That’s a Wrap-Reflections of the 2017-18 School Year

Video Collection of 2017-18

So often in education and life, for that matter, the best laid plans might be the framework for something completely different. This year, I started a new school year, in a new school, with a brand new magnet program and a variety of new initiatives. My role as the Lead Innovation Teacher was also new so it is still being defined as I walk through it. I set out to be a coach for innovation, to be a teacher of innovation and a learner of innovation. The very synonyms for innovation include newness, creativity, upheaval, transformation and I think this school year has had many of those components.

As part of my coaching, I have had the good fortune of being part of the North Carolina Digital Leadership Coaching Network (NCDLCN), which started right at the beginning of the year and has extended all the way until a week after traditional calendar schools let out for the summer. I set targets at the beginning and worked to achieve these goals through many shifts in formats along the way. Along with these goals, I had professional development goals, professional learning team goals and school improvement initiatives. As often as possible, you like for these things to overlap and in some ways they have, but in others, they were ever-changing. Some of my goals definitely included modeling and coaching teachers in innovative structures and design thinking. I also had intended to survey teachers as progress was moving along, in order to establish a base of data on which to structure support and coaching opportunities. Finally, providing leveled and timely professional development was part of being able to do the other two items most effectively.

In the arena of visiting classrooms and working alongside teachers, this was easy as I not only worked with those teachers in Innovation Hours but also was part of 4th grade ELA and 3rd grade science. As the end of the school year drew closer, I also provided support to groups of students during math Impact time. As part of these sessions and Innovation Hour, I did provide modeling of innovative practices as well as working with students to create or manipulate digital productions, when it fit into the goals and objectives. Examples of this can be found in the 21st Century Learning Environment section of Outside the Box.

Finding methods and times to survey teachers was possible for some areas of innovation as the year progressed, but not with the regularity that I think it should have been performed. This piece is one that I think could be stronger in upcoming years, in order to facilitate supporting teachers in areas that they need, at the level of need to each one has and in a way that will support students. I think these surveys, combined with some snapshots of walk throughs could help in planning the next steps for a program in which innovation is the focus.

Finally, I did provide leveled professional development this year, though not as much at the school level as I would have liked. With the volume of initiatives that were occuring with the magnet program, county initiatives and being part of the Elementary Support Model program, there were many meetings and other PD offered that didn’t always involve my role but I was still able to be included in delivering PD in other arenas. I was involved at various sessions of our county level conferences, Convergence, in the Fall and Spring as well as serving as an instructor for Seesaw during a digital portfolio series for the county. As part of all of these sessions, I was always cognizant of offering a variety of scenarios for elementary, middle and high school interests as well as having levels of learning for the beginner, those with some knowledge of the concept as well as those that were more expert participants. Examples of this can be found in the Leadership Section of Outside the Box.

As I reflect on this past school year and think toward the future, I know there are areas that I want to continue to work, while also looking toward new goals. I know that the arena of digital learning is always changing, transforming itself, creating new ideas and sometimes upheaval from the norm, or in a word being INNOVATIVE! As part of this, I too need to continue to grow and learn, decide what fits in the learning environment of which I am part and take risks. I also know that the weakest piece of my targets is one that has to be part of this. In order to find the best tools and resources for teachers and students, I need to know the needs of the school, the teachers and the students and it has to be on-going. As the school year progresses, needs and interests change, often initiatives don’t start at the beginning of the year and stop at the end, but rather arise mid year or even at the end to be continued into the next year. This means evaluation and analyzing data should be continuous to truly coach, support and learn. This summer I will continue to learn, as part of attending EdCamps and as a participant at ISTE and my final sessions of NCDLCN. I will also be a coach and teacher as I teach sessions for the Department of Public Instruction in the DLCs for Educators by Educators this summer. I will keep reflecting and learning over the summer and hope to come back into the school and community as a better coach and ready to set new goals for the 2018-19 school year!!

Times They Are A-Changin’

“If we teach today like we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” is as relevant today as it was when John Dewey made this statement. This past week was Computer Science Week and schools around the world participated in An Hour of Code promoted and supported by and its founder, Hadi Partovi.  We too participated in this week and I was in awe of the support that we received from SAd87eced94f85a878ce67a79d5df81a8cS Curriculum Pathways.  I am now teaching in a school with a new theme, being developed kind of “as we fly the plane”. We are taking chances, ideating, creating prototypes and testing as we go. Scary? Yes. Exciting? Also yes!! I have also seen and learned so much since August with this week being one of the most exciting, exhausting and exhilarating of all.

