Well maybe this isn't exactly what our staff looked like today, but I work with an amazing group of educators! I am so very proud to be part of this special bunch of sometimes crazy, innovative educators. The videos below are from the last two homecoming events that I think are spectacular examples of what a fun group I get to work with.
As excited as I am to show off the work of my colleagues in these great videos, I would be misrepresenting their overall efforts to grow and learn as educators. Hang in there I will get to the part where I share our amazing Professional Development today.
I want to point out that if you watch any of the videos above, there is someone missing. You guessed it, your's truly is absent. I struggle with being out there in public. So when I was approached early in the school year by a member of the Professional Development Committee, I was honored and horrified at the same time. I don't know if it was the amazing sales pitch, or if it was the multiple times I had seen people say "sharing is caring," on Twitter, but I agreed to it. Even though I was feeling overwhelmed, I thought it would be cool to talk about what an amazing resource Twitter has been for me in building collaboration.
Here is the part where I should tell you all of the amazing things that have been going on in my world and all of the lessons I have learned and applied to my teaching and reaped the rewards. This however isn't a fairy tale. Don't get me wrong, I have had an amazing first few weeks in the classroom. My students participated in a 9/11 blog project connecting students and teachers from across the nation remembering what happened over a decade ago. Please check it out here - 9/11 blogspot. I also teach in a district that just opened up our classes to BYOD and this has allowed me to try new things. I created a lesson that I have shared my fishbowl lesson earlier on this site. I am also looking forward to the end of this week where my students will be presenting to members of our school board. Again this lesson is discussed in my last post. Okay, so I did have some great things going on in the first few weeks, however this happened while dealing with the following.
The year began like most, the excitement to be back, the anxiety of new classes, and getting everything ready for the first day. This year was unique for me, I came in with a renewed passion for teaching. However when I got back to school, that excitement was put in the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. Yes I am old enough to have seen Tyson fight prior to his ear biting days, or his staring role in the Hangover trilogy. He was a boxer, it is sort of like students realizing that George Foreman was a boxer too, and not just a guy hawking grills. Sorry for the tangent. Anyway, my passion was smashed with the avalanche of new expectations. The RtI, SLO, My Learning Plan, collection of data, and so many others that I have lost track.
I do not intend this to seem like a plea for pity, but rather more of the realizations that led me to be determined to be part of the PD day this year. The epiphany for me is that the first few weeks. I went from being so enthusiastic to so frustrated so quickly was a learning experience. I didn't know how I would get it all done. More than that, I didn't know how I would do everything to the level of expectation I have for myself. This includes building relationships with my family. I went back to feeling isolated and alone. I felt like I was facing these new challenges and demands by myself on an island. This is when I realized that if I felt this way, so did others. The difference for me is that I have begun to develop an incredible PLN on Twitter. I reached out for help, and was showered with so much encouragement and assistance to get me through.
You have endured another one of my rambling posts, hopefully the wrap up is worthy of your time and patience. My solution to having to be the center attraction was to create an environment much like my classroom. I set it up for teachers to actively participate and I get to guide them through the process.
Here is what my session looked like:
1. Set up an edcamp style collaboration session. In the morning teachers signed up for a topic they wanted to learn more about. During my allotted time I established a thirty minute session where teachers collaborated on their chosen topic. I was able to move around to groups and listen in on their amazing ideas. I work with some amazing educators.
2. My presentation - This was the stressful part of the day, but it allowed me to introduce my experience and guide us to the possibilities that lay ahead. I created a brief prezi to illustrate some of the issues that I mentioned earlier. My point of all of this is to demonstrate the struggles and challenges that we face, and that we must work together to survive. This set the stage for the final part of the day's presentation. Notice this part was pretty short, and I survived it!
3- Twitter chat. Teachers were asked to set up a twitter account prior to the day's presentations so we could engage in a twitter chat. I set up a #lcpln for teachers to experience a demonstration of what a chat looks like. I was hoping they would see how they can connect and share information in a fast paced manner and build their PLN.
The end of the day reflection confirms for me, the value of this type of professional development for real growth in educational practices. As educators we face tremendous obstacles, challenges, detours, call it what you will, there are things that blockade our goal of immersion in the classroom. Our PD Committee has an opportunity and a vision to allow for more freedom of choice, and self directed professional development. My hope is that today, teachers learned a valuable resource to helping them overcome the hurdles placed in their path, and tools to grow and learn in their practices.
