Why not?

makeschooldifferent21

Scott McLeod has issued a #makeschooldifferent challenge and asks us to acknowledge 5 ways of doing business in schools and how to think differently about what it means to teach and learn to support today’s learners.

Instead of…. why not? 

Instead of teachers defining all intended learning outcomes for students and plastering them on whiteboards and in lesson plans, why not let the learners ask the questions, develop plans, research, dig deeper, question again, draw conclusions, and share findings? (Subjective outcomes? Worth exploring: #rhizo15)

Instead of…. why not? 

Instead of attributing a child’s lack of success to his home life or his chosen peer group or his refusal to do homework or his off-task behavior, why not sit with him during lunch and inquire more about who he is, what he feels, and what he needs from you as an educator in his life who cares about him?

Instead of…. why not? 

Instead of holding pep rallies and celebrations and hosting fun events for kids during standardized testing weeks, why not make every day a day in school a worth celebrating? Because feelings.

Instead of …. why not?

Instead of micromanaging every minute of teachers’ professional development time, why not ask teachers to lead the way? What are their strengths? Needs? How can you incorporate teacher-led learning opportunities through edcamps and innovation days and action planning cohorts and world cafes and other ways to transform professional learning? Why not build capacity within your organization by making teachers leaders?

Instead of …. why not?

Instead of saying to yourself, “Nothing I have to say would be valuable to anyone else” – “I have nothing interesting to contribute to online learning spaces” – “No one wants to read what I would tweet or blog about” – “I am comfortable being a lurker” – why not watch this and this, start surrounding yourself with inspiring educators who contribute, and become a contributor yourself. We will thank you. You will thank you. Your students will thank you.

Why not?

 

I’m not going to tag 5 specific members of my Poetic Ladybug Network, but I’m going to insist some of you who read this write your own response to Scott’s challenge. :)

About a community.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 11.41.52 AM

Last week at IntegratED in Portland (a conference filled with crazy-inspiring people, blog post on that coming soon), I had the chance to facilitate a session about developing digital learning communities using Google+.

We explored driving questions such as, What are the essential ingredients of a strong learning community? Of a digital learning community? Are they one and the same? Can they be? Should they be? Participants shared their thoughts on communities here, and together we summarized the responses into five essential components of a powerful learning community:

  1. Active participation
  2. Trusting culture
  3. Openness to new ideas and new learnings/willingness to learn by participants/risk taking
  4. Purposeful, goal-driven
  5. Connecting out to a wider community -outreach

So, how can a digital learning space like a Google+ community help support these ideals? The goals of the participants were varied. Some wanted to join pre-established Google+ communities to grow professionally. Others wanted to set up their own communities to promote sharing among their local colleagues and beyond. We then considered some key questions when both searching for communities to join and creating new spaces.

“Is it a place you want to spend your time?”

Two years ago I started the Instructional Technology Integrators and Coaches community, with the intent of finding support among other educators in the technology specialist/coaching roles as I transitioned to a new position in my district. Full disclosure: I created this community out of pure selfishness. I wanted to surround myself with people that were smarter and more resourceful than me to support my work in schools.

Now, with over 3,500 members (and yes, I realize they’re not all contributing members), the community has blossomed into an active space where educators can pose questions, share resources, provide feedback, and search through archived conversations on topics ranging from collaborative learning activities to account management to digital citizenship to best practices in a 1:1 classroom.

It is a place I like to be. I enjoy reading each and every post and the responses that follow. Moderating duties do not exhaust or irritate me. (Although as more members joined, I did seek help moderating- thankful for Doug and Susan who also devote their time to this community!) Which brings me to more questions to consider.

“Do you believe in the community’s purpose? Is it moderated by people who care? How can you tell?”

From the beginning, I did not want this community to become a place where people simply linked to their blog posts or shared their edu-events or plugged their stuff without engaging other members of the community. Do people occasionally do this? Yes, they do. I miss the boat sometimes and maybe should remove more promotional posts than I do. But if a post is flagged as spam, even from a reputable educator, it’s usually because the post was shared out among several communities. And, if there was no other content added to the post aside from the link, I typically choose not to post it in our community. All members have to be approved before they can post. I look at the profile of each member who requests to join, searching for some sign of an educational affiliation. I don’t approve requests from companies or vendors, even those with an edtech focus. I block people who take advantage of their memberships, and remind people of our community’s purpose via comments on their posts and in posts I write.

