After leaving a CES School, the CES Common Principles never left me. These values of education has been internalize and my work always have stemmed from this framework. Being in a CES school for 6 years at Leadership High School has redefined how education all over the world should look like. Every year, I looked forward to the Fall Forum to see what’s new and exciting in education,to find new inspirations and again redefine what my interpretation of what education should look like. The new stuff that I’m looking for transcends products and services; I’m looking for a new ways of thinking about how I teach. Going to the East Coast allows me to see what are others people doing outside of California. Sometimes we take to much pride in our work that we don’t want to grow. This mindset, fixed mindset, is going to leave our children behind. An open minded conversation is key to serving our kids. Going to one of these Forums is another opportunity to redefine myself as an artistic and/or engineering educator. It is also an opportunity for me to take responsibility to share out what I have learned and what inspires me to do my work everyday. In March, I put out a proposal for a workshop and named it “You Got An Attitude Solution: Instilling the Growth Mindset in Our Young Learners”. The only restriction I had was how much funds I’m going to put in to go across the across the country to teach others. But funds didn’t matter as much. What mattered the most was the experience – the conversations we’ll be holding, the interactions we’ll be having, and the critical friends that we’ll be making. I’ve definitely made wonderful connections from educators in the New England area as well as from the Netherlands because we all want to transform traditional schooling to make it engaging, relevant, and a positive community for our kids. At the time, I knew exactly how the workshop was going to look like and when October came around there were some revisions I made to the original workshop prototype but the vision of the workshop stayed the same.
The purpose of the workshop was for the learners to be aware and assess their own mindset and practice a variety of strategies to facilitate and model the growth mindset through interactions, learning experiences, and metacognitive activities.
The plane ride was smooth coming over to Maine. I didn’t get enough sleep and I was experiencing the onset of a cold. I packed my bag with B Vitamin Complex, Beta Glucan Immunity Enhancers, Vitamin D, and Fish Oil along with Nyquil and DayQuil to survive the plane ride and the next 4 days. I also bought my mom a North Carolina magnet. She loves collecting magnets. Now I need to find a Maine magnet.
When I got to Maine, I was expecting the bustle of an airport like SFO. I saw nobody expect for those who got off the plane. It was dead quiet. (A little spooky.) Taxi ride going to the hotel was smooth and the hotel concierge was very helpful. I finally got to my room, and prepped a little. Remember, I’m in Maine. I was prepping around 9:00 at night. Back in the west coast it was simultaneously 6:00 PM. My biological clock was screwed up to a point that I was still awake and active at 12:00 AM (past my curfew . . . I should be sleeping . . . no?) I slept at 2:00 am and woke up around 6:00 am because my iPad alarm woke me up. Oh snap . . . I have workshop today and I’m dead tire. (Adrenaline Rush!!!)
Oh Darn . . . I needed to do my updated video sub plan. So I did that for the hour and upload the videos onto my class website . . . DONE. But I can’t believe how slow the internet was going. It’s breakfast time. Marcy’s Diner, an old fashion diner, was about a 5 minute walk away. The environment had a modern day old fashion feel. I sat in the front chair next to someone I didn’t know and started a conversation about the culture of Maine while I was eating my bowl of fruit and Egg Bacon and Cheese bagel sandwich which was definitely better than McD and BK. The weird part wasI didn’t see any signs of McD and BK in downtown portland but rows of small shops, bars, and restaurants. It was nice to see that.
I got 5 more hours to prep for my workshop and I was almost done. I got everything set up and within the 2 hours I had before my workshop, I went down to my room. I didn’t at my lunch yet.
I looked at the space I had and it was a (da da da) BOARDROOM. In my mind, I freaked out. (oh goodness . . . the space.). I was expecting round tables and a large space so I had to re-imagine the space for group work and I had a special tool to create group boundaries, BLUE PAINTING TAPE. There was absolutely no way I will be using an LCD TV to present my PowerPoint so fortunately I was an all in one IT Service. I brought my own projector, laptop, speakers, VGA Cable, power cable . . .(Am I missing anything?) What I learned in the past is do not rely on the technology at the place that you are holding the workshop at . . . YOU ALWAYS NEED A PLAN B and a PLAN C and that I definitely had. The IT person at the Westin wanted to hire me right away for my preparation . . . go figure. I had a lesson plan and on the lesson plan was a checklist of what I needed. You know . . . normal teacher stuff.
I was under the assumption that I was going to have around 25 participants join the workshop. I was prepared just in case there were 30 people that came in. When people started coming I was running out of my grouping card, all 30 of them. (Oh Goodness #2) I ran out of grouping cards (Oh goodness #3) there were no more seats (Oh Goodness #4) I ran out of booklets. . . but at least I had my business cards to show people where they can get their resources. What did I learn . . . OVERPREPARE YOURSELF . . . I thought I did that so the lesson learned was OVER OVER PREPARED YOURSELF. My constraint was my luggage weight (it was at 50 lbs.) and my carry-on was at capacity. I had about 35 people at my workshop and we were all going to be engaged in learning about the growth mindset and that was what we did.
