Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hey, Martha Stewart!

Ahhh…the end of an extra long weekend. Hopefully you were all able to enjoy some time with family, friends, and/or 10,000 of your closest shopping rivals this passed week(end)! If you WERE one of the brave souls that headed out to the stores on Black Friday…MORE POWER TO YA!!! While people watching is MOST enjoyable on days like Black Friday, I envy anyone who has a gameplan in mind and is headstrong enough to make that day a productive one (especially before 10am)! I have to tell you, though… one of the reasons I secretly enjoy the "spirit" of Black Friday is that it pushes some people to their creative limits. For some,  it's creating a game plan for which stores to get to and by what time and identifying the aisles they'll attack as soon as they walk in the doors! For others, it's thinking deeply about the interests of their family and friends  and trying to identify the PERFECT purchase to match those interests. And still for others, it's creating a strategy for maintaining the element of surprise in reveling the purchases they made to their loved ones. WHO KNEW SO MUCH THINKING COULD GO INTO ONE CRAZY DAY!!! 

It wouldn't surprise me to find out that each and every one of you mastered whatever creative thinking went into your weekend plans. Why?! Because you're married to your craft… the craft of creative thinking. The craft of problem solving. The craft of being inventive! If you weren't, you wouldn't be in the educational profession that you are currently in (at least that's what my heart believes). Some educators are married to the craft they make (their lesson plans, their quizzes/tests, their discipline policies, their project calendars, etc.), and they are so committed to those particular items, that they aren't able to think beyond those products. But YOU…. You're not that kind of educator. You're listening to student questions and responding in a way that meets their needs. You're using data (maybe responses from journal prompts or from a recent homework assignment or a survey you gave out as an exit ticket) to inform your next move, EVEN though that might mean "shopping in aisle 8 first because aisle 2 was blocked by two folks reaching for the last item on the shelf." You're constantly assessing what you could do next to keep the excitement for learning alive and all the while, finding comfort in knowing you have a foundational plan in place to keep you directed. Yes, my friend…. YOU are married to the craft of the PROCESS of educating and not the crafts you MAKE. And GEEZ do I love you for that. 

As you gear up for the week ahead, I'd encourage you to think of what your foundational game plan is for the week. (By the time you "leave the store," what do you want to have accomplished?) And then… GET CRAFTY!!! Where will you be okay to shift direction based on student inquiry, voice, and choice and which pieces do you need to adhere to in that plan? (And you better check yourself… WHY do you need to adhere to that plan? Is it for the benefit of student learning or simply to make your life easier?! Because as much as I love you… It's not always about you! Yes, even Cyber Monday shoppers have crafted a plan for achieving their goals, knowing they may end up on 7 different websites before finding "the perfect deal.") Remember, teachers need to be married to their craft, not the craft they made. 

Peace, love, and craft rooms vs classrooms,


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Drop it like it's taught

If you've been on Facebook in the last week, you've probably seen this image floating around:
I have to say… the first time I saw one of my friends share this in their post, I smiled…this is EXACTLY what we talk about at NTN and even describe those outcomes we teach for in the School Success Rubric (SSR)! The second time I saw it posted was from a friend who is a teacher… a non-NT teacher… and I'm pretty sure I smiled & yelled " 'BOUT TIME!" I felt like, "Finally! Education is getting a small bit of credit for what so many dedicated folks show up for each and every day!" But it did beg the question of "So how are my schools doing with that goal of "teaching for the outcome?" The learning, cultural and college & career outcomes we strive for in our students each and every day?!"

Well, don't just sit there… OPEN THAT SCHOOL SUCCESS RUBRIC! If this is the first time you're looking at NTN's SSR, you'll notice that it's full of indicators we want our students to experience and learn while at school. Alright, here's what I want you to do… Put a (mental) checkmark, sticky dot, or color in the cell associated with each domain (I.e. The title of each row) to indicate which level of success (I.e. Each column) BEST articulates how your students are currently performing. Something like this:
Now I want you to carefully read the bullet point items in the cell to the right of where you put each and every check mark/dot/color. … Take your time… I'll wait…

So now you've identified what level your students are currently performing at AND what the next level of growth would be that they demonstrate. BUT HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET THEM THERE!? What will you do to support them in achieving that growth point from now until the end of the semester? After all…WE TEACH FOR THE OUTCOME, RIGHT!? Right! (Yes, I did just throw my fist up in the air all 'power punch' style! You're welcome!)  Seriously though… what are you going to strategically do to support student growth in these learning, cultural, & college and career outcomes?! Okay wait… That feels like a whole lot all at once, doesn't it!? How 'bout this. I want you to choose ONE domain for each of those three outcomes… just one… and determine a SPECIFIC strategy or routine you will put in place to see growth in those THREE items you picked. FINE… I'LL HELP YOU OUT! Check out this document of SSR Recommended Practices and see if there are any strategies here that jump start your thinking in the ONE AREA PER OUTCOME that you just chose! Maybe you want to chat with your Director about this?! Perhaps you need to chat with your team teacher about this?! You probably want to see what others in your school are thinking of (so you can combine forces where necessary too)! Whatever strategy you select, just PROMISE to give that strategy a try until you have EVIDENCE that it is or isn't working. After all…. Achieving success isn't always pretty!

