Recently, I was listening to the podcast version of my favorite radio show "The Drive with Big Al and Dmac" from 104.3 The Fan in the Denver area. Since we live in Texas now, I enjoy the show via podcast.
Anyway, the show was talking through the process of NFL players becoming memorable in the game of football. The point they were making was that it is the players who have both the skills AND the ability to bring the fans into the passion of the game. Thinking about this idea and relating it to my own experiences, the power of the story is very true. A dunk or a touchdown is great, especially if it is your team, but when that dunk creates an earthquake on the rim, or that football player runs up and down the field getting his team pumped up, we as the audience have bought sucked into the passion and story of the game like a black hole. We become part of the story, changing the simple game into an event.
Think about speakers at TED Talks. My favorite example that I watched (off of a suggestion from Carmine Gallo's book Talk Like TED) is Bill Gates and his talk on Malaria.
As Gates is introducing his work and the importance of funding research into malaria, he releases mosquitos into the crowd and says, "There's no reason why poor people should be the only ones to experience this". Shock, Awe, Excitement, and well bug spray!?
The power of the story can change the course of the experience you are in. The audience can be brought into a greater understanding of the events taking place. Stories provide the audience an opportunity to make more investment in the ideas and accomplishments of the characters.
What if parent-teacher conferences were less awkward because your parents had been experiencing the story of your class all year long. Imagine the conversations that could happen around the dinner table when a father asks specific questions about what the son and daughter were studying in math and science.
A report card should not be the only window into your classroom. If I was to take my daughters preschool reports (once a semester) as a view into her classroom, I would be a distant, absent parent. You should share the incredible things that you are doing in your classroom and promote it! Why? Because you are a teacher and you do amazing, life-changing things every day.
Derek Silvers shares a video called Obvious to you, Amazing to Others on Youtube (See Above). This should be the rally cry of teachers, encouraging their students to share their passions and skills! This video should also be a challenge to those teachers, who are choosing to accept fear over the excitement and engagement of their classroom story.
Think about this: Fear Runs Our Classrooms...
If you ask a student what their biggest fear is at school, my guess is 9 times out of 10 they will say "failing".
Students are afraid to fail.
Teachers are afraid of their students failing.
Teachers are afraid of the admin and the review and the ideas that come from their students failing
Teachers and Students are afraid of high stakes, standardized tests.
I remember as a boy, my family went camping on Lake Powell in Utah. My grandfather was there with his boat and he would take us out fishing and the older cousins got to go water skiing. At one point during our time on the lake, we stopped at a huge rock outcropping in the middle of the lake. Being the youngest cousin and not knowing what was going on, I asked my papa what we were stopping for. He pointed at the other cousins and said: "watch em, you'll know what to do".
I watched as my cousins pawed up on the rocks like monkeys across a tree trunk and climbed up to a point where they could stand. Then, slowly, they got their feet set, and leaped into the water making the greatest cannonball splashes! I wanted to do this, but I wasn't sure if I could, they were really high up on the side of the rock and I was nervous about heights.
My dad showed me a shorter spot on the rock where I could climb up and jump into the water. I inched my way up the rock, set my feet and almost jumped. I hesitated and froze. Scared to move. I wanted to be like my cousins, jumping and having fun, but there was a fear inside me that said no. I stood on the shorter ledge for about 10 minutes. Finally, my dad jumped into the water and waited for me, providing that safety net that gave me enough confidence to leap in. With the rush of water over my head, I was hooked. The next time up the rock I went to a higher ledge. Climb. Set. Run. Jump. Splash. By the third time around I was climbing to the same height as my older cousins, enjoying the feeling of flying through the air and splashing into the water.
The crazy part is I almost didn't get to experience this because I was afraid.
When you think about jumping into social media, the smaller steps can be the safety net you can take to get more and more comfortable with the situation the more confident over time you will be to utilizing your sharing ability.
So check out these 5 steps to sharing your classroom story... take small steps and jump into it for the long haul!
1. Start with a small world--the parents
It is easy to take the idea of social media and create a closed environment to share your classroom story.
Google Drive: Create a shared folder that you give view access to to the parents in your classroom. Each week upload photos and videos from the week so that parents and students can see the week in review of all the photos you have shared. This is really great too if you recruit students to share the pictures they might take with you so that you can load them into the folder as well.
Create a closed group on facebook that you directly invite parents to follow. Here you are safe to post and share what is happening in your classroom without worry of sharing publicly online.
Google Site: Create a Google site that is dedicated to the events of the class. Add images and descriptions of what is happening in the classroom.
Build a simple blog on EduBlogs or Blogger and give brief updates and pictures of the day's events.
2. Choose the app that works for you
Besides the apps mentioned in 1, think about:
Instagram- Create a class instagram account that is specifically for classroom activities. Pair the account with a class hashtag that parents and students can follow and set your account to only be viewed by those who are following you. Also, for accountability and safety reasons, don't follow anyone with this account, simply use it as a platform to share your story through pictures.
