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Pick Yourself!

My class is nearing the conclusion of their Exhibition unit.  For those of you familiar with the IBO PYP Exhibition, you will know that this is a pretty big deal and the culmination of about eight weeks of hard work and six years of elementary school.  It might surprise you to know that in the last week before we present on May 21st, I decided it was a great idea to take a day and half off school and fly to New York City for a day – excuse me, for 17 hours – to see (my man) Seth Godin.  Crazy?  Yes!  Totally worth it?  Absolutely!

The name of the event was “Pick Yourself” and the whole premise of this is that we need to move from a permission seeking frame of mind to a make a ruckus movement! When my husband asked me what I was hoping to get out of the event, I told him that I was after ideas, inspiration and a shove toward a more ruckus oriented state of being.  Even as he helped me find a flight there and back, I could feel the “just what you need!” comment desperately trying to surface!  What I got out of the event was exactly what I was hoping – and then some.  I met some great people, heard some great music, ate delicious food and took copious notes that don’t even begin to accurately represent the awesomeness of the event.

I was there with a friend who also happens to be the parent of a child who I have taught for the past two years and is also on our Board of Trustees.  When asking Seth a question, he mentioned that he was here with his daughter’s teacher and that evoked spontaneous applause – pretty cool to be applauded for being a teacher!  Actually, I think they were rightly applauding him for having the generosity, foresight and commitment to innovative thinking to bring along a teacher as his guest.  And I couldn’t have agreed more.

To have had this experience was something that had a huge impact on me and I know will (and already has!) changed the way I think about my role as a teacher.  I am a huge fan of Seth’s education manifesto which as of last Wednesday, had been read approximately 2 million times, and  I was eager to hear Seth talk about Education and how school is ‘stuck’.  He suggested a number of things to help move education forward:

  • Start by getting people to ask the question “What is school for?”
  • Have kids fail – but catch them.
  • Have kids succeed – and applaud them.
  • Do brave and scary things with your kids.
  • MAKE SCHOOL DIFFERENT!

As you may know, I wrote a book based on the manifesto: “Imagine a School”.  It is my response to Seth’s work and it is the school I want to work in.  The day after the NYC event, the following quote from Simon Sinek was delivered to my inbox:

Timely.  Relevant.  Thanks, Simon!

Then the next day, another email, another quote:

Perfect.  In my head, I flipped the order they were delivered: I had already imagined my school.  Now to take action!  On the plane journey home, using my own book for inspiration and the Seth’s idea that I don’t have to wait for someone to ask me to do ‘my art’ as a teacher, I began a list (I am up to 31 items thus far) of what I want to do/be/see/experience/share/create/explore as a teacher.  More specifically, I thought about the imaginary school that I wrote about and then thought about what I would see or hear or experience if I were to open the door and walk inside.  Once I had this list, I begun documenting the actual physical things teachers could read about today and do tomorrow in their classrooms.  Most of these have been things I have done or things I have seen amazing people that I have worked with do.  Hardly any of them cost money – just time, effort, forethought and a little courage.  All of them will move you one little step forward toward making a ruckus that will make school different!

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting about each point as I gather more ideas. And I would love for you to add your thoughts as well!  To begin, here are the things that will turn my imaginary school into one with a pulse:

  1. Talk less
  2. Listen more
  3. Survey your audience
  4. Get messy
  5. Collaborate
  6. Don’t collaborate
  7. Dance About Architecture
  8. Pick yourself
  9. Pursue Passion
  10. Read more books
  11. Get connected
  12. Establish digital footprints
  13. Don’t underestimate the young!
  14. Serve others
  15. Say YES more often
  16. Get outside
  17. Involve the parents
  18. Create space to grow
  19. Did I mention you should get messy?
  20. Communicate your ‘why’
  21. Whatcha gonna do with ‘it’?
  22. Steal and Mash
  23. Be open to not getting what you asked for
  24. Play
  25. Mix it up
  26. Raise the bar
  27. Catch them when they fail
  28. Applaud them when they succeed
  29. Chop a tree
  30. Be generous with your art
  31. Learn about brains

I realize some of these are pretty cryptic but they mean something to me and I will be expanding on them – but not necessarily in that order!  Seeing Seth live, in person, was an amazing experience.  It has sparked something in me that I am confident will continue to shine as I continue to strive for the remarkable.

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4 thoughts on “Pick Yourself!”

  1. I am so looking forward to reading more about what inspired you. Chop a tree, leave a dent, choose something, pick yourself…you are doing it! Your blogs always leave me thinking and then my thoughts lead to interesting discussions with others. Thanks for the provocations!

  2. Marina! The list is huge! I love hearing that you enjoy my posts! One of the questions Seth asked us to consider was, “If you stopped blogging, would people notice?” It has taken me a while but I am thinking the answer is ‘yes’ and that feels good!

  3. Sonya, it is so nice to “virtually” meet you! After I saw your comment on my blog I tried to think if I saw you at the Seth event, but now I remember exactly who you are since you mentioned being the applauded teacher!
    I am so excited to meet another ruckus-maker in education. I think you may have connected with Melissa Scott and Joey Starnes? They are also at my school in Virginia.
    Your PYP curriculum sounds amazing! I would LOVE to learn more about it. Mostly, how did it come into being? I think we need one out here in VA!

    1. Seth was awesome! We were only in NYC for the day – 17 hours actually – and had to scoot with an ice cream sandwich in one hand as we ran out for a cab to the airport and back to Boise. Your school sounds awesome – so many interesting ideas there! I am hoping to connect with Melissa and hear more about her Tech role. The PYP is the elementary school component of the IB (International Baccalaureate) program. We are an independent, private school so do not have to follow the State curriculum. Instead, we use the PYP curriculum which is inquiry based. I love it, having taught it for the last ten years. I really love the community here in Boise – there are a number of ruckus makers here = we need to embrace the “power” we have as an independent school to really Make School Different so as to provide an example for what can be done in education. I am not saying private schools are the answer but I think public education is changing too slowly and needs a shove into the realms of possibility from schools with less restrictions placed upon them. I look forward to continuing to learn with you all in Virginia!

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