Listening Well To Youth Is A Mindset

I read this quote on the Learning Forward website awhile back and it continues to stick in my mind.

Student Voice is something more and more people are talking about now.

What does it look like?

Do you really just let the students decide?

What if they say something that is not nice?

Just like many teachers, I know that I began doing this years ago, we just never gave it a title.  We thought it was just great teaching because you wanted to do whatever you could to engage your students and let them know you care about them.  I guess this is why the quote sticks with me. Asking my students how I can make a lesson better or seeking input for my own growth has always just been my mindset.  The only difference is it increases and stretches with each year that passes.

This past week after a long, exhausting day full of nonstop activities on my feet, I sat down and thought to myself, “I am so completely exhausted! I just want to cry, lay in bed and sleep until the weekend. I just don’t know how I can finish this work I have and get up early.” (It was one of those hard days where you are too tired to even eat dinner!)  Then it hit me.  These kids are in my same boat, except they have so many new things being fired at them academically, new rules, new social circles, and lots of extra-curricular activities.  I want to know how many of them get up before 6:00am for athletics practice.  I want to know if they eat breakfast.  This will give me a glimpse as to why certain behaviors (positive and negative) are showing up.

I battled with how to ask them because I know that a Google survey is what they see most often and I am trying so hard not to use it, but in this instance, with 150 students and info that I wanted to look at by class, it was the most efficient.

Let me tell y’all, what I got back was more than I could have ever imagined and I was blown away at their honesty and feedback to help me guide instruction and management.  It was interesting how completely different each class period was! I could not make this stuff up, friends.

Not only did I ask when they got home from activities at night, when they normally went to sleep, and things like that which effect their academic learning.  I asked them to tell me how they would like to be rewarded, how they want to move forward with this next unit, and where they want to sit so they can learn best. I wanted them to know I understand sometimes we like to work alone. Sometimes we like groups and sometimes we like partners.  I was going to let them do it whatever way they chose because what is important is the learning, not forcing people to work together. It definitely made a bunch of shy, type A students smile! 🙂

Below is a visual of a few things asked.  Without even knowing I gained insight into their Love Language (if you are familiar with that) by the responses I got! Bonus!

What I love from this is that the next day I showed them the visuals and talked through what the class chose.  I said, “The people have spoken.”  I did not show any info that was sensitive so they will continue to trust me when I ask.  They were in awe of the pie charts and data.  We all loved it! (I might be a little nerdy over data!)

As I read through their responses as to how they know I care, they revealed clearly what is important: “You ask us and listen, like this survey. You want to make us own our learning.  You care and want to give us the best so we can learn by asking us to tell you. You ask us how we are doing, and about our day. You check on us to see if we need help. You smile at us. You let us choose our seats and have a snack.”

So yes, there was great data revealed around their learning needs from this survey that was extremely helpful.  However, the sparkling, bright light shined completely on RELATIONSHIPS!!  ASKING them and DOING it!

That is key when you think about Student Voice.  There is not a certain way it must be done because each class needs different options, but there is one rule.  If you ASK them and they take the time to respond, you MUST act on it, one way or another.  Even if that means saying, “You know, I heard your idea, but here is why we cannot do this. Is there another way?”

When we stop to listen to our students, their words speak so loudly and give us such a deeper look into their little lives and what they crave. It almost always gives me a new perspective about my students.  I seek to understand first before I even try to be understood.  For the teens I teach, I could not spend enough time asking their input because it is soo important to them to feel like they matter!  So this survey provided me with so many incredible things to take and put into action for each class period.  It makes my heart overflow when I see them smile because I honor their individuality or hear them say, “She said she would do it and she did.” You cannot pay enough money to hear that being said, because that means you have their trust.  When trust is there, you can move mountains!

I continue to try to push myself to ask for my students’ input, even if what I am asking may have an answer I do not want to hear or it is out of my comfort zone.  I know this is the time when we will all grow the most!

Elementary & Secondary Teachers Sharing Best Practices….(gasp!)

This past week was our district Humanities Institute that ran 4 days!  You are probably thinking – What?!  Are you crazy? It’s the first week of summer break. Apparently, I am not the only crazy one because there were over 170 educators there to learn and teach incredible sessions!  

