Blog Archives

My Friends Don’t Know

 
adam w

What do dollhouses and cookbooks have to do with teaching & reaching kids? You might be surprised!

Seeing a 12-year old sing her heart out while playing the ukulele is awesome, especially when she has a voice that could be measured in pure inspiration instead of decibels.  What really struck us about the video below is what she said before playing for the judges:
 
“Most of my friends don’t even know I sing.”
Crank up your speakers and check this short video out!
 
How many kids in our schools have talents that we as educators don’t even know about? That their friends don’t know about?! We should be in the business of helping to make our students famous for their contributions to the world, but first we need to know about them.
 
I (Brad) have always believed that our classrooms could have the next Mia Hamm, Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, or J. K. Rowling sitting inside them right now.  At this very minute.  Think about it…the next worksheet we pass out could be going to the next Albert Einstein.  In other words, we just might be assigning some form of rote learning or other misaligned work to students who are capable of devising new ways to prove the Pythagorean theory…like Einstein (true story).
 
Will we rob the world of the next philanthropist, artist, or engineer in our unyielding pursuit to “educate” kids?  Will we all miss out on our children’s brilliance because we fail to ask our students what matters to them?  How many missed opportunities have there been for kids because their passion and talents are hibernating inside of them without anyone aware of the sleeping bear inside!
 
This raises some very important questions:
  • How will we know?
  • How will their friends know?
  • What is the world counting on us to discover about our students?
  • What’s YOUR talent or passion?
 
We (Brad and Adam) are ready to expose a couple talents that some of our own friends don’t even know about.  If our passions surprise you…imagine the true talent that our students possess.  Our goal in sharing this story is to shift the message in our classrooms from, “My friends don’t know” to “My teacher noticed!”
 
I (Adam) have always loved cooking and baking. In middle school I made every single cake in the Betty Crocker cookbook and would have all my friends and family taste test for me. We kept detailed notes on taste and texture and would always try to improve each time with a new cake.

Fast-forward twenty years, and the kitchen in our house is definitely my domain. When my wife and I went to the open house for the home that we now own, I actually sat down in the kitchen for twenty minutes and pictured myself cooking and baking for our family. Culinary discovery has been such a passion of mine for so long it’s something I hope carries over to my own children, and something I need to let my friends and students know about also!
 
I (Brad) have always loved woodworking.  When I was in elementary school my dad taught me how to use all of his power tools.  He even let me try to construct wooden replicas for pieces of furniture that had been broken around the house.  He was a mentor and encourager who really invested in my passion to create.
 
Fast-forward to today, and when I’m building in the woodshop there is something special about the smell of fresh cut sawdust and my favorite song blaring on the radio that gets me every time.  My latest projects include building a custom dollhouse for each of my three kids.  My two girls requested multi-storied dollhouses that stand taller than they do.  My son decided he needed a “G.I. Joe” army-themed dollhouse base with a working jail, helipad, bunkhouse, and latrine.  
 
These are a couple of the passions we have.  Tell your friends something special about you – show your colleagues and school some vulnerability and they will reciprocate.  Most importantly, relentlessly pursue your kids’ hidden passions.  Protect, nurture, and celebrate your students’ strengths.  The world will be glad you did…and their friends will know.
Special thanks to Adam Welcome for co-writing this blog post!

This Time it’s Personal

Dad Childhood

Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was from my aunt who sent me some old photographs of my dad…along with a heartfelt note. My dad passed away almost eight years ago without warning, so receiving the pictures was like an instant connection to him.

In the note my aunt mentioned that, “The memory of her brother (my dad) would forever live on in her heart,” and she thought I would appreciate having the pictures of him.  She was right. I don’t have many pictures of my dad, so seeing him again yesterday was both beautiful and jarring.  The package included pictures of my dad as a young boy, his wedding, my wedding, and more. I must have looked through the stack of pictures a dozen times yesterday. 

I was chatting with my wife about the pictures as we were driving to get a sandwich for dinner.  I asked her if we had any printed pictures of our family (and ourselves) to give our children one day. She responded in partial jest, “This is the digital world…we have passwords to digital pictures and video for our kids.”  This got me thinking more about the digital world and the purpose of technology in schools. 

As educators, we need to be really careful about the purpose we implore.  We need to talk about pedagogy more often. (Not in short sound-bytes and 140 character bursts, but deeper dialogue.) I’m not naïve enough to think that my stated purpose for using technology should be your stated purpose. But we better be clear on our why each time we pass out paper and pencils, or digital devices.  “Why” matters.

The transformative potential of technology does not rest solely in its ability to convert images and experiences to digital media. The power of technology is in how it can bring us together if we are intentional about it.  Technology can support and amplify that which makes us uniquely human.

Through technology, our hurts and aspirations can become another person’s cause. The struggles that others share can activate our own empathy. Our ability to create, connect, reflect, wonder, imagine, innovate, express love, learn, share, and grow can be enhanced through technology.

