Inspiration, PYP

Choose To Be Passionate

I saw a post on a blog about being passionate, and it really resonated with me.  Check it out yourself, but in a nutshell it proposes the idea that instead of waiting to be filled with passion (putting you in the passive role), you actively pursue passion.  Approach your work, your “art” with great passion and enthusiasm and ‘bring it’ – you ARE passion.

I keep rolling this idea around in my head. There are lots of ways to think about this and I think the reason it resonates so loudly with me is because I have continually come up against (but not in a really negative way) students (or parents) who declare that they “don’t have a passion” or “aren’t passionate about anything” and those statements really put up road-blocks when you are embarking on a Passion Project!

For those embarking on Passion Projects, Genius Hour, or the PYP Exhibition, I say to you, keep pushing on! I believe that we all have in us the passion to live a fulfilling life and I think that starts with 1. Loving what you are doing. 2. Doing it wholeheartedly. 3. Helping others realize their passion too. So you might not know what you are passionate about but you can work with passion. I have been posting a lot about starting with questions built from concepts, but maybe some of our students just need to start by helping others who are already on track with their passion? Perhaps passion is born from inspiration, from the sharing of ideas, from seeing the fires other people have lit?

In my dream world, such projects look like this:

Be Inspired!

 

A never-ending process of giving and receiving inspiration from each other – the ‘other’ being those in the room, down the hall, in the school, in the community, or out in the connected, internet-world! Show up. Be passionate. Learn from each other. Repeat. Like love, passion shouldn’t be a chore, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t involve work.

If you haven’t seen this gem, take 2 minutes.  If the message doesn’t inspire you, the gorgeous lettering surely will!

Inspired to Inspire from Nathan Yoder on Vimeo.

 

And if you are still looking for inspiration to get you really passionate take a look at this blog post.  Pennies of Time is a blog dedicated to ‘teaching kids to serve’ and has a post highlighting other blogs with a similar message.  Mostly on the topic of random acts of kindness and ways to be giving, these are all very child focused ideas that could provide a springboard for inspiration and the development of passion. Click on the image below for more:

BloggersInspires Collage

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Creativity, Design, Inspiration

Don’t Wait For The World To Whack It To You

I am tired. And I should be in bed. But I am reading my email because the tiny human, furry human, and loving husband are in bed and the house is quiet.

And just delivered from GapingVoid is this little gem, hot off the press:

Shine Your Light

It comes with this explanation from Hugh:

Instead of waiting to be hit by the light, I decided to become the light instead.

It was my decision.

It was also one of the happiest and most profound moments of my life.

To use a familiar tennis metaphor, you’re spiritually better off once you teach yourself to always keep the ball inside your own court. Don’t wait for the world to whack it to you. A-men.

~Hugh MacLeod

I have had a lot of work to do with my students pastorally the last few weeks. I think we have reached the tipping point and things are now on the rise.  I hope this is true.  One of the things that changed my outlook on the situation was when I stopped and remembered one of those lists that I had read once – you know, the “things that you need to remember to live a happy and fulfilled life” lists. It was this one.

And part of that list read:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 11.56.20 PM

Never take things personally.  Let me repeat that: NEVER TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY.

I really started questioning what I was doing as a teacher – or more specifically, what I was (or wasn’t) doing that was resulting in the behavior I was seeing.  How had I gone wrong?  What had I done?  Why am I so terrible at what I am supposed to love doing?

Then I remembered #8 and I remembered #10 and I remembered that according to #7 the Universe (which at the time meant a very supportive and proactive Principal) had my back.  And I decided to take a different tack. I decided to be the light. I decided to take the ball instead of waiting to be whacked – repeatedly – in the head with it.

I did all these things and then Hugh, bless, made me my own cartoon to commemorate my somewhat disastrous but ultimately insightful week.

A-men.

Learning, Math

Failure is a Prerequisite…And 2 Math Gems

Have I mentioned I love Gaping Void?  Good.

Here is one of their latest posts:

Failure

 

The cartoon was accompanied by the text: “it’s something we tell our children every day”.  

Do we?

Sometimes I wonder.

My kids use Khan Academy for math.  At the moment we are working on fractions (fourth graders) and we have just started to move into unchartered waters for some students.  They are unsure.  They don’t know what they are doing.  They are scared to fail.  I can see it in their hesitation, their avoidance of tasks that are deemed “too hard”.  So, what to do?

Today, I decided to show them the coaches report that I generated for the links we are working on at the moment.  It looks like this:

Khan Academy

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, red means “struggling”, grey is “not yet started”, the pale blue means “practiced”, slightly darker blue means “level one”, darker still means “level two”, and the darkest blue is “mastered”. When I pulled this graph up, there were a few gasps around the room.  Struggling!  Red! Oh no! I got everyone’s attention on the board and said, “There are some people I am very concerned about according to this graph.  Do you know who they are?”

