Ideas but No Direction

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A few years back I took the Strengthsfinder assessment. One of my top 5 strengths is ideation. Some people might consider this strength a weakness because of how they perceive ideation in action. Ideation is the ability to generate ideas and make connections between seemingly disparate phenomena. I like this strength. I like how I have a lot of ideas for anything I do, and I like how my brain craves to know more, find answers, and seek new solutions.

Still, though, problems emerge with this strength:

  1. I sometimes chase one idea then another then another not knowing where to stop.
  2. Others shake their head in bewilderment as to what my point is.
  3. Ideas come at strange time
  4. Sometimes at the last minute I decide to manufacture a product from an idea and do so before I can envision where I’m going.
  5. Without a clear vision, my dots get jumbled and the mental picture created is unclear even for me.
  6. Oftentimes I chase new ideas instead of just building off an old idea.

In the past, I would take those ideas and jump into the deep end. Lately, though, I’ve realized that easing into the water really is better for everyone.

Because I keep nodding off, I’m going to cut this post short. Perhaps I need to let these thoughts sit in the shallow end before wading deeper.Perhaps I need to rethink the ways I allow this strength to work for me.

Perhaps the time is now for the hamster to step off the wheel and let the ideas rest.

Yes…even my ideas need rest. If I write anymore, the dots will create a jumbled mess.

Goodnight.

 

 

Letter of Reflection/Encouragment

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Day 31 of 31 of Year 5 Slicing & First Year I’ve Posted Daily before Midnight

The other morning I was listening to the Jeff and Jenn Show ( & ) on Star 94.1 and I got an idea for a my last blogpost of the month. You see the DJs both wrote letters to themselves (Jenn’s letter, Jeff’s letter). These were letters they wrote to themselves, letters of reflection and encouragement inspired from a producer who had done the same thing when first moving to Atlanta.

After a month of daily blogging, I feel like an inspirational letter of challenge would be a good way for me to think about how I can heed my words moving forward.

Dear Maya,

Congratulations! For the first time in 5 years of slicing with Two Writing Teachers, you have  met the midnight deadline in your daily blogs. Wow! Way to go! When you focus on  a goal and set your sights on it, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to achieving. That is something that you are finally seeing at the age of 47. 

Even though the blogging takes a lot of time, you become much more cognizant of the little things in life as you write daily. You have an outlet for your swirling thoughts, and you are able to process things and gain a more realistic perspective. With the encouragement from reader friends who discuss your posts with as well as teachers who you’ve never met who leave comments, you are able to make sense of the challenges you face.

Just this month you have written and reflected and come to a greater understanding of the nuances of your principal as you wrote of his “Button Pushing Hyperbolic Subtlety” as well as with “The Best.”  

You dealt with writer’s block with parodies, haiku, and bad poetry. Haikuing your way out of writer’s block and filling your blog space, baby, that made for fun moments.

You squared off with your #oneword2016, deliberate, asked some tough questions, and tried some new things. Of course, remember what your “nuts and bolts” principal tells you, “Maya, you’ve got to try something for longer than a few days to know if it works.” Maya, reflect on what you’ve written and tried this month but not for too long. Remember you’ve decided that you need to have a “Bias Towards Action.” Remember that you getting things done will give you more of what you need and more of what your family needs.

Spend your break rereading some of your posts, so you can take reflection into action. Maya, you’ve come a long way. Your words on your blog help you process, but you know, girl, that without action reflection is nothing. Reflection needs to turn into something. You need to set goals–stretch and smart goals, so you can begin to accomplish what you set out to do.  Your kids are growing up. Spend some time with Duhigg–read the rest of Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. You’ll find it refreshing to read a book from outside of the realm of education, and it might be just what you need, a new perspective to fix old problems–deliberateness, prioritization, balance. Remember, though, if you can post and comment for 31 days straight, you can build routines and habits in other areas of life as well. Don’t let the process culminate as words on a screen–make this process something that can be seen. 

Today as you walked with Sarah through the parking lot, you were holding hands as you walked.  A part of you wanted to freeze that moment in time as you began to fear the time that would come when she would no longer hold your hand in parking lots. 

Yes, you have a stack of papers. Yes, you want to engage your students. Yes, you get pulled up and down the hall to help people with technology. At the end of the day, though, you know who the most important people are in your life. Live that love for family. Prioritize. Be deliberate. Figure out how to be Smarter Better Faster

Your boss is right about that. You need to take down time. You need to calendar your down time. In fact, you need to figure out  over break because you know he’s going to ask you when you plan to shut down. Don’t even say you can’t shut down for a few weeks. You can. You will. You must. For your family. For your students. For your coworkers. For yourself. Your health and well-being depend on it. Remember that blog post about letting go

Remember, Maya,  what Jon Gordon wrote. Remember that post you wrote about it–when you feel like you haven’t done something to the best of your ability, when you feel less than successful. When you see a 2 on an evaluation based on a 10 minute window–the way you see each moment is a matter of your perspective. You are not failing; you are becoming. Continue the process of becoming each and every day.

Love,

Maya

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collaboration: Opening not Closing Doors

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Sometimes I love collaboration. When people with different ways of thinking come together, each with his/her own strengths, each willing to contribute, each willing to listen to the others. I love that. I can see the sum is greater than the parts, and I can feel the impact it has on my teaching.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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I love how we can envision teaching and learning in new ways and make what we do better. I love hearing other people’s ideas for teaching strategies to work with a certain concept, skill, or text. I love sharing an idea and having someone help me break it down, and together we build it back up until we know that something amazing has been created that will engage students and impact learning.

 

 

 


 

138900c6ce0e90745e024b15be48f70aOther times I shake my head wondering how in the world a team of people so different can possibly come into one room and share ideas willingly, contribute equally, and follow through consistently? In these moments, I wonder how I can be inclusive instead of divisive, and what I can do to build on the good each person has to offer.

What collaboration boils down to is teamwork, shared responsibility, and listening. Most of all, teachers need to be able to see the other people’s strengths and view working together as a good thing and not see what is happening in the classroom next door as a competition. We are, in fact, all in this together.

This time of the year is always tough on collaboration: testing season, spring break, the final quarter, yet perhaps this is the time collaboration is most important. This is sometimes the time when doors are closing when they should be opening. When I’m in the final stretch, I would like to cheer on others and be cheered on, too. And I’d like to know that we are all on the same team, and this is not about personal best it’s about coming together to challenge, inspire, and share.


Part of why I love blogging with SOL is because here is a place where I feel challenged and inspired, and we are, this month especially, spending a lot of time together–collaboratively not competitively. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Head to Head or Cultivate Peace?

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Day 8 of 31: SOLSC

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How often have people advised you to avoid confrontation with this or that person. They will advise you in no uncertain terms that you should not go head to head with _____________ (that kid, that teacher, that guy, that boss, etc.)  They go on to to tell you that you’ll never win.

Recently I found myself advising adults in a certain child’s life to not go head to head with this child because it just doesn’t work. I attributed my building of rapport and improved relationship to not going head to head. Perhaps that helped, but what really changed is I showed the student I cared about him, his struggles, and his success. Essentially, I listened and empathized.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the people I have gone head to head with on a regular basis over the past few years:

  • certain friends
  • authority figures (yes, the boss)
  • certain students
  • my own children

Now I realize that over the years I’ve been “that” person, the one they say not to go head to head with.

I can imagine what was said, “Don’t go head to head with her. She’s stubborn. She’s defiant. She’s opinionated and bullheaded. She’s self-righteous.”

The mere act of going head to head results in the power tipping one way or the other or in stalemate with two people walking away frustrated, mad, and misunderstood. In essence, neither way leads to understanding. Perhaps  a kinder, gentler, more empathic me will emerge if I try to keep this in mind. Who wants to come out swinging? I, for one, do not.

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Yes, I have noticed that when I change, the people around me change, too. It’s a beautiful thing, actually.

As I watch the presidential debates, I see personal attacks and mudslinging. I see individuals playing dirty as they go head to head.

