Monday, December 30, 2013

Hopes & Dreams/ Goals & Action Steps for 2014 
I heard someone say that hopes and dreams are really good, but goals and action steps are better. I like both, though I agree, when you have goals and create action steps instead of dreaming and hoping, more things get accomplished.

Here is is, my goal for 2014, it goes with my only first grade rule. BE BRAVE. To that I will add BE STRONG and  COURAGEOUS.

Be Brave, Be Strong and Courageous! 

One way I do this is to figure out my verse for the year from scripture that keeps me centered. So, I will start with that.

Joshua 1:1-9 (MSG)

After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:

“Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel. I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses. 

From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River—all the Hittite country—and then west to the Great Sea. It’s all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. 

Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.

As I seek to further myself by studying Educational Leadership, I will make these action steps:

1) Embrace the truth around me be being very alert to others and their needs.

2) Lose the excess baggage. Dump the junk. Personally, that will mean something else. Professionally that means really focusing on things that matter. The heart of the student. I want to be willing and able to deviate from the routine of "doing school" and get better at cultivating learners which I would propose, is not the same thing. There are things that I have learned and still desire to do better like really teaching to how each student learns instead of teaching in a one size fits all method. I can always, always do better. I want to know how to create ILPs (Individual Learning Plans) for each student and to use them to help the student form their own learning journey instead of telling them HOW to do school. Give them more authentic ownership in their learning.
3) Walk in humility. I do know a lot about teaching, but I do not know it all. I am far, far from being the teacher that I want to be or the future principal that I would like to be. There is a lot of work to do in me and a lot of work I have to do! It is a continuous journey and not a destination! What I do know is that this love and passion for teaching and learning comes from the Father, my God and my job is to point it all back to him. For him to get the glory. I live to hear him say to me, "Well done, Kimberly...well done."

4) Seek excellent mentors. We look like who we hang out with. I hang out with amazing educators in my PLN and though I can't name each one, there are mind blowing amazing educators who have shaped me and molded me this past year. So instead, I want to say thanks to the PLN in the following hashtags/and learning opportunities:

  • #iaedchat on Sundays at 8 CST
  • #Colchat and #tlap on Mondays at 8 CST
  • #mnedchat and #VidEd on Tuesdays at 8 CST
  • #LivEdchat and #sbgchat on Wednesdays at 8 CST
  • #arkedchat on Thursdays at 8CST
  • #satchat, #satchatoc and #satchatwc on Saturdays
  • #edcampmsp 
  • #edcampmn
  • #edcamphome and #edcamphome 2.0 
  • #edcampchicago
Courageous: Casting Crowns

I have learned so much and I can't wait to learn more. So much to learn, so little time! Proverbs 31:25 says: "She puts on strength and honor as if they were her clothes.
She can laugh at the days that are coming".  (NIRV)  Laugh at the days to come. Full of joy. Full of strength and bravery and courageousness. Lofty goals, but thankfully, I have great friends and a PLN to help me! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making A Habit Of Differentiation Part 2

Meet CTW. He went by his whole name. He was a zany kid with a faddish for paperclips, especially colorful paperclips which he created chains out of an stole from teachers to the dismay of his parents.

CTW was a lad who was a a genius in so many areas but his struggles were out in living color and made his learning difficult. You see, for CTW to write was an act of God himself! CTW had excellent ideas and when talking to you, created a beautiful detailed story, but when asked to write, nothing would be on the page.


To watch CTW during testing...testing of any kind, was painful. His inability to focus on the task at hand created a long testing period. My last testing with him his fifth grade year resulted in over 5 hours needed for him to complete the spring state test we call MCA.  However, through coaching and time, he pulled out great scores that sometimes took him above the level of his peer group.

Often though, his struggles led him to be in for recess because he could not "get his work done on time."  He needs help" would be the talk among the teachers, but not many helped him. I mean, really helped him.

And by that, I mean looked at his way of learning and adapting their style of teaching to how he learned. Some teachers believe that students should adapt to our teaching. After all, it is we who have the degrees to prove that we are "smart." We are the ones who know what we are doing. They are not.