Of course, “the red people” was the chorus around the room. When I asked why, the response was that those people were not doing good, that they didn’t know, that they were failing.

No, I told them.  They are not the people I am concerned about. I am concerned about the grey people – the ones who are yet to try.  If you are in the red or in the blue, I know how to help you, how to move you on from where you are at. If you won’t try or haven’t tried, how can I know how to help you?  You might fail, yes.  But you might succeed too.  And I know that if you do move to the red, you won’t be there for long because “failure is the prerequisite for learning”.

I promised you “2 math gems” = and here they are:

 

Gem #1

If you are at all like me, you have written a test for students that requires them to show their work. Well, last weekend, I read this article that invites students to choose whether or not they show their working.  The ideas behind this option are sound and really made me question why I ask this of my students and wonder what the consequence is on thinking in my students.  The author, David Ginsburg, goes on to suggest mixing up the usual “show your thinking” question with a different take on the format: He suggests giving students a completed equation and asking them to explain why it is or is not correct.  This naturally means they have to explain their thinking.

 

Gem #2

Via one of my favorite blogs, Engage their Minds, I was introduced to the math version of Would You Rather…? It is awesome – and just happened to have a fraction problem up today which suited us perfectly.

Would You Rather....?

A quick run-through of the site shows me that some decent math skills are required but there is also the element of personal choice BUT you must explain your choice MATHEMATICALLY (not just based on personal preference).  It is really cool – check it out. I can see kids making these for each other too.  And if you have younger kids, Terri from ETM, has created some Would You Rather questions for Valentines Day with a slightly lower level of math skills needed.  Check it out!

Creativity, Inspiration

At Least I Tried….

I love GapingVoid. Always, it seems to me that Hugh writes his cartoons specifically for me.  Here is what was in my mailbox this morning:

At least I tried

 

It was accompanied by this text…

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 10.29.40 AM

 

My kids are one week into two week Passion Projects.  We are doing this ‘extended Genius Hour’ as a precursor to Exhibition.  It is fascinating for me as a watcher of tiny humans to see who does what, how inquiry looks to different children, who is flourishing, who is going under – or thinks they are.

Make a decent go of it. 

I like that.  Maybe you will be rubbish but you’ll never know unless you try and you can’t just try – you have to make a decent go of it.

Can’t ask for more than that.

Leadership

Leaders: Born or Made?

Clearly inspired by yesterday’s post, Gaping Void asked the age old question today: Are leaders born or are they made?

Great question.

Hugh goes on to answer:

We won’t argue which side wins, but we all must agree that made or born, it starts from within. A drive to make a difference to those around you. A simple idea that many people just don’t get.

And summarizes his thoughts with this great image:

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This post is dedicated to Marina Gijzen, a born leader who has taken the time to develop and refine her leadership skills, driven by a pure vision from within to make a difference. You are exceptional – go for it!

Inspiration

Never Lose the Why

I love GapingVoid cartoons.  Here is the one that I am most recently in love with:

Never Lose the Why

As a fan of Simon Sinek and “Start With Why?”, this cartoon is a great reminder for once you have your why pinned down – or as pinned down as defining your purpose can get.

It is also a good reminder for teachers when we ask things of our kids in our classroom.

  • WHY is this worth their time?
  • WHY are we doing this?
  • WHY do we need to do it?
  • WHY did I do it this way?
  • WHY not something else?

I would like to believe that most teachers have a pretty good idea of why they teach.  Sometimes when we move from the philosophical  ideals to the human reality of bodies in the room, administrators, parents, and our own personal lives, we have the potential to lose the ‘why’ that drove us to this profession in the first place.

Don’t do that. Or at the very least, resist at every turn! Keep an eye on your why.  And live it, daily, in your classroom.

A great example of someone who consistently lives out his why, is the CEO of the YMCA here in Boise, Jim Everett.  We visited with him for the second year on our passion tour and again, Jim was hugely popular with my students.  The letters they wrote him were heartfelt and just amazing.  Jim told the story of the death of his dad when he was in third grade and the huge impact that had on his life. One of my kids concluded his letter with, “If your dad were alive today, he would be the proudest dad in the world.”  Yes. Yes he would.

As he did last year, Jim wrote back to us and this year reminded us of the “P” words that he lives his life by and encouraged us to live our lives by.  I turned his words into the following as a visual reminder to always look to fulfill your purpose and never lose sight of your why: (PDF Download)

Jim Everett Manifesto

Inspiration

Make a Dent

I subscribe to the GapingVoid mailer (highly recommend).  It is a short and sweet cartoon delivered to my inbox on a somewhat regular basis.  Tonight’s message is the short and simple, Steve Jobs inspired cartoon:

Source: gapingvoidart.com via Sonya on Pinterest

As Hugh says:

I don’t want to know why your brand is good, or very good, or even great. I want to know why your brand is totally frickin’ amazing.