Here is a list of educational Twitter Chats to help develop professional development.
Inquiry, curiosity is the heart of real learning. When we are curious, when we have questions that matter, we are more likely to seek out the answers. So what better question to begin the year than how did we get here? Yes the age old question of how did it all begin and following the amazing journey to human beings.
My students were presented with a multitude of explanations including the scientific explanation otherwise known as the Big Bang Theory. No not the awesome TV show, but the theory that explains all things began out of nothingness when an explosion began pushing matter outward at incredible speed to have it connect together to form the galaxies, stars, planets including earth. From there we get live that begins in the oceans, then land, and eventually develops and progresses to humans.
On the other side is the theory of Intelligent Design. The belief that a higher, supernatural being planned out the creation of the galaxies, stars, planets and creation of all living beings including humans. Both have merits, and both have areas where some question their validity.
The dilemma posed to students is not what to believe, but rather, what should be taught. In years past I posed this same question to students with the scenario that the audience for their persuasive papers would be the local school board. After taking two graduate classes last year, and a summer filled with collaboration with amazing educators, I modified this project. I learned from other educator's examples the idea of authentic tasks. My modification was to change the task from a paper to a presentation. I then decided to take a chance and see if I could make the task even more meaningful.
I contacted members of our school board and our superintendent. I am thrilled to report that my students will be presenting in front of members of the school board next week Thursday and Friday. I have worked with my students to prepare their presentations, and I am excited to see the fruits of their labor.
My next dilemma is what to do while students are presenting on the same topic? I would typically have students listen to others present. However, with the idea being students present what they think, I don't want them to be influenced by the comments that the panel shares with the groups who present prior to them. I also need to be able to evaluate the students during their presentations.
The solution is to beg my colleagues to give up their prep to supervise my classes so I am able to be in during the panel discussion. I am not sure if I will be able to make it happen for two straight days, but I am going to build on our new found sense of collaboration from today's Professional Development.
To ease the burden on those who supervise my students, I am going to introduce genius hour this week so students are able to work on something meaningful instead of listening to very similar presentations over and over again. I am excited about this project and its possibilities for my students to engage in real world skills and tasks while in a safe nurturing environment.
When this project is completed I will update my post. I am expecting some amazing results, and hope this is a memorable experience for all of my students.
This year brought about BYOD in our classrooms, and so I decided to embrace this new opportunity. I will admit that I was a little nervous, and still am about the potential risks, but I have just completed my lesson on the FISHBOWL and am excited at the results. So you should be asking, what is the FISHBOWL, well before the year began I was looking for music for my classroom, and I have blogged about that already, so to the point, I stumbled upon the song, Welcome to the Fishbowl, by Kenny Chesney. I had never heard it before, but after listening to it, I realized there was a ready made lesson to begin my year.
This week I attempted something new with the students. We collaborated on a policy to implement BYOD into the classroom. My hook that really grabbed their attention occurred on the second day of the discussion when I took away all of their devices and told them this will be a no technology zone. It was interesting to observe the varied reactions. I told them that there were too many problems associated with the use of the technology in class to be worth the few opportunities to use them in a positive manner. I did give them the final chance to change my mind. They worked on creating a list of potential uses, and the ideas were amazing. They thought about using it to set up homework or important reminders. They could use it to collaborate on projects, look up information to help them complete tasks. They thought about the potential for contact, and even suggested using skype for students who were sick or absent a day to keep caught up with the class.
As the discussion continued over the next couple of days, I did have a few instances that happened in class that were used as great examples of reasons why we need to have a policy of expectations. Some students' behaviors exemplified the potential misuse of the technology, now no serious issues of concern happened, but they were great demonstrations of behaviors that we needed to address.
The students took this process very seriously, and were engaged in earning their devices in the classroom. I am very happy to say that we created a policy for use.
The basic principles of the policy are as follows:
The use of the device is at the discretion of the instructor who should be asked for permission to use the device during class. In this, the students should explain exactly how they will use the device during class time unless directed to use it in a particular way by the instructor.
