Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is there Joy in your classroom?

I recently had the privilege of meeting Dean Shareski at the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute.  Our closing presentation was "The Loss of Joy."  Hearing the presentation and then watching the TedX video made me think about when I was in school.  In fourth grade, Mrs. Rath made us sing every day.  This is where I learned some of the classics: "This Land is Your Land," "You're a Grand Old Flag," "My Country Tis of Thee."  These songs are part of my childhood and I taught them to my children.  Do students sing today, other than in music class?  Do they truly enjoy learning?  What are we as educators doing to instill that love in our students?

At the end, Dean shared five guidelines that would make this world a better place.  I want to keep these as my focus for the upcoming school year.

1.  Be mindful
2.  Create something
3.  Show gratitude
4.  Turn pseudo learning into real learning
5.   Be silly and laugh every day

How will you do this?  I will start with thanking Mrs. Rath, for my love of learning and my love of teaching.  I will also thank Dean Shareski for helping me find Joy!

The Current State of Education in NC

I was reading the N&O blog titled "The Opinion Shop," where North Carolina educators from around the state wrote letters to the editor, voicing frustrations around lawmakers' decisions to change teacher funding. Everyone whose letter was published clearly articulated his or her arguments. I was especially touched by the last one on the page, written by Greg Nance, a WCPSS educator.

Mr. Nance provided thoughtful support for the big picture from a budgetary perspective, while providing insight into how the changes will effect individual teachers and thus students. I would like to see office holders, whose jobs are voted in, spend some time walking in the shoes of their constituents. Crunching numbers has very different meaning when lives are directly and indirectly correlated to decisions made detached of human consideration.
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My son graduated college in December, 2012. This past weekend he moved from Texas to North Carolina so that he could save money, continue to plan his future (graduate school or Officer Candidate School) as an Aerospace Engineer. He worked as a substitute teacher and tutor in the College Station Independent School District, mostly tutoring high school mathematics students. In his short stint in education, he made a difference in the lives of many. Some of his "students" took the time to express their gratitude to the school's administration. My son has experienced many things from the educator's perspective, but one thing is evident: teaching is much more than a career. Teaching is a commitment, an art form; teaching demands educators know their content, understand pedagogy, build relationships, integrate technology, design and differentiate learning and continually assess student progress/growth in order to flexibly modify their plans.

Experiencing life as an educator would demand much more than spending time, walking in the shoes of one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Connecting in Kindergarten

I recently read a passionate blog post by kindergarten teacher, Matt B Gomez, about connecting to students and not teaching in a one size fits all way. He uses a lot of technology integrated in authentic ways in his classroom and he reflects on his practice by sharing about his experiences on his blog and on twitter. If you teach lower grades and want to expand your professional learning network, or just want to snag some great creative ideas, check out one of his latest posts about ways to integrate technology on day one:
On Twitter, you can follow Matt @mattBgomez and check out #kinderchat  to connect to even more friends and ideas.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Are You A Happy Person?

The word happiness holds a variety of meanings to individual people. How often are such terms over-used or worse, incorrectly used to describe a brief thrill or temporary state of excitement. Where does real happiness come from? For most educators, true glee comes when other educators display excitement as they explore lesson planning options. The realization they will impact student learning is exhilarating! They feel joy when they run into former students, years later and recall fun memories shared by both teacher and student. They knew the kids so well, they recall unique characteristics that made them smile years before. This week, I have experienced several discussions where educators describe the great importance for building relationships with students. This all sounds spot-on to me. 

So what do happy people never do? I think I found the answer to that question while reading blogs on LinkedIn. Perhaps you will agree:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Exercise in Creative Thinking

Thank you to Melissa Edwards (@mwedwards) for tweeting Elad Segev's You Tube video. What kind of responses do our questions encourage? 
Could we ask better questions? 

I'm inspired to aim higher.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rich Professional Learning

Yesterday, I had the privilege of working with a fantastic group of teachers as they began their journey along a new style of Professional Development called Teacher Leader Corp. TLC is a district initiative whereby principals each chose four teachers, who are currently NOT already in a leadership role, to experience five fully-integrated hands-on days (per year) of learner centered and rigorous instruction as a regional subset of the larger Professional Learning Network. The four teachers collaborate with other like-minded teachers face-to-face and online. They learn together and make plans for how they will teach the staff when back at school. Think of it like a giant jig-saw approach to PD. 

Not only are the TLC teachers building capacity in colleagues, they are honing their own teaching and leadership skills. The clear focus here is on making learning visible, rich, and engaging for students. Providing the teachers with professional learning that puts them in the student seat, re-engages them to feel empathy for students as they design organic and fluid lessons. 

It is very clear to me that the group of teachers chosen to participate in the TLC are a perfect fit for being the leaders in their schools to support and promote the pedagogical shifts that will take place!