Mind: blown

How do I even begin to consolidate my learning over the past three days? There is Just. So. Much. My mind is left feeling completely full.

You know that amazing feeling of being amongst your tribe? That.

Probably the most valuable part of the conference is the people. Reconnecting with former colleagues, growing my PLN, meeting presenters, watching kids own their learning. I feel like I thought I was a techie teacher before attending the conference. I used to work in a classroom where I had the luxury of 1:1 access 100% of the time and it was good but I now feel like I know so much more. I got some confirmation that I’m on the right track, but there is still so much growing to do.

There were so many times when I had to stop someone and ask them to clarify the vocabulary they were using… So many acronyms, and platforms, and software, and hardware… Oh my…. But this was a place where it was ok to do that and I never once was made to feel dumb for asking a question.

A wise colleague, @shafinad, said before I left home to concentrate on learning one thing and to focus my efforts there. Thank goodness for that. Her advice kept steering me in the right direction every time I walked into a playground or a poster session and didn’t know where to look. There is a ton of money to be spent in the expo and the pace of technological change is overwhelming, but I feel that not being able to drop money on every cool new gadget forces us to be more creative and to make something better in the end.

I really used my technological tools as a learner in addition to being a teacher. I photographed, Evernoted, Skitched, Tweeted, and blogged. I am left with so many tools to learn and to try.

For me, ISTE has been not only about technology integration, but also about making for learning, student engagement, and iterative design in classrooms.

I am leaving ISTE with a ton of great ideas and knowing that my classroom next year will be something I have never tried before. This is an idea that really occurred to me last night as I was attempting to fall asleep: I ask my students to try all the time and expect them to make mistakes but to try again, but I don’t often allow myself the liberty of failure. The next school year will look different, and I’m not sure what it will look like in the end. I know my students will learn. I am certain that I will learn, too.

Over the coming weeks I will put some ideas together for what that might look like and look forward to sharing the results with you!



What being a student taught me about being a teacher

Recently, I found myself in a “Yoga for Runners” class and had an “aha” moment about my teaching. How often as an adult do we find ourselves in the position of learning something new? Not nearly often enough is my answer, especially if we are teachers.

I have been a runner since I was a teenager. I don’t claim to be very fast or to be able to go very far, but I do LOVE it. I decided to add yoga to the routine because all I was doing was pounding my body with the same old same old four times a week. I have done yoga before but it never really “took”. I do love the dim lights and the quiet, the incense and the chanting, but I am the kind of girl who needs a runners’ high. I want to feel like I have worked hard. I never really felt like I was amongst my tribe.

Yoga for runners blew my mind:

I showed up in my running tights and thought, “meh… They’ll do the trick.” Little did I expect every other yogi and yogini to look like me! The room was full of Nike and Sugoi and not the hemp and bamboo I had expected. They all had feet like me: rough, and bent. Every other yoga class I had been to was full of people who seemed to respect their feet more than I did, but this class seemed to be full of people more interested in where their feet could take them. I found power in knowing every one of those runners had a tight front body and a weak back body. Camel pose that goes straight up and down at best? Yup, that’s me. There is power in finding people with like interests.

I found myself wanting feedback rather than wanting to disappear into the background. The teacher demonstrated, described, and provided feedback. She used words, a demonstration, and sometimes a hands-on realignment of our position. I was not afraid to get it wrong! Rather, I was more concerned with getting it right. There is power in being allowed to make mistakes.

Several times she said, “There is no judgement only practice.” That right there? That blew my mind! I was not right or wrong but on a continuum towards my best me. How freeing to not be afraid to get it wrong! She provided us with feedback and then let us try each position again. The feedback came in the middle of the practice, not at the end where I would have forgotten before the next session. There is power in just-in-time feedback.

She guided us to the ropes and wall hooks where I was incredibly intimidated: what torture device is this? But she made it fun! My first inversion! Did I look like a fool on the outside? Probably. Did I feel like a five-year-old on the playground on the inside? Absolutely! Let’s not forget the value of play in the classroom! There is power in fun!

The class was Robin Hilton’s Hips and Hams at the Bodhi Tree and I highly recommend it. I also highly recommend putting yourself in the student role occasionally and experiencing the slight discomfort of learning something new.

“Everybody wins” and other lies we tell our students

When I had my son, my perspective as an educator immediately and irrevocably changed, I think for the better. Suddenly every student is somebody’s child to me, and I finally have an understanding of what that means.

I would do anything so my kid never has to cry. His sadness breaks my heart in the worst way- I would rather shoulder sadness than let him experience it. I hate letting him out into the world because I want the world to love him and treat him with the same kindness I do, but I know that they won’t. Can’t.

My baby is now 4-years-old and the other day we were playing a game – cards – and he lost. He was crushed! He wanted to win! Not only did he want to win, he expected to win. In an effort to mitigate his sadness, we said that we would play until “everybody wins” and we were all out of cards. Satisfied, he stated “everybody wins”. It felt better for a minute. He was less sad and that made me less sad.

But I thought later about what a disservice I had just done- not only had he not learned to lose, he also learned that he should expect the world to be kind and that he would win, too. The truth is that not everybody wins. I want to win a Prime Minister’s award for excellence in teaching (but I haven’t put in the effort required for that award (yet)). I want to win my next triathlon (but I am simply not a gifted athlete no matter how hard I work). It doesn’t stop
me from doing the work, though. I keep showing up for work, I keep learning and getting better. I keep training and racing even though I will never win because I enjoy the effort that much.

Children need to learn the value of effort. If “everybody wins” does it not devalue the effort required to actually win? Why spend a lifetime training to take 2/10ths of a second off a 100-meter sprint if everybody gets to stand on the podium?

Teaching our children that something is only worth the effort if we will “win” is false and hurtful. We will fail. We will spend hours in practice only to get better and for the joy of getting better an knowing more. And from time to time, we may also win. Knowing how to fail is a valuable skill going out into the world and I think we do our children and our students a disservice by not equipping them with the ability to be ok with failure. Being ok with it means getting back up after and doing it again; it’s not just a platitude about wealthy athletes and famous inventors. If we expect perfection on every effort, does it not make trying too scary? If I had to win my next race I wouldn’t even line up at the start. But I will be there because I want to better my own time.

I hope that I am brave enough to allow my son to fail and to encourage him to get back up and try again.