Sudden Learning #writeeveryday

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I’m admittedly not great at saying yes to things that come up suddenly but I’m workin’ on it.  Opportunities pop up left and right everyday and it’s tough if you’re a routine person, like myself, to always take that leap and see those opportunities for what they are.

I think it’s also difficult in the classroom.  You have a plan for the day and there’s wiggle room in there, but to completely jump on an opportunity that suddenly pops up can be tough and feel like it comes with trade offs…and that’s probably because it does come with trade offs.  I think this is something that we’ll all make mistakes with and learn from, but I totally recognize it’s not an easy thing.  This is particularly true in the age of personalized learning and finding a way to facilitate those opportunities for all our learners while still moving forward in a thoughtful way.

Like I said…still working on it myself.  Spontaneity isn’t my forte…someday.

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Instilling Wonder in Everyone Might Be the Answer! #writeeveryday

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I mentioned this in a previous post, but I’m currently reading this book:

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What I’ve appreciated about the book so far is that it focuses on the concept of instilling wonder in everyone in a school system as a means of improvement and growth.  The boiled down theory being that if students, teachers, parents, administrators, community members become curious about the world everything kind of clicks into place.  Now, that’s an incredibly basic interpretation of the work in the book, but you get the idea.

They asked educators “if your students were intensely curious about the lessons in your classroom would that change some of the dynamics?”  The answer, of course, was yes, it would profoundly change things.  So the next questions head toward how we make that happen.

But they didn’t stop with the students.  They asked themselves how to help increase curiosity and wonder among educators, leaders, teachers.  It’s an interesting thing to think about…how do we keep ourselves curious and driven.  I think I appreciate this approach simply because so often we’re reactive to a specific challenge of education, but this seeks to address a character trait that could, in theory, influence everything in a learning community.

Makes you wonder.

Uncompromising Weekends #writeeveryday

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I become somewhat uncompromising about my weekends.  I think it comes from years and years of working on weekends as an educator.  That still happens, I just put a little bit more control around it.  There are a few things I like to make sure are a part of every weekend, without compromise:

  • some sort of family time…doesn’t have to be the Instagram worthy hike up a mountain eating organic food, but something.  Like last night my youngest and I had ice cream and watched WALL-E.
  • Time to read
  • A project of some sort. I’ve long ignored our yard, trying to make up for lost time. This weekend’s project was a fence in the front of our house.
  • Usually no school work on Saturdays.  Absolutely try to stick to this.
  • I still get up early.  I don’t do well sleeping in.
  • Usually do longer workouts than I would during the week, really try to make it hurt (doesn’t take much).
  • Some moments of mindless movie consumption.
  • I’m a big fan of campfires…those are great too
  • Play…make time to play.

Sunday mornings I usually plug in for a long or short period of time, depending on the week.  Outside of that designated time though I try very hard to unplug and be human.

I think it’s okay to be uncompromising about some things…the important things.

Just Fact #writeeveryday

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I just had a conversation with a colleague who reminded me of the importance of fact and how important it can be in looking at change and change systems.  A lot of work in schools becomes stuck in opinion and conjecture, versus looking at data and depersonalizing conversations so that real progress can be made.  I’m not pretending that this is easy work, cause it isn’t, not at all.  Having said that I truly believe that we need to comfortable asking questions about who we are, what’s our data telling us, and let’s take control of asking the write questions of our data.  Relying on summative standardized assessment results isn’t going to guide us in how our students feel at school, or where we are seizing student voice.  By asking questions about who we are, looking for fact versus theory, could move the needle in the right direction.

When We Put Branches Before Roots #writeeveryday

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I’m a big believer in sticking to the basics when working through a change process.  Often, I think, in education we focus on a single branch (i.e. new initiative) before we think about the roots.  What I mean is that we get going on product before we think about all the base level things that need to be in place…things like understanding the why of the change, taking time for a lot of conversations, etc.

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I’m currently reading Unstuck by Goodwin, Gibson, Lewis, and Rouleau and although I’m just at the beginning of the book I see similarities to the roots and branches analogy.  The authors share the story of a school district in Australia that started with the roots.  They started by talking about one concept…curiosity.  What would happen if our students showed more curiosity about their learning?  What would happen with behavior, activities, instruction if our students were intensely curious about what was being discussed?  The educators involved took the time to really work on the roots before they got to all the branches, and I think that’s an important thing for us all to consider as we plan whole system changes.  Where are the roots of this movement?

There Isn’t a Typical #writeeveryday

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I don’t believe there is a “typical” in education.  Try asking an educator or an administrator what their “typical” day is like and watch for the smirk.  The smirk comes from never having a typical day, a typical classroom, or a typical student.  As educators we need to be prepared to meet every student where they are, we need to meet ourselves where we are, we need to take our day and transform it to match ever changing parameters…most of which we find out about in the moment.  The only typical we see is that things are never typical.

I like the idea of fighting against typical.  I don’t want to find myself in a box that matches expectations and stereotypes.

So here’s to ever changing, ever growing, and avoiding being recognized as typical anything.

Construct a Vast and Lofty Fabric #writeeveryday

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I came across an old photo album this week.  When I first started teaching my aunt and uncle invited me on a once in a lifetime trip to Nepal and India (and a few other amazing places in the world).  I think, as with any experience like this, you experience it in the moment and then you continue to reflect and experience it as you weave a new fabric around your understanding of the things you saw, heard, tasted, and encountered.

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I’ll never forget several moments, that have influenced me and have become a part of the fabric of me:

  • I desperately missed my now wife and at the time there weren’t cell phones or anything like that. To make a phone call from Kathmandu I had to find a “call center” and pay for the phone call.  Not knowing any better I wandered into the first one I saw and was lead down a long, skinny hallway to a very blank room with a table and a rotary phone on it.  I gave someone the number and they dialed it while the room filled with people, several smoking.  There were at least fifteen people in this space all staring at me.  It was difficult, to say the least, to have a quality conversation with my gal, but I did the best I could. When I was done and hung up the fella sitting across from me told me how much the phone call cost.  I didn’t have nearly enough money on me.  When I told them that everyone stood up and crowded toward me (and they weren’t smiling).  I felt fear, real fear, in a way I hadn’t ever before.

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  • I visited a school while visiting remote areas of Nepal.  It was an incredible experience in so many ways, but one that really humbled my thinking about learning, education, systems, and life.  I remember the pride the teacher had and what he said to the students: “If you don’t learn, it’s my fault, not yours…I need to teach you well.”   Still in awe, to this day.
  • One night we visited a security guards home, he was a member of the staff at a research post we were visiting.  He prepared a traditional meal for us and was so proud to have us at his home.  I remember sitting around, in the dark of night around a fire and hearing stories, singing, laughter…and just taking it all in and being incredibly grateful for the experience and feeling suddenly aware of the world.
  • I remember suddenly being thrust back into the noise and clutter of modern society and having a really tough time doing that.  My awareness of environment and immersion has changed substantially because of this.

I’m certain that this will be the gift that keeps on giving and every year that passes I’ll have another insight from the experience.  In the meantime I’m enjoying seeing pictures of me with hair!