Let me tell you the best thing about this week.  Elementary and Secondary teachers shared best practices in the same room!  (gasp!)  That’s right, we all shared and learned together! It was professional learning, discussing, connecting, reflecting, and sharing across district from Pre-K to our Collegiate Academy! 
I want to publicly thank our fierce leader, Dr. Suzanne Newell, for taking this approach this week.  I am not sure if she realizes just how powerful this one little thing was.  As I listened to others and talked with people, the most amazing thing happened….we connected the dots between elementary and secondary.  This still is my most favorite quote because of how true it is!
  • Teachers in first, fourth, seventh and high school were sharing best practices they used that could help each other.
  • Teachers were meeting new teachers and putting a face to the name.
  • Teachers were exchanging emails and ways to communicate and connect their classes.
  • Teachers were developing empathy for other teachers…discovering that when we communicate we realize little things we may never have known before.
  • (The biggest, in my opinion) Teachers began to understand the links from elementary to secondary and the importance of common language and Common Instructional Expectations!  
We have heard of these Common Instructional Expectations many times, but SEEING exactly how they begin in kinder and extend all the way through was incredibly powerful!  Having time to discuss with others and time to reflect made all the difference in securing this learning.  
I know this might seem obvious, simple, and you might already do this….but if you think about it, there are not many opportunities that place Pre-K through HS in one room to learn together and share vertically how things apply.  Powerful!  So incredibly happy I was able to be part of this and learn so much!  I walked away from this week with many new connections, more secondary knowledge than I came in with and how to start connecting elementary and secondary goals so that we can transition our students effortlessly.
One of the most amazing educators I have the privilege of learning from in my tribe is Bethany Hill.  You can find her on Twitter  @bethhill2829  This quote came from her and how true it is.  
I just posted an article by @SaneeBell about leadership at all levels and how much she learned from being given the opportunity to be an elementary principal when she had only known secondary.  As she exits she feels she is a better educator having spent her last few years in elementary learning so much!  It was a great connecting thought for me as I thought about how much elementary and secondary already do that is similar and could really help one another if we verbalized these connections with our students.  It also made clear how we could tweak a few little things to help our students even more.  All it took was communicating in the same room with others and developing a strong personal learning network right here within our amazing district! 
I look forward, even more now than ever, to the awesome things to come in GCISD.  Thank you Dr. Newell!  🙂

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?

Learning to the Point of Exhaustion

As I sit here tonight trying to put together a way to share what I learned at TCEA this past week, I cannot.  I feel pure exhaustion.  Let me add this is the kind of exhaustion, like I know every woman can relate to, that brings you to tears! 🙂

To be quite honest, I have so many things swirling in my head and not the first clue as to how to organize all of this into something coherent, but I will figure it out soon.  I have to.  It is causing me to feel a little anxious because I want to do so many things!

**I want to share all these awesome resources.
**I am charged up and want to empower my students and fellow teachers.
**I want every educator I know that didn’t get to attend TCEA to learn about all the amazing resources that I did and use them in their classrooms!
**I have more determination to make an even bigger difference than I did the day I arrived at TCEA. (If that is even possible!)

I know, I know…I hear my veteran TCEA going friends and people in the education world that have been doing this for years thinking, “Amateur.  We have all done this and felt like this…years ago. It will not be as overwhelming each year.”

This is where I have to disagree. Whether this is your first TCEA experience or your fifth TCEA experience, you have to agree with me that attending a large conference of passionate, forward-thinking, like-minded educators leaves you feeling completely changed as an educator.  Talking with many of these veterans, they say this is why they come back every year. And isn’t that something we all crave? We need a place to recharge and find inspiration in others.  This is why building a PLN is so important. (This is a completely different blog coming soon!)  I cannot tell you enough what spending a week with positive, inspiring educators that challenge my thinking and push me has done for my professional and personal growth!!  

So…I will sign off tonight with this apology.  I apologize for not being able to write this amazing blog about many of the tools I learned.  I apologize for not giving any cool apps to use.  I apologize for not giving links to the sites that help make your Google use so efficient. Don’t worry, I will share things out little by little as I go back through them!

