Rituals, Routines and Relationships… I’ve got this?

Every classroom that has been in full swing for four or more days probably appears like a well-oiled machine.  It amazes me how quickly teachers and students alike adopt procedures, rituals and routines with lightening speed and quickly move into the content.

We all give heavy thought to developing relationships with our students and, I believe, work very hard to build those student to teacher relationships. However, I think we may need to reflect and re-evalulate.

Are we changing how we facilitate and coach how our students interact?

Peter Senge quote

We all agree there is more emphasis on group work, “talk moves,” collaborative learning and peer feedback, as it should be. We all agree that WE, the educator in the room, have worked to establish a community of trust and respect… but, dare I say, WE direct that so it is about the teacher to student relationship, not the student to student relationships. In fact, many times the classroom will have the “look” of a student-designed and led learning environment, but when we peel back the layers it is very much teacher directed and led.

Edward Fiske quote

As I reflect on this, I know I may be upsetting educators by my questions. I am fully aware of the pressures and the dense curriculum and content breathing down the necks of classroom educators that must be delivered in a finite amount of time with data that reflects critical thinking visibly, depth of knowledge and a transfer of knowledge across disciplines.

Consider, though, if we are wanting students to think in deep and creative ways that must come from a deeply personal place.  If students own their learning, then the feedback and input of others, particularly peers, can be profoundly scary if there is not the relationships and trust built between students.

Robert Reich quote

We are asking students to get in front of their peers and present, sit with their peers and share their ideas and thinking, create solutions and products with other students passionate about the same ideas via PBL opportunities, but are we facilitating a “Ropes course” approach to building those teams of learners within the walls of our classroom?

If you are wanting to create an environment of self-driven autonomous learners that thrive in their learning community, then I challenge you to reflect and re-evaluate.

Here are a few questions I would ask myself to be sure the relationships are just as much about the student to student relationships as they are about the student to teacher relationship:

1. Does everyone in the class know everyone’s name with ease (first and last)?

2. With getting to know you activities have they first been shared with a small group, then, when sharing out the “get to know you” facts someone other than the student in the group shares with the class?

3. Can students share with each other why another student’s presence with specificity is essential to the entire team (class) learning? (What makes them uniquely important to this particular class?)

4. Can students in your class share with passion what the community agreements or norms for learning are and why they are essential to the classroom?

5. Do your students see your classroom as an opportunity to practice democracy? (Are you training them to live in a democracy when they grow up, or are you giving them the chance to live in one today?- Alfie Kohn, TRIBES by Jeanne Gibbs, p. 25)

As educators, I know that we are risk-takers and want to encourage our students to be risk-takers as well.  To do that, in the classrooms of today, we can no longer be the only relationship builder, we must intentionally coach and facilitate positive relationship building between students.  They need to be sure of not just the safety of learning with the teacher, but with their peers.

Winnie the Pooh sure of you quote

Lauren. “My Still Small World.” The Loveliest Hour. N.p., 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

How are you ensuring a learning community that is developed, driven and passionately protected by your students for their peers?

Anyone Can Do a Training, No One Can Tell Your Stories…



In the last two days of July my district hosted an amazing Professional Learning Event called #TechnoPalooza 2014.  There were amazing presentations by myself and others both within my district and outside of my district.

As I moved on from those two days and reflected on the learning, connecting, and collaboration that took place, one thing rose to the surface.  In every situation where an individual’s learning was impacted, it was through a story or stories shared.

I heard feedback about my colleagues presentations as well as my own presentations, and each conversation started with… “I loved the story you told about….” or “I appreciated the story you told how you reached a student through… I related to that.”

Recently, Hayley Sample, a 4th grade English Language Arts Teacher that I work closely with as her Instructional Technology Coach, shared how she completely redefined storytelling and publishing  through the use of Google Forms, Showbie and the BookCreator app that was featured on my Instructional Team’s Blog “Making IT Click“.  Her story was so powerful that her story was re-blogged by the creators of the BookCreator app on their blog site.  As I write this, Showbie is discussing with Hayley the possibility of  re-blogging here story as well.  She was also a presenter on this topic at TechnoPalooza… what resonated with participants?  It was the power of her story, the learning experience and the impact it had on the  students in her classroom and beyond.

