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Mindset

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The Real Value of Teachers

abstract-valueteachers3

 

I’m so upset. I watched the news about California teachers and education today. They mentioned the teacher shortage, but the reasons they gave didn’t even touch on what is really happening to teachers and education around the country. When they said that California has the most crowded classrooms and highest teacher to student ratios in the country, I’m not sure others around the country have a clue what this means. We’re talking 25 to 30 little ones in K-2 classes. In some high schools, math classes are over 40 for each teacher. Secondary teachers are responsible for up to 150 kids and teaching multiple subjects in 45 minutes periods. I don’t know how they do it.

By 2013, the state’s student-teacher ratio had reached 24-to-1,
compared with the national average of 16-to-1.
Report on Teacher Shortage in Mercury News, CA 1/23/15

On top of that the focus of education has been wrong for the past 12 years and longer. Teachers are the ones held accountable for the test scores, so why would kids care about the tests? The focus on testing has taken away the love of learning and frustrated teachers, administrators, kids and parents. We have a generation of people who went through this system who think this is the only way to learn. The focus hasn’t been on learning–it’s been on meeting test scores and instruction not on who we should be focusing on: each learner and supporting how they learn. Teachers are more like middle managers jumping through bureaucratic hoops and accountable for test scores and grades.

Now this is going to change, but not many people are aware of it changing or want it to change. They only know what they know or have been exposed to. Teachers are burning out and leaving the profession. It costs more to keep training and retraining teachers. There has been so much professional development on how to teach to the test, manage classrooms, and other mundane tasks that people who went into the profession feel dummied down. There is a sense of “compliancy” built into the system that blocks creativity and fun. We all need to have some fun when we learn. Let’s get it back!

The report was talking about districts offering a $10,000 bonus for new hires, but that won’t take care of the other issues or bring in the right people to the profession. The teaching profession is less and less attractive to Millenials (18-34 year olds). Many realized they didn’t care for school, just learned to “do” school to get out of school, or they just don’t want to be part of it. Many of them were in the system when testing went crazy. They also want to be more in control of what they do, be respected and valued by members of their community. Millenials tend to be skeptical about systems and also are concerned how they can pay their bills. Housing costs in California and other parts of the country are skyrocketing. A one time bonus won’t pay the bills. A majority of the Millenials have extreme student debt, a degree that doesn’t get them the right job and other reasons why they just don’t trust the system. There are many who dropped out and taught themselves skills in the technical field — all on their own taking classes online or watching YouTube. Why? Because in the Bay Area that’s where the jobs are along with bio-technology, robotics, etc.

So what can we do about this problem?

Look at the teaching profession like Finland did in 1983. They had the same issue and realized they needed to turn everything upside down. Teachers needed to be valued, supported and highly respected compared to other professions. So Finland changed the teaching profession. Kids start school at seven. They got rid of standardized tests except one at the end of high school. They built a system of support for teachers and pay them well. Read “What ever it takes” Smithsonian.

Now with the new ESEA re-authorization from the Department of Education, we will be focusing more on learning. There is a surplus of funds in California and more money will be going to school districts. Let’s do it right this time.

I’m going to put a plea out to superintendents and school boards: Stop spending money on “stuff” and rethink how you are going to rebuild your most prized resource: teachers! Here’s some ideas:

  • Rethink teacher education and build or partner with K-12 laboratory schools so the focus is on learners right from the beginning.
  • Increase salaries for teachers so the profession is competitive with other professional services.
  • Provide mentoring and ongoing coaching support for teachers.
  • Build in collaborative time every day and encourage co-teaching models.
  • Develop communication plans that showcase learning not increased scores.
  • Build partnerships with businesses, non-profits and higher ed to support a competency-based system.
  • Look to retired educators to work or volunteer as advisors or mentors.
  • Offer ongoing job-embedded professional learning opportunities for all teachers.

 

The reason why I focus on personalizing learning is because we are all learners. When we stop learning, what do we have? It is about building the capacity to want to be lifelong learners and never lose that curious part that makes us who we are. Every moment can be a learning opportunity. But when school is tied to rewards and punishment, grades, and extrinsic forces, why would anyone want to be part of that type of system?

