Sunday, June 9, 2019

Summer Learning: Midwest Leadership Summit reflection

Last week, I shared several suggestions for educators to do some summer learning. I am excited to share the first summer learning activity I've done this summer. I was fortunate enough to attend the Midwest Leadership Summit this past week. And it was amazing!!! 

100% a dream come true!

Today I'm going to focus on Day 1 with George Couros. But let me back up a bit ... I bought the book "The Innovator's Mindset" about 2 years ago after reading good reviews. The summary of the book really appealed to me. . . . And then it sat on my shelf, unread. Our curriculum director, Becky Tompkins, pulled it out in a meeting and asked if we'd be interested in a book study. I agreed, thinking now I'd have some accountability in reading it.

Reading doesn't describe what I did with this book! Post-it notes, highlighting, scribbling notes in the margins, texting excited aha's! and "I love this!" messages back and forth is a more accurate description. Nothing in this book is earth shattering. It all simply reaffirms everything I know to be good teaching and learning. The book gave me the opportunity to pump my fist in the air and say, "Yes! THIS is what we need to get back to. THIS is good."

Our team loved it so much, we hosted a district wide professional book study. We gamified it - giving me the opportunity to put into action some much desired attempts at gamification. We incorporated several tech tools to demonstrate classroom application with our teachers. We hoped at least 10 would sign up and we had over 70! Using our LMS, the digital conversations across buildings brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Teachers bravely shared ideas inspired by the book. What an impact it had ... the conversations it sparked ... the relationships it helped me build and strengthen ... the excitement it inspired. Incredible! It was an amazing success!

I then facilitated round #2, as a joint venture between my district and BCESC. Another successful adventure where more teachers from my district and teachers in surrounding districts were able to share in the same wonderful discussion and idea sharing. I followed that with round #3 with even more teachers.

Now ... back to THIS summer. 
When I was invited, I locked in the date on my calendar - no way would I miss this. A great group from my district was attending and I was excited. I arrived early and we snagged the closest tables to the podium. George was finishing setting up, so Becky, my curriculum director, and I jumped on the opportunity to get our books signed and snag a selfie with him. When others from our group arrived, I shared my excitement. Our tech director even teased me about all the post-it notes hanging out of my book. I told him it demonstrated the thinking I was having while reading the book and what better honor could I give George but to show him that thinking he inspired?

We settled in and George began. To demonstrate the power of being a connected educator, George gave me a shout out --- whaaaaaatt????? That blew me away! He covered many of the quotes I've included below and I spent the day listening and reflecting and talking with a room full of people who share the same ideas and goals. Below are just a few of the quotes that had an impact on me while reading. If you've not read this book, maybe these quotes and my reflection on them might encourage you to pick it up. You won't regret it. And if you need someone to chat about it with, please don't hesitate to contact me ( or on Twitter @kiefersj). 

The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros

"Once you stop learning, you start dying."
~ Albert Einstein

The book starts out with this quote. WOW! It drew me in immediately and I think about this quote often. I always think back to college when my dad teased me that I was going to be a perpetual student. (I may have been changing my major for the 3 time ... 🤣) Now I think back and say, "How did he know???" YES! I would absolutely consider myself a perpetual student. What a compliment! I can honestly say I learn something every day. Maybe it's something I planned to learn, other times it's things I need to learn to do my job, and still other times, it's something I didn't expect to learn.

"If you don't believe in your idea, why would anyone else?"
~ #InnovatorsMindset

This one really speaks to me on a personal level. I had been toying with the idea of blogging for a while. I made excuses. I found other things to do. I reasoned with myself that no one would read it ... after all, I wasn't a writer. Reading this quote really hit home. If I didn't believe in it, of course no one else would! So I decided to take the leap, and with continued support from my husband, I published my 1st entry on November 18, 2017. I set the goal to write once per week, and for the most part, I've been successful . . . And I've had a lot of positive feedback. (Thank you, George! I might not have started sharing out if not for this.)

"... innovation is not about changing everything, sometimes you only need 
to change one thing."
~ George Couros

This quote has meant a lot, not just to me, but for many of the teachers I work with. This allows us to be human. This encourages us to make change possible. All of us can identify ONE thing to adjust/change/modify/overhaul and follow through to make it happen. ONE thing. Take one step. The enemy to this thinking, most often, is ourselves. When I'd talk with teachers about what they wanted to try/do/add/modify, we'd talk about this quote. I reassure them they didn't need an overhaul. They should only look at ONE thing to change. I firmly believe, once that "ONE thing" happens, another one thing will happen, and then another, and so on.

"... innovate inside the box."
~ George Couros

This final quote is one I talk about most often. Changing one thing allows us the grace to start. Innovating inside the box brings together the real world with the dream world, in a very realistic way. The way I explain this quote is to take all of the challenges we face and STILL DO SOMETHING to make learning work for our learners. We DO have limits with finances, personnel, state & curricular mandates, as well as time, and many more limits. All of these are limited. And 99% of the time, we can't do anything about these ... we have to exist within these. Wishing and hoping they change won't help. However, we don't have to allow them to be "game-over". We can exist within these and make wonderful things happen for our learners. That's where the challenge is - that's where the true beauty and joy will be found. 

Let's work together to flourish within the boundaries around us. Truthfully, isn't that what we want our students to do, too?

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