Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are we listening?

A voice from the past--- more than 50 years ago--
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation.  
But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.  
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. 
Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. 
16 April 1963, Excerpts from Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King, Jr.
 A voice from the present

Are we listening?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Open, safe learning--

It started with this--
during the week for "digital citizenship" in the Coaching Digital Learning MOOC in which I've been a learner.

That brief interaction prompted a flood of memories
From some 15 years ago when I, a resource teacher in the Instructional Technology Office, often felt as if I was repeatedly running into a brick wall as I traversed so many schools of a large urban district.

One significant cause of my frustration-- our ability to access this--
Especially this audio file--
If I thought, had any idea, that I'd ever be a slave again, I'd take a gun an' jus' end it all right away. Because you're nothing but a dog. You're not a thing but a dog.

There are no words to describe the power of that audio file when students approach the topic of slavery in their learning. Those words, that voice-- so compelling-- in every classroom total silence. And the discussions that followed were far richer and deeper.

And the district filter blocked that website (highlight mine)
The  ~ they told me meant a personal file and they all were blocked. I would make my case to the IT department; they would unblock it. The following week, at another school the next week, we couldn't access it.

Math teachers, eager to engage their students, planned lessons on percentages, probability based on baseball/basketball/football statistics-- only to find those websites blocked as well. And some years later, wanting to help students understand how to evaluate information resources, (purposefully not linked here; search for it at WHOis to learn why) was blocked as were others that provide extremely valuable learning moments. They are anecdotes enough for content for a year's worth of posts.

What's important---

I knew from my years in the classroom  (before the district wide network and a filter; with students using my personal ISP account) that opportunities for student learning grew exponentially when they had access to the Web. My students and I created our own AUP (we were on the Web prior to a district created one), had significant meaningful discussions on expectations of Web use for learning, and incredible travels in learning with our mutual understandings. And a teachable moment when someone pushed the boundaries-- once.

I've long been an advocate for open learning, for scaffolding safe learning, for maintaining high expectations, and for providing the opportunities for students to make good choices. Without those choices, without that guided practice so to speak in a safe environment-- more possibilities arise for poor decision making when youngsters surf the Web at home, in their or a friends' bedroom, on their smartphones or phones of others.

I stand by that quote I tweeted from ISTE-- even for little ones--
And as Amy Musone, an accomplished 3rd grade teacher said to me:
"Little kids are capable of making good choices...right?"
Yes, absolutely--
with support, with just in time and continuous guidance, and with opportunities to make them and learn in a safe space from any missteps--

Believing in the capacity of children and open learning and the possibilities--

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Learning Pledges in the Connected Coaching eCourse

Note: Cross Posted from PLPNetwork

Last night's dinner-- an aspargus pasta-- was especially good! The flavor and the texture of each of the ingredients -- asparagus, onions, balsamic vinegar, Asiago cheese and whole grain penne -- coaxed the greatest possible flavor from them to create a memorable experience. It's a recipe that has evolved over the years; it's the tweaking as I sought just the right balsamic vinegar, the perfect time to add the cheese, the best whole grain pasta. While I cleaned up the kitchen and reflected on the meal, the similarities to the Connected Coaching eCourse that I design and facilitate stood out for me.

From it's inception, the "ingredients" of the course have remained constant and they continue to provide the firm foundation for the course  -- the strength based appreciative inquiry framework, the trustbuilding that grounds coaching in online spaces, the taking of time for reflections, the intentional building of relationships  and the focus on growing a community of learners.

And yet like the asparagus pasta, the course has evolved. There are more diverse and purposeful opportunities for reflection enhancing the potential for deepened understandings.

A much more significant tweak followed the search for the perfect flavor for self governed learning  -- the current learning pledge expectation, far more intense and unique,  and based on ideas from Heutagogy (briefly illustrated below) has set the stage for organic, messy, authentic learning. With the diverse group of learners that collaborate in the course, there is the increased likelihood for learning journeys characterized by detours, side trips and loop backs under the umbrella of Connected Coaching.
LEARNER ROLE Share information Learner driven, self directed, self governed
TEACHER ROLE Presents information Provides resources
CONTENT Basic to higher order skill based Authentic, meaningful, relevant
SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS Independent learning Social and collaborative learning
ASSESSMENT Tests, quizzes Self-assessment, reflection
Initially called learning contracts, the angst created by that term was too much for some and at the suggestion of a learner, they morphed to learning pledges.  Their shape, their form --different for each learner. And therein lies the beauty-- as the pledge is about what they want to learn, about their goals, about their own self--assessment.

Dawn's table format  best met her needs as she identified 3 areas of focus and essential questions from the course that would guide her learning.

