Tuesday, July 25, 2017

EDL 680 Module 10 Discussion Post

What big take aways do you have from reading Friedman?
What are the limitations?

I have really enjoyed reading Friedman’s book.  The messages he shares, from a world outside of education, are so powerful and how he shared them through his stories of his own life experiences and reflections made it all that much more interesting.  Despite the fact that he is in a completely different field, he manages to (in my opinion) express the excitement and concern that we all feel of living life in today’s world.

I think my biggest take aways come from Friedman’s discussion of and constant personal reflection.  Our world is in a state of constant change.  “This is how it’s always been done” is no longer acceptable because everything around whatever “this” is, is no longer the same either.  So whatever “this” is, needs to change, update, and/or be more flexible.  As a teacher, one of the big questions that is constantly at the forefront of my mind is “How can I have done that better?” or “What do I need to change?”  From those type of questions, I’m able to confidently, continue to grow and learn as a teacher and as a human.  Even Friedman (2016) believes that “if there was ever a time to pause for moral reflection, it is now” (p. 340).  As he quoted Leon Wieseltier (2015) “Every technology is used before it is completely understood...there is always a lag between an innovation and the apprehension of its consequences.  We are living in that lag...we have much to gain and much to lose” (p. 340).  I feel like when we stop learning and stop reflecting, when we think we have truly learned all there is to know, is when we assume the attitude of “this is how it’s always been done”.  And that attitude can be dangerous.  By shutting yourself down to learning, the changes in our world and our society can sneak up on you with no choice now but to adjust immediately.  

Friedman (2016) stated that in the Middle East the dominant political ideology was “‘I am weak, how can I compromise? I am strong, why should I compromise?’ The notion of there being ‘a common good’ and ‘a middle ground’ that we all compromise for and upon- not to mention a higher community calling we work to sustain- was simply not in the lexicon” (p. 447-448).  Sadly, he also mentioned that what he saw in Washington DC was not that much different.  Are these changes in society caused by a lack of reflection?  Are we no longer looking at what is happening in other cultures and reflecting on why it’s happening?  Are we no longer reflecting on how we can collaborate and thinking only of ourselves?  This lack of reflection is happening on a large scale than in our own individual lives, but I still believe that when a larger shift happens those who have not reflected and started to adjust, will struggle with the changes, whatever that may look like.

Friedman broke his book into four sections: reflecting, accelerating, innovating, and anchoring.  I believe that accelerating, innovating, and anchoring are all reliant on reflecting.  How do you know you’re accelerating unless you’re reflective on where you have been?  How can you innovate, unless you reflect on your failures?  How can you find and recognize your anchor...be it person(s) or place(s), unless you reflect on your life?  

As for the limitations of Friedman’s book, I cannot say there are many.  He shares many political stories about situations that I am not familiar with due a variety of reasons.  Regardless of my unawareness, he outlines the needed information in order to understand the purpose of his story. Due to how he framed everything, I was able to understand his point and then apply it to my situation in education or life in general.   

Saturday, July 22, 2017

My People

One writes a daily blog and has honed her skills and figured out to share her message.  She sends flower emojis that make me smile.

One teaches science and just took a new job and was asked to help spearhead PD with technology. She sent me an Outer Banks sticker.

One has an incredibly powerful voice in blogging even though she just started and she is all about "embracing the freak outs".  She makes me laugh out loud when she "freaks out" because this is a summer of change for her.

One sits back and listens and offers advice support.  She welcomed me and my friends to her town with open arms!

One writes fantastic posts that you can identify with deep in your teacher heart.  Her #booksnaps make me smile from ear to ear.

One is still so new at blogging but she has a fantastic message to share when she does.  Her life is full and she loves to share it.

One is quiet and in the background.  She offers such praise and I see her often on Instagram with her family. She even came to see me at ISTE when I was presenting.

One shares often about her beautiful children and incredible husband.  She is so active in our group and on Twitter.  The way she speaks and encourages each person in our group is so up-lifting.

