Designers of Their Own Learning

March 30, 2016

When we ask kids to read Chapter 3, we’re telling them what to know.

When we fill our boards with objectives that say “You will learn ____,” we’re explaining to them the very basis for the lesson we are delivering.

When we give out a packet of worksheets that have fill in the blank answers, multiple choice, and matching, we’re telling kids to choose answers from our choices.

When we ask kids to spend days and weeks in silent classrooms answering test questions, we’re telling them that knowing stuff is more important than their voice.

But when we ask kids to design?

Their ideas. Their voices. Their struggles. Their trials and errors. Their thinking. Their creativity.   We remove ourselves from the equation in a way that lets students know that we believe in them.

We put their voice first and we step out of the way at just the right time.  We let them be the designers of their own learning.

I’m not saying it’s always easy as a teacher to do that. I’m just saying than when I think about the very best days I’ve had in the classroom, it’s when kids were designing their learning, and I was lucky enough to witness it.


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Worth It

March 26, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 2.27.00 PMBefore you read this, read THIS, “What is sacred in education?”  A post by Kelly Tenkely that stopped me in my tracks today.

We are all in education for our own reasons, our own journey, and our own “thing.”  We need that.  We need the mixture of people, ideas, passions, and differences. Because if we are going to collectively meet the needs of every single unique kiddo who crosses the thresholds of our schools, then we need all the “us” we can get.

I read Kelly’s post and I thought, “Yes. That.”  That is what’s sacred. The kids who depend on us. The kids who are unique and special and come to us with needs.  The kids who are different. The kids who fit in and blend in. The kids who don’t.  The kids who have amazing families. The kids who need us to be their family.  Each. And. Every. Single. One. Kids.

The dream. Our dream. The one that we believe in that makes us get up in the morning, work late at night, and push forward when we don’t know if we can any more.

That dream can get buried. It can get lost in the murky waters of life, bureaucracy, politics, and our natural human tendency to say, “Yeah…but….”  Sometimes for a day, sometimes longer.  Sometimes the dream fades. Sometimes we just become annoying versions of ourselves that get caught up in other things or struggle with something bigger.  It happens.  You know, Robert Frost’s thorns and stuff.

But brush it off, keep it in focus, and keep going.   My dream started when I was a kid. I wanted school to be more than it was.  I wanted, no needed, creativity.

And after a long and winding path of searching, looking, and trying to find the place where my dream could unfold it’s wings, I realized I had it all along.  It’s inside me, with me, wherever I am.  It’s not something every kid needs. It’s something some kids need.  You have something in you that some kids need to.  Together? We can reach them all.

And that?  It’s important enough to keep reminding ourselves.  Purpose.  We keep going, day after day.  Through our struggles, failures, mistakes, and all of it.

Because in each of our dreams is a child’s dream. And if you can say that even ONE dream was reached because you held on, well… worth it.



Innovate is a Verb

March 12, 2016

Innovate is a verb. It’s easy to talk about, far harder to do.  Yet, it’s the DOING that matters most.  The daily grind in the details of the ebb and flow of progress forward, bit by bit. It’s in the tiny microscopic changes we make that are often hard to detect until we zoom out, after a bit of time, and see the forward motion.   There is this panic of “Oh my gosh every school needs a makerspace” when our schools are FILLED with the resources we have to make.  Inside our kids and each other.  When we move, things happen.


It’s not a 3d printer.

It’s not STEM, or STEAM, or WHATEVER set of letters you put together.

It’s not gathering followers on Twitter or calling one educator the “rockstar.”

It’s not in selling resources you’ve created for your own classroom.

It’s not buzzwords…

It’s not a bunch of facts regurgitated for a test.

It’s not so many things.


 It’s really simple.


It’s the move from teacher as sole deliverer to teacher as facilitator.

It’s in sharing your message, openly with anyone who needs it.

It’s guidance, from teacher to kids, but also from kids to teacher. Reciprocal.

It’s pure. Raw cardboard, tape, glue, and real problems.

It’s too magical to standardize and too important to water down.

It’s measuring something because you need to make sure it fits, not because it’s question 4.

It’s using a 3d printer to create a prototype for a plant container to conserve water.

It’s the five year old with crayons, drawing a plan for a Rube goldberg machine.

It’s not boys or girls, rich or poor… it’s people.  Human.

It’s a sparkle in the eye of the learner who is figuring things out for themselves.

It’s the pride in the imperfect work that shines like a diamond in the rough.

It’s the world and your connection to it.

It’s your heart and soul.   And it moves. You, your students, the world.


That’s why talking about innovation will never work.  Because the only way to move the heart and soul is to move.

Move like a verb.

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