Self-Differentiated Voice

Now that I have a vision for my innovation plan, I need to communicate that vision effectively. With this comes the need for leadership and conversation. Doing this in a determined, decisive, and visionary way, while keeping my “wits” about me, is what it takes to reorient an organization, according to Edwin Friedman (203). 

Friedman talks about the importance for a leader to practice self-differentiation, or the capacity to become oneself with minimum reactivity to the positions for reactivity in others. In my organization, it will be important for me to continue to chart my course by using what I have learned this year as my own internal guidance system.  

There are, unfortunately, poorly differentiated leaders that could infect others with issues. They tend to create an emotional triangle, bringing other people into drama with them. It is important for self-differentiated leaders to avoid the triangle and tolerate the discomfort of others. Self-differentiated leaders also may be sabotaged by others, but will respond without anxiety, as this is the “key to the kingdom” (Camp, 2010).

A self-differentiated leader can have crucial conversations, while a poorly differentiated leader would struggle as their own anxieties take over. It is the integrity of this leader that promotes the integrity and will prevent the dis-integration of the ePortfolio team I have started building on my campus.

I will strive towards self-differentiation by continuing to clarify my own goals and not become lost in anxious emotional processes. I will strive to separate while still remaining connected and, therefore, maintain a modifying, non-anxious, and sometimes challenging presence (Friedman 15-16).

At the same time, I want to continue to be willing to encounter the unexpected. “The willingness to encounter the unexpected that Columbus and other explorers manifested not only can free minds from their sets; it also enables us to imagine the unimaginable.” This is what we must do in the face of every single odd, and only the most self-differentiated leader can do it. We need to imagine the unimaginable in education and be willing to have the most crucial conversations the world has ever heard.


Camp, J. [Mathew David Bardwell]. (2010, November 10). Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership made simple [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgdcljNV-Ew&feature=youtu.be

Friedman, E. H. (2017). A failure of nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. Church Publishing. 


Crucial Conversations

A crucial conversation is one where the stakes are high, the opinions are different, and the emotions are strong. Many conversations in education are crucial conversations because children’s education is at stake, teachers have different teaching styles, and teaching is passionate. So, what do you do when you need to have a conversation about something as scary as change? You sit down with each other and LISTEN. In today’s digital age, it may seem like a waste of time to sit and talk instead of sending an email. However, we know how tone can get lost in typing, and true dialogue does not occur. To create change, we need to be able to talk about it – in person and together.

Having these conversations can be intimidating because we feel vulnerable, but in that vulnerability is where effective communication lies. We cannot be silent or passive, as this is lonely, ineffective, and wasteful. If we want to be successful we need to TALK about our innovation plan and our intentions for implementing the plan using the 6 Sources of Influence and 4DX, remembering the “why” throughout the conversation.

To have a crucial conversation with dialogue, We first need to know WHY we are having it. The start of the change is me, and the only person I can control is myself, so I need to focus on my own thoughts before I bring them to the table. The first step of the process is to start with the heart – to think about what I REALLY want. Once I have done that, I will look carefully around me and within. “What are we talking about? What is going on beneath the surface? Has this become crucial? Does everyone feel safe? Is a feeling of being unsafe leading to silence or violence?” At this point, we need to step back to safety to discuss mutual purpose and mutual respect. I also need to remember that an appropriate apology regains the safe space rather than admitting a weakness. Once we have gotten back on the right path, it is important to master my stories by getting in touch with my feelings and being honest with myself. Then I can move to STATE my path by sharing my facts, telling my story, asking for others’ paths, talking tentatively, and encouraging testing as I express my thoughts in a way that is direct but respectful. Once I’ve shared my story, it is vital that I LISTEN to others involved and get their perspectives. Only then can we turn the talk into action as we make good decisions TOGETHER (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012). The key to having a crucial conversation is simple, but easier said than done – listen and speak respectfully.

I want to be a good leader, a self-differentiated leader that connects with others without losing my own identity (Camp, 2010). To be this self-differentiated leader I will have to be willing to have the hard conversations, the ones that others don’t. Because of my knowledge of the process of the crucial conversation, I now feel confident in myself to discuss my innovation plan, 6 Sources of Influence, 4DX, and anything else that comes my way. It is my responsibility as an educator and leader to speak up so that we give our students the best and allow them to reach their full potential. I’m here and I am ready to talk.


