Friday, July 26, 2019

Teacher Construction Season

I tend to do a lot of driving in the summertime. From ballet practice to splash pads, from the park to the zoo, I feel as though we are always on the road. The only issue with doing driving at this time of the year is all of the construction about. One night, as we were coming home from the drive in movie, I was venting to my husband about how frustrating it is to constantly have to reroute and give extra time for driving due to the road construction.

His reaction was brief, calm and really made me think:
"Honey, it's summer... it's construction season."

Of course, my mind immediately traveled to the education world (as it often does).

As teachers we constantly hear the phrase "You get summers off" Yet what if this time was looked at in a different way?

What if we looked at it as OUR "construction season"

Think about all teachers do in this time to get themselves, their lessons, and their classrooms ready for the driving ahead.
This is the time that we fix the roads of learning in our classroom. Some just need repainted while others need to be completely repaved. It is our chance to look closely at the road maps of our curriculum and determine which need a smoother highway or an extra lane on that interstate.
There are some years that I am content with simply getting out my paint crew and polishing up the road I had already worked so hard to lay down. There are other years that I gear up and prepare for I know that I need to have my entire crew and my equipment ready, for an overhaul is needed.

Earlier on in my teaching, there were times, when I knew there was serious road work ahead of me and yet, I put it off thinking the roads will hold up for one more year.
Why?....
Because I was apprehensive of the detours this may cause in my learning highway. I was worried about the potholes or speed bumps that I might not see until it was too late. Yet later I would learn that although I cannot predict all of the conditions ahead of my students on their new highway, it was much smoother, much safer than allowing them to revisit that torn up pavement caused by a lesson/project/method that has faded in its effectiveness.

This year for me is a complete overhaul as I am redesigning most of my curriculum and even my classroom game. I am altering units that I have held tight to for 10 years! Tearing up these historic highways is a very scary thing for me! Yet when I doubt my choice, I think of my drivers, my students and all they can get out of that new road.

So whether your construction crews are looking at a light summer load or a complete overhaul, please do not allow the possible detours to make lose sight of the goal....
To give your students the greatest drive imaginable on that road to learning and discovery. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Place Among the Stars

About three years ago is when I really extended my conference attending, and to be honest when I actually stared to enjoy going to conferences.  This is really due to the connections that I was beginning to form on Twitter and the inspiration that I was gaining from amazing people. I remember going to USM Spark for the first time and being utterly star struck. I was sitting there with these "Edu-stars." People that I truly looked up to and admired. I have to be honest, I had many "fan girl" moments.

Fast forward to now and I look at things a bit differently. This year at USM Spark, there was no "fan girl" to be found, simply an educator excited to see her friends and learn alongside them. I was struck by a Twitter comment by Joy Kirr shortly after the conference that stated that she has the same struggles as other teachers.
I realized while reading this from Joy that those first couple years of conferences I had been putting myself down in the process of holding this amazing people up.

Thinking to myself....

I can gamify...but I am nothing compared to Michael Matera or Tisha Richmond.

I can sketchnote... but I am nothing compared to Carrie Baughcum

I am creative... but I am nothing compared to Dave Burgess.

I do genius hour and flexible seating.... but I am nothing compared to Joy Kirr.

While it was perfectly alright for me to be inspired by this amazing "Edu-Stars," it was not okay to lose the bright light my star brings to the night sky as well. My star is different than any other in that sky because it is me. I am the only one with my experiences and gifts.

I also have to remember that there is rarely only one star in the night sky. In fact, when have we ever stood staring up in wonder at a sky with simply one star? It takes several stars shining to create that sense of awe in us. Likewise, educators have to lean on, share and lift up one another to create a true sense of awe in the students we encounter daily. We are truly a team when we are connected!

So instead I now look at things this way...

I love to gamify... and with the help of the #xplap community, I am growing in my confidence as a classroom game designer.

I can sketchnote... and my skills have really improved through this year! I look forward to continuing to practice and sharing my progress.

