Try on a new lens – (TBT Remix)

We perceive only the sensations we are programmed to receive, and our awareness is further restricted by the fact that we recognize only those for which we have mental maps or categories. (Zander, 10 pag.)

The following was posted on the last day of Pre-Planning my first year at Trinity.  While no longer a stranger, I continue to need and learn from  the stories of our children and colleagues.

From August 14, 2012:

I am new to my community – a stranger, if you will.  As a fledgling member of the community, I need and want to hear the stories of the children and my colleagues, the history of the people and the place. One spectacular opportunity afforded me is to hear the same story from multiple perspectives.  I value the luxury of learning and seeing through multiple lenses.

Through which lens do I choose to look at my surroundings?  On what do I choose to focus?  How do I practice seeing bright spots?  How often do I focus on success rather than struggle?  How do I make the practice of bright-spot-seeking a habit?  Do I teach this habit to others?

For our children, school begins tomorrow. What will they want and need from us, their teachers?  How will we offer feedback as they learn and grow?  Is it our habit to highlight their success or their struggle?  When we mark student papers, do we “award credit” or do we “take points off?” Literally, what do we mark?  What is our habit? What are we teaching through our habit?

How do our actions impact the lens through which our learners see themselves? How does our habit impact the way we see our learners? I am learning to make a point to change my lens to see with different clarity.  What does the story say if I change my view? What do we learn as we try on a new lens?

The frames our minds create define – and confine – what we perceive to be possible.  (Zander, 14 pag.)

Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view. (Zander, 1 pag.)

How do our actions impact the lens through which our learners see themselves? How does our habit impact the way we see our learners? I am learning to make a point to change my lens to see with different clarity.

What does the story say if I change my view? What do we learn as we try on a new lens?

[This post was originally cross published as Try on a new lens – edu180atl: jill gough 8.14.12 and “edu180atl: jill gough 8.14.12“]

Zander, Rosamund Stone, and Benjamin Zander. The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin, 2002. Print.

#TEDTalkTuesday: Awaken possibility

The perfect back-to-school TEDTalkTuesday message.  In this beautiful talk, Benjamin Zander gives us all a couple of great charges.  Let’s talk about taking up the challenge to move to more one-buttock playing, no matter our “music.”

Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people. And of course, I wanted to know whether I was doing that. How do you find out? You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. 

 And I say, it’s appropriate for us to ask the question, who are we being as we go back out into the world? And you know, I have a definition of success. For me, it’s very simple. It’s not about wealth and fame and power. It’s about how many shining eyes I have around me.

As we begin again, how might we make small shifts to increase our number of shining eyes?

Telling Our Story – #LearnAndShare

In the Information Age, we strive to serve a broader purpose, to learn and share, to give back to our community.  How might we give and take, consume and produce?  As learners, we seek to find and offer our voice, to reflect, and to embrace learning out loud.

What if our goals include sharing our in process thinking and learning? How might we level up in writing, reflection, and public presence?

  • Kathy Bruyn: Student Portfolios: It’s all worth it!
    If you’re wondering if it’s worth the time and energy you put into helping students create online portfolios of their work each year, I have your answer.
  • Chari Nickerson: #TBT.Pickle.Trees
     I’m so proud to have been there to hear and learn alongside my students.
  • Marsha Harris: Coding for Communication Collaboration Critical Thinking and Creativity
    When students learn to code, they learn to think analytically, problem solve, and practice public speaking skills.  They begin to think like inventors, entrepreneurs, and creators. 
  • Jill Gough:  Engaging Every Learner #AskDontTell
    What if we offered the opportunity for every child to show what they know instead of having them raise their hands and wait for the chance to respond? Here’s what that looks like in practice.
  • Mary Jacob Harris: Taking Risks to Flourish
    While Michelle and I constantly remind students they need to take risks to grow and that making mistakes is okay, I thought it was time to model risk taking. 
  • Justin Cahill: The Art of Losing
    Let’s model gracious behavior both in victory and defeat.  Following a tough loss, the last thing our guys want to do is dwell on it.  Losing is not the end of the world.  A positive character is what will make our budding sons into great men.  That is priceless.
  • Samantha Steinberg: When Do You Abandon A Book?
    Although a week ago I was ready to set this book aside for another time, I’m actually glad I stuck with it for just a little longer. Halfway through the book, it got very exciting, and I’m now fully engrossed.

