My Moment – Day 36 – Learning Is a Process

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment.

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I have never been the type of person to test the waters on something before committing. I am all or nothing. I jump right in. I “refuse to conform to social trends…”. In other words, I like to do things differently. Depending on who you ask, that can be a desirable leadership trait or one you may not fancy. Interested in reading more about me…check out this article, “People Who Wear Crazy Socks Are Smart, Successful and Revolutionary”

This week is #eweek2016 or Engineer’s Week and we are jumping right in. Students in our learning commons have been working on a collaborative project that will culminate as part of our open house for parents on March 3rd. We have identified the theme for our open house as “Siglerland”. Students have been using a science TEK across each of the grade levels that incorporates Force, Motion and Energy. The idea is that students will use the design process to create a ride, game or experience that would be seen at an amusement park. While each of the grade levels has a specific TEK or learning target, ALL students are working on the same project in the learning commons. They are creating a six hole mini-golf course using Spheros as the . The idea was inspired by a tweet posted by Dr. Brad Gustafson or @GustafsonBrad

Check out his Vine: https://twitter.com/GustafsonBrad/status/666280715265421314 


Over the last two weeks, our students have been working on their mini-golf course. I did not have any expectations going into this project and the only frame of reference I had was what I had seen on the Vine posted above. After two weeks of work, here is what our students have created so far. Thoughts? I certainly had mine. If I am being completely honest, looking at these compared to the examples that were shared in the Vine (linked above) from an aesthetics stand point, we are coming up a bit short. However, Siglerland does not open until March 3rd. 

I have kept a closer eye on the students working on the mini-golf course holes over the last week or so spending a moment or two observing students working and my perception has changed completely. We jumped into this work with two feet. We are all in. Using this and a couple other classroom projects between now and the end of the school year our students are going to be exposed to PBL and the design process…really, our teachers are too. Spending a few moments observing, I have noticed is that PBL and the design process are messy. There is a key word that I failed to recognize when I arrived at my first thought…process. After all, this is why we want our students involved in PBL and the design process, right? The product may not be flashy and it may not even be fully functional, but the process students are going through to arrive at the product is more valuable than what they will showcase next week. 

Let this soak in…our grade levels, made up of anywhere between 3-5 sections of classes, have come down to our learning commons, one class at a time and have collaboratively researched, imagined, planned, created, tested and evaluated, and improved a design. A design that in some cases, was not theirs to start with. We are talking about 5-11 year olds. Do you realize the restraint some students show, in not scrapping the prior idea and starting over completly, so the idea belongs to them? Instead, our students have improved or redesigned, making an original idea better. 

With the grand opening of Siglerland just over a week away, I am excited to see our students’ products on display, but more importantly, I am proud of the process they have worked through. Regardless of what the final product “looks” like, I am excited to hear our students explain the process they went through to arrive at their product. I want to hear what did not work. I want to hear what did. I want to hear what they would do differently. I want to hear about the process. 

Thankfully, learning is a process and I am continually learning what our students are capable of when presented with the opportunity. 

Learning is process and in this moment…it was a design process. 

What was your moment today? 


My Moment – Day 32 – Moonshot

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment.

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

What is your “moonshot”? 

If you are a staff member at Sigler Elementary, you have heard me say “I am ready to do school differently.” I mean that. I have written about it before. (See My Moment Day 8) When I say, “I am ready to do school differently”, I am not talking about changing the master schedule or changing how we approach guided reading or math instruction. I am talking about organizational transformation. 

I have commented on more than one occasion, the work I have been involved in with the Texas Principals Visioning Institute (#TXPVI) which you could say is doing the work at a macro level, in comparison to the work I am involved in with Plano Leadership Visioning Institute (#PLVI) which instead of administrators from across the state of Texas is comprised of administrators from my own school district; a micro level. 

By definition, we define organizational transformation as not about changing one thing; it is about changing the culture or mind-set on the campus where what students and teachers are doing is different. 

That is a loaded statement…changing the culture or mind-set on the campus where what students and teachers are doing is different. 

Doing what is different is not always popular. Sometimes doing what is different is so far out there that leaders who desire to transform organizations can be viewed as…well…”a little crazy”. With no disrespect to those with the opinion that I am “a little crazy”, it is going to take a “little crazy” for us to do things differently. 

Today, as leaders from across my great district were sharing their vision for how they are going to do things differently, some shared with a reservation in their voice or a hesitation of “can we really do this”? Our facilitator picked up on the questioning of ourselves and asked if we had heard of the word, “moonshot”? To her surprise not a single one of us had, so we looked it up with the help of our friends at UrbanDictionary.com


I literally spent the rest of my day answering the question, “What is my moonshot?” Everyone in education should have a “moonshot”. We teach our students to dream big and set goals. This is our example to model having big dreams and setting goals with our students. Share your “moonshot”. 