Twitter- The number one place for educators to share their classroom stories with the world. But diving in can be intimidating. Follow your favorite authors, bloggers and friends. (Check out @taylorhwilliams). Search specific concepts or hashtags like #edtech, #math, #teacher. Start there and see what others are posting, and start to replicate and practice the actions of a tweet!
Youtube- Maybe images and text aren't where your passion lies. Maybe you create weekly video recaps with your students to provide a clear story of your classroom. What about adding green screens, student reporters, other ideas? Video provides endless opportunities to share what is happening!
3. Make a goal to post once a day
Check out Jordan Watson and his approach to creating and interacting on social media. Pay special attention to his attitude on timing and consistency!
How To Dad https://youtu.be/1illzOnz6w4
4. Be inspired by other educators doing the same thing!
Be a consumer! No matter the platform, take the opportunity to learn and encourage other educators on their teaching adventures. Find an idea that makes you think "Gah, I wish I could do that!". Reach out! Connect with the teacher and have the conversation of what it took to make that awesome lesson happen! Ask questions and enjoy the journey of building your PLN (Professional Learning Network)
5. Connect your accounts!
Use apps like IFFT and other extra tools to make your social media spread with the click of a button.
Ultimately, it is your passion and desire that will inspire the students. What we need to remember is that they don't learn like you learned when you were in high school. They aren't focused on the same dramas and stresses that you were when you were in middle school. There is more access to information and technology at younger ages. We need to share our story and show students that we can be responsibly, engaging storytellers to the world!
We have all had that moment in school. You prepped for a test all week, you thought your study tactics were undeniable. You walked into the class, took the test (maybe a little faster than you should have) and you walk out feeling like you had just jumped out of an airplane.
You turn to your friend who is also walking out and say, "I aced that one, no problem".
Fast forward one week later when the scores are posted online and that big D- sits next to your "aced" test. All that feeling of euphoria of not having to study, of leaving the assessment confident of your abilities turns into a mash pit of butterflies in your stomach as you start to breakdown the weights and percentages to determine if you are going to be able to pass the course all together.
The first thought... I'm a failure.
As educators, we can have those moments as well. We spend time crafitng the perfect lesson plan like a Michaelangeo delacatly chiseling away at a stone carving. Knowing it's perfect, we begin the lesson and within 2 minutes of starting, the statue has cracked and fallen into dust.
We are all rough drafts.
Bob Goff writes in his book Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World of Setbacks and Difficult People:
"We are all rough drafts of the people we are becoming"
As I consider the beginning of the school year: the excitement of new students, the new (or semi-new) supplies, the re-energized ideas of what the class will look like this year, I have to remind myself that I am a rough draft as well.
Being a rough draft means that you are not finished. You probably have some red lines on you with some spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and idea contradiction.
Some might see this as a disadvantage. Not being a "final draft" of yourself for your students means you are unprepared, unaware, or even caught off guard for the school year.
However being a rough draft gives you FREEDOM
Freedom to try new things, freedom to make mistakes, freedom to fail forward, knowing those experience will make you a more improved you.
There are stories that float around the web about teachers who offer students their class without grades.
"If you come into class, work hard, and do the best you can, you will pass my class". I have always been intrigued by this concept because I think the one area my students struggle with is the grades.
That is why I love project based learning. Letting students design, iterate, and grow in their project as they are discovering new ideas and passions. Rubrics become more difficult, expectations and end results are messy, but the learning is organic and the students are able to embody what it means to be a true rough draft.
I guess the big question for you teacher is this...are you setting up your room for a group of rough drafts? Or are you expecting a bunch of final drafts every day?
As we embark on this new school year, remember we are all rough drafts.
Being a rough draft means there is room to fail. Room to grow. Room to change who you are to something greater. When you consider yourself a rough draft, you take criticism with a smile and know that you are willing to hear ideas of improvement. You try and try again.
Your presentations won't be perfect always.
Your lessons you teach will sometimes flame out.
Your conversation will not go the way you thought it would.
If you know that you are always unfinished, then you know you have an innate, uncontrollable ability to grow. This you today is the best you. Tomorrow will be better because you will improve from today.
Consider today a day where you embrace your full rough draft and focus not on what is wrong, but simply where you are going to grow.
Here comes the year, let's rock it!
The Problem we face currently...
Obviously, every school/district is going to be different on data management and sharing. For the school I am currently in, we primarily use Google Drive for document creation and cloud storage. This is GREAT because we utilize all of the incredible tools and advantages of G-Suite for Education. However, when a teacher decides that their time is ending at our school, so begins the chaos. The teacher would have to share documents and change ownership of each document to the person that is coming into the position following their departure.
Google Team Drive for the Win!
Google Team Drive is a second drive connected to user accounts that belongs to the organisation, not the individual. Accessible by all who are given permission, when documents, folders and files are moved into the Team Drive, it no longer belongs to the owner, but rather to the team drive and the organization.
What this means for us is that we don't require teachers leaving to go through the tedious work of transferring ownership of each document to the next individual that will be taking their spot.
What this also means is that now the curriculum for departments and grade level teams are in an equal playing field. If you have one person on the team who is the "builder", they can create and automatically give access to the team members without going through the process.
Team Drive Offers Easier File Transfer
So far, what we are learning is good... and bad, but that is a part of learning, sometimes you have to skin your knees before you can complete the course! Unfortunately, the ability to transfer entire folders from a personal Google Drive into a Team Drive doesn't exist...yet. But there is hope! AND you have the ability to highlight EVERYTHING inside a folder and move it all at once.
What we are also learning is that our school's mentality on curriculum development and storage is changing. People are hesitant initially to share their documents/ideas in a "team drive" because they are afraid of sharing... so let me point you to my next section.
Team Drive Organizes the Sharing Mess
I find it utterly confusing to sit with teachers who are hesitant, even "hell bent" on not sharing resources, information, and ideas.
But it happens.
The reality is that sharing is happening whether we like it or not and Team Drive allows for a more seamless, organised sharing. No longer will you "lose a file" in your shared folder. No longer will you worry about making sure you have added everyone onto the document. Creating and storing documents in the team drive is an automatic access for the teams. No formal sharing needed.
That being said, you can still share documents with others outside your team.
If you have a worksheet that you want students to copy/fill out using Google Classroom, you can still share that doc from your Team Drive. Everything works the same, except the original home of the document and the owner. So be at ease good people you are just shifting the foundation of the document from your drive to the team.
Team Drive Opens Opportunities for Change
What we are experiencing here is growing pains and change in the right direction. Team Drive is opening doors to challenge teachers on their ideals of change. Team Drive is providing opportunities for faculty who are leaving to share their resources with those that are coming in their place. It is also causing very valuable conversations about resource storage and relevance. There is a significant amount of files and folders that are being archived or deleted because they have not been in use for so many years.
Team Drive is going to be a great fit for this school. It will take time, but in the end (with some additional abilities from GSuite) it will be an efficient and effective organizational system of sharing information.
Change is Hard. If we think about our classrooms and trying to bring different ideas into the classroom it can be hard. Hard because it means you might fail. Hard because you might not have the admin support (thankfully we have great support). Hard because it might mean a little more energy and a little less content on the schedule.
In this session we were able to explore the process of change, reflecting on best practices in bringing change, introducing innovation and providing a path to go down.
There was a great deal of information that came from this workshop, but I wanted to share some summaries.
The speaker's name is Andrew McCarthy and his resources from this workshop is here: http://bit.ly/21Change
In order to understand how change is hard, we needed to experience some moments when change didn’t work. The speaker shared about the LA County iPad roll-out scandal. In theory it was a great idea--give every student in LA County an iPad to learn with. In practice, the project failed. You can read more about it here.
The speaker than introduced Kotter’s Eight Step Model of change. Thinking through this on the business side. The research takes us through the process of creating urgency for a change all the way through the final step of making the change stick. It was an interesting concept to place onto a school environment, especially in thinking about the changes our school has gone through the past 5 years.
Next McCarthy introduced us to concepts that he learned from the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The central idea behind the book is taking a leader through the process of bringing change into an organization. Below is a summary of McCarthy’s interpretations and thoughts.
Big Idea #1: Find the Bright Spots
The initial question of this part was “why do we focus so much on a failing grade on a report card and not what is working within the class the student gets an A?”
Basically, we need to be using our time and energy to focus on the bright spots, research them and then replicate them in the dark areas of our school. For example, teachers who are successfully enhancing student’s learning with the integration of technology could be considered bright spots. From a tech coach’s perspective it would make sense to continue working with the teachers that are not at the same level as the “techie” teachers. However, if energy is focused on the why and how of the techie teachers and then replicated with those who are not so techie, change could move in a forward direction easier than without.
Big Idea #2: Script the Critical Moves
When bringing change into the classroom, change must be specific. Exactly like teachers delivering objectives for each lesson, change needs to have specific objectives of why? How? When? And who? (Thing SMART objectives but for teachers). From a tech coach’s perspective this could be specific practices of technology integration into the classroom. One example was, “ Use Google Docs to feedback and Comment on student work and encourage revision”. Specific. Simple. Focused. Easy for all teachers to read and apply this objective.
Big Idea #3: Point to a Destination
“Let me show you the future”
“Let me show you what your classroom could look like with _______”
Define your destination.
UWCSEA Learning principals--Defining the goals of learning within the school https://www.uwcsea.edu.sg/about/guiding-statements/uwcsea-learning-profile
NESTA Decoding learning: The proof promise and potential
Big Idea #4: Grow your Teachers
Big Idea #5: Shaping the Path
Remove the barriers for teachers--provide the training and objectives that they can achieve.
Be specific and focus training on specific tools and strategies, build confidence.
(lms, google classroom, schoology, seesaw etc)
Build the Habits and document them-- Remind teachers the best things that they had done within a grade level or department of how things were doing