Monday, April 13, 2015

Pure Genius Week 11: Moving Forward

We are nearing the end of the book and getting some last thoughts from Don on how to get started with innovative projects. The three practices he discussed in this chapter were: giving yourself permission, transparency, and trust. How do you see any or all of these practices helping you as you move forward to more of an innovative culture in your classroom?

Well, we are down to the home stretch. Only 2 more weeks left in the book club. If you are behind in your reading and/or commenting, now is the time to catch up. In order to be eligible for the professional development grant you will need to have commented every week, either to the blog post or to comments by other participants. All comments must be made by Friday,  April 24th at 5pm Eastern. Next week we will read the supporting materials at the end -- Coming Together: Speaking the Same Language and Additional Resources -- and share what you're going to do moving forward.

25 comments:

  1. Of the three concepts listed, giving yourself permission is probably the hardest to do. In this age of standards and high stakes testing, it is really hard for a teacher to dedicate the effort and class time to developing an innovative approach to their classes. I have seen little pockets of innovation in classes through the years, but not an entire class dedicated to this concept. I have a little more freedom in my library media class and my students and I do explore innovative ways to learn the concepts needed to run the library. Transparency is a little easier. One only has to be willing to share what is happening in their classroom and invite other teachers to join in the “fun”. Wettick is right when he says that local newspapers are always looking for a good story and an innovative approach to education is always newsworthy. One has only to let the press know (in a timely manner) and they will willingly cover the event/project. Local industry and businesses are always willing to help (either by providing mentors, materials or donations). One has only to ask in order to receive these benefits. Trust is the easiest for me to achieve. In order for a class be truly innovative, the teacher must trust his/her students to take the reins and move forward with their chosen project. I find that most students will step up and meet my expectations - IF I make those expectations clear. The overarching feel that I got while reading Pure Genius was Wetterick’s respect for his students. When we respect our students and expect them to conduct themselves in an adult manner, MOST of them will do so. This is a learned trait and it is our responsibility as educators to teach this life skill to all students.

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  2. I completely agree that giving yourself permission is hard to do. Standards/curriculum maps/high stakes testing all take prevalence over a lot. I too have seen some teachers being able to add some innovation into their class, but never a whole class. It would be interesting to try this with the ideal set up for it, but my situation of 40 minutes 1-2x a week just will not cut it. (maybe small pockets here and there) Transparency is much easier. Local newspapers in my area love to run stories on positive school happenings. Lastly, I do agree with your comment about being trust being the easiest. Trust within an innovative classroom definitely involves trust from a teacher to student and student to teacher relationship. I too received the same feeling that Wetterick had the utmost respect for his students. Their learning seem to flourish with everything that he was allowing them to do.

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  3. For me, the transparency element is difficult. I can easily reconcile the self-permission step in order to begin the innovation but it always comes with some doubt or uncertainty of the end product. Inviting outsiders into the process, an authentic audience in PBL terms, elevates the stakes. I start feeling as though the process and project needs to be revised and perfected in order for me to feel comfortable. I know it is a very important component of the process for students and adds legitimacy and motivation for them and needs to be included, I've just been slower to move on that part as a result of a reservation that may be caused by perfectionist nature, something I need to improve for certain.

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    1. I would feel this way as well for some projects. I always feel like I should be doing more or could be doing better and I would be nervous that others my be picking out things that I could do better.

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    2. I agree with you. The reservations brought about by a perfectionist nature would be something that would hinder me as well.

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  4. This book blog has served as my own genius hour each week as I feel challenged to innovate and discover new ways to engage students. My administrators are forward thinking and trusting teachers' decisions to explore new techniques. Likewise, my colleagues have adopted an 'anything goes' outlook whether they are actively offering projects or they are adapting to a changing educational climate and accepting of others who are making the changes. As others in this book blog have mentioned, my biggest challenge seems to be giving myself permission to move forward and reinvent my role as a teacher.

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  5. I feel as though the "giving yourself permission" is the most important one of the three listed. We have to give ourselves permission for it not to work flawlessly the first time we try it. Don mentions at the beginning of the book that his first time trying innovation time did not go the way he had envisioned, but he took the time to tweak what he was doing. I think as we try to do these things with our students it is a must that we give ourselves permission to not get it right the first time. What a great life skill to model for our students too!

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  6. As a special education teacher, giving myself permission is probably the most difficult aspect of all of this. I feel that I have to spend so much time getting my students, who are already behind, prepared to take the ECA exams that they have to take to graduate. I have to give myself permission to realize that it is okay to fail in the very beginning. I would imagine that failure would be very repetitive until I got comfortable with the whole process. I feel that I would have the trust of my administrators to try something new and innovative with my students. I feel that they would be very supportive. It is just getting my mindset in the right place and having the courage to try something completely foreign to what I am used to doing.

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  7. I think that the giving yourself permission aspect is definitely the hardest as well. It is not that we as teachers do not trust that the projects will be successful, I just feel that with so many demands and focus on testing standards and practices that allowing ourselves time to devote to creative projects is hard to do. Luckily in my Life Skills classroom we have freedom to do creative projects but in my previous teaching assignments I know that this would be an issue. In special education there is so much emphasis on paperwork, unfortunately it takes so much effort that it is hard to allow yourself time to develop creative projects.

    I think the transparency part can be both easy and difficult depending on the person. Allowing people to come into your classroom can be both beneficial and scary depending on the teacher. Sometimes, I get caught up in the fact that when I invite others in to review a project that I am opening up my teaching to criticism. I need to remember however that educators support each other and collaboration with others will push me to do better as well as the students. Letting others see what you are doing in your classroom can communicate a sense of pride for the students for their work.

