CHANGEd 60-60-60: EXPERIMENTS AND EXPERIENCES

On March 9th, I started this experi(ence)ment by saying, “I have no idea what the two of us will play. And I won’t be able to tell you what it is until it happens.” Today, on May 8th, after 60+ consecutive days of what-ifs and riffs, I’m still not sure that I can say what it is but I can certainly share what all of this thinking and reflecting has meant to me, both personally and professionally.

Thinking about CHANGEd: What if we all tried something new for 30 days (or longer) and learned out loud? 60-60-60 #60 and reflecting…

In his short but powerful TED Talk, Matt Cutts advocates for us all to try something new for a month. Sharing what he’s learned from his own personal experiments and experiences, he highlights that we can all learn to make the days count, to appreciate the boost of confidence that a new habit brings, and to heighten our ability to persevere despite the ups and downs of life. In Bo’s #60 CHANGEd post, he also highlights just a few things he has learned and enjoyed in his 60-60-60 journey. As I think about my own progress and process over the course of the past two months, I can borrow from both Matt and Bo and use their themes as starting points for my reflections…

1. Making the Days Count: Sixty days is a long time. Consistent reflection over the course of two months around a certain theme pushed me in ways that I never imagined. Sure, a number of similar themes emerged. Only one word however — empathy — made an appearance two times in a title post. And as I reflect on CHANGEd 60-60-60, I see that the notion of empathy, especially as it relates to the design process, is having a larger and larger influence on who I am as an educator. There’s still so much that I want to learn about the design process, but I know that I must find ways to cultivate a more empathetic spirit in myself and in others as well. For that, I am motivated.

2. Building Confidence (Motivators and Blockers): At the outset, one of my goals was to learn to write more spontaneously and without as much fear of failure. Writing sixty posts and getting positive feedback from others on my thinking was inspiring. A half-baked blog post (of which there were many) was not considered failure…failure (in my mind) was not seeing this project to its completion. Convinced through Twitter that I had at least one reader (Bo, who was RTing my posts) was a “motivator” for me. Then, when Grant Lichtman began leaving comments on my posts, I knew that I had at least two readers. Normally, such pressure would have been a blocker, but Bo and Grant’s encouragement and what-if questioning only inspired me more. Like Bo, I saw that “learning-out-loud” caused me to double and triple my weekly readership which will only add to a more robust and diverse personal learning network. For that, I am proud.

3. Perseverance (Stick-To-It-Tive-Ness): I had a learning partner whose consistency kept me on track. Never did I think that Bo wouldn’t post and so even when I fell behind in my writing (sometimes days behind), I knew that quitting was not an option. Interestingly, some of my better posts (in my opinion) came when I was writing two or three in one evening. Those evenings, although mentally tiring, were often the nights when I felt most motivated and energized. Sticking to this project, which forced me to spend a significant time (on more than a few occasions) thinking and writing was a hidden gift. For that, I am grateful.

4. I’ve learned and enjoyed… It’s very difficult to catalog my learning and enjoyment in this one post. Even now as I go back and look through the titles of posts 1-30 and 31-60, I see a new pattern in my thinking or notice something different in my writing…just in the titles of the posts. Going through and re-reading each day will prove fruitful as I spend time this summer critiquing my own leadership and developing a personal vision for my work in a new role next school year.

Even this 60th post feels flat…my voice sounds one-dimensional…the topic a bit too navel-gazing. But, what I realize is that making this CHANGEd 60-60-60 music has been one of the more dynamic and enjoyable learning experiences that I have engaged in for quite some time.

And for that, I am inspired.

All in all, this CHANGEd 60-60-60 experi(ence)ment has helped me refine my vision of school in ways that I never thought possible. Never did I expect that this would happen during an incredibly overwhelming end of the school year. Obviously my definition will always be a working definition, but I am proud of where I stand today. So, on May 8th after 60+ days of thinking and reflecting, that I believe that school should be…

…a place where inquiry, imagination, ongoing assessment, reflection, and “what ifs” drive the experiences of adults and children at the school…people of integrity and resilience who honor and promote growth mindsets…programs which reach beyond school walls and into everyday life of the expanding global community.

