The Power of Commenting

I am writing tonight as a result of my learning from my own blog post yesterday.  (Yes, you read that right.) Here is what happened.

I was reflecting on the thought discussed in the #IMMOOC about our moral imperative to share our story.  Like I always tell people, I write for my own learning.  I write to secure ideas and thoughts in my brain. If someone sees my writing and it helps them, even better. What I was not expecting were comments on my blog post.   So I am writing tonight to share two things: 
1. How commenting on other people’s blogs can inspire others.
 
2. My new learning came through realizing how “Sharing Our Story” can mean many things to many people.  Through these comments, it reminded me that not only do we share to grow as teachers and help each other, but we also need to shout the positive loudly. People will talk. Let’s help them talk about the AMAZING things we are doing in education!! Let’s share the awesome things we are doing with our community and other communities.  Positivity spreads. 
The final thing I want to share came from one sweet woman’s comment on her connection with my reflection and this quote.  
                        
Reading her comment inspired me to go find this quote and something about it weighed heavy on my heart.  Then it hit me…..We cannot allow our deepest fear to be the fear of being too much for someone!  Or entertain the idea of feeling different because we share our passions, our dreams, our stories.  This is not okay.  
We have to let our light SHINE and never, ever water down who we are because of this fear!  So many incredible things come from knowing what we share comes from a place of love to make this world an even better place.
Thank YOU “sweet lady blog commenter” for inspiring new learning in me and empowering me to share even more. 🙂  
Share on, friends! 

The Moral Imperative to Share Your Story!

Last night I listened in on the #IMMOOC Live YouTube event and walked away questioning and pushing myself even more.  I will admit, each time I participate in a book study or book talk with a group on this book I reread it.  So, this makes the 3rd time!  It’s true, friends. The coolest thing is that every single time I have read it I walk away with something new.

The Innovator’s Mindset is one of those rare books that you take away from it what you need at that time in your life.

So many things resonated with me in so many ways and I want to write about them all, but I will narrow it to one.  This idea came from what Dave Burgess said about Sharing Your Story.

He mentioned that so many people feel uncomfortable sharing their story of why they are so passionate, or the special things that help them have success.  People feel they are bragging or egotistical in doing this, but his point was about sharing our story and empowering others to do the same. I have a quote pinned in my Inspire Pinterest board that reminds me of this thinking.

If we have used this CHANGE as an opportunity to do something amazing and it was so incredible, how can we not share it with others?!  Sharing our stories is how we all grow.  Sharing doesn’t mean we think we are better.  It doesn’t mean we think this is the only right way to do something.

Sharing our stories says, “Hey, we are all in this together. We are all here to learn, grow, and to find what is amazing to bring out the best for kids. ”  It is a process and takes time.  More often than not, those who are sharing have been through the same situation and struggled through it and want to offer guidance so we do not have to go through it.

Sharing our stories also says, “Hey, here is what I am passionate about and why.”  in hopes of inspiring and empowering others to share their passions, dreams, and goals.  It is through sharing these similar passions, dreams, and goals that we find other people to connect with and share, learn, and grow.  For me, that was Twitter! When we find other people who feel this way, we feel validated.  We do not feel like we are on an island in our thinking. We feel like part of something bigger, and when we feel part of something bigger we feel inspired to try new things and share.
Sharing our stories is what creates the energy that spreads to others to inspire us to move forward.  I loved what Dave Burgess said about this:

I need to remember this myself the next time I hesitate to share my story. I can think, “Sure, some people will roll their eyes and judge and not want to hear it…but, most people won’t and I have a moral imperative to share it.  I am passionate about it and this is why!”

LOVED the first week of the #IMMOOC and looking forward to pushing my thinking even more!

 

Who Will You Empower Today?

I was discussing “education things” today with someone and found myself telling the WHY behind what fuels the passion behind my mission.  The WHY behind WHAT drives me.  You can’t tell that I just finished reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek, can you!? 🙂

Before the word empower even left my mouth, I felt the need to explain what I meant.  I felt like it was so cliche.  I felt like it is a word that is being thrown around so much lately, and with that people can take it many different ways to mean different things.  Yet, this is genuinely how I feel so I wanted to be really clear.  I want to empower others – at all levels.

So I began thinking what does the word empower really mean and did what anyone else would do.  I Googled it!

EMPOWER:
1. to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means
2. to enable or permit

I look at this and think it sounds more like a “boss” giving someone permission.  This is not how I view empowering others.  My thoughts align with George Couros’s thoughts in Chapter 6 of The Innovator’s Mindset.  I created an acrostic, using the fabulous resource Buncee, to show what empower means to me.

