Thursday, January 27, 2011

Let's Make it Real

I just finished reading Will Richardson's blog about getting 10,000 or more parents together to discuss educational change. Can we? I hope so. I hope, I have faith that parents in the real world want a better educational system than what they had. I think back to my schooling. I was bored. I wanted someone, whether it be my parents or my teachers, who I saw more than my parents to push me beyond Jeopardy facts and memorization. School needs to be a place of exploration. I cringe when I walk down the halls of my school and see packets of vocabulary and recall exercises. How is this allowed? We preach change, we want reform. What are you doing? How are you changing education daily within your power?

I am a part of a parent/teacher group that will be looking at big picture issues within my district. My goal is to get the parents of my district to understand what Will Richardson is talking about in his latest post. It will take time, but we must make school REAL!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Board of Directors

After reading Brian J. Nichols' post Who's In Your Starting Five? I thought back to a paper I wrote in graduate school for a leadership class I took for my administrators license. I named the paper, My Board of Directors. In the paper I discussed the people I try to surround myself with and who I would have sit on my board for my company, my life. That was in 2007. Since then many things have changed in my life. My board has changed for the good, and for the bad during this time, yet there have been a few constant members

As Brian points out in his blog, there are two groups you can surround yourself with. There are the face time people, the people in your life you see day to day at work, home, on the weekends, or for holidays. The second group is the people you surround yourself with in your PLN. I'm a twitter junkie. I can't wait to see what my PLN is going to share, teach, or challenge me with next. I've been a tweep for two years now, and I have learned to follow people that have a bottom line of, What Is Best For Kids! Early on in my twitter career as soon as someone new was following me, I followed them. I wanted to follow in return to make people happy and try to get more followers. I learned that just like in real life it is important to surround yourself with people who will challenge, support, and demand the best from you.

So who do you surround yourself with? Do you surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself? Do you surround yourself with people who will tell you that you are wrong, when you are wrong? Do you surround yourself with people that might ask you to step outside of yourself and see things from a different lens?

Take a piece of paper and write down the names of the people in your life or your PLN that you would consider your board of directors and ask yourself these questions. I know who my people are in my day to day life, as well as in the virtual world. It makes me feel good that they are there for me and pushing me to be better everyday.


Tomorrow Lisa Morowski and myself will be holding our monthly PLN meeting for our district. This has sprouted from a few people interested in how twitter works, to a rather large group of K-8 teachers who have started to create their own Personal Learning Network. Tomorrow we will be discussing blogs. Not just blogging for personal use, but how to broaden your horizons on the educational landscape through reading, responding, and making connections via blogs. Lisa has created a Prezi to share with the staff. We are going to share personal experiences as bloggers, and a list of blogs we read. I am excited to discuss this with the Merton staff.

As I said before, the Merton PLN has blossomed, and the effects of it are showing up in classrooms and discussions that both administration and teachers are having. Lisa and I want to steer the group to be self lead at some point. We are going to ask for teacher leaders that would like to spotlight what they are doing in their classroom as far as 21st century competencies. A true PLN is about everyones voice being heard, and everyone taking an active role for the betterment of the group.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Changing the Landscape or Playing the Game?

This morning over coffee I read a great blog post by Matt Switzer. In his post he discussed true innovation in the classroom compared to gimmicky educational practices. This got me thinking. How often do you see a teacher do something they have always done, but just use a piece of technology with it and think they are innovative? For education to move forward, we have to embrace new technologies and methodologies to achieve innovative practices. If I merely assign a project I have always done and have my students use Glogster instead of PowerPoint, am I changing the landscape of education, or am I just playing in the game? I believe this is the hardest shift for teachers and administrators to grapple. How do we as educators change the landscape?