And, in the words of my CHANGEd partner, so that we can conclude (for now) this musical play with a uniform sound but one which leaves room for possibly new riffs…

We educators should never think that we’ve got schooling as good as it can ever be. We should be seeing our current reality clearly, and we should be envisioning how we can get better. Isn’t such delta-oriented vision what it will take for education and schooling to be CHANGEd?

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CHANGEd 60-60-60: REAL LIFE LEARNING

Thinking about What if we teachers had to enroll in our own classes…and at least one more? 60-60-60 #59 and reflecting…

Here’s an email I received over the weekend from a Trinity Sixth Grader:

Hello Ms. Howard and Ms. Chapman!

Do either of you know someone named Kirby Lui? Well, he commented on my blog and check out what he said!

I’ve been a photographer for quite a while and have seen many different types of photographers, and I must say that I’m very impressed at your technical and creative knowledge of photography, the enthusiasm and discipline that you approach your subjects, and your strong photographic compositions. Compared to other students that I have worked with, you have a definite edge over most of the people that I have seen.

If you continue to approach photography with the same level of dedication as I’ve seen on your website, I believe that you have a talent that could be developed to a remarkable high level if you choose to continue cultivating it. Don’t let the talent go to waste. Keep up the hard work, it is obvious from your website. I look forward to your next post.

Kirby

Isn’t that really nice?

Julia

The first art class that I remember actually enjoying was Photography 101 with Mrs. Harris in Eighth Grade. For much of my high school career, I was passionate about black and white photography but due to the demands of academics and athletics, my experimenting with this art happened only in the summer during long walks in the woods or at the beach on vacation. I am still proud of the prints I made of the massive St. Simons Island palm trees that a family friend framed and put in a guest bedroom of a beach house in Florida. I always wonder what would have happened if I had more time to devote to building upon those skills and passions that I began to uncover just before high school began.

“Megan, you have a real gift for teaching.” That’s the first comment I remember hearing about my natural ease in the classroom with elementary students…uttered first when I was in high school and then in college multiple times throughout my volunteer tutoring times and later during an internship I created with the help of a teacher-mentor. The skills and passions — similar to those I possessed with black and white photography — were there but so was the echo of a believing voice.

I believe that all students need to hear the following words:

I believe that you have a talent that could be developed to a remarkable high level if you choose to continue cultivating it. Don’t let the talent go to waste.

Those are the words that I heard over and over again about my work in classrooms and in schools. I realize that there are some students — adults too — who never hear such words or affirmations.

I wonder, if we enrolled ourselves in our own classes, would we hear ourselves offering such words of support to the budding biologists, teachers, doctors, pilots, directors, caregivers, and entrepreneurs in our classrooms? Would we hear ourselves connecting the subject areas we are teaching with the real-life learning our students are longing for? Would we be inspiring students in the way that Kirby is inspiring Julia — to keep working hard, to overcome obstacles, and to pursue an area of interest that has potential for greater learning and…life?

CHANGEd 60-60-60: MEMORIES AND REFLECTIONS

Thinking about What if we really reflected on what former students remember? 60-60-60 #58 and reflecting…

I’ve been catching up on the Trinity-Fac&Stu folder of my GoogleReader account. I rarely let that folder go unread for as long as I have this week, but what a surprise I found this evening as I was reading last week’s posts.

Bo writes about how students remember what they craft and create. As I think about a learning experience that Trinity sixth graders will likely remember alongside their outdoor education trips and musical performances and academic experiences  from their final year at the school, at the top of the list is the QUEST and Capstone project. It’s not a coincidence that Andrew Hennessy took his sixth grade project all the way to the TEDxKIDS@BC stage in Vancouver in September 2011.

As I read the students’ memories and reflections, all of which were written upon completion of the QUEST research paper, I was struck at how almost every student spoke to one, two, or all three elements of true motivation as categorized by Dan Pink: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

We must allow students to craft and create. We certainly need more Dolphin Tale experiences and internships than we have now, but let’s not forget that even the more traditional experiences (even those research papers!) — if crafted innovatively and created with care by the lead learners in the school — can be memorable and powerful.