There are so many empowering leaders out there! Teachers empowering students, students empowering other students, and teachers empowering other teachers!  When we do this, amazing things happen in education.

I want to give a big shout out to 3 people who have empowered me educationally in some way this year.  If you don’t already follow them and learn from them on Twitter, you need to now! 🙂

George Couros

David Kinney

Matt Arend

Whether they see potential in me and give me confidence to see it in myself, give encouragement and inspire me, challenge me to continue learning and growing, or ask me the hard questions to keep the why in focus – I THANK THEM for making me better.   I thank them for pushing me to the edge of my comfort zone so that I can be a better educator.

Everyone needs someone to empower them to be better!

Who will you empower today?

Choosing Vulnerability Over Isolation…It’s Worth It

Lately I have been tweeting about how the best thing for personal and student growth, improvement, data collecting, etc. is peer observations.  This is something that I stand behind so strongly because of personal experience.  Now don’t get me wrong, the right attitudes need to be in place for this to be successful.  

1. You must WANT to do this and see the purpose.  
2. You must know it is not one more thing you have to do, but something you GET to do.
3. You must be able to LISTEN with an open mind.
4. You must TAKE ACTION in some way based on this feedback.   
I have written before about how lucky I am to GET to do these observations with my GCISD VALOR group.  Let me tell you, there is not one observation we walk away from not learning something to take away and use!  
This past month our Literacy Specialist Leader, Amy Montemayor, set this same situation up for all of us.  When she told us about it I was so excited!  For some reason, many people hear the word specialist in a title and automatically think we have all the answers.  We don’t! We are learning and growing just like everyone else and we need to have those opportunities to do so. Something I often hear from other Literacy Specialists and others who may not understand our role is that we are on an island.  I always have to stop right there and refer back to a George Couros quote:
We are not alone on an island, unless we choose to be. 
I was thrilled we were given the time to observe other Literacy Specialists using the same Dyslexia intervention we are, as well as other ones because it allowed us to see how we can change simple things to make our instruction better.  It allowed us to see small things we can change that we never would have thought of without an extra set of eyes!
For me, it was having extra sets of eyes on a group I work with that has me on my toes daily! I was dying for feedback on anything else I could do to make this current situation work better for us?!  Even though we have talked about it in meetings, it wasn’t until I had people come observe that they were able to see and offer suggestions.  I had an open mind listening to their feedback. I wasn’t defensive about what I was doing, I was vulnerable and wanting advice.  I tried a few of their ideas the next day, and you know what….it helped!!  
We can choose to be on an island and continue to hope things will change for us.(But really, we all know that doing the same thing over and over gets the same results!) Or we can choose to ask our team to come watch us and offer suggestions.  That team can be anyone…principals, teachers from other schools, instructional coaches, liaisons, specialists, teammates..you name it.  We are better together. Everyone wants to support others and help, we just have to ask!
I want to thank our leader, Amy, for creating the opportunities for these observations in a role that has never done this.  A role that not many people look at and think we need to do this. Your innovative thinking forced us to be vulnerable.  It forced us to make that scary jump.  It has inspired many in our group and allowed us to see the importance of growing by learning from others. It is so refreshing!

Innovation: Sharing Is Caring

Last week was the best educational experience ever!  I was fortunate enough to get to attend TCEA for the entire week.  After spending Thursday learning from George Couros, or as someone said, “Day of Couros,” the concept of innovation had many thoughts swirling in my head. Then, when I read his blog yesterday it stirred up even more in me!

Just recently, a principal friend, Matthew Arend mentioned in his blog, how during one session George took the concept of using a Google Doc to curate many inspirational videos. In both blogs, the mindset of innovation is discussed. The idea of using a Google doc was not a new concept to me at all.  In fact, this past week at TCEA many of us had one that we were all adding to while attending as many different sessions as we could so we could divide and conquer.  And boy did we!

In The Innovator’s Mindset, George defines the notion of innovation as a way of thinking to create something new and better.

We have collaborated on Google docs in our faculty meetings, with our students, and each other.  What made this innovative in my eyes was the “new and better” part of it. When George crowdsourced this document to gather even more ideas, THAT was “new” to me.  I never thought of sending it out to people who are not part of the making of it, and can I tell you how much “better” this one thing made this experience!  First, so many people responded with quality videos that now it has saved me hours of searching for the perfect video. Second, do you even know how many people have circulated this document and how many people it has helped!?  THIS is creating new and better with something that we already use. I am not writing to discuss this experience, but how this experience has led me to thinking about something else.

