I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on curiosity lately. It's a topic that has always fascinated me. The Oxford dictionary defines curiosity as being, "eager to know or learn something". Imagine if our schools were full of students running into classrooms each morning eager to learn and leaving hungry for more. What a joyful sight that would be! Curiosity is the secret ingredient that can turn our classrooms from bland to flavorful. In fact, I believe it's not only the secret ingredient, but the essential ingredient that is too often missing in our schools. Orderly and predictable classrooms are easier to manage and make us feel more adequate and in control as teachers. Curious classrooms are more inconvenient and messy. We run the risk of not knowing the answers or having our knowledge challenged.
My husband, Russ, and I took a fast and furious trip to Portland this week and I decided to bring the book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman along. I’ve read the book before. In fact I realized today that I actually had written a post about it this time last year (click here to read, The Magic of Curiosity Unleashed). I remember it resonating deeply the first time, and this time was no different. I had so many sticky tabs lining the pages that I finally gave up, as I realized I was nearly marking each one. A number of quotes stood out to me as I reflected on the power of curiosity in my own life, so I decided to reflect on each one and its importance to classroom learning.
“Curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility.”
Curiosity has afforded me so many incredible opportunities over the years. As I think back to when ipads entered my classroom 6 years ago, curiosity was the catalyst that launched me into my transformational journey. I had no idea how to use these devices in a classroom and I definitely wasn’t going to have them sit in an ipad cart to be used only for google searches. My curiosity propelled me to find a conference to explore ways to use the ipads to amplify learning. Going to my first edtech conference was a pivotal moment for me. My curiosity uncovered ideas that I didn’t know existed and sparked new ones.
“Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity.
"Curiosity is the technique that gets to innovation.”
Each idea that was sparked got my creative juices flowing which lead to innovative learning in my classroom. The questions prompted by my curiosity created an innovative and creative mindset shift. I was now thinking differently about teaching and learning. One idea, sparked another and then another. Before long learners in my classroom were more immersed and empowered than they had ever been before.
“Creativity motivates us to explore and discover.”
“Curiosity creates interest. It can also create excitement.”
As I explored and discovered new ways to teach and learn, my interest and excitement made me even more curious. I began connecting globally with educators around the world to expand my ideas and perspective and ultimately wanted my students to be as excited to learn as I was.
“Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage.”
When I look back on each experience since the ipads entered my classroom, it was ultimately curiosity that fueled me. Curiosity piqued is contagious. I can’t get enough. It powers me and makes me feel courageous and confident. That confidence leads to determination which makes me adventurous and excited to chase my passions and ambition. It also helps me stand by my ideas even if they aren’t the most popular.
“Creativity rewards persistence.
Persistence is the drive moving you forward.
Curiosity provides the navigation.”
Persistence has been required to chase after my dreams, but my curiosity has kept me on course and led me to some pretty incredible opportunities that I would have missed out on if it wasn’t for my curiosity to explore and ask questions. It also has helped me refine my ideas to make them better. Without curiosity my direction may have veered off course or maybe led to a dead end.
“Curiosity gets you comfortable being a little uncomfortable.”
As I’ve developed courage in my life, I’ve found that pushing past the status quo means being uncomfortable. We don’t grow by staying cozy. Being uncomfortable must start becoming your mode of operation.
“The best way to dispel fear is to face it, to be curious.”
Getting uncomfortable means doing scary stuff. Fear has reared its ugly head in my life way more times than I’d like to admit. But I’ve found that it’s a liar. (Click here for a post I wrote about it) Fear is not going to go away, I have to face it head on with curiosity. The more I ask questions the more I am distracted from the internal butterflies and become more informed about what I am worried about.
“I consciously use curiosity to disrupt my own point of view.”
When we are intentional about asking questions and having conversations with people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences we can’t help but start to see the world differently. It challenges your thinking and beliefs and helps shape your own understanding of this wild life we live in. When I look through the eyes of another, I step out of my own narrow perspective. It’s easy to go through life looking at everything as it affects me and the ones I love. But, when I shift that vision off myself, I am able to see things in a whole new way. Connecting with my PLN through Twitter and other social media platforms has allowed me to step out of isolation into a world that is so much bigger than my day to day surroundings. It’s challenged my thinking and understanding of this world and to be more empathetic to and aware of the people I serve.
“Curiosity is what creates empathy.”
