Two things here that are quite powerful. In my 2010 post, “What Makes a Master Teacher“, I talk about the difference between “Learning Goals” and “Performance Goals”, and list that criteria for a “master teacher”:
6. Focuses on learning goals as opposed to performance goals – Reading “Drive” by Dan Pink, he talks about the difference between performance and learning goals. A performance goal would be similar to having students wanting to receive an “A” in french where a learning goal would be a student wanting to become fluent in the language. Many students are smart enough that they know how to meet the objectives of a rubric and still not grow much in their learning. A master teacher sets the goals based on learning not on receiving a grade. This type of assessment is not about understanding what a students knows and reporting on it, but it is a tool used for learning.
These questions that Katie shares are perfect for this type of learning.
The other aspect here is the shift from compliance to engagement to empowerment. A key word to know if a student is “empowered” is that they have ownership over their own learning. In the “performance orientation” questions, everything is focused on what I have to do for someone else, where the “learning orientation” questions are about individual growth and development. It is a total shift in focus and ownership on the growth moving forward.
Katie’s question, “Is there another way to solve this problem?”, reminded me of something I recently read on Will Richardson’s blog:
“Schools place an overwhelming emphasis on teaching children to solve problems correctly, not creatively.”
How much creativity could there possibly be when we deem one answer or way, as the only correct path?
Let’s be honest…there is still a major part of the world that wants people just to be compliant. People that are developed as self-starters and learn to develop themselves when no one is watching is a shift that needs to happen in our world, no matter if you work for someone else, or yourself. The second set of questions are much harder to get students toward, especially if they have been “conditioned” in schools. But when did anyone ever say being a great educator was easy?
I remember one student I worked with who was quite a handful for teachers. He was very quick on his feet, and if he noticed that he got on your nerves, he would double down on what he was doing. Although I was bothered by his behaviour, I did see that his ability to read people was quite amazing and he had some genius in him. I worked with him quite a bit to focus on how to use his abilities to raise people up, not tear them down, and as he grew into an adult, he became very successful using those abilities to serve people. I wouldn’t say that I was the reason he was successful, but I do know that trying to find the “good” in the negative, was something that helped him move forward, as it does with many students.
As I always say, some of your brightest students are terrible at school, but do we find the genius in them?
As I thought about this post, would the above characteristics be something that we would be comfortable with in schools? This quote from the article struck me:
While the fruits of creativity are lucrative, glamorous, and easy to crave, a growing body of science testifies to the fact that living breathing creative talents are sometimes harder to love.
What I am NOT trying to say in this post is that it is totally fine for students (or adults) to be disrespectful, because that would make them creative. What I hope people see is that sometimes there are strengths in our students where we sometimes see weakness. Looking for good is the first step to finding it.
Below is the “vision” for Parkland School Division:
Parkland School Division is a place where exploration, creativity, and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams.
What I love about this vision is the use of the word, “learner” as opposed to “students”. WIthin my interpretation of this shared vision is that every person within this organization is empowered and expected to continuously grow. If that is the case, it also encourages all “learners” to “aspire to reach their dreams”. I remember seeing a district having an advertisement that it was a “great place to work”. So would you want to simply “work” or “aspire” to reach your dreams? I know what I would choose.
Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on the notion that “schools kill creativity”, is the most viewed Ted Talk ever. The views and clicks do not only come from educators, but from people all over the world as we all have a vested interest in our students. More organizations are looking for students that have “creative” skills, and although schools will always churn out students that have great grades through the mastery of the system, it does not necessarily mean that students are learning the skills to become any more creative. Although there is a lot of food for thought in the Robinson talk, from my memory, yet there are few ideas on how to actually become more creative.
Reading many quotes on creativity and innovation, the one that has always stuck out with me is from Rosabeth Moss Kanter:
“Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation.”
Doing the same thing that we have always done is not going to make any us any more creative or innovative, but according to the “Creativity Research Journal” (as referenced in Red Thread Thinking), there are some things that we could do daily that will actually make us more creative. The four “habits” listed are the following:
1. Capturing New Ideas
2. Engaging in Challenging Tasks
3. Broadening Knowledge
4. Interacting with Stimulating People
I am proud to say that those “habits” are something that I actually do almost daily and I have seen a shift in the way that I think and do things in my own work. Digital technologies make it easy for these habits to take place with ourselves and our students. Here are some of the things that I do to makes these habits a daily reality.