What if the document stopped there? What if someone saw it and thought, that’s great, but I am not going to use someone else’s list of videos.  If not applied, does it truly make the idea better? In short, yes and no.  Yes, for those who take this idea and use it to enrich the learning experiences for their students.  No, for those that hear the idea and then go back to doing it the way they always do it for whatever reason.

Take the above example and substitute curated videos with teaching strategies, classroom management strategies, technology lesson ideas, classroom climate/culture suggestions…you name it.  Unfortunately, I think so many teachers are hesitant to use things like this because they are afraid it is “stealing or copying.” Or they feel like if it isn’t something they came up with themselves, then they are frauds. Maybe that is a little dramatic, but the point is…this is a huge misunderstanding out there with teachers that needs to stop!

For many years people have said, “Why reinvent the wheel?” Now I hear, “We are better together.  The best idea is a lot of ideas.”  I wholeheartedly believe the latter one. We are better when we work together. Every person you meet has something to teach you.  We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts.  Why wouldn’t we capitalize on this for the sake of the children we teach?  If our mindset is in the thinking that “sharing is caring” then it is a win-win situation!  🙂  Who wouldn’t want that?

  • We need to let go of the thought that as teachers we have to do everything ourselves.
  • We need to let go of the thought that innovation is some huge thing and involves the best and latest technology.
  • We need to let go of the thought that we have all the answers.

We don’t.  We can’t.  We need to turn to other awesome educators out there and be better together. How can you use the power of your PLN to make this happen today?

Connect & Empower – Reflection on Part II

What a great weekend of reading and reflecting I have been able to enjoy!  Reading through Part 2 of The Innovator’s Mindset, I felt like in my mind I kept saying, “Amen.  Exactly. That’s right!”

The reality is I can agree with these ideas all day, but my learning cannot stop there. After all, we all know that reflecting is necessary for true learning.  After agreeing with every page and holding back from going on Amazon to purchase sets of this book to share with everyone I know, I asked myself what I always do when I reflect and learn.

“So what? What does this mean for me?  How can I take this to make what I do for my students better? What is my action going to be?”

Overall Thoughts:

1. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER!  
“We have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind.” This statement from the book has always been at the heart of what I do every day.  It does matter.

The 8 Things To Look For In Today’s Classroom sums it all up!

1. Empower students to use their VOICE effectively.  Teach them how or they will struggle with this.
2. Give students CHOICE in how & what they learn.
3. Even in our busy world, time for REFLECTION is necessary to truly learn. Make time.
4. Create opportunities for INNOVATION through passion work chosen by students. Make it something that is the norm, not just a one-time event.
5. Teach students to be CRITICAL THINKERS and question ideas to move forward.  So much info is out there, we must teach them how to sift through what is needed.
6. Empower students to make an impact on the world and be PROBLEM FINDERS/SOLVERS.  Look for ways to make our world better.
7. Teach students to understand how to SELF-ASSESS and reflect on their growth and learning.
8. CONNECT! CONNECT! CONNECT LEARNING! Connecting with experts in the field of content you are teaching will hands-down create a deeper understanding with your students.  Imagine the possibilities!

If we start thinking of how our classrooms can have these things going on, we will see our students feel empowered and start to see themselves as learners in a world where they create their own learning and it is not done for them.

My Action: 
Always connect with the hearts of my students at the beginning of our lessons, even if I only have 30 quick minutes with them.  It will be worth every minute in the long run.

Always make sure what I am doing with them is relevant by making sure the above 8 things are happening in my classroom through self-evaluations and reflections.

Keep my focus on empowering my students! This is so much more important than having a compliant student.

Continue leading by example.  Be the change. 🙂

Are We Hindering or Developing Resiliency?

Persistence, Resilience, and Grit…Oh My!

These words are talked about in education.  We continue to teach our students the importance of not giving up. Are you hearing these words in your head?

