My One Word for 2017 is Flow: Personal and Professional Reasons

FLOW is my #OneWord2017. It will guide my growth personally and professionally all year long!

Personal reasons
I’ve committed myself to the 365 Day Meditation Challenge with Insight Timer which I blogged about here. I’m going strong at 35 consecutive days! With an ACES score of 4 from childhood, it’s empowering to finally ‘get it’ that the answers I’ve sought outside of myself are actually within me, waiting to be found and released. It seems so simple and I’m realizing it actually is, once you connect into yourself. Building my own resilience by removing the barriers that keep energy and knowledge stagnating, both within myself and between myself and others, will allow health, happiness, leadership and service to flow. Detached observation and awareness through daily mindful meditation helps me connect into my power. I highly recommend the 20/20 Meditate for Peace guided meditation course–20 days of meditation, 1 minute per day for 20 days–by Michelle Zarrin. I’ve found a supportive and unique PLN community to support my quest in the Insight Timer Community (app).

Professional reasons
What are those experiences that we LIVE for as teachers, the real reasons we spend our lives in service to kids and community? 

1) We live for the relationships we form with kids — relationships that we know change us and, more importantly, change students’ lives, in both the present and future. Relationships are a flow of energy and information. Relationships provide the connection, acceptance and belonging that all humans need to thrive. Check out this video .

2) We live to see our student learners experience ‘flow’ or being ‘in the zone.’  When we see that look of deep concentration or joy or excitement on students’ faces, we know we’ve hit the bullseye in unit design.  I want to help teachers design learning with neuroscience and flow as the driver. (See chart below)

3) We live to see learning opportunities flow between school and community, school and city, school and the world. Instead of students being isolated in school until age 18 and THEN moving into the real world, learning should flow between students (& teachers) and the bounty of human and other resources in the world. Learning takes place anywhere and requires all of us. We must approach learning as part of a connected ecosystem–not just a ‘school thing.’ Check out @LRNG 

When you experience flow, you are free from your own thoughts, worries, and fears. You are ‘in the zone’ as they say, completely immersed in the process, skill, or activity. You feel free, joyful, and in my experience, as ONE with your curious and vibrant inner learner. You experience wonder and hope, and an intrinsic desire to continue learning. Some of my most cherished memories as a teacher were witnessing (and knowing I was a part of) a student meeting his or her inner learner for the first time–seeing that student gain a new and more curious perspective on life, and maybe even a new friend.

Flow
Flow was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in positive psychology. Here is his Ted Talk: Flow, the secret to happiness. He argues that achieving flow state is a key part of happiness. By entering the state of flow you increase your productivity and creativity, and you feel happy. Here is another excellent resource article about his work.  Flow can occur in diverse contexts, including art, music, dance, reading, conversation, storytelling, and more according to Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Flow Model Chart
This chart holds potential for teacher learning and instructional leadership. What if we collected data from students about when they experienced each of these feelings or mental states and in what setting/type of learning experience? (See flow research that has already been done.) Four positives and four negatives. What if that data could help us be more aware of relationships between learning experiences and mental states so that we became more intentional and effective designers of learning?  

Learning Design: What’s our Goal?
How would unit planning change if we approached it by designing for student mental states. Research (others’ and our own), standards, relationships, neuroscience, technology and pedagogy are tools we use to engineer our students spending as much time as possible in the four positive mental states. When I plan PBL, I do it because I know it has a higher chance of getting kids into flow and a positive learning state. However, I don’t specifically plan with flow and brain science research. I am planning PBL to get kids involved and creating. I’m thinking of the processes and timelines. What if I thought of the mental states I wanted and didn’t want and planned accordingly. Would things turn out differently? Questions to ask ourselves as we shift to neuroscience-based instructional leadership:

  • What characterizes learning experiences that get kids in the zone?
  • Have we determined the main things we do in our schools that trigger apathy, boredom, worry, or anxiety in OUR kids–so we can decide as a staff to steer clear from as much as possible? (Ask the kids!) Same for flow.
  • What schoolwide programs support flow states for students? teachers? parents?
  • How do we teach so that kids reach the flow state of intrinsic engagement, focus, and happiness–the core of their very being as a learner? (Start by, you guessed it, asking the kids)

