A Better Tomorrow

You know what I love about sunrises? They are a fresh start to a new day.  Colorful sky lit up with hope.  Just like the start of a new school year.   Today was our first official day back and our opening meeting.  It was the sunrise of a new year.

One line from the opening presentation is ringing in my thoughts tonight, “Be the best.”  Not competitive, nor arrogant, just best. It’s about that place where you reside that you constantly are reaching, moving, growing, and reflecting.  Rinse. Repeat.  Never settling.  Not a hollow kind of best, like the best cupcake or the best day ever.  Best.  All in.  Like every cell in your body gave an effort toward trying.  The place where exhaustion is laden with satisfaction, and effort is fueled by passion.

Steve Jobs once said, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”   And we need to be just foolish enough to believe that tomorrow is a chance to be better than today.  Even with massive failures, impossible odds, or challenging circumstances. We remain hungry enough to try. We invest with our whole heart.

Because anything less than that kind of effort? It’s just not worth it.   You could wait to give your best, next month, next year, when you get this degree, or finish that book, or scale that mountain… but there is only one now.

Special thanks to John Spencer for inspiring with his video, “Life is Meant To Be Epic.” I challenge you to watch his video and think about your school year – and above all, go make it epic. 

Unless You Want School to Be Boring

I hated math when I was a kid.  Not just disliked it, I couldn’t stand it.  Why? Because I hated doing 800 problems of the same thing.  The repetition and practice was so boring and the unimaginative word problems about apples and cats were even worse.  I honestly think it’s why I still despise textbooks.  I see them as soul-draining devices that suck the fun and joy from learning.

Today I learned more about using Turtle Art.   I realized one thing, I totally shouldn’t have hated math when I was a kid.  Math is all about creativity and problem solving.  Math is art, patterns, shapes, designs, and so much more.  So why was I only exposed to 800 problems on a page?  Because we standardize everything and run kids through the motions. And we bore them.

I’m not a math teacher, and I won’t pretend to be a math expert.  I’m a learner and today when I was learning about coding in Turtle Art, I was amazed at the math skills involved in creating art using this program.

Angles.  Distance.  Greater or Less. Range.  Geometry. Addition. Subtraction. Directions. Problem solving. Patterns. Fractions. Symmetry. Rotational Symmetry. Reflection.

I could go on.  All of these skills, practiced in an authentic way, would have made me fall in love with math.  And you know what?  It would have made those 800 problems bearable. Sure there are skills we need, but if I never get the chance to use those skills in an authentic way?  I really don’t care about them.  Except I wanted my gold star.

Today?  I wanted to know what numbers to put in to make a colorful flower.  I wanted to try things and figure it out.  I needed help, but not too much, because I wanted to figure it out on my own.  Because the way my brain was stretching?  It felt good.  Real thinking, the kind that ends with satisfaction and pride.  The kind that is so much better than an A or a gold star.  The kind that’s real.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 9.35.43 PM

Digging In

makerology3Every night a read a research article or a book chapter that pertains to my dissertation study. I’m working hard to narrow down to one question.  My previous topic, on public school gifted programming, no longer felt like something that fit where I’m at today. Nor did it feel like something relevant to making change in education.  I knew when I tossed around the idea of changing, I’d be picking something in creativity.  This, along with some timely coincidences in professional development, led me down the path of the Maker Movement.  I already know making is awesome.  But what I really want to know is how to help teachers find their inner maker.

“I’m not creative,” is something we hear often in schools.  Teachers, especially in public school, have had the creativity squeezed out of them like water from a sponge. Every. Last. Drop. Scripts and guides have replaced free thinking and open inquiry.  Teacher’s ideas now must take a back seat to something someone in another location, who probably doesn’t even work with kids, wrote.

Last school year, we had a professional development day.  Topics like jewelry making, photography, city history, and more were offered. Every teacher was encouraged to sign up. You didn’t have to be the “art teacher” to take jewelry. Nobody said you needed to be the social studies teacher to take the history class.  It was purely being a learner and growing.

So as I get deeper into this topic, I am asking myself many questions.

  • What if PD stood for play date?
  • What if the passion for learning was supported more often?
  • When it comes to the Maker Movement, how do we provide the best kind of professional development for teachers to explore these new tools?
  • How do we differentiate tech PD?

I don’t believe in badges for PD, but I think if PD were more fun, it would be better than a badge.  Because it would relight the fire that helped make us all want to teach in the first place.  And if we really believe in the benefits of student driven learning, then shouldn’t our PD match that model?  Learner driven. Whether you ‘re a teacher or a student, you’re a learner.

I’m sure I’ve just barely dug past the topsoil, but I’m about to break through some rock to nail this topic down.  If we can help teachers see themselves as learners, embrace making, take risks, and find the joy in learning, we’ll change the classroom environment.

Or I could just keep delivering that PowerPoint lecture…

“Bueller, Bueller… Anyone, anyone?”

I think I’ll take my chances with the research.

EdCampGlobal: Building Digital Citizenship in PreK to 4


Saturday, August 1 at 11am Central Time

Collaborative Chat Notes: https://goo.gl/7TXUMX

Join us!  No Twitter Experience Necessary. Use TweetChat to search the hashtag!