Sunday, January 21, 2018

Right on Track? or On the Right Track?

My sister is now two weeks into her college internship for her major in Landscape Architecture. Knowing this is a new adventure for her...one that she was (naturally) apprehensive about, I decided to get her out this weekend and see how things were going. Her first reflections were "It's alright. I'm doing small things/tasks that they give me until I get adjusted to the office." (Also note that they told her it's been 4-5 years since they've worked with an intern so they're reacquainting themselves with that world too.)  Then I asked her, "What are you hoping to get out of this experience and did you tell them what that was?" She knew that the one thing she hadn't experienced yet in her college coursework was seeing a project through from beginning to end... for example, when the Architecture firm got the bid all the way through raking the last piece of mulch (or whatever the last piece would be) when finishing up on a site.

We spent a chunk of time talking about the work she was tasked with completing when she arrives at the office Monday morning, which happens to be the start of a project that she was hoping to experience! Here's a snippet of the conversation that has stuck with me:

My sis: "We know we have a circular playground to design and they want it to be jungle themed. My boss asked me to make a call to a playground equipment company on Monday to get costs, sizes of equipment, and things like that. But this is the first project I'm doing for a business and what I wanted to get out of the internship, so I don't want to screw it up!"
Me: (smiling to myself because this is exactly the type of feeling we put our students at the beginning of a PBL/PrBL unit...you know...because we're on a mission to bring AUTHENTIC experiences into our classrooms. Also knowing we bring that healthy level of stress to students knowing we'll be there to support them through the process) "Since they haven't had an intern in awhile and I'm sure you've proven yourself capable up to this point, it's possible they've forgotten that they need to support you in this project adventure too.  I also know you well enough to know that if your boss says 2 days later, "Gosh, I wish we would've asked them about _____" that you'll take it personally as if you didn't do your job well, even though you did and he just happened to have an afterthought."
My sis: "Very true, but I know he's busy and don't want to make him sit by me while I have this call. I know I want to write down things to ask before I call them anyway, maybe I'll have him look those questions over before I call." 
Me: "Good idea...maybe you ask him to give you feedback on those questions and/or sit by you during this call, in case there's something else he knows you might need information on later. Best case scenario, he'll do both. Worst case, you'll at least have feedback as support to reassure yourself going into that call."

And now I'm here, sharing this with you because it has so many implications and connections to our work that we design for students every day! This is the connection I'm going to land on making this week..... the need for assessments embedded in a project, which are supported by giving our students immediate feedback on their performance to create revision and/or reassurance that they are on the right track for project completion.  At New Tech Network, we call these "performance assessments" (I know.... really creative, huh?) ;)

