“We Get To Change Expectations By Raising Expectations”

My friend Zac:

That’s the opportunity each of us who has the privilege to working with children has each day. We get to change expectations by raising expectations. We get to throw joy where anger or apathy is expected. We get to be kind.
We have the exceptional challenge every day of being better versions of ourselves every day than our students expect us to be.

 It really is a gift to get to challenge the expectations of students and grownups towards what we could be, instead of what we often become in spite of ourselves. Don’t forget. You can do that in each and every interaction in your day. There’s absolutely no reason not to.

And it’s not just those of us who work with children who have the obligation to try to raise expectations and bring some joy along into places where that other stuff is too frequently given instead. 

That’s all our jobs. 

Go read the rest

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“Seeing My Daughter Dare Was Wonderful”

I’m doing some work that involves a new teacher colleague in Costa Rica, and I took three years of high school German.  What little Spanish I know I’ve picked up from my wife and children’s conversations around the house. I’m a crummy listener.

Enter Google Translate.  For the last week or so, I’ve been dutifully copying and pasting my writing in English into the service to translate into Spanish.  And vice versa for the new colleague’s words. I expect this to become a habit, but it’s not one yet. Right now, it’s a chore. But sometimes it delivers prizes.

I don’t know if Google Translate is serving us well, but in our first exchange about our holiday breaks, my new colleague shared that his daughter has been horseback riding.  I shared that my daughters love riding, but it’s not my thing.  His response was the title to this post.

I don’t know if the translation is accurate, but that phrase is sure poetry:

… seeing my daughter dare was wonderful 

I hope you get the chance to see someone dare soon. I hope you notice how beautiful it can be.

And I hope that maybe some one gets to see you dare beautifully, too.

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Stuff Changes. Or Not. Transformation Isn’t a One Time Thing.

A class I was involved in a little while back took a few minutes to write together the other day about a time “before technology,” “after technology,” and “personal technology.” To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should share my writing there, but it turns out I have a blog – so I can share my writing here.

One of the things that I’m always reminded of when it comes to frames like “before technology” and “after technology” is that such distinctions are relative.  There wasn’t really ever a “pre-technology” period in my life – it’s just the technology of the moment that’s changing. Yesterday’s Word is today’s Google Docs is tomorrow’s I dunno yet. And so on. And my personal explorations of technology aren’t linear – it’s not like ever since I started typing words I no longer write them by hand. In fact, I’m writing lots more by hand lately than via keyboard, as I cherish the quiet of pen to paper without Internet connection over the allure of “what’s the latest news” when I’m sitting in front of the screen I spend far too much of my day in front of.

There’s not really an “after technology,” for me. I suspect the framing was meant in part to help folks realize that adding technology to something makes that thing better. That’s, of course, not always true. Frequently, it’s not at all true. Just because you can automate something sure doesn’t mean that you should. I wish more of the people in a hurry to automate education and learning and relationships realized that. The struggle is a big piece of the thing.

Adding extra stuff – technology, processes, media, etc – to a thing that doesn’t need it is folly and foolish and wrong. Tell your friends – don’t do that.

I’ll skip the personal part of the prompt – I don’t really know what that means. The tech I use IS personal. The same messaging tools I use to ensure my appointments are on time are those I use to ask my daughter how her day at school is going.

Maybe that’s weird, but I don’t think it is. Not one bit.

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Faking It

 

I’m working with a couple groups of teachers next week who want to explore the idea of blogging as a way of promoting inquiry and professional growth in their practice. As I’ve proposed to one group, here’s the session description as I’m thinking of it:

We’re on the third generation of writing tools for the Web. Or the 33. It depends on who you ask.

The tools for writing on the Web have never been easier to use or harder to master, but they all rely on basic writerly moves – an understanding of purpose, an awareness of audience, and an attention to detail that matters more and more as attention to detail is paid less and less.

In this workshop, we’ll explore how teachers write online for personal growth and professional development. We’ll talk about and help you unpack your reasons for writing online, and how you might get started.