Sara's 5 goals  set a path for her learning beyond the formal eCourse learning time together.

Kathryn added images to communicate more clearly her pledge to learning.

While Susan mapped out her learning through the lens of "know, do, be" and thoughtfully included assessment of, for and as learning.

Fiona also approached her learning pledge through the lens of  "know,do, be"; her's is one of the most dynamic pledges in that she has linked to her reflections and added thoughts as she learned.

Finally, Jennifer's narration addressed 5 questions

With a simple request and no prescribed template-- an open recipe screaming for  learners to tweak their own authentic path for learning-- the pledges, posted publicly in the course space, are rich with creativity, rich with expertise, rich with passion. Learning pledges, one critical ingredient that contributes to the learner centered inquiry environment for learning in the Connected Coaching eCourse.

I hope you will accept this cordial invitation to join the upcoming session and travel your Connected Coaching learning journey with only the best of ingredients.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Playing with time--

I'm participating in the MOOC-Ed on Coaching Digital Learning and one of the Unit 1 discussions has been around "What are your biggest challenges as a coach?" and Time has come up alot!
Here's my post from that discussion where I drew from great blog posts about time.

Time has been mentioned here alot! It always seems to be the big elephant in the room for both coach and coachee. So I've tried to have some resources that address the time issue when it comes up with those I am coaching. I'm wondering if you think they might be helpful? maybe one more than the other?
"I used to think of time as my enemy – it grinded me and wore me down as I constantly tried to battle and slay it. There was never enough time, and worse still, there was no way for me to somehow get more of this fleeting trickster."
In her post, Tanya de Hoog goes on to suggest
"..look at time from an investment perspective. Ultimately, we can choose how we invest our time. Instead of spending time, we need to invest our time. When we look at time from a perspective of scarcity, we are in fact hoarding it. If we always think there will never be enough time, there never will be enough time. However, when we look at time from the perspective of abundance then, and only then, can we have a magical play date with time."
Play with time? magical play date? You think?

She goes on to suggest strategies for playing with time (you'll want to read the descriptions that accompany each of these in her post):
1. Accept the fact that time is finite
2. Clarify priorities.
3. Habit Patterns Rule

And she includes this quote:
“If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.” ― Elizabeth Saunders

Some time ago, Seth Godin wrote about time too and I was also drawn to this one--
"Fred had an inspiring post about the ability to always add one more thing. His old roommate called it N+1. Just when you think there's no more, you find a little room. Perhaps it's worth considering an alternative. N-1. There are tons of things on your to do list, in your portfolio, on your desk. They clamor for attention and so perhaps you compromise things to get them all done. What would happen if you did one fewer thing? What if leaving that off the agenda allowed you to do a world-class job on the rest? What if you repeated N-1 thinking until you found a breakthrough?"
And then there is John's N + ! thinking that Godin linked to:
"I have found that most of the time, there is always more where you think there is nothing left. You may have to look a little harder/deeper but it is there. That does not mean that there is an infinite supply of everything. Math would say that when you extrapolate N+1 all the way out you get to infinity. But we are talking about life, not math, here.
I find the N+1 theory very inspiring. It is pure optimism sprinkled with tenacity and we need that in our work and our lives."

 WhatEdSaid had a great post on time.
"Teachers never have enough time. We have curriculum to cover, skills to teach, reports to write and meetings to attend.The demands are endless, both in and outside the classroom.

10 ways to save time, both in and out of the classroom. I’m sure you there are hundreds more so please share yours. 
1. Don’t talk about how little time you have. Use the time to do some of the things you don’t have time for.
2. Reduce meeting time. Only meet if you have to. Start on time or have something to do while you wait. Keep it brief. Stay on topic. Don’t get sidetracked.
3. Set the timer. When you feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do, set the timer for 15 minutes and start. You’ll be amazed how much you can get done. Do this once a day and see what you can achieve. Try it with your students too.
4. Talk less in the classroom. Establish routines. Use signals. Trust your students, everything doesn’t have to be controlled by you. Scaffold independent learning so that students can get on with it.
5. Collaborate on a Google doc. You don’t need to email documents back and forth. You don’t need to meet with the people. You don’t even need to be in the same place. Work together on the one doc. Use different colours to show who said what. Use it with students too.
6. Use Twitter. If you need a resource, a video, an article, a song or a tool… someone else has found it already. Ask for help on twitter. Help others in the same way. There’s on tap support 24 hours a day.
7. Have small group discussions. Give every student an opportunity to speak without having a whole class discussion. Move between the groups. Have groups share with the class only what was most interesting or most contentious.
8. Set up a class blog. It’s an easy way to learn with your students. They can respond to questions, comment on each other’s presentations and have discussions, without taking up class time.
9. Manage your emails. Set up class and parent distribution groups. Organise folders in your inbox so that you can easily file things you might need later. Act quickly on emails and delete when done.
10. Prioritise. Acknowledge that you are human and can’t always do everything. Decide what is urgent and what can wait. Accept that you aren’t ready for some things and will get to them when you are."
So I guess I am wondering-- with so many us of us seeing time as a challenge -- are there strategies we can suggest, resources we can link to help get this elephant out of the room?

