Giving the Perfect Gift…

 

giftgiving

As I sit in front of the fire relaxing with presents wrapped, Chex mix baking in the oven and homemade chilli on the stove, I reflect on the profession that I and so many other educators love with a deep abiding and passionate love.

I consider myself and these educators expert gift givers. Time and time again we provide for our students, their parents and the community the perfect gift… much like the gift that was given to us thousands of years ago on the first Christmas.

How does one determine the perfect gift? Well, it was keenly captured in a message delivered by the Haslet Fellowship of the Parks Pastor, Chuck Macheca, this past Sunday.  There are three things that make a gift THE perfect gift.

First, the gift is sacrificial.

There isn’t an educator out there that has not given sacrificially.  I have seen fellow colleagues take from their own pantries to feed others, when they barely could feed their own families.  I have witnessed the generosity of teachers as they gave of their own time to volunteer for community outreach after spending countless hours at school volunteering for extra-curricular clubs and programs. Of course, many are aware of the many times school supplies and items to teach lessons that engage students resulted in purchases from an educator’s own pocket.

Second, the gift is going above and beyond.

Educators are also known for this. There isn’t a campus in my district where this is not evident this time of year.  Educators are not just generous to their students and go above and beyond with them, but they are equally kind to their colleagues. Finding their teammate the perfect colored pen, or baking the counselor’s favorite homemade bread. Educators are so busy this time of year with all of the festivities, but they seem to never forget or extend good will to others and make the time to do so.

Finally, the gift should honor the recipient uniquely.

What greater gift does an educator provide to their students than to provide an individual and unique experience that fosters a life long passion for learning? Every day of the 180 day school experience educators purposefully plan, deliver and target their instruction. They identify areas of need via progress monitoring, formative assessments and scaffold instruction to best meet the needs of every student that walks into their classroom, joins them through live video feed or connects through online courses.

So as I sit here warmed by the fire, it also warms my hear to know that I am part of the greatest profession on earth that daily, not just at Christmas time, provides a most perfect gift to their students, parents and other educators. An act that was perfectly modeled to us 2000 years ago in a stable in Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas God Bless

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Why is Organizing Our Thinking Important?

john-f-kennedy-jfk-quotes-11

I am the main organizer of our district instructional technology Twitter chat #nisdNOV8.  This fall we made a purposeful move into a series approach to our chats.  In November we focused on #voiceNchoice for a 3 part series.

In December we focused on the concept of “Organizing Our Thinking” for 3 of our chats.

keep calm and curate

The first chat focused on curation. We discussed not just collecting online resources, but organizing them, sharing with others, reflecting and evaluating.  What I have realized in my learning and experience with curation is that it is necessary in the digital world we live.  So many times ideas come to us when we are not ready to act on them, yet they are important.  We have also learned when we try to retrieve those ideas when we are ready, we cannot always relocate them unless we curate them.  I had a very good conversation with an amazing and vibrant teacher.  She had been very active on Twitter, but lately had not been present.  As we talked I realized she was in information overload. She loved the ideas that were shared on Twitter and wanted to act on them immediately. However, it was causing her to spin around like a Tasmanian devil and not truly do things as well as she would like… in came the skill of curation. Now she participates in Twitter with the abandon she is used to, but with a plan. She favorites resources and ideas as the discussion occurs, then curates the resource links into a site like Scoop.it or Pinterest, and takes action on items that are relevant for her in this moment. (To learn more about this discussion on Curation go to the Archived Chat.)

THINKING_MAPS

The second chat focused on the way in which teachers and students organize their thinking and capture learning through Thinking Maps.  During this chat teachers and administrators shared how they use Thinking Maps for anchor charts, note-taking, planning professional development and organizing instruction. More importantly the discussion emphasized how at every level we need to be transparent in how we use Thinking Maps in every way for content, planning and student work so that we can learn through and with each other. (To learn more about this discussion on Thinking Maps go to the Archived Chat.)

Julie Adams book cover

Finally, in the last chat in the “Organizing Your Thinking” series we had the privilege of having Julie Adams, author and Professional Development consultant/presenter expertly lead a discussion on Note-taking. Her insight and questions pushed us to reflect on how note-taking is addressed.  It was apparent of how essential the skill of note-taking is (Marzano says it is the top 9 skills for a learner to master) for students. Many teachers remarked in the chat how it was a skill lost on them and needed when they went to college… having to learn for survival. The discussion inspired me to revisit my note-taking skills and become familiar with Cornell Note-taking. My hope is to learn this skill to the point of mastery and then integrate technology in such a way that I can support both teachers and students in a fundamental, yet trans-formative way. (To learn more about this discussion on Note-taking go to the Archived Chat.)

eye of the future

This series was exciting for me and my colleagues. The discussions and transparency was incredible. The urgency to take the ideas and practices palatable. Our Students take in more information in a day than our parents and grand parents filtered through in 10 years. They must be able to organize, prioritize, annotate, share and reflect. How are you purposefully teaching these skills that prepare our students for success in learning and with their future?

Learning is Fun… This Time of Year!

This time of year, you walk on any campus in my district and you will see holiday decorations everywhere, holiday goodies in the lounge (hot chocolate bars being my favorite), and a general sense of good will. To describe what it is like to be in a school this time of year, it is FUN.

Learning should be fun 24-7, 365 days a year. However, sometimes you just have to capitalize on the moment. That is what two of my library media specialists, Kelley Valdez (@kjrvaldez) and Sue Fitzgerald (@sue_fitz), did to facilitate learning for educators on their campuses. I of course shared with other campuses and Tweeted out for all to hear.

Kelley is doing a “Twelve Days of Christmas: Technology Tips from Your Library Media Specialist” Canva.  I have the privilege of collaborating on a few of them with her. Here is an image of the linked image:

Christmas Canva KelleySue, after chatting with me about the idea of doing a “Twelve Days of Twitter,” coordinated with the campus administration that is doing a “Twelve Days of Christmas” surprises, and has teachers creating Twitter accounts and Tweeting. To up the interest she is sharing the Tweets with her library assistants and re-Tweeting/favoriting with elf enthusiasm.  Here is her “Twelve Days of Twitter” shared via Thinglink:
I love what this reminds me of as an educator and coach.  It is so important keep things fun, festive and engaging… but most of all provide something that ultimately allows for the learner to give back in some way.  After all, isn’t this time of year a season of giving?

How are you making learning fun for your learners (students and/or educators) during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and throughout the year?