Technically, to be considered FLOW, the experience must meet 6-8 certain requirements. More on that in a future blogpost. There is much to this flow research that can lead us to better learning design. I challenge you to explore neuroscience as a leader and learning designer. Consider investigating with your staff what it is you do, schoolwide–in classrooms, that causes kids to feel apathy or feel

Consider investigating with your staff what it is you do, schoolwide–in classrooms, that causes kids to feel apathy or flow. Ask kids. Ask teachers. Then do everything in your power to design for flow and not apathy. Apathy is very common. Notice, too, that apathy is the opposite of flow. One of my favorite neuroscience/mind science authors is Dr. Daniel Siegel. I recommend his books. I have a huge stack of them on my desk that I’m working my way through.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and connect into my journey. It means a lot to me. I’d love to have a conversation with you. I value your ideas, thoughts, and questions. 

Anti-Anxiety Breathing Technique You Can Count On. Literally!

Brain + relationships + mind. My current deep dive.
 
I’m doing the 365 Day Meditation Challenge with the Insight Timer Community and I couldn’t be more excited — and calm. Ha! I’m determined to help kids and adults, including myself, exercise control of their mind/body so they can relax, feel happy, and learn. I believe mindfulness and meditation (flow states) can play a key role. I blogged about it here.
 
 I hear consistently that the key to mindfulness is breathing. “Focus on your breath,” they say. Why is your breath such a big deal? How do I breathe right, anyway? Dr. Emma Seppälä published an article about breathing that I found quite oxygenating. The article is called An Incredible Alternative to Mindfulness You’ve Never Heard Of
 

Active Breathing and the…..Exhale

Per Dr. Seppälä, active and deep breathing activate the relaxation state in your nervous system, versus the fight or flight state triggered by stress and trauma. Intentional deep breathing is a free and natural way to relax. This is a win-win.

My immediate takeaway from the article was this: Exhale longer than you inhale. When you breathe in your heart rate speeds up. When you breathe out your heart rate slows down. If you breathe in and then make your exhale longer, you spend more time ‘slowing down,’ thus calming your nervous system. I suggest checking out the entire article for yourself. I really enjoyed and learned from her book, The Happiness Track

 

The Simple 4-7-8 Breathing Technique (with a longer exhale!)

I love the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It relaxes me after a couple of repetitions. It’s easy to remember and I can practice it anywhere. If you teach your students this technique, they can practice it themselves whenever they need to relax, focus, or de-stress, whether at school or at home. 
 
Dr. Andrew Weil explains how to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique here. He is passionate about it. Read the article and be sure to hear him speak at the end of the video. 
 
            Breathe In      count of 4        (through the nose) 
            Hold —                count of 7       
            Breathe Out — count of 8         (through the mouth) 
                                 (Repeat cycle 3 more times.)
 
 
 
At the end of the video, Dr. Weil expresses with emphasis the power this active breathing technique for both the body and mind. 4-7-8 breathing is a… 
“…very powerful anti-anxiety measure, in fact much more powerful than the anti-anxiety drugs that are commonly prescribed. Takes no time and needs no equipment; very time and cost effective.” 
Two additional resources: Dr. Weil shares Three Breathing Exercises and a separate 4-7-8 video for kids.  
 

5 Reasons I’m Doing the 365 Day Meditation Challenge

Over the past two years, whenever I actually made the time to close my eyes and meditate for 10 minutes in the early morning, I felt a sense of calm and happiness, as well as an ability to focus, that stayed with me all day long. A peaceful feeling emerged when my brain ‘let go’ from its busy-ness. It’s liberating to detach from and get outside of the mind! Mindfully meditating made me a better teacher, coach, and parent. What’s incredible to me is that meditating impacted not just me and my health. It also worked through me, impacting the people I interacted with daily. This is a powerful concept that applies to all healthy choices we make for ourselves. Kids need us to help them learn and adopt healthy practices. Interestingly but not surprisingly, I don’t meditate consistently even though I know it’s good for me and will help me be the best version of me. 

Clarify: What is meditation anyway and how is it related to mindfulness? 

Meditation is the bigger umbrella word.

