Rate of change might be one of my favorite topics in math class. I have a fun kinesthetic activity called Slope Simon Says that gets students on their feet and learning. I love how the topic of change is important to pre-k through post secondary education and being able to quantify change is helpful to so many professions. However, experiencing change has been super challenging to me. In my formative years, I was quick to find a way that worked and continue on that path. I was definitely from the camp “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. As I continue to grow, I have become more observant of the world and have learned how to embrace change and welcome it more. I am proud of how I have been forced into significant change in my professional career during the last three years and I have continued to stay true to myself and values. I highly recommend my current read, The Untethered Soul, as it helps to give perspective on your self. Realizing that change is not only inevitable but necessary for life has been an important understanding. I am excited about the new opportunities that lie ahead and cannot wait to see the other side.
I haven’t posted since April. Eek. Well, if I have learned anything it is that I need to give myself some grace in all of this. During that time, we have been VERY busy.
We closed my alma mater (class of 1997) and place of employment since 2002. Rich East has been such a large part of my life for so long. It is almost fitting that it would be closed during this pandemic. I am still trying to come to terms with this.
My husband and I made the hard choice to send our son to private school. As a public school educator I never thought that I would send him to a private institution, however, our circumstances made it very difficult not to go in that direction. Although the decision was difficult I have no regrets. I know that he has made great improvements especially with regards to his reading skills in the last year. I hope that he will continue to grow socially.
We have now made it through a year of remote instruction at school. At the beginning of all of this I was fearful about how things would go. However, I continue to be impressed with the growth of our instructors despite the world. People who could barely make copies are now leading discussions and trying to use breakout rooms. I love their resilience and effort to work within these new limits.
Our school went to a flex mod schedule. The best way that I can describe this is that it is like a block schedule where you do not necessarily see all of your classes everyday. I like how it can potentially give students more freedom and ability to learn time management skills. I don’t like the growing pains as we learn how to improve. I look forward to the planning for next year and I hope that we can continue to improve the experience for our students.
You are more likely to reach your goals if you write them down. I would like to blog once a week. Given my energy level and time availability, I think I can do that on Thursday evenings. I plan to hit publish on Thursday night by 10pm. What do you think?
Two years ago, I read an article, similar to this one, about giving your children an allowance at a young age and not tying it to chores. I determined that a dollar per year of age would be a good place to start. Additionally, we have worked on teaching our kids how to save and give by delineating 10% would be donated to a charity of choice, 20% would be saved for a larger item (right now my son is saving for one of those PowerWheels cars), and 70% can be spent on whatever they choose. Here is an article more about that idea.
I noticed that my son has been working on money skills in his second grade assignments. He has been interested in new Pokemon cards. He asked if we could go to Target to buy new cards. Given the stay at home order because of COVID19 virus, going to Target is not a possibility for him as Pokemon cards are NOT essential. Today, I encouraged him to purchase the cards through Amazon and he was super interested in doing the same math that he was complaining about earlier this week.
The discussion we had was awesome. We talked about what to do when borrowing from a 0 in the tenths place. We determined counting strategies for his quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies. He was able to strategize easier ways to count his change as well as whether the cards he wanted were a good deal or if he wanted to shop around more for something else. He typically shies away from writing anything down when doing math and he was able to determine that in this case, it would be better to write down some of the numbers. We got to talk about “tax” and why even kids have to pay it. We talked about who he planned to give his “donate” money to and why (he even gave that box an additional $2 of his allowance). I let the numbers get a little scary and he still rose to the challenge. It is so fun to have these real world math discussions with him and see him persevere during these challenges.
How is your quarantine going?
This experience has been filled with half empty and half full experiences. I have loved working with my son’s education and the ability to work from home as opposed to spending an hour and a half in the car everyday. I have HATED trying to help my son outside of my high school math comfort zone and spending every hour inside of our little condo. Everything seems like the double edged sword. However, as I continue to consider and reconsider my situations in life I am continually grateful and try to really embrace whatever is positive in any given moment even when the positive can seem so negative.
