Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Candy Jar Mindset

"You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  I've heard this statement many times and I've even used it a few times in my own household with my own kids.  I've also found myself saying, "It is what it is" often in response to things not going the way that I had hoped or planned.  While both of these statements are appropriate in certain situations, I'm not sure that they represent the perspective that I want to have the majority of the time.

The "you get what you get" and "it is what it is" mindsets have often been an excuse for me to give up.  I've used them as a crutch during those times that I knew I should've pursued something more or worked harder to get whatever it was that I was working toward.  Using those statements caused me to see life, projects, and goals as a slot machine. In doing so, I was giving myself an excuse to be a passive observer instead of an active participant.

I don't gamble often and don't enjoy it much at all.   I'm a really sore loser and get so frustrated when I begin to lose money.   However, I've been to Vegas and a few casinos closer to home with friends and family.  I typically just play the penny slots but very rarely win a dime.  When I think back on the times that I've played, I realized something.   When playing the slots I pull the handle and wait to see what happens.  If the outcome isn't what I had hoped, I become frustrated and often give up. I throw my hands up in the air, say something like, "It's just not my day," and walk away wishing things had gone differently.  Unfortunately, I sometimes react this same way when I experience struggle or failure in real life.  I sit as a passive observer waiting for something really cool to happen and becoming frustrated when it doesn't.

I recently remembered my grandma's candy jar from when I was a kid.  She had a big jar with a variety of candy options inside.  It always seemed that the candy I wanted the most (Banana Laffy Taffy) was at the bottom of the jar.  I had three choices, I could wait until everyone else ate the candy on top, I could eat some of the candy that I didn't like to get to my favorite, or I could put forth the effort it would take to dig into the jar to reach the candy that I so desperately wanted at the bottom.

Isn't life often like this?  Sometimes, we have to wait our turn to get what it is that we want and other times we have the option to make something happen.  There have been so many times that I have had to do something that I didn't want to do in order to reach a goal.  I've had to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and be willing to do things that required me to be fearless.  Other times, I've had to do the hard work, the digging, to make something happen that wasn't going to happen on its own.

I believe that doors are opened and closed for us every single day. I believe that when a door is closed, sometimes it is locked and never to be opened again.  However, I also believe that there are situations in which we just need to keep knocking and keep believing as we seek opportunities that have been laid before us.

I remember when I wrote, Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry.  That was definitely at the bottom of the jar.  I knew that I wanted to write and share the 6 Ps of Genius Hour but I also knew that time, willingness, and fear were all on top.  It was going to be some serious work to dig through those things to get to what it was that I really wanted.  But, I did.  And I'm so glad that I did.  Because, while I was digging to the bottom, I also tried some new things.  In doing so, I learned that some of the things that I thought I wouldn't like, I actually enjoyed.  I learned new things about myself and realized that if I never go after what I want, I'm allowing myself to be a passive observer, just like at the slot machines.  But when I'm an active participant and I'm willing to take the good with the bad, really cool things begin to happen.

So, in 2019, I will have the Candy Jar Mindset.  I'll do things that I don't want to do and will work hard to dig through the mess to get to what I know I can and will accomplish.  I say it all the time, but I believe in this generation of learners and want to work hard to continue to pursue change in education.  I've made my list of "candy" that is at the bottom of my jar and will soon make decisions on whether or not it's worth the digging to finally have it in my reach.

What is the candy at the bottom of your jar?  What will you work hard for in 2019?  How can you change your perspective from being a passive observer to being an active participant and going after what you want to accomplish?  Make your list and think about the new things that you will have to try to get to the bottom or what you will have to dig past to reach what it is that you really want.

Happy 2019!  Let's make it AMAZING!
Monday, December 17, 2018

Creating Change in 2019

2018 is almost a wrap and it's been so fun to see what educators are doing to create real learning experiences for their learners.  As we near the end of this year,  I think it's important to consider the potential for new ideas, real change, and innovation that comes with the new year.  What has to happen for real change to to occur?  What does real change look like and how will we know when it is here?

Change means that something must look and feel different.  One definition of different is novel and unusual.  Many of our students are experiencing "business as usual" every day when they go to school and the reality is that the experience should be anything but usual.  It's time for change and not just change, but real, authentic change that can be seen and felt by everyone involved in the school experience.

I wanted to take some time to explore three ways that we can create real change in our classrooms, on our campuses, and in our districts...

Take Risks - Risk-taking can be scary stuff.  It's no secret that taking a risk can sometimes result in  struggle or even failure.  However, if we don't take risks, we will never know what can and will work with today's learners.  Holding on to what is familiar and comfortable results in frustration for our learners that need school to be so much more than just a place that they go to learn things that they can search on Google or learn from YouTube.  Be willing to stick your neck out for them.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable and begin to see risks as opportunities to do what's best for today's learners.

Change your Perspective - What if we saw school as an experience instead of a place? The word experience implies action and by definition, will leave an impression on those that are involved.  Seeing school as an experience shifts our perspective and helps us understand that in order to leave an impression, we must move beyond traditional practices.  Learning for today's students must be authentic and they need to know how they will use what is being learned beyond the walls of the classroom.  Create experiences by giving them opportunities to make those connections as they learn by creating change themselves.  (To learn more about helping learners make connections, check out the latest Meaningful Moment on the podcast.)

Get Connected - We are better together!  There are so many educators doing such great things.  Being connected helps us realize that real change is not only possible, but happening!  Seeing someone else take a risk by changing their perspective often motivates us to do the same.  Make it a priority to see beyond your classroom, your campus, and your district.  Connect with others on social media and seek out networking opportunities.  Instead of making excuses for not being able to do what they are doing, ask questions.  Be willing to learn and stay open-minded as you connect with educators doing things beyond your own comfort zone.  Remember, we all want what's best for today's learners and it's only together that we will be able to create real change.

So, what's stopping us from making 2019 the year that school becomes more than just a place?  Fear, unwillingness, compliance, comfort zones, and complacency...just to name a few.   It's time to move beyond these things and into what we know is best for our learners.

Don’t allow the fear of failure to keep you from being the educator that today’s learners need you to be. Instead, chase after your purpose with a fearless willingness to do what it takes to create real change.