As teachers, we are constantly learning...
The question is are you learning from pop culture?
The world that your students are ingrained in is outside of your classroom. Shocker I know.
But think about the learning that you could implement through inspiration of some of pop culture's most consistent icons.
In the most recent bit of "Hashtags" by Jimmy Fallon, he simply challenges social media to add one word to a title to change it. Couldn't this be brought into any curriculum challenging students to experience higher order thinking? Add a word to a book title, add an element to an equation. What could happen if they were able to do it and add humor to the learning. Making it stick more?
James Corden's carpool Karaoke is legendary. What if there was a way to have students replicate this with curriculum, presenting their ideas about what could be done. Even more, the relationship and connection of a team building/creating.
John Spencer just released an awesome video about the importance of critical consumption to fuel creativity. What could you do that would provide your students with the specific consumption that can fuel the creativity?
Stephen Colbert provides the best example of this. He comes into his shows prepared with the knowledge to back up the jokes he is adding. Many times he is providing a lighter, funnier thought process for some of the political decisions that are being made.
The point is, find inspiration all around you! There are professors all over the place!
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
What will your job be in 6 months?
What are you going to be eating for dinner tonight?
When you think about vision-casting, are you considering the potential of what could be or are you letting the pessimistic voice in your head hold you back?
Writer Seth Goodin talks in great deal in his book Lynchpin about our "lizard brain". This is the part of the brian that brings that "Can't Do" attitutde to our ideas.
We may be really excited about the potential of a new idea, tool or strategy, but our lizard braing comes in and brings out all of the reasons why it wouldn't work. The best vision of the lizard that I have is Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live. Excitement and passion can be born out of an idea, but when the lizard brain, or the downer of the group get a hold if it, the adrenaline wears off and the negative pieces pull the optimism out of the room. Like an air mattress with a tiny hole, slowly lowering it's occupant to the floor, the vision slinks away.
Yet as a Catalyst, we must be more than this blah feeling that robs us of the great ideas. As a catalyst, a linchpin or any other illustration there needs to be a means of seeing what could come beyond the struggle. Erwin McManus spoke in one of his sermons to "Lean into the fear".
When you are vision-casting for your group, school, department, or self, push your ideas beyond the comfortable. The only way to get stronger is to push your muscles as hard as they can go, so that tomorrow they can go farther.
To effectively Vision-cast there are 3 main pillars (for now) that you need to focus on:
1. What do you do really well?
2. What do you suck at?
3. Where do you want to be?
Vision-Casting can be focused on where you want to be, but if you don't knowwhat you are good at, you can get lost really quickly.
What do you do really well?
The key is being honest. What are you actually REALLY good at. What does your people thrive in. What gets them excited to the point where they can self monitor and grow independently?
What do you suck at?
Writing what are you bad at doesn't get the point across. We have a predisposition to always try to make ourselves in the best light. Our defensive mindset moves us in a way to find the good that we do. The truth is we all suck at something, the sooner we are honest about it the quicker you can innovate and get excited about what changes can come!
Where do you want to be?
If there wasn't a constraint, a money issue, a personnel issue, what would you want to do! You never will know unless you ask the question. Our vision needs to be something that is out of our grasp so that we never stop reaching for it. Don't vision-cast for next week...cast for what isn't quite yet. Change the world by being a pioneer, not a cog in the machine.
I will be presenting at TCEA on being a #Catalyst, at TCEA in February. Keep an eye out on twitter (Follow @taylorhwilliams) for more information.
There is a reason that this is one of the top 10 most watched TED talks of all time. Sinek brings to the light something so simple, yet something that can be so difficult at the same time.
Think about your classroom. Your standards, objectives, lesson plans and resources (or lack there of). The goal is to teach these students, show mastery of the standards and in most cases, prepare your students for the state standardized test that is coming. My question, or really THE question of this post is... Are those the reasons WHY you became a teacher?
My story is a round about way of coming into education. My plan was to work in full time ministry, teaching and pastoring. I really enjoyed working with the local kids, planning events, and getting my first real "classroom" experience with a crowd that chose to show up, rather than being forced. And yet I digress... I am sharing my HOW to you.
As a youth pastor, my why was simply love others. Be the love in the community that the students hadn't experienced before. The love that was taught through the Bible and experienced in many different Hows.
As life (and the Lord) works though, this was not my ending point of my career. Quickly, with a new wife in tow, we moved to Hong Kong to become teachers at a Christian school. My beautiful bride, the experienced SpED teacher and myself the ultra green "teacher". Stakes were higher, and I think my Why shifted to a simple why not. Adventure, travel, and risk were all on the table, so simply "why not" became my why.
Low and behold, events and opportunities arise and years later I am shifted out of the classroom to my current career path. As I have grown as an educator, innovator, speaker, and writer, I believe that my why has also grown with me.
When you decided to become a teacher, it wasn't about the standards, it was about the relationships. Maybe it was a favorite principal, teacher or coach that made such an impact on you, you wanted to be just like them. Perhaps you watched Stand and Deliver or The Dead Poets Society, or School of Rock and wanted to experience the euphoria when students grasp the perfectly crafted lessons that you create.