What I will not apologize for is continuing to talk about the importance of relationships and being a connected educator!!  I will leave you with this: You MUST use Twitter for Professional Learning and attend a conference like this!!  I know I will not miss one from here on out. It is where I find and connect with my people.  It is where I am inspired. It is where I am challenged.  It is where I question deeply and wonder just how much I can push myself.  And to think….it all started with Twitter. 🙂

What I Learned About Internet Safety

Once again, I find myself torn as an educator parent living in this world of technology.  I want to allow my child freedom to learn about all that interests her using technology and trust her actions, but I do not want to have certain discussions with an 8-year old.

Long story short – after much debating, researching, and long term thinking….we surprised our daughter with her own Chromebook!  It is white, so she calls it Snow White. 🙂 So precious.

Very quickly I realized I needed make sure our knowledge of internet safety was the same!  Here is what is so very hard for me.  As an educator,  I preach (and I really have, to many other parents and teachers) that we cannot shelter our kids from this.  It is not going away.  We must teach them how to search responsibly and how to act, not react, when they do stumble across an ad that isn’t so nice. We need to TEACH them these things from the very beginning.

I feel safe search sites are set up to do their job.  I feel kids who know what to do and how to act responsibly will know how to properly use the internet.  I feel kids deserve our trust in them.  We cannot control their every move in real life when they are not with us.  Right?! I have followed this philosophy with my kids in class and we have never had a problem! Really. So, I will keep on preaching.

Then it happened!

When your child is searching what her name means on a kid safe search engine site, you would not think urban dictionary would pop up as a top site choice, but it did…and she chose it. As we all went about cleaning up the kitchen, unaware of this, she began reading aloud what other names meant.  I then realized, it was time to have a deeper lesson on the topics of internet searching, safety, media literacy, and all of the above.  And quite honestly, it scares me as a MOM, not an educator.  I had to find a way to protect my little girl as much as I can, while educating her on how to search effectively, while also allowing her freedom to search topics of interest without choices that are inappropriate showing up.  Is that too much to ask?  😉 We already have a house rule of using computer/iPad in same room as grown up, but when she is on a kid safe site….you just don’t think twice. Until now.

So, here is what I solidified in this lesson:
1.  You cannot be there all the time to hold their hand and protect them from everything, but you can teach them how to respond in situations. I use www.commonsensemedia.org regularly for lessons and tips.

2.  You cannot control everything, BUT you can monitor closely!  I stumbled across this great resource. http://www.omgchrome.com/a-parents-guide-to-supervised-users/

Call this control or whatever you want,  but I call it smart and the perfect answer for this mom of an 8 year old baby girl who likes to research because she is curious about life! It allows me to monitor her searching, restrict certain sites if needed, while letting her have the freedom of searching and growing as a responsible digital citizen.

I plan to hold tight to my beliefs on the importance of:
1. being present with students as they are learning how to search the worldwide web effectively.
2. teaching students how to act responsibly when things do pop up.
3. educating students how to be media literate and how to evaluate sites and resources.

My Aha Moment On Blogging

You know sometimes you have those moments when it takes a little longer for something very obvious to click, but when it hits you….it HITS you?!  Not to offend anyone, for me personally they are called blonde moments. 🙂

That was me last night in one of my favorite Twitter chats that I participate in on Sunday nights. #iaedchat  Okay, if I am being honest, it really HIT me in the early hours of this morning.

The question posed was about Digital Portfolios.  I instantly thought about how students submit work for their own portfolio, and joined the tweets with this perspective.  What I neglected to think about in that moment was blogging as a digital portfolio. I’m not sure why! I have read George Couros’s blog on this concept and discussed it with other Twitter friends out there.  Like I said, blonde moment!

As a teacher, my students blogged and looked back at their blogs to reread things and learn from people who responded.  As a parent, I went through a time where my daughter and I were establishing her blog presence in a way we both agreed upon. 🙂  You see, what a 3rd grader wants to freely blog about and what her mother feels is okay are sometimes different.  I realized I needed to teach this digital understanding before just letting her go!

