Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Currently {February 2016}

Listening: I've been catching up on Voxer messages since I left school today. I am SO hooked on this app, seriously. My PLN has increased so much since winter break and I love the chats we have about any and everything.

Loving: At the end of the summer, I bought Currently in the Classroom on TpT and I absolutely love it. I look forward to it each month with my kids. They are finally really getting the hang of it and their answers are so cute sometimes.

Thinking: Normally I would NEVER gripe about lack of winter. I am NOT a snow all. BUT this rainy, gray crappy day thing is not working out for me! I want some snow at least so my kids can get outside and frolic.

Wanting: I hate living in Michigan from January - March when the sun disappears for much of that time. It's SO depressing to see gray out the window all the time.

Needing: Seriously, where is my grading fairy?? LOL Just when you think you are caught up.....

Swooning: Yep, after almost 16 years this man still makes me weak in the knees. When I'm down, he listens. When I have a crazy idea, he listens and lets me run with it. Last Thursday I text him and asked him to meet me after work. We went out on a date (during the week!) and it was just fun and carefree. Not too many people are willing to just drop everything like that.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ongoing PD that makes you think and grow

Over winter break, I participated in EdCampVoxer which was an EdCamp held entirely via the smartphone application Voxer. I have since become a Voxer addict. I absolutely love how far and wide my PLN has grown because of this app and the groups I am part of.

We have had all kinds of interesting discussions in the past several weeks. We had a huge discussion about the types of schools that do and don't observe holidays like MLK Day. We have had discussions about charter schools, parent engagement and the situations occurring here in Michigan with Detroit Public Schools and the Flint Water Crisis.

I have got to is quite refreshing to dialogue, even when we disagree, with people who just respect the other side of the coin. It isn't something I am used to and I am enjoying it. Partly because the way that we dialogue with each other--respectfully and clearly and through speaking so there is no misinterpretation of tone, etc--allows you to a) be vulnerable but more importantly b) consider the other side because someone has mentioned something that shifts your thinking.

We have talked about growth mindset, makerspaces, flipped classrooms and so much more. One group I am in is VERY active. I have found myself catching up on voxes in my car on the way to and from school and sometimes I listen during recess while I grade papers or shuffle around my classroom since the students aren't in there.

The very active group...someone pointed out that sometimes you have to pretend it is like a radio station; if you miss it, you miss it. And there have been times when I have had to "mark all heard" because I was over 100 voxes behind. No one has time to catch up with that! 

Alas, it is so refreshing to be part of an ongoing PLN that I consider to be professional development because it is changing my thinking every single day. It is changing my thinking from moment to moment sometimes. And isn't that what we want? We want to grow and change and be better every day.

I have blogged less and less as the last year or so has gone on....and I think it is because I just have less to say here. On Twitter and in Voxer I am engaged in two-way communication that is absolutely enhancing my teaching every day. That's not so true with the blog platform these days. Too many blogs are 100% commercial--buy this fabulous product I made--and not enough authentic sharing of what you're doing and why.

So I don't know if I'll hang up my hat here at the CT...but I do know that I will continue to connect in other ways with like-minded people who just get me and make me feel like it's so possible to be part of something bigger and better.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Believe it or not, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I love the month of January because of this holiday. Why? Because I have taught mostly students of color and there are times when I am ever so grateful I was NOT alive when MLK was because I'd've been bustin' some heads. (Ignorant white heads to be clear.)

Each year, my students and I, regardless of the grade I've had, talk about Dr. King and how important he was and how important his message still is. During the first two weeks of January this year, we read books and talked about the important things this brave man did.

My favorite thing was when I stumbled across this video by Kid President. I shared it with my class on Friday (Dr. King's actual birthday!). I had no idea Kid President is MLK's grandson! How cool is that?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Chalk Talk Engagement Activity

Full Disclosure: I've had this post cued up since December 10 but never got around to uploading the pictures and finishing the descriptions. Whoops!

This year, as part of my leadership cohort, I have been working closely with a leadership coach and 4 other teachers in my school to create change. Each teacher has a goal and collectively these goals will help push our school forward for children. Interestingly enough, while each teacher's goal is different, they all come together beautifully to emulate the leadership we'd like to see in our school.

Quarterly we have a cohort meeting with everyone. This includes the coaches, all of the teachers (5 schools) and the director of the program. At our first one in October, they demonstrated a chalk talk. In a nutshell, you put some ideas or questions on chart paper and people respond on writing. No talking. You can respond to other people's writing by starring something you agree with, underlining it or adding words. It's one big conversation done on paper instead of with words.

