The Power of ONE Word in 2016

IMG_5208Over the last two years, I have grown a Professional Learning Network that supports me, challenges me, and inspires me. I keep them in my pocket….literally via smartphone! The relationships I have established within my network have strengthened my ability to lead, my passion for what I do, and, most of all, my voice. Most of the people in my network I have never met face to face, but they have impacted my life beyond measure. They have led me to my one word choice for 2016, because they have given me a vision for teachers and kids in the upcoming year.

Here comes the irony… are you ready?

One of the most powerful relationships I have formed over the last two years is with a member of my PLN, Karen Norton (@nortnik). We connected on Twitter in educational chats, and saw immediately we were like minded. Lo and behold, we discovered we lived about thirty minutes away from each other! A lifelong friendship has formed. We have had countless conversations through Twitter, Facebook, email, and FACE to FACE (my favorite). We are currently enrolled in the Master Principal Program at the Arkansas Leadership Academy, which is a three year program. Karen is taking college courses as well, but we always find time to connect and share ideas. It is no wonder that we have the same ONE WORD for 2016…

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One Word…seems so simple, but if chosen thoughtfully, it can be life changing. 2013 was my first year to read the book One Word that Will Change Your Life, by Jon Gordon and Dan Britton. I read it on a Hawaii beach on Thanksgiving break, and again during the last week of 2013. New Year’s Eve, my word came to me…INSPIRE. I repeated the process in 2014 (minus the Hawaii beach)… FEARLESS.

IMG_5221It is that time again…time for a new focus for a new year. I have struggled with narrowing down my word, partly because I have ignored the one that has repeatedly been in my face! After much reflection, looking in, and looking up, I am ready to look out and live my word. I am ready to empower those around me. Kids and teachers deserve it, and my goal is to create conditions where opportunities are available for all. Relationships are the key to empowering others, so I will focus on strengths of others and build on them. I love to “nudge”…there is so much power behind this! Know their strengths, plant a seed, give a nudge, and support their process down the road of empowerment. I look forward to living my word, and giving back to the people around me. We all need nudging, and we all need to be empowered. If educators do not feel empowered, how can they do what’s best for their students? Kids deserve confident, risk taking teachers who seek opportunities to grow and improve. Teachers deserve lead learners who will share leadership and decision making with them. 2016 is the year to EMPOWER. I’m ready! 

~Bethany

The following portion of this post was written by my friend, Karen. I am honored to have had her collaborate with me on this post. 

As an educator, and honestly well before that, I have had a fascination with the power of words. The sheer fact that words can impact your mood, your attitude and frankly, your life. This time last year I found myself researching and working on professional development for my team. During a December Twitter chat I was introduced to the One Word that Will Change Your Life book, by Jon Gordon and Dan Bratton. I was immediately intrigued, bought and read the book and knew THIS was what my team and I needed. I spent a great deal of time thinking, reflecting and looking for “the” word. Throughout the two weeks prior to the back to school gathering many words came to mind, but BELIEVE was the word that resonated and stuck.

    IMG_5222.JPGFast forward to Christmas break 2015 and I am once again thinking… about my students, my team, my school, my community and yes, myself and “that” one word that will become my focus. The reflective process has brought me so much clarity and has helped with the search. As I thought about all the amazing experiences I have had this past year, I realized that most of the positive memories were focused on situations where I was able to empower my students and teachers to step up and out. I find great satisfaction in helping others see their greatness and explore their passions. Watching a teacher take a step of faith and go to a completely non-traditional classroom, experiencing a student using her “voice” to write a letter to me requesting cell phones be allowed during lunch (and this was NOT an assignment!) and supporting a math teacher as she began the transformation to media specialist. I am excited to embrace my word for 2016 …. EMPOWER. The journey to empower those around me to reach a little higher, to stretch themselves and others, and to live up to their full potential begins NOW!!  

