This week I have found a number of great resources about professional practice and professional development. I have been inspired by these resources by amazing educators and wanted to share them with you. I hope you find them useful and meaningful as well.
Thanksgiving the holiday is a little over a week away. Thanksgiving the activity should be an everyday occurrence. We should be thanking those around us for the support they provide, for the actions that bring us joy, inspiration, and challenge us to be the best we can be. There are people in our lives who help us do what we do and continue to do the awesome things we are able to accomplish.
I came across a post the other day by Stacy Jennings @sjennINSPIRE where teachers created a video where teachers tell the students they work with how the student inspires them. I think this is a phenomenal idea. I know many teachers share with students notes or conversations letting the student know they are making good progress, or doing a good job. This was to me, a little different. It was about how the student inspired them. How the student has impacted their life. The conversations seemed focused on the student as an individual who has unique personality traits and behaviors that were appreciated. This went beyond academic or athletic performance and showcased the student as a powerful force of inspiration who made the teacher's life better.
The video is below
A number of weeks ago, I shared another example of celebrating others and giving thanks. This one was aimed at teachers, or colleagues and what they do that makes our lives better. I wrote about it in my post Superheroes. I had asked teachers to share how awesome teachers and their colleagues are. What do teachers do to help students, to support us, to challenge us to be our best?
So this week I want to issue a few Thanksgiving Challenges to you.
You can share these in tweets, infographics, or videos documenting your successful completion of these challenges.
1. Share with a student how/why they inspire you to come to school, to do your best, to teach, to learn and grow as an educator.
2. Share with members of your PLN how they help you learn and grow. How do they support and inspire you to to be the best you can be?
3. Share with members of your staff how they help you learn and grow. How do they support and inspire you to to be the best you can be?
4. Document and share your acknowledgements of colleagues here - https://flipgrid.com/3349de create a video expressing how you are thankful for and why.
5. Share a strategy, tool, technology, etc. that you are thankful you have learned as it has made a difference in your educational practice.
6. Share with a family member(s) how they have supported you and helped you succeed and why you are thankful they are in your life.
7. Add your own challenges to others.
How do you create an environment where students feel respected, appreciated and cared for? This week I have met with several teachers and many of the conversations have had a common theme; teacher student relationships. There were some conversations where teachers expressed frustration with student behavior. Yes this happens. Students sometimes don't meet our expectations or behave in a way that can be frustrating. When this happens, how do we respond? Are we able to take a step back and deal with the behavior, or do we struggle to separate the behavior from the student? If we address the issue with the focus on the student rather than the behavior we can negatively impact our relationship.
Tonight is about ways we can build a positive learning environment for our students. Join the conversation and share your strategies for making your classroom a safe space for students.
Tonight we discuss Professional Development and hopefully learn a few resources and experiences we can share with each other to grow together.
In college while taking a 1945-Present US History class, I was asked to interview someone who was around during the Vietnam War. The professor may have said Vietnam Conflict as it was technically not a war, but I digress. When presented with this project, I think I went with the easiest person I could think of which was my dad. To be honest in thinking about it now, I think I likely knew my dad had served in the Navy, but didn't know much else. Over the years he didn't talk much about his experience. We knew he traveled to Japan as he had a couple of dolls that still reside in the living room of their home. I also remember him showing me a sword he got again while in the Navy and in Japan. I think the mementoes being from Japan precluded me from ever realizing he was involved in Vietnam. He never spoke of it.
When tasked with conducting the interview, I came home from college and we sat down to talk about it. He shared with me that he enlisted. Now at that point in my life I had known my dad for about 20 years. I knew he had a gun he used for hunting, which I think he only went like two years when my older brother went hunting. So my dad wasn't someone that I thought of as this gun ho Jo. He wasn't someone I saw as eager to go to war, or have a heightened sense of duty to country or patriotism that would drive him to volunteer. I was puzzled as to why he would put himself at risk voluntarily. This seemed at odds to the man I knew, especially knowing how unpopular the Vietnam was for many at that time. When I pressed him on this he told me, he had a high draft number, and he figured he was definitely going to get drafted. Facing almost guaranteed service, he decided to enlist. He said if you enlist you get to chose the branch of service. He chose the Navy and had several years serving in Vietnam. There are many differences between his experience and someone who was in the Army. One that he was thankful for was that he had a clean bunk every night and had hot meals.
