The Time In Between…

I’m Thankful for the Time in Between… by @MandyVasek

#ChooseJoy

I have been thinking about this post for a while now but not sure how to write it. However, today I heard a song that inspired me… So here goes…

Situations in life can make us or break us. There are times when the situations neither make us nor break us. We are simply left dangling trying to figure out why we did not succeed nor get broken. That dangling time or “time in between” is one of life’s most frustrating tools. I’d much rather have an exact answer as to how a situation will turn out, even if it is not a positive one. So…how do you deal with the uncertainty during these times? It does not take much in this crazy world to rob you of your peace while waiting. For me, so much can be stolen during this time. Through personal experiences, I’ve lost time, relationships, money, health, focus, and happiness. I dwelled so much on the possible negatives leading to the finality of a situation that I lost what the “time in between” experience could have taught me. I have lost too much and care too deeply to let that cycle continue over and over….

So, what do we do to ensure the “time in between” establishes what it should? I learned the answer to this question from a very dear friend and cohort member, Kim Hornsby. Kim and I, along with another dear friend of mine, Mandy Wells (yes, same first name) became fast friends when we shared a hotel room for a week in Austin, Texas. This was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives- an EdD program through the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Last summer we attended a weeklong institute focused on state trends in education. We had no idea that week would be the beginning of a unique relationship and a transformational process for all three of us. Before that week, we had no idea about each other at all. Within a few minutes in our hotel room together, we could tell we were brought together by fate. That fate changed me for the rest of my life.

That first day in June was also the one-year anniversary of Kim’s husband’s death. A gunman killed Bobby Hornsby, 32 years old, during a SWAT team mission in Killeen, Texas. Bobby was a respected member of the Killeen Police Department. During that week, we each shared stories and events in our lives, including deaths, divorces, and past failures. We cried, laughed, and stayed up 24/7 as if we were teens once again. All three of us were changed that week for the better. For me, it was a life-changing experience because of Kim Hornsby, who taught me the true meaning of two, small words- choose and joy. We have a choice to choose how we react to all circumstances. We either choose to let situations define us by holding on to the “hopelessness” or we can hold on to the “joy” we find.   I reflected on that week for a very long time afterward. I finally understood that happiness is dependent on things in this life. However, joy is something we can choose, even when the outcomes of situations are desperate and dark. Joy is not dependent on anything, but a choice I make daily. Wonderful journeys can be created when I choose joy instead of despair or pity. Many times on the journey, we run into the “WHY” we are left to experience the “time in between” or the “brokenness” in the first place.

My answer to the “in between times” is to #choosejoy while waiting. It is not easy! It’s so easy to just find pity or beg others to join you in the darkness. By choosing joy, the journey, no matter where it leads, is often decorated with the most beautiful memories, rich learning experiences, and wonderful revelations. Maybe you would have never received these awesome consequences if the situation had granted you instant success or if you decided to make the “time in between” a negative situation. I truly believe this because I’ve learned the hard way.

Today, over a year later, I still watch Kim’s walk as I spend time with her in our doctoral program. I know that her laughter and smile are not brought about by happiness. The pain of Bobby’s death is still raw and saddens her greatly, especially when she looks into the faces of her little boy and little girl. I know her laughter and sparkling personality come from something much deeper- JOY. She found the answer, and she shared it with me.

Choosing joy in your life can be applicable to any and all situations that life throws at you. For example, I have to choose joy no matter what I am doing. I am just as vulnerable, maybe even more so, in my profession as a school administrator. In fact, I have #ChooseJoy posters everywhere to remind me not to rely on circumstances to make me feel joyful. I measure my worth and value as a leader many times by the way I feel emotionally. When I choose joy, I instantly feel empowered. No matter what, I must make it a priority to choose joy and keep it. The best part is that joy only costs me the effort that I make in choosing it.