Why in the world did I not think about my own blog as my Digital Portfolio? 

Not a clue! I guess I have always thought of blogging as showing student learning or reflecting my thoughts – not my learning or work. I have actually referenced this blog to show examples of digital projects I did with certain age groups to someone else so they could try them.  Isn’t that one reason we, as teachers, would have a portfolio? To keep track of our learning and share with others.  

Why do we, teachers, not think WE need to have a Digital Portfolio?

It’s a new kind of thinking!  Maybe we just need to change the way we think about our purpose of blogging?

How do we shift from using blogs to show the things our students can do to using them for our reflection, growth, and our digital portfolio? Or can they be the same?

If we are consciously thinking of this, maybe just this shift in thinking is what it will take. Some teachers I know think of blogging as reflecting on their learning, but many teachers think blogging is a way to document and show what they are doing with their students for the parents. My first few years blogging, this is exactly why I blogged.  But wait..can’t you blog to reflect on learning, use as your digital portfolio, and show what your students are doing?

Now that I am thinking more about my blog not just as a reflecting spot for my learning, but as my digital portfolio, I can blog with the perspective that I will continually refer back to these entries to share with others and to see how much I have grown.  Like an anchor chart! Funny thing is, I have used it this way!  Just like we hope for our students when they blog, when others comment and question my entries it makes me rethink and question my thoughts. This deepens the learning for all of us!  How awesome is that? It doesn’t mean if I blog it can only be geared one way.

It just means this…..

I am growing!  I am putting my learning process out there so that I can refer back to it whenever I need to.  I have found a new love for writing through blogging. How is that?  It forces me to reflect on my learning experiences which leads to even more growth by reflection.   That is all I can ask for!

I guess I can say my blonde or Aha moment created an awesome reflecting and growing opportunity for me!  🙂



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! 





 

Putting Kids FIRST

Confession time….I have not blogged in a few weeks because I was hit with a case of overloaded brain block!  Yes, it’s a real thing my friends. 🙂 My head is full of so much new learning that I didn’t even know where to begin processing it all.  As I start thinking of all the things I have been taking in and try to piece together connections, I come up with one thing that runs through my head over and over.

If we are not asking this question when there is a fork in the road, or even on a DAILY BASIS, we are off track!
Recently, I have observed literacy instruction in elementary school, middle school, and high school!  I feel like I have been given a treasure that not many teachers are given unfortunately – time to observe great teaching!  I am always amazed at the awesome ideas I walk away with.  The interesting thing is that at all three levels, there were identical strategies being used that worked with ALL kids, yet they did not look exactly the same! That got me thinking.
There are all these buzzwords out there.  All the new initiatives starting up.  All the ideas of how things “should be done” by people other than the educators.  But really, when we really look closely by taking a step back, we know it comes down to best practices for all kids.  We know what is best for kids and we do it.  
If you know me, you know that I am a firm believer in differentiation in every area!  Y’all, it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.   We are not the same.  Our kids are not the same. 🙂  We can differentiate our teaching strategies like we differentiate student learning. It is responsive teaching.  But PLEASE….hear this loud and clear – what matters is that we are consistent in these best practices and do what is best for the kids we have in front of us now…not last year. 
Whether you are conferencing with a student about their writing at a table, on the floor, through a Google doc or Google classroom, at a desk, through a blog response, on a beanbag, or a bouncy exercise ball…you are still conferencing about writing!  It is about the consistent best practice action and the child!  I will add, having a variety keeps it interesting for all involved. 🙂
I really feel in my heart that there is no way you can go “wrong” if you are looking at the situation through the lens of what is best for the child, not just compliance of teaching a certain way because everyone will think this is awesome even though it really doesn’t seem to be working for this child.    
My hope is for people out there to stop thinking one way or approach is the “right way” and the only way teachers should be teaching reading or writing (or any other thing for that matter) and start asking, “Is this BEST for THIS CHILD right now?” because that is what it is all about.  I could really get going about my passion for the Whole Child, but I will save that for another time. 🙂
Let me close by saying this: 

I am not saying break rules and do not teach what you are supposed to according to TEKS and district common instructional expectations!  
I am saying while adhering to these mandates, think differently. Ask the question: what is best for children?  Be brave and take that chance and try something new!  It might feel different and uncomfortable at first, but how will you ever know if you never try? 🙂 Oh, the possibilities and the awesome things we will see in our children when we put them first! Always. 

