The advantages of time travel.

Lots of educators, in their early years, might have had to fly by the seat of their pants.  At least lots of educators I know that started out in the classroom when I did.  Mid 80s.  Our college preparation, with all due respect to my beloved alma mater, didn’t do a whole lot to prepare us.  I could pull together a whiz bang bulletin board.  We learned how in a college class.  I read some pretty good young adult literature in another class.  Otherwise, once hired into a job, we lived and survived with on the job training.  It was literally, “Here’s your room, a key, a book, and we’ll see what’s left of you in June.  Good luck.” Isolation was a professional given.

My first principal, one of my educational heroes, firmly told us rookies to not say anything at a staff meeting for 7 years.  We wouldn’t have anything to add and wouldn’t know what we were talking about until then.  At least I think he told all the rookies this.  I know he told me.  I also distinctly remember when he told me it was ok now to speak. He was pretty darn accurate in his timeframe.

Upon reflection, I would have had a lot more to say if I had read, studied, and discussed WAY different things prior to being hired or as part of continual learning after being hired. We didn’t have continual learning.  We had a law that said we needed to get a master’s degree to maintain our certificate.  I got mine in Educational Administration, never intending to use it.  That theory held for 10 years.  It would have been helpful to make use or even have knowledge of our current instructional framework (CEL 5D+), grounded in research based effective practice. It has provided lots of opportunities to grow and learn. Twitter has provided an abundance of learning opportunities.  EdCamps weren’t a thing in the mid 80s. We were ‘developed’ based on someone else’s idea of what we needed to know, regardless of interest, background, position, or content.  Reading great books by gifted educators like George Couros, Jo Boaler, Carol Dweck, Ken Robinson, Will Richardson, Matt Miller, Brad Gustafson, John Hattie, Eric Sheninger, Yong Zhao, and Vicki Abeles, just to name a few, wasn’t an option.  Sure wish I had even heard of them somewhere along the line.  I would have been a math teacher rather than an algorithm teacher if I had read Jo Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets, for example.  But, I didn’t.  I read them all after I left the classroom and then the building.

Well.  In a new role, I can do something about continual learning being a must.  I can read all the above.  Share gently from the above.  Model twitter as a PLN.  Host an EdCamp. And throw out offers for book studies with actual, current, dedicated hero educators.  And guess what?  Educators are taking me up on the offers.  For example, we bought multiple copies of Jo Boaler’s book….and they’re all in educators’ hands, hearts, and minds right now.  To quote George Couros, “Today, isolation is a choice educators make.” Our educators are choosing not to be isolated.  We use our framework as a basis for ongoing discussion.  We have more and more educators launching out in the Twittersphere.  In fact, we’re currently doing our 2nd Twitter Smackdown, with daily prompts.  We’ve hosted a districtwide EdCamp.  And we’re reading and talking to each other about that which we’re reading and learning.

On we go into our kids’ futures.

Gathering scattered thoughts. #immooc

So we hosted our first ever districtwide EdCamp on October 14th.  At the same time, I’m winding down the MOOC based on Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  #IMMOOC. Seems like a good time to pull some thoughts together.

Rereading Innovator’s Mindset now for the 3rd time has created 210 highlighted passages and 11 different notes.  More importantly is the impact its had on my thinking.  It’s become foundational for other reading and thinking I’m doing.  I’ve had the opportunity to read and think about a lot of different things, most are, on the surface at least, unrelated to each other.

However, the dominant thought I’m having is succinctly stated by Couros as he is wrapping up his book.

“When we know better,
we should do better.” 

Here’s a fear when educators gather.  We become excited and motivated. Then sometimes or often…go back to what we’ve always done.  How do we keep the enthusiasm, to continue to grow and learn…and ultimately ACT on what we have learned? One. Step. At. A. Time. Find the courage, a buddy, a colleague, an idea…and do it.  When we know better, we should do better.

Later today or this week, we’ll send out our official post EdCamp survey.  We want to learn from our colleagues.  We want to do the best job we can as supporters and leaders for each other.  I think the graphic below is a good representation of the atmosphere at our EdCamp.

Here’s hoping we can Do Better.  Because we know better.


