Trust the people. Trust the process.

Our district hosted Jenni Donohoo last week.  Easily one of the best professional learning experiences we’ve had in awhile.  Her presentation to about 200 educators was engaging, topical, entertaining, authentic, and motivational.  One of our key takeaway thoughts was so simple and clear.  As all good key takeaway thoughts should be.  Jenni quoted the great Michael Fullan,

“Trust the people.  Trust the process.”

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As we continue to battle the beast of passive professional development, this phrase, this truth arms us with the correct frame of mind.  As we said to our educators, “Everyone in this room has a college degree.  Everyone in this room has a very good idea what she/he needs to learn more about to do a better job for more kids.  It’s your job to professionally learn.”  And we, the people responsible for removing obstacles and barriers to that professional learning need to believe bone deep that we are to Trust the people.  Trust the process.

Jenni flat gave us an immediate experience to do just that.  Trust the people.  Trust the process.  After our first session together, our educators had ‘team time.’   No directions for how to form teams, with whom to form teams, what to do in said teams.  Just some suggestions for activities.  Completely up to the educators.

So, there was some standing around.  A little awkward time.  We’ve done a great job in the past completely programming every minute at these kinds of gatherings.  And then….people formed into groups.  Had the conversations they needed to have.  It was fantastic.  Upon returning to Jenni’s final session, it was clear that the intensity, based upon the success and excitement from the team time, was ratcheted up over the first part of the presentation.  We were invested.  Our learning was deeper and more meaningful.

Kind of amazing what happens when one trusts the people and trusts the process.


Whose job is it exactly?

Professional learning or professional development?  I believe in the former.  Used to experience the latter.  Not to claim victimhood, but when one knows better, one must do better.  I now know better.  Professional learning > professional development.

What’s the difference between PL and PD?  The source of the ultimate responsibility.  We have done a revoltingly good job removing the teacher from her/his own professional learning when we professionally develop.  Typical professional development is top down.  Someone else decides what one is to learn, designs the learning, imposes the learning, assesses the learning.  The learner is not part of the equation.  No determination of interest, need, experience, expertise.  Zip.  And we’ve done such a great job with this model, it’s really tough to break good educators out of this stultification.  We’ve created a system where educators expect to simply sit and absorb.  Play the game. Then go about business as usual.

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Professional learning, on the other hand, is all about the learner.  David Geurin sums it up perfectly, “Great teachers are great learners, too. They don’t wait for the school to ‘develop’ them. We’ve all been to mind-numbing professional development sessions. We’ve also observed educators who don’t make an effort to engage in professional learning. Maybe you’ve been professionally disengaged. Maybe the culture of your school doesn’t reward growth and progress for teachers. It makes me sad that so many educators have lost sight of why they became teachers in the first place. You can make a huge impact, and one way you can do that is to continue to learn and grow. Don’t expect your school to own your personal growth. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to be a learner. It’s up to you to become your best. Of course, every school should support educator learning, but with all the tools available today, you can connect and learn no matter what your school is doing to support your growth. Take the initiative to be a learner.”

And then he really hammers the point home,The responsibility for growing personally and professionally ultimately rests with the individual and not the organization. We will provide support and encouragement, but you will get out of your professional learning what you put into it.”

Our district is hosting Jenni Donohoo next week (October 13, 2017).  We can’t wait to learn from her more about Collective Teacher Efficacy. “The belief that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.”

Following our morning work with Jenni, we’ll be hosting our own EdCamp.  We think these two learning opportunities fit together in service of professional learning.  The research based, Hattie reinforced, Donohoo clarified Collective Teacher Efficacy, leading into an educator driven EdCamp.  Educators choose the topics for learning.  They learn from each other. They share resources.  If it’s a good EdCamp, they leave with more questions than answers.  They collaborate, share, challenge, argue, network, and LEARN.  Sound like some of the stuff we want kids to do.

And yet, our challenge remains to slay the passive beast of professional development.  Sit.  Get.  Absorb.  Leave.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Final note.  Emphasizing David Geurin’s stone cold fact, “…you will get out of your professional learning what you put into it.”





A very important C. Communication.

The Four Cs.  Communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.  Tonight and tomorrow, students will be utilizing all four.  Students in Iowa, Washington, and Minnesota.

Two twitter chats are happening. The first is this evening.  A group of middle school kids in Minnesota are hosting this awesome twitter chat!

Then a second twitter chat takes place tomorrow morning!

This twitter chat features pre-service teachers in Iowa chatting about technology use in class.  We’re inviting some of our own students and staff to participate!

The power of Twitter for communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

Can’t wait for both!


Reading David Geurin’s great book, Future Driven.  Got me thinking about risk.  I was recently in the classroom of a 29 year veteran math teacher.  It was the first day of all of our 8th and 9th graders coming to class with brand new Chromebooks.  I saw this quote about risk in action from this teacher.

“Students will take exactly the same amount of learning risks they see their teachers take.”