Taking pictures may be allowed if the following conditions are followed:
Ask the person(s) in the photo for their permission, explain the purpose of the image, show them the end result, and do not alter the picture from what has been agreed upon by those in the image.
Students thought using images to take notes, for their portfolio, or of activities and tasks would be appropriate use of taking pictures, and the use of sharing them for their educational portfolios would be acceptable use.
Texting is strongly discouraged as it creates a distraction to the student and potentially other students and classrooms. The exception was if contacting a parent or an absent classmate were necessary for school related purposed as decided by the instructor.
I plan on using the devices as part of the class. There are multiple ways students can utilize these devices from taking notes, looking up information sharing answers and ideas, communication, and increasing engagement that I think the benefits from using these in a sound educational manner is too great to pass up.
The final aspect of the policy is the enforcement. Students have agreed to first abide by the rules, second help support others in following the rules by encouraging those who are not following the rules to stop those practices, and they are willing to accept losing the privilege of using the device if they refuse to follow the policy they created.
I was recently asked to present at our next staff Profession Develop Day on September 27th. As part of this they have asked me to present about Twitter and building collaboration and a PLN. What I was thinking was having a few people that I have connected with this year on Twitter create and share some type of message with my staff for our inservice day. I was looking to have other educators share a welcome message, a story about their journey using Twitter, or other message to my staff to help me get them on board with online collaboration. You could cite an example where you connected to another classroom through Twitter, skype, or other method. I recently worked with my students to complete the 911 student blog project. I have seen other teachers in the elementary jump on board with creating connected classrooms through the relationships they built using Twitter. I am open to ideas and suggestions. I am hoping some of you would be willing to help me out. Please send me a message if you have ideas, questions, or can help in some way.
As part of my presentation I was going to have the staff participate in a Twitter chat at the end of the session. I was thinking that I could share your message or stories with them during that time.
I am pretty limited in my creativity, but I thought of a few examples and hope you might be willing to help me out in some way.
examples - Tweet welcoming Little Chute staff to Twitter -
Vine or other video message about collaboration
jumping into our staff Twitter chat on the day for a few minutes --
any idea you have to encourage online collaboration
(This summer I attempted my first district chat with minimal results, however the #lcpln is still alive and kicking so any posts could be directed to this #)
I am trying to show my staff the power of Twitter as a tool to connect and learn. I am hoping to have a few educational leaders help me ease the reluctant staff into the world of online collaboration and see the value of it for themselves and their students.
I understand how busy our schedules can be and how precious time is for all of us, so I truly appreciate your consideration, and would love to hear your thoughts on this endeavor.
Please take a minute to complete a short survey to help me out. I appreciate all of your help!
High School Social Studies
Little Chute, WI
In true Pirate style, Day 2 is supposed to keep student's attention and cultivate the behaviors of an exciting, nurturing and relevant classroom. Dave Burgess starts out acting out scenes similar to what I created in the video clips above. I am not as comfortable as he is with the stage. While I know I need to push myself to let my guard down more, I also realize I don't need to be a parrot of Teach Like a Pirate, more of a cultivator of its intentions.
Day 2 begins with the video presentation followed by the Survivor Island Scenario. Students are assigned to groups and then discuss who will be rescued and who will be allowed to be saved. I also tried playing the song "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now," as they began their examination.
The students ponder the situation, discuss, and then work to create a collaborative group decision that they can justify. This activity provided a lot of great teaching moments. First we discuss the idea of consensus. It was important that all students agreed, which also meant that they had the expectation of all sharing and being heard. I made a group leader who was responsible to ensure all were actively engaged. Students were give 15 minutes to discuss then we listed their results for who would be rescued and who would be saved.
This actually took us to the end of the hour for Day 2, so our discussion of the results was carried over to Day 3. What an amazing day this was. Not only did it provide opportunities to again reinforce expectations for group work, but it also helped students understand what I mean by justifying or supporting your ideas. I emphasized that there would be no right or wrong answer, but they would be evaluated on their rationale. Having never done an introductory task with so many possible answers, I was nervous about what I would hear from students. What did help is that during the discussion process I did make it around to groups and listen to their discussions and ask questions, or even play devil's advocate at times to spark extension of conversations.