Recently I was at a party with many people that I didn’t know. I began engaging in conversation with a delightful woman who immediately captivated me. From the moment I was introduced to her I could feel her sincerity. She paid attention to my name and even repeated it to make sure she got it right. She began immediately asking questions about myself and my passions and would ask follow up questions to truly understand what I was saying. Her gaze never left the conversation and when the conversation ended she grasped my hand and looked me in the eyes and shared her appreciation for the conversation and my passion and said she hoped to have the opportunity to chat again. I felt from the beginning of our chat to the end her compassion and her genuine curiosity about me. She was invested in what I had to say. I felt valued and validated. I want to be more like that. Intentionally engaging in curious conversations by asking questions that truly allow me to get to know the people that I interact with. “Authentic human connection requires curiosity”
“Curiosity is power for real people, it’s power for people who don’t have superpowers.” There are always going to be lots I don’t know, but owning it and always being open to learning and growing broadens my world to unlimited possibilities.
“Curiosity isn’t just a way of understanding the world. It’s a way of changing it.”
Wow! This is powerful. I hope to not only understand the world that I live in and the people that occupy it, but I hope to be a change agent. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. Even more, I want to empower my students to be change agents as well and to foster classroom environments that breed curiosity; curious spaces for students to...
Be comfortable being uncomfortable
We’re all born curious. It’s up to us to awaken that curiosity in ourselves and our learners. When we unleash creativity there is no end to its power and possibility. Let's make our classrooms places where curiosity is not just the secret ingredient, but the essential ingredient in learning.
I have been thinking of the word “BELIEVE” a lot lately. In fact, I’ve been noticing the word continuously throughout my day. In the grocery, at the mall, on commercials, and on social media. It may be because it is the holiday season or, possibly because it’s been on my mind so the word is jumping out at me more. I'm not sure. However, as I ponder this word that has been captivating my attention I reflect on its power in my life.
The past 10 years have been a whirlwind. When I entered this decade, I was a mom of 2 elementary school kids and was transitioning from part-time to full-time teaching. Wow! So much has happened in those 10 years. My daughter is well into her junior year of college, my son is a senior in high school, and my husband and I will soon be empty nesters. To experience our kids growing into adulthood and becoming their own people with dreams and passions to pursue fills my heart with such joy.
As we gathered with loved ones over the holidays, I heard many people make comments regarding how much our kids had grown and matured. Though we knew they had, we are with them much more often, so we don’t notice those subtle changes over time quite as significantly. It’s only when we look back over pictures and reminisce about past experiences that we can truly reflect on the transformation. The same can be true in our own life journeys. It is only when we reflect on our past pictures and life events that we can truly grasp the growth that we experience over time.
As I reflect on the past decade and more specifically the past six years, I am absolutely overwhelmed. The growth I've experienced has been exponential and has left me a transformed educator. Flashback six years and you will find a burnt out teacher contemplating leaving education, yet uncertain of what else I could do. I would not have guessed in a million years that a half decade later I would be more passionate about teaching and learning than I've ever been. So much has happened between now and then that has led to this transformation, but let me highlight the key milestones that have marked the road that I have journeyed on.
Brought 1:1 ipads into my classroom
Discovered Twitter and began building my PLN
Attended my first edtech conferences and made real life connections with my PLN
Brought gamification into my classroom learning
Presented for the first time at an education conference
Began blog writing regularly
Began co-moderating #XPLAP chat with author of Explore Like a Pirate, Michael Matera
Began writing proposals to present at conferences
Signed book contract with DBC, Inc
Began presenting nationally at conferences
Make Learning Magical was published by DBC, inc
Transitioned from Culinary Teacher to Tech Integration Specialist
Presented my first keynote
Published my first Make Learning Magical podcast
Began designing my first Grass Roots online workshop
There is one common word that all of these life events have in common:
Throughout my journey, I've had people in my life that believed in me and gave me courage to step out of my comfort zone and make each happen. As a result, with each accomplishment I began to believe more and more in myself and that my story is worth sharing. As I set my goals for 2020, I am overcome with gratitude for the multitude of people who have believed in me and walked with me on this incredible journey to pursue my passion for education. Some walked with me at the beginning of my journey, some have come along at various mile markers along the way, and others have been with me the whole time. No matter what role each person has played, every one has made an impact on the person I am today. When I look ahead to the dreams I have for the next decade, I know that five years ago they would have seemed unreachable. Yet, each milestone has contributed to a reservoir of belief that I will draw from to step out once again.
As you reflect on this past year I encourage you to take time to think about the milestones that have marked the road you’ve been on this past decade. Think about the events and accomplishments have impacted your journey, how much you have grown, and the people who have believed in you along the way, Your story has brought you to exactly this moment in time. Draw courage from your past experiences, surround yourself with people that believe in you, and be confident that you can make your dreams happen! 2020 is calling your name...
