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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Changing the world sounds like a tall order. But in reality, educators play their role to help change the world every single day. The summer is a great time to start planting seeds of change in our personal or professional practice. Here are a few quick ideas to keep in mind over the next few weeks before we gear up to go back to school.

1. Share

Sharing is a key theme in the speech I gave at ISTE this year. (See the video at the bottom of this post.) It is a key theme of education in general. Learning is inherently selfish. We need to share what we learn and know with others -- that, after all, is what being an educator is about. All educators (all learners, really) have so much to offer each other -- from ideas and concepts that are tested, tried and true, to kernels of thoughts that are not yet fully realized.

Spend some time sharing this summer. You can share with your colleagues at school, write blog posts or tweets, or open up some Google Docs with ideas you'd like think through and invite others to collaborate on that thinking. You might be surprised by how many people benefit from your sharing. I have found that even sharing a link to a cool app or an article that I found interesting can really inspire, motivate and help others out.

Many of you are saying, "Well, I share all the time." Excellent -- continue to do so. This advice is for those that, for whatever reason, are not as inclined to share. Maybe that's because it takes extra time or because you might be unsure of the result or doubt the impact of what you have to offer. Share anyway.

2. Care

We all have personal passions. Take some time this summer to come up with a charity fundraiser that relates to your passion. If you're really into bike riding or writing or singing, whatever you're personally interested in, it would likely make for the start of a great fundraiser. I have found that, as an educator, sharing my personal passions with students is a great way to bond with them, and if we tie in the act of doing something for the greater good, it becomes even more meaningful to us as a community.

One idea would be to organize a back-to-school event where the proceeds go to a charity that you, your school, or your community is interested in supporting. This can be a talent show, a carnival, a relay race, a game night or pretty much anything you're interested in. These are usually very easy ways to show students a little about charity work and also bring staff, students and parents together for a valid and noble cause that can help emphasize the impact and importance of selflessness and small change adding up.

While you can plan a school-wide event and let your imagination run wild, this can be also be on a much smaller scale, like decorating some coffee cans and putting them around the school with a link to a PollEverywhere poll that changes each week or month. Then students and teachers can text in a charity that they want to get involved with and donate the money from that period of time to the charity of the school's choice. Helping students experience acts of caring is much more valuable than trying to teach them how to care. Get them involved and experiencing how great it feels to help others, and it is likely something they will continue to do long after the school bell has rung.

3. Connect

Being an educator today is wonderful, but it is also challenging. The only way to make change is to see these challenges that we face as opportunities. And many times, others have already faced these same challenges and either overcame them or pointed out what they learned from the experience. Summer is a great time to connect with others. Whether you physically attend a professional development opportunity like an EdCamp or virtually join a Twitter chat, take this opportunity to strengthen your personal learning network of passionate educators.

Summer is also the perfect time to start learning from those with differing opinions. Seeking out people with thinking unlike our own is helpful, as it gives us a chance to cogently solidify our own notions, and often allows us to see and really understand an alternative view -- and begin to find middle ground or bridge a gap between the two ways of thinking.

Many schools are continuing to contemplate initiatives like BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or rewriting the RUP (Responsible Use Policies) for their students -- and this is a great time to connect with other schools, staff, students and parents to learn more about the benefits and challenges so that you can hit the ground running next year.

4. Reflect

Take some time to think back on what worked this year. Why did these moments or lessons or projects stand out as highlights? What didn't work as well as you hoped? Don't belabor the point, but if there was something that didn't turn out as planned, now is a perfect time of year to explore alternatives. Your brain needs time to rest, and your body needs time to relax, so sit back and dream about things you'd like to try and ways you'd like to make the learning opportunities in your classroom even bigger, bolder and more impactful for the learners you're about to encounter.

Adam Bellow's keynote speech at ISTE 2013

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The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

CHANGING THE WORLD THIS SUMMER IN MY OWN SPECIAL WAY

I was running ... jogging ... slogging ... whatever you want to call it on a new road near where I live called Ronald Reagan Parkway. How social studies is that?

Anyway, it wasn't pretty, but all I can say is that I was slogging in a forward direction. At an intersection an old lady hauled off and asked me for some directions and once I started giving her the directions and pointing in a number of various directions her eyes glazed over and she handed her phone over to me and said talk to my daughter.

I started talking to her daughter.

Her daughter apologized for her mother being from Alabama.
I told the daughter she didn't have to apologize for her mother being from Alabama because her mother seemed like good people anyway. I reached into the old lady's window and patted her on the shoulder. The old lady's car was packed with stuff. I guess she was coming up from Alabama for the whole summer. I'll bet her daughter just had a baby or two.

The old lady shouted that her daughter was FROM Alabama, too. That she was BORN in Alabama.

I finished talking to her daughter on her cell phone and when I handed the cell phone back to the old lady she must have been real grateful for the directions because she didn't say a thing about her cell phone being covered with sticky sweat. I know I felt like a real ambassador.

I've watched a lot of TV this summer. I've watched a lot of TV in hopes of learning more about history and humans. I actually learned the most about humans from what TV commercial ad makers think of humans. Women humans first ...

