Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Future of Teaching

During the last two mornings, Cathy Gongwer and I sat in a classroom with the future of teaching. Thirty plus eager minds ready to dive into the world of education.  We are excited to partner with them and construct an experience that prepares them for their future. Our Academy EDU class is oriented in a way that we hope to fuel their passion to teach. The students were attentive, engaged, curious, and most importantly, eager.  They choose to be in this class.  They choose to give up two of their class periods a day to learn about education. Let's face it, teachers get a bad wrap. We live in a time when Presidential candidates are bashing teachers for votes. When all we hear on the news is the bad that takes place in our schools. In our classroom lies the hope and future of teaching. Individuals that will no doubt make an impact on the lives of their future students. They will change the perception of teaching and create lasting relationships with all stakeholders. Our motto in Academy EDU:

Empowering, embracing, and inspiring students to 
become future educators by using innovative
learning styles. We are Academy EDU!

The time for change is now! The promise we see in each of these students is inspiring and motivating. Brent Wise, Master Chief of the ILC, challenged the staff to make a SPLASH this year. We focused on the following areas during our staff development day: Breakthrough, Student, Big, Personal, Program, and Partnership. We then narrowed these down to what we felt most important. It truly was one of the most impactful PD sessions I have been a part of in my 14 years of teaching. As a staff and building, big things are sure to come! We are sharing this and Jon Gordon's One Word idea with our students and challenging them to make a SPLASH in their lives this year.  

In the last two days here is what we have discovered and we think these are lessons/ ideas for every educator:


  1. It all starts with relationships. Remember.... "Students don't care how much you know until the know how much you care!" (Unknown)We shared the Rita Pierson video to stress this point. 
  2. Never start out with the syllabus and rules speech on day one. Immediately draw students in with an engaging activity. Make them get creative and collaborate with others. No need for- long introductions just yet. They already know your name because it's printed on their schedule. We started with how to tie a tie. This activity allows you to see who the leaders are in the class. It also stresses the fact that modeling and demonstrating are better than simply "telling". 
  3. We then conducted the Marshmallow Challenge.If you haven't seen this it's a great activity to build up teamwork, stress the importance of prototyping, trial and error, and most importantly failure. In Academy EDU, we believe in Fail First....Fail Fast....Fail Daily. Failure is part of the process and not the end result.
  4. The blank syllabus activity! We start with a blank piece of paper and hand it out to all the students. Informing them that everything they need to know for this course is on the paper.
    A few blank stares and looks of confusion follow. Then give a series of instructions and tell them they are not allowed to ask any questions. Fold the paper in half, fold it in half again, turn it to the left and tear the corner off, turn it right one time and tear the bottom corner off, place a rip in the middle of it, fold tin half again and tear a piece out of the middle. In the end, we all open up our syllabus to discover that no one syllabus looks alike even though they all heard the same instructions. We stress that each one of them will get out of this course what they put in. Since they are all individuals it's ok if they all have different experiences. That's what it means to individualize and personalize their education. No carbon copy experiences. How boring!
As current educators, it's up to us to inspire the next generation. We are losing great teachers at an alarming rate and schools are having difficulties filling positions. Inspire one another to take chances and leave an impact on the lives of your students. So, what are you going to do to make tomorrow a better experience for your students? How do you plan on showing them you care? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Your comments could inspire others.



Monday, August 17, 2015

Experience Matters

From the first day of committing yourself to be a teacher you learn about lesson plans and we tend to develop a negative association with them. Dare I say, that most of us have probably not done something because it wasn't in the lesson plan. So, it's time to shift your mind set on what a lesson plan actually is. Before you write your next one think of this, what experience do I want my students to have? It's that simple. Every teacher should be focused on the experience. The activities that kids can't get out of their heads for years to come. I remember my high school Biology teacher and all of his crazy activities with Scat or the time he arranged a hiking trip and took us to the edge of a cliff....literally. Those are the lessons in which we learn the most. Students learn best from engaging experiences. Not pointless worksheets or activities where they are stuck in their seats. It's really simple to plan this way. In one of my summer courses I read this, "Design backwards. Deliver forward." Decide what's really important to learn in your class. Yes, the state will give you a book of standards you must teach. It's our job as educators to turn them into experiences or take the experience and relate it to the standards.