Teach Your Children Well…They ARE Our Future

Lately, I have been hooked on TED Talks! I love to find ones that are around 7 minutes (because I can sit still that long) and ones that are highly rated and have inspiring speakers. So naturally, I gravitate to Education, Passion for Creativity, Technology & Innovation.  If you have not ever gone to YouTube and watched one, you need to.  You can learn the story behind the story that you probably never imagined!

One problem.  The more I watch these thought provoking talks, the more passionate and fired up I become.  How is this a problem you wonder?  Quite honestly, it fires me up to change the world.  I feel it. I believe it.  I want to make it happen, but then…I have no clue how little ole me can begin to do something with this fire.  It has been said.. it is not what you know, but what you DO with this knowledge!

As I listened to Sean Aiken’s talk What Makes You Come Alive? my heart really connected with him.

The first, as a student. This was me.  Growing up, I was a great student. I did exactly what was asked and memorized everything I needed to in order to make straight As. Then, I left college and started my first teaching job and thought, What?!  This is NOT like all the classes I took. I have to think of this on my own!? I soon found out, many of us were in that same boat that first year.

The second, as a person wanting to make a difference.  If you watch this segment, you will hear Sean talk about finding your passion.  He created the One Week Job Project based on this desire to find his passion and really make a difference.

To sum up the main points that really stuck with me:

  • It is about finding your gift and asking yourself what contribution do you want to make in the world.
  • Share these gifts!  This is when you feel truly alive!
When he surveyed people who were happy in their job what they liked most about it, here is what they said.
  • I enjoy my coworkers.
  • My job is connected to my life’s work.  
  • I believe that I am making a difference.
It’s the third one that really sticks.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Isn’t that why we went into education? I know that is true for me.  Having a sense that what you are doing makes a difference can do so much for your happiness. The people who are most passionate about their jobs are the ones who are connected to the meaning of it. He goes on to say that with those who have this feeling it is not the actual job that is important, but their relationship with it and why.
So, tying this to creativity in our schools, and this fire inside me to make a difference…
What do you think would change if our kids had this connectedness to why they were learning something and felt that relationship to the meaning of it?
How would our schools change if we focused on creativity, choice, and meaningful learning instead of the pressures to raise test scores?

How will our future be with children who grow up with this educational experience instead of just being a great student until they leave college?

Sean Akin ends with a quote from Charles Eisenstein that I love.

“It’s time.  It’s time to create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” 

Where I am not so sure he was not talking about education when he said this, I can’t help but think, isn’t this what we feel? We all know there are so many ways to make a difference in education, but even more so in a child’s life!  It’s time. Now, more than ever, we can teach our children why their education is important.  We can teach at such an early age how creativity, curiosity, reflection, individual thinking, determination, compassion, connectedness, and empathy are such important characteristics to have in life.  We NEED these children to create a more beautiful world, and it is our job to give them these opportunities in school as they grow up.  

This is my motto: Teach Your Children Well – Okay, maybe it is the title of a great song I love by Crosby Stills Nash & Young.  🙂  Still, so true.

So, to answer my own question as I began this entry…how will little ole me go out and change the world?  Maybe not all in one day.  Or one year. 
What I do know is that what makes me come alive is what keeps me happy.  That is inspiring children to go do amazing things in this world.  Leading children to truly love reading.  Touching the hearts of children so that they see compassion by modeling compassion. Fostering creativity in every child so they know uniqueness is important. Connecting these children with the world so they see how we are all ONE and oh, what amazing things we can do together!
I will end with one of my favorite quotes!  

A Mindset Shift – It’s For ALL Kids

This week was full of information, learning, collaborating, rethinking, and most importantly REFLECTING! So in the attempt of reflecting and deepening my learning through writing, here is how I got to the mindset thought, again!

I am sure many of you have seen the Backwards Brain Bike video and listened to the story.  If not, visit The Backwards Brain Bicycle- Smarter Every Day 133 to hear this story.

