Self-Care: My Cooking Hobby

In the spirit of thinking about self-care and practical applications, I wanted to share one of the things that is most important for me when it comes to self-care.  It is practical because, well, it’s cooking and we’ve all got to eat!!  

I’m no Master Chef or anything but I found out a while ago that I enjoy cooking for some reason.  I like to try new recipes, modify them to fit my needs, and there’s always a tangible reward at the end…sometimes it’s even tasty 🙂

I see this as one of the most important pieces of my self-care routine because it is something that serves many purposes.  I enjoy eating good food, so there’s that.  However, I’ve found that following a recipe and focusing on preparing a dish is a really good way to take my mind away from the stresses of work.  In addition, I almost always strive to make healthy meals that taste good (because how many “healthy” meals taste good?!?).  Finally, when it is all finished, I can sit down and enjoy the fruits of my labor…something we don’t get to do very often in education! 

Cooking has become a bit of a hobby for me.  I’m not going to be inventing dishes or even thinking off the cuff too often, I’m mostly just a recipe follower.  However, I do modify and change recipes as I make them over and over.  I listen to feedback (mostly from my wife) and try to improve the dish each time I make it.  So, over time I’ve built up a sort of “go-to” list of meals that I prepare fairly regularly.  I’d like to share one with you today.

This particular dish has become a “go-to” because it is quick, easy, relatively cheap, and yummy!! I can put this dish together from start to finish in less than 30 minutes and with a little help on one or two tasks I can even sneak a break to enjoy a sip or two of a beverage while I’m preparing…enjoy 🙂

Future Ready Schools

What if school didn’t look like this?


I know what you’re saying, my classroom doesn’t always look like that.  Maybe it never looks like that.

Chairs, technology, walls…”school”.

If you asked most people (teachers, students, non-education people) what they expect a classroom to include they would have a pretty common list:  teacher, students, desks/tables, board (smart or otherwise), books, computers. And, if you really pressed them to list absolutely everything…walls! 

This, however, is where the problem lies – these constructs of a classroom and/or school are old, they are antiquated, they date back beyond my grandparents.  What else that we rely on so heavily today is done/made the same way it was 100 years ago? 50 years ago? 20? Think about it, look around you, what is one relevant thing that is the same as it was 20 years ago?  Computer? Phone? Books? The clothes you’re wearing? Nope…everything has changed – except education!

Every industry is working to improve their product; working to make them more cost-effective, make them more user friendly, make them more green, improve functionality or performance.  Yet education, by and large, remains the same.

How are we, educators who are meant to be preparing our students for the future, supposed to do justice to a process that prepares kids for a future that includes so many unknowns?  

The answer is breaking away from the deep-seated rituals that have become school.  We must offer students the chance to truly engage with their learning, get their hands dirty, and live a life of active (not passive!) learning.

What is this was a “classroom”…everyday??

But how?  

Well, that is for each school to figure out on their own.  How are they going to commit to being a school for the future?  It will take courage, it will take forward thinking and it will take lots of time and effort.  The results, however, will easily outweigh everything. If we keep doing things the same way, we’re going to keep getting the same results.  If we’re preparing for a dynamic future, we need a dynamic present – flexible, engaging, adaptable and inspiring…

Take a look at these schools and see how they’ve already begun to challenge the construct of school and the classroom.  These are all forward thinking schools (listed here from closest to traditional to least traditional, according to me)…they’re all awesome and all have room to improve.  However, what they have in common is that they are all schools for the future!!

Perhaps your school isn’t ready or able to make such a leap forward right now, that is fine.  However, what are you doing to create a dynamic educational experience that prepares students for the future?

I was tempted to explain these programs in brief but was concerned that an oversimplification of these wonderful programs just wouldn’t be fair.  So, I’m STRONGLY encouraging you to have a look at these programs (or at least a couple) and evaluate them yourself.

