Seek Advice and Collect Mentors

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“When I started in business, I was often lonely, so I placed favorite quotes all over my apartment. They made me feel like I was never really alone. I would type up and print out my favorites on a piece of paper or cut them out of magazines and tape them to my wall.”

“Learning how someone else is already doing the same thing you want to do, or a version of it, can eliminate fear—every path is easier to follow when you see someone else’s footprints already on it.”

“…seek as much advice as I can—from everyone. You can often get great advice from all kinds of people if you just ask.” — Blake Mycoskie

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“Learn all you can from your mentors. Try to work alongside them. Their passion will amplify your passion. The concept of an apprentice is an ancient and wise one, and if you can find such a position early in your career and have the chance to work with a master, take it! The enthusiasm, deep understanding, and endless curiosity of a true expert will infect you, whether you are simply trying to reinforce your own knowledge about a hobby or interest, or whether you are figuring out the kind of entrepreneur you want to become.”

“…I collected many more wonderful mentors. To this day, I keep lists of gardens, gardeners, and nurseries…”

“…I have met many brilliant entrepreneurs from whom I have collected many ideas and new perspectives.” — Martha Stewart

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Fix the Broken System

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Today, I’m proud to have a guest blogger from Washington Co. High School. Below is a speech that he presented in his public speaking class this semester. I love his ideas and I’m so happy he’s agreed to share them here. Thank you, Cole! 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

The School System is Broken

by Cole Perkins, aka “A Random 9th Grader”

The school system is broken and it needs to be fixed now. The sad truth is that the current school system is not effective and is incredibly outdated. It does not address the need for every student and it tends to focus on subjects that are not essential to being successful in life. It is bad that school prioritizes subjects such as complex algebra and science when so very few people need that information in their life. Knowing this information for the sake of knowing it should not be essential and should only be optional for people to pursue, their are many problems in our current school system, some of them are being addressed others are ignored.

An awful thing in our education system is that it is very broad in the way it teaches and often doesn’t care about what some students may want or need, focusing on narrow and complex topics to teach while ignoring what students may actually want. It’s even worse that most colleges could care less how well you did in all of your classes, and seem to care more about whether or not you have played some extracurricular activity, that you honestly don’t care about.

Also another fatal flaw in our current school system is the idea that students should have little to no control of their own education, and that they should only be able to pick a few little classes that they may or may not get into. Students have absolutely no freedom or control on what they want to do, and in a few cases where they do have some control it is heavily restricted by what the school wants and desires for the students to do.

Now would you like to know a fun fact? America ranks 14th in education in the world it may not sound that bad but you would think we would want to strive to be number one. But do you want to know who has the best education system? Finland, and you know what is so odd about that? Finnish schools are known for giving very little homework and only have tests that are optional.

Another absolutely wonderful thing about Finland education is that it gives more chances for students to do what they actually want to do! It is a truly wonderful thing that Finland made a system that actually works both good and efficiently, a system that actually benefits the people it’s supposed to be teaching.

By now, you may be expecting a solution to this problem and it is actually very simple, if we want to raise the education standard and allow students to fill their goals in life all we have to do is make the system more of a democracy and allow students to have a bigger say in their education. Giving students more power into what they actually want to learn will turn them into more creative and innovative people, which is what we currently need. The system we have now was designed to turn students into mindless obedient factory workers who must only speak when spoken to and who must only get things done and nothing else: a system that teaches them that their opinions mean absolutely NOTHING.

However, times are changing and factory appeal has gone down. Students want to be free to make their own choices. After all, this generation is supposed to lead us into the future. Also let’s take the example of Finland and copy what they are doing; break down the divide between grades, because the more we divide the students the bigger the gap of education gets. Not separating students into categories has proven to work, by good old Finland.

Another grand thing we can do that Finland is also doing so it is proven to work, is cut the time students spend in schools and classrooms. Why must this be done? Well it has been proven multiple times that people will function and work better if they get both more sleep, and more free time between activities.

