Reverse Innovation: Do More with Less

I live for lessons and ideas that I can apply to all areas of my life; Reverse Innovation is one of those transformational ideas.

To give you a short backstory, a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a TED Talk from

Vijay Govindarajan titled “Reverse Innovation.” Needless to say, I was pulled in instantaneously. I thoroughly enjoy learning from global experts in all areas: business, finance, leadership, education, and more. We often stay in our own bubble of expertise to a fault. I have found that there is a plethora of learning that can take place from listening to the successes, and trials, from those in other professions.

While watching Govindarajan’s TED talk, I was hooked. Although his principles mainly apply to the global economy, they can truly be transferable to a myriad of pursuits, careers, and passions. I also recommend reading Govindarajan’s book, Reverse Innovation: Create Far from Home, Win Anywhere.
The above infographic depicts a few of my favorite points from Govindarajan:
  • “Do a lot more with a lot less”
  • “Change from value for money to value for many (people)”
  • “Be curious about all problems”
  • “Think ambitions over expectations”
  • “You cannot unlock new opportunities by using the same logic” 
These concepts are written effortlessly, yet have a much more complex meaning. Furthermore, the meaning of these interpretations can change drastically based on the perspective you bring to the table.
Govindarajan even shares real stories of how reverse innovation is changing the developing world by offering “universal access to world-class quality” at low prices that are unheard of. For example, a $30 artificial leg was made using recycled plastic yogurt cups from Thailand doctors; Can you imagine? Miraculous innovations are occurring all around the world, even in unlikely places.

Applying the Concepts to Education

With tightening budgets and growing expectations for educators, one may find it difficult to transpose the above ideas to education. There always seems to be more things we want for our students, yet not enough money to make it all happen on the surface. But still, educators all over the world are finding ways to be innovative and “doing more with less” while focusing on the people, ambitions, and opportunities before anything else.  For example, design thinking, Project Lead the Way, STEM, Makerspaces, and Cardboard Challenges are just some of the ways teachers are advocating for these ideas by using inexpensive items like legos, cardboard, and ducktape.
I am curious to learn from you: How are you, your colleagues, or your school “doing a lot more with a lot less?
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7 Ways to Let Students LEAD!

 

Of all my passions, nothing holds more meaning to me than empowering students to LEAD! When we allow students to lead, we are more likely to empower them not only in their day-to-day learning but in their LIFE. And in my opinion, that is one of the greatest things, if not THE greatest thing, we can do for the kids we serve.

On this same note, although I could write a post that included 100 ways to let students lead, I wanted to synthesize as much information as I could in 7 easy to remember examples, that are also some of my favorite launchpads for learning:

1.  Start student-led class discussions

What I have found from experience is that student-led class discussions are not an “activity,” it is an experience and a meaningful one at that. Too often, we structure our classrooms so we are the sage on the stage and the sole person who can take and answer questions. Rather than building upon students curiosity, we inadvertently and accidently squash them. I must note that there are important and worthwhile moments for teachers to deliver content and field questions in this manner, but it does not have to be the only way.

Helping students lead discussions is a life-long skill that is crucial to build even at the youngest of ages because it proves to be even more important as the years go on. Rather than being terrified that students will argue with one another or will not know what to do during a student-led discussion, think of it as a learning opportunity that will pay dividends in their future. Show them the way and watch them soar. You will run into obstacles at first with this approach, but stay persistent to see student engagement and overall love for learning rise. This article by

This article by Education Week on student-led discussions, with strategies on how to get started, was written two years ago and still rings true today.

 

2.  Choose student tech experts to teach students & teachers new ways to integrate technology

Whether you start a Student Tech before/after school program, or you choose a few students in your class to be “tech experts,” students LOVE teaching other students new ways to integrate technology into the classroom. It never ceases to amaze me how much students know about technology. I often ask my students to teach me what they are doing and how they are using technology outside of school. We then spin the conversation to determine how we can integrate that technology in a meaningful way for their learning at school, too.

