Anticipation

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It’s time to change roles again.  A year working in an Instructional Coach capacity has been an incredible opportunity to learn, gain perspective, and meet so many inspiring educators.  Some circumstances out of my control meant that I was interviewing for a new classroom teacher position a few weeks ago.

I generally believe that things happen for a reason.   As it so happens, I successfully interviewed for a position in a building that has been on my radar for a while.  The people, the space, the diversity, the ‘feel’, the vision.  I saw myself there and now I’m so fortunate to have a classroom waiting for me this fall.

Anticipation.  I’m excited – even more-so than I thought I’d be.  Being invited to tour the space (generous!), meet the teachers and staff, hear the buzz of learning and see the manners on display by the students… yep – I’m 100% in!

Spring has generally meant that I start looking forward to the next fall.  Not that I don’t enjoy all the months of the school year…it’s just that class lists are usually created about now and supplies are ordered for the fall.  It’s hard not to start visualizing, or re-visualizing your classroom space.  What stuck from the previous year?  What needs to be reconsidered?  What connected most with the students?  It’s exciting to think about introducing a new crew of kids to a shared space designed to inspire.

I pull out my copy of ‘The Third Teacher’ (highly recommended) to remind me about the importance of designing a modern learning space.  The sea of vertical whiteboard spaces, ample natural light and flexible seating options in my new classroom certainly do not limit design options.  Out comes my sketching paper and a lot of my ‘how’ starts to unconsciously come together as I put pencil strokes down and consider what the walls, floors and configurations will look like.  Talk about anticipation – designing learning spaces is a lot of fun and can truly tell a lot about a teacher’s educational philosophy.

I’m already inspired by and looking to connect with my future colleagues and admin – I want to learn from them, and maybe offer little bits of assistance or inspiration in return.  I crave the opportunity to collaborate.  It doesn’t happen everywhere.  I feel the vibe walking into this school and I’m so optimistic that the positive working relationships (teacher/teacher, teacher/admin, teacher/students/parents/community) are the reason the building feels like a special place.  I’ll do everything I can to be a value-add to the community.  I’m inspired to do so – the new physical space is almost begging for student inquiry, collaborative learning, a “Thinking Classroom” approach, movement, creativity, and technology integration. Sign me up!

The PD day in June will be a chance to officially sit with colleagues as part of a school staff.  I miss that.  It will be great to belong.  I see the vision and I couldn’t be more excited about getting started.

To new beginnings!

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My Personal Playlist Podcast

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I was both excited and intimidated when asked to be a guest on the wonderful Noa Daniel’s P3 Podcast.  I knew it would be great to reconnect with her, but the premise of choosing three songs (just three!!!) to help frame a lifetime is completely daunting.  A nostalgia song, and identity song, and a motivational tune.  The concept is wonderful.

I had months to think through my song options and it truly wasn’t until the last moment when I was able to settle on the songs that help tell my ‘story’.  Noa – well done.  You got me thinking!  I’m so pleased with the final result and it was a treat to share my stories and find parallel’s in my teaching life as we connected over music.

Noa is a busy person and also blogged about the experience. Here’s the link.

https://noadaniel7.wixsite.com/bobblog/single-post/2019/03/05/Create-Explore-Digitize-Reflect-and-Connect—Jay-Dubois-Mantra-and-the-Themes-of-His-P3

I’m humbled, Noa.  The whole experience made me smile.

 

 

Maker? IGNITed Again.

The always-inspiring Derek Tangredi approached me a while back about being one of the ignite speakers for a Western Education Research event:

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  1. I love seeing others do ignite talks (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide as they auto-advance)
  2. Cool venue (the new maker lab at the Central Public Library)
  3. I get excited to share the story about my 1:1 iPad classroom inquiries and creations
  4. You can’t say no to Derek.  His enthusiasm for education is truly infectious.

To be honest, it’s because of the people involved that putting time into preparing for these events is worth it.  I need to be ignited too, and educators willing to share their stories for the benefits and learning of others are my type of people.

