The Process is All Around Us #IMMOOC Reflection

girl-sea-binoculars-vacation-160514.jpegLearning is not a spectator sport.  When I first entered the field, I considered myself as the teacher that teaches the students.  Quickly I realized that I had just as much to learn as my students.  Not that I have reached perfection, but I am so thankful my students do not receive my year one teaching today.

“The product we are trying to create in education is the process.” – George Couros

I’ve found that one of the most inspiring things I have to offer my students is my own learning journey as well as a shared journey with them.  We recently took a hard look at our room together and designed a dream classroom together.  Our redesign began three years ago before we even began planning.  I’m gathering pictures from over time to show the transition. Tom Murray mentioned in #IMMOOC this week how design impacts learning in the classroom. I’ve found that by involving them in the process, they have a true ownership of their learning space.

“Mrs. Sirkin, I saw you chasing tennis balls at the park yesterday…..” – Not much gets by my students.  Middle school was my first real exposure to team sports.  Not realizing others played before, I tried out for the tennis team.  After a week of tryouts, the team was posted.  A complete list of everyone was posted on the locker room door.  All of the names highlighted made the team….with one name remaining…..Marsha Moore.  I was crushed and didn’t really “try out” for anything until years later.   This year, I decided to revisit the middle school failure and truly learn how to play by taking lessons.  When I shared this, my students showed true empathy followed by encouragement to keep trying.   A simple name not highlighted has probably driven decades worth of trying to prove myself.   There was a lesson for myself to learn and to teach.

I’ve learned to not always jump to the answer of the “I wonders.”  The act of wondering and considering is so powerful, and at times I feel it slips away from adults.  These are the very skills that future ready students will need.

I’ve had friends and colleagues ask where I find the time to read, research, and connect with so many others…….my first answer is always that I neglect laundry.   The main answer is that I want to model a passion for learning that I want my children and students to have.  There is always room for growth, and forming positive relationships is what helps us keep a vision in what sometimes seems a sea of chaos.

Next time you find yourself spectating…….put the binoculars down…..join in.  Dive in to learning with your students.  Learn together and the growth will be far more fun and meaningful than you ever imagined.

What is a simple shift you can make in your classroom/school to focus on the process?

How can you shift your instruction to better connect with students? 

How have your included voice and choice in your learning community? 




You may have read the poem, All I really need to know, I learned in KINDERGARTEN. A poster of simple yet profound skills that we really do learn in Kindergarten.  I used to keep a copy of this poster in my bathroom in hopes that my littles would read it during their bathroom breaks……they couldn’t read yet……but they did spend quite a bit of time in there.  I later realized that the poster was placed for myself just as much as anyone else.  I needed that little reminder of why I was in the profession.  Theodor Geisel has proven to be that same muse for me.  He has offered wisdom for teacher life and humanity.

Photo Credit:

You Never Know Where Your Interests Will Take You
Theodor was a doodler.  His mother encouraged him to draw on the walls of their home.  I’m not sure about you, but I am not sure that I would be as supportive.  My son, Oliver, LOVES Sports Illustrated for Kids.  Every month, he insists picking out the poster and THUMB-TACKING it to the wall.  Now, like every good teacher’s kid, he has a bulletin board…..sometimes a those tacks get stuck in the wall.  I need to keep Dr. Seuss in mind next time I nearly lose my mind over my children’s harmless passions.  How can we apply to this to teaching and learning?  Check out Genius Hour projects.  Consider the design and culture of your classroom.  We all know that if students are interested in what they are learning, they with grow much farther than in dictatorship circumstances.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Try Again
I can hear my mother saying this.  It is the truth.  Theodor was on the way to burn his book when he came across a friend who put him on the path to being published.  Rejection was just about to get the best of Geisel.  He had been rejected 27 times for his first manuscript.  Rejection may be one of the scariest and worst feelings humans can face.  The more we put ourselves out there, the higher the risk of rejection.  There are others in the world that may be one “try” away from a break through.  Our students will be no strangers to rejection.  Let’s work together to help them learn to cope with these feelings and use them as fuel for success.

