Thinking Through My Fingers

After I finished my last post, the quote above was on my homepage as an encouragement to reach my 90th post (this one!).

I like it.

I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before, but when I post on here, “thinking through my fingers” is exactly what I am doing.  I love those of you who ‘like’, tweet, comment or email as a way of letting me know how the post I just wrote has had an impact on you.  Really.  Love it! Even more though, I like getting my thoughts down, saving access to the links I have found, thinking through the latest thing I have just read and challenging my own position as a 21st century educator.

I have never been great at sticking with things.  Typically, I am excellent at starting things but my enthusiasm tapers and then a new project is born.  This forum for ‘thinking through my fingers’ has been a great source of encouragement for me and a great way to sift through the mountain of awesomeness that exists in education right now.

Perhaps it will work for you?  What do you have to say?

Innovation, PYP

“Mine is good. Is yours?”


I love – no, adore – my dog.  Seriously.  We hang out together a lot.  She is perfect in every way (not at all biased).  Thing is, she doesn’t like other dogs.  We don’t know her history having adopted her from the Humane Society, but we do know there was evidence of abuse in her past.  Why she doesn’t like other dogs is a mystery. Protecting me? Scared of them? Bad experience? Probably.

We spend a lot of time with Abby on off-leash trails.  So do a lot of other people in Boise. Whenever we see another “incoming” off-leash dog, we make a show of stopping, calling her in, and leashing her. This is often met with a familiar phrase from the approaching dog-owner: “Ours is good! Is yours?”.

Is Abby “good”?

She is better than good.  She is perfect! But every time, I have to answer, “No”. I usually follow this up with “She’s not a fan of other dogs” but it gets to me that I have to answer no when describing the world’s “good-est” dog.

Today on our walk, we didn’t encounter anyone but I was thinking about it for the duration and wondering how what we say and the generalizations we can make as teachers, impact our students.  Again, it comes down to asking good questions.  It got me thinking about being more specific in my questions and asking questions in a way that allows kids to form an answer that most accurately describes their situation.  Now, I know this is not rocket science, but it was definitely a good “tip for the coming year” reminder to myself.

I came across an article that described the purpose of different questions. Who knew there were so many!? More brain food to ingest as the new school year approaches.


The Role of Questions

Deep questions drive our thought underneath the surface of things, force us to deal with complexity.

Questions of purpose force us to define our task.

Questions of information force us to look at our sources of information as well as at the quality of our information.

Questions of interpretation force us to examine how we are organizing or giving meaning to information.

Questions of assumption force us to examine what we are taking for granted.

Questions of implication force us to follow out where our thinking is going.

Questions of point of view force us to examine our point of view and to consider other relevant points of view.

Questions of relevance force us to discriminate what does and what does not bear on a question.

Questions of accuracy force us to evaluate and test for truth and correctness.

Questions of precision force us to give details and be specific.

Questions of consistency force us to examine our thinking for contradictions.

Questions of logic force us to consider how we are putting the whole of our thought together, to make sure that it all adds up and makes sense within a reasonable system of some kind.


If It Is Good Enough For Snoop Dogg….I Mean, Snoop Lion…

Snoop Dogg has reached a ‘pivot’ in his career when he has decided it is time to re-brand himself and present a different side of the Dogg. Cue, SnoopLion. Seriously. Snoop Lion has grown up and wants to change his focus, present a different side of himself, respond to the changing needs of his fan base, and look to the future of Snoop-fans.

In short, Snoop Lion is pivoting:

Pivots are rooted in learning what works and what doesn’t, keeping “one foot in in the past” and “one foot in a new possible future.”

~Eric Ries, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur


What does pivoting mean for educators?

I think it means being open to saying no to things “because that is how we always have done it”. It doesn’t matter if has been agreed upon, is someone’s favorite thing, or is already established. The criteria for keeping “one foot in the past” should be a definitive “YES!” in answer to the question, “Is this best for our kids?”.

If no, step out into a new possible future. Boldly. Roaring. Like a (Snoop) lion! You could think of it as the difference between staying inside and going outside of what you know. What are you waiting for?


May B We All Could Do More?

I just finished reading a great book written by a great author.

May B is a novel written by Caroline Starr Rose.  Caroline is a teacher and an author.  I opened the book and was prepared to skim over the dedication.  Instead I read it more than once and thought of the names of cities I would put in place of those she mentioned and thought of the students associated with each of those cities.  Her dedication reads:

For my students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana:

There are a few of you whose needs I didn’t fully understand and others I could have done better by.

This story is for you.

I have posted a lot recently about making mistakes and trying new things even when you are not sure how they will turn out.  The flip side of that is that you might make mistakes and things might not turn out ok! How do we balance that out in the real world, when we have real students in our real classrooms? It is our job to understand our students and to do our best by them.  But sometimes this doesn’t happen.  How do we make sure that it does – or at least attempt to make sure that it does?

I think we do it with grace.

  • We are upfront with our parents about what we want to achieve.
  • We look for ways to praise all of our students.
  • We exercise professionalism in the face of adversity.
  • We let go of the idea that we have to know everything.


I think it is ok if you don’t fully understand all the needs of all your kids.  What is not ok, is to know that and not do anything about it.  I don’t think anyone would object to a teacher making an observation about a perceived need and following that observation up with “And I am going to start looking into how I can best help your child.”  We don’t need all the answers up front.  We do need to be honest in our dealings with parents and students and we need to be ok with making a few mistakes now and then.  The hero of the book, May, knows this:

It is my goal this year to try and exceed the expectations of my parents.  I want to make school different – for real.  I have a few ideas as to how I want to do this.  I also know that I don’t want to forget about my own family in the process.  I think this is going to be a year of balance, a year of grace, and a year dedicated to those whose needs I didn’t fully understand and others I could have done better by.  This year is for you.