What If You Just Said, "Yes"?

2017 was the first time that I picked a word to guide me for the year ahead. I liked the idea of the simplicity of that process - rather than a whole list of resolutions, streamlining things into one word of intention that would keep me focussed and moving forward.  I won’t share publicly on the blog the word I chose last year, but I WILL say that the Universe had a whole different definition of it than what I had intended in my own mind - and not at all in a way that worked with my plans and dreams for 2017. Things definitely did not turn out the way I had hoped with that one carefully chosen word. As a result, I was a little nervous to choose a word for 2018, fearing that I might face a similar situation with my new selection.

My friend, HyperDoc guru and amazing educator Lisa Highfill, tagged me in a post about a special “One Little Word” HyperDoc created by the equally outstanding educator, Sarah Landis.  It was beautiful and inspiring enough to convince me to revisit the value of this process and practice, to try it out with my students, and to choose another word myself.  I have embedded the HyperDoc below, but you can also access it at: http://bit.ly/onewordhd  As always with HyperDocs, please maintain credit to the original author in your copies or iterations.

While browsing my Twitter feed, I noticed others posting similar One Word activities, and sharing their own words for 2018, using the hashtag #oneword2018.  I was inspired by the great posts, the quality word choices, and the ideas for extending this activity.  There were beautiful graphic designs, amazing decorated doors, stellar sketchnotes, and much more to peruse. So much One Word goodness was being posted!  Another terrific One Word HyperDoc was shared by Meredith Akers on her website.  I definitely recommend you check it out as well. It is similar in idea to Sarah’s HyperDoc, but has a slightly different format for sharing out each student’s word. You can choose what might work best for your class - or possibly a mash-up of both! You can find Meredith’s activity details by clicking here.

Choosing a word does not have to be something that you do just at the beginning of the year.  I can see this being a powerful practice at the start of each month, each term or semester, or even each season of the year.  It might be something you do each year on your birthday, or at other pivotal times where you would like to refocus yourself.  It is never a bad time to stop, reflect, and move forward with intention. The word you choose is a great touchstone to come back to as you ponder next steps and consider how it has influenced the time in between choosing it and where you are now.  In British Columbia, where I live, our students are required to self-assess on a number of important core competencies.  The One Word activity could definitely tie very nicely into these reflections and assessments.

Maybe choosing a word is not your thing, but you would still like to have your students thinking about the year ahead and setting goals and intentions.  You might be interested in this additional activity that talented Texas educator Kasey Bell posted on her blog about creating digital vision boards.  I love this idea so much that I think my class will be doing it in addition to the One Word exercises!  You can find instructions and inspiration for Kasey’s vision board activity by clicking here.

I kept resisting picking my own word for 2018, but there WAS a word that kept showing up for me that was really resonating.  That word was, “Yes.”  It showed up when I had to decide whether to take a friend up on her incredible offer of a special, last minute vacation getaway.  It appeared in some beautiful meditations that I practiced from incredible teacher and author Tara Brach.  I kept finding it in articles and posts and books that I was reading.  It also showed up when Lisa tagged me in the post about the One Word HyperDoc, inviting me to reconsider choosing a word for this year and encouraging my students to join me. I have decided to let go of my fear from last year, say “Yes!” to the word, “yes”, and claim that word for my own this year. I am choosing to believe that "yes" means that good things will come to me when I release fear, try new things, choose to shift perspective and see the underlying freedom in situations that might feel like they are currently burdening me, and receive opportunities that are sent my way. My fingers are crossed that this year my word takes me places that are far better than I ever could have imagined.

If you are struggling to choose a word, even after looking through the great resources, inspiration, and word lists, maybe you should consider making up your own word? My thoughtful father recently came across and shared with me a really incredible TEDx talk by John Koening called, “Beautiful New Words to Describe Obscure Emotions” which might inspire you to start generating words of your own. John is the author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows where he shares the words he has created to describe things that have previously eluded a single expression to define them.  He also has a YouTube channel where you can view all of the videos for the words he has carefully and thoughtfully crafted. The videos are absolutely, breathtakingly, poetically beautiful.  “Socha” made my breath catch.  “Sonder” touched my heart.  I have posted it below. Sonder means, “The realization that everyone has a story.”  What do you hope your story will look like in 2018? What word will you choose to represent it this year?

Have you chosen a word for 2018?

Have you tried doing a one word or vision boarding activity to start the new year with your students?

