Uncategorized

Retreat to Reconnect with My Creative Force

Teachers are the Innovators.jpg

 

In July of 2015 I began coaching with The Teachers Guild.  It was a handful of educators from various locations in the United States, all skilled in the use of Design Thinking in the classroom. My training in Design Thinking began at the Stanford d.School and I have been able to practice my craft for several years at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and train others through MVIFI.  The Guild initial mission centered around guiding educators through 30 design challenges in 3 years.  I was excited about the opportunity to work with educators in various parts of the world and to tackle challenges that face all educators.  Although excited, I soon realized that virtual coaching came with a set of new challenges.  I desired additional training and an opportunity to meet the other members of our team.  When the opportunity for a Coaches Retreat was introduced I said YES before all the details were set.  

img_0513

October 20, 2016 I trekked across the country back to the San Francisco Bay for two days of training and fun.  Our first day was spent at IDEO offices, our team gathered under the leadership of Emma Scripps and Molly McMahon.  We started off by creating a set of Agreements to assist us through our deep dive into The Guild.  The Agreements/Norms reminded me of the need to establish culture is a requirement to do great work.  

  1. Be Present
  2. Be Excellent
  3. Assume Good/ Be Optimistic
  4. Have Fun
  5. National Park Rules

Soon after we discussed how we saw The Guild and I was quickly reminded why I wanted to Coach and Be Coached.  WHAT IS THE GUILD? “Team of Educators coming together to tackle the tough questions surrounding the future of education and providing solutions to those questions.”  HOW?

  1. Working Collaboratively
  2. Disrupting Educators
  3. Systemic Change
  4. Committed to Teachers as a Creative Force
  5. Inclusive
  6. Diversity
  7. Online and In Person Meetups
  8. Reimagining Today and Tomorrow
  9. Committed
  10. Creative Spaces

The highlight of my day was meeting the founder of the Teachers Guild, Sandy Speicher.  It was not just meeting her but it was what she shared.  She spoke about the Design Thinking for Educators being produced to support teachers in the design work they already do on a daily basis.  She shared why teachers need to be involved in the creation of the culture of school.  How it is important to tackle the vague, messy and sticky issues surrounding education.  Why it is important to hear complaints and then start investigative learning and designing possible solutions.  She reminded me that teachers need to view themselves as Designers and a Creative Force.

teachers-guild-visual-synthesis

We all have to be reminded of our greater purpose.  Sometimes it takes getting away from the day-to-day norm and gain a different perspective.  Being around the other members of the team and learning from IDEO designers helped me to refocus my energy and thinking.  Hope to share more soon.  

img_0431

Artwork courtesy of Erin Quinn

Standard
Uncategorized

Learning Walk K-4

amy-kilbridge-quote

One of the keys to success as an educator is learning how to steal great ideas.  The best way to steal great ideas is to go on on a learning walk.  For the record, of course I am not talking about the unethical practice of taking from others.  When you allow yourself time and the freedom to wander around the school and witness the works of others it can be an enlightening experience.  

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to visit every K-4 classroom at MVPS with Nicole Martin.  We held ourselves to a quick pace and caught a glimmer of each classroom.  So this was not an in depth analysis of educational practice but it was very insightful.  During one class we saw students working independently, exploring various way to learn and practice math.  This reminded me that students need to have choice in how they learning.  In another class student were prepping for a debate.  Each student was spread out in various corners of the room reading and gathering information to create an argument.  Debate sound like a sophisticated endeavor but scaffolding properly all levels can create a valid argument.

I  witnessed second graders working in teams to craft public service announcements.  Some students creating posters and some writing messages to warn of the dangers of smoking.  I even was able to enjoy snack time while kindergarteners listen to an engaging book.  These moments allowed me to reflect on the joy of learning and the impact curiosity can have on  the learning environment.  

The learning walk was capped off by hearing the stories of students shopping at Home Depot.  They are in the midst of planting an organic garden and realize that wild animals like spinach also.  These fourth graders designed a plan to combat the critters and had to purchase the necessary items to bring their ideas to life.  Real World problem solving in action.  Next step learning walks on the Upper School Campus.  