There are more...there are more.  And they are incredible.  They are amazing.  They are inspiring. Every single one of them.

They say that in teaching you NEED other teachers.  It is a profession of collaboration and empathy and support.  You don't always find the kind of teachers in your own building that you can identify with.  The kind of teachers that inspire you and push you and challenge you and get excited with you. If you're lucky (and I am) you have a handful of teachers in your building that are are those things for you.  However, what are the odds of finding a dozen or so teachers from all over the country that are those things?

We started out in a small group just looking for support and encouragement to share our voices. Now it has morphed into this group where we share advice for new jobs, we laugh until we cry at gifs, we brainstorm ideas for PD, we excitedly question about twitter chats and podcasts.  We are our people. We are our tribe.  We are friends.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

EDL 680 Module 9 Discussion Post

Friedman talks about reflecting, accelerating, and innovating. How do each of these apply concepts to your school situation?
When reflecting on my school, I feel extremely fortunate.  While it is not perfect (but in life what is?), it does provide opportunities for reflecting, accelerating, and innovating.  I believe these opportunities are afforded to us because of our previous leadership as well as our teachers.  
In my role (technology teacher) in our school, assessment is not necessary for me.  My previous principal and I had a number of discussions around inspiring creativity and excitement with the use of technology and how to measure my success.  He suggested that I create a student reflection form (Google form) to gauge students interest in the projects.  I felt that my success was strongly tied to their success because my goals are more to excite and encourage as opposed to explicit instruction. This year, I plan on implementing a similar reflection piece for the students.  
My own reflection is critical in my success as an educator.  I have been blogging for many years but it has never been very regular.  This year, I made it a point to blog weekly but my focus was always a tool and/or academic strategy.  At the beginning of the summer, I joined a small blogging community where I was inspired to use my blog as a more personal platform.  I think by tying in the personal aspect to the professional, technical part of my blog, I am taking the necessary time to really reflect on all the aspects of my professional life and even part of my personal life.  I feel like taking that time to reflect and put it out in the world has helped me connect and created a ripple effect.  The questions and feedback I get about my reflections cause me to reflect and question myself and others more.  This practice is so powerful for me...I have to believe that it has great potential for my students as well.  Friedman (2016) quoted Megginson as reportedly saying “the species that survives is the one that is able to best adapt and adjust to changing environment in which it finds itself” (p. 298).  Reflection allows us to adapt and adjust to the changing environment of education.  
Accelerating is a difficult concept to tackle because it can viewed and approached in so many different ways.  I saw this first hand when interviewing my new principal(s) versus my previous principal for our EDL 600 project.  I asked what would be best for a technology update roll out, if we did a little at a time or if we rolled everything out at once (if money was not factored in).  My previous principal thought that doing everything at once and then putting out little fires was the better approach.  My current principals believe that going slower and incrementally is the better approach to ease everyone into the new devices.  Friedman (2016) explains that “when so many things are accelerating at once, it’s easy to feel like you’re in a kayak in rushing white water, being carried along by the current at a faster and faster clip” (p. 198).  Everyone can and everyone is accelerating through change.  It’s just that some people are ok moving at a faster speed than others.  

Innovating can also be viewed and approached in different ways.  What is innovative for one school may not be innovative for another school.  For example, this year, we have made the jump to GSuite for Education.  Many schools have already made that jump, so we are not doing anything new and innovative but it is for our school.  Our school has been 1:1 BYOD for 5th through 8th grades for many years now.  That, compared to other schools in our Diocese is innovative.  However, some of the things that we are doing with that is no innovative.  This is where GSuite may come in.  What can we do with these two things to become more innovative?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