One of the more amazing parts of this experience has been the deep dive into my son’s mathematical understanding. Given that he is a second grade student, I knew that he had not started “times tables” yet. However, I know that the addition, subtraction, and repeated versions of those operations are the foundation for that experience in the future so I dove into the deep end with trying to determine WHERE exactly he was and what we should do to go to the next level. I’ve had plenty of students over my 18 years of education but I feel INCREDIBLY responsible for THIS student to know and understand the world around him.
To get a better understanding of my son’s understanding I knew I needed to get some baseline information on what he already knew. From my experiences in high school, I have LOVED finding activities and resources that have low floors and high ceilings like was almost always the case with MARS Tasks. I first encountered these tasks through my work with what was then SCMI and now is MCMI. Through my work as a math coach in my District we partnered with area K-12 schools to help promote mathematics education and the implementation of the Common Core. We focused on providing good feedback to students and helping students articulate their thoughts, produce arguments, and critique the reasoning of others. Through this I realized that math education really lives on a spectrum rather than students “know it” or “they don’t” because sometimes one day they do and the next becomes foggy. We need to listen to student voice to really help our kids get to deeper levels of understanding. We used the aforementioned MARS tasks to help listen to student voices. These tasks are very similar to Advanced Placement questioning in that they required students to not only produce an answer but to show their thinking but were leveled throughout grade school as opposed to the capstone nature of AP questions. I love how these tasks invite anyone in to try them but really challenge learners quickly to continue to pursue better understanding.
Through my following of the #MTBOS on Twitter, I was exposed to Open Middle problems. Similar to the MARS tasks these have a low floor in that you just fill in numbers. The high ceiling comes in when you have your student really maximize or minimize the problem and the conversation you have to help them get there. How do you scaffold them enough to get to the next level but not so much that you take the challenge out of the problem? How do you make sure that YOU are not doing more math than the student?
Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces, #VNPS
Through my experience of combing through the #MTBOS, I discovered this #VNPS that I had NO idea what the letters meant but it seemed like people were doing math and were super engaged. I asked and found out that it stands for Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces. Sure I have white boards in my classroom and have my own chalkboard/whiteboard/SMARTBoard but the idea behind this is having them ALL AROUND THE ROOM and having ALL your students thinking and doing math at the same time. My classroom this year was blessed with showerboards mounted in the back. Now I just had to find tasks that were worthy enough of getting out of your seat to stand and do math. I loved having my students out of their seats this year and often Open Middle problems provided tasks worthy of that opportunity.
COMBO with EVERYTHING
After the first day of completing worksheets in a fraction of a second I knew that I needed to engage my son more. So I went to Open Middle, found a second grade problem, wrote it on paper, and let him go. He didn’t want to write anything because he was afraid to get it wrong. We put it on the whiteboard on the back of our front door and he got to work because now he could erase.
I will admit, there have been tears along the way (maybe some of them were mine). At first, he has always said that each problem was “impossible” only to find that not only was it POSSIBLE but that there were multiple solutions (point 1 for MommyMath). We began to explore the idea of EQUALITY meaning more than just AN answer and what does it REALLY mean to be EQUAL (point 2 for MommyMath and one for EQUITY versus EQUALITY).
I’ve been able to see his confidence grow which is amazing. From the first day that included bribes to keep trying (Skittles and chocolate are my friends) to now he is excited to try to revamp his work from the previous day. He has learned that “writing things down” helps us the next day know where we left off and that “writing” is something that we do to not only communicate with others but to communicate with ourself.
I love his independence. I love that he knows what to do, when he needs to go back and revise, and that he is really getting a good understanding of how numeracy works. This experience has truly humbled me as an educator and empowered me at the same time. I always said that I didn’t know how elementary educators do their job talking to people who really don’t know how to reason (and I still don’t understand how you do this with 30 kids in the same room on different levels) but at least now I know I can do this part of the job too. I look forward to what the next couple of weeks will hold and can’t wait to take on some of the other great resources I have learned about through the #MTBOS especially ones that are
1.) LOW TECH because holy schmoly he is in front of the screen ALL DAY
2.) ON YOUR FEET because I feel like we are sitting for hours on end
3.) GIVE YOU A VOICE because you have to defend your answer
My first experience as a full time teacher without the presence of a mentor teacher was during September 11, 2001. The experience from the last week is the only memory that surpasses that one as life changing. It seems like one day I could go to work at 300 Sauk Trail like everyday before for the last ~19 years and the next everything had changed. EVERYTHING.
