This post is cross-posted on the slowchated blog. This week’s #slowchated will focus on JOY in education. To participate in this week-long one-question-per-day chat, you can jump in here –> #slowchated

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

~ Albert Einstein

Oh, Albert. Such a smart cookie you were. I would take Albert’s statement just a bit further in adding that the act of awakening joy in others brings joy to the awakener as well. It is utterly and beautifully cyclical. How lucky are we educators to have this honor? Helping a student find joy in learning, is one of the best feelings I know. IMG_1241

One thing that I know I forget far to often (my husband and children can vouch for this) is that it’s important to experience joy away from one’s job. For every ounce of joy I experience in the classroom comes an ounce (or more) of frustration (usually due to some layer of bureaucracy). Doing the things you love and spending time with people who bring you joy outside of your school provides a balance that is vital for preserving one’s career … and sanity. So …

… Q1: What brings you joy outside your classroom/school?


How often do we make a conscious effort to focus on the joy of teaching and learning? How often do we remind ourselves that learning should bring the learner joy? How often do we design learning with joy in mind? It’s hard because of the demands of people and entities outside the classroom constantly clamoring for our attention. Despite those demands, the classroom should be a place of learning and joy. I would even go so far as to argue that in order for learning to take place, there must be some element of joy involved–or maybe more accurately, learning will be more likely to occur of there is joy in the process. This is not a scientific fact; it is merely based on 15 years of working in the trenches of public education. This brings us to …

… Q2: What brings you joy in the classroom or school where you work?


[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.

~ Jim Henson

What do you share with your students? Are you a real person to them, or are you the person who they believe keeps a cot in the closet and lives at school? We need to humanize ourselves to our students. It’s part of the give-and-take of relationship-building. If you want to understand your students, you need to know them, and in order for them to trust you, you need to reveal who you are to them.

I’m not suggesting you need to share every detail of your life, but how about sharing that you raise chickens? or paint watercolor portraits of your friends’ pets? or that you climbed a mountain last summer? or that you cross stitch pop culture icons in your spare time? or that you collect dolphin figurines? or that you love to sit in a hammock and read book after book all summer long? or that your great-grandpa was an Arabian prince? or that your dog died and that it makes you sad? or that when you see a snake or a turtle in the middle of the rode that you stop and move it to the ditch so it doesn’t get run over? or that you are an alien from outer space just trying to fit in? (There was a teacher at my elementary school who told her kids this. She never ever denied it. In fact, part of me still wonders …)

Why not share those things with your students? Every teacher will have a different comfort level regarding what s/he does and does not share, but share something. When you share, your students will usually share in return or be one step closer to sharing. Dr. Gary Stager says that being an interesting adult is one of the best things we can do for our students. I agree with him and I strive to be a weirdo for my students every day!

This is the perfect intro to Q3: What are some ways we can share our personal joys (and passions) with our students? IMG_1278-1qa3znf What teachers do in the classroom can affect a child for life. That’s one of the reasons why our profession is so totally rad, but also so totally scary. When a student walks into my classroom, I set the tone in my instruction, in my reactions, and in my expression of learning. It’s not always easy! It’s easy for students (who often seem surprised to see us at the mall or in a grocery story) to forget that we are human too and humans have off or bad days, so I need to ask … Q4: When you are having a bad day, what can/do you do to set a positive tone in the classroom? HOMEWORK: Think of some images that represent joy to you & have them at the ready for tomorrow We are a visually driven culture, so let’s talk about Q5 (which is not really a question): Share some images of what joy looks like to you (inside or outside the classroom/school). Look at all this joy!

IMG_1280(1)Q6, the final question of the week asked: If you could send one message of joy to your students, what would it be?

You responded with …

How joyful!

My wish for all educators who read this is that you always remember how much fun and joyful learning can be and that you do what you can, when you can to ensure that your students have a joyful experience in a place that can set the tone for an entire year of their life and potentially for their whole entire lives!

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


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…)

Is Politics Still Taboo? – August 4-9


“I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don’t vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote — who did not even leave the house on Election Day — am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created.” – George Carlin, comedian


Experimentation Week: Get out there and try something new!


You’re out for dinner at one of your favourite restaurants about to order your favourite menu item (which you’ve eaten multiple times before because its delicious!) when all of a sudden the waiter tells you about tonight’s special – something wild and exotic that you’ve never tried before, like octopus ravioli. It sounds enticing and you want to order it, but you’re reluctant to pass on old reliable – spaghetti and meatballs – because you know it will make you happy.

The age old dilemma of trying something different and new, or sticking with what’s comforting and predictable. It comes up a lot in teaching. Do you you pull an old lesson plan out of the file box or play with an idea that’s been nagging you? The latter has more potential for excitement and discovery, but can also result in complete and utter failure.

As I reflected on all my colossal classroom flops from the past year, one thing that struck me was how much – despite hair-pulling frustration at the time – I had gained from every single one of them. In fact, I actually learned quite a lot more from experimenting and failing than I did by succeeding with tried and tested methods.

This made me curious about how other teachers approached the subject. One thing that became clear during last week’s discussion was how unafraid teachers are of taking risks with their craft. For most, experimentation is central to being an effective teacher.

