Thursday, January 19, 2012

Embrace Change, Thoughtfully

"Change give up what we become what we could be."  ( unknown) 
Our world is moving at a fast pace where new technology is a constant instead of a novelty.  Some are hesitant to embrace technology and changes offered to students in education, citing concerns stated in books like The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  Concerns definitely to ponder as we thoughtfully embrace our changing and fast paced world. In his book, Carr builds a case for the printed book as promoter of deep and creative thought, while the speed and efficiency of the internet promotes production and consumption; the later encouraging loss of capacity for concentration, contemplation and reflection. For myself as an educator and parent, initially in the 1990s, I was hesitant to learn technology with the non-stop demands on a teacher.  I felt this was "adding" to my already full day. 

Now though, I'm embracing technology for my students as fast as I can learn it, seeing it as an engaging way to capture their interests.  This is partly in response to keeping up to my own children and students who seem automatically comfortable with exploring and using technology, and partly my own discovery of learning how to do things more efficiently.  I'm finding learning new technology fun! I like the process of publishing a newsletter, blog, word document, brochure, writing an e-book, or making a video or stop-motion movie. These are just a few options of how students can creatively demonstrate what they are learning and produce a product they are both proud of and fits into their individual learning style.  I like that technology offers a variety of choices to students with quick editing options so students can be thoughtful about their learning and easily make changes as they discuss and present their work to others.  Their work does promote deep thought and creativity as they edit and use a new technology tool to produce their final product!

I wonder what it is that makes some hold back in fear of change, stating caution and safety as their reasons, while others step out and move, ready to try something new; ready to lead.  When Apple came out with their new e textbook options for the iPad, I and some others were excited, ready to move and try it!  While some teachers claimed caution and that we need to move slowly (if at all) in this new direction as it may be harmful to our students deeper thinking. The cautious people encourage the risk-takers to be thoughtful; this is good!

When @cfrehlichteach posted this video on Twitter, I felt it captured the essence of both sides of change.  Some are ready to move, embrace changes and lead; while others are cautious and slower to step out and try something new. Watch, as one character tries to embrace the new technology of moving from a scroll to a book, while another encourages him to be a risk-taker:

Now we can't imagine a world without paper books nor one where we were still reading from scrolls! We all resist some changes in our lives of some sort; I think that is human nature. But often, when we do make a change and it turns out for the better or makes an improvement in the quality of our lives, we wonder why we didn't do it sooner!  If it does not work out for the better, we can always go back to the way it was done before - or at the very least, learn from the experience.  I'm suggesting that we embrace change thoughtfully and boldly! Let's step out of our comfort zone and try new technology to keep up with our changing world; to keep up with our students.  As educators and parents, we are preparing our students for future jobs that we can't even imagine. We need to be involved in the shaping of the 21st Century Digital Learning for and with our children. They will need to be able to step out, adapt and change.

Sometimes, it takes just one person to step out and lead a movement of change for the better.  Sometimes, we need to step back and re-evaluate what works best. We can only find out if we step out and embrace change, thoughtfully.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Run in Place or Move! The Choice is yours: 2012 Professional Development.

Model posted by Art Petty
Art Petty, author of several books on Leadership, Management and Professional Development, inspired me to think about my Professional Development Goals this year.  He offers this model of success where you keep on moving and keep on doing until you achieve success.  When it comes to individual Professional Development, he states it requires a deliberate and consistent effort to improve; move and take action!  Acquiring increasing skills and knowledge requires individuals to press on and fight the pull to do nothing and break away from the pack who may be running in place.

He offers 7 Quick Ideas to improve your Professional Development this year:  Personal reflections, Ask questions of yourself, Look for truths in your performance reviews, Start small and build from there, Read!, Stay positive and Celebrate all your victories- no matter how small. View a full explanation of his ideas by clicking on his name above, taking you to his blog posting.  In addition, you will find a list of his books on his site.

When @megangraff posted a video on Twitter called, "MOVE", I thought of how this creative and impressive work was indicative of what we need to bring to our own Professional Development.  Basically, this guy travels the world and takes a photo in each place.  As we see the artist walk and 'move' through the video with a smile on his face, the background setting is constantly changing. Sometimes that's how we can feel about Professional Development!  It is changing quickly and can be overwhelming.

