Learning To Honor the Space Between

What a thought!  This spoke so loudly to me this week.  Going back into the classroom to teach 7th-grade Pre-AP English, Language Acquisition, and Literacy Achievement might be the hardest thing I have done in awhile! Behind every reason that I asked for and wanted this challenge, is every fear and emotion that do not always feel so good.

You see, I am a Learner.  My top strength on the strengths finder assessment was Learner.  It is in my nature to soak everything up and try anything new.  I love finding different ways to meet the needs of my students and I am always looking for new things to learn.  This is why when my heart felt led to middle school I said to myself, let’s do this!

One thing I was not expecting was how much the move from elementary to middle school would change my comfort level I had based on experience and knowledge. So, I will honor the space between no longer having the luxury of feeling ahead of the game and at ease with where I am headed because I have done it before.  NOT YET!  It is taking me time and extra effort to learn the content, learn how I want to share it and make it my own, and to large groups of 12 and 13-year olds who will receive it with excitement. 🙂

So, like the quote above states, “Between No Longer and Not Yet” because soon it will come. Soon I will feel that comfort, but the growth I sought from this change is my WHY!

I wanted to grow.  I am growing like I never imagined.  Each day I learn so many new things about how middle school systems function, all about the social and emotional needs of teenagers, and why I have absolutely fallen in love with this position!  It is uncomfortable not understanding everything easily and knowing right off the bat.  It is sometimes awkward trying to find my place of comfort in each day and squeeze in those important moments to build relationships with the 150 teens that whirl in and out of my classroom. But, I could not be happier doing this and alongside the most supportive administration and staff around!

My words to anyone who is thinking of completely changing up what they are doing but they are scared…..take the leap!  Make the jump!  I have never grown more than I have in just the last month. And I LOVE IT!

Shifting The Notion of Writing

As I began thinking what I want my seventh graders to walk away with this year from the content that I am teaching, my mind continually goes to, “How will I get them to love writing?”  I feel confident that I can get them to love learning in my classroom.  I can build strong relationships to transform these students into empowered learners, but loving writing is a different challenge, a more personal challenge.

As a child, I loved writing things.  My parents lovingly remind me that at the age of three I asked every person I saw their name, how to spell it, and I would write it in my journal.  In fourth grade, I won a cultural arts award in the category of Composition from a story I wrote about my move from Illinois to Texas. I am writing this to say that as a child I enjoyed it, but somewhere along the way that enjoyment stopped.  Somewhere along the way I got the idea that I could not write, I was not as good as others, I did not have anything to say, and I was being told what to write.

This feeling lasted many, many years.  Actually, it wasn’t until two years ago when listening to an inspirational educator speak about blogging and the many reasons why that I began to write for me. (Thank you, George!) Yes, I was thinking about an audience as I wrote, but I felt inspired because I had found a way to get all of the thoughts that were spinning around in my head out.  It was blogging!  And it relaxed me.  I enjoyed it!   Even if no one else read them, I had found a way to share my thoughts, feelings, and have my voice heard.

It is this last reason that I feel is most important and I want my students leaving my classroom with this imprinted on their hearts.  I want each one of them to know that they can write to let their voice be heard.  They can do this as a kid, a teenager, and as an adult.  It should never stop.  It is hard being a kid, but especially hard during these teenage years when they have so many emotions and feelings that they are learning how to deal with and not sure who to talk to or if they even want to.

Side Note: It takes me back to when I was in middle school writing in my diary that I kept under my mattress, until my boyfriend discovered it. Gasp!  Then in high school the diary I wrote in every single night was on a computer like this!

I have always loved typing, and until recently did not even realize that this was writing.  This was my way of sharing my voice and feeling heard. Thankfully, a real person never heard it.

This is where I think the disconnect is in teaching writing and developing the love of writing in our students.  Similar to reading, when we tell them what to write it becomes a job. When they are given time to write in meaningful ways to them, they learn all of those things we are required to teach them. And they actually remember them!  I hope to share my love of writing for reflection and letting my voice be heard this year and that my sweet, precious students learn to do the same!

 

 

 

I Chose B…Dig Deep!

As I begin this post, I am hesitant how to approach it.  I am transparent and authentic.  I am honest.  I am real.  My life is pretty much an open book, but writing about this really shows my vulnerability; however, I know other people are going through this or will be and I want to share in hopes of comforting someone else who might need it.

I treasure learning new things.  I crave reflection time and value the growth process.  I love feedback to facilitate my growth.  Then…it actually happened.  (I know what you are thinking…everyone loves change until it means they have to change.  This is not that at all.) Time has passed and I can now write about this without crying. 😉

To sum it up, I wanted something and I didn’t get it.  As a reflective learner and one who loves to grow, I asked for feedback.  I asked a person I have the highest respect for as a person and educator.  This person asked me, “I know you asked for feedback because you are a reflective person and want to grow, but do you really want the feedback?  I was surprised for a minute because I had never been asked this question before, but after reading Thank You for the Feedback I see the value in this.

