I haven’t done as much summer reading this year as in the past. In part because I am working on so many projects and writing myself. Also, because I wasn’t sure where to start. There are so many great books to read and so little time. I chose to start with this one. Shift This! I first chose this because Joy Kirr is amazing and I have tremendous respect for all that she has done and shared. Secondly I chose it for a very specific purpose. I want to move the needle. After a year working with staff and students in my current position, I want to start finding ways to help teachers shift to more innovative practices that provide students with more direction over their learning.
This book is perfect. It has been years since I took many of the first steps to create a more students directed classroom. I get frequent reminders when delivering professional development that the “easy steps” I often describe are sometimes in a completely different language. This book has been a great reminder of ways to shift teaching and learning in the classroom.
It also reminded me that I want to provide a major shift in professional development for educators. I want to create opportunities where teachers can understand the why, how, and WHO behind making shifts in their practices. I see all three components as crucial. We surely need to start with WHY. Shifting practices should be done with a purpose. Identifying that purpose ought to be the catalyst for any real change. HOW should guide us in clear, achievable steps. Getting teachers started in making changes can be a challenge. Teaching is difficult. It gets fast and furious, so changes need to be easy to make (like the one’s in SHIFT THIS!) Finally and often underrated is the WHO of making changes. Making changes requires support. You need to find those who have been there before, hopefully recently, and build relationships with them that will provide you with support. Without the WHY, HOW, and WHO making changes can often fall short and creating real shifts in instruction becomes much more difficult to achieve.
Why do they call it Rockstar? This past week I had the amazing opportunity to travel across the country to Oxnard, California to find out. CUE has been doing amazing work over the past few years. They are working to create improvement across the region in education. When I had the opportunity to be faculty with CUE, I was thrilled to be able to do it. The first day was travel and getting to meet faculty in beautiful suburban Las Angeles. I was fortunate to have my TOR16 Google Innovator Academy friend Nancy Minicozzi pick me up at the airport and bring me up along the scenic coast to Oxnard. Arriving at Rio Vista Middle School and getting to meet the faculty was fantastic. I met some people I didn’t know (even on social media) and others I had met before. The faculty at rOxnard (CUE Rockstar Oxnard) were some truly gifted and remarkable educators with so much to offer.
The first day was filled with excitement. The Superhero theme led me to the inspired shred session where I threw down my cape and told the audience to be brave superheroes cape or not! We don’t need capes, we need every day educators doing amazing things. (Side note: when trying to tear off my cape the velcro got stuck and I basically just choked myself before pulling it over my head.)
My first session on creating digital breakouts was received with mixed results. I tried to break this down for people into it’s most basic form and then build it back up to the amazing. I had a game for them to play (The Hero’s Journey) which you can try. Many people loved the breakout concept, but I was initially a little disappointed with how few games were created. I did spend a lot of great time working with people on Google Sites and Google Forms and that made up for my initial frustrations. I decided to adjust my session for the next day to be more like how I would teach a class of kids. While I was at dinner with a few other faculty I saw a notification on Twitter from an attendee of one of my sessions (George Carganilla) had made a breakout game as a reflection of his journey at rOxnard to that point. It was the high point of what was an fun and exciting day.
The next day I revamped my class. Rather than give lots of work time at the end, we did things step by step. I was determined to make sure every teacher in the session had a YouTube channel and created a video. I think I was pretty close. I learned a lot from that session. First, remember to present like a teacher. It can be so easy to tell people all they need to know, but it is important for people to create while they have support. When you give them as much information as you have on a topic, they need it in shorter bursts (just like kids). At times I have forgotten to do this because you fall into what people expect. The next was how catchy Frozen still can be. More importantly, how underutilized YouTube is in education.
By the end of the day nearly every teacher had made their own video. I also had a few teachers take it to the next level and incorporate things they learned or did with green screening, slow motion effects, and filters and again shared their awesome creations with me ( great video by Michelle Voelker). It was awesome. During that time I also spoke with a few elementary teachers in their 20th+ years. They talked about how they had grown and learned in the past two years. How they had been throwing away tons of things they didn’t need/use anymore and working to be more engaging with their students (which was why they were there). They were my biggest inspiration. Those teachers reminded me that we can change cultures. They reminded me that no matter how long someone is in the profession, they can still see the excitement and benefit of learning new things. They (along with all the teachers that came to learn ways to enhance their practice) were the true Rockstars in rOxnard.
I spent three great days in rOxnard. I was inspired by the people and loved the connections built with the faculty. My biggest regret was that I could not attend any of their amazing sessions. Great things from David Platt, Heidi Baynes, Cori Orlando, Lisa Nowakowski, Kat Goyette, and more made me wish I could have attended so many sessions! Regardless, going to CUE Rock Star (rOxnard) was an amazing experience. I have so much more to reflect upon in my own Hero’s Journey.