Every summer, I like to write a blog post about all the buzzwords being shared at conferences. But this summer, as I reflect on my past 3 days of learning at the Building Learning Communities conference, it’s clear that we have moved from buzzwords to shifts. What’s the difference? Well, a buzzword implies that we are talking about what needs to change. But, a shift implies action. And that’s what I saw at #BLC18…many stories of students and teachers who are changing schools and taking action.
What are some of the key changes and actions taking place?
Changing the focus. Opening keynote speaker Marc Brackett (@marcbrackett) shifted our attention away from academics and toward emotions, specifically, the importance of helping students identify and verbalize their emotions. With 50% of college students seeking help for emotional issues, it’s clearly time to change our focus and develop systemic programs that include training for teachers and parents. Marc offered the Mood Meter and the RULER principles to help us begin an Emotion Revolution! Ted Dintersmith (@dintersmith) echoed this in his closing keynote, as he emphasized that people don’t change based on logic, they change based on emotion.
Shifting the language. Joy Kirr (@joykirr), author of Shift This!, delivered an inspiring keynote, encouraging us to shift our language. We are not “just teachers!” We are so much more! Embrace your inner hero and keep being innovative and doing what’s best for kids; but, don’t forget to share your why. As Joy reminds us, “When you share with others, then your “crazy” ideas ideas can become the norm.”
Rethinking the purpose. Aaron Polansky (@aaronpolansky) shared, or actually sang, about the importance of building connections and establishing a purpose for school, other than standardized test scores. Ted Dintersmith also emphasized the importance of purpose as part of his PEAK model of learning. In the final session of the day, Alan November (@globalearner) invited participants to rethink a traditional assignment (memorizing the 50 US state capitals) and redesign it to give it purpose. Learning has purpose when it leads to a positive and meaningful change. How can you redesign learning to have purpose for your students?
Embracing the ownership. Many of the sessions I attended, and the sessions I presented, were focused on shifting ownership to the learner. Pana Asavavatana (@PanaAsavavatana) shared examples of how we can empower even our youngest learners to be successful with digital media. Ownership isn’t just for students, it’s also for teachers! I heard from schools who are successfully transforming their schools through intentional and sustainable change, by empowering teachers to take ownership of their professional learning. Gaston County, North Carolina high schools are doing this through a program called Delta Fellows. Teachers submit a grant proposal and are awarded money to make their innovative vision become a reality. Matthew X. Joseph (@MatthewXJoseph) inspires and empowers teachers at his school with a similar program. Teachers know what’s best for their kids – let’s give them the time and the tools and the trust to do it.
Planning for the future. After Ted Dintersmith shared The Future of Work, I think we all felt an overwhelming need to start taking action…so that our students can thrive in a world where routine tasks are being eliminated. We must encourage students, and ourselves, to embrace the ambiguity that comes with innovation. One resource I’m excited to explore is Peter Schwartz’s The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World, which outlines how to use the “scenaric” approach to visualize and plan for an unknown future. This Innovation Playlist from Ted Dintersmith can help us take “small steps leading to big change.” The Shadow a Student challenge is a great way to observe how and when students display key values and dispositions. Then, plan how to increase the beneficial and minimize what’s not.
I’m feeling a little overwhelmed because it’s clear that we have a lot of work to do. But, I’m also feeling inspired, energized, and hopeful – because it’s clear that there are so many educators leading the way!