Capturing New Ideas – With a computer in my pocket at all times, capturing ideas has become much simpler. Some of my best thinking happens while running, and when an idea used to pop into my head, I would have nowhere to put it. Now it is simple. But with all of the ideas that may pop into your head, it can sometimes be hard to organize.One of the tools that I use that helps me find my own information is Evernote. It is simple and I can access anything that I share on my phone, on any device that is connected to the Internet.
Using hashtags on Twitter are also a way to capture my own ideas. I have used Twitter to write some of my ideas down so that I can look at my own tweets later to build on ideas. Sometimes my own tweet is meant to help spark an idea later. Interestingly enough, when it is shared openly, others jump in and share their thoughts and help me to build upon those ideas. Sharing these new ideas and getting different perspectives helps me to learn a lot more as opposed to simply sharing it a closed journal.
Engaging in Challenging Tasks – Blogging has become one of the most challenging endeavours that I have done in the last few years, and I feel that it has led to a lot of growth personally and professionally. Tweeting at first was a bit of challenge because I was always worried about what I should say, or what to share. Once I became more comfortable in that practice, blogging seemed like a logical step. Although I do not blog every day, I do think about ideas to share in my blog daily as I want to think deeper about the things that I am learning. Even in this blog post, taking four strategies to become more creative, has helped me to openly reflect on my learning and try to go deeper into ideas.I actually heard one educator say, “I don’t have the time to reflect.” Although this was a joke, many actually do not make the time to do this. If it improves our learning to engage in something, even (especially) if it is challenging, how will we ever grow?
Broadening Knowledge – Although I have mentioned Twitter before, and it is one of the best ways to learn from others, there are other things that I do daily to ensure that I am learning in the areas that I am passionate about. With the death of Google Reader, I had to find an RSS reader replacement. InoReader became my main place to house blogs that I have read, and ensure that information could easily find me, instead of constantly looking to see if people have updated information. I try to balance between the RSS reader that InoReader provides and the blogs that I have read for years, to finding new information. Zite is a great app that I have on my phone that brings some of the most popular and viewed learning right to my phone. On any day, you will find articles that push your thinking and bring new ideas. Between these two programs, I learn a ton from different people, whether I know them or not, every single day.
Interacting With Stimulating People – For me, this is an easy one. Although I am blessed to work with some of the smartest people I know, there is brilliance in every single school in the world. I want to connect with that. Through social media, I have been able to connect with other administrators on sites like Connected Principals and the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program (full disclosure…these are both sites that I created), and to be able to go to a place where people can come together to share ideas has been invaluable to my practice.My suggestion to anyone wanting to learn from smart people in their field is to start with a hashtag instead of following specific people. I learn a lot more from following the #cpchat hashtag then I simply would trying to filter through the tweets of administrators that may be either personal or professional. If you are a kindergarten teacher, check out #kinderchat. If you are a math teacher, check out #mathchat. Where is your tribe? Although those tweets are centred around a topic, they are delivered by people that are usually passionate about what they are sharing. When you surround yourself with passionate people, you become more passionate yourself. That is much easier to do.
These are just some of the ways that I have tried to become more creative in my everyday thinking and I have seen a huge impact on not only what I know, but how I learn. I would love for you to share some of your suggestions on the things that you do to make creativity a daily practice.
We are into the second year of the “Learning Leader” project, and I have constructed the program differently this year as I continue to reflect on my practice. There have been some great posts from the participants (which is a component of the program) and there have been ones that have been the equivalent of a tweet. What I am impressed about is the vulnerability of teachers to be willing to put themselves out there and learn openly. I started off the sessions telling them that I am not going to give them a bunch of teaching strategies to work with their students. What I am going to do is help them focus on themselves as learners, which will give them the opportunity to find whatever they need. Teaching to fish, right?
As I read one of the posts, it struck a chord on how I have shifted my “teaching”:
When I first left the Central office after our first session of Learning Leader Yesterday, I was a little disappointed, and felt it was a little unstructured. But after a day of reflection, what George did with us yesterday was exactly what I did to my students when I got back. He made us curious and encouraged us to discover.
