I love my profession and the colleagues that I work alongside. All year long I witness their selfless service, but this time of year their constant giving of themselves increases ten fold.
While many see posts on Social Media from teachers celebrating the Thanksgiving break, the upcoming Holiday break or the occasional snow day, few know what happens in the quiet of their “time off.”
Many spend a focused time planning lessons, providing handwritten feedback, grading papers, arranging for authentic audiences for students to present products, completing documentation and of course grading papers. In my previous position as a classroom teacher often 1 day (7-8 hours) out of every 3 days was spent on some part of making sure every part of my classroom needs were attended. In a week that was an average of 2 and 1/4 days. Some that know me well, but are not educators, might blame it on my “work-a-holic” tendencies. However, I am not alone.
In my current position as a Instructional Technology Coach I support teachers. I get to see things through a lens few are privilege to have. Over the Thanksgiving break and our snow day many emailed me with questions on how to incorporate a certain kind of technology for a specific learning experience, asked for my opinion on a project they were working on, while others texted me just to touch base while they were working. Not one complained they had to do this. All were excited to have the additional time to get things in order and even “amp up” lessons that were already exceptional.
They have their own families, their own lives, their own plans to relax. But don’t be naive to think that on these breaks they leave their lessons, passion for learning or student work on their desks in the school house and head care free for the holiday or impending snow drift.
Add to the dedication of their job the thoughts of their students that never leave them. Shopping for Christmas gifts for her family a teacher naturally thinks of her students… ways to bring the holiday joy to the classroom. Even as they prepare for there own personal festivities, they purchase gifts for a Christmas Angel. I never have met a teacher who hasn’t sponsored an angel from the Angel Tree. Something about knowing a child is in need… never rests well with a teacher. We will do anything in our power to make sure we have cared for every child in need.
We donate gift cards from grocery stores, serve at soup kitchens and food pantries, adopt angels, attend as many Christmas events as we are able that our students are a part of, and continue to teach with passion and power while competing with the diversions of this time of year. That doesn’t even cover the additional baking, cooking and celebratory events that happen with a teacher’s campus… because who better to enjoy and celebrate this time of year with than your campus family.
As we head into this season, be generous, be kind, and “Be Awesome” and genuinely thank a teacher for their selfless service to the future doctor, lawyer, artist, nurse, inventor, engineer or… teacher. They are sharing selflessly of themselves with our greatest treasure…children.
This is my first year to do this and I have been a bit intimidated by the process:
Best Individual Blog: Matt B Gomez
Best Administrator Blog: Engaged and Relevant by Brad Currie
Best Librarian Blog: The Unpretentious Librarian by Sue Fitzgerald
Best Twitter Hashtag: #ArkEdChat
Best Free Web Tool: Screencast-o-matic.com
Best Mobile App: TouchCast
Best open PD: Twitter
Lifetime Achievement: Dave Burgess author of “Teach Like a Pirate”
I have so many people that have shaped me and changed me in the past year that I really could add a lot more but I am worried that I am not going to make the deadline as it is.
Kirsten Wilson, M.Ed.
Recently I was asked to answer questions for a colleague regarding technology and curriculum. At the same time I was participating in a chat where a participant Tweeted, “I don’t know what the future is so I only prepare my students for today.”
While I know it is true that we cannot know the future, that comment troubled me. We cannot predict the future, but we must plan for it. We plan our finances for a rainy day. We organize our lives to complete tasks, prepare for future events, even plan for dinner guests with the future in mind.
We do face in the moment and deal with today, but we are constantly cognizant of the future. As educators, parents and individual learners we know that the knowledge and experiences we gain today provide the building blocks for tomorrow. We once learned how to program our phones for speed dial which the basics of that helped us to now know how to add contacts in our smart phones. If we don’t offer experiences with technology today we are keeping the experiences from students that will provide the foundation for the technology of the future.
The following questions and answers are a more in-depth answer to the importance, role and vision for why we, as educators, parents and learners, must prepare our students to be future-ready.
What is the school vision for technology?
The vision for technology is embedded in our districts vision statement.
Our vision statement says: To be the the best and most sought after school-district where every student is future ready:
-Ready for college.
-Ready for the global work place.
-Ready for personal success.