Carpe Diem School in various locations

Western Academy of Beijing – Capstone Program in Beijing, China

Roosevelt Innovation Academy in Lima, Peru

Summit Public Schools San Francisco, California

Green School in Bali, Indonesia

High Tech High in various locations

Khan Lab School in Mountain View, California

NOMAD in San Francisco, California

Think Global School in…well…nowhere and everywhere at the same time (if you look at one of these, this is it!!)


Celebrating What we Value Most

It is often said, “we celebrate the things we value most.”  Well, I want to celebrate you…the teachers and leaders of our students.  

Long hours, endless frustrations, and countless sacrifices.  Fighting off colds, exhaustion, and 9 weeks of wear and tear.  Diagnosing, teaching, assessing, re-teaching, and re-assessing.  Teenagers, their parents, and all the hormones.

Success, the glimmer of hope, and the celebratory emails home.  The amazing lesson, the excitement of learning, and the joy in their eyes.  The growth, the pride, and the sense of achievement.  Smiles, laughs, hugs, and high-fives.

Students are both the greatest and the toughest part of this job.  They are the challenge and the reward all at once.  Yet, rarely, do they stop to say thank you and show their appreciation.  BUT…it’s there, I promise.  From the conversations I have in the halls and at lunch to the messages from parents.  Our students appreciate their teachers and this school.  The smiles and overall feeling of happiness that runs rampant throughout our school community is the most telling sign.  Our kids enjoy AC and they appreciate the work you do on their behalf.

What do teachers make anyway?

Well, if you haven’t seen this before you should see it now (I apologize for the occasional bad word)…and THANK YOU!!!!

What Teachers Make
by Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is
What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life
was to become a teacher?

He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true
what they say about teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.
I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.
Be honest. What do you make?

And I wish he hadn’t done that— asked me to be honest—
because, you see, I have this policy about honesty and ass-­‐kicking:
if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor
and an A-­‐ feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time
with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored.
And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today.
To the biggest bully in the grade, he said,
“Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?
It’s no big deal.”
And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math
and hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you’ve got this,
then you follow this,
and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this.

Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?

Thank you Taylor Mali for his inspiration and permission to use his work to inspire!

Mali. Taylor. “What Teachers Make.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-­‐887012-­‐17-­‐6)

Starting Today for a New Ending

I love quotes, I collect them and enjoy reading them at all turns.  Perhaps more than anything I like breaking them down, contemplating their potential meanings and considering the context in which they were originally given.  

Recently a friend and member of my PLN posted a quote on Twitter.

@posickj got me thinking about this quote and I’ve been knocking it around in my head for a while now…

I immediately thought of Growth Mindset when I read this quote.  What could be a better philosophy in life than moving on from past troubles and starting anew?  Of course the past is important and we can learn a lot from our experiences, but the chance to wake up each day with a fresh opportunity is certainly motivational.  I could go deeper philosophically with this quote but I’m happy to focus on this marvelous message as a positive opportunity for the future.  I’d like all educators to stop and think about how this quote can be applied to their lives?  Was it a bad class or lesson?  Was it a long and stressful week?  Has the transition to a new school and city been harder than expected?  In all of these situations, “anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

It’s been a long start to the year without any breaks.  We’re staring down a five day weekend at the end of this month but we have to get there first.  Take some time for yourself and sharpen the saw.  Also, take a minute to think about where you can start working toward a new ending…

Granting Ourselves Permission

We have to grant ourselves permission to stop at some point, this is education and we could work 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives and the work still wouldn’t be finished.  The importance of slowing down and giving ourselves permission to search for balance in our lives is a crucial element of success in education.  

Each day that we work with our students we should be at our very best, but the reality is that none of us can honestly say that we’re doing this.  We come to school tired, sick, and overwhelmed by outside influences.  This is normal, everyone does this and that’s okay (to a point…stay home if you’re contagious!).  No one is going to have their best day every time they wake up and there’s a reason for that, we’re human.  However, despite being human, we are still able to control a lot of the factors that determine how balanced we remain.

