Saturday, December 26, 2015

Learning process? Passion or Skill Acquisition?

This is a blog I have wanted to write for a long time, but in the spirit of not feeling like I have "done" anything in this realm, until this week, I held off.  I truly feel that I should not post until I have "done" something, not regurgitate info.  I did something this week, that has nothing to do with my job, and I started at step 1, sort of.  I made a mixtape, or to be more 2016, I blended together about 20+ hip hop songs over an hour and ten minutes using an electronic turntable, my laptop, some headphones, and some large Pioneer and Cerwin Vega speakers.  I have speaker issues (I own about 30 of them).  The whole process took me over 10+ hours.  Well if you count the time in college, then as a 20's and 30's something (More like 1,000+ hours)  Why would I do this?  Music is a passion, there is always music in my head.  Ask my staff if it is a part of everything we do in PD sessions?  But just keep in mind that music is the passion or key to the process for me in learning this week. Passion is nothing without process.  Consistency, dedication, practice, proper repetition is the key, not passion... (but without passion the rest fall apart, hold on with me here!)

So back to the point.  What is your learning process?  You are learning something new, what do you do?  What is your first step?  If you read "The art of learning" by Josh Waitzkin or "Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintence by Robert Persig, you might have your learning process framed as mine as been.  Josh talks about the acquisition of skill through continued practice.  He was a chess master World Champion and later World Champion of Tai Chi Chuan martial arts. He stressed movements, both in chess and martial arts.  Practice each move, whether a piece or a punch, simple movements over time and practice create a memory that is never forgotten.  Do the work, I wrote about that before, and continue to do it, over and over.  even if it seems boring... movie based on his chess life:
 Robert Pirsig's book is being read by me constantly.  I never stop reading it (been reading it since 2001), but also can not read more than 10 pages at any time.  I have read it start to finish 3 times and on page 185 as of right now for the 4th time.  It is a book that you can not fully understand the first or second time, but is more than important in it's content.  

To explain it in a few sentences here is what I would say; It is an explanation about life and learning through the lens of a man and his son on a motorcycle road trip, part of it with another couple.  His bike is old and needs constant work by him, the other couple's bike is a BMW that is serviced by a mechanic. This argument of quality vs. quantity is used as an analogy throughout the book with multiple pointed and meaningful examples.  It is also told through the lens of a main character that is reliving a life that he barely remembers and is searching for answers to explain why he had a nervous breakdown. All of that with a father (main character) and son that apparently have had a hard time connecting in the past and are using this road trip as a way to re-establish a bond.  Very deep, hence the reason my brain is on the 4th read of this book, and still don't totally understand it.  But you get more each time you read it and I highly recommend it. 

So that is the context, here is the problem!  I usually don't write unless I have a problem with something.  My problem here is that I feel like I am reading and hearing too much about letting students do what they want...  We can' just let them do what they want. That is crazy talk right?  Letting them have   choice, passion, voice, personalization, etc. are all things that I strongly support and defend.  I will always defend them, and think they are the backbone of a really good educational system.  I also think student's health, social emotional, behavioral, etc. (whole child) approach are also important, but I don't want to deviate too much from my initial point.  

Here is the problem:  Too many think that if you create a "space or give tools" make it a "Maker" "White" "Learning" "New School" "1 to 1" "Autonomy" or "whatever".  

Then the "magic" is going to happen, like when the MTV show Cribs visited bedrooms... remember that?  Come on people, we know it is not that simple!  You need to put in the work, skill acquisition, practice, work, guidance, modeling, etc.  So here is my second issue:  First was space, second is with over emphasis on passion.  

"Oh no he didn't...", said the teacher that does Genius Hour

"He has no idea", says every teacher everywhere not just collecting a paycheck. I don't like those teachers, but again not the point.    

Yes, I did.  Maybe it is just me, but I have had so many conversations with "progressive" educators that just think you give a kid a passion and they are going to take off like a space shuttle into orbit. So as the administrator that has no idea!  I am going to tell you as well, that anyone that has come in contact with me understands that My Passion for working with "our kids" is the driving force of everything I do.  If you question that ask the #cddolphins.  But it does not end there. 

Passion time and Genius hour time is important, probably one of the most important things we do with "our kids".  But it comes with work and development.  So read on...

All of that being said, I am going to tell you that passion is the second most important ingredient in the learning process. Don't believe me, ask Robert Persig or Josh Waitzkin.  I have never spoken to either of them, but I think they would back me up.  Passion, my drive, is the gas pedal and sets the course, but does little more than that.  All that space does is make sure the seats are comfortable, which is also important, but not the most important part.  

