School Culture

Authentic Audience #slowchated March 9-14, 2015

Image from Wikimedia Commons

I took great pride in my work for elective classes in high school: often more than I did for my academically required courses. I played tuba in multiple bands, acted in most of our school plays, competed in speech and debate, and wrote for the school newspaper. Now, of course, the fact that I chose my electives was a motivator, but the biggest difference between those classes and my others was the audience. I knew that my work would be on display for my peers and the larger community, not just the teacher. I practiced and practiced the tuba solo in the Holst Suite because I knew how many people would be listening. I carefully revised and edited every submission I wrote for the Timberwolf Times because all of my friends and teachers would read my work. I did fine on the papers that I wrote for my teachers’ eyes only, but I rarely put the same type of effort into those assignments.

Coursework in the arts and many electives have always given students an authentic audience, while work in other classes is done solely for the instructor. Why? Personally, it wasn’t something I thought about much until recently. In the past, I had my students imagine an audience for their writing, but we rarely wrote for a real audience. This year, I’m starting to give my students real audiences for presenting their work. I’ve seen how sharing their work with a broader audience motivates and inspires many of my students. Still, I know I can do more and I want to hear your ideas.

These are the questions I have in mind, but they are subject to change as you contribute ideas throughout the week.

Q1 What makes an audience “authentic”?

Q2 How do your students create for authentic audiences?

Q3 How much audience participation do you want? How do you encourage or discourage it?

Q4 What is something you already do that could be enhanced with an authentic audience?

Q5 Where do you find an audience?

Q6 What is your “dream audience” for student work?

I’m eager to discuss this with you on #slowchated and I hope that you will take full advantage of the slow chat format. We have a whole week to find and post links, photos, and blog posts. Best of all, we have an authentic audience in each other, and audience participation is required. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, and learn from one another!

Cross posted at the Teacher With Tuba blog

Let’s Build a School!

WC

If you enjoy Twitter conversations on education and you’re not yet familiar with #slowchatED, I highly recommend having a look. Rather than juggling questions and answers at the breakneck pace of many popular discussions, the #slowchatED model offers the opportunity for conversations that may benefit from a little more reflection. We push out one question per day over the course of a week, and throughout the week, participants are welcome to share their ideas as they are able and at their own pace.

Using the #slowchatED model, I’d like for us to design a school together, looking at individual aspects of school models over the course of the discussion. We’ve discussed similar questions in other Twitter groups, but I don’t believe that we’ve given ourselves sufficient time to explore our own ideas in depth, nor have I see much discussion of what an actual schedule, org chart, etc. would look like, if we had a say in their creation. With this particular discussion, I’m hoping to see not just theoretical ideas but actual concrete and specific solutions to the problems we’ve all dealt with. It’s one thing to give our opinions as critics, but it’s another thing altogether to offer real solutions to the problems we regularly discuss from the point of view of designers—we need to start doing more of this kind of work. Though each question below is broad enough for a Twitter discussion of its own, we’ll use them to work toward our own designs for successful school models in this way:

Q1 What does your ideal school calendar look like (i.e., daily schedule, teaching vs. service days, etc.)?
Q2 What does your ideal physical space look like (e.g., classrooms, offices, community space, etc.)?
Q3 Describe the ideal organizational structure of your school. Who makes decisions and how?
Q4 How do you hire, train, and retain quality teaching talent? Outline your ideal supporting PD program.
Q5 What else makes your ideal school unique or what wild idea would you love to try? What did we miss?
Q6 Write your school’s mission statement.

I’m eager to hear a variety of thoughts on these questions, but I’m even more excited for the ancillary conversations that will be born from our discussion. In particular, I’m curious to know what I haven’t yet thought of as being of central importance for school design. It will certainly be the case that the room will be smarter than any individual, and thanks to the variety of points of view and the general diversity of opinion on Twitter, I expect that these questions will be just starting points allowing us to explore school design more deeply. I hope that we push each other’s ideas to give us the opportunity to dive deeply into what we think is fundamental for school design. There will be no wrong answers!