Believe in the magic of YOU!
As a little girl, I remember running into the house everyday excited to watch another episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on television. The memories of this friendly little community evoke so many positive emotions. In fact, it’s hard to articulate how much of an impact it made on my upbringing and my life. Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was more than an entertaining children’s television program. It was a daily reminder that I was valuable, worthy of love, and accepted just as I was. I was lucky to grow up in a home where this message was echoed loudly. My mom would sing “It’s You I Like” as a bedtime lullaby and would validate my worth daily in countless ways. For that, I’m so incredibly grateful. I think about the homes where love and acceptance isn’t spoken. These 30 minutes a day may have been the only place a child was told they are special, valued, and that their feelings mattered. How many lives were shaped by a man who spoke love through a television screen?
Tonight I watched the new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with my son. As I watched actor,Tom Hanks, play the character of Mr. Rogers, nostalgia wafted over me. The emotions of a sensitive little girl came flooding back and I started to piece together how Fred Rogers left such a profound legacy. It seems quite complex at first thought. There were so many values and life lessons he taught. Though when you really sum it up, it’s quite simple. It was never about him. He wasn’t in it for fame or celebrity status. He pursued a life of purpose, passion and a pursuit of making the world a better place because he cared deeply about people. He understood the incredible responsibility he had to his viewing public and he took it very seriously. He valued life and he lived that on and off the screen in numerous ways.
VALUE PEOPLE BY LISTENING
Fred Rogers taught us that each person has extreme value. When Fred talked to you through the television or in real life, you were the most important person in the room. As expressed in countless interviews and documentaries I've watched, he didn’t try to finish your thoughts or speak over you. He listened intently and fully and when he spoke it was slow and intentional. It is easy to indicate when a person is truly listening to me. I can tell when they are looking at me, but actually focused on another conversation around me; distracted with their thoughts, or trying to formulate a response before I’m done speaking. It feels horrible. It makes me feel disrespected and like what I’m saying is unimportant. It is horrifying to think that I may have made others feel the same way in past conversations. Am I truly listening with an open mind and heart when others speak? Am I giving them my full and utmost attention? I want to learn to listen like Fred and make people feel special and valued always. In education we are bombarded with distractions continuously. It’s easy to half listen because of the hundreds of thoughts and problems that are circulating through our mind at any given moment. I am guilty! But, it breaks my heart to think that someone could think that what I’m doing in that moment is more important than what they have to tell me. The reality is, sometimes we can’t give our full attention at any given moment. However if that is the case, we need to tell a person that and let them know when we will be able to. Listening is valuing those we serve and letting them know they are important and special and liked just the way they are.
VALUE PEOPLE'S EMOTIONS
Fred Rogers acknowledged that emotions are normal and gave strategies for dealing with them in a positive way. He talked about big issues because he believed that anything “mentionable is manageable” and worth talking about. I learned early that the big feelings I was hiding inside were normal and that talking about them was important. I remember being afraid of the events on the news and conversations I’d hear adults talk about. Listening to Mr Rogers talk about them in a way I understood, helped me process and understand them. I was fortunate to live in a home where emotions were welcomed and expressed freely, but even then there were emotions that I didn’t understand, express, or know what to do with. When Mr Rogers looked straight into the camera it was like he was talking directly to me. I felt normal and that what I was experiencing in my thoughts was validated. When the trolley entered the land of make-believe, I was entering a world where I could grapple with emotions in a pretend space that felt safe and non-threatening. Our students come into our classes with many emotions that they don’t know what to do with? How are we helping them process them? Our world can be a scary and confusing place and our students need to feel safe sorting out all the feelings that face them on a daily basis? Acknowledging that our students feelings are normal and giving them strategies to deal with them in a positive way is going to make a lasting impact on how they handle their emotions for a lifetime.
VALUE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE BROUGHT YOU INTO BEING
In Fred’s acceptance speech when inducted into the TV Hall of Fame as well as the Emmy Awards, he paused for 10 seconds after asking this very important question, “Who are the people who loved you into being and shaped who you are today. Who made you the best version of you that you’ve ever been." It’s important to acknowledge the important part those who’ve loved us played in making us who we are. We don’t walk this life alone. There are people who care about us and want what is best for us in life. They believe in us when we doubt ourselves. They speak truth when we need to hear it. They love us when we feel unlovable. When we pause to recognize and appreciate those who have helped shape who we are, it also reminds us of the responsibility and privilege we have to love others into being as well. How can we help our students appreciate and acknowledge those that are loving them into being? Showing students ways to express appreciation and gratitude helps allows students to see the pivotal part that others are playing in their life as well as the impact they can make on others’ lives too.