– – -Karen

What will be your focus be for 2016? How can you look in and up to zoom your lens into one word that will drive your actions for the upcoming year? The possibilities are endless. ONE word. Simple, yet the power behind it can move mountains. ONE word…which one is meant to be yours for the year?

Shifting the Focus from Intervening to Innovating

If educators had a dollar for every time they heard the word “intervention” throughout a school day or in professional development sessions, we would all have a nice nest egg! The fact is, the pendulum took a very hard swing toward looking at interventions when No Child Left Behind first came about. Our focus quickly zoomed in on learning what kids lacked in order to target interventions specific to those skills. Makes total sense, right? There is research to support this response to students’ gaps in their learning. It is necessary and ultimately “good teaching” when we intervene upon observing a deficit. Intervention requires ongoing assessment and continued monitoring of progress in order to determine a trajectory of growth for a particular student. We determine if the child is responding to an intervention, if we need to allow more time for the child to progress, or if we need to try a new intervention. This is part of our role as educators. We teach, we reteach, and we intervene when kids show a deficit or gap. This is best practice–it’s proven. I believe in Response to Intervention (RTI) and have seen the system improve learning within kids..but…I keep thinking to myself,

“Are we missing something? Are we placing too much emphasis on what kids CAN’T do, clouding our vision of what kids CAN do? What if we started not with deficits, but with strengths? What if we started not with diagnostic assessments, but inventories that will inform us of interests, dispositions, and passions? What if…”

Every evening before I leave school, this movie plays in my head. The stars of the show are my most at risk students. When I speak of at risk, academics are the least of the issues. The kids who play through my head are the ones who lack basic needs, stability, (including a consistent place to sleep), control of emotions, social skills, and executive functioning. These kids are resilient, tough, and know how to survive…three amazing traits that they are forced to acquire at a very early age under very tough circumstances. Since they are in survival mode, their brains are not prepared to take on learning the way brains of their peers are. THIS is what keeps me up at night! The children in my mind movie have the same capabilities as their peers, yet their brains are not in learning mode. What if…

Less Focus on Intervening, More Focus on Investigating

What if we spent more time upfront learning about our kids’ backgrounds? Our staff did just that before school began in the fall. All they had was a roster of names. Some were brand new names to our school, others were familiar. Teachers pulled permanent records of their future students and brought them to our media center. They also had assessment folders full of academic data. We spent quite some time digging through the information in the folders, and learned very important details. Consider the following questions, and the implications the answers could have on kids:

  • How many schools has the child been enrolled in?
  • Who lives with the child (family makeup)?
  • Has the child been retained in a grade?
  • Are their legal/court documents regarding custody?
  • Is there a history of discipline referrals?
  • What is the primary language spoken in the household?
  • Does the child have a physical/mental impairment?
  • Does the child take medication or wear glasses?

There are so many more questions I could list! Some of this information will not be present in a child’s records, but with a little digging we can gather most of it. Knowing a child’s history before he/she walks into the building will help us connect with the entire family much more quickly. Empathy is a powerful thing, and when we can place ourselves in the situation of another, our hearts naturally open and consider “more”.

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When school begins, we have this amazing opportunity to learn more about a child’s current reality. We must continue to be detectives and investigate through conversations, inventories, observations, etc. The last two years I spent in a classroom (teaching third graders), I conducted an action research project for graduate school that focused on motivating boy readers. The topic was very specific to the disposition of boys toward reading for enjoyment. I started there, but quickly learned that I could apply my methods to all of my kids, and in all aspects of learning. I conducted personal conferences with individual kids and had them complete interest inventories. I also spoke with families personally and sent them information to complete about their child, as well as their hopes and dreams for the school year. I created guiding questions to help me learn more qualitative information about my kids:

  • How does the child feel about school?
    • Reading?
    • Math?
    • Writing?
    • Recess?
    • Other?
  • How does the child feel about his/her intelligence? (confidence)
  • Who are the child’s friends? How does he/she make friends?
  • What does the child do outside of school?
    • Interests?
    • Hobbies?
    • Extra curricular activities?
  • What does the child want to get out of third grade (school in general)? (hopes and dreams)
  • What does the child LOVE more than anything? (tap into passion)

Investigations can lead to eye opening information that will guide us in supporting every aspect of the whole child. When we serve as detectives for our kids, we provide ourselves with more opportunities to positively impact each child. So…what role does investigation play in intervention? Does it play a significant role? What about innovation?

