4 Takeaways from “Hilliard U”

Spoiler Alert: Kids today are different than we were.

Bonus Spoiler: We were different than our parents, too.
Three years ago, Alton Darby and Darby Creek started on a journey to see if the elementary learning experience could be different.  Many times we concluded “yes”, but there was and still is this struggle among us to accept that 1) Kids are different than we were and therefore learn differently than we did; and 2) The world is rapidly changing and therefore we need to retool and revise the learning experiences we create for kids.
We found ourselves wanting to change, but we battle ourselves over our own fears and against “but that’s the way we’ve always done it”.
We know that our fears and how we feel about the challenges that are before us won’t change kids and the way they learn and won’t cause the world to stop from rapidly changing.
We are left with one choice, which is to embrace the challenges before us and remember that what is consistent about our profession is our deep-seeded calling to help and serve children.
Last Tuesday at “Hilliard U”, many educators in our district shared the ways they are retooling and revising the learning experiences they create for kids.  Teachers shared stories about overcoming their own fears of new ideas and approaches and the positive results they experiences with their students.  Below are four of my takeaways from Hilliard U that stuck with me and continue to make me reflect on my role as an educator.

1. Our kids’ brains are wired differently.

We could debate whether this is good or not, but the fact remains that our kids’ brains, how they experience the world, and the stimulus they receive from the world have created different neural pathways.  If we want to increase engagement and decrease negative behaviors, we need to consider how much instant feedback and social engagement plays a role with our students’.

2. Learning to read has changed.

One of the sessions I attended focused on the different approaches to reading we all need to consider when reading digital content.  Scrolling, ads, linear format without pages are aspects of digital reading that we may be overlooking as teachers.  In the picture above, we rated our preference of reading format with traditional on the left and digital on the right.  It would be interesting and worthwhile to see how our students rated the two formats.  As you can see, most of the adults liked a balance of paper and digital.  I would argue that preference is one thing, but reality is another.  Stop and think about how much digital reading we do in one day.  Think about how differently we have to approach digital texts in order to understand them.  That experience should inform us of our instructional approaches in reading and the behaviors we need to teach, model and demonstrate for our growing readers.

3.  “My biggest roadblock was my own mindset…”

It’s amazing the people who are creating amazing learning experiences for kids who will also say “I don’t consider myself tech-savvy”.  This is what the presenting teachers of the keynote on blended learning said of themselves as they amazed the audience with how they provided excellent instructional experiences for the students they work with each day.  We need to give ourselves more credit for what we are capable of doing.


4. “We are our own best resource.”

I ended the day listening to a panel of teachers from two of our elementary schools who have piloted the One2One experience this year with students.  Their honesty about failing and persevering was comforting and inspiring.  What they revealed is that we need to give our students and ourselves more credit for what we are all capable of doing.  And when we get stuck, we have each other as resource to utilize.
As we move forward into next school year, and take on the changes we have in store for our students, I challenge us all to remember that we’ve got this.  We are on the cusp of something great and it was the talents, skills, and mindset of everyone in this school community that got us to where we are right now.
Finally, I’ll leave you with an ADE student’s letter to Ms. Bednar after attending a showcase of learning projects.  I hope it captures for you what our kids are wanting from learning:
The kids are ready to go! Let’s do this!
Have a GREAT week!
– Herb

Worth Reading

A Principal’s Reflections: Our Work is Our Message http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2017/05/our-work-is-our-message.html?spref=tw
Projects, Passion, Peers and Play: Seymour Papert’s Vision For Learning https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/05/01/projects-passion-peers-and-play-seymour-paperts-vision-for-learning/

Upcoming Dates

8 – Kona Ice Truck here; PTO Meeting, 7:00; Spirit Week

9 – BIT meeting, 8:00; Retirement Party, 3:45

10 – 8am Staff Meeting; 9:30-11:15am Grades 1-4 meet in Media Center data team meeting (see email from last week); 5th grade field trip to Art Museum; last day for Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

11 – Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am; Tornado Drill, 1:30 p.m.