EDL 680 Module 8 Discussion Post

Which of the core disciplines will be challenging for you as a leader and why?
Which will be most natural for you and why?
I believe the core discipline that will be most challenging for me as a leader is Mental Models.  I personally recognize that I like to try new things in school.  For me, it’s ok to readjust and fail and keep trying until something works.  However, I know that there are many teachers with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.  I have seen first hand some of the passive aggressive attitudes that come my way if I try to suggest a new or different way of approaching a project or style of teaching.  I am excited about what we can do to change and improve education but often my ideas or suggestions “conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world (in education) works” (Senge, 1990, p. 163).  
In my current position, I am able to suggest new and innovative ideas to teachers.  We can collaborate and build off of each other’s ideas until we’re both happy with our experiment.  Our conversations are natural debriefing and planning sessions.  However, I know which teachers I can plan and create with, and I know which teachers I should avoid discussing any kind of educational technology or current trends in education.  The role I have now allows me to pick and choose who I plan with and push toward new ideas.  As a leader in school, I will not always have that choice.  
More importantly, it will be difficult to recognize the mental model(s) at a school.  When “we remain unaware of our mental models, the models remain unchanged.  As the world changes, the gap widens between our mental models and reality, leading to increasingly counterproductive actions” (Senge, 1990, p. 166).  In fact, before reading the Mental Models chapter, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with what I believe to be what a schools mental model should be; what’s best for kids.  I do believe that most educators would agree with the idea that whatever we do, it should be what’s best for kids.  However, it will continue to be the HOW that is a challenge.
I believe that the most natural core discipline for me would be Shared Vision.  I recognize that I have a personal vision.  However, I also recognize that my personal vision is still very unclear, in fact I would call it more of a personal directional vision.  I know some things that I think are important when it comes to changing education today.  However, I am not crystal clear on how to achieve the change I would like to someday see.  For this, I rely on others.  I ask for opinions, ideas, and feedback.  I understand that I do not have all the answers, but if we can work collaboratively, we have better chances of making some really impactful changes.  I feel like because I want to rely more on the collaborative creation of a vision, I can avoid what Senge (1990) said happens to many leaders; “many leaders have personal visions that never get translated into shared visions that galvanize an organization” (p. 9).  Senge (1990) went on to explain that “what has been lacking is a discipline for translating individual vision into shared vision - not a “cookbook” but a set of principles and guiding practices” (p. 9).
Again, Senge (1990) explained that “when you look carefully you find that most “visions” are on person’s (or one group’s) vision imposed on an organization” (p. 192).  My hope is that by working together with others at school we can build a shared vision in which everyone feels like they had input.  There will be compromise and not everyone will be in the same place when it comes to vision achievement.  However, I believe that if everyone believes we are working together to achieve our goal and that they are supported no matter where they are in the process, that shared vision will be successful.  

Sunday, July 2, 2017

EDL 680 Module 7 Discussion Post

What 2 things resonated with you in chapters 4-6?
What 1 question do you have about the chapters?
When reading The Fifth Disciple so much of what Senge says translates into schools in my head.  As I read this week’s chapters it was hard to pick out just two things that spoke to me but as I reviewed everything, I realized that “Seeing Circles of Causality” applied to school on multiple levels.  In addition, the concept of “Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants” also made me think of many of our schools today.  
Schools are constantly changing.  Each year, teachers get a new class.  In that class, students are rearranged into different groups, the content taught is different, the behaviors and the expectations are different.  Not only in classrooms but also as a whole school there may be changes.  Sometimes it’s administration, sometimes it’s central office, sometimes it’s just the classroom teachers.  Schools at their core are full of change.  However, sometimes with all the change that is going on, it’s important to look at and understand not only what is being changed and how to change it, but why.  Senge said that “...individuals, teams, and organizations need to see beyond events and into the forces that shape change” (2006, p. 74).  Every decision causes a ripple effect.  It is practically impossible to foresee every result, but in seeing that “reality is made up of circles” we can understand why to make the decisions we make, why to make the changes that are needed.  I feel as if we start to really understand that every change we make sets in motion both a cause and an effect, we can make better decisions to benefit our students.  
One of the better decisions we can make to benefit both our students and our teachers is to limit the amount of “things” happening in our school days.  I taught at a school where a new principal came in and she had previously served on a school improvement board for our school.  One of her biggest comments had been there are too many “programs” happening at the school.  Students were rotating to reading interventions, they were pulled into required small groups for a specific program during the ELA block, they were given 3-5 different computer programs that they had to have a certain number of minutes on each day.  The teachers were asked to do a different program or project or something every year, without anything from the previous year being taken off of their plate.  It was all very overwhelming and hard to keep up with.  The teachers and the students were going in so many different directions when the new principal came in that nothing was getting accomplished.  It was just as Senge described it, “you don’t have two small elephants then; you have a mess” (2006, p. 67).  He also describe the mess as, “a complicated problem where there is no leverage to be found because the leverage lies in the interactions that cannot be seen from looking only at the piece you are holding” (2006, p. 67).
When the new principal came in, she had already taken a hard look at all the pieces and determined what was critical for the success of the students, and wiped out the rest.  It was a good reset year because we took the time to focus on our students’ needs and took the time to focus on what we needed to do to truly be effective with the pieces that we did still have in place.  Everyone was learning and everyone was given the chance to be successful.  From there she continued to add to what was now a relatively solid foundation to provide continued growth.  
Since I do try to apply everything I’m reading to a school setting, I’m reading about the different diagrams and I’m curious which one really suites a school?  Or do they all in some form or fashion?  I just can’t make the alignment between my role as a leader and how to best help my school (now or in the future) from these diagrams.  