New and better.

George Couros (@gcouros) defines innovation as something that is new AND better.  It’s a great and clear definition.  I was thinking about this definition this morning in terms of an individual educator.  Does something stop being innovative after the first time it exists?  Is it rendered as non-innovative to others thereafter?  Or is is possible that it can be as innovative for the next person because it is new and better to or for them?  I think so.

Twitter is an example.  Twitter probably isn’t viewed as particularly innovative anymore. However, when an educator decides to use it as way to enter a professional learning stream, to join a larger community of learners, to explore topics, to engage in rich conversations with other seekers….that is a new way to use twitter and certainly makes professional learning better.  The use of twitter in this regard is, by definition, innovative. When an educator makes the brave decision to venture out, create a twitter account, follow a hashtag, join a chat, add followers, tweet, and so on…for that educator the use of twitter is innovative.  It’s new to them and makes their professional learning better.

And it will for the next educator to try it as well.  And the next.  And in fact, the next.

Curious what others in the MOOC think.



Whoa. How’s this for a conversation starter?!

“What if your school didn’t have a copier?” 

Wow.  I don’t know why, but that simple question just sticks in my head.  What a cool and intriguing way to start a conversation in schools, a meeting, a learning opportunity, a training, an EdCamp.  What if your school didn’t have a copier?

Thank you Matthew!


Choose Messy

I have reread this blog post from this gifted principal 3 times. It’s just too good not to share. Actually I didn’t know that something called ‘reblogging’ was a thing. It’s a thing. So let me click ‘reblog post’. Here we go! And thank you @laura_jennaro for this!


life.jpgStudents joined staff this week to kick off the 2016-2017 school year. The energy in the building was palpable! Teachers shared a little bit about who they are as a person and a learner with their classes. Students worked through ice breakers and team-building activities, setting each group on its unique journey to becoming a team. Students high-fived me in the hallways. Smiles were infectious. Positivity strummed through the building.

I know the beginning of the year is shiny and new, but I started wondering how we can we ride this momentum into the best year yet? What was it that made these first few days special?

Was it the focus on relationships first, knowing the rest will come?

Was it the staff community joining forces to share a unified message?

Was it the fact that everyone stepped out of their comfort zones to do what’s best for kids?


View original post 169 more words

Isolation is a choice.

As part of a MOOC, I’m revisiting The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, by George Couros.  (#immooc).  Our first assignment was to reread the introduction and comment.  I’ll be all over that assignment, but for this blog post, I’m going to jump ahead in the book a bit because of what happened this weekend.

Consider these two passages from Innovator’s Mindset:

“Now, I am not saying that if you are not on Twitter, you are ineffective. Being on Twitter doesn’t make you a great teacher any more than not being on Twitter makes you ineffective. There are a lot of great teachers who do some pretty amazing things despite choosing not to connect online. That said, having 24/7 access to great ideas and forward-thinking teachers through Twitter and other social media increases your interactions with others and provides access to new ideas. A network helps people become better. How could it not?

Today, isolation is a choice educators make.

Our connectivity and learning opportunities have changed in recent years, and, thankfully, many teachers are taking advantage of those changes to benefit themselves and, more importantly, their students. We have access to information and, equally valuable, to each other. We need to tap into that.”
This weekend, I was messaging with one of our experienced teachers.  She has made the professional decision to challenge herself to grow and learn.  She has made twitter part of her professional learning network.  I mentioned that NCTE was having a twitter chat.  So, she checked it out.  She then sent along this message,  “There’s a secondary ELA chat tomorrow at 8 that I’m going to check out. I also love the Edtech videos. I’ve become a Twitter fanatic!”  This veteran teacher has made the decision to not be isolated.  She is learning about what she wants to learn about, on her own schedule, based on her own professional interests.
Back to the introduction assignment.  This quote, from the introduction,  has gone bone deep, “We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”  Searing in its truth. But you know what?  That same idea holds true for teachers.  If teachers leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.  Let’s keep that curiosity alive.  Let’s do all we can to knock down isolation. Let’s light the fire.

What’s a smackdown?

