Design vs. Planning

IMG_2512Our LME Design Team has definitely spent “quality WOW time” together this week in two creative settings.  First of all, these leaders of learners volunteer (really!) to take on the regular challenge and ultimate role of leading transformation on our growing campus…not an easy or even fun task for sure and for certain!  🙂  They lead our teams as trailblazers to WOW (Work on the Work) while they facilitate, support, and help staff members to think about lesson design and work that usually causes more questions than answers.  🙂  They are the leaders of learners charged with the task of telling our Miller story.  Bottom line, they ask the tough questions:  How do we make learning limitless for all involved in the process?

I shared before in previous blogs about our lesson design qualities (DQs):  content and substance, product focus, organization of knowledge, clear and compelling product standards, protection from adverse consequences, affiliation, affirmation, choice, novelty and variety, and authenticity.  Each of these DQs help teachers to focus on the WHO (our students) and on the actual design of the work.   So what is the difference between designing and planning?  In his book, Engaging Students:  The Next Level of Working on the Work (2011), Dr. Phillip Schlechty sums it up best:

  1. Design begins with customers and the needs of customers.  Planning begins with goals, objectives, programs of action, and activities.
  2. Design assumes divergence, disruption, and chaos.  Planning assume convergence and order.
  3. Design is expressive.  Planning is logical and rational analysis.
  4. Designers synthesize and unify.  Planners analyze and segment.
  5. Transformation requires design.  Reform requires planning.

He goes on to comment simply, “Learning organizations depend on the capacity to design while bureaucracies depend on the capacity to plan.”  Deep thoughts, huh?!  🙂

Here’s what we do know:  We are a committed learning organization who believes in designing first and planning second.  While we have to follow the bureaucracy of being a state institution with mandated assessment and required curriculum to cover, we have the freedom in Midlothian ISD to create and design engaging,IMG_2518 meaningful work.  I’m so proud to work in a district who believes in the philosophy and framework of WOW.  Equally, I’m proud of our Miller Design Team who lead the charge of transformation.  Most importantly, I’m proud of our learners who teach us well along this journey how to be the best designers of their work.

Note:  Special thanks to our LME Design Team:  Sherrie Gunter, Lauren Bergvall, Shannon Williams, Jennifer Blair, Traci Samek, Bethany Griffin-Loftis, Krista Bruton, and Scott Fiorenza (not pictured). 

Positive Interactions

R Time # 5In place of Morning Message each Tuesday, our learners and classroom leaders participate in R Time.  In a previous blog, I expanded on the ideas and activities associated with this interactive campus initiative; today I had the privilege of observing a particular class in R Time action.

First of all, they were excited it was R Time today!  🙂  One of the powerful aspects of their R Time work is not knowing WHO will be their working partner during the actual activity; the surprise element is always fun.  The other significant aspect is knowing their work together will be a positive experience.

As we all know, positive interactions are essential to daily healthy relationships—at home, school, work, church, community, and in life.  positivesThe actual activity involved the pairs greeting one another appropriately, sharing a pleasant thought, and then talking about the ways they share positive interactions with others.  The pairs agreed to a word to then shared with the remaining pairs to help cultivate more positive interactions in the classroom everyday.  Each pair added their chosen word to a class wordle to post for everyone to use.  The conversations and closing discussion simply warmed my heart…it encouraged me to stop several times today just to spread (as one learner said it), “positive vibes.”  Here’s hoping you spread your own positive vibes today and everyday!

HEARTy Creations

valcutouts A group of students entered the classroom and found multiple heart cutouts scattered upon each classroom desk.  Someone noted, “It must have rained hearts in here over the weekend!”  The children were challenged to create something from the hearts, using all the sizes and colors placed on their particular desk.  Once the creations were completed, the writing and sharing commenced.

An activity like this brings out the clever, unique, and fun side of learning for students.  Being able to have choice in novel ways creates ownership of the work and the results.  Learners authentically engage themselves because they have the protection to create without the fear of failing—there are no right or wrong answers.

