Last year at this time, I committed to my one word for 2015: radiate. The time has come to check for accountability to see if I achieved the expectations identified in last year’s post. With humility and gratitude, I reflect on my opportunities for professional development and personal growth in 2015.
Radiate: To move from one’s center requires taking action with direction. It is time to emerge, flow with thoughts, and take action to produce something useful.
In 2015, I resumed my endless quest to promote a culture of learning through innovative engagement strategies, healthy grading practices, and assessment for learning. After years of exploring project-based learning, differentiation, genius hour, feedback strategies, and the paperless classroom, I began working with a personalized learning model in high school communication arts. The process was challenging but the results were rewarding. The efforts of my students and support from colleagues, along with my transparency in documenting the journey, led to a surprising honor. I received the 2015 Herb Kohl Fellowship Award for “the ability to inspire a love of learning in students and motivate others, and for leadership within and outside the classroom.” While the recognition was gratifying, it became a motivator to raise my personal expectations and professional contributions to education.
This means I must continue to extend my vision and my reach, and branch out from there.
My vision and classroom philosophy has always been “learn with a purpose.” I expanded the meaning (and significance) of a learner-centered classroom by allowing the essential questions, “What if? Why not? and So what?” to guide our thinking.
Asking three simple questions led to limitless possibilities on our quest to personalize learning. There is no how-to manual for the model classroom. If our learners seek solutions to these questions, we know we are doing it right. Ralph continues to oversee our success.
I will lead with courage and speak with confidence.
Edcamp Ozaukee County was no ordinary day of professional development; it represented a personal vision turned reality for our district. After partaking in numerous edcamps, I felt obligated to share the experience with those whom had never attended one. So, my priority as a member of our district’s Professional Learning Team, was to help plan and host our area’s first edcamp. Not only was it a tremendous success, it brought educators from southeastern Wisconsin (and the surrounding area) to Grafton High School. Participants were even treated to a special gamification session led by Michael Matera (@mrmatera) several months prior to the release of his book, Explore Like a Pirate.
USM Summer Spark Another professional highlight of 2015 was being asked to present a session at University School of Milwaukee’s Summer Spark (link to recap). In addition to having the honor of leading two innovative assessment sessions, I had the privilege of spending two days with some most valuable PLN members and educator friends. The short list (among so many others) includes Chuck Taft, Michael Matera, Joy Kirr, Sandy Otto, Heidi Jones, Jay Posick, Andrea Kornowski, Brad Dunning, Laurie Walczak, Pamela Nosbusch, Adam Moreno, Matt Miller, Ben Brazeau, Josh Gauthier, Jonathan Spike, Adam Scanlan, and the lead pirate himself, Dave Burgess. These educators are innovative and passionate about learning. The conversations have continued and our momentum to transform education builds.
The Annual Convening of CESA1’s Institute for Personalized Learning offered another milestone opportunity to learn, share, and network with professional educators from all over the Midwest. My friend and colleague, Brett Dimmer, and I were asked to facilitate a personalized learning workshop at the conference. The two of us, along with four of our students, presented to a packed house. Listening to the voices of my students as they verbalized their learning experiences will forever be a proud memory in my career.
Radiate: to send forth or emit something abstract but perceptible. I will be a source of energy: emanate light, glow with warmth, kindness, empathy, and respect.
I could not have asked for a more fulfilling summer with my varsity baseball team. We refuse to define success by wins and losses (although 20-8 was the highest winning percentage in school history), but I have never been prouder of a group of young men. It was an honor to see eight seniors graduate from the program and lead us through several memorable experiences in with the community.
The varsity team inspired Little Leaguers with words of wisdom and a workout.
Paid tribute to old memories: Matt Malkowski Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser and positive radiance from above…
Created new memories: The Black Hawks spent a memorable evening with the Challengers–in the true spirit of the game.
Brought a community together: Radiant Rewards–a trip to the Sectional Finals, stories to share for years to come, and an experience no one can take away from us.
I determine my attitude. I choose to shine with positivity and compassion–to project goodwill toward all–regardless of whether others are watching. To radiate, all I need is to focus on my purpose and extend rays from my source of light.
I returned to the 2015-2016 school year to a unique scenario. Hopefully, I have helped an entirely new administrative staff make a smooth transition into our district. While remaining patient through our new model for planning professional development, I have found purpose as a high school representative on the district Teaching & Learning Committee (everyone needs a little TLC). In time, we will understand our instructional needs, establish an identity, and return to our vision for learners.
Despite the inevitable changes from year to year, I find comfort in the relationships established within a school community. As I continue to challenge myself, I am treated to new possibilities and fresh perspectives everyday. Students continue to impress with their individual strengths, while their diverse needs consume my thoughts. I am also grateful to lead a department team that continues to inspire with their professionalism, creativity, selflessness, and compassion for our students.
2015 was illuminated with positive energy, warmed by rays of light that extended from my one true center. My source of light–my purpose and pride. My family.
In 2015, I held true to my one word. I RADIATED. Bestowed with another year of wisdom and life experience, I enter 2016 poised to face uncertainty. As I take the next steps into the unknown, I vow to take new challenges in STRIDE…