Who’s with me? Let’s all work together to change the system, focus on our learners, bring back creativity, joy, and fun and value our teachers.

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Being or Doing

 

Are you a human being or a human doing?

tasksI have a to-do list that would drive anyone nuts. When someone asks me how I am, I tell them all the things I’m doing. I check off tasks on my list and more tasks show up. I have a large whiteboard where I’m trying to keep track of each business and personal task. Not to scare you, but this picture on the right is only one part of my whiteboard and what is due in two days.  I also have post-it notes all over, an online calendar with tasks, and note-taking tools.

I think I’m organized but several re-occurring tasks are to file, organize my office, and clean up files in my computer.

 

Do I do it?

I start. Then I look at all of my other tasks on my whiteboard and go back to another task that I feel is more important and urgent. You know what I mean. I try organizing everything by putting each task in the following categories:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important Not Urgent
  3. Urgent Not Important
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important

 

Why do I feel everything is important and urgent? Prioritize — Prioritize — Prioritize

UGH! Maybe I need to put different things on my list. Even my personal tasks focus on doing and working. I have on my board to clean the oven (check that one off because I did that because it’s a self-cleaning oven — Yeah!), vacuum (which I actually like doing since I can see results right away) or wash bed (okay did that too). I know I sound like a cleaning freak, but it’s on my list.

So how do I put “fun” things on my to-do list? I need to redefine who I am. How did I become this human “doing” things instead of just living and enjoying each moment? Maybe I enjoy this. mmmmm….. or do I?

I do it to myself. It’s all about choices. Do I need to add more to my list? Not really. It’s something about my worth. The more I do I feel I am accomplished. Tired, but accomplished. I do have to do these things or come up with another way to either get these things done or change due dates.

What I’m worth is really not about all I do. It should be about who I am not what I do. I’m not ready to give up my whiteboard and lists, but I’m putting ME on the top of the list. It’s time to take time off for me.

So this year my resolution is to be a human being not a human doing. I can do it. Wait a minute, I have to reply to an email right now and mail something and pay my estimated taxes and .. and .. and..

Oh no! Anyone else like this?

 

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Inducing Learned Helplessness

What is Learned Helplessness?

When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change. 

Now I know this video above is taking the idea of “learned helplessness” a little too far, but it gets the point across.  Consider a child who performs poorly on math tests and assignments will quickly begin to feel that nothing he or she does will have any effect on math performance. When later faced with any type of math-related task, he or she may experience a sense of helplessness. Some call this a fixed mindset.  [Source]

Here’s a little history of the “Learned Helplessness” Theory

There are also situations where you may induce “learned helplessness” in school or personal relationships. This is an activity that a teacher did with learners after discussions on relationships.

Now let’s take this idea of “learned helplessness” and what this means about learners being compliant. Think about your high school kids who just want a grade. Have you heard them ask “what are the points?” “what do I have to do to get an A?”

It’s about that intrinsic motivation to want to learn. We’ve embedded this behavior as part of the system starting even in pre-school now. The responsibility for learning is all on the teacher who is now help accountable for what kids learn. Teachers, too, can have this “learned helplessness” feeling about what they do in the class. I’ve heard teachers say “but I have to teach to the test” or “I have to cover the curriculum.”

We need our kids to be able think on their own, drive their learning and be the ones responsible for what and how they learn. It is about the idea of encouraging learners of all ages to believe they can do things — that they don’t need others to do something for them if they are capable. It is about changing mindset but that’s for another post.

We can change our thinking, model growth mindset and  what it means to believe in ourselves. What do you think?

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Dancing for Balance

I want to keep this short. I’ve been writing, speaking, tweeting, sharing, learning, and traveling a lot. Some days I’m not moving out of my chair for hours. I know I tell everyone about getting in the “flow,” but this is ridiculous. I sometimes work right through lunch, breaks (what are those?) and then the phone rings or get an email asking a question. I end up working more.

dancingplaqueAll of a sudden I just had to stop and take a deep breath. I turned the music up high and decided to dance. I mean really dance until I only think about my dancing and nothing else. You see, I have been so focused on trying to transform teaching and learning, I forgot about me. I need to take care of me so I can be here to continue to drive my purpose.

