It’s so simple to grow and learn.

Yesterday I spent some time at our primary school, grades Preschool-1st. We’re building a new elementary school in our district and our architects were meeting with our amazing teachers to get insight and feedback on design.

As I was waiting between groups, I saw this beautiful exchange between two kids.

“Will you help me tie my shoe?”

“Sure.”

That was the entirety of the exchange. Can you help me? Sure. Bam. Into shoe tying position they went, with the little girl paying absolute attention so she could learn.

A beautiful example of helping.

This exchange between kids was so simple and sweet. One kid needed help and asked for it. Without hesitation the other kid gave the help.

Reminds me of a couple of things. I remember when our own kids were little. The rules for playing with another kid were also simple. You’re a kid, I’m a kid, let’s play. Reminds me of the George Couros’ line, “If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”

Made me wonder where the willingness to ask for help in learning goes sometimes. Maybe not even ask for help in learning. Maybe just being open and willing to continue to grow and learn.

Anyway, as I had the chance to share this beautiful picture, the reaction was identical. Colleagues were moved. And it’s what moves us that I’m calling out. A simple request for help. And immediate support offered.

If an educator leaves a career less curious than when they started, we have failed.

Will you help me tie my shoe?

How to be intentional with your continual learning.

We, in our Teaching-Learning-Innovation department, are designing a professional learning day for our educators. We have George Couros coming to talk with our whole outfit in the afternoon, which leaves us the morning for ‘sessions’.

We’re asking our colleagues to consider what they’d like to share with each other. The contributions are impressive! We need a few more to make it a going concern, but we’re getting there.

The whole process has me revisiting Innovate Inside the Box. Couros and Katie Novak do a great job talking about professional learning in your own place. Inside the box.

The cool thing about George and Katie, well one of the cool things, is they know our life as educators. They smack on call the truth out when describing typical conferences. Great keynote, rush to a session, rush to the bathroom, rush to another session, rush home. Collapse. Think about the cool stuff you heard. And go back to what you’ve always done.

How come? Why doesn’t the inspiration and learning stick? I contend it’s because the learning must be ongoing.

The standard reason offered to counter the idea of ongoing learning for educators (which is a hard bunch of words to type) is the old chestnut: time. “When are we supposed to find the time to learn?” (another bunch of hard words to type)

Step one. Decide it is important as an educator to continue to learn. I wrote about this almost 3 years ago to the day. Still believe it to be true.

Step two is provided by George Couros. “We have to make our own time for learning outside our professional learning days. Those days that are set apart for learning are important. But it is also a good practice to create space within the standard work day to dig into research, collaborate, share stories with colleagues about classroom and student success, and test ideas. In other words, we must be intentional about making time to learn.” This counsel is coming from the guy who is providing our keynote at one of those standalone days! Talk about getting it. Sheesh. He knows that he can provide the spark. It’s each educator’s job to fan the flames.

With utmost respect and love for my colleague educators, I offer the bolded words above. Please be intentional about making time to learn. I promise, from my personal experience, you will be so glad you did.

5 Challenging Statements

I think confident leaders and learners like to be challenged. Well…maybe not like as much as need. Confident leaders and learners need to be challenged. It’s too easy to sit and coast once a reputation is established. Is that always best for kids? Coasting? Thinking one has it all figured out? Probably not best for kids…or leaders.

Here are 5 challenging statements from George Couros. The 5 statements challenged me. I present them without comment, for one’s professional consideration.

Statement one. “I am a voracious learner, particularly when it comes to education. My wonder, curiosity, and openness to ideas, both new and old, have served me well, and, I hope, have benefitted those with whom I’ve worked though the years.”

Statement two: “What I am saying is that when we are averse to even considering how change may lead to something better for our students (which, in turn, leads to something better for ourselves), perhaps we are in the wrong profession.”

Statement three: “I hope I never grow tired of learning, but if I do, I hope that I have the courage to leave the profession before I stand in the way of anyone else’s learning and growth.”

Statement four: “No matter how much you know, however, you will always need to be learning.

Statement five: “Knowing is static. Learning, in contrast, is active.”

5 challenging statements.

This dude was right then. Still right now.

John Dewey

“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” -John Dewey

Dropped by our superintendent’s office today. He was working on a presentation he’s going to give to his superintendent colleagues, describing our successful capital bond program. Peeking at a few of his slides, it looks like a great presentation. One of his comments was, “You know, we never reflected on that process.” And that reflecting on it now, for him, was a great review and learning experience.

This brief conversation took me right back to Dewey’s famous line. Reflection leads to learning. Do we build enough or any reflection time into our professional lives? Do we build enough or any reflection time into our students’ lives? If not…why not?