So what does any of this have to do with me making a mixtape?  Well I experienced the learning process this week from ground zero.  I just got a new piece of equipment.  A Numark electronic turntable that plugs into my laptop and from there into speakers and headphones.  You control the music from this device with the laptop.  I have never used something like this before, as my time djing in college and post college was with more hands on equipment.  I spent one year in college (Senior) on Thursday night's at club "Outer Limit" playing music for college kids.  That was my college job, got paid pretty well when we had a good take from the door.  

So I had to learn!  I had passion, but passion would not allow me to mix music together seamlessly, speed up/speed down tempo, sync, set spot, pre-cue, sample, split output, or any of the other stuff that needs to happen in order for it to sound okay when going from song to song.  I was no professional DJ, I learned those hands on skills too.  But this was/is totally different.  

The idea is to not stop the dance party, but keep it going without interruption.  That is the ultimate goal, get people excited about the next song and keep them dancing.  That is the standard!  So I had to learn the boring stuff in order for my passion to come out.  If I did not learn any of that, or gave up, my passion would have died.  I had to sit on the floor and figure it out.  I did not have a choice if I wanted my passion to see fulfillment.  I needed to struggle and practice.  I hate practice.  I am like Allen Iverson.  I have a major advantage over our kids, I am 37 and know that it can be done.  Many of "our kids" don't have that same amount of life experiences.  They want to give up if it does not come easy.  Just opening it up to them and expect meaningful learning, does not happen.  They need practice, some repetition, and more practice.  They need to struggle in a supportive environment, and then more practice.  They need to reflect by videoing themselves, reading their work to others, getting feedback from their teacher, etc.  It is hard work, not just let them go!  

They can create, but what are they creating?  

Back to my struggle and my analogy:  Here is my example of my bad and good from my MIX TAPE.  It can be found on Youtube, but because of explicit material, I am not posting the whole 1:10:46.  If you want it, go find it with this picture.  

I think too many of us as educators think that we can put our passion of learning on our kids and they are just going to take it and run with it, if we find the right subject for them or topic.  I am here to tell you this is not the case.  We need to build up their skills, abilities with some mundane tasks, and other necessary learning tools so that when they find their "passions" they can be set free.  I did not like practicing over the past week (10+ hours) where I had to read, test, struggle, start over, call a friend who does this, not figure it out, and then do it again.  Even my finished product which you can find if you find this picture is not that great... trust me.  But for the amount of work I put in, I would give it a D+, but the most proud D+ I have ever gotten.  

Let's not forget as educators, passion is so important, but don't forget that practice, and skill development, again, practice, skill development, are the learning process.  The learning process is just that, a process, not always pretty.  Use passion to drive the ship, but please don't be a surface level racing boat, think more like a nuclear submarine and dive deep in learning with "our kids" before surfacing.  Use your periscope at times to show them the future, but make sure to stay deep even if you come to the surface at times.  "Our kids" need that and I can not stress my Passion enough to tell you to do that work, and don't allow a feeling drive your decisions.  Make it about practice, risks, and struggle to develop skills that will support passions!   

Monday, December 21, 2015

When we think of Kevin...? We really just want to be a little bit like him.

"What happens when your child is born and there is dead silence in the delivery room.  No "congratulations, it's a boy!"  The delivery room according to my parents was dead silent when my older brother was born.  During the second day of his life a doctor told my mom he was a Mongoloid, and not knowing what this meant, she asked if he was going to have to be institutionalized.  The date was July 26th, 1974.

Kevin is an adult now, succeeding with down syndrome, not institutionalized, living in a group home with 3 other people with disabilities and working every day, being productive.

Video of words spoken here:

He has developed great relationships with so many and left lasting impressions.  Here are quotes from many of those people as they describe what my brother means to them.  These are their words not mine to describe the coolest guy I know!

He is just one of the guys! - Mat

Kevin took what some families would deem as a challenge and turn it into a blessing.  Kevin is a person with obvious disabilities and was able to teach you more than any other person could ever have.... - Craig

He is funny, watching games, when I say, "Cold Beer" he laughs. - Dave (roomate)

Kevin seems to be the most happy person I know.  He was always this way.  As a baby his nickname was Mr. Smiles.  What a wonderful reminder when I see him, that life should always be enjoyed! - Mom

Kevin has shown me that life really doesn't have to be complex; the simple pleasure of just being together and contributing can bring him true happiness and fulfillment. - Penny

Sooo there was this one time at the Dirty Hole that Kevin thought he was surrounded by characters of Xena the Warrior Princess... - Chaz

Not sure I knew what pure joy was until I met Kevin Timm.  Kevin is many things to many people, a son, a brother, a colleague, a roommate, an uncle, a DJ and Xena the Warrior Princess - Chris

Tough choices about Kevin... Do I go with his perfectly articulated half time speeches, sending him in with laundry list of random alcohol to buy at the liquor store when we were 16, or the time I had him guest bartending at Bankshots. - Brian

I was about nine years old when I first met Kevin.  He was blasting Def Leopards "pour some sugar on me" and strumming the meanest air guitar I have ever seen.  Not an hour later and he was dressed up as a Cat dancing and reciting lines from Broadway's show.  His passion and inherent love for music and dancing was inspiring by its uninhibited nature and ability to infect all those around him with happiness.  They are reminders to this day of how important it is to sing, dance, and laugh as loudly as possible, every day! - Brandon

Twenty years ago I met Kevin Timm, a caring and compassionate young man who loves sports, music, his family and friends and is constantly smiling and laughing.  - Dave

Great guy! He is good, but sometimes he does not get up in the morning and he sleeps in. - Fred (roomate)

The smiling charmer sat at the dinner table listening to adults talk about mundane adult crap.  He however, was dreaming about winning the air guitar/drum championships and watching the World Series with the Phillies. All this while sipping on 2% milk. - Ryun

Kevin is the most honest and forgiving person, who finds happiness and truly treasures the simple moments in life.  St. Patrick's day loop with Kevin.  If you were there, you know why this was a special moment. Some things are better left to imagination, but he wants to repeat it every year on March 17th. - Jessi

Using a metaphor, Kevin showed me early on if you help him by opening a door he will walk through it and into the room. - Dad

Kevin is often my motivation and passion.  I feel a sense of guilt that is not justified for being his brother.  If at the end of the day if I have not lived true to me, he is there in thought to remind me that the only thing that matters is being honest to yourself about yourself. - Doug

Last quote is from Kevin:  My music, let me see here... playing DVD's, hanging with everybody, Eagles games, bowling, Sixers games. - Kevin

He is living every day, making an impact on everyone he meets, and "hanging with everybody."  He has influenced so many and left his mark on this world more than he will ever realize!  We all want to be a little bit like Kevin.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Are you a Doing It or Pretending to Do It?

There is a problem in being connected and putting yourself out there...  A major problem, one that needs to be addressed and spoken about.  There are way too many educators that are in it for the wrong reasons.  There are so many wrong reasons, but I am going to focus on one particular subset that are not "doing it".  They are "pretending to do it" or doing it for the wrong reasons.  These are not those types that are just in it for summer schedule, or the great healthcare benefits, although those people are also wrong... This is about those that have found a "voice" and a "connectedness" that then entitles them to not worry about "our kids".

To quote a great song I will find you from OAR: "I am not looking to fight, I just want to move things along"

I will define what "our kids" means to me.  It is my students, in MY school, my kids that I literally touch every day, the ones that cry in front of me, laugh with me, may try to hit me, run to me yelling about what they learned, and define the reasons I "do" the work I "do" every day.  All my experience and writing comes directly from those interactions within my school (students, staff, community).  It is not based on something I heard about or read about.

As a connected educator I see too many other connected educators that are spending so much time podcasting, broadcasting, coming up with hashtags, starting things that really don't benefit "our kids". There is no way they are doing the work, there is no time left in their schedule.  The conversations are all surface level with them and when I challenge them from time to time they have just not responded or given me more quotes from Thomas Edison or Plato about "failure" and "working hard".  I will say that I do not have close to all the answers, but I also don't speak to those things I don't have experience, or if I do it is to find out more information, not be an expert to perpetuate a possible false message.        

I have been interviewed on a podcast, I blog, I have started hashtags, I try to push the right message, so don't get me wrong, that is important, to an extent, when you are ready.  But the work comes first, not your message.  The message should be a result of your work, not your work defined by your message. What does that mean?  It means you have some experiences or examples to which you speak.

I get all fired up way too much!  And will use two analogies to explain my point.  It is because I read and see so many spreading a message that is something they "feel" is important and therefore try to find the biggest audience possible to spread it. Then some of them even "feel" they have the right to write a book, start a podcast, host twitter chats, and don't live that work.  They "feel" because they are in the game (first analogy), they automatically are Lebron James or Kobe Bryant, but never played ball in high school or college, oh wait! these 2 never played in college.

I am not trying to squash someone's voice, but Lebron and Kobe both have something very important in common, they practice all the time!  They practice their craft every day and have done it a while, therefore they can speak to their experiences.    

Do your job, then speak to that.  Don't speak about what you think should be the right way, speak to what you do.  It is that simple, if you do minimal work, I mean, can only dribble a ball with your right hand, and barely make a layup, don't broadcast that you are draining 3's to win the game constantly.  If you have only played a season or two and never made the playoffs don't talk about winning championships or seeing the promise land.  Put in work and time first, the platform will always be there.

It is not authentic and therefore perpetuates a message that is both false and dangerous.  Don't push false positive as a means to make yourself seem more important than "our kids."  It is not about you, it is about the game, the up and down, the sweat, the work, and celebrations should be communal, not individual.  And please if you have not worked in a classroom or school, don't speak to the classroom at all.  You can certainly speak to cool tools, products, etc., but don't speak to what you think will work in the classroom.

I spoke to a banker friend of mine this weekend after we cut down his tree, and we spoke about this very topic.  He has decided to go on the floor with his employees and give up his office space.  Why would he do that?  He wants to feel the heartbeat of the room, he wants to collect data, not through numbers but shared experiences and examples.  He also does not understand why his colleagues have not figured out this basic concept of living the work and doing the work.  He then feels he can use those experiences as a platform for his message and vision.

I will say it again:


Nothing we do is easy, and as I speak through voxer, twitter, or google+ with these so called "Lebron's" I grow increasingly concerned about their motivation.  I worry so much about the state of education that I don't need you making others feel a certain way.  If your message is false, puffed up, or exaggerated, keep it to yourself.  We are not in this to write a novel, be "known".  We should be in it to change lives and influence our local community.  Our global connections are only good if they help influence and shape our local message/community.  If that is not the motivation, then become a consultant, don't work with "our kids."

I try to surround myself with "doers" and not "broadcasters".  And as I make more and more connections, I am continuously let down that the depth of their understanding of innovation, data, school culture, relationships, curriculum, and learning are not to the point of true collaboration in thought.  Many of them are so distracted by this growing need to "broadcast" a message that they are just regurgitating or pushing for sake of pushing.  It is a trap, and one that has constant reinforcement through positive reinforcement, likes, favorites, etc.  Don't be a mouse chasing cheese (second analogy).  Farm the cow, churn the butter, salt it, and allow it to age first before you sell it at the market.  And make sure your market is local before you put it on the internet to sell.  Very important in this process.  Think Amish when you think pushing your message.  Know your product first.

So I challenge you as other educators to stop putting stuff out there you don't practice or that you have only tried a few times without proper vetting.  Don't use your current quick "feeling" to drive a message that is not thought out.  That is not going to help "our kids" learn or grow.  It is not going to help our peers grow to be the best educators they can be.  Do the work, then when you are ready, start to talk about it.  That is the only way, don't get drunk on the message of you, or did I already say that in other ways?

On top of all this, there are so many great educators that I know that don't have a medium for their message.  Push them or amplify their voice, if you know they are doing good work.  Spend your time promoting their work and helping them build from a place of wanting to get others involved that previously weren't.

Again your message is not the platform, your work defines your message and platform!  Raise your own expectations of yourself, "our kids" deserve that.  They need doers, not broadcasters, or talking heads.  They need people that have experience (farmers). If you are someone that does not have experience, get it, put in the time, and then as I said before, when you are ready, put your work out there.  That is the only way.  Don't be Lebron or Kobe until you have learned to shoot and dribble with both hands.       

Friday, December 11, 2015

I am writing about "My Kids" not "Our Kids" in this one...

I think I have quoted "our kids" in so many blog posts before that I can't count them.  In each one it meant, "our kids" at Colonial School District, where I feel we are doing work that is changing not only the mindset of the community but the world.  The Power of "WE" is alive and well there, I am so proud of that work.

I am writing though about "My Kids", the ones that sleep under the same roof.  They mean something to me too. I went to our local board workshop last night and was stunned by what I saw and heard.  I want to write this as an angry father that wants to go to each board member's house, have a beer, and explain my thoughts one on one. Then, I think my true feelings could come out, private conversation, between two people.  Does it get any more intimate than that?

But I am not going to be able to do that... So I write this as a desperate father, who understands schools and how they work within districts.

I saw board members on Thursday night that did not care about movement.  They cared about "their voice".  We discussed communication, high school bell schedule, and full day Kindergarten.  They put full day Kindergarten last, as that is why most of the 50+ people showed up.

Communication discussion was easy, no dissention, although their ideas of how to communicate are not progressive, I have many thoughts on how to communicate with the public.  Later blog.

Then we went to the High School schedule.  Why does the Principal of the Avon Grove, Scott DeShong need to defend a block schedule to the board!?  That is absolutely insane!  Since when should a board be so concerned about high school scheduling... This feeds into my main point here.  I had just seen a show of "Men being Men".  By that I mean the men on the board felt a need to try and one up each other with ridiculous questions that had nothing to do with the message.

There was passion in the bell schedule presentation, had all the right answers, had data, student voice, teacher voice, and passion!  Please what else do you want, trust this man! For...... sake, just shut up!  You are a school board not the Pope, you are elected, not appointed for life.  Even the way many of you sat in your chairs bothered me!

Then we were about 2 hours into the meeting and the main topic of full day Kindergarten came up.  So now it became about "MY KIDS".  By this point, I had been beating down already by the board.  I had already lost faith in their ability.  "Men being Men", They questioned data and money that could not be determined because they were projections.  These were forecasts, but done with due diligence.  WAKE UP!  We can question that all day, but questions never leads to action.

This is the type of question that came from the board,  what if 12 more students decide to come and then we...?  So we adjust, I have been an admin for 10+ years, been to over 100 board meetings, I get the budget, but we were talking about pennies on the dollar?  Then I heard, "We need a plan!"  You need a plan to build a plane, you need actions to change schools, period.

If you constantly plan, you never move forward.  Forget my problems with your ability to implement technology!  Challenge me! Ask me what I do?!  Why are we in "My Kids" district 10 years behind?  Come visit us @Carrie_Downie on twitter or face to face. Call me (302) 323 - 2926 if you want to talk.

A train is leaving the station and you missed it about 5 years ago!  Seriously, I have been to teacher conferences and talked to your principals. They don't get it!  Seriously come talk to me! or my friends!  

I am so tired of promoting my school and being ashamed of the school my kids go to. Why is this parking spot even there?  That alone tells me so much!

You awakened me last night.  I have no problem with you individually, but I know that I have friends that are also committed with a major following.  You are worried about those that came and talked about money and tax increases.  But you should not be, we can mobilize, they can only yell out at meetings.  We have tools, that you don't understand, but if you followed us on twitter, google+, youtube, facebook, etc. or any other social media site you would understand our power of mobilization.

The message is beyond that.  The message is that I am upset that the reason "My District" is 10 years behind the game is because you as a board feel a need to "man up" in the wrong way, and need to continuously show your "influence".  From what I saw on Thursday, I saw a bunch of posers, and want to be's!  The best voice came from Stephanie (board member) who spoke from the student perspective.  Sorry boys, your message has been heard for a thousand years!  You are weak, and you can sit back, cross your legs, flip your glasses up, breath heavy, and do all the MAN stuff.  But I see it, you are weak, because you are basing your arguments on fear of loss of power, not a passion!  You are basing your line of questions on trying to one up each other to fulfill a void!  That is the difference.  We have passion, and don't question where that comes from.  That passion comes from "My kids".  Don't question that...

I really don't want to concentrate my efforts on you, as it has nothing to do with "My Kids" district other than an example of what you could do.  But I feel to play your game of pushing up your chest, I should show you mine.  That is the language as MEN you seem to understand.  There is more, but am trying to speak your language now. I have lived here 12+ years, I really can mobilize if needed.  I am speaking as a father, not a principal or member of Colonial School District. I want to make sure that is clear.  You have a problem with me, come after me, not my school or district.

Just approve the High School Schedule and Full Day Kindergarten.  My requests are simple.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pushing Thinking! For "our kids"

Much of this blog post is the process of instructional rounds, so if you know the process skip to the underlined part that says: If you know the process start here:

Today we finished up the 2nd day of instructional rounds.  It was a 2 day process.  After getting feedback from our first time doing this, I realized we needed more time to "discuss".  So we got substitutes and spent an hour and 15 minutes observing 20 minutes of a lesson and then debriefing.  This is the process in short format.

Very Important!!!!

You have to have a problem of practice for this to make any sense.  And it has to be focused.  It can't be to "Do what is best for our kids".

Our problem of practice as I define it is:  to increase the cognitive demand on students using Cognitive Growth targets designed by @modernteacher .  So for example move them from constantly comprehending and retrieving to reasoning, creating, and metacognition.

Simple process:

Two sides on a paper:
  1. That is the set-up.  Very important! Do not make any inferences like, "the lesson was great" or " I know what they meant".  Only script what you see or hear... That is it. 
  2. You go with 5-8 people into a classroom, spread out and get to work scripting.  
  3. 20-30 min. later you reconvene somewhere and discuss what you saw and heard.
  4. You will need about 40 minutes for this part.  
  5. You begin by repeating everything you see from teacher and student
  6. You apply the cognitive growth target to those observations that make sense.
  7. You then compare the two lists of teacher and student and see if they match.
  8. Finally, you come up with ways to either increase cognitive demand for the lesson or think of ways in a follow up lesson to get there.
That is it, seriously! Or is it?

Here is what it really is beyond the Process I described.  Because up until now I have just retrieved information from what we did. 

If you know the process start here:

So here is what we wanted to accomplish, and hopefully we did.  We wanted to push ourselves to think about a lesson that we observed in a way that we have never done before.  When do teachers ever observe each other and then totally break it apart from 5-8 perspectives based on what they observed?  Apply how they "think" the teacher, and students were thinking.  Sounds very metacognitive, I know, stay with me.  Remember no inferences, we did not refer to the "teacher" by name, it was just, "the teacher" did this or "a student" did this.  

So we debated about where it fell on the cognitive scale.  When do you ever do this in school as an educator?  When do you ever debate where a task falls on a cognitive growth scale in school!  I was totally geeking out!  The debate pushed us and then after we came to consensus on both we move to the last part and probably most important.

How do you stretch your muscle as an educator?  You brainstorm, you throw out ideas, nothing is wrong, just recorded.  We came up with ideas that could be implemented tomorrow.  Beyond that we forced each other to think within a space where it was not based on what "We Thought".  It was based on something "Someone else" thought was a good idea for a lesson.  We were totally metacognitive at this point.  How can you implement something you don't experience yourself.  I stress learning by doing, I hoped to try and achieve this through this process.    

Wait.... what does that mean?  When you plan with colleagues or have an idea, you attach emotion to it.  If you observe a lesson from someone else and build same context together, and then converse over it, there is not as much emotion or no emotion.  So conversation can be more authentic, hopefully.  It is then not about what you observed at all, it is about how you "think". When are you challenged just to "think" about something within the same observed context, it becomes more powerful.  You build together without emotion of it being your idea.   

It is like going for a "test drive" of a NASCAR race car around the track and then meeting afterwards and talking about the experience.  You conceivably have nothing to lose.  Now racing cars is not like teaching, or is it? 

Observe a class without inferences, and then discuss it.  Facilitation has to push thinking, which I hope I did, but I am still learning and growing, as I am new to this too.  I heard so many great thoughts, I felt so much "wait time", and I totally am blown away by my staff again and their ability to go through this process.  

When as an educator during the school day do you ever stop and think about lesson design without constraints other than to think like a crazy person.  The expectation is to "think" "push" "take risks", etc.  If our conversations over the last 2 days don't prove that, then let me know, but I think it is clear that you need to push the boundaries of not only technology but thinking.  We push "thinking" in a blended environment.  We are not "1 to 1", but we integrate technology continuously, we are not pushers of technology, we are pushers of thinking and technology helps us deliver that evidence.

Don't stereotype us because we will surprise you!  My #cddolphins are innovative in "thinking" and nothing else, we are trying to build entrepreneurs of thought, not Google certified kids.  Does that make sense?  It is like we are teaching our kids to drive a NASCAR race everyday, but we start with how to hit the gas pedal, and hit skills of drafting and taking curves when it is appropriate.  We have to get there repeatedly in order for our kids to race effectively...  They need to know how to "think" and learn intricacies of "thinking" in order to be prepared for the race of life.  We produce "thinkers" because "our kids" have thoughts, and that muscle needs to be run around the track as much as possible.    

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Conflicted about blogging... A joint effort to hear internal voices before publishing.

This blog was a joint effort between Doug Timm and Justin Schleider. We came up with the idea after #satchat on Saturday on the topic blogging.  As you read below, keep in mind these are certainly our thoughts, and written to promote thinking. I know I feel both sides at times, and certainly not exclusive to me I don't think. We think you can relate, connect, and see yourself in many of our questions and arguments back and forth.  The whole conversation is an internal dialogue where Doug took one side and Justin took the other.  We tried to separate these by using different colors.  

I am ready to start writing.  Why am I blogging? Is it because I have a great thoughts that need to be hashed out in more that 140 characters?  Do I want everyone to see me? Read me? ReTweet me? Tell me how great my writing is?  Maybe I am needing to blog to push other people’s thinking. There are a ton of people that could benefit from me pushing their thoughts. Or is it metacognition? Metacognition is defined as the, “Awareness or analysis of one's own learning or thinking processes”. Am I writing so that I can shape my thoughts about something? Maybe it is a combination of all the above. All I know is that I need to write. The keys on my keyboard have been silent for so long here goes nothing.  

Ok just finished. Wow that was quicker than expected. Time to send.  Here I am, ready to send my words out to the world, I do this all the time, but for some reason this time is different, I have voices in my head!  I pause before I hit PUBLISH and then it happens, thoughts and voices overwhelm me from 2 very different perspectives.  Here is my internal conversation.

I am scared, what if my message is not what I am really trying to say?  I have read it 5 times and still am unsure if what I wrote is worth blogging about.  Just because I have thoughts, does not necessarily mean that someone else wants to read them.  I flash back to a childhood story when my grandmother yelled at me for barely being able to read, and she said that I would never be able to write. She was a honors high school English teacher, she should know these things.  

Forget the haters. I have a voice that needs to be heard. Have you read some of the stuff that is out there? I have a real voice that needs to be heard. People need to hear me. Maybe someone else is going through the same things I am! If I can reach one person and help them through their journey it is worth it. I want to be heard! Isn’t that what blogging is all about, being heard?

It is about being heard, but I am unsure of my message constantly.  What if  people perceive me in a way that is negative?  My biggest fear is feedback and the thought that someone is at home on their couch laughing at me or thinking I am stupid.  I never liked school growing up and hated writing.  My handwriting is still barely legible and when I write I am constantly erasing and writing over again.  My ideas seem boring or retreads of things I already have read.  Why do I not feel original.  Why do I feel like another grain of sand in an ever increasing beach of mediocrity?  Why do I question myself so much?

Some may think I am stupid. Maybe I am. I was stupid enough to get my bachelor’s degree. I am stupid enough to be a leader in my school. Maybe I am stupid enough to break through the flow of noise and bring a new perspective with this blog.  So why I am not a “writer”. I mean after all what is a writer? Someone who writes. Didn’t I just write a blog? That makes me a writer.

I am not a writer, I don’t use fancy words or imagery, I don’t push anyone, I see what I write and I think “not that interesting.”  I have these thoughts all the time.  Why would someone else want to read my verbal diarrhea.

I don’t use use fancy words, because the message is what resonates with people. My vocabulary isn’t extensive.  If this wasn’t published for the world it would have much shorter words in it!! People want to hear my message, not use a dictionary to figure out what I am saying.  Why use big words when every day words do the job just fine?

I really want to push people’s thinking. Let’s be real, no one really likes to be told their views are wrong. I talk about growth mindset and think I am living it.  People ask to have their thinking pushed, but do they really want that?  Every other answer in every Twitter chat from now until the end of time is growth mindset. I have the ability to push their thinking. This blog will push people in a way they have never been pushed. It is real. Authentic. Different. It is me. No one else has my perspective. People want that. People Need That.

Because I want to inspire, not just push a message.  Is that so hard to understand?  I want my other voice to stop fighting with me, I want to be the best I can be, and my writing should be proof of that.  I just don’t feel worthy…   

I am not better than anyone else, but I am something special. My ego understands this. My ideas may not be new or revolutionary, but they belong to me. They are my ideas that I need to put on a page. That is all I can ever ask of myself.

I have done this before... I have tagged a lot of people and threw this up on multiple hashtags as well as Facebook, Google+ and other social media outlets.  I felt shame each time as I know I am not worthy.  Each of those previous times I kept my mouth shut to my other voice!  I did not speak up! I allowed my other side to overwhelm me!  I don’t know that I want what my other side wants.  Do I need the pats on the pack through favorites, comments, retweets, +1, you get the idea.  Do I need those as motivation, because without them, what am I?  It wasn’t always that way…   It used to be about a “thought” and trying to put “thoughts” to paper to work out the kinks.  Is my reason for blogging now becoming diluted and shallow.  It is not about me, or I should say, it is about me, but not my thoughts, but my name.  It is about my name and I need that high?  This is why I am speaking up to my other voice.  Am I starting to feel shameful?

Stop. For real! You are way overthinking this!  Who are these “edu rockstars” that people swoon over. Why are they so popular? They are people. People who have a message. People who put their pants on one leg at a time.  My message is just as important as theirs. People need to hear my message. The more people that hear my message and read this the better. The more retweets and conversations that this can start the better. It doesn’t matter that I don’t participate in the Twitter or Voxer chats that I drop the link to my blogs in.  Those people get me and they want my words!  All that matters is that people will read it. I can start conversations they never would have had before.  My message is important, because it is me!  I am going to tag everyone and any hashtag that is out there.  I am not going to feel guilty about it. My message needs to get out.  

Do I want people to know who I am? Yes. Yes I do. I want people to know who I am and what I do. Does that make my blog any less worthy? No. The bottom line is that my blog is me. If people don’t like it that’s ok. I still need to get my voice out there. It will help more people than it will hurt.  That was my original question at the beginning.  Why am I doing this?

I know I like to write, but who is it for? I still have not totally answered that question.  What do I want?  Who do I want to read this?  Here I go again with endless questions!  I can’t stop thinking that my other side has a really good point.  Does sharing to a larger audience dilute my message?  Especially if I send out “words” all the time.  Does this just become noise like a car with a really loud sound system that drives by?  You look, maybe just for a second, but once the noise is gone, so are any thoughts.  If I could just figure out my motivation in blogging and is it covering something up?  How has my evolution led me to this moment?  If I knew that I probably would not have spoken up.   

I want people to read this. As many as possible. This may help them or it may help me. Either way it will help someone. Maybe it will cement someone’s position. Maybe someone will realize they disagree with me. Doesn’t matter. We are thinking, reflecting, metacognating (made that up). The number doesn’t matter it could be one person or thousands. The important part is that this blog will push me and possibly others. Isn’t that what we want?

I make sense, I really do, but why did I speak up?  Why am I here?  What is my purpose?  I am important too and I will not stay silent any longer.  My back and forth with myself is not a competition although at times it feels that way.  It is a struggle, a battle, with no winner or right or wrong.  Those situations are the most difficult, but I guess that is life in general, why can’t I accept that?

My finger slowly goes to the touch pad to PUBLISH... Should I?  Why all of a sudden did I question my motives? who is my audience? why do I write?  Now I question myself, is that a sign?  The tension in my head is overwhelming me to the point of sweating.  Who am I? The confident blogger that self-promotes with really no discourse, or the one that is thoughtful about topic, audience, form, and ideas?  Or am I both? Maybe I fall somewhere in the middle. Should I PUBLISH this one? The top is spinning…...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Why do you blog?

Why do you blog?  Reflection, Reach, Influence, or some other reason.  I don't care why you blog, I really don't, what I care about is your message.  Because guess what!?  As influencers' we have a responsibility.  @jonharper70bd has a major following.  I appreciate that, but to what extent do you weigh that, and decide that maybe your message should be authentic?  I challenge the message that is his message.  Positive is great, but when do we be "real"?  Sometimes blogging about what is not what you "see" every day becomes a problem.  When does that message come out?

When does "group think," because of following become detrimental to what we do as educators?  When do we take a "feeling" and make it action?  Please think about that as you blog, and think about your influence.  Don't spread a message of something that is not going to in reality, make a difference.  I love positive messages!  Just be careful, because your "feeling" based on a moment in time, probably, will not create sustainable change for "our kids."

If you blog for yourself, that message is fine.  The problem is when you push your "feelings" with influence to a larger audience.  Those that are influenced by your words need to be considered.

This is short and sweet, but as tweeters, we tend to jump to these types of messages.  This is just a short and sweet moment of warning.  Read and appreciate, don't jump until you have thought about what you have read.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I am tired... so what!?!?

I am tired... I just finished a 12 hour day after a 13 hour day and have to deliver PD tomorrow at 8:45ish.  We have coffee at 8:00 am to wake me up, but I am tired.  Just finished a twitter chat, voxer conversation on the way home from work, and listened to a podcast after work about my district NSBA site visit in the spring.  Discipline issues, conversations with staff, parents, students, a DFS supervisor, and a bunch of email/phone calls from people selling stuff.  You know what I am not done!  More on that term at the end.

You know what though, I am going to suck it up.  I played for a flag football team about 10 years ago called "man up."  I was the worst player, although I was a good athlete.  So what does this have to do with being tired?  I was a 3 year starting Div. III soccer goalie for a great team (hold div. III records), athlete of the year at my high school, multiple sports. But for "man up" I was low man on the totem pole.  I will say I was on the slightly older side of the group, just saying.  They were all Div. I football players U of D and Del. State. I did not fit in, and I was "tired" often with them.  Not because I was physically tired, but more because I was not fast enough, or knew what they were doing, because I could not stop to catch my breath.

Am I really tired? or did I really just need to stop and breath?  Think about where I am and refocus on the task at hand.  My task right now is getting ready for a PD day that I am leading.  I need to put everything else out of my mind.  Can not worry about being "tired" or not being able to keep up.

Let's be real, my staff don't care about my current "overwhelming" feeling.  They would probably say, "You chose the dates of these things, you chose the initiatives, you did this to yourself!"  Haha, I totally agree and I write this now as a reset to make sure I am ready for tomorrow.  Tomorrow is game time!

I can't be tired tomorrow, I can't fake it.  I don't want to, my staff deserve more than my faking it.  I do have a Ace in the hole though.  I got some help and I am planned, I think I am anyway.  I started on this day a few weeks ago.  I flipped a video for staff to start to think.  I put together some tasks for them to complete in our LMS +Schoology and I finished it off this afternoon with some team building.  I asked one of our staff @wilkieeducation to help with that exercise.  He is one of the most creative and energetic people I have ever met.  He came through with a great idea!  My coaches +Jessica Hoban and +Stephanie Jones help sort out the specifics, but he gets the credit for the idea!

That is the point, be tired, but never be done!  Fight the urge to stop and say you are not good enough or it is just too much!  Write a "to do" list, reach out for help, do whatever!  Just never admit you are tired and done!  I have heard being done is for Turkey's!  +Roselynn Burke told me that the other day as a coincidence.  I am no turkey!  I am many things, I guess done is not one of them!  Don't stop, you have had this feeling before, fight through, "man up", and be a leader for your staff, students, and community!  That is your job and better yet, should be your passion!!!