What Is Your WHY?

51fRj1bsD5L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_As the school year nears and the summer begins to fade, the appropriateness of what I just finished reading got me thinking about “Why” I do what I do within education. Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) wrote Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and if finding your WHY interests you, it is definitely worth your time to read.

I am going to take a risk and start to unravel my WHY through this blog post. I decided to approach my WHY of teaching with what came to mind first. It was and is a difficult process. Sinek states, “Finding why is a process of discovery, not invention.” So my WHY may change as I discover more.

Why do I teach?

First and foremost, I have an underlying passion for learning. There is something beautiful about feeding my brain with information and ideas, creating ideas, and learning from or with others.

Just recently I was in a car with two of my lovely friends and colleagues and we were discussing education. I was sitting in the backseat lapping up the discourse related to education and a smile generated within. I love being around individuals who are driven to foster a love of learning among all of their students and who love to talk about it.

Secondly, I genuinely want to see all of my students and colleagues succeed and be engaged with the process. I want them to walk away having a passion for learning, just as I do. Or to simply reignite a passion for learning and/or teaching. I am constantly trying to navigate what intrinsically motivates each individual I am with to learn and to improve.

Lastly, I teach because it is hard. I have learned that I am not an individual who can do the same thing over and over. Challenges ignite something within me; motivates me. Education is not for those who want consistent control, or for each day to look the same. Education is for those who understand that it never gets easier, it just gets better. If you understand that everyday will present you with a new challenge, you understand education. It is hard, overwhelming, exhausting, and inconsistent. This is what makes going back into the classroom, everyday, worth it.

golden-circle-why-simon-sinekSimon Sinek discusses how most businesses start with WHAT (I teach students subjects) and then move to HOW (I create lesson plans and assess) and then determine the WHY. So what if we started each year with our WHY? How do we articulate a clear WHY and remember to build upon this WHY all year long? How do we get our students to understand and buy-in to our WHY? If everyone understood our WHY, would the success within our classrooms be achievable?

“If it’s not clear on the inside, it will never be clear on the outside.” ~ Simon Sinek

For all educators who have begun their school year and to those that are about to begin, take a few moments to begin your discovery process of WHY you do what you do. Hold on to that WHY and create a system, school or a classroom that radiates your WHY and see what transpires;)

Yours in learning,

Laural

*Check out Simon Sinek’s website  and try his Friends Exercise to get the process of WHY rolling.

 

 

A Quick YouCubed Plug

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The last thing anyone wants to see are the back-to-school commercials that create back-to-work anxiety.  Nor do we want have to start thinking about our classrooms that will begin in 5 weeks, give or take, but whose kidding whom? We all do and the thoughts are hard to stop!

I just want to take a few moments of your time to think about joining, if you haven’t already, the Jo Boaler mathematics website called YouCubed. It is an amazing way to be51E6t49pzEL._SX399_BO1,204,203,200_gin your school year, especially when you are developing mathematical mindsets and collaborative learning within your space.

Check out the “Week of Inspirational Maths” and spend a bit of time reading some of her articles and the inspirational maths lesson plans so you feel confident about your first few weeks of math within your classroom. Try the math questions out with your family members or friends this summer and look at the many different ways to solve problems. There are so many great resources that need your attention!

Happy August to all of you and savour the relaxation moments while learning a little along the way.

Yours in learning,

Laural

 

Disrupting and Challenging My Thinking

Upon the recommendation of my fellow book lover and colleague, I decided to join The Book Love Foundation Summer Reading Club. There are four books for this club: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst, Revolution by Deborah Wiles and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. So far, I have been enjoying my reading journey with the texts chosen and want to spend a few moments of your time discussing the professional resource, Disrupting Thinking – Why How We Read Matters.

51VK2PHg7rL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I always seem to gravitate to literacy professional resources. They tend to confirm my beliefs about how our students are not reading enough and what we have always done, does not necessarily work with today’s children.