“At its core, meditation is when you intentionally set aside time to do something good for yourself,” explains (author and PhD Elisha) Goldstein. And that’s all! Really. As long as you’re doing something good for you on purpose, whatever it is that may be, that’s meditation. “For instance, there’s exercise meditation, in which you intentionally set out to exercise to clear your mind,” says Goldstein. “There’s prayer meditation, when you intentionally send prayers out to the universe. There’s music meditation, where the whole purpose is to relax you, and the list goes on.  ~Annie Daly, Womens Health Magazine

Mindfulness is a type of meditation.

“Mindfulness is the “awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn, p. 145

 

Fortuitously, I stumbled across InsightTimer App a few weeks ago. I’ve been using it daily ever since–everything in one place. I wake up excited to use it. 

What I like about Insight Timer App
 Insight Timer is available on both IOS and Android. It used to be a paid app. Now it’s free. (There are a few things you can purchase, but they are extras to the app, not basic parts of the app experience.) Insight Timer provides meditation choices for all levels of expertise from beginner to master including self-timer, music & playlists, bells & ambient music, and excellent and wide-ranging guided meditations from over 900 teachers. In addition, you get access to your own cumulative stats, journaling after each session, and community groups. One group is “365 Days Together.” The discussions shared in the groups are honest and caring. I find them meaningful. I started meditating on Insight Timer to the Top 20 guided track called “Morning Meditation”, which I still listen to.  I now frequently use the self-timer with ambient music or just silence in the background during my quiet time with my eyes closed. I like exploring the new guided tracks each week. 

When I read about their dedicated project, a 365 day Meditation Challenge, I was 100% in. I thought immediately about how this could help me be a better educator for teachers and kids. I am blogging about this because I want to invite you to try it with me!

5 Reasons I am doing the Insight Timer 365 Day Meditation Challenge:

1) I don’t meditate consistently, even though I know it positively impacts my health and happiness.  I have a group of 30,000+ supportive people worldwide to motivate me to meditate, share, and grow on the app and social media. (Check out the December 30, 2016  blogpost about the Challenge written by CEO, Christopher Plowman)

 

2) As a teacher and coach, I must explore mindfulness before I can ever hope to share the mind/health benefits with kids and teachers. The 365 Day Challenge will motivate me to experience it on my own. If I find it powerful and useful for kids, I have something to work from, to teach from, to lead from. 

(see Research on Mindfulness from Mindful Schools for starters) 

3) Professional Learning Journey–with people and educators across the globe. I can form friendships, experience something new, deepen the connectivity in our education ecosystem, and talk mindfulness ideas for education via Groups on Insight Timer such as “365 Days Together” and on the #insighttimer2017 hashtag on Twitter. 

4) Many kids show up to school with brains affected by trauma–minds in fight or flight; minds not in a state of calm and flow. I was one of those kids. A process for relaxing and observing the mind objectively would be a lifelong gift to kids. Trauma impacts academic, behavioral, and social development. Mindfulness can help students (and teachers) train their brains to focus and feel a sense of relaxation, empowerment and joy. The power of being completely in the moment means you’re not at the mercy of emotions, thoughts, and worries.  This helps you OPEN up to learning and self-worth. 

5) Research on mindfulness initiatives backs up mindfulness–for both teachers and students.  

“Early research results on three illustrative mindfulness-based teacher training initiatives suggest that personal training in mindfulness skills can increase teachers’ sense of well-being and teaching self-efficacy, as well as their ability to manage classroom behavior and establish and maintain supportive relationships with students. Since 2005, 14 studies of programs that directly train students in mindfulness have collectively demonstrated a range of cognitive, social, and psychological benefits to both elementary (six studies) and high school (eight studies) students. These include improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress, and fatigue.” ~Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students by John Meiklejohn & Catherine Phillips & M. Lee Freedman & Mary Lee Griffin & Gina Biegel & Andy Roach & Jenny Frank & Christine Burke & Laura Pinger et al.

A few years ago, my 6th graders and I enjoyed the short meditation times we experimented with during one unit of ancient world history.  Some of my kids said they had aha moments, some experienced relaxation, and others felt a peace and joy. A few of my students went home and spent time in mindful meditation. I noticed a difference in the room full of 29 kids afterward. We only did this for 2-3 weeks. 

The 365 day Meditation challenge starts January 1, 2017 and ends Decemer 31, 2017! I’d love to mindfully meditate with you there.

