Feedback Builds Character

Not unlike many of my colleagues, I find myself lately knee deep in projects – one just beginning, a few making serious progress, and a couple in the finishing stages.  And so the cycle goes.  Most of my work I wrap up nicely myself, present to an audience or publish online and move on.  Some, though, is of greater importance, creating a greater impact, and having the potential of causing the greatest change (good or bad).  For these, I seek feedback from peers whom I have built a relationship with based on respect and integrity.  These peers are my coaches.  They walk me through decisions.  They listen.  They remind.  They are what I hope I am for others.  I am always thankful to have peers like these because they stop everything and help me – I hope to be gracious enough to thank them for their time.  Usually, though, the times are stressful and I have my game face on.  I should thank them more.

Recently, I received a large amount of descriptive feedback from two of my peers whom I respect greatly.  I poured myself into two separate projects within a week or two window and knew that I wanted my final draft of each to be of the highest quality.  Therefore, I sought feedback and what I received (in addition to the feedback) is truly what impacted me.  Both peers wrote lengthy notes on each detail of my work, paying close attention to the message, clarity of content, and final product.  What surprised me was that my peers also included a note of caution, a smiling emoji (from one) and an air of nervousness that the feedback may not have been well-received.  Of course I wouldn’t be mad at the comments they spent so much time sharing with me.  I know this was an opportunity to do the right thing – to take the high road because feedback builds character.

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Moonshot Thinking

A few months ago I had the opportunity to return to Boston for the Building Learning Communities Conference (BLC15).  The final keynote was given by Jenny Magiera (@MsMagiera).  She shared this video on Moonshot Thinking.  When the video opened with this quote, I knew we were in for something inspiring:

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I often find myself in a coaching role, mentoring educators, teacher leaders, and campus administrators.  I support others to identify the barriers that we have put in place and determine how to break those in order to accomplish new and great things!  Lately, I have been driven by the need to show others how they are valued (this makes me sad and happy at the same time) and help them give themselves permission for positive change.  Give themselves permission.  Such an awkward thought.  Yes, you can let yourself do this or that.  I am not granting permission, rather, I am helping them give themselves permission to take risks, try something new, go out on a limb, be brave, because it is good for kids.  More importantly, not changing is not good for kids.  Once you are aware something needs to change, it is your responsibility to change it.

Here are my sketch notes from the keynote.  I never regret taking notes in this way.  Hopefully you can see why!

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The phrases from my notes were part of my story (in some form or another) years before this keynote, are true today, and will continue to describe me as long as I give myself permission for moonshot thinking.

  • Do something because it is hard.
  • Recruit friends to your crazy.
  • Change the world.
  • Choose to be bothered.

Transformational 6

After reading and re-reading Clearing the Confusion between Technology Rich and Innovative Poor: Six Questions by November Learning (, I have transferred the idea from students as children to students as adults – teachers.  If educators are learners (and they are!), then the tasks we ask of them in professional learning settings (such as book studies) should be innovative.  Those tasks should…

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Inquiry-Based Professional Learning: Teacher Leaders

Today, I replicated many portions of the Instructional Coach kick off with another team of teacher leaders, my Elementary Math Content Specialists.  After wrestling with the title of this post, I have landed on Inquiry-Based Professional Learning.  I am utilizing opportunities during these first few meetings to set the stage for this team of teacher leaders to design their own learning.

Day 1: Getting to Know You

On a digital platform, my Content Specialists contributed input to 6 prompts, each designed to gather information to influence how we spend our year.  This team of educators consists of those new and returning to the role.  For the first time they will have the opportunity to use inquiry to design their own learning plan for the year.  Now’s the time to take the risk and inspire my educators!

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1st 5 Days: Instructional Coaching

Alan November challenges us to take advantage of opportunities the first 5 days of school to  set the tone for powerful, engaging and self-directed learning.  Two educators I know well (Mrs. Deinhammer and Mr. VanderSchee) employ intentional strategies during their first 5 days with learners for this very reason.  The connection is clear to me that if children should have input in the design of their class, then certainly educators should have input in the design of their own professional learning.  Most importantly, as I lead a team of Instructional Coaches, I must model this practice as an investment in their role as teacher leaders.

Day 1: Getting to Know You

Instructional Coaches rotated throughout 6 stations, each with the intent to gather input toward the design of our professional learning this year.  Note: My team consists primarily of returning Coaches.  I have not, however, truly allowed them design their professional learning in this way.  Here’s to taking a risk and modeling for our educators!

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ADE Institute 2015

In April 2015 I received a message that opened doors I did not know existed.  The email read…Congratulations, you’ve been selected to join the Apple Distinguished Educators Class of 2015.  Still today I read that and pause.  Wow.  Me.  This was going to be my opportunity to make a greater impact.  Ready or not.

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A few short months later, I traveled to the ADE 2015 Institute and was welcomed with open arms into a community of visionary educators.  Had we met before?  Seemed so.

I am humbled to be surrounded by such passion.  Such knowledge.  Such generous spirits with an abundance mentality like never before.  And now, they are we and I am still in awe of the opportunity that I have been given.

In my attempt to describe the experience of the Institute, I have realized it has taken me 54 days to get to this point.  I have circled back to three notes I made while there and won’t soon forget.

  • We are: Trusted advisors. Authentic authors. Passionate advocates. Global ambassadors.

Yes we are.  I would not have used those terms to describe myself 13 years ago in that classroom 8th graders on my first day of teaching.  But now, yes.  Proudly, yes.

  • Be a force for good in the world.  

What a powerful statement.  Thank you, Daniel Goleman for that.  Yes, do the right thing.  Do it all the time.  Be that powerful force that drives the good.

  • We hope you have found a home.

I have found a home.  It is great.  It is full of people that work hard to make a greater impact.

To my ADE friends, I see you.  I see the impact you are making and I see the purpose behind your passion.

I am grateful for this opportunity.  I am humbled to be part of this network of ADEs.  I cannot wait to see what the future holds.  I am not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I know this: it will be greater than today!