Standard
Uncategorized

The Year So Far…

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewey

Version 2

This marks week six of the school year and I am asking myself where has the time gone.  A lot of exciting things are taking place and my desire was to capture and reflect on these various experiences. Six weeks in and I have fallen short on the capturing, no reflective writings or moments of stopping and reflecting.  Right now I am in a state of doing and struggling just to “Be in the Moment.”  Here is what is happening in the world of JamCam…

  1. Grade 9 Humanities course is no longer a theory but a living functioning organism.
  2. The Humanities PLC still meets to craft, restructure and develop the program.
  3. Mentor Program for new teachers meeting 1 complete, meeting 2 coming soon.
  4. HOG duties are kicking in Folio Meetings, 73 and Under Reports, Team Building.
  5. Advisory with Grade 11 is different from Grade 9.
  6. Football Coaching: one last second defeat and one hard-fought win .
  7. MVIFI is in motion with Collider coming and School Visit day soon.
  8. The Teachers Guild is ready to roll: Civics Education and STEM.
  9. Both boys are in school, 2 year olds and 8 year olds have different needs.
  10. Leadership team still building capacity for PBLs, Instructional Rounds and more.

Those are the Top 10, more to come…

Standard
Uncategorized

The Educator

IMG_0881I decided a few months ago to get away from calling myself a Teacher when people ask what I do for a living.  When I shared that I am a teacher, people would immediately ask what do you teach.  I would then proceed to say History.  From there they would share how much they hated History.  How their teacher lectured the entire time and made it dull and boring.  I reply, you did not have me as a teacher.  You would have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  If they do not tell me they hated the course, they tell me how much they love History.  They proceed to tell me all about Greek History, or how they enjoy reading about the Boxer rebellion and the War of 1812.  When was that War again.  I smile and acknowledge their excitement but I am not really excited.  But I find being called a teacher is so limiting because I (we) do so much more than teach a subject.

I feel that the title Educator encompasses more of the day to day work that I do.  Yes I teach students and I enjoy teaching.  I do not sit at the board and lecture for 60 minutes and throw homework at them as the bell is ringing.  I attempt to make it student center because we are all students, generating student voice and choice blended with my adult “wisdom.”  As an educator, I also teach and train other educators sharing my experiences and ideas.  Hopefully giving them useful insights and pearls of wisdom.  I coach sports and coaching is another avenue of teaching.  I have always felt that good coaching and good teaching go hand and hand.  This is only a segment of what I do but I did not want to bore you with my many metaphors and analogies.

So today is the first day back from summer vacation, summer learning, summer decompression, summer get my life together or whatever you want to call it.  This year I hope you will join me on my day to day journey as an educator.  I plan to share my experiences as a member of the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School Faculty, a coach for The Teachers’ Guild , a proton of the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation , a life long learner and a father striving to further his sons.  I will try to speak from an Academic Authority but I tend to share from the philosophy of KISS (Keep It Simple Son).  Please feel free to provide feedback, give comments, dialogue with me or just give a thumbs up.  I will use Quest 4 Creative Confidence as a photo gallery blog, so for imagines of my day to day  check it out.  
Thank you for indulging me as I begin year 14 in the world as an Educator.  

Standard
Connections, Uncategorized

How Well Do You Know Your Team Members?

IMG_0491

How well do you know the people you work with?  The final day of post-planning our Head of Upper School, Blair Peterson   had everyone participate in a “getting to know you” activity. Actually it was a what are you doing this summer activity.  We lined up in a Soul Train Line  and every three minutes you switched partners.  The final pairing I was with Erin McCubbin.  Erin serves Mount Vernon Presbyterian School as College Counselor.

Over the past few years I have witnessed Erin work her magic.  Assisting students with getting into colleges that are an ideal fit and challenging students to stretch and reach colleges that may not be in their initial pool.  Ms McCubbin has navigated the oceans of scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid to help families tackle the cost of colleges.  She has also served as a member of the school’s leadership team, mentored students, assisted with debate, expanded the name of the school and has always willingly pitched in throughout campus life.  She is an all around wonderful person and yet I did know her as well as I thought.  After our three-minute Soul Train dance, I was extremely excited about her summer plans.

