Applying Entrepreneurial Thought To Education #coffeechugPLN

I was recently finishing up another magazine that I wanted to share out some ideas.

Inc. 32nd Annual Fastest Growing Private Companies in America 9.2013

Below are some thoughts that emerged while I read the articles.

1. Eric Paley (page 60) “The Myth of the Perfect Product”
Don’t wait until your product is perfect to build your business. You will be waiting forever.

I love thinking of this statement in education. As my building moves to Project Based Learning I think one of the issues we are running into (there are several) is that we (educators) think the project must be perfect, completely laid out, with precision details mapped out each day. We cannot just go and wing it, but we have to take an idea, build a framework, infuse it with passion and excitement, and run with it. Sometimes we have to just go and see how it develops and through the journey of learning we will find out what really works best. I really think that our lessons and projects should be just as much as learning for ourselves as educators as much as the students. We need to continue to improve our instruction and lessons, but we cannot wait for a perfect lesson because it will never exist and we will sit idle all day long.

2. As we rethink education, we have to sometimes develop an entrepreneur approach. When we think as an entrepreneur we cannot forget that this can create anxiety and some stress. Things will fail. Things will not work. You will make mistakes.

And it is okay.

The goal here is the process. The goal is to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone boundaries and explore what you are really capable of achieving. Through the ups and downs we have to be careful not to let it consume us completely. Give time for breaks and rest. Do something different for a fresh perspective. Never give up!

It makes me think of our robotic teams. They start off super excited when building and designing their new robots. Then they hit a wall when their plans don’t work and they cannot think their way through any other ideas. At this point we move to something different – our research project. We take a break. Year after year they come back to the robot with a whole new fresh perspective and make up so much ground by just getting away from it all. In the end, things just fall into place.

It is not that we give up, but understanding the ebb of flow of creativity and innovation and the process of acting upon it.

3. I just love this title. For me, I think in education we have to allow teachers to have full autonomy in their classroom. It is the duty of the teacher to then deliver high quality learning opportunities. If we provide teachers with freedom to teach, then we must be prepared for the valid criticism when we are not delivering. I feel that often times we sugar coat too much in education. We need to be strong enough to receive constructive feedback when we are not doing as good of a job as we can be. We expect our students to constantly take in feedback that tells them they are far from perfect. Why can’t educators be held to the same standard? We all make mistakes. We all have weaknesses. They key is to become aware and work on it. Don’t pout. Don’t whine. Get a backbone and challenge yourself to improve.

And just like my design series, there will be a Part 2 to this series.

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Why Thinking About Design in Education is Vital Part 2 #coffeechugPLN

#coffeechugpln

I scribbled a bit on one of the interview titles and share this on Instagram a few weeks back, but I think it raises a very valid point.

How do we get students to take the leap of faith? I should add to this How do we get TEACHERS to take the leap of faith? We need to challenge the boundaries of how things are currently being done. It scares people. There is comfort with staying the course. This is needed to a certain extent, but we have many students and kids that we are losing because they are pushing the envelope and we are losing ground more and more every year.

The first thing that has to happen is to “engender trust”(page 94). This is nothing new, but we have to connect to the emotions of people(students and teachers) and bridge in a quality product(lesson or project). As we push the boundaries we have cannot lose sight of keeping things simple and the focus of the goal. It is easy to fall off the course and make things more complicated than what it needs to be.

As we try out new ideas and push the boundaries we cannot be so narrow in our vision. We must look big picture and figure out how all the “different pieces of the experience need to be fused into a cohesive whole?”(page 97) With this thought I think of staffing. Each educator brings some unique and different to the landscape of education. Not every teacher can be the same. Educators need to make up several different roles. We must learn and figure out how to blend these educators into “Design Teams” that create an experience for each student to gain maximum learning opportunities.

You can read Part 1 here

Part 3 drops tomorrow.

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Fury of thoughts from 2 year old notepad discovery

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be able to visit High Tech High as we were working towards a PBL model for our school. We are now in the transition process and when looking for a blank notebook to write down some ideas I came across an old notepad that had some notes from this visit. It is interesting to read my notes and compare to where we are and where I am as an educator today.

Here are my notes with current thoughts woven in

1. Atmosphere – how you do you adjust climate of regular building into the climate of project based?

This very question is something we are trying to overcome. We cannot let the physical structure of a building limit us, but at the same time it can be very limiting. It starts with the atmosphere we develop as teachers. How can we take our rooms and what we do have and begin to cultivate a new atmosphere. Part of this will come when teachers continue to develop their ideas and projects. It takes time. It is much like the planting of a seed. We have to get our feet a bit before we dive in. For a plant it starts very small. We don’t always see the growth, but overtime we will have a thing of beauty.

