Discover Each Student’s Story

All people have a story within a story, a tale of…

  • Needs
  • Barriers
  • Opportunities
  • Growth potential
  • Strengths 
  • Dreams
  • Failures 
  • Hopes
  • Disappointments

Our ability to understand the power of the individual story through all of our senses unlocks our ability to connect, feel empathy, and build a relationship.

And this allows for a bridge… A bridge to helping unlock human potential. When people feel they are heard and really listen to, the human condition is maximized allowing them to engage more, open up more, and explore more paths. Just think about a time you actually listened and heard someone’s story!

People light up when he or she is heard. As an educator, I can think of few things more important than hearing and knowing the story within the story of each student in your room. Listen with heart (feelings) , mind (ideas and opportunities) and body (cues).

From there, the connective and emotional bridge opens up growth of self and community. Invest in stories! 

What Makes a Teacher Distinguished

Let’s be clear that there is no one answer at least in my opinion. There are, however, common themes that emerge if we listen to enough stories about teachers that are distinguished, truly making a mark on the lives of students and the profession of education.

Listening to the stories about our distinguished teacher this year, a number of points about her resonated with me because these are themes emerging in other stories about other teachers given similar honors by students.

Distinguished Teacher Traits

  • Unique style
  • Engaging – Not a single student was ever bored
  • Allowed our voices to be heard 
  • Embraced and cultivated our individuality 
  • Empathetic to our world
  • She recognized potential and pushes each one to reach and even exceed
  • Persistent care for us – endless memory remembering every detail about us 
  • Content was merely a vehicle to us and our minds not the end all be all 
  • Modeled a life worth living
  • Taught us to trust ourselves and become our own person

emphasis my own

Hearing the stories of how this teacher captured the hearts and minds of her students brought me to tears. It also leaves me wondering what can we draw from these traits that can (should?) be applied in education.  

Expectations of Students and Teachers Must Align

I don’t write much about education these days because much of what I say is so counter to what is being said that it is perceived as  abrasive.

This will no doubt fall into that category but it comes from the purest of intent: get you to think a bit differently.

So here it is… 

Social media and education outlets are full of chatter about students needing to build, create, design, innovate, collaborate, go global, be public, do big things, transform the world, etc..

I couldn’t agree more. But here is the thing: how many of the adults in your school/district are doing this themselves regularly? How many of them are pushing the status quo in their professional and personal life? How many are growth and change minded?

The number will directly correlate to the number of students experiencing these things in the classroom.

In other words, none of this will happen systemically if the adults aren’t living it themselves. Leaders – align the expectations of students with the same expectations of teachers or you’ll never see systemic change.

Timely Feedback in Age of Speed

I’ve been sitting here thinking about this idea of quality feedback. In education, it is nearly impossible to discuss assessments, homework, professional development, coaching, etc. without hearing it.

Timely, relevant, specific, targeted, etc. are all descriptors associated with quality feedback. But in an age of speed where feedback is +1, Like, Retweet, favorite, and so forth, how are we adjusting our approach to quality feedback? How are we managing expectations for that quality feedback?

Worthwhile discussion for teachers with students, administrators with teachers, and professional development specialists/coaches with peers.

School Challenge: Create Conditions for Students to Change the World

What if we took time in our classrooms to pose these three questions to students:

  1. What do you love?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What do you want to change?

And then we challenged them with “It’s your turn to change world! What do you need to make it happen?

These are the starting point questions and challenge for Google Science Fair 2014. And I can think of nothing more important for students to explore if we believe in passion-based learning, personal and interest-based environments, and cross-disciplinary, connected learning experiences. If we believe in collaboration, critical thinking, and literacy.

One glimpse of Google’s Judging Criteria  and you see these elements:

  • Inspirational entry or idea – does it really stand out?
  • Capacity to make an impact – could the science demonstrated make a real difference to science or the world around us?
  • Passion for science – would you be a good role model for other young scientists?
  • Excellence of method – have you demonstrated real skill in their science/engineering planning and implementation of their experiment(s)?
  • Communication skills – enthusiasm, clarity, confidence, effective use of media, diagrams and Google tools.

This isn’t just for science. This isn’t just a challenge for students. This is a challenge for schools to align their stated beliefs with actions.

School Challenge

  1. Each class pose to students Google’s fill in the blank I love ____, I’m good at ____, and I want to _____
  2. Have a physical poster wall and Google spreadsheet that houses all number 1
  3. Help students develop their “I want t0 ____” into a project idea to change the world
  4. Create conditions school-wide, across disciplines for students to form teams around common ideas and begin changing the world
  5. Free up time in these classes and resource areas (libraries, learning centers, etc.) to bring their idea to life by breaking down barriers of schedules, isolated disciplines, and rigid curriculum demands
  6. Encourage mentoring both local (teacher-to-peer, peer-to-peer, peer-to-community) and global (teacher and peer-to-world)
  7. Create a TED Talk-like experience for teams to share their work prior to submission to Google
  8. Finalize and submit these impactful changes to the world to Google!!!

Would this be a meaningful, lasting experience for students? I think so…


The Visual Cues of Boredom and Distraction

The Visual Cues of Boredom and Distraction

During my pre-service work, I recall vividly our discussion and research on visual cues of boredom and distraction. We spend hours observing classrooms and noting what we saw (how nice would it have been to use a SmartPhone at that point. Alas, they didn’t exist).

This common experience for pre-service teachers no doubt yielded similar results across universities: hand on head, yawning, glazed eyes, staring out window, head on desk, doodling, etc.

And while I argued back then as I do now that mind wandering and doodling are important moments of reflection, the larger point remained that these were visual cues that something was off in the learning environment.

Visual Cues in a 1:1

Today, this isn’t as easy in a 1:1 learning environment. We need to retrain ourselves about visual cues and be cautious about assumptions.

  1. is a smile while looking at their screen a sign of being disconnected from the moment
  2. is a chuckle while looking at their screen a sign of being disconnected from the moment
  3. is an intense glare while looking at their screen a sign of being disconnected from the moment
  4. is an extended focus on the screen a sign of being disconnected from the moment
  5. is a rush of excitement while looking at the screen a sign of being disconnected from the moment

I taught in a 1:1 learning environment for three years. This was such a challenge to retrain my brain and not to make assumptions. It is unnerving to wonder so much when the cues were so clear prior to the technology.

How are pre-service universities adjusting teacher learning in terms of visual cues of boredom and distraction? How are we working with current teachers on visual cues for boredom and distraction?