It is our goal to design meaningful and engaging work for learners everyday.  We concentrate more on the WHO rather than the WHAT.  We specifically think about the students for whom this work is intended by identifying their roles, responsibilities, and unique abilities or challenges.  Likewise, our students are also able to make decisions regarding some part of the learning experience while providing a variety of skills, styles, and unique approaches to their learning, their interests, and their work.  In the words of one learner, this combination definitely makes for “lovely learning and HEARTy creations!”   Indeed!  🙂

Truths Children Learn

truthMy mom, a long-time educator and avid reader, always used this quote from Mark Twain on me growing up…it’s so true!  Telling the truth is a life lesson; telling the truth sets you free; telling the truth is being honest no matter what.

The other day, she shared the following piece with me about the “truths our children learn.”  Here’s hoping you find “the truth” in these enlightening statements from young observers:

  • No matter how hard you try, you can’t baptize a cat.
  • When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
  • If your sister hits you, don’t hit her back.  They always catch the second person.
  • Never ask your 2-year-old brother to hold a tomato.
  • You can’t trust a dog to watch your food.
  • Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
  • Puppies still have bad breath even after eating a mint.
  • You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
  • Don’t try to use a dust-buster and a cat at the same time.
  • The best place to be when you are sad is in Grandma’s lap.

Thanks, Momma; this made my day.  I hope it brings a smile to yours!  🙂

LAUNCHing into 21st Century Learning

There was a dull roar coming from the 3rd grade wing of our campus yesterday afternoon.  The arrival of the newest cart of iPads was cause for great rejoicing.  Our own Amy Clark, third grade teacher, has been chosen by Midlothian ISD as a technology pilot classroom teacher to implement IMG_0014digital tools in a vastly engaging 21st Century way.  Fellow chosen pilot teachers along with Ms. Clark will help chart the course for developing digital classrooms across MISD in the months to come.

While the content of the coursework for these students will not change (we must teach TEKS and required student expectations), the manner in which Ms. Clark’s students access the information and construct meaning and mastery may look different.  Each student will use an iPad in class throughout the day.  While most of our children already do this outside the walls of the classroom, we will hopefully be able to match the level of technology possibilities within this classroom now.  This class will specifically rely less on print resources such as textbooks and worksheets and work more with digital tools (like their iPads) to enhance the education of each learner.  This is an exciting start and this class will set a new standard of expectation for years to come.

We are excited and proud to be a part of this incredible pilot project and look forward to the process and products these learners and their technology-fearless classroom leader share in the months to come!  🙂

Win some; lose some…

Here’s an intervention conversation from today:

  • Child:  I worked so hard last week and still didn’t make the team on Saturday.  That’s why I’m mad today and can’t do my work (as we discuss an attitude adjustment concerning school today).
  • Me:  I know you’re disappointed, but what matters now is where you go from here.
  • Child:  You mean like what I learned by not winning a spot on the team?
  • Me:  Exactly!  What will make you stronger next time?

This type of conversation with a learner brings the unique opportunitywinsome to share a life lesson along the way.  No one wants to talk about loss; let’s face it:  no one wants to lose!  Yes, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose; winning matters and losing matters.  In life, what really should matter most though is what we do with our wins and losses.  More specifically, wins and losses both provide exceptional learning opportunities while teaching the value of staying strong.

It’s essential to focus sometimes on the excitement of winning because there’s a fire fueling continuous improvement, passion, and the personal quest for excellence.  Just like a winning sports team, the members must go out week after week with the right mindset, desire, team effort, and determination to do it all over again.  This is a real challenge!

Likewise, when we lose, we should focus on what can be learned and how we can improve because of it.  Staying strong and working smarter is even more important for a come back and win the next time.

I think Jon Gordon sums up winning and losing best:  “No matter how hard we work and how much we improve, there will be times when we experience the worst of defeats instead of the greatest of victories.  Ultimately, life is about more than winning or losing.  Life is about the lessons we learn, the character and strength we build, and the person we become along the way.”  (Jon Gordon, The Energy Bus)

Whether we win or lose, I always encourage our learners to keep their eye on the ball because ultimately they are all winners in the game of life.  Stay strong because…Every Day is Game Day @ LME!  🙂

An Oath and a Dream…

inaugurationOn this school holiday, our attention naturally turns to the important events of the day, specifically the second Inauguration of our country’s President Martin-Luther-King-Jrand the rememberances of a national leader.  Whatever your political thoughts or actions, as a country and as a growing learning community, we should continue to take our civic and cultural duties as moral and ethical leaders seriously.  When a oath is taken, a promise is made; this is critical history for our learners to witness.  Here’s hoping you take a moment today to talk and share with your child about the oath our President takes for this country and the dream of a visionary who stirred a conversation we still discuss 50 years later.