Erin along with Sam Aleinikoff formed a non-profit and the goal is to empower students to take charge of the college admissions process.  The third weekend in June MAP (Metro-Atlanta Access Program) would be hosting its inaugural Summer Intensive.  Nearly 40 students would be brought to Oxford College at Emory University.  These students would go through a crash course of the college admissions process.

IMG_0405

The Summer Intensive

Living and working with students for three days allows us the time, space, and opportunity to cultivate relationships that empower students to begin their college search. The Metro-Atlanta Access Program  provides lessons, resources, and tools that enable each student to build the muscle needed to begin the application process their senior year. We promise that each student will:
  1. Engage meaningfully through sports, talent shows, down time, and meals to build relationships,
  2. Participate in a case study to help visualize the college admission reading process,
  3. Be empowered to brainstorm and develop a working draft of a personal narrative, 
  4. Educate themselves on application and testing fee waivers, financial and merit aid processes and distinction, and scholarships available to high-need families,
  5. Work to build a robust resume highlighting his or her experiences and strengths,
  6. Develop a deep understanding of the high school transcript and its place in the application review process, including GPA calculation and HOPE GPA eligibility, and
  7. Have a customized list of schools to consider at the end of the summer intensive.

After hearing this and visiting the website, my next question was how can I help.  She was generous enough to allow me to serve as an Ethnographer for the weekend.  I captured stories, interviewed students and mentors, tweeted about the experiences and observed the workshops and shared through my blog.   It was an amazing experience for the students and for me.  It allowed me to get to know more about the college admissions process.  My big takeaway was a greater understanding of one of my coworkers who I admired before and know have greater respect.

I mentioned this was the first year of the program.  Sam and Erin started the conversation in January 2016 (this year) and six months later their vision is a reality.  So while Erin was successful assisting students with applications, scholarships and organizing graduation.  While being a member of the leadership team,  mentoring students and successfully completing PhD coursework.  She was able to pull off this program and give students a launchpad for a successful senior year.

IMG_0504

I would encourage you to follow the works of Metro-Atlanta Access Program:

IMG_0402

Twitter @mapcollege   or  MAP website 

How well do you know the members of your team?

 

 

 

Standard
Connections, Education, Ethnography, Reflection, Uncategorized

Summer Choices Create Senior Voices – MAP2016

IMG_0464

It is common for students to take the summer off. You have spent 9 -10 months  in intense study, writing epic papers, engaged in higher order thinking and solving the most complicated problems the world has to offer.  So yes you deserve a break and should be allowed to enjoy  summer but what about spending part of your summer investing in your future.  What if 2.5 days of personal investment could catapult you ahead of most rising seniors in the nation.  Day two of the Summer Intensive was spent doing just that.

IMG_0451

 

Students began the morning engaged in Case Studies.  In these case studies they played the role of College Admissions Counselor.  They had to determine if a student should be admitted, denied or wait listed for The University of _______________.  These rising seniors played their role well, analyzing every detail from SAT scores, GPA, personal experiences and extracurricular activities.  The benefit of such an exercise, students can a greater understanding of the admissions process.  Many assumed that GPA and grades were the primary deciding factor.  They were pleased to learn that life experiences can play a role in an admittance and sharing their personal stories during the essay portion can sway the reader’s view.

IMG_0449

 

Learning the value of a well crafted essay was eye opening to many of the Summer Intensive program participates.  So these rising seniors were thrilled to learn they would be able to practice their initial essay.  Gathered in a small group with only their mentor (representatives from College/University admission offices) students wrote at a fevered pace.  From an outside observer you may have thought it was the official SAT or an English final exam.  It was a group of students giving up a portion of their summer to gain insights into the college process.  Learning how to tell your story is a crucial part of life not just college admission. Sharing your life in a way that does not come across as braggadocious or makes you seem mediocre can be tough.  Through quality feedback from their mentors students came away from workshop with a developing first draft.