I would suggest that this limited thinking traps us as educators. It traps us in to a box that was not meant to be there in the first place. The snare catches us at our weakest part of ourselves, assuming we are here to educate YOU. What if the students are here to educate us? What if that is really what it is all about?

I know that the greatest amount of learning has not come from me teaching, but from me studying the students and their lives and their God given abilities and trying to figure out who this blessed human is that has been given to me for this season of the educational journey.

I had CTW for two years as a student during which, I brought him to SAT at school, evaluations were done, and a process took place that put him on an IEP. My goal was to get him help now in his elementary years that would carry him through to MS and HS. I hope it has.

I saw CTW this fall at a multi-aged school function K-8 for the yr round program (his school 6-8, is in another building). He was walking around with a clipboard. He was a leader and a young man with a plan as he helped to organize groups for the nature walk tour. He was in his element and immersed in his gifting.

I came across a quote that I used in my other blog about differentiation by Seth Godin.  Here is entire manifesto: It is a powerful manifesto. To read it once does not do it justice. 

God didn't make us all the same. He made us entirely different from one another. Those differences are there to unite us, to cause us to become interdependent on each other.  We waste so much time fixating on differences as a reason for alienation. Really, if we thought better of each other, of humanity and of the fact that each of us, EACH OF US, is made in the image of the Most High God, we would do what Steven Covey asks of us, seek first to understand. I would like to suggest as well, that before Steven Covey asked it of us, God asked it of us first. Take the plank out of my own eye!

As it is, I am sitting here a few days after Christmas working on assignments because I know what my life is like when school starts. Its crazy. I prefer learning in the stillness of time like this with a quiet house and coffee. But as I sit here and reflect on my students and my own children,  tears are just pouring down my face. I can't seem to control my emotions.  I feel like I am caught in a system that only says it wants differentiating learning, but still boxes in children. I admit, it is easy to revert to old practices that are not best practices because differentiating the lessons takes work.

Solid. Mind blowing. Hard work.

I close this out with hope. I sometimes feel like a ultimate failure because I believe like Liam Neeson said as Oskar Shindler in Shindler's List, I could have done more as I reflect back. I could have done more. I know that I can do more and knowing is half the battle. As a professional educator, I want to be an agent for change and I will do more. I do not claim to understand differentiation, but I do claim to desire knowledge so I can further my understanding. That is the journey of learning. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Making Differentiation A Habit

Though this post is intended for use with my grad school course at Bethel University called Intro to Differentiated and Responsive Teaching,  I am attracted as a learner and seeker of knowledge to the title of which my blog post must be about.

  • First of all, that of being a habit. 
  • Second of all, differentiation and what that means.

So, what is a habit and how long does it take to form a habit? Habits come out of repeated steps, whether intentional or unintentional and it takes about seven weeks to get anywhere close to the foundation of a habit. Take for example running, keep it up everyday and you will go farther by week seven. Read everyday and you will be surrounded by a wonderful world of words and imagination by week seven. Take up smoking and by week seven, you will be hooked.  Undoing habits, I suggest, take different work as creating the habit does, yet, both the process of doing and undoing are important in the world of habits.

What is the purpose of school? 
So to create a habit where I differentiate my classroom is VITAL to the process of currently UNDOING things that I have learned to do for the past twenty years, well less that that...because I have worked hard in the past three years to work on differentiated instruction, but I digress. It is important for me to pay attention and make action steps to undoing a bad well as make action steps for generating a great one.

Working on building a differentiated learning environment has steam rolled this year into other things. I
question every app I I need this, is this the best app for what I want students to know, why am I standing here at this printer? Who remembers worksheets anyhow? Who ever said, thanks for this differentiated worksheet? No one.

I wonder then, if differentiation doesn't come from books or worksheets where it comes from? Look for example at this infograph from Carol Ann Tomlinson. You will see that it is not a set of tools that you whip out from your files. "Bam, I differentiated today!" Instead it is a organic way to think and to learn. To me, that is why I like differentiation, genius hour and edcamps. Organic. Pure. Learning!

That is why I LOVE and fully believe in #geniushour. The best way I have seen in recent years that not only captivates students, but it incorporates the multiple intelligences as well. I am looking forward as well to our January 10th date for #edcampfirstgrade with my students and the trails of learning they will take us down that morning.  The more student voice that comes into the learning journey, the more students will learn.