1. Woman are obsessed with food
2. Woman are obsessed with their weight
3. Woman are obsessed with their lack of satisfying bowel functions
4. When women eat soup, cereal, or yogurt they have a look of ecstasy on their face
5. Women will steal each others' food if the opportunity presents itself
6. Only women are shown scrubbing nasty commodes. I never saw a commercial where some man was scrubbing a nasty commode
7. Only women are shown taking care of children. I never saw a commercial where a man is taking care of a child
8. Around the house only women collect pet hair wads
9. No women pitch alcohol or drug addiction cures
10. Only women vacuum
11. Women deeply dislike their husband's mother
12. Only women fall down and can't get up. And that woman who falls down all the time should screech what she's really upset about and that's not being able to reach her cigarettes
13. If a burglar is going to kick a door down or bust through a window while somebody is actually home during the middle of the day the people in the house will be a woman and with the woman will be her daughter and not her son. And the burglar will always be a man. Not a woman
14. No women are ever seen in pick-up truck commercials
15. No women snore

And now for the way men are depicted ...

1. Husbands are stupid
2. Boyfriends are stupid
3. Men are stupid
4. Men dress badly
5. Men never shave
6. Men are lazy
7. Men are very capable of setting themselves on fire
8. Men are bad with tools
9. Men are bad about paying the bills
10. Men burgle homes in the middle of the day by busting through a door even when the dang burglar can see through the window that a mother and her daughter are making sandwiches in the kitchen
11. Only men grill food if they haven't already set themselves on fire
12. Married men are henpecked and they know it and there's nothing they can do about it
13. Men are fat
14. Only men snore
15. Men deeply dislike their wife's mother
16. All men want to do is watch sports activities on TV while eating fattening food and drinking beer
17. Only men have problems with their organ performance

Here's a few other things I learned about men and women from watching a lot of commercials on TV this summer. If a commercial includes a man and a woman the commercial will always be about ...

1. Buying furniture
2. Buying a car
3. Buying a refrigerator or a combo washer dryer affair
4. Buying wall paint
5. Buying a mattress that will help eliminate their body pains
6. Curing the husband's snoring
7. Appreciating that the husband is now on a drug that is helping his organ performance

Well, that's it for now. More summer teacher adventures to come, I'm sure. Remember this during the summertime ... it's not the heat ... it's the stupidity.

www.actionjacksonart.com

Donna Adams Román's picture
Donna Adams Román
5th Grade Teacher in Geneva, IL (twitter @donnaroman)
Blogger 2014

Loved your keynote speech at ISTE, and love the article. A colleague and I are beginning a district-wide voluntary PD endeavor in our district this summer, and have included all of these aspects except #2. I'll pass this along.

Mark Witkacy's picture

There are also other ways of sharing content or encouraging others to share content among themselves or with you. One that comes to my mind would be http://urli.st/ where you can ask students to prepare internet-research lists or share links with them!

Cynthia Webb's picture

I appreciate this reminder and the reflection part is the one I'm going to work on. And the Dixie Diarist seems to have his hands full with his summer research.

The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

MORE SUMMER RESEARCH

My father and I took my two sons down to the Andersonville Civil War prison camp site. We had booked a couple of rooms in the Windsor Hotel in nearby Americus. The Windsor Hotel is said to be haunted by a cordial old fellow who used to work there and a nice little girl. I showed my sons about those two ghosts ... it says right here on the hotel's web site ... and they were mildly freaked out.

The evening before our visit to Andersonville we went to the hotel to check in and right after we walked in the door, Dwayne, who's ten, said in a tone of voice as if he could handle a couple of ghosts ... So this old hotel is haunted, huh?

I gave Dwayne a loving look and said ... It is now.

What happened on the sloping stretch of sunburned land called Camp Sumter during the Civil War is unimaginable, but it happened, and the result is what you see in the National Cemetery on the park property: an unnerving universe of bright white headstones. Heading back home on state highway 49 you pass another prison in just a mile or two. A modern one. Macon State Prison. Compared, it's sterile and enclosed and razor-wired with conditioned air. I wondered if it was overcrowded.

www.actionjacksonart.com

Lessia Bonn's picture
Lessia Bonn
co-founder I am Bullyproof Music
Blogger 2014

What a beautiful and inspiring speech! The article is great food for thought too.

I am a traditionally trained music teacher, songwriter and producer. I empower kids and teach SEL through insightful lyrics. I am lucky enough to often hear "Your song changed my world!" and you can imagine how wonderful that feels! We all want to make that difference.

My frustration is that, like some sort of designer wine that is highly appreciated but doesn't really have a section in the store, it has been very tricky to bond with other MUSIC teachers. Administrators always get so excited when they find our material, teachers also haha unless they are music teachers. It seems music teachers only speak Kodali. There's not much thinking outside that old box. Sorry, but it's what I keep finding.

I have been feeling VERY deflated this summer because I was born with the personality of a friendly puppy, and so do want to share, grow, and learn with other teachers. Your speech has inspired me to get off my bottom. It's been a lazy summer. I guess I'll just have to give it another go. :-)

Thanks for perking me back up.

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