As I thought about the presentations and workshops I have led this summer, I have come to realize that the stories we tell of personal struggles, triumphs and transformation as we share the skills are what truly encourage others to try the techniques, tools and ideas we offer.  I am mid-way through the book “ROLE Reversal” by Mark Barnes and it’s the stories he shares through out, but especially in chapter 5 (Moving from Grades  to Feedback) and chapter 6 (Evaluating while Evolving), that fire me up to transform classrooms to a Results Only Learning Environment.

As I think about the transformation and growth in my own professional learning, it has never been because of a profoundly skill driven course I have taken that has pushed me forward, but rather, the stories of passion, heart (and heartache), and difference made.

I have included the presentations I gave at #TechnoPalooza below.  However, without the context of the stories I tell, they seem somewhat empty to me.  I share them without reservation, as I know, anyone can use my presentation, but no one can tell the same stories… those are  uniquely mine and those I share my learning journey with.


Presentation on “Curation for the 21st Century”

Curation Palooza

and “Genius Hour.”

image of GH site

I also had the privilege of co-presenting with Library Media Specialist, Sue Fitzgerald (Blog: The Unpretentious Librarian).

We shared with participants…

“Letting a Tech Club Find You”

Tech Club palooza presentation

“Blogging as a Reflective Educator”

Reflective educator palooza

and “Blogging by Choice”

Blogging by Choice palooza

No matter what  expertise you bring to the table in whatever environment, your stories are what make your wisdom and ideas palatable to others.  Anyone can present the tool or technique, but only you can share the stories.  Share your stories… the world is waiting for your unique perspective that may be just the story that pushes that person to transform their own  learning and the learning environment of their classroom, campus, district, etc.


The #nisdPalooza anticipation builds…


This Wednesday, July 30th and Thursday, July 31st my district is hosting “TechnoPalooza.”  Three years ago it was a in-district choice menu Professional Development focused on Educational Technology Integration. Last year it grew within the district in popularity and was open for other districts to attend as well.

This year the planners led by Karla Burkholder (@techiequeen), NISD Director of Instructional Technnology (which includes the NISD Instructional Technology Team I am a part) decided to go BIG or go home.  We opened up for presenters beyond the keynote from all over, invited attendees from all over, and brought in vendors.  On top of that, there is a staggered schedule of presentations, choose your own session menu (via app designed by our very own Rory Peacock, Northwest ISD Coordinator for Instructional Technology) and choose your own lunch hour and lunch via Fort Worth Food Trucks.

I am not just a participant this year.  I have been given the privilege of presenting 5 different sessions.  How does one go from not being a session presenter to 5, you ask?  Well, that is for another time and another post… but briefly it has to do with Twitter, my PLN, my mentors and “What’s Obvious to You…” video by Derek Sivers.

Aside from that and being amazed at the offerings for learning, there are a few things I am even more excited about.  The amazing presentations coming from my team and the campuses I support.  From my team consisting of Charles Cooper (@Thrasymachus), Cara Carter (@caracarter1), Brittany Horn (@Brit_Horn), Ashley Chapman (@AshChapman3), Rene Egle (@ReneEgle) and previously mentioned, Rory Peacock (@rorypeacock) there are over 10 presentations just from our team.

In addition to our Instructional Technology Team are the Northwest ISD teacher leaders that are presenting.  Many of these teachers I have worked with over the past year or learned about their innovative approaches through our district Tuesday night chat #nisdNOV8.  Their commitment to great instruction, student learning and technology integration make them the perfect presenters for an event like TechnoPalooza.  A special HT (Hat Tip) goes out to Nicole Wallis, Kristin Dougherty, Christie Crocker, GailAnne Smith, Penny Rosen,  Sara Thomasson, Christa Pospisil (Popsicle :-)), Melissa Griffith, Rebecca Redman, Donna Thompson, Sue Fitzgerald, Hayley Sample, Nicole Covarelli, and Shelly Stringer for their risk taking in the classroom, transparency, collaborative spirit and enthusiastic willingness to present. I am beyond excited so many are presenting at TechnoPalooza.  So sad that I cannot be at each and every one of their presentations to cheer for them and learn from them.  The choice offered from this group is staggeringly amazing. Sessions vary from using Technology and Trash to Create Musical Instruments and Music to using several technology tools to create a platform via the BookCreator App to publish student written  stories (see recent blog post from our IT team’s “Making IT Click” showcase).