I’m not sure I consider myself to be a ‘maker’ in the hands-on, messy sense.  I do like bringing materials into the classroom but I’m certainly not doing anything innovative in that regard.  I wanted to focus on the digital making my students did as part of a innovation/entrepreneurship design-thinking project last year.  It was awesome as they fluently app-smashed, digitally documented and designed an engineering firm sales pitch for a library redesign.  The communicated their thinking with Sites, elevator pitches, graphic novel recounts, logo and branding design.  They always held the user in mind (including an all-age, all-ability focus) and gathered digital survey feedback from visitors to their trade show event.  It was a lot of work and I’d do it again in a heartbeat as ‘project time’ was a highly-sought part of the day.

There was so much to assess that I didn’t even know where to begin.  However, I knew I wanted students in the driver’s seat with assessment – single point rubrics to save the day!  One of the points I made in my ignite talk was that makers self assess.  I believe that.  It’s a future-ready skill.

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I’m so fortunate to call Lesley and Kiersten, two speakers who did their first ignite talk at the maker lab, friends and honoured that they are part of my Crowd-Sourcing Promising Practices team (bit.ly/TurningUpTeachers … check it out if you’re into selfless sharing and cool classroom-ready ideas).  Every teacher has a story to tell and there is so much that we can learn from each other.  It was also great to see Scott Armstrong share his wealth of knowledge – he’s such an asset to our Board and I always learn something new from his unique perspective.

All in all it was a warmly-received event on a cold night…those involved didn’t want to leave.  Conversation with inspiring educators can be hard to beat sometimes – especially with an electricity in the air that participating in an ignite talk can create.

Go and make! Any way that’s fun for you.  Then try to bring it into the classroom and see how it goes.  You’ll find curriculum connections – I promise it’s worth it.

ADE Shot Number Two

Once upon a time I applied to the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute.  It didn’t pan out but the experience of reflecting upon successes and ongoing inquiries was a good practice.

Two years has passed and the application window has again opened.  It’s not easy summarizing your ‘why’ and your ‘so what’ in a two minute video.  What story did I want to tell?  I’ve had some unexpected and fantastic edu experiences the last few years.  A good friend gently asked what makes my story different.  Again, time to turn inward and look in the mirror (hence the deep-in-thought mirror image above – good, right? Haha).

So here’s my ‘different’.  Learn outside.  Uncover curriculum.  Have students reflect and self-assess often.  Let’s create future-ready students.

It’s how I roll in a classroom.  I get that this isn’t the norm.  But innnovation isn’t ‘normal’.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Best of luck to the other applicants.  Keep pushing, keep mixing it up.  Keep asking questions.

Reset?

It’s been a while.  My blog output has really decreased since leaving the classroom capacity and navigating the Instructional Coaching world.   Things are cooking again, though, with some thought fuel pieces of the puzzle coming back into play.

I once blogged about being ‘ignited’. I did my first IGNITE talk last year and was recently invited to prepare an IGNITE for a Faculty of Education / Public Library venture into discussing ‘making’.  I might have the least-makerish talk out of the impressive list of speakers as I plan to dive into the creation and innovation opportunities a design-thinking approach provided my 3s last year. It was a joy to take them through the process and is a professional highlight of my career.

I look forward to the opportunity to share classroom successes.  It’s what I’m all about.  This spark of edu-extracurricularism is something I hunger for.  A community of educators talking education for the sake of talking education.  No payment.  Lots of nerves.  Powerful though, and fire-lighting.

Reset.  It’s a word an Innovator colleague has brilliantly harnessed when naming her transformation project resetEDU.org.  Gosh, I love it (and the swag is sweet, Jen!).  So I turn inward and re-examine the successes (and fails!) of my new role.  I think I feel confident in having built the ever-so-important relationships necessary to foster collaboration.  It feels good to have students in multiple buildings call you by name and ask if you’re returning to their room soon.  Pretty amazing.

Reset. Time to get real with my Crowd-Sourcing Promising Practices community / Google Innovator project.  Bit.ly/TurningUpTeachers has been so many different things for me.  Learning opportunity.  Lesson(s) in humility.  Empowered colleagues. An attempt at trying to make sharing contagious.