  • Keep going. You got this.  
  • Don’t let one hard thing stop you.  
  • It’s okay to fail, just try something else.
  • When things get hard, you can’t just stop and give up.
Guilty.  I have said these to my daughter in hopes of making her understand persistence and how hard work pays off.  But now that I think more about this, are we actually giving our students the chance to work through difficult problems on their own so that they develop these characteristics?
Providing our students with opportunities to work through difficult problems, struggle, and overcome them sometimes is hard for us as teachers.  I think that we, as teachers, need to model more examples ourselves of struggling through something and our ability to overcome the unexpected.  We need to talk about personal situations where this has happened to us.  Or can we recall these times?  
When I think about this personally, I began playing any sport I could at age four and continued through my freshman year at college.  I thrive on working hard and seeing this pay off at game time.  I have played the violin since I was ten years old. Music is a passion and part of me.   I have always loved being a student, learning, and getting As. (I can feel all the Standards Based Grading people cringing! I understand this now.)  
So, when I honestly ask myself, “Did I ever really put myself in a situation where it was difficult and I had to struggle to succeed?”  I think the answer is clear.  “Did I ever put myself in a position where I had to get back up after failing in front of my peers and try a different route to succeed?”   Not so much.  
Don’t get me wrong, I obviously had this happen at some point in my life or I wouldn’t be the resilient, persistent person I am today. I am just saying, I didn’t put myself in these situations.  We ask this of our students all too often.  We must think it is something they are born knowing how to do, yet if we really think about it….did WE take risks when we were young? If you did, what encouraged you to do so?  I imagine it was someone modeling for you.   We must show them how through examples.  As each year passes, I feel more comfortable doing this with my students because I see that this vulnerability empowers students to do the same.
I had one of those parent moments where your heart feels like it will burst and tears are in your eyes this past weekend when my daughter and I did the Monster Dash 5K together. Right before the race started rain began to come down, and we were in costumes! Not exactly my idea of fun, but you gotta make the most of it, right?!  She was visibly irritated with this and the amount of people crowded in.  It was her first race and she obviously had some expectations that I was unaware of.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the party barn and wait for the others, but no.  We started out, more rain came and it was so bunched up we couldn’t really run at first, so I continued to check in with her and by the third time I asked she looked at me and her answer says it all: 
“Mom, I came here to do this.  I did not get this number to just give up and not do it.” 
I was quite proud at that moment because it was another example of her persistence paying off.  Here I was trying to protect her from a difficult situation, when this is what she needed to develop her persistence, resilience, and grit!  I didn’t even realize I was doing this until reflecting later!!
The highlight of this moment was at the end, of course.  After awhile, an eight-year-old can get tired of running (AKA sprinting!), tired of being wet in the rain, and not want to do it anymore.  Being there beside her, constantly encouraging her one little step at a time, got us to the end and we met OUR GOAL time. It all was worth it seeing the HUGE smile on her face and when she turned to me and said, 
“Mom, I am so proud of myself I could burst!  I have never done anything like this before! I finished the whole thing.  I am so happy.”  

Just another moment to show me that allowing our children the chance to experience challenging situations really does build their confidence to succeed in life.
Here are a few pics I got by lagging behind just a little. 🙂
Capturing the moment.
Crossing the finish line and looking back.

So proud of the medal she received!

Reflecting on The Innovator’s Mindset – Part 1

This quote pretty much sums up why I blog, and it is worth mentioning because as I read through George Couros’s book, The Innovator’s Mindset, I will write about what sticks out to me and how I am connecting to his book. I write to deepen and secure my own learning. I write to clear my mind. I write so that I won’t forget.

I pretty much was like a kid on Christmas morning when I knew my book was delivered!  I was able to sit down and read only a little bit before it was time to run to a kid Halloween party, and then deal with The Dramatic Costume Crisis of 2015. (Just a little embarrassed to say it was my costume crisis, not my child’s!)   Fortunately, I was able to dive into it the next day, and read Part I: Innovation in Education.

In an attempt to follow the advice in the book, I am going to put myself out there and take a risk by choosing to publicly write my reflections/responses to one question from the chapters. Yikes! These questions are only a tiny look at the reflecting George encourages you to do at the end of the chapter. I LOVE his idea of having these at the end of the chapter.  It is through these reflection questions that we can have discussions and take action to create opportunities for innovation. These are from his book and I have quoted exact statements, so I hope if George is to read this one day, he is okay with me sharing. 🙂 I will assume so since they are out there on his blog and will be discussed in #PISDbkclub come January.