In addition to all this, there is an even more personally exciting aspect to TechnoPalooza.  Through the power of Twitter I have met some amazing people along the way.  The only shortcoming to Twitter is that the people I meet globally, I don’t know how I can possibly meet them all face to face.  So when I do, I am like a 6 year old on Christmas morning.  At TechnoPalooza I will have the great privilege of meeting co-cooridinator/moderator of #MTedchat Crista Anderson (@cristama) and Revdel representative, Jason Rincker (@JD_Rincker) which I now, because of our connections via Twitter consider as friends.  She will be presenting on Wednesday about harnessing the power of Twitter for connecting and learning. With Jason’s assistance, she will also present on Thursday about ways to utilize and target school communication as effectively as possible.

If you didn’t register for TechnoPalooza this year, follow the #nisdPalooza Tweets.  Next year don’t miss it.  I have insider information that the Keynote for 2015 will be amazing!

Is it time for a ROLE Revolution?

On Sunday I had the privilege of hosting #txeduchat.  The topic was “Results Only Learning Environment” based on the book ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19).

For a review of the book I refer my blog followers to my good PLN friend Joy Kirr’s (@joykirr) post on her blog last year ROLE Reversal Review.

Some may wonder why I have become so interested in this approach.  I have posted about my observation of ROLE at Coppell Middle School East.  I have further examined the idea of student driven learning and creating an autonomous learning environment.  My last post “What is a #growthmindset?” explains the connections that have occurred from the reading, conversations and professional learning opportunities I have had in the past few months.

All of this learning has me wondering… no inspired…. hmmm, no, more like fired up. Yes! Fired up.

I learn and lose sleep in my passion for learning. I gain great satisfaction and contentment when I set a goal, and even though it is a challenge, through perseverance reach that goal.   Why would I not want the same experience for my students and teachers? A joy for learning, if you will, well defined in @shareski’s presentation, “Whatever Happened to Joy.”

Yet, we continue to try to take some of the pieces of student-driven learning theory and retro-fit them to an antiquated grading systems and one-size-fits all curriculum. Instead of completely renovating from the ground up.

Every day I learn more about the ROLE approach.  I want to bring it to classrooms in my district, as I have never seen students transform into self-driven learners with such authenticity as I have with ROLE.  This approach seems to be made to stick.

#nbtchat meme

There are a few parameters with a true ROLE classroom… no homework and no grades.  Teaching must follow the workshop model approach and discipline is not an issue.

Intrigued? So were those that joined me when I hosted the #txeduchat on ROLE.

The following is a snapshot of the Tweets and links that were shared.

Q1A1 aA1 bA1 cQ2A2 aA2 c

@markbarnes19 blog post on Homework

A2 fQ3A3 aA3 bA3 dA3 cA3 fA3 hQ4Mark Barnes A3

@markbarnes19 blog post on Feedback

A4 aA4 bA4 dExample of Student Rubric for peer/self evaluation by Charles Cooper @thrasymachus

A5 aA5 bA5 cA5Q6A6 aLinks to school doing a ROLE Type approachSedbury School links: http://leewaysudburyschool.org/testimonials


A6 c

There was a real sense of urgency for change.  Many wanted to know how.

Challenge to be brave

Suggestions and inspiration were shared.

For integration and becoming paperless:

Going paperless with ROLE

For taking it back to classrooms:How to get it goingTo continue the dialogue and stay connected:

Mark Barnes FB gradesTeacher’s Throwing Out Grades FB group sponsored by Mark Barnes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/teachersthrowingoutgrades/

As well as the upcoming book chat on ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes.  Anyone is welcome to join #suummerROLE if you are wanting to revolutionize education.  July 29th we will be discussing chapters 1 and 2.

I am ready to revolutionize education.  I am eager to put in motion ROLE.  I look forward to continued conversations about student-driven learning that fosters joy and autonomy.  If you still need some convincing I leave you with this:

Anti WS memeWill you join the ROLE Revolution?


Link to #txeduchat archive for July 13, 2014:


What is a #growthmindset?

Recently a fellow colleague, @LisaDegnan1 and #newbie blogger (Blog: Teaching and Learning With and Through Others) shared the excitement of self-directed autonomous professional development.

Lisa Degnan

Lisa Degnan and Husband

With her permission I am “re-blogging” her post titled “Best Summer Professional Development”

“Have you ever written curriculum?  Looking at the standards, breaking down the TEKS, and creating assessments that will address the standards has been one of the best professional development opportunities that I have had this summer.  It sounds tedious.  It sounds kind of boring.  Yes, even to my ears it sounds CRAZY!  But when you place great educators, creative thinkers, and motivated people in the same room… GREAT things begin to happen.

