What does it mean for us when we make additions to our professional networks?
Sometimes even attempting to "add" new people to our networks can feel overwhelming especially when we are already managing so much, and even more so as an introvert. But what if we are ready for the addition?
I love the folks in my network. I am always learning from my close network. We have meaningful conversations, reflect together, and ask each other for guidance. When thinking about building out my network, I know what I can look forward because of my experience.
I look forward to new branches of growth and new perspectives.
New questions to ask and answer.
New connections to make.
New collaborations to get under way.
I'm ready for the growth and I know the benefits. These are healthy outcomes of extending my network.
Are you ready for further growth?
If you’ve just wrapped up your school year, or are about to in the next few days, I know you may be feeling a couple of ways. You might be wanting to hibernate for a few days, and in this case, you may be looking for some ways to seek comfort after a trying year. Or, maybe you are the person who can detach from the year quickly and begin your summer frolic! Whichever way you chose to get your summer rolling, here is something to think about as you start your mental and time decluttering.
“Historically and culturally, minimalism tends to be represented predominantly in the lifestyles of white Scandinavian and Asian cultures. When thinking of Scandinavia and minimalism, we probably first think of architectural and furniture design [Ikea]. But it goes much deeper than this in traditional culture, as described by the Danish term hygge and the Swedish word lagom. These terms encapsulate ideals such as life balance, well-being, comfort, and enjoying life and our time. Japanese culture is known for living small, it has deeper roots in Zen Buddhist values in venerating simple lives and rejecting material possessions. Minimalist approaches have more recently been popularly adopted in many countries around the world. Furthermore, we can trace minimalist values to many different religions, philosophers, and leaders around the globe and throughout written history.”
Do you think learning some ideas from these cultures can help you in decompress from your tough academic year? If so, how? We’d love to hear!
Do you know about our Triple P Decision-making framework? Here’s some background information and how it might help when you are trying to make well-informed decisions about what you might be introducing to students or teachers.
“When discussing ideas for this book, we knew introducing new educational jargon or acronyms that did not meet the goal of transforming to a minimalist approach would be a poor decision. Yet, we knew we needed a simple phrase that would stick in a cluttered teacher’s mind to move the work ahead. After we boiled down many of our professional conversations, as well as conversations we have had about writing this book, we were consistently coming back to three main points resulting in what we have called the Triple P questions part of our Triple P framework.
1. What is our purpose?
2. What are our priorities?
3. How can we pare down resources?
Purpose: Every day we ask ourselves easy-to-answer questions. “Why am I running when my knee hurts?” Easy answer. “Why am I using this product instead of that one?” Easy again. But when we ask ourselves, “Why would I teach that?” or, “Why would I teach that in this way?” we must peel back the layers of teaching and learning, because there are so many “Why am I doing this?” questions to ask.
Priority: Now, here lies a great challenge. How do you prioritize when there are just so many “things” that require attention? Go back to your purpose to help you build your prioritization muscles. Your priority will always be the well-being and learning experiences of your students. Always and forever. Remember this when your mind is swamped because we know from experience that our priorities are masked by other clutter. In schools, items for discussions are usually prioritized by time and money, not by student or teacher needs. How do you unmask these mandated compliance tasks in a short time frame while still ensuring integrity in your teaching and, quite honestly, your sanity? While the Triple P questions become more intricate when peeling back the layers, remain simple in your response: your students are your priority.
Pare Down: Last but certainly not least—how does one pare down all that “stuff” so that priorities match purposes? How do you really do more with less? This may become the most challenging part of the transformation of practice. The challenge comes with letting go of things, control, and feeling overwhelmed to make space for increased efficiency, productivity, and new feelings of satisfaction and supported well-being. We will work with you through this process of letting go.”
What part of the Triple P sticks out for you? How might this be helpful?