 

3.  Ask students their input on how we can improve school and put that input into ACTION!

Students have so many ideas on how to improve the school culture and day-to-day procedures, but we often forget to ask. Whether you ask them about how to better your lessons or how to improve student behavior during unstructured times, students often are untapped resources. Not only that, but they desperately want to help!

I will never forget, when I asked my former sixth-grade students on how we could improve our classroom climate to help all learners feel apart of our team. They immediately came up with the idea of “Leader Jobs.” Although having leader jobs is not new in the classroom, they wanted to put their own spin on it and to CREATE the jobs that would exist in the classroom, rather than me creating them. Having said that, through this experience, I allowed them to lead and saw students who were more ecstatic to come to school than ever before because they had a PURPOSE. Students designed jobs like “Twitter Expert, Instagram Leader, Inspirational Leader,” and more.

Moral of the story: Ask for their input and then make valiant efforts to do something about their feedback. If we only ask and forget to do, we will lose the trust of our kids.

 

4.  Have students create individualized learning playlists that differentiate learning

Several months ago, I heard this idea of creating individualized learning playlists for kids. Before I even researched how other educators have used this practice, I decided to give it a try myself with a few students first; I wanted the creation process with my students to be as organic as possible.

After students have tried these playlists for a couple of months, I have learned an abundant amount from my students about what they like, what does work, and what has not been beneficial for their learning process. I have a post in the works on this topic, but I wanted to share that I have found HUGE student participation and leadership through students being able to learn and create their way at their own pace.

Until this next post on this is created, check out Jennifer Gonzalez’s blog post on this subject.

 

5.  Try a student-led edcamp

This has to be one of my favorite student-led ideas I have tried this year. Read my blog post here on how to get one started!

 

6.  Embed Genius Hour, Project Based Learning and Makerspaces to gain more hands-on approaches to learning

When students are able to learn LIVE through trying, they are leading their learning. Here are a few experts and resources on these topics to get these ideas started in your classroom or school:

  • Genius Hour
    • Check out Don Wettrick: Author of Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level – He is a guru on all things Genius Hour.
    • Genius Hour Twitter Chat:  chat = 1st Thurs of each month at 6 pm PST/9 pm EST
    • One of the most passionate educators I know who uses Genius Hour in her classroom is Jen Schneider– Connect with her on Twitter; She loves to share ideas and resources.
  • Project Based Learning (PBL)
    • Check out Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy, authors of Hacking Project Based Learning: I can honestly say that this book was such a worthwhile read and broke down the thinking and action behind project-based learning, in addition to giving meaningful ways to embed it within your class.
  • Makerspaces
    • You cannot say “Makerspaces” without mentioning the queen of Makerspaces, Laura Fleming. Follow her on Twitter, if you do not already, and check out her book and website on Makerspace learning here.

7. Empower students to show their learning with new and innovative approaches.

Do not be the keeper of all the knowledge, be the caretaker of student talent. Ask students to show their learning in ways that you have not even thought of- Allow them to be the designers, too.

Kara’s Tweetable: When we help students live outside the box in their thinking, they will also gain outside of the box success with their learning as a result.

Take risks with your kids- You will learn abundantly more than you would have ever before if you simply played it safe.

 

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Give Your Love, Watch Someone Grow

 Image credit: QuoteFancy

 

My Mom, myself, my brother & my Dad at my Masters Graduation Ceremony for Educational Administration last year

 

Throughout my life, and to this day, my Mom has always been my foundation of what love is. She embodies love. She breathes love. She IS love.

She is that one person in my life that knows and understands me better than anyone else.

She has:

-Always known exactly what to say at just at the right time

-Supported me through every decision I have made

-Loved me unconditionally

-Taught me how to trust my heart and intuition above all else

When I wanted to become an educator years ago, most people tried to talk me out of it due to a multitude of reasons. Some believed that I would be wasting my intelligence and potential with being an educator. But, not my mom. My mom was the only one that advised me to follow my heart and to never feel bad for doing so. She saw my undeniable passion for teaching and knew that nothing could replace that fire in my soul- Not money, perception, or the opinions of others.

