Monday, October 7, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure

As a kid I was not an avid reader at all.  It really came down to sports books where I was more interested in the pictures than content and the occasional Choose Your Own Adventure book which I liked because the story could change and I had the opportunity to make a decision.  Subsequently, if I didn't like the outcome, I would go back in the story and choose something different to meet my needs. I think one of the reasons I had a hard time getting started with books was the unknown.  Will it be something I like? Will it be too hard for me? The questions that I didn’t have answers to tended to drive my desire to read and that really hindered my ability to grow through text.

As I started my career in administration I think I was bringing the same concept to those around me.  People were limited in their growth because I was the only one providing the resources for them...and it tended to cause a great deal of stress from my perspective because I felt that I needed to be all things to all people.  Therefore, the leadership tended to be on a surface level and though people may have been excited to be at school and enjoyed the culture...pushing for growth as educators came in a very limited form.  I reference George Couros (@gcouros) very often and one of my favorite quotes of his is “The smartest person in the room is the room”.  I actually started using it with students when I visited classrooms last week and love the idea of growing well outside of your own perspective.  Instilling that concept with staff is a key component to educator growth.  Combine that with the EdCamp movement across the world and we are getting ready for the winds of change in Northwest WI.

EdCamp...Cluster A Style
This Friday over 500 educators will descend upon little Fall Creek, WI.  Members of 7 different school districts (known as Cluster A) are coming together to learn...from each other.  We have over 60 sessions offered as well as a chance for grade level and departments from other districts to get together in hopes of celebrating the work we all do with students and challenging each other to grow as a group.  A collection of 14 people from these districts got together for one reason...Professional Development was simply not working.  Seeing a motivational speaker was great, but the end result was a spike in excitement and then a faint recollection of the message months later.  This group wanted to provide the vehicle for continuous improvement, allow choice for our staff members, and grow as a group dedicated to changing what education could look like in our area.  We have AMAZING people doing incredible things...but the chance to connect and grow together was not happening. We broke from traditional Edcamp format in that we asked for sessions and facilitators in advance.  The biggest difference between what we are offering and what Edcamp generally provides is the motivation to go.  Attending an Edcamp is a choice so there is a great deal of internal motivation to drive the day.  Our day is we wanted people to know and understand what they were getting into before showing up on Friday morning.

Beyond the Day
With the help of our technology coordinators, special thanks to @fcsdtechguy and @jbgrangaard, we have set up an interactive Cluster A web page for our group of schools that will go well beyond reference and promote the opportunity to grow from wherever your baseline sits.  The expectation is that all sessions will be videotaped, archived, tagged, and available in the future.  Our tech guys have done a great job of setting this up so there won’t be added pressure on our presenters during sessions.  We hope the discussions that start will continue through email, twitter, blogs, and optional after school sessions.  Our job as a coordination group is to provide the opportunity and resources for our staff. 

Choice is crucial.  We often talk about providing opportunities for students to choose their learning, but if we don’t model that from an administrator perspective, we need to take a look at what we are doing.  We also hope this eliminates the… “There is nothing for me” reaction to PD we have heard in the past.  With over 60 different sessions our guess is there will be spark interest and add something to your toolbox as an educator.
So here we go.  The intent of the day is simple...fix the way we grow teachers and change the face of education.  That's it!  Clearly this won’t happen in one day...but if we give our staff the the opportunity to choose...their adventure will be much more meaningful and the impact on our kids will be tremendous.  Follow the #ClusterA hash tag this Friday...we are hoping to break Twitter.  Go Crickets.


  1. Nice post Joe. I enjoyed the reference to "choose your own adventure" books. I believe you are spot on -

    (We often talk about providing opportunities for students to choose their learning, but if we don’t model that from an administrator perspective, we need to take a look at what we are doing.)

    I hope Friday is a day of learning, growth and positivity. Choice is the way of the now and the future. I'm not surprised that Fall Creek is leading the revolution. Lead On my friend.

    1. Appreciate the comments, Ben! We are looking forward to the day...planning has been difficult, but the team that put it together has been amazing. The conversations about what quality PD should look like were as good as any I have ever had...hoping for a great start to a new way of thinking. Side note...your blog with "Videos Worth Watching" was the start of the conversation to record all sessions and create an archive...thanks so much!! I added that component to my district blog as well...great idea. Hope you are well my friend. Take care.