I was so ready with my Growth Mindset and Getting Gritty hoody, got some perseverance pop music up “Hall of Fame” by the Script and “You Gotta Be” by Desiree as people started piling into the room. We had a speed dating activity so people got to know each other. But something I valued was the Beliefs of the Growth Mindset Facilitator. I expected all the participants to try this mindset on for the duration of the workshop.
One of my inspirations for the Growth Mindset workshop that I shared was my time in middle school with the All Star Team. The growth mindset was NOT a terminology we used by back then. But the phrase that learning is heroic journey stuck with me for the rest of my life. When learning is a process and a journey and not an destination. growth happens. I had a heroic journey documented on VHS tape that I wanted to show but through time my VHS tape became all static. The heroic journey never became irrelevant and it was deeply imprinted in my life long experience. So I showed something else that inspired me. Another person’s heroic journey.
As they were watching this, the participants also pondered about their own journey and they eventually free wrote and dyad what they free wrote to a partner. Though, many of the participants never DYADed so I had to explain the guideline (I was prepared with that) and modeled it (I was prepared with that). Though the reactions in the debrief (I was not prepared for that). Many listeners had the urge to speak and show facial expressions while the speakers were DYADing. I too was caught nodding during my partners dyad. I broke my own rule. I need more practice on this protocol. During the debrief, I had to constantly remind people that this constructive listening experience is not for the listener. The listener is there to provide a non-judgmental space for the speaker. The speaker is there to make sense of their experience. I have to remember dyads do take practice and requires debriefing everytime to see what were the challenges behind this activity. This helps the community of learners correct themselves for the next time they do a dyad.
After the dyad, we had a meditation activity that I believe was necessary. After I prepped the mindfulness session, I put on some audio. I believe that by hearing this audio through a mindfulness session, messages will modify the subconscious slowly to transform the participant deeply. It’s a powerful experience to meditate because your experience turns inward and reflective. I realized that my work is more reflective than strategy based because we are trying to change the way we think about learning and growth.
After the break, we assessed where were all at in the fixed and growth mindset spectrum through a step forward step back activity while I read prompts that people might of agreed and disagreed to. I need to modify that activity a bit more because people were confuse on whether or not to step forward. There was confusion between stepping forward based upon what they believed vs. what they know.
Now the fun part was in the activity of transforming fixed mindset messages into growth mindset messages. I’m telling you, our educators shouldn’t be in teaching, they should be in acting. I reminded them that this environment is safe enough for you take risks and we will all celebrate your risk taking. I gave each person a fixed mindset message and they were to pair up with another person who had the same fixed mindset message and to create a skit on the process of transforming that fixed mindset message into a growth mindset opportunity. Here is mine below, but I had to talk to myself (on video). It’s kind a weird seeing myself frustrated but definitely it was deserving of a Tony/Oscar Award performance.
I heard the participants chuckling a little. It was fun to see all participant creating the scenario, role playing, practicing, and sharing ways to convert a fixed mindset message into a growth mindset opportunity.
I went into transforming lessons into learning experience for growth and we did the Marshmallow Tower Challenge. I had an English teacher comment, “I came into this activity at first not engaged because this wasn’t an English lesson but once we started the challenge, I was naturally immersed into the experience.” I challenged her by asking , “How and why would you transform your English class so that your kids are naturally immersed in the experience?” I planted little seed in her head that will hopefully blossom as she naturally worked on that idea.
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to finished my last activity, I was running over time but I was received by lots of thank yous and appreciations for an engaging workshop. The hard work did pay off and I would love to do this workshop again hopefully back at Hoover or again at next years Fall Forum, where ever that may be.
Now it is my turn to redefine my own teaching practices. I myself chose a couple workshops to go to.
Unconditional Positive Regard: How to Radically Care About Your Students
What I got out of this was continued conversation of how to set a tone of decency and trust which is one of the CES Principles.
The tone of the school should explicitly & self consciously stress values of unanxious expectations (“I won’t threaten you but I expect much of you.”), of trust (until abused) and of decency (the value of fairness, generosity, and tolerance). Incentive appropriate to the school’s particular students and teacher should be emphasized. Parents should be key collaborators and vital members of the school community.
If a negative interaction happens, we have to be aware of context of the situation, understand the student, and understand the student’s intentions. From the student’s point of view, they will need someone to listen to them, to set the conditions to motivate them to change a behavior, and that itself require some skill building. We talked about strategies from a micro (smaller community level) and macro (whole school level) on setting a tone of decency and trust.
It reminds me of the 12 positive interaction we should have with students which should be posted up everywhere in each classroom. I’m aware that I use some of those strategies on a daily basis. I want push myself to use the strategies that I don’t usually use.