My mom and the first class I EVER taught. They loved her as much I do; This picture brings me to tears, every single time

 

Her love has shown me how to love. I see how she loves me, my family, her job, and people as a whole. She would give the shirt off her back and all of the money in her bank account to anyone who needed it. Furthermore, she believes that time is the best thing you can offer someone. Only a few people even know that she spends her lunch breaks helping struggling students to read (for no cost) because she wants to make a difference. She has shown me by her example that we do not have to wait to make a difference, WE ARE THE DIFFERENCE.

This website, this blog, my career, and who I am today would not even exist if it were not for my Mom. She has always believed in me more than I believed in myself. In her eyes, I could do it all. I could conquer any dream, and climb any mountain. Her opinion and belief in me has steered me forward, even when I have not believed in myself.

Each day, my goal is to love students unconditionally like the way my Mom has loved me. Even when I was hard to love, my Mom loved me. Even when I had crazy dreams, my Mom believed in me.

Here is to loving each student, each colleague, each friend, and each person we encounter with the same kind of love that my mom has shown to me.

To my Mom- I owe you the world. I love you. I can only hope and dream to be half the person you are. Thank you.

 

Kara’s Tweetable : “We do not have to wait to make a difference, We are the difference.”

 

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4 Steps to Risk-Taking

Risk-taking is not an art form; It is a conscious choice that we can choose to make. It is also a normal part of the learning process.

Each day we ask our students to take risks in our classrooms. We ask our kids to:

  • Dive into activities that they may or may not be good at
  • Share their ideas and opinions, even when they may be introverted or lack confidence
  • Try something the second we ask them, without hesitation or apprehension

But, when do WE find time to take risks as the teacher, as the adult? 

The most successful educators that I have ever met, who are the best at reaching kids, are masters at taking risks in the classroom every single day. Some days these risks may be mini-risks, while other days they are full-blown, terrifying, and monumental risks.

The other week I earned a free year of ClassCraft premium. One of our brave teachers, Molly, decided to literally jump into ClassCraft with her students one day and allowed HER STUDENTS to take control. Although she watched video tutorials on the process ahead of time, she still trusted students enough to learn and teach her. Since students were already familiar with games that include Warriors, Mages, and Healers, they were able to teach us more than we would have known through our own personal experiences alone. Never underestimate the knowledge that students can bring to the table.

What I have learned is that it is OKAY to be scared, it is just NOT OKAY to not try or give up.

How can you start with risk-taking? Start here:

1. Find your mission

Although taking random risks on a whim can be fun and still have a purpose, it is more meaningful to take a multitude of risks based on a mission you are focused on.  Determine your mission first. Do you want to be more innovative? Take more risks based on that vision. Do you want to improve on your specific teaching strategies in a content area? Focus on taking risks in that specific area. Once you see success and small progress in one area, you are more likely to take bigger risks in the future.

2. Commit to it

Nothing feels worse than saying you will take a risk and then you end up never following through. Just go for it. Commit 110%. I have found personal success by informing others about my risks and goals so they can be my accountability partners and hold me to it.

3. Be patient and persistent

I have a promise for you: You will fail and you will fail again. Change your perception of failure and realize that risk-taking and failure go hand-in-hand; You cannot have one without the other. I also can guarantee you this: Although failure can hit you in the stomach sometimes, failure will always bring new insights, new pathways, and new journeys…we simply have to be able to see the positives right in front of us. Without failure, we would never get better.

4. Share your journey with others

Share your risks, share your adversities, share your successes. Through having others join you on your journey, you can be that role model of risk-taking for someone else. Furthermore, once you open up, others will be more likely to share their journey with you as well.

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17 Midwest Educators to Follow on Twitter

Today, I presented at the Midwest Educational Technology Conference #METC17 where I had the honor to be awarded as a Spotlight Educator. I also had the meaningful experience to present on Engaging Students and Families on Twitter and Instagram and will present again tomorrow on Digital Storytelling with my dear friend Don Goble.

During my Spotlight presentation today, I was brought to tears. I saw current colleagues, former colleagues, personal friends, friends I have networked with on social media, and beyond who attended my session to be there for me. Even my Mom’s fantastic former boss attended my session to cheer me on. While I saw these friendly faces, I was reminded and humbled of how grateful I am to have such a strong support system and network who support me, care about me, and who are always there to lift me up.