In a digital learning community, just as in a real time, face-to-face community, purpose matters. Intent matters. Etiquette matters. Respect matters. Members in our community freely give their time, ideas, and feedback to others. They deserve to learn in a space that honors what they give as professionals.

To make the most of your experience in a Google+ community, find (or create) a community that has a clear purpose, is well organized, has moderators that help make the learning experience streamlined and meaningful, promotes opportunities for discussions, has a variety of resources shared around the common purpose, displays evidence of respectful participation and engagement among a diverse membership, and openly accepts and encourages members’  critical questions, thoughts, and ideas.

Google+ communities as well as Hangouts and other community tools can help create spaces for “intellectual collisions” that can promote sharing and innovation in your organization. But the success of this type of community has little to do with the technological aspects of the shared space and much more so with the people involved. While Google announced earlier this week that Google+ was undergoing some changes, I don’t believe Communities will be leaving us anytime soon. But, even if they do, I know there are a band of people who will come along with me to whatever space we inhabit next.

Find yourself some good people. I am thankful each and every day for the voices that contribute to our community.

Here are my slides from the session and here’s the link to the page where participants accessed resources.

How are you using Google+ communities in your teaching, learning, and professional growth?

Do you let your kids use Google?

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 6.21.30 AM

I recently attended Pete & C, PA’s educational technology conference. It’s the fifth or sixth time I’ve attended. I typically find some interesting resources and enjoy connecting with members of my PLN and hearing about all of the great work they’re doing in schools.

So there I was, minding my own business and feeling genuinely grateful that the session presenter, Lexie Konsur, was being up front about copyright and fair use issues in education and not telling us we needed to use only 30 second clips of video and 100 words of text and spewing other fallacy-ridden copyright guidelines, when a participant raised her hand and proclaimed something like,

“We don’t allow our kids use Google to find information.”

Stop.

She was talking about elementary students, of course, because it seems as though in our quest to shield and protect our youngest students from the perils of the intertubes we neglect to properly educate them about what resources are available via the web, how to access them safely and securely, what to do if they stumble upon something precarious, and how to think critically about the resources they’ve found and put them to good use.

I wanted to ask her, but didn’t, for fear of getting all riled up and embarrassing those sitting around me,

  • What DO you let your students use to find information online?
  • Is this how they find information when they’re not sitting in their classrooms?
  • Do they know what a search engine is? Do they know how it works?
  • Would they know what to do if, while browsing, they stumbled upon something harmful or dangerous?
  • Do they know how to manage digital resources and information to best support their research?
  • Do they know there are tools built into search engines like Google to help them narrow their searches productively?
  • What about YouTube? (I’m guessing that’s off limits, too. And, like, Wikipedia.)
  • How do YOU as the teacher find information online and conduct research? Would you be someone who could model your research efforts for students and demonstrate how to use Google appropriately and effectively?

This post is not meant to knock resource libraries like Discovery Ed or PA’s PowerLibrary – I love perusing those resources and know students find many valuable resources there while researching.

But not always. Sometimes the library is too small, the information can’t be found.

So, then, where do we send them to learn?

As we are making a move to Chromebooks next year in our primary classrooms, I’m genuinely interested to hear what others (at the elementary level, particularly) are doing to support students and their research. Thanks for reading!

“Why do I need to reinvent my PLN?”

IMG_8445

Participants discuss digital learning communities in our #educon session.

At Educon this weekend, my friend and colleague Andrew Marcinek and I wanted to talk PLNs. Personal learning networks. Professional learning networks. In conversations together over the past year or so, it had become apparent to us that it was time for a change. Anyone who has participated in learning networks for a significant period of time has likely noticed the “echo chamber” effect or have perhaps found the seemingly identical streams of tweets and links shared on a daily basis relentlessly ungratifying. We felt compelled to discuss how to critically examine, deconstruct, and reinvent your PLN in order to become and remain contributing members of meaningful learning networks.