The whole class sharing was enlightening. Students had so many different approaches to how to solve the task. Some looked primarily at who should be saved and the others were left to fend for themselves, others focused on making sure those on the island would have the best chance of survival, and finally, some tried to make it possible for all to survive balancing at times those they thought should be rescued with the skills they could provide to those stranded on the island. The analysis of how they went about tackling this task became a topic for discussion that I used to further the idea of how critical thinking varies for every student. There isn't a right approach, or one right answer.
Another area that led to some very cool discussions was what to do with the murderer. I learned so much about how people perceive the idea of a murderer. Most students saw this person as a male and someone who was prone to violence. They viewed him as a threat to those left on the island and many sent him home to save those on the island. Others still viewing him as a threat, or a bad person, left him on the island because they had a hard time giving him the seat of someone they felt more deserving. In the end we discussed their views or perceptions and had a very cool conversation that I think opened the door for future dialogue about perspective.
This activity is another piece of the framework I am hoping will fit together to show my students that my classroom is different, this year is different, and I, as their guide, am unique.
Teach Like a Pirate Week Begins!
Here I am with the classroom movie posters I made for the hallway outside my room.
DAY 1 - I wish I could have the cool effects like the X-files where the ideas type in those cool green letters because I feel like what I experienced this week was crazy exciting!
Okay, so if you have read anything else I have written thus far, you know that I am a huge fan of Teach Like a Pirate. I took the challenge to be a Pirate this year, and my year has begun with the first week activities that Dave Burgess outlines. I got on Amazon, asked my wife for permission to use the card and purchased the biggest pack of play-doh I have ever seen. 36 cans of funky stuff that can be molded into some of the most creative objects I have ever witnessed in my life.
Day 1 for most teachers begins with some introductory or get to know you activity. I have been doing something for most of my career and enjoyed the activities. Students although sometimes reluctant to share, always provide something that could be used to build rapport and relationships with them. So what is so revolutionary and exciting about using play-doh? Nothing! Absolutely nothing in terms of the idea of a get to know you idea. It isn't the play-doh that makes this activity, it is how and what it is used for. As I said, I always did an activity to begin the year, but this year my approach was markedly different.
The difference to some may seem subtle, but it was really a significant change for me. In other years, students had shared things about themselves, and I have even learned some very personal things about my students through questions they had answered. Day 1 this year was no exception. Where the difference came in was in many cases how I learned these ideas. While students were making their projects out of play-doh to represent something about themselves, I focused on asking them questions, talking to them, and sharing with them. I heard their stories directly from them in a conversation that I could react to and they could see and hear my thoughts, ideas, or in some cases compassion for their lives. This was missing in the past where students answered questions just for me and I was reading those in isolation of them. I still react, still feel for them, still want to connect, but they never saw those reactions, and thus the moment of me being a real person and not just another teacher was lost.
So the best and worst of the sharing and lessons learned. I realized after trying this with my first class, that the need for explaining that the object had to be something important or significant to their lives resonated with most students, but I did have one that tried to push back against this. His object was a chicken drumstick because he said he loved chicken. Not exactly what I was going for. He and I talked before he was to present, and he modified his sculpture, but I think he was still trying to be the class clown. I learned from this and the rest of the classes I emphasized that I was looking for something significant to their lives. It yielded better results, although I did have the hour where half the class talked about sports, where I again had to adjust my questioning to why were sports so important to them. Why would you spend hours doing something, what are the rewards to this activity in your life?
Those were the ones that didn't quite meet the mark, although with the exception of the chicken example, they did a good job explaining their ideas. I included images above of just some of the objects. There were 3D objects, activities as mentioned earlier, even including music and dance. Then there were the ones that really showcased what this was all about. The handful of students who talked about the connection to others in their lives, or how something was almost vitally important to them. I had a couple of students use symbols like a rainbow to discuss their being homosexual, or their connection to the Gay Straight Alliance. I also had a student share a very personal story about how she has been affected by suicide. She made the semi-colon sculpture above. I didn't know it was the symbol for suicide, but I did know about this student's story before she shared. I was overwhelmed that she shared it with the class. I was very emotional at the end of the day hearing so many wonderful and powerful stories about things that impact my students' lives. It caused me to really reflect on my responsibility as a teacher to honor their courage to share, and to do everything I can do to make my classroom and this year a safe and nurturing one. I struggle with the fact that I do not know that I am up to the challenge of helping students who have the realities outside of school that some of my students do. I pray I have the strength to be the teacher they need and deserve.