Callibrain. (2015, August 20). Video review for Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFaXx3pgaxM&feature=youtu.be

Camp, J. [Mathew David Bardwell]. (2010, November 10). Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership made simple [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgdcljNV-Ew&feature=youtu.be

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Vital Smarts India. (2012, February 10). Crucial conversations explained in two minutes [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixEI4_2Xivw&feature=youtu.be


Strategic Influence

Throughout my timeline for implementing my innovation plan I will be using the 6 sources of influence to create change in those around me. My EP Team of seventeen educators on campus will help generate momentum. Having these key influencers stay engaged in this change is my next focus. I have noticed the obvious, looked for crucial moments, learned from positive deviants, and spotted culture busters. My strategy to influence my organization is targeting both motivation and ability at the personal, social, and structural level to change vital behaviors and achieve our desired goal.​

At the same time, I will facilitate EP construction for my personal students. As the EP Team begins to develop and use their ePortfolios more people will want to join in and begin creating their own as well. As I have been developing my own ePortfolio I have been able to see the benefits and the magnitude of potential that there is for EPs in education. Using the 6 sources of influence I will spark interest and inspire others to use ePortfolios as well.

Seeing these children wash their hands is a perfect example on the importance of influence when trying to change behavior. I think this video helped to show this concept in an easy to understand and simple way. Many of the children did not begin washing their hands until four of the sources of influence were being used. Once multiple sources were used more of the children were influenced to wash their hands. This concept will be the same as to what I will be asking those around me to do. Tapping into social power will make all the difference.


Lead from the inside out.

In Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’ is the idea that his Golden Circle corresponds with the brain. The “what” level of his circle corresponds with the neocortex, responsible for rational thought and language.

The inner “why” corresponds with the limbic brain, responsible for feeling and behavior. His example of primarily communicating our “what” explains that we understand other’s meaning, but we might not feel what they feel, and our behavior is not changed. 

But if we communicate our WHY, if we communicate from the inside out, we use emotion. We are connecting with our stakeholders on a more gut level, and we are able to capture their belief with our own.

In considering my innovation plan of constructing ePortfolios, I can make a similar comparison to the brain. My students will be constructing learning in each content area on their ePortfolio. They might be initiating that construction in those classrooms, with those teachers, divided from other teachers and content areas by classroom walls. But when they become more invested in the EP construction, and start collaborating more with their peers, they will be able to make connections that would not be possible without the ePortfolio. Much like a brain, constant connections will be formed anywhere and any time collaboration happens. As they construct their EP, they construct learning. They learn how to learn. 

And first, their teachers need to understand how to facilitate that construction and collective action. Communicating this why to them will create a sense of urgency, inspire belief, and change behavior. 

Why What How by Colby Clifford

Vital Smarts Video. (2015). How to change people who don’t want to change: the behavioral science guys. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/9ACi-D5DI6A.

Dr. John Kotter. (2011). John Kotter – The heart of change. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/1NKti9MyAAw.

Dr. John Kotter. (2013). Leading change: establish a sense of urgency. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/2Yfrj2Y9IlI.

Sinek, S. (2009, September). How great leaders inspire action [Video]. Ted Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en#t-546057

Tedx Talks. (2014). Why Ted Talks don’t change people’s behaviors: Tom Asacker at TEDxCambridge 2014. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/W0jTZ-GP0N4.


The creation of learning environments…

An alternative taxonomy to Bloom is Dee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning. This is a non-hierarchical taxonomy that focuses on the interaction of six dimensions of significant learning: Foundational, Application, Integration, Human Dimension, Caring, and Learning How to Learn. Working through these dimensions with my PLC, we wrote a 3 Column Table for our innovation plans that starts with a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” and demonstrates project based outcomes.  I was then able to transfer those ideas to a plan for my classroom. Fink’s Taxonomy is really a picture of my learning theory. I appreciate the holistic nature of the planning process, and would be comfortable using the 3 Column Table regularly. 

Another design plan my PLC worked on together is based on the work of Wiggins and McTighe using Understanding by Design (2005). Our UbD template provides a much more detailed framework with a consideration of standards, while still allowing room for project based learning. The UbD focuses on 3 Stages of Learning: Desired Results, Assessment Evidence, and Learning Evidence.  While I was not as comfortable in the development of the UbD, and I might behave towards the product in the same way as the 3 Column Table (in that it is always okay to deviate from the plan), I must say *I* learned more about my direction from the UbD than the 3 Column Table. 