When you are driven by something you are passionate about, you forget to stop and think of why you are doing what you are doing. There has to be some balance in your life.

I have this plaque on my wall: “Dance as if no one were watching” and remember how happy I am when I dance. So stopping right now — to dance.

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Learning that is Personal and Beyond Ourselves

Everything is “personalized” and kids today are so connected more than ever. Will kids be ready for their future?

Read more
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Reflections on Change and Learning

I find myself in an interesting time in my life. I could retire but I don’t want to. This is an exciting time where all the efforts I’ve taken for years to change education are starting to come together. I can taste it, smell it, and feel it. I’m working with schools around the world and the issue seems to be the same.

There are a few pockets of excellence but we tend to still be embedded and entangled in a system of traditional education. The questions I get from teachers all over the world have the same tone:

  • how do I give students voice and choice when I am accountable for their learning?
  • how do I become a co-designer with students who don’t want to be at school?
  • what if I transform a lesson and it fails?

 

I can go on but the issue seems to be about trust.

  • Does the administration trust that the teacher will meet all the required curriculum?
  • Does the teacher trust that their students will do the work?
  • Do the students trust the teacher to teach them what they need to know?

 

I have been thinking about this for a long time. Kathleen McClaskey and I as co-founders of Personalize Learning, LLC were brought together because we needed to be. Both of us were going in similar directions fighting this issue alone. Our mutual friend, Julie Duffield, brought us together several years ago. We created a chart defining what Personalized Learning is and is not in January 2012 and then from all the feedback, we updated the PDI Chart this March 2013. It has changed our lives.

After we created a process with the Stages, we started getting interest from schools, districts, regions, states, and companies. We opened a pandora box. We created an eCourse about the What, Who, Where, Why, and Wow of Personalized Learning and are on our sixth session since February. It is more than exciting. Yesterday was our first session with 34 educators from around the world most from Australia. We are doing several sessions simultaneously. One with Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin. The questions and conversations are the same but they are getting deeper and more reflective.

So that’s why I thought it was time for me to reflect on everything that has happened the last 2 years. All I can say to teachers who venture down this road to turn the learning over to the learner so they own it, thank you! I am in awe at all you are doing. I am amazed when a school system says it’s time to rethink learning and change how we teach and learn. I want to thank Kathleen for sticking with me through this. We are fighting an uphill battle against structures and entities that have been entrenched in a system that is over 150 years old.

We wrote a post Learners NOT Students and the response was overwhelming — most good but a few educators got upset. What we and others are saying shakes up the system. It needs shaking up. My granddaughter is starting kindergarten this year and all I can think is Oh My — she’s so creative and the school will take that away from her. We have to give the learning back to our kids. They need to own it — drive it.

I cannot stop now. We cannot stop now. This is the time for a revolution like Sir Ken Robinson said in the latest Ted Talks Education along with Rita Pierson and others who talk about passion, interests, human interaction. Watch this and then we’ll get this revolution going and finally do it right for our kids.

Watch TED Talks Education on PBS. See more from TED Talks Education.

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Driving My Way

Driving Stick ShiftI like to drive. I guess I like the control and know how I drive. I also drive a manual (stick) and love it. I was driving this morning to get to an appointment and realized that there were many cars with only one person (the driver) in the car.  The system rewards you if you carpool, but many of us don’t want to give up control to others especially strangers. I think I might have been one of very few driving a stick. At one point, I was cornered between a large truck and a slow car. I know you can do this with turbo-charged automatic cars, but I was able to downshift and maneuver to another lane easily. I did it safely and made it without causing any problems. Now if I had a passenger with me, they might have lost a little faith in me if I maneuvered like this without explaining what I was doing.

Now why am I saying this? and what does this mean in reference to learning?