2. Curriculum not an object, it flows!

How do we step away from worrying about covering “content” and shift more into covering “learning”? Once again I see many schools do a patchwork system of operations trying to blend old school models with new ideas. It does not work. It is time to hit the refresh button on how schools are structured. Anyone else tired of a bell that determines everything?

3. Don’t care about grades, care about learning – This is so important. I know the big issue here is assessment and monitoring of progress to put points in a gradebook or crank out standardized scores. The reason students cannot think on their own or even identify their pathways is because everything is spoon fed to them in little morsels that it is almost offensive to those that can think.

4. Do we assess learning or do we assess obedience? I think you are already know the answer to this question. Still a major roadblock in most classrooms because learning is messy and not always easily identified.

5. If you don’t want to keep it or they don’t want to keep it, then it is not worth it! If they are not personally invested in the material, then the learning won’t stick. Teachers need to share their passion and bring students along on the journey of learning and discovery. We can’t save every child, but it is sure worth the effort to try.

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Who else wants to be a Purple Cow for Education? #coffeechugPLN

This post started out as a book review for Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow, but morphed into something much more. If you have read Purple Cow, then this post will resonate. If you have not read Purple Cow, then read this post and then go read the book.

This book is over 10 years old and yet it still speaks to me on many levels. Like all the other marketing business books I have read this summer I read the material through the lens of education. Instead of worrying about how to make money, I read these books to figure out how to appeal to students and improve education.

This book is spot on. The book discusses the markets of companies. I feel that the market for students is no different. Society today has over-saturated the minds of our youth. They have so many outlets, apps, people, communities, etc. pulling for their attention that it is almost beyond absurd. Reading this book about being a purple cow made me think even more about how teachers brand themselves. I hate to say it, but we are in the market of our students. We are fighting for their attention. What will we do as teachers to stand out for their time?

The frustrating thing is how many teachers don’t feel this is their obligation. They don’t think they should have to appeal to students. It is not their job to entertain or grab their interest. They believe the students should conform to them. I know it is not professional to say, but I want to ask them what planet do they live on? When we were kids we did not conform either. We might not have gotten into trouble, but it was not that long ago that we were young and begging to get out of school. It is our duty to be a game changer. It is what we do. It is our job. Why else would you be in the occupation if not for the kids. You want your own children to have teachers who go above and beyond so make sure you do the same.

Teachers today have to connect with students. We have to be better than very good. As Seth states in the book, “The opposite of remarkable is very good. Very good is an everyday occurrence and hardly worth mentioning.” Teachers today have to go above and beyond. Stand out. Make your teaching brand known. Not only do we have to stand out among the buzz of society, but even among the teachers in the building we teach in.

I cannot help but think of several years ago when I was one of four teachers in the district who received a SMARTboard. It was mind blowing to students. Everyone wanted to be part of the action. Teachers wanted one and students were so excited to be part of the journey. Now every classroom has a SMARTboard and nobody cares. Following the leader only leads to very good. You have to create your own niche. The SMARTboard is now a chalkboard of today. Not one kid cares about the technology. What are you doing to separate yourself?

I have typed up my notes to Evernote which you can view here. I have taken the context of the material and tried to rewrite it to fit education. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Despite the book being a decade old, the material is still fresh. Yes, his examples of the the digital camera no longer work as they have been replaced by smart phones, but the ideas are as strong as ever. We are in an age where we have to stand out. Safety is in the risk taking.

Working on my own teaching and craft this summer I am really trying to brand myself. I want to be “me” aka Coffeechug. I don’t want Coffeechug to look like anyone else. Would I love the following of Dave Burgess and #TLAP? Yes, he is everywhere right now. I am learning from him and his community like no other, but I cannot be just another person. I have to apply, adapt, modify, and make things my own. Coffeechug has to be a Purple Cow in education.

Last, in order for this to happen I have to shake things up. Schools need to quit being factory mode learning institutions. I know we have preached that for years, but very little has changed. Desks are still in rows and we still expect students to fill in worksheets perfectly to our standard. Let your uniqueness as a teacher spill over to students. Let them be unique. Let them chart their own path with your guidelines. We are not linear by nature and our classrooms should not either. It is time schools become a Purple Cow and move beyond very good to remarkable.

Thank you Seth Godin for giving me more fuel to my fire to pursue my passion of being a remarkable educator. This is a must read if you have not already read this book.