12 – 4th grade field trip to Art Museum; SLSP Field Day at Darby H.S., 9:15 – 1:30; 5th grade Growth & Development, 1:30 – 2:30

14 – Mother’s Day

15 – Field Day, 9:30 – 11:30 am and 12:30 – 2:30 pm

16 – Focus fieldtrip to Falling Waters, 5:30 am – 9:15 pm; SLSP field trip to Tim Horton’s and Petsmart, 9:15 – 11:00; Fire Drill, 10:00 a.m.

18 – Principal’s Meeting (Herb AM); Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am; See Kids Dream 5th grade field trip to Riffe Center

19 – Last day at preschool; 4th grade field trip to Zoo; SLSP fieldtrip to Get Air, 9:15 – 11:00

22 – PTO Spirit Night at Dave & Buster’s, 4:30 – 7:30 pm

23 – 3rd grade field trip to Art Museum; PTO Family Luau, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

24 – 1st grade field trip to Art Museum

26 – Last Day of School!


Community Mindset

Update for Nov 10-14

This year, we are investigating how Blended Learning can help us redefine the work we do with our students.  

These seven characteristics “create an environment  where students and teachers learn and teach more effectively. Blended learning can provide students with choice and voice in their learning and is dynamically customized for each student, reaching students of varying learning styles.”

On Friday, we attempted our first Community Meeting of the year to celebrate our accomplishments so far and to begin the work of defining the key principles we stand for as a learning community.  We gave students a voice in this process by asking each homeroom to complete the phrase: “At Alton Darby Elementary, we are ______________.”  I am excited to see what students think best completes this statement.

As I was reflecting on Friday’s meeting, I thought about one of the Blended Learning characteristics called Community Mindset.  Honestly, I am still learning what these characteristics mean for the work that we do. But I am excited when I think about what we’ve accomplished so far this year. Consider the definition for Community Mindset:

The district culture is one in which teachers and students are empowered and inspired to teach and learn from one another. Learning is a partnership and a shared experience in a student centered classroom. Student learning is personalized and encourages critical thinking.

When I think about Friday’s meeting, I believe that we are establishing a partnership with our students and providing them with a voice in their learning. Thank you so much for your support, ideas, and encouragement! Let’s keep this momentum going!



Upcoming Events 


Mon Nov 10, 2014

6:30pm – 7pm PTO Executive Mtg 

7pm – 8pm PTO General Mtg

Tue Nov 11, 2014
Picture Retake Day
5th Grade Meeting with See Kids Dream
Team Time with Herb — Let me know if you want to meet!
8am – Building Improvement Team Meeting, Media Center
Fri Nov 14, 2014         
End of K-5 Grading Period
Progress Report Timeline:
Nov 17-20, 2014   BOOK FAIR!
Mon Nov 17, 2014
7pm – ADE/DCR Parent Meeting at Bradley HS 

Tue, Nov 18, 2014
3:30 at ADE–possible date for first teacher steering committee meeting—more info to come, stay tuned
7pm – Assessment and Accountability Summit, Weaver Middle School

Wed Nov 19, 2014     
3:45pm – 8:15pm Parent-Teacher Conference Night


Wed Nov 26-28, 2014    No School


Tue Dec 2, 2014        
 8am – 9am Building Improvement Team mtg

Wed Dec 3, 2014         
3:35-4:20 ADE/DCR Staff Meeting at ADE

Articles Worth Reading

Student choice continuum by via   

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The 5 Recent Google Drive Updates Teachers Should Know About

Becoming More Receptive to Feedback: 3 Muscle-Builders!  

(Mind)-setting students up to succeed: social-psychological interventions in the classroom

14 Things That Are Obsolete in 21st Century Schools http://ingvihrannar.com/14-things-that-are-obsolete-in-21st-century-schools/

100 Schools Worth Visiting http://gettingsmart.com/2014/11/100-schools-worth-visiting/