Posts tagged yes and
Gratitude for your PLN
Do you have a professional learning network (PLN)?

When you are planning a lesson, thinking about pedagogy, or learning about something new, do you have a group of people you turn to for guidance and support?

It used to be the people who worked in our teaching offices or schools that we would rely on the most.  Today, access to social media gives us a much deeper pool of colleagues to draw ideas from. If you have an idea for a lesson, chances are there is someone else online who has done something similar and can help.

So while The Shift has lots of people we rely on in person to bounce ideas off of, we also have a much wider PLN online that we can draw inspiration from.

After June 4th and the #LoveMyHaltonSchool event, it would appear that this is true for many of us!  Just how big is the PNL of teachers in Halton? How far does it reach?

Surprisingly, pretty far!  There were almost 400 different twitter accounts active on Monday tweeting about why they love working in Halton.  All together, they created 1,569 tweets that were seen by 162,000 people! Our messages of love were view over two million times.  That’s a huge Professional Learning Network!

Importantly, it benefits our own wellness as educators to express gratitude for the things we love.  There is shown to be strong links in positive psychology research between gratitude and improved mental health and happiness.  There are even apps that are used to journal and track gratitude on a daily basis! (of course there is...there is an app for everything)  So it is important in our working lives to take stock of our Halton schools, staff, students and community.  Expressing our appreciation for these things can only make our day to day work easier. So thank YOU Shifters for brightening everyone’s day, and taking the time to share why you #LoveMyHaltonSchool.

Last year, the Halton District School Board ran an event called #LoveMyHaltonSchool where they asked students, staff and parents to share (via Twitter) reasons why they love Halton.

This year, the event is back!

You can participate by tweeting on June 4th, reasons why you love working and learning in Halton using the hashtag #LoveMyHaltonSchool

We've been travelling around Halton over the past two weeks talking to students and teachers and already have been given a long list of great reasons to love Halton.

Guess what...there are prizes too!
FREQUENT TWEETER: The school who tweets the most on June 4th
EARLY BIRD: The first school to tweet on June 4th
SELFIE: The school to tweet the most selfies on June 4th
MOST LIKES: The school with the most likes on their #LoveMyHaltonSchool tweet on June 4th
NIGHT OWL: The last school to tweet on June 4th
Tweets must include the #LoveMyHaltonSchool hashtag to be eligible.  

We can't wait to follow along on June 4th.

World Creativity and Innovation Day

Did you know that this Saturday is World Creativity and Innovation Day?
Halton wants to celebrate this day on Friday, April 20th.  

Look around your building for examples of innovative teaching practices, students showing off their own creativity, or just something interesting that resonates with you.   Tweet out your observations and pictures using the hashtag #HDSBInnovates. We want to know what is happening in your building!

Summer Sign Off
Well Shifters, it has been a great semester!  Since starting this blog in February of this year, we have had so much fun learning about what teachers are doing in their classes and talking about what they hope to do next. We hope that we did a little to inspire you to think differently about what you teach and how you teach and that you got excited to take some risks.   

Working on this project forced us to learn a lot, and most of that learning was driven through trial and error.  Jamie used a Mac for the first time.  Matt built several rigs to help us with our sound recording.  We learned how to blog, edit video, talk on camera and listen to ideas.  We made lots of mistakes that hopefully nobody noticed.  Although, to quote Marisa Cavataio when we visited her Productions Class at Nelson High School, “The most important thing you will do in this class is make mistakes”.  

Our mistakes bore fruit!  We just recently passed 10,000 views on this blog, which blew away our expectations.  We’ve gained 110 followers too, so thank you for making that possible!  If you haven’t signed up for updates yet, consider adding yourself to the Shift List!

Our videos have been viewed more than 1000 times.  We made our Case For videos with no real idea if anyone would be interested in watching.  Hopefully if you’ve watched we’ve made you think about how you are Innovating.  We certainly learned a lot about how to create environments that demand students to be innovative.

We owe a lot of thanks to the team at School Programs.  Many of the IPL’s helped us get The Shift launched, or joined us to do some thinking and planning.  As well, we had some great mentors in Chris Duncan, Kevin Raposo and Sommer Sweetman who were super generous with their time and assistance.

We had so much fun connecting with Shifters in person at the Shift Conference at the Barn.  It set in our brains the improv ideas of “yes, and” and “feel more comfortable feeling uncomfortable” as a mindset to start innovating in our buildings.  

Looking back on the last 4 months, we decided to each pick our favourite post on the Shift Blog.  Matt really enjoyed speaking to Michael Primerano about going gradeless.  Every since that visit, there has been an ongoing conversation among shifters and in workrooms about how we can hack assessment to make class more about iterative learning and risk taking, and less about the mark.  

Jamie really enjoyed participating in the Innovator’s Mindset Massively Open Online Course (#IMMOOC).  The weekly video chats/conferences were great to listen to, but often it was the backchannel conversations that drove a lot of deeper thinking.  One conversation in particular gave rise to what we dubbed “The Three (Silent) P’s of Innovation”.  For anyone thinking about leading innovation in their buildings next year?  Make sure your teachers know that they have the permission to try something new, your protection when things start to go sideways, and your assistance to help navigate the policies that can slam the brakes on innovation.

If you are thinking about how to lead innovation in your buildings next year?  If so, have you signed up for the Shift Your Blank Summer Symposium yet?  It will be a good opportunity to connect with Shifters, set some goals and work on some ideas to improve practice.

Jamie and Matt, signing off for now. Have a great summer, Shifters!
What Can You Do With This?
I hate end of period bells.  #Observe’em observation day and the Most Likely To Succeed film gave me a lot to think about how the school day can be structured.  I don’t know if we can get rid of them entirely, but I’ve been working on playing with a timetable that offers some flexibility, as well as some opportunities to go deeper and longer in a class period.  What are your thoughts on this one? Pros? Cons?  Would love to hear your ideas and feedback!