Drawing on my twelve years of writing as a teacher, an educator, and a blogger, we’ll unpack what you might want to do as a writer today, how blogging can push inquiry both in your classroom and elsewhere, and how you can get started.

But what I really want to talk about with these teachers, as they consider moving forward as public writers, public inquirers, and public strugglers with their practice, is imposter syndrome.

Actually, how to defeat imposter syndrome. You guys, you fake it until you make it. So let’s do the things that writers do until we feel like we’re good at them. And we will never feel good at them.

It’s the doubt, I think, and the worry, the voice nagging at you that it’s not going well, or could be going better, or asking you to pay attention differently, that’s the power of writing about one’s practice. A big piece of the publicness that has value is the reassurance, both to yourself, and to others, that the doubt and worry exist. We really do have to fake it until we make it.

And the faking it, in truth, is an awful big piece of the making it. Being afraid/nervous/concerned/worryful is how the good work gets done.

That’s not to say that all worry is productive or necessary, but a good bit of teacher inquiry is scratching the intellectual itch or wonder.worry/doubt/concern that comes up when you begin to try to describe your practice in thought then words.

I don’t do a lot of teacher blogging workshops anymore. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of blogging for personal or professional growth. It’s not that I don’t find it important to reflect on one’s practice. It’s that, most days, I feel like an imposter in a room full of teachers and learners.

But the truth is, I’ve always felt that way. What’s changed is that I’ve gotten better at listening to the demons that are shouting down my better angels. That’s mostly the opposite of what I wish were happening, truth be told.

Why I struggle with writing and inquiring online of late is that my young-middled aged self is less able to resist my doubts. That’s something I’m fighting and will continue to fight. But I hope I can offer to others some tips on how to get started and then they can help me remember how to continue.

That’s of course, what good classrooms look like. All the folks in the room are teachers and learners. When the classroom is working well, we all take turns.

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Seek Less Permission

Over the weekend, I read Dan’s post. I thought it was the right thing to say, and a good way to think about moving a networkish kind of community-esque thing into a better place in a time of networked publicness1 .

Stephen’s take is a good reminder of one of my Internet teacher pet peeves:

And it’s funny how passive people are – why would you need permission to use a hashtag? Nobody can own a hashtag, not even if they set up a Twitter identity and lay claim to it.

I wish more folks would quit trying to claim territory and focus instead on doing interesting things in ways that invite other folks to see/help/share/experience.

  1. Yeah, I know that’s a ridiculous phrase – but it’s more accurate than something like “the community.” On the Internet, there’s no such thing. Just the illusion of one. []
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Just Read, Dammit.

A couple of small things intersected in a timely fashion in my Twitter feeds yesterday.1

The first was this piece in the Washington Post about a district administrator in Florida who has banned all homework in elementary school – save for reading twenty minutes a night:

Elementary school students in one Florida school district are going to find a welcome new — but controversial — policy when they return to school for the 2017-2018 school year next month: no traditional homework.

They are being asked to do one thing to help them academically: Read for 20 minutes a night.

Heidi Maier, the new superintendent of the 42,000-student Marion County public school district in Florida, said in an interview that she made the decision based on solid research about what works best in improving academic achievement in students.

What a wonderful reminder of the power of reading AND the importance of taking a break from school. And, for that matter, the importance of actually incorporating data into teaching and learning. And, heck, while we’re at it – the significant power in NOT doing something. Not doing the wrong thing is a wonderful way to get better. It gives you room to try something else.

The second item was a collection of tweets I saw in passing during an EdSurge2 twitter chat. The gist of my noticing is summed up here:

If teachers don’t understand the the value in reading is less about WHAT gets read than the fact that READING BECOMES A HABIT for a learner, then there’s work for us to do.

Reading3 is essential to lifelong learning. It’s worth doing and it’s worth doing promisciuously, at least some times.  It’s also more important that most of what’s ever been foisted on children as “further practice” or “homework.”