While it is not directly stated concerning technology the initiatives including our superintendent’s 1 of only four initiatives for every student to have and continuously build a digital portfolio of exemplary work and the school board’s decision to use a large amount of funds to purchase devices for a 1:1 ration in secondary as well as laptops, tablets/iPads in every teacher’s possession to ensure integrated instruction of content and technology supports that our overall vision is deeply rooted in technology.
If technology were removed, what learning would be impossible/impaired?
Technology is deeply rooted in everything in the classroom. From teacher documentation, strategic planning and parent communication to creating engaging lessons that reach all learners. Technology is in everyone’s lives. Students need to use it as it presently exists as it provides the building blocks for the technology that has yet to be invented. Technology also allows for differentiation for each learner in the classroom in a way traditional methods, without the assistance of technology, would be virtually impossible. The diverse needs of learners these days along with the amount of content and expectation for teachers to uniquely meet each student’s needs in personal and definable ways would not be possible without the assistance of technology. Furthermore students are able to use several levels of blooms when they create with technology as they not only have to evaluate the best method to deliver the evidence of their understanding, but they have to evaluate the audience it is being delivered to, as well as, create an original product that a paper/pencil activity sheet does not provide the structure for this deeper level of design. Lack of technology would stunt the ability to adequately prepare students to be future-ready as well as impair them as problem-solvers and creative designers as traditional methods are more limiting compared to the possibilities offered with technology.
How do you support professional development?
Professional development from my perspective is self-directed with the development of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), MOOCs and online courses. The Instructional Technology department within our district is moving to Professional Development courses that are accessible from our Moodle structured online course framework called Netschool. Many of our face to face courses are built in Netschool so that teachers can continually refer back to the content. Additionally, we are utilizing the online courses to create “cohort” like courses where it is moderated by facilitators, requires quality product submissions applicable to classroom needs/instructional design and fosters collaboration through forums. Furthermore, our district provides two district led chats. One is led by mid-administration for current discussions regarding community, curriculum and initiatives that move us closer to the goals within our district vision. The other chat is promoted and facilitated by our Instructional Technology department but is led each week by guest moderators that are most often teachers. The discussions in this chat revolve around instruction and how technology is or can be integrated. Discussions range from student blogging to parent communication.
What is the best “advice” you would give for moving technology/learning forward in a way that will make more impact for all students?
The best advice is to commit to doing one thing at a time every few weeks and learn to implement it with purpose. Be sure that your use of technology or the product students are creating is with purpose and meaningful to the content. It shouldn’t be a “bells and whistles” piece but a seamless part of the entire process of learning.
The other piece of advice is be willing to “fail” or struggle with your students when it comes to using technology. Allow them to see you problem solve challenges and involve them in the process of finding solutions when, at first the technology does not work as intended. We as instructional engineers design learning with the intent that there is no bumps in the road, but the beauty of bumps in the road is that they are seeing “real world” happen before them. If we are going to push our kids to be problem solvers and find solutions to everyday challenges we must be willing to be transparent and show our “struggle” to solve everyday challenges with technology. It is one of the most authentic lessons you can provide a child. It teaches the lessons of grit and perseverance that lessons without the opportunity to create with technology do not provide.
In the book “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzer it talks about decision making with today’s generation. While it was talking about a move to action with decision making it did say,”Today’s generation of employees (and children, for that matter) expects to be involved in more decisions than their grandparents ever faced. That’s where the empowerment movement came from. Younger people don’t see themselves as a pair of hands seeking direction. They want to think. They want to decide. They’re willing to take on more responsibility.” That reminded me of how critical it is that we have devices in our students’ hands allowing them to think, decide, create and take on more responsibility. When we neglect to do that we neglect to speak to their inner driving force… we remove the ability to allow them to be empowered.
Kirsten Wilson, MEd
Instructional Technology Specialist
Follow me on Twitter @teachkiwi
“To love a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce
This post has been developing over time. The seed for this was planted many years ago within my own family. I received my formative education from public education while my siblings received theirs from private education. While I could start from this experience to develop this post, I would rather move to the most recent events that have spurred this post.
Every year our district brings the entire district staff together for convocation to “kick off” the new year. Each year we have incredible key note speakers. This year was no exception when we were gifted with speaker Jaimie Vollmer. In his address he encouraged us to take action to change education and the common misguided public perception through the “Great Conversation” (Outlined in his website). While there are formal avenues he suggests, what resonated with me and was actionable by all educators were 4 steps. The 4 steps (which are also found on his website) were:
1. Shift your attention from the negative to the positive.
2. Stop bad-mouthing one another in public.
3. Share something positive within our social network.
4. Monitoring our progress.
This stirred my passion and love for the profession that I have committed my life to and gave me new resolve.