My coach is helping me to perfect my own coaching toolbox. We decided to start with coaching my own students more effectively and then we will move it out of the classroom. To help me accomplish this, she has sent me various protocols I can use to more effectively engage all of the students in multiple subject areas. During our discussion, I wondered aloud what it would be like to utilize the protocols with math because most of the ones we had looked at involved either team building or some kind of literacy activity. We made a goal for me to try at least one engagement activity in math before our next meeting (which isn't until January 21st).

On Wednesday, December 9 we did a modified Chalk Talk during math. We were just starting fractions and I wanted to see what the students remembered from previous years since they really begin fraction strategies in kindergarten. Now, I have an extremely social class. Pretty much when I want them to work quietly, they talk and talk....when I tell them to work together and talk to each other, they are silent! Ugh. (Maybe I should tell them to work quietly when I really want them to work together since that is when they talk! haha)

I set up posters around the room with the same question on each one "What do I know about Fractions?" The students would draw pictures, write words or both. I left that entirely up to them as I really just wanted to gauge where they were coming in with their fractions knowledge. Each friend got put into a group, was given a certain color crayon (so each person at the group had a different color) and off they went.

It was dead silent in my room for at least 10 minutes. That doesn't happen very often! It was so awesome. I walked around and watched what they were doing and snapped a few pictures.

After the students finished, they had a few minutes to look at the other work on their chart that wasn't their own and then we did a Gallery Walk so they could see what the other classmates had written down. They moved with their group to make it easier and had a couple of minutes to talk about what they had noticed.

It was really interesting once we all sat back together at our desks to discuss the activity. Several students said they noticed that other friends in the class had written almost the same thing they did despite being at different groups. Some students mentioned how some kids only drew pictures and some kids only wrote words. A few kids did both and it was neat to hear the kids talk about why that might be. We have one advanced friend in our class who was showing fractions by adding and subtracting them and the other classmates thought that was super cool.

I took pictures of parts of their charts and put them on a PowerPoint and the next day, we looked at those examples as a reengagement activity. That was powerful too because everyone was looking at the same thing and we could talk about it and help change some misconceptions.

This is an activity that I plan to revisit with the students again during the month of January to a) see what they retained over winter break and b) to show them how much they have grown in their understanding of fractions since we started.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Currently {January 2016}

Happy New Year and new month! I can't believe it's already 2016! My gosh, my mother was right....time sure seems to speed up the older that you get.

Alas, since it's the first, that means its time for Currently!


Listening: I'm not sure what show The Husband is currently watching but my word....there is a HUGE amount of cursing going on. I am all about cursing when necessary, but every other word seems rather excessive.

Loving: Despite spending a huge portion of my break participating in online professional development, I feel so relaxed and rejuvenated. I've done some pleasure reading, I've played games, spent time with my kids and of course, kissed my wonderful husband at midnight last night. Doesn't get much better than that.

Thinking: It's not a secret that being a mom, a wife, a teacher and a graduate student is a lot of work. It often feels as though I'm pulled in 20 directions at the same time...yet somehow I manage to balance it all. Alas, I have determined in the last 18 months since I started my Ed.D. program that I would use my breaks to take a break....and I have stuck to that and it's wonderful. I've read many posts on FaceBook lamenting how much work the person still has to get through before Monday. It reinforces for me how very glad I am that I left my work at work so I could take time to just be me and be with my family. It's called a "break" for a reason, right? The kids aren't working, so why should we be??

Wanting: My father-in-law's girlfriend gave me a gift certificate to a new cheesecake company for Christmas and I picked up a cheesecake yesterday. Miraculously, it made it through NYE without being dug into....but I don't think it's going to make it all day today. It's calling my name!

Needing: So over this break I have connected with many, many new teachers, educators and education gurus on Twitter which has been super fun. Whenever someone who I consider to be "famous" (ie they have written books that are popular or whatnot) follows me on Twitter, I feel a little giddy (because I'm a weirdo)....but one of these said gurus is asking for book proposals and I've had an idea bouncing around in my head for awhile so I may just write that proposal over the next couple of days that I still have free and submit it. I don't want to say too much about it yet because then I'll chicken out and won't follow through.

One Little Word:  Whilst reading my Twitter feed this morning, I came across another spot where people were talking about their OLW...and I decided mine will be intentional. I want to be intentional in everything I do this year from teaching to book proposals to professional learning and growth, I want to be intentional and go in with a plan for what I would like to get out of whatever it is.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Winter Break PD

I proclaimed that I was taking my winter break to rest my brain because I so needed it after finishing up my semester of grad school and from the craziness that is trying to teach in the month of December.

