Ask For Permission Not Forgiveness 98:365

A popular belief is to do first and ask for forgiveness later. I have heard so many people spout the idea. Today I heard a principal (@ugafrank) stand out against that idea and give a very convincing argument. During a great voxer discussion with administrators and education leaders, he stood up against this concept while we were discussing making changes in our classrooms. Drew said, “I really struggle with the ask for forgiveness not permission as I think it is indicative of an unhealthy culture. I as a principal want teachers to feel 100% comfortable asking me anything.”

To me this spoke volumes not because Drew spoke out against what was gaining weight in the conversation, but because if the culture in your building is one where teachers, staff, administrators believe they should just do things they know are probably not “allowed” to do then you have a major culture problem in your school.

How do you fix that? Engage in dialogue, say yes when it makes sense or it is not going to do harm. When you say no, give reasons that also make sense (even if the reason is, “I am not allowed to let you do that because of regulations) the answer may not be one we like, but honesty will ensure that when your teachers are ready to make big decisions, you will be included in part of the collaborative process. Finally, be clear in your answers. If you really don’t want something done because of whatever reason, say no. I know I have gotten plenty of less than clear answers on questions that left it up to me to determine what I thought was right. If I am asking, it means I value your opinion or expertise enough for you to give it to me, so please share it!

As someone trying to get started in administration, I admire Drew’s point here: if what you are trying to do is best for kids, of course I am going to listen and discuss it with you, so instead of “just doing it” talk with me about it and maybe I can help make the idea even better.


A World of Problem Creators 97:365

No matter what subject you teach, no matter what grade you teach, there is one thing that the new world of education must embrace, problem creators.  This might seem counterintuitive.  Why would we want to create problems?

Problem solvers are great.  They see the pieces and put the puzzle together. This is a great and needed skill in the world.  It has always been important.  The world in the future will need problem creators.  Problem creators see not just the pieces of a puzzle, but they identify what puzzles are going to be made next.  A problem creator identifies the problems before they arise.  I saw a great statistic about the job growth for the future where the greatest field was biomedical-engineering.  In jobs like this, you are not just solving a problem that exists, you are solving problems that do not yet exist.  It is visualizing the puzzles that have not been made yet and creating solutions.

Our future learners need to see beyond the problems in front of them and construct solutions to the problems that have not yet been created.  These true innovators will be the successful leaders of the 21st Century.

Find a Way 96:365

I am still inspired by Seth Godin’s TED talk about learners and why we have school.  It reminds me of one of my favorite days with my young scientists from our entire year.

My 1st Graders had been studying air, how it moves, air pressure, and how it interacts with water.  They seemed to get most of the basics of what the effects were from a few simple experiments.  Now, it was their turn to create and find a way to solve the challenge.

I gave my class materials, then told them to make a water fountain.  Six small groups of small people took some small materials and created some big ideas.  Within ten minutes EVERY group had figured out how to solve the challenge, and all but one had figured out a way to safely get the water back into its original container without spilling so they could continue using their homemade water fountains.

Why did I love this so much?  Simple, I didn’t say here is how to build the water fountain and then away they went to build.  Instead I said, “What do we know about air pressure, air movement, water?” “How can you use these things to make a water fountain?” This was not the “prescribed” water fountain experiment in the lesson, but it was so much better because my class was able to solve a problem, to determine how something worked using knowledge rather than repeating knowledge.  It is a moment from this year that will stick out in my memory for a long time. And, I was reminded of it again by the idea that we want kids to be problem solvers, problem identifiers, and problem creators!  Twenty-first century learning is not about having knowledge, it is about using knowledge and that is what my 1st graders did during the water fountain experiment!

Are You A Dream Thief 95:365

Today I watched a TED talk by Seth Godin called “Stop Stealing Dreams” and it went along with a conversation I had with my PLN that essentially led to a great google hangout.

What do most classrooms look like? Just how different does school look now than it did 50 years ago? How much have we actually changed?

In many classrooms I have seen a noticeable change. But, the question Godin asks is, what is school”s purpose now? We all study the history of public school, as an MSA student I had to learn about the history of administration and curriculum development. But, the ultimate question remains, why are kids going to school? What is our purpose now?

I would assert that the purpose of school is to open up the world for kids, and to ultimately build creators. I try to have my classroom reflect that goal.

Godin talks about how textbooks and rows of desks, memorization and some other problems no longer need to be part of education. I completely agree. Educators using these methods are not inspiring learners, they are crushing spirits, inhibiting ideas, and stealing dreams.
Are you a dream thief, and if so, why?

Birth of the #SuperFriends 94:365

In reflecting on this morning’s live broadcast of a Google Hangout I participated in with educators from around the world, there are many incredible things that come to mind.

First, was the inclusion of Craig Kemp, a teacher in Singapore who joined us to share his ideas.  Just the fact that I am connecting with, and sharing ideas with someone from halfway across the world, is incredible!  Add in the teachers and administrators that joined in from around the country and the collaboration was incredible.

Another thing I loved was that I was so engaged with the people I was conversing with, that I forgot all about the fact that it was being live broadcast and people were tweeting to the #superfriends .

Ultimately, we did not solve any major problems today.  We did not save the world from injustice!  What we did, was spark a flame.  I enjoyed the conversation and I am inspired to continue meeting with this group.  I hope to expand the #superfriends group.