Do you have any other great activities that you like to use to start a new month, year, term, semester, or season in your classroom?

Please share in the comments below, or join our Facebook group and tell us your stories there!  Your voice and ideas are important and valued. 

525,600 Minutes

“525,600 minutes. 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?  How about love? Measure in love.”

- Seasons of Love from the musical, “Rent

December is always an interesting month for me. While I prefer the summer months because of the sunshine, longer days, and many outdoor activities (especially lake kayaking!) to partake in, December always signals a time for getting still and quiet, reflecting on the 11 months that precede it, and thinking about the new year to come. It is also the month where my birthday falls, so in addition to starting a new calendar year, I am beginning another trip around the sun myself, causing even further desire for self-reflection, exploration of personal growth and goal setting.

2017 was an extremely difficult year for me personally. In addition to my own difficulties, I feel like there were a lot of challenges in 2017 for many people on our planet. I don't feel I am inaccurate in saying that I have very few friends, acquaintances or people who I follow through social media who would express that it was their best year yet; in fact, for many, the opposite may be true. Nevertheless, we have made it through to the end of it. We learn from both our successes and our challenges, and sometimes the most powerful lessons come from the most difficult of circumstances.  Here are some of my most important takeaways from 2017:

  1. I forgot that one of the hardest things about being a classroom teacher is the amount of sleep I lose worrying about the students in my class.

  2. Mindfulness and meditation practices can help you process and work through some pretty difficult stuff that medication cannot.

  3. It is ok to stop, breathe, and take time to take care of yourself.

  4. There are many people around you going through hard things, including the students in your class and school - and your colleagues too. Be kind to everyone.

  5. When you are really, really struggling, sometimes you are often surprised by the people who show up to support you that you never expected… just as you are sometimes bewildered by the ones who you thought would be there for you, but are not.

  6. Sometimes when things feel the darkest, you don’t have any idea how close you actually are to getting to the other side of the tunnel where the light is shining.

  7. If you are willing to be courageous, curious, and caring, you begin to realize that almost everything is figureoutable.

In addition to personal contemplation, this time of year is a great time to ask your students about their own reflections on 2017 and their wishes for the new year.  I absolutely love this article about doing a nightly debrief with your children at home, and have borrowed some of the questions to add to a quick reflection for 2017/18 printable (go to "File - download as - PDF document" for the most printer-friendly formatting.) I left it in grey-scale for photocopying purposes. You are welcome to use it with your own students, and I will be using it with mine.  I am not a gifted graphic designer, so if anyone wants to take this template and improve upon it, I would love it if you would do that and then please share it back with me: info@theglueedu.com, so I can share it here on the blog for others to use as well.  We are better together. UPDATE: Thanks to @mrmaltais for sharing his version of the above reflection printable.

One thing I know for sure: my life has been made better in 2017 through the incredible gift of connection. I am lucky to have so many rich connections with people - both face-to-face and online, and I can’t imagine having gotten through this year without them. I am always slightly mystified by people who still blame technology for disconnect between humans. So many of the people in my friend circles, my “tribe”, and my support networks have been those who I connect with from a distance, and this would not have been possible without the use of technology.  I cannot adequately express the gratitude I feel every day for the ability to spend time with these people via the use of the Internet and my technology devices.  It is possible to feel a dark, deep loneliness and disconnect with someone whose face you have an opportunity to see in person every day, just as you can experience absolute joy from a connection with someone who feels like sunshine to you, in a time zone 9 hours different from yours. It really is what you do with technology that matters.  If you are purchasing technology devices for yourself or others this season, please keep that in mind.  The best technology is that which allows you to create and connect, to share stories and support, and get to know and understand others better. There is no better gift than that.

As you think about the 525,600 minutes to come in 2018, how can you use your devices and Internet connection in the service of human connection?

Happy holidays and here’s to an amazing new year! 2018 is going to be the year that love wins. For me. For you. For all of us on planet Earth. I just know it.

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Nothing Sticks Together If We Don't

This content is cross-posted from the EdTechTeam blog.