4 Lessons Learned from a Silicon Valley School Tour

#KCGreatSchools Tour in May, 2016

This blog was first posted onStartlandNews.com (@startlandnews) and then on GettingSmart.com. (@getting_smart)

 

In mid-May 2016, several of my fellow educators and I toured five innovative Bay Area schools. Being in the heart of Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise that educators there understand the importance of finding new ways to engage and educate kids in an ever-changing, tech-focused world.

Innovation and learner agency–the idea that education is the vessel through which learners develop independent thinking skills–is a top priority of these Bay Area schools. The results of such prioritization shine bright in both kids and teachers.

 
Here are a few observations:

  • Students and teachers worked together to write and set up learning around kids’ personalized vision and individual learning goals, and teachers autonomously crafting classroom design to fit kids’ needs and develop project-based learning.
  • Parents were accepted as leaders in the school’s education ecosystem and were welcome to drop by to help kids learn at any time.
  • Teachers and students alike are encouraged to innovate and think big. Students served as ambassadors. They led tours, organized school and community projects, and worked with teachers to design their own learning environments.

 

Silcon Valley blog pic 1

Students at Redwood Heights Elementary in Oakland, CA. Photo by Laura Gilchrist.

Although innovation is happening in Kansas City schools too, the status quo of hierarchical, traditional leadership and an overemphasis on testing and data are still common.

Innovation is not a word you hear frequently ringing through the halls of local schools —yet!

So how can we, as a city full of genius minds and big hearts, work together to empower our youth to create, learn and lead both in school and the community? Schools can’t–and shouldn’t have to–do it alone. They can only benefit from the community’s entrepreneurial mindset, expertise and knowledge.

 

Here a few lessons I learned on how we can make all this happen:

 

1. First and foremost, we need to understand that innovation can be done NOW, in any school, on any budget and with all kids and communities.

The Bay Area schools showed me that innovation is about mindset, intentionality and passion, not about shiny new buildings, expensive equipment or years of comprehensive planning. Just start. It will grow.

2. Start “Innovate NOW” with school-wide public exhibition night(s) of student projects.

Each and every one of the five schools I toured had at least one public, open-to-the-community exhibition night per school year. Some schools had as many as one a quarter. Whatever the frequency, these nights were huge motivators for kids and their families. Kids, parents and the community had fun together while sending a message that student work and education are valued as a community affair.

3. Organize regular parent and/or community walk-throughs for feedback and ideas.

One of the Bay Area schools hosts monthly parent walk-throughs during the school day that are essentially reverse tours. Parents give their observations, feedback, and ideas on how better meet student needs to their tour guide.

Springboarding from that concept, what if we also invited the local innovation community? What ideas might local startup and founders and their employees have about how to bring an entrepreneurial mindset into the classroom? We won’t know until we ask!

4. Embrace social media for storytelling and learning.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.56.30 PM

Students at Cindy Avitia High School in San Jose, CA. Photo by Laura Gilchrist.

Thanks to technology, the walls at our schools separating us from the community figuratively don’t exist, but many schools still operate as if they do.

Cindy Avitia High School has an Instagram account where everyone from the principal down to the students share stories, engage and collaborate with the community. They also have a Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat,Youtube and school blog. Teachers at Katherine Smith Elementary tweet and use professional learning networks on Twitter to connect with resources and ideas.

The end result is more resources for students and teachers and more involvement from the local innovation community–on platforms the community is already using and which cost nothing to get started.

These simple starting points can be the impetus through which we grow bigger and better ideas for kids’ future. The key is enabling more flexibility for schools and teachers to try new things, and engaging parents and the surrounding community.

 

See Laura’s full #KCGreatSchools Silicon Valley Tour photo album here and check out this podcast on the #KCGreatSchools visits:

The Leadership Practice Your School District is (Probably) Not Doing

KLC 5 Leadership Principles
The 5 Leadership Principles from the Kansas Leadership Center (photo Laura Gilchrist, KLC Wichita, KS)

 

Does your district (or school) have leadership principles that define and empower every person as a leader, like the ones above from the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita, KS?

If the answer is no, that’s a lot of leadership potential in your schools just ‘sitting on the shelf.’

If the answer is no, kick off your commitment to teacher leadership and create your district or school leadership principles.