The last week has been one of the most challenging of my life, with a steep learning curve, and one filled with small joys that were truly big joys. I turn back to this blog as a old friend who is always waiting to hear what I have to share. Thank you for partaking of my takeaways and I hope you can, in turn, take something to help you moving forward.
I remember taking a communication class in college and it seemed so easy. You have a sender and a receiver and the sender encodes a message and the receiver decodes the message and responds with feedback and there is an endless loop. If only this was truly the case.
Student Communication As we quickly left school last week, which might be the last time I ever teach a class within the walls of 300 Sauk Trail due to the consolidation at the end of this school year, we hurriedly attempted to ensure that students would be able to communicate with us if we were no longer allowed to have in person contact with them on a daily basis. On that Friday when I attempted to have students access their email it became blatantly obvious that although we have a MILLION ways to communicate with each other, students sometimes do not even have one access point with their instructors. Students were vastly unaware that their email was called Outlook and you had to click Office 365 first. I knew from previous experience that teachers lean on using email but given this grave situation, that email would not be a effective way to communicate with our students.
Parent Communication If you cannot reach the student, maybe your best bet is to try a parent. As a parent myself, I receive email and try to look for ones from my son’s teacher. However, given the ridiculous number of COVID-19 updates from my mortgage lender to my internet provider to the place I have a wine club membership with, sifting through it all to find the daily update from my one son’s one teacher is challenging. I can only imagine what can happen with a high school student who has 5-7 teachers attempting to engage with the student. Additionally, many of my parents did not list an email address and only have a phone number. I have LOVED using Google Voice Text Messages for this reason. The responses to those have been at a much higher rate than email. It is just so hard to keep up with all the modes of communication:
- phone call
- text message
- Remind message
- feedback through our LMS (Schoology)
Logging Communication Once I finally am able to get a message out and confirmation that it has been received, I feel like I log that in about five places. There is a space to log in PowerSchool that we have traditionally used in the past. Then there is usually a spreadsheet created by someone to track something and usually I prefer that the set up was more reusable. I keep thinking “don’t recreate the wheel every day or week, instead create one space that you can constantly update or filter so that there is a one stop shop of data”. But then I am usually just grateful that someone else did the work so I don’t have to and I just adjust my own practices even if they are not as efficient as I would like. The battle in my mind is so real as I LOVE efficiency.
Phone is Still Best I have found that my best bet is still a phone call. We have come so far with tech but in the end of the day, people really want a voice. They want to know that you are calling about their kid, use their kid’s name, and are interested in helping see them through to the conclusion of their problem. This is tough because it takes immensely longer than an email or text that you can send out to multiple addresses, but, it is worth it to make the connection. I will continue to remind myself of this.
People Want A Direction
I know that my staff typically does not want to be told what to do. However, this last week has been so confusing and challenging that people are CRAVING exactly that. My people seem to want something solid to believe that will actually happen. Or even if it won’t, they want to know that they are doing what is “right”. I have learned that what is “right” or fair in any given situation is “fluid” or “temporary” in so many cases. This is especially difficult for me as I selected my college major because I believed that Mathematics was so black and white. Only in my older age have I realized that most of the time life is not all about 0’s and 1’s but rather spectrums of everything in between. I am ok with this even if others are not. The challenge is working to help others see life outside of 0’s and 1’s knowing that I used to be one of those people.
We Are All Doing the Very Best We Can
I used to give a ton of lip service to “assume positive intentions”. This has become a way of life for me in the last week. I hope that others assume that of my actions. I constantly feel like I am never doing enough as a parent, wife, teacher, or administrator. However, that doesn’t deter me from trying to do my very best to live in the moment I am in. Additionally, I continue to encourage my staff to live in the moment they are in. I feel like I have aged like 10 years in a week but it was a good journey to have.
