Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Dreamers and the Realists

Last night while watching Modern Family with my son I heard this quote:

"Cameron Tucker: There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You'd think the dreamers would find the dreamers and the realists would find the realists, but more often than not the opposite is true. You see, the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists, well without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground. "
Modern Family Punkin Chukin Episode

This resonated with me in many ways.  I understand the logical realists and their perspective.  They keep the dreamers grounded and make sure that there is a foundation for the "out of this world thinking". Dreamers see the possibility in everything.  Their perspective is one of "why not".

After contemplating this quote, I understand that it is imperative to have balance - realists and dreamers working together for the good and learning of the students in our districts, schools, and classrooms.  

Are you a dreamer or a realist?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It Begins With a Smile

Week 2 of the #youredustory blogging challenge is how I will make the world a better place.

It begins with a smile.  I remember a long time ago, someone was talking about how difficult it is to not smile when someone smiles at you.  As a fairly new employee in my district I work to build relationships with the teachers, staff, students, and parents I work with.  The smile is the first step.  Whenever I pass someone, it gives me the opportunity to brighten everyone's day by smiling as I pass and say hello.

Here is a smile challenge:

  • For one week smile at any/all people you pass during the day.  If it is people you see everyday and multiple times a day, do it EVERYTIME. 
    • Make sure it is authentic and if you can get your eyes to light up or twinkle that is even better
    • Smile at everyone in the office, school, classroom each time you cross paths
    • When approaching a student or someone with a question (sometimes an annoying question) if you start with a smile, it changes how you start the conversation to a positive and provides an opportunity to build a relationship and trust rather than getting off on the wrong foot
    • If you are somewhere like the grocery store, smile as you pass others in the isle and see what happens.
It will take a while for you to start smiling automatically when encountering others.  You will need to make a conscious effort at first.  Soon it will become something you just do and you get to reap the benefits.

Here is how the smile challenge has/is impacting my life:
  • My interactions have become more positive especially with students and challenging staff members by starting the interaction with a smile and authentic greeting
  • I love watching and counting how many people I can get to smile back at me... There are always a few of the curmudgeons, most will change their demeanor and smile back
  • I am modeling for my son and my students, teachers, and others the impact a smile can have on others
Now for a short tale of the impact it has had.  During our ornament exchange in our district office, I received a chessire cat ornament.  There is always a story that goes with each ornament and I received that one because I am known to be smiling wherever I go in the office.  I did not even realize that I smile that often, that is how automatic it has become for me.  Now, the chessire cat also has mischievous eyes (also a trait of mine) which is story for another time.

Take the smile challenge and see how it impacts you and those around you!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

#oneword 2015 - Embrace

Last week I joined the  #YourEduStory Challenge @youredustory on twitter.  It is a blogging challenge that asks that you blog once a week for the 2015 year.  There are weekly topics to inspire your blogging or you can just do your own thing.  The idea is that you blog weekly.  That has always been my goal since Saturday night is my designated blogging time.  Our first week's topic is our #oneword for 2015.  I was inspired to write my one word and enter the challenge after reading John Wink's #oneword FOCUS and Jennifer Kloczko's #oneword LESS.  These two posts inspired me to ponder my #oneword for 2015.

EMBRACE is my #oneword for 2015.  I am in a state of flux which actually happens to be my chosen state most of the time.  As I have stated many times on this blog, I am trying to find my way after leaving the classroom and moving to the Educational Student Support Center (ESSC or DO) as an instructional leader and coach.  I chose the word EMBRACE as my #oneword 2015 because I need to consciously remind myself to embrace every aspect of my life as an educator and as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, and many other labels I put upon myself.

Embrace the messiness of my life.
Embrace the many mistakes I make throughout the day.
Embrace the conflict I create (I am a rabble rouser)
Embrace the learning from my PLN and educators surrounding me.
Embrace where the teachers are in their implementation of CCSS and technology
Embrace the challenges and questions of my perspective on education issues
Embrace the good, bad and ugly of myself as an educator and person
Embrace the fact that I am imperfect even though I know I struggle with being a perfectionist
Embrace the messiness of leading and learning as a coach and instructional leader
Embrace the difficult - standards based grading, active student learning, CHANGE, CULTURE
Embrace the wonder when visiting classrooms and watching students
Embrace my ability to take great risks

I can go on and on there are so many things I need to do as an educator.