In the project my sister will be working on tomorrow, you can already see it unfolding in this way:
  • Project Launch - The scenario she's working in: circular playground, jungle themed, $x budget presented
  • Benchmark 1: Comparison of products from various playground equipment companies
    • Performance Assessment at this phase/benchmark of the project (i.e. a thing her boss might assess to see if her performance is on track towards completing the final product in this project)- a written statement of which company she proposes they go with for purchasing the equipment and why she's opting for company "x" over all of the others. (a li'l compare and contrast, if you will)
    • Scaffolding to support the research/learning necessary for achieving/completing this benchmark: 
      • (to support Oral Communication) Student generated script to use when calling each company
      • (to support Agency) A graphic organizer to accompany the script (perhaps a table of some kind) for students document and organize their findings
      • (to support Knowledge & Thinking/ Content) 
        • A small group conversation about equipment might fit the theme and the space provided (talking about area, perhaps)
        • A guided practice session for calculating possible costs, dimensions of equipment that would fit within budget and the given area
      • (to support Written Communication) An exploration of other comparisons from companies on previous projects, so students would not just be given "writing expectations" but would experience/see/visualize an industry standard. They could then do a deconstruction, perhaps of what they've seen in the companies previous projects before writing their comparison statement (i.e. the performance assessment)
  • Benchmark 2: Selection of equipment by company "x"
    • Performance Assessment - no idea what my sister's company will ask her to submit to show she's "on the right track", but I could see how a visual sketch, a mock up of some kind, or a written statement would be useful as a way for them to ensure she's taken into account the size of the playground, the theme desired, and the given budget. (you know...all the things presented in the entry document because that's what performance assessments are...they're just opportunities for checking in on how you're meeting the goal of the project)!  Maybe, this could be a chance for students to individually submit a written assessment piece to demonstrate what they know and think about the layout of the playground.... an IAKT...an individual assessment of knowledge and thinking!!! Which means the IAKT was introduced a LONG time ago through the project launch, but students are individually submitting their written sense-making now, after all of this support, research, reflection, and revision! 
    • Scaffolding - certainly, in order to meet this benchmark and complete the performance assessment there should be support such as: interacting with the client for additional input their needs/hopes, support for accuracy of calculations (both financial and area), creating graphic representations of area, etc.
  • Benchmark 3: Pitch to the client of designs and cost (because it's important this happens before construction takes place)
    • Performance Assessments & Scaffolding would exist, but sake of this now turning into a Project planning form, I'll spare you thoughts here...
  • Culminating Event & Presentation: The Creation of the playground
    • Of course there would be scaffolding here also to support the time between "pitch" and "creation", but again...I'm going to spare you another 10min of reading. You're welcome.
  • End of Project Reflection: (since students have been reflecting through the project as they revise and refine their work at each benchmark as a result of their performance assessment), this would be a great time to think about "how did I become a better learner/ performer/ collaborator/ advocate for myself throughout this project?" and establish a plan for how they know they need to "show up" in the next project to help them navigate the project flow from benchmark-to-benchmark.

I suppose I just get this sense from teachers at times that either "students just do whatever they want in PBL units " or "There's too many things happening in a project that are disconnected" and it shouldn't be. It should be seamless. Students shouldn't be able to progress unless they're learning ON BEHALF OF THE PROJECT GOAL, and they should be receiving regular support along the way towards benchmarks/check-in points to reassure them that they aren't going to be left floundering until the final presentation/culminating event happens. 

My challenge for you this week is to look at your upcoming project designs and ask yourself, "How is it all woven together?" and "What am I intentionally designing along the way to make sure my interns students aren't left wondering if they're on the right path towards project completion?"


Peace, love, and authentic learning moments,
Sarah

Monday, January 15, 2018

So much to do, so little time...

As I was on my way home from an incredible week of learning with colleagues, I had my growing to-do list swirling in my head. (Which was obviously growing after a week away). As I arrived home, my husband (who thankfully kept himself, the kid, and the dog alive for the week) and I looked around at the clutter in our home and had a similar swirl of "how are we ever going to clean all of this up?!"

And then I realized that we are asking the wrong question! Instead of "What should I tackle first?" we need to start asking, "What can I do differently do maximize my time?" A prime example is the amount of time I waste spend picking up Owen's toys and putting them back on the shelf in a reachable, yet somewhat presentable fashion. NEWSFLASH...if you're frustrated with the results, then you probably need to change some behaviors! So, we're trying the "toy bin" approach now instead of open shelves.... because truthfully, I just want him to be able to access his things and learn to pick them up. At the age of 2, I don't really care if he learns how to make them presentable as he puts them away.  (Side note: this is the mind-shift I realize I made as a Math teacher from a traditional "by the book" approach to PBL/PrBL. I was so frustrated that students weren't "getting" the problem solution methods I worked on with them TIRELESSLY! But, when I changed my approach and, specifically in PrBL, realized that the outcome I was really after was a correct solution and awareness of various ways to solve a problem...I didn't actually care how they solved it. If they wanted to toss the toys in the bin, GREAT! If they were the "put them neatly in rows" kind of problem solvers....SUPER! or if they just wanted to take an hour figuring out what they preferred...THAT WAS OKAY TOO! It wasn't about memorizing an approach...MY approach that I was trying to cram into their heads. It was/is about knowing that it was a new option to try out but there are other ways too.)

If insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," then I'd say I was a bit insane in my expectations! Actually, I'd even venture to say that we all are in some area of our lives, and we can often detect it through the phrase, "I have so much to do and not enough time to do it!" So... what's the source of frustration? What are some alternate ways of approaching that thing which is frustrating you? I know it won't be comfortable at first, BUT... choose one of those new possibilities and try it out! Give it 30 days....long enough to make it a habit and allow you to see if your approach was part of the frustration (or perhaps understand that it might be something else.)

Last week, I shared some thoughts with you about goal setting (achievement goals and habit goals). To get more in touch with where you're spending your time, I thought I'd offer up this weekly review/reflection:

  • My Biggest Wins this past week were:    (list your top accomplishments for the past week)    
  • After Action Review
    1. Review the things you said you'd need to accomplish last week to reach your goals. How far did you get?   _________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________
    2. List Lessons Learned from the week. What would you do differently or better? 
      1.  
      2.  

    3. How will you adjust your behavior going forward?  ____________________________ _______________________________________________________________________
  • New Weekly Big 3: What must you accomplish this week to reach your goals? 
    1.  
    2.  
    3.  

Peace, love, and adaptations,
Sarah

Monday, January 8, 2018

Are you better today than yesterday?

"THE KEY IS NOT TO PRIORITIZE WHAT'S ON YOUR SCHEDULE,
BUT TO SCHEDULE YOUR PRIORITIES." - Stephen Covey

Happy New Year everyone!  I believe all of you (i.e. all of the schools and instructional coaches I support) are officially back in school today, so I thought I’d kick things off with a little goal-setting contemplation. You see, my husband gave me a Full Focus Planner as a Christmas gift this year and (being the organizational nerd that I am) I was pretty excited to see the assistance this book had to offer for accomplishing my goals. Specifically, I appreciate the way each day of the daily planner encourages you to write down what actions you’ll take that day IN SERVICE OF YOUR GOALS. You know, so you have no other choice but to accomplish them!?  It put into perspective for me, though, why it’s so critical to clearly articulate your goals. Without the initial clarity, how will you know what you’re striving to accomplish each day!?

So, I thought I’d share with you a little look into the structure this one planner uses (you can view the 14min video here on how the creator of the planner, Michael Hyatt, fills it out as well). I appreciated the nudge to acknowledge when I had an “achievement goal” versus a “habit goal.”


Achievement goals (which focus on a one-time accomplishment) might be:
  • Incorporate one community partner (that isn’t a personal friend or relative) into a PBL/PrBL unit by March 1st
  • (For NTN educators) Give student’s feedback using audio/video with the “Feedback tool” in echo on three student submitted activities on my first project of the new semester.   
  • (For NTN educators) Earn the “New Tech Implementer” Badge by April 1, 2018.


Habit goals (which focus on maintaining a practice) could look like: 
  • Observe another colleague’s classroom for 10min, once a week, during a planning bell.
  • Take a daily 5 minute walk with my co-teacher at lunch
  • (For NTN educators) Complete one NTN Badging “accomplishment” per week


Then, as in true NTN fashion, you articulate your “why” behind each goal. Why is that goal important to you? What’s the motivator? Side Note: This actually had me thinking about how frequently (or infrequently) when have students articulate the motivators behind accomplishing their project goals as well. Examples to goals named above:
  • I’m tired of artificial or fabricated project scenarios. I want my students to engage in learning that supports a real dilemma in the community! I also want to challenge myself professionally to begin networking in the community.
  • It takes me FOREVER to give 150 individual students (written) feedback on each assignment so I usually give up. I don’t want to be a feedback-quitter and I want to give time-efficient feedback
  • We have a lot of unique teaching styles on our campus and I want to learn from our own staff. I want to know how to support a specific student that seems to respond well to Mr(s) ______.
  • I want/need to get to know my co-teacher outside of our classroom. I need a “pick-me-up” before entering 5th bell!!
  • I want to be able to participate in staff conversations about PBL/PrBL . I feel like I’ve done the same projects over and over and I’m ready to improve them! I want to earn my Professional Growth Points without scrambling to collect them at the last minute!


