Inspiration

Nobody Owes You Nothing

I’m not going to give this video much introduction other than to say it is about innovation, ideas, kindness and a spirit of generosity mixed with entrepreneurship:

This video would be brilliant to show any class of students working on an Economics unit (I wish I had seen this a few months ago when our third graders were creating their own businesses!) or for students looking for innovative ways we can share the planet.  It is also another great resource for demonstrating taking action that you could show to students undertaking the PYP Exhibition (I have added it to the Videos section of my new PYP Exhibition website).

When I heard the quote from Johnny’s dad (Nobody owes you nothing), I was reminded of a post by Seth Godin a few weeks back about “Almost No one”.

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Johnny knew he didn’t have to please everyone.  He didn’t bend when he was pushed by others to make money off the farmers who desperately need to save money. He didn’t have to leap into partnership with everyone.  He just needed almost no one to see his dream flourish.

Seth’s words really resonated: “…Individuals that fail fall into the chasm of trying to be all things in order to please everyone, and end up reaching no one.  That’s the wrong thing to focus on. Better to focus on and delight almost no one.”

So that is my mission and my challenge to you:

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P.S. Want to see an update on Johnny?  Click here

Innovation

You Already Have Permission

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The more reading I have been doing about technology integration and information literacy, the more I am realizing that we need to start redefining what we mean by “teaching”.  That sounds simple and obvious, but hopefully, it also sound necessary.

Most of us have an idea in our heads about what it means when someone says to us “I am a teacher”. We instantly picture (more than likely) our own teachers from years ago.  But is that the teacher of today?

What if someone said to you, “I like to go mountain biking”.  What comes to mind.  Take a look at this amazing video and see if that is what you pictured:

Danny MacAskill is redefining mountain biking.  Of course there are elements of what most of us know about mountain biking but he certainly challenges the perception of what can and can not be done on a bicycle (and I love the way he deals with fences in his way too!).

How can we be more like Danny as teachers?  How can we challenge the boundaries of teaching?  How can we find new ways to approach (and conquer) the ‘fences’ in our jobs?

I would hazard to guess that we can do much the same as Danny more than likely did:

1. Set audacious goals for ourselves.

2. Enlist the support of those who believe in our ideas.

3. Try, Try, Try.

Danny didn’t wait for some politician, board member, motivational speaker, or author to redefine the possibilities of mountain biking.  He just used his gut instincts, his passion, determination, and drive to elevate the thing he cares deeply about.

Will you do the same? You already have permission. 

Postscript:  While writing this, I couldn’t help but think of one of my mentors, Will Northrop of What-if-Concepts.  Will does amazing work with empowering people who inspire by connecting remarkable ideas.  His blog is a great source of daily encouragement, motivation, and thought-provoking ideas. Check it out! 

Inquiry, Leadership

Always Pick Yourself

Pick Yourself. It is a phrase coined (or popularized perhaps is a more apt description) by Seth Godin.  At his NYC day event that I was fortunate enough to attend two years ago, he gave out guitar picks with this written on them.

Pick yourself

I grabbed a handful of these at the event and they will often appear randomly around our house.  We just moved and whilst unpacking, I came across a purple Pick Yourself pick in a box. It now sits on my daughter’s bottle drying rack in our kitchen.

Pick Yourself.  Pick Yourself.  Pick Yourself.

This is a good reminder for me on a number of levels and yet I still often value other people picking me (external validation) over my own belief in myself.

Since I started sharing my thinking via this blog I have been approached by people asking for help with getting into international teaching, by people who would like to repost my posts, by publications wanting to publish my posts as articles, by the IBO to lead initiatives in sharing practice and in technology education. I have been validated by these people: “We pick you!” “We choose you!” I also am a sucker for the stats that are generated by WordPress.  How many pageviews?  From how many countries? These external motivators do just that: they motivate me to keep publishing, keep posting. They are not my only motivation but I am suckered in when I see other people “picking me”.