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It’s not contagious yet.  That’s the reality.  I look back to my aggressive OKR’s (a googly term for quarterly objectives).  A six-month check-in with 45 of us simultaneously doing a Google Meet reminded me that NOT achieving your goals means that you set a good and challenging goal. It was reassuring because instead we default to feeling unsuccessful when goals aren’t met.

I need to reach more teachers.  I need to relaunch my brand with more marketing (hello Instagram and Facebook – yikes!).  A slight pivot on my digital workflow needs to happen. That is clear.

I’m hitting ‘reset’ and digging in anew.  I need to be hungry.  Once momentum occurs I’ll just hang on for the ride and watch my project become it’s own entity.

So that being said, connect with me.  Hit ‘reset’, take a risk and inspire classroom teachers with me.  Share something small but meaningful for students.  There’s an audience for your insight.

Let’s make sharing contagious.

 

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Coaching or Co-Learning?

It has been a large shift for me this fall.  As a new Instructional Coach, I get to be in classrooms every day.  The adjustment is getting used to not being responsible for a homeroom class of students of my own.  Instead, I get to plant seeds, answer questions and pose questions with grown ups.  After thirteen years spending the majority of my day interacting with kids, its a change I am still adapting to.

I ask the question of  ‘coach’ or ‘co-learner’.  I think the line is blurred for me as educators that are open to ‘coaching’ are truly ready to be co-learners.  They understand that I am not an expert but instead a fellow teacher excited to help out in any way that is useful for moving the learning forward.  It is such an enriching role – I get to co-learn and co-create with great teachers.  Bouncing ideas around is fun and it’s inspiring to work with professionals who want the very best for their students.

“Let’s try that!”      Music to my ears.

For every new direction I can support, I receive three amazing ideas back.  My brain is full of the sights and sounds of learning that I want to try with my students when I’m back in a classroom full time.  In the meantime, I’m absorbing every little morsel, and hopefully planting enough seeds to make a difference.

Here’s a quick summary of cool things happening in the buildings I’m supporting.  I hope to reflect like this every month or so.  Summarizing a few months of work into one page is a challenge and only scratches the surface of what 9+ weeks holds.   It’s a great practise for me, however, as it forces me to recognize all the learning taking place, both for the teachers I get to work with and for myself.  I’m becoming a better teacher every day – I just need to drop enough breadcrumbs to ensure that I can find all the good stuff when I circle back and need it.

Celebrate Teaching Fall 2018

Innovator Academy: Sprints & Sparks

The flight to LAX was a time to process a lot ups and downs (not talking turbulence here).  I knew that it was exactly the opportunity/spark that I’ve been looking for, but the idea of meeting, living with, and working alongside a bunch of strangers is very much a departure from my typical day.

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This uncertainty immediately melted away when a car full of friendly faces was waiting to pick me up at the airport.  It was at this moment that I recognize the brilliance of having the cohort virtually get to know each other before the Academy via Hangouts, Flipgrid and twitter.  It was an instant level of comfort with my new edu-colleagues and inspiring friends.

A bunch of us arrived early to get time to bond a little and discover what Venice Beach is all about.  The beach, the street art, the people, the sunset.  The scooters.  A revelation in public transit.  You need to get to Venice Beach and try the network of electric scooters before they’re outlawed.  Ear to ear smiles for a low price – an Academy favourite.

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The official Academy kicked off on Monday at the Youtube Space LA.  It was here where the entire cohort collected for the first time and met the Innovator Coaches and reps from Edtech and Google.  We toured a space designed for supporting the creation of content.  With only 10,000 subscribers, you too can book a studio space and get support from YouTube.  It’s a great concept – think maker space with potentially a global audience.  If you’ve had the opportunity to visit a Google space then you understand that their bricks and mortar locations are an exercise in flexible seating, inspiring spaces and cool design.  YouTube was especially cool in that it was housed on Howard Hughes’ old stomping grounds.  His spirit of innovation is alive in those hallways.