Next, identifying your starting points to the work. They don’t have to be super specific next steps (your students never come up with detailed ones during the project launch either)! BUT, name what will get you started on your journey. Examples:
  • Ask the other teachers if they know someone in the field of ______ (related to my project scenario) that I might connect with.
  • Watch this 5 min. video to learn now to give audio and video feedback in echo.
  • Enroll in the NTN Badging Course in Echo (i.e. the NTN Learning Management System).  Choose one “accomplishment” to complete this week..the “Project Design Level 1” looks like a good one! ;)
  • Decide what I want to see in a colleague’s classroom.  Ask a colleague if I can sit in for 10min to observe ____.
  • Ask my co-teacher if they’d be up for a walk & talk between lunch and 5th bell.


Finally, after naming what reward you’ll give yourself for achieving your goal and/or building your new habit, then get after it! What are the top 3 things you could do each day that will help you accomplish those goals? Write it down (or email it to me if you’d like an accountabilibuddy!) As per my husband, “commitment is what you do when no one is looking” which is following through is the hardest part….also why he chose this gift for me. We started last year with a goal to declutter our home, room-by-room. And as soon as his students went back to school and I started supporting all of you again (it might have been January 4th), we didn’t get beyond the kitchen. And by June, even that was a wreck!

So, I ask you…. What do you want to achieve professionally over the next 6 months (until early June)? What do you want to get better at over the next 6 months? And how might you/we make that happen?!   I’d also love to know how you support your students in setting their own learning (perhaps “habit”) goals this semester, and for sure…how do you support their ability to name and accomplish their project/problem goals?   Don’t be a hypocrite and ask them to do it without ever practicing goal-setting and attainment yourself! Let’s find a structure that works for you!


Peace, love, and lots to say after 2 weeks away!

Sarah

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Did somebody say....waffles!?

I had a really great question come my way last week regarding (1) collaboration, (2) accountability for learning in team work, and (3) purpose for students working together in a project. ‘Twas a nice li’l conversation which has clearly continued to sit with me throughout the weekend because it was triggered again during my breakfast hour today at Waffle House. Yep. Waffle House is now the inspiration for my weekly emails/ blog posts. Stay with me....

Jared (my hubby) and I sat down at the counter and watched three men call out orders and take responsibility for making whatever food was at the station they were assigned to. There seemed to be a guy in charge of grains- waffles/bread/hash browns, another on eggs, and a third on meat.


It. Was. Seamless! I ordered a sausage, egg, hash brown bowl (in case you care) which required all three cooks to work together towards a shared goal... satisfying my stomach! Each of them not only completed their job, but completed it to quality (as measured by the fact I overate and didn’t have to send anything back. #sorrynotsorry ) To be more objective in my assessment, I’ll ground their team performance in our NTN team collaboration checklist (this is the HS checklist):


I could easily check off every item from this list as observed from this one interaction, except their ability to "regularly revisit the norms to assess their effectiveness." This one time observation of their team work didn't allow me to see "regular" revisiting of their norms. When I breakfast was ready, the team said "order up" almost in unison, which to me is evidence of "passionate ownership" and I even had a chance to see how they engaged in conflict resolution together. (Keep reading.... )

Jared’s hash brown bowl was (reportedly) equally as delicious, but there was a problem in its delivery. The guy working on the meat station only made one sausage patty rather than the two they are supposed to have. The guy at the egg station said, "2 sausage per bowl, not just 1." The guy working grains hustled to the freezer/refrigerator, grabbed the sausage, gave it to the meat station guy and he put it on the griddle. There was clearly an understanding of when to step in to meet goals if needed...i.e., a plan for conflict resolution. The result? They delivered my bowl and waited an extra minute or so for the sausage to finish cooking before they could deliver the completed product to the table.

You see, the behaviors and interactions... the collaboration... of the team still produced a quality product. Even his individual behaviors which allow him to collaborate with the team were in check. To be more objective in my assessment of that individual cook, I’ll ground his performance in our NTN individual collaboration rubric (this is the HS rubric).


