2016 Accomplishments and 2017 Goals

At the beginning of 2016, I put my professional goals for the year in writing on this blog. Knowing that they were published kept me focused throughout the year and, I’m proud to say, I mostly met my goals! Now it’s time for new ones.

A year ago, I said I’d like to:
1. Finish my Master’s degree – Done! I now have an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, with a certificate in School Technology Leadership.

2. Become a Google Certified Trainer – I haven’t quite met this goal, but I did become a Level 2 Google Certified Educator. This was prerequisite for the Trainer certification that I hope to finish this year!

3. Blog more often – Ok, I didn’t make much progress at all toward this goal. This one goes back on the list for 2017.

4. Present at another conference – Done! I was fortunate to present two different sessions at the Harpeth Hall STEM Think Tank in June of 2016!

My new goals for 2017 are:
Goal #1: Become a Google Certified Trainer. I’m pretty close to this one, so I hope to knock it out early in the year.

Goal #2: Become a Google Certified Administrator. This certification is for Google IT Administrators, so not many Google Education Trainers can say they also have it. I’ll be proud to say I do.

Goal #3: Blog more often. No, really. It’s important to reflect on our own learning, even if no one ever reads the reflections.

Goal #4: Present at another conference. I’ve applied to present with some colleagues at the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools conference this summer and I hope to hear from them soon.

Goal #5: Visit other schools more often. I’d like to see how other schools tackle some of the challenges I’m facing, and what they see as a vision for the future. While being in an independent school offers freedom from conformity, it can also be isolating. Perhaps I just miss being in graduate school and having my ideas challenged all the time!

Ok, I’ve got some new (and some old) goals. It’s time to get to work!

 

 

Goals for 2016

Here it is. I’m putting my professional goals out for the world to see. If I do that, I’ll have to accomplish them, right?

Goal #1: Finish my master’s degree. I started working toward my master’s degree in January of 2014 and I should finish by the end of this year. The degree will be a Masters in Educational Leadership with a focus on School Technology Leadership. So, I’m studying what I already do, but I’m learning with each class and each assignment how to do it better.

Goal #2: Become a Google Certified Trainer. Google has several levels of certification, but the one that most interests me is the trainer certification. I started my professional life providing technical training for adults and I still love it and want to get better at it.

Goal #3: Blog more often. Ideally, I’d like to post something short once a week. This is the scariest one of all, but I’m convinced it’s important. It’s possible no one will ever read my posts, but writing them gives me time to reflect on my learning.

Goal #4: Present at another conference. Together with two amazing colleagues, I presented a session at the LACUE conference in New Orleans last month. We shared our experience teaching professional social media use to upper school students. We got some great feedback and we’re ready to take the show on the road. We’ll be applying to a few other conferences this year and we hope at least one of them invites us to speak!

There it is. Now it’s time to get to work.

What I learned on the way to 1,000 followers

A year ago, in December 2014, I realized I had around 500 Twitter followers. At that point, I made an arbitrary goal to amass 1,000 followers by December of 2015. This goal wasn’t motivated by vanity, but rather a desire to be more connected to members of the #edtech community. So over the past year, I sought out connections. I participated in chats. I shared my thoughts and my resources and I asked questions. Then, last week, I got this notification on my phone:

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I did it. I got to 1,000 followers. But the biggest thing I learned along the way was that my number of followers didn’t matter at all. What matters instead is the number of accounts I am following. That’s my learning community. Those are the people who are sharing their thoughts and resources with me. Those are the people that I count on every day to teach me something new. While I’m humbled that 1,000 people consider my thoughts worthy of learning from, that number isn’t nearly as important as I thought it was a year ago.

Now to set some goals for 2016…

Big Ideas at NCGS: From STEM to STEAM

ncgs-2015-logo-vertical-227This week I was attended the National Coalition of Girls Schools conference in Richmond, VA. Richmond in the summer is like New Orleans in the spring: warm (but not hot!) with low humidity. So beautiful. St. Catherine’s 125 year old campus, where the conference was held, is gorgeous.  It is historical and modern at the same time and is one of those spaces that makes you want to sit outside and discuss great literature (or in this case, girls’ education) with some friends. In other words, it’s one of those places that makes you want to learn.

The theme of this year’s conference was “From STEM to STEAM: Girls’ Schools Leading the Way” and there were some big ideas being thrown around.  I’m going to share some ideas from the sessions that I attended, but I think my favorite part was traveling with colleagues and hearing about the sessions they attended.  We were able to bounce ideas off of one another and really deepen our understanding of each these concepts.

One of the keynote speakers was Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. I helped lead a cohort of the GWC club this year at school, so I was familiar with Saujani and her work, but I had no idea she was such an engaging speaker. Supported by staggering statistics about women and girls in STEM fields, she was able to both alarm and encourage attendees about the dismal rates of girls entering STEM fields. “It’s not that girls need math and science, it’s that math and science needs girls” was a popular line from her presentation.