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    1. Yes, transparency can be scary! I have tried to really invite teachers in to see how I have been collaborating with different classes and especially with my Genius Hour projects, their reactions have not been what I expected. However, perhaps that is because it is so hard for us to give ourselves permission to take these risks that I am seeing skeptical reactions. It is all related.

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  8. I really like the way the author encourages educators to become "venture capitalist". I continually hear teachers talk about great opportunities and place to go but "there's no money". I personally, have tapped our community resources many times with great success. I have raised money for literacy awareness programs, materials for the library, and even covered travel/hotel expenses for my kids' quiz bowl team to attend national competitions. I have found that local businesses love to support education and will do all they can to help. Sometimes it's not monetary, we've had businesses donate cases of water, food, and paper goods. Every little thing helps. I have also learned throughout the years, a few pictures of the event in the local newspaper with a shout out to the donor companies usually goes a long way when it comes time to seek donations the next year.

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  9. Giving myself permission is difficult especially when starting a project such as this. If I was teaching middle or high school I think it would be much easier. I love working with other teachers. This allows me to bounce ideas off others and to hear other ideas that would enhance the project. Raising money for me would be the hardest thing to do. I am not good going to the community asking to fund different classroom activities. I know there are websites and companies where you can apply for materials and money. For those projects that are done by high school students I believe it would be more beneficial for the students to raise the money. It would teach them the steps to start a business and build it from scratch.

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  10. I agree with other bloggers that giving yourself permission to be innovative can be really difficult. At present we are preparing for our spring concert and that has been our focus for the last month. The tried and true repetition, correction, repetition, is the order of our day. After the concert, I am giving myself permission to shake things up a bit with different rhythm activities. And speaking of said upcoming concert, band programs are blessed with built in opportunities for transparency: public performances. Another bonus of being in the band world is that we pretty much have free reign on trying new things. Our administrators have always been very supportive of both our band program and methods. The band classroom provides a great canvas for innovative musical art.

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  11. As others have stated giving myself permission to step outside the box to be innovative can be really difficult with all the pressures of meeting the standards, school grades and teacher evaluations. I am intrigued by the idea that using transparency as a vehicle for increasing collaboration among fellow teachers as very exciting as I have not thought of this before.

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    1. As someone who has stepped outside of the classroom and taken a different role with the district this year, I agree with you and see more of how the transparency would increase collaboration among teachers in an exciting way. Collaboration among teachers in my district between school buildings would be something that I would like to see implemented more.

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  12. As others have stated giving myself permission to step outside the box to be innovative can be really difficult with all the pressures of meeting the standards, school grades and teacher evaluations. I am intrigued by the idea that using transparency as a vehicle for increasing collaboration among fellow teachers as very exciting as I have not thought of this before.

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  13. In moving toward a more innovative classroom, keeping these three practices in mind when planning and executing projects would be helpful. I agree that giving yourself permission seems to be the most difficult of the three practices. Giving yourself permission to innovate also means giving yourself permission to fail, as others have said. I like the transparency practice, including others to collaborate on projects, as it widens the base of ownership and support for the project. As for the trust practice, Wettrick seems to convey his own high expectations for all involved in his projects, not settling for less, trusting in himself, his peers, the experts and the students to do excellent work to get the job done.

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  14. Giving yourself permission can be the most difficult aspect. I think it's hard to suspend the notion that our job is just to prepare our students for the state mandated tests and it's easy to get bogged down by the day to day responsibilities.

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  15. I think the hardest part isn't coming up with ideas, but how to handle any failure or doubt that is inherent in risk-taking. I get to teach a summer econ class and am anxious to experiment with outside mentoring and doing some major projects, given our limited time together.

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  16. This chapter is very difficult for me to digest, because of the students I serve. As in years past, I participate in collaboration with Huntington University. We Skype with the Intro to Special Education Class and next week, six students are coming to observe my class. I believe I am going to ask their opinion on how they use social media. Do they use it for only social or educational?

    I like how the author states, "If you attend a school that won't embrace innovation and collaboration, please don't wait around for them. Create your own path. Our goal as teachers needs to be one of encouraging our students to be lifelong learners.

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  17. I agree that this was a hard chapter for me. It was encouraging but also discouraging. I have had issues with trust and transparency in my career before and they definitely take stepping out for me. This year though I have been blessed in that my administration has demonstrated that trust in me as an educator. Through that I have felt like they truly only wanted what was best for the students and that if something came up, they would be there to help. This is something that I think is what will allow me to move forward with possibly implementing some of this in my room. Though the idea of giving myself permission was something that I think I have been being trained on this year, I just never really thought of it in those terms.

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  18. Because time is something that we all feel we do not have enough of, I think most struggle with trust in the sense of wanting to ensure that time is well spent on projects or concepts such as genius hour. Many teachers walk away from trying stuff like this because they are fearful that the time might be wasted - I think that is why it is so important to gradually release and scaffold this concept with kids. It is totally worth it!

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  19. I think giving myself permission to be more innovative with my classroom is the hardest thing for me. My students are 2 - 3 grade levels below where they should be and the pressure to pass the exit tests is overwhelming at times. Still, I think if I can come up with more creative and interesting methods of teaching topics, I would have the full attention of my students and hence they would all learn the material. I want to take time this summer to really integrate more innovative lessons in my classroom. Maybe I will discover more innovative methods through social media!

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