Now, I have been working hard at this. I have! But I also realize that I am too, like my students a work in progress. I have many things that I want to still know and understand. I am very excited for this learning journey through my new course that will help me gain skills and confidence so that I can be a better lead learner in my classroom setting!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Teacher Mom In Me, Just Me Being Real....

There are two things I have always wanted to be. 1) A Teacher. 2)A Parent. I am lucky that I have had the great honor to do both. Maybe like you, for some of the journey the two have collided at school as they have come where I have taught. It was much, much easier that way and there was a season in 6th grade when I was my son's teacher.

I started teaching in 1994 and I became a mom in 1996 when I adopted my chosen one, Isaiah who is now a senior. It has been a journey together in all arenas but especially in the arena we call school.  He was never a confident learner and that has carried him like a thorn in the flesh for quite some time. In spite of my interventions, other's interventions and in spite of raising him to believe in himself, he still carries a seed of self doubt that holds him back.

He was also the boy who wanted attention. You would thing being someone raised by a single mom for the all but two years of his life when I was married to my daughter's father, he'd feel like he got attention. But he sought it from friends..alas, in goofy and strange ways.

So I put him in private school for HS. It is a nice small Christian school and for the most part, I have been happy with the journey he has had there. It has saved him in so many ways and provided him with great friends and experiences. All drama aside, he wants to go to Northwestern here in the Twin Cities for their Criminal Justice program and be a cop. So he has a goal, but he lost his way in the action steps.

Maybe it is a combination of his learning style, his attitude about things and way too early emergence of senioritis that for about a month, took him and I on a crazy loop. Resulting in me becoming "that mom" who gave a lecture every day and came down hard on him like a pro wrestler in a body slam. I don't want to be that mom. But, sometimes..well, you have to.

I also tried to lift him up too and remind him that there is a perfect plan in the world for him and that there are different ways to be smart. I wrote YOU ARE A GENIUS AND THE WORLD IS WORTHY OF YOUR CONTRIBUTION  on the bathroom mirror and sent it via text messages and over his FB feed.

And I hit the floor with my knees and prayed. Oh, Lord...please watch over my Mr. 17.

But the one thing I keep fighting inside of me (but I am getting so much better at this)  is owning this problem and feeling like I am a rotten parent because my son struggles at school. (You know, the teacher's kid really should do better than that---are the lies whispered in my ear.)

Though this time, through with five months to go and him crashing and having a life and learning melt down on me, I just dismissed the lies that tried to fill my head. My plan of attack was to seek out answers and to help him make the best decisions based on what information was at hand. My plan of attack includes counselling for him to work on these tough issues that seem to creep up..because someday, he will have to be someone's employee (or his own boss) and someone's husband and someone's dad. I have tried to help him as well as my family (we're mostly all educators) but it is also good to realize when your own children need help outside of you.

With action steps in place and with counseling starting..I feel confident and relieved. (Thanks God!)

It is hard too, just like in a classroom when your children learn differently. What one struggles with the other finds easy. The 8 intelligences are alive and well in my home..and I only have two children! How does that lady have 21??? (And why is she still counting?) I'd go crazy. Miss 8 learns differently than her brother. She is a perfectionist and drives me up the wall. She will cry if she can't find the answer to a problem. She will fret about if she even knows the right answer. My battles with her reside in mantras that go like this, "You are not God, you are not perfect. You are just right..just the way you are. RELAX!"

So I have one child who needs to step it up. One who needs to step it down. Lucky me.

Educators are humans too and we are just doing our best like any other parent out there to raise our children. We hit road blocks, we struggle, we wring our hands, we stay up at night, we pray and we love with wild abandon. Our children, all children, are gifts and each gift is precious and I am blessed to be able to be a mom and an educator. I would not have it any other way.

Tonight on #ArkEdChat with Daisy Dyer Duerr, we will be talking about being a parent and a teacher. I am excited about the conversation and can't wait to see where it leads.

You will lose your baby teeth. 
At times, you'll lose your faith in me. 
You will lose a lot of things, 
But you cannot lose my love. 

You may lose your appetite, 
Your guiding sense of wrong and right. 
You may lose your will to fight, 
But you cannot lose my love. 