Therefore, from inspiration at #METC17, I wanted to share 17 of my friends in the Midwest who you NEED to follow, in no particular order. These are genuine people and educators, inside and out; Learn and grow from them by following them on Twitter.

Click the hyperlink next to the name to go directly to that person’s Twitter profile.
  1. Don Goble – @dgoble2001
  2. Brent Catlett – @catlett1
  3. Sage Arnote- @mrarnote
  4. JP Prezzavento – @jpprezz
  5. Laura Gilchrist – @lauragilchrist4
  6. Julie Smith – @julnilsmith
  7. David Geurin – @davidgeurin
  8. Beth Houf – @bethhouf
  9. Lauren Mertz – @mslaurenmertz
  10. Tina Lauer – @tnalau
  11. Aaron Duff – @education_geek
  12. Christie Scott – @mrsscott503
  13. Mary Kienstra – @beebekienstra
  14. Mindy Southern – @mindysouth
  15. Michelle Dirksen – @mdirksen
  16. Stacey Stubits – @stubits411
  17. Debbie Fucoloro – @debbiefuco

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Finding Your Sense of Clarity

Image Credit: Fourth Revolution

 

Clarity: The quality of clearness.

I explain clarity as the mental sharpness and awakening of knowledge. When you feel clarity, you gain understanding of what you need to do in your life; Clarity is that monumental “life-bulb” moment.

Clarity is essential because without it, we often make decisions that are misguided and wrong for us, or the people around us.

 

But how do you gain clarity, you ask?

The truth is, I do not think you can gain full clarity 100 percent of the time. This is life and life is not perfect. But, there are strategies we can practice to help us become more in tune with who we are and what is best for our inner souls.

Recently, I watched this video from Marie Forleo about Goal-Setting. Within her video, she was able to describe perfectly how I have always felt about following your heart as your guide. One of Marie’s best mantras that she lives by is “Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Until you put something into action and TRY, you will never have the clarity if you are making the right decision.

I am someone who tends to live inside my head; I constantly have thoughts and different case scenarios running around in my subconscious. Due to this, I sometimes lie awake at night at trying to solve the world’s problems. Funny enough, I have found out that more times than not, if I stop thinking and start DOING, I feel more resolution. I feel abundantly more satisfied. Until you DO, you might as well worry your life away because your mind alone cannot prepare you for life, only your action and experience will.

 

Tips for Gaining Clarity:

  • Dip your foot before diving in

Do you want to have the opportunity to move, to travel, or to try a new role within your building or profession? Ask questions and learn from those who you admire or would like to be more like. Can you shadow that person for a day? Ask questions and put yourself out there for different learning opportunities to give you a varied perspective before you completely dive in and change your life. Disclaimer: Sometimes diving in is perfectly fine, too.

  • Trust your gut

As my Mom always told me- Your inner-self knows more than you ever will; Trust it. When you get that nagging feeling telling you to do something, follow it and listen. Especially if that feeling persists. You gain more regret from NOT trying than you will from trying and then failing.

  • Give yourself grace

Sometimes you will follow that feeling of intuition and you will find out later that you may have regrets. Instead of beating yourself up, think of each opportunity as a chance to learn more and be more. Even wrong turns that you have taken develops your wisdom and self-truth in deeper capacities than what WOULD have occurred if everything went your way. Give yourself grace. Affirm what you learned through the experience and how you are better now because of it. Turn that potential negative into a life-changing moment that you can be proud of.

Kara’s Tweetable:I have found out that more times than not, if I stop thinking and start DOING, I feel more resolution.” – Kara Welty

What are strategies you use to gain clarity? I would love to hear your feedback- Add your tips below.

 

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From Colleagues to my Second Family

 

Last June, I moved across the state of Missouri.

I was asked to take on an incredible role as a Mentor Teacher and Technology Integrationist in Kansas City. When I heard about this opportunity, I felt God was pulling at my heart to take this chance and to take the risk. “I always envisioned myself in another city, so why not try it now,” I thought.