Sure, I have had some great PD opportunities this summer.  They have been fantastic.  I have notebooks of things that I would LOVE to try this school year.  I brought all that knowledge with me to our day of writing assessments. 

As our curriculum writing team began to formulate assessments, I was thinking of the many principles I was learning through my book study, Learning Targets: A Theory of Action.  The following quote from the book was something that I heard buzzing in my mind as I worked alongside my fellow writers: “The most effective teaching and the most meaningful student learning happen when teachers design the right learning target for today’s lesson and use it along with their students to aim for and assess understanding.” 

Knowing and understanding the learning standards for reading became key in developing assessments that would help identify student weaknesses, help drive teacher instruction, plan for future remediation and embrace real enrichment opportunities. And guess what?!  It WAS fun!  Working alongside knowledgeable educators that pushed my thinking and my level of understanding was FUN. It was also one of the best learning experiences that I have had this summer.

Professional development can present itself in a variety of ways.  It is the phenomenal speaker at a convention.  It is the inspiring Twitter chats that involve some of the brightest thinkers in the world.  It is staff development that causes you pause and rethink.  It is – for me – being in a room with a group of creative, inspiring, bright people that have come together to create assessments that are focused, purposeful, and challenging.  It may not have looked fancy and we had to pay for our own lunches, but what we did in one day – was nothing short of amazing professional development. 

We all have the ability to do this type of soul searching professional development with peers that inspire us.  We can do it each week with thoughtful and intentional lesson planning.  We can talk to other dedicated professionals and ask for their input, their insight, and their opinions.  We can change how we have done things in the past to incorporate what we know is best for our students. It is part of being fully present.  It is part of loving what we do.  It is part of being highly effective educators.

My thought for today is… #JustDoIt !  You will be so glad that you did.

Lisa perfectly captures the unbridled joy of learning.  When you are you are driven from within the reward isn’t the professional development hours you receive, the possible payment you may be given for time spent writing curriculum or the accolades or praise from others, but rather the joy one has when they know they have met the target… the achieved synergy of ideas that affirm why we do what we do… the flip of a switch that makes the struggle getting there the energy that drives one to keep going.

dan pink flip switch quote

I too am reading Learning Targets by Moss and Brookhart.  What is exciting to me is I read this once before shortly before I learned about #geniushour in the spring of 2013.  I really liked what the book was saying, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.

learning targets

It did plant a seed.

The student being self-directed and assessing their own learning stuck with me.

It became a reality in the spring 2013 when I implemented #geniushour in my classroom.  For some reason, I was able to play out much of the approaches suggested in Learning Targets first through a situation where each student had their own designed target for learning.  I learned a lot about being specific as I coached my students and refined the process of feedback from me and their peers.

feedback book

This spring, a full year since I read Learning Targets the first time, I wanted to learn more about effective feedback.  I shared this desire with a mentor, Principal Cathy Sager, who recommended I read Feedback: the Hinge that Joins Teaching and Learning by Pollock.  This further refined my thinking and practice on feedback.  One of the most convincing arguments for student led feedback was in a story about a high school teacher, Ian Mulligan, who, at first thought the process of student led feedback would take too much time.  What he realized was “when students sought and received peer feedback frequently in class, there were fewer interruptions or disruptions, and students stayed more focused so they actually covered more material more deeply than before.”(Pollock, p.52)

While reading Feedback  I visited Coppell Middle School East to observe Results Only Learning Environment(ROLE).  I saw the power of good scripted feedback.  I was obsessed.  I wanted to consume anything and everything that could create a learning environment where learning was purposeful, effective, focused and, most of all, student-driven.

I was having FUN, much like Lisa.  FUN knowing that I was putting the pieces of a puzzle I began long ago.  This puzzle started when I studied the Autonomous Learner Model by George Betts in the late 90’s.  Then the puzzle took a more definable shape when I found a way to take the benefits of what happened in #geniushour and apply it to concepts and targets in content we are responsible to teach through the discovery of the ROLE approach.

It doesn’t stop there.  I continue to learn via conversations, conferences, Twitter and blogs (just like Lisa). But the biggest “Aha!” has been as I re-read Learning Targets while reading Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pairing the practical “how to” of Learning Targets with the philosophy of Drive has me sleep deprived IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER and I don’t care.  Why?  Because I can’t wait to share and work alongside teachers like Lisa as we transform instruction. My mind won’t stop thinking of the possibilities.