Last year, the school where I am an administrator, adopted #choosejoy as our motto for encouragement. I shared Kim’s story with our staff during a beginning of the year meeting when some unexpected changes occurred. It was the best message ever! Our school community began using the phrase with and around each other. What could have been a crazy situation turned out to be a time we were blessed as a school.

When I see the words together, my heart is immediately changed. I am amazed! Now, I can be thankful for the “time in between” and look forward to the journey and adventures it may bring.   Although I pray this never happens, I know that with the choice of joy, I can survive the unimaginable events life throws at us like Kim Hornsby and her children. I will never let the phrase go. It’s embedded in my heart and a part of who I am. That’s not to say that I don’t need a reminder every now and then because I truly do.

I dedicate this post to three people who have touched me in such a way that my life has been transformed for the better. To Mandy Wells, who encourages me to do more all the time. She sternly tells me that I do have what it takes to make something happen. She helps me overcome those feelings of discouragement and defeat. She is my reminder to choose joy, even if she does not use those words.   To my precious friend, Kimberly Hornsby… though you may be tiny and young, you are a fierce force. You have given so many people a purpose through your transparent testimony. You helped me get so much of my own life back. Thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart. To my friend, who I will not name at this time…. thanks for reminding me there are always ponies and for teaching me about #juxtaposition. You have intrigued me with life itself and all it has to offer. You challenge my thinking in ways I never thought possible. You believe in me without question. You have also made me realize that the “in between time” is a space in the middle of two things where amazing (or phenomenal as we’d say) things can happen. I love you all!

The Hornsby Family
                   The Hornsby Family
The trio... Mandy Vasek, Kim Hornsby, and Mandy Wells (The Oasis, Austin, TX, summer 2014)
The trio… Mandy Vasek, Kim Hornsby, and Mandy Wells (The Oasis, Austin, TX, summer 2014)

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TEPSA15

TEPSA15 #SML

Click the above link to read Brett Stamm’s blog entry.  Brett is a public school administrator in Texas.  In the picture are the fabulous tweeps I was finally awarded the opportunity to meet and work alongside during the conference.  It was a wonderful dream come true to meet these awesome, passionate, and dedicated educators.  My PLN has taken me to places I never thought possible.  Networking and learning through Twitter has brought me some of the best experiences in my life as a leader in education.

My First Publication… Kahoot!

spring_2015_newsletter

My first publication, Hoot! Hoot! Kahoot! was a paper submitted to the Texas Association of Literacy Education (TALE).  TALE published the paper in the subsection of their quarterly newsletter.  Please read my work, which can be found on page 7-8 of volume 4 issue 3.  I would to know what you think about it.

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I will be presenting about Kahoot! on August 1, 2015 through EdcampGlobal (ECG).  I’ve created a link for you to visit the ECG calendar wiki for more information.

Edcamp Calendar 

EdcampGlobal Wix

Wiki for EdcampHOT

For those of you in Texas, EdcampHOT in Waco will be on August 1st.  This will be an awesome professional development opportunity for educators across our great state.  Our goal is to bring as many educators together to form the best collaborative network around Texas.  So, y’all come on now and get yourselves registered.

Flying In a “V” Formation

Flying in the “V” Formation

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Flying in a “V” formation increases the flying range by 71%.

Last year one of my colleagues handed me this poem.  She found it buried deep inside her desk.  Ironically, it was a poem that was given to her by my now husband and her former principal.  The words spoke volumes to me as a leader and educator.

Lessons From the Geese

By Dr. Robert McNeish (1972) 

As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the bird following.  By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% more flying range than if each bird flew alone. 

Lesson:  As educators, we can all get where we are going when we move forward in a direction together.  Shared visions, ideas, and purposes create a unified stance that will provide us with the power and momentum needed to succeed.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the “lifting power” of the bird immediately in front. 