Both designs help to connect the dots of what I’m learning in Creating Significant Learning environments, therefore become a tool to help my learners connect dots as well. Both designs highlight the importance of demonstrating authentic, project based outcomes and both invite the teacher to facilitate learning rather than just deliver content, so that “…the students-no longer docile listeners-are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher.” (Freire, 1970) 


Fink, L. D. (2005). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from: https://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Continuum.

Harapnuik, D. (2015, August 15). Connecting the dots vs. collecting the dots [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=85XpexQy68g

Wiggins, G.P., & McTighe, J. (2008). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Professional Learning 2.0

I am working with a small group of educators who believe the culture of professional development can be improved. For the most part, the rhetoric tied to professional development is negative. Many are constrained to a short time period, provide no support or modeling for teachers, while content presented is generic and passive. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We have begun to implement changes that make our classrooms more significant learning environments and are encouraged by the response we see in our students. They have been given more opportunities to take ownership and make choices in their learning and exercise their voice in an authentic way.

How might we create this culture of inquiry for the educators we work with as well? We can start with a simple shift in rhetoric. As teachers, are we not in fact professional learners?

Professional learning recognizes that teachers are learning and growing just like their students. While the term “development” indicates a process that has an end point, “learning”recognizes that professional growth is a never-ending, lifelong process.

The biggest effect in our business is the expertise of teachers. It’s teachers who work together, collectively, collaboratively, to understand their impact.

John Hattie

We believe we can improve the effectiveness of teachers and create a culture of inquiry with improved professional learning, and we believe using ePortfolios is the best way to achieve this vision. Below is the Why, How, & What to our mission.


Vive la Learning Revolution! Vive la Positive Rhetoric!

“It isn’t the circumstances that are crucial, it’s what we say about the circumstances that matter.” -Ben Zander

Can we create a vision for education, for our classrooms, that can spark and thrive within our current education system? In a true revolution, there is a death – so what if the death we experience is our downward spiral thinking? If we remove the binary nature of winners and losers, of passing and failing? It will still exist, as that is the reality of where we work, but we choose to view it all as what it is: and abstract! WE put value on the A. 

What if we construct a significant learning environment and do all the things we know are right, regardless of what anyone else is doing? Can we play their game, but on our own terms? Can we go an entire school year never discussing grades with anyone? 

I’m talking about declaring that we’ve already won the the revolution, because I SEE it. If we have a VISION of what true learning looks like, we can make it happen in our classrooms, and regardless of what our students see elsewhere, they thrive with us. 

TED. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution! Sir Ken Robinson [Video]. YouTube. https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_learning_revolution

TED. (2012, Feb 26). Work (How to give an A) Benjamin Zander [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTKEBygQic0&list=PL9T6s38O7hVLJFO76HAhlINMMRl8z1_Yf


4DX in Beta

One of my grad school classes focuses on HOW to successfully implement campus innovations. I thought I might try using these steps of implementation in a small way before attempting on my innovation plan. The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling outlines a formula for executing strategic priorities by following their four disciplines: focusing on the Wildly Important, acting on lead measures, keeping a compelling scoreboard, and creating a cadence of accountability.

I wanted to use the 4 Disciplines for the STAAR test prep as a unit of study on my campus. Knowing that success on the STAAR test looks different that success on other assignments, we try to repurpose familiar reading anchor charts as test taking strategies. We also know that providing more independent reading time will increase success.

In tackling the challenge of independent reading, I worked with our campus literacy coach in creating a friendly competition among campus Learning Communities using 4DX. We established our wildly important goal, created compelling scoreboards that our readers could see every day, acted on lead measures, and created a cadence of accountability among our readers.

As this was our first attempt at using 4DX, we established our WIG for our students:

We created 6 scoreboards, one for each learning community, and smaller individual scoreboards for each student to view lead measures. As our readers arrived before school each day, they applied a sticker to that day of their scoreboard (11 year olds love stickers!). They then settled down to read before the morning bell. At the end of our time together, they recorded their total amount of minutes for the day.

I completed the line graph of lead measures so that each reader could easily see how their daily choices were affecting their ability to reach their goal of 200 minutes (it was the straight line down the middle). Even if they missed a day, or didn’t read as much for a couple days, it was not impossible for them to achieve the WIG.

