Sunday, December 16, 2018

Applied Learning in a Test-centric World

It was 1990 and I was one semester away from graduating with a degree in Accounting. I was taking Tax Accounting in the summer and everyone knew that was crazy. Taking one of the hardest classes in my major in a 6-week class was no joke. I felt like I never left the library that summer. There were groups of us there studying our hearts out day in and day out. I remember sitting at a table with a friend that was also taking a class. One day another student came over and asked us a question about the law and I answered immediately. I had memorized everything well. Reading over it again and again.

I will never forget when the professor announced the first exam. We could use our tax book and write any notes we wanted to inside that book. I thought I had it made! I wrote itty bitty tiny all through the book and felt prepared as possible. I was an A/B student most of my life and while memorizing didn't come easy for me, I could do it. I remember sitting there looking at the first exam and thinking "Oh dear goodness, I'm going to flunk this!" And I did. And the next one too. I was shaken to the core! I had studied like crazy, to the point where I was the one other students would come to ask questions but I wasn't ready for everything I studied to be applied as actual case studies. I didn't know how to convert my information into knowledge that would actually help people on their tax returns. I pulled a D in that class and I was mortified. I cried like a baby. How could I be an accountant if I couldn't really understand how to help people? Side note: I actually already was working for a public accounting firm and had my own clients at age 21. And, I was fairly good at it.

But the truth is I was 21, about to graduate college and for the first time in my educational process, I had to apply what I was supposed to have learned not just regurgitate facts like I usually did. Maybe I had to apply my learning in classes sometime before that along the way of my k-12 and higher ed journey but I had no recollection of it. My point is, I didn't know how to apply my learning because my educational testing was always about repeating facts back to the teacher. I really don't have very much recollection of critical thinking as part of the educational process.

Actually, I think that the professor was ahead of her time. Allowing students to take an open book test and apply the information that was in there. This was before the internet existed but she knew that every tax accountant would have that little book or something similar that they could easily access as part of their career. She wanted to know if we knew how to apply the book to situations.

Fast forward to 2018 and I think about the fact that education still often looks like the regurgitation of facts for many classes but today's access to information is even easier than ever before. So do we as teachers just give our students access to that information during exams and have them apply it in ways that seem authentic? Some do, others are still asking questions that can be googled in 2.7 seconds. How are we preparing our students for those applied learning moments?

  • How are they learning about history in a way to prevent it from happening again instead of knowing how many soldiers died in what battle?  
  • How are we teaching students how to balance a bank account (something everyone should know how to do) instead of word problems that ask how much of his $50 John has left after he spent $27.45 at the grocery and $6.52 at the cleaners?
  • How are we teaching students how to write for others when only their teacher sees their writing but being able to write a blog post is considered a skill needed for today's workforce?
  • How can the scientific method be relevant when the lab experiment is so prescribed that everyone gets the same answer? 
Applying the learning given to students thru the textbook, website, or teacher's mouth is the next step to knowing learning has actually happened and that the learning has led to something students can articulate through action. Assessment should be changing because it is not really showing the teacher or the student the value of what they are memorizing. You want students to get excited about what you teach? Make it purposeful. You want students to not cheat in your class? Assess them in ways that apply the things they can easily google. 

The thing that scares us as teachers: Not all students have the ability to transfer the information being told to them in class to authentic issues. I was proof and I was a good student! BUT, if we start transforming the educational process now, students will start learning how to look at a problem through a design thinking lens or value the need to memorize facts because the test is going to ask them to apply those facts in new ways. Applied learning isn't easy but a world of thinkers that are regurgitators is even harder. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What is Cheating in the Digital Age?