A few years ago, if you would have asked me what I would be doing in the classroom at 2:25 of that day, I could have pretty accurately told you where I would be at with students. In fact, if you would have asked me in September what I would be working on with students in February, I could have also told you that. Teachers would expected to have a course outline of where the classroom would be in the curriculum at what time of the year. If kids didn’t really understand, well, you would have to move on. Getting through the curriculum seemed more important than the kids actually learning.
I don’t do that anymore.
Learning should take on a life of it’s own and my focus is to push people to learn about what they are interested in and help guide them in the process. The process of learning, to me, is much more important than the product of learning. My workshops usually have 2-3 things that we are going to focus on in a day, but I don’t set times anymore because I don’t know where we will be. How could I accurately determine the learning of people if I have never met them? I am not totally there as a teacher, but I am growing and hopefully getting better.
The interesting thing is that many educators are still not comfortable with the seemingly unstructured setting of this type of work. It is often that they have to be fed the information because they have become accustomed to this. I remember starting in a very progressive school and trying to focus more on helping the students to “learn” as opposed to focusing on simply teaching them. They were in grade 7 and it was a struggle because they were so comfortable with “the old way”. It felt like they were saying, “just tell me what I need to know.” To be honest, on somedays that was the easier thing to do. But easy is not always right. It may feel right at this very moment, but later on, it will catch up, and the creativity, curiosity, and yearning to learn will be sucked right out of kids. I don’t want to be responsible for that. In fact, I want them to ask more questions and start figuring out how they can find answers and build their own connections. The connections THEY create in their learning will give them a stickiness factor, not the connections I create for them.
Education isn’t about teaching facts. It is about stoking creativity and new ideas. It is not about teaching students to conform to the world as it is. It is about empowering students to change the world for the better.
If we are unable to experience that learning as teachers, how would we ever do that for our students? Hopefully I can continue to spark this with others as I experience it myself.
Every now and then, I like to go back through my old Diigo bookmarks and look at articles that I have shared in the past in the “You Should Read” category as I know many readers will have missed these at the time when they are posted. It is truly hard to become a “classic” on the Internet with the number of articles coming your way, but I think through the use of social bookmarking sites such as Diigo (which is how I have always used to compile these lists), we can easily come back and revisit these posts.
With that being said, here are some articles that I have shared previously that I think are worthy of revisiting.
1. The Creativity Crisis – I loved this article and often come back to it in the work that I am doing. The term “creativity” is something that is being used by schools and many organizations, and seen as an essential skill.
The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.
Yet many say that with the structure of schools, creativity is something that we struggle with, yet the author offers a different perspective:
Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom. The argument that we can’t teach creativity because kids already have too much to learn is a false trade-off. Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process. Scholars argue that current curriculum standards can still be met, if taught in a different way.
One of the major negatives is that change is rarely welcome. People tend to like the status quo and do not want the apple cart overturned. Our first year was fraught with change; change in vision, strategies, instructional methods and materials. Through it all, our staff preserved as we worked on our improvement.
Here are a couple of the interesting ways that were shared in the article:
8. Teach Students How to Learn — Students are taught what to learn. In order for them to be successful as learners, they also have to discover how to learn and to develop an appetite for learning. I’m convinced that one of the reasons some students do not succeed in college is that they sail through high school learning the prescribed curriculum, but never learn how to learn.
9. Teachers as Learners Environment — Teachers are all about instructing their students. Teachers should also invest in themselves. I’m referring to teachers actively pursuing knowledge because they want to know more. The best teachers continue to grow and don’t rely solely on school designated professional development hours as their outlet to learn new concepts and ideas about education. This could include reading professional development books, blogs, or articles online. One powerful way to continue to grow as an educator is to join an online personal learning network and/or develop one on Twitter.
How do you focus on creating a “learning environment” in your school?
3. Pupils do get better at school if teachers are not fixated on test results – Just coming back from the US where, unfortunately, the talk often turns to the “Common Core” and standardized testing, I still think this is a valid argument on how you can focus on other things as opposed to tests and still have students do relatively well. If students become “learners”, can they still not do well in exams?
“Nowhere is this more apparent than in science learning where relentless preparation for tests and exams drives out the important and engaging aspects, especially the practical work,” he said. “All the evidence suggests that ‘teaching to the test’ results in superficial learning and a level of boredom that can turn pupils away from science.