My thread of thinking was further influenced by a chat on #sunchat a few weeks back that discussed bullying among colleagues. I am not too naive to believe it doesn’t happen but to the extent that some shared broke my heart. Why it happens I don’t care to really know. What upset me is that ultimately it hurts our students… the reason we do what we do. So to add to Mr. Vollmer’s list, I suggest:
5. Work together toward our common goal, students. (Not against one another… leave our egos at the front door of the school.)
Then, this week I had a conversation with a campus principal. We have been through the amazing program together called “Coaching for Results” where we transparently shared our passions, fears and truly listen to one another. She shared with me concerns with how public education is perceived and how it is not accurate of what an amazing job educators are doing day in and day out across this country. We agreed with one another that changing public perception is a responsibility all educators should feel charged to take on and take action. Out of that came an additional point:
6. Public perception can be changed by each one of us one conversation at a time. (This can also relate back to Jaimie Vollmer’s point #3.)
Finally, on September 6th, 2013 CBS aired the documentary “Teach.” As I watched, cried, laughed and had conversations simultaneously on Twitter and Facebook (a.k.a. back-channeling), I asked myself why is this so powerful to me and my fellow colleagues? I think it was because, for the first time, the “struggle was witnessed” and the “passion was honored” in what we do day in and day out. They presented the reality of our profession, the passion of our commitment and the hope that never wavers. But there isn’t a weekly documentary that can build our spirits, provide us a source of encouragement, and “just in time” help. That brings me to the final point:
7. Participate in positive collaborative groups, i.e. Twitter PLN chats, or organizations that support us and help us stay the course.
As we go into another week as “instructional designers” determining the best way to develop students’ desire for learning, my hope is that we also take action to share our “work” with the world. We have been charged to develop the learners of today into the leaders of tomorrow by helping students discover their passions. We coach them to have resilience and grit as they approach challenges today and in the future. Does anyone beyond your classroom know how awesome you are?
Brag on yourself, brag on your colleagues, and brag on your school. YOU are the positive PR that will begin to change the public’s perception of public education.
Please leave your ideas, comments, and/or thoughts below.
Guggenheim, Davis, prod. “Teach.” Teach Documentary. CBS. Nationwide, 6 Sept. 2013. Television.
Sackstein, Starr (moderator), Twitter, “Bullying in the Workplace”, #sunchat, 8 Sept. 2013.
Volmer, Jamie. “”The Great Conversation”" Jamie Vollmer. Jamie Vollmer, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.
YouTube. Prod. Soul Pancake. Perf. Kid President. PepTalk to Students and Teachers. Soul Pancake- You Tube, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.
The new school year is almost here! It’s hard to believe. As we get back into the routine there are a few ideas that may help. Beginning a new school year can be exciting. When you have a plan to get started it helps make those first few days of adjustment better for both you and your students.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Start browsing through your curated sites (i.e. Pinterest, FlipBoard or ScoopIt), think about your classroom and curriculum, make notes and jot out diagrams of modifications to you would like to make to your curriculum and/or classroom, update your website (nobody likes reading a biography from 2 years ago). Look into participating in some Twitter chats (Jerry Blumengarten has an inexhaustible list of PLNs based on the topic or content of your choosing complete with description and times when the group meets for a live chat on his website: http://edupln.ning.com/groups . Don’t forget to follow him @cybraryman1). Update your accounts (i.e. descriptions and pictures) and make sure you have the correct logins. Look for new ideas and share your successes with your PLN.
- Clean the house, stock the pantry, cook and freeze some meals (Pinterest has some great recipes or stock up on Sam’s or Costco meals), mow the yard and work in the garden, and make sure the laundry basket is empty. This way when you come home from school exhausted those first few days, you won’t be concerned with domestic chores.
- Have a ME day. Make an appointment at the spa, get your nails done, play a round of golf or shop until you drop. Just take some TLC time for yourself before the school year starts.
- Eliminate last year’s baggage. Last year is behind you so get over it and proceed on with the new school year. If you have legitimate concerns, make an appointment with your administrators and address it with solutions rather than complaints.
- Return from your trips at least 2-3 days before the school year starts. This will give you a few days to relax and get ready for the adventures of a new year.