Negative Revenue Is Ok Sometimes
My husband owns a local gym. It is his passion and reason for living. Because of the stipulations of the Governor, we had to close the gym indefinitely. This is especially challenging because we moved to this larger space in January and he has not had a paycheck in several months. We were counting on a large group event that was supposed to happen last weekend – postponed by Governor dictate over assembling in groups over 10 – to be the event that would put us in the black. Today, he left our home to go to put memberships on hold which translates into negative revenue for the business, since members can not use the gym right now. Hopefully, our teammates will rejoin us after this is over. It’s all about relationships. By taking away the financial burden of our members, I hope they are grateful and return when this is over due to our good will at this moment. I sincerely hope that we can return to business as usual. It puts more stress on ensuring that the time I spend on any given activity during the day is beneficial and not wasted.
Knowing what to expect gives more purpose and purpose helps us determine what we would like to expect. For instance, my four year old needs naps so she is more pleasant in the evening. Sure, she could go without a nap, but then she is a little beastly by 5pm. If we understand the why, we are more likely to go with the plan. Having a plan, makes us more likely to achieve what we want. Having a plan is a good thing, being able to sometimes deviate from the plan helps keep us sane. Therefore, here is the general Monday-Friday plan I have in place
8:30am class chat (I picked this time because this is when I used to teach class)
9am STEM Division Check In
9:30am Admin Team Check In
10:00am Work my class (provide an online assignment, try to engage students who are not engaged) and STEM (emphasis on the M) activity for Jacob
10:30 snack time (my kids will just eat snacks alllllllll day without a planned time)
12:30 Nap for Alyce/ Reading Time for Jacob (Jacob has been great with reading Alyce a story before nap – two birds with one stone)
1pm Email check (both from Jacob’s teacher and my teachers), Project Work (i.e. engaging students who have not engaged from other teachers)
2:30pm Physical Activity like a walk with the dog
4pm Close out School for the day and make dinner
6:30 Connect with someone (my son learned how to Facetime on his own)
7:30 Alyce Bedtime
8:30 Jacob Bedtime
9:00 Me time (Grey’s Anatomy, this blog etc)
And with that, I am out!
My grandmother had Alzheimers.
My mother is try to do preventative things to avoid getting it as well.
I have a group of students in front of me every day that I want to maximize their learning potential.
This book I believe holds many keys to improving memory and learning.
I read Make It Stick a couple of years ago. I knew it was a quick read but I could not remember all of the various tenets of the book. I wrestled with the idea of rereading the book as I DID remember from the book that rereading is not the best way to study. However, I went ahead and reread the book and am so glad I did. Reading this book reinforced some of the ideas I had for teaching my class this year as well as my desire to read Powerful Teaching in the near future.
I had already thought that including student blogs in my class would allow them additional opportunities to excercize their voice. This book helped me realize the added learning benefit from reflecting on learning. I sincerely hope that the time invested in this activity during my class, one that I devote to 50 minutes of MATH every day, will pay learning dividends. I am trying to prepare myself for the pushback that it doesn’t have the immediate rewards of massed practice (read “cramming”) but am hopeful that through employing this, along with other strategies of the book I will be able to move my students forward. The book points out that fluency does not equal understanding. I see this on a regular basis in math when I have students who can fluently give multiplication facts but struggle with understanding that multiplication is really just iterated addition.
I will start with having students write a Friday blog about what they did in class and what they learned. I just started an EduBlog myself to blog alongside my class. I might have them post daily “quiz questions” and encourage students to comment back with their answers to encourage the other tenets expressed in the book.
Getting feedback from quizzing can be daunting as we tend to overestimate what we know and remember. However, I have seen the benefits personally of this technique. I am reminded of when I was taking a course called History and Thought of Western Man and we had to learn many artworks by sight for an exam. I performed the best on the exams where I prepared my own flashcards and practiced at regular intervals. Cramming seems to work but there is not much transfer to long term memory. I’m hoping to add in better forms of this through more strategic bellringer activities, having students write questions based on daily lessons (ooooh maybe I will have students write their questions on a notecard as an exit ticket, offer extra credit if I use their question in the future, keep the notecards in a box for readily available use).
