Believing In The Power of “YET”

image_557616460895636It’s a new school year! My Dragonflies from last year are now getting situated in their new learning environments in third grade. I also have a bright, kind and curious group of 25 new 2nd grade Dragonflies and their families eager to kick off a new year of learning.

We all have our first week under our belt! It has been a week of getting to know new names and faces, new routines and personsonalities, learn some interests and dislikes, learn our opinions about how to best make our learning environment operate with respect for all Dragonflies, and it has been a week learning a bit about how our school culture might work best for all 500 k-5th grade and our staff.

I was a bit blind sided this past week by both my rising 2nd graders and new 2nd graders. It was my own doing, and I should of seen it coming… I forgot to prepare and reiterate what this transition might be like for the variety of stages of the journey of an empowered learner. In hindsight, I should have emailed my Dragonflies from last year with some “Back to School Tips for the Empowered Learner.” As for my new kiddos, I should have taken a deep breath and reminded mindself of the beginning of the journey to becoming empowered and the early stages of the transition from a complacent learner to an engaged learner to an empowered learner.

So here’s the learning from my struggles last week regarding my rising 2nd graders…

Dear 3rd Grade Dragonflies,

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of you this past first week of school! I’ve come to realize, as your learning coach, I should’ve reminded you of a few pieces of information before you entered your new 3rd grade learning environment about being an empowered learner. Please know that I wasn’t just spoiling you last year. My gift to you was to share my teacher control and help you become an empowered learning and learn what it is like to have ownership of your learning and “have a place at the table” when it comes to your education. I wanted you to experience finding your voice and the power of using it to enhance your curiosities, opinions, and thoughts. I wanted you to experience the power of expecting meaningful thoughtful choice to help you learn with purpose. I wanted you to be part of creating and designing our learning environment. I wanted you to learn how to make your learning visible by creating (projects), being reflective (BLOGS) and sharing your learning (SeeSaw BLOG & mindful feedback). I wanted you to build trusting, healthy, and strong relationships with me and other Dragonflies, so you felt safe to push yourself and take risks and learn from your struggles and mistakes. All of these amazing behaviors helped you to create an innovator’s mindset and become an empowered learner using our 10C’s to build learning experiences like Genius Hour projects.

These characteristics you developed last year, will always be with you if you choose to find ways to keep them active. So now you find yourself in a new learning environment, building new and trusting relationships with your classmates and teachers…be patient and kind, it takes time. Look for opportunities to use your 10C’s and the Innovative Characteristics in these new environments (picture above). Your whole life you will be in different learning environments and situations. It’s up to you what you get out of them and the people you meet. There’s a learning opportunity in every situation and person you meet. Remember a big part is your attitude, using your innovative mindset (see pic), your voice, our 10C’s (pic in blog below) and remembering to be respectful.

So here’s to the “Power of YET” as in, you haven’t been an empowered learner in a new and different full time learning environment YET, but I know you are up for the challenge and helping make change! I also know you are capable, you deserve it, and you are strong and bright! Thank you again for all you continue to teach me. I’m so proud of you and can’t wait to see what amazing ways you choose to experience life! Stay kind and curious, ask thoughtful questions, and think of ways to create and make things or situations better. Enjoy your 3rd grade adventure!

One of Your Biggest Fans!

Ms. Mendon & Tommy 🐢 xo

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Our Empowered Learners Can Do It All

Readng on BusTomorrow is my last full day with my ’17-’18 Dragonflies… we have made the last week about creating “Genius Days.” This is where Dragonflies planned for weeks and made action plans for each of their own 30 minute time slots of designed learning experiences. Each plan detailing the why, how and what innovative thinking skills they plan to use for their experience. We had brainstormed an extensive list of learning experiences for them to choose from if they needed some motivation. We met briefly each morning to make any last minute modifications to our class schedule. It has been a dream observing each of them taking full ownership of their learning! Their learning experiences have been planned around Talents Shows, Field Day and some last minute ELA EOY standardized assessments, and Kinder Buddy Reading time, but the majority of the schedule has been theirs!

