Finding Inspiration From Faculty

I love being inspired by new ideas, and believe 100% in sharing creativity and also sharing the great things happening at our school. I recently had the opportunity to learn about an absolutely amazing, yet little-known, project happening in our Design Technology lab and I just had to find a way to tell others about it. Our high school has gotten several 3D printers this year, but I had no idea exactly how these work, what they look like, or how you go from having an idea to actually creating a finished product. I emailed our Design Technology teachers and asked if they could let me know the next time they would be using the 3D printers so that I could come up and learn more about them. They emailed back right away to let me know that a printing project was currently running, so I headed up to the 4th floor Design Technology area (a place that I’ve only been to three times in the whole time I’ve been at this school– and one of those was for an afterschool TGIF party!) to check it out.

First, the DT teacher showed me prototype miniatures that students create before they create full-size projects. These prototypes allow students to identify potential issues that must be addressed before they print the full-size models. The teacher then showed me the software program in which students create the 3D model digital files, which are then sent to the printer, which uses a large spool of plastic cording, which is fed into the printer, heated at high temperature so that it melts, is then drizzled (I’m not sure if this is really the best adjective for what actually happens here) onto a cooler metal plate, where the molten plastic cools and solidifies, yielding the final 3D printing project. To say that it was cool to watch is an understatement.

The teacher then explained to me the project that was currently being printed, and that’s where the inspiration kicked into full gear. Students had been designing small plastic items to take down to Estancia (a coastal town that was devastated by the 2013 typhoon) on an upcoming service trip, and this particular student had designed a simple bubble blower (the wand with a circle on the end), which was in the process of being mass produced by the 3D printers. To top off this wonderful marriage of education and service, stamped onto the wand was “ISM ♥ ECS”. Our school has been collecting money and working with other organizations to rebuild Estancia Central School, which had been destroyed by the typhoon, and when students go to visit the school in a few weeks they will take a variety of toys and other items that have been created and produced using the school’s 3D printers. If this is not an example of meaningful, real-world education, I don’t know what is.

Hearing about this incredible idea, and knowing that I’d just found out about it by chance because of my geeky interest in 3D printing, I decided to embark on a new project. The goal of this project is to share as many of the great things happening in our school with as many people as possible! I emailed a group of teachers that I feel are known for their creativity, and hopefully their willingness to share, in order to collect a handful of videos that I can then use to try and encourage even more people to share. Teachers can either create their own videos or can have me come down to take the video for them. The videos can and should be simple. I’m also planning to participate in an upcoming afterschool PD time and will try to film as many teachers, staff and administrators from across all school divisions sharing short stories about something great that happened during the year. Not sure what the final product will be (ideas?), but I’m excited about the potential. Video testimonials about all the good things that happened at our school this year? I’d watch that!

If this all comes together, I will share an update in a future post.


Coming From a Place of… “No”?

monkey-557586_1280I love feeling creative and thinking out of the box to solve problems, design new programs, and connect with teachers and students in different ways. This has normally been met with general success throughout my life and career, which has allowed me to continue the cycle of coming up with an idea, telling the right person (or people) about it, and then planning, executing, and reflecting on the successes and failures of the project. This cycle ultimately depends upon the answer to my initial request being something along the lines of “Yes. Go ahead and try _______. Sounds like a good idea. Here are a few things to consider, but I believe in you. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!” Or something along these lines, but always “Yes.” A question I’ve been considering lately, however, is: “What if the Answer is ‘No’?” Not every organization or workplace is receptive to new ideas, or is flexible enough to allow for a degree of risk and uncertainty. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at the end of the day, in order to maintain some degree of personal and professional forward momentum as well as to maintain the desire to be creative and forward-thinking in the workplace, it’s become imperative to make the “No” meaningful to me in some way.

It is far too easy to get frustrated after several rejections and just stop trying new ideas altogether. That doesn’t work for me, however, because NOT thinking about improvement, current trends, etc. is almost more frustrating and unsatisfying than making proposals that are ultimately rejected! So I say embrace the rejection, accept the “No”, but use it to investigate the underlying causes of the rejection. Maybe I didn’t talk to the right person to obtain the proper clearance along my path toward approval; maybe the reasons for the proposal weren’t articulated well enough; maybe the potential risk factors were not addressed enough; maybe it was TOO “out there”, and I could have taken a smaller step first; maybe there are political factors involved. All of these are considerations about which to be curious, and I am trying to consciously analyze my more recent proposals to preemptively identify any of these potential pitfalls. Even with my most recent failure, I am trying to take a philosophical approach and consider the factors I’ve laid out here when I reflect on the reasons for its rejection. Rejections also help me understand the organization’s values and beliefs on a deeper level.

Rejection is never easy. Having a growth mindset about it, however, can turn the very real disappointment– and sometimes hurt– into a valuable learning opportunity. It’s a work in progress, but that’s my new plan!