I was inspired to develop a conversation around this topic by many posts regarding the demise of Twitter, specifically this work shared by Bonnie Stewart about all that is “rotten” in the state of Twitter and one of my favorite posts in recent years from George Siemens who declared his PLN “the most awesomest thing ever!“, asking us to truly think about the ways in which we engage in learning in digital spaces.

The session was live-streamed, so our attentive SLA student assistant, Miriam, kept us posted about the backchannel conversations emerging in the streamed space. One of the earliest questions was from Lisa Durff, who quite frankly inquired at the start of our session:

“Why do I need to reinvent my PLN?”

Andy summarized the highlights of our session in his reflective post here, so I will spare you that account from my perspective, however I’d like to share some of my own reflections and struggles with PLNs and the strategies I will use to be a more engaged participant in my networks. This, perhaps, will help answer the “why” posed above.

I need to think critically about who I follow, and why.

One of our participants asked me how I keep up with the stream of information since I follow 3,000 or so Twitter users. Simple: I don’t keep up with it. Early in my connected experience I was told, you will never read every tweet that comes through your stream, so don’t even bother trying. While I’m not at the point where I will reset my account to “Following Zero” as I know others have done, I will take some time to weed through my following list and unfollow accounts that aren’t adding anything to my learning. Because, as Scott McLeod reflects after Tony Baldasaro’s choice to unfollow folks:

Tony’s post reminds us that social networks are like gardens (thank you, David Warlick). They require some nurturing and, yes, some pruning now and then. Sometimes they may even be like prairies, requiring a full burn to nurture new, positive growth.

Twitter, Google+, Facebook… who I add to my circles, who I connect with, how and with whom I engage in conversations… these are the decisions that will have great impact on my learning. There are people who, when I first followed, seemed to share a lot of information relevant to my work. I now see them as posting mostly self-promotional material and/or pie-in-the-sky quotes and things that honestly make me cringe. I seek to engage with a more diverse network, with a group of people that question and challenge my assumptions, and who inspire me on a daily basis.

I need to consider which platform will help meet both my needs and those of the engaged audience. 

Do I tweet a request for help? RT someone’s shared link? Start a new post in Google+? Use a service like IFTT to cross-post to all of my spaces? Since delving into our comprehensive Google+ tech coaches community for questions, answers, and to share ideas and resources, I can honestly say I’d recommend new users make a relevant Google+ community a major component of their PLN. In fact, during our Educon session, while social media services were not an intended focus, many of the participants wanted to learn more about workflow options, tools like Tweetdeck to make organization of the info a bit easier, and the benefits of using Google+. We somewhat veered from our planned discussion topics at that point, but it’s what the learners wanted to learn.

I need to acknowledge that there are educators brand new to “connecting,” and that my advice to blow up your PLN may not be applicable to newbs. 

I hear that. But, I would be doing those new users a disservice if I wasn’t frank about the time commitment involved in developing a strong PLN, or the truth that inevitably, they will need to reinvent the ways in which they engage. It is important not to sugarcoat this experience because someone just sent out their first tweet. I don’t want new users to be deluded into thinking their PLN will a) grow quickly and effectively and require little effort to get started b) last forever exactly as is and c) offer the same quality of resources and support day in and day out. It’s not going to happen. If your engagement with your PLN is exactly the same as it was three years ago- if your relationships with those in your network haven’t evolved or the platforms you use haven’t caused you to reconsider how you contribute and when – then kudos to you, you don’t need to reinvent your PLN. I don’t think many of us can claim that’s true. So while I will continue to support and hopefully inspire those new to the experience, I will also be honest about what lies ahead, the good and the bad.

How about you? What challenges do you face as a connected educator, learning in networked spaces? The more we discuss the dilemmas surrounding quality participation in learning networks, the more meaningful our contributions can be for one another. Thanks for learning with me.