You will lose your confidence. 
In times of trial, your common sense. 
You may lose your innocence, 
But you cannot lose my love. 

Many things can be misplaced; 
Your very memories be erased. 
No matter what the time or space, 
You cannot lose my love. 
You cannot lose, 
You cannot lose, 
You cannot lose my love.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Good, Better, Best...In Work and Relationships, the Similarities

I like you are most likely involved in some type of observation plan. I like you find it tedious and hard work. I like you get hung up on jargon and I like you initially wondered why we really all have to do this in the first place, I confess.

It takes time for the pieces of the puzzle to fit and I look desperately around me for how they are supposed to by making connections to what I already know and tag this to it. So, as I was sitting in a great and helpful meeting about iObservation (based on the Marazano Framework) the most interesting thoughts came to mind which made me smile. Working hard at our job, especially as an education professional is VERY similar to working hard on being married.

If you are reading this, you are most likely married. My guess is that if you have been married more than 7 years...or more than 14 years or if you are like my parents and inching to the 50 year mark, you intentionally spend time cultivating habits that create a strong, healthy and thriving marriage. Without doing so your marriage will die. Also, it is important that two people are together working on themselves individually as well as working on the combination of themselves that make a marriage. A strong healthy self will bring the best of themselves to the marriage. One person cannot carry a marriage to make it strong. When that is done, a great divide happens and the ramifications of that divide create a survival mode..not a thriving mode..and sometimes, surviving only lasts for a little bit.

If you are reading this, you are most likely in the same field as I am, education. I find that this process of iObservation or using a framework of some kind for teacher evaluations important. It is vital to reflect on, or take a pulse of yourself in your profession. I ask the students to do it in the classroom and it is only fair that I do so myself. When I stop and think about how am I doing and try to be honest, I am setting myself up for greater successes long term. I am able to create new goals and make a plan to achieve them. A goal with no plan is just a wish and that won't get you far. Why should I not critique myself? Why should I not be critiqued by others as well as my boss?

So I looked up some lists and organized them below...of what makes a successful marriage and what makes a successful teacher. You will smile at the similarities and hopefully find yourself in them.

But be honest. Okay, I will. I am NOT perfect nor do I pretend to be..or want to be..because that is not a growth mindset. I know where I fail...and it is okay with me when others in kindness to help me grow as a teacher do too. So I can approach this list and think..where do I need to grow?

Mark Goulston, M.D. Ten Habits of Happy Couples. 

25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently by the  Teach Thought Staff.

So briefly, here are some similarities between the two articles that can make your work as a professional educator OR as a person in a marriage or significant relationships moving forward reach the ROCK STAR level, and remember, it is a JOURNEY not a DESTINATION! 

  • Keep it all interesting in your profession / relationship.
  • Walk side by side..not in front of not behind...stay together! Leave no one behind!
  • Make trust and forgiveness focus on the positive.

  • Greet each other in kindness as well as bring positive closure to conversation.
  • Take a pulse of your you need to tune things up? Don't be a zombie!!! 
  • Honor and respect one another.

  • Have clear objectives...what are your goals for your professional situation / relationship?
  • Have a sense of purpose. Post a mission statement for yourself / relationship. 
  • Learning, relationships, and education are a messy... much like planting. It takes time, and some dirt, to grow. (This is why my blog has the title it does.)

  • Have a positive attitude! That changes everything every where you go and with each life you touch. 
  • Expect success!
  • Have fun together and laughter is so good for work / relationships!!! 
  • Be a risk taker. Do you need to step out of the box in your profession /relationship? Do it. Be Brave! Break out of the box! 
  • Reflect on your profession / relationship...adjust the sails. 
  • Seek out mentors for your profession on your own as well as mentors for your relationship. Spend time gleaning information and help along the way. It is important! Never stop learning! 

  • Adapt and welcome change in your profession / relationship and explore new avenues to take together!
  • Be a student of your students as well as a student of your spouse or significant other. There is always something to learn! Always.

In closing, status quo does not work. It won't get you anywhere you want to be not in your profession and not in your relationships. So, that is why I don't fret or balk at the process that we are now doing at fact, with a growth mindset, it is rather interesting and fun and I am learning a great deal about myself!!! 

