Thursday, 31 December 2015

Imagineering in 2015 - Reflections on #OneLittleWord

Last year, I was invited, on Twitter, to select #oneword to keep me on track for 2015. Instead of long reflections on resolutions, I selected the word: Imagineering. I was mid-way through the year with my incredible grade 3/4 Gladiator Snails, and our class was known as EPCOTclass- the Experimental Prototype Classroom of Tomorrow. To keep us on track, I chose to consider designing our learning with Imagineering (Disney's term for imagination and engineering, and the most imaginative, innovative wing of the Disney Company). I applied this word to my personal life as well, and had results that surprised me, most of all.

Classroom Application: I loved the #OneWord challenge so much, I brought it to my class. To start our 2015, the Gladiator Snails selected #OneLittleWord by writing lists of things they are good at and things they are working on. Each student looked at the lists and selected one word that summarizes them and the things they plan to work on for the year. To practice, we made up #OneLittleWord for Norman, one of our class Muppets. Norman doesn't know any Math and sometimes gets down on himself for it. The word we selected for him was "Positive." Each student generated a list of three steps they would take to help them reach their #OneLittleWord target. Once they had decided on their words, we learned about how shapes and colours can represent ideas and emotions. Students created watercolour paintings representing their #OneLittleWord, and we took photographs of them thinking about that word. The photos were glued on top of the paintings and joined by their words, then hung in the hall to remind us of our targets every time we entered and left Room 209.

  • On this final day of 2015, I am going to do exactly the opposite of what I described in paragraph one and write a long reflection about my Imagineering year.

Counting Down 15 Reflections About 2015, my Imagineering Year

15. Collaboration.

  • I worked with the members of: 
    • #comcon (a group of education bloggers who comment on one another's blog posts)
    • Think Tank (a group of educators who met in person in Ottawa to discuss the future of education)
    • #cdnedchat (a group of Canadian educators who lead a weekly Twitter chat for friends in Canada and beyond), who asked me to join them as a moderator this year
    • The Edcamp Magic planning team, who I've happily joined this year 

14. I left my home.

  • Captain Handsome and a handful of friends, family and I redid every square inch of our little home in Ottawa over the past 7 years. I love that little house, but the Captain got a great job opportunity in Toronto and we moved. 
  • I've spent the last 7 months getting used to my new home, as have my remarkably resilient cats. 
  • I have a long way to go until Toronto and I feel like we fit together, but I am very happy to explore the city with my zoo, aquarium, float club, ROM and Warhol Museum annual passes. 

13. I was part of one of the strangest Internet news stories of the year

12. I visited two Disney Theme parks.

  • I spent a total of 15 days at the "happiest place(s) in the world" this year. 
  • I was incredibly fortunate to spend 11 spring days at Walt Disney World in Orlando, many of those days with my Scottish BFF, Gillian Penman; my former student teacher, Stephanie Pimenta(and her awesome family of Peppers!); my former UOttawa student, Kiera Brant (and her incredible mom, Gail Brant-Terry)
  • In the fall, I visited (for the first time in my life) the park Walt actually walked (and lived!) in, Disneyland. I travelled with #DisneyCAST, my brother Charlie, his partner, Ashton and their friend, Travis. 

11. My grade 3/4s and I had an Imagineering Day to build a Global Citizenship Museum.

  • Our school year was all about rethinking education and making sure that we created the best possible learning space and opportunities for all. 
  • Together, we explored our passions, practiced design thinking strategies, improved our research and communication skills and considered ways we could change the world. 
  • Students learned about citizenship in their own country and around the world and compared their lives to those of "Kid Citizens," children in a country of their choice. 
  • Together with parents, other teachers, volunteers, student teachers, and of course, my students, we collaboratively created our learning unit and outlined the outcomes and success criteria for our project. 
  • Our research culminated in a one day creation blitz, where volunteers (including members of my family, students' families and my former students) helped my grade 3/4s use their blueprints and plans to create models of their museum exhibits. 
  • Later that week, we welcomed other classes and our families in to the Global Citizenship Museum and blew them away!

10. I did stand-up comedy.

  • No, there is no video. 
  • Yes, it went well, which surprised no one more than me.  
  • No, I'm not planning to do it again. It was for a project that I'll share more about soon.

9. I left my class with another teacher for two months.

  • Captain Handsome headed to Toronto without me. Six weeks later, I had packed my classroom and house, and followed him. 
  • My amazing Gladiator Snails were left in the very capable hands of a colleague, and I was lucky enough to stay in touch with them via email and Skype until the end of the year. I was so so lucky to teach that incredible group of students for nine months. 
  • We did a lot of awesome things. I learned a lot from my youngest class ever and was consistently amazed by their incredible minds, work and resilience. 
  • For the first September in thirty years, I didn't spend the first days of September in a classroom. 

8. I participated in international PD.

  • I attended my first two international (as in, not in my home province of Ontario or neighbouring province of Quebec) education conferences. 
  • I presented an Ignite presentation and led (with Melissa Eddington) a "Weirds of a Feather" session at ISTE in Philadelphia. 
  • I joined educators from around the globe at the first ever Edcamp Magic in Orlando and got to co-moderate a Q&A with author Jeff Dixon. I helped out with collecting sponsorships and donations for this event and made a goal of gathering enough prizes so that every participant could go home with something. We accomplished this. 
  • Attending these events were really incredible because I got to meet online friends in person and make brand new friends. It was so fun to see my online communities come to life. 

