Thinking back to the beloved movie The Goonies we can watch a group of kids who band together to change their world. These kids have the heart of a Pirate and find that they are successful in their quest because they utilized their individual strengths for the greater good of the group. They had to work together to achieve their mission and goal.
Being a Pirate Leader in the educational world is very similar. What does it take to be a Pirate Leader? Well, a Pirate Leader needs to be ready for adventure, challenges, thinking on your feet, utilizing the strengths of teamwork, and must be willing to have fun. Having just read the amazing book Lead Like a Pirateby Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, I feel the burning in my EDU-soul; a fire that has ignited. I am ready to lead my team of teachers on the EDU-quest of the century.
I feel the best way to illustrate my biggest takeaways from the book are done through the use of#BookSnaps.
When we Lead Like a Pirate, we inspire others to tap into their Pirate awesomeness and conquer the world. So, do you want to Lead Like a Pirate? Let's do this #LeadLAP thing!
Pirate photo is my amazing, inspiring daughter from about five years ago. She has the Pirate spirit!
This blog is not only dedicated to Mr. Hooker, but to all of my amazing PLN peeps from iPadpalooza 2017. I thought long and hard what to name this blog and I had to go with my gut. After a long, 13-hour road trip down to Austin, I thought there really was only one option to reference though it is definitely not as well know. So I’ve adapted the title of this blog from an old Patrick Swayze movie, I couldn’t resist; no, not Roadhouse...
Having just returned from the welcoming state of Texas and now that the dust has settled, I can reflect back on my experience at iPadPalooza. If I had to describe it in three words they would be: Oh-My-Gosh! In all of my years of education, I have never experienced professional development like this before. It was like being a kid in a candy store, but instead of candy, there were fabulous, innovative educational ideas to be sampled.
There were three HUGE takeaways from my experience at iPadPalooza.
I have always experienced a great sense of community at my local schools and districts where I have worked. Often there are pockets of educators who I call friends and even become family. When I joined Twitter this last summer, I found many people who were passionate about education. Their tiny little pictures were barely visible, but their ideas were unforgettable. This conference gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing educators face-to-face. The common question was, “Are we following each other on Twitter?” Most often followed by a, “Yes!” My brothers and sisters in arms are some of the kindest, innovative, and REAL people I have ever met in the EDU-sphere. The friendships that were gained in one week, across continents and time-zones, will last a lifetime. I can now call my Twitter colleagues or PLN, my friends, and EDU-family!
Talk about mind blown! The keynote speakers every day were amazing, including Jason Silva. Every single session had passionate educators from around the globe who shared their knowledge and joy of learning. I learned about different Apps to use in the classroom that takes learning to a whole new level. I learned how to implement fun and interactive professional development ideas. The creative ideas for students to share a Six-Word Story in Six Unique Shots, by Don Goble, was another level of storytelling that is near and dear to my heart. Not to mention tapping into #Sketchnotes and combining it with #BookSnaps has been taking my own learning to a whole new level. This much out of the box thinking was and continues to be invigorating. I tried to pick just three new ideas to share with my district staff and honestly this fall, there are so many ideas that I will have to keep sharing. Innovation is contagious!
3. “Go Change the World”
The last night, I was fortunate enough to join my EDU-family on the most EPIC boat trip on Lake Austin. We were able to chat and become even more connected if that was possible. We shared pictures. I was razzed for having an Android. I know, right? Don’t worry, I’m working on an upgrade. We really just had fun; an EDU-family reunion with stories, laughs, and dancing; “I’m on a BOAT!” At the end of the evening we all wished each other well, hugged, said goodbye, planned when we would meet again, and so on. The icing on the cake came from our “Godfather,” Carl Hooker. After a hug and high five, Carl tells me, “Now, go change the world.” A simple phrase, but weighted with responsibility and possibility - the sky's the limit! So will all of us heed this advice? Will we go and change the world? The answer should be, “YES!” How we go and change the world is up to us, but the point is to do it. We must do it for teachers, educators, and most of all, students.
Pictured: The Godfather himself, @MrHooker
This whole experience would not have been possible if not for my colleague and friend, Tara Martin. Without her invitation, I would just be sitting at home trolling all of the #iplza17 Tweets. Being there to experience the “Learning on the Go” first hand is unforgettable! It was a true model of what the learning experience should be like for any learner, young or old. If you have never been to an iPadPalooza conference, you NEED to go! Find one near you as soon as possible, save your pennies, get a group together - DO It! It has been life changing!