And then you step into your classroom and those around you wish you luck, push you some worksheets, and warn you to watch out for the boy in third period.
My point is that finding your why will constantly change, as an individual, it can be difficult, especially if you have been deeply rooted in a profession for a long time. The hope is that as your break down your history and examine your future, you would be able to filter your Why out of the soot and own it proudly.
Finding your why isn't a part of what you do. It is everything. As Sinek explains in his TED talk, without a why, you, your school, your classroom and students don't have direction, they are simply there, watching the clock tick by.
What is your Why?
At TCEA 2019 I will be presenting #Catalyst: A workshop to spark innovation. During this session we will not only dive deeper into these concepts but also walk away with a process and resources on how to find your why and more! Come join me in San Antonio in February!
James Veitch is a stand up comedian who most notably shares about his escapades against spam emails and the challenge of unsubscribing from an email chain. In his 2016 Ted talk titled "This is what happens when you reply to spam email", James shares the hilarity of his conversation with his counterpart, Solomon. Within the talk, James suggests to Solomon that they should use code words for the conversation that they are having. He writes,
"Solomon, I spent all night coming up with this code;
Lawyer: Gummy Bear
Bank: Cream Egg
Legal: Fizzy Cola Bottle
Claim: Peanut M&Ms
Documents: Jelly Beans
Western Union: A Giant Gummy Lizard"
According to Veitch, Solomon took on the code and used it in future emails which made a very entertaining mad-libs experience.
I bring this example up because as I dive into a conversation about being a #catalyst, there are certain buzzwords that are going to be flying around. I could take on Veitch's technique and adapt code words that can cover up the buzz words to make this post feel more comfortable, or I can write specifically to the conversation at hand...becoming a better leader for change within your school, business, organization, club, etc.
Our first stop is understanding three concepts.
1. Be a #Catalyst
2. Consider Growth Mindset your new best friend
3. Take the leap instead of accepting things the way they are
Be a #Catalyst
When you initially think of the definition of a catalyst, you might shift your thinking to high school chemistry class. The catalyst is the element in the reaction that causes the initial change. If you think about a match, the action of striking the match against a rough surface is the catalyst to cause the reaction to create fire.
To be a #Catalyst means jumping into action. People who are catalysts can see new opportunities or goals and inspire movement in that direction. A #Catalyst is not a boss, but anyone willing to start the conversation of innovation and lay out a path for positive change. The mindset of a #Catalyst is one that sees the world as puzzles. Some puzzles are solved, but most are always just missing a few pieces. Now you could be like aunt Bess and simply take scissors to the piece that is closest to what you need. Making it fit "good enough". Or, you could consider a new and better puzzle that would create an entirely new opportunity. A #catalyst is an innovator. Simon Sinek wrote in his book Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration,
"Innovators are the ones whose dreams are clearer than the reality that tells them they're crazy"
Innovation is one piece of being a #Catalyst and it's important to note that it is not a simple task. In order to make the dreams that Sinek mentions in his quote come to reality, there are many iterations of work that need to take place. A #Catalyst is an innovator, bringing dreams to reality and making everything around them new and better. This is not done overnight, rather it takes commitment to the end goal, willingness to take a chance, see it flop and figure out what can be done for the next time around. A #Catalyst is not done, they are continually tweaking the end result, crafting it specifically to what the dream is in their minds eye.
To be a #Catalyst you have to take every cliche about leadership and change and blend it together into a new smoothie of innovation and change.
Growth mindset is a concept discovered by Carol Dweck, published in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Without getting really technical about the concept of growth mindset, I simply thing of it as not settling with good enough.
A "good enough" teacher has used the same worksheets, schedule and curriculum over and over for years and years. They are accessing their resources in the yellowed pages of 1982 while they organize the multitude of packets that students will be filling out over the next few months of "school". A "good enough" teacher fights tooth and nail against innovation and growth. They try to poke holes and be the squeaky wheel on any new strategies or concepts that is going to bring effective, practical learning to their students.
I believe we all are a "good enough" teacher in some form or fashion. We have the worksheet, lesson, or test that wraps us up like a warm blanket on a winter morning. It's a safe place to use those ideas because they are "good enough". They won't challenge the status quo of the teachers around you, it won't challenge the students to higher order thinking. It will provide some guidance to pass the test, but any outside connection to real-world is iffy at best.
Growth Mindset: Don't be Good Enough... Be Beyond Exceptional. Find new ideas, try new strategies, embrace the wisdom of your students and see how THEY would approach a standard or objective. Recruit them to be instructional designers of your course to have ownership of the awesome.
Take the LEAP
As humans it seems to be against our nature to take the leap out of our comfort zone unless we are triggering the fight or flight part of our brain. If we are in a place of comfort, we shut down and coast. The proverbial rut holds us tight and doesn't let go. Sometimes you have to do something extreme to take the leap.
Ultimately, to become a #catalyst, you need to embrace the spark, take the leap, and any other cliche that could change the way you approach your teaching.
This is going to be fun!