Take this picture of my daughter Ava. Looks like a picture of a typical ten year old sitting on the computer. If you look close enough you will see that she is wearing a white lab coat. She has a high tech piece of equipment out on the table, a map. She is using google as she conducts her research. Now, this is not part of one of her classes. This is happening in the middle of the summer. We just returned from a family trip to Lake Erie where we visited the Marblehead Lighthouse. Ava spent a few hours experiencing history. She heard the waves crashing onto the rocks and felt the water rush over her feet. She watched as boats went by and looked up at the lighthouse with a curious mind. As we visited the museum, in the former keepers house, she discovered the history of shipwrecks in Lake Erie. She was hooked! A ten year old didn't ask to buy candy or souvenir cups. She wanted to buy a map of all the shipwrecks that have occurred on the Lake. For the rest of our vacation she studied the map and asked me questions that I had no answers for. When we returned home she unpacked and immediately made her way to the computer. She put on her Private Investigator outfit and got to work. I was later informed that she wanted to solve the mystery of the two missing ships that she had discovered. She spent hours researching and discovering the history of as many ships as she could. She wants to go to the library to find more resources. None of this was for a grade. She wasn't completing any worksheets or trying to meet a deadline. She took an experience that fired up all her senses and actively engaged her curiosity. 

This is how we should be teaching. Students learn from the experiences we create and from reflecting on what they experienced. 

“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” 

― John Dewey

Better yet, involve them in the creating and planning process. According to Professor Jerome Bump, at UT Austin, there are ten reasons why experiential learning is more meaningful:

  1. While you are participating, you are paying more attention.
  2. It can be dynamic, engaging, and fun. 
  3. It allows students to practice roles unfamiliar to them and fully immerse themselves in experiences that generate authentic knowledge.
  4. It activates both sides of your brain:  the heart as well as the head, emotion as well as reason, nonverbal as well as verbal knowing, the visual as well as the verbal, intuition as well as logic, holistic as well as linear thinking, synthesis as well as analysis, metaphor as well as abstraction, the personal as well as the impersonal, creative imagination as well as academic thinking, and the playful as well as the serious.
  5. It appeals to multiple intelligences: not just the abstract verbal and the mathematic-logical, but, depending on  the circumstances, also the spatial; the kinesthetic; the musical; the interpersonal; etc.
  6. Because both sides of the brain and many intelligences are engaged, active involvement results in processing of information deeper than mere memorization; it results in "episodic memory," a deeper kind of memory specific to an event so that if you cannot at first remember the idea or technique you can reconstruct it from the event.
  7. It makes use of your own personal associations as a basis for remembering and understanding vs. parroting back the instructor's version of a concept.
  8. It can be more motivating, incorporating the pleasures of creating your own environment.
  9. It can force you to confront your current ideas about the subject, many of which may be misconceptions, and reconcile them with what you now observe to be the case.
  10. It can make the value of education more obvious because you begin connecting  information to the "real world."

The Experiential Learning model is simple to incorporate. Click here to see a sample of an experiential lesson plan.  When using this model to plan you will want to focus on five phases:

  1. Experience- This is the "Do" phase and is the exploring phase for the student. 
  2. Share- "What happened"-students reflect on what they experienced and share it with others.
  3. Process- "What's important"-breakdown and analyze the experience. Critique and reflect on what was important.
  4. Generalize- "So What"-this is where students will draw connection to the "real world"
  5. Apply-"NowWhat"- Students take what they gained from the experience and put it action. They can now apply it ti future situations. 
It's time to bring back curiosity and engagement to the classroom. Don't over plan each day and be willing to stray from the plan when the opportunity arises. Just let students experience learning through a different framework. Let them struggle as they try to make sense of the world around them. Don't hold it against them if they fail at first. It's part of the process and a huge step in learning.



Extra Resources to check out:

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Big 6

If you're in education I am sure that by now you know titles don't matter. We are all leaders! Whether it be in the classroom, at the building level, or in central office. Your title should not define you. What should define you is your passion and purpose for the position you're in.
How do some of the greats define leadership?