7. I played.

  • I went to Comic Con Ottawa with my former colleague, Erin (before she moved to the Middle East, fully trumping my 4.5 hour move!). 
  • Captain Handsome and I attended a ton of comedy, including the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal. We saw some of our favourites, including (among others): Norm MacDonald, Neil Patrick Harris, Mark Forward (several times!), TJ Miller, Louis CK, Sam Simmons, Rhys Darby, Chris Hardwick, Sean Cullen, James Harnett, the cast of Silicon Valley, Chris Hardwick and John Mulaney. 
  • We saw four Broadway shows: Fish in the Dark (and met the star, Larry David), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (twice, starring Michael C. Hall and then the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell, who BROUGHT IT despite a terrible knee injury), and the absolutely heartwrenching Constellations. We saw Madonna in concert. 
  • Our six-year old nephew cheered his lungs out at a hockey game and got to meet his favourite player (and played it WAY cooler than I ever have when meeting one of my heroes). 
  • We watched movie premieres, with their directors and stars, at the Toronto International Film Festival. 
  • We were in NYC the night of the SNL 40th anniversary, and got to see so many comedy heroes before and after the show (which we watched at a nearby pub). 
  • I played in six Escape Rooms, three of which my teams escaped. I considered how to use Escape Rooms in education and led an #eduescape chat, coached teachers in designing these challenges with their students and put together a model for creating educational Escape Rooms.
  • My brother, our friend Tess and I created brand new ways to play Pokemon (including our, patent pending, Pokemeals). 

6. I celebrated the graduations of former students.

  • I was invited to attend the high school graduation of my last class of grade 8s and cheered them on with tears in my eyes. 
  • Via Periscope, I attended the grade 6 graduation ceremony of my last class of grade 5s. 

5. I thought a lot about what it means to be a leader AND a woman.

  • Attending ISTE, I was shocked at the inequalities in male and female representation in the high levels of education leadership. Most of the best selling education authors, well respected education leaders and speakers are men. 
  • There are many underrepresented voices in education and edtech and a change needs to happen. 
  • I thought a lot about where I see myself in the conversation and how to amplify my voice and the voices of others. 
  • I collaborated with an inspiring group of brilliant female educators to come up with ways to share our ideas and stories and help others to do the same. 
  • We have a long way to go in this area and I will continue to help diversify the landscape in the coming year.  
  • Why does this need to change? Because it's 2015

4. I felt the love.

  • I am pretty uncomfortable being the centre of attention, but, thanks to some exceptionally thoughtful friends and colleagues, I was showered in love this year. 
  • My friends and family threw me two birthday parties (which included Chinese food, karaoke, steak and a pub, some of my favourite places!)
  • My Gladiator Snails and their families threw me a surprise going away party. As did the grade 6 members of my Leadership Club Executive
  • My former teaching partner and dear friend, Tiiu, threw together an enormous going away party with former students and their families at my favourite place in Ottawa, a kids' arcade. 

3. I failed. A lot.

  • Taking a lot of risks this year led to both successes AND failures. 
  • Due to over-exhaustion, I got really sick and had to miss the premiere of the final film in the Hunger Games series. For the past four years, former students have filled a theatre in Ottawa to watch the films on their premiere night. I was devastated to miss the final premiere.
  •  For the first time, I participated in NaNoWriMo, with the goal of writing the first draft of a 50 000+ word novel in the month of November. I didn't come close to completing "The Last Camp on Earth." 
  • I applied to go on an educator's discovery trip to Israel and to present at several conferences in the coming year. I got lots of lovely form and personalized letters of rejection in response.
  • I applied to be a teacher in my new city. Similar outcome. 
  • I participated in a Back to the Future scavenger hunt. I missed the big prize by minutes. That's the one that hurts the most.

2. I participated in the first Team Molly bike ride without our team captain.

  • In Molly's life and since her death, her family and friends have raised more than $100 000 to help other kids with cancer. 
  • The balloon release in the morning, signifying the incredible kids we lost this year, was highly emotional for all of us, but it felt great to be continuing the tradition, in Molly's memory.

1. I wrote a book.

  • In March, I was asked by Bob McLain, of Theme Park Press, to submit a proposal for a book that incorporated Walt Disney and teaching. It was the book that I'd been searching for in my research on Walt and EPCOT and I was thrilled to be asked. 
  • He accepted the proposal, and within nine months, I had my 1.2 lb 304 page baby in my hands. Creating Classroom Magic: Using Lessons from the Life of Walt Disney to Create an Experimental Prototype Classroom of Tomorrow. It's available on Amazon, both in paperback and digital versions. 
  • Two of the most exciting things in the world are: seeing copies of my book on my bookshelf, reminding me of the result of the emotional rollercoaster of pouring my heart, soul and brain out; and getting messages on Facebook, Twitter and email from people as they discover the book and reflect on the ideas within. 

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