“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!

“Out of the Egg Crate” Guest Post: Jennifer Lalley

Last spring, I “offered my blog” to any and all Junior High faculty who might want to guest post. I thought it might be one small step on the journey of trying something new and thinking out loud with a public reflection – for some, like trying on clothes before deciding what to buy. Then, I waited. And waited.

Wait time is an invaluable tool in the educator’s tool kit, eh? (pronounced “A” and in honor of @gcouros). Since I extended the invitation, 112 days have gone by.

But learning is the constant – we should guarantee that people will learn…at high levels. Time and support should be the variables.

Thanks to the support offered at Faculty Forum, and perhaps some other support I am unaware of, a Junior High faculty member has submitted a guest post. Many thanks to Jennifer Lalley for taking this opportunity.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and we are all frantically trying to keep track of the influx of information coming our way. However, something about this year feels different for me (Jen Lalley). At the moment, I feel more energized than overwhelmed. Yesterday in the faculty meeting, I felt thankful for the time and space to speak openly and honestly about the changes here at Westminster. Although it’s hard, it’s valuable to have differing opinions on how technology is affecting our students and our classrooms. I left our meeting wanting more discussion. Can we continue it here?

Some of the themes thrown out…

– How do we find balance with screen time/non-screen time?
– How do we communicate to parents what we are doing in school?
– What is valuable about “traditional” teaching, and what needs revision?
– How is technology transforming pedagogy?

As said in the meeting, I echo how all of this boils down to “learning and sharing.” To me, that’s the reason we blog, MOODLE, tweet, journal, etc. Honestly, there are times when I’m working with other teachers when my individual spot in the “egg crate culture” seems nice and cozy and warm. It’s safe there, and I can move at my own pace.

There’s a problem with that statement, ”at my own pace.” It’s not really about me. It’s about the students. The moments I venture out of the egg crate have made me sharper, and most importantly, have engaged my students on a deeper level.

FedEx Session: Blogging as Digital Portfolio

Today, as part of Westminster’s Faculty Forum, we are working in a “FedEx Day” format. Several faculty created workshops for which people could register. Various other faculty organically gathered into groups to co-labor on particular projects. Here’s a small sample of the workshop titles:

Jill Gough and I hosted a session on “Blogging as Digital Portfolio.”* Our framework plan looked like this:

  • Why to blog?
  • What to blog?
  • How to blog?

We began with a post-up gamestorm in which people recorded reasons why to blog. Each of these ideas was recorded on a Post-it note, and we posted the notes to our idea wall.

Then, we used an affinity map gamestorm to gather related Post-it notes and categorize our thinking.

Next, we used Poll Everywhere to gather some data and assess our participants:

The discussion was great, and people contributed mightily to our collective understanding about why people might blog…and what can get in the way.

In order to dive into the “What to blog?” section of our game plan, we used a Google Doc for collaborative brainstorming: http://bit.ly/py3yvb.

Finally, we walked through the steps of actually establishing a blog on our WordPress Multi-user Domain. We encountered some technical difficulties with the confirmation-email process, but our group found ways to positively engage. Some wrote practice drafts of blog posts using Word and Pages. Others drafted a directions/instructions document about what we had done in the session. A few others even split into teams for a cooperatively competitive contest about taking the “30 Day Challenge” for posting once a day for a month…to get in the habit (posts might be as short as a sentence or an image-and-question combo).

Of course, with @gcouros here, we had access to a great resource from him, too: http://bit.ly/hlmym9

Now, as I wrap up this post, there are some stragglers here still working…still learning. It’s 11:55 a.m., and we are having fun learning and working together.

* FOOTNOTE: Interestingly, Jill and I had planned a session on PBL. On Thursday afternoon, we realized we had a small list of registrants. Because of the enthusiasm over digital portfolios – generated the day before – we decided to use this formative assessment to shift our workshop plan. Our three, original registrants were very understanding and flexible, and we ended up with a full house – about 24-25 folks.

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.