Note:  We look forward to seeing your on Tuesday @ 7:45 a.m! 

Hip Hip Hooray for Mr. Hemphill!

IMG_2081School Board members really have “the best of times and the worst of times” (according to some Miller learners, that is).  We were honored today to enJOY the company of Mr. Todd Hemphill, Midlothian ISD Board Trustee.  He came early and assisted in morning arrival duty with our Safety Patrol and staff members, greeting students entering the building.  He participated in our Friday Miller Rally talking about what a Board member does (and was interested to hear what some of our learners thought he did too!).  Each team elected a representative to talk and present him with a special team token of appreciation showing our Miller thanks for the time imageDSC_1071and service he provides to MISD.  Our Student Honor Council shared breakfast and a thorough school tour (I feel certain he most likely learned some secret things about LME that only the most privileged are selected to know).  🙂

We are grateful to have caring, civic-minded, service-oriented trustees in our district who serve willingly to uphold the highest educational standards expected from our community.  School Board members are volunteers, and while they don’t get paid, their work is priceless.  As one little learner summed it up after Miller Moves, “Hip, hip HOORAY for Mr. Hemphill today!”

Thanks to all our Midlothian ISD Board of Trustees for serving our district to ensure we continue to strive to be the leading learning organization in the nation.

A ROCKIN’ Science Time!

IMG_0004It’s true; the library was rockin’ today at LME!  We were honored to have THE famous singing zoologist, Lucas Miller, charm our learners and classroom leaders alike with his hilarious and scientifically-accurate songs and stories.  He shared important facts on the wetlands, butterflies, omnivores, SHARKS, and other earthly delights.  He sang from his funny greatest hits including Anaconda La Bamba, Slimy, Living In A Wetland, IMG_0007and I’m A Mako Shark.  One teacher commented, “You can tell he’s a smart, serious musician who loves teaching others scientific facts; it’s the best of all worlds!”

Mr. Miller’s animated talk, audience interaction, and beautiful natural images truly captured our learners and their keen interest in a highly engaging and meaning presentation.  One student summed it up best, “Mrs. Van, we had a rockin’ science time today!”  🙂  Thanks, Lucas Miller!

Melting…just a state of matter…

The frosty winds made moan yet again early this morning during school arrival, but the icy leftovers are facing the sun right now.  Just a little bit of winter goes a long way in Texas, huh?!  It’s safe to say most of our campus is ready to bundle up and enJOY some sun today during recess; we really covet the sun!  🙂

meltingsnowmancookieDuring walkabout, one group stopped me to share their writing workstation challenge (notice this cute picture of the treat they will enJOY later because of a child’s birthday today).  Anyway, it got them to thinking and talking about the states of matter.  Before we knew it, there were multiple examples of materials that turn from solid to liquid to gas.  Besides water, what else can you name?

Another group was sharing how they “melt away” the winter “blahs” with things like a “Thank-You Walk,” sharing smiles and jokes and laughter with each other, celebrating successes and spending time with positive people, and showing kindness to others.  As one learner noted, “Melt away those ‘blahs’ by helping others feel better and you’ll feel better too!”   🙂

Speaking of melting blahs and warming hearts, our extraordinary 2ndgrPTO shared the wonderful treat of lunch with our entire staff today!  Stuffed baked potatoes, salads, and cupcakes brought enormous smiles to faces (educators appreciate those days when they don’t have to worry about packing a lunch!).  🙂 Thanks, PTO volunteers, board members, and parents, for sharing your culinary talents and time with us!

Here’s hoping you find a peaceful state of meaning and matter to melt away winter today and everyday!