As an individual contributor to this collaborative experience, he was able to build on the thinking/work of others, equally participate in the completion of the task, and follow the processes the group had in place with respect to others. As his teammates informed him of the correction to make, he used his role in accordance with group norms to perform quality work that contributed to group success.  

So, in both places (individually and as a team), collaborative skills seem to check out! But Jared's bowl was made incorrectly when it almost came off of the line. Which outcome was lacking in proficiency then!? When really paying attention to the challenge (using only 1 sausage patty vs 2) it was a misunderstanding of knowledge and/or application of knowledge (i.e. Knowledge and Thinking). Also note, it would be worth celebrating this employee's agency in the domain of "seeking feedback".

There ARE some moments when our student teams can’t produce the finished product on time due to either the collaborative behaviors OR knowledge acquired of individual students, but allowing space for each individual to grow AND demonstrate where his/her knowledge and  thinking is applied allows him/her to have opportunities for refinement (just as this cook did). The way students (inter)act collaboratively as individuals certainly serves as a foundation for their application of content. This is why consistently using the NTN rubrics is of such great value also. Using the rubrics regularly allows both you, the educator, and the student to familiarize yourselves with the language of the various rubrics to ensure your teaching & assessment practices are aimed at the actual growth area, and not the perceived one (which here, could have easily been seen as collaboration because one team member slowed the product from being completed, but not because of their collaborative skills. Rather, knowledge and/or thinking delayed the product creation process).  


Peace, love, and I blame the pictures for making this so long,
Sarah

Sunday, October 15, 2017

I see your lips moving...

…but all I hear is “blah blah blah”.  Yep. That’s exactly what goes through my head every time my husband and I meet with our financial planner, Jason. While we’ve been working with him for 4 years now, and I know my financial literacy has improved, I still found myself sitting in our meeting with him last week thinking, “Focus, Sarah! He’s saying important things!” But after two hours of talking about financial goals and investments, my brain wasn’t processing any more information.  All I heard were words like, “credit quality, return rate, value investing, etc.” THOSE ARE IMPORTANT WORDS! And I know they apply to our current financial state and obviously our financial future, but I didn’t care enough to know more about those words at that moment in time. And then it happened. Jason made a statement that brought me back to focus and instantly created a space where I realized WHY I needed to know more about those words. He said, “One of your goals is to save enough for Jared to get a new truck. Your savings account isn’t making enough interest to help us build up the truck fund. We can use investments to make up for that, but obviously stocks aren’t always reliable for that purpose. Let’s turn to bonds!” We proceeded to explore two different bond options and evaluated which option would help us best meet our goal by applying our learning about the words that didn’t mean anything to me just moments ago.

You see, the turning point was when Jason used the content vocabulary in context. He focused our learning by:
1.     Referencing the problem we are trying to solve/the goal we are trying to accomplish
2.     Checking in on what we already knew in relation to the new learning ahead (you know..what those words meant and how we might apply them)
3.     Engaged us in a conversation/exploration specifically related to ONE question (“How can bonds work for us?”)
4.     Allowed us to apply our learning in a way we saw best fit to solve our problem/accomplish our goal

A common phrase I hear from PBL/PrBL educators is, “I do Know/Need to Know (K/NTK) lists” often followed by scaffolding activities (mostly conversation or lecture style workshops) which have little or no direct or stated connection to what students needed to know! The result? Students hearing “blah blah blah words words words.” Words that are important…and I’m sure they know they are important to their current and academic futures, but they don’t care enough to know more about those words at that moment in time. (SOUND FAMILIAR!?!? If not, go re-read the first paragraph.)

It’s time to break the cycle, my friends….you know, the one where you know information is important, and you’re working your tail off to make sure your students understand, but they just stare at you…waiting…longing for you to help them make the connection to the problem they’re trying to solve, which leaves you frustrated that you’re working harder than they are.  That said, I offer you this Jason-inspired framework for using your student-created need-to-knows to drive instruction (at least until they begin to understand how to make connections on their own).