With these questions as our starting point, how might we design a school? This is your perfect world in which you get to build your perfect school. Assume that there are no restrictions or limits for our designs; but however imaginative and revolutionary they may be, let’s also try to build a school that’s feasible. At the end of the week, I’ll invite everyone to reflect on our respective school designs and capture your model in a blog post of your own to share what you learned in the process. I can’t wait to see what we each build over the course of the week of Feb. 9 on #slowchatED.

The Patient Art (and Flow) of Influence: #SlowchatED Dec 15-21

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Courtesy of Maddie, @HallMiddle 8th grader

We often talk about influence as a commodity – something to be “peddled.” People make careers out of influencing others (e.g. lobbyists), yet the concept of “influence” can also have an unsavory undertone. Influence as a contagion, something difficult to contain once let out into the open; an idea or mentality (or substance) that sullies something pure.

What if we took more time to think and talk about influence as a spirit of connection, a frame of mind – one that encourages us to both share ideas with others (and perhaps see them take root) and open ourselves up to what other people think and believe (and to feel those ideas take root in us)? (more…)

Defining Our #EduFuture (August 18-24)

 old school

“The future” is a loaded term – one that evokes tremendous flights of imagination AND trepidation in myriad art forms.  Most science fiction looks into the future (or, like Star Wars, looks at societies from “long ago” that are clearly more technologically advanced than we are) and sees a mixture of fantastical technology and dystopic social realities.  The list is long: in the recent film Elysium, the technology exists to cure terminal cancer by simply lying down in a machine for a few moments, but this is only accessible to the wealthy who have fled Earth to live on a (really cool looking) space station; the rest of humanity lives in squalor and disease.

Our vision for the future – at least through the lens of science fiction – is rife with deep anxiety and stark dichotomies.

Is science fiction arguing that, the more powerful our technology becomes, the more fractured our social dynamic?   (more…)

Finding Purpose in Education (June 9)

My name is Moss Pike, and I teach Latin at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. I’m excited to host a #slowchatED discussion on finding purpose within education the week of June 9, since it’s a topic I’ve become very invested over the course of this past year. Our school is on the verge of making some potentially big changes, based on a quite thorough “Workload Study” we recently completed with all of our students, and purpose has been one of the more salient talking points in the discussion. In thinking about how to design more engaging classroom experiences for my students and more engaging PD opportunities for faculty, as well as considering reworking our school mission, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about purpose, focusing on the question of why do we do what we do.

Alongside autonomy and mastery, purpose is one of Dan Pink’s three essential requirements for intrinsic motivation, which he outlines in his fantastic book Drive (cf. some of my thoughts on the book). Pink (2011:137) points out that we don’t often enough ask “Why?” in the workplace, and I think the same is true within the classroom and at schools in general. Now that we’re starting to understand the value of the so-called “non-cognitive” or “soft” skills like creativity and empathy that play a central role in engagement and happiness, it’s the perfect time to call more attention to purpose and think hard about this question, as we’re pushing change in our schools.

When I learned about Aaron Hurst‘s new book The Purpose Economy, I couldn’t wait to read it and see what he had to say on this idea. It’s an excellent book to add to the list of “books not about education that have everything to do about education,” and if anyone is looking for something to inspire deep thinking about important ideas, I highly suggest picking it up (cf my notes on it). In the book, Hurst (2014:18) makes it clear that his idea of purpose goes beyond service, thinking of it within the following framework:

“When I say purpose, I mean more than serving others and the planet. Service is certainly at the core, but in speaking with hundreds of professionals and reading thousands of essays, I’ve discovered that there are two other key sources of purpose people seek: a sense of community and the opportunity for self-expression and personal growth. In other words, they pursue personal, social and societal purpose.”

That said, the book (cf. also Hurst’s blog) have served as the inspiration for me to have a wider discussion on the topic, with the hope that we can bring together a number of diverse ideas on purpose and start to answer the question “Why?” for both ourselves and our greater communities. “Much like technology a few decades ago, purpose has now become a business imperative,” Hurst (2014:21) claims, and in my opinion, purpose should also be an educational imperative. If interested in discussing more on the book itself, by the way, share any thoughts or questions in our EduRead G+ community and/or use the hashtag #eduread14 on Twitter.

So to this end, we’ll discuss the questions below next week using the hashtag #slowchatED on Twitter, beginning with Q1 on Monday, June 9, followed by a new question each subsequent day of the week. All are welcome to participate throughout the week, whether it’s just for one question or for the duration of the discussion. As always, there are no wrong answers in a discussion like this, and I’m excited to see what ideas we can come up with together.