The idea of interleaving either different topics (similar to how we interleaf subjects during the day) or kinds of questions. This idea plays credence to the plan we had this year for our students to no longer have two hours in a row of math and instead split it up during the day. Given the data from the tests our students took last year, we need to change something to attain better results. This change alone could be helpful to change those results.
I honestly had to look up this strategy, however, if by looking it up and correcting my understanding I learn the tenet better, then I am happy I did it. Additionally, by writing about it now I am using an additional tenet, elaboration. Spaced practice is like hitting the sweet spot on a bat, long enough to make it work to remember thus helping solidify the learning but not too long as to completely forgot. It makes me wonder if the summer slide is actually a little bit of a good thing? Who knows.
Last year I was really intent on incorporating sketchnotes into my life and especially my teaching practice. I do not think that I succeeded in my goal to pass this idea on to my students, however, given that sketchnotes are an enjoyable part of elaboration, maybe I need to push it harder this year. Elaboration has the learner take what they already know and build on it. It is important, then, to understand what students are building on otherwise you do not have the solid foundation necessary to hold the new understanding.
This is a tough one for anyone. No one really prefers challenging situations. However, those challenging situations provide the best opportunities for growth. I need to do a better job of reframing challenging activities as growth opportunities.
Definitely a buzzword but worthy of understanding in class. How many times have I heard “I’m not a math person” or worse is when the PARENT of the student I am working with says that. We are ALL math people! Growth mindset is easier said than done but a worthy goal especially in a math classroom.
I am totally stoked to read Powerful Teaching but that is on hold until I finish The Happiness Advantage that I started reading yesterday. I am super excited as this book is also very research based and comes from a growth mindset. I’m already thinking, “ok, I’m on board…. happy people find more success, have fewer sick days, etc etc… so what do I need to DO?”. I hope that the blog associated with that book has actionable steps like this one did.
A week of ice breakers, activities, tech tools, feedback, presentations, data, laughter, competition, and work is the quick version of the administrative retreat for Rich Township District 227.
You Will Live as a Team, You Will Die as an Individual
I loved the focus on teambuilding and ice breaker activities. Some of my favorites included the team scrabble tournament, brown bag introductions, crowd cheering rock paper scissors tournament, the communication line activity (similar to the game of telephone but with motions and no words – HILARIOUSLY awesome and drove home the point, ESPECIALLY with the video), land mine trust walk, and find your team karaoke sing off). I think we ignore doing these activities throughout the course of the schoolyear beyond the first week. I would love to incorporate these activities both in class as well as with my division or grade level time. I’m pretty excited to use one or two with the students who plan to come help with freshmen next week. Additionally, Jeff Bonomo showed this video (spoiler alert: you might need a tissue) about how students react to hearing that you believe in them and I would love to incorporate this idea into something that I do this year.
Dr. Thomas spoke about our targets and goals and it was a breath of fresh air that the message seemed the same as the previous year as to how we will proceed with working to attain goals related to math, reading/writing, and AP. It is good that the focus remains tight and on the same goals.
Shadow a Student
I am most excited about one of the big takeaways I had from our all admin team read, Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. You can read more about my reflections in this post. I plan to shadow a student on September 10, 2019. I plan to use a freshman student and, just as Couros did, I plan to do everything that they have to do for a day. I am really interested in what life is like for a typical student. I already put this in my calendar so I am pumped :).
The thought that I kept having throughout the week is how to build and maintain trust. It is key to so many aspects of the job. I learned last year that to be clear is to be kind. I am working on ensuring that my communication is much clearer than before. I think at times I have been hung up on being liked or being nice when really people seek out good feedback that will help them in their future pursuits.
All I Do Is Win, Win, Win No Matter What
This week was filled with wins which I have to admit felt pretty good. I was on the winning escape room team. Our team won the land mine teambuilding/trust building game. We won the transportation competition (nice job Whitaker with your “prize”). We won the Kahoot for the Operations Day Kahoot. How can I give my staff and students more opportunities to win because it is a pretty awesome feeling.