As a final video, I wanted to share this Arnold Schwarzenegger video below. The words are powerful yet his character (rightfully so) is often questioned. His words are inspirational, but because of his past, would you share this video with students? I would love your thoughts.
I just wanted to share something that have recently shared on my Division Principal blog. I think it is worthwhile for schools to do and I am hoping that others jump on board. Take a look at the storify I created below.
Do you follow at least one person on Twitter? Then you’re not in an echo chamber.
Do you have someone’s blog other than your own in your RSS aggregator?Then you’re not in an echo chamber.
Do you teach/work in a building with at least one other person that you talk to? Then you’re not in an echo chamber.
Do you have a family? Friends? A neighborhood? Then you’re not in an echo chamber.
As this is something that I have struggled with tremendously, it is important to not only understand that there are many different opinions on Twitter, but it is also essential to go out and seek those opposing views. Through the conversation, many great ideas are shaped. It is also important that if you disagree with someone that you speak up and share those opposing views. This is necessary to not only the growth of individuals but education as a whole. The way we do it is important, but more important is that we have those conversations.
2. Wine and Education – Cale Birk, a principal in British Columbia discusses how we often talk in terms not understood by the general public, leaving many of our students and stakeholders behind:
I realize that oftentimes, I speak in ‘educationese’, in terms that are puzzling (and sometimes outright offensive) to people in business, industry, the trades, or to the general public (including our students). In order to create positive partnerships with our ‘consumers’, we need them to be very knowledgeable and informed about what we do at schools and the value of this education for our students as contributors to society. We need to be able to clearly articulate the skills that kids are learning in our buildings and how these will be transferable not just to something such as post-secondary education, but to business, industry, the trades, or whatever our students may choose to do. And perhaps most importantly, we need to articulate this for our students in our buildings TODAY.
Cale’s focus on partnerships is so imperative to our school system. We do not just work with students to do well at school; we work with them to do well in life.
3. The Trip Advisor Tail Wagging the Dog – In this Seth Godin post, he discusses how industry has changed and how the consumer is really driving the way we do things and get better. I related with this post as I just recently planned an entire trip using the Trip Advisor site, and the comments were so imperative to where I booked. Here is a quote from his post:
Today, it’s sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp (among many others) that are transforming the way service businesses operate. Here’s how it works: at first, a business might try to ignore the system, but then they notice their customers talking about the reviews and their competitors. So some stoop so low as to attempt to game the system, sending sock puppets and friends to post reviews. But that doesn’t scale and the sites are getting smart about weeding this out.
The only alternative? Amazing service. Working with customers in such an extraordinary way that people feel compelled to talk about it, post about it, and yes, review it. It’s not an accident that Hotel Amira is one of the highest rated hotels in all of Turkey. They didn’t do it with the perfect building or sumptuous suites. They did it by intentionally being remarkable at service. And yes, the Holiday Inn in Oakland has the same story. They took what they had and then they deliberately went over the top in delivering on something that never would have paid off for them in the past.
Amplifying stories causes the stories that are built to change. Outliers are rewarded (or punished) and the weird and the wonderful are reinforced. Once people see what others are doing, it opens the door for them to do it, but with more flair.
I wonder how this type of site will impact education. Sites like “Rate My Teacher” already exist, but have they hurt or helped our profession? It seems that more sites will continue to pop up like this in education as social media continues to grow.
Working a lot with teachers and parents in the past few weeks, it is amazing to see the shift in focus that our students need to be more connected. There is a definite shift in the mindset of many. With that being said, the focus on creativity, innovation, and the skills that are needed for the “21st Century”, many understand that schools need to continue to focus on strong relationships with their students and school community to thrive in our time. Relationships continue to be the foundation that great schools are built upon. It is paramount that we continue to focus on that.
Here are some articles that I found pushed my thinking in the last week:
1. What does teaching creativity look like? – Creativity is a skill that is needed in our world with the “knowledge economy” becoming dominant in our work place. With so many traditions that are firmly in place in our schools, does this skew our thinking and take away our ability to be creative? In this short article, the author asks a similar question:
Perhaps the most important entry on Michalko’s list is his last point, that “creativity is paradoxical.” Schools are places where students are supposed to acquire knowledge—but to create, a person must “forget the knowledge.” If you’re not able to leave what you think you know behind, you can’t approach problems with a fresh perspective. Students must also be taught to “desire success but embrace failure,” and to “listen to experts but know how to disregard them.”