Suggested Reading

There’s no need to read The Purpose Economy for our #slowchatED discussion (though you certainly should at some point!), but it may be helpful to read through a couple good blog posts on the idea:

Questions

Q1 Why is purpose important? What does it do for us as community members?
Q2a Define what purpose means to you as an educator, sharing examples. What is your own personal purpose?
Q2b Define what purpose means to you as colleague, sharing examples. What is your societal and social purpose?
Q3 What are some myths or misconceptions about purpose? Why isn’t purpose often pursued?
Q4 How can we find, celebrate, and sustain our purpose as educators?
Q5 Why is finding purpose more important than ever for students? How do we help them find it?
Q6 Share a purpose project you intend to work on in the next academic year.

N.B.: This post is duplicated in my personal blog.

Week 8 #slowchatED Reflection: Teacher Leadership

Jumping off of Eric Demore‘s week 7 topic, curiosity, week 8 was borne out of my inquisitive spirit. I am oddly fascinated with teacher leadership.  Two of my favorite teachers in elementary school were principals by the time I graduated high school, and two of my favorite high school teachers become principals by the time I graduated college. Meanwhile, in the district where I’ve taught, the opposite was apparently happening: as a new teacher, I was regaled with what I can only call horror stories from past students of some of the leaders in my county. I’ve worked long enough to have my own horror stories even. I have worked with amazing teachers who are legally qualified to be administrators but shudder at the thought of leaving the classroom.

Let’s just say I have a bunch of questions about teacher leadership, okay?

I promise question one wasn’t intended to be a modified typical edchat beginning – you know, the kind explicitly listed in David Theriault’s Things That Suck about Twitter Chats:

No, it had a purpose. I wanted to know a few things: how do we describe our leadership roles? Are we a list of titles? Do men and women describe their roles differently? Do teachers recognize teaching as a leadership role itself? How many synonyms do we have for the same job? Obviously if I asked any of those questions first, I would’ve gotten conscious answers. I wanted to just get your answers and make some observations for myself.

As far as leadership roles go, some described their jobs, some gave titles. An equal number of men and women responded, and the responses were mostly titles, but many leaders shared their role, what actually gets accomplished. There were a few teachers whose only title was “Teacher,” and I surprised myself by being one of them (sort of). As far as synonyms go, we have a lot of words for the same jobs. I even learned that California’s mentors have their own acronym:

BTSA?

Suffice to say, #slowchated is a pretty impressive group of people with a lot of jobs. So with our myriad of experiences, surely we can solve all of education’s ills, right?

Teacher leadership is sort of a beast. Everyone has different expectations for leaders, and that’s including the leader himself/herself, which leads to this problem:

While each leadership role comes with its own expectations and goals, many answers pointed to some universal truths about leadership:

 Randa Hendricks shared this image that pretty much sums up all leadership ideologies: boss v leader

And then there’s this one from B. Buck:

true leaders (Comma splice aside, it’s a good point.)

Eric Saibel‘s answers reflect these ideals:

A3: Admin must be willing to empower TLs as true leaders & decision-makers IF we believe in flattening our organizations. #slowchatED — Eric Saibel (@ecsaibel) March 19, 2014

Also, my  love for Jodie Morgenson was affirmed when she shared this video, essentially about buy-in:

The right attitude is a requirement too:

Jeffrey Farley notes that we are wasting time looking for others to empower us; we just need to act like professionals. (That entire conversation is here and worth your time.)

We also need to quit fearing possibilities:

And, most importantly, leaders must recognize fallibility:

Good, strong leaders have specific internal qualities. How do we nurture them? We discussed what it would take to make certain leadership roles more doable or appealing, such as increased time or pay, but beyond making leadership opportunities less stressful and more attractive, how do we attract and support the types of leaders who delegate well, lead without ego, and sustain personal growth? These are the questions I am left with. (Thanks, Eric!)

#slowchated Week 5: Balancing Life as an Educator AKA The Wild Ride

This is cross-posted here –> SLOWCHATED.