I am not ready to post my “moonshot”. I am still working through how to capture it in words, but what I do know is that “my moonshot” will be epic and I know it will be something that changes the culture or mind-set on our campus where what students and teachers are doing will be different. 

Can you articulate your “moonshot”? Share your “moonshot” in the comments below. Be EPIC! 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 22 – Connecting Your Campus

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Today was my final day in #ATX (hopefully for a while). While I absolutely loved the learning and connecting I am ready to be home.

Yesterday, I was able to present “Connecting Your Campus” at #TCEA16 and today I am witnessing the power of being on a “connected campus”.

Today is Global School Play Day 2016. A day dedicated to returning play to classrooms around the world. You can read more about #GSPD2016, but just know that over 170,000 students around the world learned in a different way today while at school. I could quickly begin another blog post about why everyday should be like this, but for the purpose of this post, I will spare you my soap box. The important thing to focus on is that students learned in a different way today. It was a day that had purposeful play and engage students in activities in each of our grade levels. The bad part…I was not there. However, at the same time…I was. Teachers across the building posted pictures and tweeted to the hashtag #GSPD2016 and I was able to keep up every step of the way.

Consider how many parents are interested in seeing what their children are doing in school throughout the day. Does your school give them an opportunity to see what their children are doing? Are you a connected campus?

While watching the videos and fun unfold through images is not the same as being in the classrooms seeing it, I was just as proud of our students and teachers for embracing the idea of #GSPD2016 and engaging students in activities that allowed them to play. I am excited to get back home and hear their feedback.

In the meantime, I thank each of our teachers from the bottom of my heart, for including me and all of the others who enjoyed your tweets today. Thank you for “connecting our campus”. See everyone tomorrow!

Check out some of the play that happened today at Sigler Elementary:

https://storify.com/matthew_arend/gspd2016-sigler-elementary

My Moment – Day 20 – Applause

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

In the midst of back to back conferences in #ATX I managed to actually find one day at the end of last week to be on campus. You can read more about my day back by checking out My Moment Day 19. During a whirlwind of a day, I noticed a teacher that I could tell, was not having her “best day” at work. Despite my attempts to brighten her day, it was clear, she was defeated and just was not herself. Later in the day, she made her way by the office and we were able to talk for a moment about what was on her mind. The success of her students weighed heavily on her and a small group of her 4th grade students had just taken a quiz on fractions. Needless to say, the students did not do well. She was frustrated. She shared her thoughts with me and I did my best to listen to her concerns. She had tried teaching it in a number of ways. She taught using ways that allowed the students to be able to visualize the fractions, discuss fractions and use manipulatives with fractions and felt as if, based on the unit, students had an understanding of the concept. Evidently she was wrong. I hate being wrong. Who doesn’t. The good news, she realized work was yet to be done. After some reflecting, I knew she would return with a new plan and be ready to approach fractions in a different way on Monday. As she left we discussed some different approaches she could possibly take that may allow students to understand fractions. 

The weekend came and went and here I am, back in #ATX (Austin, TX) for #TCEA16. In the middle of my day, a brief moment in between sessions, I received a text message from the teacher referenced above. She had spent the weekend reflecting and came back stronger than ever. She came back with a mindset to change and approach fractions differently with her students. No worksheets, no workbooks, and new manipulatives. LEGOS! I love legos and guess what, students do to! If you look closely, students are working on equivalent fractions using Legos. It is not exactly how the curriculum was designed, but if students can make the connection using Legos, why not? 

 I applaud this teacher for a couple of reasons…

1. She recognized her first attempt in teaching a concept was unsuccessful. It is not always easy to admit or recognize that what we did as professionals did not work out. Again, who hates being wrong. We want to be right. We want things to work the first time. However, when they do not, how will you respond? This teacher responded with a new approach to teaching a topic she knew students were struggling to understand, she did not give up. 

2. She took a risk. She is using Legos to teach math, more specifically teaching fractions. How many teachers are willing to teach fractions with Legos? Teachers today need to be willing to do it differently. The workbook is not going to get it done. A worksheet is not what students want to do and if they do not want to do it, will they really learn it? I do not think so. 

Being completely honest and transparent, the students demonstrated an understanding of fractions today, but the true test will come when they return to school tomorrow and demonstrate the same understanding. If they do, hats off to the teacher for trying something different and finding something that worked. If they do not, then what? Do we quit trying and just move on or do we reflect and come back the following day, stronger than the day before? I know what my answer is, but what is yours? 