Live with intent.

ff369262cff96a5762c4d6dafa15ea7e

In 2013 I wrote about Beginnings. Last year, I shared my desire to Embrace the everything in my world.

One Little Word.

The past few weeks have been quite contemplative for me, both professionally and personally. I don’t know what 2015 holds, although I hope it will involve a lot of growing and change. I’m eager for new adventures and challenges. Decisions will be made and futures shaped. There will be smiles, love, frustrations, fear, and exhaustion. I’ll travel and collaborate and meet new people and help current relationships thrive. I want to make more, be more, write more, feel more, give more.

All of that is possible if I feel and act with intent. 

In 2015, I will be intentional with my words and actions.

It’s easy to get in a rut. To go through the motions. To be a creature of habit. To say things you don’t mean. It’s much more difficult to act intentionally in order to bring more positivity and excitement and challenge and joy to life.

Intent.

Wishing you all a magical 2015!

 

It changes us.

appleIIgs

I remember the moment in time when I learned how to copy and paste.

My parents bought our family an Apple IIGS when I was in junior high school. It was our first personal computer. It was the device on which I learned to word process.

As early I can remember, I wrote stories. I filled journals and spiral-bound notebooks. But access to this device changed me. It changed my writing. I developed skills formerly unknown to me. I needed those skills to adjust to the medium. I wrote more fluently. I mastered keyboarding. (Shockingly without the use of a formal typing program, I was just motivated to learn to type fluently so I could write and create, go figure.)

When I hear, “It’s not about the technology, it’s about what we do with it,” I agree and disagree. It’s not about the tool specifically. But it is. It’s about how it changes us. How it changes the process. The product. The questions. The answers. How we find information. How we learn to understand what is relevant and real and what is crap. These shifts are because of the technology. Because of the tools with which we choose to interact.

It’s about what it can help us become. More fluent writers. Risk-takers. Creators. Sharers. Activists. Educators. Learners.

It’s about how it can help us help others. How it gives voice to the voiceless. How it brings people together in times of adversity and in times of celebration.

To deny our students of discovering who they could become… how they could invent… how they could make an idea or thing come to life… that isn’t okay, especially not if it’s just because we’re too busy with test prep or traditional models of classroom instruction or doing things as we’ve always done because that’s how we do it. That doesn’t allow for the kind of autonomy and questioning and discussion and reinventing that our kids deserve.

It’s about the choices we make with technologies. About how we choose to use them to communicate. To publish. To interact with others. Our kids deserve the chance to make those choices. To understand those choices. To have guidance with those choices.

It changes our present, it changes our futures.

Being a connected educator has changed me. It has caused me to understand things I never before understood. It provides a glimpse into the perspectives of people and groups of people that in my unconnected life I did not previously know.

But after years of connecting, it’s caused me to become jaded, too. I’m not likely to become easily excited about a new tool. I cringe when I hear the words “personalized learning” used in conjunction with technology and schools and children. Children. 

So, it is about the tools. It’s about how they change us. It’s about how we are vulnerable when learning about the roles they can and should play in our lives. In our kids’ lives. So we should help them learn and take command of the tools. To create, not just consume. To interact significantly and meaningfully and respectfully. And we should act on their behalf when systems or companies or organizations or people try to impose uninspired, one-size-fits-all uses for technology.

Ramblings of a sometimes blogger.

4428454769_9793f8867f

When you blog, you eventually self-impose schedules and deadlines for posting, and having a nearly-two month lull in posts can really make you wonder, What’s the point? Why am I writing, anyway?

Because I’m a blogger, and a writer, and it’s what I do, albeit inconsistently. We blog to reflect, to share, to celebrate, to question, to converse about things that are important to us.

We just wrapped up a somewhat frantic and frazzled start to the school year. I’m sure many of you experienced the same.