ROLE book

What is even more crazy is that I am reading another book called ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (If you want to join me I will be hosting a book chat July 29th- September 2nd: https://sites.google.com/a/nisdtx.org/role-reversal-book-study/) .  It seems to take the philosophy of Drive and research of Learning Targets and melds the two into a dynamic that results in a complete overhaul where the best of how 21st century learners construct knowledge is met.

I continue to hold true to my “one word” FOCUS.  This addresses my FOCUS on student driven learning/motivation.

If we design a learning experience where students are self-driven and self-motivated as discussed in Learning Targets, Drive, and ROLE Reversal then they should be having just as much FUN learning and growing as Lisa and I do.  They will truly have developed a #growthmindset.

How are you having FUN in your personal professional development this summer?  As Lisa suggested, #justdoit!

What is my “one word?”

When the idea of “one word” started popping up on Twitter at the beginning of 2014 I was intrigued.  However, for those who know me well, determining what that one word would be for me seemed like an impossibility.  See, I struggle with simple and keeping the word count down.  One of my mentors has even advised me to type up my emails, send them to myself and see how much “scrolling” I have to do.  If I have to scroll up more than 3 times on my iPhone, time to cut the fluff.

After some reflection this summer I have my word.  It has come to me through professional development I have attended, Twitter chats I have participated, professional and personal reading, conversations with others and life experiences that have pushed me to re-evaluate.  For a long time I thought this word had to be something amazing and impressive like “brilliance” or “excellence” or “dynamic.” But all of those seemed to put the emphasis squarely on me.  As an instructional coach and aspiring administrator, that is not what I want.  The other thing about picking a word is if I really mean it… I have to put it out there for my PLN, PLC and colleagues to see.  I have to be vulnerable and at the same time own my “word.”  I am not sure why picking that one word and letting the world know it seems so daunting, but it does.  However, as both Jimmy Casas and George Couros encouraged in their presentations I attended and model through Social Media, I just need to “JUMP.”

My word: FOCUS

Here is my action plan to keep my “word.”

1. FOCUS on my strengths: building and maintaining relationships.

2. FOCUS on my ability to see the big picture and integrate resources, people and techniques.

3.  FOCUS on supporting teachers and students so that they can reach their goals.

4.  FOCUS on good teaching.

5.  FOCUS on student driven learning/motivation.

6.  FOCUS on empowering others to learn, grow and lead.


So there it is.  FOCUS.  I could add more to the list, and I am always looking for suggestions.

How am I working toward my action plan?

1.  Connect via Social Media, Face to Face and any means to maintain and build relationships.

2.  Stay current with not just tools but philosophy and practice of teaching and learning.

3. Facilitate accountability and collaboration among teachers and students.

4.  Encourage risk taking.

5.  Foster a learning environment with student friendly learning targets, continuous feedback and evidence of critical thinking (is the learning visible).

6.  Encourage, celebrate and share the successes of teachers and students.

I have seen my word “FOCUS” already impact me as I am “reshaping” my blog.  I have noticed my mind hone in on ideas and approaches as I read my professional books this summer. In fact the relationships between books because I have “FOCUS” has been tremendous.  I am mid-way through the book Learning Targets by Moss and Brookhart for the second time, and this time the book is resonating for me in a completely different way.

learning targetsBefore I read this book (a second time), I read Feedback by Pollock.  I think reading that book better helped me FOCUS on understanding the immediacy and impact of every lesson as it is designed and shaped for learning. What is more exciting is that while reading Learning Targets, I am going to start Drive by Daniel Pink.  I anxiously look forward to how my FOCUS will take the learning and direction from Drive into my continued growth with Learning Targets.  I know when the book study over ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes begins in late July my FOCUS along with the online Twitter chat I am leading will only enhance and push forward my “word” and my action plan.

As always, I seek feedback. What are your thoughts about my “word?” Any advice or ideas? What is your “word?”


Words to live by…

In the midst of the reshaping that I wrote about in my last post a dear friend and mentor lost her 8 and 1/2 year battle with cancer.

Jan wasn’t a fellow educator when I met her.  She was a parent of a student I taught.  We bonded through our love for her daughter.  Our relationship continued after her daughter left my course.

She encouraged me to pursue my Masters in Educational Administration.  She challenged me to grow spiritually.  She modeled for me how to be a partner in a marriage.  When the day came, she coached me into motherhood.