Peace, love, and a picture's worth a 1,000 words… (so you just read 3,000 words REALLY quickly)!!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ignite Curiosity

When is the last time you did something for the first time? Why did you initially engage in doing that thing?! What motivated you to persist in trying it on for size… getting to a new level of "accomplishment" in doing that thing? How did you know when you were at a "good place" in figuring out how to do it… or possibly… when did you decide you'd had enough?

As many of you have engaged in conversations over the last month about daily student inquiry and really using student voices and THEIR need to knows (NTKs) to drive research and project development, I couldn't help but think of these questions. We ask our students to engage in NEW learning all of the time. To do something for the first time. So I have to wonder… how do you support them in maintaining the excitement they started with when that process first began? For seeking out their own adventures in learning while guiding them (vs. telling them everything YOU think they need to know) along the way?

If you ask students what they KNOW and NEED TO KNOW about a project/problem as soon as they are introduced to that problem solving adventure, and then check it off your mental list of "doing PBL"… Never to be revisited throughout the project/problem again… You've missed the point! The reason we ask questions (either to ourselves, Google, or other people) when tackling a new learning experience for the first time is to build that sense of empowerment for taking on a new challenge! We don't want to start engaging in questioning as a learning experience only to have someone step in to tell us EXACTLY what pathway THEY think we need to follow. So how do you balance those worlds for your students?! The world of allowing their voices/ need to knows to drive DAILY learning while still serving as a guide through the process? Here are a few strategies I've seen on visits and in being used in some of your echo courses that seem to fit the bill:
  • Help students map their NTKs to the creation of Next Steps – for every NTK students offer up, ask them specifically what next step they anticipate taking to find the answer to that question.
    • I saw a teacher who charted it like this:
What do I Know from the Entry Event?
What I do Need to Know to begin finding a solution?
What Next Step will I take to figure out what I need to know?
(Ask for workshop? Class Discussion? Outside Expert? Investigation using textbooks? Online research using THIS particular search _______. Etc.)
  • Disguise your NTKs  - that's right… mix it up! Don't call them "Need to knows"! When you pick up a guitar for the first time, you probably don't say, "I need to know ___ and I need to know_ and I need to know____…." NO! You probably think, "I've got to figure out where to place my fingers to really rock out this rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And what do I do with this pick? Why do the strings make different noises? …" and then you figure out which questions can be answered through You Tube, or calling the local music store, or taking some classes….  BUT NOT ONCE did you call them "need to knows." Instead, you thought of general topics to be addressed and naturally started to figure out which you could do on your own, what things you'd need help with, and general logistics that needed to be sorted out. CLEARLY that all sparked interest for you of what ELSE you could after you mastered your new jam! I LOVE this document that Disguises NTKs and was used with students to help them sort through THAT EXACT METHOD OF THINKING and finding a way for them to use their own NTKs to guide daily class activities/research/problem solving!
  • Identify Action Steps – that's right… It's a chicken and egg scenario. Some of us are actually better problem solvers by figuring out the questions we need answers to THEN identifying next steps. Others jump straight into problem solving mode, but sometimes need to be reeled back in to make sure the actions/next steps we're taking are for a purpose aligned to the general goal/problem we're trying to solve. This particular resource seems to be a great way for doing just that, while still supporting students in that thought process as well (so their thinking is guided by your careful planning/scaffolding and they aren't just creating "pretty products" but are on the path to meaningful problem solving and product development to showcase their new learning)
Action Step
This will help me know or learn…
Which will help me complete which part of the project?
(Who is doing this?)
This will be done by….
Read the section in the textbook about introductions
…how to introduce myself in Spanish
Being able to tell Maria’s family my name
in Spanish
July 23

Note:   The “Action Step” is effectively a “next step”. “This will help me know or learn…” roughly translates to the Need to Know.   “Which will help me complete which part of the project?”  identifies the  task trying to be done, which is like something that the student KNOWS about the task.

I know this time of year, everything starts to feel like a "time crunch" but PLEASE… Don't fall victim to crushing your students first learning experiences by prescribing everything they need to know or how they need to figure it out. Instead, support them in finding solutions by scaffolding the thought process and work organization for them. Maintain control of your calendar and project deadlines in THAT way… not by being the keeper of all learning opportunities when they enter your class each day.

Peace, love, and GUIDE ON THE SIDE,