- Pull out your positive attitude and smile. If you have put the positive vibes and attitude away for the summer get them out and practice smiling and enjoying life a few weeks before school starts.
- Keep exercising. If you don’t exercise start a program. Take a walk, ride a bike, jog, join a Latin dance class or get involved with an activity that gets your heart rate up. Begin with a simple plan and incorporate it into your daily schedule. If you have troubles sticking with an exercise regimen grab a partner to hold you accountable. Adding this component to your life will make you feel better, give you more energy, help decrease stress and encourage you with a sense of accomplishment
- Start getting up at your regular work time at least a week before school starts. Practice timing how long it takes you to get ready so that you know exactly the time it takes and don’t feel rushed the first day back. Also, getting back into your routine won’t be such a shock to your body.
- Evaluate last year’s “try its” and delivered instruction. Make changes where necessary; eliminate things that didn’t work, and enhance something to make it awesome.
- If you don’t already have a professional mentor set a goal to find one and quickly. Rely on them for advice and or suggestions. This will empower you as a teacher/leader to others outside your classroom walls allowing you to be a true facilitator of learning and helping ALL students in your path directly or indirectly.
- Start planning for ways to continue a growth mindset. Look for some virtual PD opportunities and/or book study with other teachers on your campus or through Twitter or Google Hangouts.
- Step back and evaluate the atmosphere of your classroom, your team and your campus. Come up with a plan to jazz up your classroom, your team’s PLC meeting spot and help to rejuvenate a “dead spot” in your hall or building. Sometimes freshness in the environment may create freshness in ideas.
- Remember a happy healthy teacher is essential for positive productive students. (I take a daily vitamin and bump up my immune system during the flu season with Airborne.) When flu shots come available get yours… I am fortunate to be in a district that provides the flu shot to all employees.
- Think proactive rather than reactive.
- Try to meet all the new teachers to your campus. Especially welcome the new ones that are on your team or hall. I like to bring them a soda, homemade banana bread or offer to help for a couple of hours in their room to get things together. I want them to know how awesome the place is they have come to work and embrace the culture/environment. The sooner they feel like family the happier they are. The happier they are the happier their students are.
- Stock up on some healthy snacks. You may not have a relaxing lunch period for some days to come. I like to have dried fruit and nut trail mixes, popcorn, and protein bars nearby along with a decent sized stash of water bottles and drink enhancers like Mio. This helps stave off the desire to hit the vending machines in the lounge and fill up on unhealthy snacks and sodas.
***This list was inspired and somewhat “pirated” from my friend and colleague Sue Fitzgerald who writes the blog “The Unpretentious Librarian” you can find her original post here: http://unpretentiouslibrarian.blogspot.com/2013/08/tips-to-start-new-school-year.html
Please add to the list below!
The last few weeks I have been sharpening my proverbial “technology” sword. Before I started my new role as an Instructional Technology Coach I had a long list of technology “try its.”
One thing about my style of teaching is that it is throrough, purposeful, targeted and intentional. That was also true about the way I approach technology integration. In every situation my filter for a quality learning experience considers the “eyes” of the student and the “ears” of the parent who hears about the learning either that day or in the passing days when the assessed learning makes its journey home… sometimes to the trash can and other times to the refrigerator door. And much like the work that is affixed to the refrigerator door, I want the learning to stick.
The big item on my list of “try its” were to begin flipping my classroom as an intentional, purposeful and regular part of the instruction and learning in my classroom. While my job has shifted that goal, I still think about the “anchor” lessons in the continuity of learning that students will come back to time and time again, and the parents and/or student support network that desires to support that learning. To that end I started thinking about those universal “anchor” lessons that a student would revisit time and time again and a parent would reference. After all, the concept of flipping by founder Salman Khan of the Khan Academy, began when he started remotely tutoring his cousin, Nadia, by sending short clips to help her with “unit conversion.”
So in this entry I am contribuiting a brief but essential lesson on how to select a “just right” book. The audience is intended for students grades 2-4 and parents who are helping any child select a book for their independent reading pleasure.
I am not sure what my next anchor “flip” lesson will be, but I do know I will be looking through the lens of universal “anchor” points of learning, teacher need, student success and parent involvement.
Please comment below and if you have suggestions for other “anchor” lessons, please suggest!
On another note… I plan to revisit the discussion of “Content, Curation and Collaboration.” My head is FULL of ideas so stay tuned!