One of the best things about my job is I get to connect with lots of teachers! At HBUHSD I am so fortunate to work with some of the finest teachers around. Not only that, I've been able to connect with even more teachers on Twitter and when I am teaching the Advanced Instructional Strategies for Virtual Teachers MOOC on Coursera. Through these experiences, I've learned a lot about learning and have seen some amazing things. So here's my five tips to kickstart a healthy, thriving school year.
Be a Self-Developer
This is something I have been discussing with Bryan Davis Nicholas Schwab recently and I'm actually stealing this from the former CEO of Kroger, David Dillion. David says “The advice I give to individuals in our company is not to expect the company to hand you a development plan. You need to take responsibility for developing yourself.” My takeaway from this is, if this is what is expected at Kroger, how much more should professional educators be expected to develop themselves? So at the beginning of the school year let's ask ourselves and our colleagues this question, take no longer than a week to formulate our answers then share our development plans! How awesomepanda would that be? Here's my self-development plan.
- Get on Twitter each week, I will follow 3 people or one hashtag that I want to learn with closely and interact with them. I will Tweet what I am learning or a question I am thinking about at least once a week.
- Read a non-EDU Book -- slowly This is a way to purposefully break out of the education bubble and bring in fresh perspectives and ideas to my work. I'm a really slow reader though. Really!! Some of this is due to dyslexic letter reversals, but I'd like to think that it is because I'm savoring and digesting the text. Currently I'm reading A More Beautiful Question and The Pause Principle
- Sharpen my Search Skills - try A Google a day or get in the self-paced Inside Search course from Google.
- Share & Learn in the Canvas Community- the community here is amazing because the environment is very well designed and most of all, because we have a lot of wonderful people assembled here. Make time to join in! (Side Tip: if you are a K12 teacher venture over to the Higher Education and Instructional Designers groups and interact!)
- Vizify- improve my visual imagery skills. I'm going to be checking in with my daughter who is taking a visual imagery class this year and I hope to learn along with her and do some projects together!
Go the Extra-Mile
I'm sure you are familiar with the the old adage of going the extra mile. I believe this comes from Matthew 5:41 so I'm stealing this one from Jesus . Here are some ways I plan to "go the extra mile this year":
- Please let me know how I can be of further assistance- I have a lot of emails and help tickets that I need to respond to qucikly. Usually I just want to get them out of my inbox so I can move to the next one thinking that if I can magically clear my inbox, I'm going to be on top of the world. It took me a while, but what I've had to remind myself of, is that there are people behind these emails and I need to treat them like VIPs and take advantage of an opportunity to form a relationship. So I am now writing the end of my responses first and trying to let them know how much I value the opportunity to work with them.
- Open Doors- Literally and figuratively look and take any opportunity to open a door for someone, even if it's awkward and inconvenient.
- Workout- Allison Taylor reminded me not to sacrifice healthy habits like exercising. So this is a reminder to me to workout and when I workout I always like to find creative and challenging ways to "go the extra mile" because this is one of the things that energizes me and helps me clear my mind.
- Slide Guides- I love Google Slides and Snagit. Adding these two items together I have been experimenting with making on-demand tutorials & tips I'm calling slide guides. I don't really like making YouTube videos (and I hate watching the ones I've made), but I know it can be helpful for others, so I'm going to make YouTube videos as well and post any applicable ones here in the community. My latest slide guide is Setting Up Your Student Teacher in Canvas, not perfect, but so far so good.
- Wait- I know this one may sound funny given that it's under going the extra-mile, but sometimes my mind is racing in so many different directions that I have to remind myself to slow-down and wait while I am talking and interacting with others.
Without a doubt my favorite marketing campaign ever! It is sheer genius. So good that I once sold a Think Different Poster for over $100 on eBay! If people will pay over a hundred dollars for your advertising materials, I think you are on to something. So how do I apply this concept to the start of school? And would a student pay a hundred dollars to be in my class? Think about this further here are some ideas:
- Be Different on the first day of school- When I was teaching high school physics, my BHAG most was to inspire my students to think and talk about physics OUTSIDE of room 216 and I wanted them to do that on day one! One tactic that I used to do this was to make sure my class was the one that stood out from all the rest on the first day of school. Sometimes I went overboard, but I think it all worked out. On the first day, I always stood outside of my classroom and personally greeted each and every student and shook their hand. Some students found this a little awkward because nobody else was doing it. The second thing I did was more about what I did not do. I never talked about rules. There's plenty of time to do this later and really the student's know the rules and can read my expectations. Lastly I knew I wanted to get my students thinking, asking questions, moving and collaborating together on day one. I liked doing a Marshmallow Challenge the first day, but I'd do something different now because it's likely that someone else is doing this and I want to be different and ensure my students experience something different.
