Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

Building a positive classroom culture and a school culture depends on the relationships you establish with each other. When you take an interest in others, they blossom, and you “fill their bucket.” My students have been focusing on  being Niceness Ninjas, and dong things for others to spread happiness. We began by looking at ideas in this book by Bernadette Russell. download-2

Most recently, we “BOO-ed” other classrooms with Halloween treats. In a world where there is much heartache and sadness, we are trying to build up our capacity for doing nice things for others. We are learning that by being kind to each other, we can all grow.  I have had more door holders in the past few weeks, there are many notes given to other students,  andI hear kind, encouraging words shared since we began looking at how we can be kind … and have courage in our classroom. As a result, I have also seen a lot of risk-taking in the classroom. The students are willing to try something new ( In first grade, there is a lot of new stuff, too).  By offering even a smile to someone on a tough day, you may change their mood. 

More importantly, we need to work to establish those relationships among ourselves as educators. Honor each other’s strengths and celebrate each other when something is working. As educators, we need to work on building each other up, and not comparing ourselves. Everyone has talents and passions, and as educators, we need to build upon those talents, share our passions in the classroom, and work together to achieve more. 

What is one thing you used to do that you have changed?


Over the past few years, my classroom has evolved from assigned seats and direct teaching to  a classroom of shared learning. It started with turning my desks around and sharing classroom supplies. We began collaborating about our learning more, and sharing resources. The change in the climate was visible – kids working together to solve problems, kindness shared, and curiosity and many more questions about our learning.

I got a grant to redesign the classroom to create a flexible learning environment using hokki stools, bean bags, tables on wheels, and created a maker space with  tools and materials for building, creating, and tinkering. I have received other grants to expand on projects for my students and have created a culture and climate of curiosity in my classroom.

So why change? I made the shift in my thinking so that I could provide more experiences for my students. and it is working! How do I know? I recently had conferences with my student’s parents, and heard from them how their children love coming to school because of all the things they can do there. The children have used phrases like ” This book is easy for me. I am going to challenge myself next time.” And “I have to try this, and I need courage.”  We do not assign seats, and I can move kids to different locations if they are not working well. The choice in seating empowers my students to pick where they want to learn throughout the day – they are not “stuck” in one spot and move about based on what they are working on. I am not worried about a seating chart. In fact, three weeks into the school year, we took on the design challenge to redesign our classroom so it works for all of us. One thing the class and was to move the meeting area to our cozy corner, and add a projection area where the whiteboard is located. Having their choice in our classroom lets them know I believe in them, and they matter.

We are primary students, so we have a continuum of learning throughout the year which starts with direct teaching of something new, students try it with a task, and then we use it as an option to show our learning.  For example, my student have 1:1 iPads, so I teach them about an “App of the Week”. We try it, test it out, see how it works.We use it for our learning that week, and then it is an option to use later on in the classroom. Some students fall in love and become experts in that app, and then I can use my experts to help those who need assistance using it in the future.  They are empowered to learn more and discover things on their own when they are given the tools. When everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner, we all improve.


What is an innovator’s mindset?

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An innovator’s mindset is the belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents can be developed, leading to the creation on new and better ideas.  – George Couros

How do you embody the characteristics of an Innovator’s Mindset?

I am a work in progress. 

Empathetic – I do believe that abilities, intelligence, and talents can be developed. I have seen students who have creative abilities that can be fostered. I have coached students who thrived when they were given a voice – and allowed to share what they know in different ways. I believe that by establishing relationships with my students, I begin to  better understand their strengths and passions.  By constantly asking “Is there a better way?”, we find one that fits their learner profile to demonstrate their learning. (ie: Share about a book they read by creating a story map, retelling with BookCreator, retelling with Chatterpix, or drawing a map of the book and using Beebots to move from beginning to middle to end)

Problem finders – We start with the question – ” How can I show my learning?”  We use different tools for different purposes, and seek to find answers to our questions. ( We are progressing toward more independence with finding the answers, rather than me being the keeper of all the information.)

Risk taker – I have been taking risks in and out of the classroom for several years, redefining what success looks like in my classroom. I need to model what I want to see more of, and if I want my students to take risks, I need to do so as well.

Networked – Connecting with so many educators through blogs, twitter and social media has given me momentum and inspiration. I am thankful for all of the innovators out there moving people forward.

Observant – This I need to work on – in connection with reflective, to notice the good, and the challenges, and the successes. Together, with my class, we meet for Shout outs at the end of the day, and they talk about who they noticed was demonstrating our habits of mind  ( being flexible, managing impulsivity, persevering) that day. As I work on this trait, so will my students.

Creators – I create lessons every week, and design challenges for my students. In my classroom, we are always creating something, but I struggle to make it purposeful. Sometimes my students also struggle with what to make, and how to show their learning. This goes hand in hand with tasking risks, for in order to be creative, my students need to have courage and be brave.

Resilient –  the ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. This is another one I struggle with. I think my biggest issue is time – the time it takes to do it right. And this is so important with my students. We start each day with a saying ” Be better today that you were yesterday” ( this came from a student last year) and it helps us move forward.

Reflective – This is an area of growth for me this year. I have started a journal  to write in on a daily basis, like I ask my students to do, and I need to provide more time in the classroom for reflection on work we do. We reflect well as a group in class – (What went well? what can we improve for next time?), and the next step is to provide my class with time to reflect on their own, and by conferencing with me to help with goal setting.

So , I am a work in progress. I am trying to be better today than I was yesterday. And I want my students to have the best that I can give them.

Why is Innovation in Education so Important today? 


“Innovation is the process by which we change the world. Its about making things better in new and meaningful ways. It’s the practical application of ideas and technologies to make new and better things,” Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, from The New rules of education TEdTalk

I recently joined the IMMOOC – a massive online community of learners, innovators, and creators who want to make changes in their world. We were challenged to blog about why innovation is so crucial in todays’ classrooms. Through their thoughts and ideas, I am growing as an educator, and feeling empowered to try new ideas in my classroom.

Working with first graders, I often struggle with laying the groundwork versus trying something new.  I know that my kids need to learn how to read – but more importantly, how to find the information they need for the task at hand, and understand it. My students need to know how to write – but more specifically, how to communicate their ideas with others. My students need to know basic math facts and concepts, by more importantly, they need to know how they relate to their world. I need to provide that instruction through differentiated instruction, conferencing with students and giving feedback, and providing them with a safe-to -explore learning environment to show their learning. I need to teach these children that are growing up in the 21st century, in our changing world, so that they will be empowered to follow their passions.


After spending time listening to Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on Starting with your Why? I have discovered that I want to provide a learning environment that is best for kids today. I want my students to have the best opportunities to follow their passions and dreams.

All kids walk into school curious and creative. We need to weave a path to accentuate the creativity in our kids.  George Couros

So, why is innovation important today? We need to reach all students, to spark their creativity, and encourage them follow their passions and empower them to ask questions and find their own learning path. As an educator, I need to try new things, challenge old ways of thinking, and take risks.  I need to be modeling that for my curious, creative students who come to me every day eager to learn.

“Innovation is a way of thinking. It is a way of considering concepts, processes, and potential outcomes; it is not a thing, task, or even technology.” George Couros, from his book, The Innovator’s Mindset




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