Sunday, December 18, 2016


... That's the number of ornaments I put on my Christmas tree before my li'l guy started hanging his toys on the lower branches like they were ornaments. He first tried laying the ring-like pieces onto branches of the tree and laughed as they fell through onto the floor. After 10-15min of those failed attempts, he was able to the branch through the center of the ring. And, just like Mom, once he knew it wasn't falling through, he grabbed another toy and hung it on the tree too.

If a one year old can mimic movements so fluidly, don't you think your eleven, thirteen, or seventeen year old kids (students) can too? Frequently, when I ask teachers, principals and instructional coaches how they're going to facilitate _____ skill, they respond with, "I'm going to model it." While I know that what you're implying with that statement is, "I'm going to intentionally demonstrate a new concept to approach to learning and students will learn by observing," but I need you to know that your students see you "hanging Christmas ornaments" too!

I think about the key learning outcomes we intentionally address across NTN (Agency, Collaboration, Written Communication, Oral Communication, and Knowledge & Thinking) and wonder what students are actually seeing and hearing in the skill development of these outcomes on a daily basis. For example, if we really ARE trying to teach out students that collaboration is about being a productive member of a diverse team through strong interpersonal communication, commitment to shared success, leadership & initiative, then shouldn't they see us wrestle with a dilemma with our colleagues? Shouldn't you be attending feedback sessions which support one another's growth as educators...and shouldn't students know that you all take the time to give and receive feedback to one another!?!? So many of you do such great things already that are MODELS of the outcomes you're trying to reach with your students, but when asked how you're going to support students in developing these skills, it's very rare that "make my own learning visible to students" is part of that response.

Had I waited until Owen was in bed to hang the ornaments on the tree this year, then yes, I assume I'd be teaching him how to put a ring on a branch in the next few years. Instead of that intentional demonstration, however,  I just did my thing and made it visible to him and IT STUCK! I didn't even know he was watching, but suddenly...there they were! Toys hanging on my tree and now I kind of don't want to take them down. 

As you look at the definitions of the NTN Learning Outcomes and/or the specific indicators on the rubrics, what will you do in your own work as an educator that will make your learning and your practices visible to your students? When you reflect on your actions and interactions with adults and students this semester, what were you REALLY modeling for your students? ...was it the skills and best practices you were hoping to model!? If not...what will you do differently next semester?

Peace, love, & "be the change you want to see in the world,"

Sunday, December 11, 2016


And then it happened.... 

As of Friday afternoon, I've officially been parenting for one year. WHAAAAT!? Yes, I'm still trying to let that sink in. My own birthdays have always been natural times for reflection, but I found myself reflecting even more on Owen's birthday than I typically do on my own. 

One of my colleagues, Jim May, introduced me to his own family birthday tradition of asking two simple questions. (1) What's the most memorable part of the past year? (2) What are you looking forward to in the year ahead? (i.e. What do you want to be saying is the most memorable part at this time next year?)   That's it... nothing over the top, just a simple reflection for celebration and forward thinking. 

This also led me to think about the reflections that are often led at the conclusion of a project with your students. (YES, you should be reflecting with your students THROUGHOUT the project.... every benchmark is a good check-point, quite honestly!) But for the moment, I'm just going to speak to questions you might consider asking yourself, your team teacher, and/or your students to reflect on with you post-project implementation.
  • Where was I this time last project? Forecasting is both the most & least important part of planning. To get an accurate picture of where you are, you need to check where you were at the same time last project. Are you still on the right path? If not, what threw you off course, and what can you do to get back up and moving in the right direction?
  • Am I the learner and/or project designer I want to be? When you and/or your students started your PBL journey, you had dreams of the creative designer and problem solver you wanted to be. Are you that person? You may not be at your vision of "perfect", but are you the type of person you wished for?
  • Have I lost/gained knowledge since last project? What does your skill set for PBL design and implementation look like compared to last project? How have your students grown across the learning outcomes? Are you/they the same or worse? There's no better time than now to strengthen your resolve to take on a new learning challenge.
  • Did I accomplish my goals for this project? It's not just for the new project; everyone makes goals and resolutions throughout the project. Did you accomplish your goals for the last project? What did you wish for when you launched this project with your students? What did you do to make it happen?
  • Do I need to change any routines? At certain points in your educational career, you become susceptible to stagnancy depending on the support of your department, grade level team, leadership position, etc. If you need to push beyond a current routine to freshen up your current state in education, now's the time!
  • What do I have to be grateful for?  You have survived the longevity of this project, your students and colleagues are still talking to you, and you're still employed. If you're breathing and walking into your classroom post-project, you have something to be grateful for. Show your gratitude to the world!
  • What good can I do next project? Now that you have a firm grasp on what type of designer/problem solver you've been, it's time to decide who you're going to be. You may want to strive to up the authenticity in your next project, or refine your assessment practices. Time isn't stopping, so why not (re)visit the NTN project quality checklist, choose a focus area and get after it!
Even if you just use these questions for you, don't forget that it's a great time for a "birthday" reflection for your students too. You might check out BIE's "Self-reflection on Project Work" to get you started. 

Peace, love, and cake smashing celebrations!