The term “culture” can bring to mind various images or meanings. This can encompass anything from language or food to the arts or family structures. Ultimately, a culture is a shared set of values and practices that a group of people holds. A culture of minimalism requires members of a group, in this case, your classroom, to recognize and work toward making use of currently available resources and no more in order to best support the requirements and expectations of the community. While a minimalist culture in classrooms may seem unconventional, overly innovative, or unrealistic now, this approach is becoming more and more socially acceptable. Rather than superficially attempting to meet students’ needs by buying “things,” adding more tasks, or creating more paperwork, there is a shift to instead maximize existing resources in the community and create a lifelong practice and lifestyle of appreciation, efficiency, and sustainability.
Refocusing on your purpose in teaching assists in creating a mental space in which you can tune into your students. This helps you prioritize students and their needs, and helps pare down those non-essentials that clutter up teaching.
How would creating this culture add value for you, and for your students in the upcoming year?
This past week - the first week of August - was a set of essential planning days for us.
This was precious time for our teacher team to begin this year’s school development cycle. Because our priorities were clear from the beginning, we used our time efficiently. In just three days, we learned about each other’s strengths and passions, AND we made significant headway in framing the learning experiences.
Last year was the school’s inaugural year so some structures were not yet in place so when we were building the calendar for this academic year, we knew how important it was going to be to build in teacher work days. These days will be times to reflect on units and frame out the upcoming ones.
This was a lot of fun. I love a cycle, a process. And collaboratively planning instruction should be just that. A cycle. We can never think that we can plan a year out or develop school goals once at the start of the year. Time built into the calendar is essential to help us keep our vision in focus and our priorities in line.
Robin Jackson, author of the ASCD book, Stop Leading, Start Building: Turn Your School into a Success Story with the People and Resources You Already Have, tells us we need to get off the old-school hamster wheel of school improvement planning - once a year, same-ish plan, no time to reflect and revise, and then keep running on that same "improvement" plan year after year. We have to stop this damaging cycle. It wastes our time and energy and keeps us only in a lane of compliance.
Whether you are the lead planner or a participant in the process, consider a new planning cycle strategy to facilitate success for your school community to avoid getting caught on that hamster wheel.
Perhaps more than ever, schools face a multitude of challenges in meeting the needs of the students they serve. The pandemic introduced a new set of protocols for classrooms to implement, along with the myriad of responsibilities already in place for classroom teachers. Considering these many expectations, it is easy for teachers to find themselves pouring all of their energies into managing their students and learning environments. In an effort to control variables, attention can become hyper focused on to-do lists, as well as tracking behaviors, shortcomings, and predetermined outcomes. We can lose sight of the individual student, and instead focus on collective performance and outcomes. In doing so, we slowly rob our students of ownership of their learning, self-discovery, and expression, thereby stunting the natural joy in learning. And, it isn’t only the student who experiences diminished joy in this environment, so does the teacher. The more external control and lack of autonomy students feel exerted upon them, the more disengagement, dependency, apathy, and lack of motivation they feel. A perfect storm for behavioral issues to appear.
A solution to this exists. A simple, natural, human-friendly solution; make students partners in their learning journey, and infuse natural elements of play and exploration in learning experiences. Turn over some of that control and responsibility to the learner, it is their journey after all. Allow them to devise ways to connect play, exploration, and experimentation to learning targets. Consider this quote by Susanne Leslie, “Play is not more important than science, literacy, physics, or math - it IS science, literacy, physics, and math. It is the FOUNDATION for learning.”
How do you incorporate play into your plans? What kinds of play and discovery opportunities are you opening for your students?
This post is part of a series about joyful learning. Friend and fellow ASCD Emerging Leader, Abby French wrote this post based on a conference session we presented together for Washington State ASCD and New Jersey ASCD Whole Child Institutes.
I have the privilege of working with amazing teams of professional learning facilitators, teachers, AND students. I really do get the best of three worlds. From time to time I'll be writing posts for the Resonance Education Consulting blog. We are sharing pieces called called SEL in Action, a sharing of experiences from working with students and supporting the development of SEL skills in the classroom.
