In a few short weeks my new book, Renegade Leadership, will be out. The book is about creating innovative schools for today’s students. The process of writing a book still fascinates me. The manuscript for this book was no exception, and I wanted to share a few surprises that emerged along the way.
- As I was writing Renegade Leadership, many stories from my childhood, college, and early years in education surfaced. I can be somewhat guarded at times, so I’m surprised at how natural it felt to share some of those stories. Earlier versions of the manuscript featured stories from renegade artists, engineers, athletes, and business people. However, the final manuscript includes so much more. It is injected with personal passions, renegade examples from other sectors, and the voices of dozens of highly respected educational leaders.
- I’m not sure how it happened, but when all was said and done over 30 amazing educators lent their voice and vision to the book. Their stories inspired me more than I anticipated, and I find myself reading (and rereading) the book just to take-in the incredible insights they offer.
- Feedback from preliminary reviewers surprised me. I think I underestimated the impact that sharing some of my “epic failures” might have had on readers. It seems like people really appreciated reading about the “real stuff” in education (including my many mistakes made along the way). There is a vulnerability in the book that makes me a tad bit nervous to offer it up to others.
- One of the last things I added to the book’s companion website turned out to be one of my FAVORITE memories from writing Renegade Leadership. This may sound like a shameless plug at first blush, but I assure you it is not. If you go to the companion website HERE you will find something I refer to as “Audio Outtakes” for each chapter. The Audio Outtakes include short audio clips of text from the book followed by a brief conversation between me and my 3rd grade daughter. I’ve already been told she has a future in broadcasting…but I think her secret is a genuine passion for life!
Obviously, I’m very excited to cross the “finish line” and have the book move to publication. At the same time, I hope this is just the beginning of our conversations. Our students have too much at stake for us to ignore the possibilities that meaningful change could provoke.
The teacher-observation process provides me access and insight into classroom learning experiences that very few people have. I’m consistently inspired by the relevant and connected learning I observe. Recently I was in a classroom and I didn’t want the lesson to end. As I was watching the lesson unfold, I knew that what I was experiencing was also within reach of classrooms and schools everywhere.
Here are some of the salient things I observed during the lesson:
- I observed an elementary Language Arts lesson.
- A clear learning target based upon state standards guided the learning process.
- The teacher used one of our Mobile MakerSpace carts to teach students how to create an alternate ending to a text by manipulating various elements of the plot.
- Students constructed models depicting their alternate story endings using Lego building bricks from the MakerSpace cart.
- Students were empowered to collaborate on plans for their alternate story endings and projects.
- Students had opportunities to talk, create, experiment, fail, and redesign.
- The teacher purposefully connected with individual students and small groups to elicit high-level thinking and scaffold as appropriate.
- Formative assessment was seamlessly interwoven through the lesson.
- Students presented their creations to the class near the conclusion of the lesson. This public speaking provided students time to explain their thinking, and the teacher was able to use some metacognition connected to the learning target.
- Students used digital tools to curate their work so it could be referenced in the future and shared with parents.
- As part of this process, students photographed their projects and uploaded them to Google Drive to share their learning with their families.
- Students did not want the lesson to end. (Based on what I was seeing, kids would’ve opted to skip recess if given the opportunity.)
- The teacher ensured that the lesson was led by learning; not tools, technology, or activities.
- This was an authentic learning experience that was scholarly and highly relational.
Did I mention that this was a kindergarten language arts lesson?! That’s right…our youngest learners were empowered to innovate, collaborate, present, and curate their work using digital tools.
At one point one of the kindergarteners yelled out in exuberence, “Teacher…we’re engineering!” and her amazing teacher responded, “Yes…you are designing and building.” Kids were making connections to past conversations about design, building, and engineering.
During our observation post-conference I invited the teacher to share her reflections in a blog post instead of the traditional electronic form required by the district. I knew that we could meet the requirements of the standard district form by copy/pasting reflections from a blog post if the teacher was interested in pursuing this. (Stay tuned for her reflections and first blog post…)
I am convinced that a paradigm shift is underway in education because I see it every day at Greenwood Elementary. A new and connected learning paradigm that puts students in the center of their learning is possible. Deeper learning that’s both relevant and connected is within reach!
1.) “Sparkler” photo from Pixabay (Creative Commons)
2.) “Kindergarten Collaboration & Digital Curation” photo from Greenwood Elementary