This great teacher was introducing the kids to Jo Boaler.  He had a great video cued up and was using EdPuzzle to ask questions of the kids as they watched.  Jo Boaler talks about the fact that nothing happens in the brain when kids get the right answers. Mistakes, however, make the brain grow.  Well this teacher demonstrated all of this on DAY ONE with new Chromebooks.  Nothing worked like it was supposed to.  And this great teacher turned that struggle into learning.  Modeled.  Persevered.  The kids all chimed in on how to solve the problem.  Collaboration.  Creativity.  Critical thinking. Communication. Mistakes. Brain growth.

All the result of risk.  Sure.  He could have just had kids take notes on their new device. Nope.  Not nearly risky enough.  Kids need to see educators in action.  Struggling.  Trying new things.  Learning.  Failing.  Making glorious huge mistakes.

Because our students will take exactly the same amount of learning risks they see their teachers take.

Thank you Mr. Kirk Dodge for being such a spectacular, risk taking, educational leader.

School is no longer constrained to how far the bus can travel in the morning.

Ever read something, a book, a sentence, a phrase, a passage….that you CANNOT get out of your head.  Well Different Schools for a Different World by Scott McLeod and Dean Shareski just hammered my thinking.  Their work is not a long read.  It’s about 60 pages. Don’t let that fool you.  My favorite college professor, Dr. Ruth Slonim, once said, “Good writing is not when there’s nothing more to add, rather when there’s nothing more to be taken away.”  This book is lean and dead on point.  A literal wake up call.

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The authors share, “Our six arguments for making schools different are based on the following observations, each of which corresponds to the first six chapters.

1.  Our information landscape is becoming incredibly complex and students need the skills to navigate it effectively.
2.  Automation and global hyper-competition increasingly define the economy that our graduates are entering.
3.  The role of teachers as exclusive purveyors of information is obsolete.
4.  The tasks we ask students to perform are often undemanding and tedious, leading to boredom and a lack of critical thinking.
5.  Schools are doing too little to create a culture of educational innovation that can respond to evolving student needs.
6.  The digital tools students will require for future success are too often unavailable to traditionally disadvantaged groups.”

Whoa.  Number 3.  Let that nugget sink in for a minute.  Stark and absolutely true.  To try to convince oneself otherwise is folly.  Kids with devices literally carry the sum of all human knowledge in their pockets or backpacks.

My favorite quote from the book is in the title of this blog post.

“School is no longer constrained to how far
the bus can travel in the morning. 

Yep.  So as our district considers our school facilities, we are also considering how we move our programs and learning forward.  This book is a map.

Thank you gentlemen.

Shift This.

Here we go!  Brand new school year, brand new blog, getting the brain reengaged. Did it become disengaged just because it was summer?  Probably not. More likely because teachers, kids, and building leadership were out and about.  I figured out that I need them around to help keep me powered.

Did some serious research this morning to find my next new book to read.  The research focused on Amazon and doing a search for Innovator’s Mindset.  Then looking at what other books popped up.  I’ve read a bunch of them already….but not this one.  Shift This by Joy Kirr.  Oh man.  This is why I love my job.  This book.  This gifted educator. Challenging my thinking by 8:00 a.m.

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Check this out.  With 7th graders, she offers this shocker,

“We’ll be questioning authors, questioning one another, and even questioning teachers. I let them know right off the bat that if they don’t think a lesson is relevant, they can politely challenge me. If I cannot answer, I’ll reconsider the lesson; being inquisitive and listening to responses is how we will learn together.”

If I cannot answer, I’ll reconsider the lesson……WOW!

Of course, that makes COMPLETE sense.  If we can’t justify the relevancy of a lesson…we ought to reconsider it.  Our time with kids is way too precious to just trundle out whatever happens to be next in line in our curriculum.  Reminds me of the research based effective practice of Learning Targets.  And the targets aren’t the most important thing.  The thinking a teacher does about WHAT and WHY the kids are learning.  We talk a lot about a different question to ask kids when visiting a classroom.  Instead of, “What are you guys working on?”  We ask, “What are you guys learning?”  A blank stare isn’t good.  Just like a blank stare as we ponder the relevancy of a lesson we’re having kids do. Love it.  Absolutely love it.

Also just hit this cool activity for teachers.  Have a group of teachers gather and start generating questions about their students.  Some that Joy Kirr and colleagues generated about middle school kids included:

Why do I have to repeat myself so often? Why can’t they follow directions? Why aren’t they checking out books? Why don’t they like to read? Why won’t they stop playing with each other’s hair? Why are they talking when they’re supposed to be listening? Why can’t they tell I’m upset and I mean what I say? Why won’t they revise their papers? Why don’t they turn in their homework on time … or at all? Why don’t they like me? Why do they keep pushing my buttons? Why are they late to class? Why do they have to take a bathroom break each day in my class? Why aren’t they paying attention? Why do they ask me questions I’ve already answered? Why don’t they care?

Why won’t the stop playing with each other’s hair?  You all that have ever worked with middle school kids know this is a perfectly reasonable question, among many others.

Anybody looking to make a new and more profound impact on kids in a classroom….here’s a great book to guide your fun and journey!

Thank you Joy!