Thursday, May 9, 2013

How Perseverance and Feedback Create a Better "Next Time"

Second Time is a Charm:
Nest #2 and one of the morning
doves at our home
I am not a bird person, but this morning a family of morning doves captured my heart. Last Spring, a pair of doves attempted to create a nest under an overhang near our daughter’s bedroom. After a few weeks of feeble attempts and fluttering efforts, they moved on to start their family elsewhere. So you can imagine our surprise when they returned this Spring and we giggled when they chose the exact same location!

“Don’t they remember last year Mom!?” my five year old daughter asked.
“The nest kept falling down!” remarked my four year old. “It’s not a safe spot!”

I thought it was strange that the pair of doves returned and didn’t learn from their previous attempts.  But the doves were persistent and smarter than they appeared, and the pair embarked once again on gathering sticks and grass. We never gave them much thought and figured they would leave as quickly as they arrived.

This morning, I was delighted to see not only the two morning doves in our yard, but three miniature doves as well!  Enjoying the crisp morning air, the successful little family of five explored the garden. Their new nest design and their family had made it!

The Second Time You Are a Genius
Often times when we try something the first time, our plans don’t turn out as we hoped. I’ve seen many students and teachers this year trying to stretch out of their comfort zones with new lessons, units, technology projects and approaches in their classrooms. And to be honest, we know that our first attempts aren’t always the best. But the second time, we can feel like a genius! And as we continue changing, reflecting and improving our practice-we become more confident and skilled. 

Those morning doves reminded me that when we are armed with more experience, our second and future attempts are destined to be more powerful than our first. After this year's iLearn Classes, ReThink Days and our Unit Upgrade process to align to the Common Core, and with people stretching to try new Upgrades, I have a feeling that a lot of magic will happen next year in Los Altos classrooms. 

Reflect and Survey Students to Future Think
As we head into the final stretch of this school year, I think it is a wonderful time to reflect and determine how we will channel our energy to improving the student experience for the upcoming year.  Which lessons and Units need to be strengthened? What can we rethink and redesign with our knowledge and experience from this year? How about asking your students?

Providing  students with a survey and reading the results may surprise you! How about asking them: Which learning experiences made the biggest impressions? Which lessons should be redesigned or abandoned? What did they enjoy learning the most? What do they remember as being most valuable? How did they grow as a student this year? What are they most proud of?

To help a teacher plan for next year, one teacher
suggested a survey that gets feedback from students
about which experiences "deserve a second look" or
"rocked my world."
During the teacher Extreme by Design session last week, one teacher remarked that she wasn't sure how to uncover and reveal the best learning experiences from this year. As part of the Design Thinking process, her partner designed a prototype of a student survey to help address this challenge. The picture shown is a model of a survey which allows students to sort learning experiences into three different categories. By involving students in the reflection process, we can discover even more about how we can make it better "next time."

Ellen Kraska is the Technology Integration Instructional Coach within the Los Altos School District. She is passionate about teacher professional development, edtech, creativity and collaboration within innovative learning environments.  You can email her at and/or follow her on Twitter @kraskae.

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