The Bread Crumb Trail: Power of a PLN

It was one of those serendipitous moments when the connections fall into place.

I was at one of our new teacher training session on assessment on Thursday. As we were wandering around checking in I was able to reconnect with a colleague. As she was sharing about finishing up the STEAM LABS educator boot camp that we had chatted about before, I shared the Design Thinking for Leading and Learning MOOC. Then the question came: “How did you find out about it?”

The question has been posed many times and more often than not it is always comes back to amazing colleagues willing to share.

I could see the bread crumb trail that led us to the Design Thinking for Leading and Learning MOOC.

  • Going back a step to Mary sharing it in an email and tweet to the #launchbookchat folks.
  • Stepping back once more to when we first met Mary through the Twitter Chats looking at Launch. I think she found us from the official hashtag for the book. We never thought we would have someone join us from the states.
  • The bread crumbs kept leading to the crew that was willing to chat about a book (there is always a fear that no one will be interested).
  • Finally I could see the beginning, chatting after our sunrise meeting with a few colleagues that got the book saying would you be interested in a book chat.

It’s amazing when you take a moment and look back at all the connections, people and moments that are part of one single learning moment. All it took was one small share and then another and then another…

Time to drop some bread crumbs. 




Complexity, Consortiums & Maladjusting: Lessons from Dr. Chris Emdin’s keynote at SXSWedu

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the clip the first time I saw Dr. Chris Emdin. I do remember being so enthralled I ended up sharing it with the AQ course that night and then jumping on Instagram and Twitter to share a few quotes. So when I saw that Chris was going to be the opening keynote for SXSWedu I was pretty excited.

It has almost been a full week since his keynote. 5 days later I’m still digesting it all, reflecting on the ideas shared and questions that remain. There were so many take aways and just as many questions. Was I a frenemy at times? Getting stuck in traditions that were no longer essential? Was I lulling kids to sleep?

You can watch the full keynote address here:


As I listened and scribbled down ideas to remember a few have weighed heavier on my mind.

Beauty and complexity

Sometimes (often) in education we try to simplify things. Maybe it is just me. I know I can get caught trying to simplify content, approaches, even learners in an effort to stream line an experience and see success for students. How many times in that simplification was I missing the beauty and complexity of the context of my learners? Was I valuing the uniqueness they each bring to the activity? Was I valuing the beauty and complexity of the knowledge each learner was bringing? Chris’ talk again was a reminder that we teach beautiful unique individuals with which we need to engage in authentic conversations.

Are we as educators going to be humble enough to create spaces to allow young people to teach us what we need to do? Chris Emdin

It’s time to be maladjusted

It’s my 16th year of teaching this year and I think I may have been called loud & passionate a few times in those 16 years. I hope I have been. Now that I am in a type of leadership role (although a smaller one) I can see how the system sometimes takes over. I have seen how you can get stuck in structures and protocols that have been established. How you can get caught in the repeating traditions that may no longer be essential. More than anything I could see moments when I got scared and tried to make my point more palatable, to ask the tough questions or speak up. As loud and passionate as I can be especially over modern learning, was I afraid to have certain conversations? Was I so accustomed to the system that I may be missing moments to be maladjusted?  As Brene Brown mentioned in her closing keynote it’s time to be brave, have courage and be vulnerable.  Time to be uncomfortable.

If we truly want a I need to do what I need to do. I’ve been called to do what I need to do. Chris Emdin

We need a consortium

I think this take away was the most unique. Sometimes we look for a charismatic leader, a leader to take the helm and push us forward. We wait for the one individual who will be able to curve the movement, inspire change and rally the masses. Chris’ notes about martyrs reminded me that not one of us can do it alone. The ideas and approaches that were championed and then passed over. How can I foster a consortium, a collective that is willing to champion education for all and isn’t afraid to be maladjusted?

