In November, I had the opportunity, thanks to Mrs. Robin Keating, principal of Big Walnut Elementary to share with a few of her staff members the process of Design Thinking and how it can be used in the classroom. While I had co-presented on this exact topic for our own K-1 building, I was nervous and unsure if a group of total strangers would be able to learn anything from me sharing my ideas. After all...I'm just another teacher. I think in the back of my mind I thought that maybe my own district's staff only enjoyed my previous presentation because they were colleagues I had worked with for a few years. This was my chance and I took so much time carefully thinking through each detail. When the big day came, I had a blast! It felt like the teachers had a great time too! But what brought a great moment to an empowering moment was a few weeks later when Mrs. Keating showed me some pictures of her first-grade teachers doing a Design Challenge in their classroom. She talked about how proud she was of this group and how much fun they had...and most importantly, how the students responded to this style of learning. So maybe I did have a few ideas that would benefit some other teachers...
That's when we had the opportunity to present at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Mrs. Frederick had never been to this conference before and I was excited to share an event that I look forward to every year. Not only were we going to be able to go and learn together, we were going to tell our story. I told her, "Don't worry, we have an 8:00 a.m. session, no one will come". I played it down for my nervous colleague who was about to present at a major conference for the first time. Little did we know or expect...people showed up. More people than we expected. And can you believe it...they listened to us! They gave us feedback and ideas at the end of our presentation. We got emails from colleagues from all over the state asking us to share resources or compliment us on the work we were doing. We told our audience that day that we welcome visitors to our room because that is the best professional development. We know that, because about 5 years ago, Mrs. Frederick and I went to visit another school and we couldn't get over how much we took in just visiting another school and talking with others about the work they were doing.
So now...a few thank you's are in order! Without Mrs. Keating believing in the work we were doing, I would not have connected with Big Walnut. What a wonderful connection! What an amazing group of educators! What a gift they have been to us this year!
I also have to thank Mr. Marc Alter, Director of 21st Century Learning in Grandview Heights. Marc attended our OETC presentation and has been connecting us with some pretty inspiring teachers in his district. Not only that, but he's encouraged us to continue telling our story to others.
And finally, a huge thank you to my home school district, New Albany-Plain Local. I've written about how much I love NA in another blog post. Not a day passes that I don't recognize how lucky I am to work there. Without my principal, Mrs. Jen Denny supporting the work Mrs. Frederick and I have tackled, none of this would have happened.
So...here's my lesson and reflection. Learning is not just for students. School is a place of continuous learning for all those that enter the doors. Who have you invited into your space? What authentic audience will be your catalyst?