As I watched a beautiful day in the neighborhood tonight I’m reminded of the power of a legacy. We each hold the incredible responsibility to live a life of purpose, passion, and to make this world a better place through our own unique gifts, skills, and talents. As educators we have the opportunity to love students into being. How cool is that?! We make choices every day that help shape the lives of the youth we serve. When we are present and listen fully, we are showing people that they are the most important person in our world at that moment; that they are valued, respected, and heard. When we validate our students feelings and create spaces where they feel safe to share and learn to express them in positive ways, we are helping them navigate a lifetime of emotions and handle them in a healthy way. When we appreciate and value those who have loved and shaped who we are today, we honor the legacy of others. In Fred’s acceptance speech when inducted into the TV Hall of Fame he beautifully expresses his passion and purpose of legacy that will live on for generations:
“Fame is a four letter word. And like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job is. We are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen day and night.”
“Life isn’t cheap. It is the greatest mystery of any millenium and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that. To show and tell what the good in life is all about. But how do we make goodness attractive. By doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own. By treating our neighbor at least as well as we treat ourselves and by allowing that to inform everything that we produce."
“We all only have one life to live on earth and through television we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative and imaginative ways”
Read this again and replace the word "television" with “education”. I want to live my life like Fred. With passion, purpose, and intention, bringing value to a broken world of people that so desperately needs to feel accepted and loved. We all only have one life to live on earth. How are we going to value and encourage those we serve? Don't ever underestimate the power of your legacy. You are making a lasting impact on this world and generations to come. I want to live like Fred, but I know what he'd say. Live like YOU. Because there is no else like you on this earth and the world needs you, just the way you are.
This acceptance speech will touch your heart. Be prepared to shed a few tears. Tissues suggested.
I was having a very teary day this week when my bestie, Tara Martin, sent me a Vox saying, "Hey girl, are you ready to start up #GratitudeSnaps again?!" It was like someone applied a defibrillator to my heart to jumpstart it back into rhythm. I knew in that moment that a flood of positivity is exactly what I needed in my life. As we chatted about the details of launching our 3rd annual #GratitudeSnaps, my heart swelled with gratitude and joy. Tara is a friend who has consistently "showed up" in my life through fire and rain. Together we've celebrated, cried, cannonballed, ate ice cream, and navigated wild and roaring class 4 rapids. She has been the REALest friend a girl could ask for. Each November of gratitude has found us in a different chapter of our story and yet, it always seems to come at the perfect time. When people begin to flood the Twittersphere with an outpouring of gratitude and love, you can't help but feel the joy. I am almost giddy with excitement to announce that #GratitudeSnaps 19 is launching Friday, November 1st! Read the story of #GratitudeSnaps below to learn how #GratitudeSnaps began! Then, join us! It will bring joy to your heart, I guarantee it!!
The Story of #GratitudeSnaps
Sometimes the REALness of life tackles you like a herd of massive NFL football players, and you lie helplessly dogpiled beneath them. That's pretty close to my state of mind this past week. Of course, on this particular week, I (Tara) forgot to wear my "football helmet," and I paid for it. When I get this way, I begin to hyper-reflect. If you're unsure of that term, check out my blog here that peeks into the TMM brain aka the Highly Reflective One.
As I reflected on all sorts of current TMM circumstances, I felt myself seeping into a deep, dark place. Why? Because, the mind is a powerful, complex organ. In fact, it's essentially the boss of our bodies; it controls everything! It can also wire and rewire itself based on what we feed it. For example, when I dwelt on one negative thought, it created a synapse-connection in my mind. Then, negativity doesn't stop there. You see these types of thoughts are villains in my brain. So, they ran around tempting my STRONG positive synapse-connections to give way to another negative thought, and another and another, until a massive web of negativity consumed my thought-processing compartment. I was so disappointed in myself. In fact, the result was pitiful, to say the least. Within a very short amount of time, my mind was rewired with invalidating thoughts, a sense of complete inadequacy, frustration overload and pretty much a feeling of absolute worthlessness. How did I allow this to happen? Why? It's that thing called being a REAL human. However, this is when I needed a REAL friend. So, I messaged my friend, Tisha. She's my #SoulSister! In the valley or on the mountain top, this girl has my back.
After I had rambled on for what seemed like forever, she gave me some great advice.