We headed back to Google Venice Beach and spent half a day learning about each other. It’s here we received our official Google Innovator t-shirts and our lanyards.  Break-out box stories, fun design-thinking process tasks, getting to know our teams and coaches – and letting it all sink in.  I’m here! (and did they make a mistake on my application…).

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Food.  Humans connect over food.  We connected over food for three square meals a day, as well as the unlimited access to snacks and beverages.  Honestly, Google doesn’t mess around.  I could do a separate blog entry about Google food, but if I can say one thing it’s this: chorizo fried rice bowls for breakfast?  Game changer.

This cohort was a lot of fun. Our nights involved a ton of laughing, games, karaoke, pinatas, tacos, waves and riding scooters.

This cohort is also a collective of work-horses (there’s got to be a better metaphor – it’s just not coming to me right now ; ).  When it was time to SPARK and SPRINT, ideas flew, compliments and support was everywhere, and positively constructive feedback was key.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say that I learned so much in such a short timeframe.  It was tight.  I think that was the point.  Sharpies do not erase and being given extremely short timelines to ideate, empathize, and prototype meant that we didn’t have time to get hung up on the ‘what ifs’.  The time for fine-tuning based on user needs and feedback is what the next twelve months are about.   That being said, there is not an educator out there who doesn’t like being prepared, so giving an elevator pitch in front of brilliant people with very little prep time was definitely putting us outside our comfort zone.

There’s a reason that this ‘fail-fast’ design thinking process wasn’t stressful.  It’s because of the people.  Never have I worked with a group of individuals who were so supportive and generous, yet were thankful and accepting of feedback.  We were in this together and knew this chance to crowd-source feedback was a golden opportunity to help us tackle our edu problems.  No judgement.  Kudos.  Ideas.  What ifs.  How mights.  Yes, ands…

What’s a spark?  Les McBeth from Future Design School moderated the design process for the Academy and each team had an Innovator Coach to assist with the sprint tasks.  In addition, each Coach gave a spark talk – a short keynote.  It was great as our day was a great mix of working, learning and being inspired.  It was also cool that a few Innovators in the middle of the process shared with us via Hangouts.

We also had spark sessions choices (20 minutes) led by 15 of the Innovators in our cohort.  We could choose from a huge variety of talents:  app script, aquaponics, nail art, beatboxing, data stories, design, juggling and breakdancing!  It was fun and gave everyone the chance to share a passion.  (Imagine how schools could adopt this learning model…).  Let’s just say that I’m not a good beat-boxer or breakdancer, but appreciated the chance to dive into something different.

Fast forward to the last day of our Academy and the agenda shows ‘graduation’ at the conclusion of the day – a live YouTube event, no less.   It was a healthy day of sprints and sparks, food and icebreaker laughs.  Then it was real.  It was ending.  Our names were annouced, we received a certificate and pin, took team photos and drank champagne.  Some Innovators had to catch flights and just like that we were reminded that ‘day jobs’ await.  Luckily a large group booked flights for the next day so we had an extra night to connect and reflect a bit.  I’ve never seen such a huggy group – but the whole experience up to that point fostered closeness.  It was just a beginning, yet an ending too.

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So once home I dumped all my swag on my kitchen table, much to my children’s delight.  Merge cube, lanyards, pins, stickers galore, and koozies from Districts around the US.  The personalized swag is special – we had some very talented design folks in our cohort.  The Innovator backpack and water bottle was cool.  The pins and cohort stickers and magnets are now spread across fridges and filing cabinets in North America.  Breakout boxes are stashed on shelves, just begging to tell a story.

People put endless energy into this Academy.  I’m grateful to have these mementos with me.  When I feel stuck and alone in my project, I can hopefully remind myself that I’m not actually alone – I have a bunch of truly awesome educators at my fingertips.

So I now hope to inspire others, take educators on a journey of empowerment and turn teacher voices up to 11. I’m going to ignore the hinting imposter syndrome and fake it until I make it.  Game on.

Thanks for the opportunity, Google.  A heartfelt thank you to the cohort – your warmth and big thinking won me over immediately and I’m thankful that we get to stay connected.  We sparked and sprinted our way towards transformation – personally and professionally.  Go make change.