 

Replace ‘your brand is’ with ‘you are’ and this is something we should be asking our kids every day:

“I don’t want to know why you are good, or very good, or even great.  I want to know why you are totally frickin’ amazing!”

Why not make a dent in the universe daily?

 

PYP, Reflection

A Joint Effort

 

One thing we learned last year during the Exhibition is that it really does help for the parents to be ‘in the know’ and supportive of their child.  It also helps when those unwritten expectations of fifth grade  (being timely, organzied, thoughful, perserverant) are made explicit to students and parents so that we are all on the same page.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be working on the following prep sheets with my class and their families.

Click on each image to enlarge.  Click to download a PDF copy. 

We will do the student portion at school and the sheet will go home to be shared with families and for parents to offer their input.  My main goal?  To create conversation. To get students and parents and their teachers talking and sharing and supporting one another.

We say it is a team effort – now let’s work like we really mean it.

Creativity, Innovation

Spark an Idea, Follow an Interest, Cultivate a Passion

There was an article on Fast Co. recently that caught my eye. The title of the article? Do Like Steve Jobs Did: Don’t Follow Your Passion.

The article references Job’s now famous Stanford commencement speech and then goes on to detail how he lived and how his passion was not always technology. There was a lot of commentary following this article, including comments from the author of the book from which this article excerpt was taken, Cal Newport.

Newport puts his own twist on the “Passion Hypothesis” : The key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion. His take on this:

“Don’t follow your passion, let passion follow you in your quest to do something valuable.” -Cal Newport

One reader suggested the catchphrase “following an interest—finding a passion”. Cal suggested a slight semantic change to “following an interest—cultivating a passion”.

Passion is what drives me to teach, to share about what I learn though teaching, to find out more and better ways to do what I love to do. The more I pursue my interest in teaching, learning and education, the more passionate I become. There are things that could make one despondent with regard to education but for me, I am “intoxicated by the possibility” (thanks, Hugh!).

20121004-094943.jpg

So how to we help our kids “follow an interest, cultivate a passion”?

One way might be to implement “Spark Files”. Coined by author, Stephen Johnson, the Spark File is a process/tool that he uses to collect “half baked ideas” with no regard to organization, hierarchy or taxonomy. For eight years, Johnson has collected ideas, notes, articles, thoughts and documented these in what he calls his “Spark File”.

Once a month, he goes through the file in its entirety. He looks for patterns, connections, revisits old ideas and looks to connect with newer ideas.

As I read this, I thought of my Instapaper account = the quick, simple, “read later” button that I hit on a regular basis whilst rolling through my Twitter feed or perusing the internet. I am always intrigued by what happens when I review this file. This post is a culmination of two “read later” posts. Some things get deleted, some get me thinking of past experiences, some get to feature in blog posts having gotten me thinking.

The same could work for our kids, using free Instapaper accounts or using the web-clipper tool in Evernote. As I look toward the end of the year, where my kids will be undertaking “The Passion Project” as their fifth grade PYP Exhibition unit, this could be another way for them to collect ideas to inspire them.

For more ideas, take a look at this less than five minute animation of Johnson’s TED talk on “Where Good Ideas Come From”

Inspiration, PYP, Reflection

Be The Change-Maker

I was continuing to reflect on the learning that occurred yesterday and in doing so, I had my kids line up in a human continuum.  I know these are used for lots of things but I wanted to use them as a reflective tool and a tool for self-regulated action.  Once the kids were lined up on the continuum from “I must have the manuals for the lego kits and a friend to do it with and I am still freaking out somewhat” to “Just throw the manuals out and unleash the kit on me – I want to create!” I had them take a good look around the room.  I then asked them to consider the following questions:

  • How could you help someone else?
  • Where do you plan on being on this continuum in two weeks time?
  • What will you do when you need help?
  • How will you move forward from where you are at?

My purpose in doing this?  To empower the kids in the class to choose to act.  Making explicit the notion of action is one of the five essential elements of the PYP.

Stated quite simply, the action cycle asks students to reflect, choose and act. As they stood and looked around the room, my aim was:

  • To help them see that there are options within our room to offer help and to be helped and to seek help.
  • To provide them with like-minded colleagues to work with and also give them the opportunity to see who was out there that they could improve their understanding by working with.
  • To provide an opportunity for those with greater experience to be gracious in the sharing of that knowledge in order to move the whole group forward.
  • To remind them that choosing NOT to act was also taking action – the ball is in their court.

Now, I do know that these sound like lofty goals.  BUT….there are times when it is good to be reminded that to experience change, you can wait for circumstances to be different, the season to turn, or the wind to blow, OR you can be a change maker in yourself. Will it work? Will I see an immediate, overnight transformation of 10 and 11 year olds choosing to “Be the Change”? Maybe not.  Doesn’t stop me hammering that option home every chance I can get though!