Illusion Versus Reality
We had the awesome opportunity to see The Spellbinder Show. He is an illusionist and was very talented. I was intrigued by what seemed to be real but I knew really was not. I considered how this idea of how things appear versus reality plays out in our schools. How Rich South admin celebrated as if they won the bowling game but in reality, when you look at the scores, they were so very wrong 🙂 see the pictures below…. just kidding, or am I? For real though, with our school, illusions are everywhere. How our school building appears just fine from the outside, but really has a plethora of life safety needs. How our students come to school and maybe don’t wear it on their face but have a home life that makes it impossible sometimes to come to school. It really drove home the point to me that you need to look underneath what you see to really understand what is truly going on.
Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
One of the recurring themes throughout this experience was one of relationships. I learned last year as a new administrator that relationships are HUGE to being able to do my job effectively and efficiently. I want to pour into my relationships even more this year so that our staff truly knows how awesome they really are. I appreciate the dedication and time they give to the work and to our students and I want them to know they are noticed.
Last year was the first time I tried to play Spades. I felt so out of my comfort zone. Although this year was not my first time with the game, it was the first time in a while. Ms. Glenn and I did pretty well 🙂 and it was fun. I was vulnerable, made some mistakes, but overall was impressed with being able to hang in there. I need to continue to take risks to remember how that feels and help my students
Here are my sketchnotes for the week.
I haven’t felt this excited about my job since last year this time. I have so much work to do but it will be totally worth it for our students to make gains toward their future. I am excited for year two as I kinda have an idea of what to sometimes expect (but like Big Brother on TV, you always have to expect the unexpected). I am hopeful that I can get back to blogging on the regular and I can’t wait to see what I will learn this year.
NOTE ON AUDIO BOOKS
I’ve really enjoyed reading books through Audible and Hoopla. It has made the commute to work more enjoyable and productive. I’ve read more books this way than through traditional ways. I wonder if I would have been able to do a better job of reading books in high school if this format was more readily available?
I would like to find a way to take notes while listening and driving though. This is more challenging now with the Illinois Laws related to cell phone use and distracted drivers, a necessary law and I am not complaining.
FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS BOOK
I’ve found that when I traditionally write up my thoughts on a book I’ve read that I haven’t done a great job of implementing the ideas I’ve garnered through the title. Therefore, I am going to limit my takeaways from this book to hopefully improve the impact on my career.
TAKEAWAY 1: Blog, girl! BLOG!
I realized when I went to my mailbox and saw this book in it as an all administrative staff read that I was lucky as I had already read the book last summer. I fired up WordPress and searched and searched but found no mention of Innovator’s Mindset in any of my blog posts. Then I questioned my memory and wondered if I had indeed read it and searched Twitter as well and found a single, solitary post on the subject. This is such a shame because the book was really good, encouraged readers to include student voice and blogging which are core beliefs that I have carried forward since reading it last year. Long story short, I need to blog more. Couros often empowers readers to find their voice and challenges that even bad bloggers help move us forward. Although I am not winning Pulitzer prizes with my blog posts, I have recognized my growth through using the medium to connect with other educators and push my thinking when it comes to educational policy. Blogging is helpful for me and the profession and this book has inspired me to continue blogging as well as find a way to implement blogging in my classroom this school year. Additionally, as soon as it goes on sale I would like to have my own domain :).
TAKEAWAY 2: PROBLEM FINDERS
As a math teacher, I have felt tasked with giving students the skills they need to attack any problem that they encounter. Often students have been upset with my assignments when they do not mirror the problems we encountered in class, but I remind them that it is not my task to show them how to do every problem, but rather, provide them with skills and opportunities to be able to work through the problem to answers. Couros says on page 50 that “While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.” This really stuck with me, and convicted me. I have spent so much of my professional life on problem solving but have often neglected problem finding. I think that in recent years I have attended to this more through my deliberate use of notice and wonder in my class. Reading this book has cemented the need to adhere to this strategy not only on a more regular basis but maybe even on a daily basis. Problem finding is essential because you cannot solve the problem that you cannot define.
