#zerotohero Prompts — Make them Yours

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The writing prompt for today is

Do you have a reputation?

What is it, and where did it come from?

Is it accurate? What do you think about it?


I’ve been in conversations about this today; there’s “stuff” going on around us, and we’re trying to figure it out. But in those conversations are reputations, how we expect people to behave based on past actions.

The thing is, we only see some of the actions of others, or “hear” about them. And we don’t know the stories behind the actions, or the rest of the story, before or after.  We only have bits of information. As Lord Francis Jeffrey has said, “A good name, like good will, is got by many actions and lost by one.” So in our many conversations, it’s important to remember that we all act with the information we have, and that people are more than what we know.

In that respect, I tried to think of what my reputation might be, depending on one’s perspective.

So. I’m pretty quiet, very shy in fact, except when it comes to education. Then I’m passionate about teaching the whole child — personalized and including art, music, debate, etc. —  and not assigning anyone a reputation based on a number, a test score. So I’m stubborn there, and vocal about its affects, which include less about what a child — or teacher — is, and more about our society’s growing lack of humanity or civility; rather we depend on numbers to prove something, instead of just having a conversation and observing what a child or teacher does, day in and day out in regards to learning and improving. So, some might see me as a devoted, innovative, and caring teacher who inspires her students, while others might see a stubborn tenacity to debate and research of those mandates that make data crunching the goal. Some will see a kind and collaborative teacher working with others to build a positive learning environment, while others will see a questioner, a debater, a reminder that other ways could be chosen. Some will see a diligent and focused learner, while others will see a workaholic. So, it depends. What I do know is this: my heart supports the underdog, my mind meanders down multiple paths to find the best ways, and whenever our school community is transparent and open to all views, that’s when we have found the best solutions for our students.

In reflection, I consider this quote from John Wooden: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” There will always be those who misunderstand our actions, but compassion towards them will diminish their unintended harm, and you will grow to understand them better. We only live once, so we must go boldly, and scatter seeds of kindness.

Live to make the world less difficult for each other. ~ George Eliot


About this post:

So. Our challenge, Day 15, for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to write a post — to post on a writing prompt [ find them here ], which are those questions and statements presented to spur our imaginations on those days our minds fail us. Whenever your ideas stop sizzling, take a prompt and personalize it; twist it until it’s tuned to your needs. This was my twist.

#zerotohero Comment Reflection

So. Our challenge, Day 14,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is a choice, and I choose to read and comment on three blogs.

Pause…

My goal was to read educational blogs with ideas for which I am currently considering.

First I found Matt Renwick”s Reading By Example post about being an effective educational leader, which requires empathy. It’s a wonderful post is this educational atmosphere of “catch ya” whether you are a teacher or a student. Empathy. I tried to add some value to the conversation with my own experience: “I even call this moment [“to mentally place ourselves within a student’s circumstance”], the pause, which is a patience children don’t always receive. I pause to let situations sort themselves out, or to notice the mood of the student, and always to allow them the dignity of self-control in each situation. Empathy is needed to build relationships with students, and thereby increase their motivation in your classroom. Empathy brings humanity back into the classroom and helps model and build the learning community.”

Without a learning community, a classroom is just a room full of people wasting their time.

My second and third comments emerged after I bounced over to a favorite blog, Tommy Found a New Book, by  Louise Robinson-Lay . Her post led me to Four Blogging Tips for students. But it also pointed me to two other blogs, including this post and this post about  shifts in learning [see image above — My favorite: From Standards to Habits. Now that’s a transformation, one that benefits learners and teachers — and futures because the “habits” developed lend themselves to all situations].

Those shifts are what I see in those teachers who are allowed to innovate in their schools, and where personalized learning choices will lead. The gap is wide between what could be and what is, considering the current trends in mandates in education.

Play…

So play with this question: These shifts are guided by learners; the mandates are guided by business and politicians. Which will win? Or, will the poor — the equity and access gap — widen even more because only those who have will be allowed the choices in those shifts?

 


Image Source: Terry Heick  at TeachThought

#zerotohero BlogRoll

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So. Our challenge, Day 13,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to create a blogroll.

This is something I’ve been doing for a while — finding excellent blogs, organizing them, and sharing them in a blogroll.  I have found so many interesting blogs, that the blogroll filled up my sidebar, and one of our #zerotohero bloggers, Michelle W, suggested in a comment that I add Links page instead. 

So my Blogs of Interest page now holds these marvelous links, with categories of: Worth Reading, Educator Blogs, Connectors [ blogs that are communities connecting others ], How Tos [ how to blog ], and Transformers [ those who are transforming education ].  Categories are a great idea because others can quickly find what interests them.