Are we a systems diagram where we’re looking at the desired achievement and how to “fill” the students with knowledge and experiences as they grow with us?  Are we a reinforcing circle diagram?  We teach the content, they learn the content, and if they pass the assessment, we teach more content?  Perhaps we are a balancing circle diagram.  The students come to us with a certain amount of knowledge, we assess to figure out what they know and we teach or challenge depending on the student, and then everything is balanced in that at least everyone should know the basic level of content taught?  Could we even be a delay diagram?  Students come to us, not knowing a significant amount but due to standards, we are aware of what they should know by the end of the year.  They come in and we figure out where on the spectrum the students are, we adjust our teaching and the content so that students can grasp what we’re teaching in their own way, and then if we are lucky, we are successful.  Another question...are we applying these diagrams to individual students, whole classes, whole grade levels, or whole schools?  I will admit, my head is swimming.  

Life Lessons from Minnie Mouse

Yes, I am talking about Minnie Mouse.  And let me just start with I don't love Minnie Mouse.  She's my least favorite of my beloved Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto).

Photo by Michael Gardner
Now being the Disney fanatic that I am, I never really come out and say anything negative about Minnie.  I just avoid making her my focus in anything...school, home, vacations, clothing.  It's never really Minnie, and because Disney is so vast, nobody seems to notice.  However recently, Disney has partnered with a number of companies who sell products I like (LuLaRoe | Jamberry) and I'm the schmuck that will pay an extra $10 because it's Disney.  But so MUCH of it is Minnie Mouse, that so far, it's been pretty easy to "Just Say No".  

Many of my friends are on the hunt for me though.  And since I've never expressed the aversion to Minnie,  I get texts of pictures asking if I like this or that.  I am so appreciative that they are thinking of me!  But I feel slightly awkward because, no I don't like it.  Which leads to the inevitable question of why so that my lovely friends know what NOT to look for...and I have to admit, that I don't love Minnie.

However, having to answer this question has given me the chance to reflect on why I don't like Minnie.  I have come to the realization that as a child, I didn't like what she represented (to me) in a female presence.   I grew up thinking I could literally do ANYTHING.  I had an incredibly STRONG female model in my mother and in my aunt.  These women literally did everything and anything.  So when I would watch Minnie on TV, what I saw in her conflicted with what I saw in my family.

I saw Minnie wait helplessly as she called for Mickey to help her.  RUN FOOL!
I saw Minnie become jealous.  GET OVER IT!
I saw Minnie become angry at Mickey for things he could not control.  IT'S NOT HIS FAULT!
I saw Minnie treat her friends with spite and get into petty arguments.  GIRL!