Finally, I am glad my friend Lauren Taylor joined the group!  She was our only Super Woman (and she is quite a superwoman!) I hope some of the other incredible women educators join us for our next hang out.  Check out the video at the #superfriends and I am hopeful it will happen again next Saturday!

Super Friends 93:365

Saturday morning I am going to be doing a Google Hangout with a number of very smart, very engaging twitter PLN members.  Sometimes I have agreed with the people in this group, sometimes I have not.  Regardless, we are jumping into this hangout to just talk about education.

We rarely just talk!  We tweet, we argue sometimes, we defend each other in some situations.  This is a group of very interesting educators with  diverse backgrounds.  I am excited at the chance to connect more deeply with the people I am going to meet tomorrow,

The idea of sitting in a room and interacting with great educators from all over the world is exciting an I cannot wait to see what it brings.

Joy 92:365

What are the things that bring you joy?  What brings kids in your classroom/school joy?  What stops your joy?  Often we get caught up in our own world so frequently that we dimly forget to eat, or to drive the car home.  How often do you talk about what makes you extremely happy.

As educators, leaders, and parents, we need to bring back something VERY important to our schools: JOY. Joy serves as an inspiration for learning, it has to develop through meaningful experiences coupled with some ownership go a long way to determining the quality of the learning in the classroom.  Kids need to :build on these ideas,

Have a great Friday everyone and remember to find some JOY!

Beginning Writer’s Workshop with #TCRWP 91:365

Two days of training with a very small group of interested and intelligent educators yielded excitement, quality ideas, and a vision formed what the future of the kids in our school will look like over the next few years.

Our school is piloting writer’s workshop through Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project for the upcoming year. While many of the teaching points and expectations matched with my own ideas for teaching writing, I found that the consistency and the level at which kids write with the workshop model is very impressive.

There is still a lot for me to unpack, develop my own ideas with, and understand about what I learned in the last two days and how that will impact not only my writing classroom, but also my entire classroom. As I go through materials and my notes, I will certainly have more ideas, more questions, and lots to write about.

My initial thoughts are: I love that kids write what they want within a genre. Sure that is a “limitation” but I am ok with it. I love that kids get to pick up or put down a piece and come back to it another day. I love the individual time I will spend on writing skills during conferring, and the shortness of lessons to maximize the time writing. Finally, I LOVE that kids are encouraged to write where they are comfortable, and I am encouraged to confer with them in whatever that space may be.

I have concerns about motivating for risk taking. My original idea was to gamify the writing process so as to provide students with encouragement to take those risks. While eventually you could develop the culture of taking risks in writing, I want students to be inspired to take those risks and jump into them. I want the kid who we ALL know, that says “I don’t know what to write” to be the one asking to write more, or to be excited about a craft move he did. I want to take that game addict, and turn them into a writing addict. I have reached out for anyone who maybe has tried this, and I have heard only crickets!

Ultimately I am extremely excited and motivated to get started with this new set of materials centered around students become writers.

Can You Be Too Nurturing? 90:365

If ever there were an argument to push for more men in early childhood education (besides that whole positive male role model idea), it is one of my favorite statements: “I don’t care if you are cute so don’t try that with me…”

It can be about anything really.  I have kids try and act cute to get out of trouble, to not try their best, to not have to answer questions.  I am sorry, cuteness does not impact me the way it does others.  I am sure some people will crush me for this, calling it sexist or something, but as a man working in a place that is typically dominated by women, my experience is that most teachers find that “the little ones are just so cute.”

I am here to tell you NO!  They are not cute, they are manipulating you!  Kids are smart, “cute” kids are dangerous!

All joking aside, our job is to help these kids grow into learners that essentially do not need us any more.  To open up their world and allow them to become more than passive participants, but world shapers.  To do this, sometimes we need to step back.  Do not misunderstand me when I say this, because I am all about strong rapport and filling that nurturing role when necessary, but as teachers we have a very special relationship with kids.  Parents often always see their kids as “their little baby” but in the mean time, that little baby is now seven.  They can do things, learn things, create things that their parents have never dreamed about before.  As teachers, we are able to see not just the child, but the potential for growth ahead.  If we allow that relationship to be corrupted by over-nurturing or allowing something as silly as “cuteness”, we will find that the kids leaving our classrooms are not independent learners and we are becoming the tool through which they learn.


Why is This Better 89:365

I participated in an edchat tonight while sitting in my car waiting for my wife to finish up with an appointment. I wasn’t expecting to get into it much since I knew I would have to leave at any moment.

The topic was multiage schools. This is one of those trendy, “I am so cutting edge and progressive” type buzz topics out there right now, but in reality it is not something new at all. I am (surprise) open to new ideas and listening, but I tend to ask questions and push people on their points to see if they really have something. Every time I asked questions about multiage schools, I got back answers about varying ability levels, mentor relationships, kids being at different steps in the process,familiarity with the teacher and more things of that tone. My response each time was, “doesn’t that already happen in schools with well placed classes, looping, and other things we are ALREADY doing. I am not saying multiage schools can’t work or do not have good concepts from which we can learn. What I am saying is simply, why is this better?

What I see in this discussion is a different way. A way that includes a variety of potential problems to achieve something that (in most cases) can be achieved simply by doing a good job of class placement. There is certainly merit in the conversation, and in some cases I am sure this would work better because of school size, location, limited resources and more.

The point I really want to make, is that we should not allow ourselves to always get caught up in accepting whatever flavor of the month we hear about next. We should be questioning these ideas to see if they are actually something useful for us. We should be asking why is this better?