For the past few weeks, I've heard the laments of teachers worrying about cheating. For some, it's because they are actively aware it is happening in their classrooms. For others, it's because they have heard it is happening in someone else's classroom. As I hear what others are saying I am appalled by some of the blatantly sneaky cheating that is going on by students but I also am aware of a gray area that seems to blend the lines between right and wrong. So I ask, what is cheating in this digital age? The following blog post isn't about me saying that cheating is ok, it is about my view on why it is harder than ever before to keep a student that wants to cheat from cheating. Here is my opinion why it seems more acceptable to students to work the system:

  • Hacking is acceptable and seen as a skill. Today we are training students how to code starting in preK because the future wants this skill in the workplace. According to the Techopedia website, hacking is the ability to break into a system ( but every single day as an instructional technologist I sit at my desk and wish for different educational platforms to be able to do certain things they cannot and I look for add-ons (or hacks) to make it happen. For instance, at our school, we use the LMS Canvas but it doesn't inherently lock a student into a quiz tab while taking a quiz so we have bought the "hack" known as Respondus Lockdown Browser as an add-on to do this. There is a little bit of irony that the hack is to prevent cheating but in this case, Respondus is what is known as a non-malicious hack that adds value to a product and the product readily accepts it. But do you see the irony? 
  • We are teaching students to find tools to help them in their learning. Today's students have not ever lived without the Google search engine. This means that today's students are not dependent on their teacher to pour information into them. Part of teaching today is helping students discern tools that aid their learning. Maybe it's Khan Academy for a math concept or as I type on this blog, maybe it is Grammarly. Grammarly is a writing assistant that helps you correct grammar mistakes as you type. To me, even the free version is one step beyond the red squiggly underlines of word processing software. With one click, I can add Grammarly as an extension on my Chrome toolbar and I have a benefit the person sitting next to me does not. AND if I happen to have $12/month the benefit for the paid version can truly change the way I write by leaps and bounds. But what if a teacher is grading my grammar on an essay, is this cheating or is this using the tools available to me?
  • Everyone else is doing it. Yesterday I had a conversation with a super vigilant parent that works hard to create safeguards for his children not to access parts of the internet that can lead to moral degradation. After realizing his boys were accessing gaming time more than he had set up to allow through their Disney Circle he dug a bit deeper. His boys had downloaded an app that allowed them to bypass the VPN blocks so that they could play Fortnite longer than their father deemed healthy. When asked how they knew what to do..." everyone at school does it." The father said to me "and I have good kids!" and he does. If this is so rampantly accepted by this generation how do we harness it? How do we protect ourselves from ourselves? Or more importantly, how do we protect our children as they are developing their frontal lobe from themselves?
  • There doesn't seem to be ramifications. Kids aren't getting caught. This week I heard of two students laughing in the hallway about turning in a slideshow they had pulled off the web, changing one page and then turning it in and getting an A for it. I also heard about some students cheating on exams in a classroom on a regular basis since the beginning of the school year. If it seems like people are getting away with it then the effort to do right seems pointless. Of course, this opens the door for a lot of edge-pushing discourse. Perhaps the concept of grades need to go away? Or what feels like high stakes testing? And then there is the fact that our school's average ACT scores keep going up so if students are cheating but those type of scores continue to go up where is the disconnect? And is it that the students see the disconnect better than the educators do? I realize all those questions could be read as heresy but like I said, this blog post is to help me put all the cards on the table and honestly look at what is happening.
  • The rules of plagiarism are harder to distinguish. Not just for the student but for the teacher as well. My college-aged student just finished a class in British Literature where she made a 50 on a project because the teacher said she plagiarized. That being said, she still doesn't believe she did because she had sources on every slide. Quite honestly, I'm not sure she did either. And there is the rub. The ease of access to an abundance of information makes it harder and harder for teachers to distinguish the work of their students from someone else. It also makes it harder for students to discern if that was an original thought they just wrote in their paper or if it was something they read in the last 2 hours when perusing one well-written article after another during their research phase. 
  • Access to information makes some tests seem irrelevant at best. And this is the bullet point that will get educators ruffled more than any other. Are we still testing our students as if they didn't have access to technology? In my lifetime of learning, there was value in rote memorization questions but if I can google an answer in 2.7 seconds is our question relevant in today's world? Perhaps it is time for us to evaluate our evaluations. Can we assume students will always have access to information and test them in a way that shows they have turned that information into knowledge? Critical thinking questions based on information readily available. Or authentic learning opportunities, project-based learning, inquiry-driven learning etc...all seem like buzzwords but we are in a time in education where discerning if learning is actually taking place is getting harder and harder to do. How do we change our method of operation to meet the needs of today's student so that cheating doesn't seem like the most logical way to deal with a test at hand. How do we change our questioning to force students to think about their answers instead of googling their answers? 
  • What happened to honor? How do we instill in students the virtue of being honorable in regards to testing integrity? What digital citizenship lessons need to be talked about in every classroom to show the level of importance we place on this? What expectations need to be placed on the student? What ramifications? And while we are at it, what expectations should be placed on the educator to do their part in creating an environment where integrity and honor are both expected and monitored for? 
What is cheating in the digital age? It might seem black and white to you but to our students, it is becoming more and more of a gray area. We can't ignore this. Important conversations need to be happening so that important outcomes can be produced. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Digital Testing Safeguards

