Fear vs. Passion

Taking part of the Innovator’s Mindset books study via #IMMOOC was one of the most refreshing professional development experiences I’ve had since leaving the classroom.

One of the reasons I chose to participate was because this feels like an important time for me professionally.

For one thing, I just finished the process of renewing my teaching license, which involved a lot of reflection.  For another, this spring marks 4 years since I’ve been away from the classroom, which is as long as I was actually in the classroom!  I used to think sharing this would hurt my credibility as an educator and as a blogger (“what does she know?”).

Now I know that it’s less about writing what I know and more about writing how I’m growing and changing. I thought Katie Martin summed it up beautifully in the last episode of the #IMMOOC:

“I shifted my thinking from I’m an authority to tell people something vs. This is my space to reflect & learn.”

I feel like this also captures the contrast between working and living from a place of fear vs. a place of passion. Sometimes we think it doesn’t matter if the results are the same (bottom-line thinking); the truth is that fear acts as a drain of our energy and opportunities, while passion feeds our energy and opportunities. While many of us readily accept the above statement, it’s tricky to detect the way it’s playing out in our own lives, particularly if we are, in fact, choosing fear.

My graphic below (last challenge of this #IMMOOC) is meant to capture some of the ways I found that contrast  of fear vs. passion throughout reading George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset and watching the #IMMOOC episodes. My hope is that it might serve as a tool for self-reflection. I would love to hear additional examples of the difference it makes to choose passion over fear!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

When the Internet Brings Us Something Amazing, Do We Share with our Kids? #TeacherMom

What kinds of conversations do you think OK Go music videos would generate with a 7 and 3 year old?

How about relative size of instruments to produce different sound? “What are they hitting to make music?”

The concept of sponsorship & investment. “Why are are they making such a big mess in that airplane?!”

The idea of stop motion.

(Be sure to check out their behind the scenes of the Upside Down & Inside Out music video. I especially loved the line: “The whole song is sort of around the idea of letting the unfamiliar feelings guide you rather than trying to figure everything out all the time.”)

When the Internet brings us that which truly inspires, do we share with our students? When we do, our roles evolve from consumers to creators as we co-construct wonder with kids. Who knows how the story of the mom who built a house via YouTube videos, or the boy who invented a device to help kids trapped in hot cars, influence the paths our kids take?

Access to one another’s stories is perhaps the most defining feature this technological era. Let’s leverage those stories to inspire and embolden our kids to the ever-greater possibilities of our day.

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Inquiry Into Action

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Sometimes, taking action on something that matters to us is big. Sometimes, it’s small. How do we know which is the best path? How do we get started? How do we keep going when it’s hard? Use this week’s provocation into Action to help get kids thinking more about what it means to them.

Resource #1: What Matters to You//Me?

Resource #2: PSA from Patrick Larkin, via AJ Juliani

Resource #3: Mother of 4 Builds House From Scratch By Watching Youtube Videos

Resource #4: What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada

Resource #5: Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to take action?
  • Why is taking action an important part of learning?
  • How are we responsible for taking action on our learning?
  • How might our perspective on a particular action change over time?
  • Why is taking action so difficult sometimes, even when it’s something important to us?
  • How might technology transform the way we can take action today?

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Instead of Keeping Them In from Recess, What If…

…we went out with them and played a bit?

…we told that one kid on their way out that we hoped they had a terrific break and could come in fresh to try again?

…we sat down with that child who will. not. finish. that assignment, and discussed alternative opportunities for him/her to practice/demonstrate learning?

…we spend those 15 minutes contemplating that child’s strengths and how we might tap into those in order to overcome the current difficulty?

…we found ways to create more flexibility within our own schedules so students don’t necessarily have to work on the same assignments simultaneously all day long?

…we created positive calendars, complete with “publishing parties” for kids to anticipate?

…we deliberately worked on teaching time-management skills, rather than assuming they are already developed?

…we worked on making our classroom a place kids hardly ever want to leave, rather than a place they can’t wait to leave?

Just a few questions from a teacher who has kept way too many kids in from way too many recesses. Inspired by Chapter 8 of George Corous’ Innovator’s Mindset. And still wondering…

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10 Ways for Partnering With Parents #TeacherMom

A friend in my PLN, Aviva Dunsinger, recently wrote about the re-framing of her thinking regarding student vacations during the school year.

“…I think that we have a choice here: we can focus on what children lose due to their absence, or we can look at what they might gain. My thinking is that the stronger the home/school connection, the better the chance that educators, parents, and children can work together to get the most fzrom this away time.”

Her suggestions for offering resources to parents as they take their children on vacation included ideas like offering prompts to elicit discussions. What I appreciate most about these kinds of suggestions is that it sets aside the tone that we know what’s best for their children.

Particularly when we’re facing hostility, this can be an especially difficult task — after all, we are the professionals here. But when we work to view parents through a lens of partnership (and work to walk the talk), we actually preempt those power struggles we fear.

Here are some ideas that might help!

1. Harness social media (that your students’ parents use). Instagram, class Facebook accounts, Twitter — these can all give parents a window into your classroom, which will boost trust via transparency.

