Tag Archives: Brent Anderson

Maximizing my own Summer learning: An #ILEdchat reflection

This week, the #ILEdchat team chatted about maximizing summer learning. (New to #ILEdchat? You can read more about how that started and what we do here.) As our team formed questions for the chat, my own hopes and plans for summer were heavy on my mind. I knew the time would pass all too quickly, and I didn’t want to head back to school with the same To Do list I had in June and a pile of regrets as to how I’d used my time. I knew that being intentional with my time could lead to great progress. Family time, my dissertation, my best friend’s wedding (the real deal…not the movie!), #NAESP14, teaching an online course, many much neglected home projects, preparing for the school year ahead, and improving my fitness were and still are all part of my summer master plan. As the chat unfolded, it was indeed encouraging to hear how others were approaching their summer plans, too. You can read the chat archive here for ideas on summer planning and some great reading suggestions from teachers and administrators across and beyond Illinois. I left our hour-long chat and have moved through the week considering the following ideas that certainly pertain to summer learning and progress but have relevance beyond:

  • Continue to share the terrific and the tough: There is power in sharing our hopes and plans with one another and taking on a role of encourager instead of solely needing to be encouraged. Admittedly, the latter is more how I felt in preparing for our chat. I am fortunate to benefit from a great support system, both virtually and face-to-face. As I work on my dissertation, I have a great accountability partner in my friend and former colleague, Brent. We share what we do accomplish, and he isn’t afraid to tell me when I need to get my act together and keep moving. I also have a PLN with people like Nicholas Provenzano, who I’ve only seen once face-to-face a couple years back at the ISTE Leadership Forum. We’ve never even had a conversation, but the post he shared about his own deep, personal struggles and the responses he received on his blog and Twitter are incredible examples of mutual support in which he was both supported and his willingness to share lifted others who share such struggles. 
  • Be intentional & disciplined: This morning, Daniel Pink shared a post by Shane Parrish , An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day and Finding Focus. In exercise and time management, there are no shortage of plans to follow that promise great results, but there are often ideas to glean within them. I appreciate that this reinforces the importance of starting a day with a plan and ending it with reflection. The idea to set alarms to monitor progress throughout the day is worthwhile, especially in the summer when I have a bit more control over my schedule than during school days. During the year, I set my phone alarm for our morning half-day kindergarten dismissal, our afternoon half-day arrival, and for 5 minutes before school dismissed so that I was reminded to be part of those times. I think that could be a helpful strategy in monitoring my time in the summer, too. I know what I need to do, and I have to be disciplined in following through and intentional in planning and adjusting. 
  • Allow yourself to have fun! Looking back up at my summer list, there sure is a lot of opportunity for fun amidst the tasks! Recently a friend shared this article on Facebook about too much hurrying and what that can do to us and to our children. I can visualize the mom dragging her child along with reminders to hurry; I have been that Mom, that wife, that principal… Being intentional and disciplined means building in that time to not hurry, too,

A simple summer to do list quickly moved me to deeper reflection about how I really want to be all of the time, and it left me feeling encouraged and challenged. Seems summer learning is actually about much more than summer learning and task completion. To take thoughts to action, I will use my calendar to schedule my time and alarms during work time to stop and reflect. I will use running time to reflect, too.

In the chat we asked participants to finish this sentence they likely uttered in the Spring: “I can’t wait for summer so I have time to…”  Think about how you might finish this sentence in the Fall: “This summer was awesome because…”

I can do this

In the Fall of 2010, I enrolled in a doctoral program in Educational Administration at Northern Illinois University. Today, I spent this afternoon in  DeKalb to observe a dissertation defense for a candidate with the same committee chair and a quantitative study. While I’m likely a year+ from that step myself, I needed to see someone successfully navigate that process. I needed to remind myself that I can do this. Now here I am writing ABOUT my dissertation, when I probably should be writing my dissertation itself. All in the name of reflection, right?