In 2013 I wrote my first blog post on managing technology usage in the classroom. The fear of off task behavior still seems to be one of the main reasons teachers are hesitant to use technology five years later. While the devices may vary, the concepts on how to teach students good internal management of appropriate use has not changed. It starts with intentional boundaries being placed on students anytime technology is in their hands from pre-K forward.

I believe wholeheartedly that classroom management of students on devices is a digital citizenship issue. We are teaching students how to manage their impulses by setting expectations of appropriate usage. I also believe that if we are requiring students to use technology in our classrooms, we also need to be teaching students how to use it wisely and timely. Expectations are important for appropriate usage.

As our high school is moving forward to prepare for exams using Canvas for objective assessments my mind has been thinking on various ways to prepare the testing environment and test itself for integrity purposes. Below are my thoughts on this subject:

  • Classroom seating setup- make cheating hard but make monitoring easy for you. Exams don't take forever, move your desks or your students to help you monitor better. I work with a teacher in the elementary school that has her students sit on one side of their desk when she is giving instructions and then when it's time for them to work on the computers she has them move their chairs to the other side of their desks so she can quickly see their screens when she is working with small groups in the back of the classroom. Another option might be setting up your room for the task at hand by setting up desks in the following ways that allow you to quickly move around your room as you proctor an exam:
  • Question banks/groups -By creating Question Banks in your learning management system you can very easily differentiate a quiz to students by allowing the system to choose questions out of a question bank. Basically you are telling the Question Group how many questions you want on the quiz and it will randomly select questions from your pre-created banks. When creating question banks for randomization purposes it is important to create banks that have the same level of critical thinking within the groupings so that the quizzes will be equitable in rigor. Use Canvas LMS? Check out these links to help you:

  • 1. Access Codes- Codes serve as a safeguard that students cannot access exams when you are not ready for them to access it. Giving students the code right at exam time and then changing the code once everyone is in is a way to make sure different sections you teach are not accessing the exam when they are not in your presence. This can be set on the detail page of any quiz/exam you make in Canvas. 
  • 2. Filter IP Addresses- Many learning management systems have the ability to only allow a quiz/exam to be taken on campus. By choosing to filter the IP address you can prevent students from possibly accessing or finishing an exam at home without a proctor. This can also be set on the detail page in Canvas. Be aware that sometimes if a device is being managed by a VPN students will not be able to take the exam due to this setting. 
  • 3. Change feedback setting - One of the beautiful things about accessing digitally is that exams are graded immediately and teachers can spend more time on other things. In Canvas there is a setting for students to see question feedback right after taking an exam (in fact, it defaults to this setting). For testing integrity purposes, I would suggest changing this setting to a time after all of your students have taken the test so that you can be more assured that students aren't sharing their results with each other. 
  • 4. Shuffle answers - In most robust LMS options there is an option to shuffle the answers inside a quiz/exam with one click. When this is utilized to automatically it is important not to have answer choices like "both a & c" because it will randomize the answers and this answer will not be correct. 
  • 5. One question at a time - By choosing the option for students to see one question on a page it keeps wandering eyes from looking over and seeing another student's page of answers. The downside to this is that many students find it cumbersome when taking a test. Think of it like a hand covering the last question as the quiz taker moves along the test. Easy access is eliminated.
  • Lockdown Browser.  Using a lockdown browser so students cannot take screenshots or navigate off the tab they have open is another option. This is not a built-in option for most LMS options. Any time add-ons are used there is sometimes an added level of opportunity for things to go wrong. Keep in mind that you may have to troubleshoot this in your classroom as well. This document gives our teachers an overview on how to use Canvas with the Respondus lockdown browser as well as showing them how students will use the software depending on which device they are using. 