However, if we face each new background (each new Professional Development opportunity) with a smile on our face, we are bound to learn more and enjoy the journey. The catch is: we've got to MOVE! When we move and try new ideas, we gain new perspectives, learn, grow and change. The scenery in the video reminds us to observe, question, reflect and take action.  Each step and photo he takes in the video encourages us to start small and build. The cheering heard in the video reminds us to enjoy ourselves as we learn, stay positive and celebrate all accomplishments; no matter how small. View this video here:

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Art Petty says this is the bottom line: "If you are running in place, you're going to fall behind."

Let's MOVE in our 2012 Professional Development!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Practice 9 Principles: On the Road to an Excellent 2012!

Photo By L. Frehlich 2011
In reflection of 2011 and preparation for 2012, this sign I saw out x-country skiing made me stop and think of The Road Less Traveled. I realized that 9 principles that I had been applying to my life on a daily basis were on this road; some days a more difficult road to travel.  However, I find the more I practice these principles, the better my life becomes.  As a teacher, I heard we make up to 500 decisions a day.  How was I to feel good about all those decisions and the implications for children and in turn, their families, and not question my every action?  I found my answer; and you can too when you make a conscious decision to choose to practice these 9 Principles.

1. Love: When making decisions and interacting with other people, if you come from a position of Love for that person, then you are making good decisions.  This is harder if a person you are dealing with is not coming from a place of Love for you!  Shake the offense off and go on.  Love is simply being good to people, keeping a good attitude and treating others well.

2.Joy: Joy is a daily choice and allows us to lighten up a little. When things aren't going the way you planned, make a conscious decision to hang onto your Joy. Once a day has passed, you never get that time again; so enjoy every moment. Get out of our own problems and help or give to someone else; it will jump-start your Joy.

3. Peace: One of the most important things we can have in life is Peace.  No job, amount of money or success is beneficial without Peace. This requires a choice and using self-control not to let others steal your Peace.  Live in harmony with others around you and choose not to get upset by letting your emotions control you.  This includes keeping a positive attitude and watching what you say. Storms will pass, so be a model for others and teach them how to hang onto Peace by your actions.

4. Patience: Patience is not waiting; but how we act while we are waiting.  It is something we have to choose on purpose. It is to remain stable and enjoy the journey because much of our life is spent waiting for the next thing to happen. If you find yourself becoming impatient, check your pride: do you feel you are too important to wait a little? You show tremendous Love for others when you are Patient with them.

5. Kindness: Kindness is being Kind to all you meet and especially those who don't deserve it. When someone is rude to you or maybe they did something that hurt you, be kind to them and watch what happens!  Kindness requires self-control; it is a choice. It allows you to slow down and give people some time. By being Kind to someone who doesn't deserve it, you are not justifying their behavior nor taking ownership of their actions- only yours! At the end of the day, you can sleep well knowing your actions were based on Kindness.

6. Goodness: Take your mind off yourself and make a choice to be Good to people. It can be in the form of giving your time, a compliment, an encouraging word, opening the door for someone and using your manners voicing: "Please", "Thank you" or "Excuse me". It is a mindful way to be a blessing to someone else.

7.Faithfulness: Faithfulness requires sticking to something until you know you are finished.  The way we grow is to stay with something. This involves integrity: people will know they can count on your word and depend on you. This also includes if your administrator asks you to do something, you are willing to do it.  Be on board with your leaders; avoid strife at work, home and in your relationships.

8.Humility:  Humility is defined as freedom to enjoy someone else's success. Humility is the opposite of pride. Pride is about "I" and is manifested in the form of impatience.  Out of impatience comes pride and pride dries up compassion and sensitivity. Watch your thoughts and attitudes you have towards others; let go of judgements, as what others do is none of your business- and pay attention to your own actions. If you feel yourself puffing up, check your pride.

9. Self-Control: Self-Control is to live in moderation. All of the above Principles require conscious choices. To purposefully choose to act in these Principles, requires Self-Control and discipline of your thoughts, actions and words. You have it in you; it is a commitment which leads to excellence.

So, there it is in a nutshell.  Practice these 9 Principles (Fruits/Virtues, Character Development), and you will find yourself on the road to an amazing 2012 filled with excellence.  Some days you may think that you are somewhat alone on this Road Less Traveled and that implementing them is difficult, but as you stay on this path, your actions will speak volumes to others. For more reading, you can read Secrets to Exceptional Living by J. Meyer, or  The Virtues Project by  Linda Kavelin Popov.

Enjoy your journey and best wishes to you in 2012!