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Top 5 Posts from last 30 days

Below are my top five most popular posts from the last thirty days. I am working through Platform University created by Michael Hyatt and after seeing Cool Cat Teacher Vicki Davis share her top posts from the last six months I decided to do the same. I don’t have the data to track my last six months, but I can look at the last month so that is what I did. 


When I examined these five posts I tried to figure out the WOW factor in each. I am working through Platform and just listened and filled out the study guide to the first master class. As I work through cleaning up my online presence and organizing all my stuff that feels scattered all over the place I feel the need to stop and ask what is my WOW factor to coffeechug? I figured I would start with these five posts to determine what works in my writing. I know my writing needs work and can improve. 
The problem with these five posts is that I don’t see a theme. I thought at first it was providing a point of view to gather discussion. My perspective is not coming across as the right answer, but just a starting point to a topic to increase dialogue. However, one of these does not contain opinion. Even harder is the post from over two years ago where I reviewed a running shoe that no longer is in production. 
I don’t know what makes these tick and stand out to people. I will have to look at other posts to find a theme.
Even more important is still to determine my WOW factor. What is it that draws people to this blog and persuades them to come back again to read future posts? That is the answer that still escapes me and one I need to identify. By finding this I feel that I can then organize and structure all my content and sites around that central theme.
My summer PD has proved to be quite challenging. And I love every minute of it.
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6 Reasons Why Schools Need to Operate Like a Rock Band

Great little jam during night 2. End of show contained one of the best jams I have heard. And two nights of Halloween!I spent this past weekend watching one of my favorite jam bands put on two amazing concerts at Alpine Valley. As I was watching the shows I could not get education out of my head. It never seems to leave my brain no matter how much I try to let things go from time to time.

There was one point where the band underwent a massive solo fest where each member was able to solo a little bit. Watching this moment made me think that schools should look and operate like a rock band. Here are six reasons why.

1. Lead Singer – every school needs this central figure head that people go to as the leader. This person brings on the charm and leads the rest of the band or in the case of schools the employees. They can raise and lower the mood/energy as needed and connect with the fans through their words and actions Schools needs this same person to lead the staff and connect with the community/parents/students and keep everyone involved. This is the PR person that is the face of the band and school. This is not always easy as there are times when they have to speak on behalf of everyone. Who is this leader of your school? Is it your principal? Could it be someone different? I think we always assume the principal is this person, but is that just an expectation or a mindset? Perhaps the principal is the drum player and thus requiring someone else to step up?

2. Drums – This person is vital to ensuring that everyone is on the same beat and groove. They sit in the back and though not always visually noticed, everyone knows who they are and how important their role is to the band. Schools need this same person. Not everyone can be the lead singer, but that does not mean that this person is any less important. This is the go to person. They can bring people back to flow if someone gets off track and and any given point has the power to straighten people out with a massive drum solo where they just take over as needed to get the job done. This person is the nucleus of the group. They intertwine everyone to be sure all is on the same page. Their presence is felt by everyone, but they just don’t sit in the limelight.

3. Bass – This person is another vital component. Probably even less visual despite being seen the whole time because their role can be overshadowed by the lead singer, drummer, and other band members. However, they provide that extra layer of play that makes the guitar sound sweeter and drum sound stronger. This is that person in schools that goes unnoticed and sometimes forgotten, but when they go missing it is felt by all. In schools this is that third person of the leadership team behind the lead singer and drummer to finalize the structure of leadership. This person can go through and fill in all the gaps and strengthen other components of the school as needed.

4. Guitar – A must and necessity of any great rock band. Rarely are their voices heard, but they lead by action. They bring the flare. They stand out due to their skills. It is those special moments where they let loose and people just say, “Wow!” They don’t have to talk the talk. They lead by their actions. A little flashy, but never is it seen as showing off because it comes at the right time and the right place. Schools need teachers like this that just lead by their teaching. They create the lessons and projects that everyone talks about. They don’t have to talk and persuade people about their ideas because their actions do all the talking. They are the all-stars of teaching. Not everyone can be this type of teacher, but they provide the vibe that everyone strives for because we all want to be that person with the amazing guitar solo.

5. Guest Musicians – Every once in a while a band will bring in a guest musician for a change in a few songs. It brings fresh perspective and an added layer to a song that needs something extra. Sometimes the result is unknown. They just make the magic happen on stage on the spot. It is that level of excitement of the unknown that reignites the atmosphere. Schools need these game changers as well. With social media it is easier than ever to bring in a guest speaker or person to shake things up, inspire us to do something different and see what happens. Schools cannot be stagnate. They must constantly push the envelope and see where the next amazing thing can be found. Perhaps it is not even a guest speaker, but a change in the system. The new layer of structure or teaching that breaks the mold and causes everyone to think differently.