This is post was originally written for and posted on ResonanceEd.com/blog. To learn more about Resonance Education. Consulting and bringing sustainable social emotional learning systems to your school, click here.
Some of the most special moments we experience as teachers are when we watch our students live the skills we teach.
We’ve been digging into empathy this month in our newsletters and blog feed. This is because empathy is a complex concept to teach and there are many skills to model and practice. Supporting our young learners in developing their empathy skills is critical for their long-term development as well-rounded individuals.
When we are teaching, we may have social-emotional expectations of students that may not be met. Often what we witness are students struggling to work with each other. Why is that? It could be because we haven’t spent the time necessary teaching the skills needed to collaborate, empathize, and make responsible decisions. In my current school setting, we discovered when there is a struggle, it is necessary to slow down, back up, and teach some specific skills to develop the bigger picture competencies.
I have the good fortune of substitute teaching in a small multi-age group school. Some time each day is spent together in the whole group learning. This approach has pros and cons and can be a solid representation of social-emotional learning in action.
Sometimes though, we assume students at the ages of 10 or 11 automatically have the skills necessary to work with 5- and 6-year old students, because they are students themselves.
When students work together, they draw upon both inter- and intrapersonal skills. As such, we must be mindful that we are explicitly teaching those intrapersonal skills first. Primarily, patience, empathy, and perspective-taking.
Patience is an intrapersonal skill, meaning it’s a skill we learn to develop within ourselves. But how do you teach kids to be patient? What makes them impatient in the first place? Recently, when observing upper grade students work with lower grade students, there seemed to be a quick increase in level of impatience as the older students tried to read with their little buddies. We noted this frustration and realized we hadn’t prepared the upper level students to read with their younger counterparts.
We decided to slow the process and explicitly teach the skills needed when working with the younger students. We began by having students identify their intrapersonal strengths and then moved into strategies they could use to feel calm when their patience was thin. Students soon realized already familiar techniques such as breathing or pausing could be applied in this situation when experiencing frustration.
In addition to some quick patience-building techniques, we knew that we had to talk about empathy, another intrapersonal skill. We knew building a bank of strategies with the upper level students could help them understand how the younger students are at different developmental levels. Once we shared stories of “remember when you were five?” and brainstormed ideas around “what do we think we need to do to help someone is only five?”, Intentionally and explicitly naming the skills and allowing them to internalize the situation, provides the skills needed to effectively work with the younger students.
Finally, after a few weeks of explicitly focusing on and practicing some intrapersonal skills, we noticed the upper level students were more patient and empathetic towards their younger schoolmates. Were they 100% improved? Of course not - they are still learning themselves. The point is that was an improvement in the interactions during mixed-level activities. Students displayed patience and empathy through their ability to pause and listen, rather than showing their frustration with a younger student. When students practice the skills, they are better able to make caring, responsible decisions.
Time invested pays off longer term, but we have to continuously teach and reteach these skills throughout school years. If we do, our students are equipped for having positive relationships with others, and themselves.
Christine and I were super excited when Naomi of Growing Minds Consulting asked us to write a guest post for her blog. Naomi's area of expertise is in in UDL in math and we have had some conversations about the cross-over we see in the principles of UDL and minimalism. This piece though, isn't in that lane yet (it's coming, we promise)! This piece showcases three tips that can get you started when adopting what might be a new mindset for you!
"Educators can make up to 1,500 decisions per day. Adopting a minimalist mindset in education means that we are working towards keeping our minds clutter-free. For our minds to remain in optimal problem-solving and decision-making shape, we must have some strategies in place for clearing out what’s irrelevant, to make way for the tasks in our proximal priority zone.
