The Innovator’s Mindset: Start a Book Study in Your School

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New Adventure

This school year, I am a part of a once in a lifetime adventure. I have begun taking innovation to the next level as a Technology Integrationist and Mentor Teacher with a phenomenal elementary staff. As a result, to take this role, I moved to the Kansas City area two months ago to start this electrifying chapter!

My new school was restructured in a variety of ways. We have a brand new combination of staff members coming together for one common purpose: To make learning EXTRAORDINARY. Cultivating innovation is clearly not an easy feat, but it is a must. The individuals, staff, teachers, and principals that were chosen to educate in this environment are out of this world amazing!

It Takes a Team

Our incredible principal- Kevin Lathrom (@KLathrom), our marvelous Assistant Principal- Lauren Malone (@LaurenMalone3TE), and the rock star Director of Technology- Brent Catlett (@catlett1), and I collaborated for weeks during the summer to make learning awesome for kids. The idea of a summer book study came up instantaneously during a school visit, and it excited us all to the core.

Whether you have new staff like us, or not, a book study is a perfect chance to build community, dialogue, and a continuity of common language that can be at the heart of your school vision and mission. This work can be done simultaneously with the pairing of pushing ideas and mindsets to a whole new level, including your own.

Innovator’s Mindset

The first book that came to our minds was the Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros (@gcouros) – and if you have read it, you know exactly why the title was the first on our list.

If I had to describe the Innovator’s Mindset in one sentence, I would say it is the Educator’s Bible to Innovation. Since we are beginning the 1:1 journey at our school, having the Innovator’s Mindset as a foundational piece of our shared language is crucial; It is not about the devices, and it NEVER should be- it is about innovating HOW we educate.

The way George intertwine’s dialogue and storytelling to transcend his message is unmatched and translates very well to educators.

George has been a tremendous mentor for me in leadership and a remarkable friend- I am eternally grateful, truly. When I was lucky enough to meet him at #METC16 in Saint Louis, MO this February, he pushed me to read his book right away- not next week, but right then and there. In true George-like fashion, he drives your thinking seamlessly, whether in person or by reading his book.

In April, I sent an e-mail to our new staff inviting them to our book study, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive! Team members were excited to get on board and to push mindsets while building relationships before we started our new school year.

Voxer Book Chat

We focused on our book study during the month of June via Voxer. To prepare our staff, I sent out a Google Sheet that included spots for teachers to add their social media accounts, including Voxer. Many teachers then signed-up for Voxer and then added their names to this sheet. I then added everyone into our Voxer group so we that we could discuss the book as a team.

To give some background on the book, there are four parts to the Innovator’s Mindset, which is then divided into chapters. I took these four sections and decided that each week in June would be dedicated to one part of the book. Furthermore, George leaves discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which lends itself very nicely to a book chat format. Therefore, I chose three items from each part that I wanted us to focus on each week.

As I posted the weekly questions, I asked teachers to choose from one of the three questions (or more) to respond to. I encouraged everyone to add in their questions, responses, and takeaways.

But, even before jumping into the book questions, I began our book study with questions that dug deeper to who we are as learners, educators, and family members; This was crucial. We can discuss our reflections to books all day long, but if we do not at least have an idea of who we are as people and what we believe in, the words that we say will lack meaning and understanding.

Also, I posted questions on the same day every week and modeled how to respond by talking or by typing and I encouraged our group to respond in whichever way was most comfortable to them. *This could also be modified to fit as a Twitter Chat, Google+ chat, and beyond.


As a new team, this book study was meaningful for a variety of reasons. The time we spent together chatting about the book received positive praise from countless group members. I also believe that the conversations gave us a comfort level amongst one another. We started to see: Each other’s perspectives on the world around us, the expertise and strengths that each of us possessed, and what we stood for as educators and individuals.

In July, a month after our book study ended, we all met for building-wide professional development, and it was the first time that many of us had officially met “face-to-face.” As we started creating our school vision during these days, my eyes watered when I saw how many people were using the word “innovation” to describe what they wanted to see for our students, and for us. It was evident how much the book already shaped everyone’s mindsets, and that was priceless. In addition, I asked George if he would be willing to Google Hangout with us, and he said “YES!” Needless to say, our chat could not have ended on a higher note.

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Innovation is not just encouraged, it is what we aim to do and who we aim to be. “Innovation” is even a part of our school Pride Pledge that our principals read each day in the morning announcements. Even though we are only three weeks into school, I can already see first-hand how risk-taking is happening each day.