We can help ourselves stay as healthy as possible by tending to our diet and exercise, we can ensure that we get enough sleep, and we can maintain healthy stress levels through yoga, meditation, or another relaxing activity.  Perhaps the most important way that we can help ourselves to stay fresh and in peak form is to grant ourselves the permission to stop.  Perhaps in no other profession does the anxiety over “getting everything done” build as quickly as it does in education.  After all, we’ve got these kids’ futures in our hands, if we don’t teach them everything they need they’ll never learn it…right?!?

Well, here’s a possible wake up call for you, if you’re burned out then your students aren’t going to learn much of anything from you!  Very often as educators we get caught in a cycle of coming in early, staying late, and then taking work home.  We want to try new strategies, give quality feedback, engage our students and increase student learning.  Don’t get me wrong, we should be doing those things…BUT…we need to do it at a sustainable pace, one at which we can stay healthy, relaxed and present for our students.  Find your limits and hold yourself to them without going over, it’s a long fall if you go over the edge.

It is essential that we acknowledge the fact that the work is never going to feel like it is done, that there will always be something more we could do.  Granting ourselves permission to draw a line and stop pushing for the sake of our own sanity must happen, or we will all work ourselves into the ground.  Prepare yourself at the beginning of the year, month, or unit.  Allot yourself time to complete the absolute essentials, then allot time for the balance outside of school,  and finally you can use what is left over to let yourself run wild with the “extras”.  To successfully maintain balance we need to plan for it and make it a priority.  

Including teacher inservice days we’ve been back to work for seven weeks now.  For new teachers tack on two more weeks dating back to your arrivals.  Some of you also spent a full week with kids on Discover Ecuador.  It seems like we just started school but we’re already well into the year!  Take a minute to check-in with yourself…are you getting the right amount of rest, what about your diet and exercise, and have you taken the appropriate time to decompress and relax on the weekends or with friends?

Grant yourself permission.

Camp Amazonia


Last week I was lucky enough to join the 10th grade class on their trip to Camp Amazonia near the communities of Rio Blanco and San Alberto in the Amazon Jungle.  It was my tenth school trip in as many years and each has been unique in its own way.  This was my first time taking high school students on a trip and I can now say I’ve traveled for a week with every grade from 3-10 except 9th grade.  This trip included lots of hard work to help the local Kichwa communities, team building, cultural activities, and a trip to the Jumandi Caves.  At the end of the week everyone was exhausted but there was also an overwhelming sense of achievement!  


Every time I take one of these trips there are wonderful examples of how amazing young adults can be when they are pushed out of their comfort zones.  This past week certainly did that, kids and adults alike were challenged in situations that went well beyond our everyday routines.  Right from the start we got right down to business with some hard work in the morning and then again after lunch.  We started the day in the rain and ended in fierce heat and sun.  Not only were we pushing ourselves hard to help these communities but the weather was pushing us as well.  However, by the end of the night everyone made it to dinner with a smile on their face and a sense of satisfaction in their hearts.  

Working hard to create a botanical fence line.

The sense of community that develops over the course of a week like this is impressive to say the least.  Students who are struggling for one reason or another are picked up by their classmates without any teacher intervention.  Classmates who hadn’t really engaged with each other in the past can be seen walking, working, eating, and hanging out together.  New friendships are formed and old bonds are strengthened.  As important as community can be in international schools, trips like this are crucial!  

I’m not sure there are words to express how impressed I was with the efforts of the 10th grade group over the course of the week.  Through torrential rains, back breaking work, spiders and other critters, these kids stepped up in a huge way.  The work they did this

Heading out to plant trees, helping to reforest a recently devastated area.

past week will benefit those communities for years to come.  Our students may never return to this area but their mark has been made, their efforts were not in vain.

What I Learned About Myself

While this was a tremendous learning experience for our students there were also some great takeaways for me too.  This trip was, by far, the most physically challenging of the school trips I’ve enjoyed.  I’m not shy about some hard work and I enjoyed every second of getting my hands dirty this week.  However, I learned a few lessons of my own through this experience.  