6. Respect – During the solos what I found to be the key moment to connecting the show to education is the appreciation each band member had for one another. When Carter was doing the drum solo, Dave was off on the side loving every minute. They were smiling and high fiving. Boyd started a solo on the violin and Dave is letting him have his moment. He does not need to be in the spotlight. They are all connected. They could jump in at any time and join and let the magic happen. There is just this bond they have that allows them to have their own space and time in the limelight. They understand that without any one of them the band is not as great and the band changes. Schools need to be the same way. They need to have a connection where they all feel valued. They all understand their roles and accept their place. They also understand that their role is vital to the overall success of the building. There are times when the leader of the school has to step aside and give others a chance to shine. There are times when other members connect and make magic happen with a new project or professional development. In the end everyone understands that as a building they are on the journey together.

So is your school a rock band? Who are these players for your school? If you don’t have these players, then perhaps it is time to recruit and find them. If your school has these players, then it is time to rehearse and get ready to rock and roll!

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5 Issues with Gifted Education That I Have

As I continue to sort through bookmarks, past emails, correspondence, and handwritten notes I came across some great discussions a group of us were having on a listserv. From this conversation that I forgot about completely I went back to revisit some key ideas I wrote down. Here are some thoughts from my brain as I piece together some ideas. As always would love to hear your ideas about these.

The one thing that really bothered me as a gifted education teacher is, “What is gifted?” What is really at the core level of “gifted”? Speaking with many educators and administrators this past year at various conferences, online, and Twitter I think we have this umbrella of thoughts. I think many of us know what “it” is when we see it, but from school to school the parameters change. This bothers me greatly as a professional educator.

How can a student be “gifted” in one district, but not “gifted” in another?

This question drives me to the brink of insanity. Other things that drive me crazy are the misconceptions of gifted. I still am trying to wrap my mind around how to best address the following issues.

  • Many educators describe a gifted learner as the teacher-pleasing high achievers. This is wrong as this is a performance. We need to know how they learn. What are exponential reasons why they might choose not to perform? Many teachers still believe in the many of the myths about gifted learners and this needs to be remedied.
  • How do we best handle, identify, and stay proactive with underachieving students especially when there is pressure to keep them from the gifted program?
  • Motivation or lack thereof is such a problem. How we help them find their passion to get going?
    • Is it that they simply do not care?
    • Is it just a natural byproduct and a stage in development?
  • The whole notion of a certain % of population MUST be gifted. We need to cater to who is really in need of a service and not get wrapped up in having enough numbers or cutting others off who could benefit from the service.
  • Talent can be developed, but giftedness is something they were naturally born with.

Okay, so just some thoughts. Weird that as I depart my job as a gifted education teacher my fire still burns intensely for these students. What I struggle with now personally is the whole idea of “gifted”. Can it be developed? What happens if it is not developed or worked with? Is there a need for a “gifted” label? Or the one that drives many people crazy, do we all have a gift and it comes down to if it fits into the criteria of the school?

The one thing that really bothered me the most is that there is not a lot of consistency. You talk to one school and they do this and another school does that. I think as a nation there needs to be a clear set of criteria to help identify and work to find a definition that works best. I don’t believe there is one right answer because this does not exist in education and never will. But, there needs to a be a method at properly identifying gifts and figuring out how to best service these needs. Just my two cents worth.

Thoughts?

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Being Genuine Is Key To Being AWESOME! #coffeechugPLN #tic13

Such a simple concept, but incredibly powerful idea.

Last night I had the opportunity to drive to Dubuque to meet up with Vicki Davis aka Cool Cat Teacher. I was not able to attend the #TIC13 conference going on in Dubuque on Tuesday and today, but I was able to make the drive to have dinner. I would not miss the chance to sit and chat with Vicki who has helped me as both a mentor and guide the last few years. She may not even realize it as this was actually the first time we were able to meet up in person. Working with her online through her Flat Classroom projects and courses is how we have connected and stayed in contact.

What I like best about Vicki besides all of her amazing ideas, thoughts, presentations, and classroom advice is the fact that she is genuine. She is down to earth and just a welcoming person. I always feel lucky when she emails back and especially last night when I was able to have dinner with her, but besides the feeling of sitting with greatness she gives off such a low key normal vibe that not everyone is able to do. It would be easy for her to think quite highly of herself and never consider the notion of meeting someone like me for dinner.

I was also able to meet and talk with some other amazing women as well from the Keystone AEA who is putting on the conference. It was a great pleasure to meet Bev Burns who I cannot believe I have not connected with earlier than last night. We brainstormed the potential for some great things that could be developed with Bald Eagle Project I conducted this past school year. She is from Decorah and therefore uniting the Decorah camera and the ALCOA camera has the potential for greatness. I woke up early this morning and started hashing out ideas that came into my head this morning.