The sweet:

  • After our initial surveys with BrightBytes, findings show our district is moving in the right direction in terms of using technology to support learning. Our teacher beliefs about the positive impacts of educational technology are high, access is good, and we are working towards better implementation of programs and practices to ensure our students and teachers are creators, not just consumers, of digital information.
  • I’ve been able to work with many classes this fall getting students started with their new Edublogs accounts. (Teachers, too). We’re still working through the organization of it all (our kids share teachers so in some ways it can get tricky organizing the Edublogs “Classes”), but I think we’re making progress. This has helped me reflect on blogging as an educational practice, which I’ve done many times before. As much as I want every student and teacher to see the value in blogging, it’s not going to happen immediately. And some kids are just never going to click with the medium. I’ve come to realize, that’s okay. But then, I spend time with a third grader, one who’s struggled with literacy since I first met him in kindergarten, and to see him be so entranced with his own writing space that he spends an hour writing a post about each season of the year, then asks me to spell the months of the year on his whiteboard so he has them handy later to write about all of the months of the year- that was kind of magical. His eyes sparkled and he was so excited to share his learning in this way. That’s why I continue sharing different methods for exploring and sharing learning. If I can impact one teacher, one student — then it’s an #eduwin. What are your favorite resources for supporting blogging in the classroom?
  • I found some fun new things to use. Like Workflowy. And Paper. And Write About. I trashed some accounts, like Foursquare and Jolicloud. #digitalcleanup What are your favorite recent finds for productivity and creation?

The sour:

  • New, new, new. New content providers. New rotational learning “model” and frameworks and coaches and consultants. New devices with a steep learning curve. New teachers and teams. New students. New frustrations and findings and forehead-smacking.
  • I’m still noticing a huge disconnect between the business of “tech” and the business of teaching and learning. Communication lines are frazzled, crossed, or nonexistent. They need to be repaired. That starts with leadership. Students-come-first-leadership-soaked-in-humility.

Celebrations:

  • The Hour of Code is quickly approaching, and I’m excited that we’re involving students Gr. 1-8 in programming activities through Code.org as well as Tynker. Last year was our students’ first introduction to programming activities in school through HOC, and sparks were definitely ignited.
  • Learning Forward’s third edition of Powerful Designs for Professional Learning will be published in the coming weeks, and I contributed a chapter featuring the use of social media and networks for learning. I’ll be in Nashville at Learning Forward’s annual conference sharing the key ideas from my chapter at a pre-conference workshop. If you’re coming to the conference, join us!
  • We are wrapping up our last week of the educational leadership in the digital age ecourse through Powerful Learning Practice. I’m so glad to connect with dedicated educators like Rhonda, Nicole, Tony, and Rachel, who’ve contributed so much to my learning over the past five weeks.

Despite my blogging hiatus, I think of this space in many passing moments. It’s a place I feel comfortable reflecting, even if in recent years it’s become a place where I post less frequently. I also post to our elem tech blog regularly, so when I feel like I’m slacking off here, I think, Hey, at least I posted in that space!

How do you stay motivated to write and share throughout the busy school year? Are there any blogging challenges coming up that could help encourage you to post regularly? I’m kind of intrigued by this Blogging from A-Z challenge and might give it a try.

Happy learning.
Photo Credit: VinothChandar via Compfight cc

First steps at protecting students’ privacy.

IMG_7359

I admit that at one point in time I was one of those educators who allowed students to sign into a site using a teacher’s credentials in order to gain access, for example, some of our intermediate students used Prezi for project work and signed in under the same generic Gmail account maintained by the teacher.

Nope:

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.21.09 AM

Over the past two years, however, thanks to the work of Audrey Watters, Bill Fitzgerald, and many others, maintaining the privacy and protecting my students online has become one of my main priorities as elementary technology coach. Prompted by a statewide communication last year from the education solicitors, our district set to work on making sure that parents were informed and involved in the decisions to allow their children to have accounts established at various educational websites and productivity services.

