Category: Reflections

What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Month March 2017

What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Month March 2017

What I have been thinking about:

This month I have been thinking a lot about product design and how to apply the idea of design thinking to my current role. This month I have tried to apply the lessons I learned from the books that I read to creating a 5 week PD series on differentiation, helping to rethink our teacher evaluation system, and helping implement a program at our school site. What I found interesting is that most of the advice that the books give isn’t ground breaking and sometimes seems very obvious yet people do not implement it, myself included. One of my goals this month is to share what I have learned with others in my organization so we can start building better processes, products, and experiences for our students and staff members.

Blog Posts to Checkout:

I recently learned about list.ly/ and thought that it would be worth trying out with my monthly blog posts to check out. Below is a list of the blog posts that resonated with me this past month.

My Books for the Month:

This past month I read two books on product design. The first book I read was Sprint by Braden Kowitz, Jake Knapp, and John Zeratsky. In the book the authors share their five day process for solving problems. While it would be impossible for me to be away from my school site for five straight days, there are a ton of great ideas in the book about collaborative brainstorming and decision making that I plan on using with the teachers at my site.

The second book that I read was Hooked by Nir Eyal. In the book Eyal breaks down the Hook Model that designers can use to create habit forming products. As I read this book I found myself laughing a lot because I started to realize how I had fallen for many of the techniques that Eyal presents in the book. As I was reading this book I couldn’t help but wonder how we could apply the Hook Model to professional development. Over the next few months as I create our professional development materials I am going to revisit the Hook Model and see how I can incorporate elements of it into our materials.

What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Month December 2016

What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Month December 2016

What I have been thinking about:

As the first semester drew to a close I found myself doing a lot of planning for the second semester. Below are two of my big projects that I am currently working on for the second semester and beyond. Please forgive the stream of consciousness style of writing. I am still trying to work through both of these ideas.

Differentiation and Blended Learning Professional Learning

This year my school made the switch to standards based grading which has brought to light the need for more professional learning in differentiation and blended learning practices. This past month I spent a lot of time researching the best practices about differentiation and blended learning. I also started working on a differentiated professional learning series for my teachers on differentiation. My goal is to experiment with the differentiation series and then follow it up with a differentiated series on blended learning.

Rethinking the Bell Schedule

The switch to standards based grading has also helped me see that we need to incorporate reassessment time into our daily school schedule. While in an ideal world teachers should be incorporating this time into their daily lessons, the reality is they are not due to the pressure to get through their pacing plans and hit their own personal benchmarks. This month I have looked at a lot of school schedules and created a prototype of how we can include at least 40 minutes a day for reassessment . In a perfect world this time can also be used for project based learning projects or more passion driven activities like genius hour.  I’m also thinking of modeling this after the PBIS strategy of check in check out. At my school the students start their school day with an Advisory class. By having this reassessment class at the end of the day the advisory teacher would be able to “check out” with their students.

Blog Posts to Checkout:

Time For These Seven Edu Funerals by Michael Niehoff
If you don’t have time to read the entire blog post I would encourage you to at least read the first paragraph. While I don’t agree with everything on Niehoff’s list, I’m still a fan of non digital tools and resources, I do agree with a lot of what he is saying.

Just Ask by George Couros
A simple yet effective way to push innovation in the classroom. What’s the worst thing that happens? They say no?

Top 8 Reasons Why Your Ideas Don’t Get Backed by Phil McKinney
If you enjoy this blog post I would encourage you to listen to the podcast that McKinney did on this subject. On the podcast he goes deeper into the eight reasons and offers some solid advice  for anyone who is looking to have others back their ideas.

 

My Books for the Month:

This past month I read Todd Henry’s first book The Accidental Creative. The main theme of this book is about finding your creative rhythm. In the book Henry shares some great ideas and concepts about how you can create your own creative rhythm. Two of my big take aways from the book is that I need to be more intentional with my study plan and I need to create checkpoints to help keep myself focused. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to create structure and routines in their life that will help support their creative thinking.

How I Am Making Time for Deep Work

How I Am Making Time for Deep Work

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This past summer I spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of Deep Work. I realized that a lot of my time last year was spent doing what Cal Newport defines as shallow work (tasks that almost anyone, with a minimum of training, could accomplish). I would spend hours working on tasks that really were not helping me meet my goals. After reading Newport’s book last spring I decided that I needed to be proactive about finding time to engage in deep work. The beginning of a new school year seemed like a great time to find this space. Below are four steps that I took to make more time for Deep Work.

Monday = Work Day

Monday’s at my school are shortened days. Teachers only teach for thirty or forty-five minute blocks which does not give me enough time to do a proper observation or meet with them. I decided that I would take advantage of this time by spending most of my day in my office working on the tasks that normally ate up my time. By batching a majority of my shallow work tasks into one day I am hoping to have more free time during the week to meet with teachers, visit classrooms, or create content for my teachers.

I pruned as many meetings as I could.

Instead of meeting with my teachers once a week I now meet with them every other week. This will open up a lot of time in my daily schedule. I have also encouraged other people that I had standing meetings set up with to think about how else we could communicate besides a face to face meeting. Some people are loving the idea of less meetings and some are scared that less meetings will lead to decreased communication. Time will tell about communication but what I do know so far is that my deep work time has increased and my availability for teachers has increased.

I set aside time for creating, thinking, and developing.

My schedule this year includes two hours a week for creation time. During these two hours I plan on focusing on the numerous ideas that I have written down in my notebook. I have set aside thirty minutes every other week that will be dedicated to thinking about the future. My goal with this time is to create a vision of where I would like to see my teachers go. Finally I have set aside 20 minutes a day to develop my skill set. I preach to my teachers and students that they need to be life long learners so I need to model that by improving my own skill set.

I increased my availability for classroom observations and demo lessons.

In the past meetings and busy work has kept me from going into my teacher’s classrooms and observing. This year I am going to try something different and have my teachers “book” their observations. My goal is to give them as much autonomy as possible when it comes to observations. I want the observation to be something that’s helpful to them not just something that I get to check off my daily list. I am also encouraging my teachers to book demo lessons so I can model strategies for them. In the past I have done demo lessons on the spot. While that has been helpful, I think that it would be more beneficial for the teachers to see a full thought out lesson instead of my improvised lesson.

While I don’t think I will ever create a perfect system I do think that these three steps will help me get closer to my goal of doing the important deep work that will make a positive impact in my student and teachers’ lives.