Of course, I wanted the feedback! I expected it to be something I already pinpointed about myself, but it was not.  To be honest with you, today I cannot even recall much of the conversation because all I heard was the one sentence that I took straight to the heart and personally.  As a matter of fact, I probably blocked all the positive from that conversation and replayed the one sentence in my mind.

My reason: it was feedback over something I viewed as something I had NO control over.  It was just me. There was nothing I could do about it.  Or so I thought.

I cannot tell you the amount of tears I shed over this.  At the time, I can remember saying to my friend many times, “I am not sure why I am so upset over this!” – while I sobbed to her over the phone and in person.  A very wise, professional colleague, and one that I look to for advice often asked about this and I told him I did not get it.  He asked why I was upset and I told him I don’t really know. Then he hit me with the bomb, “You just aren’t used to being told no.”  WHAT?!  I may have gasped out loud right there, given him the stink eye, but then said, “You know what, you are right!”  That was just one reason.

Once I had time to go through some of the grieving stages, I revisited the feedback that I felt was personal and I had no control over. Here is where it got real, friends.  I had two choices:

A.) Have a pity party and disregard the feedback from the person.

or

B.) Dig deep.  Look inside and figure out how to accept, learn from this, and come out stronger.

I chose B….and it was the BEST (and hardest) personal and professional growth that I have ever gone through.

The events that unfolded after this revealed God’s bigger plan for me.  We always say that things work out like they are supposed to. I know to trust God’s plan, but it is sure way harder to actually do!  Here is what would have never happened had I gotten what I thought was best for me at that moment.

  • I would have never gone for my administration certification. 
  • I would have never met my principal mentor, who turned out to be a precious friend that came at just the right moment in my life. 
  • I would have never realized that teaching middle school is where I need and want to be right now.   
  • I would have never gotten the middle school ELA teaching position at the exact middle school I wanted to be in.
  • I would have never learned what the saying, “Be patient and trust God’s timing.” really feels like. 
  • I would have never realized how amazing it feels to choose to work through a very tough time (that other people do not even realize you are going through) and come out wiser, stronger, and happier.  

I sit here writing this now (a year later) and can say with a huge smile that it was a hard thing to go through, but WOW….I am exactly where I want and need to be. I know this and it just feels right.  🙂

Life is more than good, friends!  It is AMAZING! Trust the timing.

Enough!

It seems we do not find our One Word, but really it finds us. Such is how it happened with me this year.

I have always been a person who deeply values authenticity and transparency in people.  What you see is what you get with me.  I do not have ulterior motives and my naive side truly wants to believe no one else does either.

I am transparent.  I am authentic.  I am real….to a fault.  I couldn’t even try being anything else…my facial expressions would totally give me away! While even though I have accepted this and own that this is just me, I still sometimes fall victim to feeling not enough.
Not enough of me to do it all.  
Not enough of a daughter.  
Not enough of a wife.  
Not enough of a parent. 
Not enough of a teacher.  
Just not enough…and so I keep going, going, doing and doing.

Over Thanksgiving break I received some lab results that answered questions I have been seeking for a few years now: severe adrenal fatigue. The short version: the only way to fix this was to get real sleep.  This is actually comical if you know how much I love to sleep, but really struggle to shut off my brain to stay asleep all night.  I had to make major changes to my lifestyle and gain nutrients/minerals that I am deficient in because of being depleted by adrenals working overtime.  Sounds crazy, but it is quite interesting to learn how they all work together.

Fast forward 4 disciplined weeks and a doctor/nutritionist checkup. While all the changes I am making are great, until I sleep more none of this will dramatically increase.  Well…that’s just great!  Onward to my next goal: Sleep.

The reason I shared that story is because all of this happened in the midst of soul searching for my 2017 One Word. I went through them all: Surrender, Embrace, Release, Disciplined, Rest, Joy, Fun, but something always brought me back to this:

  

I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown the other night in one sitting, it was THAT good!  It is about letting go of who you think you are supposed to be and embracing who you are.  I never have thought of myself as someone who has to be perfect or that there is a way I am supposed to be.  However, I didn’t even realize until I felt tears coming down my face that to some degree I do this in a different way.  I don’t compare myself to others, but I do a pretty incredible job comparing myself to myself a year ago.  I am truly my own worst critic.  Aren’t we all?

So while I considered the word Surrender (to being me) and Embrace (who I am is enough) I came out with ENOUGH!

Accept:
I am Enough.
I have Enough.
If I give my best, I have done Enough.

Make sure:
I have Enough fun.
I give more than Enough love.
I get Enough REST…..because this is where my journey begins.

