing can lead to bad habits. I think of the teachers I have coached over the years and the moments I’ve heard, “I never knew I could do that!” Our students, given devices but not trained on how to use them have developed ineffective practices as well.

I challenge teachers across the building to sign out a chrome book this summer and explore it. Learn and practice gestures and navigation. Explore apps, extensions, and add-ons so you can better support and instruct your students on how to leverage their devices for learning.

After all, we didn’t hand students a pencil without teaching them how to hold the pencil and write letters. We shouldn’t hand a student a device without demonstrating and giving explicit instruction on how to effectively use it to demonstrate their mastery of learning.

I’m not saying we should walk them step by step through every app and tool we use, however the basics; care, navigation, and actions or gestures must be taught in order to allow students to springboard into the higher levels of SAMR without getting bogged down by bad habits and lack of understanding.

I hope all educators take time this summer to spend time relaxing with their families, regrouping from their years, & come back refreshed and ready to tackle a brand new year. Whatever you find yourself doing prior to focusing on the coming school year; lessons to be taught, materials to be collected, and professional development to be explored allow yourself time to reflect on this year before your focus switches to the next. What were your take aways, what were your challenges, and what were your successes? Be brave and reflect on your hopes as well. These hopes may directly impact our students, our profession, and the future of education!

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Piloting; AKA Entering the Fishbowl

Being the first is never easy. Trying new things might be a bit uncomfortable and certainly shines a spotlight on those who step into the cockpit and fly first. I totally get feeling uneasy and reluctant to volunteer. I do! Even those of us who like to try new things get nervous. After all, the view from the outside of the fishbowl is the prettiest, right? Who wants to be the poor goldfish stuck in the tank with 4-5 toddler fishes tapping on the class, while all the giant adults circle around the outside of the tank sharing their opinions on how the habitat can best be improved?

Without pilots, there is no progress. To make seamless programs we have to enlist the assistance of those brave souls who are willing to go before the rest. Instead of focusing on being the first, members of a pilot need to realize that they are in a position to advocate, shape, and create policies and procedures that will pave the way for others. Pilot members should feel comfortable and empowered to share their voice with other stakeholders and not feel like a fish just floating in a pool. These willing teachers are the focal point and center of an implementation and should feel some freedom and artistic license to take chances, explore, and fail forward so the entire learning community can learn from their experiences.

Currently, our building is offering 1:1 chromebook pilots. I am hopeful that our teachers are eyeing up the potential of having a device in their classroom for every student that walks through the door. How will this change classroom instruction? What will our students be able to do that they weren’t able to do before having a device available for every member of the class? How will teachers organize the collection, usage, and maintenance of these devices? How can the instructional technology coach assist teachers in leveraging these devices to ensure we are allowing every student, every day to master their learning while embracing the 4C’s; communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity?

I encourage all educators to consider participating in pilots, regardless of their level of comfort and expertise in the area of the pilot. If only the “experts” on a subject pilot, there is no real learning to be done and the point of a pilot is to learn and smooth out the run way for the next group to go boldly beyond. Stepping outside of our comfort zone and being the first is never easy, but it is a very rewarding experience for all.

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Dream Big… I Dare You!

It always amazes me how timid teachers can be when it comes to vocalizing their dreams. If you could have any classroom in the world, what would your classroom look like, sound like? Where would you teach if your choices were limitless?

Google gave its employees 20% time. This time was dedicated to allowing their employees to work creatively and develop projects they were interested in. No scheme or idea was too pie in the sky if the employee thought their pet project could benefit their company.

The concept amazes me! I would love to see it applied to education. What could a room filled with educators create, if their sole job was to create and come up with solutions to today’s educational needs. No guidelines, no rubrics, just time to develop, design, and dream. I can’t imagine what amazing possibilities are untapped because they are buried in the recesses of our educators’ minds. What solutions could we come up with or bring to the table to share once or twice a year? Wouldn’t the end result of this devoted 20% time be an amazing student work protocol? Imagine every teacher across the building, or district, sharing their ideas without fear of the word no. Instead of hearing no, we could share our warm and cool to help develop their idea further. This would truly be a wonderful way to increase teacher buy in and see what our shyer, less vocal teachers have tucked away in their bonnets.

Teachers could focus on creating their dream schedule for the building,designing outdoor learning spaces, developing STEAM solutions that can be integrated building wide, online learning modules/cyber solutions for our learners, intervention models, and many, many other topics of interest. If you had this time devoted to dreaming, scheming, and developing what area of interest would you want to tackle? What ideas are you keeping locked in your lid instead of sharing?