Let me preface this post with the same disclaimer as every other post I will ever write, I AM NOT AN EXPERT! Now that we have expectations in check, let's get this show on the road. I want to honor the idea for this post to a colleague on Twitter who had the idea to start a playlist for school to engage students. I am completely stealing the idea, however I have poured over my Twitter feed and have not been able to find the post for the idea that sparked my version. For those that may be so inclined to continue reading my posts, I hope you take away the fact that I am like the ancient Romans, I am not very inventive, but more like a pirate in acquiring and using resources. I maybe unlike the Romans, want to give credit to those who inspired my variation on the lesson, or idea.
Okay, so my legal department can now sleep easy that I have acknowledge the real creative forces out there, let's begin.
Oh you are still reading -- awesome! You must really be curious about music. I have found music to be a powerful force in my own life. It is amazing how it can transform your mood, inspire and motivate you to complete the exercise, help you concentrate, or express your ideas to others. Gone are the days with the 8 tracks and vinyl records. Yes I am old enough to remember both, so respect your elders. I also lived through the giant boomboxes that everyone stocked up on D batteries to carry around and blast your music. We witnessed the transition from tapes to CD's and now digital music. As these transitions happened, the portability of music increased. With the advent of the mp3 player students are more readily connected to music, but may also be more disconnected to their surroundings. Welcome to the 21st century where a phone is a mobile workstation and a portable stereo with limitless access to music anywhere anytime. Those are the technological changes that have sparked social changes. Students plugging in their ear-buds and tuning out those around them. When independent work time is given they immediate ask if they can listen to music. They want it, nay they crave it. And I completely get it. Music is an amazing path to escape into your own little world.
Wow! He just told us music is important to students, he must be a genius. Well no, not really, and no I am not trying to insult your intelligence, but rather set the stage for using what the students crave to your advantage. When you watch a movie the music pulls you to ramp up the excitement, feel the emotion of the main characters. The producers spend a lot of time choosing the right music to get those results. They want you to remember the events more vividly. The same could be done in a classroom setting. We can set a mood of excitement with high energy music, or grab students' attention with a short clip like at a football or basketball game. You could use it as a transition or as a timer. I plan to use it in some of these forms, but also to connect to my content. I think students pick the music they listen to many times because of the beat, the sound, the tempo, without always realizing what the song is about. Think about connecting to your content. In just the last two days I have a few ideas for lesson plans with music.
To give you a quick example, you can use a song that discusses discrimination or intolerance such as Everyday People, by Sly and the Family Stone, or more modern, Born This Way, by Lady Gaga., or one I will use and have a lesson plan for, Fishbowl by Kenny Chesney where he discusses the impact on our lives of social media and technology. Here is the lesson.
Another lesson I plan on creating is to have students look at the music being played at different times in history. What were people listening to during WWII, Vietnam, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? What does this say about the impact of war on our society? Has it changed over time? Has war had an impact on the home-front? These are just a few things that have come to mind as I think about incorporating music into my classroom.
I have begun a music spreadsheet for the purpose of connecting to students. There are several tabs that have been created to separate the purpose of the songs. Please take a look, add your ideas, and take what you can use. Also add lesson ideas or class connections you can think of. This is a work in progress, but I know we can make our classrooms better through collaboration.
The inspiration for this post comes from several other educators who have shared their playlists, or ideas for music with me. I didn't invent the idea of using music as a hook or connection to students, I just decided this year to incorporate the ideas started by others, and implemented in my own manner. Please take a look at the google spreadsheet I created and share ideas or comments you have as well as steal anything people share to better enrich your lessons and your connections to your students.
Credits for this post - I included the link to their post in their name.
Michael K. Milton @think42
Josh Gauthier @mrgfactoftheday
DDEUBEL'S BLOG - 50 Ways to incorporate music into the classroom
Here is some research supporting music in the classroom:
John Hopkins University
There were others that I looked at in my quest, but unfortunately I did not do a good job chronicling all of the sites that I found useful to help me in my journey to use more music.
This post is dedicated to my wife and family who I feel so blessed to have in my life.