    The above list give teachers various ways to create quizzes/exams that ensure testing integrity. Teachers can pick and choose things that seem most beneficial to them but the value of test proctor movement is invaluable in both digital and non-digital assessment. It is also the easiest management tool. 

    The last thing I want to share are ways to overcome students getting kicked out of a Canvas exam  and not being able to continue taking it after accessing it again. This could happen due to a connectivity anomaly or due to a student just needing extended time for testing purposes. The easiest way to handle this is to not assign a "available until" time when creating a quiz/exam. This allows the test to remain open until the student submits the exam. To monitor this well we suggest these steps:
    • Use an access code (as soon as all students have accessed the test change the code).
    • At the end of the class period have any students who have not completed the exam come to you and physically watch them exit the exam. This way they cannot continue the exam except when you give them the new code. This prevents students from finishing up a quiz/exam in study hall with access to information to help them.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2018

    What's In Your Elementary STEM Lab?

    Often when people come to visit our lower school STEM lab they ask "how did you know what to put it in?" The truth is, we didn't, but we learned along the way. The first thing I would suggest to a school system wanting to create a STEM lab is not to try to buy everything in the beginning. Don't let the tools dictate the learning. Buy as you see needs and desires. I wish we had done this a bit more in the beginning.

    This is what we currently have in our lab now that we are 3 years into the program:

    • Wonder Workshop Dash and Dot Robots. These are our "go to" robotics for elementary students. They work with 4 different apps- Wonder, Blockly, Go, Path...the various apps meet different levels of coding ability. Their durability is amazing.
    • Wonder Workshop Cue Robots. These robots even allow students to toggle between block coding a javascript.
    • Sphero Robots. Sturdy for use by young children and can even get them wet. 
    • Ozobots Evo and Bit. Start with color coding and move to block-based coding. 
    • Makey Makey. Inventor kit that allows students to turn everyday objects into keyboards using the concept of electric circuitry.  
    • Cube-lets. Small cubes that connect magnetically to create a larger simple robot. 
    • Merge Cubes. Hologram enabled Augmented/Virtual reality ability.
    • Legos. Great for engineering lessons. 
    • Magnetic building sets. Great for engineering lessons for younger children. 
    • Little Bits STEAM Student Sets. Tools needed for invention ideas in the student inventor book.  Each set can engage 3-4 students at one time. 
    • Little Bits. Circuits that snap together. 
    • LEGO Mindstorm EV3Robotics. Allows students to build, program and command these LEGO based robots.
    • LEGO Education WeDo kits. Curriculum, software and STEM, discovery-based project kits.
    • Makerbot 3D Printer. Ways to make 3D designs. 
    • 5 Lenovo Laptops. 
    • 5 iPads.
    • Class Set of Chromebooks.
    • Microscopes
    • Safety Goggles
    • Beakers
    • Extra large "LEGO" like building blocks. Large enough to set up different areas in the room by creating walls for separation
    • Markers
    • Glue Sticks
    • Glue
    • Glue guns
    • Tubs
    • Scissors
    • Aluminum Pans
    • Containers
    • Duct Tape
    • Construction Paper
    • Yarn
    • String
    • Paint
    • Other craft type supplies