I have always been creative... and my out of the box thinking helps me daily in the classroom. I love to share my ideas with others around me.

I do genius hour and flexible seating.... and although they are not perfect, I continue to learn and grow with the help of my PLN.

My #4OCFPLN always throws around this saying "What is ordinary to you is extraordinary to somebody else."
If we dismiss what we do as simply ordinary, we will miss the extraordinary that lies ahead.
We need to share what we do and support others to do the same to truly light up that night sky!

Friday, May 31, 2019

What Makes a Classroom?

Today marks a week since I prepared my classroom for the summer months (This meant taking everything off the walls and clearing the room of my flexible seating...etc) yet the words of the students who watched or helped me in the process really caused my thoughts to stir about what makes a classroom.

"It looks so empty!"

Throughout the years I have received criticism for the active nature on the walls of my room. I know that the research suggests that teachers avoid too much on the walls, which can cause a lack of focus and therefore be detrimental to learning. I have worked very hard throughout my teaching to balance a classroom with intentional character that avoids being overwhelming. It is when the items come down and the room returns to its bare state, that I can truly see the impact of that balance.

"It makes me sad!"

"It just doesn't feel right!"

In my very first blog post  I mention how my senior ELA teacher inspired me in the area of my classroom design. He had us bring in one item that represented us. This item would hang in the back of the classroom for the entire year. Throughout my nine years, I have carried on this tradition and allowed my students to bring in their item to decorate the walls. For me, this is does more than simply ignite my walls with character, it is a symbol of my students and I becoming a unit. I do my best to emphasize this symbolism to my students through the course of the year.


"It's not our room anymore!"

This symbolism creates a visual bond that can also be felt when entering my room. This creates a powerful environment, yet this can also make it difficult when the school year comes to a close. Despite the countdowns and the displays on social media, the end of the year can be a truly difficult time for teachers as well as students. While we as teachers get the opportunity to restart and refresh each year with a new bunch of students, we only get one year to make moments with them, one school year to make an impact.

It is not the walls that create that impact. It is not the flexible seating or the newest teaching techniques. It is all about how we connect with those wonderful humans in our rooms. They make the classroom!

Without them, I would simply be standing in a very colorful room.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

We Are Family..... Truly: A Poem on the Importance of Relationships

We are FAMILY

This is more than a song,
it is an ideal that is spread
through
         buildings
               classrooms
                         and groups.

Yet its meaning is varied.

It could be a blood tie,
one that connects us like a string
and unites us through the storms this life may bring.

It could be a friendship,
one that may not be tied by a bloodline,
yet is much stronger.
There is a connection and understanding that is unbreakable.

It could be a classroom or a school community,
one where we are all in this together.
If one hurts, we all hurt.
If one succeeds, we all succeed.

Once this ideal is defined...

What is done with it?

How do we nurture the "families" around us?

How can we spread the love and positivity so needed in this world?
The kind that comes from a loving family.

SIMPLE....

Through a smile.
Through a hug.
Thought a "Are you ok?" or "If you need me I am here!"
Through laughing with them and crying with them.
Through the act of pushing other matters aside because
THEY MATTER!

It's more than being their
 mother,
      father,
         teacher,
               sister,
                  brother,
                       friend.

It's being
 loving,
     caring,
          kind,
            compassionate,
                     understanding

We are humans.
Humans need love and compassion.
Humans needs families.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Give Yourself Some Grace


Grace has many definitions. The definitions that intrigue me the most are "A virtue coming from God" and "Mercy, pardon"