Today, I met with my principal to have, essentially, a “Pick Me” conversation. I want to be picked to continue on next year with some work I have started in my role as Curriculum Coordinator. The conversation was good and whilst I do not know the outcome of our discussion in terms of me continuing in the role, it has had me thinking all day: am I picking myself or waiting to be picked?  What if I am not picked? Do I pick myself anyway?  Do I do the work for free, in my own time? Do I show that titles don’t matter, having a heart for change is what is important?

I know what Seth would say:

It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.

If you’re hoping that the HR people you sent your resume to are about to pick you, it’s going to be a long wait. Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.

~Seth Godin, Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked: Pick Yourself

 

So I started to do this.  I wrote what is essentially my own “job description” and I have a plan for what I would like to do. There is still a part of me that questions: How do I know that the opportunities I see and the problems I want to solve, match the vision and purpose of my school? Do I wait for our paths to align or do I pull them together? This is where the permission-seeker in me dwells: in that place between ruckus-maker and rule-follower.  Between employee and innovator.

The whole process has been thought-provoking. The outcome, unknown.

Competition

And The Winner Is…

I am giving away two copies of Seth Godin’s book, The Icarus Deception.  I wasn’t sure of which scientifically proven method I should use to pick the winners, so I enlisted the help of my daughter.  At eight months old, she is already very helpful. 🙂

All the names of the commenters were written on tape and stuck onto her blocks. The blocks were lined up.  And she was off! Criteria for winning: block had to end up in her mouth.  Here are the winners:

Here I come!
Here I come!

 

Which one shall I get?
Which one shall I get?

 

This one! Congratulations to Isabelle Le Gal
This one! Congratulations to Isabelle Le Gal

 

And this one! Congratulations to Melissa Scott!
And this one! Congratulations to Melissa Scott!

 

Thanks to everyone who commented. Your comments were empowering.  I wish I had more books!

Melissa and Isabelle – please send me your preferred postal address to sonya.terborg@gmail.com

 

Innovation, Inspiration

The Icarus Deception – FREE TO YOU!

Win me! Just enter a comment below!

How far will you fly?

What are you making?

How do you share your art?

What are you passionate about?

The Icarus Deception from Squarespace on Vimeo.

 

Last year, I backed Seth Godin’s Kickstarter and I have two copies of his book The Icarus Deception to give away.  All you need to do is comment below.  All names will be entered into a draw on Feb 14th – my valentine’s gift to you!

What are you waiting for? Life is too short not to do something that matters!

Leadership, Teaching

The Parent Trap

Any excuse to get in another photo of my cute little girl.
Any excuse to get in another photo of my cute little girl.

I have always said that the beginning of a new school year is one of my favorite times as a teacher.  Aside from the school supplies (come on – who doesn’t love new school supplies!) there is that option for things to be different – better, stronger, more thoughtful, more personalized….better. I think the day I start a school year without wondering how it can be better is the day I need to stop teaching.

Last year I began my year with massive intentions. I penned a letter to my incoming students and their families and I was so ready for an awesome year. While the year did not pan out as I had anticipated, it was a learning experience nonetheless and as I begin this year, here are five things I have learned with particular regard to parents:

  1. Be straight up with parents from the beginning. This can be hard but it is worth it. If you notice something in their child, see if they notice it too.  Don’t be quick to ‘fix’ the child, but let the parents know that you know.
  2. Stop unproductive parent interactions immediately.  I had the unfortunate experience of a couple of sets of very negative parents who would randomly bombard me with emails that didn’t move conversations forward or seek to solve problems. I am sure this will happen again at some point. When it does, I will ask to meet with these people so that we can solve the issue in a timely manner. I know this sounds logical but you know the type of parents I am talking about and for me anyway, it can be tough to initiate such a conversation.
  3. Tap into your parent body and share your why with them. In as much as I was more challenged in a negative way by parents last year than ever before, I was also more challenged in a positive way by parents too. Our parents are smart, educated, thoughtful, caring people. In the past three years, they have provided me with some of the best PD I have had through the sharing of resources, books, websites, and the conversations we have had back and forth. Thankfully technology means these conversations will continue, and I hope will be enhanced by interactions with my new parent body too.
  4. Be clear in your expectations. I find when parents know what you expect, they are more comfortable with what you ask of their children. Again, I think this goes back to explaining why you are doing what you are doing, not just outlining the nuts and bolts of a task.
  5. Thank your parents. A lot. For everything. Always.