TAKEAWAY 3: EDCAMP AS PD
I love EdCamp. Every time I attend I am inspired to try new classroom techniques that I learn. Here are blog posts related to my experiences (here, here, here, here, there are others but you get the drift). I love the voice and choice involved with this mode of presenting Professional Development. I know that it has catapulted my use and knowledge of online tools such as Google Apps for Ed, Twitter, Tweetdeck, various poster making sites, etc. I know that other educators in my school would enjoy the experience as well. I need to make this a reality for our staff because I truly believe that it could foster better relationships and innovation at our school. Couros tauts the importance of relationships, voice, and choice throughout his book and this idea of EdCamp as PD is one that I truly want to make a reality as it plays into all three of those ideas.
TAKEAWAY 4: PICTURES AND SKETCHNOTING
It was amazing when Couros described the images created by Sylvia Duckworth related to his ideas how I was able to immediately conger up the picture he was refrencing. Pictures are so central to conveying ideas to others. I’ve often been mocked for my sketchnoting, but now more than ever I believe in the power that sketchnoting has on my learning. I would love to employ this technique in my classroom and encourage others to use it more for their own learning purposes too. I want to reread Make It Stick and read Powerful Teaching to be able to support my claims with the evidence that I know resides in those books.
TAKEAWAY 5: CONNECT TO THE HEART
Whether I need to connect to the heart of my students or staff, that connection is huge. I plan to shadow a student for a day this fall to really get an idea of what our students do on a daily basis and what their experience is like. I really want to get to know students and their goals and aspirations more. I want to do something everyday that I can point to and say “I connected to the heart on that one”.
I had the pleasure of attending this inspirational conference hosted by Humanex. There was careful attention paid to details such as promotional materials, variety of speakers, and a fantastic venue. I really enjoyed getting to know my counterparts better while learning best leadership practices from across a variety of industries. Major themes came through to me from this conference, that I believe, are applicable to not only education but management in general.
There is dignity and we need to honor excellence in every role
– and –
You are not “just a” anything
I loved how this idea played out again and again throughout the conference. All of the roles we have in our organization are important. While talking to one of the other division leads, we realized that often we will say “I’m just a Division Lead for ____ at my school”. There is nothing “just a” about the roles we serve in. Additionally, if you have ever had a day when you felt more like 70% than 100%, it is important to then give 100% of the 70 as opposed to anything less than your best. This resonated with my current state of affairs given the many directions I have been pulled in lately. I really made the effort to give my most and best throughout this conference and I believe my experience was richer because of it. Jimmy Casas mentioned that “people who feel valued and appreciated will always do more than expected”.
Whether it was creating the “diamond drops” to recognize the work of others to sending a quick text to someone that is important in your life, taking the time to be intentional to honor those who inspire us daily is important. Finding a way to be authentic and ensure that my team feels seen and heard is very important for me moving into next year.
What did you say in the interview chair?
I loved the session by Jimmy Casas. He was incredibly honest and authentic with his message which can be challenging to do when you have a past that isn’t rainbows and unicorns. He posed the question of “What did you say in the interview chair?” and then reminded us that we should live into that passion even into today. That brought me back to when I was interviewing as a first year teacher. I remembered how nervous I was to do a good job and I think in my years of experience have given me a degree of comfort and swagger with what I do. I’d like to recapture a little of that innocence as I believe that it could help drive me to really put student needs at the forefront of my instruction.
Our Dream Box
During the breakout sessions, one of the presenters talked about their dream box through Humanex. I was curious about our data so I looked up the information provided. We celebrated our success with staff as we really made huge gains with earning and I am so happy that we have moved in the right direction with them for they inspire our students daily. When I looked through the student data I saw a great new opportunity to work on goals to improve their engagement and satisfaction. The overall dream box for our school was at 49%. We are at about half of our population feeling engaged in their environment. I think that we need to get a better idea of what the student experience is like in our schools so that we can find ways to improve this engagement. Shadowing students might be a good opportunity for us to see our classrooms from a different lens and consider the possibility for making changes that improve student success.
