Sunday, July 24, 2016

30 sec. to impress

Ahhhh, the ole' elevator pitch. A quick ride from the 3rd floor to the Lobby to toss out one of your genius ideas and make it stick! The part most of us struggle with is that our ideas just aren't concise enough to fully articulate in that quick elevator ride, so we blabber and muddle our way through what we'd like to accomplish but just as the elevator door is opening, we realize we haven't actually even pitched our idea!!!! So why are you waiting on figuring out the message you want to send to others about your ideas and your work!

For educators, our "elevator pitch" is kind of a big deal. While you may not think you're pitching anything to anyone, I would challenge you to think about all the times you have and if it's really what defines you and your work. Anytime someone has ever asked you, "what do you do?" You've undoubtedly responded with an elevator pitch. Mine was always, "I teach math to MS and HS students."  Is it true? yes. Did it define me? Apparently. Am I happy about that? HECK NO!  "I teach math"!?! That's so lame! Ok, it's not lame, but compared to all of the things I REALLY did in my classroom, it was lame!

  • I inspired* creativity through practical applications of mathematical problem solving. 
  • I supported* students in using data to challenge other's perspectives. 
  • I made* math come alive to MS and HS students. 

    THOSE ARE GREAT ELEVATOR PITCHES! Any one of those gives a better perspective on what I hope students took away from my classroom beyond "doing math" and also opens up dialogue to how others (anyone who would listen, basically) might be able to connect to the math we're learning and join me in the adventure of engaging students in real world applications of data!

    So, friends... ask yourself this question, "10 years from now, what do you hope your students remember from your class?"  You might also consider:

    • What makes your learning environment unique?
    • What is the result of your teaching and learning with students?
    • How do you create results?

    (If your answer to the main question is "I want students to know how to graph a line given an equation in slope-intercept form", then... Great. "You teach math" might just do the trick for your elevator pitch. But if you hope students take away an experience. A learning adventure. An opportunity to engage in learning that is much greater than regurgitation of a specific standard in your area of expertise, then I'm begging you.... PLEASE... take 15 min. to craft your elevator pitch. Embed it in everything that you do (your projects, your open house nights, your bulletin boards and/or student displays of work in your room, etc.) Your curriculum, classroom, and culture should exude the message of your "elevator pitch."

    Peace, love, and "what floor?"

    *Note: The elevator pitches I should have been using are referred to in past tense as these are reflections on what I did for 6 years as a math teacher before I became a School Development Coach with New Tech Network.

    Sunday, July 17, 2016

    Success Depends on You

    Just like that, #NTAC16 came to a close for New Tech Network schools across the country and in Australia. The week itself always brings great reflection on my role as a coach and the ways in which I will thought partner with Teachers, Directors, Superintendents, Academic Specialists in various schools. While every educator at NTAC had a different motive for attending (designing a project, creating scaffolding of process/ skills/ content, generating a school culture project to start the year, refining a technology roll-out plan, etc.), there are always underlying questions by these innovators of "Should I design my work to quality or should I just try to get it done before school starts?" As I enter into my sixth year as a School Development Coach with New Tech Network, I have to say... I don't like my choices. One is impossible without the other. 

    As CrossFit's founder, aka "The WODfather", Greg Glassman, states:

    "Can you learn to drive fast without wrecking? Can you learn to type fast without making errors? Can you shoot quickly without missing? Eventually, but not in the learning. One is impossible without the other. 
    You will not learn to type fast without typing where you make a ton of errors and then work to reduce the errors at that speed. Then you go faster, and then again pull the errors back in, then go faster and pull the errors back in. You drive faster and faster and then you spin out in the infield or you hit the wall. 
    If you are a race car driver and you have never spun out, gone out in the infield or never been in a wreck, you are not very good. If you are a typist and you have never made a mistake, you are very slow. In CrossFit, if your technique is perfect, your intensity is always low."
    While we don't all participate in CrossFit, we do all strive to maintain a growth mindset. As Mr. Glassman refers to, if you're spending all of your time initially making sure every single aspect of your design work is "PERFECT," trying never to make a will always be a bit hesitant to "jump in"and implement or "launch" your design. The areas for improvement in your work are unavoidable consequences of development.

    So, what are you waiting for?! This constant process of letting the scope of errors (as they relate to NTN, PBL, or education's characteristics for "quality") broaden, then reducing them without holding back on the timing for implementation is exactly the "threshold coaching" that I get excited to support educators with!

    In PBL design, if you are able to develop an academically rigorous driving question (DQ) which necessitates application of learning in order to formulate a response, then I will tell you to hone in on the authenticity & adult connection of the question. Suppose with authenticity in place, the academic rigor and application of learning still look good: I will encourage you to go start designing & embedding the DQ into the Entry Event. And if it still looks good, I will encourage you to embed the same standards, skills, and authenticity into the rubric. "Faster, faster, faster!!!" Now the design may start to fall apart.

    I don't want you to slow down or give up on the design yet. First, with that same mindset, I want you to fix the elements that weren't quite designed to "quality." What you need to do is continuously and constantly advance the margins at which your design ability falters. (If that's starting with just a rubric to assess "Knowledge & Thinking", great! Then we'll take a look at how "Written Communication" and/or "Agency" come into play!)

    As NTN School Development Coaches, we will incessantly talk about "quality" design and implementation of whatever your work may be, but simultaneously, we want you to take risks... push forward... implement your work at the threshold which you're currently operating. Above all things, we always want you asking, "HOW CAN I IMPROVE!?" and "WHAT'S NEXT FOR ME AND MY DEVELOPMENT?!"  If you only take your new learnings or the inspirations you had at NTAC and design ONLY to that capacity, you will never feel safe in trying to implement. My job is to help think your way through to that next threshold. Your job is to be openminded enough to realize there's another threshold out there with your name on it.

    Peace, love, and "no reps,"