As we talked he also shared that he had guys he grew up with that didn't make it back. He shared some of the stories of the things he saw, did, and heard about from people he knew, but little in way of graphic details about what we likely think of as the reality of war.
I could go on about the other really cool things he shared with me, like being on the recovery mission for one of the Apollo flights; they weren't the ship to recover it, because it was such a powerful experience for me. Getting to see a different side of my dad, hear about his experience, especially in context of a major historical event is still one of the best memories I have of spending time with him.
There are other people's stories that I haven't heard or experienced. There are people in my life that I haven't taken the time to learn about. There are things that I missed out on or am missing out on because I haven't take the time to start the conversation. I think interviewing people is such a powerful experience. One of the classes I work with, 3rd grade bilingual students started last year with a project where they interviewed the teachers in their building to help the entire school get to know the staff better. I have been thinking about this activity, along with the potential for using this to help students experience history. Tonight's chat is about the story of history and doing the work of history.
The past month or so we have seen a variety of events unfold before our eyes. There has been the tragedy of Las Vegas; the hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas; the NFL protests, the standoff with North Korea, and many more. Each of these have received a Twitter response for President Trump. With many of these events there has been controversy and conversation that followed.
This is about the third post I have started about how to discuss the multitude of current events that have taken place in the last few months. I first want to take a moment to remember those who were injured or killed by the terrorist in Las Vegas. I am deeply saddened that we continue to see these types of violent events unfold in our country.
My dilemma this week is how do we talk about these events in our classes? I know I can engage in conversation in my personal life. I can share my thoughts with friends and colleagues and family, but how do we create a platform to discuss important issues in our classrooms? I can share my thoughts after the Las Vegas terrorist attack that I think it was a terrorist attack even though the media and our government doesn't call it as such. I wonder what makes this act of violence different than those that have been called terrorist attacks? Does the color of skin of the perpetrator change the definition?
Another issue is our political response to this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Stephen Colbert aired a segment last night shining light on the rhetoric of politicians following every mass shooting in America. "Now is not the time to talk about gun control." Whether you favor gun control or freedom to bear arms, if the days following another senseless tragedy isn't the time to discuss how to make our country safer, then please tell me when is a good time. And when I say make America safer that doesn't automatically mean take away guns, but rather a call for action to step out of this loop of insanity. Insanity is doing that same thing and expecting different results. I think in regard to these mass shootings we are in a loop of insanity.
While I am not in the classroom everyday, I think the topic of classroom discussion of current events is one that impacts all of us. So how do we engage in dialogue about controversial issues and teach our students the skills to discuss, share, and disagree with the ideas of others in a civil, respectful manner?
School started in Wisconsin last week Tuesday and with that comes the work to establish expectations. If you haven't read Dave Burgess's book Teach Like a Pirate and explored his first week of school activities, you should take a look at how he begins his year. He helped me transform what I did my first week of school and how I approached establishing expectations in my classroom.
After I read his book, our district went 1:1 with BYOD Bring Your Own Device. When I asked about expectations for students I was told, they are expected to bring their own device to class. We didn't have any conversation about the use of facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat etc. I had to set my own classroom expectations for students in regard to how we would use their devices which were almost always phones.
Having just taken the Teach Like A Pirate plunge into the deep end, I was excited about trying Dave's activities. It was a new way of approaching the first days of school. It was a break from the reading of the syllabus, handing out books, rules and regulations that students were accustomed to on the first day for all 7 classes. I thought about my students' experience during those first days and wanted to do something markedly different. But beyond that I was energized to do something I hadn't done enough of or well in the past which is build community.
So after I engaged my students in the first few days of school awesome activities that Dave lays out, I decided to look at expectations, and what better expectation to start with than our new BYOD policy. In the past I would have laid out expectations, what was acceptable, what wasn't and how we would deal with those. This time I thought what would happen if I didn't create the expectations, but allowed the students to do this with me. I was hoping to let them feel connected to the process and have a sense of ownership in the classroom through this activity. I created a Padlet where students outlined why we should use the devices, what and when was acceptable use, and what was non-negotiable and never acceptable. This lead to great conversation and less work on my part. The students came up with uses for the devices I hadn't thought of, and had ideas for checking each other's behavior. I put it on them to self govern or they faced losing the ability to use the devices.
What resulted for me was more freedom to teach. I wasn't worrying about students texting in their laps, or trying to hide things. I was able to focus on what we were doing in class. I also extended freedoms to students through the trust we had built together. Students were treated like individuals and young adults. There were times when they texted classmates who weren't at school to connect on assignments, to check in on projects. They texted parents when they needed something from home, or when a game or practice was changed or cancelled to arrange pickup, or drop off of gear etc.