First off, I used to think that I would do pretty much anything to be out of the rain.  I HATE rain, or at least I used to think I did.  I mean, I’ve always loved a good thunderstorm but that’s conditional on me not being caught in the down pour.  In the Amazon, when it rains, it pours.  When it pours in the jungle there’s just no way to avoid it, no way to stay dry, get dry, or even remember what dry feels like!  However, it’s warm outside which makes being wet much more tolerable than I had ever realized.  In fact, by the time we got to Thursday and got stuck in yet another torrential downpour I was so used to the rain that I soaked it up and enjoyed every last drop.  I learned that I could manage being wet, even soaked with boots full of water!  

Another great reminder for me this week had to do with being prepared.  While I was prepared with all of the right materials and supplies, some of the kids weren’t.  Usually I pack extra and plan for this situation but for some reason I didn’t this week.  I gave up my gloves and came home with some blisters as trophies.  Not all of our kids had the proper footwear but thankfully Camps International had extra boots.  Finally, when it comes to being prepared in the jungle…bug spray is your best friend, I got lazy at the end of the week and my legs got eaten up!  Pack heavy and take extra gear, especially if you’re staying in cabins and not carrying it around all week.


At the end of the week I feel extremely thankful that I was able to join this experience with our 10th graders.  We made a difference in that community, we learned about the Amazon, and we grew closer as a group.  Working alongside this inspirational group of young adults made me a better person and a better educator.  The best news is that I get one more week, this time with 7th grade…I can’t wait!!

Hiking in the jungle, we stopped next to a 300 year old tree to learn how to create our own headwear.

Teenagers – Wild Animals

IMG_5524Last week Amy and I went to the coast to see Humpback Whales.  Just before we got on the boat our guide gave us the whole safety routine, then added one more piece that got me thinking.  Basically he said, these are wild animals and we never know what they’re going to do, we can’t predict their behavior so they may be jumping or we may not see anything, it’s nature.  

While we were motoring around looking for and watching whales I had a lot of time to think and I began connecting our guide’s warnings about wild animals to what we experience with teenagers on a regular basis.  Many outsiders, those NOT in education, view these lovely young adults as wild animals.  As I think about it, they’re not totally wrong!

Teens, the human variety, are capable of very high level thinking and processing.  They are empathetic, sympathetic, and very resilient.  Additionally, they are also full of hormones and are constantly changing.  In that regard they could be looked at much like the Humpback Whales I was hoping to see jumping all around me – wild and unpredictable.  

It would probably be a bit strange if I rallied all the teachers around each morning and reminded everyone about teenagers, “remember, these creatures are unpredictable…it’s nature, please be patient!”  However, it wouldn’t be untrue.  We’re dealing with some of the most diverse and rapidly changing brains in the world, no matter how well we think we know them nothing can be taken for granted.

The captain of our boat has been taking people on tours to watch whales for years now, he knows these waters and he has learned a lot about the movements of these massive mammals.  In an attempt to understand the wild, teenage minds that we encounter each day we work to establish positive relationships with our students.  By learning about their personalities we can better anticipate their learning styles and needs, much like the captain of our boat learning to anticipate the whales’ next move. We also have to remember that their brains are changing, each day may not guarantee the same interactions and behaviors as the last.

Keeping in mind that our kids are constantly changing is extremely important for the success of our young students.  Just as there will be days when the whales jump and there will be days when they don’t, the same can be said of our students – there will be good days and bad.  Also similar to the whales, we won’t ever know when these “jumping days” will happen for our students nor do we know when a bad day will strike.  The whales don’t jump every day but that doesn’t mean the captains don’t take tour groups out to sea in an effort to see them.  In the same spirit we must prepare to give every student the opportunity to “jump” each time we see them.

Creating the opportunity for kids to “jump” is what education is all about.  It won’t happen if they’re not comfortable and prepared, nor is it something we can force.  Each student is going to “jump” differently depending on a wide variety of factors.  Be ready for anything from these wild young minds, create the opportunity, and enjoy the show!  