If technology hinders any of these things we need to pause and reflect on the intended purpose. We’re hearing a lot about 1:1 initiatives as districts are striving to put a device in every student’s hand.  I get why this can be a good thing, but I believe the ratio is wrong.  The goal of any iPad or tablet initiative should be “1 to World” (or 1 to 7.4 billion people) because connecting kids to one another really does matter.

In addition to developing deeper connections and an understanding of others, technology can help us better connect to ourselves. I suppose this blog is a small example of reflection. Regardless, we need to better articulate the purpose and pedagogy for the technology we’re deploying. This brings me back to my dad.

There is nothing like holding a picture and touching the image of your dad.  Every fold, fade, and discoloration of the paper can transport a person to a different time.  There is a connection, for me, when I physically hold a photograph, book, or loved one.  It is distinctly human. We need to be giving our kids this same perspective and opportunity when they are holding their devices.

Technology mustn’t replace connecting with others; the power of technology is its ability to extend and enhance how we connect to other human beings. How is your school leveraging technology as a tool that enhances relationships and learning? What is your why?

Dad My Wedding

Are We There Yet?

Sub

Submarines are majestic vessels made to go deep. It’s what they do. Education can empower kids do the same if we reframe how we’re currently navigating things, but we’re not there yet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pedagogy and the nature of learning lately. My thoughts have vacillated between two schools of thought. First, we need to ensure students master the vast number of state standards they are responsible for learning. In some ways, these standards are like mile markers, or buoys. The standards help us understand where students need to go.

I’m also in favor of reducing the number of standards so that we can facilitate deeper learning and discovery, and that brings me to my second point. We need to empower our students to innovate throughout their classroom careers. Students should have a voice in their learning, and we need to trust them to actually create some of the mile markers along the way.

This is a matter that is deeply personal to me. I want my own three children to have the tools and space to invent a future that none of us is fully capable of grasping.  When they are navigating their educations alongside their grade-level classmates, I ultimately want them to be able to envision new markers in their journey. I desperately hope there is a space for that. 

I believe kids can learn at a high level while being empowered to pursue their passions and curiosity. We cannot sacrifice curiosity for achievement; kids deserve both. (There really is no dichotomy.) I wonder if one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is not taking away their curiosity.

Are we there yet? How will we know when we get there? What are the critical drivers that will propel us in the right direction? How do you think we can create the conditions where high levels of learning, innovation, and curiosity reside? 

10,000 Lights

10000 Light Pic

Sometimes parents share special stories about how a staff member has been a “light” in their child’s life.  It’s a privilege for me personally to see our staff do inspiring things each day for our students, and it’s also really inspiring to hear from families that are seeing the same amazing things.

This past month one of our teachers had a chance to share a truly special moment with her students.  It was a moment full of light in every sense of the word.  Students in Miss Jechorek’s classroom were included in a unique proposal, and they helped make the moment memorable by being their teacher’s “light.”  After the proposal I asked Miss Jechorek’s fiancé, Zac, what the significance of the lights was.  I wanted to share some of his comments and planning because it was a neat moment that our students played an important role in.

Several months ago, Miss Jechorek and Zac were talking and she pondered how she might know when he’d propose. He spontaneously replied, “You will know when you see 10,000 lights.”  (He had just watched a breath-taking advertisement for a diamond company that showed a couple under a tree that was lit with what appeared to be 10,000 lights.)

Zac also knew how important Miss Jechorek’s students are to her, so he wanted to include them in his plan to propose to their teacher with “10,000 lights.”  He found some small flashlights at a local store and the plan began to come together.  Each flashlight had seven LEDs and when multiplied by 25 students (then multiplied again by all the facets in her diamond ring) brought the total close to his goal of 10,000 lights.

Life is full of defining moments; they take our breath away and are sources of great light!  One of the many blessings we get to experience as educators is sharing this light and these collective defining moments with our students.  Just like the proposal story…students are our light.  They are the reason we aspire to be better than we were yesterday.  We want to make a difference for our kids.  So…on behalf of our entire school….thanks for sharing your 10,000 lights with us every day!

The Principal of Change

Stories of learning and leading

In Kids' Shoes

Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators

Reading By Example

Rethinking the Role of the School Leader

Engage Their Minds

Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

Adjusting Course

Responding to the Needs of the 21st Century Student

On The Leaders Edge

A Reflection of Life, Learning and Leadership

Digital Eyes

Looking at Education Through the Lens of 21st Century Skills

Shelley Burgess

Reflections of an educational learner and leader

The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Thrasymakos

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

Engaged and Relevant

Just another WordPress.com site

pernilleripp.wordpress.com/

Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension

Jessica Johnson @PrincipalJ

Lead Learner, Elementary School Principal, otherwise known as PrincipalJ

The Thesis Whisperer

Just like the horse whisperer - but with more pages