A cadence of accountability was created by grouping individual scoreboards on colored paper per learning community. We didn’t use very competitive language, and all readers were rewarded, but there was an unspoken push within learning communities for their readers to show up and read.

In addition to giving kids enough independent reading time, test taking strategies on standardized tests are also important. I wanted my students in Learning Community 8 to reflect on their learning and use strategies in a fun, competitive way. I attempted to use 4DX in my classroom to do so.

Each student had their own folder with a scoreboard stapled to the inside front cover. On the right cover of folder were 25 strategies represented by anchor charts we have used during the year in our reading. Before beginning, we read through and reflected on how we’ve used these strategies in the past, and how we will use them on STAAR passages in much the same way. We also looked at past benchmark scores and each student established a goal for their STAAR test scores. I wanted to tie in the importance for independent reading, so I created a space for them to measure that as well.

Each student’s Wildly Important Goal was a little different, and all students were able to see that their goal was to score higher. They were able to break down this goal into an achievable controllable lead measure tied to them using specific strategies and spending time reading. They were motivated by the ability to check off strategies and earn fun stickers on their scoreboards. They knew I was holding them accountable by requiring them to annotate strategies used on STAAR passages.

Not mentioned in McChesney, Covey, and Huling’s book is PLAY. Every day, as we started class, I turned on the same upbeat song and called out each child’s name as on a game show while awarding them their folders. By the end of our test taking unit of study, each reader knew the words of our song and banged on desks in the rhythm of the music, to the slight chagrin of my neighboring classrooms. That we ended on an even higher note that we began is a measure of success to me.

As I look to next year and the implementation of ePortfolios, I will use these two examples of the Four Disciplines of Execution as a possible vehicle to ensure EP success. I have sent a Google Form to my staff with a 1-minute video on ePortfolios with 2 additional questions. 31 of 93 staff members responded, with 9 indicating an interest in forming a pilot group for EP implementation next year. I’m looking forward to showing these examples to them and coming up with a WIG for ePortfolio implementation. Together we will establish lead measures, we will create a compelling scoreboard, and create a cadence of accountability so we don’t let the whirlwind of teacher life cause us to lose sight of the importance of ePortfolios.


Dewey on CSLE+COVA

John Dewey begins Democracy and Education most obviously with a defense for education. As with the pearl, the butterfly, the diamond, and every other metaphor on metamorphosis under pressure, we as educators must not be resistant to change. We must also be the force of change.

“The most notable distinction between living and inanimate things is that the former maintain themselves by renewal. A stone when struck resists. If its resistance is greater than the force of the blow struck, it remains outwardly unchanged. Otherwise, it is shattered into smaller bits. Never does the stone attempt to react in such a way that it may maintain itself against the blow, much less so as to render the blow a contributing factor to its own continued action. While the living thing may easily be crushed by superior force, it nonetheless tries to turn the energies which act upon it into means of its own further existence.

As living things encountering a superior force in the face of this course, we have not been crushed!

As long as it endures, it struggles to use surrounding energies in its own behalf. … As long as it is growing, the energy it expends in thus turning the environment to account is more than compensated for by the return it gets: IT GROWS.”

We have turned the energies of this program into a means of furthering our own existence as learners and educators. The ADL program has contributed to our identity as educators. This course, as our significant learning environment (CSLE), has created opportunities for us to have choice in how we learn, how we analyse and synthesize what we learn, has provided us with authentic opportunities to own that learning, and to realize that we have a voice worth being heard (COVA).

The energy we are expending in turning this digital learning environment to account will be more than compensated by the return we get: we will grow! And take what we’ve learned and become a superior force for our learners.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy & education. New York, NY: Kappa Delta Pi.


4DXing Peloton

When we stopped going to the gym in March of 2020, I decided to buy a bike. It wasn’t fancy-I saw it at Bed Bath & Beyond and noticed it was the last one. I was just starting to settle in to that feeling of hibernation, and preservation. Hunkering down. Looking at that bike, I knew it was some kind of answer.

I used it aimlessly for about a week, until I heard about the Peleton app. I heard that with the app, you have access to all Peloton classes, and you could take them live even, without an actual Peloton. Technology helps us do things we could not previously do.

I’m CSHARP75 – Ride with me!

