It struck me this morning as I woke up and realized I was officially on vacation for the Thanksgiving holiday, that this year I am grateful for more than I usually am. It is my practice to regularly reserve time and space to take stock of all that is good and abundant in my life and experience gratitude as a result. I have endless gratitude for my family, friends, our health, our safe and cozy home, our cars, and our jobs that allow us to help other people and also help us to pay our bills and live a comfortable lifestyle. Today, though, my gratitude for my job actually extends beyond that. I realized this morning that I am grateful to be learning and in service in education in this time- 2014- because it is an exciting time in our profession. Because of my experiences so far this school year with my graduate school work, changes at my school site, including site administration, and the spark and synergy I am fortunate enough to have with my colleagues at our unique school and with our unique students, I am experiencing the most vivid, and bright-with-possibilities year in my career thus far.
I am being exposed to brilliant, open minds in the education world- people who are authentic and open and willing to push over walls that have stood awkwardly in the way of authentic student learning for a long time. I am reading (A LOT), sharing resources on Twitter, and taking chances and risks with student learning and projects in the classroom. I am having enlightening conversations of depth with my colleagues, and for the first time, there is a sense of true sharing between colleagues that I work with. I have a growth mindset and have made the decision that my students will experience voice, choice, authenticity and REAL audiences when they work with me. My students are reacting with smiles, questions, enthusiasm and energy. There is an ownership of their work that is beginning to emerge, and our conversations are personalized, tailored to their needs, and many times joyfully surprising.
My gratitude springs from my experiences recently with other educators who are willing to share their thoughts, ideas, and innovation because they know that we all have the common goal of creating authentic learning opportunities for our students and supporting student success. My friend, Kiki Bispo, share this Tweet this week:
I love this because what she wrote is what I experienced for years as a teacher. But right now, I am not experiencing that. I am enjoying a great circle of educators, near and far, who are willing to share their ideas. When I sit with an energized colleague and exchange ideas, good things happen: sparks fly, one idea is refined into the next, new ideas are born, and we create unique and authentic experiences for our students. It is the best kind of leadership, to lead by sharing. For that I am grateful.
I had the pleasure of visiting some innovative schools this week, and one school in particular, Design 39 Campus in Poway USD, blew me away. It wasn't just the gorgeous architecture, stained glass, and beautiful learning spaces on 22 acres that wowed me. It was the willingness of principal Sonya Wrisley to personally take us on a two-hour tour of her campus, explaining her educational philosophies and allowing us to observe and speak with her students that impressed me most. Ms. Wrisley is a true leader, and her non-conventional ideas that her school district allowed her to implement in a public school are amazing. She explained how there are no bells at her school- only music. There isn't an administration office, there is a Welcome Center, and her office is a wide open space shared with other office staff. Student recess times aren't set in stone, just a range of time, allowing teachers to make decisions on when their students need a break. Teachers use Google Forms to solicit input from students on what topics they would like to study for Deep Dives and also for activities they would like to participate in during Minds In Motion time (P.E.). Students at D39 learn through inquiry and regularly create prototypes as research into solving problems. It is a school that I wish I could send my children to, and I am so grateful to Sonya for her willingness to share that with me and countless other people. Here's a little video I put together to share Design 39 Campus with my staff:
My gratitude this Thanksgiving includes being grateful to be part of the leadership in education that will help to create a "collective shift in imagination" and the way we do school. I am learning so much about what authentic learning looks like today, and how different it is from learning from years past. Our world is different and our learners are different. As we say at VVA, it's time to #schooldifferently. I have a list of people I have gratitude for in education, and I'd like to share it here (in no particular order). These people willingly share and inspire:
My mother, Bernadette Bruster, who has modeled life-long learning for me
My aunt, Gail Lindsay, who is a leader in her field and a mentor to me for how to lead
Erin English, who cares for kids, says yes whenever possible, and encourages authenticity
Sandra Barnes, who listens, advises, shares her owl mind and is the best cheerleader
Donna Markey, Jessie Estrada, and Mac Greenlee for listening and sharing
Doug Simon who models authentic connection with students and shares his musical gift
Victoria Curtis, who is my favorite person to collaborate with
Kiki Bispo, who shares my passion for students and many other philosophies about Life
Sarah Graybeal and Susie Bristow, who have the biggest hearts in education
Bill Daumen, who lives outside of the box and taught me the value of relationships with colleagues
Jeff Heil, who has ruined school for me forever because he allows and encourages students to explore while learning in a way that I have never been given permission to do before. Opened my mind to what is possible and makes me think.
Alicia Butters and Cheryl Ward, for being supportive and always available to communicate if needed
Sara Chai, a fellow student in my cohort who I haven't even met face-to-face yet, who has connected
so easily with me and is a natural collaborator.
Shelly Yarbrough, who is a life-long friend and educator who connected with me when I was a first-year teacher, and whose philosophies I share to this day. Miss you Shelly!
Thank you Everyone! and Happy Thanksgiving!!