Relationships/ MarriageRelationships/ Work
Mark Goulston, M.D. ~Ten Habits of Happy Couples.  Teach Thought Staff ~25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently 
1. Go to bed at the same time1. Successful teachers have clear objectives21. Successful teachers bring fun into the classroom
11. Successful teachers are reflective
2. Cultivate common interests2. Successful teachers have a sense of purpose22. Successful teachers teach holistically
12. Successful teachers seek out mentors of their own
3. Walk hand in hand or side by side3. Successful teachers are able to live without immediate feedback23. Successful teachers never stop learning
13. Successful teachers communicate with parents
4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode4. Successful teachers know when to listen to students and when to ignore them24. Successful teachers break out of the box
14. Successful teachers enjoy their work
5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong5. Successful teachers have a positive attitude25. Successful teachers are masters of their subject
15. Successful teachers adapt to student needs
6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work6. Successful teachers expect their students to succeed
16. Successful teachers welcome change in the classroom
7. Say "I love you" and "Have a good day" every morning7. Successful teachers have a sense of humor
17. Successful teachers take time to explore new tools
8. Say "Good night" every night, regardless of how you feel8. Successful teachers use praise smartly
18. Successful teachers give their students emotional support
9. Do a "weather" check during the day9. Successful teachers know how to take risks
19. Successful teachers are comfortable with the unknown
10. Be proud to be seen with your partner10. Successful teachers are consistent
20. Successful teachers are not threatened by parent advocacy

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One Way I Can Use Doodlecast Pro For Formative Assessment

I Am Thankful #edustyle
I am thankful for my job, for my students and the families that they represent in all the areas that I work in. It is a honor. I am thankful for some top notch mentors and friends like Pat and Irene. I am thankful for my boss, Mark. 

I am thankful for ‪#‎edcamps‬ and I dream of edcamps. Its weird but I do. I feel like I am just a seed being watered during edcamps...soaking it all in. 

I am thankful for my very strong PLN network. We started off as people who have a common ground, education..and are ending up to be great friends and growing together. Almost everything I have learned in the past year, has been because of them. Every second I spend on there...has been well worth my time. 

I am thankful for my university that I love, Bethel University full of good memories, good friends, and my favorite way to learn..Christ in Culture as I continue to go there. I have spent my life since 5th grade in 1982 in those halls of Bethel....because of my daddy's job. Not many people can say that they have had one class act university speak so much into their life. It is a great solid foundation for me. 

There will be more learning to do..and since I see learning as a constant journey with ebbs and flows vs a destination...I am happy to declare a heart of thanksgiving for what is to come that I do not yet see.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trying Too Hard? 
I have always been a girl who has loved Amy Grant ever since singing, "Father's Eyes" or "Old Man's Rubble" with my hair brush jumping on my bed because I was an early 80's rock star when I pretended to be her.

And with the distance in the rear view mirror of life, I am thankful for another song from her lately, "Don't Try So Hard."

It kinda goes at first against everything that I am I keep trying..harder and harder and I push myself to the point sometimes of being just wiped out with a headache coming on.

I feel like I have to. Most of the things that I try is because I love being creative and I like trying out new ways of teaching old things and infusing technology. I can't just abandon my job and my love for it and my love for the students.

It goes against the idea that I always have had for myself and for others which is do not give up!

But I resonate with this song. Even though my life is busy and full and I love it...

I hear the words from my creator saying, "Ah, Kimi, girl, don't try so hard." I love you just the way you are.

"Don't try so hard 
God gives you grace and you can't earn it 
Don't think that you're not worth it 
Because you are 
He gave you His love and He's not leaving 
Gave you His Son so you'd believe it 
You're lovely even with your scars 

Don't try so hard"

I have the grace to make it through. I also need wisdom when to stop and slow down. Grace and mercy are unmerited favors extended to me and I don't deserve it but I am thankful.

I can extend this same grace and mercy to my students. Not that I don't have high expectations for them or their behavior, I do. Not that I don't have high expectations for their journey of learning..because I do. Grace and mercy in the classroom looks like this:

  • Don't try so hard to be someone that you are not. BE YOU! JUST YOU.