I know from experience now that moving to a new city alone, while not knowing anything about how to get around, is one fast way to learn and grow COMPLETELY. New town. New workplace. New home. New roads to navigate. New insights. New everything!

My then-boyfriend and now fiance, Adam, supported my move and knew there was no stopping my passion for education. Smart guy! Traveling three and a half hours back and forth to see each other, while planning a wedding and still trying to see friends and family, has been tougher than I would ever admit. But, I would not change a thing.

Through this experience, I have a second family; My colleagues.

After staying at work this week until 7 p.m. and enjoying the time spent with my co-workers, while forgetting that clocks even exist, I finally left work. After driving back home, I messaged my mom to tell her how much I love the people I work with. She responded, with,

“I’m grateful for all of them since they have made it even nicer for you since you are away from Adam and away from where you grew up.”

My mom’s words brought tears to my eyes because she put to words what my heart was trying to express.

We often say as educators that students spend more time at home than at school; The same applies to us as adults. We spend more waking hours at work, with teachers and students than time spent doing anything else. For this reason, and many others, I am grateful that my colleagues are MORE than people I see at work. They are people that I CARE about, and people who care about me; Not just as fellow educators, but as humans first.

They take care of me. We take care of each other.

Just this week:
-A co-worker saw I needed another ice scraper, and she brought one into work to lend a hand.
-I was surprised this morning with my favorite diet soda waiting for me on my desk.
-I looked in my mailbox to find the sweetest card waiting for me.
-A colleague lovingly said she was my “second mom” and my “Kansas City mom.”

I have no words to describe the gratitude I feel for these exceptional individuals.

Thank you for making Kansas City the remarkable city it is. Thank you for risk-taking with me. Thank you for seeing my heart. And most importantly, thank you for loving me.

Here is to everyone who is reading this: Hug a co-worker. Be a family. Show your love. Say thank you to even the smallest acts that make an impact in your day-to-day life.

These days that we spend with each other are not just “school days,” the days are our LIVES. Let’s make them count and love each other UP.

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6 Ways to Use Technology to Boost Student Performance

stumbled across a book titled, “Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms” by Grace E. Smith and Stephanie Throne, which was published from ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). After doing more research, I found that Grace and Stephanie are both Educational Technologists and researchers who are dedicated to find best practices for teachers. Through their work, they also discovered a variety of other research in educational tech, which they brought forward in their book as well.

I created the image above based on the information from Grace and Stephanie, which they obtained through CARET (Center of Applied Research in Educational Technology); CARET was founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is a project through ISTE.

6 Ways to Use Technology to Boost Student Performance:

  1. Use technology in a way that “directly supports curriculum objectives.”
  2. Use technology to “foster student collaboration.”
  3. Find and use applications that “adapt to student knowledge and experience, while giving feedback to student and teachers.”
  4. Integrate technology into the “typical instructional day.”
  5. Use technology to give students opportunities to “design and implement projects that tie with curriculum.”
  6. Build a community where students, parents, teachers, and administration “support technology usage.”

I found these 6 points to be compelling and relatable to all I do as an educator. If you take away the word “technology” in any of the above statements, you will find THE optimal learning environment in any classroom, with or without tech.

To illustrate, classrooms should always aim to support objectives, to be collaborative, give immediate feedback, while giving students opportunities to design their learning. Technology can help, but it is not the magic remedy in those equations. Yes, technology can boost student performance in these mentioned areas, but it cannot be done without the positive cultural infrastructure which supports those notions to begin with.

Furthermore, I believe technology is crucial, but I also understand it is not the “end-all-be-all.” Instead, the learning and the environment is what our underlying basis and principle should consist of. Technology can be a transformative asset when used with purpose- but if it is not taking the learning and connecting to the next level, we need to rethink how we are using the tools.

Reflections: During your technology integration journey- Remember that the most thrilling part of the learning expedition is not the technology. More importantly, enthusiasm is won by focusing on the DISCOVERY of learning new things and expanding your skill-set and passions, while inspiring the people you serve to do the same.