Well, that didn't happen. Let me tell you why:

Some time ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I heard of an app called Voxer. Over the last several months I've heard it referenced here and there but never thought much of it. When I went to ECET2MI at the beginning of December, it was suggested that we create a Voxer group to keep in touch with our Colleague Circle. One of the people in my circle did not want to do that but since I kept hearing more and more about Voxer, I decided to look into it more and try to figure out why it was continually mentioned as the next "go-to app".

I came across a gal that works in my district who had a group and asked her to add me to it (because as of this moment, you can't really "search" for groups on Voxer--you have to know someone in a group and have them add you to it). From there, I was added to a group for doctoral students....and that was the end of any relaxation time over my winter break! :) 

In the group for doctoral students, they mentioned there was an EdCampVoxer event happening from December 23-December 30. So I signed up, not sure what to expect. There were many groups but I was only part of a couple and boy I learned quickly that it was not a bad thing to only be in a couple of groups; they kept me busy!

I learned about PersonalizedPD, collaboration through peer observation and learning through mentoring and being mentored. I spent the vast majority of my time in the PersonalizedPD chat and brain has been zooming with so many ideas. It wasn't the restful break I had planned but it was rejuvenating in a way that sitting around on my bum wouldn't be.

First and foremost, the connections I have made with other like-minded educators from all over the country is absolutely invaluable. It is always a good thing to connect with other people who share your passions but also are willing (and able) to push your thinking. And boy did that happen over and over. The push back was probably the best part; none of the push back was disagreement, instead it was more "what about _______?" to get others to think of another side of it. Very powerful and so, so inspiring. I have made connections with other educators who I know I will keep in touch with via Twitter or through other groups and chats on Voxer who will continue to help me grow professionally by pushing my thinking a little more each time. That is, by far, the best kind of professional development there is.

Additionally, I love the notion of true personalized PD. Why can't we use the Twitter chats, Voxer groups and ideas and inspiration from Pinterest as professional development? I guarantee that I get so much more from those things than I do from the traditional "sit-and-get" PD that our schools typically provide. I know a lot of that "sit-and-get" style is what has always been done and some of it has to be delivered that way because of state mandated information....but why can't we flip some of the meetings? Why can't we allow teachers to have differentiated PD where they are getting information that they NEED and will USE instead of a one-size-fits-all approach? 

99% of the time, the sit-and-get PD doesn't teach me anything new....and I don't think I have ever actually turned around and utilized any of the stuff offered in those PDs with my students. Because let's be honest....sitting and listening for hours on end without being able to DO anything....wipes the excitement for whatever is being offered out. 

I was chatting with one guy and mentioned how often I'll sit in a PD and hear a great idea and I want to do something with it right then; I want to create or alter a lesson to incorporate whatever the new learning was....but then they go on for an hour or two (or more!) and by the time they are done, my excitement for whatever it was is gone and therefore I end up doing nothing with it because they droned on and I lost my excitement. How often does that happen to us? Too often, I think.

So my "relaxing" vacation was full of professional learning and I'm so glad I was part of it! I will go back to school on Monday renewed and excited to look through a different lens with respect to some of the things I am doing and really try to be better professionally every day than I was the day before. That's all I can promise, right?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Break (and a break for me)

Whew! We made it to winter break! My goodness, it's so hard to keep young people going the week before a break. I do the best I can to make sure we follow our usual structure as much as possible, but whew....those little people are just massive bundles of energy all month long.

But we made it and no one left injured so that's good ;) We've been very lucky the past two years to have a community partner come in and do a celebration for our school. Last year and this year (despite my change of grades), my class was in the last group and it was a great way to end the day. Plus, I didn't have to go crazy with a big in-class party either so it worked out very well. I keep gifts low-key for my students because a) I don't make enough money to go crazy for 29 students and b) they get so many things from so many places that they don't need a ton from me. 

We read Sideways Stories from Wayside School earlier this year so I bought them the second book Wayside School is Falling Down since they were $1 through Scholastic. One of the girls commented, "I knew you'd buy us books because you love to read!" ;) #truth

The Youngest officially becomes a teenager tomorrow so we will be full of celebration for that. Then I really plan to just hibernate over the break. My brain needs a rest from grad school and teaching. So I will take it. 

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season! See you in 2016!