We are More Alike than Different
The Butter Battle Book is one of my favorites.  It highlights the absurdness of our societies along with the dangers.  I especially love reading it to my students and watching their faces as they quickly note how crazy the Yooks and Zooks are acting.  He does the same with his Star Belly Sneetches. The next time you reach a hard place in a friendship with a parent, colleague, or student……just picture them as a Sneetch, Yook, or Zook…..this can be a quick reminder that we are all in this together.

No One is Perfect and We are All a Little Weird
After reading more about the life of Dr. Seuss, it is much less than rainbows and unicorns.  Yet, he made a huge impact on our society and continues to impact the world.  His books and illustrations will be shared with generation upon generation.  We must remember that everyone  has a little weird, that is okay.  What is most important, that we do our best to bring out the positive and serve our purpose for good in the world.  That “weird” human in your life may be the Dr. Seuss of another time.  Do what you can to ignite that spark of wonder in them.

Read more about Dr. Seuss from these sources I found helpful. 🙂




Half-Present to ALL IN


Have you ever been in a meeting where you were there in body but not in mind?  Think about what you were doing at that moment.  What was going on?  Who was doing the talking? What was it about?  How did you feel about it?  We’ve all been there…..half-present.  Whether you are in the education world or corporate, it is human nature to let your mind wander when you are less interested, unmotivated, or exhausted.    Now tune into a meeting where you were ALL IN.  What did that look like?  What did it feel like?  What sold you in the meeting?  Who was doing the talking? During these moments we see time speed by us, and before we know it… is over….. leaving us to wonder further on our own.

Everyone’s motivation for presence is different, and I could say that it changes daily for each of us.  Consider how this applies to our classrooms with students. They are with us every day.  Do you have half-present students? When you are working with small groups, are you ever concerned of their true presence?  With 1:1 technology, there comes a valid concern over, “What is happening on their screen?”  When marinating over this digital age problem, I’ve resorted to the basics of analog classrooms.  Earlier, how did we know that students were really reading when they were looking at a book? We didn’t. I brought out the shelf of my old standbys prior to Twitter and Pinterest for ideas:

Image result for Alternatives to worksheetsImage result for What are the other kids doingImage result for Literacy Centers What Your other kids do during guided reading groups

The copy write of these spanned from 1992-2002 and the message was the same. Students must be provided opportunities to be creative and connect content to their real world.  The road from old school to new school may be a little more bumpy than you imagined, but the basics remain the same.

Favorable Learning Climate – Classroom climate, is very important.  Is it established as a place to learn, not just regurgitate information.  If your students feel happy to be there, they are more likely do their best.  Just as in the work force scenario, we all work harder when we feel valued and appreciated.  In the past, I have found more success when goals are set together.  Goals matter more to students when they have a voice in them.  Achieving personal goals does wonders for intrinsic motivation and can move mountains in your classroom.  Voice and Choicewrite it down and post it somewhere as a reminder to ourselves to include it throughout our day.  

Consider the 4Cs.  I know, I say it quite a bit.  By encouraging a culture of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity…..not only are you to have more buy in, but you are also going to help prepare your students for their unknown future.  I hate to break it to you, but hours on end of math fluency practice, does not incorporate these.  Math fluency is important, but should not be taking up most of your students’ independent work time.  On the same note, the bulk of their time shouldn’t be reading passages and answering questions.  Extend knowledge gained  in literature by rich conversation among students and real world applications.

“Marsha, that is all well and good….but I am only one person, and I am tired.”  – you
Although it is really easy to lean on those level 1 DOK activities and programs, there are so many more resources out there that can help your work flow and encourage the 4Cs.  Let me help you.  

Seesaw – Look at how this student sorted his spelling words for Daily Five.  He sorted them and recorded himself reading them aloud.  This gives his teacher immediate evidence that he understands how to sort and read his spelling words for the week. Now is classmates can go in and comment with him about how they sorted their words.


Nearpod – I love the essential questions and immediate feedback of these lessons.  I also love that it has multiple modes of gathering understanding. They also have a really nice VR component.  How about allowing students to independently experience the world while you are meeting with small groups?  Nearpod is a great “safe space” to do so.  