Lesson:  It is so hard to fly alone as an educator.  It is impossible… really!  We can all agree that teaching is one of the hardest professions out there.  Resistance and isolation will weaken a system.  Either stand together or go to a place more in line with your own vision.  Do not jeopardize an organization, its students, or staff to meet your needs.  That is selfish!  Not to mention, it does not make sense.  You are wearing yourself down.  So, either be a part of the “lifting power” or fly away. 

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position. 

Lesson:  We can all agree that at times we all feel the work we do is __________________ than anyone else’s job (fill in the blank with whatever you’d like…more tiring, more exhausting, more unfair, harder, etc.).  Have you ever thought that others feel like you do at times?  Education is not an easy job for anyone!  Comparing jobs is counterproductive.  It is a waste of time because no two jobs in education are the same.  No two classrooms are the same (not even on the same grade level).  We work with individuals with many different needs.  We are in this business because we believe we were called to the profession.  Successful organizations benefit from all doing their part.  We must be able to rely on one another.  Take turns sharing the workload.  It is the right thing to do!  It is the smart thing to do! Schools functioning as professional learning communities are better apt to do this.  Teaching is a “village action” indeed!  

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson:  Wow, this is a biggie!  Is your honking negative or positive?  Reflect for just one moment.  Are you lifting your team members up or bringing them down?  How about your students?  Are you focused on their strengths or weaknesses?  Teachers who constantly nag about all the things their students cannot do are not looking to solve the problem.  Instead they are looking to blame others.  The loud negative honkers are often the same geese who are resistant, too.  These geese focus on what is best for them and not the organization, its students, or staff.  These nagging honkers only find the “wrongs” within a system.  They are usually the ones you hear generating conversations about how little their students can do.  They often place blame on the previous teacher(s).  What they do not realize is that these students could do far less last year.  The prior teacher got the students to this point.  Instead of complaining, use that energy to move students to where you think they should be now.  Complaining never gets anything accomplished.  It just weakens the momentum.

Reflection note: 

Those who are positive honkers are thinking, ”YES!  That’s right!”

Those who are negative honkers do not like these comments at all!  Just saying!

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow their fellow member down to help provide protection.  They stay with this member of the flock until he or she is able to fly again or dies.  Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or catch up with their own flock. 

Lesson:  Can you say that you will do this for your teammates?  How about your new teachers?  Even new teachers with experience who are new on your team or campus need to feel they belong.  Are you encouraging these members or deflating them?  Are you lifting them up or bringing them down?  A true community of learners can say yes.  Put students first by being a strong team that works together to support one another.  Do the same for you campus, and fly in a “V” formation.

Are you willing to be a part of the “V” formation on your campus?  If not, then it is time for you to do what’s right for students- join the flock or find another one that aligns with your own vision. 

Minecraft: Educational? (A blog post written by Elena, 12 years old)

This blog was written by my awesome techy daughter, Elena.  I love her!  She is in love with the whole STEM idea, and I could not be more proud.  The post is copied as written.  I know there are places I could help her edit, but I like it in its raw form because it simply speaks the way she feels.  To edit would mean to change her voice…at this point.

 

Minecraft Educational?

 

By Elena (12 years old) Aspiring to work for Google Sometime Soon

 

Many of Minecraft’s younger players have probably used the excuse “It’s educational!” to keep playing this blocky game. Today my quest is to find the real educational value of Minecraft. Is Minecraft training or destroying the brain? I have done some research to find out some of Minecraft’s core educational values. I will leave the websites I used below. Before I begin, I would like to state that some of these views are opinions that could go either way.

     In order to properly answer this question, we need to ask ourselves what is the meaning of educational. I searched up the answer. I concluded by looking through many different dictionaries. My final conclusion is that educational means “of or relating to the provision of education.” Now that we know that I can state multiple educational values.

 

Learning that Applies Offline:

 

One of the most obvious educational values in Minecraft is math. The whole crafting system depends on it. An example I can think of is when you need to make some axes to cut down wood for your house. You have come to the conclusion that you will need about 3 axes to obtain all the wood you need. You know that for each axe you will need 3 cobblestone blocks and two sticks. So you then would have to use an equation to find out that you will need 9 cobblestones and 6 sticks. That is just scraping the surface of minecraft’s math educational values. If you would like to know more you can go to some of the links at the bottom of the page.