This is a great, short article to share with a staff to open up some questions on how they are fostering a creative environment.
2. Autonomy in Teaching Training – My good friend, Chris Wejr, challenges the “status quo” in the way that teacher training programs are preparing new educators for a rapidly changing world and classroom. I have heard this conversation often, yet it is interesting to not only read this post but the comments that follow as well. Chris ends the post with the following:
Our pre-service teaching programs seem to be over in the blink of an eye (in BC, they are often only 16-20 weeks). This is a critical time as this is often the only experience they will have prior to applying for teaching positions. Providing more autonomy for our future teachers is key to their development so I hope you can add your thoughts to this conversation to see if we can help move our programs forward.
Chris has some great thoughts…how can we better prepare our new teachers to implement the strategies needed to be successful coming into this challenging profession? I encourage you to add to the conversation on Chris’ blog post.
3. Important Conversations – Some of the practices that I (as well as many other teachers) have implemented over the past few years we now know are not beneficial to learning. The idea of taking away grades for being late does not show the true understanding a child has over the content of the class, yet it is essential to ensure students are good citizens and respectful of our school environment. The picture in this blog post is a great conversation starter for staff, students, and parents. More importantly though then the message, is the conversation. How do we continue to bring parents in on the learning of school to help enhance the work we are doing together with children? How do we continue to inform and discuss with them continuously evolving teaching and learning practices? I think of this Marc Prensky quote when reading the aforementioned article:
“Involve your students’ parents as much as you can. Try thinking of them as your students as well, that is, as people you are educating.” Marc Prensky
When parents and schools work together, you double the chance of success for each child.
I hope that all of you have an amazing week and I thank everyone for continuing to share and write amazing content that will help all of us continuously learn!
As I end this blog post, I have been caught up in all the “Linsanity” (as most were) and this was probably one of the most inspiring moments that I saw from the last week…enjoy!
The one thing that has always been lost on me with the Internet, is how AMAZING articles or blog posts tend to have a huge impact, and then just disappear. That is why I love using a service like Diigo to bookmark some of my favourite links and categorize them so I can come back to them later. This week, I wanted to share some great articles that I have found recently and in the past.
1. Students vs. People – This is a great blog post that really emphasizes the importance of realizing that as teachers, we are not dealing with ‘numbers’ or ‘test scores’ but we are dealing with people every single day. We need to always be cognizant of that and this is a great reminder of this important fact.
That’s it, they’re people, like the rest of us. They have problems, I have problems. They are individuals, who will do some things well, and other things terribly. I’m really good at playing video games, but I can’t throw a ball all that well. What a lot of people don’t realize about that is that I’ve dislocated my right shoulder nine times, so if I throw a ball too hard, it’s possible that it will come out again. I have a subtext of background information that people need to know if they want to fully understand me. The same goes for my students, my people, that I try to teach everyday.
2. The Creativity Crisis – This is a great article talking about the importance, but loss of creativity in schools. There is a focus on creativity not only in North American schools, but all around the world
Around the world, though, other countries are making creativity development a national priority. In 2008 British secondary-school curricula—from science to foreign language—was revamped to emphasize idea generation, and pilot programs have begun using Torrance’s test to assess their progress. The European Union designated 2009 as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, holding conferences on the neuroscience of creativity, financing teacher training, and instituting problem-based learning programs—curricula driven by real-world inquiry—for both children and adults. In China there has been widespread education reform to extinguish the drill-and-kill teaching style. Instead, Chinese schools are also adopting a problem-based learning approach.
As Sir Ken Robinson says, ““Creativity is as important as literacy”, and we need to recognize its need in our current world.
Share a Vision — Review your school’s Mission Statement. Your new vision should be tied to your district’s Mission Statement, but build up on it. The vision should describe why it is important to achieve your mission statement while looking to the future. It should portray what will be achieved if the school is successful in achieving its goals. Everyone should be invested in the vision with a total buy-in from the entire school. You have to keep your eye on the prize and never veer from your vision.
I hope that you have found something useful in these links. Have a great week!