My scope is elementary, so I read a lot of Terms of Service/Terms of Use and privacy policies to make sure that our kids are even permitted to click on the website let alone establish accounts there. For example, we had been using Today’s Meet to organize classroom conversations in some of our intermediate classes. “No accounts are required, great!” was my initial reaction, and it worked well. I used it with staff in meetings, and I loved the ease and simplicity of use. Dig deeper, read its Terms of Use, and you’ll see that students under the age of 13 are not permitted to use Today’s Meet. Thus, I advise teachers to no longer use this service with elementary students, and it’s not on our approved list of educational websites for students <13 years old.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 6.41.26 AM

 

Let me please say that following are our initial steps in helping parents and teachers become more informed and involved in matters of student privacy and data use as it relates to educational service/website use. In no way is our procedure perfect. We need to continually work at improving this system to help ensure parents and students can be advocates for the way children’s privacy is maintained throughout their school careers (and lives). We also use  resources shared by Common Sense Media about privacy and protection to help students understand their rights as digital consumers and creators.

Due to COPPA language, we target our request for permissions to students under 13 years of age, which covers all of our elementary students as well as  a good number of seventh graders in our middle school. (However we really need to consider how we are informing all parents and community members, K-12 and beyond.) In opening week paperwork, parents receive this informational letter (modeled after the letter drafted for us by our solicitors), a consent form requiring parent signature, and the list of district-approved educational websites and productivity services where the child may have an account established. Not all teachers utilize all services on the list nor are they available to all students K-7, but we decided to compile them all on one list for ease of distribution. Parents receive a hard copy of the list in the fall, and we maintain this living list on this district site. If the district approves a new website for use, I update the living sheet and we send home an additional parent permission form to those students who will use the site. Homeroom teachers collect the forms and note any students who have not returned the consent form and forms are compiled/logged in the main office of each building. In the future we hope to integrate the logging of these forms electronically via our SIS and/or allow parents to consent via the parent information portal, but we’re not there yet. Parents are encouraged to contact building principals if they choose to opt out and/or if they have questions involving the educational use of any of the websites. They can choose to opt out of one or more services if they so desire. Learning accommodations are made for students who cannot interact with a digital service.

It’s a start. We still need to provide more parent and teacher education on the specifics of student data and privacy to help them protect their children in all elements of online and mobile interactions, not just their educational website use, which is supervised by caring teachers and school personnel.

I think it’s time we need to reign in our overzealous enthusiasm about the latest and greatest ed tech products and services. I get it. Shiny new things are cool and so are interactive websites and gee, the kids really are going to love it so I’m just going to set them up with usernames and passwords and let’s give it a try! I know, I know. We’re telling you to integrate and be all up in 21st century skills and now we’re warning you about doing so. Shame on us.

Just be smart. Read terms of use and privacy policies. Ask for help if the terms are so full of jargon and nonsense you can’t make heads or tails of the meaning. Be the adult. Inform and involve parents in decisions. Get your administrators informed, because sad to say, they’re likely not the most informed bunch when it comes to student data and privacy.

Protecting students’ data and privacy is becoming increasingly difficult every day, but that’s no excuse for not taking steps to do so.

It starts with you!

Whats and whys and whos and hows.

8356964411_987636b3c5

The first two weeks of school have been a whirlwind. I think typically that is the case, no matter what role you play in education. But I also think the beginning of the school year is the time when you and your students, your faculties and administrators, deserve to exist in a calm enough state of mind that you can start to build key relationships with one another in order to create the strongest possible start to the school year.

In the world of educational technology, when things are implemented without thorough planning, with inconsistent procedures, and with little thought to how things will impact actual classroom practices and the lives of teachers and students, you run the risk of raining on the parade of the eager teachers and students who are bustling with excitement and giddy energies the first few weeks of school, not to mention completely stressing everyone out.

I’m not interested in rehashing the specifics of the types of hiccups we’re encountering as we embark on several new adventures in adding new content providers, changing the way we manage rosters and accounts in certain systems, and attempt to provide professional development to teachers. Every school system in the midst of changes and new implementations is going to hit some rough patches. But there are definitely some essential elements of the planning and implementation process that, if neglected, can lead to major frustrations for all educators and students involved. These are the things I’ve been reflecting on this week.

This post is not going to contain a textbook-style list here’s-what-to-do-when-you’re-a-school-leader-in-charge-of-planning-stuff.

Rather it contains a common-sense-just-stop-and-think-about-what-you’re-doing-for-one-second kind of a list.