Perhaps the answer isn’t fighting for my beliefs. Perhaps the answer isn’t about making sure you understand where I’m coming from. Perhaps as I continue to seek to grow and change my nature, I will find myself able to listen on a different level. Perhaps then, I’ll truly embrace the answer, an  answer of cultivating peace and understanding.

Perhaps then, someone will speak of me in this way:

Don’t go head to head with her. She won’t take your bait. She will rise above that, listen, and meet you where you are in a non-confrontational way. She will cultivate peace and understanding.

That’s the person I’d like to be, so please don’t go head to head with me. This isn’t backing down. This isn’t a loss. This definitely isn’t weakness. This is truly victory on a higher level.

Let me end with powerful peace cultivating words,  The St. Francis Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

 

Time on Task: Deliberate

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BEFORE TASK TIMER AND EVENING TASKS

I want to see what I can do this evening to be more deliberate (One Word, OLW)  in my evening tasks. I want to get some things done, but I want to do it without wasting time. I set up tasks using a Google Chrome Extension called Task Timer.

taskI used an app called Task Timer. Now I’m going to see what I can get done in the next hour and a half.


AFTER TASK TIMER AND EVENING TASKS

1 hour and 40 minutes later, I feel good about tonight. I set times and I stuck pretty closely to them. I got my work done, and I will be in bed at an hour that is more reasonable than usual.

Here is how I spent my time:

task_results

Was I deliberate? Yes. It took me a few tasks to realize that I should turn on the volume, so I would hear the warning bing. I wanted to be done at 10:30–it’s now 10:40. Lessons are updated. I have a few more newbie SOL blogs I need to respond to, but I’m going to save that until tomorrow.

My goal: finish my tasks and go to bed before 11. I did better than usual.

Things that threw me off: converting my clipped image from tiff to jpg, emails and messages coming in on my phone and at the top of my computer screen, my daughter saying goodnight a second time, and the dog chomping on her rawhide.

Now I just need to figure out how to add a little R and R into my tasks.

10 minutes–I can be in bed. My body needs more rest. Goodnight.

 

 

Responsive Fortune Cookie

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Check out other slices each Tuesday at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/.

Check out other slices each Tuesday at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/.

The other day this was my fortune:

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Normally I don’t pay much attention to my fortune, not seriously anyway. However, this fortune made me think about who I am and who I’ve been. Immediately I knew that I had the fortune meant for me. I read the words over 3 times and began to analyze the meaning (LOL, I did a close read of the text, but I did not stay within the four corners). I thought about taking a snapshot of it to share with a few friends and coworkers. It made me think about what it means to be strong versus what it means to be responsive.

STRONG. To be strong is to have power. To be strong is to be able to withstand pressure. To be strong is to be powerful and forceful. I think being strong oftentimes means working to win, to outperform, to come out on top.  In strength, there may or may not be action; there may only be a a flexing of brawn or brains with little action.

RESPONSIVE. To be responsive, on the other hand, does not mean being more powerful physically or mentally in a domineering sort of way. Instead, to be responsive means to react, to respond, to answer. To be responsive means to act upon what you’ve experienced in a decisive and positive way. In responsiveness, there is clear action driven by need.

I suppose I could go all Darwinian with this and apply this to adaptation, change, and natural selection, but I do NOT want to be a science teacher, yet I suppose that adapting based on environment is what I do when I am being responsive.

I spent a good deal of my life meeting challenges head on, fighting to conquer, willing myself to be the best.  In retrospect, I think that was the wrong approach.I was working against what I wanted to accomplish, and sometimes this show of strength served only to isolate me.

I used to say, “That’s not a kid you should go head to head with because you’ll never win.” Perhaps the time to go head to head with anyone should happen rarely. Being responsive means, looking at both the details and the bigger picture to assess, react, respond, and answer.  This could take the form of differentiation in responding to what a kid needs. At the same time, this could be how we approach grown ups with whom we struggle, situations that are out of our control, curricula/standards that we may not like, and so much more.

Being responsive is about the response, but it also involves the process of considering how to best respond. To me that is a sort of moral strength–a deeply embedded fortitude. This is not the strength of winning–this is the strength of character that understands that it’s not about winning or losing; instead it’s about meeting each person where he or she is and responding to the person and situation.  And that is about much more than surviving. That is about thriving.