Superintendents and principals, invite teachers to co-create a set of district-wide leadership principles that will grow every person in your district and ‘give permission’ to innovate! The voices of teachers are a most valuable resource to every school and district. Pull up chairs and get teachers to the table. Teachers can make a school shine from the inside out if they are empowered as innovators, ideators, and collaborators. In case you didn’t know, teachers who believe in themselves and know that an entire district believes in them, will inspire and empower students. Inspiring students to their greatness is our true calling.

I asked a group of educators on Voxer if their districts or schools had a set of  leadership principles that empowered everyone in their ecosystem. The answer, in each response involved a long pause and a ‘No’. “We have group norms and a mission and vision,” said one educator. Her next comment was that those things are related to management, not leadership.

Approach Leadership and Management with Intentionality

Leadership is often confused with Management. They are not the same thing. Managing is telling and directing. It’s about subordinates. Leading is encouraging people towards a vision. It’s about growing leaders. Management has been ‘on the field’ in education, playing in every game. We’re behind. Leadership has been waiting on the bench, as a subordinate, and is ready to come in and help the team WIN.

What is leadership? 

Leadership is about empowering others to believe in themselves and act as leaders and innovators. In education, we’ve relegated student and teacher ideas and dreams to the bench. We’ve missed chances for kids to see how powerful and smart they are. With an intentional shared statement of leadership beliefs, we can let everyone know we value their talents and want them to act on them.

If you believe that anyone can lead, anytime anywhere, your school becomes a place where every person’s ideas are regarded with interest and analysis, with action and gratitude. If you believe it must include others, collaboration is a must.

To create shared leadership principles and beliefs, administrators must initiate the work with teachers and then model it with sincerity and integrity. If it’s not modeled, lived and breathed by the administrators, it will not fly. It it is done right, it can transform the culture of learning!

Design Your School Culture

Design your school culture. Stop being a victim of it.  Design it with district leadership principles and beliefs at the core. After you adopt the shared leadership principles, teacher and student voice are activated as positive players in your school culture. When principals, teachers, students, and superintendents are active leaders in buildings, whose stories are shared on social media and in the community, schools will start shining from the inside out, powered by leader agency and innovation.

Empower every learner in a school/district to lead and innovate. What might happen? Ask Amazon and Google about how they designed their culture of innovation and leadership.

Google’s 9 Principles of Innovation for Every Organization
Amazon Jobs Leadership Principles

Teacher Perspectives on How Leadership Impacts our Work

The problem I see, from my 21 years teacher perspective, is that the power and authority inherent in administrator positions–if used as a tool of compliance, control, or shield from actually leading–can shut down innovation (and true learning) in teachers and students. Hello, fixed mindset. Hello, compliance culture. Hello, we’ve failed to elevate kids to their true genius and passions. Leadership is not something you DO to people, it is something you do WITH people.

When teachers or students go to a new school, they  find the answers to these questions quickly:

“Can I be creative? Am I sought out for ideas by the principals? Will teachers, principals listen with interest to my ideas? Am I ‘just a teacher’ or ‘just a student?”

It doesn’t feel good to be in a school culture where you are not valued as a leader. This is a major reason I see teachers leaving for other schools or for other professions.

Leadership Principles posted and talked about daily, because they are part of the district/school culture, can help make sure no one feels like ‘ just a teacher’ or ‘just a student.’ (The fact that these statements are common make my heart hurt. Future blogpost)

District-wide Leadership Principles: A Perfect 1st Task for Teacher Leadership Initiative 

Adopting district/school leadership principles and living them, modeling them from the top down, builds an innovative and growth mindset into every person in every school. It encourages communication and connection across the district, in all directions. Leadership principles show that ideas and passions are valued, everywhere and by everyone.

Once your teacher/administrator team has crafted your district-wide leadership principles, the teachers will work like crazy to figure ways to get kids living these principles. It is up to every person in the district after that, not just the teachers, to LIVE the leadership principles as well.

Design the school culture of your dreams with leadership principles flowing through its veins. Start conversations at your school or district. Administrators, no time like the present to invite teachers to make this happen for your school or district. Teachers, ask if there are leadership principles like the ones above from Kansas Leadership Center. Ask to form a teacher leadership team to work with administrators and create one! We’re all leaders.