     The blocky game also allows for players to easily learn basic English skills. It is learned easy and fast in Minecraft as it allows for its users to need to know commands that must be spelled correctly. This Indie game also has a menu of blocks which allow for a great place for the younger players to learn multiple words. In the game, you can obtain an item called “book and quill.” Once you have built your house and slay a few creepers you can write a book about it! This allows a great place for players to practice typing, English, and basic writing functions.

Minecraft is a great place for children who are just learning about music. The game has ‘notebooks’ that let them make their own music. Some players have taken this to new extremes and created recreations of popular songs with note blocks. Basically can teach yourself chords, notes, octaves.

There is a huge list of things that could be put here, but I do not have the time to type it all. If you are interested, you can find some information in the links below.

 

Taking Minecraft Learning to the Classroom:

 

Minecraft is currently being taken to the classroom. There are over 1,500 schools currently teaching with Minecraft! Many teachers think that Minecraft is a magnificent way for kinetic (hands on) learners to benefit more from Minecraft than they do from a lot of of other ways of teaching. The list of things learned with Minecraft at school goes on and on. I guess this proves that along with endless fun possibilities there are also endless learning possibilities.

 

Minecraft Helping with Fast Integration of Technology:

 

Along with helping kids in the classroom, Minecraft is preparing its players for the integration of technology. In the year 2020, computer science will be one of the top paying industries according to my research. Many jobs will come open for those with an education in computer technology. Minecraft makes players more curious and drives them to learn more. The game basically gives players a head start with computers.

     Minecraft has inspired many people to learn the language of coding called “Java.” There are other languages in coding, but I prefer Java. Many players of the game want to learn how to code, because learning Java you can allow you to make modifications to the game (mods) and (plugins). Players who want to create their own server must learn about plugins, configuration of files, and much more.

 

Conclusions:

 

As you can see, Minecraft is proven educational according to the definitions I searched up. The game not only allows you to learn things that will help you succeed in school, but it also helps you learn things in real life. One of my favorite things about Minecraft is that you learn, but do not feel like you are learning. I would like to say that I just scraped the tip of the iceberg with this post. It was just to spark an interest. I am hoping that people will look more into the subject. I hope you enjoyed!

ONEness…Here Lies the Power

Most the time we consider ONE an isolated number. Isolation Island is not a fun, nor an effective place to be. Not in education, that is! One cannot make great things happen alone…it is unfair to the student(s) and the educator. However, ONE is a dynamic number when we’re talking about a team…or even a school. Uno, isa, dua, taha, ngicce-q, een, um, ëk, wa’, or d’aya…. they all mean ONE no matter what tongue speaks the word. Great leaders know the impact teams have when operating from the “power of ONE.” Now, don’t get me wrong! I do not mean they operate like a cookie factory where everyone does the same thing simultaneously. I simply mean that teams have unified goals, objectives, visions, and the ability to come together to make things happen. Students deserve teachers and administrators who are willing to work together and make decisions collectively for the betterment of all those they serve. In fact, all systems should be operating from the “power of ONE.” If a school wants to ensure their campus goals are met, they also need to make sure they have a one-way vision that is so visible and audible to all stakeholders, including parents and the community. All those who influence student achievement in any way should be walking the same path in a unified direction. This means they need to have leaders providing direction, encouragement, and the drive needed to keep the path moving forward. Schools need to have a respectful fear of the “power of ONE.” Without taking this power stance, a school can rapidly lose momentum and fail.