Derek Sivers says it well:

Tell your story. Tell our story.

Learn… and share.

Strategic Teaming: 3 Big Ideas Learning Communities embrace

Bringing differences to the same essential-to-learn highlighted our 2015-16 community goals and how the lessons were designed and delivered from our Head of School and Division Heads.  Today, I facilitated the next lesson for our teams.

We reviewed the 3 Big Ideas and the 4 Key Questions that high functioning teams embrace.

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We want to grow in leadership and in teaming.  In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle writes

The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does. (Coyle, 19 pag.)

How might we, as a team, reach to target the struggle, to work on the edge of our abilities?

What if we use the seven stages that collaborative teams traverse from  by Parry Graham and Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) as a way to target our struggle? How might we use formative assessment to self-assess where we are now to make an informed decision about our next reach as a team?

Below are a sampling of the results when teams were asked to reflect and respond to the question At what stage do we currently function (most of the time) during team meetings?

If we focus on learning, have a collaborative culture, and use results to guide our decisions, how will we now differentiate with and for these teams who are different points in their collaborative journey?

Coyle, Daniel (2009-04-16). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Graham, Parry, and William Ferriter. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work: A Guide to the First Year. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2010. Print.

Never Underestimate A Motivated Learner ~ You Gotta Have Faith (TBT Remix)

Who has faith in you?  In whom do you demonstrate faith?

On November 20, 2011, AS announced that she wanted to learn to knit. She is seven. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought:

Is she really going to learn to knit? I’ve tried to teach my adult friends and have about a 50% success rate. I am busy; I have a list of things that need to be accomplished today.

But, she was determined to knit, so she sat in my lap while I coached her through 4 rows of 10 stitches – about a 20 minute exercise.  You can see the results of that one “lesson”  in the video below and on my Posterous mother-daugher-based-learning blog post.

On Dec. 20, 2011, her blue scarf was approximate 3.5 feet long, and she started a new purple scarf.

What if I had put my list of “desired outcomes”
ahead of her interests and determination to learn?

What if I told her that she was not ready?

What if I indicated that she did not have
enough maturity, experience, prerequisite skills?

How often do I become focused on “getting through the list of learning targets in the curriculum” without stopping to listen to their interests and questions?

Meet Thomas Suarez – an iPhone app developer and a 6th grader:

Meet Birke Baehr – an 11-year-old concerned with industrialized food systems and the alternatives:

What do our learners care about?  What do they want to learn, study, think deeply about, and investigate?  How can we use our curriculum to serve and support their learning and interests? We regularly check-in with our learners by reading and commenting on their blogs.  Here are a few quotes from our Synergy 8 learners about their interests and concerns:

One thing that each member and I realized after we were talked to about poor quality housing and affordable housing, was that there are many children that do not have a safe place to call “home.”  ~ TY

Did you know that from 1980 to now obesity rates have doubled among adults and tripled among adolescents (, Facts n. pag.)? Also, did you know in 2010 according to the CDC 29.6% of people in Georgia were obese (, Overweight n. pag.)? Before starting this project, I knew that obesity was a problem and I was very passionate about this issue. Although, I had no idea that obesity affected that many people, especially in Georgia. ~ SE

Using this data, we discovered that most people get less sleep than they should. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, attention span, and ability to retain knowledge. Most teens think that they can do their homework and mess around until 12 am and then go to sleep.~ RV

I am a person that doesn’t like to work in groups in fear that people won’t do their work and I will have to make up for the work that hasn’t been done. Being in this Synergy class and working in groups has helped me to trust other people to do their work.~ HD

What are the active steps we take to help our learners find tangible evidence of success and learning?  How does our feedback indicate that we have faith in their ability to learn, to work collaboratively, to problem find and problem solve?  How do we actively demonstrate faith (and trust) in our learners’ quest develop thinking and understanding? (And, what does it convey if we won’t let them try because we are afraid that they are too young, too immature, too inexperienced, or that they are just “not ready” because they haven’t mastered the prerequisites?

Just meet the amazing speakers at TedxKids@BC from September 17, 2011 and then think about these questions again.

Who has faith in you?  In whom do you demonstrate faith?

We gotta have faith.