I just finished Innovate Inside The Box by George Couros and Katie Novak. It’s a fantastic, practical, helpful, and instantly useful book for all educators. Toward the end of the book, Couros talks about reflection. “Reflection is a process that needs to be learned.” He advocates strongly for blogging as a tool for reflection. “I can’t tell you that my writing is always good, but taking time to write and think helps clear my mind and deepen my own learning.” He goes on to add three questions for us to ponder and upon which to reflect.

  1. What went well today?
  2. Where do I need to grow?
  3. What will I do to move forward to build upon my strengths and weaknesses?

Those are some darn good questions to contemplate! I can absolutely attest to the impact writing has had on me professionally. I can physically feel the difference in my brain and thinking as I write. In fact, writing has had such a strong impact on my learning, last year I set it as a professional aspiration. I wanted to encourage our leaders to discover what I had discovered. Writing makes me a better learner and leader.

My aspiration for last year, posted on my wall, right in front of my face.

We are meeting with that same group of leaders next week, bringing back all of our aspirations from last year to review. I’m going to stick with the same aspiration for the upcoming year. We still need to write. And more of us need to write.

We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.

Dude was right.

A stroll down memory lane.

We had a great, learning meeting today with members of our Teaching Learning Innovation team. 3 former teachers of the year, including a two-time teacher of the year. I was also there.

We are planning and getting excited about our first professional learning day for all of our fabulous educators on October 11th. I was trying to recreate a quote I knew I loved, had seen somewhere, and posted on twitter. But I was messing up the words. I knew it had something to do with do kids see anything different after we have a professional learning day. Or something to that effect. My memory is not always perfect.

So. I cruised through the ‘media’ section of my twitter feed. Good grief. It was emotional. It was telling. I can literally point to times where my thinking and learning were absolutely turned on their heads. And then there were just a whole bunch of lovely pictures of awesome teachers doing great work with kids.

And these two quotes, among hundreds, that I love, jumped out. Including the one I was trying to recreate from memory. Of course, it’s a George Couros quote. What else would it be?

First one I love.

And the one for which I was searching, as we plan our professional learning day.

The power of words. The power of teachers. The power of learning.

Working with giants.

Here’s the flow of a recent communication in our district. A proud principal shared part of an email from a teacher to her brand new assistant principal with me. One of the cool things they do on her staff is pass around the Jar of Wonder. The Jar of Wonder is kicked off at the first staff retreat, with someone writing something awesome about another staff member. Then that staff member chooses another staff member and writes something awesome about him/her…and so on. And it ends up as a Jar of Wonder.

Well the brand new assistant principal wrote a beautiful note about one of our gifted, veteran teachers. The teacher in turn wrote the new AP an email where she described the impact of his note, how touched she was by his words, and that it ranks up near the top of interactions over a 20 year career.

The final line from this amazing teacher’s email, to our new assistant principal, talking about how relationships matter in our district, just about killed me in its simple, powerful truth.

This is a great place to make a difference.

I don’t know why I can’t get that single line out of my head. My tenure in our district is now 36 years. I love this place. I love our teachers, administrators, parents, community, and kids. I’ve known what a special place this was from day one. But didn’t have the simple phrase to describe it.

Now I do.

This is a great place to make a difference.

Do you have a knowing stance or a learning stance?

Been awhile since I have written in the old blog! Back in business now. And what a great way to be back. I have three books on deck by some of my favorite authors! Here’s the first.

Collective Teacher Efficacy refers to,” educators’ shared beliefs that through their combined efforts they can positively influence student outcomes, including those of students who are disengaged, unmotivated, and/or disadvantaged.” (Donohoo, 2017)

Two years ago, we hosted Jenni Donohoo in our district. She talked to us about the stunning research behind Collective Teacher Efficacy. John Hattie’s research routinely has CTE as the THE number one thing educators can do to improve the learning for kids. Something has an effect on learning if it has a score above .40 according to Hattie’s work, CTE has a score of 1.39.

Hattie’s research says CTE has proven to be more than three times more predictive of student achievement than SES. More than double the effect of prior achievement, and more than triple the effect of home environment and parental involvement.

Through my reading of this excellent book, I have come to understand that I had a ‘knowing stance’. A quote from a teacher in the book sounds a lot like me. ” I know everything I need to know in order to teach my students.” Ouch. And yikes.

A knowing stance is contrasted by a ‘learning stance’. Teachers continuing to learn. “Teachers’ professional learning is integral to school improvement because teacher learning influences classroom practice, an important predictor or student learning and achievement.”

One of the things that happens when one gets older is one realizes how much one actually doesn’t know. I’ll raise my hand here. I seem to know less and less each day. And want to learn more and more each day.

That’s a good thing. A learning stance. Check.