It is the journey of learning in education that makes us beautiful as well as the entire journey of life.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Insanity Trap, I Need A Silent Night
I am not going to do it. I am not going to fall for it. There is no way in heck it will happen to me. Or so, I say to myself this little mantra year after year.

Then bang, like a sucka punch right hook I am down for the count and I swear to goodness, I didn't wanna be!

But this year...this year I am going to NOT fall for the insanity trap.

What is the insanity trap?

The holiday frenzy and hullabaloo. The one where you gotta top last year and the Johnson's who live next door. Not to mention that, sometimes, I have felt like I had to have the best Christmas decor in the classroom or make the best projects with the students. There are Christmas work parties, classroom parties, get the gifts for the volunteers, for my coworkers, for the students, for my own kids for my own family. Saw the tree down and decorate that and the cookies at the same time and grades. Sometimes grades have been due around the holiday season adding to the "fun" of it all.

That is the Insanity Trap.

  • I don't need it any more.  
  • I am too old for it. 
  • I just want to slow down. 
  • I have to slow down.

But all this has me thinking about the students and the rush rush rush that they have in their lives too, especially at this time and if I feel swamped, I am positive that they might be too.
So my gift to the students this year is to slow down. I don't need to make it to the end of the chapter, if I can't just to say that I got it in. I don't need to make stupid worksheets for "filler" time at school and the class party can be low key.

Students do deserve the best me and so do my own children..and that best me is not the insane woman! So, try this for yourself...slow down the holiday rush..make your classroom a sweet place of peace on Earth. Or if you are like me and run here and there throughout the school, walk instead...breathe in so much peace and serenity that you bring a calming effect where ever you go and you can make other's feel merry and bright. Chapter 5.11 may just wait until January.

The most urgent thing is NOT the most important thing. The most important thing is the people around us, our families and the students we are called to serve at work. It is the heart and souls of people that is the most important thing

You too deserve a Silent Night and Holy Night, a Midnight Clear, and a bit of Peace on Earth...end all the crazy with a Silent Night! Blessings....Kimberly

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Measurement in First Grade

I have to move to a new group of learners this coming week. I have known this now for two weeks now, so I worked really hard to move my first graders forward as far as I could with our math unit of measurement. We had such a great time together in this last unit. We measured ourselves and everything under the sun.  I love the little project they created! The black string reflects parts of the body that were measured. 

Wonderwall Wednesday Our Last One For A Bit

I have sat on this picture for over a week. I was afraid to post it, because it means the end of something that the students have enjoyed and I have as well since August, our Wonderwall Wednesday time. It has to be put on pause for at least four months while my time slot that I was doing that in (First Grade Math) is evolving into 3-5 RTI.  I am very sad. Truly I felt posting it would be the very thing that seals the deal and I didn't want to post. I had been on top of the Wonderwall postings with joy and this one, did not bring joy to post. Endings are hard.

All I needed was time. Time to see what the students were telling me. Our wonder for the week two weeks ago was, "How big is the sky?"  We started off by sectioning off a piece of paper to draw our sky.  As you can see, students were kind of making choices based on only the daylight, but as we talked, we realized that the night sky holds another set of beauty. We even looked up nebulas and added them to our section of the sky.  The answer is that the sky is trillions and trillions and trillions of miles wide and high.

Pretty much, that was kind of our Wonderwall. However it extends beyond the Wonderwall for me now. I want to take a moment to comment on #geniushour. If it were not for this time set aside or anytime set aside whatsoever to cultivate curiosity with the students, I don't know how I could go to work every day, every week, every month, every year and emotionally deal with all the directives and mandates and testing. It is really important that we do this in our classrooms. I am not giving up on #geniushour, I just need to find another way to express it that will best suit our new situation...and I am working on it.

The students deserve this time set aside for them to wonder at the world, to pause and to think deeper than a grade level standard would have them to. The students deserve opportunities to own their own learning.

The possibilities for the effectiveness of #geniushour in the classroom has the same answer as, "How big is the sky." And just as each student designed their perspective of the sky below, so #geniushour, when done in a true and pure form (not graded, not driven by a rubric) is a beautiful reflection of each student. Even below, if you see a mess, they see themselves. That is learning.

