IMMOOC Week #2

I would like to reflect on the 8 characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset and how I exemplify this in my work… (teaching or leading).

The 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset are:
1. empathetic
2. problem finders
3. risk-takers
4. networked
5. observant
6. creators
7. resilient
8. reflective

I feel that the characteristic I exemplify the most is that I am empathetic. I would actually consider myself an empath, someone who maybe has a little too much empathy. (I have a hard time not clapping for the other team when I’m at a game. I have a hard time attending sporting events because I feel awful for the team or player that isn’t doing well.)

I feel that being empathetic is my greatest strength & my biggest weakness. I relate really well to my students, I am kind to people I meet, and I am slow to judge. The reason for that is I am always thinking about how that other person feels. I think it is a strength because empathy helps me be a more observant and reflective educator. I say it is also my biggest weakness because I am always worried about the needs and feelings of others over my own. Since I have started working on being a more reflective & connected educator I have realized the bad habits that I have. In the past few years I have actually gotten better at saying “No.”even when I think about the stress or feelings of the other person.

In Chapter 2, page 49 of Innovator’s Mindset, I highlighted the following “Empathetic teachers think about the classroom environment and learning from the point of view of the student, not the teacher”. I really like this quote, and I can really relate to it.

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Iteration #IMOOCC Week 1

 

In April 2016 I had the opportunity to see George Couros present at the TIE conference. I purchased the Innovator’s Mindset and read it. I highlighted and sticky-noted so many things while reading. As soon as I finished reading I shared the book with my administrator.

Some of my favorite quotes include “We choose whether or not we will grow, change, or innovate. But in schools, where we focus on our students as the future, growth can no longer be simply an option.” & “In a world that constantly changes, if our focus is to only maintain what’s already been done, we are bound to become worse. The innovator’s mindset is necessary for all of us if schools are to move forward.” p. 27
“…the question that must be asked every day is, ‘What is best for this learner?’ Individualizing education and starting with empathy for those we serve is where innovative teaching and learning begins.” p. 21

When I heard about the first #IMMOOC I was so excited! I registered… and I never participated. I started a blog, and have a few posts, but have not been consistent. I’ve been struggling with feeling that there is a hole or gap in my professional aspirations. Here is a little bit of writing I did last week:

to learn or to grow you do not always need a new location or a new seed to plant. sometimes you just need to improve the care you provide to the plants you already have, let their roots expand and their flowers bloom, give time for the fruit to develop. pay more attention to the circumstances that limit or enhance the growth. slow down and smell the flowers, observe your surroundings. it may not mean covering as much ground as possible in a given amount of time, but rather that the time spent on something is meaningful, slow, deliberate. 

When I received the e-mails that the 2nd #IMMOOC was starting I had a light bulb moment. Here was a book that I was so connected to and so interested in, and I had an opportunity to enrich that experience and challenge myself, but I didn’t do it. As I was re-reading the introduction and the first chapter there were new things I was highlighting that I hadn’t the first time, and I found myself reflecting on the things I was still doing that did not line up with my belief about teaching.

Part of an innovation is the design process, which I teach all year long. It is not a quick solution. It is an iterative cycle. I need to stop rushing from task to task and objective to objective. I need to start being innovative. To do so, I need to set some goals, make a specific plan, work with others, reflect on my progress, and repeat… not move on to something new.

I am so looking forward to the opportunity to revisit this book, to reflect on my learning and beliefs over the course of a year, and connect with other educators who are inspired by this book and this author.

 

Share the Positive!!

On #sdedchat this month we talked about Random Acts of Kindness, and activities we can do with students and staff.

I really like the quote from George Couros “We need to make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear.”
“Not Waiting for Tomorrow” by George Couros

What are some things that are happening at your school that help spread positive messages, encouragement and kindness?

In our staff lounge we have a bulletin board dedicated to above the line and below the line reminders and lots of positive quotes.

A staff member recently started a “You’ve been mugged” activity. Someone puts a mug full of treats into another teacher’s mailbox, with the directions and a note that says ‘you’ve been mugged’. The new person does the same thing, choosing a mailbox that doesn’t have the sign in it.
You’ve Been Mugged! {Spread Staff Sunshine}

At our school when someone is nominated for, or wins some type of award, there are staff members who send out e-mails to congratulate them.

Our administrator even sends out e-mails about things that went well for students and staff. For example, our students rocked the Science Fair recently, and admin thanked everyone involved for their work and effort.