So, create your blogroll as a page if there are many, and check in with the WordPress Blogroll support document or their “Build a Better Blogroll” tips. And by all means, share tips of your own!

 

#zerotohero What Might Have Value?

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Our challenge, Day 12,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to carry forward the conversation from one of the three blogs for which we commented on yesterday.

Pause…

In The Learning Pond by Grant Lichtman, Grant asks:

“Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.  In schools, if we believe that what customers will value in the future is the same as in the past, we run a real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant as educators. How do we gauge what might have value?”

The rest of the article explains some truths about schools — inward thinking, bound to historical models, and in need of listening to families and students. He grounds the solutions in the work of  Stephen Wunker, who works in new market creation [See Forbes ], suggests ways to assess future value. Be sure to read the post for Grant Lichtman’s application to education.

As I read these statements:

Innovation is the process of enhancing the value of an organization.

How do we gauge what might have value?

I considered the past twenty-seven years of my teaching and the many teachers I have known. Those days are gone. What days? Days of respecting the professional decisions of teachers to help students learn, helping them in many ways through as much feedback and practice projects as needed for them to grow in spurts as each is ready to learn. Students engaged in art and music, often integrated in reading, writing, and social studies projects. School could enhance the talents of each student this way, and the projects helped each student learn or practice the needed skills. We didn’t focus on the skills; we focused on the students and added to the projects in different ways for different kids. Teachers spent hours finding – innovating – just the right lesson or activity that would help a kid build his or her skills as they completed the work. There was a wholeness about the process, a compassionate  community of learners with the teacher as guide. A social studies unit becomes a skit, a poster, a speech that synthesizes the essence of the topic. A science topic led to jars and boxes in back of the room or on the window sill to apply and try the learning from the book. Both of these include reading and writing, and many included math. If a kid didn’t learn through the one way, he might learn from his neighbors, or the next project. There were goals, joy, feedback, and continued support in a learning community that respected the wholeness of us as people. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development [ ASCD ] promotes a Whole Child Initiative – be sure to read about it, and I hope you support it.

Today, schools teach in skills by mandates in often scripted curriculum with specific posted objectives to force students to practice the skills in hopes they will pass standardized tests that supposedly test those skills. But kids are funny and learn in different times and ways, and they want to learn more than just those skills. They want authentic learning— learning like John Dewey espoused a century ago, learning that reflects the world in which they live.

So I think Grant Lichtman is correct — schools today are bound to history – a factory model. And schools today are inward looking — and top down — purchasing more and more skills-based programs without realistic connections to students’ lives, especially in schools deemed “poor performing.” Those schools receive more skills instruction and less art, music, and real reading for their own purposes. In addition, the students are speaking out about their need to create and connect as they do in their real lives. However, schools have no funding for the infrastructure or technology to update to this type of access and learning, nor do teachers have the time to learn or try a curriculum with technology tied more closely to students’ learning ideas. Technology alone doesn’t change the direction of education — it will take the teachers again, focusing on what students need — in a more authentic, whole way.

Play…

So, “How do we gauge what might have value?”

What do you think? Do you think we might need to step back and allow teachers to plan for the students in the classrooms, instead of planning for the objectives for a test? Do you think we might bring back projects with art and music with reading and writing and help students develop their thinking, their talents, and their own ways of demonstrating learning? Even without technology, these creative and authentic projects focus students’ critical thinking and motivation in learning. And that would be the value to which we would gauge innovation and success.

Dan Pink explains that people are motivated by autonomy, purpose, and mastery. In the past before the emphasis on standardized tests, teachers had the purpose of guiding students’ learning and the autonomy to make it happen using their mastery of curriculum and instruction. And teachers hooked students on the purpose with projects, providing a level of autonomy through choices so students could master the skills needed with support in various activities.

Somehow, we’ve lost that by expecting the impossible: that all children will learn the same things at the same time — in order to pass a test and receive a score that says they have “met” or “not met” the standards. Hmmm. Autonomy? Purpose? Mastery?

Think about your best experience in school. Do you remember when you inferred the main character knew her enemy was nearby? Or do you remember creating something, debating something, doing something?

Let’s step back and see this big picture of learning and what might have value. But you’ll need to step into each classroom to know it’s truth.

#zerotohero Commenting

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Our challenge, Day 11,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to comment on three blogs — dig in and see something of interest and let the blogger know. Start a conversation and add value to the ideas.