She lived life passionately, with purpose and love.  She was called to be a deaf interpreter in her late 30s. From the time she pursued this passion until her death, she impacted children and adults in the deaf community in a profound way.  She educated them, loved on them and advocated for them.  Her profession of interpreting was done from a place of passion built on relationships.  Were goals met? Absolutely.  Did learning and growth occur? Ask the lives she impacted.  Were there challenges, some thought impossible to overcome? Certainly.  How was she successful? She focused on the people.

At her Life Celebration Service the pastor shared her “Top 10 List for Life.”

10- Love everyone.

9- Forgive often.

8- Always kiss goodnight.

7- Remember that strangers only exists if you let them. Everyone is a friend you just haven’t met yet.

6- Laugh at others if you must, but laugh at yourself for  growth.

5- Don’t wast time wondering what it would be like to do something, do it.

4- There is no such thing as “too purple.”

3- Growing up is over-rated.

2- Never forget to take your binoculars.

1- Life may present you with challenges, and hurdles that the world would have you believe can’t be overcome.  The world would have you believe that your response should be despair, but ultimately God is in control.  While you  might not be able to control your situation in like you CAN control how you choose to respond to it.  If you choose hope and joy, then even the dark days that may come, the days of sunshine can far exceed them.  The choice is yours.

photo-2 copy 3


Jan, myself and her family, Christmas 2000


As I reflected on my dear friend’s words of advice I began to think about my own practice and the teachers that I coach.  I thought about how my friend lived by these ideals and knew through personal observation and the results of her work that it was by focusing on the main thing, PEOPLE. She never concerned herself with unimportant details.  It was about the work of developing friendships, connecting with people, enriching each others lives and expecting the best results in all situations.  She was never too busy to share a moment over a Sonic cherry limeade, hold your hand in a difficult moment, or come grab you for a quick get a way when you needed an escape.  She was passionate about life and about the living.

For her, how she chose to live her life was a calling and an example to others.  She lived a passionate life.

photo.PNG copy


As the quote states, her passion was not random.  It was purposeful, intentional and measurable.  Her impact was felt by everyone she met.  Was her work something that could not be replicated?  I think not.  She gave us the blueprint.  We don’t have to live it precisely as she wrote (frankly I don’t think there is such a thing as “too red” :-)). However, I do think it is my calling to build relationships.  I am passionate about learning and learners, both adult and student.  How do you say that is measured? Hmmm… well I know it can be measured in lives changed, hope rebuilt and passions discovered. It is also measured in ways that will not be realized in this world, but in heaven by the ultimate assessor of success, Jesus.

I am thankful for my friend, Jan.  Her life example reminded me of what is most important.  It isn’t how much I do, how I dress, how incredible the decor in a classroom is, but how I treat, love and mentor others.

Take away: Keep it simple, don’t get bogged down in the unnecessary details, and build genuine relationships.

Reshaping what we do…

I had plans this summer.

Plans to read the following professional books:

summer prof reading

Plans to catch up on my personal reading for enjoyment:

photo.PNG personal reads



I had plans to participate in all my usual Twitter chats.

I had plans to post multiple entries to my blog.

Then I had an amazing week.

I presented Genius Hour to four different audiences.  That, all by itself, was incredible.  On top of that, my #geniushour PLN noticed the extra follows and chatter for Genius Hour and in true PLN form tweeted out their support and encouragement.

photo 3photo 2 photo 1

When I wasn’t presenting at both Texas ASCD #ignite14 and Coppell ISD’s #iDesign14 I attended other sessions including #twilebrity Jimmy Casas’ (@casas_jimmy) session on Twitter and Canadian #twilebrity George Couros’ (@gcouros) keynote address and session on blogging.

At first I was going to add to my original summer reading plans.  I wanted to add “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Making Thinking Visible” by Ron Ritchart to my already big pile of summer professional reading.

In Jimmy’s session, I was inspired to work more on my “branding” and begin formulating a way to utilize social media with the campuses I support to build a dynamic interactive community that moves beyond the school.

To say the least, my head was starting to spin, and I was beginning to wonder, while all this is good, was my wanting to do so much going to turn out as an epic fail? Is this enthusiasm for more plans going to create an effective result where I had gone a mile wide and inch deep in my learning and not the other way around?