So this blog or letter really is meant for all of you at iPadPalooza who are truly a part of my EDU-fam, but I must say: To Carl Hooker, Thanks for everything! ~ Mena Hill
I adore the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The protagonist is such a gentle dreamer who the audience roots for, all the while hoping he will get enough confidence to follow his dreams. Throughout the film, Walter has these fantasies play out that are rudely interrupted by reality. Finally he has to make a decision to change his mindset and go on his adventure.
I feel using#BookSnaps helps illustrate what I have gained from reading The Innovator’s Mindset and learned throughout this whole #IMMOOC experience as an educator. I have learned a lot, enjoyed the process, and have truly begun my transformation.
Thank goodness, Walter gets up and goes on his journey. He finds his “mojo” and becomes the new and improved version of himself. Walter realizes that he has been the leader, hero all along, but he had to have something push him outside of his comfort zone so that he could find his passion and voice. That is exactly what this whole #IMMOOC experience has done for me.
I recently completed an eight week screenwriting class at our local arts center. I was super intimidated as I have never embarked on such a journey - ever! I actually wanted to take a different creative writing class but of course it did not work with my personal schedule so I signed up for the only one that worked. Throughout this whole experience I was challenged to think differently. I had to write a synopsis for my original screenplay, build character descriptions, and learn formatting - oh, the formatting.
Here’s the deal, once I started, I could not stop. My creative juices were flowing like lava. I was in the writing zone, my characters were coming to life, and I LOVED every stinkin’ minute! The feedback I received was so positive and constructive that it built my confidence and kept the fire alive to continue working, meeting my writing goals for the following week.
The biggest challenge I faced was for a group project. My classmates and I, ten of us total, were tasked to create a choose your adventure screenplay. I had five pages to write the ending to a story, adding on to the work of two of my classmates - AMAZING! It was such a blast and I felt alive! I felt like what I was doing was so different and it was ALL mine! The collaboration, the creativity, and the innovation was electrifying! The whole experience was so good for my soul.
Just imagine the experiences we can be a part of as educators. The sky's the limit when it comes to opportunities for our students to be creative, innovative learners. And the plus side is that we can still experience it LONG after we leave the classroom!
Here is an excerpt from my original screenplay group project Valentine’s Day:
INT. ABANDONED RESTAURANT - DAY
Restaurant empty, dirty except for a few old tables and chairs. Light seeps in through boarded windows. Joey and Cece sit in wooden folding chairs, hands bound with old cloth napkins.
Camera and guns sit on a table in front of them. Chris points his gun back and forth at Joey and Cece as he talks.
Chris: Really thought you two were clever, huh? Were you working together? I knew you had your secrets, Joe, but Cece...that's a surprise.
JOEY: I've know this was your shtick for a while now.
CECE: The surprise is that you thought you were clever. I knew what you were doing before you even saw me coming.
Chris paces between the two of them. Ruffles his hair. Points his gun at them both. Cece works on loosening her hands as Chris monologues.
CHRIS: You both have some nerve. You don't even know what Sebastian is capable of. You're just another bug to squash on his way to greatness.
An arrogant SEBASTIAN enters from the back room in an almost too-tight suit and tie. Unfortunate combover indicates his desire to stay young. He is the big boss, the only boss.
SEBASTIAN: I see Christopher that you have yet again created a mess I have to clean up. Julie and Pete...two of my most reliable allies. All you had to do was to make the deal with Russia... What a mess.
CHRIS: I am dealing with this. I told you the meeting with the Russians was a go tonight. I've got this.
(Thanks for reading my creation!)
“If we are going to empower our students, we must help them find what they love and create learning experiences that encourage them to develop their strengths.” ~ George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset
When I was a kid, I loved watching The Wizard of Oz. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Dorothy lands in Oz and the screen magically transforms from black and white to a sea of vivid colors. Over the course of Dorothy’s journey she encounters many characters who feel they are lacking or missing something in their lives. They all seek the Wizard’s great help to further develop their “weaknesses.” After many wild and challenging experiences the main characters had the those strengths all along.