While you’re reading big and broad this summer, you might want to pick up a copy of Daniel Pennac’s Better than Life, a delightful meditation on what it means to read and be a reader. Be sure to pay special attention to his Reader’s Bill of Rights, and consider how you’ll make the shift towards allowing those rights to be present in the reading lives of your students.

In the meantime, as you’re out and about this summer, please grab a text, be it an old favorite novel, or a trashy magazine, or a vampire romance, or a graphic novel, or the newest mystery, or a scholarly chapter, or back issues of your favorite newspaper, and please do me this:

Just read, dammit. And help others do the same.

  1. I’m learning again to watch for these, the moments when my writer sense tingles. []
  2. The fact that EdSurge itself is an infomercial is irrelevant to this particular post, but probably worth talking about at some future point. If EdSurge is your go to source for information on Ed Tech/edtech/edutech, you’re definitely doing it wrong. []
  3. In multiple modes, yes. Audiobooks count. []
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Custodians of Magic & Wonder

I’ve been working for a little more than two years as a library administrator, and am awful lot of my work of late has been planning for the future of the Clearview Library District, my workplace home.

We’re dreaming hard and big right now about what we want the future of our library community to look like. Specifically, we’re planning to build a new library.

It’s important work. Not just because you want to get the details right. (But we do.) It’s that when we’re dreaming about the spaces we want to build, and to ask the public to support, I wanna make sure we’re dreaming about the right sort of stuff.

Here’s the thing. Libraries aren’t just warehouses for books. But that’s a part of what they are. Libraries aren’t just quiet reading rooms. But that a piece of it. Libraries aren’t just civic spaces where people can gather. But they’re that, too.

Libraries are also places for events and experiences that help all folks learn and dream and wonder and hope and explore and be curious. That’s important. Essential.

Our library’s mission is to:

Cultivate curiosity. Enlighten the mind. Strengthen the community. 

At the library, we’re in the business of magic and wonder. We are the stewards of the experiences visitors will tell their grandchildren about. And we are the space in the community where anyone can wonder about most anything they want to. Our library is a curiosity and serendipity engine.

My job is to help make sure these things happen for all the people who might interact with the public library, as well as to engage anyone in the district as to the fact that we’re here, we’re open, and we’re eager to be that civic curiosity and wonder space for all. And that means we have to get the building right, yes. But that’s not enough. We have to make the culture work, both  for our staff as well as our patrons. It has to feel right and good and open and safe.

I used to teach high school to students who didn’t like school. Now, I help run a school that no one is required to attend. We call it the library, and the curriculum is mostly whatever you’re curious about when you walk through the door.

I take this responsibility very seriously. I’m helping, in some small way, to keep a tradition alive that’s American and right and good, in all the best ways about those words.

Magic. That’s what we do.

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Badges. They’re Still Not What I Thought They Were.

I’ve been working lately on some resources related to telling stories about the work that the Badges Team of the New Pathways Initiative has inspired and/or been influenced by. I’ve written some about the team and our work – but not enough. I need to do that more. But what I want to capture right now is a little thing, one thing that I’ve been missing in some of my work on badging.

I spent an hour yesterday listening to Deanna and Liz and Vickie talk about the work they’ve done at the Morehead Writing Project to build an online Summer Institute.  It’s modeled after their traditional Invitational Summer Institute, a multi week summer experience for teachers focusing on writing and teaching and classroom inquiry. Now in its eighth year, the Online SI is chugging right along as a healthy online experience. But Deanna also mentioned that she uses badges as a way of helping the community of a class develop. In a way, she uses them as props or lubricant to help the classes she facilitates pay attention to each other. They give gratitude via badges. They point out things they might otherwise not notice. She’s written an awful lot about badges and how she uses them. Here’s a good place to start if you want to read more.

Yet another reminder to me that the value in badges has very little to do with the credentials, sometimes, and an awful lot to do with the behavior they help describe and make visible.