What really intrigued me about this whole story was when we were asked how this relates to us?  Out of the 20 or so teachers in that room, each one of us had a different connection to this story and different ways to apply it to our teaching. What we all knew was that the mindset of most adults is just different than that of most children.  It blew my mind how it took this guy months and months of practice to get this down.  It took the child no time at all to learn to ride this bike.  
What it left with me was more questions about this “mindset” that is the big discussion these days.  
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Carol Dweck’s book (both times I read it) and completely support this.  I just can’t help but wonder…..
  • Why is it that adults seem to have a fixed mindset in so much of their thinking, whether they want to admit it or not? 
  • Why is it that for the most part, children are so open to taking risks and attempting new things?
  • If that growth mindset shifts for children, when does this happen?  What are the pivotal things that happen to cause this shift in children?

I first read Mindset and began thinking about this around 3 years ago.  I was teaching 2nd grade, but I mostly connected with this as a parent.    
My initial thoughts were:
  1. I have a fixed mindset about my personal abilities such as math, writing, and such, but a growth mindset about my teaching and my classroom.  Hmmm…
  2. I have been praising my daughter and not really encouraging her to fail and learn. But wait, why would I want her to fail?   What does that really mean, anyway?
So began my quest to create this mindset in my 5 year old!!  She, like many of the children in my classroom, is a gifted child who rarely struggled.  I always knew she had determination, a strong-will and perseverance like no other.  🙂 When she was 3 years old, she decided before leaving to go shopping that she was going to teach herself how to tie her own shoes.  She didn’t stop until SHE mastered it.  As much as it wears me out, I know this is a great characteristic to have in life. But, as she did this I noticed her frustration with not being able to get something the first time she tried.  It made me think about other things she would do that if not perfect the first time, caused a big issue.  
Then and there my goal, as a parent and teacher, was to push and challenge my kids to hit that wall and not master something. This, of course, happening through differentiating all teaching and learning in my classroom for all kids!! (If you don’t know by now, I am a HUGE advocate for differentiation in ALL areas!!)  These kids had spent their early school years always making As, always giving the right answers, always knowing exactly how to be a perfect student.  Isn’t that what has always been expected of our children?  Until now.
What I wanted was for them to not be able to do something so that I could show them how to get through it.  I know, you are thinking…what, you wanted them to fail at something intentionally?  For this reason, yes!  I wanted to be the guide alongside them when they hit that wall to see what they would do.  Boy, was that eye opening!  The lesson comes in being right there so that you can guide them along with many of the key phrases and inspirations from Carol Dweck that teaches them how to think and use positive self-talk. To really think and work through something.  We are there to teach them how to retrain their brain, much like the backwards bike rider, to thinking they can do this.  We all know the brain research on how you can talk yourself into believing it!  That is what is missing so much in today’s children and what we have to teach these children as they become our future leaders.
Isn’t that what is most important? Not the failing, but what you do when you hit that spot that is a huge turning point for a child’s self esteem and future successes. If a child is never given the chance to see the power that comes in being able to push through a challenge, they’ll never know what they are truly capable of achieving!
As I see all of the growth mindset boards and phrases up around me in classrooms and schools, it reminds me to think about this philosophy and encourage it to be applied to ALL children, not just your gifted children. 
ALL children deserve to be challenged.
ALL children deserve to learn in an environment where they can take a risk and fail.
ALL children deserve to be taught how to get up from that failure and keep going to make something of it!  Here is usually where the biggest life lessons occur.
If we are not there to teach them this when they are young, maybe this is the point where their growth mindsets turn into a fixed mindset.   
I am super excited about the new books out there that foster this positive self-talk and other ways to build this thinking in all children at a young age. I plan to remember this as my daughter starts 3rd grade and academics become harder.  I plan to remember this as I start a new position and a huge learning curve will be happening.  I will be saying, “This is going to take me some time and effort.” instead of “This is too hard.”   With the positive thinking, we CAN make some incredible things happen! Intelligence and AWESOME things can be developed, you are not always just born with it!

Tons of awesome literature to read to your classroom that provides great classroom discussions.