I was hooked immediately. I took all the “Intro” and “Welcome” and “Beginner” classes. I played around with the strength and stretching classes, as well as the hundreds of cycling options. I was a sucker for the badges. Yes, badges. I needed all the stinking badges!

Trust the process. ~Dennis Morton

Several months went by, and I was on my bike every day. I passed 100 rides and they sent me a Century t-shirt! Movement inside my house became more important than ever. Daily encouragement from the Peloton instructors became necessary. Jenn was my age, and someone I swear I met once. Dennis, also mid 40s, I could have run it to at a show (his taste and knowledge of music mirrors mine). And Sam Yo never ceases to inspire me.

The instructors filmed in their own homes for a few weeks. All of us cycling separately, but feeling so together-that was a very very good thing to have during a pandemic.

Around month seven on my bike, I started stacking rides. I would complete a warm-up and cool-down ride before and after my main workout. It occured to me that if I could do that every day, and add one more on weekends, I could reach 500 rides in 52 weeks. This goal became wildly important to me. I went to bed at night excited to wake up at 5am and hop on my bike.

Fix your wig and get your life together! ~Cody Rigsby

Having an extremely challenging (but achievable) goal pushed me like never before! I knew what I could influence and leverage every day were the amount of times I took a class. I needed to take at least 3 rides a day, every day, increasing to 4 rides a day on holidays and weekends. My 3 week Christmas break was a little bit grueling, but also completely invigorating. (On days that were stacked high, or on “rest” days, I stacked multiple warm up or short rides. Balance is still important, even when pursuing challenging goals.)

It doesn’t matter where you are on the leaderboard. What matters is that you are on the leaderboard. ~Christine D’ercole

I really felt like the instructors were part of my team. Their encouragement, humor, and music helped keep my spirits up and my goal clear. The virtual high-fives offered and received from other riders around the world were surprisingly effective and added a layer of authenticity.

I made daily tallies on a calendar next to my bike, and kept earning monthly badges. One thing I loved about the calendar I was keeping was that it indicated where I should be each day. Every day after I documented my classes, I could easily see that I was winning. If I fell behind one day, I could see how I needed to spread out one more class across several days of that week. I kept track of where I was, compared to where I should be. It was easy, and fun!

On the last day of the 52nd week, I earned the 500.

Simultaneously, I began reading a book called The 4 Disciplines of Execution. This book models how to effectively execute a plan focusing on small factors that lead to success in any organization. I didn’t know I was implementing the disciplines, but I was successful in reaching 500 rides because these are the steps I took:

  1. Focus on a Wildly Important Goal (WIG). Reach 500 rides in 52 weeks.
  2. Act on lead measures; what you can control that will give you results. Take at least 3 rides a day, every day, increasing to 4 rides a day on holidays and weekends.
  3. Keep a compelling scoreboard. Daily tallies on calendar next to bike.
  4. Create a cadence of accountability. Periodic badges and virtual high-fives on app.

My accountability on Peloton was all virtual, but the cadence never slowed. In this way, The 4 Disciplines of Execution proved effective and technology helped me to achieve something I never could have done on my own. I’m CSHARP75. Ride with me!

How you do anything is how you do everything. ~Emma Lovewell


Jesus and COVA+CSLE

Most can agree that Jesus was one of the greatest teachers of all time. He started with 12 pupils, and his words are to this day still quoted in red.

But Jesus didn’t live in fanfare. He didn’t walk around telling people what to do, or announcing himself at the door. He was all about invitation, and collaboration, and telling stories.

I’m attempting to read the Bible in one year (because let’s just do all the things this year), and today’s reading in the book of Mark is a peek at yet another challenge Jesus received from some priests who felt their power structure was being threatened. They want to know by WHOSE authority Jesus was healing people and issuing forgiveness and other such radical proclamations.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Why didn’t Jesus just tell them who he was? He never comes out and says “I AM THE SON OF THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE YOU NINCOMPOOP.” He was never the sage on a stage.

In this portion of Mark, he answers the priests’ challenges by telling them a story about the owner of the vineyard sending a servant to the farmers of his vineyard. The farmers kill the servant. And the next servant. So the owner of the vineyard sent his own son.

Jesus was into creating significant learning environments from The Beginning. He knew then that we all need to make a choice. We can’t own what we are learning without speaking it. Maybe that’s why he kept asking “Who do you say that I am?” He wanted us to have a voice.