In Finland the average time students start school is 9:00 through 9:45 AM and finish at 2:00 through 2:45 PM. And from what I have researched Finnish students have less classes and more break times, the average break between classes is 15 to 20 minutes. At first this may seem confusing but if you think about it a little, it begins to make perfect sense, fewer classes means students won’t have to memorize as much and long breaks between classes means students have time to digest all of the information that they have learned.

So overall Finland has proven that when it comes to education less is so much more. If you want to have an actual good education and be prepared for life and know how to properly adult, then make the school system aware that it is an absolute failure and it needs to change or else we will all suffer the consequences.

There are many issues with our current education system and I have only talked about some of them. But I believe the main thing to fix is the issue of students having so little freedom to decide what they want to do. Many children don’t want to learn complex algebra or know how many wives Henry had. Humans as a species are people who will naturally learn on their own; we don’t need to hold their hand and tell them to do this and that.

In this very classroom where I am writing this document, several students have been working hard on their own projects that they actually want to do and care about doing. It is time that we fix the school system and give the students who are forced to come here everyday to listen to complete nonsense only to forget about it all later an actual choice in what they want to learn. We need to give students more freedom, more space, and more responsibility.

In history, democracy has proven time and time again to be the best option; so let’s implement some democracy in our school system. By the time students get into high school, they should no longer be forced to learn something they do not want to; and they should not be punished for not reaching the schools expectations. Give students complete and total freedom to pick every class they want. It’s not as crazy as it may sound, in fact it is the best option.

Collaborate to Solve Problems

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Photo Credit: student in my public speaking class

What a great week! Co-teaching, co-planning, co-learning and collaborating with a great teacher and awesome group of students in Public Speaking. Below is an overview of collaborative learning, taken from CTI at Cornell University, which will help you better understand some of the key ideas and elements that our class will engage in through project-based learning this semester. This is the beginning of the semester and we are just getting started so stay tuned for more about our progress this semester.

Purpose of PBL in Public Speaking Spring 2018: To engage students in critical thinking about authentic problems and prepare them to communicate effectively about their proposed solutions to those problems.

What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and “doing” are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning.

Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University

I love bullet number 1 – “The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.” I spent a great deal of time yesterday researching each student’s background so I can begin to see them as individuals instead of a sea of humanity. Teacher’s cannot successfully plan for a class of students they do not know. At the secondary level where you can have upwards of 200 students, this can be a challenge. A challenge, but not impossible… We teach students, not subjects.


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In the slideshow, you can see our human graph in which kids self-rated themselves on their current speaking skills. We will measure again in the middle and the end of the semester to gauge for improvement. Using the scale of distinguished, proficient, apprentice and novice, most students rated themselves as apprentice in the area of public speaking with the next highest rating being novice.

Measuring the Impact of PBL in Public Speaking Spring 2018: We know we are having an impact when every student is engaged so that growth mindsetself-efficacy and academic outcomes improve.

What is the impact of collaborative learning or group work?

Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.
  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.
  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.

-Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University


PSGoogleClass

We are also using Google Classroom this semester and it’s working well so far for posting bell ringers, assignments, video of model speeches, and assessments. We are also using a Google site that I built as a hub for the project work.


I’m so excited to be a part of this class of students who are engaged in learning how to be effective and polished public speakers. Thank you to Mr. Goodlett for welcoming me into his classroom and for sharing his students with me this semester. The students, Mr. Goodlett and I are all going to learn so much and do so much to improve our community and ourselves.

Now off to plan for next week! More co-teaching, co-planning, co-learning and collaborating. 🙂

 

Slow Down

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Are traditional school schedules and teacher classrooms too rushed and hurried to foster creativity and innovative thinking? Is the pressure to perform in a standards-based culture too high to promote deep and reflective thought? Do factory-model schools cultivate trust and relationships that drive honest feedback, teamwork and the co-creation of solutions?