- Have a Different first week of school- go heavy on community and capacity building and light on curricular content. When you have a good community, learning accelerates! Therefore, your students won't be behind they will be ahead. Focus on building a collaborative environment of respect and inquiry. Develop technology proficiency and think of ways you can empower students to 'run' the class using tech. Jon Corippo (@jcorippo) has some fantastic ideas on how to Build your School Culture with Smart Start so chek those out.
- Make Your Canvas Different- what am I doing in Canvas that nobody else is doing at my school? What should I do and why? I'm going to try using canvabadges this year. If you're not sure where to start, Hone Your Home Page and make Home Sweet Homepages without Tables.
- Showcase & Celebrate Student Work that is different!
- Have a Different Mindset - Amy Burvall illustrated Picasso's mindset beautifully this summer at the Building Learning Communities Conference (#BLC15). Picasso said: "Others have seen what is and asked WHY. I have seen what could be and asked WHY NOT?"
I'm convinced that as we move into the future, questions will become more valuable than answers and the students who know how to ask the right questions will be the ones who will change the world. Maybe this is the case already and we don't realize it or maybe this has been the case all along? Because of the Internet, we are flooded with information and the secret to accessing it lies in the questions. When we find a question that we don't know the answer to, it can be like miracle-grow for learning. So how do we grow questions in school?
- Raise Your hand to Question NOT Answer- Dylan William was asked what is one thing that teachers are doing that they should stop doing. He quickly replied, stop having students raise their hand to answer a question. Why? You tend to get the same students and as soon as the correct answer is given (the one the teacher is looking for) the learning stops. Better to have students raise their hands to ask than to answer. One idea I have around this is to assign a student to count the number of questions asked in class and put them on a spreadsheet. Maybe even make a question meter. What would happen to the learning if the amount of questions asked in your class (per day or week) (physical and online) grew as the school year went on?
- Have a Question Board - this could be a wall or white board in your classroom as well as a space online. You could even set up an ungraded Canvas Discussion post that allows liking just for big questions. I've also seen some teachers who run a question of the week on Twitter using a class hashtag. Usually the teacher starts with the first couple of questions and models how to facilitate and interact online, then students grow into that role and take turns at it leading it.
- Don't say "Are there any questions?" - Students hear this and it translates into "the teacher wants to be done now and my classmates want to too" so it usually is not a good way to generate very deep questions and most of the time I've done this there were none. Think of what else we can say. Expect the question! Give them a minute or two to think about a question or brainstorm one with a partner. Reminder to self... this is really hard to unlearn maybe as hard as riding a backwards bike?
- Try the QFT - David Theriault and Allison Juby both talked about this in their back to school blog posts [ here's links David | Allison ] so I'll just say this is one tool that every educator should have in their tool belt. It's easy to do, adaptable and powerful. Visit the Right Question Institute website for more info on this.
- Be OK with not having the Answer - if you are uncomfortable with students asking questions that you can't answer that is perfectly understandable but I would argue that a healthy environment for asking questions starts with the teacher being OK with not knowing or having all the answers. Once we can get past this expectation then we can begin to work on "big" questions and empower our students to find the answers themselves.
I'm very mindful of smiles. If a student is in my class and they have not smiled at least once, it triggers a conversation. A simple "Hey, how are you doing?" can lead to wonders. Here's some healthy smile tips!
- Start each class by smiling at your students
- Watch for smiles and lack of them. Learning is fun. If you're having fun you smile. If students aren't smiling in your class, maybe they aren't learning?
- Teach your students to be mindful of smiles. Make a rotating role in your class called the smile monitor.
- If you're teaching online... use emojis and checkout the ideas at the end of the Canvas Studio: Speedgrader 2.0 discussion. Also see: This is Your Brain on Emojis
- Lastly, learn how smiling can be a superpower and make it yours.