#day1wms – An iMovie of a Few Moments on the JHS Opening Days

Well, in a phrase, I thought Opening Day in the Junior High School was fantastic. In fact, I thought both “opening days” — the new student orientation and the half-day ease-in — were fabulous. To see the excitement and to feel the energy from 561 students and 82 faculty…there is practically no feeling like that in the world. The students are so excited to see each other, and the year is full of potential and opportunity. I was having so much fun that, on too many occasions, I forgot to crank up the Flip camera or iPhone to record the action and activity. But…I did capture enough to provide people with a taste (see video below). Also, remember that you can check the Twitter hashtag “#day1wms” for a compilation of slices-of-time moments and reflections.

“Bright Spot on Flexible Faculty Forum” Guest Post: Sally Finch

When Dr. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, numerous other runners soon ran through the opening that he cracked in an apparent barrier. Perhaps we have a similar situation here. Thanks, to Jen Lalley, the 112-day wait time paid off, and It’s About Learning enjoyed it’s first Junior-High-faculty guest post. Now, Sally Finch has offered up an email that she sent to Dean of Faculty Thad Persons. THANK YOU to Jen and to Sally for their willingness and courage – to share with a broader audience.

I loved the ease of registering on the multi-colored spreadsheet!  It was so user-friendly and made so much sense.

I just read Bo’s blog about how he and Jill changed topics at the last minute and got a whopping increase in attendance.  This kind of flexibility for Faculty Forum, with an “expert” speaker working along with us, and with us teaching each other, is the best kind of choice for getting back to school.  Even those sessions I could not attend but wanted to (Sophie is just across the hall from me) can be an asset in the future.

The flexibility made it possible for Marjorie and me to work together on economics, and that was especially helpful since Jay was on jury duty.  I was getting a little nervous about the technology before Thursday, but feel much better now that I have taken some baby steps on some new things and know that I have lots of folks around to help.

Thanks for a great two days.

People often pick up the phone or pound on the e-mail to complain. Fewer (it seems) take opportunity to communicate about a bright spot. For instance, we call the help desk when technology is frustrating us, and we call Georgia Power when the power shuts down. How often do we call to say, “Things worked great today! Thanks for providing the tools and the electricity!” Such positive feedback goes a long way to building a record of what works, what helps, and what needs to continue. Thanks, Sally!

Update on TEDxKids@BC Excitement!

On May 13, I posted about the excitement that a couple of eighth graders expressed about the possibility of engaging with TEDxKids@BC. One person commented on that post – Goran Kimovski, who is with TEDxKids@BC. THANK YOU, Mr. Kimovski. If nothing else even happens, I appreciate you taking time to comment, communicate, and excite! Such is a bedrock of learning, isn’t it?
Over the past weekend, a veritable flurry of communication exchanges occurred among the two eighth-grade learners, Ms. Gough, and me (Ms. Gough and I are part of the Synergy 8 team with these two eighth graders). After about 13 prototypes of a formal communication to Mr. Kimovski, here is what the eighth graders sent…
Dear Mr. Kimovski,
    We would first like to thank you for responding to Mr. Adams’s blog post in such a quick and inviting manner. Secondly, we would like to submit a proposal for the TEDxKids conference. Please let us know what would be the best way to do that, whether it be sending our thoughts to you via email or submitting some sort of application. We’d love to talk to you via skype; anytime from 2:40 to 3:30 EST is fine on our end, what time works for you? Below is a summary of our ideas and thoughts for this conference.
    School that cultivates a love of learning:
– increased student discussion less teacher lecture
– improvement and retention rather than  learning for test and grades
– incorporating technology to reach all learners
    Over this academic year, we believe that we have grown as students and in our beliefs of what makes up good schooling and what school ideally should look like. Also, as participants of a prototype course, called Synergy, we had the opportunity to explore the concept of “ideal school” further. We would like the opportunity to let others know about what we, as students, feel about this important issue of education, and the evolution that’s necessary to better serve the needs of learners.
Thanks once again,
T. S. and S. Z.
If for no other reason (and there are many!), I am thankful for social networking media used for educational purposes. Connecting learners with passionate, critical topics for exploration and discovery and possibility…that’s what is required for innovation and improvement.
What are you excited about? With whom are you connecting? With whom are you exchanging ideas and possibilities? Who is on your team to help push the change and improvement we desire in the world? How are you spreading ideas? What ideas are you catching that others are spreading?
Get connected. It’s about learning!

A fair comparison

Yesterday at lunch, I commented to a faculty member how impressed I was with his/her entree into video production of short lesson clips. Who knows what this kind of visual recording and representation could lead to – some great innovation in the future. Not to mention the postive effect it had for some other learners right then and there, in the moment. This person had made a mark to start (see The Dot, by Peter Reynolds). I was genuinely proud of the efforts and outcomes, and I had seen this person’s excitement earlier. After I named a few specifics, the faculty member said something like, “Thank you. But I can’t do it like [so-n-so] can.” Then, we talked about how so-n-so’s been making short video clips and screencasts for over a year. At that point the conversation turned to our children…about a very related issue.

My younger son, JT, thinks he should be able to do everything my older son, PJ, can do. The younger son is 2 1/2 years younger than the older. PJ has had a lot more practice running, scootering, playing video games, drawing, etc. I wish I could think of a convincing, “sticky” way to explain this to JT. If JT wants to make comparisons, which I wish he would’t, then he should compare himself today to PJ 2 1/2 years ago. We could compare (still wish we wouldn’t) PJ frozen in time at 4 years old, so that JT could make an apples-to-apples comparison. Even that, though, would hold its own margin of error and inaccuracies. They are two different people who have practiced different skills.

My lunch colleague has two children, and their family experience has been similar. The youngest wants to “advance artificially” to the level of the oldest. The less experienced makes an unfair comparison to the more experienced. We can understand that children do this, but why do we adults fall prey to such bad comparison practice? [Especially those of us who have read Mindset!]

If we want to use the inequality between the less and more experienced, we could do so just to mark a current reality and a future vision. We could set a goal of what proficiency and mastery look like at various levels of practice and development. Then we would know what a reasonable and fair target would be for a beginner at a new activity, an intermediate at a practiced activity, an advanced at a long-practiced activity. And there wouldn’t have to be a “100,” because the level of proficency and mastery may improve and grow in such a way that a ceiling cannot be artificially set. The ceiling could be broken just like the floor of the 4:00-minute mile was broken by Dr. Roger Bannister. When he did so, a “new possible” emerged, and a number of runners broke the previously sacred barrier in a matter of weeks and short months.

Maybe the most important thing is just to be in motion – to be trying new things and making the mark of current reality – even if one is a brand-new beginner – and setting a goal based on future vision. The gap between current reality and future vision can be frustrating and/or exciting. The distance one travels in the journey is called learning, I think.

We all start as beginners, and we can all can get better through feedback, support, determination, practice, and persistence. Ignore the voices that say we aren’t good enough yet. Pay more attention to the bright spots – what worked that I can do more of to improve. A strong fortress is built one brick at a time. One well-made brick on top of another. One bright spot on another. One successful attempt after thirteen failures and feeling what that success felt like…then reproducing it. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others. It’s about comparing ourselves to standards of future vision so that we can mark our growth and progress, like a child sometimes marks his growth over the years using a door frame and a pencil. But the first step is making a mark on that wall. Then one must grow to see a change in the height of the mark. And only relative to oneself.

It’s not about measuring apples and oranges. It’s about measuring apples to apples. It’s about learning.

What will be your next endeavor? What will you start from scratch? What do you want to get better at? What models of proficiency and mastery will you use? Will you unfairly compare yourself and get frustrated, or will you use another’s example as a future vision of what is possible with effort and practice? Will you maybe even ask them for help and how they got to their current level? Will you make a mark?

Our kids sure could use our good example. So could our colleagues.

A note of celebration and a tapestry of bright spots

Don’t you love getting little notes – notes that thank you for something and name the specific thing for which you are being thanked? Makes me feel celebrated when I get one of those. I instantly hit “send to OneNote” and place in a “sunshine file” for a proverbial rainy day. As a principal, I have a lot of opportunity to celebrate folks. To be honest, I am not very good at public celebration, but I am working on it – celebrating publicly is a learning goal of mine. But I do try to send email notes (I write better in pixels than on paper) as often as I can.

Yesterday, though, my learning partner and co-facilitator of PLCs beat me to the notes. She wasted no time in celebrating the bright spots of our teams. Specific behaviors were named and resulting outcomes were celebrated. What inspiration that is to a receiver to keep doing those things and improve. Of course, the notes reveal the situations and moments and behaviors that were celebrated, and those notes collectively tell a story about some truly amazing work in our Junior High math-science PLC, which meets four days a week, for about an hour each day. Some days the entire community of JH math and science teachers is together, and some days we break into course teams or other teams.

Enough from me…GO READ ABOUT IT at Experiments in Learning by Doing.

Who can you send a note to today? What bright spot can you celebrate? Pick one and do it! It’s about learning.