When teaching gets tough and the ideas we have or the curriculum we teach does not promote the success we seek, what do we do? Do you keep going or do you continue to find the moment? 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 18 – Take the Stairs – Part II

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Yesterday I shared the epiphany I had while waiting for the elevator; Take the Stairs. I went on sharing the parallels I believe exist with taking the stairs and taking risks in education. At the time of writing yesterday’s post, little did I know I would be returning, to do a “part II”, but that is the beauty in this semester long blog series. I never know what my moment is going to be until it happens and sometimes the moment happens when you least expect it. That is what happened today. 

If you are following along with my daily posts, you know I am in Austin attending the Texas Principal’s

Visioning Institute or #TXPVI. In our final day of session 4, we spent the last half of the morning walking the streets of Austin, specifically looking for leadership. As I took to the streets with my team, it became increasingly obvious that when you are specifically looking for something you can find it. My team and I found examples of leadership up and down the streets of Austin. One image I captured was of two maintenance men using a lift to do some work on the side of a building. While the act of using a lift does not necessarily scream leadership, watching it lift higher and higher in the air reminded me of leadership. “Great leadership allows us to elevate those around us.” We collected other examples and reported back to our large group and shared out several of the examples we found. Overall, a very inspirational activity, reminding us that leadership can be found in all shapes and sizes as long as we are looking for it. 

As we transitioned for lunch, I found myself in the same situation of waiting for an elevator, but today, without hesitation, I knew I was going to take the stairs. I recruited my buddy @conradstreeter to climb with me. Today it was 17 flights, as we returned to the 18th floor, home of the best views in Austin. 

Help is on the way.

Little did Conrad and I know, as we were climbing what seemed to be a never ending set of stairs, our colleagues were on an elevator that had stopped operating properly and were completely stuck. Have you ever been stuck? Maybe not on an elevator, but just stuck? I have. I believe we can all get stuck from time to time, whether it is in our practice or in our thinking. How do you conduct yourself as the leader in that moment? The moment you realize you are stuck. The important aspect of being stuck is can you get unstuck? Do you surround yourself with folks who will help you get unstuck? Do you have a practice in place that allows you to reflect? Do you allow yourself to take risks that will ensure you do not get stuck? 

Photo Compliments of @BunchO

After thirty minutes or what I am sure seemed to be an eternity for those who were stuck in the elevator, they were safe and sound and unstuck. As they entered the room, we gave them all a standing ovation and recognized them for the leadership they exhibited while they were stuck and embraced the idea that sometimes, in order to get unstuck, we need the help and support of others. 

What was your moment today? 


My Moment – Day 17 – Take the Stairs

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I am in Austin, TX this week, catching the tail end of #TASA16 and for my fourth session with the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute or #TXPVI. The folks from @N2Learning take great care of us and today we had lunch a top the Hilton Garden Inn on the 18th floor. Otherwise known as the “Best View in Austin”. (That could be a point to argue, but that is not what my moment is about.) As lunch was wrapping up, we headed back down to the mezzanine area to listen to a superintendent panel that started promptly at 12:30PM, because we know how busy superintendents are and we wanted to be respectful of their time. (seriously…they did an awesome job)

As the fifty or so principals started making their way to the elevator, I quickly realized, this was going to take a few minutes. One group got on and then another and then another, but I was still waiting in line. While I was waiting, I had an epiphany…I can take the stairs. I was on the 18th floor, needing to get to the 11th. It was not like I was descending 50 floors…just 7. As I searched for the stairs, one other principal came with me and we decided to take the stairs together. 

Boom! Just like that, I had found my moment for the day. How often, in the world of education, do I take the stairs? Do I wait in line, sticking with the herd (in this case, taking the elevator) or do I take a risk and find another way to do it (taking the stairs)?

Often times risk taking needs company. It is hard to “take the stairs” all by yourself. I have never been one to shy away from doing things differently or venturing out on my own, but today, just my willingness to do it differently, encouraged someone else to do it differently with me. By having another person in the stair case with me, it provided affirmation that it was not a totally bad idea. I had someone supporting my risk.

Risk taking in education is easy to talk about and much harder to do. I could list a million and ten reasons why it would be easier to wait in line for the elevator, but listen…been there, done that. The whole essence of #TXPVI is about transformation and doing things differently. I will continue to embrace this ideology and seek out ways to improve, ways I can embrace risk taking, and surround myself with folks who will take risks with me, while maintaining the courage to take the first step when necessary.

Thank you for the #moment #TXPVI  for reminding me to “take the stairs”.

What was your moment today?