We’re learning how to use twitter as a professional learning tool.  One of the things we’re trying is a 20 Day Twitter Smackdown.  It’s going gangbusters!  We’ve added a whole bunch of educators to the twittersphere.  Our hashtag is #fifeshares.  While we’re not trending internationally, we’re definitely trending in our district!

Here’s our list of twitter prompts!


The first step.

We’ve spent a lot of time recently talking with educators about professional learning. Professional learning that may include reading, thinking, and growing.  The most often voiced concern is lack of time.  We totally get this.  Educators are incredibly busy. Anyone who has ever taught knows the thousands of decisions, questions, answers, and so on that are part and parcel of being a teacher and with which a teacher is challenged every single day.

What, then, is the first step to find the time to read, think, and grow?

Decide it’s important.

That may sound trite and cliche.  It’s not intended to be either.  But it is tough to argue that when one decides it is important to find the time….the time can be found.


Courage and energy.

To examine one’s professional practice and decide to change it, improve it, grow it, takes two things in my opinion: courage and energy.  At points in my educational career, I was satisfied with what I was doing, had done and wasn’t particularly interested in doing anything differently.  In fact, I used to joke that I was full, I couldn’t learn anything else.  I’d learned all I needed to learn. I didn’t see the need to grow.  And that was the fatal flaw in my reasoning.  It wasn’t ever about me.

The needs of students and teachers changed on me.  Not surprising over 30+ years. But there it is.  I needed to exercise courage and find energy. So, with a new professional role, I set out to challenge myself to try new things.  Writing a blog for example.  We don’t learn from experience.  We learn from reflecting on experience.  Writing is a great way to reflect.  Even if no one reads what you write, the intellectual exercise is the point!

Educators should read The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros.  Almost every page resonated with me and challenged me.  It’s almost laughable how much of that book I highlighted.  I use Kindle Reader for professional reading.  This allows me to report that I highlighted 203 passages and made 11 different notes.  I’ve read it twice.  And am about to read it again.

George Couros has established a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) based on his book. So with the idea that one should try new things and grow, I signed up.  We’ll be discussing chapters with colleagues around the world.  We have our first prompt.

Why is “innovation” so crucial in education? What impact do you see it having on our students and ourselves long term?

Couros on innovation, “I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative. That means that change for the sake of change is never good enough. Neither is using innovation as a buzzword, as many organizations do, to appear current or relevant.”

And further, “Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organizations, but innovation is less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.

So innovation being crucial in education?  That’s a big yes.  21st century skills for our students require them to create new knowledge, solve new problems, with new tools. They need to learn how to learn.  Fewer will care about what they know.  More will care about what they can do with what they know.  Our teachers need to have the opportunities to grow learning experiences for their students that allow them to innovate.  Practice 21st century skills. Collaborate.  Create new knowledge.  Share.  Write.  Communicate.

My daughter is a recent college graduate with a degree in Communication.  Her first job is at a shipping distribution center.  A big one with big, well known companies shipping products through the center around the world.  It is entirely safe to say that neither her K-12 experiences or even college did too much to prepare her for her job.  Yet her employers check with her weekly to be sure she’s not planning on going anywhere.  She’s had a raise, a bonus, and a promotion in a year.  What skills does she inherently possess that make her so valuable?  She collaborates with others to solve problems.  She creates new knowledge and solutions.  And she shows up on time, works hard, has a good sense of humor, and is a self-starter.  She is also a cusp kid.  I literally think the game changed while she was a student.  I know that in her previous school district, kids are now having the opportunity to practice the skills that she lucked into having as part of her make up.  This is good. That’s the long term impact of innovation.  Kids need to have opportunities to practice innovative skills.  Teachers need the opportunities to be free to design such opportunities. They also need the opportunities to practice these skills themselves.  We are already seeing examples in our own district of teachers creating these opportunities for kids.  One of our teachers posted on facebook last night, that her 4th grade son was teaching her about ‘growth mindset’ and was doing some work around that idea.  4th grade!  We have veteran teachers trying twitter for the first time as a learning and sharing resource.  We have teachers redesigning their classrooms to create collaboration spaces for students.

We are seeing courage and energy centered on our professional practice and focused on our students.  Creating something new and better.