IMG_0466

What happens when your GPA, SAT scores and personal experiences are not enough.  What do you when you crafted your words the best way you know how but it does not get your point across.  Maybe it is time to show demonstrations of interest.  Making a phone call to the university admissions office.  Taking the time to go on an additional college visit.  Maybe when you know the representative of that school is in town setting up an interview.  As a part of day two students participated in Mock Interviews.  The mock interviews lasted ten minutes and then students received immediate feedback.   Hearing pointers around making eye contact but not staring, telling stories with vivid details yet knowing what not to say, and how to be an active listener without seeming insincere.  These soft skills seem like common sense but as student learning  these skills  may be the difference between, “hey we need you at our school” or “we wish you the best during your search.”

IMG_0467

The second day involved a lot of think work and personal reflection.  Students analyzed case studies, thoughtfully developed essays and experienced mock interviews.  They learned more about the Common App  and how to use it as a tool to navigate the process thanks to Aba Blankson,  Director of Communications .  Johnathan Hill with ZeeMee demonstrated ways to make their profile come to life and standout amongst other applicants.  So day two saw students exhausted mentally but ready to have fun.  The day closed out with a talent show and then time to relax in preparation for the final day.  

Standard
Connections, Education, Uncategorized

The Summer Intensive – Metro-Atlanta Access Program 2016

IMG_0405

It is the summer of your freshman year of College.  Each night you are contemplating am i attending  the correct University.  You waited until the last minute to make your decision and settled on an out of state school.   The financial aid office is “dragging its feet” on securing a package that truly meets your needs.  In reality you procrastinated and thought they would understand your tardy paperwork party.  Even as you countdown the days to your first official class, you are already considering transferring closer to home.  You daydream, wandering if only I had attended the Metro-Atlanta Access Program Summer Intensive.  Thankfully this scenario is only a dream, you are currently attending MAP 2016.

IMG_0377

IMG_0378

The inaugural summer intensive started yesterday with a bang or more like a pop of a balloon.  MAP 2016 will take place June 18th – 20th at Oxford College of Emory University.  The organization’s co-directors, Sam Aleinikoff and Erin McCubbin, are excited to host 40 students from Atlanta Public Schools and Dekalb County Schools. “Living and working with students for three days allows us the time, space, and opportunity to cultivate relationships that empower students to begin their college search.”  The Metro-Atlanta Access Program  provides lessons, resources, and tools that enable each student to build the muscle needed to begin the application process their senior year. We promise that each student will:

  1. Engage meaningfully through sports, talent shows, down time, and meals to build relationships,
  2. Participate in a case study to help visualize the college admission reading process,
  3. Be empowered to brainstorm and develop a working draft of a personal narrative,
  4. Educate themselves on application and testing fee waivers, financial and merit aid processes and distinction, and scholarships available to high-need families,
  5. Work to build a robust resume highlighting his or her experiences and strengths,
  6. Develop a deep understanding of the high school transcript and its place in the application review process, including GPA calculation and HOPE GPA eligibility, and
  7. Have a customized list of schools to consider at the end of the summer intensive.

 

Aleinikoff and McCubbin will be joined  by  9 college admission officers.  These officers will serve as small group mentors, giving students advice that will definitely impact their search for the ideal college.  The following Colleges and Universities represented:  

IMG_0402

 

  1. Emory University
  2. Georgia College
  3. Sewage: The University of the South
  4. Tufts University
  5. Carleton College
  6. Oberlin College
  7. Centre College
  8. Elon University
  9. Washington College

The initial part of the day began with team building and creating culture,  moments became more competitive as teams battled during College Jeopardy.  Jeopardy served as a foundation for learning as Admission officers began sharing insights about their school and the Admissions process in general.  

IMG_0438

Couple of takeaways…

“Finish the Drill.”  Even if it states the essay is optional, complete it.

“Your story matters, stories show personality and voice.”

“Liberal Arts schools teach you, How to Think not what to Think”

So in reality it is the summer leading into your senior year of high school.  You are part of the MAP 2016 program.  You are surrounding by a host of adults who are vested in your future success.  How will you use this weekend to set the tone for an amazing College search.

 

Standard