Yes I know a corny title, but it struck me this morning as I was thinking about my summer. I spent a lot of time with my kids this summer, a lot of time learning, a lot of time stressing over getting things done, and even squeezed in some fun on a short family vacation. As the final weeks before school approached, I was reminded of a post I saw late at night just before going to bed. It went something like, now that the chat is over, I am going back to being a father for the rest of the long weekend. It struck a cord in me, the idea of shifting between roles, this is something that some can do seamlessly, while others struggle.
To Be or Not to Be, that is the question. And while I can't say as a student I was a fan of Shakespeare, that line always stuck with me. I am drawn to this idea to either be or not. I read and have jumped into the ideas of Dave Burgess and his philosophy of Teach Like a Pirate. The ideas ring a cord in my life, and yet I am struck by how far I have yet to go. The connection to my ramblings today is the Immersion. To be present in where you are; what you are doing; and who you are with. The challenge is to BE everything that is expected of each of us. Every moment we are asked to be present in our multiple roles. All of us, educators, parents, children, siblings, co-workers, friends, or whatever role you are in are asked to live up to certain expectations. We are asked to be so many things in each of the relationships that we form. Educators today are asked to be masters of their content areas; entertainers; role models; disciplinarians; comforters; creative innovators; tireless and passionate; grateful for the opportunity to interact with kids; pushed to learn and do more; slayers of apathy and boredom; and so many others as the list continues to grow with SLO's and RtI and high stakes testing to name a few. While being asked to do more and be more we have other facets of our life that also deserve our time, and best efforts.
When I was hired for my first teaching job, there was an expectation that I would coach, so I did. I spent hours learning the offense and defenses, the strategies, and how to coach teenagers. I spent countless hours trying to hone my craft in the classroom as well. Shortly into my first year, I met Andrea, the woman I am happy to say has been my wife for the last nine years. I tried to be in the moment and spend as much time with her as I could. So here I was fresh out of college, with many hats already. Each with their own expectations and rewards. Each carving out a little bit of time from my life. The years have passed and I have added more hats to my wardrobe. I am the father of two wonderful little girls who melt my heart melt when I hear them giggle.
I have found it difficult to be completely immersed and be present in the manner I should truly be. If I only had more time. I have found this to be my common thread for my blog so far, TIME. People say if it is important, you will find the time, or better yet, make the time. I love that concept, in fact I want to find the person who has the TIME Making Machine, walk up to him say thank you, and then punch him in the face for not sharing it with the rest of us. No I don't advocate violence, but the idea that we can just make time irritates me. As I mentioned earlier, I spent time with my daughters this summer as I was unemployed like most teachers, at home working for free, and taking care of my children. As I played with them, listened to my oldest read, or work on finally riding her two wheeler without training wheels, I found myself sneaking peaks at Twitter, or looking something up online, or trying to get something done between the next activity. I found myself not fully immersed in the situation. I didn't enjoy all of the things that were happening around me because I was consumed by the feeling that I wasn't getting enough done. That there wouldn't be enough time to finish all of the projects and tasks this summer.
My revelation of this summer - okay to be honest, I should be number them and to be fair this would probably be number 10,364 but whose counting. The big take away was that I can't be all things all of the time. I can't be dad and teacher in the same moment and truly enjoy either one. For me at least, I started to write that I found... but I had to cut that out. I haven't found the answer, what I did find is that I haven't done it well. I haven't been the husband, parent, friend, or teacher that I want to be. I am determined to work on being all of those things in a new and better form. I have to give up some of my career expectations to be a family. I had to step away from coaching opportunities that brought me happiness, for the chance to be present in the lives of my children and experience true joy in my life. I had to be kicked in the stomach by my wife when she told me I was failing to live up to my responsibilities to my family. I am passionate about teaching and working with kids, I need to demonstrate that same passion for my own kids because I want my family to feel and know the passion and love I have for them everyday of my life.
Today I understand that my to be or not to be refers to what do I want to be? What have I been, and what do I need to do to get there? I have worn many hats in my life like most people, it comes with the territory. However I look back at my life, and I can't say that I owned them all very well. I begin this new school year with more expectations and less time. I don't have any answer for anyone dealing with similar issues, in fact I am open to suggestions. What I promise my family is that I will always do my best to Immerse myself in them. To be passionate about them forever!