When you allow someone else to drive, you are putting your faith in that person that they are a good driver and will protect you. It’s about trust. It is the same thing when you are a passenger on a plane. You trust the pilot to get you to your destination. And the airline will probably not let you fly the plane — :o

Trust is a big part of letting go. As a teacher, you are like driving the car and flying the plane. Your students trust you to get them to their destination — their learning goals or targets or whatever you are required to do.

“I remember sitting in one of my graduate class realizing that I already took the class with a different title. The notes were the same, the required text was the same, the professor was the same — that is, except the title of the course. I raised my hand and asked the professor if this could be the same course we took several quarters ago. He emphatically said “NO!! and please follow the lecture.”

That moment was the turning point for me as an educator and why I wanted to find ways to make learning personal. I quit that masters program and signed up for another. They were all the same. As a professional developer with a little background in coaching and building communities, I was required to take a course on coaching from someone I had coached. The system just wasn’t working for me. If it wasn’t working for me, then maybe it wasn’t working for many others.

What about the classroom today. The teacher is driving and responsible for all the learners in their classroom. They are given the manual and told what to teach. Let’s look at the learner today. They know how to drive their learning. They had to take control or they wouldn’t have walked or talked. They had to take the first step and fall and then get up again. Their parents couldn’t do it for them. The same with every word they learned.  If you get a chance to watch this Ted Talk from Deb Roy about the Birth of a Word, you get it. We are the observers.

His child would eventually learn how to say “water” his way. Why and when did we think we could teach everyone the same thing at the same time? Why is it that someone who can demonstrate mastery of a skill is required to learn that skill or content over again?

Times are changing. Put yourself in the passenger seat of someone’s car that you are not sure how they drive. Do you trust them? Put yourself in a class where you are learning content you already know and the teacher is driving the instruction. Now how do you feel?

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Available Anytime Anywhere

We talk about having access to content from anywhere using our mobile devices, but we didn’t think about what that meant to us. We thought it meant access to content anytime from anywhere. What it seems is that it also means we are available anytime someone wants us. It doesn’t mean we have to be available.

Let me clarify why I’m writing this. I have to turn my cell and other phones off at night because now I’m on several lists that I cannot get off. I get calls on all my phones from a “Name Unavailable” from different numbers from around the world wanting me to sign up to different promotions all day and all night long  I don’t answer “Name Unavailable” yet they don’t leave a message. So I gave up one night at 3am and answered it. It was someone promoting Google Ads. I asked to be taken off the list. 30 minutes later I got another call from a different “Name Unavailable” number for the same type of promotion. There is no way to be taken off this list because these are individual freelancers trying to make money. They could be anywhere in the world.

The same thing happened during the last election. I received calls from people working for different campaigns around the country who were using their cell phones. There was no way for me to block them. They came up “Name Unavailable.”

So back to Google or Yahoo or other “FREE” programs that call you in the middle of the night wanting you to sign up for something. I started reviewing what I signed up for and realized several years ago I signed up for Google Adsense. Then I thought maybe I could try Google Checkout for my store. So that’s how I got on a list. I do not use either one. I get it. I also tried promoting my company on Facebook. That’s another list. I’m using Safeway’s Just for You. Another list. Every time I signed up for something “Free” I was put on another list.

So to get off a list, you have to remember what lists you signed up for and unsubscribe. Mmmmmmmm! I don’t think that is possible today. You don’t know who has your number. I heard we have over 150,000 data points associated with us. That is, I joined Facebook and added friends. If any of those friends sign up for Words with Friends, I’m a data point now. That means that Words with Friends used an algorithm to find me and promote their game to me. The same thing happens when you sign up for a credit card, make a purchase with debit card, or join a “Free” website that is connected to social media.

So back to being available anytime. The idea of 24/7/365 is that you have access to resources and your network anytime when you log on using your computer or your smart mobile device. This gives a whole new meaning to “smart” and how you use it.