The Educational Caravan

This past summer I was visiting a friend in Chicago, we had to drive from one place to another and he said, “just follow me”.  It was about 30 seconds later that he ran a yellow light and lost me in traffic.  I figured he would’ve pulled over and waited for me but as it turns out he was too caught up in a conversation to realize that I was stuck at the light.  Eventually he answered my phone call (thank you technology) and came back to find me parked on the side of the road, frustrated and annoyed.  The next day as I drove back to Wisconsin I started thinking about the similarities between this situation and education, I found a lot of connections!

I started realizing that being a member of a caravan, whether the leader or follower, was a lot like working in education.  We’re all educational leaders in one capacity or another, whether as the leader of a school, division, or classroom…we’re leading the caravan and in some cases we’re following as well.  To better understand caravans I needed to think about them in an educational context, while doing that I identified five key parts to successful caravan situations both on the road and in education.

  1. The Role of the Leader

When I was following my friend he had the implicit responsibility to make sure that I arrived at our destination.  He was supposed to lead the way and guide me to the final goal.  While the destination in this story wasn’t very important, we often find ourselves as leaders in education pursuing lofty and extremely important (for our students) goals.  

The leader of the caravan has the job of ensuring that everyone makes it to their goal! Thinking back to family caravan trips as a kid, I’m sure there are a few times when my parents would’ve preferred if one or two of the other families didn’t make it to the final destination but in education it doesn’t work that way!  Our students, teachers, or other community members are trusting us as the leaders of the pack to get them ALL to the final destination.  

  1.  The Route

As the leader of the caravan you have the responsibility for getting the entire group to the desired destination.  The route you choose, is often times up to you. There are a few factors to consider when choosing your route but there are no overarching rules that apply here.  Perhaps you or the group want to arrive as soon as possible, sometimes the safest route may be a little slower and but more desired.  You also have to consider avoiding road construction or other detours, potential headaches are often bypassed intentionally.

In education we work together, we collaborate to develop the best “route” to get our kids to the ultimate learning goals.  Sometimes we collaborate with other leaders in the journey and other times we work with everyone involved in the process.  Ideally we are working together to choose a path from the start and when we hit those obstacles along the way we come back together to make a collaborative decision about the best detour to take.  In either event, it is crucial that everyone has a solid understanding of what the destination will be and as much information about the route as possible.  

It is often said that the route isn’t important, that it is the destination that matters.  While this may be true as a generalized statement, when it comes to education the learning process is extremely important.  Choose your route carefully, collaborate with your colleagues, and work to lay the best path for those you’re leading.  

  1.  The Speed

Ever been in a caravan with a leader who likes to push the speed limit to the max?  How about someone who prefers to drive five miles below the speed limit?  It’s the “Goldilocks” paradox, too fast and too slow are no good, as leaders we have to be “just right” when it comes to pacing.  The larger the group the harder to find that sweet spot but it becomes even more essential with large groups.

  1.  Maneuvering Obstacles

When I got left behind at a stop light this summer I ended up lost because my leader wasn’t aware of the obstacle at hand.  His running of a yellow light forced me to decide, run a red or stop and wait.  As leaders in a school, whether leading students or teachers we have to be aware of the obstacles we face.  Do we rush the end of a lesson because the bell is going to ring and risk leaving someone stuck behind?  If we’re leading a school wide initiative, do we push on even if everyone isn’t on board just so we can implement the plan by a certain deadline?  How do we advance the whole group while also maneuvering through the wild obstacle course that is a school year?

One thing that is important to consider is that we (both leaders and followers) move at different speeds and encounter different obstacles in our learning.  Whether a disruptive home life, learning challenges, or a desire to move quickly through material, we’re all faced with different situations.  As the leader of the pack it’s important to keep this in mind.  Sometimes it’s okay if someone trails the group, as long as they remain in sight and can continue down the path at their own pace.  These people may need extra support.  That might take the form of Student Support Services, language acquisition assistance, or one-on-one support.  No matter what the obstacle there is surely a path to be followed.  Sometimes the trouble is just working to find that path and other times the challenge is overcoming multiple obstacles simultaneously.  Just as I mentioned when discussing the route, in education we work together as teams to help everyone succeed…especially those with multiple challenges or obstacles to arriving at the destination.