    At the beginning of the year we added one item on each grade level supply list for the lab:

    Pre-K -1 pack of popsicle sticks
    Kindergarten -1 package of sticky notes
    First- 1 pack sandwich baggies
    Second- 1 package drinking straws
    Third- 1 package toothpicks
    Fourth- 1 roll masking tape
    Fifth- 1 roll scotch tape

    Some of our tools are "go to" items. The robotics and coding platforms are used across the curriculum to teach in classroom concepts regardless of the subject matter. Our students code robots to show learning in everything from language arts, bible, science, math, and geography. The time our students spend in the STEM lab directly supports the integrated units in our lower school. It is taking science, technology, engineering and math and making it actionable.

    Friday, November 2, 2018

    Holding the Tensions of Opposites

    A few weeks ago I sat in a meeting discussing funding of our STEM program and the discussions got more personal. Sharing of beliefs and conflicting beliefs that one person described as “holding the tension of opposites.” As I sat and listened to these two men talk I realized fully that this idea is something I strive for all the time. I had just never been aware of the phrase.

    After leaving the meeting I couldn’t get the concept to leave me, and after a very hard week the thought hit me again. Holding the tension of opposites isn’t easy. In fact, it often creates a tension inside me that seems like tipping scales. My recent tensions include:

    Believing that technology can have a great positive impact on education 
    and also
    Believing that technology can have a negative impact on education when people lose their balance and perspective

    Believing that preparing students for a world of technology usage is an important part of every educator’s job
    and also
    Believing that technology doesn’t inherently equate to good teaching 

    Believing that my views of innovative practices could enhance creativity and a culture of open mindsets 
    and also
    Believing that agendas or forcing innovative ideas on others to carry out will not have a positive impact on culture

    Believing that integrating technology in the classroom through balancing student’s use between creation, consumption, curation and connection is imperative for the innovation era which is their future
    and also
    Believing that the age old concepts of Socratic dialogue and other non-tech teaching is just as effective for learning 

    Believing that innovation is the intersection  where need and passion meet. And that it doesn’t have to be technology to be innovative
    and also
    Believing that technology has a way to tear down the walls of the classroom and allow teachers and students to know more than ever before

    The problem with living with these tensions is that it is intellectually draining at times. The word “tension” itself shows the demand that is being placed on oneself by choosing to grab hold of opposite ends and allowing the shock waves of conflict to battle within us.

    The positives of choosing this way of thinking is that it creates a space inside us that critically considers both sides of a tension. By accepting them to coexist inside us we are more open to being flexible in our thought patterns. It is easier for us to see the benefits of both sides. We become less dogmatic about the things we truly lean towards and willing to be flexible when we grab those tensions.

    It is when we give over to one idea completely, whether it be because of conflict, bullying or realizations that our rigidness makes us less approachable. It is when we feel in conflict with someone that doesn’t appear to be holding the tensions themselves that we become more lopsided in our discussions.

    The holding of the tension is necessary for critical thinking. Yes, it’s hard but all good things usually are. Recently I feel this ongoing tension about our school’s choice to do all objective assessment through the LMS Canvas. I see the work and the “learning things the hard way” that our teachers are pushing through. I appreciate the ones that accept the challenge placed before them. There are days I look at the tensions regarding this decision and think “is it worth it?”

    Today, due to a question a teacher had about regrading a quiz question I saw once again the analytics that teachers have the ability to see regarding each question they create. It was in that moment that I was reminded again of the why of this tension. If a teacher chooses to use that feedback to grow their curriculum, the opportunities for school, teacher and student growth could be exponential.

    Hard things take time. Research shows that 3 months into any implementation is the hardest because of the outlying pressures and learning curves associated with the change. We are there at that 3 month mark. I pray I can ever be mindful to hold these tensions dutifully so that I can best serve in the role before me. Some days I cry from the tension. Some days I rejoice in the feedback. Everyday is hard but good things are hard. We don’t let our students give up when it gets hard. I won’t either.