More than anything Dr. Chris Emdin started off the conference with a battle cry, a cry to action. No more excuses. High expectations for all our learners, following their leads. And if someone gets in the way we will just have to say…

Thank you for your service…we got it from here. Chris Emdin

As a side note I tried to catch some of the ideas from the keynote live in the sketchnote below:


Knowing When… 9/10

I love Seth Godin’s blog. On top of the sage advice, his brief, to the point posts always have made me slightly envious so here is my poor attempt.

Knowing when…

  • Knowing when to push and when to step back
  • Knowing the line between just enough and too much
  • Knowing what cause to champion and what battle to let go
  • Knowing what is in our control and what we can not
  • Knowing when to lead and when to pass on the baton
  • Knowing when fear or ego are becoming roadblocks
  • Knowing when it is time to stay and when it is time to move on

Some of the hardest lessons that I continue to learn as a teacher leader are the above. Not just knowing when but being at peace with the decision as well.

Knowing when… 


Back to Change-Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. To be honest the concept of change has haunted me this year. I am grateful for the many positive experiences and kind words individuals share but still question if I am being effective in inspiring change.

Kevin Kerr shared a clip last week about our purpose in life from the Skoll World Forum. It’s a beautiful clip that has 50 different individuals reflect on their purpose in life. I dare you to watch the clip without being inspired and then reflecting on your own purpose.

As i listened to the responses, I identified with many voices. I wanted to ‘borrow’ the purposes I was hearing from the woman who mentioned:  lighting sparks…in complex and dark spaces. (@2:05) to the gentleman that mentioned the reflective question of What good is one doing to humanity?

I wonder if in education we just assume each others purpose. We all want what is best for kids, we want to help them succeed, so our purpose must be that. As I listened to the clip it was amazing to see the shock, the smiles, the passion that came through in their responses. Listening, I realized I need to take the time to ask colleagues what their purpose is. Better yet, I need to be clear of my own purpose and how it evolves over time. I wanted to be a teacher since I was 6. That first year of teaching in 2001 I probably would have told you my purpose is to teach. As time has passed I think I now understand that my purpose is to inspire a joy of learning. It is what excites me the most: the smile, confidence and pride that comes from learning something new whether 6 or 60.


The biggest moment of reflection for me came at 2.22. I was struck by a statement.

I’m thinking it’s time I have to measure how much I’ve changed the world and how much more I need to push.

he followed up later in the clip 3:56

All this effort was not changing the world in any way and I had to fix that.

No matter what role you have in education I think we can get busy with DOING that we forget to reflect on how it aligns with our purpose. What struck me most from his statement was how he used his purpose as his measuring stick of success. I can get carried away sometimes measuring my effectiveness by that of colleagues or leaders I admire or measuring my effectiveness by the list of things I have done.  As I ask myself how I have effected change I need to keep my purpose front and center as my guide.

The best reminder of the clip was at 4:50 I don’t have to do it alone.

We are not alone. What a reassuring reminder. As different as the purposes in the clip were they all came back to the good in humanity. Who would have thought you could take so much away from a 5 minute clip! In our many conversations around change in education from informal chats, to conferences to twitter I don’t think we have always taken the time to share our purpose, our visions. That shared vision is so essential if we want to move forward as a system.





Our purpose becomes our lighthouse through the rough waves of the change process. At times it reminds us we are on the right path, at others it reminds us we are off course and need to re-evaluate.




The Small Moments

It might have been the piles of snow or the dark grey mornings but this winter has seemed busier and a little too long. While whipped up in the frenzy that comes with busyness, it was wonderful to be jolted by unexpected, small moments.

Small moments including…Image

  • a free parking pass from a kind stranger
  • a week of brilliant sunrises
  • a voluntary ‘good morning’ from a middle school-er
  • a giggling child on their way down the hall (who knew attendance was so much fun)
  • coffee with a  friend
  • an encouraging tweet
  • a thank you email

It was amazing how one very small moment could help refocus an entire day.

So it got me thinking.

As a teacher leader, do I need to focus on the small moments a bit more? Name them, share them, celebrate them.

The snow may have melted and the sun returned, but I reminded of a need to focus on the small moments moving forward.