How to Make Change Stick: The Secret Sauce in Implementation
What I got out this workshop is an action planning and prototyping tool. To implement an idea, we need a dilemma and we have to envision how we want to change a status quo and envision the results of that change. We then developed a project, which is list of action steps. We think about the behavior that will have the greatest impact of change and somehow make this behavioral change a fun process as well as an easy process. We went into the six cell model of Human Behavior so that we can over determine success and use this model to somehow create buy in from the community. We then establish boundaries of the project so that we can ignore unnecessary action steps that might de-track us from the goal(s) of the project. Last of all, we need to involve other(s) in the project. I do have a couple projects in mind but right now I needs some time to iron them out at this point. Will get back to you on that.
WHO Should Help Create Schools that Serves All Students? STUDENT!
What I got out of this is how we can use students in educational reform. How can we use students to be agents of change? But the hows must come from the purpose of doing so . . . the WHYs? They performed a protocol that I was very familiar with called the 5 Whys protocol to get to the root of what we want to do. When we kept on asking why we wanted to do our action plan, I realized that all our reasons rooted back the basis of having purpose, joy, and community. We broke out into little stations and I was with student ambassadors who described their ambassador program. It made me wonder, how can we use Hoover student as ambassadors. What kind of programs do we have and can we think of that will enable students to teach and empower student beyond leadership class and student council? How do we develop a culture of students leading students at Hoover Middle School? Wow . . . deep questions that have potential solutions. Ms. Ricky we need to talk about that idea a bit more. I see a mini EdCamp at our school. Let’s prototype one small scale soon. This can definitely be culture shift in our school and good a one too.
It’s Not Enough to Give Them What They Need: Creating Classrooms that Foster Student Ownership and Self Advocacy in Learning
I fortunate to be at this workshop because the facilitators were also in my workshop yesterday. Their workshop described and explained how transforming the environment and the way that students work encourages the students to practice self monitoring, metacognition, collaboration, and decision making. The facilitator’s classroom definitely reminds me of my STEAM classroom and many of the strategies that they are using, I am using as well. But one strategy that I want to use more will help in differentiating projects because I know there are students who are unable to complete all parts of a project. We can differentiate the project and still have the student meet their learning goal. If they exceed the goals, they can develop a project on their own that will extend their knowledge of their learning. In my class, everyone meets the goal in the same way but their product might look different from each other. I wonder how it would look like if the steps of getting to the goal is different for each child and how would I facilitate that. One thing that will help with that is a PLC or Personal Learning Contract which outlines the mastery levels. Within a conversation I would have with a student, students are to pick which mastery level they can realistically reach as a goal and discuss supports that the particular student might need to reach that goal more like an IEP or SMART Goal for that project. I’m going to try that one out as integrating goal setting in classroom is one of my action plans for the year as well as personalization. For personalization, student pick the way they want to learn. To manage student’s learning, I will still continue the student learning logs to keep student’s accountable to the task.
EdCamp was probably the most powerful learning structure I’ve been through. I’ve done a similar protocol called Open Space Technology which is when the participants create the conversation space of any topic they want to talk about. Naturally people who are interested in the topic will go to a particular conversations. We vote with our feet. If that conversation doesn’t serve our needs, we can move on to the next conversation.
But I had powerful conversations on setting a positive school culture, revolutionizing middle school, being an educator who deeply holds the CES values in a non- CES school, K-12 coding.
There were a couple teachers from Massachusetts who put out a dilemma that their school culture feels negative. It was an emotional conversation because after visiting Noble High School, they see the potential of a healthy school climate but they are having a hard time getting there because of negative staff interactions and buy in to an advisory program. Fortunately there were so many ideas put out. There was a glimmer of hope and anxieties lessened as the conversation flowed.
In another conversation a school has the opportunity to reframe and restructure their school from the ground up. They were looking for ideas to reenvision their school into a project based school. How will that look like? Unfortunately this conversation wasn’t meeting my needs, so I moved to the conversation about being a CES educator in a non-CES school. There are glimpse of CES valued at Hoover – students using their mind well, students as worker, teachers as coach, a tone of trust and decency. I wonder how it would look like if there is personalization of one’s education, goals applied to all students, demonstration of mastery, and democracy and equity.
In another conversation I enter was concerning coding in K-12. All I got was some exchange of people are doing and a person working for code.org speaking about the features of code.org. There was nothing new to learn in that conversation as most of was being said was considered and explored.
That ended the EdCamp session at Yarmouth High School. For the rest of the time, I explored downtown Portland. It was getting a little chilly towards 3:00 pm at around 54 degrees while I was taking pictures of beautiful autumn leaves, brick houses and building reflected by the sunset. I then got ready to go back home equipped with ideas and enthusiastically reading excerpts from a book on Instructional Leadership, re-reading Horace’s Compromise, and the Pedagogy of Poverty as reading these books refocuses me back to the real work I need to do.