From a Culture of Intervention to a Culture of Innovation

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I reflect often on school culture, and spend the largest portion of my time investing in a culture of learning for my school–not only for kids, but for staff, families, and the community. We are learning partners who come together for OUR kids. I recently realized that we spend way too much time focusing on what kids can’t do and targeting interventions to close the gap. This is a vital piece of our role, but shouldn’t be the primary focus. We need to be investing more time in looking at individual strengths within kids. We need to be thinking about how to use these strengths to consider what they kids COULD do if we provide the appropriate conditions for them. We need to find ways to inspire them to want to learn, and to keep them passionately curious! Friends, that falls on US! It starts with knowing each child and having a personal relationship. We build upon that by using kids’ interests and passions to provide that spark.

A culture of innovation requires us to move beyond the rigid schedules of intervention time and chunking components of the instructional day. I truly believe we are micromanaging kids’ learning when we do this. I am completely guilty of doing this! Now that I know what needs to happen, I am diligent about my own school culture evolving into a more innovative environment for our kids. We are not tapping into their passions enough, and if we don’t change something, we are going to lose some kids. Helping them find their passion and discover their own genius might be the thing that saves some of them! I am willing to think bigger than providing interventions for kids at risk. After all, don’t they deserve more than our plans to “close the gap”? The truth is, they deserve a future story. Simply closing the achievement gap won’t help kids see their future story. Igniting their passions and capitalizing on their strengths WILL. This is my belief. This is my new mantra. THIS, a culture of innovation where kids can figure out who they are and how they can contribute to their world…OUR world.

Bethany

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What All Grade Levels Can Learn from a Preschool Classroom

IMG_3918Only in the last two years as a lead learner have I served in a building that houses prek children. To my surprise, these classrooms are structured quite differently than classrooms in the rest of the building. I knew prek staff were accountable to federal and state guidelines, but there is so much more going on in these classrooms. I believe most people view a prek classroom as a place to play, eat, and take naps. Yes, our four year olds take a long nap. Yes, they have two meals and snacks at regularly scheduled times each day. And…yes…they play…A LOT. At first glance, their play looks like…well…play! I learned quickly that play in a prek classroom consists of way more than meets the eye. I learned that slowing down, listening, and observing could tell me so much about kids, their interactions, and the intentions of their teachers.

Play Equates to Learning

IMG_3917Children engaged in play are in the act of learning. They are hearing new vocabulary, practicing their communicating skills, problem solving, and making connections with others. When kids sustain uninterrupted play, they are learning to engage themselves, instilling independence and confidence. Even more powerful are the choices prek children are given. Teachers do not tell them where to play or which materials to use; rather the children are free to choose where they feel will fit them best at that moment. If their area is full, they have learned to accept that and move on to a second choice. How powerful is THAT? How many times do we see tantrums and meltdowns over a child not getting their first choice? We tend to allow so much freedom when they are not of school age, and when they enter school we begin slowly taking away their choices. WHY?

Teachers are NOT Just Supervising

IMG_3920When I enter preschool classrooms in my school, it is often hard to find the teacher and the paraprofessional! I say this because most times they are engaged in play or activities with children. They are normally in the floor, at a table, or in a center with children around them. I often here them saying things such as, “Why did you choose this to build your tower?”, “Tell me about what you are making.”, or “Would you like to come over and do this with me?” Both adults in the room are constantly engaging in conversation with kids by asking open ended questions, commenting on what kids say, validating kids’ thinking, etc. The interaction is very purposeful in nature. To a visitor popping in, this would look much like casual conversation, playing with kids, or just plain supervision. If a deeper look is taken, so much more intention is there.

