Monday, May 7, 2018

School's Concern Should Be Community

Dr. Mara Tieken challenges us in her article, "Only Hope: Why Rural Schools Matter", about our understanding of the true value that public schooling plays in our communities.

"As currently conceived, "school" is considered an institution for children not their parents and families...Only when we acknowledge the many roles that schools play can we fully recognize the promise of public schooling for all of our communities" (Tieken, 2013 p. 7).

In many places, particularly rural contexts, schools play an outsized role in the development of community. Yet, should that not be the case for every school? What other public institution brings together such a broad range of individuals across the social spectrum?

The chief concern for school's should be creating community. Without community there can be no hope for learning. I'm not speaking about the surface level community, where we come out to show support for our school's sports teams. That's easy...I'm speaking to a deeper community built on mutual trust and shared partnership between stakeholders.

The first step for such community building is the acknowledgement among us educators that our schools serve well beyond the students immediately in front if us. When we embrace the role of community-building the outcomes of education become clearer because they are then defined by the needs directly relevant to those we serve.

Below is an excerpt from the book, The Choice: In Teaching and Education by the Arbinger Institute:

"Education is the lifeblood of a community's continued existence. We have an obligation one to another. 

There are many in every community who feel this call.

They should be involved in the educational endeavor.

As mentors, as tutors, as men and women to be admired -- there are so many roles that need filling.

Every school and every classroom should be community space, for it is the community's future that is learning" (Arbinger, 2001 p. 68).

Doing education together is crucial for the future of our schools and community. This will require changes in perspective about how we evaluate the true gains of schooling. What would happen if schools were evaluated more by their attempt to involve community stakeholders in the educating of our youth? Let us not be found wanting!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Symbiotic Learning

Learning cannot be a one-way relationship. Learning by its nature is symbiotic.

Take heed of a newly planted fruit tree. If left dependent only upon the water found in the soil, it will fail to root out and grow fruitfully. It must receive intentional watering and fertilizer to flourish and survive through its first winter.

We as teachers must also be cautious in only being dependent upon the content we find and keep. In quick time this will become stale and dry to those we are called to teach. Co-production of knowledge is the lifeline of great teaching and learning. Students engaged in the process of discovery and inquiry into the content we teach is the cascading of water and the addition of precious fertilizer to the tree of learning.

Surrendering the thought of us as THE teacher is critical in this process. We are only the teacher as much as we are the learner.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry

Too often we are absorbed in the rush. We are leveraging technology to do more, but are accomplishing less. We are frustrated when relationships don't yield fruit after the first interaction. We wonder why with as much is occurring around us that the wheels of life keep spinning deeper.

As an educator it is becoming increasingly important for me to recognize the importance of adjusting the pace of my classroom. From a constant feverish breakneck speed, to one of more carved time for deeper learning and spaces for reflective thinking. Taking time from the hurry of life to prepare students to listen and learn from their own internal rumblings, their curious soul.

Students are rarely provided the time to engage in this act. When in our society do we provide them the space to learn this when we rush them from one activity to the next?

Consider Principle #1 from The Choice: In Teaching and Education, I AM NOT THE TEACHER (The Choice p. 19)

"So who is responsible for what I have learned? Who has taught me if not my teachers?

The answer -- 

A teacher that each of us knows: The curious soul that resides deep within me, the river of inspiration and imagination that flows within.

The greatest teachers in my life have been those who have awakened me to these internal currents and rumblings -- those who have brought me as it were to the water's edge and inspired me to jump and be swept around the bend." 

May I be a teacher who is never so much in a rush that I forget to awaken the curious souls of the students before me. Yet, to awaken their souls, mine must be alive, curious, and hungry as well! How can we eliminate the hurry in our lives and immerse ourselves in the waters of our own currents? 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Increasing our Personal "IQs"

Summer is fast approaching and what an opportunity to increase our IQs!

For those curious, I'm not talking about that test that tells us nothing about the true potential and internal fire of the individual taking it! (Don't get me started...) 

In the quick and powerful read by Mark Sanborn entitled the Fred Factor, he addresses our implementation quotient (IQ). Which can be expressed as:

IQ = Implemented ideas 
       # of ideas

As summer approaches we quickly accumulate a list of ideas we are going to implement for the next year that will take our teaching and learning to the next level. Unfortunately, the number of ideas that make it past the dream stage tends to be way lower than we would like to admit. (I'm way guilty of this!) From personal experience, my lower than desired IQ is the result of a lack in prioritization and discipline of followthrough. The challenge I'm accepting is to focus on three ideas that will result in greatest student impact for the coming year.