What do you think? How else can we deal with time?

Photo Credit

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Insights from Deborah Meier

"The task from K-12 is building a thirst for knowledge, pleasure in speaking up, and curiosity, curiosity, curiosity—persistently pursued. We need habits of the mind that carry over to the many hours we are not in school and the years and years that follow.  "Take your hand off my throat so I can breathe" is precisely what the best teachers are crying out for."
 "Can schools hold liberty in high esteem when children rarely see adults who dare exercise their liberty or have a direct voice in deciding important matters about their own profession? Democracy is not just a mechanism for being represented—whether in a union, a corporation, or the government. Democracy's strength lies in all that leads up to that vote and everything that follows it. And learning how "to do" democracy is best learned close and near, in institutions where we can practice it directly."
In  The Task of Building a Thirst for Knowledge , Deborah Meier argued these words quoted above. That post has been open in a tab in my browser for over 2 weeks now -- powerful thoughts expressed articulately. Her voice continues to  passionately advocate for democracy and progressive education.

Just imagine-- classrooms, schools and districts in which all stakeholders immerse in the ongoing practice of democracy -- how that might look and sound, how might learning and teaching differ?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflecting-- looking back to go forward to 2014

Image Credit

This morning thinking- where have I been, what's important, what matters most, where do I recommit and commit, what's my passion. Here's what I've decided for me.

What's important to me, what matters most--  
Possibilities -- My unswerving belief in possibilities-- possibilities yet unknown that will enrich my life experience; possibilities for Gus' health and well being; possibilities for public education and Connected Coaching.

Gus --  My soulmate, my confidante, my love-- who meets each day with resolve and determination, who often achieves the improbable, celebrated here:

Lurching, stumbling, reeling left right back front
Doing his best to put one foot in front of the other and stay upright
Fearless, courageous, never conceding
to the nerves frayed by an awry immune system,
muscles atrophied and weakened by MS

Doing what is possible
and in many cases seemingly improbable
Meeting danger head on with determination and PLFs

Public Education and Connected Coaching -- I am absolutely convinced that appreciative inquiry holds the greatest promise for change.  I believe that every educator wants to make a difference in student's lives. I believe that a strength based approach to coaching helps other realize their dreams and opens them to possibilities to accomplish all that they want for their students. I believe that Connected Coaching can make a huge difference in transforming education.

I want to be some small force to help make that happen. My father sent this quote to me when I was a young teen (he traveled often then and penned many handwritten letters) and it has become a guiding light for my life:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
George Bernard Shaw
Epistle Dedicatory to Arthur Bingham Walkley
“Man and Superman: a Comedy and a Philosophy”

 And so I recommit and commit to--

Being here for Gus--
Maintaining a focus on what's important-- 
Learning and reading and reflecting--
Getting better at helping others understand the potential of appreciative inquiry--
Growing and nurturing relationships-
Living and being the values and dispositions I hold dear--
Improving my coaching practice--

At this time of year, have you been thinking and reflecting too? To what are you recommitting and committing that are important to you?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Teaching in High Gear-- a compelling story

In Teaching in High Gear , Marsha Ratzel, NBCT, chronicles a powerful journey into connecting, collaborating, and transforming learning experiences for her students.

Marsha highlights the importance of connection -- with her local colleagues, with other global connected educators, with her students and with the content and context of her classroom. Her transparent sharing illustrates the potential of these connections to amplify and deepen student learning and also provides a roadmap for others to follow or adapt.

For educators feeling mired in prescriptive reform efforts yet yearning to design student centered learning experiences for their students, Teaching in High Gear demonstrates the possibilities, addressing head on concerns over coverage, time, and control.

When Marsha writes:
My students today “get” that learning is a process. And while
they may encounter moments where something doesn’t turn
out the way they expected, they know how to change that into
something positive. If students have a better idea than the one
I present, they ask me to change things up. We co-create and
co-learn with each other—we do the hard stuff. (p. 95)
We don't have to imagine how that happened. Because of her transparency, myriads of educators can now more comfortably forge their own journey to vast learning landscapes for both themselves and their students.