Check out these four reflections from sixth graders about what they’ve learned through their QUEST research experience. The reverberating sound of autonomy-mastery-purpose through these students’ words provides the perfect riff for today’s CHANGEd 60-60-60 post:

I learned many things about myself as a student through the QUEST paper. I learned that I write a good first rough draft and that I should trust that I can. I also learned that I am good at managing my time because I turn most of my long term projects in early. I also learned things about myself. I learned that I am capable of any task if I take the time and work as hard as I can. ~ Matt

As a student, I learned that i can write something cool and put a lot of effort into something in school and acquire your future talents in 6th grade. As a person I found out how to solve problems between people. My  mentor took a while to e-mail me so I took charge.~ Pete

As a student I have learned that I can be very organized. I also can be very conscientious about creating good presentation. I have also learned that I love to do hands on projects. If I set my mind to a topic that I find interesting, then I can create a good presentation. On my next project I think I will be more conscientious about my time-line. I also should plan ahead of what my goals are going to be. I will definitely bring in more analytically and organizational skills. I think through this project I have learned to always have perseverance which I will definitely use in all my assignments. ~ McKenzie

I learned that as a student I can always work better when I am really into the topic and I enjoy learning about it and working on it all of the time. I learned that I love to learn more anytime I can and I love to hear from the best people that I can so I can learn the most and learn from the best. ~ Emerson

As a student, I really realized that I work best when studying a topic I love. I also learned that doing the most boring things like writing long essays are more fun when they are about something I love. I love dogs more than words can describe, and I cannot wait for the Capstone project…Next year, I will bring the note card organization method in my ‘student tool box’ when writing papers next year. It is an excellent way of grouping the facts into topics, later to be made into paragraphs. ~ Julie

I learned different things about myself too. As a student, I feel like I learned better ways about finding information for anything and being able to figure out what is important and whats not. I also think that I learned how to stay more organized by using note cards to write down my facts. As a person, I feel like I learned to trust in myself more about what I think I should do when working on something. Second, I learned to feel more confident about my work and am better at managing my time…In the future, I think that I would change the way I researched. I would read more about the topic to make sure I am more comfortable with it. I would do this because I feel like I started the QUEST project kind of clueless about cake decorating. I wish I had known more about my topic so I would feel more comfortable about the whole thing during the beginning of the process. During this whole QUEST project I learned lots of facts, but mostly I learned about myself as a student and a learner. ~Emily

CHANGEd 60-60-60: THE BIG SHIFTS FOR ADMINISTRATORS

Thinking about What if school leaders practiced the change they preach…and developed a people strategy? 60-60-60 #57 and reflecting…

A people strategy begins with EMPATHY. It moves along the stepping stones of the Golden Rule. A people strategy refuses to commit the fundamental attribution error (see the Heath Bros’ Switch).

Bo’s reflections on “The Big Shifts” are ones that I want to save here on my blog, thus making today’s riff a re-post of his questions…in hopes that they will inspire future posts about how I, in my future work in school administration, am striving to proactively respond to the shifting notions of what it means to create the right learning environments for both children and adults in the 21st century.

So, for this 57th post…

If we administrators expect teachers to proactively respond to these big shifts for the futures of their students, mustn’t we do so ourselves?

  • Shouldn’t we be transforming faculty meetings (and other “PD”) into faculty doings? Shouldn’t we be experimenting with PBL with adults…and with projects that are relevant and meaningful to teachers? Are we even asking them what they want and need?
  • From the admin view, how can we make school more “teacher-centered” so that teachers can, in turn, make school more student-centered? Shouldn’t we admin be modeling “student voice and choice” by providing such to our faculties?
  • How are we un-silo-ing our schools to facilitate teachers working in teams?
  • How are we facilitating the construction of meaning among our faculties, instead of asking them to consume information? Do decisions feel top-down or bottom-up? Or inside-out? Or outside-in?
  • How are we admin employing and engaging learning networks and advocating for OPEN and SAFE and THOUGHTFUL use of such endless learning resources in the network…outside our school walls?
  • How are we crowd-sourcing our collective wisdom within our faculties and among our faculties from school to school? How are we refusing to re-invent the wheel and instead partnering with the crowds of other doing schools…I mean networks?
  • How are we refusing the high stakes testing of teachers and engaging high value demonstrations of professional practice?

Thanks for creating and categorizing these questions, Bo. They are important ones that we must tackle…and not necessary in isolation!