Last night I was reading an article on from Education Leadership (EL) magazine published by ASCD. By the way, if you do not subscribe to this magazine, you are missing out on a lot of awesome PD through intriguing monthly articles. Great stuff!!! The article I read, How Japan Supports Novice Teachers, discussed a Japanese system that lines up with my thoughts on the “power of ONE.” In 2006, “only 1.35 percent of first-year teachers in Japan left the profession” (Ahn, 2014, para 3). Not to my surprise or probably even yours, the “power of ONE” does not work for our novice colleagues in America. Ummmm…the United States loses about one-third of our new teachers sometime during their first three years in the profession. By year five, the percentage increases to nearly one-half (Ahn, 2014). The article describes a room called shokuin shitsu (do not try to say that ten times fast because it will not sound good…believe me…I tried). This shared space is an area where teachers and administrators hang out anytime they are not in the classroom. The goal of the shokuin shitsu is support. Inside this “educator only” space, teachers collaborate and work side-by-side before school, after school, during off periods, and at lunch. Novice teachers get help with planning, calling parents, or simply gaining support or encouragement. So, is this type of “power of ONE” the answer for teacher retention in the U.S.? Maybe! Maybe Not! It definitely couldn’t hurt! It fares better than the systems I’ve witnessed in my years as an educator. Even if we did half as much (myself included), we would most likely see a sharp decline in teachers leaving the classrooms.

The shokuin shitsu may be a bit too much for us to implement as our systems and mindsets are not ready to support it. I share this story not to start this Japanese practice at my school but to show the powerful force found in unified organizations.

If you, your team, or your school is not operating from a ONE stance, then you need to reevaluate yourself or the systems in place at your school. Before going back to school this fall, reflect on ONEness (my word of the day). Remember, the “power of ONE” can certainly begin with you!

“Byting” off More PD with 2.0 Tools

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Constructivists, like myself, in education today would agree that technology is redefining the way we think, practice, communicate, and carry out the routines of day-to-day living. In my personal and professional life, I have become increasingly dependent on my personal devices, such as my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac.   I may leave home without matching shoes, but you can bet I will have all my tech gadgets.  My iCali is synced to at least 4 systems and so are my reminders.  My life has changed for the better due to the synchronization of my tech tools.  Evernote, Drop Box, Google Drive, Live Binders, iCalendar are just a few ways I can manage my career and family.  One of the best things is that my devices have afforded me the luxury of having access to personalized professional development at any time of the day or night.  Because of the technology, my leadership skills, pedagogical practices, content knowledge, etc. have soared during the past two years.  I have allowed social media, blogging, and other web 2.0 tools to become a consistent standard in my life.

Professional development has always been a part of the educational system.  Rebore (2012) described that the main purpose for a staff development program is to “increase the knowledge and skills of employees and thereby, increase the potential of the school district to attain its goals and objectives” (p. 112).  Cooper and Johnson (2013) believe learning needs are always present, therefore, educators find staff development necessary to stay abreast of current trends and practices. Many districts will perform a needs assessment to gain useful information regarding the types of professional development that should be offered to employees. Using the data from the assessments, the district pays attention to employee deficits. These shortfalls will show up as gaps in staff knowledge and/or skills in certain areas of the profession. To orient staff with new knowledge and skills, a district or campus may provide professional development to help close the learning gaps between those educators who display strengths in a certain area and those who do not (2012).

Traditionally, many staff development models try engaging their audience with a single presenter, who shares new knowledge centered around an idea.  These models are mostly called workshops or seminars.  Research has shown that these particular models are frequently presented in isolation without the motivation needed to change practices (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). This delivery style is very common in the educational world.  Who needs this old-fashioned, “sit-‘n-git”* approach to learning??  As a campus leader, I have the ability to move us away from tradition learning models and into the current era where there are means to personalizing PD for every single member on my staff.  (* Thanks @ambercldrn for the “sit-n-git”…love it).