What are things that you do at your school or things you’ve seen/heard about at other schools that help spread positive messages and kindness? 

More Questions Than Answers

I have been neglecting blogging. I could attribute it to ‘being busy’, but honestly, I think I was under the impression I needed to have something profound to say. So I waited…

Throughout high school and part of college I would journal and blog frequently, not because I had profound things to say, but to help clear my head and work through my thoughts.

A co-worker recently posted a great blog, and gently nudged me about the lack of attention I’ve given my own. Combine that with some recent events and I realized I didn’t need to have something profound to say!

The climate at my school has felt very divisive lately. Rather than celebrating our successes together it feels like we are becoming islands and declaring our singularity. This  concerns me because it seems we are focused on adult happiness rather than student success. The reason I am an educator, the reason I go to school even on the hard days, and the reason I strive to continue learning every day is for the students. I hope that the decisions we are making are always about what is best for the students.

When groups of adults start the battle of who does more work than someone else, or who does work that is more important than someone else… the students lose. Every person who is a part of our school is important and valuable. The time that these people invest in the educational opportunities we provide is important. The clean school impacts student learning. The breakfast and lunch provided impacts students learning. The qualified teachers impact student learning. The opportunity to engage in art, music, physical activity, Spanish & STEM impact student learning. All of it matters.

So what do you do when there are some who seem to create that battle, maybe they don’t see the value of all parts of an education? Some people probably wonder why anyone would even bother to worry about it. I’m sure I could shut my door, avoid communal areas in the school, and do my own thing… but does that solve the problem? At this school & at others I have tried ignoring the issues and just being alone.. but we are better together.

I’m an overly empathetic person. I am always worrying about how other people, including students and staff, feel. Whether I get along with them or not. I’m also an overly anxious person. The constant divisive comments and disconnect have me spending hours worrying. I go from anger to sadness to concern and back again.

I can’t make another person see life through my eyes, nor can I make them care about learning the way that I do. Still I have more questions. How can we make it better? Do we always have to rely on some outside source, some guest speaker, some interference from administration to finally make a change? Do we just ignore the toxic people as they bubble and spew all over our work environment? But I wonder, if our community is dealing with these difficulties, is student learning really at the heart of all we are doing?

I’m not sure if the disconnect at work has given me this unsettled feeling, or if it is unrelated. It is almost like I’m searching for another piece of the puzzle, as far as my career goes. I’ve been thinking about what time commitments I would like to keep next year. I’ve also been wondering what areas I would like to grow in, what to add. I have the opportunity to be more involved in our local education association, but I’m not quite sure that is where my passion in education is. I’ve been offered a teaching position in another location, but Aaron and I aren’t ready to move. A part time position with a company that provides professional development and training to area teachers opened up, and it was on my mind for quite a few days. However, I’m not really willing to get involved in something that would take away from my current position. I really love learning with my middle schoolers every day. I just feel that I am missing something.

Even while feeling the negativity at work, and wondering exactly what it is I’d like to do to grow as a professional, I am thankful. Our school district is growing, we have dedicated and qualified educators and administrators, our students are outstanding. I wonder how we can leverage all of the amazing things we have going for us, to improve the areas we need to? I wonder how we can make sure that the students are at the center of all we do? I wonder how we can value the time of others, the perspective of others, and the educational contribution of others? I wonder how I can better serve my students? I wonder how I can continue to learn and grow as a professional and as an educator?

 

Student Input

Today was one of those days. I had more things to do than I had minutes in my morning. I was trying hard not to be negative, but I still felt very rushed and unprepared.

It was my first opportunity to co-teach with the amazing Leslie Wangeman. In my hustle and bustle I still didn’t know what I wanted to do for my 6th graders at the end of the day. I’m waiting on materials to be able to start our first design challenge…

I had finally decided that I wanted to do a brief introduction to STEM and engineering and then practice the design process while watching Design Squad. Whew. I could NOT decide how I wanted to cover this introduction.

While my 7th graders were working hard I was talking to them and thinking. I sat down next to a student who was telling me jokes, the laughter helped me relax a bit.
and it hit me. ASK THE STUDENTS. Duh. This particular student had taken the course in 6th grade that I was currently struggling with.

So I asked him, “do you remember *this* unit in Design & Modeling? I’m trying to decide what is the best way to introduce the unit.” and we had a short conversation about his thoughts on what we did last year.

I was really thankful for the conversation with the student and it made me realize I need to spend more time on collecting student feedback on lesson and teacher effectiveness.

