I’m convinced!! We really do underestimate what kids can do, but they always find ways to remind us that with the right amount of guidance and choices in their learning, they can do more than we think.

Our journey this year has been one of helping kids understand and apply concepts of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication – 4Cs. These are life skills not just “school only” skills. We must realize that the learners now need us to challenge them to think, not tell them what to think.

I hope you get a chance to either see the recent results of creativity in person or by visiting our Facebook page with the Junk Art Challenge. When adults sometimes ask, “How can we?” our kids answer with, “Let me show you.” These truly are lightbulb moments.

I’m convinced…that they can!!

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Boy! I cannot believe that it is that time of the school year when we are winding down. Could it really be that another year has come and gone? It literally seems that we were just seeing the finishing touches of paint being applied, we were waiting on the classroom furniture to arrive, we were checking to make sure that all of the lights worked and that running water was accessible in the cafeteria. I remember sharing on social media sites that @KellyMillES was going to be the place where educators could provide the type of educational experiences for students that they always wanted to provide. I readily admitted to my staff that I was making promises they would have to keep. 🙂 (I am thankful they have done just that!)

As I reflect on this first year @KellyMillES, I often share that these things should not happen to a first-year school. My actual quote is, ‘It Ain’t Normal.’

Yes, I do know the correct grammatical format for the sentence, but I also wanted to emphasize a point with my staff. Too often we accept the ‘way we have always done it is good enough’ pathway to education. We rationalize that it was ‘good enough for us’ so ‘why shouldn’t it be good enough for today’s learner.’ Well, the short answer is that today’s learners are not like us. They truly learn differently and in order to reach them, we must teach differently.

I have been honored to work with such a dedicated group of educators who have embraced this ‘teach differently’ mentality and are making the atypical…typical. We have received local, state, national, and global recognition. This is humbling, but it is mostly exciting because it has allowed us to connect with other phenomenal educators and learn with and from them as they also strive to do what is best for today’s learners. We have held sessions on Skype, Google + Hangout, presented at conferences, won national competitions (Siemens Change the World), had numerous site visits because of effective technology integration (Breaking Barriers) and from the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) Bus Tour, had a graffiti artist work in our Media Center, had invaluable support from our community, etc. The list literally goes on and on. Bragging? No. Proud? Definitely, but mostly because these serve as tangible evidence that we as educators DO have the ability to create learning experiences for children that do not have to be merely the expected. We CAN teach differently and meet the rigorous expectations of life in the 21st Century. We CAN effectively integrate technology so that it becomes a natural and expected component of the educational experience.

The secret to all of this?? Simply DOING differently, taking risks, collaborating with other educators around the world, being open to a different perspective, doing what educators naturally and passionately want to do…do what is best for their students.

I am grateful to be part of a district, community and school (Kelly Mill Elementary) that strive to do this daily. Just like you in yours…

Ron

Experience Doesn’t Make You Better, Only Evaluated Experience Makes You Better. (Dr. Howard G. Hendricks)

I recently heard this quote in a series by Andy Stanley. As I began to think about this statement, I continued to see its application within the educational setting and mentoring aspects of leadership and leader and teacher development. Educators know that providing descriptive feedback to the learner is a critical element for learning and growth.

Marzano and others have long researched the benefits of consciously providing feedback to the learner.

W. Fred Mizer stated, ‘Feedback is an objective description of a student’s performance intended to guide future performance.’ Teachers have long understood that the more specific they are in their feedback to the student, the higher the ensuing achievement of the learner. No longer are ‘Good Job’ or Smiley-Face stickers appropriate for providing feedback about learning. Feedback is specific and non-judgmental. It is merely a statement of what was observed and what can be done to improve the next time.

The same goes for educational leaders responsible for providing feedback to the instructional staff. No longer are comments like ‘Good Job’ or ‘I enjoyed the lesson’ appropriate as end conversations about the teaching and learning that has taken place in our classrooms.

With the renewed interest in teacher evaluation systems and the emphasis on learner outcomes, it is important that current educators realize that our emphasis is also on the input. As Dr. Hendricks stated, it is ‘evaluated experience’ that improves practice. We must embrace the benefits of descriptive feedback that we can both provide and receive from colleagues. Too often we simply reflect on our practice by answering, ‘What worked? What needs to be improved?’ Please do not misunderstand me. These are valuable questions to ask, but we also need to utilize the benefits of having someone else provide feedback to us in the course of our daily practice in order to effectively answer these questions.

As building leaders, we must continue to provide the kind of descriptive feedback to teachers of all levels in order to promote growth and the best instruction for all of our learners, student and adult.

The next time that someone says ‘Experience makes you better,’ remember that only ‘evaluated experience’ makes you better.

 

Ron

One of my passions is photography. I absolutely love the ‘click of the shutter.’ I am an avid iPhoneographer, Instagram user, Photoshop editor, Canon, Nikon, and even Olympus 35 mm fanatic. Yes, I say I am an amateur. When people ask me about photography I simply reply, ‘It keeps me sane.‘ It is an outlet for me.

As a continual learner, I am also currently enrolled in a digital photography class. I am operating in my own sense of ‘flow‘. In our first class, the instructor said that basically a photographer’s job is to…

‘create art out of a cluttered and unphotogenic world.’ (via Phil Winter).

This statement has rolled around in my thinking since last Tuesday’s class. As I have thought about it, I see a parallel to the work we do in schools and as leaders. No, I am not implying that our students and staff are ‘unphotogenic’ on any level,  but I am suggesting that our role is to help the learners in our organization make ‘art’ out of the vast amount of information that is readily available to 21st Century learners at an alarming rate.

How do we do this? Well, I will be the first to admit this is not easy and has many factors, but one critical and nonnegotiable piece is enabling the learner-student or staff member-to take ownership of their own learning. We must become facilitators and not the traditional ‘sage-on-the-stage.’ We must help them create ‘art.’

As I have had the opportunity to attend the GaETC over the past couple of days, I am reminded that today’s K-12 learners are VERY different from the type of learner that I was. We, ‘older learners,’ are prone to say,’Well, it was good enough for me to learn that (traditional) way, and look how good I turned out.’ Ok. I am not sure that is a good thing in some cases, but I digress.

In order to reach today’s learner we must use today’s tools. As this powerful video portrays, Shift Happens. Incorporating technology into instructional practice is as essential to today’s learner as paper and pencil. It is NOT optional.

So, shift happens…have you??

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photo by @rondmac