As the year proceeds, I cannot wait to see how our mindsets continually shift, and more importantly, how our kids grow!

Kara Welty

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Aim for Work-Life Integration over Balance

-There is no such thing as work-life balance. The balance has to be within you.-

Ever since I began my career, I have heard and seen stories of struggle with workers, educators, and leaders striving for the abstract idea of “work and life balance.”

When people aim to reach this lofty goal of balance and do not reach it, they can feel filled with shame and guilt. They ask themselves questions like, “Am I a good enough mother, father, husband, wife, family member, or friend?” “Am I spending enough time or am I spending too much time at work?” “What do people think of me?”

I often wonder where this idea of balance came from and who put this into our heads? This may come as a shock to you, but there is not a scale out there that is tracking our journeys to balance because, in my opinion, real balance does not exist.

We may have this visual in our heads of what balance looks like, but that picture changes day-to-day based on demands placed upon us. Rather than striving for balance, what if we strive for a work and life integration? A life where our hobbies, career, family, friends and personal life are working together, rather than pulling us apart? Subsequently, what if we then chose the degree of work and life integration that we are okay with? I believe everyone should do what is important to them (whatever that is) and to integrate these items into their lives as desired, while not worrying what anyone else thinks.

No one can tell you what is best for you. Only you can figure that out; You are the one living and feeling the pulse of your life. You will adjust your integration levels naturally as your life changes with work, family, and beyond. Do not shoot for a perfect formula or feel pressure to do so. After all, we are simply humans doing the best we can living without a written guide to follow, so let’s follow our intuition.

Having said this, we do not have to have it all figured out. We just have to do whatever it is that makes each of us happy in all areas of our lives while giving ourselves grace along the way. Integrate what YOU want to integrate into your life. Then, choose the level at which you want to incorporate the different puzzle pieces. Leave the pressures behind to follow an ordained path set before us.

Be you and own YOUR life.

Kara Welty


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The Roadmap for Tech Success in School & Life

Roadmap for Tech Success

I moved to a brand new city within the last two months, and let me tell you, Google Maps has become an even stronger best friend: Google Maps + Kara = Friends Forever.

I am using GPS to get me everywhere. To give myself credit, this is understandable since I have never lived in this city before. But, after days of using the GPS to travel to the same locations, I realized that I needed to let my comfort blanket go. It was time to start driving without the visual and speech support-“You can do this, Kara,” I told myself.

I am not going to lie, it was a little terrifying to put the good ole’ Google Maps aside and to trust that I could make it halfway across the city with a million intersections competing against me, but I knew I could handle it.

All-in-all, I am happy to report that I did make it safely to my destination that day all-in-one piece, and without a scratch on my car (or myself). I am going to call this a total win-win.

Before I go any further, thank goodness for technology; Technology makes my life easier each and every day. And for that, I am eternally grateful. But, I see a fine line we face each day when we trust our computers to navigate our every move, rather than stopping for a second to think about our experiences and intuition.

As funny as it may seem, these same rules apply to technology in education: Technology is incredible, but our minds are an even greater gift bestowed upon us.

Do not let the technology determine where you go. YOU determine where you’re going, then use your learning first to get you there. Technology is not our compass. WE are the compass.

The Roadmap for Tech Success in School & in Life:

  1. Know where you want to go first.
  2. Give yourself some space to think- Is technology really what we need to transform this?
  3. Plan your course and prepare for roadblocks you may stumble across.
  4. Adjust your journey & take a detour, if needed.
  5. Take a breath & enjoy the ride!
  6. Arrive (You will sooner or later).

I think Lady Antebellum said it best,“Let your heart sweet heart be your compass when your lost and you should follow it wherever it may go….”

Kara Welty

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How to Build Engaging PD for Educators

How-to Build Engaging PD for Educators


Throughout my experience in education thus far I have led curriculum department teams, curriculum writing teams, new teachers, district-wide events, programs, and technology and instructional movements. Throughout my myriad of experiences, I have quickly learned how demanding it can be behind the scenes to create meaningful professional development (PD); Yet, it is a non-negotiable in education. With a hearty set of demands placed upon educators each day, time is sacred and each minute in PD should be valued in gold.

With that said, PD may not always be a grand slam in everyone’s eyes, and that is okay. But, in my eyes, the grand slam is still my goal. Although we can never be perfect, the valid point is to constantly improve your practice through feedback and trial-and-error. As we know, teachers face similar obstacles in the classroom while attempting to seamlessly differentiate for each student; It is hard work, but it is always worth it.

Therefore, after reflecting upon my own work, below is a curation of the top 7 lessons I have learned through my own experience in the pursuit of constance self-improvement. Without a doubt, I know I will continue to develop my professional toolbox on this topic, as well.

1. Get Feedback from Multiple Parties Prior to the PD and Know Your Audience

More often than not, we are asked to teach to a variety of adult learners who are teaching different subject/special areas, contents, grade levels and more- All in one day, place, or session. This is not rare, this is the norm.

Rather than seeing this as a negative, I believe this allows for an exciting challenge of meeting every adult learner where they are at. Therefore, to value your time and the teachers, be sure to contact the educators and administration prior to the PD to actively seek out what they are wanting to learn, while asking what topics they are the experts in.

When in doubt: Never assume, always ask.

2. Invite Others, then Go Global

Ask yourself: Is there anyone else you can invite to this PD who would benefit from the learning and conversations taking place? For example, can you ask District/Central Office personnel from your school district to attend your PD? 

Now, let’s think even bigger: Can you invite other parents, teachers, and administration outside of your school? If others outside of your school are unable to attend, consider sharing the relevant and treasured resources to social media: A quick tweet can globally connect the world with your PD in seconds, or a Periscope can share the learning live with anyone who is interested.

3. Plan a Healthy Mix of Structured and Organic Sessions/Break-Outs

I love infusing EdCamp models into my PD sessions as much as possible, but I also see the benefit in structured settings that are formatted in a way where colleagues can thrive on collaborative and cooperative moments. Even when discussing topics with whole groups of teachers, you can still provide opportunities to spice the learning up, get teachers moving, and to allow time for peer dialogue.

If you are struggling between choosing a more structured PD and more organic PD (like EdCamps), determine your purpose, content, setting, and individuals involved first before making any decisions. Also consider this: Anytime you can add in teacher choice, you will see engagement rise.

4. Empower Teachers to Lead

Do you see teachers doing amazing things in your schools? Of course you do. Rather than talking about how incredible the teaching was from a second-hand account, ask the teacher him/herself to lead a break-out session or to share his/her wealth of knowledge in other ways.

Every single teacher wants to feel important and valued, just like students. Anytime you can highlight the work of the teachers and their strengths, you are not just building solid PD, you are forming the building blocks for an unshakable culture.

5. Do Not Be Afraid to Adjust on the Fly

While developing sessions for PD, I spend hours upon hours on the content, delivery systems, resources I want to share, and more. Even the night (and morning) before, I continue to go over my work to ensure that it is beyond worthwhile, while constantly innovating my ideas.

Even after gaining feedback from teachers, paired with the careful planning and time, I still find that I need to adjust my PD constantly on the fly during the live session. We adjust our teaching all of the time when teaching students, but for some reason, we feel that we need to stick to a “script” when it comes to teaching adults. I have found that teachers will appreciate and respect you more if you “read the room” and adjust your plans as needed.

6. Embody “FUN”

Have you ever listened to someone present who was monotone, expressionless, and/or lacking energy? It is pretty painful, isn’t it?

In order to gain engagement, you need to be engaging yourself. It all starts with a simple smile and passion for what you do. Beyond this, you can add in sneak peeks to your personality, if you are comfortable doing so; I dance, play music, get teachers moving, laugh at myself, and try to not ever take myself too seriously. We can still be professional while having the time of our lives.

7. Connect with Experts

Knowledge extends beyond the four walls of your school, while giving perspective from others. Connect with the experts on your topic to see if they have any tips, resources, or ideas that they would be willing to share. Also, you can invite the experts to Skype or Google Hang-out with you and your group. The options are limitless, and the worst that someone can say is “no.”

Kara Welty

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New Website Launch!


I am THRILLED to announce the launch of my new website!

What this means is that my previous website and blog-, will no longer exist in the very near future. Instead, I will be forwarding that previous URL to this website. I will be posting some of my most popular and sought after posts from Grow. Lead. Serve. to this website so you can still access my already created content. Stay tuned!

I will also be posting NEW content and posts very soon to THIS website! So, in short, you will now need to stay updated with my new blog posts through this site. Please subscribe to my new website by going to the sidebar to the right where it says, “Subscribe to My Blog.”

Thank you for your unwavering love and support from Grow. Lead. Serve. to today. I could never fully express in words what it means to me to have readers like you here!

Kara Welty


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