This year is the year of
"Courageous" for me. I never knew how true that word would be until that first week in January when I received an unexpected surprise. My family of four is going to become a family of five in August. While we are so happy for this little one to join us, its arrival brought some challenges on my physically and emotionally. I lost a good portion of my energy and simply struggled keeping up with all of my daily tasks and hobbies. If I were to refer to one of my earlier blog posts, some additional noodles had to fall from the strainer.
This fact was very hard on me at first, for it meant I had to momentarily step away from my Twitter and Voxer families. It meant that I had to leave these blog posts empty for months.It meant that I had to leave my podcast, and vlog behind for a bit. This made me feel as though I was failing for I have worked so hard in the past year to build these networks and these connections and thoroughly enjoyed the creativity involved in the process.
Yet, in a Voxer book study for Zen Teacher Sanctuaries, I realized I was giving myself exactly the care that I needed at that time. My body had changed and I needed to adjust to that fact. This meant that I had to take 20 minute naps during prep and go to bed earlier that I was used to. In reflection, I realized that what I needed to give myself was a little grace, a little "mercy, pardon." I wasn't matching my pre-pregnancy speed, I was doing my best with my new body and its speed.
"God specializes in giving people a fresh start."- Rick Warren
Once I was past the dreaded first trimester and began to regain my energy, I reflected on entire process and decided it was God's message to me. I needed to refocus and slow down a bit. I think that we all get those messages and reminders to take a step back and slow down.
The world moves too fast and there are times that we cannot help but get caught up in its hustle and bustle. It is when we are not matching the speed of the chaos around us, that we begin to find fault in us. We feel we must not be good enough because we cannot keep up with the pace of life.
Yet, it is in these times that we must remember why we are on this journey of life. God gave us all these gifts to enjoy each and every one. We cannot possibly enjoy them if we are bogged down in what we cannot do each day.
We simply have to step back, slow down, and give ourselves a little grace.

Monday, December 31, 2018

One Word 2019: A Look From Shine to Courageous

From the Year of Shine: 

In 2018, I chose the word Shine. Looking back at the blog post that I wrote a year ago was truly eye opening for it provided documentation of my growth since 2017. In 2017, I used the word  Push  to step out of my comfort zone. I became more active on Twitter and vowed to say "Yes" to as many opportunities as possible.

 In 2018, I had the following goals for my word Shine: 

* I want to "shine" a light on my classroom not to show off what I do for my students, but to highlight what amazing things my students can do!

I started this blog in the year of Push. In that year (2017,) I wrote 6 posts. My main reason for the blog for me at that time was to push myself by doing something new and getting my voice out there. In the year of Shine, this post makes number 19! My goal for the blog changed in that I wanted to use it as an opportunity to shine light on the amazing things that my students were accomplishing in my classroom, as well as my honest reflections on education.

I wouldn't have been able to take these leaps without my PLN. In January I joined 2 Voxer book studies. I did this kind of on a whim after seeing the posts on Twitter. Both of these studies were extremely impactful in my year. The Zen Teacher group allowed me to push that walkie talkie button for the first time and to be vulnerable.

The 4OCF group was a high paced group of excited educators. The book study pushed my thinking to new heights and when the study ended the group decided to stay together. This group, this 4OCFPLN, are more than simply educators that I talk to on a daily basis. They have become my friends that help me through trials in and out of the classroom. It was in this group that Jamie Leach (@LeachTeach) put forth the blogging challenge. This would mean my original goal of one post a month would be doubled. This was nerve wrecking for me, yet I knew that I had this power bunch behind me. I shared every post I published with my group! Their support means everything!

Michael Matera (@Mrmatera) and Carrie Baughcum (@HeckAwesome) were also very instrumental in helping me Shine this year. In one of my attempts in Michael's #Five4Five challenges, I started my #EduCreativity Podcast. I have loved this opportunity to be creative and put myself out there.

After the #USMSPARK conference this year, I was inspired by Micheal's words of intentionality and youtube channels of him and Carrie and I decided to finally take the leap and start my own. Now while I have not posted on this as often as would like, I cannot wait for the chance to expand on this exciting medium!

* I want to avoid any darkness that may try to overcome my light. I completely realize that although some of this comes from others, a majority of it comes from the doubts I have placed on myself.