  1.  Watch Your Rear-View Mirror

As I sat waiting for my friend to come back and find me this summer I couldn’t fathom that he had just continued on and not noticed I wasn’t behind him.  However, as I mentioned earlier, he was too caught up in conversation to look in his mirror to check on me.  As the leader of the caravan it is your job to make sure everyone is still behind you.  On the road this means checking your mirrors regularly and verifying everyone’s presence.  Perhaps you even have a system set up so that everyone is responsible for the car behind them, thus creating a chain of accountability.  No matter the plan, it is important that everyone travels together and ends up at the same destination.  

In a leadership context a rear-view mirror isn’t the literal tool for checking on your followers but the fact remains that we must be sure that those we are leading stay with the group.  With a group of teachers moving toward an initiative you might form cohorts so that everyone is accountable to their small group.  Similarly in a classroom, small groups are often used to help students move forward with their learning collaboratively.  It is also possible for the leader to track their followers’ progress individually, a strategy perhaps more fit for smaller groups.  Whether by taking sole responsibility or sharing the task of monitoring the group, leaders must constantly check with their followers to ensure that everyone continues moving toward the final destination.  


The Road Ahead

This past summer I was left behind and felt lost.  I’ve been in the same place while working in school, both as a student and an educator.  During my two hour drive back to Wisconsin the similarities between these two scenarios really came clear for me.  Whether the leader or the follower, it is important to understand the dynamics of the caravan and the important similarities to the classroom and education.   

As educational leaders we’re all leading one caravan or another, and for many of us we’re busy leading multiple different caravans with different destinations.  Continuous movement forward is the main goal as we drive on toward the ultimate target.  However, we must keep in mind that we’re in this together…some people drive faster or slower, have less capable cars, or are just learning to drive.  No matter who is following it is imperative that we continue to consider everyone who is included in our caravan.  

Drive on 🙂

Use Your Connections, Build Your PLN

AASSA was great, there was a lot learned AND you met a lot of really intelligent people!!  So what do you do now?  As I’ve written already there’s plenty of reflection to be done and once you’ve thought through everything there are goals to be set.  There’s one more thing to attend to in order to bring your conference experience full circle.  Your network.

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Long gone are the days of trading business cards (for most of us anyway.)  We’re in the digital age now, but connections are still as valuable as ever…maybe even more so!  Developing and fostering a professional/personal learning network (PLN) is perhaps the most important thing you can do as an educator, especially an international educator!  Sometimes in the international world we get stuck on an island, a PLN is the best way to connect and share ideas.


LinkedIn is a great resource for contacting professionals.  Some people use it to share and discover articles and news.  Personally I think there are better tools for that sort of thing but to each their own.  My recommendation for LinkedIn is to establish connections that you can count on as a professional network for the long term.  Think of this as your binder full of digital business cards.  A great resource for the future.


I’m a huge proponent of Twitter.  You may have noticed at AASSA that I was pretty active on Twitter.  To be honest, I’m not usually as active as I was that week.  However, a conference like that is made for Twitter.  My Twitter usage varies depending on my schedule and what I have to share.  However, I consider it as one of my top resources as an educator.

Building a network of people to follow on Twitter takes a little time.  However, it’s not hard and as your understanding of the Twitter-sphere grows so too will your PLN.  Follow these easy tips and you’ll quickly have lots of wonderful ideas flowing down your feed:

  • Follow your colleagues.
  • Look at who your colleagues are following, then follow some of those people.
  • Use Twitter’s suggestions, it’s amazing how smart Twitter can be 🙂
  • Go back to the #L4LAASSA feed and follow anyone who had something insightful to say.
  • Ask…feel free to reach out and ask people who to follow, I’m happy to make recommendations.