Even though I am a girl (funny that I used that word), I am an athlete and sports fan and I have struggled with the death of Stuart Scott on many levels.  So, the most important Embrace I learned this past week from his  2014 ESPY Awards Speech

  • "Our life's journey is about the people who touch us" - building relationships is extremely important
  • "Don't give up, don't ever give up" - I need to fight for what I believe is best for students and for me and my family
  • "I'm not special" - What I do is not about me, it is about helping others and being there for others
  • "How I live, why I live, and the manner in which I live" has an impact on those around me
  • "When you get too tired to fight, lay down, rest, and let somebody else fight for you" - I know Stuart is alluding to battling cancer, but sometimes as educators we take on great battles and sometimes we need to let someone else fight for us.  We need to let others step in and help.
  • "This is not a solo adventure, it requires support" - This is the most difficult for me.  As a classroom teacher, I could rationalize being solo even though I had a social network PLN.  
So, my focus for 2015 is to EMBRACE by building relationships, not quitting, letting others help, and asking my PLN and other to support and fight for me and the teachers and students I support.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 In Review: My Blog Word Cloud and Top Posts

I am truly blessed by my Personal Learning Network (PLN).  It has grown and expanded exponentially this past year.  I have learned so much from them and many of the interactions have been the inspiration for my blog posts.  So, as many others out there, I am sharing a word cloud summary of my posts as well as my most read posts of 2014.

My word cloud below was inspired by: Jennifer Kloczko's Word It Out post.  Like Jennifer, my chromebook is my tool of choice for blogging among other things.  So I created my word cloud using Word It Out.  

A quick reflection of the stand out words:

  • I am proud of the fact that the largest word is STUDENTS - education should be all about the students.
  • I am ashamed that the other largest word is I - this is not about me, which I see I need to work on.
  • LEARNING is large which is a good thing - apparently I am writing about learning
  • I think it is interesting that TIME is a good size - yes, time is limited. However, we can prioritize our time and focus which is something I am planning on working on in 2015
  • MAKE, SHARE, ALL, TEACHERS, NEED, KNOW, GOOGLE, MATH are also used often in my blog posts - These words represent areas that I have been focused on as an educator
Goals for my blogging in 2015:
  • This blog is and always has been a place where I can reflect on my life as an educator.  It is for me first and foremost, if others benefit that is an added bonus.  I appreciate all input and consideration of the posts I write.
  • Continue to reflect on my journey and share all that I can
  • Continue to include links to my PLN folks that inspire and drive my thinking and learning
Now for the top 5 posts of 2014 (in ascending order):

#5 - What Happens to the Thinkers and Tinkerers? - I wrote this post after watching my 8 year old son tinker with Google Glass

#4 - How I Taught my Middle School Math Students to Blog - I truly believe that it is important for students to understand the importance of "Writing to Learn" and if we expect that of students, how do we introduce the concept of blogging across the curriculum

#3 - Did the Mountain Lion Catch The Mule Deer? - This post was inspired by a walk on our property (we live on 7.5 acres) and we found cougar (mountain lion) tracks very near deer tracks and my son wondered what happened, we were surprised after our research.

#2 - Modeling Standards Based Learning by "Failing" a High Stakes Test - In this post I shared my near miss of passing my administrators test and what I learned from the feedback I received 

#1  - What Does a 58% on a Math Test Mean to a Third Grader? - I am really honored that this post received the most hits on my blog.  It is the impetus for me to start the conversation of standards based grading in my district

I am so looking forward to 2015.  It will be a year of continued growth and sharing of my journey as an educator.

Friday, December 19, 2014

K - 1 Demo Lessons - My Shot of Uncomfortable Part 1

On Sunday December 14, as I was having my first cup of coffee and hanging out on Tweetdeck (my 20+ columns of twitter hashtags and groups), I found this post by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19), Why Teachers Need a Shot of Uncomfortable.  It was one of those serendipitous moments when you receive just what you need to hear or in this case read.

This week I have been doing demo math lessons in Kindergarten and First Grade classes.  In my 23 years as a classroom teacher I taught grades 3 - 8 and all but 4 of the years were 5 - 8.  So, you can say I'm not known for my expertise in the primary grades.  That being said, I also believe that effective educators can teach any grade with the skills/tools they have.  So, in my role as an instructional coach and leader, I know that I have to leave my comfort zone and practice what I preach - taking risks with and for the sake of students actively learning and understanding.  I knew going into the experience that I would be modeling failure which is something I believe makes me a better learner and educator.  I am modeling the lessons for two teachers I am coaching as part of their beginning teacher induction program.  I have been learning a lot about myself as an educator this week and I wanted to share some of the insights.

I purposely chose this week (December 15 - 19), because I knew the teachers would allow me to stray off their "pacing guide" the week before winter break.  I also purposely chose to do this for a week because I knew if I really wanted a glimpse into the lives of these teachers and their students, I would need to be in the classroom for an extended amount of time.