·      Step 1: Before starting class, identify which targeted content standard or skill (of Oral Comm, Written Comm, Collaboration, or agency) you will be teaching. Then, comb through the list of NTKs your students created early in the project (and hopefully have updated/revised since the project launch) and identify ONE question that students asked which will help them connect this new learning to the project context. 
·      Step 2: During class, when it’s time to begin the scaffolding activity with students, first re-state the problem they’re trying to solve. This could be as simple as revisiting the problem statement using a sentence starter such as:
o   “We know that we are trying to….. “
·      Step 3: Identify what they already know/have discovered that has led to today’s learning adventure. It might sound something like this:
o   “So far, we have learned about ____, ____, and _____ which helped us respond to these need-to-knows:    this is where you point to or reference the need-to-knows they’ve unpacked already.   Or you might say…
o   “We’ve already investigated _______ and ______ which have helped us begin to solve that problem.”
·      Step 4: Name the student-created need-to-know that students will be exploring a response to through your scaffolding activity (…you know…the NTK that you identified in “Step 1” before class started!!) Write it on the board as a visual for them to see and connect with. It might sound like:
o   You also asked, ‘  read the NTK to them here…in their words so they have ownership. Because it’s about them…it’s not about you! Let’s explore this question today.”
·      Step 5:  Always, ALWAYS end the scaffolding activity (the learning experience) by re-asking the NTK you started with! If you’re really using their NTKs to drive instruction, students should be able to answer their own question (which you’ve pre-selected to align with your instruction that day) at the end of the learning experience. Then take it one step further and create the space for them to think about how they might apply this learning to solve their problem/meet their goal.  Here’s what that could sound like at the end of the learning experience:
o   “You originally asked, ‘ re-read their NTK that you started with in Step 1 and 4’. How would you answer that now after learning this new information? (Give them time to share out loud, or do a think-pair-share, or have them journal their thoughts, etc.) What new questions does this raise for you? (Add these to the NTK list to give you MORE teachable moments to support their learning and problem solving.) How does this help you get closer to solving the problem/ accomplishing the goal?” (restate the goal from Step 2 if needed)

I’m sure for some of you, you’re thinking, “Great idea, Sarah….but NOT A SINGLE NEED-TO-KNOW that my students stated connects to what I want to teach them!” If you’re in that boat, we need to talk about how you’re designing the Entry Event and facilitating the Know/Need to know list. SO…if that’s you, let me know so I can either reach out to you directly or write about that next week. ;)

Peace, love, and learning with a purpose,
Sarah

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Stop! Collaborate & Listen

As many of you know, my little Owen is almost 23 months old now (side note: I can't wait until I can stop counting months...) and Domino, my lab, will be 11 in November. As nervous as I was to see how the two of them would get along, knowing Domino had me all to herself for 9 years, I must say...they get along SO WELL together!!!! Or.... at least that's what I tell myself. You see, it's moments like this one that make my heart smile to watch the two of them coexist:


And while I love re-watching this moment, the educator in me also reflects on the behaviors Owen is learning and showing both at home during playtime with Domino, at the library during story time with other toddlers, and even interacting with his cousins at Grandma's house! You see, at New Tech Network (NTN), we believe that collaboration involves behaviors under the control of individual group members including effort they put into group tasks, their manner of interacting with others in a group, and the quantity and quality of contributions they make to group discussions. (You can take a look at the individual behaviors we feel lead to successful collaboration here, on our NTN Website. Because of Owen's age, let's glance at the Elementary - 2nd grade, Individual Collaboration Rubric, shall we?!)


While Owen never hesitates to share his ideas/ramblings with others, and often shows interests in what others working/playing around him are doing by offering help (whether they need it or not), he CLEARLY struggles to follow group norms and processes. (Re-play that video if you don't believe me!!!) At his age, it's my role as his parent/his teacher to offer supports as he learns to navigate in situations with others (hopefully so that tears aren't shed every. single. time!!!!) I know that he will learn to understand his role in group situations once these other behaviors are learned and refined, so for the time being, I'll choose to focus my energy with him on "Supporting Equal Participation" and "Using Group Norms".