I was reading an article titled 19 Meaningful Questions You Should Ask Your Child’s Teacher. The list is thorough, challenging, and as the title states, meaningful.  It would also be quite overwhelming as a teacher to be asked all 19 in one session – the author suggests parents opt for one or two to start and work their way through them as the year progresses.

Here is the list:

19 Questions Your Child’s Teacher Would (Probably) Love to Answer

  1. What academic standards do you use, and what do I need to know about them?
  2. How will you respond if or when my child struggles in class?
  3. What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year?
  4. Do you focus on strengths or weaknesses?
  5. How are creativity and innovative thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?
  6. How is critical thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?
  7. How are assessments designed to promote learning rather than simple measurement?
  8. What can I do to support literacy in my home?
  9. What kinds of questions do you suggest that I ask my children on a daily basis about your class?
  10. How exactly is learning personalized in your classroom? In the school?
  11. How do you measure academic progress?
  12. What are the most common instructional or literacy strategies you will use this year?
  13. What learning models do you use (e.g., project-based learning, mobile learning, game-based learning, etc.), and what do you see as the primary benefits of that approach?
  14. What are the best school or district resources for students and/or families that no one uses?
  15. Is there technology you’d recommend that can help support my child in self-directed learning?
  16. What are the most common barriers you see to academic progress in your classroom?
  17. How is education changing?
  18. How do you see the role of the teacher in the learning process?
  19. What am I not asking but should be?

 

As teachers, we often lament the lack of interest or involvement of our parents.  I wonder what we would do if these questions were asked of us?  Would we be able to answer them in a smart, eloquent way?

As a new parent, I am a long way off from my first parent-teacher conference in the role of the parent. My husband has already vetoed my right to speak with my child’s teacher as he thinks I will be too scary. I think hearing the answers to some of these questions would be really interesting and offer insight into the type of person my child will be spending so much time with.

Questions 4,7 and 11 are grounded in the idea of assessment and progress and would be ones I would both want to know about as a parent, but also ones I want to be able to give really clear, honest answers about as a teacher.  Anyone who answers question 17 by referencing Seth Godin would rocket straight to the top of my ‘best teacher ever’ list 🙂

How do you initiate or encourage these types of questions from your parents?

How do you ensure there really is a partnership between parents and teachers at your school?

Innovation, Learning

Weekend Reading: Rubrics, Red Lanterns, and Redesigning Math

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Here is a round-up of three interesting articles to enjoy over coffee this weekend:

Rubrics

Grant Wiggins provides some really interesting insights into rubrics in his article How To Use A Rubric Without Stifling Creativity. Firstly, Wiggins reminds us what a rubric does:

It summarizes what a range of concrete works looks like as reflections of a complex performance goal.

He goes on to describe the process in which a rubric is best created and the importance of strong anchor papers or exemplars that illustrate the key points of a rubric. It really is a fascinating article. I have read it three or four times already and each time I am getting new things from it. We are in the process of examining the language arts scope and sequence at our school and will be thinking about the use of rubrics and exemplars in our classroom practice. This will be an article I will definitely be referring back to as I continue to synthesise my thinking on this topic.

Red Lanterns

My hero, Seth Godin, wrote recently on the Red Lantern and, with many schools beginning a new academic year, encourages us to think of employing a ‘red lantern’ philosophy in our classrooms, lecture halls, and institutions. He encourages us to “celebrate the Red Lantern winners” – essentially, applauding and encouraging those who finish last but with massive amounts of gusto, determination and drive.

He concludes his post with a challenge to educators everywhere:

How do we celebrate the Red Lantern winners instead?

What are you doing for those in your class who continually push themselves without giving up?

