Collaboration and Leadership and Comfort Zones

I work in an environment that is incredibly collaborative. Leadership is shared because everyone plays a role -- or eight different roles -- in making our school work.

Collaboration is the air we breathe, and leadership is distributed.

And it is both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of my work here.

It's what's best, I know -- for all of us, for our students, for the bigger picture. It also pushes my comfort zones.

I only now realized this. That collaboration and leadership challenge me.

I'm surprised because an environment like this is what I always wanted, so desperately, in my teaching career. And I know that it is at the center of what's making me grow and learn more than I ever have before.

Not but.
It's definitely an adjustment.

I also know that teaching doesn't necessarily operate this way. That in too many places, teachers stay in their classrooms, with their students, following the directives from above, carrying out the lessons and curriculum they planned mostly by themselves.

At SLA, though, I almost never work alone. Every day, I am surrounded by second sets of eyes. And sounding boards. And teammates.

And truly, teammates. We're all on the same side.

It's all part of the design. We work the same way we want our students to learn.

And they do.

And slowly, I'm encouraged and invited to lead. To step out of my comfort zone. With the help and input of my colleagues, to expand my own role.

It's been a curve, for sure. I'm learning so much from the educators around me. They are my mentors and my leaders.  They inspire me to be a better teacher every day.

My students do that, too.

I'm learning about myself, too. About what control means to me and what my own insecurities are. How they come out when I didn't even know they were in there. My tendencies and traits. And how I affect the dynamics of a group.

I'll be better for all of it.

It's a push that's essential to growth.

You can only go so far toting only your own perspective.

I imagine a lof of this extends for other adults in other professions.

Although I've never been a different professional.

The other day my friends were talking about workplaces and the layouts of their offices. And I thought, "Huh. I share my office with hundreds of teenagers who think it's actually their office. How funny."

Girl Crush // Ayah Bdeir

Pretty regularly I learn about a woman whom I admire from afar and want to tell everyone about. 

Ayah Bdeir wants to solve problems. 
She is the founder and CEO of littleBits, which are little electronic modules that snap together using magnets. Like Legos. Engineering circuit blocks.

Watch her Ted Talk for a better overview.

The pieces are modular. And buildable. With endless possible outcomes.

Which means. Well, it means a lot of big things.

Too often complex tools are unattainable. Or just out of reach.
Because learning curves are real. And overwhelmingly steep.

littleBits makes electronic programming accessible.

Bdeir's objective remains to use her tools to encourage creativity. And play.

To put her tools in the hands of anyone who wants to make.
Engineers. Non-engineers. Designers. Students. Children. Anyone.

She gets it.

It's not just that there aren't a ton of women in engineering. Or that entrepreneurs are creating startups that provide interesting solutions.

It's the big picture. littleBits is open source, meaning anyone can download the information and build upon it. Anyone can access the tools. And collaboration is encouraged.

It's about democratizing the space. And reimagining the technical landscape.

She's an inventor empowering other inventors. An architect. An engineer. A maker. An artist. A designer. A teacher.

She believes in being thoughtful and deliberate. In breaking down boundaries. In the potential for innovation and collaboration. In changing things by working together.

All of that, I respect. And look up to.
I'll be excited for where she goes next.

Process // Right Field Farm

When I was approached about creating a logo for Right Field Farm, I was completely charmed. A young flower farm run by a beautiful family? Is that a dreamy graphic design project or what?

I started by sharing some emails and questionnaires with the client so that I could get a feel for their background and goals. As a budding business, Right Field Farm is in the process of updating their website and developing their brand. I knew they wanted a simple logo that could be easily printed and replicated from home, so we decided to stick to black-and-white graphics.

In the initial concepts stage, I like to provide a variety of ideas that the client can pick apart to help refine the direction of the overall piece. When we determine which graphics, letters, shapes, sizes, images, colors, etc. stand out, we can move forward with a tighter selection.

I thought I'd show you some of my favorite rejects from the initial concepts:

Right Field Farm wanted an updated and polished look that also highlighted the fact that they are a small, family farm in a small town near Annapolis, Maryland. The logo design should reflect the local and homegrown feel while still being sophisticated and have some room to grow with the business.

Here is the final logo. We love the cow; she's whimsical and spunky and farmy-but-not-too-farmy.

This was truly a fun project to work on, and it was a delight going through the design process with such an awesome client. I can't wait to see what grows on Right Field Farm!

In My Brain // 08

I'm struggling to lift the sun-filled haze that is Summer Brain and return to healthy routines and adult responsibility. The school year is upon us, friends! These pieces of the Internet might inspire some normalcy.

Noisli // An app that generates background noise for focus or relaxation. Yes.

Pep Talk Generator // There will be a lot of Monday mornings ahead.

Mean Girls Pencils // For the high-school mindset, obvi.

LunchBots // I can't rock the PB&J anymore. These bento boxes make me fantasize about grown-up school lunch.

Philly Adventuring // Fitler Square

I stuff my laptop and camera into my bike basket and head off to explore a new neighborhood.

Typical summer weekday.

When school is not in session and I can explore a different balance between work and play, I find new-to-me spots and call them home for a few hours. 

A few days ago I rode in the direction of Fitler Square. I parked at Rival Bros. Coffee, where the Loretta Lynn playlist was righteous and the outdoor table I scored was perfect for puppy and baby watching. I cleaned up a unit plan until I had overstayed my WiFi welcome. 

Then my grandma tastes got the best of me and I took a long walk and snapped photos of little houses and their flower boxes.

This is my idea of a reward for a little bit of work. This I could do all day.


And now I'd like to introduce you to my new favorite house in Philadelphia. Hanging Plant Heaven. 



My future friends live here, I know it.

Pet Lion!

This is the best Internet rabbit hole I've been down in a while. I just came across these photos of young Melanie Griffith (who -- I just learned this -- is the daughter of Tippi Hedron) with her pet lion. His name is Neil, and aside from being a lion, he's a totally regular pet.

Images via Mashable