    Monday, October 1, 2018

    Teacher Tips for Canvas

    As our upper school has started to robustly use the learning management system Canvas, I have a few tricks and tips that might be helpful on the educator side of things:

      • Options for shuffling answers. If you create multiple choice or true/false questions in a Canvas quiz, the correct answer will always default to the top answer (a) unless you do one of the following:
        • When creating a question you can manually pull the arrow that points to the correct answer down in the question so that you are randomizing the answers yourself. OR....
        • When setting up the quiz, choose the "shuffle answers" box so that the quiz itself with automatically shuffle the answers for you. The downside of this is that you can't use answers like "all the above" or "both B and C" because it may look different for your students. 
      • Allowing for extended time on tests. If you are a teacher that sets an amount of time for a quiz or a time availability (a close time) when you assign a quiz that quiz will automatically be submitted when that time is up. If you want to allow students extended time for tests, don't use the availability but require an access code. This way once the class is over, the students can access the quiz afterwards as well. For this option I would suggest changing the access code after each class for integrity purposes.

    • Using Calendar Events for non-graded assignments for students (here is a video explanation of information below). There is one way to add things to the students's calendars that does not impact grade book. (You can also create an assignment that is labeled "no submission" and it will allow you to put a grade in for it and will show up on your grade book. This might be a good choice for dressing out in P.E., or journal checks):
      • Create an event. Choose to click on the calendar link on your blue vertical navigation toolbar. 
        • In the top right corner of the calendar view click on the + to add an event.
        • Title your event that lets your students know what the expectation will be. You can add more details by clicking on "more options."
        • The event will default to being added to your personal calendar, so make sure you use the drop down box to choose the class you want to share the event to.
        • Click submit. (The event will now show up on the students's calendar and "upcoming" list). 

    • Deleting the MISSING label after something is turned it late (here is a video explanation of the information below). I feel like this is something Canvas should fix automatically but if a student turns in an assignment late and you put the grade in, you will need to:
        • Click on the across arrow inside the assignment box for the student in question.
        • When the sidebar pops up change the assignment to either "None" or "Late (blue)" based on your needs. This will remove the missing label in your grade book, the students view and the parent view. 
        • It is helpful to look over your grade book occasionally to see if their are any pink boxes and whether they need to be fixed. 

    • Moderating a quiz. There are times when students might need an additional attempt at a quiz (here is a video explanation of the information below). As a teacher, you can click on a quiz a student needs to access and then in the upper right corner clicking on "Moderate this quiz," then click on the pencil next to the student you want to moderate the quiz for. This allows you to:
        • Give individual students multiple attempts at a quiz
        • Give immediate access to individual students take a quiz without having to go through the process of reassigning the quiz to the student.

    • Communicating with students inside of Canvas. Students are getting use to receiving information about their courses through Canvas. If you are in a situation where you need to communicate important information to your students quickly you have two options (here is a video explanation of the information below):
        • You can create Announcements for your course that you can assign to all your classes or to individual classes. It could be useful if you were absent one day because you could actually delay when it is posted after creating it and allow your students to see it as they enter the classroom. You can also allow them to reply to an announcement if you need feedback before the next class meeting or ask them to "like" it to show that it has been read. To use announcements:
          • Go to Settings in your class and move Announcements up for students to view.
          • Click on Announcements
          • Create the announcement and assign it to the class based on your needs.
        • Using the inbox inside of Canvas allows you to send messages to whole classes, individuals or groups. This is a very quick way to get students use to going to one location to receive information from you instead of going outside of Canvas to check their emails. To send messages to your students:
          • Click on the INBOX on your blue vertical navigational toolbar.
          • In the middle top of the next page, click on the paper with the pencil icon.
          • Create the message you want to send (you can even attach files or videos that you might want your students to be able to access) 
          • Make sure you choose the correct course or people you desire to communicate with via Canvas email.
          • Press send. 