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How-to Guide for Starting Student Edcamps

Edcamps for teachers have taken the educational world by storm. Teachers, including myself, have been refreshed and renewed with the “edcamp style” of learning which consists of learning and sharing in an unconference format. In regular PD’s and conferences, you have to sit in one spot, even if you are not getting anything out of it. While, in edcamps, the rule of two feet allows you to move between sessions at your heart’s desire. You gain the opportunity to talk with other teachers and dive into learning organically.

After being apart of many edcamps across the nation, attending an edcamp leadership summit, and creating and co-leading a city-wide edcamp, I felt a stirring in my heart also to try it with students. I thought- If we know edcamps are beneficial for adults, isn’t worth a try to allow students to test them out as well? After all, giving students a voice and choice in their learning should be the compass in which we lead.

 

Click this picture to see the original tweet!

My lovely friends and 4th grade team at my school, Angie, Molly, and Lauren, were gracious and beyond willing to team-up with me to give this a try for the first time!

We learned an abundant amount throughout this process and through just diving in; We found out what worked, what did not work, and how we would build upon our foundation next time. I hope you find these tips below beneficial and encouraging to start a student edcamp at YOUR school:

*Disclaimer: At the end of the day, do what is best for YOUR kids. Feel free to use and takeaway whatever you love from this post and to transform it for your kids! What works for our 4th graders, may not work for your kids, and that is okay.

1. Stay focused on the learning

The edcamp model at its whole should be straightforward and focused on the learning. Period. Do not worry about there being prizes or treats. Keep your vision on the learning, student passions, and incorporating students into the process as much as possible.

2. Collaborate with others before jumping in

Want your own copy of this board to edit? Click the picture.
  • Meet and collaborate with your colleagues online and in person at least a couple times before the edcamp.
  • Create a skeleton outline of what you need to do, “before the edcamp,” “during the edcamp” and“after the edcamp.”
  • Determine the time, date, and how many sessions you will have, and how long you want your sessions to be.
  • Create a skeleton of a blank board (either digitally or on an anchor chart) for students to fill in at a later time.
  • THINK: Do you want students to bring devices to research, if needed or do you want them to be device-less to focus on the conversations?
    • We found some topics fit using technology better than others, while other sessions we learned needed materials/objects next time to make the session come to life.
  • Agree on rooms or spaces you have available and supervision for each space.
  • TIP:
    • For our 4th graders, we chose three sessions with 20 minutes per session, and 5-minute transitions to move to the next session and to reflect with peers on their learning. Looking back, next time we will stick with 15 minutes per session.

3. Prepare students before the edcamp

Students created the norms and agreed upon them.

Before the edcamp:

  • Teachers discussed with their students what a true “discussion” looked like, and they practiced in small groups.
  • Each class created norms on a padlet, and we discussed it as a group.
  • We showed this elementary edcamp example video to students as an exemplar.

4. Meet with students the day before the edcamp

Above is a snapshot of part of our Session 1 room ideas! Click picture to see Dotstorming webpage.
  • Meet with all participating teachers and students together.
  • Answer any questions students may have.
  • TIPS:
    • As a group, we determined that each session slot time slot would have its own TOPIC. For example, for session 1, students chose TECHNOLOGY.
    • After the session topic was set, students were then able to vote and agree upon different room ideas. The winners were: coding, ctrl shortcuts and tricks, google slides, and musically (See below for other session and room ideas!)
    • For this process, I would highly recommend using Dotstorming to give students the opportunity to write in their ideas and then to vote. For each separate session, I created a different Dotstorming link to make it easy to organize.
    • If access to devices is not available, have students brainstorm together and then vote by raising hands, tallying, or writing on a ballot.
Above is the finished product and the session topics that students created, voted, and agreed upon.

5. Day of the Edcamp

Create your own dropdown or check-off form like above.
  • If you want a more clear idea of who is going to what session, create a Google form with dropdown choices.
  • Send board sessions and any other needed items to students in Google Classroom to remind them of session times and locations.
  • Meet together in one big space before starting to go over norms and to get EXCITED!
  • Let go and LET KIDS LEAD.
    • This is hard, but important. 
    • Step back and do your best to let students own their conversations and learn without teacher interruptions.