We can all learn from a preschool classroom! Much of what happens each and every day in the five classrooms within my school, should be happening daily in all of our classrooms. Consider the following questions for reflection within your building, structure, grade level, and content. How can we add a little touch of preschool?

  • Do kids have choice in what they want to do at some point of the school day?
  • How often do kids get the opportunity to engage in “play”? (yes, secondary teachers, I am asking you as well!)
  • Do you listen, question, and observe as a major part of your assessing FOR learning?
  • How often are kids creating, building, or tearing down? Can you provide more opportunities for this?
  • When do you take opportunities to engage along WITH kids, participating in activities WITH them?

I firmly believe we can all improve our learning environments by considering these questions with honesty and open minds. I believe that a commitment to improving our environments in this manner will, in fact, lead to a more innovative school culture. We are preparing kids for jobs and careers that do not even exist in our current reality. Shouldn’t we be allowing more time for choice, voice, and creativity? It provides a solid start for our preschool kids, and when I imagine what would happen if we continued, I get chills. I have no doubt that kids would blow our minds with what they could do. Let’s commit to implement a little preschool in ALL classrooms. Are you with me?

Bethany

 

The Most Dangerous Phrase in Education

(a repost)

WARNING!!!!

You are about to be exposed to a highly dangerous and contagious phrase. These words, when used together in a sentence, can be toxic to others, and cause damage that can take years to repair. Hold your breath, grit your teeth, and read the phrase to yourself. Upon exposure to this phrase in a school, you must immediately dispose of it in your mind, blocking it from any hopes and dreams you have for kids and yourself! You are stronger than this phrase, but there are times where you will feel tempted to become sucked in by its power. You will hear it, but must do everything possible to build immunity in order to spare your mind from being consumed by its message. The phrase is meant to keep you comfortable, and to accept the status quo. It is meant to keep you from growing! Are you ready….here it is…

That’s the way we have always done it.

Education is known for its pendulum swinging. Trends come and go. Curriculum materials are born and die out. Those of us who have been in the profession for a while know that what we do is about people, not programs. (Todd Whitaker) We do what is best for kids, not what feels most comfortable for adults. We can all become too comfortable, causing stagnation and acceptance of status quo. Our kids deserve better than the status quo. They deserve for us to brand a school culture that fosters innovation, creativity, and independence. You know the old saying, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.” This simple, yet complicated phrase lingers in my mind as I consider things I may be holding onto so tightly that it is causing me to let go of opportunities to make a bigger difference. Think of the following “what ifs…”

  • What if we still had to use overhead projectors as our main means of sharing with students?
  • What if all students in elementary school still learned out of the same basal reader, no matter where they were in their reading development?
  • What if we had the one room schoolhouse environment where kids ages 6-16 were in the same room exposed to the same materials?

I could go on listing these “what ifs” because so much has changed in our profession. We have progressed with the times in many ways, but the way we have always done it still lingers as a poisonous phrase for many schools and classrooms. 

 

Consider our school furniture. Why do we still have traditional one room schoolhouse furniture in so many of our classrooms? Uncomfortable desks and chairs are not conducive to most kids, yet we continue to furnish classrooms in a traditional way. We at least group them so they are not in rows and columns! Is that enough for today’s learners?

 

 

What about project based learning? Why do we continually separate subject areas in school when our goal is to show kids that what we teach blends in real life? Shouldn’t we integrate more and provide more real world situations for our kids to help prepare them for thinking flexibly, problem solving, and most importantly…life? PBL is an interdisciplinary approach to provide learning opportunities for kids in ways that will help them relate to our world. The Common Core has addressed this, and suggests an integrated approach to teaching the subjects in a self contained setting through grade 5. This is a great start, but the way we have always done it has built a roadblock in our thinking. What can we do to integrate other subject areas into the core? 