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." John F. Kennedy

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." John Maxwell

"What you do has far greater impact than what you say." Stephen Covey

This summer I took a course that made me reflect on what educational leadership truly is. For one of our assignments we had to create what we considered to be the main principles in leadership. So, here are my Big 6 In Educational Leadership:

Principle #1:Leaders Learn

Leaders “prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it” (Kotter, 1990).
As an Ed Leader you are the lead learner in implementing new technology and instructional strategies for your organization. Stay up to date on cutting edge tools and strategies. Be there for others as they start to embrace new ideas. Understand your organization's vision and mission ensuring that your efforts help keep them in the forefront. Grow yourself and help grow others.

Principle #2:Leaders BTE

Leaders Bring the Energy. Leaders need to be contagious with their energy. You must inspire through framing. “Effective framing of an organizational mission will ensure emotional impact particularly in terms of building a sense of confidence and excitement about the future” (Conger, 1991).
Leaders motivate their people by using analogies and stories that connect them emotionally to the mission of the organization. "Keep your message simple and focused and repeat it consistently" (Conger, 1991).

Principle #3:Leaders Take Action

John Maxwell states that "leadership is influence." Leaders understand their position in the organization. They pour everything they have into their job and their people/students with passion and purpose.Leaders can "do this by very clearly and explicitly seeking contributions, challenges, and collaboration from the people who report to them, using their positional power not to dominate but rather to drive the decision-making process" (Hamm, 2006). Leaders understand that doing is more powerful than saying.

Principle #4:Leaders Develop

A leader empowers others to grow and get uncomfortable
Leaders trust first and develop structure within their organization. Bolman & Deal state that, “at any given moment, an organization’s structure represents its best effort to align internal workings with outside concerns” (2008).
Leaders develop strategies to respond to problems or be proactive before problems occur. Leaders must develop their problem solving skills so they can be sound in their discretion and choice (Zaccaro& Klimoski, 2001).

 Principle #5:Leaders Evolve

"Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change. More changes always demands more leadership" (Kotter, 2001).
Leaders must adjust and influence strategies based on the situation. You can't always rely on just one strategy to work for every occasion (Grenny, Maxfield, & Shimberg, 2008). Leaders should be open to change and adapt when needed. Leaders will guide their organization to evolve because of the rapid pace in which technology is evolving.

Principle #6:Leaders Build Relationships

A leader must understand the importance of buidling positive relationships with others. Here is something to think about, “the fact that people always respond to you in a certain way may say more about you than about them” (Bolman & Deal 2008).  Leaders "often fail to get things done because they rely too much on reason and too little on relationships” (Bolman & Deal, 2008). A good quote to remember, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt. Leaders play a  role in developing a culture where individuals can thrive, discover their talents and have an opportunity to use their best selves daily" (Buckingham, 2011).

I believe that by focusing on the Big 6 we can lead from anywhere! We can help implement change or cause change ourselves. We have to be willing to do what is best for kids and not best for policy. If you had to create your own what would they be? If you had to create and Ed Leadership vision what would it say? 

Would love to hear your feedback on these because they are still a work in progress.



Big 6 Prezi 


Bolman, L., & Deal, T. (2008). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Buckingham, M. (2011). Strong leadership. Leadership Excellence, 28(1), 5.

Conger, J. A. (1991). Inspiring others: The language of leadership. Academy of ManagementExecutive, 5(1), 31-­45.

Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., & Shimberg, A. (2008). How to have influence. MIT Sloan Management Review, 50(1), 47-­52.

Hamm, J. (2006). The five messages leaders must manage. Harvard Business Review, 84, 114-­123.

Kotter, J. (2001, December 1). What leaders really do. Best of Harvard Business Review, 85-96. 

Zaccaro, S. J., & Klimoski, R. (2001). The nature of organizational leadership: An introduction. In S. J.Zaccaro & R. Klimoski (Eds.), The nature of organizational leadership: Understanding the performance imperatives confronting today's leaders (pp. 3-­41). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.