I have an amazing mentor who has challenged me to “play to my strengths” and do what I do best. I have found that while I may be doing what I do well, I am also developing other areas that I might have considered a weakness. For example, I have never been challenged to use technology to share my ideas or developed my own website/digital portfolio.
I have background experience in journalism and layout from when I was in college, so the tech piece was a “next step.” After launching my website, I have shared my knowledge with colleagues and now feel that the opportunity to advance my journalism and layout knowledge has empowered me to add digital portfolios as a new strength. WooHoo!
Not only do I want to challenge my own thinking, but also the thinking of colleagues and my students. If a person is successful in a certain area and wants to explore more, why not? Isn’t that the point of learning and growing? “Bringing people’s strengths to life” challenges us all to engage in a conversation. Throughout The Wizard of Oz Dorothy asks questions of her friends to not only find out “what” makes them tick, but also “why” they want to grow. When the main characters discovered their true strengths, they are filled with confidence. So start with asking yourself what are your strengths and do your colleagues and students a favor, ask them too.
“What if everyone in our organization, not just our students, was encouraged to pursue his or her dreams?” ~ George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset
This quotation could not come at a more perfect time in my educational career and personal life. Rockin’ my mid-thirties has been an exciting journey to say the least. I have been prompted by my circle of trust peeps, including fellow #IMMOOCer, Tara Martin, and I have been asking myself a version of that question: What are my dreams?
I love writing, so I enrolled in a screenwriting class offered at our local arts center. I am so glad I did. I absolutely love the experience and will continue to work on my original screenplay. I want to learn an instrument, so I bought a ukulele and called up a colleague to schedule music lessons. P.S. I CAN’T wait to start next week! I want to continue to learn and fine-tune my craft and continue to inspire kids and fellow teachers, so I am learning as much as I can from my Twitter PLN and sharing, sharing, sharing!
It has taken me a long time to find these dreams and interests but I am glad someone asked me, “What are your dreams?” So often we focus on our students, their dreams, and exposing them to new and amazing things so they can form their own “what ifs,” that we then forget about what makes us tick. It is imperative to inspire students BUT we get to also get to be the recipient of inspiration and shoot for the stars.
So what are your dreams?
I love the song Going the Distance by Cake. Just the first few riffs of the base and guitar and my competitive juices are pumping. MO-TI-VATION! I want to start my workout, project, lesson plans, blog etc. I am ready to be a “do-er.” It’s time to dig deep.
How do we get students to dig deep and find their motivation?
Just this week, with the guidance of our school counselor, my students were asked to think about their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and hobbies. I prompted the kids into a discussion about what their weakness are and how they can turn those into a strength. They were encouraged to come up with an action plan to turn those grows into glows. They were then asked how all of those strengths can then be funneled into their passion and be released into the world. I watched as students began to take ownership of their ideas, their actions, and themselves -- AMAZING!
Their talent, like the giant kraken, is unleashed! Students’ talents grow through relationships. Fostering those relationships further builds a trusting environment that allows students to make mistakes and learn from them. It sparks innovation. Those ideas can and will “blow” minds. This not only goes for students but for us as well! Once talents, ideas, passions are tapped into, the world is theirs and ours for the taking. So will you go the distance? Will you unleash your inner kraken? Do it.
My very first experience as a classroom teacher, was filled with so many different emotions and thoughts. I remember walking into my classroom of twenty-eight first graders, looking into their sweet little faces, and my head began to whirl. I was SO pumped to be their teacher, but terrified of the responsibilities I had for each student, for their academic and social-emotional growth.
I have been teaching for almost ten years. Over the course of those years there have been ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and sorrows. These moments are often shared with colleagues who become close confidants, whose relationships evolve into a friendship that spans time and even continents. Relationships are the key to surviving the teacher’s life. Often those close friends are the ones we run to when sharing the human experience through the eyes of a teacher.
According to George Couros, relationships are the foundation of learning and innovation. That is one serious truth nugget! That goes for ALL relationships. Without relationships, we would be up a creek and in trouble. Those relationships help us to process strange and new ideas. They help us find encouragement and build self-confidence that will help us when we are taking a risk and venturing out into uncharted waters. Relationships are key because when facing problems, successes, or innovative thinking that takes your breath away, your person is right beside you rooting you on! That friendly face is what we need in the human and teaching experience and it’s what our students need too in order to open the door, heart and mind to innovation.
Mena T. Hill
Educator, Wife, Mother, Colorado Native