Who do you say that I am?

And who is more authentic than Christ?


CSLE+COVA and Growth Mindset

Of course it isn’t all about just ‘working harder’. My first rebuttal of the “False Growth Mindset” and most of Kohn’s article would be that if the educator creates a significant learning environment (CSLE) where a growth mindset is modeled, the students will be much more likely to change their own. 

Creating an environment where students have authentic choices, can take ownership of their work, and are encouraged to find and use their voice (COVA) is an environment where the growth mindset can flourish. 

Each student is invested in their own learning, their own project, and all conversation surrounding that work will be easier to encourage and learn from. Because the very next student is also invested in their learning and their own project. 

An example of that is 5305/5303 where we have built our ePortfolios, we have been encouraged to make our own choices in how we build them. In so making those choices and investing in our site we have taken ownership of it. While we blog and produce work and add pages, we are ‘completing assignments’, but we are also finding our voice in this digital universe. 

Is this authentic? That is more abstract, and by definition will look different for each of us, because of our original choice. So as in most successful processes, the success is in the process, not the outcome. Not the grade. 

The process of CSLE+COVA = Growth Mindset


BRAIN Based Universal Design for Learning

Reading through research on Universal Design for Learning is fascinating – each part is important and evident in a significant learning environment.

But the WHY is the crux for me. My first blog post is a response to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, with WHY in the middle. He hammers home his thesis by suggesting that the Circle is a visual for the brain, and effective because it’s what the brain looks like.  

And thinking about what happens in the brain when we have a growth mindset, I keep visuallizing connections happening when we are confronted with challenges, and the connections that WE are all making as we confer and discuss what we are learning with each other.

I was sort of figuring all of this out, feeling like an imposter when I wrote about it on March 2. It’s AMAZING how much we’ve learned since then.

If we keep our WHY at the forefront, we feed our growth mindset!

And what does EDL and personalized learning mean for the learner? EVERYTHING! Personalized learning is COVA – is provides the opportunity for choice, ownership, voice, and authenticity. It’s all connected. 


Stereotypes and Gender in Fixed Mindsets

Growing up in the 80s, “Growth Mindset” didn’t exist. But we were told over and over to have a positive attitude. How many times have you been told to adjust your attitude? I remember clearly the day I decided to try. I remember making the choice to look for the positives. I remember the realization that choosing to look at the positive was in itself an arrival, because I was looking at the positive.

That positivity has worked well for me in life, and when I started reading about growth mindset and grit, it was my frame of reference. At the risk of having a false growth mindset, I would still say that in many areas of my life, I am growth minded. It has served me well so far in pursuing my masters degree, as detailed in a previous blog post “On the Imposter Syndrome”. 

BUT, in this reading of Dweck’s book, something else stood out to me. On page 47, the question is posed “Can I be half-and-half? I recognize both mindsets in myself.” And on page 74-79, she details the effects of negative stereotypes and other’s opinions. 

If girls grow up experiencing praise their entire life, they are much more affected by criticism of any kind later in life. Any negative feedback is disastrous. “Many females have a problem not only with stereotypes, but with other people’s opinions of them in general. They trust them too much.” p.78 This resonates with me more than I care to admit. 

So maybe some of us have a relational or emotional fixed mindset? Realizing this…how can it inform our learning environments? Do we give feedback to every student equally regardless of race or gender? Do we tolerate different language between male students and female students? 

In the area of CRITICISM, I aim to teach my students how to LEARN from both positive and negative feedback as a habit. 

My mindset on growth mindset is growing. 


Dweck, C.S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Ballantine Books. 

Gross-Loh, C. (2016). How praise became a consolation prize. The Atlantic Magazine.


Spring Break Redux

Saying goodbye to my students yesterday was tough. The last day of the week before a holiday is always filled with a bit of frivolity, a bit of chaos. I intended on being present for all of it. We’ve been filming book trailers to close out our fantasy book club unit of study, so we spent the day watching each other’s work. It was the exact festive environment I wanted.

I wondered if any of them were thinking back to the end of their school week one year ago, when they said goodbye to their 4th grade teacher. I wonder what they were doing in their respective classrooms that last silly day of the week. None of us knew we wouldn’t come back. Even though we all finished the year on Zoom, it still felt like a death in some ways.

I see this tree every morning walking up to my classroom. I have enjoyed watching it start to bloom this week, especially after our record-breaking winter! Its blooms might peak next week while we are on our spring break.