Research indicates that professional development is most effective when:  “it involves the participants in concrete tasks; is participant driven while rooted in inquiry and reflection; is collaborative, connected to and derived from teachers work; and includes ongoing support” (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). With purposes quite the same as face-to-face counterparts, online teacher professional development (oTPD) operates using Web 2.0 tools, which  have the potential to maximize principles due to flexibility and personalization for the educator. Web 2.0 oTPD engages and provides motivation for learners through reflection, review, connection, and immediate action, which are key to the constructivist experience (2013).

Our district administrators recently had the pleasure of hearing Maria Henderson, an Education Development Executive at Apple, Inc., speak to us about new and innovative ways of developing students and teachers on Web 2.0 tools. Henderson (2014) defended using 2.0 tools as an innovative way to personalize professional development for staff. I agree 100% with Ms. Henderson!  Online professional development (oTPD) is not new but becoming more alive in the world of education.  On my campus, I have tried using new apps and online resources to ease the time constraints that accompany traditional staff developments in an effort to deliver information. I have implemented the use of tools like Screen-Cast-O-Matic, Google Drive, Padlet, iMovie, YouTube, Teacher Channel, Blogging, Twitter, ScoopIt, Haiku Deck etc.  Unlike traditional professional development, oTPD can be tailored to the professional or grade level, which increases engagement and the likelihood that the educator will apply what was learned or discussed.

With less time and more to learn than ever before, I often wonder why teachers do not embrace online learning more.  Henderson (2014) stated it best when she said, “There has never been a more exciting time to be an educator or a student.” She is right!  As an educator, I cannot wait to see where we go next.  I am not afraid but rather anxiously await the next new, innovative tool to take us through our life’s journey.  #EXCITING!

We have always lived with and adapted to change; however, today’s changes are fast and furious. In education, building networks globally can help us stay abreast of current research and tools. Using Twitter, users are able to collaborate professionally with other educators about interests personalized to them (Cooper & Johnson, 2013).  Books and magazines have much to offer but, once written, they stay the same and are not able to update immediately.  Online venues, such a Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook provide educators with current feed with around the clock access in real-time. Almost nightly, I am able to read a plethora of new information and decide what best relates to my needs.  I am able to share and learn skills and content on my own time with others who I have accepted in my professional learning network.  By participating in #chats, I am able to discuss even more specifically the topics, which are more relevant to me.  This method sure does beat sitting in a cold, sterile meeting where I might (or might not) walk away with something worthwhile.  When I am on Twitter, I walk away with new learning each time I log off.  (Which…by the way…logging off  Twitter is hard…VERY HARD!).

Blogging is another user-friendly Web 2.0 feature that puts professional learning at your fingertips.  Blogs are intended to prompt dialogue between people who have a vested interest in the material presented.  Well…like this one!!  I hope the material I am presenting makes you think.  Sometimes blogs can embed other attractive and engaging features, such as YouTube videos, graphs, media clips, trailers, etc.  Cooper and Johnson (2013) found that most research on blogging and teacher development has taken place with preservice teachers. New teacher bloggers have shown ability to critically reflect and interact with others in their online communities. My own Learning and Leading blog has taken me to new levels of learning. For me, it has given me a voice and a platform to speak.  I also know that it has helped other educators reflect and think about their own practices in education.

Online professional development using 2.0 tools and other online resources can connect and give authentic experiences to the constructivist through reflection, review, and collaboration with network members.  Not only that, but it can making learning simpler and easier.  Another added bonus, as Cooper and Johnson (2013) stated in their article, “Exploration of professional development with such technologies presents possibilities for their use in the educational settings, while also engaging teachers in 21st century learning.”

 

 

References

Cooper, T., & Johnson, C. (2013). Web 2.0 tools for constructivist online professional development. EdItLib, 2013(1), 1923-1926.   Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/112231

Henderson, M. (2014, 0320).Apple learning. Lecture. Waco, Texas.

Rebore, R. (2012). The essentials of human resources administration in education.(1st ed.).Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

How Do We Keep on Keeping On When Our Time is Limited?

ImageHow do we as educators do everything we need to do in a given day?  Better yet, how do we do it all as well as we need?  It is a difficult task, and I do not believe there is a magic answer.  There’s no way to get it all done in a single day.  I’ve found that a great challenge in schools today is finding enough time to collaborate effectively.  I should not just say today, as this has been a problem for quite sometime.  When I was in the classroom, I often felt like we lacked planning time.  I frequently thought I was flying solo on jet soaring at a million miles an hour.   At that time in my career, my current school did not function as professional learning community; nor did we collaborate in meaningful ways that supported learning and growing of teachers.  Our meetings were built around an agenda that served the purpose of announcing dates and information on upcoming events.  After the meetings, we went back to our classrooms to prepare for the next week and then graded a mound of papers.  My first year as a reading coach, my new principal began the transition of our campus to a professional learning community, or PLC.  It has been an arduous process but not without great gains and benefits for our students and staff.  For three years now, our school has been focused on living as a community of learners.  Using the DuFour-Eaker model of PLCs, we have slowly morphed into a different institution keeping ALL students at the forefront of our focus.  We have sent more than 60% of our staff to Solution Tree’s PLC summer institution, which has been beneficial for our campus.  As a real-life, living, walking, and breathing PLC campus, we have totally changed our perception on learning while revamping the ways we practice and meet together.  During our weekly collaboration meetings, teams dive into an intensive analysis of student data.  The data is the key that drives our instruction and decisions about students.  These meetings are vital for the continuing success of our organization.  However, even with built in weekly time and using a great model for collaboration, we always need more time to gain more insight. 

 

Like I stated earlier, there is not a magic answer to how to gain more time.  So, what if we challenged ourselves to think a little differently than we have in the past?  Is there a way to collaborate differently?   Sure there is!!! It is right at your fingertips- computers, smart phones, iPads etc.  What if the whole educational world was your PLC, which the virtual world calls a professional learning network (PLN)?  Thousands of people are on the professional development front 24/7 using digital sites.  My favorites are Twitter and Google, but there are others that function quite similarly.  Team meetings are a critical part of the collaborative process.  Now, as an assistant principal, I still highly value the face-to-face meetings with colleagues; however, I can tell that we must realize and take advantage of the digitized mediums we have available to us.  When educators get outside the four walls of a school and participate in digital chats and feed, they will gain a network with access to more knowledge and wisdom than one could ever acquire from just a weekly meeting inside a classroom.   Can you envision how regular participation in digitized learning could take a regular PLC meeting to an augmented state of learning if all its members are participating in PD like PLN Twitter chats simultaneously?  Can you imagine how it might enhance the face-to-face conversations?  For so many of us Generation X citizens, that is not an easy task but one that is becoming necessary.  As our Generation Y colleagues enter the workforce, they will rely heavily on their tech savvy skills to engage themselves and their students in learning.  I cannot blame them since this is their world and it is how they thrive. 

 

Okay, so maybe this does not solve our time issue so much.  We cannot find more time to add to our day when we’re only given twenty-four hours.  But… what if we helped each other in such a collaborative way that we are working smarter with the 24 hours we are given?  We all have something to offer one another.   Connected learning using social and digitized media is an underestimated and underused resource for educators.   Teaching and learning is never-ending, and it most certainly cannot happen just once a week to bring home optimal results.  As educators, we do not have to fly solo anymore.  We have so much to learn from the vast amount of resources in our networking system.  Your time may be limited but your networking resources are not!

 

Please follow me on Twitter @MandyVasek (TeacherCoach) and @MidwayIdeas

You can also find me on Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, ScoopIt

Do you know the WHY of why you’re an Educator? Confused? Read more…

Do you know the WHY of why you’re an Educator? Confused?  Read more….

Striving for greatness is something we all long for, whether it is for personal achievement or the success of our particular organization.  I just recently heard Simon Sinek of TED Talks deliver an amazing video message on You Tube called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”  In my opinion, all educators are leaders.  You must be a great leader to get students to perform successfully.  Sinek uses a graphic called the Golden Circle to explain how greatness is achieved.

