Find Your Tribe and Fly

“The easiest thing is to react. The second-easiest thing is to respond. But the hardest thing is to initiate.”

Simply stated by Mr. Seth Godin and resoundingly true. For the majority of my 33 years on this Earth, my default was set to react. Recently my needle has shifted to responding more, and now I even initiate on occasion. Shhhh, sometimes I don’t even ask permission! I owe a large part of this transition to the people I am surrounded by, who have given me a sense of belonging. My beautiful tribe. My tribe is connected, we share an interest and a way to communicate.  

This tribe has formed over time and is organic and malleable – it grows with me.  Through a series of very fortunate events in my professional career, I have recently experienced an AMAZING tribal community. After teaching music for nine years, I landed a position as an Instructional Technology Consultant on a rock star team with a stellar reputation. I immediately started “schooling up” on all things ed tech, an infinite subject with limitless information, data, and resources. Two other imperative factors can be attributed to my successful tribal acclimation.  The first: I joined Twitter. My network now transcends classrooms and reaches countries all over the world. The second: I left my comfort zone.  I started presenting at conferences on topics I felt passionate about, meeting & working with amazing people.  Clicking “Submit” for my first presentation proposal was terrifying and life-changing. (Pictured: Laurens-Marathon High School Band, 2015)

This team I speak of – seriously, rock friggin’ stars.  Not only are they experts and leaders in this exciting new tech ed world I was acclimating to, but awesome people in general.  They wrapped their arms around me and welcomed my inexperience, sometimes even celebrating it!  This is when my needle started shifting.  When I had been teaching full time with very little professional support system, I felt the presence of a ceiling, a limit to the learning. Now, fast forward to my first team meeting with my new team…No question – I was now a 100% vested member, my voice mattered, our combined vision (#makeitbetter) was priority and I now belonged to something bigger.  Our work focused on shifting the traditional education system (limited, in-the-box thinking) to encouraging best practice for our 21st century learners. Let us leverage the available technology to be creative and innovative.  With that comes the ability to work collaboratively (face to face and globally) and use critical thinking skills to work through real world problems. How can there be a limit or lid on that kind of learning?!  The roof was raised! (Pictured below: The 2015-16 Prairie Lakes AEA Tech Innovation Team)

I have worked harder the past 16 months that I ever have in my life and not because I needed to keep up, but because I now belonged with this team.  This work, this bigger thing…obliged me to want to keep up. Insert: fire in belly. My transition is a great example of an empowered, passionate learner versus a compliant learner.  

Once support was in place, I also gained more confidence than I ever thought I was capable of.  I started presenting locally and that quickly shifted to presenting globally. The small groups I started presenting to (3,4 or 5 participants) has now grown to upwards to 700!  I recently quit my stable “safe” job to pursue work I am even more passionate about.  I talked my husband into putting our house up for sale so we can move to a city with more opportunities for our children (keep in mind, we’re country bumpkins!).  And just this week, I pulled a stick out of my parent’s Irish Wolfhound’s paw with pliers.  These are just a few things that I wouldn’t have had the guts to do prior to 2015.  

There was a recent online student chat focused on How Teachers Foster Belonging in Schools…great questions were discussed and I have initiated a spinoff set of questions for the “me’s” of the world. (yes, I initiated!)

  • What actions can we take to create stronger bonds with each other?
  • How can we help address real-world issues with each other?
  • What can we do to encourage all to speak freely?
  • How can we facilitate healthy discussions about different forms of oppression and their impact?

I leave you to reflect on the following: Are you reacting, responding or initiating?  Are you celebrating one another in your workplace, family, etc.? Do you empathize? Encourage? Are you learning from others?  Have you hashed something out with another to #makeitbetter?

Seth Godin: “The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”

Our world needs you to initiate and encourage others to do the same. Sign up for Twitter, push that “Submit” button, expand your network, reach out, meet, greet. It’s your turn.  Find your tribe and fly.

Proof of me speaking in front of a large group of people! #nerves

***This post was cross-published by Sevenzo. Access here: https://medium.com/@Sevenzo/find-your-tribe-and-fly-4a2d7f7027fc#.et29a8fsu

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Playing With Circuitry

Math and Science were not my strong subjects in school. I gravitated more towards English, Social Studies and, of course, Band. Why do certain subjects resonate more with some students than others? Multiple intelligences, right vs. left brain dominance, disengaging or un-relatable instruction? Any, all, and other factors probably play a mix of roles with children leaning toward particular subjects throughout their schooling. Regardless, I do consider myself a life-long learner and have had some amazing opportunities to do just that through my position as an Instructional Technology Consultant for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency.

One such opportunity to learn has been through recent circuitry “toys” and the amazing and incredible process of making the light light up or the fan to whir.  My first experience was with littleBits (more to come on that later) at TICL last June and the list grows every day.  I decided to offer a quick synopsis of each one I have had contact with so far.  I tried to list them in a chronological order by grade level but quickly realized that one “toy” can be easily adaptable to a wide range of ages, depending on the activity/learning goal.  Here goes…

  • littleBits – These Bits snap together with magnets, no soldering, no wiring, no programming.  Color coded (Blue=power, Green=output, Pink=input, Orange=expands) modules lend for hours of exploration and limitless possibilities.
  • Snap Circuits – These components snap together instead of magnetize. Color coded as well but create circuit boards just like the ones found in electronic devices.  The sets come with a project manual but the real fun comes when the user gets comfortable enough to deviate from the manual and make their own creations.
  • Makey Makey – This video [2:12] captures the Makey Makey capabilities much better than I could – super cool.
  • Squishy Circuits – Using two different doughs (which the user gets to make!) as circuit building materials to connect the components (buzzer, LEDs, motor). Engineering students from the University of St. Thomas started this program and include lots of videos for classroom use here.
    • Ages: “Allows kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics.”
    • Classroom Ideas
  • Arduino – A bit different than the above mentioned but still requires a shout out. This is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software (I even managed to get the light to light up!) Users can study the hardware to understand how it works and make changes to it. The company encourages users to share under their Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License.
    • Ages:”The 10 year old me would have been all over this!”
    • Classroom Ideas

It’s not about the “toy”…tool, program, app, whatever. It’s about the magic that happens when a student is allowed the freedom to explore, create, problem-solve, make something work, and relate it to the real world.

First step teachers: eliminate that worksheet activity you have done every year that’s getting stale. Instead, have your students “play” with a “toy.” I recommend having your students reflect, document their learning/failing process and celebrate by sharing their learning/failing through your school website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.

Enjoy the mind shift I promise you will witness and experience!

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