Sunday, March 18, 2018

Innovator's Mindset by George Couros (Part 3)

Wow! We are already on week 4 of this IMMOOC (Innovator's Mindset Massive Online Course) and I find myself thinking about the ideas in this book often. 

This week's reading has a number of pages dog-eared and I am not really sure how to put them into one post that answers the question "how do we create conditions that empower learners," but here goes....

I am just back from the CUE Conference in Palm Springs, which is always a highlight of my year. I get so energized by the buzz of the attendees, the enthusiasm of the presenters, the excitement of tech-lovers-users, learning new "stuff," and the potential for what we can do for our learners, whether they are teens or adults. Since I was at the conference with tech coach colleagues/friends, we did a lot of talking about how to bring that enthusiasm back to our school district and how to get our teachers to turn to more student-centered learning rather than teacher-centered teaching. 

On page 125 George says that "[t]eachers often design classroom experiences that mimic the school culture and the learning opportunities they've experienced." This is so true; most of the social studies teachers that I work with learned from teachers who lectured. It's what we know! To turn that upside down is scary and takes time and I need to remember that. I am running a PD day for our social studies teachers in a couple weeks I am planning it as a student-centered day (with teachers as students) in which they work their way through a HyperDoc, post to Padlet and Flipgrid, and work in small groups. I hope by the end of the day they will realize that I "taught" a class of 70 people in the style which I hope they will teach their students. If I can do it with 70, they can do it with 35. :-)

Part 3 continues on with ideas on how to change course, which is what I am trying to do in our district. I need to remember to emphasize to our teachers that we should be doing what's best for our students and that which improves learning (page 147). Spoon feeding information that is available in a textbook or on Google, does not help our students to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, or adults who are able to be creative and collaborate with co-workers.

One of my activities for our PD day is to ask the question When was a time that you felt most engaged in learning? I tested it out on my 79 year-old professor father, afraid he would say "graduate school" or "college lectures." To my delight, he immediately said, "when I collaborated with my colleagues." Here's to hoping the answers from my colleagues are as wonderful.

In amongst the thoughts of a shift to student-centered learning, collaboration, creativity, etc I am trying to also instill the idea of sharing our work with one another. So many times teachers feel that they have spent hours and days creating an amazing lesson or unit and they don't want to hand it over to others who "haven't contributed or done any work." I get it. I have definitely felt that way. But in the past two years, as a social studies coach, I promised myself that I would create curriculum for teachers and share it as widely as possible. And guess what? It feels great! With that in mind, I love George's idea of a district hashtag and having teachers tweet out their awesome lessons, units, and happy classroom moments. I think I am going to work with our district's public information officer to get that going....

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

Title: The 57 Bus
Author: Dashka Slater
Year Published: 2017

Awards Stonewall Award

Genre: YA non-fiction (LGBTQ)
Pages: 261
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (OR)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): One teenager in a skirt. One teenager with a lighter. One moment that changed both of their lives forever. 

If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students in Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard lived in the economically challenged flatlands and attended a large public one. After school each day, their paths overlapped on the bus for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight. But in The 57 Bus, author Dashka Slater shows that what might at first seem like a simple matter of right and wrong, justice and injustice, victim and criminal is something more complicated--and far more heartbreaking.

This true story, first chronicled in The New York Times Magazine by Slater and artfully, compassionately, and expertly expanded upon here, is a riveting exploration of race, class, gender, identity, morality, and forgiveness. Told with honesty and insight gleaned from both teens' lives, The 57 Bus will inspire you to rethink all you know about crime, punishment, and empathy.
Review: Another 2017 Youth Media Award winner! Wow. I am not sure what else to say about this book. It is so interesting, captivating, and important.

This book reads like a fiction book, it is a story well told. The chapters are short, each with a specific emphasis and piece of the story, which works well as there is a lot to tell about this tragedy. We know about the incident immediately, but I liked that the author then went back and had large chunks of the book in which the reader gets to know Sasha and Richard. We don't just learn about them, but also about their family and friends and their life situations. By the time the details of the fire are described, I felt invested in both Sasha and Richard and I hoped I could stop it all from happening.

The actual lighting Sasha on fire is such a small part of of this book though it is the central event. Once we read about the incident, we learn about what happens to both Sasha and Richard, how they move on (or don't) and how they feel about what happened. Compassion, forgiveness, and hope are important themes that come up again and again. The author also takes great care to teach the reader about ideas and terms for the way people associated with this story feel about themselves, their sexuality, and how they identify themselves. There really are a lot of levels to this book and they are all relevant and important.