Redesigning Math

I am a huge advocate of the Khan Academy. What I want to work on in order to supplement my use of this phenomenal resource, is a map of PBL – Problem Based Learning – math tasks. I take my hat off to the incredible amount of work done by Geoff Krall in combing the internet and his own brain for ideas for such an approach in middle and high school math classes. His blog, Emergent Math, and the post on problem based curriculum maps is amazing and would take more than one weekend to peruse. His work goes down to a sixth grade level – an area he confesses needs the most work – so if you teach math at a younger level, like I do, you won’t find it easily transferrable but you will find it incredibly inspiring. If it leads me on a trail to PBL math maps for younger grades, you know I will share them!

Happy Weekend!

Inspiration

Motivated By Joy

How do you stay motivated when you are tired/sick/busy/exhausted….or any other number of emotions? I know I have a hard time doing so – the proof of that is in the paltry number of posts to my blog in the last six months.

More recently, I have come back to this blog, to Twitter, to my widely spread out network of teachers around the world and have reconnected.  I have resumed “putting it out there” and I have relished in what is out there in order to learn more, do more, share more. It has paid off.  And it has brought me joy.

J is for Joy

According to Seth Godin:

“Joy is different from pleasure or delight or fun.  Joy is the satisfaction of connection, the well-earned emotion you deserve after shipping art that made a difference”

-Seth Godin, V is for Vulnerable

This week I have connected with ‘strangers’ and reconnected with people I have known from years past.  I have learned from people I feel like I know because they work with people I used to work with or are in places I used to work.  I have had ideas challenged and ideas applauded.  I have been complimented and questioned.  And through it all, I have been motivated to do more, share more, think more and create more art. Rather than let ‘life’ – which, let’s face it, is always going to be crazy – get in the way, I want to make sure I use my time in a way that counterbalances the tiredness and exhaustion by replacing that with the joy of sharing, the joy of connecting.

Today I was reminded by a wise friend of some wise words from Neil Gaiman:  “Make good art.” No matter whether you’re told not to, no matter whether it’s appreciated, no matter whether it’s recognized… Make good art.  I intend to follow this advice….you?

Reflection, Teaching

N is for “No”

N is for No

 

 

“No feels safe, while yes is dangerous indeed.  Yes to possibility and yes to risk and yes to looking someone in the eye and telling her the truth. “

-Seth Godin “V is for Vulnerable”

I recently supported a Kickstarter project by Seth Godin.  As part of my reward for backing his initiative, I got a couple of copies of his collaborative project with Hugh MacLeod, “V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone – An ABC for Grown-ups”.  As I was re-reading it again today, I stopped when I got to the letter N.  N is for No.  This made me think of my kids and the project they have proposed as part of our How We Express Ourselves unit on persuasion.  It started with this, and then this and ultimately ended with this.  A no.

So, what do we do with the “No”. This has been something I have been thinking about since the last day of school before the break.  On one hand, I think the no is valuable. I think it is good for my kids to learn that just because they are adorable and have a fun idea, people are not automatically going to jump on board and give their blessing.  On the other hand, I still find the no valuable – but for a different reason.  For the reason that a ‘no’ doesn’t have to mean the end.  Just because someone says no, doesn’t mean you have to stop and give up.  The whole point of the unit is to develop our powers of persuasion. How are we doing this if after our first no to our first proposal, we roll over and say “OK”?

What do we do with the no? 

This will be the question that awaits my kids when they come back from our break in January.  I will be guided by them as to how they wish to proceed – that is, after all, what an inquiry based classroom looks like.  I will be looking to them to guide me as we try and figure out where too from here. As I continued to flip through the book, I was inspired again by “Y”.  Y is for Youth.

Y is for Youth

“Youth isn’t a number, it’s an attitude. So many disruptive artists have been youngsters, even the old ones.  Art isn’t a genetic or chronological destiny, it’s a choice, open to anyone willing to trade pain in exchange for magic. “

-Seth Godin “V is for Vulnerable”

I think my kids have attitude and I think they are capable of magic.  I can’t wait to see what they do with the no.

To learn more about Seth Godin’s Kickstarter project, go here.

To learn more about Hugh MacLeod, go here.