I love this quote. I mean, imagine….Unbecoming everything that isn’t you to reveal who you were meant to be!  Sometimes just to cope and get through the day, or because in certain situations it is expected of us, we push back the real us.  Sometimes we may not even know we are doing it. This only holds back who we are meant to be in this life.  And that, my friends, is ENOUGH!

I Froze and It’s Okay!

The following thoughts are the start of a blog I began in September! That should show just how disconnected from the world of blogging I have been. 

Week 3 #IMMOOC thoughts….

Listening to the passion from Kaleb R. was awesome! Something he said really stuck with me.  When asked his advice on how to take all this passion and energy a leader brings to a place and have it continue after the leader leaves his response was around the book Multipliers.

Look inward towards your passion, and find the ability to tell a story around it.

It should tell:

WHO you are.
WHY you are in your space.
WHY you do what you do.
WHY you LOVE it!

This is powerful!! Imagine if we all were to ask ourselves these questions.  Would we be able to answer them?  It made me think that I want my child to be in a classroom where the teacher knows who they are, why they are in that space and why they love doing what they do.

You know what? I have thought about this blog every. single. day.  For the first time in a long time, I hstruggled to write down what was on my mind.  

By the time I sat down to do it I was so exhausted.  I couldn’t gather the energy or even remember what I was reflecting about.  IF I had energy and remembered, it was one of those things where I felt so behind was there even a point to try to catch up.  Nope.  

I truly just froze and couldn’t muster up the energy to begin again after feeling so far behind.  I admit it was not the best approach, but being honest with myself about not being able to do it all helped overcome this.

Well…those days are past.  I must remind myself that no matter how short the entry, blogging is for me and my processing.  It is my story after all. 🙂

The thoughts of this blog have not changed one bit since beginning it months ago.  Participating in The Innovator’s Mindset MOOC was such a great experience.  I needed to share these thoughts, even if they are incomplete and just something to think about. I need to write. What better way to start again than writing about being fearlessly authentic!

Excuse Me, Life…Can I Have Time To Process?

Sofie taking in the gorgeous city of Chicago one morning. #reflecting

I procrastinate on things I have zero interest in doing until the very last second and I HAVE to do them.  Then, I go into panic mode to complete them.  It’s true.  I will admit it.

I am also a compulsive tab-hopper.  Although I may not know the correct term for this, I do know that this article tells us why we do it. In short, the article says, your brain is releasing dopamine receptors that are giving you the illusion that you are being more productive. Your brain, however, is not actually processing all of these stimuli.” 
(I may or may not have tab-hopped and ran across that while taking a break from writing a paper and wanted to read about something else I heard about earlier that day, which led to this article that I ended up reading.)

All of the above mentioned to say, I have not blogged in a month.  This weighs on my mind every single day. It’s not because I lack the learning to reflect on because that simply is not the case.  At all.  I am on learning overload, but would not change it for the world because I am a Learner. I thrive in an environment where I can learn something new, question things, and feel the excitement of learning.

To take this a step further, it excites me more when I can share this new learning with others in hopes of it sparking a better idea that they share, and so on.

I had two big realizations after reading that article:

1.   Is this how our students feel?
          – information overload
          – no time to reflect or process in the shuffle
          – panicked over procrastinating because they are asked to do things
            of zero interest to them
          – tab hopping because it this is when they can learn about things
             that they choose

2.   Only I can change my situation in this matter.

As I was talking with a friend last night while watching my daughter at tumbling, these words came out of my mouth:

“….I know. I know. I really am incredibly lucky to be able to have the opportunity to learn from so many amazing leaders throughout this internship and my classes, but I HAVE NOT HAD MUCH TIME TO PROCESS and REFLECT on these things.”  

Right after I said it I stopped and thought quietly, “You have time for what you make time for.”  There are things I can stop in order to carve time for this because without reflection time where I can mentally put my new learning into a file and organize how and when I will use this, what’s the point?

So this blog is nothing of amazing, deep thought.  It is simply me acknowledging today, this 20th day of October 2016, that I must intentionally set an alarm or write the date in my calendar to reflect on my learning.  I must do this to secure it in my brain before it all flies by and I have not grown from this experience because I never made time to stop and really reflect.

Balance: The Struggle is Real Y’all


Maybe it is just me, but I seem to be constantly working on balance in my life.  If you know me, you might have just laughed out loud.  Really though, the struggle is real y’all.  I feel constantly torn between loving what I am doing and stressing because I know I need to not be doing it. 

Funny story, I went to coffee with my dear teacher friend after yoga the other day and I said, “Here are my steps I am taking in July to take a step back and you know, spend some days where I am not doing something all the time. I am constantly going.  I want to really try to not constantly do stuff.”  She looked at me and said, “Do you mean relax?”  We couldn’t stop laughing!  So sad, but it’s the truth.  


