Voices Need Words

Have you ever had “heart to heart” chats with students and you know they have a story to tell but got stuck on trying to get it out? Sometimes I feel that students don’t have the vocabulary or aren’t exposed to the vocabulary of emotions to be able to clearly tell their story. Recently, quite accidentally I fell upon the project, RULER (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, Regulating Emotions) by Marc Brackett at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Here is an overview of the “Mood Meter” that they developed to help identify the various quadrants of moods and related vocabulary.

So I wondered as some of our classes are using this approach, what if we were able to gage an audience’s mood and create a real-time visual. We could use it to have conversations. This process might also work well with literature circles. I ended up using Google Forms to create the survey so it could be available for easy access on a class blog or website. Here are the results. Give it a try.

What I like about it is the list of terms to expand possible ways to share feelings. (Aren’t you tired of the same “I’m mad, sad, glad” routine.) By selecting the graphing mode you gain a visual representation of a whole group mood right away. I can imagine the rich discussions this would offer to a group.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. Please leave a comment.
If you would like your own copy, I’ve created an open folder, which you can make a copy (you need to have a google account first).

Learning on the Edge

We just finished a districtwide Pro-D, where for the first time we squeezed 2000 people into one building. So parking was quite hairy and the deluge of rain didn’t help matters. Once inside, the northvikingbandatmosphere was positively electrifying (thanks to the facilitators and participants). Our opening started with North’s own marching Viking band, keynote Abe Fernández (Director of Collective Impact, the Children’s Aid Society and Co-director of South Bronx Rising Together) and then hundreds of workshops and ‘edcamp-ish’ conversations to choose. My team of three led four sessions – a crazy rewarding day of connected energy.

Here are some things I learned:

  • Building community and togetherness is everything even though the only building that can handle the numbers is a very old one! Crossed our fingers as fuses blew…Comfort Zone Quote
  • New experiences have to be connected to what you understand and then move from there
  • Individuals make personal conscious decisions to learn new things. What is ultimately worth learning is usually difficult and messy. It takes courage to make the leap.
  • Sometimes people will try something only because they know you will support themmyquote_changethelens
  • When you see something with a new lens, you can never go back

Pro-D, while meant as a learning experience, is really an event. How will you carry these sparks and these challenges to thinking into your classrooms or offices? That’s where the magic happens.


Around this time of year, the terms of celebration,myquote_celebrate_500 reflection and sharing, become even more of a focus. It’s almost cyclical in nature. Beyond the “let’s have a party to showcase all the end products”, I wonder about the little things. Things like perseverance and tenacity and the courage to turn around and face the dragons of failure. I wonder how those are recognized and celebrated in such ways as to give them power. I wonder if we truly understand how much effort is needed for some of our students to acquire the smallest of steps. I wonder if the students believe it when we congratulate them on achieving those steps. I wonder how we take that spark, started with determination and sometimes “downright fear” and lift it up so they can share their success in ways that help others grow and gives dignity to the learner.

I doubt there is one answer. Many ideas come to mind, past and present. While these may be overt and probably fun, they may yet capture the essence of the journey.  How do you grow and share the sparks?

Where the Intersection between Talk and Courage Meet

digitalfootprintWe’ve been working and editing our Digital Citizenship (curriculum dare I say) for a bit now (squeezed in between all the other projects). And I’ve returned to the same conclusion I had at the beginning of this journey. The only thing that is really different is that we access an online environment (switching back and forth like a dynamo). If we dig a bit deeper, we’d see the beliefs are nothing more than the values we already have in our face-to-face world. Values like we respect each other, we respect ourselves and because of that, our actions show it in how we treat both ourselves and others.

The online world has something that our face-to-face world doesn’t have – the ability to communicate and collaborate worldwide in a matter of seconds. This is what social media is all about. Immediacy of connections. And that is where some of the issues may pop up. Once that little publish button, tweet, text or instagram is posted, it cannot be pulled back. The danger lies in the immediacy – no thinking required. Thinking happened when you were writing (or perhaps not). This leads some to say, just block the tools. However, by using technology to block is to give away a teachable moment. A powerful opportunity exists to teach students the ‘what, why, how, where’ of digital citizenship, before, during and after such events. These interactions help build the ‘realness’ of online behaviours and attitudes. In essence, they showcase the true values of each of us. What do we really believe? How do we reflect that in our voice, in our actions, in our learning and growing over time? Are there places where our students can learn and practice these skills?

Social media is here to stay. Digital interactions will increase as people find more uses for it in our daily lives. What we do to answer the questions posed and how we support the digital social learning process is paramount. It is not about the tool. Perhaps the better filter is not an automated one, but one where the student thoughtfully asks: who do I want to be to the global world?

I’d be interested in any thoughts you may have on how you’re negotiating this world with your students or staffs.