This has been the toughest Shine, for negativity is a sneaky thing. Due to the fact that I have little ones at home, I like to compare it to Swiper from Dora. He always comes out of nowhere whenever Dora and her friends have something valuable. Negativity worked in the same for me this year. Whenever I had an immense amount of positivity, he swept in and attempted to take it away. Yet, much like Dora, I had my edu-friends in my back pocket to help me yell "Swiper No Swiping"


* I want my light, my passion and enthusiasm, to spread. I want others to find their light and "shine" in their own way. There are many different ways to light the way for our students.

I have found a new passion this year. I love igniting that spark in a fellow teacher. Whether it is in my own building or by having the chance to speak at a conference. This year, I had the pleasure of speaking at 3 different conferences. While I can't say I wasn't nervous or was calm in the process, I can say that it was thrilling and I adored the experience. Seeing teachers become students and have the same light bulb moments as their students. It is truly amazing to be a part of!


Into the Year of Courageous:

This year I decided to choose an adjective rather than a verb. This year I choose to be Courageous.



In the Thanksgiving blog post that I wrote with the #4OCFPLN, I wrote about the cowardly lion and how it took the support around him to realize that he had the courage he needed all along. While I have come a long way from my invisible high school days, I feel that this year I need to focus on my inner courageous nature. Many think of a lion when they think of this word, yet courage can come from anyone or anywhere. Every character in every movie has a moment when they must harness their inner strength, a strength that can get them through the struggles ahead of them.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
E.E. Cummings

* I want to be courageous in being me! I am not your standard anything and should not be afraid of that!

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain

* Dreams can be scary, goals can be scary. I want to be courageous in pushing past that fear and reach for my dreams.
Dreams for writing... Goals for presenting (including ISTE 2019) All are very scary and very intimidating. I might reach and fail, yet if I let fear stop me, I will definitely fail!

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
- Winston Churchill

* I want to have a courageous heart for my students and my family. At times this may mean standing up for them and other times, it may simply mean to sit back and truly listen to their needs and wants.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6


* I want a courageous faith in want I might not understand. I want to have a courageous trust in God for he will not leave or forsake me.


I want to thank all of you for your support on this journey!

I look forward to a year to Push through and Shine with a Courageous spirit.




Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Words of Wisdom from a Movie Classic

For me, this holiday time is all about the classics. From classic family customs, to classic desserts and dishes, to the classic movies. One of those film classics for me is Home Alone.
 There is the epic debate for some whether it is or is not a Christmas movie, yet that is something that I will not be getting into right now (It most definitely is!)

As I sat down this year and watched one of my favorite holiday classics, I not only laughed like a school girl at the classic scenes, but also noticed the incredible lessons that we can gain from this film which can be implemented in and out of the classroom.

In both Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2, Kevin makes quick judgements on certain characters. In the first movie it is the "Shovel Man" who legend told killed his entire family with a shovel. He then has that touching moment with the same man in the church on Christmas Eve. He learns that the son of the "Shovel Man" has not spoken to him in quite some time. Kevin then shares advice with him and they create an understanding that helps them later in the movie when Kevin is running from the "Wet Bandits."

Then in the second film, it is the "Pigeon Lady" who was frightening on all accounts in New York City. After a classic Home Alone scream that occurs in their first encounter, Kevin later learns that this woman ran away from a very normal life because she was afraid of getting her heart broken for the second time. Much like in the first film, this character that he once thought was an adversary, was in fact an ally that helps him later on.

In our classrooms we have students that have built up a reputation much like the "Shovel Man" or have had a strong and negative first impression like that of the "Pigeon Lady." In his first interactions with these characters, Kevin believes and acts on the stereotype for his focus is on his own matters. It is not until he sits and has a conversation with them that he discovers the true person within. As teachers, we are truly stretched time wise. There is always something to do and simply not enough time to accomplish it all. Yet, if we take a moment to simply sit with the "Shovel Man" or "Pigeon Lady" in our classroom, it will make all the difference. For just like in the movie, both parties can reap the benefits from a simple understanding.