Another speaker that resonated with me was Ana Homayoun, Founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting and Author of The Myth of the Perfect Girl.  She began her career as a learning specialist, helping adolescents learn to organize and manage their time. What she quickly learned was that their biggest struggles came from social media. She began researching adolescent use of social media and found some interesting trends, which she now shares with schools and parent groups. Her message was not fear-based, which I appreciate. Instead, she encourages girls to make positive choices about their lives and their time. Does this app or activity add to your enjoyment of life? Does it make you happy? If not, then what are some other choices that might? This is an important conversation to have with adolescents and with adults.

Another of my favorite sessions was given by Anne Rubin and Donna Daigle from Miss Hall’s School in Massachusetts. Annie and I have become Twitter friends over the last year and I was excited to finally meet her. Not surprisingly, her session topic was as thoughtful engaging as she is. She and Donna had won a grant from the E. E. Ford Foundation to develop a new professional learning community at their school that would impact the culture of the school and ultimately contribute to developing leadership in students. They paired teachers together from different departments to support one another on a learning project. Over the course of two years, they began to break down the walls between departments in a way that was visible to students. Rather than “English teachers” or “Science teachers,” they were learners, just like the students. The teachers present said that going through the process had transformed, not just their professional relationships, but their teaching as well.

In her keynote, Reshma Sujani mentioned that girls and women are often less likely to speak up or to promote themselves. She said that, while boys may be happy to quickly jot down a series of half-formed ideas, girls tend to agonize over details, striving for perfection that may never come. (I know that is a struggle for me with this blog!)  But perhaps pushing our amazing girls to promote themselves and connect with one another, just as so many teachers and administrators did this week, would be the first step in creating the supportive community of peers that they need. There is power in numbers, but if our we don’t connect and help our students to connect, they may not realize those numbers are out there.

Kithub: A Review

A magical moment! Opening the Kithub box! (Image used with permission.)

A magical moment! Opening the Kithub box!
(Image used with permission.)

When I heard about Kithub, a monthly electronics subscription service for maker-type families, I knew I had to try it.  We have now been subscribers for 4 months, so I feel that I can write a pretty informed review at this point.

First, my favorite thing about Kithub’s kits is the open-ended nature of them.  I’m wary of kits that are basically supplies and directions for one predefined project.  Kithub’s boxes are instead packed with ideas. They also happen to contain the supplies you might need to make those ideas happen. Second, I love that the supplies themselves are not proprietary.  If I need more of a particular item (LEDs, battery, copper tape, DC motor, etc.), I can easily pick them up at my nearest Radio Shack (we still have two nearby!) or through Amazon (I’m spoiled by Prime).

The Kithub website has instruction videos to give subscribers an idea of how to do the projects that each kit describes. Also, Kithub sends occasional emails to subscribers with further project ideas.  These emails are along the lines of: “Hey, do you have any of that copper wire leftover? Here’s another project idea for it!” I definitely feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth.*

Now, I mentioned that the supplies themselves are not proprietary.  So, could I save some money by getting similar supplies each month and coming up with my own ideas for projects to work on with my kids?  Maybe.  But I could not duplicate the excitement of the box arriving on our porch.  “Mom, a new Kithub is here!  When can we do it?”  That is magical.  Plus, projects that I might come up with could never be as cool, because I’m just mom.

The biggest benefit of doing projects like these with your kids is that you help them build a Growth Mindset. Even if your natural inclination when given an electronics challenge is to say “I’m not good at this; This is too hard; I can’t figure it out,” you can try instead “I don’t know how to do this, but let’s figure it out together.” Trust me, your kids can hear the difference and they will follow your lead. Which message do you want them replaying in their minds?

*Of note: I am an actual paid subscriber. I did not receive a free product in exchange for this review.

Growing a Growth Mindset

Throughout my education, I remember getting tests and papers back with a letter (or number) grade on them and that grade being pretty final. I don’t know that I was ever offered a chance to make a test or paper better until graduate school. In a class with a particularly challenging professor, I wrote a paper that I thought was ok. The professor handed it back with an F on it. I was devastated. I felt sure I was going to fail the class and I didn’t know what to do. Then I read the professor’s comments, which offered me a chance to learn more about the subject by rewriting the paper. Rewrite a paper? This was new to me and I told him so. Well, he said, that’s how you learn. Sure enough, the second time I wrote the paper, I learned much more about the subject and about myself. I grew and I’ll never forget that lesson.

I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to inspire growth both as an educator and a parent. I’m sure we all hear a lot of “I can’t do this” or “I’m just not good at that.” And there’s the opposite: “She’s so smart, she always gets the right answer.” The trouble with these, as well as with test grades, is that there’s no room for growth. You are what you are and your recent work reflects that. That’s not what I want at all, for me or for my kids.

So how to we turn that around? I think we can start with the words we use.  I love this infographic by the talented @sylviaduckworth comparing phrases one might hear in a challenging situation. In fact, I love it so much I have it hanging on my wall. At first, using phrases on the left might seem forced, but if they can be internalized, a whole new mindset can be developed. In this new mindset, anything is possible. The best part is that the growth mindset is a lot more fun! Have you heard (or said!) any of the phrases on the right recently?

Image by @sylviaduckworth via Twitter