We did take an extra fun field trip to our public library and mixed it up a bit and swung by another neighborhood elementary school picking up another class of 2nd grade “friends.” We recently met them virtually through a FlipGrid Book Talk we shared together! My heart was full when we returned to the bus and the picture above was what was happening in ever seat on the bus! One of my gifts to my Dragonflies… to experience a true love of reading. Here it was happening once again right in front of my eyes. “Be still my beating heart…”

I’ve been so reflective and emotional these past couple weeks. My Dragonflies and I took so many risks together this year. We stayed true to our grade level standards, and some inquiry based navigation to create the what,  but we really stretched ourselves with innovative ways to push our learning with how we created meaning. We shared the ownership of the learning happening in our environment. We encouraged voice, choice and taking risks. We made it a priority to make our learning visible, shared it and provided each other with meaningful feedback. We promised to value the process knowing is was going to be messy and really difficult sometimes, but we would preservere and chose to learn from it. We agreed it matter how we treated each other, knowing that when someone feels valued and heard they can do amazing things and treat others better. We got really comfortable with change because that’s the world we live it now, and it’s simply good to be a flexible person. We also know that life is really about the people we choose to spend time with and the relationships we choose to cherish.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t wonder if all these amazing objective innovative behaviors my Dragonflies have acquired over the past year would “test well” on the numerical subjective district wide assessments my learners were going to have to participate in. I compared it to a native english speaking child that attends, say a french immersion school during their formative years then switches to an English speaking school and there is typically a “lag” for awhile, but the over-all benefits are so worthwhile. I am so happy to report my learners, over-all, did really well on their EOY subjective assessments. In reflecting, I will do more subjective type assessments so they’re more familiar with this type of test taking. I figure they are such amazing problem solvers and critical thinkers, they should be able to pretty easily figure out this traditional type of assessment when they come across it in educational settings.

We have spent so much time making our learning visible with more objective type assessments… learning conversations, creating, identifying thinking skills, micro writing, taking ownership of learning, providing mindful feedback, amplifying voice, reflective writing (BLOGGING), role play, creating a video, learning how to make constructive choice in every thing one does, photos of the process w/ captions, VLOGGING, audio recording a response, clarifying questions, written response, annotations (BookSnaps), surveys, 1:1 conferences, collaborative discussions, KWL graphic organizer, illustrations, digital creation, teaching something…just to name a few.

So my Dragonflies have taught me more than I would have ever imaged this year… As I look back and wrap up the year, they are telling me it’s okay to go for it again next year! Be current, share the control, amplify my learners’ voice and choice and prepare them for the future! My principal is a fearless mentor that supports what I’m doing and has my kiddos’ and my back, “Keep the standards at the core, collaborate, don’t create everything…I worry about you!” I’m part of a terrific team and we each bring wonderfully unique elements to the table, I love my PLN (Professional Learning Network-eduTwitter & Books)! I’m fortunate to be part of a community of parents that support greatness for their children! I tried to be transparent with them and this year’s group has taken a leap of faith with me. I am so grateful. I get to continue my journey of innovative exploration with my school district in ’18-’19 and have wonderful support with my crazy ideas!

So here’s a nod to my precious ’17-’18, 25 Dragonflies, Ms. Montgomery (my principal), my Dragonfly parents, Mr. Chris (my Innovator mentor), my 2nd grade team, and my PLN. And here’s to our rising 3rd graders that do DREAM BIG, ARE KIND & WORK HARD! Our empowered learners can do it all!

-Ms. Mendon

Yes They Can!

Geograghy

As I write, there are only 22 days left with my amazing Dragonflies… I am treasuring every last minute I have with them.

I have been learning with primary aged children, in a classroom setting for about 20 years. Well 35 years, if you count my years studying in college with children and the years following my own 2 children around with a clipboard while I worked on my masters in literacy development from birth to 7.

These past couple years, I took a lot of what I have learned over the years with literacy development and how children learn and experimented with innovative thinking and technology.  It has been and continues to be a fascinating journey.

I recently saw a quote that I have seen before, but it really caught my eye with a renewed interest. “The most dangerous phrase in our language is ‘We’ve always done it that way.'” If you read about, observe today’s life, or ask anyone in a progressive work environment what they are looking for in new hires, “Problem Solvers, High Emotional Intelligence, Collaborative, Critical Thinkers, Cognitively Flexible…are just a few of the essentials skills required and expected. Yet, these skills are not typically nor intrinsically taught in some passive traditional classroom settings.

If you have read any of my past BLOG posts, visited our class website, visited our learning environment, even virtually, or have followed our Dragonflies’ Twitter account you know we are empowered 21st Century Big Thinkers and are always looking for innovative ways to interact with our world through our 10 C’s (future ready skills). In addition to utilizing our Innovative Thinking 10C’s Skills to guide our learning we have also put into practice a weekly Genius Hour with the Pathways of Change, Inquiry, Expert and Create. And because our Dragonflies are ready we are going to dedicate our last week of school to “Dragonflies’ Genius Days!” Each Dragonfly will create and schedule her/his own learning experiences for their final week of 2nd grade. Their created experiences will include

  • Our 10 C’s thinking skills

  • Genius Hour Pathways

  • Focused areas… build on strengths, updating past projects, creating summer project plans, reviewing 2nd grade standards, looking ahead

  • Collaboratively planned Dragonfly whole class activities

  • School Wide previously planned activities

  • Daily Set Activities – lunch, recesses

  • WIN Time

Learners will decide their goals, their experiences and their schedule.