Thankfully this is not a task for me alone! I'm blessed by being in a learning community who willingly provides input, accountability, and feedback for this process. Thank you to my Blue Valley family for helping me increase my IQ for the coming year!

How will you increase implementation of the ideas that desperately need to come alive?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Everyone Needs Windshield Time

I love driving. I love travel. As I reflect about why this is the case, the shutting out of the stresses of the day is a huge part of the appeal. The singular focus on the process of driving is relaxing and eases my mind. This time of reflection and focus is called windshield time. Each of us need our own windshield time each day, but rarely carve out time too. This was one of the many unforeseen blessings of becoming a full-time bus route driver...I am forced to take windshield time. The concept of singular focus seems to be lost on our broader society. Singular focus is wasteful, inefficient, and impractical. We need to keep up the multi-tasking and break-neck speed up 24/7.

When the CompelledTribe choose to tackle the topic of ways/techniques that we use in renewing, recharging, or rejuvenating relationships with students and/or staff during the last quarter of the school year. I could not help, but be drawn to my attempts at singular focus. For me, singular focus has been an intentional practice I have tried (and still have lots of growth) to adopt in my relationships over the past year.

It has looked like pausing at the copier machine in the morning buzz and asking the track coach how his players did the day before at the meet. (Not shuffling or stapling papers, looking him in the eyes and demonstrating singular focus even for two minutes.) It has looked like writing an unexpected note of thanks for a student about the contributions they are making in class. (The singular focus of writing a note with real meaning.) These may not seem like huge sweeping, relationship rocking incidents, but that is not the goal. The goal is the daily, personal disciplining of our minds that this world is so much bigger than us.

Each person has a life as deep, rich, and complex as our own. Each person has a story. This realization is called SONDER. Learning each others' stories requires our singular focus (windshield time) and will renew, recharge, and rejuvenate the relationships with all those around us!   

Below is a beautiful video that details the word sonder:     

Take care and finish strong,

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What is a WIN?

Last week Tuesday we had one of our largest contest days of the year. We had students competing in Vet Science, Food Science, Ag Sales, Livestock Judging, and Prepared Public Speaking. Performance wise our students competed well bringing home plenty of awards and medals, yet it didn't feel like a win.

Maybe because it was the disappointment I felt when the students rushed off the bus without offering Megan or I assistance in carrying any of the judging materials. Potentially, it was the loud, obnoxious noises they made in the stands while other contests were being held. Or it was the final straw when I saw how no one opened their eyes enough to see that a teammate of theirs was needing their comfort and no one helped them. These may not in the whole scheme be huge issues, but I'm a strong believer in that everything speaks. Small actions to the big ones. 

It would not have been a conversation reflective of my heart if I would have had it immediately that afternoon with our students, it would have only been raw hurt and I wanted to remove my personal emotions from the situation.

During the next day's leadership team meeting, we had a powerful conversation about what constitutes a win. Having a day to reflect and not be reactive was critical and allowed the space for the students to reflect on the day and how our actions reflected back to who we are and what we want to represent. I was able to explain my disappointment in a healthy manner, staying true to my heart, but ensuring that 'I' was removed to allow room for their growth.

We all came to agreement, about what constituted a win. It should not be measured by the awards we hang on the walls, but by how much we seek to build each other up, respect each other, and above all serve each other. Below was a summary of our desired WIN:

W- We stand for something bigger than ourselves.
I- I will honor myself and others by the actions I choose.
N-  Never settle for good growth. 

What does your WIN look like?             

Monday, April 2, 2018

Profiles in Learning ~ An Introduction

Learning is everywhere.

We learn new skills for a job.
We learn the names of new friends.
We learn the lyrics to our favorite song.
We learn the rules of a game.
We learn a new hobby.

Nobody really ever taught us to learn, it came naturally, right? Not so fast. Learning is taught through modeling. We pick up this skill of learning from those around us. Learning to learn, which allows us to research and think, to create new ideas, and to continue growing is not a haphazard task. Yet, in our society today we treat it as such. We expect students to know how to learn and think...even though in many cases they have never been taught how. And I do not mean memorization skills or other various study skills for performance on an exam...I mean that our students are equipped with the mindset and attitude for lifelong learning.

My efforts in this monthly blog series seek to dive into the life of a person. Someone who lived a life of learning. By investigating the mindset and attitude of learning from these individuals along with highlighting how they went about living it out, this series will hopefully strengthen our own path of lifelong learning. In our digital age, we are obsessed with finding the next great tool to enhance learning, when the greatest tools may lie inside all of us.