I thought I would approach this blog post answering the questions that are at the root of Disrupting Thinking, so here goes…

What changed, challenged or confirmed your thinking?

  • Simply extracting information from a text is not enough
  • Students/adults need to read more for pleasure to connect on an emotional/personal level
  • We must disrupt our students thinking; make our students challenge what they read and see ideas from multiple perspectives
  • Relevance is not determined by the educator
  • “When a right answer is most important, students come to believe their thoughts don’t matter.”
  • “New ideas rarely work the first time, so if we are to make changes, we have to accept the probability that our first efforts won’t go quite as well as we want them to.”
  • “Don’t choose a book that will take four weeks to read aloud, you want to finish a book in a week” – Yikes! I am not sure I agree, but do know that reading a book too long can be painful.
  • Would I read a novel over the course of eight weeks on a schedule that is determined by someone else and read by everyone in a classroom as an adult? Nope. Highly unlikely.

“The more capable readers are of compassion, the more likely it is that they will be able to read well.”

What assumptions make that change hard?

  • Educators preconceived beliefs and ideas about what works
  • “What we find confusing is that sometimes we all want to say we’re doing research-based best practices, but other times too many of us are willing to ignore what we know from research.”

What surprised you?

Percentage of Children Who Read Books for Fun 5-7 Days a Week

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A few thought provoking questions from the text:

  • “How do you define best practices? what about your colleagues? Are there practices you follow that cannot be supported by research? Why do you use them? Should you reconsider?”
  • “Why do some teachers change on to what’s been done in the past?”
  • Who determines relevance in your classroom?
  • “Do you find yourself asking your lower-performing students more monologic questions than dialogic questions?”

Disrupting Thinking Why How We Read Matters was a read that I do not regret and will recommend to others. The questions Beers and Probst asked I will continue to ponder and pose to other educators. This text supports much of what I believe when it comes to literacy – that reading for pleasure matters.

 

GIVING KIDS TIME TO READ IS NECESSARY, NOT OPTIONAL. ~Beers and Probst

Yours in reading,

Laural

 

A Leap Into Recording Coaching Sessions

focus-on-teachingA few months ago I read a book by Jim Knight called Focus on Teaching and it inspired me to think about recording my coaching and teaching sessions with other educators. As I read the book, it made total sense. How else can we improve if we never truly now how we interact with our students or how we facilitate learning? Video recording can leverage learning as well as our teaching abilities. It sounded like a brilliant idea and I was motivated from Knight’s words to try it, but I won’t lie, it took a lot for me to even contemplate the idea and give it a go.

I couldn’t help but remember an educator I worked with (@misskflood) who videotaped herself facilitating a Number Talk. How she used this recording was for her eyes and what she learned from it, we have yet to discuss. As I thought and was inspired by @misskflood, months flew by. I had every intention at the time I had read the book to video record, but it never transpired. Maybe I was avoiding it?

There is a high level of vulnerability when recording ourselves teaching. You first have to look past how you sound and how you look to get at the power of how video recording your teaching can improve your practice. You may, ultimately, find something that crushes your confidence as an educator, but what if it moves you?

I then decided to take my first leap during my last coaching session for the year. Why not take a risk on the last round of collaboration before heading into the summer?! If I never try it, I will never know.

It was a soft entry where I simply audio recorded two pre-conferences with two different educators. I explained to the educators that I was looking to improve myself as a coach and that I wanted to get feedback from my colleagues about my level of questioning and reducing the amount of time I spoke. I really want to listen to those that I collaborate with and this recording would give me a window into whether or not I was doing just that. The funny thing is that after explaining to them why I wanted to record there was no hesitation on either of their parts! I thought it would discourage the educators from opening up, but what I learned was that may have been my excuse for not recording prior to this 😉

 

“I think that there is a difference for teachers between the abstract of how we see our practice and then the concrete reality of it.”