Questions to ask yourself when you decide to implement a new instructional technology initiative (or any initiative, really) in your district, school, classroom, or school community:

What do you plan to accomplish?

Have a clear goal. Have a purpose. It should be actionable.

Why?

Make sure that purpose is connected to an actual need in the world of teaching and learning. Not just in your mind- in reality, according to established needs of your district, schools, classrooms. You should probably consult with people who are in the “trenches” to find out what those needs truly are. There should probably be some kind of established system for doing so.

Who is going to be involved?

Think beyond yourself, your department. Who is going to be impacted by this implementation? ON EVERY LEVEL? Who’s going to have to deal with the fall out if things don’t go smoothly? Whose learning lives are going to be impacted? Whose voices should be included in the planning, implementation, and evaluation stages? Who will be encouraged to speak freely if things are not going well? Who will be celebrated when things do go well?

How?

How will the goal be accomplished? What steps will be taken to ensure ts are crossed and is are dotted? What’s the timeline, and is it realistic? Or are things going to be sprung on teachers/students/admin at the last minute? How are problems going to be addressed in a streamlined, timely manner? How are all of your stakeholders going to know that they will be supported throughout the change and implementation process? How are ideas and implementations going to be communicated? How is the effectiveness of the initiative going to be evaluated?

Yes, take risks. Yes, try new and exciting things every single day, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. But think carefully about the whats, whys, whos, and hows, and how every decision we make ultimately impacts one, two, five, twenty, hundreds, and potentially thousands of other educators, students, and school community members.

 

Photo Credit: appropos via Compfight cc

Blink and it’s over.

IMG_6182

As a parent, I’m learning so much. Every day is a new adventure, and each day brings a new series of understandings and mistakes and opportunities and regrets. All of these experiences help me grow as a mother.

Today I looked around our living room and did a mental inventory of the cars, trucks, Legos, puzzles, stuffed animals, and books strewn about the room. I noticed my son was playing with a puzzle that I bought for him when he was only 8 or 9 months old, and now, at 21 months, he seems to really enjoy.

“Why did I buy that for him so long ago?” I wondered. “Why did I think he needed to rush into completing puzzles at such a young age?”

I thought next about the riding toys, wiffle ball bats, plastic bowling set and other outdoor play things outside on the porch. I remember when he received one of the riding toys how excited I was to watch him ride around on it. That was months ago, and he still isn’t that interested in riding around like I thought he might be.

Sometimes I think, “I can’t wait until he is older so he can do this or ride on the rides at the amusement park or hold a conversation with me.” And sure, those moments will be thrilling, but why am I wishing away the present? Too often, I am looking ahead, excited about the possibilities of his future, thereby neglecting to appreciate the now.

We do this in schools with our students, too. We’re constantly focused on what’s next instead of appreciating and acknowledging what’s going on right now, in front of us. 

When kindergartners arrive, we focus on what they need to learn and be able to do so that they’re prepared for first grade. We don’t spend enough time cherishing them as 5 and 6-year old children, who bring a wealth of experiences with them, who desire to learn in new ways, ways that are appropriate for their right now, not for their next year.

When students move into the later elementary grades, we focus on preparing them for middle school. We need to ability group/switch for content/make them use a binder/complete projects this way/organize everything the way middle school would in order to prepare them for their futures. The same happens in middle school, high school, and even the collegiate level.

Am I saying we shouldn’t prepare kids to be successful in the next phases of their lives or not to challenge them? Of course not. But in doing so, in stressing what’s next, in allowing ourselves to succumb to the pressures of needing our kids to be more than what they are, we neglect to honor the needs of those children who sit in front of us presently.

As the school year begins, I challenge you to truly see who sits in front of you. To get to know and love each of your students, find out what they need presently, serve them graciously, and reap the rewards from the time you have to spend together.

I’m going to keep snuggling my baby as long as he’ll allow me to. When I’m exhausted, and my back hurts, and when I don’t want to carry him up the stairs, I’ll remember that at the moment, he needs me to hold him, and that one day, I won’t have that luxury.