Today’s kids have been brought up with the Internet and mobile devices. They only know anytime, anywhere. I see kids texting while they are sitting next to their friends. For all I know, they are texting each other instead of talking. The world is different. The world is smaller. Friends mean so much to them that if they get a text, they answer right away. We had to make a law “No Texting While Driving” because it is rampant and causing accidents.

I think we need to teach another new skill: boundaries. When do you say today in this moment I do not need to answer the call or read the text. It is all about priorities and respect. I had to learn this when I created My eCoach. I wanted to be there all the time as a coach. But a coach also does not need to enable the other person. The idea of coaching is to nudge and support the other person so they can find their own way. I still like the idea of having a place like My eCoach that respects your privacy. We don’t sell any data or advertise or call you in the middle of the night. We do have clients from around the world who are up when I’m asleep but that’s okay. They can access My eCoach anytime, anywhere.

I finally got it that my time is important. I can be available when I have time. Not when I’m driving. Not when I’m sleeping. So if I don’t answer you in the middle of the night, it’s not that I don’t like you or something; it’s because I need to sleep.

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Mindset for the New Year

I have a growth mindset– anyway, that’s what I thought. I believe that anyone can grow and change. I learned that the brain is plastic — they call it neuroplasticity. That means you can change your brain. In reading, Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” people have either a growth or a fixed mindset. Dweck states that everyone is born with a growth mindset and potential to do whatever they want to do. Fixed mindsets happen from experiences and relationships that keep them from believing in themselves. They might give up easily because, for some reason, they don’t think they can do it.

In an interview on Education World, Dweck discusses mastery-oriented qualities.

“There is no relation between students’ abilities or intelligence and the development of mastery-oriented qualities. Some of the very brightest students avoid challenges, dislike effort, and wilt in the face of difficulty. And some of the less bright students are real go-getters, thriving on challenge, persisting intensely when things get difficult, and accomplishing more than you expected.

 

This is something that really intrigued me from the beginning. It shows that being mastery-oriented is about having the right mind-set. It is not about how smart you are. However, having the mastery-oriented mind-set will help students become more able over time.”

I just read George Couros’ great posts More Mindset than Skill Set and More about Mindset and Learning where he shares stories about an 82 year old woman who wanted to learn how to play the cello so she took lessons. It didn’t matter that she was 82. She knew she could learn something she always wanted to do. He shared about his father who had a limited formal education, but was willing to learn new things. George showed his father using an iPad to communicate with his grandchildren. If you want to do something and you have a growth mindset, you can do it. It really is not about talent. All of us have some talents, but if we don’t believe we can do something or don’t believe in ourselves, we might not take the risks to change.

So why did I ask about having both mindsets? I am usually very optimistic with a glass more than half full. Sometimes the glass is running over. I read Public Agenda file: a Mission of the Heart: What Does it Take to Transform a School? that talked about “transformers” and “copers.”  This is about leaders either being one or the other. Transformers have an explicit vision of what their school might be like and bring a “can do” attitude to their job. Copers are typically struggling to avoid being overwhelmed. They don’t have the time or freedom, or for some perhaps, the inclination to do more than try to manage their situation.

Growth mindset = transformer. Or does it? What if you have a “can do” attitude and believe that anything can be done, but feel overwhelmed with your situation. The situation may make you question if you can “do” something especially during a stressful time.  I know administrators that are very optimistic with most activities, but have trouble coping with or managing specific situations.

I believe I have a growth mindset and so do so many teachers I work with. However, some may have trouble coping in specific situations. Teachers have so much on their plates. Some days, they are overwhelmed, because there is just not enough time in the day to do everything. That’s how I feel some days. It doesn’t mean that I have a fixed mindset, but I may have a situational “mindset.” I want to do something about this. I like that I am optimistic. I always believed I had a growth mindset, but wasn’t sure what it was called before. I want to be able to handle most situations and continue to be optimistic.

So instead of resolutions for the New Year, I’m looking at setting my mindset to a growth mindset. If I get overwhelmed with any situation, I’m going to pause and reflect on how I feel. I just have to focus and believe in myself.

What about you? What is your mindset? Why not make 2013 the year that you can do anything you put your mind to do?