I think the hardest thing about loving learning and working with kids is the human need for sleep.  I have so much I want to do and yet I require a certain amount of sleep.  So as I contemplated this dilemma on my last day of the week’s professional learning events, I walked into George Couros’ (@gcouros) keynote.  I love his compelling argument for a connected world, and what I began to realize was what I valued most about this week were the connections that I made both face to face and through Twitter… not the original plans that I made. I also realized that this life of learning that I love, can take over your life if you let it, and yet there is nothing powerful to be shared if you don’t capture meaningful moments of life and share with others.

As the keynote wrapped up,  I was torn between trying to find a corner of solitude to reflect and joining George’s session on “Blogging as a Professional Portfolio.”  I reasoned that there would be time to reflect later and opted to attend George’s session.

He shared very clearly why a blog serves a very clear and real purpose to show who you are as an educator and, even more, connects you with the world in a very intimate and human way.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the lecture hall when George shared his most recent and very personal blog post about the loss of his dog.

In this moment his very professional and personal blog challenged everything I had thought a blog and portfolio should be.

Another plan added to the list.

Then I went back to the epiphany I had during the keynote.

I realized…

I am not going to be doing all I originally planned to do.

In a way I am doing what we, as instructional engineers, do every day with resources and planning for focused student learning.  We have tons of resources, but its important for us to use the ones that are just right for the learners, learning target and the desired outcome.

I have tons of learning opportunities and multiple directions I could go with the plans I had made and the added ideas I gathered this week.  However, would going full ahead without a reassessment of the situation be the best for me and for those that I would share with through this blog and through Twitter? Secondly, would this allow me to go into the depth this week revealed I desperately needed?

My first response was to start completely over with everything, reading lists, branding, blog, portfolio and family planned events.

I even tweeted about tossing this blog and starting over.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

This conversation led to the following…

1.  I will read books that support my passion for student driven learning that helps me to further the philosophy of Genius Hour in classrooms and develops a deeper understanding of Results Only Learning Environment (See ROLE Reversal Observed post).  I am giving myself permission to not get every professional book read on my list.

2.  I will be more intentional about capturing the moments around me in ways that let those around me know me on a more personal level and, in turn, I want to get to know those in my PLN and beyond on a more personal level.

3.  I will allow my blog to be a work in progress (organizing and categorizing for my audience) and begin to create a more dynamic platform that will provide a place for my continued reflections as an educator and person, but also showcase how my personal self and professional self intersect as a life-long learner and leader.

4.  I will be fully present for my family, friends and community.  I love my Twitter… but I must step back.

So I am in a state of “reshaping.” I am not throwing out the body of work that I began, but taking it and working it into something that better reflects me.  A “reshaping” that honestly and transparently connects with the world that has embraced me.

So pardon the mess and moving around that will occur on my blog as I work to “reshape” it.

Don’t hold me to the original list of books.  I do plan to read “Drive”by Daniel Pink and will do the “ROLE Reversal” by Mark Barnes Twitter Book Chat end of July.

Becoming more personal with  my professional learning community is probably my greatest challenge.  I am not naturally an open person, and sharing for the world intimidates me.  But I will do it.  I will JUMP!

My family will be only too happy to see my step back from Twitter… however Twitter may need to steady itself for the inundation of family related Tweets. You have been warned!

My First Loves...

Will you be “reshaping ” plans you made this summer for learning? How are you approaching your”reshaping?”

ROLE Reversal Observed

ROLE book

A few months ago I was introduced to the ROLE approach via a discussion with 7th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher, Sara Hutson.  She had been talking with friend and fellow colleague, Kat Julian, an 8th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher at Coppell Middle School East, from Coppell I.S.D..

After Sara shared her contagious curiosity about this instructional philosophy and approach, I wanted to learn more and turned to my Twitter PLN.  Very few were familiar or had implemented the approach, but many were intrigued.  I turned my search to the internet.  I found some information and learned that ROLE (Results Only Learning Environment) derives its approach from Daniel Pink’s Drive philosophy on motivation which inspired the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) approach in the work place (I curated resources in Pinterest and ScoopIt).  In both ROLE and ROWE the premise, from what I learned so far, is based on the following:

1) the individual (not the boss/teacher) setting goals

2) working toward those goals with set checkpoints or deadlines

3) continuous feedback and purposeful reflection guided by the teacher/boss connected to the checkpoints/deadlines

4) self assessment of goals achieved/mastery of task(s)

I was intrigued and as curious as Sara was at this point.  Together we made plans to go and see ROLE in action.