I challenge you this week to evaluate your status quo. Think about what changes you have made in your instructional practices over this school year. Is there something you need to let go of because it is the way you have always done it? We are all victims of this toxic phrase, not only in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well. Learn something new this week. Innovate. Dream. Take action. You will feel empowered when you do. Guess who will benefit the most from your actions…your KIDS! You will feel empowered as well, and more motivated than ever to make a difference. Do not accept the status quo…you were made to be awesome! 

As my good friend, +Jonathan Kegler says, “I stopped wearing a watch because the time is NOW.” Do not wait. Seize an opportunity this week to learn something new and make a change for the betterment of kids. My friend’s phrase is a contagious one, but in the most amazing way possible. 



Now, go forth and BE AWESOME! 

Bethany

Transparent Leadership: Letting Your Light Shine Through

Transparency is a new buzz word in the leadership world. Some people are naturally “open books”, sharing anything and everything with the world. Others find it more challenging to reveal parts of themselves. One fact remains about transparency: when we see through or inside something, it becomes more real. When nothing is hidden, we feel more secure. We trust more, we ourselves open up more, and ultimately we connect more. Transparent leaders do many things that set them apart from others, but there are some actions that are nonnegotiable (in my opinion). I am growing each day as a leader, and place the following as high priority as I strive to build a healthy culture and empower others.

Transparent Leaders Dream Out Loud.

So often we think about what we would like our current reality to be, and dismiss our thoughts because they seem “unrealistic” at the time. When we keep our dreams to ourselves, no one knows to dream with us. It takes hard work for dreams to come true; for us to achieve big things in life. We simply cannot do it alone. Dreams were meant to be shared, and sometimes they are created when we share our thoughts with others. People become inspired when they see someone unfolding their dreams because it provides a sense of hope, and allows us to have faith in each other. Out of dreams come realistic goals that can be pursued by a group of likeminded people. The more often we dream out loud for all to see, the closer we come to narrowing the gap between our reality and our dreams. 

“What if…” is one of my favorite phrases. It foreshadows out-of-the-box thinking and generates mulitple paths for visions to become reality. What if we gave more focus to our dreams, rather than our fears? Imagine the possibilities! As a leader it thrills me to hear this phrase from the people who surround me, because it means they will dream WITH me. They will cultivate a vision and work to ahieve it. 

What if…

Transparent Leaders Share Failures.

Failure is inevitable. We will all make mistakes. We will all fail, and miserably at times! No one likes the way it feels, and no one sets out to purposely fail. Think back to a successful person you know…how did their failures contribute to their achievements? What about your own failures? How have they played a role in where you are today? 


It is time to face the incredible fact that failure is a huge part of learning. We learn from our mistakes which supports our decisions and actions in the future. Every failure is a stepping stone to a new path of learning. Our human nature is to hide our failures from the world, and be ashamed of them. We should be purposeful about doing just the opposite–we should publicly admit and share where we go wrong, helping others see us as human, determined, and willing to perservere. 


Sharing failures builds trust and relationships because there is no blaming or excuses, just the mere admittance of wrong decisions made. Human error is expected, so why keep this from others? Let’s all have the chance to learn from each other’s mistakes, being transparent when they happen and reflecting on what can be done differently. This mantra of failing forward is part of building a healthy culture where taking risks is accepted. Sometimes we win, and every time we learn! 

Transparent Leaders Are Not Afraid to be Vulnerable.

Leaders feel the burden of being 100% all day, every day. We want to remain strong, focused, and unwavering in our beliefs. These actions provide a sense of security to the people invovled, helping them feel supported. We can be all of these things, but must also allow ourselves to be vulnerable at times. Cognitive dissonance is necessary in order to shake ourselves up and evaluate our surroundings. If we do not disrupt our own thinking, we will certainly miss out on opportunities to learn and grow personally, and as an organization. Going through the motions feeds the status quo, and we never want to settle for what is comfortable and always been done. We must push ourselves to see things differently, in a multidimensional way so we do not miss a thing. Opportunities are all around us, and status quo lurks in the corners to hide them! Be a disruptor, and seize an opportunity to become better.