Granted, I realize all this was done for the sake of entertainment.  To get a laugh, if you will.  But for some reason, in my young and impressionable mind, I did not find it entertaining.  I just saw characteristics of a female that I did not want to be or have.

I learned through my family and through Minnie's non-example that:

I wanted to be able to take care of myself.  I don't need to be saved by anyone but me.
I never wanted to be jealous.
I wanted to be able to see both sides of any situation and understand that not everything will always be how I want it.
I wanted to treat my friends with kindness and support.  I wanted to be someone they could ALWAYS come to without fear of emotional repercussions.

Someday when I have children I want my daughter to learn from me, my mother, and stories of my aunt how strong women can be.  I want her to look at Minnie and appreciate her as entertainment.  I want her to understand that women can be and act any way they choose!  It's about having a good heart and believing in yourself.

I want my students to know this too.  The little ones have an easier time believing it.  When you get to middle school and start becoming teenagers, you start to question and have self doubt.  I want to instill that confidence in them and encourage them to continue to be who they are!  To be kind, to care, to support, to love but not be a door mat.

As an adult I can see why Minnie would behave in some of those ways.  I also know that she didn't ALWAYS act like that too.  AND of course, it's just a CARTOON.  But because I questioned and didn't understand as a child, those thoughts and feelings are still engrained in me today.  I can't say that I'm sad about it either.

I much prefer the friendly, lovable, laughable Mickey who gets in and out of scrapes with a little bit of fun and magic.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Lemons to Dole Whip...what?

I know what you're thinking...I've gone ahead and lost it.  There are lots of tradition and also new and creative ways to use the "When life gives you lemons..." piece of wisdom.  But I'm going to be honest, there are times when you just have to make it your own!  Hence the dole whip.  Now, I could go into detail about why I chose a dole whip...1) clearly it's from Disneyland which was my first true passion #disneylife 2) you get a cherry on top, which doesn't that always make things better (unless you don't like cherries - oops sorry) 3) the umbrella on top indicating that you need to kick back and put your feet up.  However, I am going to take this dole whip and use it a little more metaphorically speaking.  So lets take a look at these 3 reasons I chose I dole whip to represent life...in addition to being an all around wonderful treat.  

Attribution: https://goo.gl/zXVR9B

When life throws you lemons, a curve ball, things unexpected and/or a variety of things that you did not anticipate...keep in mind, what is happening does matter but how you are handling it that matters more.  

Dole Whip Metaphor Number 1
I eat Dole whips at Disneyland. Disneyland is a place to escape the realities of #adulting. It's a place to be a kid again! Perhaps this feeling of my childhood makes me hold onto Disneyland so much harder the older I get. Or perhaps it's the feeling of magic. That anything can happen...like a miracle. 

Change doesn't always feel like magic when it happen, but take a moment to soak in the real life magic around you. What are the random series of events that lead to this moment?!  What are the random series of events that will lead to the next change? Life is change...be excited. Take it as challenge and run with it like a kid who doesn't have a care in the world.

Dole Whip Metaphor Number 2
So life gives you challenges and that's ok. TAKE. THE. RISK.  Be creative in how you approach your challenge and possibly change what and how you were doing before.  Like a dole whip.  Really it's pineapple ice cream, not that impressive.  But they made it into soft serve and put a cherry on top and added an umbrella?! It's a whole new dessert!!  And people (myself included) LOVE IT!  

Dole Whip Metaphor Number 3:
Do not fight it. I am sorry to say but change happens. It happens TO you. Don't fight it. Embrace it. In fact, take some time to sit back and process it. Sit in the sun, put your feet up, enjoy a Dole whip and think. What lead to this/these changes? How can be the best ME in the face of these changes? Is there anything I can do to set another set of changes into effect? Do I even want to? Am I giving this change a fair chance? What are the possible positives that could happen? Is this change a good thing in my life? 

You won't have answers in one round of Dole whips. But maybe taking the time to reflect will help you feel a little more prepared for all your unanswered questions.  

Good luck to you and wish me luck in mine.