Now that week 6 is nearly coming to a close, I am ready to publish (the overly long) reflection of Week 5. (Brevity in writing is NOT one of my strong-points. Brevity in speaking is a specialty, so don’t ask me to TELL you about Week 5; you’ll just have to read about it here). Please note: I consider this a draft, but since it is overdue, I’m going to go ahead and hit “PUBLISH” and go back and edit later, which WILL include re-working the jacked up format.

Jeffrey Farley (@FarleyJeffrey) summed Week 5 up best:

During Week 5, we managed to explore this wide topic deeply (& sometimes irreverently) & the moderator (yours truly) was tricky–a cheater really–who had all sorts of sneaky question maneuvers…

(more…)

Week 3 #slowchatED Reflection: All Hands in the #EDUhuddle

Cross-posted at Principals in Training

This video is the product of two students (Ben Enbom and John Hassen) at my school, Sir Francis Drake High School.  The ONLY thing I did was give them the driving question.  We collaborated on this project – well, it’s more like I mooched off of their artistry and passion for film.  I didn’t follow them around, I didn’t pick the people they interviewed, I didn’t review the final edit.  We talked ahead of time about my general ideas for this week’s chat and I trusted them to do the right thing.  And guess what?  They did the right thing.  Why am I so un-surprised?  I see kids doing the right thing all the time – they just want more opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the mini-verses of our schools…and beyond.

I’ve thought this question over for years – long before I stepped into my “authority/boss” role as assistant principal: while education certainly is a service we provide, the best classes I’ve been a part of (as a teacher, as an observer) feel like startups – everyone working shoulder-to-shoulder to create something unique.  It got me thinking: do we really want to continue a model where we TELL kids what to do and how to do it, or do we partner up as co-workers?  If we want them to be college/life/universe ready when they depart our (high school) shores, shouldn’t we give them the chance to ACTUALLY have a say in how those four years go?

I threw down a CHALLENGE in advance of the chat:  (more…)

2.10-16: Students & Adults As Co-Workers

Cross-posted at Principals in Training

This video is the product of two students (Ben Enbom and John Hassen) at my school, Sir Francis Drake High School.  The ONLY thing I did was give them the driving question.  We collaborated on this project – well, it’s more like I mooched off of their artistry and passion for film.  I didn’t follow them around, I didn’t pick the people they interviewed, I didn’t review the final edit.  We talked ahead of time about my general ideas for this week’s chat and I trusted them to do the right thing.  And guess what?  They did the right thing.  Why am I so un-surprised?  I see kids doing the right thing all the time – they just want more opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the mini-verses of our schools…and beyond.

I’ve thought this question over for years – long before I stepped into my “authority/boss” role as assistant principal: while education certainly is a service we provide, the best classes I’ve been a part of (as a teacher, as an observer) feel like startups – everyone working shoulder-to-shoulder to create something unique.  It got me thinking: do we really want to continue a model where we TELL kids what to do and how to do it, or do we shoulder-up as co-workers?  If we want them to be college/life/universe ready when they depart our (high school) shores, shouldn’t we give them the chance to ACTUALLY have a say in how those four years go?

My CHALLENGE to you: invite your students to our chat.  Have them make videos about the ideas we discuss and post them to the chat.  You know what ingredient has been missing for so long in the work I’ve done alongside my adult colleagues for 16 years?  Students in the room, giving us their perspective, ideas, expertise.  Students putting their hand in the huddle when it’s decision-making time.  We can turn that around – but what will that involve?  What will we have to change, give up, leave behind?

I look forward to our time together starting Monday.  Massive UPS to David and Catina for leading off with two tremendous weeks of learning and connecting.  Here are the first few questions to start mulling over:

Q1: Being co-workers implies mutual trust/respect: talk about your school culture through the lens of St/adult relationships: strengths & areas 4 growth.

Q2: Are YOU satisfied with the role your students play (or, if you are a student, YOUR role) in how your school operates?  Is the level of engagement where it should be? Explain why/why not.

Q3: Do you think students need more of a say/voice in HOW your school operates?  In how your class operates?  Why/why not?

Q4: Talk about PD at your school: are Ss ever involved in meetings? In planning sessions? In debriefing how “the work” is going?

Q5: What needs to change in schools/classrooms for students to see themselves as our co-workers? What do we have to give up?

Q6: