Building a School from the Ground Up: Part II #IMMOOC

I started this blog post about three years ago, addressing the idea that we often do what we’ve always done without reflecting on the WHY. We tend to go about our daily business and not stop to consider what if?

What if we changed the schedule?

What if we got rid of this furniture?

What if we got to the root of why students misbehave rather than giving them consequences to change behavior?

What if school was relevant to life?

So many what ifs.

What if the school schedules were changed so that subjects were no longer taught in isolation? Think real world. I’m not just talking elementary kindergarten, either. We know that we need connections for learning to stick. By making connections across content, students learn in a way that is relevant and authentic. Learning feels meaningful and has connections to the world. Project-based learning is one powerful way this might be done.

What if we took the time to understand our students deeply?As educators we often operate in a reactionary way. A student does something we don’t agree with: check or consequence. It happens again –> more severe consequence. And so the story goes. On a given day,  the same students receive consequences over and over. What does this tell us? Are those consequences effective?

OR

We walk by a primary classroom with that dreaded stoplight or card system. By the end of the first month of school, what have those students learned? Often a tracked system where the red kids are quickly labeled, and they themselves find it difficult to change who they are after September. I have often had students tell me, “I am red.” What an awful thing for a five-year-old to believe. Why is he given the label? Because he is excited about school and can’t contain that excitement? By taking time to get to the root of students’ issues, we can properly handle them.

Now, we also must be sure that there are even issues there. Excitement and wanting to stand…. not issues for a five-year-old child!

If I am rebuilding school, my school is engaging. So that busy little 5-year-old from the above example. He won’t be sitting in a desk. There won’t be desks for him to sit in. Before being hired, every staff member will follow the path of a students all day in a traditional school, so that never becomes our school. Our kids will learn through projects and singing and dancing and authentic learning.

They will be outside learning. Recess will be recess. Several times a day. Not moderated by adults. It will involve problem solving by students.

And homework. Nope.

Until we consider ideas we haven’t before, can we really take our education to the next step?

The Connected Educator #IMMOOC

Continuing on my journey this week with George Couros and 1800 of my closest friends in #IMMOOC, I continue to reflect on this concept of innovation: what does it mean for me and our schools? How can I innovate to help the students in my school learn better?

A few things came across my Twitter feed this week, which makes me think of one huge thing: CONNECTEDNESS! For me, being connected has been an enormous asset in my path to innovation. The more teachers I can get connected, the more innovation will be happening in our schools.

Across my Twitter feed in a given day, so many ideas come across. Here are a few highlights from this past week that show innovation in different ways:

This school is looking at discipline which can be a hot topic. If what we do doesn’t change behavior (suspension, detention, time out, rewards), we haven’t done anything. Maybe meditation is truly the answer or one answer.

Here we see a principal building rapport with his students through the simple yet powerful act of read-aloud.

Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey use UDL to move our thinking from looking at students (and students to looking at themselves) through a fixed mindset to one of growth. Using UDL in our classrooms is so powerful!

In each of these cases, I can’t imagine not having had Twitter to connect me to these people and this information. Innovation through my PLN has been so powerful. It has changed my practice time after time.

Can’t wait to see what this week brings!

Purpose of School #IMMOOC

The purpose of education is simple and complex. It is simple because we must prepare our students for the world they will graduate into. This is complex because this world is ever-changing. It isn’t the factory line driven world of the 1900’s that our Prussian-style education system is still preparing our students for.

Because of this, we must make some drastic changes to our classrooms and schools to meet our students where they are and prepare them for the unknowns that the world brings.

We know that many careers that our students will choose post-graduation have not even been thought of yet. The best thing that we can do for them is to make students good at learning; good at thinking; good at problem solving; and most of all, good at relating to others. These are the skills that are important in this century.

In this century we can Google any fact or any calculation faster than we can retrieve it from our head. With critical thinking skills students can figure out how to access information and the accuracy of the information that they’re accessing.

The innovation that we most need is open-mindedness to imagine the unimaginable. To recreate schools and get away from low-level trivial knowledge into deeper levels of thinking.

To embrace this change, I try to model it. As an instructional coach, I meet people at their level of comfort and show them how a tool or strategy can enhance learning in their classroom. It is my responsibility to take them from where they are to a place they might not realize even exists: slowly and within their comfort zone.

 

Coach!

As educational leaders we often talk about taking risks; this week I took one. Our school needed a coach for the tennis team, so I thought, Why not? I coach. I play tennis. Just never both together.

This week I did both together. Most likely with some students who may or may not play better than I do. But could I teach them something? Coach them?

So we got started, and headed to the courts, a bit of self-doubt in my head but never outwardly. I mean, technology coach by day, teacher by day, but was I a tennis coach by night?

Can we wear different roles? Can we be agile and seen differently with different expertise by the same people. Risk taking?

I tell teachers this all the time. Take a risk. Try something new.

Sometimes we have to be pushed out of the bird’s nest. So here I go. Nobody laughed at me.

I will model what I tell my teachers and my students. Risk taking. Trying something new, something that makes me a little uncomfortable.

When do we grow? Just outside of that zone of comfort. And so I will grow in this experience.

I will grow as an educator.

I will grow as a tennis player.

I will definitely grow as a human being.

 

 

Themes from ISTE2014

Moby

Post-ISTE my brain has been spinning–so many amazing ideas to make my way through. But that wasn’t before a long-needed vacation in Puerto Rico. There’s nothing like some time on the beach to sort through my notes and figure out my next steps.

Isla Verde, Puerto Rico

The one theme that held true for me at ISTE2014 is something I’ve always believed in: that it is about the children, our students. The content and the technology are the way that we engage them, but the teaching and the relationships are the most important thing in our field! Without relationships with the students in our classrooms we have nothing. Without relationships with the teachers around us we have nothing. Without relationships with our PLN we are less than we were before.

I believe so strongly that passion is the first thing we have to have as educators –whether we are teachers or administrators. The content-knowledge and the technology-knowledge help us deliver the information and reach our students but without that love for our students and that passion for what we do….it won’t matter a bit what we know.

So with these thoughts, I will continue to sort through all my session notes.

 

 

 

TwitterLand

 Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Hannah Rosen


Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Hannah Rosen

 

As I reflect, I’m not even sure how I’ve gotten to this point. It has happened so subtly…. Several years ago I opened my Twitter account, followed a few people, and that was about it. This past summer that all changed. I don’t remember the catalyst for the change. I started following more educators and education organizations. I started reading feeds regularly. Then I discovered THE TWITTER CHAT. Oh my! How has it been possible that I didn’t know these existed? This simple one-hour-of-learning has revolutionized my week –okay, truth be told, most weeks, it’s much more than one hour. It’s #edtechchat on Mondays, #edchat (if there’s not tennis) on Tuesdays, then I have to choose #PTchat, #ATPLC, #SBL or #STEMgenius, then there’s #GAED, #BYOT,   #1to1ipad, and finally one my favorites….can’t seem to start the weekend off without it and my coffee #satchat. To think that a year ago I didn’t know these existed, and now I have built relationships WITH HUMAN BEINGS on Twitter. This is such a difficult thing to explain to people; I’ve spent months trying to explain the power of learning that can happen when I get to choose my own learning. I have done mini-chats with my own faculty, so they could experience one and feel confident enough to try it on their own. I pretty much scream it from the rooftops: TWITTER CHATS ARE POWERFUL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES…….. to anyone who will listen.

I know for me, I need to implement what I learn immediately. When I was in graduate school. my lesson plans often changed the next day to put something into practice. When I saw Jeff Anderson –one of my writing idols–speak one morning, my lesson plans changed for my afternoon classes. With the articles I read and discuss in these Twitter chats, I implement what I learn as I’m learning it. As an administrator, I get an idea and give it a try the next day. Sometimes I can directly utilize it; other times, it’s something for me to pass on to my teachers; other times still, it’s a way of thinking about something or a way of leading that will take me into the future.

I am looking forward to ISTE14 because there I will have the opportunity to put faces to many of the handles I have come to recognize. I value the relationships and the learning that has taken place in TwitterLand. I look forward to the daily and weekly inspiration that I cannot get any other place except there.

 

Education Articles 12/13/2013

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