Brainpop – I can’t say enough about Brainpop.  If you are only using it for video access, your students are missing out.  Now, students can create their own Brainpop styled videos to demonstrating understanding of concepts.  Image result for brainpop make a movie

Their concept mapping component is AWESOME!  I love how both give an image bank on each topic.

Image result for brainpop make a movie

I’m sure there are many more ideas and opportunities out there.  Ask your students. I encourage you to sit and have a conversation with your class about their “presence.”  Remember you are stronger together and will go farther if everyone is ALL IN.

I’d love to hear about great experiences in your classroom!

What motivates you?  

How does motivation relate to learning? 

How can we connect classroom content to the real world? 

How valuable is student buy-in? 

Would you want to be a student in your classroom? 

People Before Programs

Yesterday, I had a scheduled planning with a new teacher in our school.  Our plan was to go over the technology resources available at our school.  Excited to make the most of our time, I plowed through a grand grocery list of programs.  After 45 minutes, we didn’t still didn’t finish.  I felt like I had just ran a marathon.  I couldn’t imagine how my new friend felt. I became the “accidental diminisher”…….Sometimes as leaders our good intentions can diminish the enthusiasm of those around us.  It reminded me of this Wiseman Group infographic discussed at our North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network pow wow (because they are my tribe).


How can I prevent from my new friend ducking around the corner when I round the hallway again?  There is no perfect answer to this question.  What we must realize is that people and our relationships are most important.  My sprint through the list will not stick.  Reflecting, a moment chatting about prior experiences, inspiration, and goals would have been the better road to take.  In the same sense, focusing on the learning and 4Cs would have been more appropriate. I love this infographic adapted from the children’s book Going Places by Paul and Peter Reynolds.  Click here for  a free poster.

Image result for above and beyond 4cs infographic

Technology for the sake of technology is no bueno.  When seeking the program or technology that best suites the needs of your students, consider these questions:  Does it help them learn better?  Does it make concepts more relevant to my students?  Which of the 4Cs does it incorporate?

Dear new teacher friend, I hope I didn’t scare you too badly.  I’m not too crazy, just excited about learning together with you and our students.  Coaches, school leaders, and world changers……it is okay to be excited.  Don’t kill your spark.  Remember, your spark is fabulous.  Use it to form great relationships to change the world for good.  People are always the solution, not programs. Keep on truckin!

We Must Have a Growth Mindset Ourselves #IMMOOC E1



This is first week of #IMMOOC with The Innovator’s Mindset.  Jo Boaler rocked this session as a guest speaker.  One comment she made really stuck with me, “If we want our students to have a growth m

indset, we must adopt that mindset ourselves.”  She also mentioned how learning changes our identity.  I couldn’t agree more.

Jo’s specialty is math as she has authored, Mathematical Mindsets. I love her perspective on how our approach to math instruction should change to better our society as a whole. By sharing a growth mindset with our students, everyone will continue to grow onward and upward.

Her approach applies to so much more.   Students must see us as learners with them.  I recall George saying, “In a classroom, everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner.”  This contributes to an amazing culture of caring and excellence in our learning spaces.

This reminds me of a fun experience in second grade.  In second grade, students are in the final steps of learning to read as they prepare to go into the read to learn phase of their academic career.  I wanted to model the importance of practice and persistence for my students, but how could I do so when I knew how to read?  I had recently bought a blue guitar.  As a primary teacher, I spent many days incorporating music with instruction.  Learning how to play a musical instrument is quite similar to learning how to read.  It takes tons of practice and instruction.  As an awful guitar player, I brought it to my students and had them help me come up with a plan. They suggested I enroll in lessons and practice. My students were able to observe and encourage my growth along the way.  Interestingly, they called me out when they noticed my practice habits slacking. This helped me truly relate to students learning something completely new.

It was an incredibly humbling experience to show my struggle to my students. Identifying with them on this level taught them that it is okay to be challenged and it is not always easy.  The push through is totally worth it.

How are you connecting with your students?

How are you modeling change and growth mindset with your students?

What can you do to help foster intrinsic motivation among your students?