Sinek's Golden Circle
Sinek’s Golden Circle

Sinek points out that most organizations and/or individuals use a conventional method to get others on board by starting with the what and going to the why when promoting their product, company, organization, etc.   These people and/or groups work the circle from the outside–in approach.  However, according to Sinek, successful people/organizations function from the inside-out.  Businesses, including schools, need to let their stakeholders know WHY they are doing something first to get buy in.  Sinek deems that 100% of people know the what of what they’re trying to promote. The what might be the end product, such as a new computer, an exemplary school, an Olympic star, etc.  Some people know the how.  Examples of the how could be hard work, dedicated teachers, new facilities, online accessibility, establishing professional learning communities, analyzing data, etc.  BUT… Only.. Very… FEW People… really.. Know…the… WHY!  This is the secret to success according to Sinek.  In his video, which I’ve posted below, Sinek explains how the Apple Company has monopolized the world of computerized products by simply reversing the conventional circle model to an inside-out model. Apple gains their fans by presenting the why first.  Apple hits the hearts and minds of their audiences by explaining that their company understands the desires, wants, and needs of global consumers. Simply meaning, in my opinion, vision to vision meets and fuses. By doing this, Apple recognizes that they can win consumers by appealing to the sensitive side of humanity.  Next, Apple explains how they will do this, and finally what will make this happen- their product (iPhone, iPad, iTunes).  Because they have inspired their buyers first,  Apple has grabbed the attention and successfully led the buyer to a product that is the answer to meet their needs (the what).   Sound simple? Pretty clever, huh!

Another great example Sinek uses in his video is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech.  King captured the attention of more than a quarter million people on the National Mall in Washington, DC in the early ‘60s.  Even though it was a scorching hot day in the middle of August, Dr. King had follower after follower appear in support of his dream.  He did this by stating what he believed in.  He and others alike had a shared vision, which brought out a multitude of people to hear him speak.  It was not Dr. King that they came out to see.  People wanted to hear his vision, which was in line with what their hearts and minds desired.  He was there to simply feed their souls.  Sinek points out that Dr. King’s famous line is “I have a dream….” and not “I have a plan..”  Interesting!  His fans and followers were not there for the what but for the why!  How many times as a school leader do we start with a plan (the what) without touching the real reason (the why) behind the plan?

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How does this relate to our schools and the way we practice?  Well, a good leader has teachers/staff/students/parents/community who want help carry out a vision because their beliefs are aligned with that of the person who is leading.  If we have a vision, or a dream for our school, do we have others on our team who believe the same?  Is your vision on your campus one that all believe in?  I firmly believe this is possible, and it starts with our teachers and administrators.  Our schools simply cannot afford to have people working just in pursuit of the paycheck or because it is a job with holiday perks.  We cannot be there just because the task is always the same and never changing.  A vision and dream are always changing to meet the needs of our students.  Good leaders recognize there will be resistance and help those understand that resistive attitudes are not a supportive stance in schools where dreams are kept alive.  This simply is not the profession to work with the conventional circle method.  The price of failure is too high!  When we fail students, we have made catastrophic mistakes.  Educators need to begin with the why?  Our students!  They deserve teachers and leaders who know what they believe without reservation.  Our schools and our students need vision minded educators who, through blood, sweat, and tears, will pour everything they have into bringing a dream to life.  No exceptions.  This job is not for the weak or holiday minded, it is for the tough, strong, big-hearted people who have a passion and drive to make anything happen because the why is too important to give any less.  This philosophy reminds me of Jim Collins’ theme in his book Good to Great.  Collins believes getting the right people on the bus is of upmost importance for the success of any organization.

Do you have what it takes in to be an educator today?  Does your organization have what it takes?  You must have buy-in, which means you must believe and sell your why first!  It all starts with the why!!  Are you there yet?  Read your school’s vision and ask yourself if it has a why focus.

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