I love listening to #IMMOOC episodes with George Couros and Katie Martin, because I have the opportunity to hear powerful (and often entertaining) conversations unfold. By the end of each, I’m always left with the same question: “What can I do?” When you’re not an administrator, answering this question becomes more challenging, but far from impossible. Here are just a couple of lines from one of my favorite #IMMOOC interviews with Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis. It’s one I come back to often.
Katie Martin: “If we’re really creating meaningful experiences for teachers that shift their thinking, that shift their experiences,…what are some tangible things that we can take back to our own context?”
Tony Sinanis: “I think first and foremost, we need to give teachers time to collaborate.”
“Let’s do another Lead Like a PIRATE session.” It was early December and I was on my way to Edcamp Southeastern Massachusetts. Although I had made no commitment to lead a session, I found it impossible not to. At this point, spreading the PIRATE message is part of who I am. Colleen Worrell, my #LeadLAPmass co-launcher, happily accepted the call to duty.
About thirty people in one room joined us for a whole hour. Completely unprepared, something raw and beautiful transpired. Sharing our PIRATE stories transformed into many in the room sharing theirs. Those who hadn’t begun their journeys were curious, joined Twitter on the spot, and followed numerous authors. “What is PIRATE? Where do we start?” A high school classroom soon became an intimate powerhouse of ideas and support. Administrators and teachers came together confiding in each other the triumphs and struggles that come with establishing a PIRATE culture.
There was such a strong desire to jump in and contribute, many of us were finding it hard to stay still, while others were listening intently to a whole new world they had just entered. Of course Dave Burgess was tweeting to #edcampsoutheastma in no time, embracing and empowering this community. Having listened to the original #IMMOOC episode (starring Dave himself) on the drive down, it was almost fate that his snowball analogy became a hot topic as we talked about creating change. Walking in as strangers, we walked away bonded and motivated to make a difference in the culture of our classrooms and schools. And just in the nick of time, Beth Houf was able to join a few of us through FaceTime, providing an extra boost of encouragement.
I remember looking at Colleen simply stunned and could immediately tell I was not the only one. What had just erupted was a real life, heart racing, jump out of your seat conversation. How often does this happen in our buildings? How often do we make it happen? I was inspired to make it happen in mine.
Although it would be mini, modified, and optional, our first building edcamp was in the works for a while. In fact Chris Basile, an amazing colleague of mine, came up with a catchy slogan to help us sell it: “Remember December!” We had created video advertisements and purposefully only did raw takes. We knew they would be funnier and full of mistakes, carrying this message; On December 18th at our teacher choice staff meeting, teachers would be given a voice; the whole time.
Capturing attention was a priority.
Motivated by The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (and I had only just begun!), I was determined to look for defining moments that made our #edcampsemass conversation what it was so that I could make memorable moments for my colleagues. I didn’t have to think too hard. About halfway through our session, Brian McCann said the following.
“I’m not asking permission to be awesome and I’m not apologizing for being passionate.”
This statement broke the ice for all of us. The second those words came out of Brian’s mouth, I knew I was in the right place at the right time that day, as well as in my career. It gave us a push to unleash who we are, trust each other, and share our thinking. This is what edcamp is all about. After much reflection, I decided the “moment” I would spark for staff and administrators would be the actual experience.
It was important to hype up a couple of things before the big day; PIRATE and the power of conversation. I met with my colleagues who committed to leading or exploring a topic and made sure they felt prepared to be unprepared. I encouraged them to honor the discussions that would unfold. I was simply providing the fuel and letting them drive. I also wanted teachers to know they had immediate support from a few exceptional educators who not only bring their passion to work daily, but have certainly found their purpose. I reached out to a few of my PIRATE friends and “Passion Pep Talks” were born. Needless to say, they were a big hit.
YOU are invited to add your own “Passion Pep Talk” Flipgrid video HERE to share your thoughts on bringing passion to school. And of course addressing my colleagues as “Elmwood Rockstars” will hopefully inspire them to add their own.
With PIRATE themed decorations, snacks, and a lot of coffee, twenty colleagues showed up to the library ready to learn. I spoke very little as not to take up precious time, and anyone who knows me knows I love to talk. This was, therefore, a challenge, but I stuck to it. I shared Tony Sinanis’s thoughts about collaborating, replayed the end of one of the most exciting Patriots game ever, and thanks to The Power of Moments, left teachers hungry to discuss this question: “What is the game for students?”
From there, teachers as well as my principal dove into meaningful conversations around social emotional learning strategies, Breakout EDU, video creation apps, Seesaw, the PIRATE revolution, and Genius Hour, which included Thrively and Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.®. Although it was mini, modified, and optional, On December 18th from 3:30 to 5:00, Chris and I created an edcamp experience. High on their priority list, teachers took with them something they could try with their students the very next day. Most had walked in with only an idea of what to expect, and went home that afternoon craving more.
There is no better way to learn than from your colleagues! Thank you to everyone who shared- it was a great experience and I learned a lot!
I loved learning more about such exciting opportunities. It was so great to talk to my colleagues and to share their excitement – and my own!
I loved the enthusiasm brought today. Such a great change of pace and it was engaging. I would love to be able to do something like this again!
What I took away more than anything else was joy. We not only learned from each other, but had fun in the process. Time flew and the only critical feedback was that teachers wanted more of it. Within this joy, I also witnessed laughter. It hit me the value in bonding over laughs, particularly when administrators are in the room. It’s good for the soul and it’s good for relationships. I’ve learned it’s also incredible for productivity.
Teachers explored Breakout EDU together, sharing videos of students in action.
Do Ink, Chatter Pix, and Clips oh my! Many teachers shared ideas on how these fabulous video creation tools have (and could in the future) enhance learning and empower students. Immediately after this session, my colleague led another on using Seesaw to capture student learning including with the tools above.
What’s in your toolkit? Chris Basile has created her own to help students regulate their learning readiness and was willing to share her research and creations!
Although a small group, we dove further into the PIRATE mindset and the impact on teachers, students, and administrators.
One teacher shared her Genius Hour experience and how Thrively and Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E® lessons within Thrively played huge roles. Curiosity was sparked as well as a thoughtful discussion on how teachers might be able to make Genius Hour happen in their own classrooms. It was such a rich conversation, it’s hard to identify who’s leading.
Edcamp style PD doesn’t happen without a CREW willing to be unconventional right along with you. (A second grade teacher who led sessions on video creation apps and Seesaw, is not in this picture but did one amazing job.)
Victory, right? My answer is yes with a long road ahead. Unfortunately, the way it has always been in many schools is we either unintentionally provide forgettable moments during PD or lose sight of the ones that mattered. It’s time for the statement of “Wow, that was powerful!” to transform into the question, “When and how can we do that again?” Luckily, several teachers did just that and their voices were heard. Pushing for change is certainly a challenge, but far from impossible. With supportive administrators and colleagues, I will indeed “Remember December” and strive to not only honor conversations, but intentionally make them happen.
“No matter what your position, you can create change. If you are struggling to do so, maybe you’re trying to pick up all the snow at once. Just grab a handful, pack it tight, and then start pushing. Change is a lot easier when you’re rolling snowballs downhill.”- Dave Burgess (Rolling Snowballs Downhill)