Pause…

Draw and Shoot by Karen McRae

I chose art — photography. It’s winter here as well, and these photos of frost art will amazing you. They are copyrighted, so know that. They brought me back to my childhood as the wind whistled through the wooden windows not quite fitting the frame, and not insulated as today’s windows. So Jack Frost would paint his world and we would tell the stories within his world. That’s what I was reminded of from these beautiful and stunning images.  Thanks, Karen.

The Learning Pond by Grant Lichtman

Education is in transition; it is transforming, and we aren’t sure how. It will not be smooth or as expected, because technology and its connectivity is changing the our resource availability, and no matter what the leaders and politicians want to demand, the reality will become what the learners and their families need. Grant shows us we are still learning what will create value in education.

The teacher will no longer be the expert; the teacher will now be a guide, the facilitator for personalized learning. I’ve vlogged about a possibility here for another group (Fellowship of the Open Spokes ), but Grant is at the forefront of moving schools forward. He’s written a book and is helping specific schools move into learning that is relevant to their needs. My fear is that the schools most in need of the freedom to innovate, will be drowned in regulations. Follow Grant for more news on his ideas and progress.

In the Trenches by Kelly Hines

An old twitter friend, Kelly was always a great resource for me as I was learning to integrate technology into my classroom. I’d lost touch or tweets, and found her here in WordPress as the source for another blogging challenge. Kelly has always shared her learning as an educational leader, so I wasn’t surprised to find the challenge originating with her group on her blog!  Glad to be reconnected, and to find ideas for posts in the challenge.

Play…

Like the fractals in Karen’s frost, ever repeating their beauty with each new growth, I have discovered Grant and Kelly, two leaders still guiding educators forward, still expanding knowledge with each new post, adding value to education for those who connect with them. And by searching and reaching out myself, I found them here. That is the nature of life, the cycle of learning and growing through connections. And from these three I can share with my colleagues and followers, and spread the knowledge. Who knows where it will grow next?

How did your blog comment added value to your world?

#zerotohero Abouts, Follows, and Widgets

Our challenge, Days 8, 9, 10  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge are:

Day Eight: Make Your About Page Irresistible
Day Nine: Head Deeper Into the Blogosphere

Day Ten: Widgets

So.

Pause…

Spruce up the About page. 

That’s not easy — I added my self-portrait poem with links to my own images. Probably not that exciting, but does provide more of a picture or the “who” behind the “what.”

Follow More Blogs

I wonder why there is no “Education” topic? I guess education is only important to bash and bat around in the media. But one of my finds is a fabulous new blog to follow, Rainshadow Farm Institute, by a community college teacher who “unschools” her own kids. She is an anthropologist interested in sustainable food systems. I think this is important work, and I believe people should take such an interest in the children’s education that they just might choose to “unschool” them. I do believe, however, that it would be far better to participate in public schools than to leave them.

Widgets

Widgets I love. It’s easy to get carried away. I had originally very few, but with this challenge I added:

  • Follow This Blog — I called it “Catch New Posts” but perhaps I should change it to fit the theme — Pause longer by subscribing.
  • Goodreads — always nice to share good books
  • Instagram — I call it Instagramma, because, once again, I joined to keep up with that oldest granddaughter!
  • Flickr: I love photography and creating images in visual poetry. I am in year to of a 365 photo project.

Play…

I had slacked off on this blog, but now I’m loving it again. Personalizing the space, thinking about it’s purpose, has helped clarify what I want to do here. Should I challenge myself to 52 reflections this year? Or — For sure, how about you, are you up to a 26 biweekly post?

Do my readers / followers accept that challenge?

#zerotohero The Header

Our challenge today, Day 7,  for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to play around with the header.

So.

Pause…

I really had already played around to keep a simple theme, but I do love to create. So I found my original pause2play logo created in 2010. I cropped it to just the p2p part in Preview and inserted that into Keynote [ Mac Apps ]. I was able to create a squiggly line with a shadow that leads to the two pause icons and another play icon. I adjusted the colors, lines, and opacity and added the shadow.

I decided it needed a little more, so I added my signature line, Reflect Curiosity and Wonder. I ponder and reflect about things I’m curious about, and I try to reflect that curiosity and wonder back to my grandkids and students. I copied that text and flipped it vertically, and made it translucent. I exported it as a tiff and imported it into Sketchbook Express, where I cropped it [Keynote exports the size of a slide] and saved it as a jpeg.

Play…

I don’t know if I’ll keep it. But I love Keynote for the way I can create things like this when I need them as well as it’s slide presentation capabilities.  The header looks OK on mobile devices, and that’s important to one’s consideration.