As I become super reflective about our journey together this year, I cannot be more proud of the empowered learners these children have become, and all they have taught me about taking risks, perseverance, joy, being patient, being curious, kindness, and true hope for our future. This GenZ, aka a group of “Digital Natives,” have a strong voice and expect choice that cannot be held back. They deserve to be empowered by empowered learning coaches so they can do constructive things, create change, make the world a better place, create, dream big, pay it forward, and never have to hear the words….” Well we’ve always done it that way” …especially in their learning environments.

Checkout our Dragonflies!

https://twitter.com/madeline_learn

What Would I Encourage My Learners To Do?

10C'sThis learner was recently called to the mat by her principal… I was honored, by my 2nd grade learners’ families, with an 2019 Oregon Teacher of the Year Nomination several months ago. The application process was very extensive, and I found it to be rewarding and all consuming in that it was a reflective process and it was enjoyable to tell “The story of my “Why'” and what and how my empowered learners and I do alongside each other everyday while creating meaning. I sent my application off over spring break and knew it was completely a long shot in every way possible, but didn’t consider it a waste of time. Well last week, I received an email stating I was 1 of 16 semi-finalists for the Oregon Regional TOY Award, and I was invited to attend a reception in May to honor my accomplishments and find out which of us will be the finalist.  I was in such shock, I actually emailed the person back to make sure I was reading the invitation correctly! Shock! First, a committee actually read my extensive application and liked what they read and second, out of all the applications, K-12, they chose my story with 15 other educators. They said the competition “involved a deep and talented pool of teachers.” Our little learning environment/slice of heaven was being recognized by other educational professionals????

This is where I got called to the mat by my principal…and maybe some of you other learning coaches out there can relate…I give everything to my learners, I honestly believe there isn’t anything they can’t do, if they work at adjusting their learning mindset, learn how to take ownership of their learning, believe in the power of innovative thinking (see sketchnote), put in the work, and embrace the grit and optimism it takes. So why, at 52 years old and 20 years of passionate teaching, is it so hard to let my light shine? After sharing my news with my wonderfully supportive principal, she really rattled my mindset. She was so excited for me and really encouraged me to get comfortable with sharing what’s going on in our learning environment. I also had read George Couros’ article about “Not Letting Others Dim Your Light” and it really made me question my behavior. https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7751

I slept on it that night, sat with it for a bit and thought. It finally came down to this… “What would I encourage my learners to do? My own grown children?” Of course I would encourage them to stand proud, not gloat, but own it, embrace it, be grateful, learn from it, and realize the lack of grace from some is just their own struggle and has nothing to do with the ones thriving. Maybe you’ll be able to inspire or help them in some way someday. Just keep growing, be the change you want to see, and empower yourself so you can help empower others. And as for these beautiful curious children, they deserve it.

This learner has made a commitment to embrace recognition for exactly what it is… gratitude.

My Gifts To My Learners ???

“The power of technology invites all of us to tell stories about ourselves, others and issues. Where will you find story today?” – from groundbreaking author of Amplify, Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 CLassroom and edActivist Kristin Ziemke

As my treasured days start to wind down with my Dragonflies, I find myself frantically and emotionally making sure I’m clear about what gifts I want to pass onto them. I’m still playing with my ideas. I know so far I want to enforce … amplify your Voice, expect Choice, take Ownership of your learning, use the 10’Cs to navigate your learning. They will help you prepare for anything. Oh, and remember to have gratitude, perseverance and joy.

Below are a few of the experiences I think of when we create experiences in our learning environment to support these beliefs and behaviors. We use technology, social media and innovative thinking to amplify our voices, and tell our stories and other’s and issues outside our 4 walls. We reflect on our learning and write BLOGS using a creation tool on SeeSaw and share them on our class SeeSaw BLOG. Many posts have an audio to accompany the post. Many posts include mindful feedback that we use as part of our collaborate process. Feedback is taught to be mindful within the 3 C’s (Curious, detailed Compliment, or a Connection). Our families share our BLOG with relatives and friends all over the world and we receive instant feedback, a sense of purpose, and connectedness that wouldn’t happen without this technology option.