As I was thinking about it this afternoon (and the lessons with the 6th graders went really well) I was happy that our classroom culture is at a point where I ask my students for help and they feel comfortable and safe enough to share their thoughts with me.

Do you ever ask your students what they thought of a lesson? When you’re stuck on how to approach something, do you ask your students for suggestions?

The 1st day of a new school year

The first day of school was awesome!!

We recently learned about Top 20 Training and are working to implement some of the beliefs into our school.

At the start of each class period today I stood at the door, greeted each student and gave them a high five. It was awesome to see so many smiles from the students as they came into class.

My students completed the “golf ball challenge” today in small groups. They walk into the room, find the table with their name, introduce themselves and begin reading directions for their challenge. It worked out well, my students were starting to plan and work on their own while I was greeting students at the door and helping the last few students who were late and lost.

The first few years that I taught I had a PowerPoint slide with all of my classroom rules and I would stand at the front of the room and read the entire presentation, all 6 class periods. Wow, booooring. I realized that my students didn’t need all of that information on the first day. Also, not every student was listening, what if they missed something important like what to do during a fire drill?? I also realized that I didn’t like standing and lecturing during the year, but I always did it on the first day. This didn’t really make a good first impression on my students for what they could expect from me the rest of the year.

Today I only had 3 students ask me if the activity was graded. I heard a 7th grader say “It doesn’t matter if we’re the best out of everyone, we just have to do OUR best”. A 6th grader explained to me that their first design didn’t work, so they were going to try their second idea. An 8th grader (who has had me for 2 years) excitedly told his group that the directions didn’t say anything about what they could or couldn’t do to the golf ball.

Today I got to say hello, high five, and talk with each student that walked through the door. We were laughing, living in suspense as they tested their designs, and sharing our curiosity.

There were only two students I had to talk to one-on-one about ‘rules’. Otherwise, students were so engaged in their challenge and working with their group that they didn’t have time to ‘misbehave’.

The other exciting thing about today is that we have many new students at our school this year. The students had a few people they got to know really well and had the change to work together with them on something fun and stress-free. Many of the new students were smiling and laughing with their groups and I hope they are starting to feel a part of our Spearfish community.

One other thing I am changing this year… instead of having my students watch the classroom expectations videos I’ve created right away, I am going to have them do a Google Drawing concept map that tells about them. I love reading them and commenting on every student’s finished product.

If you don’t stand at the door and greet students at the beginning of every period- you need to start!

SDACTE Reflection

This year I heard about something I had never heard of before, the South Dakota Association for Career & Tech Ed!

One of my Twitter friends & fellow SD educators, Lenessa Keehn (@lenessakeehn) told me about the conference, helped me register and was a great mentor for the entire event.

For the past three years I have taught educational technology courses and most recently, STEM courses through Project Lead The Way. However, I don’t know very much about CTE. I am very thankful that my administrator allowed me to attend this conference as it was an amazing experience.

The educators that I met while attending the conference were helpful, kind, and passionate about providing students with a quality education. The conference provided quality sessions for educators. There was a keynote from Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) as well as a breakout session. Additionally, there were industry tours scheduled throughout the Sioux Falls area. I was able to attend a tour to a facility that ties in directly with the new Energy and Environment course I will be teaching this year. I also spent some time with the Trade & Industry group, where I learned about SkillsUSA for the first time. While learning about the organization I also received a lot of free resources to use in my classroom.

While I was at the conference I spent time talking about ways to improve my teaching, how to connect with other educators in my own district as well as across the state, and how to better connect with industry leaders in my local area and state.

Then I started to reflect on the bigger ideas from the conference….

One of the thoughts that keeps coming to mind, is that we need to do a better job of listening to our students. While attending the conference there were stories shared about students who went on to 4 year universities and received a degree that they never used, only to go into a skilled job that they enjoyed. The reason they got a 4 year degree? They were doing what their parents, teachers and school counselor told them they should do.

I think education is important. I also think there are many types of education. Yes, we need people who get 4 year degrees, who go on to graduate studies or doctoral work. However, we also need people who get 2 year degrees, who go on to do skilled work. One of the big problems in our country right now is student loan debt, I know this is a personal problem the I struggled with and continue to pay for.

In our own state we have outstanding technical institutes that provide quality education programs for students. Not only do they provide quality education but they offer competitive prices, scholarship opportunities, and many students can start taking courses or earn credit in high school. While at the conference I learned about the current need for skilled work force in the US. There is a high demand for skilled work, many areas are facing shortages. There are even some companies offering to help pay for the schooling needed to get quality employees in their field or business.

