The Innovator’s Mindset, p. 110
I’ve thought of myself as a “good” teacher ever since my second full-time teaching job (for new-comers to my blog, I’ve held 13 different education-related jobs in 10 years and six states). Before that I was green, still finding my footing as a new teacher, but I hit my stride at that school and found a confidence in my abilities that has carried me through all my transitions to where I am now.
There are a lot of things that contribute to that confidence – qualities that I list on my resume about connecting with students, building rapport, making real-world connections to curriculum, and so on… But there’s something else, too.
I just finished watching Tara Martin’s interview for #IMMOOC Week 3, and a big part of her message was encouraging transparency and sharing the process, not just the end product – i.e. keeping it real. This is what I needed to hear this week, because for me, this has been the week of push-back in our Global Innovation Exchange Challenge. And I realized that I don’t think I’ve actually described what my students are doing for the challenge on my blog. I’ve been dragging my feet because, possibly subconsciously, I didn’t want to publish until I knew how it would all work out and I could package up a nice, neat, inspirational story. But that’s not how innovation works. It’s messy and scary sometimes. I followed the instinct to just DO, but I didn’t (couldn’t!) have it all perfectly planned or executed along the way.
But now I just need to SHARE – to be vulnerable and transparent in my risk taking, for better or for worse. It’s not all tied up in a nice little bow. For all I know this could somehow still end in my getting fired. (Highly doubt it – I mostly have support, but there’s still time for things to go horribly wrong. You never know.) I’ve blogged for a long time, but it’s all been observations and speculations, with very few windows into my own actual practice, and certainly nothing this risky. Now it’s time to open the curtains. So this post is a combination of #IMMOOC and #InnovationExchange. Enjoy. 🙂 Continue reading
It’s funny how easily I sat down to write last week’s post, and how much I’m struggling with this one. I’m good at asking questions and pointing out problems. I’m good at talking about what’s wrong. Coming up with an actionable game plan for fixing those problems? That’s a little more challenging. But if I don’t, I’m no better than the students who complain and complain but don’t do anything to fix the problem. So how am I creating opportunities for innovation in my teaching?
Well, I’m trying, but I’m still so new at it that I don’t have any kind of “success” track record yet. I’m trying to create opportunities for innovation, but my first two dabbles – StrengthsQuest and StartEdUp’s Innovation Exchange Challenge – have yet to provide demonstrable results. I’m slightly dreading parent/teacher conferences in a few weeks because my classroom has been so non-traditional this quarter, and I don’t have much to show for it.
When I started blogging five years ago, I began by exploring the concept of “Emerging Adulthood” and tossed around terms like “the boomerang generation” and “Peter Pan syndrome”. I was looking at my peers — college graduates — who weren’t reaching recognized markers of adulthood until their 30’s, and it scared me. I explored a lot of reasons behind this phenomenon. I graduated college in 2008, so financial difficulties and lack of opportunity certainly played a hand, but the trend had already started before the economic struggle hit. I saw lack of initiative, a culture of complacency, too much focus on “following dreams” and not enough realistic pursuits of paying the bills, good jobs requiring higher levels of advanced degrees, and so on.
I saw a lot of problems before I’d ever heard “innovation” as an educational buzzword. I saw a system that focused more on identity explorations than it did on skill development. I saw grades failing to represent ability, and the grades mattered more than the skills. I saw intelligent, capable men and women moving back in with mom and dad while they tried to figure out what they wanted to do after they graduated, and I couldn’t help but wonder… What had they been doing during college if they still didn’t know? Continue reading
I’m constantly amazed by how timing works out. I’m teaching my second year at my tiny school, comfortable enough to branch out and experiment with non-traditional teaching methods. I have a smaller group this year than last year, but in some ways that’s OK. The group I have has a culture I can work with, so I tried the StrengthsExplorer and then started dabbling with Genius Hour. And right when I decided to make that attempt, Don Wettrick announced his Global Innovation Exchange Challenge. So I jumped on it. I figured the worst that could happen is that it would flop and we might have a slightly embarrassing skype call with another class in a month.