We also use social media to transcend our learning. On our eduTwitter account we have acquired 880+ followers, all educational connected, from all over the world. We even have an app that helps us track our followers and think about our far reaching influence. We keep a world and US map to track of our followers! Please take a peek at our shared learning and feedback on our Twitter account!

https://twitter.com/madeline_learn

@madeline_learn

#primarylearns

My heart swelled when one of my Dragonflies posted, on our “Dragonflies Do Spring Break 2018” Padlet, created to promote connection during our Break, a picture of his family marching at the #marchforourlives event in downtown pdx…holding a PEACE & LOVE sign! He told me he was looking for me in a “big sea of people…!”

Be still my beating heart…

Our Spring Break Padlet…Please take a peek

https://padlet.com/mendonm/iz5p6av03v5d

The 10 C’s of Future Ready Skills that supports and navigates our learning (Started w the 4C’s of 21st Century Learning and I have modified it to 10 innovative thinking skills based on my own PD, reading and learning…)

Cognitive Flexibility

(K)indness (Emotional Intelligence)

Create

Critically Think

Communicate

Collaborate

Connect

Curiosity

Change

We have “Kindergarten Reading Buddies”, “5th Grade Exploring Buddies.” Another Flipgrid or Google Hangout “reach out” we have also talked about is connecting with one of our eduTwitter followers that has a 2nd or 3rd grade class and maybe sharing books or Genius Hour Projects, so many possibilites!

https://flipgrid.com/0ed42c

Password: Dragonflies25

Another Genius Hour – Change Pathway Project was tied to “WalkUp Day” leading to Community Outreach of empathetic change. Our Dragonflies each identified a problem in their world that they felt they could help make a positive change to and wrote an action plan.

I have been a “hot mess with a big smile” learning alongside these incredible curious and capable learners all year. It has been such a joy watching them become empowered as they’ve become trusting risk-takers, okay with making mistakes, innovative in their questioning and thinking, and more and more confident with taking ownership of their learning.

I guess I just figured out what my gifts are for them… it’s been happening all year. …and the year is not over yet!!

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“How Can We Get Better At This Together?

This was a question Katie Martin asked during our last #IMMOOC book group this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and how my leadership role can evolve to help with needed change. I’ve learned a few things…Educators need time and support to be vulnerable and go through the learning processes as we help navigate the shared ownership with our learners. We know the benefits of trusting relationships with our learners and these trusting collaborative relationships are just as important with our colleagues. “My door is always open!” This is what I say when anyone sounds the least bit curious. I have colleagues coming in and out of our learning environment. I also enjoy the opportunity to visit other colleagues’ environments and learning from the successes of their learning environments. I like to be curious, l like to dream, I like to think “what if?” and I like to see what others are doing. I had an opportunity to share with a colleague, at our county ESD, what our Dragonflies are busy doing in our learning environment creating with digital tools. I learned just as much through that experience as the people that came to our session!

I plan to continue learning with my mind blowing Dragonflies and pursue learning with colleagues interested in honing their craft, no matter where they are on their journey in becoming more innovative. The LOSD LOGIC program has been very success and is being expanded! I plan to continue collaborating with the program next year in some collaborative capacity. There’s really nothing better than learning alongside the learners in your care and those willing to be vulnerable with you, exploring and creating some new mind shifts!

It’s a Process. It takes Time. You have to be Ready to Start Letting Go…

I’ve been in this strange space not being able to organize my thoughts and clearly articulate how my Dragonflies and I got to where we are with our empowered innovative thinking and learning environment. This last book group session with Katie Martin, author of LC Innovations, John Spencer co-author of Empower, and a recent conversation with my awesome principal, all really helped me slow down, reflect, and start organizing my thoughts about my transformative and continuing innovative and empowering journey.

John said something that really resonated with me, something about successful learning has always been about, “Relationships, deep thinking and creativity,” He went on to say what’s so different now is the “Sheer rate of change. The rules have changed and our kids have opportunities to rewrite the rules.” We can’t offer our GenZ learners a traditional educational anymore. They are native digital users, and we need to be coaching them with project and inquiry based learning experiences, helping them learn how to navigate through their learning process and trusting them to make their own meaning with learning digital tools and platforms and 21st century thinking skills to prepare them for a future none us know what is going to look like. I’m trying to give them ownership of their learning by using their voice and choice and a variety of innovative tools and thinking strategies to create their own meaning. Learning is messy, we need to be patient and feel safe with the struggle and know that is where the magic happens.

I’m still working on fine tuning my story of how my learners and I became empowered together and built a 21st Century Learning mindset and environment. I know one thing. We are doing it together, it keeps changing, and I’m often a “hot mess with a big smile.” #letitgo #studentvoiceandchoice #empoweredlearners