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a bit about my decisions, the challenges, and the benefits here. Since then, I completed my final two courses, passed my comprehensive exams, and started my dissertation work. The exams were pretty stressful, and I was glad to put them in the rear-view mirror on my first attempt. And while I was pleased to reach the milestone of completing my coursework, I found myself having some mixed feelings. As a mom and a principal, I feel the weight of my responsibility to those I serve at home and at school. Often that is a  positive, but it certainly isn’t without challenge. For that time on Saturday, though, I selfishly felt responsible only for myself and found myself in the company of others at a similar stage in life trying to balance the same things I tried to balance. It was a comfortable place to be, and I miss that part of the experience.

Since then, I’ve changed school districts and started my dissertation. I was fortunate to find a chair and a methodologist so I could begin fine-tuning my study. Some members of my cohort still check in from time to time; one friend, Brent Anderson, and I check in more regularly and made the trek today to see that defense, talk about our experience and progress, and enjoy the local nachos. At some point in today’s conversation, and in most that we have on this topic, I find myself saying, “We can totally do this.” Watching a candidate present and respond from questions to her committee was really helpful and encouraging. As we were there to observe, the chair and committee members explained some parts of the process to add to our learning. In that moment, I feel okay. In the moments where I’m focused on my next step, I feel okay. When I think about all that happens between my next step and that last step, I feel a little less than okay. I’m guessing that’s a normal part of the process, although I assure you it isn’t my favorite part.

salonwritingMy plan?

Keep focusing on that next step with the knowledge that I’ll reach my end goal. Continue those support and accountability conversations with my friends and colleagues who are working through the process as well. Be disciplined as I work toward my own graduation target of May 2015. And keep taking photos of the random places I work on my dissertation, giving credit to Brent who started this. I’m sure it’ll make for a lovely collection someday!

 

Writing time

Last Friday I noticed the following Tweet:

I have 9 “draft” posts that I started and never finished, thinking of picking the 5 best and finishing them Monday-Friday next week.

— Jesse P. McLean (@jmclean77) July 5, 2013

This got me thinking about the unfinished drafts that were sitting in my own folder and the general lack of attention I’ve given my blog. Within the next day or so I responded to another of Jesse’s Tweets, noting that I’d been thinking about joining him in this challenge of sorts. Upon a quick count, I had 5 posts started to varying degrees along with many cases of “I really should write about that” floating around in my head. Jesse asked why those posts most often ended up in the draft folder, and I’d attribute that to two main reasons:

  • I simply wasn’t taking the time I needed to write and reflect.
  • I’d struggled (and still do to an extent) to write a simple point-in-time post, instead striving for an authentic, thoughtful reflection…that was comprehensive, polished and ‘finished’.

Have those same reasons impacted your writing? What are other challenges that impede your writing time? Logically, I know taking this time is important to my own learning and the modeling of learning I hope to do for others. I also know a blog post is only ‘finished’ until you think more, read more, reflect more, share more, and experience more. In other words, it isn’t finished. Learning isn’t finished. When I look back at previous posts, I see many instances where I could expand and add on based on things I simply hadn’t known or done at that point. I have to move past those reasons, and, with that, I joined Jesse in #draftweek where we’re each completing 5 posts that previously sat ‘unfinished’ and unshared. (I’m also throwing in a Goo Goo Dolls/Matchbox 20 concert tomorrow to add to the excitement.) Be sure to check out Jesse’s blog over here for some good reads, too.

Back to my own draft posts, last night I wrote about #iledchat, and tonight I find myself here in “Writing Time.” The excerpt below was all I had written the first weekend in May.

Today I completed my last required doctoral course. Having also passed my comprehensive candidacy exams this spring, ‘only’ my dissertation remains. Just before the semester started, I wrote this about my choices and experiences.

And that’s where I stopped this particular post (Must have been really tired…., right?). My intent was to write further about putting a structure in place to formalize my dissertation process and continue the accountability that came with weekly class sessions. With that, a special shout-out to Brent Anderson who patiently talks me through my study as I work to formalize the initial stages. Brent has a dissertation in progress, too, and  writes on his blog; you should check out his messages to his school community here.

The truth is I have a lot of work to do to be sure I honor writing time, both in my personal/professional reflection and to actualize my doctoral goal. As you make time to write and recognize that learning never stops, make sure you also encourage a colleague or friend so they have the support they need to both move forward and encourage someone else. I know that, after the fact, I never feel like writing time is time wasted.