I Am Driven

My friend, Faige Meller, wrote this week on how she is driven. Her words have inspired me to consider what drives me right now!

I am currently about halfway through my “longterm sabbatical” from teaching as I’m home to raise our little ones  until they are at school. I’m amazed how fast the time has whipped by since the day I was put on bed rest, but I know that by the time I return to the classroom, much will have changed in the education world. Blogging and tweeting have been privileges for me to stay involved, but I’m also grateful for this unique phase of my life during which I have more time to take action in my community. For me, these opportunities all blend together to help me grow as a parent, teacher, citizen, and person.

And I, too, am driven.

I am driven to never stop learning.

I am driven toward authenticity.

I am driven to identify practices that put learning in the hands of — learners.

I am driven to learn how to empower kids to become powerful 21st century citizens and healthy self-regulated human beings.

I am driven to learn more about my community so I’m better prepared to serve them when I return to the classroom.

I am driven to model the very kinds of design thinking and action that I hope to see in my students (both my current very small ones and my future classroom ones).

I am driven to stay current with quality children’s literature so I can give timely recommendations and cultivate myself as a reader.

I am driven to share thought-provoking resources to help current classroom teachers inspire wonder and meaning in their students.

I am driven to always be able to say with confidence, “I am a teacher!” AND “I am a learner!”

What drives you?

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Inquiry Into Learner Profiles: Communicator

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

It’s funny, really, how we sometimes altogether remove our own voice from our communication. We water it down in the attempt to look like everyone else. We apologize needlessly. We shy away from owning our strengths and what makes us unique. So if you use this provocation into what it means to be a communicator, I challenge you to bring voice front and center into the conversation with your students!

Resource #1: Obvious to you. Amazing to others. by Derek Sivers

Resource #2: Ballet Rotoscope

Resource #3: Citius, Altius, Fortius by Felix Deimann (similar to above, but equally thought-provoking!)

Resource #4: Barcode Band by W88N

Resource #5: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan (lots of fun, but pay attention to the way this savvy girl makes her case)

Provocation Questions:

  • What is the role of voice in being a communicator? Why is your unique voice important as you communicate?
  • What does it mean to be a communicator? What are the different ways in which we communicate?
  • What is the role of communication in our society? How does it impact your family? Community? World?
  • What is our responsibility to be communicators? What is our responsibility to own our voices as communicators?
  • What is difficult about being a communicator? How do we overcome?
  • How is perspective important as we communicate? What is the role of listening?

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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!

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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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Why I Focus On Agency #TeacherMom

The beginning of Netflix’s rendition of The Little Prince begins with a mother unveiling her child’s life plan to ensure admission to the “right school.” She tells her daughter, “Let’s face it. You’re going to be all alone out there. So we can’t afford to make any more mistakes. You’re going to be a wonderful grown-up.”

While it’s certainly an over-the-top portrayal, when we think about all the societal pressures to ensure our kids’ success, it’s more representative than it might initially seem.

I remember a day a few years back when I was feeling like a particular failure as a parent. I decided to make a list of all the things that were stressing me. In so doing, I realized that it wasn’t so much the daily to-do list itself that was weighing me down; it was the fear of what would happen if I failed at any given item on the list (ie, make sure the kids get quality outdoor play each day OR ELSE they might not develop proper health habits and someday contract heart disease; make sure the house stays clean OR ELSE they might grow up to be hoarders featured on some reality-tv show, etc, etc).

Dire consequences were attached to every task. And it came down to me to prevent every one of those consequences.

As I continued my list, I came to the essential realization: I had thought my actions were driven by love; turns out they were actually driven by fear.

At first, it may seem that what’s driving the action is irrelevant, as long as the results are the same. But upon closer inspection, we realize what happens in a fear-driven environment:

  • We focus less on others’ agency and more on control.
  • We don’t share the load, even with people who have an interest in it.
  • We trust less.
  • We worry more.
  • We stress over timetables & milestones.
  • We are exhausted.

As I have instead worked to start from a place of love, I have found that I focus more and more on the agency of those around me. Because only when I stop worrying about whether I’m enough can I more clearly realize see their strength. Their capacity. Their courage.

This quote from William Stixrud resonated with me so much that this is my second time sharing it in as many weeks:

“I start with the assumption that kids have a brain in their head and they want their lives to work. They want to do well. That’s why we want to change the energy, so the energy is coming from the kid seeking help from us rather than us trying to boss the kid, sending the message, “You can’t do this on your own.””

When we’re driven by fear, the burden rests with us to prevent calamity and shape the world.

When we’re driven by love, the burden rests with us all in an open, thoughtfully-discussed, and shared manner.

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Inquiry Into Attitudes: Appreciation

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

As is often the case with these PYP elements, appreciation is another attitude that can be so easy for us to take for granted in our students (and ourselves). We might find ourselves shaking our heads about “kids these days” when the truth is that many kids may not have had the clear exposure, or opportunity to investigate these valued qualities for themselves. So this week’s provocation is designed to give them that very opportunity. Enjoy “Appreciation!”

Resource #1: Noticing the Soundscapes of Yosemite National Park via The Kid Should See This (a bit long, but even just the first minute or two will be sufficient for this provocation!)

Resource #2: “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson

“She smiled and pointed to the sky. “Sometimes, when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.””

Resource #3: “Windows” by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale

“Then you arrive home again, and you look at your window from the outside. Someone you love is waving at you, and you can’t wait to go inside.”

Resource #4: How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher (a chapter book, but the first couple chapters are a great dose of self-appreciation about our potential to contribute as writers).

“Lies about writing your life story: Lie #1: You have to be a famous celebrity.”

Provocation Questions:

  • What does an appreciation attitude or mindset look like?
  • How does appreciation impact an individual’s life?
  • How does appreciation impact society?
  • What are ways/environments in which you can best feel appreciation?
  • What is our responsibility to appreciate people? Nature? Ideas?

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Inquiry into Attitudes: Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm comes so naturally for so many kids (especially before they get old enough that it becomes uncool), it can be easy to overlook having a real discussion about it. But I’m pretty sure we could all use more of its rich, sunny, creative goodness in our lives. Enjoy this week’s provocation!

Resource #1: Me and My Cello – Happy Together Cello Cover by The Piano Guys

Another fun video from these guys packed with enthusiasm:

Resource #2: A Pep Talk from Kid President to You by Soul Pancake

Resource #3: Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser

Provocation Questions: 

  • What is the connection between enthusiasm and individualism?
  • What are some of the obstacles to enthusiasm? How can we overcome?
  • How does enthusiasm change over a person’s lifetime?
  • What is the connection between enthusiasm and creativity?
  • How does enthusiasm impact our world?
  • How does enthusiasm impact an individual’s work?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto