The last three weeks at school have drug me down. I feel like I am spinning my wheels dealing with drama and situations that do not impact the learning happening in the school. This is frustrating. I went into administration to support great teacher trying to do great things. I know discipline is part of this support, but (ah, there is that magic word).
I fell into the trap. I fell into the downward spiral of the “yeah but” trail that leads to nowhere positive. So now it is time to reflect on why I am truly in the spot I am? Where do I want to be? What are the steps I can take to bridge the gap between the two places?
I am unhappy. Not unhappy with where I work or what I do, I am unhappy with myself for letting myself get into the “yeah but” mindset I hate. I am tired of not being the leader and instigator of positive change I walked into this role planning to be. Right now is the moment that changes. I am kicking my “but” and getting a better attitude starting right now. How many of you feel the same way? What do you do to “kick your buts?”
We all have big grand ideas. Let’s call them elephants. Elephants are ideas we believe will change the world. Because of their enormity, it will take a long time to fully develop our elephants into a “doable” plan of action. It may take even longer to convince those around us that the elephant is a good idea. Many people will be scared of the elephant. Elephants are nice to look at from afar, but when it is time to get up-close and personal, most people will stay behind the fence and watch.
So how do we get our elephants to become reality? We eat the elephant. Yep, the entire elephant. So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you truly believe in an idea, take a small bite out of it each and every day. Spend at least 15 minutes doing something that will move your idea forward. It can be as simple as writing a blog post, reading an article, talking to someone or sketching notes. If every day you take one bite out of the elephant, over the course of days, months, and even years you will have eaten the entire elephant. Just think how satisfying that meal will be.
What is your elephant and what bite are you taking out of it today?
English teachers always get on students when they use the word can incorrectly, but do they do the same for the word can’t? How often is the word can’t used correctly? Think about the times you have said the word can’t. How many of those times could you have replaced the word can’t with I won’t, I don’t want to, I don’t know how to, or any other similar phrase? In reality, there are very few things in this world we can’t do. More often we are not willing to do what it would take in order to do something.
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
People who use the word can’t frequently have a fixed mindset. We need to help them shift to a growth mindset. If we can help people make this semantic shift, we would be helping them begin the journey from a fixed mindset to a growth one. We can all start by modeling the honest use of the words. My question is what else can we do? How can we get those around us to see that the problem isn’t that they “can’t” so something, it is the fact that they are making a choice not to?
If I were to ever reenter the classroom, what would it look like? I have been out of the math classroom for 10 years. A lot has changed. I have changed even more. So, what would it look like? Here are some of my thoughts.
I wouldn’t have grades. Yes, there would be letters at the end of the 9 weeks because the system tells me I have to report out a letter. What would be different is how the letters were generated. There wouldn’t be any daily points that lead to a sum out of a huge total in the end. Mastery of the content and skills would be used to generate the letter. As Dan Pink recently tweeted, “learning should be the carrot.”
I would gamify the classroom. After read Game Storming, I understand that you can turn anything into a game environment. Start with a hook, some way of getting the kids to enter the “game.” Let them diverge from the start into the learning. In the end, they reach a goal. That goal will serve as the starting point for entering the next “game.” I’m not completely sure how to do this yet, but I hope to play more with this idea.
I love the idea of flipping. I hate the misconceptions that are coming with it. Flipping is not a way of removing the teacher. Flipping is a way for the teacher to do more of what is important, spend time with small groups or individuals meeting their specific needs. I would create and use online lessons to serve as the direct instruction. Students would receive the direct instruction on an as need basis. I would use formative pre-assessments to drive the direction students would go.
In part two of this post and beyond I plan on expanding on each of these ideas. Before I get to that, what do you think? What would a secondary math classroom structured this way be like for students?
After watching this, it leaves me asking, should we be turning our schools, classrooms into a game? Would it be more engaging for students? Would they learn more? Deeper? Is this a piece of the evolution our schools need to go through?