How might I reword the fortune:

Responsiveness moves you beyond survival.

Thought Provoking Questions to End a Lesson

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Slice Daily for the Entire Month of March

March Slice of Life Challenge

I may be sick and tired, but my hamster doesn’t stop running on its wheel, oh no. On a paper grading break, blogging in bed and wondering of what would be great thought provoking questions that would work well in ELA.

These thoughts were sparked because yesterday when I had a lesson follow up with the Instructional Design Team, I told my TechEds county person that I’d like to make my own randomizer of questions. Guess what she did? She made me a video with directions where even I can cut and paste and put things in HTML and make my own random questions to use with a QR lesson closing. I am excited to use this as a way to bring some excitement and higher-level thinking to closings. Of course, now that she figured it out and made a user-friendly video, I feel compelled to take that step.

I thought of even making my own QR die, Tony Vincent style:

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Here is what I used yesterday for my closing yesterday and last week:

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While I like the above reflection questions,  I want to make at least some faces of the die more reading, writing, communication based; I want to make it my own and select my own questions. Still, though, I’m looking for great minds to help me. When I finish my die, I will share what I create in the comments section of this blog, so give me some good ideas and share your thoughts.

I might make one that is totally generic for any content, but that works well with summarizing and digging deeper into a lesson…like I said, the hamster is still running…just a little more slowly.

Thanks in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

Overplanning Madness

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Slice Daily for the Entire Month of March

March Slice of Life Challenge

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Being part of TechEds requires me to try new technology, and I love that. I love learning new things and finding new ways to engage and reach kids. I regularly use all sorts of tools for differentiation, assessment, and instruction.  However, when several people are coming to watch me teach using technology, I feel the need to do something that perhaps they won’t see others doing. This is where the overplanning madness began.

OVERPLANNING

Overplanning is something I do when I have time and announced visitors observing me teach.   This time visitors are coming to see what the TechEds teachers are doing in their classrooms, so I got some crazy ideas and started running with them. This weekend I looked at my plans, and I was like, “Huh? How am I going to do all that? Why did I set it up this way? Does that even make sense? Will it make sense to the kids? Is the content getting lost in the wordiness? Am I trying to make a production?” Aaargh!

TWEAKING

Sometimes I chase an idea, catch it, and then don’t know what to with it. Yesterday I began tweaking what I was going to do because I couldn’t figure out how to do what I had envisioned. Then, it just didn’t make sense when I tried to plan the logistics of the lesson.

STREAMLINING

Finally, I moved to streamlining and simplified what seemed like the “dog and pony show” or “the production” of it all. And now, it makes sense. Now I feel like my technology is infused in my lesson in a way that makes sense. I still might be a bit over the top, but I am trying to show them what kids can do with BYOD.

Tomorrow the students will be participating in “The Great Comma Race” in teams of four. They will take a QR comma quiz (you can make QR quizzes at http://www.classtools.net/QR/) in groups, they will edit sentences written by students differentiated by their level of comma expertise, and the will take  a group quiz on their edited sentences using Formative (https://goformative.com is a new favorite tool of mine). They will end with QR reflection questions (I wrote about this a few days ago). They will be charged to go home and revisit  their essays, and return tomorrow with examples of 3 of 4 types of commas we’ve discussed.

THINKING AND BLOGGING

Now I’m just thinking through the lesson. I want to feature tools, I want teachers to see how you can use BYOD, and I want what I’m doing to be grounded in good instruction. As usual, blogging about my thoughts helps me harness my thoughts.  I’ve never really thought of the process I go through so often: overplanning, replanning, tweaking, streamlining, thinking, walking through…

Thank you for helping me make sense of my madness, teacher friends and blog readers. Thanks for commenting, too.

Wish me luck tomorrow. 🙂 I’m tired just thinking about it. I feel like I’ve run The Great Comma Race already many times, in circles.