Twitter Chats:

Once you’re established on Twitter it’s time to start discovering Twitter chats.  These “conversations” usually last for about an hour and are centered around just about any topic.  Search here for educationally focused chats (warning: this page is a bit overwhelming.)  Once you’ve identified a Twitter chat you’re keen to join, do just that…join the conversation (this article does a good job of explaining how and why to join Twitter Chats.)

Twitter chats are a fantastic source of learning, networking, and sharing.  The amount of learning that takes place in a quality Twitter chat is amazing.  Think of it as a very focused session at a conference, except it’s crowdsourced and not just one person talking at the group.  In terms of sharing, this is a perfect place for you to share ideas you’ve been thinking about and get feedback from peers.  Lastly, the networking and bonding that happens in a Twitter chat is really cool.  The people in your PLN start to become virtual friends who you can rely upon.

As educators we enjoy the reality that we’re never done learning.  So once you’ve gotten your head around all of those notes you took at #L4LAASSA, it’s time to build your PLN and continue your professional growth.  I’m happy to help, if you’re looking for support please reach out at any time!


AASSA – Where do we go from here?

I’ve been reflecting on all of the learning from our time in Lima, there certainly was a lot of it and I’m confident it will keep me busy for quite a while.  I went through all of my notes and took notes on the notes.  I’m trying to synthesize my learning and make connections from one session to the next.  To be honest, it’s hard work!  However, a conference like this should be the genesis of great ideas.  Too often we leave a conference, class, meeting, etc. with new learning but it gets quickly set aside as we return to the shuffle and hustle of “school.”  I wrote earlier about a strategy to ensure success while working toward goals, but how do we choose those goals?


“Less is More” – Priorities Matter

Drawing on a few of the key phrases from the week, I’ll start with “Less is more”.  Looking through my pages of notes I can’t help but get a little overwhelmed.  In total I had about 24 pages covered in scribblings (not to mention the newspaper I decorated with ideas and thoughts while flying home).  Add all of the resources shared on Edmodo and Google Drive and there’s a lot to go through.  So where to start?

I’m starting with the “less is more” concept.  I’m starting with me.  Before I can commit to new initiatives or goals I need to take a look at what I’m currently doing.  There’s only so much time in the world, priorities need to be evaluated.  So, that’s what I’m in the process of doing.  How is my time spent?  What are the non-negotiables?  What can be reduced?  What should be set aside for the time being?

“Think Big, Start Small, Learn Fast” – Patience is a Virtue

On Wednesday I spent the day with the Innovation Academy at FDR.  I really enjoyed the  experience of learning about the progressive program they’ve created but it was even more special to learn about how they’ve gotten to this point.  The real key, that I can see, is that they started small.  They didn’t get in over their heads and they learned along the way.  These guys had a long term vision and they worked methodically toward their goals (they’re still working to grow and improve!)  

Once I figure out my priorities and create the time and opportunity for myself to launch into the next great idea I’ll be sure to follow this maxim.  I’ve long been a proponent of working slowly, often at odds with those who want to dive in head first.  It takes patience and confidence in both yourself and the idea to go slowly.  As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  It takes time and patience to create something great…Think big, start small, learn fast!

“Stay Foolish” – Disrupt, push forward

A sign on the door in one of the IA classrooms read, “Stay foolish.”  I love it!  That, along with the implicit messages from Ewan McIntosh and Martin Skelton, left me with the idea of being disruptive.  The thinking we have today in schools is too much in line with the status quo.  Where are we going?  Seemingly nowhere if we look at education and where we were 5, 10, even 25 years ago.  Sure the technology has advanced but have the philosophies?

I’m pretty sure I haven’t come up with the “next big thing” in education but there are certainly some ideas that are capable of disrupting the status quo and the “usual” educational thinking.  One of the early commercials for Apple discusses the idea of challenging the status quo and thinking differently.  It’s prophetic in a way, at the time of this commercial Apple wasn’t yet the world leader in technology that they’ve become today.  But their ideas, their “foolish” thinking and challenges to the status quo have literally changed the way we communicate.  

How can we “push the human race forward” by staying foolish and disrupting the status quo?