So here we have this opportunity for students to do work they would enjoy, to have a more affordable option for school, to receive funding assistance for school, and to have a higher chance of being employed upon graduation in the field they want.

I wonder if we are listening, with an open mind, to our students who tell us that they want to be electricians, plumbers, cosmetologists, construction workers, or chefs? Do we provide opportunities for students at all age levels to explore careers and post-secondary education in all areas? I know that when my students have done career projects before we almost always focus on 4 year degrees. We also spend a lot of time talking about colleges and being ready for college and skills for college…

I also wonder if I tend to ‘push’ the idea of a 4 year degree because that is what I did… I need to be more aware of the messages I send students as well as the opportunities I provide them. I should be talking to my students about their interests in careers and education and trying to share with them just how many opportunities are available to them.

One final message that I took away from the conference was how important interpersonal skills are. Things like, empathy, showing up on time, responsibility, integrity. Right now, employers see a lack of these skills and have a difficult time hiring people without those skills. Students can identify that their generation struggles with these skills but often say it is their friends who struggle with the skills, not themselves.

Instead of just complaining about this problem, what things can we do to help our students develop these life-long skills?

National Customized Learning Summit

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Opening Keynote “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Meaningful Educational Practices”
by Brad Wilson  @mrwilson142

Choose to be great.
1) Figure out what you want.
2) Learn how to achieve it.
3) Work hard to make it happen.

Every learner (adult or child) has the potential to be great. Let’s encourage others to figure out what they want, how they can get it, and encourage them as they work hard to make it happen. Do you encourage other educators to be great? How?

“Five Levers to Improve Learning: How to Prioritize for Powerful Results in Your School and District”
by James Rickabaugh   @drrickabaugh

“Best practice is effective practice when matched with student need.”

Remodeling the kitchen doesn’t make the food taste any better…

Goals:
Each teacher sees his or her content and class through the eyes of his or her students. 
Each student sees him or herself as his or her own best teacher. 

In whatever you are pursuing in education, focus on the human element. As Dr. Rickabaugh stated, the teacher that a student will have the longest is themselves. Learners and learning should be at the core of our practices and decisions. 

“Starter Steps for Mass Customized Learning”
by Bea McGarvey    @BeaMcGarvey

A vision doesn’t push you, it pulls you.

Is this decision about LEARNING or control or convenience??

If it bothers you that kids are coming and going it is a teacher centered classroom.

Is your classroom learner-centered… or is it more focused on you, the educator? Do you make decisions about what would be best for your learners or is your convenience or control of a situation what helps you make decisions?


Overall, the messages I received or thoughts I focused on …

We have to move from compliance to commitment.
Stop giving zeroes, stop docking ‘points’ for late work….

Change your perspective to that of a learner in your room or your school…

Start to look at decisions you make or your school makes, is it about learners or control and convenience????

Everyone’s journey looks a little different, but with trust, support & hard work learners can be successful on this journey.

So what do I plan to do going forward?

As a single individual I can change my language and how I refer to learners and learning, I can incorporate and teach more about growth mindset and Habits of Mind, I can be honest about my beliefs on grading and the personalization I offer to students.

I also have at least 5 more books I want to add to my reading list…

Reflecting

Whew. I’ve been meaning to blog for a while as a means of reflecting on the school year. I’m finally getting around to and I find that I am still processing and learning!

This year brought some changes for me as an educator…
– I took a leap and decided to start a makerspace as an after school program at our middle school
– A professor at BHSU reached out to me with an interest in creating a local robotics competition
– A grant that I wrote to start a student tech squad was funded and we got our start
– I didn’t add any ‘new’ classes to what I was teaching (although I made changes to how I taught from last year)
– I completed Level 1 & 2 of my Google Certification
– Finally, I gained some confidence and started speaking up more
– I stopped just watching on Twitter and became actively involved

In some ways this school year was very challenging, for me personally and with events at ‘work’. I’m not as positive and optimistic as I would like to be, but I have been working hard to not be a negative complainer all the time. I know that this reduced my stress level related to work. If I got caught up in the complaining or others seemed frustrated I would try to share a positive, either about staff but mostly about something a student had accomplished or tried. Hearing about those students who often struggle but reach success really make a teacher smile and remember why we show up each and every day for these students.

