While at ISTE earlier this summer I went to a number of social events with co-workers, colleagues and just amazing people in general. Over the course of the five days in ISTE, we had opportunities to connect with so many people. I talked education, technology, and where to get the best Philly Cheesesteak in town. I have to admit if we didn’t find the best it wasn’t from lack of trying. My doctor would frown at my dietary choices. To the point, I was presented an opportunity to attend an amazing conference with thousands of passionate educators and there were so many choices I had to make each and everyday. Each would determine how my experience would unfold and what I would be able to take away from this opportunity. I could write about the laundry list of takeaways from ISTE, but I wanted to focus on one simple idea that stuck with me. Shut up and Dance!
A group of educators found ourselves at a social gathering where karaoke was rocking so loud we heard it from down the street. When we got there, a few in the group immediately signed up to sing. That is not something I do because I know I can’t sing. However I made the choice to dance- to get out on the floor and have fun. I knew there could be cameras there - this could be posted- this could be embarrassing- I danced in front of coworkers when I wouldn't do this in front of family members at a wedding. What is the difference between the two situations? I made a choice. Simple as that I made the decision to have fun, to dance to be part of something bigger than myself. I took the cues from those around me that this was a safe place to "let my hair down" and dance.
Listening to a great IGNITE presentation, and yes I might reference this a few times because I am thoroughly impressed by this young educator I have been able to work with over the past year, Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike. In his presentation he references the idea of being wild and crazy for the kids. To do things that are a little different and wild. This is an area in my life both in and outside of the classroom that I struggle with. Many times I put on my teacher suit that confined me to the persona of a professional. Now I am not saying that being a professional is negative, but in my case it meant building a wall between myself and my students. While I think we all have a border to maintain proper relationships, my wall was too often too tall and too think. Picture the Great Wall of China. It didn't allow me to show my students who I really am. I am someone who can relate to the quiet kid in the back of the room who knew the answer but was afraid to draw attention to themselves. I relate to the student who feels overwhelmed in math class but is afraid to ask questions because they don't want to feel stupid. I connect to the person who could be the class clown and someone who at times takes risks.
I was all of these people at the same time and yet only show my students one snapshot of me. Unfortunately, early in my career, I never took off my teacher suit in front of my students. I continued to let this wall stand between us. In the last ten years, but more honestly the last five or six I really began to make the transformation from my old rigid teacher suit to more of a leisure suit. A more flexible, hip, (at least I hope) and honest presentation of who I am. I am still a work in progress, but I am continuing to make the decision to connect with my students, get to know them, build relationships and grow.
I made the choice to dance. I hope you will too!
First things first- the job description. This can be worded in such a way as to make it sound like your dream job. It is usually pretty vague to allow for additional responsibilities some may not have been dreamed up yet. Yes I understand that it would be impossible to outline every aspect of a job in a manageable size document. I present the concept to illustrate the point that as educators we are not prepared for what really constitutes the position of a professional educator.
What is expected of an educator? At least what they train us for.
Educators, as we progress through the official training programs, are taught to focus on content mastery, classroom management, assessment, pedagogy, and curriculum. We take courses that emphasize the concept that all children are different and learn differently so we must differentiate and scaffold. Yet we are also told that STANDARDIZED TESTING, those tests that treat all students exactly the same are a great measure of student knowledge and growth. I hope you see the irony of this. We add more tests each year. Teachers must now be experts in data analysis and interpretation. They must use this new data to differentiate lessons for each student, connect to the common core, improve test scores and not leave a single child behind. High stakes testing can keep you awake at night, but hopefully your focus is on creating experiences for your students, preparing them for the WORLD beyond and not test prep.
Teachers fill many roles beyond the purveyor of knowledge. Teachers are no longer expected to be the sage on the stage, the omniscient being in the room. Content knowledge is not the most important role of a teacher. This seems contrary to the training I received as I prepared to become an educator. Teachers in training were told don't smile until December. Classroom management is most important, and don't get too personal with your students.
The Hidden Expectations of Educators!
I have to admit I blindly followed some of the advice those older teachers had given me and laid down the law with my students early in my career. I thought if students obeyed they were learning. I fortunately saw the light, which is why I am able to write about the hidden expectations for teachers.
Parents entrust us with their children for the majority of that child's day. Parents expect us to educate their child, to teach them the subject matter, but also to assist them in learning manners and social skills. I am a parent, and I find myself expecting my children's teacher to help them learn skills beyond the curriculum. I want my children to be safe, secure, happy, engaged, challenged, cared for and appreciated.
Teachers are expected to play many roles often go beyond what was ever described in educational training or any job description
Teachers are Role Models! With being Role Models we are also at times a symbol of Morality, or a Moral Compass for our students. The fact we spend so much time with students provides us with tremendous opportunity to engage and inspire our students. We can be the catalyst for inquiry and the development of individual passions. With this comes the responsibility to model positive behavior with our students. To demonstrate to them positive interactions with others.