My goals for the week:
  • Model CCSS math lessons - using our new math adoption (which I did not do).
  • Model the "lesson study" process of pre-assessing, providing instruction, post assessing (this process is the focus for their next induction module).
  • Use the "lesson study" process to start a conversation on what standards based learning looks like in each classroom.
  • Use the CCSS math fluency expectations for Kindergarten and First Grade to guide my lessons.(K-fluency with + - up to 5 and 1st - fluency with + - up to 10)

  • To make sure I modeled effective questioning and did not tell students how to do something but question them to guide them.
  • To model engagement strategies as a classroom management tool and to make sure students are actively learning instead of passively complying.
  • Try and model classroom management for the new teachers - (I know, I'm going against Yoda)

FAIL FORWARD - I expect to show failure as a way to learn about myself as an educator and model how failure forces me to make shifts and adjustments.

General reflections and insights from the week:
  • Teaching Kindergarten and First Grade is HARD!  Because I am doing this with teachers who I have a relationship with, I feel comfortable taking risks (watching the students get out of control), and instead of being stressed, I can model calm and problem-solve to recover (Simon Says is a great way to capture kids attention and get them focused on the task)
  • I found some great resources for Formative Assessment Lessons - Thanks Jenny (@jenny4math)!!  K - 5 Formative Assessment Lessons MATH
  • After the first three days I was wondering what I had gotten myself into - I was extremely uncomfortable and wanting to "get sick" or find some other excuse to not finish the week.
  • At the same time, I knew this was exactly what I needed to be doing and this feeling of discomfort is what I need to continue my growth as an instructional leader.
  • Students eat a lot of sugar the week before winter break - it affects their behavior!
  • For myself and the two teachers, watching the students discussing, debating, justifying, and working things out for themselves was magical.  It was also a struggle because it was new to them, they wanted to be told what to do - we just asked questions.
  • My relationship with the teachers has moved to a new level of understanding and empathy which will enable me to better coach.  
  • My observations of their teaching will have a new perspective which can only be gained by having stood in their shoes - something more site leaders need to do (my personal opinion!)

Part 2 of this post will be a reflection of specific learning from each day.  I challenge all who read this post to go out and find your "Shot of Uncomfortable" and make a New Year's resolution to take it on.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Family Movie Night - Lessons for Educators

Last weekend our family had a movie night and we rented The Edge of Tomorrow.  The cover of the movie has the words live, die, repeat.  As I watched it, I began to do what I usually do when watching movies: make connections to education and my life as an educator.  This brought me back to a blog post I started back in March 2014 see below:

I think I have joked with many of my friends about writing this post.  However, this evening I was inspired by Jennifer Kloczco's post This I Believe: Life Lessons and Sports Movies.  Like usual I am going to provide a "brief" explanation to provide a bit of background on where I am coming from.

It is my son's 9th birthday.  When my husband and I were thrown into becoming parents by fate (a very long story for a later time) we had been married for 9 years, I had been teaching for 15 years, and I was at that test for everything under the sun to make sure your baby is healthy age.  I was familiar with Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, and other movies because I would watch them with my students.  Little did I know that after becoming a parent they would dictate the major themes of my life as a parent and an educator. Here are just a few:

The Story of Route 66 - Cars: A great reminder that life is about the journey.  In our classrooms we need to make sure we understand our destination for our students and then plan a meaningful journey as they work to acquire new learning and understanding.  We need to individualize the journey as much as possible and let the students have a hand in creating their paths.  What are you doing everyday to make the journey more meaningful and fun?

My favorite quote from this segment - "Cars didn't drive on it to make great time, they drove on it to have a great time" - Sally

Ellie's Adventure Book - Up and Picture Momentos - Up:  These are a great reminder that life isn't about the exciting adventures and places and trips one experiences.  If you have the right perspective, everyday can be seen as an adventure.  Another message about slowing down, realizing that building relationships and making connections can turn seemingly mundane activities into "learning adventures" in your classroom.  What is in your adventure book and how do we keep our student's adventures alive?

A great quote from Up - "He used to come to all my Sweatlodge meetings.And afterwards we'd go get 
ice cream at Fentons. I always get chocolate and he gets butter-brickle. Then we'd   sit on this one curb, right outside, and I'll count all the blue cars and he counts all the red ones, and whoever gets the most, wins. I like that curb.  That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most."

Finding Their Way - Finding Nemo:  This clip is for the helicopter parents and teachers who have a hard time letting students struggle and face challenges they have to figure out themselves.  We need to stop "rescuing and spoon feeding" our students.  We need to let them explore, discover, struggle, create, revise, edit, think critically, and problem solve.  How do we know what they are capable of if we do not let them try and fail and revise on their own?