The wealth of experience, creativity, and intelligence inside the walls of our schools often times goes untapped. I feel that is a shame. We need to encourage our educators to become and embrace the innovative spirit we are seeking from our students. If the 4C’s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication) are important for our students, it is imperative that we as educators practice what we preach and hone these skills too.

Then let’s extend this to our students. Genius Hours or 10% time, offers our students time to research, design, or develop any idea they are interested in exploring. This is their time to dictate what they learn about and how they demonstrate this learning.

I can only imagine what amazing projects our students would develop when we remove the scaffolded, predetermined projects and open up the potential of the possible for them. After all, if possibilities and thinking outside of the box hadn’t been embraced by some key individuals we could literally still be sitting in the dark, ages that is.

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A Slice of Bad Luck

Ever have a day when everything goes sideways? Today is that day for me.
Got up early, ready to go.
Pulled on slacks I took the time to lay out yesterday and no button. Ugh! Back to the drawing board.
Manage to combine another pair of slacks with same top and sweater, back on track.
Put on new shoes. Only worn once before.
Get to work. Feeling good. Get stopped by colleague needing help. Time flies. Late for bus duty. But that’s okay b/c I am not the only one on duty. Today I was the only one. Ugh!
Let kids in apologetically. Go about duty greeting and happy. No way am I letting my bad mood and luck reflect on the kids and their start of the day.
Go back to office. Skim through 50 emails. Start tackling the withdrawals and deactivating them.
Go check out solution to phone in library. Stumble backwards. Why? I wasn’t feeling very clumsy. Nope. Heel on brand new, only worn once, shoes snaps off.
At this point, running screaming from the building sounds like a plan.
Nope, I hobble home barefoot and come back with new flats… let’s not dwell on the possibility of another broken heel.
So all this rambling and oversharing to say, despite bad luck, rainy clouds, and a lot of do-over moments the sun came out. The day got better. No matter what the students only saw the smiles and readiness to teach.
Teachers teach well on their worst days.
At the end of the day I was able to say despite it all, I made a difference in the life of a child. I shared a smile. I discussed data and growth, I challenged a kiddo to give 100%, and I offered a hug when another student was struggling with a bad day.
I taught and therefore it was a good day.

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A Chat to Remember

Last night I moderated a Twitter chat. It wasn’t heavily attended, but the conversation flowed. I thought back to an urgent phone call from a frazzled colleague.

“I have to host a Twitter chat! I don’t even know what that means!”

We plotted, we dreamed, we schemed… and she hosted. #wyasdpride was born. Three tech coaches and a teacher/grad student made it happen.

Now, it happens once a month w a steady, growing group and new moderators volunteering each month. We have started a movement. I’m proud of the teachers in my district who are willing to give an hour a month and share their thoughts and feelings about education online.

It’s powerful. Parents watch. School board members watch. Administrators watch. But most importantly, our students and other educators watch.

It’s a testimony to our dedication. See preview here.

I am #wyasdpride proud! Join us April 30th at 7:15pm for our next monthly chat. If you just want to lurk and learn that’s okay as well!

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A Slice of Tech

Today I attended and helped judge the IU12 Tech Fair. I was so stunned at the creativity of the students around York County. Logos, graphic art, films, animations, apps, etc. were on display created by students in middle and high schools. It’s amazing what technology allows our learners to become, do, and invent.

These open-ended, hands on, project-based learning tasks that allow students to exercise the 4C’s (creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration) are the projects that will empower our learners to one day become the change agents and leaders that our future demands.

I want to spotlight some awesome Bulldog innovation projects that were completed this month in Mr. Snelbaker’s 8th grade classroom.  Enjoy our students’ innovative ideas and their creative commercials.

I wish I could have been a student in this day and age. My dreams were relegated to my daydreams and pencil sketches on the side of my notebooks. Today’s learners can make their daydreams realities!

Walking through the displays  and examining our own Bulldog promos, I witnessed future entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, screen writers, film editors, and directors. I saw the possibilities that exist for our learners in their futures. I enjoyed the opportunity to judge, however I was so blessed to be able to see the extent our learners can go when given a blank canvas, a challenge, and their choice of tools. Wow! There are some real stars in our schools today shining brightly.

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Bobble Headed Bliss

I stare at the nervous grins staring back at me on the screen. Tiny rectangles filled with my birds of a feather. Zooming into the potential of what can be, what will be an awesome team. I love the excitement, the energy, the synergy that comes each new year of planning with passionate educators across the state. These bobble heads are my tribe, teachers who speak my lingo, and fast family, #ktifamily. Planning, dreaming, & laughing our way through our initial meeting in preparation for what will become a catalyst in the careers of others and a hallmark moment in our lives as well.

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