CHANGEd 60-60-60: PEOPLE STRATEGY

Thinking about What if we used the Big Shifts to evolve? 60-60-60 #56 and reflecting…

Pat Bassett’s Schools of the Future TEDxStGeorgesSchool Talk is interesting in that he shares schools and programs that are pushing the innovation envelope and almost always pairs his examples with some sort of assessment data to show that these shifted models are making an impact.

I’m remembering an excellent post by Seth Godin and wondering a bit about the fifth bullet in his presentation:

Schools and Networks

Godin advocates for a people strategy in his post:

“Figure out the people part and the technology gets a whole lot simpler.”

Figure out the people part and the big shifts thing gets a whole lot simpler too, I think.

What if Bassett had highlighted the school’s people strategy as well as their program strategy?

One of the more valuable exercises we engaged in at Klingenstein were the leadership case studies. After reading the case study — and before we did anything related to the issues, problems, or solutions — we identified all of the people involved. Formally and informally. Insiders and outsiders. Sometimes people who were consciously or even subconsciously involved.

What if we did more of this in schools?

Instead of jumping right into the issues, what if we spent time thinking strategically about the people at play? What if schools embraced a people strategy?

CHANGEd 60-60-60: LIFE AND DEATH OF INNOVATION

Thinking about What if we invited, even prayed for, disturbance? 60-60-60 #55 and reflecting…

Interesting to read both of these posts today:

First, Steve Blank’s Why Innovation Dies.

And then Grant Lichtman’s Keeping K-12 Innovation Alive (which is a riff on Blank’s post).

Life and death of innovation…an ongoing cycle in organizations. I wonder, if we have more administrators and teachers and parents “advocat[ing] for children and schools to be innovative” (as Pat Basset supports in his TEDx St. George School talk), what will this look, sound, and feel like? In the absence of a greenfield schooling approach, Lichtman explains that the following pieces will be present in a school where there is more innovative life present.

  • new, faster, messier pilots (possibly without either full consensus or an assessment report)
  • people who have demonstrated ability to work in a new paradigm, rather than those used to traditional teaching (content delivery) roles
  • increasingly distributed system of responsibility
  • freedom to test and adapt, without necessarily requiring that each substantive innovation become an all-school decision
  • leadership which is comfortable with the new paradigm and shifting processes, and facile at knowing when, and when not, to reign in rapidly changing responses to evolving markets

**the above bullets are taken almost directly from the final paragraph in Lichtman’s post

CHANGEd 60-60-60: GOOD READS AND AN UNEXPECTED CONVERSATION

Thinking about What if we used reading and Google Earth as springboards for interdisciplinary, global empathy? 60-60-60 #54 and reflecting…

I just “overheard” a conversation between two people who I don’t think know one another. I doubt they are reading each other’s blogs.  Kate (a Trinity Fifth Grader and blogger) and Mr. Adams (Westminster’s JH Principal and blogger) just engaged in a fascinating conversation that I feel like I overheard — but the truth is that I actually imagined and created a dialogue based on their two most recent blog posts.

Kate:

Lately I have been reading lots of books.  It’s mostly because of my kindle, but not completely.

Mr. Adams:

Some believe that technology is separating us, disconnecting us, making us less empathetic. I don’t think it’s about the technology. I believe it’s about the people behind the technology and the ways that we commit to using the technology.

Kate:

The problem with kindles and nooks is you can’t shop like you can in a real book store.  You don’t know what you want and what the latest and hottest book is.

Mr. Adams:

I believe technology can actually make us more connected, more together, more empathic. Tools can be used to build up or to tear down…to joyfully create or to tragically damage and destroy.

Kate:

Recently my friend from camp sent me an email about this great site called goodreads.com. She told me about it and it turns out you recommend at least 20 books and the computer gives you recommendations about books that you might be interested in.  You can also write messages back and forth between your friends and rate books from 1 to 5.  When you rate a book it sends a note to all your friends saying that you read that book and you rated it a certain amount of stars.  This website has changed my book reading.  Finally there are no more spending hours to find the perfect book.  Finally a solution.

Mr. Adams:

But it depends on the user, not the tool. I am thankful that I have many teachers who are showing me these lessons.

With technology, we invite many more teachers into our lives. And we have many more conversations than we ever thought possible. Here’s a link to Kate’s post to read the full thing (http://bit.ly/IY1e3Y).