Having the pre-conference recorded was a no brainer. My phone sat on the table and it was like it didn’t exist; but what came out of listening to the meeting after was brilliant. I thought I heard all that was said while in the moment, but the ideas and things mentioned that I had missed was more than I could have ever thought. Not only did I have the documentation from the meeting, but now I could add to the thinking and ideas that the educators and I were going to work towards during our 5 week collaboration.

I took this recording and went one step forward and shared with my colleague and mentor when it comes to coaching. What I had thought I needed to work on was not listening, but from her feedback it was evident that I needed to work on honing in on the goals for the collaborative experience. We discussed possible questions I could use to improve the student and educator goals and, in the future, where I could ask these questions during the pre-conference.

Having taken the leap into recording coaching sessions, it is now a strategy that I will continue to use and leverage when it comes to improving my coaching abilities. I highly recommend you take some time to think about how this could be used within your classroom to improve yourself as an educator. It was an amazing experience and I will never hesitate to do again!

Yours in learning,

Laural

Great video to get you thinking about recording:

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/improve-teaching-with-video

Bill Gates Ted Talk on “Teachers Need Real Feedback”

Join A Summer Book Club!

My passion for books must have started in my early years when my parents consistently read to me. I cannot express how appreciative I am for their love of books and for instilling in me the benefits and love for reading. Reading was never not a part of our lives and it always continued into the summer months. It was never considered a school thing, but always considered a life thing.

I bring this up because it is that time of year when we need to be thinking about how we will support our students during the summer slump when reading gains can be easily lost. I am not writing this to make suggestions, but to simply put into your brain this simple question: How will you support your students’ summer reading life?

978619f70685bddc44cd9814f071f058I am actually here to support you and your reading life and wanted to share this cool book club that @pennykittle has during the summer for adults: The Book Love Summer Foundation Summer Book Club ’17. My fellow reading advocate, @wynkerr  suggested it and I have decided to commit the $50 to support a good cause of putting books in classrooms. I will provide one warning in that Canada is unable to receive the books for the summer book club and you will have to commit to purchasing them on your own.

It’s exciting to chat about books and to engage in reading literature that can support our students.  If you decide to partake, you will also have a great story to tell your students before and after the summer about your #myreadinglife.  Check it out!

Yours in reading,

Laural

The Language We Use

As far back as I can remember, there have been various moments that have imprinted on my brain when someone has spoken to me and used various words that have impacted how I think.  I bring this up because I am learning new language and reconstructing old words as society evolves and I am thinking about how I speak in classrooms more than I have ever before. How do the words I use impact the students I teach? How might I improve the language I use to be more inclusive?

A recollection I have from one of my earliest memories was during the warm months as an elementary student. I can’t quite say how old I was, but the memory is still vivid. There was a soccer team I was a part of and I happened to be the only girl on the team. We were in an important game, as far as I can remember, and in one instant the soccer ball nails me square on the nose and the blood begins to pour; along with my tears. Beyond that moment, the only thing I remember is my coach stating that this was why girls should not play organized sports. Imprinted for life.

Fast forward to my career in education.

I have, to be honest, quite frequently I have used the term “guys”. By no means was there a negative intention behind the use of it, but now, when I do happen to let it slip, I catch myself and try to use another term. It’s not easy to always be on our game about what and how we say things, but I do believe it is our responsibility and part of the educational code.

The latest term or phrase that is beginning to become more and more prevalent is the use of “IEP students.” I’m not sure how or why it began, and I am not sure how we change this, but it is not okay. It is not okay in classrooms and it is especially not okay in our staff rooms. Do we want to define our students first by a label and then by their name?

The language we use is a direct correlation to how we perceive the student.  You construct the framework with how you see and feel about a student through the language you use. I will say it again – we construct the framework with how we see and feel about a student through the language we use. If this is true, how does this framework impact the way in which we teach?

Our profession is a tough one. It’s messy. Complicated. Overwhelming at times. Rewarding at others. To think of having to watch what we say every moment within our schools can be exhausting, but I think it is important. One word may imprint on our students in a positive or negative way and it is up to us to not tell our students’ stories. They must construct their stories themselves. I’m not saying I have mastered how I speak, by any means, but I am definitely working hard at it until it becomes habitual.

I wanted to write this today, because I think, now more than ever, we as educators must be truly cognizant of the language we use, especially within the walls of our schools.

Yours in learning,

Laural

Check out the April 2017 issue of Educational Leadership “Differences, Not Disabitilites” for some great articles 🙂

 

Personalization – Thinking More Deeply About Genius Hour

If I had to choose an ultimate goal for any and all students, I would have to say that I would hope they would all become lifelong learners seeking out their passions and consciously choosing to learn throughout their life. It is something that I continue to do to this day and it brings me joy and continues to challenge me intellectually.

I bring this up today, because I just finished reading the Educational Leadership magazine for March 2017 titled “Getting Personalization Right” and it has triggered a memory I have when working with another passionate educator.

I’m not sure if you have heard of it? Genius Hour?! (I write this with a smile on my face). When this idea first came to social media and mainstream, I couldn’t help but wonder what that would look like in education and I also couldn’t help but wonder how I might thrive in an environment such as this? I have so many unanswered questions and wonderings about the world and this profession we work in that this idea seemed to be one of great potential. I may have even Googled “How to get a job at Google.” 🙂

Then the reality of implementing such a wonderful idea was presented to me by an educator who wanted to give it a go in her classroom. I thought, “right on” – we get to see this in action and make the students fall in love with learning on their own!

We began laying the groundwork for the intermediate students by planning what this would look like over the course of approximately a month and provided time throughout the week where the students could research, linger and find out more about their passions. There were scaffolded lessons that we thought would spark the light to have the students engage during this time. We thought we were giving them what they needed.

The conclusion we came to pretty quickly was that her students didn’t know what they were passionate about and the idea of wonder or questioning their environment or ideas seemed to be foreign to them. Research was hard. Some projects lacked lustre. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was when you think that Genius Hour will be the “cat’s meow” and then there is a sound of “flop” lingering as we watch the Genius Hour fly by.

Come back to present day, and I am fascinated by the articles in Educational Leadership March 2017 issue. It resonated on so many levels with great suggestions and also whether or not we all have the same definition of personalization.  I highly recommend reading it as the end of this school year draws to a close and Genius Hour is on your brain as a way to end on a “learning” high note.

There are things we need to consider when thinking about planning for personalization:

“We’ll fulfill its promise not by jumping on a personalization bandwagon, but rather by deep thinking, informed planning, and wise leadership exercised reflectively and persistently site by site, classroom by classroom.” ~ Carol Ann Tomlinson

“As teachers transfer greater control of learning to students, they need to intentionally develop in students the “habits of mind” that will enable them to take on this responsibility.” ~Kallick and Zmuda

These quotes makes me wonder if we need to plan purposefully throughout an entire year to give our students the mindset, skills and time to linger in their own learning. Create a Genius Hour or creative project that develops over ten months.

“We’re in swampy territory if we see personalization as a silver bullet, or if we mistake it as a goal rather than as a means to a much larger end.” ~Carol Ann Tomlinson

Now here is the kicker and something we need to think about before embarking on a Genius Hour adventure:

“Before going on, it seems wise to ask what evidence we presently have that personalized learning works. Answer: Virtually none.” ~Benjamin Riley

With where I am in my learning about education and how to improve student achievement, I must say that the article by Benjamin Riley sparked whether or not this is a good use of our learning time? And if it is something we do decide to do, we must be purposeful and provide students with guidance and feedback throughout this journey; giving them a set of skills that can be spiralled throughout their life. What, how and especially why we do things, matters!

I want to honour and applaud all of the educators who are taking this idea and having it flourish among your students. The tweets and shared experiences throughout #ldsb continues my thinking about what this can and should look like.  I believe in personalization, but through different avenues and I will continue to be open to ideas that work towards creating lifelong learners.

Make sure you check out the Institute for Personalized Learning Network website for possible ways to begin implementing personalization!

Yours in learning,

Laural