And the implication is that the real or perceived societal pressure we feel to get more and more things done, and process more and more information, can be an enemy to real love and true learning.” – Four Reasons to Slow Down by Jon Bloom

Learning takes time and patience and this conflicts with how our society and our public education system often operate.

“In an ideal world, the school day would reflect kids’ changing needs and rhythms. There would be time for free play; school would start later to allow time for students’ much-needed rest; the transition time between classes would be longer, allowing time for kids to walk down the hall and say hi to their friends and plan their next moves; kids would have the opportunity to step away from school “work” in order to regroup and process what they’ve absorbed. “The actual encoding of information doesn’t take place when you’re hunched over a desk,” she said.” – Why Kids Need Schools to Change by Tina Barseghian

Deep and thoughtful learning that generates creative and innovative ideas and solutions requires the time and patience to:

  • think
  • reflect
  • dream
  • hope
  • discuss ideas
  • ask questions
  • seek answers
  • encourage others
  • build relationships
  • generate new ideas
  • test theories
  • create solutions

“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.” – The Creativity Crisis by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman


This leaves me wondering about the learning and creativity within my school…

    • Do students know how to be creative? Can creativity be taught?

Creativity can be taught,” says James C. Kaufman, professor at California State University, San Bernardino.” – The Creativity Crisis

  • Are teachers designing learning experiences that promote deep learning and creative output?

“What’s common about successful programs is they alternate maximum divergent thinking with bouts of intense convergent thinking, through several stages. Real improvement doesn’t happen in a weekend workshop. But when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves.” – The Creativity Crisis

“When students display creativity and innovation in PBL, they are able to generate and refine solutions to complex problems or tasks.” – How Can We Teach and Assess Creativity and Innovation in PBL? by John Larmer

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Encourage Reflection & Action


As the instructional coach, I wonder what I can do to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school. Maybe I should procrastinate and be unhurried! 🙂

“We’re always asked to be faster and more precise. But what can we learn from slowing down — even procrastinating? This hour, TED speakers explore why taking it slow is crucial…for all of us.” – Slowing Down from the TED Radio Hour

This radio program and Grant’s article, Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate, illuminate the idea of slowing down in order to come up with creative and innovative ideas. By slowing down and taking time to reflect on a problem, we give ourselves time to come up with different solutions. Sometimes, our initial solution or answer is not as good as those ideas we come up with after taking in and wrestling with and testing lots of ideas.

“But while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.” –  Grant

“It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.” – Grant

““You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” – Aaron Sorkin

I had never heard of the Unhurried movement until I started researching for this blog post, but the principles definitely align to being patient and engaging in discussions in which you truly listen (skills which I’m practicing). I love the philosophy of this approach which challenges us to relax and focus on listening instead of talking in a frenetic volley that is laden with interruptions.

The Unhurried Approach “applies to any process that requires the participation of human beings. We use Unhurried as a guiding principle in our work with people.”

I hope to apply the principles for being unhurried at work and plan some opportunities for Unhurried Conversations for teachers and students. In order to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school, I will…

Photo Credit: flickr

Cultivate Creativity

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Some condemn schools for killing creativity. But, this week our high school celebrated creativity through a Holiday Café in which students and staff alike stayed after school to share their writing; one student even sang for us. Two of our English teachers hosted the event in which students were encouraged to perform poetry and stories they’d written this semester.

We had a great turnout – a room full of students sharing a part of themselves through a piece of their own writing over hot cocoa and coffee. So many talented kids at WCHS! I’m happy to say I also mustered up the courage to share a poem I wrote earlier this year. Putting your art out there for the world to see or hear takes a lot of courage so I applaud these kids for being brave and stepping out to share their writing.

“We are educating people out of their creative capacities.” – Sir Ken Robinson

“Our task is to educate their whole being…” – Sir Ken Robinson

Now, I’m left wondering how we might continue using creativity to improve teaching and learning at our school. How can we cultivate creativity across classrooms? How can we teach in ways that inspire students to be creative and innovative instead of passive and disengaged?