High Quality Connections

The title of this post comes from an article I read recently called We Learn More When We Learn Together.  From the first sentence I was hooked. “We rarely grow alone.” How true that is! Education parallels anyone? It also made me think back to an older post I wrote that eventually turned into a keynote that I give that stresses the importance of spreading our genius excitedly. But I digress.

I love the idea of creating high-quality connections. It’s not the formal conference or other



professional development event that makes the learning special. It’s the people we get to see, to be with, the people who “get us” that make the experience most rewarding. If you’ve been to a big education conference you might have noticed how organizations are giving more emphasis to this idea. Conferences more and more are adding networking lounges, bloggers’ cafes, etc. because of the high value in providing these spaces to cultivate high quality connections outside of the formal sessions.

We should also want the same for our students. It’s important for us to model what this looks like by crafting learning experiences involving high quality connections in our classrooms.

However, these connections have to be maintained and tended to like a garden. If we don’t properly tend to our garden everything dies and we don’t reap a crop. When I’m speaking to teachers or principals about the value of connected learning, I am always sure to remind them that they get out of it what they put into it. It doesn’t matter whether that’s online or in a face to face setting. As another busy conference season gears up for the rest of the Winter and coming Spring and Summer, make sure you see the value in making high quality connections. It may require some moving out of your comfort zone, but you’ll be glad you did it.

Mindfully Aware in 2016

When I started this post I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use the word “awareness” or “mindfulness”. Initially it was “awareness”. So I googled the definition of both:

awareness: 1. knowledge or perception of a situation or fact. 2. concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.

mindfulness: 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. 2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.



I was hoping it would help me make a clearer choice for the word that I wanted to define me in 2016. Now I’m learning towards a blend of both perhaps? I think I’m over thinking it. :)

Things that will be good to have a higher awareness of in 2016:

  1. Myself. The quality of what I’m putting into my body and what I’m putting my body through on a daily basis. This is going to be a huge one for me personally. I turn 40 this year and by the time that comes (December) I strive to have achieved a significant goal for how I take care of myself.
  2. My work. I feel like my creativity struggled towards the end of 2015. I want to have a higher awareness of what I’m doing that prohibits my creativity so that I knock it off. I am also looking forward to inserting myself in (or being invited to hopefully) more situations that allow me to be creative. Being creative is just plain fun, especially when I get to create things that will help others.
  3. The environment. We could look at this one a couple different ways. You probably first thought of our planet and doing things like recycling, going green, etc. This is all fine and good but for me I’m thinking of the actual environment I’m in at any given moment. This is another big one for me. For example, if I’m around a bunch of friends that I don’t get to see very often I want to make the most of the environment I’m in at that moment. This means putting the phone away, looking people in the eye, and having rich face to face conversation. This also means being aware of the time I’m giving (or perhaps not giving) to my kids. I guess that was all to say I need to be fully present in the moment no matter where that might be. This can take on a lot of forms.
  4. Wearing others’ shoes. No, I don’t mean literally, but I do mean making a more conscious effort to think about and/or understand what someone else might be needing or feeling whether that be related to work or home. I have always felt like I have had the gift of being able to get a good read on someone but I want to hone it even more. Feels kinda like I’m a Jedi in training when I think about this one.
  5. The little things. This one could go with any of the others above I suppose. I’ve always said it’s the little things in life that can sometimes have the biggest impact on someone. A quick note of encouragement, doing something for someone when they weren’t expecting it, or just being a listening ear. It could also be taking in an extra moment to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So now that I’ve written this maybe I should resolve to be more “mindfully aware” in 2016. :)

Happy New Year!


Everyone Takes Care of Everyone

I was at a restaurant recently, and while waiting for a table, I saw on the wall the company’s philosophy of how they strive to provide the best customer service possible. One of the points that stuck out to me was the idea of “everyone takes care of everyone”. I read on to find out that it is normal to have more than one person taking care of you during your meal because they believe a team effort will always provide the best experience possible. They were right, because the service was outstanding!

This led me to think about the culture of learning in our schools, particularly for our teachers in their professional growth. If we are going to promote the idea of always keeping a ‘learner first’ mindset; a growth mindset, then why are we not providing our teachers more time to learn from each other? We have brilliance right within our schools; those that have the knowledge and capacity to lead their colleagues because of the great things happening in their classrooms. We don’t tap into this enough. When I look at it through the lens of edtech and what true technology integration is, there is tremendous benefit for teachers to be able to spend time in other teachers’ classrooms.

We had one of our elementary schools try a new spin on this recently. They had what they called a “tech bubble day”. Teachers were charged with stepping out of their comfort zone, and trying something new with technology on this particular day. The school’s technology committee were all provided subs for the day so they could visit all of the other teachers’ classrooms throughout the day. However, they wanted it to be clear that this was not meant to be an evaluative visit to their classrooms, but to be a supportive one. The members of the technology committee (colleagues) were also there to provide any kind of support the classroom teacher needed to be successful. Teachers were given permission to take a risk (and potentially fail) and allowed to learn from each other during the school day.

Everyone takes care of everyone.

We need to see the value in and make the investment in this model of professional learning for our teachers. It’s not about finding the time to do it, it’s about making the time.