Godzilla Gazette, 30

Week of April 4, 2016


  • From Grace
  • The Reflective Practitioner
  • Weekly Team Planning Link
  • Weekly Events
  • For Your Information

From Grace

Aloha, everyone! I have always found this time of year to be exciting (exhausting, but exciting) as we acknowledge how far our students have come since the beginning of the year and plan out meaningful lessons and celebrations to wrap up the year, even with the STAAR test being pushed back to the second week of May. ;) And, while we're thinking about the best ways to finish the year strong, we're also planning for an even better year in 2016-2017 as we look to our 100th birthday, our second iteration of school-wide Making and ways to improve our understanding of Project-based learning along with aligned content knowledge in literacy, math, science, and social studies. Phew!

One of the sessions I went to at SXSWEdu was on how a school decided to use design thinking to tackle some of the issues they were having in various aspects of their campus. I found it to be inspiring how, once a problem was identified, teams of staff worked together, using the design thinking model, to put improved practices in place. This is what our committees were created to do - work together to accomplish good things for our school, which have worked awesomely with some groups and been duds with others. One of my continual struggles is putting in a viable system for how to share the work with everyone, ensuring all voices are honored, using committees. Part of that stems from my very real dilemma of wanting to protect everyone's time and shelter folks from more work. The end result of that is, I fear, a feeling that I think I have all the answers - which is impossible for any one person to have.

So what to do? I am intrigued by this idea of all of us using design thinking to tackle some of our own concerns. Things like making sure we all have meaningful professional development, that our cafeteria runs smoothly, that recess is a safe and fun time with plenty to do for our students, that our school-wide practice of SEL and PBIS work well, that Making, PBL, and technology are integrated into our instruction in all content areas, etc... This week's Reflective Practitioner looks at how one school used design thinking to improve. I believe that this may be the viable system I've been searching for - it helps all of us work together, but I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. How can we best improve our work and campus?

I hope you have a lovely week - remember to smile, remember to look for the positive, and to find joy in the day. I appreciate each of you.

The Reflective Pracitioner

Improving Schools Through Design Thinking

By Thomas Riddle, Assistant Director, Roper Mountain Science Center


Big image

Photo Credit: Thomas Riddle

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem solving that begins with developing empathy for those facing a particular challenge. It serves as a framework that helps to define problems, empathize with others, develop prototypes of possible solutions, and hone those prototypes through multiple iterations until they have generated a viable solution to the challenge at hand. Design thinking encourages a bias toward action and, because of its reliance on rapid prototyping, frees practitioners to embrace the notion of failing forward because it's OK to make mistakes -- that's where breakthrough ideas are born.

While a growing number of schools around the world are using design thinking in classrooms and empowering students to solve authentic challenges as part of an inquiry-based curriculum, this powerful process can also be used to improve the overall school experience. Many successful businesses embrace design thinking to improve their products and enhance their customers' experiences to great effect. Why, then, would we not do the same with our schools? As a school administrator, I've seen design thinking effectively used to improve daily operations as well as enhance both the in-class and out-of-class experiences for teachers, students, and parents.

Using the five main stages of the design thinking process, I'd like to share some ways that we've been able to create better experiences for all of our stakeholders.

1. Empathize

Empathy is the foundation and the heart of the design thinking process. Everything else is built upon it. Empathy is a powerful tool to develop an understanding of others' needs, requiring us to look beyond ourselves and see the world from someone else's point of view. Every day, we create experiences in our schools, whether in classrooms, on athletic fields, or even in the cafeteria. Yet how often do we stop to think how our users (our students, parents, teachers, and anyone else who comes in contact with our campus) are receiving those experiences? As a staff, we focus on how best to meet all of our users' needs, from the lessons we teach to the traffic flow in our parking lots to our responses to visitors on our campus. While schools often teach students to develop an understanding of viewpoints that aren't like their own, why don't we focus on demonstrating that same understanding toward our students, our colleagues, or the parents whose children we teach? Honestly seeking to understand their situation can change our perception in such a way that we're better prepared to meet their needs.

2. Define

When problems arise in our schools, it's easy for many of us to give our two cents about how it should be handled. After all, we're highly-educated, intelligent people with frequent opinions about how things should be done. How often, though, do we ask the opinion of those who are actually having the problem? So when the new discipline policy isn't working or the parent pick-up line is regularly backed up, we're missing an opportunity to create a better solution if we don't seek input from all involved. In design thinking, establishing a clear definition of the challenge at hand requires seeking the input of those who are being directly affected. That means listening to the parents, students, or teachers involved so as to understand their point of view as well as including them in the process for designing the solution, or at least providing feedback on it. Clearly defining the problem gives you a better chance at creating a clear solution.

3. Ideate

This user input is essential not only for helping clearly define the issues that are affecting them, but also for guiding the development of solutions to those problems. Once we understand their needs, we're better equipped to meet them. During the ideation (or brainstorming) process, we often work in teams that represent all of our staff members (teachers, custodians, bookkeepers, etc.) to rapidly generate as many solutions as they can to the problems we're addressing. We frequently ask them to take a "blue sky thinking" approach and suggest ideas in which the sky's the limit and money is no object. Frequently, these ideas that lie outside of the box of our normal thinking yield innovative solutions. Once we've identified our most actionable solutions, we hone them into prototypes that can be tested.

4. Prototype

Whenever we institute a new idea or policy, be it a curriculum change or a procedure for loading and unloading buses, we consider it a prototype that's subject to revision instead of an edict that's written in stone. Understanding that prototypes may go through multiple iterations before a final product is produced encourages a mindset that's flexible, agile, and willing to work through the problem until the best result is obtained. So if input from teachers, students, and parents reveals that the new dress code has some flaws, instead of doubling down, we modify and revise based on their feedback until we develop the strongest solution. Involving your stakeholders can create not only stronger buy-in, but often stronger ideas as well.

5. Test

The final stage in the design thinking process involves testing your prototype to determine what works and what could be improved upon. As previously mentioned, we strive to be flexible when rolling out any new initiative. Too often, if a new idea doesn't work flawlessly right out of the gate, it's quickly labeled a failure. When this happens (and it will), don’t think of it as simply failing, think of it as failing forward -- an outlook which recognizes that if you don't give up, if you learn from the mistakes made, you're better positioned to create a stronger solution next time. Make your course corrections based on observation and feedback, then roll out Version Two.

While many schools are having great success with design thinking, enhancing students' learning by equipping them with a proven process for meaningfully applying their knowledge and skills, we should also examine how that same process can be used for improving the overall effectiveness of our schools.

If you're interested in learning more and are seeking a group of practitioners well-versed in applying design thinking to all facets of education, join in the conversation on Twitter at #dtk12chat. I also welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.


Weekly Team Planning Template Link

Weekly Events - National School Breakfast Week

Monday, April 4, 2016 - B Day

  • STAAR Wrap Up - 7:45-8:16 am - Office - Grace
  • Kindergarten Field Trip - 10:00 am - Austin Nature Center - Becky, Nicole, Paula

Tuesday,April 5, 2016 - Day - Book Fair!

  • Staff Picture - 7:30 am - Music Room - All! :)
  • Class Picture Day! - As Scheduled - Music Room - All
  • Kindergarten Round Up! - 9:00 am - Library - Grace, Julie, Becky, Nicole, Paula
  • First Grade Field Trip - 11:15 am - Paramount Theater - Alma, Sharon, Suzie
  • Innovation Grant Writing Meeting - 3:00 pm - Lab - Grace, All Interested

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - Day

  • Incoming Parent Meeting - 9:00 am - Office - Grace
  • Assistant Principal Interviews - 3:30 pm - Rm. 111 - Grace, Robin, Elise

Thursday, April 7, 1016 - Day

  • CST Meeting - 8:00 am - Office - Corinda, Kellie, Elise, Grace
  • 504 Meeting - 12:30 pm - Office - Diana McG., Chad, Robin, Grace
  • CST Meeting - 1:15 pm - Office - Claudia, Elise, Grace

Friday, April 8, 2016 - Day

  • School-wide Assembly - 7:45 am - Gym -
  • Principal's Coffee - 8:00 am - Library - Grace
  • PK Field Trip - 9:00 am - Crowes Nest Farm - Diana McM., Thelma
  • Meeting - 11:15 am - Office - Janie, Grace
  • PALS - 12:30 pm - Robin, 6th Grade
  • International Festival School Performance - 1:30 pm - Blacktop - All
  • International Festival! - 5:30 pm - Cafeteria/Blacktop - All Invited!

For Your Information


  • If you need something, ask.
  • If you haven't already, make sure to take the Educator's Ethics Course through AISD's HCP.
  • Make sure to utilize reading/writing workshop and small group instruction during core.
  • Remember to take attendance daily on TEAMS.
  • Arrive and pick up your class from special areas on time - respect each other's time.
  • Ensure 504, IEP, ELL, and Gifted Accommodations are being followed
  • Actively supervise your students - Spread out at recess to monitor each area.
  • Check our calendar for important events
  • Try something new and have fun!

Kudos: Do you know of something good? Share it with Grace to be included here or write it in the comments below!

  • To Maria, Michelle, and Julie for making sure everyone was cared for with yummy snacks on STAAR days!
  • To all for a successful test administration!
  • To Ruthann for arranging for the Historical Landmark Commission to meet at Mathews and working with Mary to ensure a successful event!
  • To Corinda, Kellie, Coach, Kristen, and Warren for a fun and well organized camping adventure!
  • To Robin and Katie for organizing Thursday's Self Care lesson with Lynn!
  • To Diana Mc.M, Diana McG., Claudia, Suzie, Nicole, and Julie for participating in Family Build Night!
  • To Alma for tackling a difficult situation head on with strength and grace.
  • To Elise for successfully managing TELPAS!
  • To Claudia and Diana McM. (and Sara) for creating beautiful tiles, assisting with Grounds Day, and procuring free Chipotle for the volunteers!

Upcoming Events:

  • Librarian Appreciation Week - Week of April 11
  • EOY TPRI/DRA and CPMS Window Opens
  • School Tour - April 11
  • Science Presentation - April 12
  • Staff Meeting - April 14
  • 4th Grade San Antonio Trip - April 15
  • Elementary 6th Grade Dance - April 15

Website to Explore:

http://pbskids.org/designsquad/- This is a fantastic site on PBS Kids! There are videos to watch, ideas for designing and building and challenges galore. Great information for use in the classroom or for sharing with our families. Enjoy exploring!