If you are someone who can easily and quickly navigate working through a list of tasks, keep tuned into what’s most important at the right times, and maintain a clear line of focus most of the time, you’re already on the right track. If you are someone who needs reminders and a consistent flow of ways to keep yourself sorted out, we’ve got some ideas for you."
Click here to read the full post with the three tips on Naomi's site.
I was a bit reluctant to click on an Uber Business blog post when I was doing a search for the benefits of working in-person versus remote.
I'm happy to report that the first item on their list of why returning to a workplace is important was what I hoped it was... for human connection. But the second point really caught me - optimal workspaces! Hello! Speaking my language!
There are studies that show both benefits to going to a workplace and working from home, but I wanted to focus in on the benefits of getting back out into live collaborations as I head into some starting this week.
I've spent the good part of this last couple of years in transition between countries, condos, and now home office spaces. I've finally got something set up that I think will help me stay as productive as possible. But... even having our designated workspace at home can mean there are some blurred lines.
This week I am looking forward to some in-person work time with teammate, Nicole. We have done all our collaborations online, much like Christine and I as we wrote our book and continue our work together, however this dedicated work time and separate space is going to bring our productivity to a new level, allowing us to reduce a list of items that we kept adding to in a shorter amount of time than when we work online.
We've got a lot to do, and I am confident that we will get our work lists sorted out, completed, and still get out to ... goat yoga.
300 questions. That’s how many questions a four-year old may ask in a single day according to some studies. How many questions do you think adults ask per day? We can be sure that it’s not 300. It’s not even 100, or 50. Some studies report that adults ask less than 20 questions per day. We can formulate some ideas for why this is.
As we gain knowledge and understanding we may start asking less questions, it would benefit us to start asking more.
Good questions can help us clarify our purpose.
Inquiry cycles can help us broaden our perspective.
The right questions can help us move past obstacles.
Spending more time intentionally inquiring about our tasks and challenges would yield more refined and targeted outcomes, allowing us to tackle obstacles and move forward with our individual and communal successes.
This is post was originally written for and posted on ResonanceEd.com/blog. To learn more about Resonance Education. Consulting and bringing sustainable social emotional learning systems to your school, click here.
Guest post by Nicole Dissinger
We learn so much during our years in school. We learn a variety of concepts from mathematics to writing, visual art, and science. When we think back on all that learning, how much of that has transferred to our everyday lives?
As a teacher I often think, what skills are my students taking with them into their daily lives? Do they use those communication skills we practiced when they are having an issue on the playground? Will they be able to transfer and apply their self-management skills between the science activity into their independent math activities?
Over my years of teaching, I’ve developed a clear understanding of the importance of teaching skills. I’ve learned that providing students opportunities to learn and practice skills is more valuable than just teaching them content. Communication, thinking, self-management, social, and research are some of the skills that students wil need tol use when when thinking critically and making decisions in order to solve problems.
A common belief arises from both my experience as a teacher and from experiences of other teachers around the world: these skills are essential in students becoming independent and responsible learners. So how do we shift our teaching practice to reflect our beliefs?
What do we want our students to be able to do? Simply understand place value and construct a proper sentence? Sure these are important skills, but these aren’t skills that apply to all aspects of their lives. Let’s think bigger. Do we believe that clear communication is important? Do we value clarity in expectations? Do we value using our time and space efficiently? Do we believe that relationships are a priority? If our answers are yes, we need to teach skills that translate from school life to daily life. These values guide the learning and classroom environment and teachers who model these values will see them reflected in their students.
Do you have your favorite and most used sites saved in your Google search history, on a sheet, or bookmarked on your browser? Me too.
Have you tried to use a OneTab filter system so it looks like there’s only one browser open, but then found your baby (laptop) is running on high because those tabs are still actually running? Me too.
What I didn’t realize was that I could have all my most visited sites on my one browser, in plain site, and simplify how my bookmark looks, making it easier to use.
As you know, a bookmark bar isn’t the bar you go to to read books and drink a cocktail. It a place our eyes always land when we live in the land of computer work.
