When was the last time you did something for the first time?

A group of friends have been gathering in various configurations and locations since 1983.  As we’ve done for the last couple years, we split time between an ocean and a lake.  This year, as dinner was drawing to a close, sitting on the deck near the lake, one of our friends mentioned the idea gleaned from George Couros“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”  We went around the table answering that question.  The table included a range of ages and professions.  One of the things that most struck me about the conversation was the universality of that question. One person talked about new training she’d had regarding kids who had attempted suicide returning to school.  One person passed on the question.  One talked about recent new foods she had tried. The answers were wide and varied.  I’ve well detailed how that question has impacted me.  This blog is a direct result of that question.  Two of the things I’m thinking about now are what will I do for the first time over the course of the upcoming school year, and how intentional does one have to be to try new things?  I don’t know the answer to the former and I think the answer to the latter is to be pretty intentional.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, tree, outdoor, nature and waterI’m reading a fantastic book at the moment called The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath.  One of the coolest things about this book is that it was recommended to me by our very recently hired, new high school principal.  I love that he is a learner and not afraid to model his learning.  Critical attributes in an educator and leader, in my opinion.   This book makes very clear the notion of intentionality.  The authors describe a great activity called Palmer’s Dream Exercise.  Basically teachers are asked to fill in this sentence:

Imagine that you have a group of dream students.  They are engaged, they are perfectly behaved, and they have perfect memories.  Fill in this sentence: 3-5 years from now, my students still know _______________________.  Or they still are able to do___________________. Or they still find value in _____________________________.

The answers are put on a whiteboard in front of all participants.  Palmer notes that very few of the answers are content focused.  He reminds them that they have just described goals for their students.

Then he has them look at the syllabus for their classes to see if the goals they have for their students match.  Usually…..they don’t at all.

This is an interesting exercise, done with college professors.  I wonder if the same results would occur with teachers in K-12?

I wonder if the next time I do something for the first time what I will learn?

Can’t wait.





Author: Jnelson

Jeff Nelson Fife School District Assistant Superintendent:Teaching-Learning-Innovation 39 years as an educator. 16 years teacher 3 years assistant principal 12 years principal 8 years Assistant Superintendent BA, Washington State University MAEd, Washington State University Previous member of AWSP Legislative Committee Previous member of UW Tacoma PEAB, Administrative Certification Established and maintained Fife’s first website for 7 years Present work includes establishing the first Teaching/Learning/Innovation department in the Fife School District. Examples of responsibilities include: teacher/administrator professional development, assessment, TPEP, curriculum/materials review, 24 credit requirement, technology levy leadership, teacher/administrator bargaining. Initiatives underway in Fife, as a result of new TLI Department: AVID, OER, Curriculum and Materials reviews, Student Perception Pilot with CSTP, Google Expedition Cofounder of Educational Internet Communications, LLC. Marketed and sold one of the first online grade checking programs in the US. Consulted with Seattle Educational Internet Company for 2 years. jnelson@fifeschools.com twitter.com/jeffnelsonTLI

One thought on “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

  1. This really had made me think. Learning technology (thankfully, I am now a pro) has reminded me of how frustrating and thrilling it is to do something for the first time.


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