How’s your honeycomb? Collecting pollen and making honey #professionallearning

Many – maybe all – schools send teachers to conferences. This practice seems important (otherwise, why do we do it, right?). It’s like collecting pollen for the hive. Curious, ambitious teachers venture out to conferences – ASCD, Learning Forward, NAIS, EduCon, SXSWedu, Solution Tree, etc. – to learn and grow. To collect pollen for the hive.

How does your school work to transform that collected pollen into honey? How do you set up and maintain your “honey production system?” How’s your honeycomb?

Do the teachers …

  • Tweet tidbits of learning and links to resources gathered during the conference experience?
  • Storify the highlights from multiple Twitter accounts active during the event?
  • Share blog posts about what they learned?
  • Create a podcast or short summary video to distribute like a radio or TV show back at the hive?
  • Teach demonstration lessons based on what was learned and invite others to observe?
  • “Dance” in order to share with the other bees where the best pollen is so that more can go to the same source and collect more?
  • Present at a faculty meeting or facilitate a workshop to spread the new knowledge and knowhow acquired?
  • Work in PLCs (professional learning communities) to transform the collected pollen into honey practices across the school?

Or does considerable pollen remain unused or underutilized once the resource is returned to the hive?

How’s your honeycomb? How are you making that honey for the nourishment of the full faculty, student body, parents, and others?

Many schools have extraordinary practices for making honey, and many teachers share the collected pollen purposefully and proactively. To do otherwise would be a terrible waste of resources and opportunity.

[Cross-posted to Connected Principals on Dec. 30, 2012]

PROCESS POST: Playing with words. Words matter. And all change is linguistic.

Words matter. And “all change is linguistic.”

It’s intriguing to me that we play guitar, we play soccer, and we play a role on stage. Yet, we take algebra, we take English, and we take history. I may be remembering my French incorrectly, but I think many of the expressions for play are composed of the verb “faire” – to do or to make. I love that. Isn’t that what we are realizing about our 2.0 world – that the masses are now empowered to be producers of content and creativity, not just consumers of such? That we are more empowered now to do and to make and to play even.

Are we, in fact, keeping up with this evolution in schools?

Perhaps we should do and make and play more – instead of take – in school.

Or consider the word we often use when one teacher decides to use an idea from another teacher. What do we regularly say? “Oh, I’m going to steal that idea.”

We talk of children getting an education. I’ve written before of children giving an education. Recently, at TEDxAtlanta “Edge of the South,” I heard Brian Preston speak about Lamon Luther and giving hope. I’ve also just read about his story on CNN, where I also watched a moving, three-minute video about the doing and making that helped people discover better lives.

If you read this blog much, you know that I believe school children can do and make this kind of work, too. They are capable. They care. They seek relevance and engagement. They appreciate guidance and support. They can do and make…good and well. They can give…even better than they can get.

To me, a thread that could hold all of the above together is the thread of SHARE. Enough taking and stealing. Let’s do, make, play, and share. Where do we first learn to share? Through play.

Perhaps we should play more. There’s certainly great evidence and thoughtfulness around this idea. The educationese is “play-based learning.”

When we play, we often find flow. We lose track of time, and an hour can seem like a minute. We perform more optimally as we become absorbed and fully engaged in what we are doing. Often, we are “giving our all” in these situations. Not taking. Something deep within us is being drawn and pulled out of us – something is being forged and revealed.

Words matter. And all change is linguistic.

As I’ve written many times before, I love the root of “education” – educare. To draw out from within. Or to guide out of the regular.

We need to share more. Play more. We should be guiding students to give an education. We should make certain that we are working to draw out from within, instead of trying to fill up from without. We should rebalance and guide out from the regular. We should do. Make. Play. Share.

What a difference could be made.

A Single Note Can Make It All Worthwhile

There was a single note on the teacher’s desk. Turning the envelope, she slid her curious finger under the seal, anxious to read what awaited her. Just the crackle and hiss of that seal being broken blocked out the ambient sounds of anything else around. Wrestling the note from the casing, she realized she held one of “those notes.” Occasionally, over the years, she received several of those notes. Each one precious. These notes find their way into a treasure chest of memories – memories that resurface on a challenging day or a day soaked in gray rain. A student had penned a thank you – a note of gratitude and appreciation. Sustaining nourishment. Sweet nourishment.

As teachers, I believe that many of us “live for” that note from a student, or from any learner to whom we’ve contributed, that expresses the impact of a lesson or moment of learning. Yesterday, my school received such a note, and I share it here with the sender’s permission:


I’ve overcome severe jealousy to write a brief thanks to you & your school for today’s tweets.

I’m certain you have issues that drive you mad in faculty meetings, whether it’s dress code or recess or something else only tangentially relevant to Learning – but today had too many of those moments for me – and then I checked Twitter.

Watching the hashtag responses, and knowing that people I knew and respected were having the right conversations about students in the midst of preparing for the year ahead, gave me hope that such conversations would continue to blossom here, and maybe we would have a Twitter stream as a backdrop to a professional development session someday – to the betterment of our students, and maybe even to eavesdropping friends elsewhere!

Thank you again – not only for the knowledge, but for the Potential it represents for us all.

Please visit when you can – we’d love to show you what we’ve been doing since you were last here.

Warmest regards,


At this week’s end, Westminster is enjoying Faculty Forum with George Couros (@gcouros). Faculty Forum is an annual, opening-of-school set of faculty meetings for inspiring and readying the work ahead for another school year. As we transition our technology to Apple and a 1:1 framework, some may mistake that the focus is on the technology. George provided a keynote, and the school organized a number of learning spaces, which spotlight the actual focus – LEARNING and SHARING. That’s what it’s really about. [Twitter stream for Westminster Faculty Forum – #wmatl]

Didn’t we all get into teaching – if we are in it for the right reasons – because we ourselves love to learn…and because we want to share that learning with students? The mere word “students,” however, makes many think of children and teenagers. Yet we are all students if we steer our mindset to continuous learning. And we are all teachers, too, with such a mindset. In wholeness, we are learners, and we can hardly hide our passion for sharing that learning.

I am eternally grateful for Ezra’s note, and I am grateful to my school community – including @gcouros – for inspiring such a note. Ezra expresses the creative tension between vision and current reality, and he exudes that learner’s passion to close the gap by working to achieve the vision. And, he’s connected. He’s connected to a tribe of learners who want to do our best for ourselves, for our colleagues, and for our students.

We helped students today – before they even arrive at school for the year. We ourselves learned. And we shared. It is our way, and Ezra reminds us why we do it. A single note can make it all worthwhile.