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The Shift Conference
It’s 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon, and I’m Line Dancing with 200 Halton Teachers and my cell phone is still at 75% battery.  Neither of these things are ever true in the middle of the afternoon on a school day.  First of all, during a regular day my phone is a gateway onto social media for me to share things that are happening in my classes and keep up on what other teachers on various online communities are doing.  Secondly, Line Dancing is far outside of my regular comfort zone.
Two shifters, modelling our new shirts.  Try, Fail, Learn!

So how did it come to this?

First off, the cell phone thing.  I was far too invested in the breakout sessions to seek out my phone for distraction.  Yes, I tweeted about various things that spoke to me throughout the day, but I tried to make it quick.  The only real time I spent reading twitter was during lunch or after the breakout sessions ended.  I loved reading others reactions to what they experienced during the conference.  By and large I was far to occupied to need to use my phone.  That’s a good thing!

 Shari Hollett of Second City kicks of the conference with help from Nancy Zigrovic
The day kicked off with high energy, and included firing off free “Shift” t-shirts with a t-shirt cannon, followed by an entertaining and hilarious introduction by our facilitators, “The Second City Toronto”. The following breakout sessions focused on the language we use to talk to each other, delivered by Second City using an Improv lens.  We were kept busy as we moved from activity to activity, seeing how the words we use and how we use them matter.  You can try it yourself!  Get a friend to pitch an idea to you, and when they are done say “No, because… (fill in your own reason)”.  Now try getting them to pitch a different idea, this time answer their pitch with “Yes, but…(again, fill in the details)”.  Finally, a final pitch from your friend.  This time answer with “Yes, and…(details)”.  Which sentence was easier to say?  Which one felt better?  Which one could lead to better, deeper conversations about ideas?

We also played improv games that forced us to adapt to new situations on the fly.  This dramatic change of direction encouraged a flexible, creatively thinking brain.  Try this:  in a group of 3, with two “actors” taking turns telling a story, the third person being the “director”.  The director interjects “take it back” as the actors create the story, and the actors had to immediately change the last statement that they made. It was hilarious and a great exercise in mental flexibility to keep the narrative going while adapting to the ever-changing direction from the director.
Another skill we built through improv games is the ability to actively listen to others.  So often, in our busy days, we are in a such a rush with our own agendas that we don’t take the time to truly listen to the opinions of others.  To truly grow as a “yes, and” community, the ability to listen to others’ ideas is a valuable asset.   One of these listening games that we played was a great way to practice these skills, and this is how it goes:   In partners, one partner puts their hand up, and they go first.  They start a story by saying a sentence.  The other partner has to continue the story by starting with the last word their partner just said.  Something like this:
A:  Yesterday, I took my bike out with my friends and we hit the trails.
B:  Trails, huh?  I would have pegged you for more into city riding?
A:  Riding my bike is my jam, it doesn’t matter where we go!
B:  Go for it then!  It is great that you are out and getting fit!
This is an easy activity that you can try with your classes of any age.  Try it out and let us know how it went!

Throughout the breakout sessions we were shuffled around from partner to partner, never being with the same person twice.  This was great, as it allowed us to interact with a wide variety of participants.  We worked with fellow teachers from both panels, administrators, library techniciations; at one point Stuart Miller himself was spotted in the crowd!  The diversity of the participants was appreciated.  It’s always nice to meet like minded educators!
The scope of the day focused largely on building relationships, making connections with “shifters” across the board, and less about the specifics of what innovation could look like in Halton.  Developing a culture of “yes, and” and energizing participants is far more important than digging into specifics at the early stages of implementing change.
We were asked to “Start to feel more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable”. By the end of the day, that’s exactly what we were doing.  All of us were starting to take greater risks.  We formed groups to work together implementing “yes, and” by inventing a new product and making an improvised advertisement for that product.  We were visited by "Oprah", "Jean-Luc Picard", laundry folding robots and much more in these hilarious skits!  We were pushing our boundaries of what we were comfortable with, achieving things that we never would have had the nerve to attempt at the beginning of the day.

But why Line Dancing?  The instructor was amazing and shared her general dancing philosophy with us:
  1. There is no wrong way to do this - each dancer makes the dance unique
  2. The steps are repeated so if you mess up once just keep going
  3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else - this dance is what you make of it
  4. You might feel uncomfortable at first, but you will get there
  5. Anyone can learn this
  6. It’s about having fun!

I couldn’t imagine a better way to revisit what we learned in our breakout sessions.  Replace dancing with learning and you’ve got an innovative classroom in a nutshell.  Please, we want you to learn how you learn best, feel free to repeat things until you get it, don’t worry about where other people are in their learning, yes it’s uncomfortable but ANYONE can learn this!  

And of course people would want to participate in Line Dancing!  We just spent a full day getting our comfort zone explored, expanded and finally tossed aside.  So what’s next?  The purpose of the day was about energizing and learning a language that will allow us all to talk about innovation together.  It’s risky, to bring a new idea to the table.  It’s scary to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to have that idea critiqued.  Having the tools to empower us to talk openly about our ideas using the philosophy of “Yes, and…” will help us all innovate in our own individual areas.  Each of our own schools and workplaces have different needs and face different challenges.  So of course the innovation that is needed in those places will look different.

Even if you didn’t have a chance to participate in the Shift Conference yesterday, we’d love to know what you are dreaming about.  What is your “why?”  Let us know, because we are ready to “yes, and…” those ideas and shift our practice to something great.