Inspire, Clarify, Build and Grow…
These four words found root in my heart and summed up my experience in Vista, CA at the Digital Promise coaches convening.
Inspire: I can’t think of many things more inspiring than sunshine in the middle of February for an east coaster but, in Vista, I met so many amazing kids they were even brighter and more inspiring than the sunshine. I met a young storyteller who found her voice through poetry at Rancho Minvera Middle School. She created an incredible video story highlighting her poetry with dynamic time lapse images with visual effects of the outline of her hand. I listened to a self produced rap and video from a boy who shyly titled the corners of his lips up with pride as he peered at a room full of adults…the courage he exhibited to open up his soul to a group of strange adults simply sent tingles up my spine. I met two of the coolest 6th grade dudes in a design lab classroom at VIDA, who happily took me under their wing and included me in a discussion about their robotics design. They explained their roles as project managers and introduced me to the members of their group. The boys began demonstrating and explaining their hypothesis about why the model they built kept landing with the yellow side up and grabbed their engineer’s notebook where they recorded their findings. I spoke to two seventh girls who spoke so eloquently about how much they love their school, these girls were glowing and beamed with love when they spoke about their teachers. Yes, the sunshine was nice, but the kids in these schools lit me up and were tremendously inspiring. The principal gave a short presentation at VIDA and two phrases jumped out and stuck with me.
Students at VIDA were engaged.
Teachers were happy.
This love, passion, and excitement about school is what I want to take back to Armstrong.
Clarify: Students were engaged and teachers were happy. Yes, it is pretty much that simple. This is what is needed to create a positive and productive learning environment. Additionally, this visit clarified that technology is not the focus of this project. The focus is always on students and learning first.
Build: It feels a little dramatic or self important to say that this opportunity to be part of Digital Promise Schools (#dpvils) is life changing, but this opportunity truly can change the lives of the students in my school. If we build on the philosophy of focusing on learning first and engage students, encourage failure, celebrate mistakes, empower kids to have a voice, push them to create, think, problem solve, collaborate, focus on the process of learning and not simply the product of it, the lives of our students will be changed because of how they will see themselves in the world. This is something to build upon.
Grow: Funny, as a classroom teacher I ask myself everyday, after every lesson, how can I make this lesson better? What went well, what didn’t, how can I grow? As an instructional coach guiding this project in my building I now ask myself how do I help everyone grow, how do I help grow a culture for teachers and students? How do we cultivate a culture where people aren’t afraid to fail and push each other to learn and grow through their mistakes? Well, I guess the first step is this, me sharing my thoughts. The second step is knowing we are not alone. We are already in a culture and part of a community ready to support and connect with us in this project. We are part of a network of support. Let’s not be afraid to fail. Let’s push ourselves. I’ve seen what it looks like…and the sun shines bright when you aren’t afraid to fail.