Make it happen. Get leadership flowing through the veins of your school or district ecosystem.  Let Leadership Principles supercharge innovation and learner agency in every person!

I invite you to share comments, ideas, experiences below in a larger, growing conversation on this important topic!

 

This post was originally written for the Leadupnow blog!

Teacher Leadership discussion on Blab

The #edbeat chat/Blab on Teacher Leadership just happened!

Edbeat Blab Screen

Check out the #edbeat tweetstream and the #edbeat Blab, a 30 minute video of us talking about Teacher Leadership. Educators shared, mentored, supported each other on both Twitter and Blab tonight.  It was a beautiful display of teacher voice impacting our entire connected community. What’s that quote about the butterfly effect? Oh yea. Each voice impacts the universe? Yes it does.

Butterfly Effect Quote

 

Tonight’s chat and Blab, as well as our Voxer and GHO discussions leading up to tonight, were a beautiful learning experience for me, on both an intellectual and a personal/social level. Phenomenal.

Our first Blab is in the books! We didn’t know how it would go. We knew that even if we tried it and failed, we’d do it with positivity and mirth, because why not tilt your head back and laugh at the sky! 🙂

THANK YOU to #edbeat hosts Sean Gaillard and Natalie Krayenvenger, as well as my guest host partner-in-crime Elisabeth Bostwick. THANK YOU each and every person who watched, tweeted and shared.

 

Your voice is important. Please use it, share it, nurture it, trust it. We’re here to support you!

 

Part 2 of the Teacher Leadership Series on #edbeat continues on March 23! 8pm CT/5PM PT. Elisabeth Bostwick and I are rubbing our hands together in a planning frenzy. See you soon!

EduBlessings. 
~Laura

Join the Teacher Leadership Conversation on #edbeat

A few weeks back Sean Gaillard and I got to talking, first on Twitter and then on Voxer. He asked if I’d be interested in guest moderating #edbeat on the topic of Teacher Leadership.

I said YES to Sean. I think I may have shouted it! I appreciate Sean’s positivity, kindness, and connectivity-genius. Leadership is my true passion and talking about teacher leadership is something that NEEDS TO HAPPEN.

I attended the 2016 National Summit on Teacher Leadership in Washington, DC on Feb 5-6 as part of the Kansas delegation, one of 20 state teams. The state teams talked around the big square summit table and crafted plans to increase teacher voice in both the long and short term. The National Summit on Teacher Leadership (#2016NSTL) was the tip-off of the big game. Discussions and action are necessary next steps.

National Summit on Teacher Leadership

Fast forward to last week. Voxer group with Sean and the brilliant Natalie Krayenvenger and Elisabeth Bostwick is formed. Ideas are flowing. “Let’s do a Google Hangout.” It was an epic teacher leadership conversation that lasted just shy of 2 hours. During that conversation we decided to add a blab to our chat–and it’s the first #edbeat Blab. I love how it grew out of organic and spirited conversation.


Here are the questions we’re talking about on #EDBEAT Wednesday night, March 9, 7pm Ct, both on Twitter and live on Blab. I invite you to join us and add your voice. Watch if you want, or join in. But be there and be a part of the teacher leadership discussion .

I will have a split screen of Blab and Twitter. You can always listen to the Blab in the background and participate actively in the Twitter Chat.

I tip my hat to everyone involved in education. Let’s collide tomorrow night over teacher leadership.

#Edbeat Teacher Leadership Chat 2016 info #Edbeat Teacher Leadership Chat Questions

Invite Teachers to Write for Your School or District Blog

Teacher Blogging

When I woke up Saturday morning, I was not expecting to find a teacher blogpost written and published less than 24 hours after sending out a user/author invite. Jason McGee had never blogged and I did not help him in any way, except to give him the platform and an inspirational nudge.