Bill Taylor mentioned lessons that companies were able to learn from the Toyota company as documented in Good to Great. One of the lessons learned by a hospital included getting rid of waiting rooms and posting actual prices on the wall. This made me think that we could post the cost or financial benefits of the high school education earned at Rich East High School. I also loved this idea of “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”. We claim to be lifelong learners but are we actually learning? I considered my most recent endeavor of getting Google certified, which was a great experience but one that already resides in my wheelhouse, and this experience reminded me that I need to be cognizant of the leadership areas that I need to work on and I need to actually put in the work.
Are you proud of the work or are you defending the work?
I love love LOVED seeing Joe Sanfilippo speak. He was totally fantastic as a public speaker and was completely energizing. I saw hints of my previous Athletic Director come out when he spoke of his #gocrickets tagline. I loved how he interwove moments of levity with audience interaction (get 2 inches away from the face of the person next to you) to take home lessons on gratitude (take out your phone and text someone that means something to you. The messages were simple yet powerful. He was able to show that you can change culture in less than 30 seconds…what you do for less than a minute can be remembered for a lifetime…so we need to make it count. His enthusiasm was contagious and inspired me to bring that back to my staff.
I did not know who Inky Johnson was prior to this event but his message will help me never forget him. It was a nice way to finish out this experience as he reminded me about the “What is your why?” that our district worked on last year. Your why will drive your what. He said that “people do not burn out because of what they do, they burn out because they forgot WHY they do what they do” What legacy do we want to leave?
One of the characteristics of many of the leaders who spoke was the ability to reframe situations. Often, they would speak of things that would be considered drawbacks but many times they reframed the idea as an opportunity for growth. I love this idea. I changed my mindset on a situation like that just tonight and realized that this is a powerful idea. When we consider data next year that might not be the best, we need to remind ourselves that this is just a benchmark to eventually look back upon and tell the world about how far we have come.
#sketchnote and Blogging
It’s been a while since I’ve sketchnoted. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. It helped me remember the tenets of the Make It Stick book (I remember from that book that I shouldn’t reread it, however I REALLY want to now – maybe a good opportunity to turn it into a book study at school?). I forgot how people will look at your strangely as you draw pictures during lectures, but I also remembered that I don’t really care what others think 🙂 . I liked this opportunity to step back into blogging. As I spoke of before, my lack of blogging lately is not a drawback but rather an opportunity for growth in the coming year – year TWO of administration!
Well, my New Year Resolutions did not last HOWEVER, I have made some significant changes in my life that I would like to share :). Additionally, with the start of Lent I am always reminded to simplify and be the person that God intended me to be.
Just Say No to Caffeine…in the afternoon
I gave up caffeine in the afternoon. It started at the beginning of the year when I took a week off of work and realized that I had not had afternoon caffeine all week and just continued that. Previous to that, I had about 40 oz of coffee in the morning and a Red Bull (or the off brand equivalent) in the afternoon. Next will be to cut down the morning dose, but I have a three year old and that challenge will have to wait a little longer.
As a first year administrator, my biggest learning experiences have been related to evaluations. Next year I plan to write the summative evaluation throughout the year to cut down on the stress of second semester. I realized that in my optimism that I needed to be more direct with people as I have learned from Brene Brown in Dare to Lead, “to be clear is to be kind”. I had very challenging conversations as well as very productive ones. I look forward to improving this experience for my staff next year but am proud of the job I did this year.
Meditation and Creating Margin
I begin each day with ten minutes of meditation. This is huge for me as when I started I was reluctant to the activity (I actually believed that I could not even spare 10 minutes). I’ve seen the benefits of creating margin in my life (I also practice “pausing” for two minutes with a breathing/mindfulness app, 3 long breaths each time I start or stop my car, etc). Mindfulness doesn’t remove anxiety, but it does help me accept it and move forward as opposed to being stopped in my tracks. I could probably write a whole blog post on this topic alone, however, I will keep it moving. Feel free to engage in a conversation with me about presence and what I have learned from Tara Brach.
I would really like to return to blogging more often. I love how I am able to look back and see progress when I blog. Let’s see what I can do in the weeks ahead.