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On Turning 39

I’m writing tonight from a room at the National Writing Project’s Resource Development Retreat in Denver. I’ve been here the last couple of days, working to build some resources and support some other folks to get things made. Several of the NWP’s initiatives and projects are represented here, and there’re folks working on making assignments better, sharing how they’re doing things, and reaching for a little more dissemination of the work that’s going on in classrooms around the country.

Oh, and today?  It’s my 39th birthday.

I can think of few places I’d rather be on my birthday than with the folks and the organization that has done so much for me and my students across my varied career as a teacher, a consultant, an IT professional, a library administrator, and a writer and speaker about technology. Tonight, we’re gathered together to encourage each other to get some writing done. So we’re sitting around conference rounds typing away as fast as we can. Writing alone. Together1.

This blog’s getting old, and so am I.  It’s been more than twelve years since I adopted, mostly by accident, the online identity of “Bud the Teacher.” And I’ve switched careers a couple of times since then. I wondered if it was time to drop this space, to say so long and start fresh somewhere else. I’ve made new spaces a couple of times, but they never stuck.

I’m still a teacher, even if the folks I’m teaching might not consider themselves “students.” I think I always will be. And I still am nowhere close to being done learning, which is what a teacher does, right up there in front of everybody2

So Bud the Teacher is still who I am, even if he was someone I never quite meant to be.

On this, the start of my 39th year, I want to write a bit about what I’m thinking about lately, what’s keeping me busy, and what I want to spend the last year of this decade and the first year of the next on. I want to try to push through the awkwardness of not knowing how to write in this space so much lately.

I’m going to learn how to blog again. Again.

I don’t blog like I used to. I don’t like that. I’d like this next year to see a little more of me.

I’ve been writing, certainly, and will never stop, but lots of my writing of late has gone into envelopes and mailboxes, as I’ve tried to work on being a better corresponder with friends and family. I just haven’t been writing here. Again, I’m hoping to change that.

The next couple of posts will be snapshots from my world right now.

  1. There are also silly hats. I do not understand this, but it seems to be working, so I’m going with it. []
  2. Though more and more now, I teach and love to learn through budgets and proposals and coaching infrastructure. Frequently from the back of the room. []
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Tying My Shoes

Late last week, I relearned how to tie my shoes.

I’m not kidding.

Every Friday in my office, my team and I sit together for a weekly team meeting. It’s our chance to be together at the end of a long week, catch each other on what’s been happening and what we’ve been up to, and to build our sense of our team a little better.

One way we do that is that we take turns sharing TED talks with each other, and talking about how the ideas the speakers share might relate to our work together, or to libraries in general.1

Last week, as a teammate was in a hurry, she suggested a short video. And it was one that messed with my head a little bit.

Just watch it. It’s only three minutes long.  Here it is:

All this time, and I’ve been doing it wrong. All my work shoes make their way loose throughout the course of a day. This way of tying them? Once they’re done, they’re done.

So I’m relearning how to do something that’s been muscle memory for me for almost my entire life. It’s slow going.

Change is hard. And it starts with small moves for good reasons. One member of my team said that she doesn’t need to learn to tie her shows differently, because her laces don’t come loose. She’s right – if the goals don’t line up, then you shouldn’t change. You should only bother to make a change for yourself or for someone else when it makes sense to, when your plan needs, or maybe even requires, that you align yourself differently and you work to change some habits.

But if your habits aren’t the problem, if they’re helping you get stuff done, then you’d better not change them. They’re the right habits to have.

The habits of my first thirteen years of work and professional career stuff aren’t all serving me well at this stage of my work. And while it’s taking me a long time, I’m starting to figure that out.

Part of what’s helping is remembering to think about the stuff that I do without thinking about.

I hope you’re doing that, too.

  1. This was not my original plan. I was hoping that the team would read things together. But we’re busy, and there’s an awful lot of good TED talks out there that are gateways into interesting ideas. So someone suggested we do that, and it’s working pretty well. []
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