Never Underestimate a Motivated Learner – You Gotta Have Faith was originally published on December 29, 2011

Bringing differences to the same essential-to-learn

One fear we encounter while forwarding the tenets of professional learning communities is the perceived loss of autonomy. Yesterday my team used their strengths to teach and facilitate learning of essentials without such loss.

I have the privilege of attending multiple division meetings, and yesterday was such a day.  We met as an entire community to start conversation about our common goals for this year.  Then, each division met to  learn from and with their Division Head.

The through-lines and essentials to learn are clear to me. I appreciate seeing these examples of how we facilitate essentials learning by leveraging our unique strengths and talents.  There was no cookie-cutter lesson everyone delivered.  Yet, the essentials were taught, experienced, and practiced in each session.

Below are my notes from all three session. I hope you can see the essentials, through-lines, and goals that I see.

Joe Marshall – Whole School Meeting, 8:30 a.m.

Rhonda Mitchell – EED meeting 10:30 a.m.


Maryellen Berry – UED meeting 1:00 p.m.


Awareness of self and others. Giving our strengths and talents to our team. Honoring different points of view.

How might we keep open, unbroken circles?

Reflection required: Learning over time #MyLearning

I am not defined by my performance today. I can grow and learn more with continued goal setting, practice, and feedback.

Yesterday I posted Patience required: Learning over time (#MyLearning) (#ShowYourWork). I ended the post wondering my learning is evident to the viewer of these artifacts.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” ― John Dewey

When serving as Trinity’s Personalized Learning Specialist, our Early Elementary Division Head of School, Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach), developed and refined a protocol for reflection.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.36.08 AM

We want learners to collect, select, and reflect.

My COLLECTion is archived on my MyLearning Journey for #ShowYourWork Doodles and Sketch Notes Pinterest board.

I SELECTed these two from the collection:

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.40.22 PM

And, I REFLECTed on my growth and learning:

Throughout the 2014-15 school year, I doodled notes during every professional development learning session that I attended.  I remember how nervous I felt about taking notes this way during Joe’s opening faculty meeting last August.  I used an erasable pen because I was so scared of making a mistake. I remember most of his talk. The importance of our vision of pedagogy to deepen understanding, empower learners, and to cultivate community through personal experiences is clear. These tenants are reflected in our actions with learning progressions and our My Learning e-portfolios.  George’s comments in June actually connect to Joe’s comments from August.  We are in an age or era where we have connections at our fingertips.  No longer are we promoting a Jeopardy version of success.  How will we offer learners voice and choice? What if we co-create knowledge, problem-finding and problem-solving, and joyful experiences with our learners?

It is clear to me that I am more confident with the process of doodling to learn. I’m no longer using an erasable pen; in fact, I’m informed and opinionated about what works best for me. Clearly, color adds value and communicates ideas.  I see growth in my sketches of people, ideas, and connectors. I am still in awe of how much impact doodling has on my retention and recall of ideas.

I’ve learned that I listen better, think differently and more deeply, and remember more when I exercise my creativity to use visuals to represent ideas.  It is true that a picture is worth 1000s of words.  When I frantically tried to write everything down – before doodling – I could record lots of words, but did I capture any ideas? Not often.

This reminds me of timed math tests. I know! Weird connection.  It reminds me of timed math tests because of the stress and pressure of time.  I learn and remember more through doodling because I’m not frantic. I’m not afraid that I’m going to miss something.  I know that I’m visualizing big ideas and their surrounding details.

I’ve also learned that the more I practice, the more I want to learn.  I see improvement, and I see where and what I want to learn next.

I plan to continue making my thinking and learning visible using sketch noting.  I am encouraged to learn and to share.  I am not defined by my performance today. I can grow and learn more with continued goal setting, practice, and feedback.

Again, I find value and real joy in having the collection.  My portfolio of doodles shows me several concurrent learning journeys. Reflection offers glimpses of what I’m learning and where I am now. I have choice in where I go next and in how I’m going to get there.

Worth repeating:

I’ve also learned that the more I practice, the more I want to learn.  I see improvement, and I see where and what I want to learn next.  

How might we teach, model, and facilitate experiences to collect, select, and reflect learning over time? What if we offer time, encouragement, and opportunities?

Seeking brightspots and dollups of feedback about learning and growth.


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