Success is not about competition– it’s about contribution.- Adam Grant
The phenomenal Keri-Leeforwarded the talk to our group and suggested we use it as a conversation starter for our first meeting back in the new year. That’s (just) one of the wonderful things about working with my team: people give, a lot.
Many educators will have experienced working with both paranoid and pronoiad people. Spend 15 minutes in any given staff meeting, and you’ll be able to get a sense for which term applies: do you have passive resistance or engaged constructive conflict? Do people fight back eye-rolls, or are questions received with thoughtful-pauses? Do we avoid conflict or do we push for greater understanding? Does the meeting need many navigators or does only one person hold the map?
Do we trust one another at the wheel?
I am grateful for my colleagues. Every day.
Dave, Ken, Keri-Lee, Andrew and Adrienne have all made me feel comfortable, but not too comfortable. A good colleague will invite you to rely on them for help, but they will also inspire you to take risks.
Beyond any doubt, each one of them has been what Grant described as a ‘giver.’
…if you want to build a culture where givers succeed,is you actually need a culture where help-seeking is the norm;where people ask a lot.-Adam Grant
What’s remarkable about our team dynamics isn’t that we get along, rather it is that we aren’t afraid not to.
What I’ve learned from my team is impossible to distil in a single blog post. However, in the spirit of a new year, and in the spirit of wanting to pay their collective wisdom forward, here are three trademarks I’d recommend any team replicate:
1. Small talk is huge.
If we don’t bother to have casual conversation, we won’t be able to enjoy ‘casual successes.’ Schools are a blend of the personal and the professional. Carve out space to meet that mix.
2. Go off piste.
If you are a slave to your agenda, you’ll miss out on a lot of magic. Great leadership knows where the line is, and where to readjust boundaries as needed.
3. Be aware of your collective media diet.
Share links, books, movies, tools. These things aren’t talking points, they are thinking pivots, and every organization regardless of size or scope needs to have thinking pivots posted from a wide variety of stake-holders.
3.2: Don’t miss an opportunity to express your gratitude.
People are more important than ideas. There was a great quote here, “Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas . . . too many of us think of ideas as being singular, as if they float in the ether , fully formed and independent of the people who wrestle with them. Ideas, though, are not singular. They are forged through tens of thousands of decisions, often made by dozens of people.” This has a few big implications. First, it means trust and relationships are more important than the products we make. Second, it means we need to be okay to abandon ideas without taking things personally. Finally, it means our success in generating ideas does not define who we are as people.
Spencer’s musings on the trust we need to precede ‘creativity’ continues in his book (prioritize it on your summer to-read list):
“If we want students to hit a place of creative flow, we need to give them time to experience this phase. We must allow them to be excruciatingly slow. There’s no shortcut. They can’t bypass the necessary learning and discovery, trial and error. They simply need more time to work through it.”
A week ago, one of my amazing grade 9 students had a day off from school. With all the open space of a day off campus she could have done just about anything. Instead of binging on Netflix, she hit that place of creative flow. All on her own. Check out her amazing project in the making here:
You can read all about the project to be here. Please consider leaving your comments, or connecting her with other students who might ignite other ideas too.
In many ways, that student followed Spencer’s Launch Cycle. Perhaps she’d even agree with another quote from #LaunchBook:
“There’s power in problem-solving and experimenting and taking things from questions to ideas to authentic products that you launch to the world. Something happens in students when they define themselves as makers and inventors and creators.”
I’ve been thinking about the students and colleagues I’ve known who have been ‘prone to Launch.’ They all share one common trait: they have a network who will support them by being a member of their audience.
Being someone’s audience comes in all shapes and sizes. You can comment on their post, quote their tweet adding your ‘yes, and…’ thoughts, ask them to tell you more, connect them with someone who can take their work further, invite them into your network, or just listen.
How often do we underestimate the power of listening?
It is one of the most effective ways to make someone feel valued. Think of the people you’ve most loved working with, I bet they made you feel heard. The most inspired administrators I’ve had the privilege to work with are all stellar listeners.
As another academic year comes to an end, I propose a goal for all you gearing up to set brand new goals: make any five members of your community feel heard, for the entire year. What if this goal applied to all stakeholders of your school? How might that feed into other goals?
I’m reading two books at the moment which are proving to be very helpful if you want to unpack that goal:
While I am incredibly excited to listen to brand new colleagues and students at my soon to be next school, I must say, I am every bit as excited to hear from the creator of the Firesaur, to find out how her project evolves. I’m also excited to hear from members of the #EagleEd squad, and play audience from afar to hear about what they do with blogging, Davos, service learning, and more.
As a goodbye and thank you, I leave with a blogpost (also by Spencer) as a parting gift. I hope my students and colleagues continue to foster the power of positive relationships and embrace what Spencer calls ‘The Food Truck Mindset”:
Food trucks often allow a chef to continue to improve on his or her craft by learning through making. You figure out if it works by sending it to a real audience. Part of why food trucks can experiment so well is that they are moving through the design cycle faster than a typical restaurant. They are able to test things out to a real audience and see if it works. Schools can easily get bogged down by meetings where they are planning about planning. But if they take this “ship earlier” approach, they can test things, modify them, and then create a new iteration faster. Innovation often looks small and humble at first. But good ideas have a way of spreading when people are able to see it in action.
Happy Making this Summer!
