Providing Space for the Miraculous

WRAD15 Day 3 (4)

I’m a planner.  In my personal life, I like schedules, details, and wouldn’t consider myself very spontaneous.  However, in education, I’ve learned to push this part of me aside and embrace flexibility.  It isn’t always easy, but it is essential.  When I meet with teachers to plan a collaborative project, we definitely put together a strong plan, but nothing makes me happier than hearing teachers say “let’s just see where this goes”.  Phrases like that mean that we are giving ourselves permission to be flexible.  We are providing space to look for miraculous things that are taking place right before our eyes.  If we script every step of a project, then the project gets done, but at what cost?  To me, the cost is student voice.  When we structure lessons and projects too much, we miss the opportunities to listen to individual student voices and interests.  We miss opportunities that might be waiting for us out in the world with experts, other schools, developers, and more just because it doesn’t fit on our timeline.

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Here’s a perfect example of what can happen when space is provided for the miraculous to happen.

During our 2nd grade black history project, we made numerous changes to our plans.  I’ve written several posts about this, but to summarize, we:

  • made the project more authentic by creating our own award called the Barrow Peace Prize
  • established our own criteria for the award, which matched numerous character traits that students study in social studies
  • housed all of the student videos on Flipgrid and linked them on a Google site with our embedded voting tool
  • created a medal using our 3d printer to honor the person from black history who won the votes

When we planned this project, we knew that certain components would be there such as time to research, time to write persuasive pieces, and time to record videos.  One thing we didn’t know when we started was that we would actually create a medal on the 3D printer.  Because we allowed ourselves to be flexible, to give individual students voice, and to look for the miraculous, an individual student was able to design and create a 3d-printed Barrow Peace Prize.

Taylor, our student designer, has been so proud of his work.  This one moment where we provided space for the miraculous has given him and our school some other incredible moments.  Taylor was able to share his work with Okle Miller’s Kindergarten students in Tampa, FL via Skype and inspire them to make their own inventions.  He also shared his work with the Flipgrid team in Minneapolis during our Skype.

While Taylor was designing his work, I was of course sharing it on Twitter.  Brad Hosack, co-founder of Flipgrid, half-jokingly replied:

This one tweet made us think even more.  We originally just planned to print one medal and share it among all of the 2nd grade teachers in honor of the winner of the black history votes, but because we gave ourselves space for flexibility, other miraculous things happened.  We printed enough medals to put one in each 2nd grade class so that now students can take turns in their classroom holding or wearing the medal, and we also sent some to Flipgrid headquarters in Minneapolis, MN.

Flipgrid Barrow Peace Prize (1)

Now, Taylor’s 3D creation is hanging in Minneapolis with Flipgrid’s many other awards.  How miraculous is that?

The Flipgrid team proudly displays their Barrow Peace Prize medals along with their numerous other awards.

It is stories like these that remind me of the importance of slowing down and being flexible.  Planning is still crucial, but I’m reminded that I shouldn’t plan so much that it hinders the amazing things that can happen when we let go of control and see what happens.  I encourage you to give it a try.

Our Miraculous Start to 2014 with Flipgrid

miraculous flipgridIn the new year, I wrote a post about expecting the miraculous in 2014.  I can honestly say that the expression “Expect the Miraculous” has taken on a life of its own in our school.  Let me tell you how it happened.

To kickoff the second half of the year, we held a schoolwide assembly.  The purpose of the assembly was to review goal setting, celebrate our unique talents, and to give ourselves permission to have dreams.  It really was an amazing assembly.  We had student performances, a teacher who played her violin, a youtube video from Kid President, and Martin Luther King Jr contest winners.  The assembly was also a space for me to talk about expecting the miraculous.  I read the excerpt from Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures.

“All things are possible,” said Dr. Meescham.  ”When I was a girl in Blundermeecen, the miraculous happened every day.  Or every third day.  Actually, sometimes it did not happen at all, even on the third day.  But still, we expected it.  You see what I’m saying?  Even when it didn’t happen, we were expecting it.  We knew the miraculous would come.” ~Kate DiCamillo

I also shared synonyms for the word “miraculous” such as “extraordinary”.  Finally, I told my own story of expecting the miraculous.  My story involved our new 3D printer.  From the day I heard about 3D printers, I expected that one day our library would have one.  I wasn’t sure how or when, but I felt in my heart that this incredible piece of technology was something our students should have access to in school.  About a year ago, our district considered purchasing a 3D printer for our school.  It was all the way down to the ordering process, but something happened over the summer and it didn’t get order.  Still…..I expected the miraculous.  I wrote grants and began advertising the idea of purchasing a 3D printer.  I publicized that a portion of our book fair profits would go toward 3D printing.  However, this was a slow process and I knew it would take time to raise almost $3000 for a printer and supplies.  Still….I expected the miraculous.  Then, in October, Makerbot announced their partnership with Donors Choose.  I immediately submitted my project and hoped for the best knowing that much of the available funding would most likely go to Brooklyn schools.  Still…I expected the miraculous.  Miraculously, our printer was funded overnight!

This is the story that students heard.  I followed this with an invitation for them all to “Expect the Miraculous” with me.  To capture our goals, dreams, wishes, and expectations for 2014, I created a Flipgrid.  I gave them a quick tutorial on how to record a video into the Flipgrid by walking them through screenshots of the process.  Then, I setup a Flipgrid recording station in the library.

Flipgrid station Over the past 2 weeks, students have written about their hopes and dreams in class and visited the library to record.  It has been an amazing process to watch.  Goals have ranged from reading goals to behavior goals and from school-related to extra curricular related.  I encourage you to spend some time listening to their miraculous expectations and feel free to click the + and add your own.  Students have enjoyed coming into the library and listening the the videos on our touchscreen computer at the front of the library.  I can put the Flipgrid on slideshow and it flips through each video throughout the day.

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I’ve heard so many kids, families, and teachers using the word “miraculous” in conversations.  Some students have even recorded their videos at home with their family.  Our school embraced the phrase so much that we even put it outside on our sign.

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One more miraculous thing happened.  Kate DiCamillo posted an opportunity on her facebook page to ask questions about her books.  I asked, “What miraculous things have you expected that actually happened and what miraculous things are you still expecting?”  Here’s her reply!

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