Hitting My STRIDE: 2016 Reflections

In 2016, I will continue to “walk or run with long, decisive steps” at a “good or regular rate of progress” toward my aspirations. I will stride.

The greater distance we travel, the more strides we take, the more highs and lows we face. When I encounter hills and other obstacles, I will stride with perseverance to maintain momentum. We all need inspiration to persist, but for educators, the reminders are ever present in the students we impact every day. Keeping the focus on their individual needs requires acting with empathy and compassion. Students rely on our consistent message, positive attitude, and unwavering support.

In times of stress and conflict, I will stride with resilience to overcome negativity and turmoil. The important lesson–simple runner’s logic–applies to building relationships, parenting, and educating: be patient, remain calm, control breathing, and monitor heart rate. Take life in stride.

–excerpt taken from my 2016 One Word post: STRIDE

To hit one’s stride means showing improvement in the way something is developing–to pick up the pace with ease and confidence.

So, that is exactly how I approached 2016. I took the training advice of top runners: “have fun with it, and try something new.” In class, my learners and I improved our model of personalized learning, approached every day with crazy #tlap passion and an Innovator’s Mindset, created our own genius, leveled up with #xplap gamification, captured learning with #booksnaps, and shared our work in true #ditchbook style.

Analyzing the Run…Reviewing the Course

To stride is to progress, to act with intent and purpose. Having conditioned for greater levels of challenge in 2015, I continued to make strides–stages of rapid progress–to see where 2016 trails led. By the end of 2016, I pushed myself to establish new professional bests, to stride out a strong kick for optimal performance.

Here are some highlights:

I was invited to present and facilitate a personalized learning workshop at Metro ECSU in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a great honor to speak to a room full of educators interested in Going Deeper with personalized learning. Hopefully, our conversations throughout the presentation provided leaders vision, practical starting points, and motivation to empower learners in the classroom. 

The bonus of traveling to Minneapolis was having the opportunity to catch up with Sandy Otto. Our dinner conversation resulted in a brainstorming session for a co-facilitated #ditchbook chat in March. Thanks, Sandy!

The month of June has come to represent more than the end of the school year for educators. The official start of summer vacation now begins with Summer Spark—a gathering of passionate, innovative educators from around the world. University School is the place to be to engage in conversations, share experiences, and plan strategies with educators interested in creating an environment of pirates, innovative geniuses, savvy gamers, and textbook ditchers.

In addition to two days of learning from the best in professional development, I had the privilege of leading a session: The Innovative Power of Asking, “What if? Why not? And So What?” 

Another highlight of my summer learning involved several interactions with with author and personalized learning expert, Allison Zmuda. Allison is an inspirational writer, presenter, and consultant on a mission to leverage the impact of personalized learning. I am humbled to be a featured educator in her Learning Personalized Blog.

In a face-to-face meeting, Allison treated Andrea Kornowski and me to coffee and conversation in August. Allison captured the highlights in this blog post, complete with video interview. Allison and Andrea continue to challenge me to be intentional, transparent, and reflective to improve my craft. 

The August professional development continued with the opportunity to attend Solution Tree’s PLC Institute and Training Sessions in Milwaukee. Rick DuFour shared an inspired message, In Praise of American Educators—identifying us as the “greatest generation” of educators, but challenging us to become even better. Learning from him and his amazing team provided another check on my educational wish-list.

Behind the momentum of an exciting summer, I returned to school refreshed and eager to put theory into practice. I was asked to share my learning about personalizing the learning process at our school’s staff development in late August with a session entitled Let’s Get Personal. Then, it was time to meet new classes of students!

I nearly went the entire year without attending an EdCamp. How is that possible? Fortunately, #EdCampChicago appeared on the calendar and I made the road trip with Andrea Kornowski. The grid filled with exciting Sessions and I enjoyed a day of learning with M.V.PLN members, including Joy Kirr, Garnet Hillman, and Megan Moran, in addition to meeting many new contributors in my network (such as edcamp host Chris Skrzypchak).

The Annual Convening of CESA 1’s Institute for Personalized Learning has become another favorite destination. I was immersed in two days of learning with experts, including Jim Rickabaugh from the Institute, as well as John Spencer, Michael Mohammad, Stephan Turnipseed, and many others.

For the second consecutive year, I was invited to present at the conference.  This year’s topic focused on the role of self-assessment in personalized learning. By the end of the session (Assess Yourself Before You Stress Yourself), a packed house of educators claimed a new cell on the Honeycomb Diagram.

The year concluded with Matt Miller’s brilliant #ditchsummit professional development. He interviewed the likes of Dave Burgess, Alice Keeler, and John Spencer, and shared the videos with a global audience. Hours of PD from the comfort of my home. Thanks, Matt!

With increased mileage, physical fatigue and stress is inevitable.

How did I withstand the wear and tear? I did not over stride. I continuously landed on stable ground, using the foundation of personal and professional understanding as a solid base to push off of. I steadily moved forward by keeping my head up, allowing my eyes to see what’s ahead and my mind to process the vision.

I dedicated time for ample rest and recovery. Personalized learning allows more time to personally interact with each student during class. I do less planning of lessons and grading of work to free up time to provide more effective feedback. My students are empowered with the time and space for meaningful work, creating a mutual respect between teacher and learner. In fact, we share both roles.

I also added variety. Not every day needs to be a distance run. I was intentional about finding time for family and fun. Time to play. My family explored new worlds, taking trips to Nashville for spring break and San Francisco at the end of the summer.

We even got spontaneous and followed the Wisconsin Badgers’ road trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game in December. Over time, the greatest gains (and memories) are made by getting creative, varying workouts, and exploring new trails.


I am grateful for my 2016 experiences and excited to see what’s next; and I take nothing for granted. As I prepare for new adventures in 2017, I will refuel to nourish and maintain the fire—to make sure my tank is full so I may lead with passion and create energy. I will be the FUEL.   


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