The Innovator’s Impact: Digging Deep to Change How I Teach, #IMMOOC, Week 4

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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.

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Keeping it Real, #IMMOOC, Week 3

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. ūüôā¬† Continue reading

Moving and Shaking Education, #IMMOOC Week 2

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.

Yet.

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Innovating to Engage Adulthood, #IMMOOC Week 1

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

Updates and Musings

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

Disrupting My Routine

 

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.

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Exploring Genius

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 the Waters

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

The gears are still turning.

I got a call from a teacher friend yesterday. ¬†She calls a lot, actually. ¬†She likes to use me as a sounding board as she plans out her curriculum and lesson plans. ¬†Yesterday she¬†was formulating a plan for an independent reading project, but over the years and countless phone hours we’ve hashed through job applications, challenging students, and administration difficulties as well as mountains of curriculum ideas. ¬†Truthfully, she’s very good at her job, so my end of the conversation usually ends up sounding like various forms of the phrase, “yeah, that sounds good.” ¬†Occasionally I offer ideas or raise a concern or two, but mostly, I think she just needs to talk through whatever it is that she’s planning, and I’m an understanding ear willing to listen.

I like it. ¬†I feel like it keeps me fresh, keeps my brain engaged in a field that could have easily passed me by time after time. ¬†It’s funny when I compare our career trajectories, though. ¬†We like to say we’ve had some very similar experiences. ¬†We met in college and went through our first year teaching at the same time. ¬†A few years later we found ourselves job hunting again at the same time. ¬†We’ve both worked in an urban demographic for a year, and both left knowing that it wasn’t the right place for us. ¬†We have a similar way of relating to teenagers, both enjoy¬†teaching literature more than¬†writing, and share many pedagogical perspectives.

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Dreams Deferred, or Waiting on a Promise?

I got that pang again the other day, the “it’s back to school time and I don’t have a job” sinking feeling in my gut. I’ve felt it too many times, often enough to have a name for it.

I am glad for the past year at home. ¬†As I’ve said before, I think I needed it. ¬†But every time someone brings up how good it is that I can be¬†a stay-at-home mom, I’m quick to jump in with the “for now.” ¬†It’s a gut response, a primal instinct to defend the career I worked so hard to establish, a refusal to let go of dreams that have been pushed to the back burner yet again. ¬†I poured so much of myself into becoming a good teacher, and I’ve haven’t really seen that work come to fruition in the ways that I’d hoped yet. Yes, being at home is a blessing. ¬†This time with my daughter is as precious as it is irreplaceable. ¬†But those dreams haven’t gone away. ¬†It’s still hard watching my teacher friends prepare for another school year. ¬†A good friend just finished training to teach AP Literature, and while I’ve loved hearing about it, man, I’m jealous!

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