Making Connections

This week has been a week of connections for me. On Tuesday I participated in #edchat via twitter. I made new connections with new teachers as far away as Canada. After I finished up on #edchat, my students and I went over to the local high school to work with AP history students on a family genealogy project. It was pretty cool to see 26 sixth graders working one on one with sophomores and juniors. On Wednesday I had a skype chat with Shannon Miller, of Van Meter School in Iowa. We discussed how her 5th and 6th grade classrooms could collaborate with the 5th and 6th grade classrooms at Merton.
In education today, connections are essential. The way my students thrive in situations when they get to work with others, not only in the classroom, but outside of it is amazing. When we went to Arrowhead High School on Tuesday, a former student greeted us at the front office. She asked why we are working on a project together, and I said, "Because I want my kids to be able to work with others." She replied, "I wish we would have done that when I was in your class, I stink at working with others and I know I am going to have to do that for the rest of my life." That statement reassured me that these connections we are making are worth it.
This afternoon my students will go over to our primary building to share their Greek Myths they have created with their 5K buddies. When I mentioned to them that they would be doing this, one kid actually fist pumped in the air. Excitement leads to learning.
As a teacher it is my job to continue to provide avenues to connect for my students and myself. We will all get better as a result of learning with others.

New Socks

Every year my father gives me socks for Christmas. For the past 31 years I have eyed the puffy package under the tree and I smile. As I got older it became a joke that no matter what, I would receive a pair of socks for Christmas. Needless to say, there was no surprise this year, I got new socks, six pairs to be exact. After the holidays were over I was putting away Christmas gifts and cleaning up from the festivities. Lying on the bed were those six pairs of socks. Before I shoved them into my sock drawer, I went through the socks I already had and threw out the old ones. I live by the theory that if I am going to add something new to my life, there is something I need to reassess or get rid of. So, as I added new socks to my drawer, I got rid of some old ones. Where am I going with this?
I often hear from teachers that there are so many new technologies, theories, ideas, etc out there, where do I begin? My advice, pick something, and do it. After you have picked something new, drop something old. The word overwhelming pops up often. As teachers we create an overwhelming experience. If we are going to embark on a new idea or project in our classrooms or schools, we need to assess the situation and push forward with that idea and not feel obligated to continue to do it the old way and the new way. The old way will always be there, and the new way will never live up to the potential until we fully embrace it.
I've been away from this blog for a long time because I have not fully embraced it and dedicated myself to it. I have decided to look through my sock drawer and throw out some of the old socks to better focus myself on this blog and the self reflection I need to be a better teacher to my students, and leader to my coworkers. My good friend Lisa said it best to me in a tweet this morning......"We don't need to add, we need to replace." Here's to new socks for all!
A funny side story to the Christmas socks: My significant other saw the old socks in the garbage and thought it must be a mistake, so she put them back on the bed. I came upstairs from working out and saw the socks on the bed. I thought to myself, "Am I losing it?" I again threw them away. Guess what? They reappeared again about an hour later. We discussed how that anecdote is a metaphor for what we see in education. People are so scared to let go of what they have always done and need constant reassurance that trying something new is going to to be ok.

Summer of Reinvention

It has been awhile since I have updated my blog. This summer I have put it off every week as I have been stuck on what I want to reflect upon. Finally, yesterday driving home from Canada, I said to myself....just write. Here are my main thoughts from my experiences this summer in education:
1. Everyone MUST have a PLN. If you don't know what a PLN is, google it.
2. Being transparent is the only way you will grow as an educator.
3. All of the tools in the world will not make you a better educator. iPads, Netbooks, Smartboards, you name it, are useless until you become a collaborative teacher and put your students needs in front of your own needs.
4. Don't rely on your administration to make things happen. If you feel the best interest of your students is important. PUSH. Find avenues to make things happen. Don't just talk about what is wrong, spend that energy making it right.
After attending ISTE in Denver this year, I came away with the belief that any problem can be solved. Hearing and following the words of my cohorts helped me understand that everyone has an equal part in making school relevant for kids. Parents, teachers, admin., community members, and the kids are all responsible. I challenge each of you to do your part and remember the importance of make it relevant to the lives of the the kids.
As the start of the school year fast approaches, walk the walk this year. Enjoy your school year.