December is a notoriously tough couple of weeks before the break. Any veteran teacher will agree that we are tired, the students are tired, we are stressed, the students are stressed and patience can run short. It isn’t something to judge, it is human nature. So what a perfect time to recharge everyone with challenges that students think of as puzzles, games even.  Some might look at these challenges as non-academic, but I say stick around, watch and participate for a while. THESE are the skills that students need in today’s ever changing world. Collaboration is an integral part of these tasks related to coding and problem solving. Students have to discuss, take on different roles, demonstrate patience and fail. They have to reassess their strategies, think of new approaches and then when they succeed they celebrate and celebrate BIG. They know they didn’t just complete a series of math problems to turn in a worksheet, they did something real, something that had meaning to them. Then they start to add-on, develop their prototype a little more, apply some creativity and personalize it for their team. This is when the magic happens! This is what we know all of us need to be able to do to get along in an ever changing world. So, yes December ushers in Computer Science Education Week because 




the statistics show us that we need students to join the ranks of computer science jobs but it also creates students that know much more than putting together a series of code. It provides students with opportunities to grow in the ways that they are able to think, problem solve, create, relate and work with others.

Bugg Center for Design & Computer Science is a theme that encompasses these and many other opportunities for students. As I mentioned, we are working on the methods, ideas and format as we build it, taking risks just like we expect of our students. I have been part of watching the growth in students during this first part of the year. I know that most of our students have been exposed to some form of computer programming already as part of our theme, a coding special and Innovation Hours that I teach. It was very eye-opening to see students apply some of those concepts when presented with a new way of using their knowledge with people from outside the school. It was also awesome to experience their growth in mindset and abilities by being part of these opportunities more than once during this week. Students were part of classes that included SAS Curriculum Pathway educators twice during the week, so their Hour of Code really came as 2 hours. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade could speak more to the importance of computer science jobs and programming and started to become more creative with their tasks as the week progressed.

We still have almost 2 more weeks left before the break to keep the learning alive and engaging but I know that I am filled with new ideas and enthusiasm about how and what students need to learn for their tomorrow. I am so fortunate to work in an environment with so many knowledgeable teammates as well as to be part of my larger Professional Learning Network that always has new ideas, approaches and encouragement. Now I need to take the ideas and enthusiasm that our SAS partners brought to our students this week, along with with all of the other resources that we have as a school and community and continue the work of not just educating our students, but preparing them for the world of tomorrow, which looks like…



When the View Changes

“..Change is the only constant in life…”- Heraclitus


I feel like I have been realizing this more and more lately. It has taken me 6 months to return to my blog to reflect, but I hope to start a routine over the summer. I have always been a “Plan B” kind of person so I’m prepared most of the time. But life doesn’t work that way, life throws you a curve and sees if you swing and miss, wait for a better pitch or alter your stance to knock that sucker out of the park. A friend recently posted this image and it struck a chord with me in that moment.  adjustthe sails All of this reminds us of how we deal with unexpected change. Do we bury ourselves and expect things to only get worse? Do we go at it with the idea “things can only get better from here!”? Or do we make choices to determine how that change will impact us or others?

I have had to face this on many levels this year. I have had small things that I couldn’t control, such as the weather at our wedding that meant we had to make a change in what we had originally planned for months leading up to our date. OK, not what I planned but in hindsight, a good call. I’ve had larger setbacks with injuries, illness and an unexpected 2nd surgery for my now husband, that we hadn’t planned.

Jobs shifts, weather, policy changes, etc. So I plan, adjust, plan again, rinse and repeat.  I’m not alone. It happens to all of us and sometimes you pull yourself up and move on as you adjust. But other times you lean, maybe just a little, maybe a lot, on others. Your spouse, your siblings, your best friends, and hopefully your “Tribe”. Your Tribe should consist of those that are like minded and understand your struggles. They sympathize, they listen but they don’t allow you to stagnant. They “get” you. They know you are a leader because sometimes you fall back and listen and other times you lead.
So, how do we build this in others? How do we support or even lead others to this state of “adjusting their sails” and being in control? Do we provide students opportunities to struggle, problem solve and have success or learn from their failures? Do we make failure an option? Do we offer time for students to create their own “Tribes”. Not cliques that exclude, but rather communities of commonalities that support. Their “Tribe” outside the classroom might look completely different than within the walls of the school. How can we allow them the freedom to find other like-minded people to support and challenge their thoughts, ideas and hopes so they can have success, even within their failures? I am creating so many questions that I don’t have all of the answers to because they are forever changing and offer all of us opportunities for discussion and thought. I see glimmers in things that I do with students and teachers, but I know that there is much I haven’t seen and done, so I sail forward and when the wind blows, I adjust, constantly adjust. 

“The leader adjusts the sails”- J Maxwell