(“Worth his salt” – I like that expression. It sounds old schoool!

Good on ya Barb! I hope I can say the same thing 25 years from now. Thankfully, we have teachers like yourself to connect with on twitter. I loved how eager everyone was to share their own learning experiences with experimentation in their classrooms…

(Well, the ego’s not THAT important…is it?)

(As a perfectionist, something I have to remind myself constantly!)


I’m totally stealing some of these. So many new ideas!

Of course, teachers expressed the need for a supportive environment, where risk-taking is encouraged and failure is accepted…


We even heard from some Ed leaders on how they inspire their teachers to experiment!

(The risk-taker motto!)

(Love the open-mindedness here!)

In the end experimentation is what school’s all about: Imagination, investigation, discovery, learning and FUN!


After all, what does anyone have to gain without getting out there and trying new things!










Week 14: Change in Education

I HAD to get my reflection on the week of Change in Education before @FarleyJeffrey posted his reflection for week 15 on ambition.  It’s good to have a deadline.  A few things popped into my head as I thought about how to wrap up the discussion about change.  They are, in no particular order…

One of the things I like most about the whole #slowchatED process is that the discussion goes beyond the main thread.  I love when discussions, whether involving me directly or not, take off on their own tangent.  Often, Tweeters will stop using the #slowchatED hashtag as they develop their own thread of conversation.  So it’s a nice surprise when I click on a tweet to favorite it or reply and see a string of conversation that wasn’t in the original timeline (I use TweetDeck).  @sjbates and @TheWeirdTeacher are pros at this.

In dealing with change, I found no lack of educators wanting to see change (sea change) in education, the political system, and themselves.  Not surprising, the teachers that joined the conversation (those using Twitter professionally) are the ones willing to take on some risk to be change agents at their sites.  Is this a coincidence or the kind of educator drawn to Twitter?

In looking at what we wanted to see changed in education, the responses ran the gamut.  Check-out the hashtag to review the conversation from our week.

Then came the cheese question.  It served its purpose.  We got to see how people “took” the question.  I purposely used the verbiage of the question: What do you suck at?  This allowed for the variety of interpretations we saw.  Some were honest.  Some were funny.  Some were honestly funny.  And one was quite literal (and you know I loved that).

I realized, with my student question, I should have given the prompt earlier in the week to allow teachers to talk with their students.  Next time, with a question like that, I will let people know it is coming up so they can prepare.  It didn’t really take-off the way I wanted and that’s OK.  I’ll know for the next time.  We’re developing s-l-o-w-l-y here at #slowchated.

I am really glad I moderated this week.  It was excellent experience for something I take for granted week in and week out as I engaged in Twitter chats.  Behind every chat are moderators planning, preparing questions, and summarizing the conversations.  Kudos to all those chat leaders at there.  And (shameless plug here), it was great practice for our upcoming #SLOcuechat.


Day 6 Question: How can we bring parents on-board with the change process?

Day 5 Question: Let’s hear from students.  What do they want to see changed in education?  What are their ideas for going about that change?

Day 4 Question: As we’ve seen and heard this week, change can be difficult.  Today we’re looking at the roadblocks to change.  And how to navigate them!

Day 3 Question: The school I taught at in Elk Grove before moving to the central coast was brand new.  I was on the team that planned the school from the ground up, including the hiring committee.  We wanted our school to be different, so we came up with a question to throw the interviewees off-track a bit and get a glimpse at their personality.  The question, essentially, was this: We plan on having staff BBQs at least once a month.  If you were asked to bring the cheese, what kind of cheese would you bring and why?  It, quite honestly, is the best question.  You immediately see how they handle something out-of-the-norm and get to see what’s hiding underneath the interview exterior.  So every time since then, I have always asked a cheese question.  Tomorrow in #slowchatEd, we get a cheese question.

Day 2 Question: It’s time for change. Pick one thing you want to see changed in education. Why does it need change?

Day 1 Question: Define “change agent” as it pertains to you in your current position. Examples?

I was having a #brewcue with Marc Townsend (@teachertownsend) and Rich Hovey (@teacherhovey) a few weeks ago and the germ of a question came up that has been looming in the back of my mind:

Why do some educators embrace change while others seem to fight against it – or at the very least let is pass them by without so much as a reflective glance?

The answers, as much of anything dealing with education, are multi-faceted and complex.  This doesn’t stop me from wondering, though, why is change so difficult – in education, in life, wherever?  The cheese keeps moving, but the same resistance is met over and over again.  Marc’s thoughts on a similar idea can be read here. So this week in #slowchatEd, we will be looking at change in education from many different viewpoints.  There will be several opportunities to share views from a variety of educational arms.  I encourage you to seek and share these views throughout the week, especially from those educators not yet using Twitter.  We want to hear from many voices. Some initial resources to get you thinking about change: This article  from the Johns Hopkins School of Education examines the process of change in schools. You may have already seen this video from Sir Ken Robinson, but I think it is worth another viewing. This article from ASCD looks at teachers as change agents. If you have other resources to share, please tweet them out this week using the #slowchatEd hashtag.  This post can also be seen on my website here.