Challenges for which this counts:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Innovator's Mindset by George Couros (Part 2)

I have already said that The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros (2015) sets my brain spinning and makes me want to talk to my colleagues about making changes in our district. Luckily, one of my co-tech integration coaches, Amy, is reading this book and doing the IMMOOC as well so that's been fun. We talk about making changes to our own curriculum and classes and have found a few other teachers spread throughout our secondary schools who hear our ideas and seem interested. That's fun.

This week we read four chapters in Part 2, chapters 4 through 7, and these chapters makes me realize what a difference an innovative administrator can make. Having had at least one principal whose automatic answer was "no," it would be so refreshing to have a principal give staff the power to take risks, think outside the box, and create lifelong learners. I hope as an instructional coach that I can help teachers feel ready to make a change.

For me, the biggest take away from these chapters is the concept of empowerment. On page 96, I feel like I finally "got it." 

"Engagement is good thing, but I've since learned that we must also empower students and equip them with the skills to learn."

If I went back into the classroom, I would do so many things differently and taking this idea of empowerment of students would be HUGE.

I do teach an online American Government course each summer and this summer I want to turn the way I teach (and students learn) on it's head. I worry that since the class is online and I don't see the students in person that it might be a difficult change. It will be so different from what they are used to. Will that make it a disaster? Will their learning experience be a bad one?

Maybe I make changes that are not so huge for both me and them this first time around. I already plan on using HyperDocs, including more student choice and voice, and more assignments that go beyond-the-teacher as audience. Maybe that's enough for now. I think I really need to mull this over and .... Yeah. It's time to do some deep thinking about learner empowerment.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Title: Piecing Me Together
Author: Renée Watson
Year Published: 2017

Awards Newberry Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winner

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 261
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (OR)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And Jade has: every day she rides the bs away from her friends and to the private school where she feels like an outsider, but where she has plenty of opportunities.

There's also at least one opportunity that she doesn't really welcome: Woman to Woman, a mentorship program she joins on the promise of a scholarship. Just because her mentor is black and graduated from the same high school doesn't mean she understands where Jade is coming from. She's tired of being singled out as someone who needs support, someone people want to fix. Jade wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her hope. Maybe there are some things she could show other women about understanding the world and finding opportunities to be real, to make a difference.
Review: I am always excited to read books that win the Youth Media Award and this one got two nods in 2017 so that is a great recommendation! And holy moly is it deserving; I am blown away by this book.

There is so much to this book. Yes, it's about a black girl from a poor neighborhood who goes to a boarding school on scholarship, but that is just the surface. Through Jade we hear about how society patronizes young people, black people, and girls. We read how it feels to be marginalized for where you come from rather than being appreciated for who you are and what you bring to the conversation.

Jade learns to advocate for herself, to hear other people's stories, and to be patient when people don't understand. This book is beautiful; it is a story well told as well as an anthem for anyone who has felt misunderstood and maligned. And it is empowering.

Challenges for which this counts:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sunday Salon: March 11, 2018

My life in books: 
  • The New Art and Science of Teaching by Robert Marzano--this is a book for work so I won't post a review
  • The Longest Silence by Debra Webb (posted March 19 as part of a tour)
Challenges progress:
  • Non-fiction--My goal is 20 books and I've read 17 already!
  • Literary Voyage around the world--Read books set in as many countries as possible. I have read in 11 countries so far.
  • Literary Escapes--Track the US states. I have read books set in 12 states so far and in the past weeks added MI.
  • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners--I have already read 3 of these winners.
  • Motif Reading Challenge--I just added this one yesterday, but as luck would have it, I had unwittingly done both January (read a book different from my race/country) and February (one word title)!
My life outside books:
Work is going really well; I feel I've finally found a rhythm to working with teachers and balancing it with the quiet organizing work that I also have to do. I am really enjoying the one-on-one teacher work that I am doing since it involves writing curriculum, which I love to do.

We are almost half way through March and I am just now posting the Mindful March calendar from Action for Happiness. Of course, I have been doing these every day since January 1 and I really enjoy it!

There really isn't much to report these days. We've gotten some rain here in Santa Barbara, which we desperately need since we are in year seven of a drought, but with each possibility of wet weather come all the emergency emails and texts letting us know if we will need to evacuate or not and giving us the chances of another debris flow. I suppose this will go on for two to three years until the mountains have vegetation on them. It certainly keeps us all on our toes and our nerves a little jangled.

Watching the Oscars this year made me feel that I am getting older as I didn't recognize very many of the actors and actresses seated in the audience. I don't tend to go out to the movies much so that's probably why. When they come out on Netflix I'll probably recognize them! :-)

Oh, I am in the throws of planning my 35th (!) high school reunion. I knew there was something else taking up my time. I have been a one-woman committee for the past 35 years and finally got three other women to work with me this year. It's nice to have others doing it as well so I don't feel financially responsible for all of it again.