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!!

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

Changing The View

Recently my soon-to-be spouse, Mike, was injured at work. While we wade through the myriad of hoops that is Workers Compensation and the requirements of the Department of Labor, waiting for a surgery to be approved, he has been camped out on the couch in his “castle” of pillows which keep his arm propped up so that his injured shoulder is supported. After 6 weeks of this we decided to see if we could reconstruct a similar design in our bed, so that he could be more comfortable. We are working out configurations that will allow him to rest and recuperate in our bed more comfortably post-surgery (whenever that might be). This seemed fine until the dreaded realization that to have the best set up, we would need to SWITCH SIDES OF THE BED!!

Now, if you have ever shared a bed with a significant other, you know that “sides” of the bed are established and maintained early in a relationship and are as ingrained as the position in which you begin your night of slumber (side curl, tummy, back) so to think that one can possibly just SLEEP on the other side of the bed and have it be the same is just ludicrous. I find this shift in mindset similar to how many encounter even the smallest changes in other facets of their life such as starting to write a blog with regularity. nelsonmandela

I recently had the pleasure of meeting George Couros speak at the Fall 2016 Convergence Conference held by Wake County Public Schools. I had been thinking about blogging for many years. I hadn’t made the initial leap into reflecting publicly about my work, my life, or my interests. I would often be overwhelmed by just the nuts-and-bolts of it and not move past that fear or work on how to organize it or put down my thoughts. I often pondered about creating a running blog or a work blog or a life blog and the thought of starting 3 different sources was too much in my already harried life. Then George quickly helped me sort all of that out. Have one blog, tag it appropriately for the topics, individuals or places involved. Make sure to include categories  that tie directly into the evaluation instrument for my position. In doing this, my blog becomes more than just a reflection vessel, but additionally a portfolio, my evidence, and even my resume as a whole person. I then took this further and reflected with my “tribe” or Professional Learning Network following the conference. Listening, talking, reading and then putting words to paper, I have been encouraged by so many to jump in with my exploration of blogging.

So here I am starting a new habit in my life. It might prove difficult to maintain at first but I know that reflection is an important part of who I am and what I do in my job and life each day. It will have to become like my running and workouts are now, just something that is an important part of my routines. Bill Ferriter put it best when he stated “If you aren’t blogging, you aren’t reflecting.” It isn’t extra, it is rather an important part of teaching and supporting those that teach. In my work I am continuously encouraging others to take a leap of faith, try something new and learn from mistakes along the way. It is time for me to put that into practice for myself as well. I hope to reflect in my blog at least once a week. Just like anything new, I know that I have to make time for it and there will be times that I fall behind. As I process this change in the place in which my fiance’ and I sleep, with time it will feel like a normal part of our day and sleep cycle. That is also how I see this new thing called Blogging in my personal and professional life. I’m so grateful to have a Professional Learning Network that pushes me to be my best by taking risks and trying new things while also cheering from the sidelines when I falter.