Here is the problem with passionate educators: We find JOY in reading and learning about education. It just runs together.  It IS RELAXING for me to learn, create things, and read things on Twitter and blogs. 

So, in my attempt to be intentional about getting better I decided to sit down and read more about how people do this.  I was headed to the internet app when my ADD finger hit the Twitter icon and no kidding the first tweet that pops up is from someone in my PLN discussing how they need to balance their life better.  (I mean, maybe that was meant to be!) I click the comments and it is a strand of 7 people, all people I think highly of and are incredible educators that I feel have it all balanced, talking about how hard this is for them and how they are constantly working on it.  I hate to admit it, but I felt relief.  I am not the only one who struggles with this!! 

Guilty pleasure alert: Aside from turning to my faith, I like to read quotes on Pinterest to calm my mind. 🙂 I ran across this one and it stuck with me as I was thinking about this situation.

At first I thought, I AM doing what makes my soul happy.  I really love learning and using my creativity.  I love reading about how to do more exciting things to empower kids.

Then, I began thinking about this more.  I need to be really honest with myself and have no fear of being judged.  I asked myself, “What things do I do outside of education that make my soul really happy?”  Here is what came to mind.
I realized that music is a huge part of my life in so many ways.  I know a good beat starts my morning off right! The perfect song can take a bad mood and shake it off! I knew this, but wasn’t aware that it is so influential in calming my soul.  I need to make more time for this than I do already.  I know when I consistently read God’s word and do not let anything get in the way of my devotional time, I am truly fulfilled. I know that I love hugs and time with the ones I love the most.  All of these things are what makes my life pretty amazing!

It is a little scary, but I chose to be very open about this so that I am held accountable for making time to do more of the things I love with my family and things that make my soul happy.  Number one being sitting down!  Even if it is just to watch t.v. without multitasking.  Reading more fiction novels instead of only professional reading.  Not thinking about the list of things that need to get done.  As a person who is an “active person” and cannot stop moving, just sitting is a HUGE thing for me.  If I am not moving, my mind is going nonstop.  

I know the first step is admitting it, right?  Likewise, making changes will require small steps. I am taking baby steps.  The first step is a BIG one for me.  I am headed to the beach soon.  Every summer we go with our same group of super fun friends and seriously have the MOST AMAZING time goofing around and doing nothing! While on the beach that week, I normally catch up reading my professional books.  This year I am taking a fiction novel!  (I’ll let you know how that goes!)

There ya have it.  My new word for the next 6 months is BALANCE.  I will be very intentional to make more time to do things that make my soul happy.  I would love to hear from anyone who struggles with balance as well.  We are better together, so all ideas are welcomed! 🙂  

As always, my motto is…..

#TCEA16 – It’s About the People

Day 2 complete for this TCEA first-timer….WOW, what an experience!  I was so excited about all the learning I would be tweeting to my campus and PLN back home.  I even prepared them for nonstop tweets of learning.  Well…let’s just say, I couldn’t even begin to tweet my learning because I needed serious time to reflect on it all first. 🙂

Getting to meet people I have conversed with across Twitter for awhile now was the best way to kick off the week!  I have participated in chats with @VealHeidi for awhile now.  She always has such a positive message to share.  Getting to meet, hang out, and learn with/from her was even better. She is so super sweet!!

At the end of the very last session from today’s Leadership Academy Heidi asked me, “How was your day? What was your favorite session?”  I am pretty sure I did not hesitate to say that the absolute BEST part of my day and best learning came from sitting down and talking with @matthew_arend between sessions. My list-making self had scribbled some questions down during his presentation that I wanted to ask him.  The thing about being around passionate, like-minded educators is that they are always willing to share!  I walked up to him and said, “Hey, I need to chat you up about some things.”  He was like, “Okay.”

Later that day, I thought about it and yes, the sessions and academies were really fantastic!  Awesome people sharing great things-some of which I knew, some of which I did not know.  However, getting that face to face connecting time with people, questioning, sharing ideas of how it works at their campus, and just plain getting to know one another better was where my best learning came from!!

THAT is what it is all about! The people.  That is what it always comes down to with me when I reflect on many of my learning situations.  Relationships. Connect – which just so happens to be my #oneword2016 🙂

So, these pictures represent the WHY I love TCEA so far!  I was blessed with time to get to know these AMAZING educators even more! I mean, seriously, can it get any better than that?! What I have learned from them is what has made these first few days incredible! Looking forward to the rest of the week.  Can’t wait to see what else I learn that I can share with my campus!

Top Row:  @VealHeidi  @lackeymartha  @shareski  
Middle Row: @matthew_arrend   @tinaberumen
Bottom Row:  @R_H_Steele  @techwnancy  @Tom_Kilgore @E_Sheninger

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!