I can’t take credit for this trick. I did read it in someone’s tech tip blog a few months ago and partially implemented it right after I read it, and then tightened it up in the last couple of weeks.
Here’s what I’ve done to simplify what’s on my screen, yet give me the comfort of knowing it’s still there.
As much as I love words, they cluttered up my bookmark bar. We use symbols for a reason, and all the sites I use have recognizable symbols that make it easy to know which site are listed in my bookmark bar.
That’s it. It’s an easy to implement system. And one you can tecah your family and students.
A new approach can look a lot of things. It depends on what you need, what your vision is, or how you want to feel. For me, it looks like a google sheet.
Over this last 12-14 months I’ve made some some attempts to get a handle workflows and projects that have now come to life. I started tracking a few things last spring, and was impressed with myself for sticking by the sheet systems, despite the mess it became by the end of the year.
What I decided to do, as always, was lean into my close network. They are awesome to help jog memories of things we’ve chatted about before, but maybe I wasn’t quite ready to dig into. They amazing at sharing ideas, and progress with their use over time. After having a look at some of our emails and texts, I began to do some synthesizing and I came up with what I think will be a sheet system that I can stick with.
Here are my two main sheets (with a potential third on the horizon), their tab names, and what’s inside:
Setting these simple trackers up and using them right away, every day, has been helping me keep my thinking organized and ideas in one spot. Like any new habit, it’s taking me some practice and patience to stick to the plan, but I know that because I value flexibility in systems, I can always tweak what needs tweaking. Can’t wait to get this all set up in my reMarkable 2…
Each year, January 1 rolls around, and I know that I will be seeing all these "New Year, New Me" ads and articles popping up. I look at them and may take a peek at what they are about, but I already know I am not making resolutions - again. Making resolutions is a very personal choice that needs to suit you, your lifestyle, and the place you are in at that moment in time.
I do like the feel of a fresh start, however, like a new set of Mr. Sketch smelly markers at the start of a new school year.
This year I evaluated a few of my systems and a few more of my “systems”, to determine where I needed to make some tweaks. I strongly believe in making changes when something is not efficient or valuable. This year, in the first week of 2022, I decided to make two significant tweaks. Well - one was a tweak and the other is a full system remodel.
The first change I made and has already proven to be successful is how I use my phone. No surprise that all my apps live in labeled folders. I knew I needed to do some deleting of unused apps and I also needed to figure out a more efficient way to sort the apps I check most frequently. So on my home screen, I created a folder called "Daily App Check". In that folder I have the 11 apps I check every day. I also put them in order of importance, so when I open that folder, I check my email first, then Voxer messages, and so on, and complete an app sweep in just a few minutes. After a couple hours of working, I will do another app sweep to check messages and socials again. Later in the day, I am not as mindful about the time spent app sweeping because I know I efficiently used my time during the day.
The second change I had to tackle was much larger of a brain tickle. I needed to choose how to track my writing. Essentially I needed to streamline a few of my thoughts and documents to get all bits in one place. Thank you Monica, for helping me out with that.
We can make changes any time we want, and I am happy with the ones I made this week. I hope the ones you have made have been good choices for you so far.
Over the holiday, you may be adding a few things to your shelves, drawers, or countertops. All good! It's fun to give and receive during the holiday season, but because we often add more to our physical spaces during gift-giving season, it may be important to subtract something too.
Let's say you receive a new set of colored pens for your planner. Perhaps you go through your current set of pens to test that they work, toss the ones that don't, and consider if they still suit your needs. If they don't, perhaps you ask your pen-loving friends if they use that type you wish to discard, or send them off to a school for use.
Also, I know many of us will be adding books to our shelves this season. As you add those new treasures to your shelves, think about which ones you can trade, consign to the books shop, or donate to a school or library.
As you add to your collections, determining what you can subtract helps create a little more physical space, and you will side step having to clear clutter later.