Teachers are expected to not only educate the students in their classes about the content outlined in the curriculum guide, but also about life. Teach young people how to share, resolve conflict, demonstrate compassion and empathy for others. Teachers are expected to teach a sense of the world around them, and understanding of world events we ourselves might not completely grasp.
Educators in all capacities are expected to do so much more than just guide instruction. This is what should be taught to pre-service teachers during their training. They will be counselors, they will hear the stories of poverty, abuse, depression as it is unfolding in the lives of those they are charged to educate and Protect! They will engage these young people on a daily basis with the potential to be the most positive human interaction that child will receive that day. There is so much more to teaching than knowing your subject area content. Teaching is about relationships and compassion for each and every child!
My Take Away!
What has impacted me the most in my teaching has been those personal connections with my students. I am so excited to share the positive connections made by those students who let me know I made a difference in their lives. It is harder to acknowledge those who made a lasting difference in mine because sometimes it is too late to show those students they matter, they are valuable, and they are loved!
The following is a must read story shared by @supt_Jordan Travis Jordan about a student he will always remember. Missed Opportunity.
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!
So there I was in the middle of the desert on the hottest day of the summer when my car broke down. I began hiking back to the nearest city when I ran out of water. I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t make it, the dehydration, and delusions had begun, just then, it hit me, the greatest epiphany I have ever had in my life, I should start writing down every thought I have ever had and people will flock to my page and read it in droves. They will begin following me on Twitter and I will be like some cult leader. Okay, so none of that happened, but it sounds much more interesting than the fact that I finally realized I needed to record my thoughts for my own professional growth knowing that most of what I write will never been gazed upon by another set of human eyes. I realize I am adding to a flooded market in the blogosphere and I have no aspirations of anyone other than myself appreciating my blog posts.
This post is not going to belabor the point that I found Twitter this summer, but rather to expand on the idea of Twitter as a tool for learning and collaboration. I have already mentioned in my welcome message that I found twitter chats but I wanted to provide a schedule provided by @cybraryman1, Jerry Blumengarten who chronicles so many links useful for education. Here is the link to twitter chats.
Twitter can be a place to share your every thought, or it can be a place to share creativity, intellectual thought, innovative teaching practices, and share resources. Twitter like so many resources and technology is what you make of it. Use it wisely and it can be an essential part of your professional and personal development.
PLN, Professional Learning Network is something I must admit was new to me. I have taught since 1999 and have worked in several different school districts and during this time I didn't really build anything resembling a PLN. Schools tend to foster isolation over collaboration. We toss out the idea of collaboration, sharing, and growing together but don't model that in any substantial manner. Over my career I often discussed the idea of seeing other good teachers teach. I wanted to pick their brains, ask questions, share lessons, find better ways of doing things. The problem and I can only speak of my experience at the high school level is that we tend to be isolated, locked away in our own rooms. Teachers in the same discipline rarely have the same prep hour. We often times teach different courses as well. It seemingly makes collaboration even more daunting. Time is often the biggest factor working in opposition to collaboration. We have so many things on our plates it is hard to carve out time to do another thing.
This is where Twitter seems to be a game changer, at least for me. I could start with all of the people in lands far away that I have connected with, but I will start with my own building. I became inspired this summer by other educators on Twitter and have tried to share that passion with others. I sent emails to teachers in my district, set up a # for our district for a PLN and hosted our first Twitter chat. I wish I could tell you it was a rousing success and there were too many tweets to storify. I so wish that was the case. I had two other teachers show up and the three of us had a great conversation. It was nowhere near the turn out I was hoping for, but it is our start. I stepped away from trying to be the band leader and get everyone on board and focused on getting myself ready for school. I created a few lessons and shared them on Twitter. This is when the walls began coming down at my school. Last week we had our summer PD days and during this time I had a few colleagues mention that they followed me this summer and they thought some of the things I shared were great. Some commented on the lessons I created even providing me with some great constructive feedback. I discussed resources with a few other teachers and saw a spark when I talked about chats and the lessons and activities people on Twitter are willing to share. I was finally able to see the seeds of collaboration taking hold within my own building. I am working to extend my PLN to my school and district. Imagine how much improvement there would be if we were all sharing our best practices, our best experiences, and our best ideas. Next step staff meeting smackdowns!
I do want to end this first true blog post with a special thank you to those who helped me build my PLN, improve my knowledge and rekindle my passion! I don't want to offend anyone in my PLN for not mentioning them, but the final push to blog came from someone I had been following for most of the summer and recently began following me. I have learned so much from her and it was her latest blog post that pushed me to publish mine. Thanks Victoria!