Endings that Don’t Suck

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Slice Daily for the Entire Month of March

March Slice of Life Challenge

As a reader and writer, I realize the importance of grabbing my reader as well as of crafting a thought provoking ending that leaves my reader thinking; however, as a teacher I easily craft a lead and build engagement, but my endings are like poorly written stories with fizzling endings or like common stories ending abruptly with trite lines,

“Oh, look at the time. Y’all better hurry up and go to your lockers.”

or

“I’ll see y’all tomorrow-make sure to remember it’s a BYOD day”

or

“Don’t forget to finish what you didn’t get done.”

or

“Help me out, and get a piece of trash off the floor before you go out the door.”

I have always struggled with taking the time to end the class.  Today a visitor (the usual suspect) entered my class for one of those drive by walk-throughs with minutes left in the class. I looked at the clock and smiled in my principal’s direction knowing that I had to make a decision with those few minutes I had left. I would either finish supporting the small group of kids with whom I was working, or I would send them back and close the lesson. Not wanting to put on a show and not wanting to send away struggling students, I opted to finish offering the support. However, had I timed my lesson better and paid attention to the clock, I would not have had to make that choice.

I am thankful for the constructive feedback I received today because actually being a better closer has been on my mind lately.  When having a casual conversation about the walk through, my principal said several positive things then, mentioned the “one” thing (you know, the one I focus on the most). I started to fall back into my typical MO,  “Well, those kids came to me and needed help, and I was working with them, and time–okay, nevermind, the excuse…” Thankfully I caught myself, and the conversation resumed.

A few years ago, I wanted to get better at closings, so I did a bit of research and found this great document online that I modified and turned into a ppt full of the closings I liked from the document: https://edc448uri.wikispaces.com/file/view/40_ways_to_leave_a_lesson.pdf. I was excited about my closings and got better for awhile.

At the beginning of this school year, I set alarms: one on my Fitbit, the other on my iPhone–to shock me and call me into my closings. I shake my arm and tap the Fitbit and resume instruction. I tap the iPhone if I have the volume loud enough, and then, I promptly forget why the alarm sounded (I do this also when the alarm sounds for me to go home).

Reflecting on this, I think on those days I am stuck in a moment, so are my students, and the dots I’ve worked so hard to connect have a critical disconnect; in fact, I guess they fall just a bit short of putting the final picture together. The puzzle isn’t quite built, and perhaps by the next day a piece or two might be lost.

Last month I read an Edutopia article about opening and closings of lessons,  “The Eight Minutes that Matter Most.” This article made me rethink my closings (once again) and reminded me that I need to bookend my lesson more effectively. In this article, AP lit teacher Brian Sztabnik writes, That is the crux of lesson planning right there — endings and beginnings. If we fail to engage students at the start, we may never get them back. If we don’t know the end result, we risk moving haphazardly from one activity to the next. Every moment in a lesson plan should tell.

The eight minutes that matter most are the beginning and endings. If a lesson does not start off strong by activating prior knowledge, creating anticipation, or establishing goals, student interest wanes, and you have to do some heavy lifting to get them back. If it fails to check for understanding, you will never know if the lesson’s goal was attained.”   

I read the article. I pedagogically pondered and thought about how I should really work on my closings, yet until outside eyes looked in on my room again, I didn’t stop and ask myself, “What can I do differently?”

Now I ask you, what works for you?   How do you prioritize your 8 minutes of beginnings and closings? How do you make sure you get to the crux of your lesson? How do you connect the dots at the end, the ones that create the big picture?  When kids are being productive, when time flies, when kids need to get more done, or when kids are getting help from you, how do you force yourself to STOP and make time for the closing?

Most days my endings are planned and purposeful on paper, yet often I fall just short of creating the complete picture. While I can check for understanding the next day, I often neglect one of the most important teachable moments.  I’d like to learn to PRIORITIZE my closings. My OLW (one little word to live by) for the year is prioritize, and I’d like to avoid endings that end like a bad story,

“And that’s my slice of life about bad closings. THE END.”

I cringe writing that. Maybe I should cringe teaching that, too.

After all, what I really want to master is creating

Endings that Don’t Suck.