One of the things that had the biggest impact on my school year, was Twitter. When I was younger I was often afraid to try new things, to fail or look ‘stupid’ in front of others. When I first got on Twitter I just watched, I was afraid of saying something ‘dumb’. I finally decided to just dive in and start participating, so many educators on Twitter were encouraging and positive. I found out about #sdedchat from Travis Lape (@travislape) and I started joining in on the conversations and then started to help moderate. Once I started to help Travis and Lenessa moderate the chats I really became more invested in Twitter. I am grateful for the connections that have been built thanks to Twitter, the motivation and inspiration I get from weekly chats, and feeling like I’ve helped others learn more about teaching.

My administrator has challenged me with the question of ‘what’s next’ for me. I have been referred to as a teacher leader, and at the beginning of the year I slightly fought that idea. As the year went on I was challenged and encouraged and by the end of the year I wasn’t so leery of the term ‘teacher leader’. During my last evaluation thought, my administrator wanted to know what I thought was next… and I still don’t have an answer!

This year also marked my 3rd year at Spearfish Middle School, for as long as I can remember I have heard great educators say “it takes at least 3 years”. Although this is my 5th year of teaching, my first 2 teaching positions were very different. As I think about the school year as its own I am also thinking about how much has changed over the 3 years I have been at the school.

My first year I was so strict about typing, everyone spending the exact same amount of time, using key covers, and assigning homework. Students had to all learn the same vocabulary, study it, and then quizzed over the long list of words. I had projects that students could complete, but they all had the same type of word document to complete and then powerpoint template. Students had a choice of topic, but the rest was very controlled by me. I was overwhelmed with grading, I thought I had to and needed to grade everything and I was assigning so much to my 120+ students a trimester, that it was very time consuming to grade. I was often behind on grading, so my students didn’t really get feedback. Although I had a good relationship with students I could tell that the students who already knew or could do what were learning were very frustrated and bored with class.

My second year I got away from assigning and quizzing vocabulary in the same way. I started to realize I didn’t need to grade every little thing. I also realized that many students were already proficient at typing so I tried to find a way to accommodate the diverse needs. I started teaching more coding, which brought me joy to teaching but also helped my students become problem solvers and they started relying on each other for help, rather than giving up or trying to get an answer out of the teacher.

This year I let students ‘test out’ of typing, I provided a lot of coding resources and lessons for students to work on for when they finished with other work. Whenever students had a project I tried to give them choice on topic or product if possible. I stopped grading formative work and I started giving immediate feedback either on Google Classroom or in person. This year, I heard far less from students “What is my grade?” “How many points is this worth?”. I started hearing more frequently “Can I work on coding when I’m done?”. This year I had more students coming in before school to play Minecraft, to code, to edit photos, or to work on projects! Students are also more comfortable giving me suggestions, letting me know if something is ‘boring’, telling me when the directions don’t make any sense, and even telling me when they absolutely love a project.

I’m excited for this summer and what changes I’ll be making next year.

 

As a learner…

One of the things I have always known about myself is that I don’t like competition. Many people think this is because I don’t really follow or participate in sports and therefore don’t enjoy competition.

As I’ve spent more time thinking about myself as a learner I’ve realized that this isn’t the case at all. I don’t like competition because I am an overly empathetic person.
I can’t enjoy ‘winning’ at something or ‘beating’ someone because I am thinking about how sad/bad/upset the person who lost is feeling. This happens whether or not I am participating in the competition, I feel the joy and excitement of the winner but I feel the sadness and defeat of the person losing.

I’m not saying that competition doesn’t have a place and that people don’t learn from winning and losing. I just really, really don’t like competition. I don’t like how schools seem to turn everything into a competition.
Reading has turned into a competition to see who can get the most points on their AR tests and students who get so many points get prizes. When we do fundraisers at school we compete against other grades or classes and the winner gets a prize… shouldn’t doing good for others be the ‘prize’?

As an individual I don’t like competing with people. Being better than another person or gaining recognition is not my motivation to learn or improve.  My motivation is that I want to be a better friend and human being to those I know. I want to be a better teacher every day because I want to reach more students and help them find their passion.

I recently read “Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros. In his book George talks about sharing, and competitive collaboration. At first when I was reading about competition being a good thing I thought “… wait, am I going to disagree with George?” but the more I read, the more I enjoyed George’s point. George Couros also has a blog post about it here  http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5406.

I like the idea of sharing and collaborating with other educators and pushing each other forward to learn more for the benefit of our students. I can get behind the idea of ‘competition’ if everyone comes out a winner, and in the competitive collaboration that George Couros suggests, I think this is a possibility.

Let learning be the outcome or reward for the work that students and teachers do.