Jason McGee‘s 1st BLOGPOST!!

http://turnerhighschools.edublogs.org/2016/02/27/the-sweet-taste-of-motivation/

Update: Blogpost #2 by Jason. He has a gift for writing and storytelling.

http://turnerhighschools.edublogs.org/2016/03/02/the-struggle-is-real-and-learning-is-really-a-struggle/

The Backstory

Last week I launched a leadership blog for teachers at the two high schools where I serve as an instructional coach — Turner High School and Journey School of Choice in Turner USD 202. Check it out. It is nothing fancy and didn’t take long to setup. It a thing of beauty in my eyes because it is a vehicle for teacher voice at the school level. Our blog is called the Turner High Schools Teacher Leadership Blog. I used Edublogs, which is WordPress based. Sue Waters and the Edublogs team answered every question I had, and did so within a couple of hours. Excellence!

The Story 

I emailed all staff about the blog and its purpose on Wednesday. You’ll find the email below. I received a few bites. “Yes, I’m interested” or “I think I might try this” or “I want to but I don’t feel qualified.”  I went to the USERS section on the Edublog dashboard and added 10 teachers as user AUTHORS before I left on Friday afternoon. Jason McGee was one of them. He is a History/Econ teacher at THS who is passionate about authenticity and project-based learning. I added him Friday and by Saturday, he had published a blogpost.


Email Chain about Blogging between Jason and Me.

Wednesday email 2/24/16
Laura to staff: Here is our blog! http://turnerhighschools.edublogs.org/
I will share step-by-step instructions on how to create a blogpost and publish yourself. Your voice matters!! (Today I am working with people on process of writing blogposts from the invite stage to the publishing stage so I can write good directions for everyone.) I am the only published blogger right now. Looking for some pioneers to start us off! On the right side of the blog you’ll find the Authors section. Everyone that publishes will be listed there. I’ll move it to the top after more people are listed. It will be featured prominently atop the blog. Each blogpost will be shared on social media channels. This is another positive venue for Turner High School, where we write the narrative instead of leaving our story to TV and newspaper outlets. 

Blogposts can be short or long or medium. 🙂 Just start writing.  They can have one picture, no pictures, or lots of pictures, videos, & links. It’s about you expressing yourself as a writer, teacher, artist.  I recommend at least one picture per blogpost but this is certainly not necessary. It can be your own picture or it can be a picture that is licensed for use. (There is an easy way to find excellent images to use and photo credit is taken care of!) 

If you are interested in writing, and I want you to know every single person at THS has viewpoints, ideas, and lessons that need to be shared, please email me. We will work through it together.

My hope is you find your (worthy) voice and that it sets you free in a new world. You may decide to create your very own blog or write books or do other creative endeavors as a passionate lead learner.

Laura

Friday emails 2/26/16

Jason McGee:  I have a blog idea…
Laura: What is the idea?!!!!   (and YAY!!) You are a natural blogger/writer….I know this.
Jason: But I don’t really even know what Blog is? Or if I even believe in Blog….
Laura:  http://lauragilchrist4.com

Saturday, 2/27/16

Jason: His response came Saturday morning in the form of a published blogpost shining forth from my phone! “The Sweet Taste of Motivation.” It was something to behold. Read it and comment on it. He blogged about student motivation and feedback after serving as a judge in foods class at THS!


 

Why I Started a Teacher Leadership blog at My Schools

We keep telling teachers to share their stories and lead. Let’s give them a tool to do that–at school. A school blog empowers teachers to use their voice. It gives them experience storytelling in a blog that’s already setup. Teachers will be more likely to start their own blog after writing for their school blog, thanks to the familiarity and confidence afforded through experience. A simple user invite can be all teachers need to jump from a reserved to an empowered leader.

I attended two events in early February that pushed me from thinking about teacher voice to acting on it with intentionality. Teacher leadership/voice is the key. I am writing blogposts about both events.

  1. #2016NSTL: 1st annual National Summit on Teacher Leadership in DC. Blogpost about it here from Mark Sass.
  2. #METC16: Midwest Education Technology Community Conference in St Louis. Blogpost about it here from David Geurin.

George Couros’ METC16 keynote challenged us to share our voice and to blog. One question he presented was “Where are you sharing your story?” I shared that very question that sparked my actions on the THS blog. Thanks, George Couros for the inspiration.

My bet is we’ll see student blogging organically flow out of this as teacher voice and storytelling take root.

Upcoming Teacher Leadership Chat! 

Join me along with hosts Sean Gaillard and Natalie Krayenvenger March 9, 8ET/5PT on the #Edbeat hashtag as I lead a chat on Teacher Leadership. Use that voice!