Transparent Leaders Allow Core Values to Show.

I recently participated in a reflective Twitter and Voxer discussion through @leadupchat on “Knowing Your Why”. Our purpose is what drives us each day; it is the inspiration we need to press forward toward our goals and dreams. Our “why” instills a passion within that resonates and spreads like a wildfire to others. Without passion and purpose, our core values are not evident to others. We should not have to articulate our values and beliefs continually, rather they should be evident in our daily actions, conversations, and decisions. Without transparency of core beliefs, people become confused about our intentions. Living out a purpose with a contagious passion is a driving force in leadership, building a culture where core values are at the center of every deicison made.


Being a transparent leader is not easy, and will certainly place you in the line of fire at times. The challenge is worth the effort, because you will gain trust and allow people to see who you really are. People will not doubt you, instead they will join you in your efforts of making a difference. What can you do today to become more transparent tomorrow? Go ahead…let the light shine through. Allow it to be brighter and stronger than ever before.

The Time is NOW to Innovate!

I would like to thank George Couros, author of The Innovator’s Mindset, for inspiring me to foster my own mindset. He is an innovative educator with a passion for sharing, collaborating, and learning alongside others. His book is a game changer, and for me…a life changer. It has changed the way I view school, helping me realize that what I want for kids is possible and attainable. George and his words have motivated me to jump way outside of comfort zone and into a world of endless possibilties. I am grateful for his leadership and transparency. The reflection below is just that—a transparent display of my learning, thinking, and attempt to organize my thoughts in order to move forward with my school family. Thank you for reflecting along with me! 

Innovation…it seems everywhere we look, we see this term. It isn’t a new word, yet it has become a “trendy” word in education. We hear people say things such as, “This too shall pass”, or “What goes around, comes around”, or “This is just the latest trend”. What we should really be doing is asking ourselves a crucial question…

I know what you are thinking! This is a HUGE question. It has a very simple answer…NO…a “shout it from the rooftop” kind of NO! The irony in this simplistic answer is considering what must happen after we shout from the rooftop. 

I have spent months reflecting and pondering on the idea of an innovative school culture, in fact, I haven’t written a blog post since July! It was not until I began reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros that my thoughts began to organize, and my vision began to form. I realized quickly that I was overthinking the entire concpet of innovation. I was creating barriers such as resources, budget, professional learning, etc., that were driving a wedge between my current reality and what COULD be. Innovation doesn’t require a complete reconstruction of everything we have in place. In his book, George Couros refers to innovation not being about the stuff, but instead a way of thinking (p.35 #InnovatorsMindset). When I read this statement, it served as an awakening of sorts. I began to see my mind shifting away from the barriers and toward the possibilities! An innovative culture cannot happen overnight, but there is no excuse to wait on beginning to think through the filter an innovator’s mindset. Kids need us to keep our minds open to new possibilities and methods. We owe it to our kids to create conditions where they can explore, discover, create, fail, and LEARN in the process. Kids can do these things, and WILL!  School leaders must provide their teachers, families, and community the same conditions. Adults can do these things and WILL!  We simply have to open our minds to the possibilities. So…where to begin? This has been my question for months now. Global thinkers such as myself often think so big that they find it impossible to get started. I have determined my starting place, and it’s quite simple. I share with everyone as a learner–as someone who needs to hear from others regarding school culture. As you read my thoughts, please consider commenting with yours. Together we are better. 

The Starting Point: A Common Understanding of Innovation

When entering new territory of learning, I always begin with questions in order to organize my own thoughts. Listed below are my wonderings about establishing an innovative culture within my school.