Ch.1

  • What has changed in our world today that not only makes innovation easier to do, but is also necessary for our students?
  • I am amazed at the opportunities to connect with others that have opened up for educators and students in the recent years.  Where in the past we may have had ideas to make things better, they just stayed in our room with us behind closed doors. We might have told a friend, if we had time.  Now, you can ask a question on a blog, Twitter, FB, email, Skype, Hangout….and within minutes you have a list of different ways to implement this from people who have done it and worked out the kinks.  Why would we NOT use this to our advantage?  I also think that innovation (defined by George as a way of thinking that creates something new and better) naturally happens when we think about our students!  Why not ask them for feedback on how to make a lesson better?  This idea of making the learning relevant for our students is what is necessary. They need to be able to THINK and CREATE.  They are our future. I can’t think of any better reason than that. Just a little pressure to develop the innovator’s mindset, that’s all!
Ch.2
  • How do we take what we currently have to create a better education system for our entire community?
  • I was recently discussing this idea with some fellow educators.  Some will say that in education all we do is try one thing, throw it out for the next thing that comes along until it doesn’t work and then try something else.  This is not about trying something else.  The book clearly shares how it’s about always asking ourselves, “Is there a better way?”  It all starts with empathy.  If we put ourselves in our students’ shoes, I bet we would look for ways to make things better every day. And friends…this is not a bad thing!  I hope to always ask, “Is there a better way of teaching this that is more empowering, more exciting, and so meaningful to their life it will stick with all learners?” until my teaching days are over.  Hold on…don’t worry, I probably will still ask these questions when I am retired.  🙂 easily connected this to my own daughter.  She is a third grader now.  This is THE YEAR!  You know it..testing starts and all teachers feel additional stress, which really saddens me, and every other teacher and parent you know.  This is when teachers start to feel the need to use teaching strategies that produce the scores and not necessarily create innovative cultures or empower students. (Please understand, this is a very generic blanket statement I know and it is not to be viewed as judgemental. I have never taught a testing grade, thank goodness, and so I am simply stating my thoughts from discussions with these teachers.)   We need to share the innovator’s mindset with our policymakers, voters, parents, teachers, students, and everyone!  Spreading the knowledge of our education approaches and developing this mindset will create a better education system because we will all understand the importance and urgency of this shift for our future.  (Alright, soapbox over.)    
Ch.3
  • How do you exhibit the innovator’s mindset in the learning and work that you do currently?
  • Here is the illustration from George’s blog that explains the innovator’s mindset so well.  I am sure many of you have seen it. I have these characteristics as a board in my room so my students can look at these daily and we can discuss the vocabulary word, examples of these characteristics, and even discuss which ones we aim to have.
This was MY FAVORITE part of the first section, so I have to share my key thoughts from each section!
  • Empathetic – Always ask, “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom.” This makes it real.  Who are we really doing this for?
  • Problem Finders – It’s crucial to not give the problem to kids, but teach them to look for this and be self-starters.
  • Risk Takers – “Risk is necessary to ensure we are meeting the needs of each unique student.”  Perfectly stated, Mr. Couros. 🙂 Another soapbox of mine.  It comes down to our kids deserve it!
  • Networked – The book talks about surrounding yourself with people who actively share ideas because it makes everyone smarter. I also think it makes us take more risks because we feel supported. Cannot say enough this is why I love my Digital Divas group! 
  • Observant – Love the idea that “sometimes the most valuable thing you get from your network isn’t the idea, but the courage to try something new.”  So true for me.  
  • Creators – The part in the book that discusses creating something helps make a personal connection and deepen learning is SPOT on!  Who doesn’t grasp something better when we use our hands to write, sing a rap to remember some facts, or create a picture to remember a concept?! 
  • Resilient – This was my HEART of the chapter.  “As you push the edges of the norm with your innovative ideas, hold on to your conviction and passion.  If you don’t believe in your ideas, why would anyone else?”  I want to engrave this on something and hang it in my classroom!  
  • Reflective – LOVE the idea of Drop Everything and Reflect.  How often we neglect this, but how important it is for learning and growth!  
This is just the first part, and I could have written even more than I have in this novel.  I always try to walk away from a learning experience with a plan of action.  My plan of action from this first part is this:
I will continue to ask myself daily, “Is this what is best for this learner?”  
I will make sure my students love being in my class because I have reflected on, “Would I want to be in this class?”
I will hold on to my conviction and passion.  I solidly stand by my ideas and know I am doing what is best for kids
I will not let one answer of “no” knock me down to the point of not getting up to try something else to make it work.  
I will continue to surround myself around the people who share new ideas and try new things.

WHY?   Our Kids Deserve It!!
I can only imagine the next section is even better!  If you haven’t gotten this book yet, or read about it from the hype on Twitter or Amazon…you are missing out.  Go get it!