“Whatcha gonna do about it?” I felt like the Universe was taunting me with this question after a challenging series of difficult life events and unexpected changes in rapid succession.  In addition to feeling defeated and depleted on a personal level, I was feeling anxiety and concern about the world at large. Every time I turned on the news, scrolled through social media or perused trending topics, I was bombarded with stories that were steeped in negativity.  I needed help finding the positive, and looked for inspiration in books, podcasts, online courses, and videos from people who have worked through difficult times with great courage. I noticed that many of them had the same core message, expressed beautifully by Viktor Frankl:  “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”  Perspective is powerful. Seeing difficult times as a catalyst for change and growth can help mitigate feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  Instead of perceiving “Whatcha gonna do about it?” as a call to surrender to sadness and wave the white flag, I decided to choose to see it differently – as a challenge to do something good.  My response? The Glue EDU.

If we focus on the negative, we tend to see more of it. If we look for the positive, it begins to appear more frequently. I decided I wanted to create a blog that focused on the good, that helped myself, other teachers and students work toward becoming more “Wholehearted” (as defined by Brené Brown), and generate a positive ripple as a result.  

 Sketchnote by  Leonie Dawson

Sketchnote by Leonie Dawson

I came up with my site’s mission: We appear to be existing in a time in this world (and often in educational systems) where the focus seems to be on things such as power, programs, policies, politics, plans, and procedures. It feels like decision makers sometimes overlook the most important “P word” of all: PEOPLEThe Glue EDU aspires to be a place where we can share lessons, activities, ideas, resources and more that help us work with our students to become human beings who are courageouscurious, and caring  – both to themselves and to others.  This could be through mindfulness activities, acts of service, global projects, storytelling, perspective shifting, and more!  Many of these activities can harness the power of technology to help us be even more effective and/or wide-reaching.

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As someone who has worked as a tech integrator for more than a decade, I am passionate about sharing ideas about using technology for GOOD, and teaching our students to do the same. I listen to a lot of people blame technology for many negative things in the world – that we are more connected to our devices but less connected to one another, just for starters.  In some instances, this may be true, but I believe we can work to shift our perspective here as well, and focus on all the positive ways we can use our tech tools. I have been incredibly fortunate to attend and present at many EdTechTeam Summits and events where I have seen this demonstrated over and over in presentations by other amazing educators. We can work with students to use technology to inspire curiosity, engage in empathetic interactions, and create, create, create – whether it’s connections to others, stories to share, solutions to problems, or moments of joy. It’s what you do with it that matters – and there are so many ways and opportunities to do it well!

It is scary to share your work publicly. When I began The Glue EDU, I worried that my only blog followers would be a couple good friends and my mom.  The response has been so much better than I ever expected. Colleagues in my own district are using some of the mindfulness resources I mentioned. Teachers from across North America, in New Zealand, and from Singapore, among others, shared how my post about #eyebombing brightened their day, made them smile, and inspired them to try it with their students. Kids in California are now getting a hug, handshake or high five from their teacher every day. An educator in Ohio reached out to say she made some big connections to the truthbombs I shared and thanked me for writing about them. Knowing that I am creating the positive ripple I had hoped for it gives me the courage to keep posting.

Human relationships, empathy, and compassion: they create the glue that connects us. I would love to hear your stories about using technology for good and possibly share them on the blog so others can hear them  – your perspective is important and necessary! Let’s use technology to connect our classrooms, share good ideas, and shift perspective to the positive together. Nothing sticks together if we don’t. Please join me!

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Truthbombs from Ten Year Olds

Sometimes kids surprise you. Sometimes you think that, because they are kids, they don't understand the deeper connections between the projects we do in school, and larger life lessons.  Sometimes they prove you wrong. 

We wrapped our photography unit by having a discussion about things they had learned to be true about photography. Here is what they came up with (edited by me for clarity of expression, but basic concepts preserved):

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Sometimes 10 year olds come up with some pretty big #truthbombs. 

Truthbombs resonate, because they're... well... TRUE.  They're usually pretty simply stated, but they make a big impact because they're expressed in a context you, perhaps, had not thought of before.  We'll be spiralling back through these photography/life #truthbombs throughout our learning year. They are good ones.

My students hit me with another #truthbomb this week. I asked them to discuss the question, "Do you believe people are naturally good?" More than 2/3 of them said that they did not believe this statement to be true. This broke my heart. I expressed my surprise about their responses to some of my colleagues, which led to an interesting adult discussion about how it is possible that children's worldviews are being shaped by technology in a negative way. News is often sad and serious. People sometimes say horrible things to each other on social media. It is easier to dehumanize others and treat them in ways that are cruel when we can hide behind our screens to do it. It is difficult to escape the media and communication options that surround us and are available 24/7. We start to believe what we see, and much of it is negative. Knowing that the magic ratio of positive to negative moments in a day needs to be at least 5:1 for optimal emotional and physical health, are we seeing enough of the good stuff in our feeds, streams, and media? After thinking about all of these things, is it really technology that is the problem, or does it get an unnecessarily bad rap?