I then headed down the hall to listen to a teacher list off the technologies he uses with students. He didn’t:
tell why he used the technology.
tell how the technology supported student learning.
give concrete examples of what he was using the technology for.
I lasted 20 minutes or so before I hit my breaking point. That point was when he asked, “Does anyone have examples of project based learning that works? I haven’t had much success with it.” I respect anyone who chooses to take the risk of getting up in front of their peers from around the state to share their work. I remember my first time, it is a nerve wracking experience. With that said, if you’re going to get on stage, have something worth sharing.
I feel like every year at least half the sessions I attend are this way. I used to attend all three days of the conference, I’m now down to one. Honestly attending is more about presenting with my wife and running into good friends in the halls between sessions.
My biggest frustration is there are teachers out there who believe what they see in these sessions is good. They take the lessons they learn and take them back and try to implement them. They try to use technology for technologies sake, not thinking deeply about how the use of the technology supports their learning targets. They are not thinking about pedagogy.
So how do we make this a conference better, come back tomorrow for, Pedagogy Before Technology Part 2: The solution, when I’m not in a sour mood.
On Monday I will be attending the Ohio eTech conference. After attending, and presenting, at this conference for more than a decade, I sometimes wonder why I attend. Just like our schools, this conference looks almost exactly the same today as it did the first time I attended in the 90’s. The technology has improved, but the use of time and space are pretty much the same. Shouldn’t a technology conference that has the power to get thousands of Ohio’s educators in one place be a model of 21st century learning? Shouldn’t this conference look more like an edcamp than every conference held in the 20th century?
The question becomes, how do we get them to change it?
Till then, I am going to make eTech a little like edcamp myself. Instead of worrying about what session I am going to attend next, I am going to seek out who I can have a conversation with next. I hope to see some old friends to reconnect with and make some new ones. I look forward to learning something from the stories I hear.
Oh, I just remembered why I do attend. I get to share the stage with the best teacher I know, my wife.
So often in education we hear about this initiative and that initiative to the point where educators have initiative overload. How do we fix this? There are always going to be new thing, the nasty C word, changes. How do we make the new feel like it is part of where we are and just the next step to where we are going? How do we structure new initiatives so they don’t feel like reworking the old structure. Many times educators feel like change is made for changes sake.
When a new initiate comes about, there is a period of time where some diverging will occur. In education this is where you see the early adopters vs the laggards. Then people talk, get professional development, and implement. If those things go well, you start to see a convergence. A large majority of the people moving together toward a goal.
So if my analysis is correct, the new goal is getting to the convergence faster. Now off to ponder how to make that happen. What are the keys to speeding up this vehicle of change?
Based on current known & planned events, by May of 2012, we estimate the total number of edcamps will be 92.
Think about this, there are 92 education un-conferences happening around the world being organized and ran by volunteers. What makes someone dedicate hours of their own time to creating one of these events?
When a person finds something they are passionate about, time disappears. They enter the state of flow. The people who run these events understand that changes need to be made to our education system. These changes cannot happen unless those who are doing the work have the opportunity to get together and figure out the best way to make the change happen.
While those who organize the events are the first line of change catalyst, those in attendance have the ability to turn a murmur into a shout. Those who show up on a Saturday morning to lead and join in on conversations are just as important. They are the people in the education community who are seeking the answers to how do we make it happen. Are you one of these people?
We’ve all been there, sitting in a meeting where you throw out what you thought was a good idea and within seconds…yah but this and yah but that. It is quite frustrating. It kills innovative ideas. It sets a tone where only ideas that fit into the box we live in are accepted. Last weekend at Educon 2.4, David Jakes led a conversation on Design Thinking titled, “What If?” In the session he stated, “What if is the opposite of Yah But.” How do we create a culture where more people are thinking “what if?” How do we, to quote Deb Delisle, former Superintendent of Schools in Ohio and current Assistant Secretary of Education under Arne Duncan, “how do we kick the BUTs out of education?”