REAL Talk - Friend to Friend
As I was talking with Tara, I could completely relate! I said to my friend, “We all find ourselves in that place of negativity at times. I know I do! Life is hard and full of unexpected twists, turns and bumps along the way. Ya know, when I find myself in that deep, dark place it always helps to look back at all of the pivotal events that have helped shape and bring me to where I’m at today. Sometimes those events are positive, and sometimes they are negative. Regardless, they’ve added to my story and if nothing else, made me stronger. Girl, look around you, reflect on the positive that is happening in your life….so many amazing things! Reflecting on those times, allows me to shift my focus from the negative of my current circumstance to all that I have to be grateful for.”
Listening to Tisha's input grounded me (Tara) and helped me "rewire" my brain by breaking some of the newly formed negative synapse-connections and begin replacing them with hopeful ones. I realized at this moment (and voiced it to Tisha)--gratefulness is missing in my life and spirit. That's my problem! I need to look around and realize all of the wonderful things happening in my life of which I should be grateful. In other words, I need to redesign my thought process aka get back to the REAL TMM!
As I was sharing this with Tara, an idea popped into my head! “Hey, Tara! What if you kept a 30-day Gratitude Journal?! Each day you could write about one thing to be grateful for to help climb out of this negativity pit!”
Another idea hit me upside the head that perfectly fit my dear soul sister! “Tara, what about creating #GratitudeSnaps! Instead of a journal, you could take a daily pic of something you are grateful for, make a snap out of it, and then share it out via social media! This would allow you to do what you love “create digitally” AND focus on the positives in your life! Just as #BookSnaps help us connect and draw meaning from the text, #GratitudeSnaps could help connect with the positive that is in our lives in a meaningful way.”
Tara’s Take On the Idea and The Challenge
Instantly, I loved the idea. Of course, as Tisha said, it’s using what I love, my passion of creating digitally and helping me to rewire my mindset. There is so much neuroscience to explain why this works beautifully for not only adults but students (and all humans), but I’ll not bore you with all of the details. However, as educators, it's vital that we try this method of counseling. It’s more than talking to someone; it’s tapping into their passions and strengths to help them overcome. Beautifully done, Tisha. That’s REAL friendship and REAL mentoring. You’re the best!
I’m guessing I’m not the only person in the world that might benefit from finding something to be grateful for each day and snapping it out. In fact, I do not want gratitude to simply hide in my Snap Story--let’s launch this EDUforce!
PLN peeps, have something to be grateful for?
Think you might snap it out each day and share it via Twitter or other social media platforms using the hashtag #GratitudeSnaps?
It’s that easy. Let’s do this thing!
Tisha, take it away.
Ok, Tara, I’m pumped!
So here’s the challenge:
Are you ready to storm the world with a POSITIVE #GratitudeSnaps force? I (Tara) am!
Let’s begin our 30-days of #GratitudeSnaps on July 15, 2019!
The world has plenty of negativity, let’s spread gratitude! We have so much of which to be thankful.
Today I visited schools to check on teachers and I heard a common theme.
I listened and offered whatever support I could. Then, I got in my car and cried. Actually, I sobbed. In fact, I cried for a majority of the day. If you would have asked me why I was so blue, I honestly don’t know that I would have been able to explain it. I just felt an incredible level of heaviness and sadness that I couldn’t explain. It wasn’t until I sat down to write tonight that I realized the place my tears came from. As each teacher shared their story it brought me back to those very raw and real feelings I experienced five years ago.
When people ask me why I wrote a book, left the classroom to support teachers in integrating technology and innovation into their classroom, or spend hours after I get home from work and weekends learning, creating, and sharing my message and resources, this is why.
Five years ago I was a teacher very close to leaving the profession. In fact, I'd go home at night and dream of becoming a barista so I could specialize in latte art. Sounds funny now, but it definitely wasn't funny at the time. A series of events that proceeded launched me on a magical journey of transformation. In the years that followed, my joy for teaching and learning returned and I became a joyful, passionate, fulfilled, and thriving teacher creating unforgettable experiences for students.
Our world is full of teachers that are at the same place as I was five short years ago. They are pouring their heart and soul into their students, and they are struggling. They feel defeated. They are losing hope. Quite possibly, they are dreaming of becoming a barista too. There are students sitting in classrooms across our nation and around the world who desperately need teachers who are:
Because, when our teachers are joyful, passionate, fulfilled, and thriving our students catch it and they become joyful, passionate, fulfilled and thriving learners. I will keep sharing my story, my heart, my message, because if in doing so I can help save one teacher from leaving their classroom I will have saved thousands of students from missing out on the gift they have to give.
For all of you who pour your heart and soul into teaching each day and are feeling tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and are barely holding on for dear life. You are not alone. Don't lose hope. Give yourself grace. I know how hard you are working. I also want you to know there is a magical adventure ahead for you too and generations of students that want to join in with you! You hold the magic!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.