Tuesday, April 9, 2019

From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Tamara Letter, ITRT

One of my favorite things to do over spring break is to catch up on a “must read” book recommended by other educators. While it’s sometimes difficult to carve out reading time in the midst of other activities with my three children, I make it a priority for my self-care.

This year I dove into The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The title alone intrigued me because I am passionate about making memories in and out of the classroom, as I’m sure many of you are as well. How is it that some moments have a greater impact than others? I couldn’t wait to find out.

Early in the book, I was struck by a story where relevance and innovation took center stage in transforming a previously apprehensive situation into one that created a long-lasting positive experience for a child.

Doug Dietz, a General Electric industrial designer, had worked tirelessly to design a new MRI machine for a children’s hospital. After two years of preparation and iteration, he eagerly awaited the day when his machine would be put into use.

There was only one problem that Dietz didn’t anticipate: the machine he designed and the environment in which it was used were downright horrifying to a child walking through the door. The machine was menacing, the room was sterile, and no amount of coercion could convince the child that the experience would be pleasant.

In his quest to make an efficient machine, Dietz had focused solely on the content - the MRI machine - not the big picture of the experience itself. He regrouped and formed a panel of stakeholders who could offer a child’s perspective. This “design thinking” team offered suggestions to make the experience of getting an MRI more positive, even fun, for children of all ages.

This process resulted in the creation of the GE “Adventure Series” where rooms were transformed into jungles or islands and MRI machines were customized to play off a child’s imagination, either as a canoe or pirate ship. Great efforts were made to create an engaging experience for children and the data showed positive results with the number of children needing sedation for the MRI dropping from 80% to 27%.

“You can be the architect of moments that matter.” This quote jumped off the page as I reflected about my own teaching practice and collaborations with teachers across the district. As we enter the final quarter of the school year, are we creating moments that matter or simply going through the motions? How are we designing our lessons to create an atmosphere of wonder and intrigue? Is it possible to weave in the elements of intentional surprise while still staying true to our academic expectations for student achievement?

In one word: Yes!

When we make things a priority, they get done. When we brainstorm and collaborate with others, they get done even better. Take a moment and think about a lesson you teach or an initiative you lead from a student or parent perspective. Does this insight shift your planning to create an experience your students won’t forget?  

In my recently published book, A Passion for Kindness: Making the World a Better Place to Lead, Love, and Learn, I shine a spotlight on dozens of teachers and school leaders who are creating memorable moments for their students through the lens of kindness. Teachers like Kate Lapetino, a fourth grade teacher in Wheeling, Illinois whose students practice their written and oral communication by creating kindness videos for others, show how we can take ordinary elements of instruction and make them extraordinary moments to remember.

When we reflect on our teaching practice, and dig deep to evaluate our efficiency and success, we realize the power we have to create equitable learning experiences for our students that soar above the typical and mundane. We truly can create moments that matter!

Today, I encourage you to embrace the purpose that pulled you into education. Wrap your heart around those you serve and remember that you were chosen by Hanover County Public Schools to make a monumental impact on each and every student who walks through the doors of your classroom and school.

Become a maker of moments. Celebrate not only the goal achievements, but the great strides made along the way. Rework a standard lesson into something students never want to end. Join together with those who uplift and inspire and create moments of elevation for your students.

Together we can achieve the unimaginable and lead by example for our students and staff. Let’s dive back into our work with renewed exhilaration and end the year as strong as it began!

1 comment:

  1. I found that two of their other books, Decisive and Made to Stick, were really applicable to teaching and learning. Let me know if you'd like to borrow them :-)