Life is seasonal. Teaching is seasonal-we have new 5th graders! In some ways we’ve been collectively holding our breath all year, but it feels like after this week we can finally exhale. There was no major spike in illnesses at my school, we never had to shut down again.

We will set our clocks forward this weekend, we will enjoy one more hour of sunshine, and when we come back from spring break we will see life in full bloom everywhere.


But what is an ePortfolio?

My school has had a Wax Museum every year since they opened. They were the first ones to do it. Anywhere. Because we are innovators!

Except this year we will not be able to host the traditional event. In my present ePortfolio entrenchment I see a solution. Let’s be innovative again, and start a new tradition. One that sets students up for their future of research rather that only reflecting the past. In a memo to my principal for the leadership meeting tomorrow, I told her that ePortfolios could include:

  • Files of various formats (video, slideshows, images, etc.)
  • Writing samples (including several drafts tos how development and improvement)
  • Evidence related to all courses taken
  • Projects prepared for class for extracurricular activities
  • Evidence of creativity and extracurricular activities, including examples of leadership or community involvement

I also mentioned benefits of ePortfolios:

  • Empower student voice and choice
  • ePortfolios help students develop digital composition skills
  • Students share and reflect on their work themselves
  • Research shows that operating an ePortfolio stimulates memory and deepens understanding of past experiences. 
  • Research shows that the combination of thinking about design and textual content provides higher-impact learning experiences than simply putting words on paper.
  • Demonstrate deeper level of personal growth over time

It wasn’t until I spent 9 weeks in thought and creation of my own ePortfolio that I came to understand it as a catalyst for communication, creativity, and collaboration.


Would Hemingway say I own my ePortfolio?

Ernest Hemingway’s wife once left a satchel of his rough drafts on a train in Paris. Try as she might, she was never able to retrieve them. I would imagine he was furious at having lost them. But as a writer and a learner, I have discovered that most of the ideas I have are still inside of me, as evidenced when I am forced to re-create them. He may have lost his satchel, but I don’t believe he lost his words.

I have been asked to consider who owns this eportfolio. Is ownership the same thing as “having” something? Ownership can be an abstract concept. When I earn my master’s degree, I will own it, even if I don’t have the paper it is printed on.

I have ideas.

I have hope.

I have dignity. I have words that I string together like pearls to create a story. If I put that story on paper, you could take the paper. But the words are mine.

In this learning environment towards earning the master’s degree, even if the creation of my eportfolio is used as assessment (or *for* assessment), the act of creating the eportfolio is an act that forces me to acquire knowledge. Learning is happening as I think and write, even at this moment about what I am learning while typing.

So in the question of who owns this eportfolio, it isn’t important what happens to the domain or who owns the site. What matters is that it functions as a tool, as a catalyst. It is a space that demands thought. It draws out the words that I have. Those words and thoughts and abstracts will remain mine. I own them now. So take the domain, you might own it, but I have what’s inside.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

On the Imposter Syndrome

I don’t know what I’m doing here. All of the faces on the Zoom screen know more than I do. They can write code and teach workshops and probably even know what the HTML stands for. After repeated comparisons of their work and mine I can find several examples to back up my claim.

I mean, yes, my resume says I was a technology teacher. And maybe I started the first website for my school’s 5th level in 2002. I am the one whose slideshows are almost made fun of for their “fanciness”, and I’m the one showing people how to do something. Regularly.

But that doesn’t mean I’m a tech person.

I like to try new things. I’m always on a learning curve. I forget things all the time, but also all the time I get better and faster at figuring out how to remember. I know how to find answers.

But that doesn’t mean I’m a tech person.

What is a “tech” person anyway? My professor? My husband, the CTO? Bill Gates? Elon Musk? Do these people that I hold in high esteem have other character traits that make them “techie”?

Technology: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Maybe all it takes is a mindset. Could a “techie” just be the person with the willingness to figure things out? The one with the curiosity? The person who wants to do it a new way? The one quick to see that I DON’T have all the answers, I don’t know what all the letters mean, but I DO know how to obtain the knowledge and I have the grit to apply it.

I am gingerly stepping into a place where it is okay for me to believe that I am legitimate and that my effort in this digital field is turning into a skill. Whatever you want to call me, I am not an imposter.


