Sharpening the saw is a habit I've recommitted to, as evidenced by enrolling in this educational leadership degree program! Its already paid off in many ways, the most important being the reminder of how great it feels to learn (and apply) new and valuable ideas and concepts. Having been in the classroom twelve years now, it can be tempting to rest on ones pedagogical laurels. But "sharpening my saw" in these online classes has been a great wake-up call, a great reminder that there's always more to learn, even for a veteran educator. This habit will be a more difficult one to teach. The reason being, students are already sharpening their saws on a daily basis by simply attending school. My leading idea is to challenge students to somehow sharpen their own saws over winter break. Perhaps they could make a new plan about how to be a better student upon returning for 2nd semester in January. They could get more organized, clean up their laptops, or try new educational apps. I will consult the students themselves for more ideas on how to "sharpen the saw" when it comes to re-dedicating oneself to being a high-achieving student.
At our school many classes create cross-disciplinary projects with other classes. As a social studies teacher I always pair up with the English teacher for his purpose. Our first two years working together were quite productive, since we had regular meetings to collaborate on projects. In this our third year, we now have a nice menu of already-created projects to pick from. However, I’ve started to notice that we might be resting on our laurels a bit too much. Since we stopped our regular collaboration meetings, several of the projects have run into hiccups here and there, since there was no explicit planning of the project implementation this time around. I will now try to get those meetings going again. Even though we already have some great projects ready-to-go, I know that getting back together to purposefully create new synergy on these projects will make them even better. To teach this concept, I will introduce it to my Music Appreciation class. As we are approaching our concert, this will be a great opportunity for the individual members of each band to think about what synergy they can create on the stage together! What can they as band members create together, that they could never do alone? Coordinated dance moves to the music? Added harmonies from more voices than just the lead singer? The possibilities for synergy here are exciting!
I have a good opportunity coming up to practice the seek first to understand, then to be understood habit. I have a student who has been having problems with her group project (multiple absences, poor communication with her group members), to the point where her group kicked her out. E-mails and warnings sent to her by her group were never acknowledged, so they implemented the clause in their group contract that allowed them to remove her from the group. I thought this was a cut and dry case, but the student’s mother believed it to be unfair and strongly protested the removal. So now we’re going to have a meeting in person, to see how we can resolve the issue together. This will be a great opportunity for me to seek first to understand (mom’s position), and only then to be understood. As far as teaching this concept, I will apply it in my Music Appreciation class. We are gearing up for our big concert, and often times problems arise in a band, when some band member may feel as though others are not pulling their weight. I will teach them this concept, so that inter-band members issues can be resolved more thoughtfully, and the true roots of problems can be brought out into the open.
This is another concept I had heard about in passing, but had never sat down to really think about. Two years ago I was paired with an English teacher to begin making cross-disciplinary projects. It was rough at first as I was used to designing ALL of my curriculum, and now I had to listen to the input of another. For the first few months, it felt like a constant negotiation between whose ideas would be implemented. Eventually (thankfully), I realized that it didn’t have to be a negotiation. I realized that we could each include our own ideas and combine them together - making a win/win situation. And the combined projects were better than the ones where we had taken the either/or approach.
This week my students are working on a group project with four students in each group. I will introduce the concept of win/win to them as they sit down to discuss who will work on which parts of the project. They will have the project rubric in front of them, and they will need to figure out their group strategy to tackle all of the project requirements. If disagreements arise (for example, if two students both want to work on the same requirement) - I will challenge them to see how they can turn it into a win/win situation. For example - perhaps they could both work on it together?
This habit is hitting very close to home, as over the past couple years I have always felt I’m in crisis mode. Covey would say I’m the procrastinator, managing by crisis, always in quadrant I. I had slowly realized over the past few years that I’m effective in doing the things I have to do, and also doing many of the things I want to do, but I’m terrible at doing the things I should do. Covey would say I’m spending all of my time in quadrants I (things I have to do) and IV (things I want to do), without ever visiting perhaps the most important quadrant: quadrant II (things I should do). As fate would have it, I noticed Covey’s 7 Habits book while at the library with my kids a few months ago. Knowing I needed to get better at prioritizing, I perused the table of contents. When I saw a chapter on “Putting First Things First,” I knew I had to read it! So having recently read this very chapter, I already have a strategy ready to try with my students. Covey’s advice to increase time in quadrant II is to actually schedule the important/not urgent tasks (or as I call them, the “should do” tasks) right into your weekly calendar. I tried it myself, and it worked OK. I’m sure if I keep trying it, it will slowly get better. To teach this, I’m going to have my students make three lists about the upcoming couple weeks. One list of things they have to do, another of things they want to do, and a third list of things they know they should do. Then I’ll direct them to actually schedule at least one task from list #3 into their phone calendars, with the hope that this reminder will help spur them on toward accomplishing a task they know they should get done!
I actually came across this saying many years ago, but from what exact source I don't remember. It has served me well when I've remembered it, providing structure at the jumping-off point of an initiative. A good example is the planning of collaborative Social Studies/English projects. Before we start the project, I sit down with the English teacher, and we discuss our ultimate goals for the project before we create the calendar and schedule out activities. In some instances I believe I can even take this habit too far. I will set a goal for myself far into the future, and even though circumstances change that make achieving that goal less likely/reasonable, I will hold fast and suffer the consequences in pursuit of "the end" I originally envisioned. To teach this concept, I plan on having students set a goal ("the end") for the end of the semester or year. Then to keep that goal constantly "in mind," I will have them replace their cell phone wallpapers with an image that represents their chosen goal. Since teenagers can't go five minutes without looking at their phones, my hope is that this strategy will constantly remind them of their chosen goal, and keep them more focused on the path to achieving it.
It’s easy to tend to the things that have to get done. It’s easy because there’s no other choice; some things simply have to get done, and get done now! It’s much harder, at least for me, to attend to the things that don’t have to get done, but should get done. Some things I know are of critical importance to attend to, but since they’re not knocking-down-my-door urgent; I unfortunately always tend to leave them unattended. I am not good at being proactive (or, I have too much going on in my life, which prevents me from being pro-active!:) Last spring a colleague shared a TED Talk with me that I think has the potential to help me be more proactive. Entitled “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” (see below), it shared an image which the presenter (Tim Urban) called the “Life Calendar.” Essentially this image serves as a powerful reminder that we’re all going to die sooner than we think, which in turn motivates me to get off my butt and get to work achieving my goals! I plan on sharing this TED Talk with my Music Appreciation class (who likely will be my weekly 15-minute audience at this point), in the hope of driving home the importance of becoming proactive!