It has to mean something if it has to matter.
- ME (and a lot of other people)
Disengaged. Bored. Lazy. I have heard ALL of those used to describe today's students. If you listen carefully, what your really hear is an excuse to NOT change - a deflection of ownership of the real problem: most classrooms and mainstream instructional practices haven't changed too terribly much in about a hundred years.
"He's disengaged" - Student "playing" on their cell phone? Reading a book instead of looking at the teacher during a lecture? Hmmmm....are you sure the student is disengaged? Many of today's learners (not all) are actually paying more attention than you think. Turn those perceived problems to assets. The student on the cell phone might actually be looking up information you are talking about or taking notes. And that student that reads - that may be how he blocks out stimuli - my oldest who is on the Autism spectrum is one of those.
"I'm bored" - Too often, the translation for this becomes "the work is too hard for the student" when that really is often NOT the case. This reaction is triggered by a topic that is too easy or not interesting to the student or - GASP - they already know the information! It happens, people. Most often they are just uninspired - let them be creative! Somewhere around third grade, kids are turned into compliant learners...well, most are. They learn that thinking differently or being creative is a punishable offense in some classrooms. How do you encourage creativity?
"She is so lazy" - nope nope nope...more likely they are uninspired. see above for remedies for that. However, sometimes they are just tired. Kids today have a lot going on - sometimes that is pressure placed on them by family. Sports, dance, familial obligations, poverty....they take a toll. Are we as educators aware of that? Too often the child deemed lazy has a lot going on that we fail to see. Take the time to get to know them. A simple conversation or two can be life changing.
How often do we create authentic learning experiences for our students? When was the last time you gave them a chance to identify a problem that matters to them and do something about it? These days, versions of 20% Time and Genius Hour are becoming prevalent in our schools. In some schools, there is still the mind set that this learning isn't going to raise test scores - a point which is a) grossly inaccurate and b) irrelevant. Students are NOT test scores. When teachers are told they can't let students learn through Genius Hour or 20% Time activities because this "isn't in the curriculum" I get a little grumpy.
I like to share the story of Richard Turere who identified a problem and created a solution that made a difference for his family and his community.
I can guarantee that his actual project wasn't in the curriculum, but the skills he learned while perfecting his invention - and giving this speech - certainly were. I'm sure that given the opportunity to identify a problem and work to solve it, many of those "disengaged, bored, and lazy" students would thrive.
Everyone's ideas seem obvious to them. Often we hesitate to share them with others because we are sure that our idea isn't anything special. I know I am guilty of this.
In The Innovator's Mindset, George Couros talks about helping teachers see that what they are doing - even if it seems commonplace and routine to them - could be quite helpful to someone else. I marked that passage. This is what I try to do in my work every day. Because I am not in one particular school in the district, my perspective is more broad. I can connect educators that want to try something new with another that is doing it. Another who probably thinks that what they're doing isn't that special, but it IS!!
We bring our school library media coordinators together periodically. We bring our elementary digital teaching and learning contacts and secondary instructional technology facilitators together quarterly. They share ideas and lessons from their schools with each other. These meetings can be empowering. As a result of them, I've seen some truly innovative things taking place in classrooms across grade levels in our district. On days when I wonder if anything I do matters, I remember those moments.
Don't be afraid to share your ideas. You have them. Someone else doesn't. They might need to hear yours.
I just finished reading The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros. If you haven't read it - you need to. So many good points that I plan to write about in future posts. Above is a rendering of the 8 Characteristics of the Innovator's Mindset - I have had this on my office door for all to see for over a year now. I even shared it during our monthly #NHCSchat some time ago. All before I really read the book. I'm so glad I finally read it. It was validating and empowering.
In my last blog post, I wrote about empathy. As I read this book, I realized that empathy is one of the eight characteristics of the Innovator's Mindset. I have that! Go me! ☺
But this quote also resonated with me:
If we are going to be effective leaders, we must model the behavior and attitudes we seek in our learners - be they students or educators.
Maybe it was because the next sentence says it's more powerful and persuasive to say "Let's do this together" than to tell folks to do something we ourselves aren't willing to do. I LIVE this. That is item three of the Innovator's Mindset - in the book, not on the image above. Again, I have that! Go me! ☺
Take a look at the whole list. I have a couple that I want to develop more and some that are definitely my strengths. Here are the 8 characteristics from the book:
How many do you posses? How do these impact your teaching...and learning?
I start a lot of sentences with "...but why?"
Mainly because in my role, knowing why a teacher wants to do something allows me to connect them with the right tools for the job...to help their how. In our conversations, I have them explain to me what their vision is and then we work to make it happen. However, I almost always find that the end result they are looking for isn't just a creation or product. They sometimes leave out that it's the baby steps along the way and what each teaches the students that really make the end result what they are looking for. That is why I ask why! I remember those moments with my students. Seeing that spark in their eyes when all of the pieces fall into place - truth be told, I think that is why many of us that became teachers have stayed teachers.
In education, it's easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day minutia and legislative demands. I get that. I do. But I feel that those little things, if allowed to drive the BIG things, can do tremendous damage. So often, decisions are made to do things that are easiest for adults and not best for students. In education, if your why isn't anchored in what's best for students, then Houston, we have a problem.
I'm currently reading two books: School Culture Rewired and The Innovator's Mindset ....the first one was required, the second was personal choice. What I am finding is that there is a little bit of overlap. At the weekly meeting where the first book is discussed, today's activity involved this video:
Immediately I made the connection between this and what I read in the first part of The Innovator's Mindset . In talking about school culture, the question was raised: have schools forgotten their why?
This is EXACTLY what is written on page 18 of The Innovator's Mindset. I feel this is the best question anyone can ask.
I want to take a statement I made earlier in this post and extrapolate.
So often, decisions are made to do things that are easiest for adults and not best for students
I think to move forward, it is about more than this. In education, and in life, we know that no two people are the same. In order to really made a difference, we have to do what is best for each student. Doing that is definitely not easy for adults. But it is rewarding in those moments when you see that student grow.
Individualizing education; personalization; allowing student choice; helping them find their voice; encouraging them to be uncomfortable - that is where learning occurs. That's my why.
Imagine that if every time you talked about the ability to write with a pencil, you only focused on telling the kids not to stab one another with the tool. What would you really inspire in your students?
Think about that...in everything you do - you have a choice. You can focus on the positive or negative. The choice you make impacts the outcome of what you are doing. Your mindset determines the success - or failure. I am a firm believer in the power of positive.
I've started the book, The Innovator's Mindset. As part of the #IMMOOC, book study, PLN, I will be documenting thoughts and reflections on my reading. So far, I am finding that some of my blog posts align quite nicely with the overarching theme of this book.
Innovation is the key to making a change in education. Innovation is not a term limited to describing those in positions of power in a school or district. It is a mindset that must be pervasive to be fruitful. I see it in so many teachers and I'm witnessing what this shift in thinking can do for students. It's an journey that has no end, nonetheless I am thrilled to be a part of it.
Define where you are, where you need to go, and how to get there. By the way, you will never "arrive."
As I watched the first YouTube Live session, The main thing I took away was: Embrace change. Change is an opportunity to grow. It is an opportunity to be amazing. So often in education, things happen because they are easier for adults, not what's best for the kids.
As Dave Burgess, Katie Martin, and George Couros talked about this, I immediately thought of schools in our district who have really embraced change lately. I am seeing amazing things happening among the teachers at these schools...and the kids are the winners! I'm working hard to continue this momentum. I believe that enthusiasm is contagious...let's make it an epidemic! #leadup