What about the students in your class? Don't be fooled by their ability to play nice in the sandbox!!! I need you to look closely and see if they're showing behaviors which allow them to not just sit in the sandbox together, but actually build a sandcastle as a team!!! How are you supporting each INDIVIDUAL student in their learned behaviors to support collaboration? Which TEAM dynamics could be strengthened to give students a strong foundation when their progress is stuck, or to reflect on successes and challenges?!

If we aren't supporting the individual and team behaviors to become effective collaborators, it's likely that one student will run the show and that others will allow that to happen. Why? Because they don't know what any other "normal behavior" looks like....

Peace, love, and Ice Ice Baby,
Sarah

Monday, September 4, 2017

Prep for the Occassion....

There are plenty of things I remember from my general education courses at Ball State University, and plenty of information that has been filtered out of memory at this point in my life. I do remember, however, my Theatre History professor preparing us for our assignment one day (which was to go to an Off-Broadway show on campus) and he concluded the lecture with, "Dress Up. Go to Dinner...not at a place with a dollar menu. Spend time fixing your hair for the show. Why? Because you can always walk in and sit down at a show to see the show. But, taking the time to prepare for the show and making an evening out of it ...THAT'S what makes it a memorable experience."

At the time, I'm sure I questioned this professor's logic to a degree, but I would take any opportunity to get off campus for dinner as I could, SO my friends and I dressed up, had a nice dinner, saw the show and had everyone over afterwards for some quality time around the firepit. I remember that evening like it was yesterday (I wore a black dress, we had dinner at Johnny Carino's Italian restaurant, saw Cabaret, had s'mores and adult beverages while trying to figure out what we just witnessed on stage). I've seen plenty other shows on stage, movies in theatres and been on dates that were more planned/put together than others, and the events that resonate so vividly in my memory are those which came with just a little extra effort. So maybe there really was something to my professor's theory!!!

Think about the students in your class. You want them to prepare for presentation day, yes? Well, how are you supporting them in making this is a special occasion, and not just another "stand up and share something in front of the class" experience that they are part of every day? How about trying some of these...

  • Rearrange your classroom to create a different look/feel for presentation day
  • Find another place in the school (or even a place off site perhaps) to allow students to present in a different location than the classroom they learn and collaborate in each day 
  • Arrange for students to share their knowledge with an outside audience member (physically bring them in, or go to them, or communicate electronically) during their presentation that would care about how they've applied their knowledge (I know YOU care about how they apply their learning, and the other students do too, but wait until you see the difference by bringing in an outside expert too. The way students operate with a level of urgency that rivals every other day is simply beautiful.)
  • Message that the presentation day is a chance to go beyond showcasing their learning but an opportunity to inspire others with the way(s) they've applied their knowledge and thinking..... MAKE IT WORTH DRESSING UP FOR!!! 
Think about yourself in your next upcoming staff meeting or staff PD. You walk in that room every time hoping it's not a waste of your time, right? Well... are you treating this as a special occasion in your daily work routine or waiting for the "actors on stage" to do all the memory making for you? How about trying these....
  • Take 5min before walking into the meeting to "turn off" the noise of the day or week leading up to that point. Use that 5 min to name ONE thing that you hope to get out of the experience. (And consider stating that to the facilitator too!)
  • Keep a special notebook or Google Folder dedicated just to your learning from staff meetings and PD conversations... use it as a running log of the knowledge you're exposed to & thoughts it leaves you wrestling with
  • Sit next to someone different than you usually sit with. (We don't want this to feel like your lunch time...we're going for a special environment here!) Choose to sit by folks who you don't always agree with as a way to push your thinking (and make note of how it's being challenged in your notebook)
  • For those of you facilitating the meetings and PD sessions: Design the time so that this is a chance to go beyond sharing information you probably could've sent in an email! Create a space for new learning, challenged thinking and conversation among those in attendance... MAKE IT WORTH DRESSING UP FOR!!! 
You get the idea....put in a little extra effort. I promise it will make more of a lasting impact than going with the regular flow. 


Peace, love, and fancy pants,

Sarah