    Thursday, September 20, 2018

    Educating in the Moment of Urgency

    Lately I've been thinking about the impact urgency has on the educational process. There are times curve balls are thrown at our otherwise normal day and we have to adjust to move forward or to help others move forward. It seems there are three big categories that cause a sense of urgency to come out:

    • When things fail. Whether it be the wifi going down, a lesson plan flopping, or a student dealing with a broken relationship. Failure often brings on an immediate need to educate differently. 
    • When things need a quick response. Sometimes it is a deadline, sometimes it is a waiting student or boss, other times it is understanding of a potential issue that needs resolved before it becomes a failure. 
    • When people procrastinate. We want the quote "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" to be true but honestly it just isn't. Part of life in the world of education is dealing with the crisis of procrastination.
    This year as I have worked to aid our teachers in implementing the Canvas LMS I am realizing that much of what I do happens because of a sense of urgency. This sense of urgency changes who I am as an educator. When I have time to sit and develop a process or idea, there is more substance and value to what I create or think up. When I am constantly feeling the need to put out fires, I never feel truly in control of myself or the path of my day. Truthfully, it is the nature of the beast right now but I've had this huge realization of how it impacts educating our students. 

    When things don't go as planned, the teacher has to kick a field goal when they were really hoping for that touchdown. While it is still possible to win a game with field goals, the task is harder because you are still going through all the same motions but making less points at the end of the possession. (Forgive the football analogy but it is football season and I am a fan). A field goal feels like a letdown to the coach much like a change in lesson plan feels to a teacher. 

    There are times we are not in control of the urgency in our classrooms or school systems, we feel reactionary at best. No one wants to remain in that sense of internal conflict but how we respond to urgencies impacts the culture for those we come in contact with as well. If I moan and complain because I don't like something, I'm influencing others to feel the same. If I'm constantly pushing back and refusing to make a quick response, the stalemate can cause a snowball of repercussions. When I am just not preparing enough for a situation I am forcing others to succumb to my frazzle. 

    None of us wants to have to make decisions that are not well thought out and that is what urgency can lead to. Finding ways to minimize urgency in education is the ultimate goal but to also set concrete goals when finding ourselves in that frenzy is helpful as well. Here are 3 things that help me when I am in a situation that I did not sign up for but can't be ignored:

    • Enjoy the punt. There is beauty in the kick. Something didn't go as planned? It was a big giant flop for the day? I give it 10 minutes and if I can't fix it in that time, I go to plan B...whatever plan B might be. But always remember there is value in your plan B as well, plan B's can win games. Don't get so caught up in what didn't work that you miss out on what does work. Always strive to fail forward. 
    • Weigh the outcomes. When I was growing up, my mother had these decorative brass scales that sat in our living room (the room for company) and no one was allowed to touch them. When I need to make a quick decision I think of those scales. Against my mother's wishes I mentally start placing the pros and cons in the appropriate side of the scale and I weigh the consequences of my decision. I know there will be things I didn't consider but sometimes I just need to know I have done my best at discernment and I make a decision after thoughtfully weighing the choices. 
    • Be the hero. Procrastination of others that impacts you can be frustrating because there is a face associated with the issue- someone we can blame. I've often found that procrastinators live in a constant level of panic that I can't even fathom. If you want to feel like you are a super hero, help a procrastinator in the midst of procrastination. Most the time they realize their lack of planning doesn't have to be fixed by you so they are very appreciative of your willingness to drop things to help them. 
    After a few weeks of being in my new position, I can tell you that there is a lot of satisfaction in helping others in the midst of educational urgency. I can also tell you that I want to do everything in my power to get people out of that kind of culture or reactivity. I believe we are better educators when we find our balance between urgency and getting stalled in overthinking. We all fall somewhere along the spectrum and learning how to move one direction or the other and discerning how best to react in situations benefits not only us as educators but our students as well. Educating in the moment of urgency has ripple effects that can cause lasting impact.