Thursday, March 26, 2015

Positive Post-It Day

How many of you have heard about Positive-Post It Day (#PositivePostItDay)? It is such a positive reframing to dealing with a bullying situation and one worth learning about and celebrating! We are going to this at again #Cantiague (our 2nd year) on Tuesday, March 29th and we want to welcome our PLN to join us on so we can celebrate all the positivity in our collective spaces across the world. Interested? Then check out this 2 minute video explaining the idea...

We welcome everyone who joins us on Tuesday, March 29th to make it look however you want in your schools, districts, classrooms or programs but we are going to have the children generate at least four post-its. Here are those ideas...

1) One positive post-it to themselves - something they are proud of themselves for that they can display on their desks... I think recognizing our own strengths is an important celebration!

2) One positive post-it for a classmate where they celebrate something specific about a classmate;

3) One positive post-it for another child in the school... maybe from the same grade level or a buddy from a different grade... whatever... they should celebrate something specific they value in someone else;

4) One positive post-it for an adult in the building - someone on the staff they want to recognize and celebrate!

Being that this aligns with the idea of "Random Acts of Kindness" these post-its should be specific to the receiver but also anonymous from the giver... it doesn't matter who the post-it comes from... it is about celebrating someone else. So, label the name of the person getting the post-it but there is no need to sign your name. 

I am so excited about this day because it reinforces EVERYTHING we talk about here at #Cantiague in regards to being Bucket Fillers and we hope that our whole PLN will join us on Tuesday, March 29th (or a different day if that doesn't work for you) to celebrate #PositivePostItDay. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Student Led PTA Meeting

Our most recent PTA Meeting at #Cantiague was an EPIC one because it featured some of the best learning opportunities we've had all year. The presenters at this meeting helped our families understand the whole idea of persuasive/opinion based writing in addition to how one might develop an argument and successfully prepare for a debate. The presentations were concise, informative, thorough and accessible for all family members. It was a great morning that sparked a lot reflection and conversation as our families in attendance left the building. 

Overall, I would say it was the best PTA Meeting of the year because it was filled with great content and important information. The most awesome part of the experience, at least through my lens, was that the presenters at this PTA Meeting were our kids. That's right... For the first time ever at #Cantiague our PTA Meeting (and the learning that unfolded there) was led by our students... nine students in all - from grades 3, 4 & 5 - prepared, reflected and presented everything anyone would need to know about developing an argument, supporting an opinion with evidence, persuading a reader with research to back up claims and sway voters during a debate - our kids (under the guidance and instruction of our amazing teachers) hit a GRAND SLAM today!

The idea of amplifying student voice has been high on my list of priorities this year and we have tried a bunch of different things to make that happen. We have incorporated Genius Hour, we have given them choice in their academic pursuits and we have empowered them to lead some of the learning in the community. Last month I wrote this post about our students successfully lead a professional development session for our staff and today they impressed again by leading and facilitating our monthly PTA Meeting. With the support of their classroom teachers, they came prepared to share their journey as it related to developing opinions in writing to persuade a reader or building their argument to win a debate. Their presentations were really awesome and the truth is, I did not preview anything nor did I have a say in what the kids shared... the meeting was all theirs from start to finish and they were AWESOME! Actually, you can check out a ten minute excerpt from the meeting right here... you don't have to take my word for it - you can see them in action sharing their awesomeness...

Words cannot accurately capture how proud I am of our kids and how impressed I am with their knowledge, maturity and composure - I never could have done this at 9 years old. In the end, I guess amplifying student voice can look different in different places but the bottom line is we must create spaces where children feel respected, valued, heard and empowered so they can successfully teach and learn. So, I challenge my fellow educators to turn up the volume and amplify their students' voices! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

41 Things I Know About Education

This month I turn 41... that's right I have moved beyond 40 and am heading towards middle age, or at least that's what my son recently told me. Although getting older comes with some drawbacks (aches are common, sitting on the floor with a kid to read is great until you have to get up and eating something spicy after 7pm can lead to some problems, etc), the last couple of years have also been pretty amazing. Being in my 40s has been quite empowering and has amplified my voice in ways that I never knew possible. I have learned a lot about myself, a lot about the people around me, a lot about what matters in life and a lot about the world of education, especially the current landscape of education, which is a rocky one. 

I have been an educator for almost 20 years and I have learned more in the last year or two than I did during the first decade of my career and that is an awesome feeling! Last year, right before I turned 40, I wrote this post in honor of my birthday, and I have decided that I might make this a little tradition so now I am sharing 41 things I know about education...

1. Kids come first and doing what is best for them is the most important part of our work as educators, even when it's not easy!

2. As educators it is our responsibility to always be learners FIRST!

3. The conversations in schools must shift from the teaching and instead be focused on the learning... how do our kids learn best?

4. Successful schools are built on relationships that are rooted in trust, empathy and respect! 

5. Yes, we can be sympathetic towards others but more important is showing empathy... it's more about "I can understand where you are coming from..." and less about "I feel sorry for you!"

6. Have fun in your classroom... in your school... and in your district! People thrive in environments where smiles and laughter are the norm and not the exception.

7. Tell the story of your school... because if you don't someone else will and they won't do as good of a job!

8. Listen more than you talk... and most important is giving kids a chance to be heard. 

9. Schools MUST be a safe haven for kids because that is critical to addressing the gaps in the quality of education that exist in our country!

10. Racism is a system issue that continues to plague our schools and impact our kids!

11. We need to shift the focus from trying to close the achievement gap to trying to address the opportunity gap!

12. Branding your school or district is not about making money or slapping a logo on the building... it is about creating an identity that the community is proud of and embraces!

13. Any successful change in schools comes as a result of relationships rooted in trust and respect.

14. Our kids are much more than a number so instead of creating data walls that focus solely on test scores, create student profile walls that give us the hard and soft data points... the test scores from the classroom and the fact that the child was a selective mute three years ago; reading levels and the knowledge that a child lost a parent; etc. Our kids are complex and rich... don't devalue them by reducing them to a number.  

15. Empower the educators around you to have a say in their professional development... give them voice and choice!

16. Professional development must also resonate on a personal level if it is going to be sustainable. 

17. We cannot let professional development happen to us... we must take control of our own professional development and personalize it to best meet our needs and the needs of our students!

18. Educational leaders must try and learn something every single day! If we want our schools and classrooms to be hotbeds for learning, then we must model those expectations and be true life long learners!

19. Our children need time to be creative in school... whether it is centers, art or genius hour, our kids need time to create! 

20. Our children need to have a voice in their learning - we must give them a space to pursue their passions and interests! 

21. All staff members have an area of expertise so let's tap into it and share it - we have so much to learn from each other!

22. Educators need to create a PLN... a school or district based PLC is a great thing too but we need ideas beyond our context and our PLN can provide those to help us broaden our lens and point of view!

23. The most important people in a school are the secretaries, custodians and nurses... never forget it!

24. The principal can set the tone of a school... they can build and nurture a positive culture or breed a destructive one! The Principal's impact is far reaching... be thoughtful if you are a principal!

25. Go out during recess and play with your kids... even if it isn't your day to be on recess duty. Recess = unstructured joy! 

26. As educators it is our responsibility to model appropriate digital citizenship and how to create a positive digital footprint!

27. Technology does not equal innovation!

28. Be kinder than necessary... even when you're having a bad day. 

29. Don't embarrass your students in front of each other. Public humiliation breeds contempt not obedience. 

30. Use a morning meeting or a peace talk or some sort of classroom meeting time to nurture a sense of community and family in your classroom!

31. Let your students lead some of the professional development for the staff!

32. Invite your families to be ENGAGED... not just involved!

33. Once you take a behavior problem to the principal, which depending on the level of severity may be necessary, you have lost all authority with that child.

34. EdCamps are rooted in sharing effective practices and discussing good pedagogy... not just spotlighting the coolest new tech tools!

35. Don't be afraid of BYOD... be prepared but also let your kids have some freedom!

36. Explaining the real life connections to everything we teach may help students see the importance.

37. Take risks with your teaching and learning!

38. Create a staff blog where people can share all the awesome things happening in your space.

39. School should be about a balance between uncovering the answers and asking the right questions.

40. Take the work of educating children really seriously but don't take yourself too seriously... in fact, get over yourself. 
41. Kids should always be at the center and come FIRST!

Clearly the list could go on and on but in the end, I think these 41 points are critical to the success of any educator, student and learning organization. 

What do you think should be the next thing on this list? Please leave a comment below!