I love #geniushour because it breathes new life into learning, into the classroom, into the students and into me. I am grieved to see it have to take a back seat...but that is only fuel to a fire within me to find a new way to incorporate it. I love a good challenge.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Decision Making 101
We are all faced in our jobs, in our life in general to make decisions. How do you go about making decisions and how do you know when you have made a good one?

This weekend, many decisions were weighing on my head and I felt the burden of each one to the point of almost collapse from always having to "be on" and think through things from top to bottom.   When so much is coming at me it is important for me to reflect. As a woman of faith, the way that I do that is by listening to music that reflects my faith and by being still. I spend time reflecting on scriptures that point me to God's promises. I take time to worship and thank God for things that I see and for the things that I do not see. I pray for wisdom.

Ironically as I stepped in at church to serve in Sunday School, our lesson was on King Solomon  when God said he would give him all the riches of the world...but Solomon asked for wisdom.

I am thankful for the pressing on my heart that I get to just stop, drop and pray.


Welcome to my Monday.   Due to circumstances that I did not foresee, I discovered that I would have to let go for awhile, a part of my routine this year in first grade and do something else I also love, which is working in the area of interventions. I was given the opportunity to work this out with the other stake holders in involved in this process and then just let my principal know how it will all work out.

Here is how I went about making this specific decision.

As a stakeholder in this situation, I could easily have been a bit upset, I really love what I am doing. Why change? Why upset the fruit basket? I hope that people will see as I live my life, that I don't make life or issues all about me.

In this situation there was one handful. Everyone would have to give up something. That is what happens when decisions get made that affect so many. Be realistic.

After laying the cards down, looking at each one and not just at face value, where can we make choices that though we all have an opportunity cost, we can all walk away with some kind of "win" whether it is big or small.

As I discussed this with three of the major stakeholders, outside of the KEY stakeholder, the students, my goal was to hear their heart on the matter and put our KEY stakeholders, the children front and center and make the best decision for them.  It was clearly evident which direction to go.

I also know that there is no such thing as equality. If we are looking for equality, we won't find it. Fair is NOT equal. It never is in life. So, what would be the best choice keeping that thought in mind?  I think all my interest and study of  standards based grading is really coming into play with this thought, but it works in life!

My church has a motto that I love and believe in: Love God, Love People. Serve the World. It IS about how my talents and gifts can be used in this world to create the best good.

I am thankful for my co-teacher who I was able to hash things through passionately and my co-worker who let me cry as I let go of something I really love, to do something else I really love as well.

So winning. We all won!  It doesn't all look the same but the people that mean the most who this is really about won the most. They get the best possible scenario given to them to continue to build them in their journey of learning.

My heart is steady. It is going to be alright! That is how I know the decision reached was a good one. Peace of mind. Every student. Every day! 
You matter. They matter. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mindset Chapter 4: The Mindset Of A Champion 
I am not a natural born athlete. It would describe my sister, brother, son, niece and nephew..but somehow, not me.  Did that stop me from trying? No. I enjoy the feeling of standing in the backfield defense challenging the offence to come and kick a  soccer ball my way and then kicking it hard back to our team or at least out of the way . I fell in love with broom ball my freshman year of college and even didn't mind putting on 39032 layers of clothing including the hat, scarf, mittens and boots as we battled it out during J-Term in the late evenings on the ice rinks. I roller skate but I am not a derby girl. I ice skate, but I am not graceful. Is sledding a sport if it is not a bobsled team? I am good at that and I am good and natural at so many other things. 

So, as you can see, this is can't be natural born athlete wisdom I will be dispelling here. Instead it comes from a mindset of not giving up as well as a mindset that sometimes, a girl just wants to have fun and fun isn't always about winning. 
A great question  to ponder over is whether good athletes are born or, are they made? I think it is a bit of both. This is my son's last year of basketball. He is graduating. He started out on the JV squad for two years. His junior year, he started JV and played Varsity. This year it is just starting Varsity.  He doesn't often complain about waking up and leaving  by 5:30 AM for four months in a row driven by his mother and his sister. He doesn't complain at all because he loves it. He runs hard doing drills, he trains to do well for games. It is his natural passion. He is a good example of a natural born athlete.  If you look at my son, Mr. 17, you will see amazing agility and strength and speed. You see nothing of that when it comes to me. I have to work for it. 