6. After the Edcamp

Give students time to reflect

  • Discuss as a group how the edcamp went, their favorite parts, and how they want to change it next time.
  • Give students a Google Form to gather honest feedback to make the next edcamp even better (Click this link to view my sample form).
  • As a teacher team, go over the feedback.
  • Then, pat yourselves on the back for a job well-done!

Ever since we had the edcamp, kids have been asking us non-stop to do another edcamp again! I highly encourage you to attend edcamps yourself first before starting a student edcamp. But, once you are ready to start a student edcamp- just DIVE IN. You will not regret it, and your students will thank you for being brave enough to take the plunge!

Soon, I will be teaming up with my 3rd grade team to launch another student edcamp where we will invite high schoolers who are inspiring teachers to co-lead sessions. Stay tuned on Twitter!

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Goal-Setting Checklist

As the new year begins, everyone is excited, and rightfully so, to start the year on a new and fresh foot.

Losing weight, focusing on fitness, spending more time with family, or becoming more balanced are among the common objectives many of us set for ourselves. The hard thing is, once February hits, our willpower to reach our goals often diminishes into the daylight just as quickly as we set them. Trust me, I am guilty of this, too.

The truth is life gets in the way sometimes, and I am here to tell you that is okay. Side note: When life does happen, be kind to yourself.

But, here is what I have found from experience: When setting your goals, no matter what the occasion, it is beneficial to check yourself to see if the goals you are setting are even the goals you truly need the MOST.

Here are guiding questions that I have created and written down over the past three years. I read these often whenever I need a swift kick of remembrance of what matters when setting goals. Also, when teaching, I show these questions to my students as well, while sharing my goal-setting stories and struggles. After all, goal setting needs to go beyond academics.

-What goal will bring the most meaning to my life?

In education, we have “power standards” to choose from which will bring the biggest bang for your buck when teaching and learning; This same theory can be applied to setting goals. We all would love to improve ourselves in a variety of aspects of our lives, but Rome was not built in a day, and neither are strong, accomplished individuals. Ask yourself: What goal will bring the most meaning to my life? Then, go for it!

 

-Am I focusing on what matters?

This question is THE question that rattles me the most. Sometimes what I think matters the most to me in certain moments, is not what REALLY matters. It is easy to get caught up in the nuances of life- Almost too easy. If this question shakes you to your core as well, get a trusted outside opinion of your goals as you set them. I often ask Adam, my fiancee, his thoughts about the goals I set, so he can refocus me when I become cloudy.

 

-Am I setting the bar for myself too low?

If you set the bar low, you will hit it every single time. We often are more scared of achieving than we are of losing. Do not misinterpret this as setting completely unrealistic expectations. I believe that no dream is too big, but you have to pair that idea with real-life action steps.

 

-How will achieving my target help the well-being of others?

Goal-setting needs to move beyond “me” into “WE.” How is what you are aiming to achieve going to benefit others beyond yourself? Improving yourself is a beautiful thing, but if this improvement can also inspire others along the way, THEN you have created magic.

 

-Have I prepared mini-short-term steps and long-term steps to take along my journey?

As Tony Robbins says, people who are inventors create and design everything twice: Once in your imagination, and twice in reality.

Now, take this theory and transfer it to goal-setting. As you set goals, you are the inventor. But, it takes laying out the design, tenacity, and trial and error to find the right recipe for YOUR personal success. Always remember- What works for ____________(Insert name here), may not work for me.

 

-Am I trying to press the fast-forward button on my life without enjoying the present moment?

Life is short. Are we enjoying each beautiful moment giving to us? OR are we trying to wish ourselves OUT of the current moment we are living in to be catapulted into something better?

When I was a child, I spent most of my years trying too hard to grow up as fast as I could. Now, I look back and wish I could have told myself to JUST BE. Sometimes, that little girl inside me now still needs that reminder.

I hope this checklist of sorts helps you in some small way. Here’s to achieving all you were born to achieve and giving yourself grace when you fall.

I believe in you,

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