When disruption is a bad word…

One of the major hurdles I overcame as I started the DLL Masters program was learning that disruption is GOOD. I have learned that when a disruption is introduced in an environment, it throws everyone off at first. There are early adopters, the “innovators”, then slowly the curve rises while more and more people adopt the new strategy, learn to use the new product, or talk about how to grow.

But the word “disruption” still has a negative connotation for most. Especially in a year of a pandemic. Especially in a month of an historic devastating climate event.

But can we be innovators inside of devastation? Is there a way to see what no one else can see when disruptions first happen? To be early adopters of change, even if the change is “natural”? Can we choose to have a growth mindset when facing trauma?

Even when pushed to our limits, let us still make disruption GOOD.


Start With Why- ePortfolios?

I just finished reading Simon Sineck’s best selling book of the same name, Start With Why. Sineck effectively illustrates the difference in companies that motivate and inspire long-lasting change in the way we think and live. Companies that function more as movements that change the world.

His idea comes down to something very simple: The Golden Circle. This circle is actually three circles. The outer circle narrates WHAT; something that every company rattles off quickly, and is almost always in the lead. The second circle is HOW; the quick follow-up to the WHAT. The inner circle is WHY. Your purpose.

Sinek proposes that when WHY is in the lead, there is a message that is much more compelling. When we hear a motivational reason at the very start, it functions as a lit match, and the follow-up HOW and WHAT just burn brighter.

He even compares his visual of the circle to the biology of the brain. We can’t help buy love the WHY first because our brains are built to receive it.

I love it. I bought it. Not only that, I was able to identify my WHY right away.

I want to be the giver of favorite books. I want hundreds of people to remember middle school for what they read.

If that can happen, I believe they will have more meaningful, connected lives. That’s WHY I teach. The WHAT is that I teach. And my HOW changes constantly.

Maybe this space (ePortfolio, blog, website…whatever) can function as my own Golden Circle. It will exemplify my WHY, WHAT and HOW.

Maybe I’ll build it with blog posts remaining on the homepage, with my WHY to keep my focus on my purpose. Readers can click around if they are curious about what I’m reading, or what I’m learning about. This will be my corner of the internet to document how different learning environments are coming together, or how projects are going.

And here, on the home page, I will always start with WHY.


CSLE+COVA and Digital Lineage

I re-read my professor’s COVA book yesterday, about Creating Significant Learning Environments for learners where they have Choice, Ownership, and Voice in an Authentic way.

One part that stood out to me in his writing was the day the brakes locked up on his son’s truck. He was already running behind on a project of his own, so it would have been easier to call a mechanic and get the problem solved. Move on, no risk. But he didn’t do that. He served as a sounding board and a guide, leading his sons through the solution that they provided. 

As I was reading about that authentic learning experience he allowed his sons to have and grow from, I tried to think about how that could work for my 5th graders. 

This morning I was preparing to teach Session 7: Textual Lineage. The title of the prescribed lesson alone was heavy for a 10 year old. 

Maybe because Dr. H’s story was fresh on my mind, I decided to slow down a bit on my lecture. I took some time to let the kids figure out what that title might mean. They came up with “books in your past that mean something to you”.

The assignment dictated that they write a response about their textual lineage.

Instead, I asked them if they would rather tell me about their textual lineage with a slideshow. The answer was a resounding yes! I gave them a few parameters: one book per slide, include an image of the book and a few images that represented something meaningful to you from the book, a quote from the book, and maybe why you picked it. 

I gave almost no instruction on HOW to build a slideshow. But they flew. Maybe this generation intuits toolbar language? It seemed they could find everything. Not only were their fonts varied and colorful, their slides moved and sang and some were even animated. 

They suddenly cared about spelling. They cared about punctuation and capitalization! They were each others audience, they were their own audience, and they didn’t care about a grade. 

The Book became even more meaningful to them because they were creating in a significant learning environment with choice, one where they owned their learning, they used their own voice, and created something completely authentic. They understood their textual lineage and were creating a digital one.

Thibodeaux, T., & Harapnuik, D., Cummings, C. (2018). Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning (pp. 20-22). Creative Commons License.


Failure to Launch

If I could just write one first post, I am accomplishing two things: first, I can see where the post appears while I am attempting launch my eportfolio. Second, I am creating momentum to launch my eportfolio.

WordPress makes it obvious that learning from failure is key!