My questions at the end of this discussion were: 

How can we use technology for good? How can we harness its power to help our students see that we are all connected... that despite any perceived differences, we are all simply human beings who crave love and belonging and live on one planet that we all need to take care of together? 

How do we help people understand that all of us belong to each other, and that every time one of us hurts another, it hurts us all?  

How do we find wisdom in the way we use technological tools to help us get to the #truthbombs that allow us to make connections to our lives in ways that might induce positive change in our thinking, like we did with our photography projects?

I don't have all the answers, but I was really grateful for technology that allows anyone to share their story with others through video this week. Here are two videos that I watched that helped me to feel more optimistic. I shared them with my students. Some of them said it shifted their thinking about the inherent goodness in people.  Maybe they will help you feel better too.  If you have any thoughts or answers to the above questions, please share in the comments below or in our Facebook group.

#Eyebombing

Using photography to create a catalog of beauty was a great way of practicing being present, mindful, and grateful.  It was also a nice exploration into looking at things from a different perspective and considering how shifting a vantage point might change one's experience with an idea, object, or person.  I have been looking for some project ideas to do more perspective-shifting work with my students, and, as fate would have it, the perfect one came through my Facebook feed: #eyebombing. Watch the video below to learn more about the fun concept.

I learned about #eyebombing when I happened upon an amazing HyperDoc assignment created by my friend, talented California educator, Lisa Highfill, based on a lesson idea by Adam Randall.  HyperDocs are a transformative way of using collaborative technology, such as Google Docs & Slides, to create blended classroom instruction and engage students in learning activities. Find out more about HyperDocs here, or by reading Lisa's phenomenal book, co-authored with Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis. This particular HyperDoc merged writing, photography, creativity and FUN!  You can view the HyperDoc here (you can make your own copy if you are logged into your Google account - please maintain credit to the original creators in any copy that is made), or scroll through the Slides embedded below to learn more!

What was extra exciting for me was the fact that in this assignment, perspective was addressed in two ways. First was the idea of looking for ordinary things and seeing how we could shift/add something to experience them in a completely different way - one that might create a moment of joy for ourselves and/or others.  The fact that the simple addition of two plastic eyes made us see the object completely differently than we did before adding them was powerful in terms of understanding perspective shift. Second was the idea of writing a story from the perspective of the #eyebombed character. It made us think beyond our own feelings and try to understand those of another - fictional as they may be.  These will be really great concepts to build upon in future lessons.

For less than $3 (thank goodness for craft store coupons!) I was able to purchase a package of 160 self-adhesive googly eyes. This gave each student in my class six eyeballs (three pairs of eyes) to use to create characters.  They worked in groups of 3 - each group having a camera to document their creations - and set off to #eyebomb our school.  (*Note: I did email my entire staff the day before and let them know what I was planning so that nobody was caught by surprise).  We explored different areas of the campus - inside and outside - and found so many fun ways to create "faces" on inanimate objects. The joy was palpable - everyone was giggling for two reasons: they were having a ton of fun creating their own #eyebombs and appreciating what their classmates were designing around them, and they were anticipating the smiles that would be brought to others' faces at recess when everyone came out of class and noticed the #eyebombs. It was a really enjoyable activity to be a part of and witness to.

Check out some of my favourite creations from the project in the gallery below. So awesome!  We are still working on writing and editing our stories in Google Docs, but I have no doubt that they will be as fun as the creations themselves!

If you are interested in #eyebombing, you can follow the hashtag or the user @eyebombing on Twitter.  You can also check out the website Eyebombing.com

Have you done any activities with your students that help explore the idea of looking at things from a different perspective?

Have you planned to create any moments of joy in your lessons and units this year?  

Please share in the comments below, or join our Facebook group and tell us your stories there!  Your voice and ideas are important and valued. Please share!

Addendum: Check out this amazing iteration of the HyperDoc that Gina Ripley created and shared out on Twitter after reading this post! Even better than the original!

Also, check out this great vlog from Darin Nakakihara highlighting how he did this project with his 4th graders, and a fun interview with Lisa Highfill as well!

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