Going first

During the close of a recent class, I overheard a conversation about the students presenting during their next class period.  Essentially, no one wanted to go first.

I interjected politely and encouraged that they should all be volunteering to present first, to set the bar high, to be confident, that there’s nothing to fear, and to want to go first.  Now, I understand that presenting in middle school and high school is nerve-racking for some kids.  It can even be that way for adults, (myself included sometimes)!

But, I guess what I’ve come to learn is that by embracing this ‘fear’ or apprehension in the first place, let alone going first, is simply a false fear.  Our limbic brain, the amygdala, no longer has to worry about predators, like tigers or wolves, in our modern, civilized world.  The limbic part of our brain controls fight or flight responses.  So, the common fear of public speaking is now something this part of our brain can stress over.

Things to share with kids:

  • Be proactive.  Take initiative, own responsibilities, and prepare.
  • Visualize and begin with the end in mind.
  • Know your content and material inside and out.  Start with the biggest tasks to prepare.
  • Rehearse with peers and family.
  • Use storytelling and narrative to engage your audience, which will help you be better able to recall it yourself.
  • Nothing bad will happen even if a mistake is made.

These tips came to mind after hearing this exchange among those kids. I hope that we can all create a culture of empathy and rapport so that all students can flourish into confident communicators.

Slow down, when you want to speed up

Last year I watched the documentary called FishPeople.  Intrigued by the story of Kimi Werner, (an amazing freediver, spearfisher, chef, and artist) I took time to watch her TEDx Talk.  She said something that resonated with me, “When you feel the need to speed up, slow down.”  This applies specifically to stressful, in the moment decision-making.

Her story and TEDx Talk is inspiring and motivational.  For me, it’s a nice reminder that slowing down is so important for so many reasons – not only decision-making or practicing empathy, but for connecting with family, personal reflection, connecting with nature, pursuing interests, or health, to name a few.

She also created a short film called Variables.

I hope everyone has the opportunity to slow down as we “speed” towards the end of school year, plus, the opportunity to slow down each day.

How do you slow down to speed up?

Questions and Commitments

Ms. DiDonato’s class is officially one month along with 20% Time.  There have been a few pivots with project ideas, but no drastic changes from the student’s project proposals.

There have been many questions, ranging from “Now what?” to “Should I learn Python or Scratch?” to “Can I prototype this again with cardboard since styrofoam didn’t work?”

The consistency has been a commitment to research, production, writing, and sharing.

Every other week, students report out progress via their blog.  The “non-blogging” weeks students must read and comment on three classmates blog posts.  The commenting has been productive.  Students are sharing not only words of encouragement, but thoughtful suggestions, strategies, or ideas.  At the very least, these are exercises in digital citizenship, collaboration, communication, writing, and creativity.

Zoned Out.

When was the last time you that “zoned out?”

Unfortunately, many of us easily fall into the trap of picking up our phone to be entertained instead of having a moment to think or zone out.  The smartphone and all of the apps are doing exactly what they were designed to do.  Admittedly, I get sucked into the “vortex,” too.  I try to focus my time online learning new things, reading, listening, etc. But I’m still on my phone, and still, the distraction device, ultimately, wins.  It’s a weird way to use our downtime now.  There’s been numerous evidence pointing to the importance of zoning out or daydreaming; letting our mind wander.  Do we get enough time to just sit with our thoughts, observe, to notice new opportunities, to problem solve, or to be creative?

If you remember, share the last time you zoned out.  Share how you have recently had the chance to daydream, to create something just for fun, or “waste time” devoid of technology.

Finally, I wonder if we shouldn’t be so quick to redirect a student staring out the window during a lesson.  For all we know, he/she is listening and thinking deeply, but perhaps not about what we feel is important.

This might not work . . .

This might not work …

And that’s okay.  For our students, this is an exercise in learning how to learn, reflect, and produce.  For us, we’re learning how to inspire and work with the uncertainty, in addition to learning new things alongside the students.

Last week we met with students and discussed their 20% Time proposals.  Some of the proposals that students shared last week were:

“Creating a Masterpiece: Making a Movie Through the Eyes of a Beginner” in which the student is learning how to write a script and digitally film a sci-fi movie.

“Project Plan and Accomplish” in which the student is learning how to plan an event for a charity.

“A Writer’s Journey 2018” where the student is making an attempt at writing a novel.

“Positive Poems for You” – his short poem sums up his goal:

“As I make use of my 20% time,

To create a verse and perhaps a rhyme,

I hope to influence you in a small way,

To make a difference in this world today.”

“Alyssa’s Easy Steps to Learn the Piano.”  You guessed it, she’ll be creating videos that teach others how to play the piano.

There are so many more projects like students learning to code and create video games using Scratch, others who are inventing and prototyping solutions to problems they see, another who is researching personality and success, others that are documenting travel in unique ways, and the list goes on.

We are really excited about these student-generated projects!  

To get students started with finding their interests and passions, we borrowed A.J. Juliani’s and John Spencer’s “Interest Finding Charts”.  We also showed them an interest chart that I completed.  But, I also showed them how to combine interests and passions. For example, I combined my interests in the environment, the ocean, surfing, and photography and created a photography blog.  My hope was to help them see an example of how I combined many of my interests to learn more about digital photography, editing, blogging, and being in nature or environments that I enjoy.

Here are some resources that we have used so far:

20% Time Project Tracking Template detailed Google Sheet

Interest Finding Chart (elementary)

Interesting Finding Chart

Interest Finding Chart with reduced topics

Blogger for student weekly blog posts and discussions (We’re a Google District, so it just makes sense).

Here’s info on publishing student blogs. Right now our student blogs are only visible to students in our school district.

This might not work, but so far,  I think it will.