2. Share reminders via text to keep parents in the loop on events. Remind is a quality app for this purpose, sending group texts without exchanging actual phone numbers.

3. Seek their input on homework. Taryn Bond-Clegg wrote some time ago about how her approach to homework shifted:

“This year I was planning on having a zero homework policy. Then I realized that it doesn’t have to be an either or… it can be a both and. If I as the teacher mandate homework for all my students, I am neglecting the perspectives of the families who value their time after school for other activities and wish not to have homework. If I as the teacher outlaw homework I am neglecting the perspectives of the families who value extended practice of the academic skills we explore in class.”

Check out the inquiry her class conducted with regards to ascertaining their homework needs.

4. Leverage their expertise. Invite them into the classroom as experts. Assign students to collect data based on parent experiences for various units.

5. Consider getting rid of reading logs. I remember a conversation with a parent of a bookworm student. She asked if she could just pre-sign all their reading logs on the year because her child definitely exceeded the daily minute requirement. Today, I can’t help but wonder if it’s really necessary to put parents (and their children) through this kind of hoop-jumping. It also seems like a good opportunity to build trust, even as we continue to encourage at-home reading. (see Thinking about Those Reading Minutes & Logs)

6. Stay curious. We may have “seen it all.” But families continue to be incredibly diverse with varying needs. Is there one assumption we can drop in favor of asking what resources we might help provide? For instance, we may love our tech-savvy homework assignment, but if you have families that are quite worried about excessive screen time, how might you use it as an opportunity to meet needs?

7. Catch ’em being good. Work to ensure that you communicate more regularly about what their children are doing well than what they are struggling with. This starts by emailing early in the school year if at all possible.

8. Write positive notes to their children. Conveying to their children that we see and appreciate them as individuals is one of the best ways to build relationships with their parents.

9. Organize volunteering. My child’s teacher has a handy sheet-protected class list with boxes you can check as we come in to read with the children. Simple yet efficient way to maximize the time I spend in the classroom.

10. Try to attend the occasional extracurricular event. If anyone understands time constraints, I sure do! But I can attest that when it comes to particularly tricky relationships, attending that game or performance outside of school can do wonders for your rapport.

Yes, we’re professionals. But we’re more likely to have parents respect our expertise when we demonstrate that we respect theirs as their children’s first and longest teachers.

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Having Better Conversations on Global Awareness #TeacherMom

A few months ago when I shared the book, “This Is How We Do It,” with my 7 year-old, I remember getting flustered over one of the conclusions she drew: that just because that one kid in Peru looked poor, all kids in Peru are poor. I knew my frustration was more about my lack of ability to help her understand relative wealth of individuals vs. countries.

But it’s a misconception that’s certainly not just limited to young children. We make assumptions all the time about what life is like for people in other countries; stereotypes are reinforced by limited media coverage and of course, Hollywood.

This week’s provocation centers around helping our students start having better conversations on how people live across the world.

Resource #1: “See how the rest of the world lives” TED-Talk by Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Resource #2: Dollar Street interactive tool described in the above video!

Resource #3: “If the World Were 100 People” by GOOD Magazine

Resource #4: “Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats by BBC, set to start at :30 to save time (this is a MUST-WATCH, especially if you share the above video!)

Resource #5: This Is How We Do It picture book by Matt LaMothe

Provocation Questions:

  • What are living conditions like across the world?
  • What impacts quality of life?
  • What are patterns you observe when it comes to how people live around the world?
  • Why are their differences in how people live their lives?
  • How is the way people live changing?
  • What is our responsibility to understand the differences in the ways people live around the world
  • What are the different perspectives on what makes a quality life?

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What Happens When Programs > Books

When classroom literacy instruction starts to become completely overtaken by that literacy programs, do actual books start to get in the way? After all, reading a book takes more time. Selecting passages from actual books to share with students takes time. Talking about our favorite books (and building the culture that makes us want to) takes time.

And time is what we lack most as teachers!

Plus, when that program has mapped out tasks and “personalized” progress for every day of the school year, it seems our literary expertise starts to take a back seat to that very expensive program.

So what starts happening when programs > books?

Books seem like luxurious “extras” (you can get to your book when you finish the worksheet or level).

Books seem less efficient than the programs (we all know books have value, but if they’re not carefully scaffolding the reading development with every word, are they as valuable during class time?) 

Read aloud time starts to disappear (after all, the programs seem to encompass all the literary needs, not to mention time).

Programs are deemed more adept at identifying skills (at least, the skills most easily recognizable/test-able).

Kids talk less about the books they’re reading and more about the levels they’re on (it makes sense since all that time on programs suggests we’re more interested in getting them to the next level than we are about their reading interests).

No matter how appealing and adept a program might seem, we must be careful to seek balance and to protect our students’ love of books. As authors by Antero Garcia and Cindy O’Donnell-Allen write, “To see themselves as readers, students must also have opportunities to make decisions about what they will read.” p. 98, Pose, Wobbble, Flow. Pernille Ripp also writes eloquently on programs like Accelerated Reader & selecting literacy programs. Also this:

If books have started to be relegated to a sideline role in our classrooms, it’s time to ask ourselves how we can bring them back into our reading instruction in meaningful ways.

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