If we push this question are good students born or made, you will see Mr. 17 have to work very hard at school, where as for me, school / learning was my "thing." In both cases, whether I needed an open mindset to play sports  and work hard, or Mr. 17 needs an open mindset for working hard at school, we must both push ourselves to the limit. Just past the pain of it all is the place where we move past the ordinary into the extraordinary.
If you work hard enough, if you are patient with yourself and with others, you will find the place of becoming. That is called character building.  Character building in sports, school or in life is more valuable and such a great teacher! Character is what a person is really like. You take their values, their personality as well as their integrity and as life comes and goes with ebbs and flows, character is made. It is who they are on field or off the field and even in the field of life. Those who are working on cultivating a growth mindset believe that character building is a result of time and deliberate practice. Character building involves resiliency and seeing problems not as a challenge, but as a great opportunity to learn. When you are shaping the character of your children or a student or looking at  yourself, you want to say don't give up! Character building is just like learning and learning is messy. It is not for those who are protecting their self image. It is about failing forward, falling hard, and coming up again. 

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Carol Dweck hosted by Education World.

EW: What can teachers do to help develop mastery-oriented students -- students who will face a challenge rather than be overwhelmed by it?

Dweck: Students who are mastery-oriented think about learning, not about proving how smart they are. When they experience a setback, they focus on effort and strategies instead of worrying that they are incompetent.

This leads directly to what teachers can do to help students become more master-oriented: Teachers should focus on students' efforts and not on their abilities. When students succeed, teachers should praise their efforts or their strategies, not their intelligence. (Contrary to popular opinion, praising intelligence backfires by making students overly concerned with how smart they are and overly vulnerable to failure.)
When students fail, teachers should also give feedback about effort or strategies -- what the student did wrong and what he or she could do now. We have shown that this is a key ingredient in creating mastery-oriented students.

In other words, teachers should help students value effort. Too many students think effort is only for the inept. Yet sustained effort over time is the key to outstanding achievement.

In a related vein, teachers should teach students to relish a challenge. Rather than praising students for doing well on easy tasks, they should convey that doing easy tasks is a waste of time. They should transmit the joy of confronting a challenge and of struggling to find strategies that work.

Finally, teachers can help students focus on and value learning. Too many students are hung up on grades and on proving their worth through grades. Grades are important, but learning is more important. (Emphais is mine, KAHH)  (

Dweck writes, "Character grows out of mindset." Even if you are a natural born athlete like my son, it is still important to cultivate the character. Look at Terrell Owens. He is without a team, without money, without the earthly things that he thought mattered. He was a natural born athlete who let the glitter and the fame go to his head. What is he left with? Nothing, except now, to go back, undo it all and start again. Cultivate the character. 

There are three findings that Dweck points out when it comes to character and mindset.  
  1. Those with growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving.
  2. They found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake up call. 
  3. Took charge of the processes that bring success and that sustain it.” 
This will work for my son, it will work for Terrell Owens, it will work for me and it will work for you. Beyond that, it will work for every student in the classroom. 

I will close with this quote from Dweck, "Great athletes have a team--coaches, trainers, caddies, managers, mentors." They do. That is absolutely true. I call that accountability partners. People who speak into your life and push you to grow to your fullest potential and who speak into your life the truth, not just what you want to hear.  We all need them in sports, in marriages, in friendships, at work and in every aspect of life. 

Here are some questions to ponder:

  1. How would you define character?
  2. Do you have the mindset of a champion? 
  3. How can you work on improving your game, your marriage, your family, your health and your profession? 
  4. Do you do your best when things are going for you or against you? 
  5. How can you use a growth mindset to raise your game and your game of life when it counts most?
  6. Does your joy in sports (life) come from playing (or doing) your hardest or from winning? 
  7. Do you take losses really hard? Why? 
  8. What do losses say about you, your sports ability, or your image of yourself?
  9. What can you do this week to encourage your students and those you come in contact with to have a growth mindset? 

This post was created for my book study group #mindset13 on Twitter. I was responsible for chapter four.