  • What exactly IS innovation?
  • What should it LOOK like in kids and adults? 
  • What do we already have in place to support an innovative culture for our entire school family?
  • What do we have in place that could get in the way of fostering our culture of innovation? 

I could add to this list because there is so much to consider and learn, but decided to focus on a few questions to guide my thinking, learning, and leading through the process of shifting to an innovative culture. As Michael Fullan says, “Change is a process, not an event.” Narrowing my focus will support the process, and guiding questions will support my conversations will all shareholders connected to our school. After all, doesn’t the best learning happen when we refrain from telling and instead ask questions? 

Innovation is abundant;it’s common. What’s uncommon, and desperately needed in today’s education systems, is the innovator’s mindset. ~George Couros

The above quote resonates with me daily as I begin the process of cultivating an innovative culture for kids and teachers. Yes, it is uncommon, but do the people invovlved not deserve more than ‘common’?  I shout from the rooftop, “YES!” Our teachers deserve lead learners who empower them by giving them autonomy with their planning and schedules. They deserve conditions suitable for them to facilitate their own learning, to explore, to collaborate, to dream, to fail, to perservere. Our kids deserve teachers who can model the traits of a life long learner so they too will have the same learning conditions. If a learning community commits to viewing school this way, a reciprocity of teaching and learning for ALL…well let’s just say I get chill bumps when I imagine it. 

The flipside to this is allowing the horrible Ttwwadi Monster to lurk in our school, waiting for the optimal moment to show his ugly face and squelch our ability to think differently. He’s always there…waiting on us to have a weak moment and revert to what is comfortable. When we leave our comfort zones and begin to try something new, we take away his power to infest the culture and attempt to keep it from moving forward. When a school community comes together and decides that an innovator’s mindset is necessary in order for our kids to have the learning environment they deserve, the culture will begin to grow, and become a place where the Ttwwadi Monster can no longer lurk.


Cultivating a culture of innovation begins (for me) with questioning the status quo as a collective group. It begins with looking at adult learning differently in order for adults to support kids’ need to learn differently. We will all feel some cognitive dissoance. We will all feel a level of discomfort. We will all grapple with our own practice and wonder if it’s enough for ALL kids. I believe the struggle is REAL (trendy phrase), but well worth the experience. I plan to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and admit that my school culture needs to be cultivated. The people within my school need to be empowered. Passions need to be discovered. Talents need to be tapped into. Lives need to changed for the better. Learners and teachers need to reverse roles depending on the situations we find ourselves in. Learning needs to be evident in adults by the way they network with one another, and through their connections in a Professional Learning Network (PLN). 

WE are better together. 

My school recently began contributing to a hash tag that supports the professional community of learners we are growing. Our staff can post specific happenings from their classrooms, pictures, videos, blogs, articles, inspirational quotes, graphics, people to follow, and more! It is new, and will grow over time as the school staff begins to feel more comfortable with this type of collaboration. In my opinion, this is some of the best professional learning and use of time we can foster. Consider the balance of time it takes to discover a great resource, post it on Twitter using the #CElearningpartners hash tag, and grab a resource from a coworker, compared to a six hour workshop. I know which option I prefer our teachers and staff to do. We will learn together as we grow an innovative culture together. 

The Time to Start is NOW.

It starts with me. I am the lead learner. I must blaze the trail. It is up to me to create conditions for adults to feel autonomy to innovate. It is up to me to empower, not to manage, to ask questions rather than give directions, to allocate resources, not wait for teachers to ask, to dream out loud, and to invite the school family to dream with me. 

We all want our teachers to BE this for kids, so we as lead learners must BE this for teachers. Teachers are responsible for their learning, but lead learners/administrators/principals are responsible for creating conditions where this can happen naturally. A culture of learning will feed a culture of innovation, and in time, become a marriage bound by the people who were part of building it. The time is NOW. Let’s do this. 

Bethany