Thank you Flickr for the amazing Creative Commons Images!
Schools are talking a lot of talk about digital citizenship. Leaders are drafting a lot of policy, middle managers are meeting again, discussing once more, how we can establish norms of healthy and effective online behaviors. So, where are you?
Are you mentoring or simply managing?
Are you demonstrating why we need social networks? Are you a lead learner? Do your colleagues, students, friends KNOW what you are learning and why you are learning about it?
I cannot count the times I have heard a fellow teacher say something like this: “I have nothing to share, why would I tweet?” or “Blogging takes up too much time, and besides, why would anyone read my posts?”
The truth is, every teacher has something to share.
Yes, blogging takes time.
Learning takes time.
Reflection takes time.
Everything that makes your school strong, warm, caring, meaningful TOOK TIME. Initially you might end up being the only audience for your ideas and posts.
Shouldn’t we all sit as an audience member to our own mind now and then?
Readers will come.
You will be surprised because you will soon realize you have always been a social thinker. All educators are taste-makers, idea-sparkers, and public personas. Even when you don’t have an opinion, your absence of comment says something.
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
Having a PLN, and connecting with a broader range of educators will change you. Check out this brilliant reflection on ‘How Change Will Change You,” courtesy of the incredibly witty Jessica Hagy. Perhaps even more relevant to this post is her work here:
So why risk the safety and comfort of your existing ideas for diversity, conflict, and confusion?
Because that is exactly what we ask our students to do every day of the week, because we know it will teach them both how to think, and why society needs thoughtful people.
“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” ~ James Surowiecki
So what have I been doing lately to diversifY my ideation process?
I’ve hosted two #March2C chats. I’ve been looking for new ways of thinking about blogging in schools. You can look at the storified version of the first one here, and the follow up chat here.
This meant using the excellent International Schools Information Technology Leadership and Integration group on Facebook (The inspired John Mikton is one of the admin) as well as our fantastic Google+ #COETAIL community.
Fellow COETAILER, Marcello Mongardi agreed to co-host the first chat with me on Twitter. We brainstormed questions, and I used Haiku Deck to curate our conversAtion:
#March2C – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;
2. The initial chat, and extension of my PLN was the direct result of one of my favorite online connections, Sonya terBorg. Sonya is a former colleague, and we recently reconnected when we were both presenting at the ECIS 2015 technology conference.
Sonya and I have regular chats about where technology could and should be taking our schools, and how it can be a major catalyst for empathy. After reading her blog post here, I felt inspired to take a blogging project I am facilitating in my own school, and share it with a wider audience. That invitation is still live here.
That’s the power of PLN point guards: they encourage and inspire when you need an added boost.
Sonya reminded me to think about ways to better engage with my audience, and to go visual when sharing my blogging prompts:
3. In the past two weeks I’ve pivoted with the blogging challenge. There is no reason our PLN should not include our students. So I started asking my students to provide me with blogging prompts, and I’m challenging myself to blog back once a week (you can see my first response here). It has been really interesting to see how they want to challenge their teacher.
4. Developing bonds within your PLN community is multifaceted. One of the lesser talked about networks in COETAIL is Goodreads.
I’ve been astonished to see what happens when we network our student readers. I stole this idea from two other PLN point guards: Jabiz Raisdana and Paula Guinto.
PLN’s do that: they invite you to beg, borrow, steal and remix.
Every single one of my students is now on Goodreads, and we update and connect in that space weekly. A month ago, I invited our principal to join and connect with students. He was kind enough to agree. PLN’s need many roads to connect through, and Goodreads is a great path to pursue. Roughly half of my students have joined the immensely popular Goodreads group “Our Shared Shelf,” reminding me that networks beget more networking.
I’ve sent a tweet to @coetail-admin to see if we can get the Goodreads widget added to our COETAIL blogs. Seeing what educators have on their shelves is incredibly insightful. Just today I found @Arniebieber ‘s blog (A BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR ANY SCHOOL DIRECTOR WHO IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO BLOG!) and I decided to check out one of the books on his Goodreads shelf (via the widget) and I’ve already ordered myself a copy.
I love seeing what other education leaders are reading. The most creative educators are constantly reading, constantly leaving a trail of thought. Kim Cofino models this practice so well:
If networks beget more networking, reading begets more blogging, and that is a very good thing for schools everywhere.
5. My other PLN extension focus is the upcoming #Learning2 conference in Milan. I’m honored to be an L2 Leader this year. This gives me the stellar opportunity to get more face-to-face time with some of my most valued PLN. It also gives me the opportunity to make new connections.
When I try to distill all my work with my PLN down to an elevator pitch version, here’s what I come up with:
When someone shares an idea with you, or they make time to listen to your idea: ideation spreads. You find yourself having more conversations. You find yourself returning to old ideas, reconnecting with old friends. You then feel compelled to help others. You remember: teaching is about connection.
Who knows, maybe someone is reading this right now, still on the fence about whether or not to try Twitter, to start a blog, to tell their colleague about a wacky idea. If that is you, comment below or send me a DM on Twitter. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my PLN, it is that you have to pay it forward. You have to encourage others to disrupt their practice.
“Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”- Austin Kleon
The 21st Century teacher has a garden to tend to, and we need to be thankful to have so much access to many, many seeds out there. Spring is coming, what will you grow this season?