Finding Your Center - Rise of the Guardians:  This clip illustrates the importance of knowing what is at your center as an educator and/or parent.  Your center is what you bring into the world and it is what you protect in the students you teach.  This blog has helped me reflect and find my educational center.  When I am veering off course, I can feel it in my core and I know I am not listening and following my center beliefs and fighting for them.  What is your educational center that you will protect in your students and fight for?

First Flight With Toothless - How to Train Your Dragon:  This is my #geniushour and makerspace clip.  It illustrates that when someone is interested in something, they want to find out as much about it as possible.  They will study, learn, problem-solve, and create.  Another lesson in this clip is having the courage to throw away your "cheat sheet".  When you are in the "flow" you can trust your center or gut to guide you.  Making a "cheat sheet" provides you with the foundation and ability to trust you know the information and therefore can throw it out.  Are you creating or providing time for students to explore what they are passionate about?

Believe - The Polar Express:  So much of being an educator is in believing the impossible is possible.  You trust in others to share their knowledge and processes and you take a leap of faith and try new things.  You have to believe that it is worth trying even if it fails.  Either way, you will learn and try again another day.  This clip works with finding your center and using your beliefs to support you center and vice versa.  What do you believe is possible for yourself and your students?

Edge of Tomorrow Trailer: This movie is all about learning and has a strong connection to gaming.  I am a revision queen.  In my writing, someone usually has to rip the piece out of my hands because I believe I can always make it better.  As educators we need to embrace failing as a learning tool.  Moving ahead slowly one step at a time, failing forward is a great way to model for our students and all with whom we work.  It is scary and exhilarating at the same time.  This post: 5 Things Teacher Can Learn From Video Games by Alice Keeler connects to the premise of this movie: "1. Players do not read instructions; 2. Failure is expected; 3. Games are social; 4. Players are actively involved; 5. Challenging is fun.  How do you model failure for your students and colleagues?  Would you save the world with little on no recognition?  Oh Yeah, you already do that everyday!

You don't believe, that is why you fail - Yoda:  I have to add this clip because it really represents the two types of people I meet whether they are students, teachers, parents, friends, or anyone.  One type is the people who will try and take a leap of faith, trusting their gut, no matter the consequences to achieve something.  They do this because they have a support system, are not afraid of failing and see it as learning opportunity.  They believe that no matter what happens, there will always be the opportunity to improve and learn.  The other type will try and give up, or not attempt at all because they are blinded by the fear of failure.  Luckily most folks float between the two extremes depending on what they are doing.  As an educator, what leaps of faith do you take for your students and yourself?  Do you believe?

It's Time to Let Go - Finding Nemo: And finally, a great life lesson about letting go even when you do not know what the outcome will be.  In education we take risks for our students everyday.  We have to believe in ourselves and our students and be willing to jump even if we are not sure of the results and are we are scared.  When was the last time you jumped and took a risk trying something new?  What will be your next "Jump"?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Would You Do With An Extra Hour...

As I laid in bed on a rainy Saturday morning, I listened to Scott Simon on Weekend Edition (NPR) as he discussed what if the time change occured during the day instead of the middle of the night, how would you use that extra hour?  CLICK HERE to listen to the segment.  As I listened, I agreed and thought about all of the great ideas he mentioned, I was relishing the fact that the weather had allowed me to stay in bed much longer than I would allow myself on a bright sunny day.  But the question also required me to ponder and reflect, what if I had the gift of an extra hour showing up in the middle of a day, what would I do with it?

  • The mom and wife in me immediately went to - spend more time with my family.
  • The educator in me immediately went to - I can participate in a twitter chat or hang out on tweetdeck, google+, voxer, reading blog posts, etc...
  • The housekeeper in me immediately went to - I can get the vacuuming done.
  • The property owner in me immediately went to - rake pine needles into piles, repeat, repeat.
  • The writer in me immediately went to - I can blog for an hour.
  • The daughter in me immediately went to - I can pay Mom's bills for the month.
  • The exerciser in me immediately went to - I can workout.
  • The guilty part of me immediately went to - watching Project Runway recordings.
  • The college student in me went to - take a NAP
There are many more "me's" that could go on and on.  With the craziness and connectedness of our lives today it is important to stop and take inventory of our priorities and wants and needs.

I think I will take an hour today to sit and be away from all of the me's above.  I find in my hectic life, quiet pondering and reflecting allows me to re-connect to the intuitive me.  That is the most important me because it guides everything I do and provides a foundation for growth and learning in every situation.

The gift of an hour, a luxurious hour... What would you do with an extra hour?