I had plans today to write about several topics including a book I finished, Connected Principal Cohort, and presenting to a room with over 600 years years of experience as principals. However, there is one topic that I feel like a have to cover that eclipses all those topics:
The first reason is pretty obvious if you listen to the episode. My daughter is the one being interviewed by Kasey. However, this is much more than a proud dad moment. It is also a proud principal and employee moment! What Ainsley shares is a reflection of the work and dedication our teachers and staff show on a daily basis. Getting an education is much more than receiving a grade and a piece of paper upon graduation. Ainsley touches on this and probably would have gone deeper if she wasn’t so nervous. Heck, I think the girl could deliver a PD session on effective practices based on her experience, hearing her educator parents (and grandparents) talk, and listening to podcasts anytime we are in the car.
However, I wanted to take a moment to dive deeper into what Ainsley is saying. I think Kasey is right, we learn so much when we take time to listen to students. We can build on effective practices and support them if we consider them in some of the decisions we make.
8:30 Ainsley is introduced and so am I, this is the only time I spoke. I was able to sit back and listen to her speak. As I reflect back, I am amazed at how composed and well spoken she is. We need to give our students more opportunities to present and have authentic audiences. Just having the skill of communicating thoughts can take students far in life!
9:25 Ainsley talks about her upcoming (and now done) presentation at ISTE on leadership clubs. This is a separate post I should make! The experience was amazing for all involved. Preparing a presentation of current practices forces reflection and consideration for next steps. All educators should consider presenting somewhere. Additionally, having students present at conferences is equally as powerful.
10:20 Seriously, that Google Doc was pretty impressive once she put it together. When Ainsley put projects that she liked in one place, it caused her to step back and look at how far she has come in her learning. She compared some earlier work to items she did later in the year. When making the Doc, she made the comment about how she has grown. Ainsley was naturally showing a growth mindset in that moment. She even considered how she could redo some of the items now that she mastered other skills. This is the power of portfolios. Not to showcase “completed” work. I would love to utilize a portfolio system in our building. Additionally, sharing this on a show like Shake Up Learning reminds me of Don Wettrick’s plea for educators to begin thinking about how they can help students create a positive digital footprint.
*To see some of the work, see the episode link and peruse the show notes.
11:02 “I really like my teachers. Especially the ones that really understood me and knew what I needed to learn about…and my skill level.” This says so much about what we need to consider as educators.It doesn’t matter what age or background, students want to know you care. We show we care by getting to know students. What motivates them? How can we challenge her/him next? It also speaks to differentiation and Ainsley hints at this more.
11:40 Ainsley talks about making A’s, but didn’t expand on her true meaning. She wants teachers to challenge her and she wants advanced content that expands her knowledge. However, she has already mentioned to me that she has to make straight A’s to get into the college of her choice. Without saying it, this 7th grader is already facing the dilemma of balancing making A’s with learning something new. As a parent, this is a problem I will face in the upcoming years when helping her choose classes. I rather her learn and grow, but if I am being honest with myself, I’m not sure if I would want her risking a scholarship with a harder class that would result in a B.
12:10 Ainsley likes school, but when asked what she likes, she talks about feeling like she belongs. She references both students and teachers. We often think about students that struggle when we consider this. However, this is coming from a student that has good grades and a supportive home. What are we doing to help ALL students feel like they belong?
12:48 Did we just hear about the assessment cycle for learning from a 12 year old? Yes, yes we did. It is so important to use preassements to see what students know and pick up from there. If we utilize preassements, we can meet students where they are and take them further/deeper in their learning. Bonus, we can spend more time on curriculum students don’t know!
13:39 consists of a 12 year old using her platform to give a shoutout to her “dream school” Rhode Island School of Design and telling the admissions office to consider a scholarship for her. This is completely unprompted. I find this hilarious. How witty are our students if we allow them to be? At the same time, it makes me wonder, should an incoming 7th grader already be looking at dream colleges? In a way, it is great that she has a vision and is already working towards it. However, how early is too early to consider life outside of just being a kid?
15:58 “I like coding because it is challenging. It is something I really enjoy because you can make something out of nothing.” To me, this is one of the most powerful statements Ainsley makes. I always question if coding has a place in our school because of the pressures of covering all the standards. How is it going to link to them? However, Ainsley verbalizes here that she likes coding because it covers critical thinking and creativity. Two of the 4Cs! In actuality, she is using communication to discuss what she did with the coding. Additionally, we can have students collaborate when coding. Hence, coding easily covers all the 4Cs! What opportunities do we provide students to challenge themselves while still providing support? How are we allowing for creativity in the classroom?
*She also covers measurement and the design process while discussing her project.
19:14 Ainsley talks about another memorable learning experience. What sticks out is that there is a running theme to her memorable experiences. Again, she has an opportunity to create. Ainsley was able to utilize her passions to learn/complete a project. She is also presenting in front of an authentic audience.
22:35 Is where she talks about Teach Like a P.I.R.A.T.E. Day. It is evident how much of an impact memorable experiences have on learning. Just listen to her rattle off all the classes. This is something, as a principal, I continue to wonder how we can expand on. Rather than feeling like mundane work, how do we create experiences students look forward to? When we think of trying to duplicate this daily that seems overwhelming. However, we can start small. Can we create a memorable lesson once a month? Once a week? Once we have one, use it again and continue building from there! After all, having one amazing learning experience is better than none!
23:50 Ainsley explains Code Names. Again, something that requires collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking. On the surface it just seems like a game or a time filler, but it can be so much more!
24:55 What?!! She just described one of the concepts behind standards-based grading and growth mindset. I may not be able to master something yet. However, if I am allowed a do over, I can show that I learned it. Wow. Isn’t that the purpose of school? When we boil it down, we want students to master content. Sometimes the focus is on grades. In some cases grades reflect who learned the content the fastest or the first time around. However, Ainsley is saying if you give a student feedback and an opportunity to improve, further learning can occur.
26:49 Ainsley talks about a business she created to raise funds to take a trip to Washington, D.C. and hopefully for college. How many standards could a seventh grader cover by having a business? She is learning time management in order to fulfill orders. Profit margins. Supply and demand. Ainsley created a Google Form for orders and set up automatic notifications in her email. She is designing bracelets and taking feedback to improve. What if we allowed students to build on their interests and fit standards to them rather than the other way around?
*Order here if you would like one. She has changed the prices to $9 to help with shipping. Shrewd!
27:36 Ainsley certainly has a vision and plan for her future. While we should support students dreams, I would argue this isn’t my vision for school because these dreams and visions may change. I believe the purpose of school is to provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to open any door of possibility. If Ainsley changes her mind, she should be well equipped to pursue that dream as well.