The date had been marked on my calendar since August….November 20, 2017….Kaneland’s fall mini-conference “IGKNIGHT”! I was very excited to attend another district’s professional development day, I was anxious to see the relevance of attending an inservice from an “outsider’s” perspective.

Would the day be meaningful?
Would I learn anything new?
What would I be able to take away from this experience?

My expectations were not only met but exceeded!  

George Couros, author of “The Innovator’s Mindset, Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity” was the keynote speaker for the day. His presentation was one of the most engaging presentations I have been to in quite some time; while his book has been available for a few years now, I had never heard him present before.  

He started his presentation, like most do…sharing the hashtag for the day (#IgKnight2017) as well as his Twitter handle (@gcouros).  I was concerned….everyone starts their presentations like this now, I wasn’t impressed.  Then, Mr. Couros stated the following, “You are becoming illiterate in our world today if you don’t understand what what I am talking about right now”, he was simply stating you are illiterate if you don’t know what a hashtag or twitter handle is.  I was immediately intrigued….he probably offended half of the room within the first 3 minutes of his presentation!

George went on to discuss the difference between school and learning, he shared a brief graphic that expressed his ideas, but when I did a bit more research on this topic, I found a blog post of his from 2014 that is definitely worth checking out (the graphic he showed is at the bottom of the blog post).  I found his whole presentation to be similar to his blog, direct and to the point while making question my beliefs and teaching practices!  

After thinking about the different between school and learning Mr. Couros started to discuss the irony in that at the age of 17 we expect students to raise their hand to ask to use the washroom, but at the magical age of 18 we trust these now “adults” to work full time jobs, support themselves, go off to college, vote, serve in the military etc.   Are we preparing students to be well-rounded, literate “adults?”  George asked that we all go and view this TedTalk, “I’m 17” by Kate Simonds.

I’ve watched this video several times since, and find it embarrassing that I must honestly say, I rarely asked students their opinions of “adult” topics; granted, I taught 3rd graders but you are never too young to start to ask questions about people believe and why.

Did I treat my students with the respect they deserved? I tried.
Did I value all their opinions?
Did I make time to ensure they knew their voice mattered?
Did I show my students that they don’t have to wait to make a difference, they can make a difference now??

My mind was racing (again)….

After the keynote I was invigorated for what the breakout sessions would bring.  Choosing which sessions to attend were difficult, with over 15 breakout sessions running at a time, there was no way I would ever be able to attend all the sessions that sparked my interest; “Learning is ALL that Matters: Proficiency-based Progress, Couros Breakout, Future Reading Grading Practices, Using the Honeycomb as a Change Strategy, Using Learner Profiles,Differentiated to Personalized:  Changing Classroom Dynamics”…the list goes on there was something for everyone!  

The day was not only well organized, but well energized-everyone was enjoying the day of professional learning and dialogue!

Kaneland School District 302Thank you Kaneland School District for hosting such a valuable day of learning not only for your staff, but also for opening your doors to other staff members outside your District (and to me too!)  Great job Kaneland!!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning

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