It was also wonderful to meet Eric Sheninger who I follow online via Twitter, his webinars, and website. Just to listen to his ideas and answers to questions was a pleasure.

The reason I share all of this is because on my drive home what impressed me most is how genuine everyone was last night. Intelligence and insights aside I felt right at home last night. Vicki embraced me as soon as I walked in the restaurant. It felt so normal to be there talking with people I have never met in person before. This shows how powerful social media has become when we meet people in person for the first time and we already know so much about one another.

Transitioning this idea is simple. I need to stay genuine myself. I must never lose sight of this idea as I continue to pursue life goals of mine. When teaching this also holds true. Being real and genuine with students is the first key concept to building rapport. Being genuine is the key to building rapport with anyone whether a student, child, parent, teacher, or administrator.

I got home last night excited for teaching. Just sitting with greatness(all 6 of you at the table!) my brain was in a frenzy. I am ready. I had so many ideas spinning in my mind. I jotted many of them down and was up early this morning to reflect and pursue them more. I wish I could be at the conference today to pick their brains even more.

Thank you for a great dinner Vicki! Vicki Davis you are the best! You have helped to shape me in more ways than you know and last night was a great opportunity for me to meet one of my mentors!

I am bummed I missed her sessions and keynote yesterday. I might have missed her key ideas, but I was able to see her genuine passionate personality and that is something more valuable than anything.

Bev and everyone else who I met last night it was a great pleasure and I look forward to hopefully connecting and pursuing future goals and projects.

I love it when my excitement and passion for education takes off! Time for coffeechug to keep going down the path of life goals.

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Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone and Break Up Your Routine!

Swimming this morning I was struck by a situation that happened that allowed me to step back and reflect on many things going on right now with school, life, jobs, and the future.

While I was swimming and finishing up my last set there was an elderly woman who came to the pool. She comes that same time every day a little after 6. Today there were at least 3 swimming lanes wide open. As she was walking I knew that she had no intention of using one of the open lanes. She wanted her lane that she uses every day and this lane just so happened to be the one I was in. 

Lo and behold she heads to my lane and not only my lane, but takes all my swim gear and moves me over to the other side of the lane(you can have two people to a lane). She moved my flippers, my workout sheet, my pull buoy, and kickboard. She saw nothing wrong with this.

I wanted to go off. I really did. I wanted to tell her that there are three lanes open and even if you do use this lane have the courtesy to ask before moving my stuff. Being passive aggressive I said nothing, said good morning, and left. I had to get out before her perfume caused me to have a sneeze attack(that is another story)

Leaving it got me thinking how this is how she is. She could not adapt to the situation no matter what was presented to her. She missed the other opportunities around her because she was so focused on her routine and system.

I started to reflect and realized we can all be the same way. As I have pushed for new ideas and change at my school and in particular gifted education I cannot lose perspective of other great ideas around me. Just because I think I have a plan does not mean I put the blinders up to what is around me. Amanda reminded me of this over the weekend while talking about gifted education and she said a new instructor in our department would be good to gain a fresh perspective on things. I took offense to this at first, but realized she was right.

I need to step out of my comfort zone and see things differently as well.

When we start to do this we must ask questions and seek out these people who can offer something fresh.

Who can you ask for help?

Could it be another teacher in the building/district? Could it be the parents that are involved in our program? PLN? 

And as we move and fight for change we must be wary what we ask for. We are not seeking answers.  We should seek HELP instead. In education there is never an answer. Only guidance to move us in the right direction because education has too many moving variables to ever have a right answer.

As I continue to question my future, my job, my vision of gifted I need to think about the things that specifically blocking me. There are external forces as well as what I hate to admit, but 98% of the blockage is myself and my mind.

And through it all let people know when they are helpful. Tell them thank you and mind your manners. Even if you are at the pool and want to swim in your lane that you have swam in for who knows how long.

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Would we want to be in our own classrooms?

A painting of mine from I don't know when. I am assuming college.


Talk to students and find what engages them or better yet what disengages them. Would we want to be in our own classrooms?

I think the answer is yes simply because we teach in our comfort areas. However, we are all individuals and therefore not everyone is exactly alike. There are times we must move out of our comfort zones to reach other students.

I think it is important to naturally push our students, but we need to push ourselves as educators also. This is hard to do when we are constantly trying to keep our heads above water with all the things on our plate. However, as we expect certain outcomes from our students don’t forget to expect the same from yourself.

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