But that isn’t what’s happening. I planned an hour a week for this project, and somehow it has taken over almost everything we do. I don’t know if my students’ plan really fits the definition of “innovative” – but the big thing I see is that they’re choosing to take action to fix a problem – and a substantial one at that. That’s huge for them. The project deserves its own blog post, so I’ll save the rest of the details for later. Continue reading
I feel like I’ve been on information overload lately. The more podcasts I listen to, books and blogs I read, and TED talks I watch, the more vast the problems in education appear. My reading list is growing faster than I can afford – a lot of the books I want to read aren’t available at the library, even through inter-library loan. But maybe that’s a good thing. I can only absorb so much at once. (Plus, my reading time is limited with an infant and toddler taking my attention.)
I’m also getting a crash course in using social media professionally. It’s a little embarrassing how much of this stuff intimidates me. It’s embarrassing to say that I’ve never even Skyped without someone else setting up the call. Facebook and WordPress are my comfort zones. Anything beyond that makes me nervous. And yet, I find myself entering into the world of Twitter chats, MOOC’s, and Skyping with other classrooms. It’s starting to snowball, and I’m just hoping I come out more knowledgeable and connected in the process, rather than getting overwhelmed.
Seriously. It’s gotten to the point where I literally pray before stepping on the elliptical to listen to another podcast. God, what do you want me to pull out of this one? Where should my focus be? What’s my place in all this? Help me to do what I should be doing!
Because if there’s one piece of hope for me in all this, it’s that my conviction has grown so much stronger. There is a place for me in all this, though I can’t exactly see what it is yet.
In addition to the StrengthsExplorer curriculum that started the year (I have students writing personal narratives based on their strengths right now – I’ll let you know how that goes after we get past the first drafts), I’ve also been exploring the idea of doing Genius Hour with my students.
I’ve admitted before and I’ll confess again – I’m not the most tech-savvy person in the world. I blog, but that’s mostly personal reflections typed out of the world to see. There’s not much on here but basic word processing, and maybe the occasional embedded image or video. I’ve been on Facebook since the early days, but in every other area I’m slow to the game. I got my first smart phone in 2015. I like technology in the classroom if I can see its value to what I’m teaching, but I resist tech for tech’s sake. Continue reading
Testing… testing… Is this thing on?
After two years of silence, I’ve probably lost most of my loyal followers, but that’s OK. I’m here now because I need to write and process ideas again, and this is a good place to do that. I always lose the spiral notebooks I scribble in.
If any of my former readers are still following, here’s my life update in a nutshell: The nomadic lifestyle is done for good. I’m now the mother of two sweet girls, the wife of a practicing optometrist, and a part time middle school language arts teacher – yes, I am a teacher “for real” again!
I’ll be honest – this job isn’t my ideal niche, but I’m happy to have it. I enjoy the students, the schedule is fantastic, and I have more autonomy in my curriculum than I’d ever imagined possible. I do miss working with high school students, though. Continue reading
This video popped up on my Newsfeed today. Give it a watch. It’s pretty powerful.
What would you write on the board?
Everything I’d write has to do with my career. It’s hard to call them regrets, because I wouldn’t change any of the decisions I’ve made. I don’t regret what I did in supporting my husband. I love where we are now, and so much of that is because of the sacrifices we’ve both made over the years. But I do wish that I’d been able to do some things that just haven’t worked out for me yet.
I have a lot of teacher friends. Not colleagues or coworkers – friends. I hang out with them on weekends and watch Packers games with them. Some are related to me, some by blood and others by marriage, so we share in family gatherings. And, yeah, we’re Facebook friends. Like anyone, they post about the joys and frustrations of their jobs occasionally (within reason – no name dropping or boss bashing). And some of these friends teach at the college level.
This post is directed at my younger readers – the teens who are not yet in college and the young adults making their way through higher education now. Kids, when I say I know what you need to do to get ready for college, it’s not just because I’ve been there before. I may also be friends with your future professors. They tell me things – things that probably should be common sense, but apparently isn’t since they’re dealing with this stuff on a daily basis. So consider me your inside source on college professors and take this well-meaning advice, both for your sake and theirs. Keep reading!