Upon arrival to Coppell Middle School East, it looked much like any other Middle School, active, social and bursting with teenage energy.  We were escorted to Kat Julian’s classroom.  She had introduced us to the idea and was now sharing how it played out in the classroom.  As we walked in students were working on MacBooks and iPads bringing a year long PBL into its final stages for presentation the last week in May.  Some student groups were in the hallways recording, others were working together on one product, while others were in sitting in groups but working on individual components of their group PBL.  No one was off task, no one was asking the teacher what they should do next.  They all were self-driven, self-directed and self-reflective.  How was this self-regulated learning just happening?

We soon found out.  The vertical team of English Language Arts Teachers at Coppell Middle School East, had worked hard, struggled, re-structured, and ultimately succeeded to get to this point.

The team: Kat Julian, 8th grade; Megan Boyd, 7th; Laura Melson, 6th grade; and their principal, Laura Springer.

First, the entire team had the following: same planning time, support of their principal and school board, and one school day per six weeks to meet, collaborate, brainstorm, vertically align and problem solve.  Secondly, the team was also directly trained by the author of ROLE Reversal, Mark Barnes who has continued to support them throughout this whole process.

Most importantly, they were intentional and purposeful in how they presented the ROLE approach to both students and parents.

Parents were supplied a “Standards Card” that lists all the standards students are expected to work toward mastery throughout the year.  Students are expected to self-report on their learning, and “negotiate” their level of mastery and provide evidence that they are progressing toward the learning goals for the year every 6 weeks via a one to one grade conference with their teachers.  Teachers create an open Google Doc Spreadsheet that shows the standards addressed, feedback and whether or not mastery was met.

Parents have access to the Google Doc at all times.  They have several tasks throughout the year and goals, but there is one year long PBL all students are expected to complete.  The PBL focused on individual learning first, then group terms are set (a rubric is always present to establish terms… teacher written early in the year, then later student written), and finally collaboration of research occurs with students in their groups that leads them to a final PBL product.  In all cases the teacher is a facilitator and provides feedback at certain deadlines.  The teacher is not the supplier of information.

Feedback from the teacher follows the process of 1)Summarizing what learning is evident 2)Explain what has met mastery 3)Re-direct what may not have met mastery and 4)Provide new deadline date to Re-submit work.

Most would ask next… does it work?  Answer: A resounding yes!  While it isn’t just about a state test, this approach seems to have not only addressed the whole learner developing a passion driven learner, but resulted in unprecedented results on the state test.  In the 8th grade ROLE classes 100% of students passed with 80% scoring at the advanced level. Additionally, of these students 62% improved or showed growth from the previous year. Even more than that was to observe the self-directed, self-regulated, self-motivated passionate learning driven by the student at a depth that I knew was possible but had not seen fully realized with such a large amount of students.

Furthermore, in the 7th grade Mrs. Boyd saw tremendous improvement in her students’ with their campus 25 book campaign.  As we observed in this classroom, students were evaluating their year long reading logs.  Students had consistently read, recorded their reading, written a recommendation posted to the class blog and reflected on their reading.  Many moved from only reading 2 or 3 books the previous year to reading 25-30 books this year.  When asked why were they more successful, students remarked that it was because they had consistently evaluated themselves in their feedback conferences with their teachers and had their fellow classmates blog recommendations that helped them find books of interest.  The day we were observing students were creating their celebration picture.  We were able to grab a few to share.  I did not have these students myself, but I was overcome with emotion as I saw the excitement of students as they proudly shared their achievement.  Additionally, without provocation they shared the understanding they had gained about the correlation between abundant reading and their writing. (Insert the cheering and applause of every English Language Arts Teacher HERE!)

ROLE reading goal 2 ROLE reading goal

To see this all in action and working successfully was amazing and fantastic.  I am anxious to see this happen in my district.  I know it is possible.  We already have so many pieces that lend themselves to this approach. We utilize the workshop model, PBLs, document based questioning, and standards based bulletin boards to move emphasis from a grade focus to mastery of skills. Watching students be self-regulating, self-motivated and self-directed with intense passion and commitment I am eager to see how it could be implemented.

I am eager to read the book ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes and learn with others via my PLN and fellow district colleagues about this student focused approach to learning.

What are your thoughts on ROLE?  Do you have experience with this approach?  Please share your thoughts, ideas and comments.

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