Give it a chance

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We’re in an edtech world that’s inundated with services, tools, and ideas. I quit trying to keep up with it all a long time ago. I can’t be in “the know” about everything that’s out there nor do I want to try to. Luckily I am connected to loads of brilliant people willing to share and give their opinion about what works and what doesn’t.

As we start this school year and begin to learn about this new tool or that new tool; this new feature or that new feature in something we already use, teachers need time to give these things a chance. I don’t mean you have to be using 6 different things at once. That’s not helpful to you or to your students. Let’s let folks try things out, fail or succeed, and form their own opinion(s). Isn’t this the same kind of exploratory learners we want our students to become?

I understand everyone is not always going to agree about what works best for students. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, lately, I’ve noticed folks get pretty charged up when someone is excited about something and they happen to not share the same opinion. Again, that’s fine, but don’t squash others’ excitement and let them give it a chance. We wouldn’t do that to our students. What works for one person might not for another, and that is ok.

10 Things to Make This Year More Than

School has either just started or is getting ready to. What goals have you set for yourself this year? What do you want to “make this year more than” for 2015-2016? I thought of a few that came to mind.

  1. Make this year more than ‘just being a teacher’. Don’t forget to be a learner too.
  2. Make this year more than being seen as ‘just a teacher’ to your students. Relationships matter.
  3. Make this year more than retweets, favorites, likes, followers, etc. That’s not what being a connected educator is about.
  4. Make this year more than a test for your students. Create learning with meaning in your classroom.
  5. Make this year more than using tech just to use tech. Get students creating more than they’re consuming.
  6. Make this year more than just one way for students to show their learning. Give students choices that are engaging. Technology offers some seriously cool opportunities for this.
  7. Make this year more than using social media to post homework.  Show students what it’s like to connect with and learn from brilliant minds all over the world.
  8. Make this year more than just talking about going to an edcamp. Commit to go and change how you view professional development forever.
  9. Make this year more than the 4 walls of your classroom. Have students become publishers for a larger audience than the teacher and their classmates.
  10. Make this year more than one content area. Mix it in with the arts as much as possible.

What would you add? What do you want to make this year more than?

Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Everyone is in “get ready for another year” mode, or maybe you’ve already started the new school year. A new school year brings many new things: new students, new teachers, new beginnings, and quite often it brings many new challenges.

In my district, it’s our 1:1 initiative, which we call Connect2Learn, that will be our new challenge for the start of the 2015-16 school year. Actually, it’s a culmination of many challenges being triumphed over many years that got us to this point. Let me also clarify that my use of the word ‘challenge’ here does not imply something negative or insurmountable. Challenges are how we grow; and when we grow, our students are the ones who win. These are the best kind of challenges.

For some, challenges are seen as negative because they create professional discomfort. It’s something new, something different, and not the way we’ve “done school” in the past. When was the last time you were challenged professionally? We present our students with learning challenges all the time; yet as educators, we seem to be ok with not being challenged in our own learning. What has happened to the growth mindset? Bring back the “culture of the sponge” I say! Soak up all you can to help you be better for our students!

How do we get there you ask? I offer five ways that can help us become more comfortable with being uncomfortable:

1. Get connected. We need to be connected educators that are plugged in to the online opportunities we have to connect with and learn from others. There are loads of ways to do this: Twitter, Facebook groups, Google+ communities, blogs, and more. Pick one (or more if you’re feeling adventurous) and jump in. Your chances are really good that there’s someone else that can offer some “been there done that” advice.

2. Create and take opportunities. Leaders, are you keeping your teachers aware of online and face to face opportunities for growth? Teachers, are you taking these opportunities that are sent to you? Go to an edcamp, go to a conference, go to your local Google Educator Group meetup, or use social media to put together your own! If you think the online conversations and learning are good, you should try it face to face.

3. Maintain support. This one falls on districts. I of course will always first look through the technology lens because that’s my world, but it still rings true anywhere in education. If teachers go online to learn or through a face to face option we must be ready to support their efforts continually. That might mean new positions, additional positions, or simply making time for teachers to talk about and practice what they’ve learned. There has to be some kind of ongoing support system in place.

4. Empower each other.  If you’re doing any of the previous three, then this one should be happening naturally. Our leaders need to be empowering their folks to not just be better, but also empowering them by giving them opportunities to share what they’ve learned with their fellow teachers. This doesn’t have to be a formal presentation, it just needs to be a time for conversation. Let’s not have it be just hearing through the grapevine about what so-and-so is doing down the hall. If you see something outstanding happening in a classroom ask that teacher to share it!

5. Share. Sharing something awesome you’ve done with your peers (online of offline) can be a scary thing. You’re being completely transparent to your colleagues about what worked, what didn’t work, and what you plan to do next. Don’t let the idea of sharing with your colleagues get you freaked out. We’ve all been there, and remember that we need your genius! There’s so many ways you can share; just pick the one that works best for you.

We need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable from time to time. It’s not about being the best, but every day we should strive to be better than we were yesterday.