I found myself reflecting on the idea of expectations this week because I had the opportunity to work with an amazing 3rd grade teacher again this year. I think she and her students are incredible. She allows students autonomy and pushes them to be independent thinkers, problem solvers and they always become those rockstar students and people. A few of her colleagues commented that she has great students, and while I agree, and think the same of all of our students, she doesn't magically get great students day 1. I was in her class this week and while working with students on an all about me video project using WeVideo and voice overs, I realized an important lesson. When I left her class last year, her students were 4th graders, they had learned her expectations, they earned the privilege to work on projects on their own and create amazing products of learning as a result of all of her hard work. This week I came into her class and was faced with 2nd graders. They entered this class needing her guidance to obtain the skills necessary to meet her expectations. I don't call them 2nd graders to disparage them, but rather to emphasize the idea of how different the students are from the beginning of the year to the end because of what she does early in the year to establish expectations, nurture their creativity and demonstrate love and compassion for all of her students.
I share this example because the front loading of expectations, the work that goes into setting up routines and procedures pays huge dividends. I often got caught up in the panic of too much content to teach and made minimal effort to establish the positive culture that comes through the work of establishing classroom norms and behaviors. The efforts that come through getting to know students and meet their needs pays off in ways we can't even imagine.
This leads me to this week's topic - Expectations! We are going to not only look at the expectations we have, but also the expectations students and others have for us.
So we started back to school yesterday, and I will admit, I left yesterday feeling a little deflated. I wasn't able to work with teachers or students to plan lessons or activities, or do things that I get excited about. Instead I assisted others in completing their projects. I know that my assistance made their lives easier and they were able to do other things to help students. However I came home frustrated that I didn't complete tasks that I am excited about or get a sense of accomplishment from. I was having a little pity party for myself.
So I got home and saw another video by the amazing JJ Watt who started a campaign to assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey. He has raised over $20 million dollars. He started with a simple goal of I think $200,000 and has left that goal in the dust. I have a friend who lives in Houston and shared his experience during the Hurricane with the world via social media. He was fortunate to make it through the storm relatively unscathed. He lives in a neighborhood that flooded, but is on an elevated section of the neighborhood and experienced little if any flood damage to their house while others were underwater. I am thankful my friend and his family were spared the destruction that others experienced during this tragedy. What JJ Watt and all those who donated to his campaign and other organization to assist those of this and other tragedies is that we can do great things when we come together. What is amazing to me is how quickly people rallied around JJ Watt, a football player who made a simple plea to the world. He used his voice and called on others to step up and help. Now he has raised over $20 million dollars, gathered supplies to fill over 10 tractor trailers and distributed supplies to those in need.
JJ Watt shows us what 1 person is able to accomplish when we stand up and take action. This week I have found several infographic quotes that reminded me the power of being an educator. So each question is related to a quote I found, many of those on @justintarte Justin Tarte's page, or attributed to him. So thank you Justin for the inspiration this week.
This week I was asked to assist with curriculum rollout for High School Social Studies Teachers. I was excited to learn more about the curriculum focus and the ideas being shared in conversations. I think they are on the right track for presenting history to students. They have created several different courses to explore modern US history from various POV. I won't get all the names right but there is one looking at Conflict, another is Race Gender and Diversity, and there were a couple others. The idea of exploring history from various perspectives with students able to choose their path of study.
The training and conversations got me thinking about how we approach teaching and learning. There were a few things that came from those conversations. We looked at using Google Classroom and the new feature to allow students to use the video feature. Another aspect was the idea of creating collaboration groups to share ideas and support each other. On Twitter I saw some teachers jumping into the ObserveMe movement to open their classrooms up to colleagues to come in and observe them to help them improve as educators.
Tonight's topic is about a few different ideas that I have come across that I think are important to moving us forward in education. They are relatively simple ideas, but can be powerful practices that transform the learning experience for your students.
Jimmy Fallon starts, even though the Tonight Show is not political...It is his responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being. Jimmy Fallon felt compelled to address the events of Charlottesville, South Carolina that occurred this weekend.
Our classrooms are not places to present political bias either, but I believe we must address intolerance, bigotry, and violence in our society. As social studies teachers we study the events of history and the impact of actions by individuals and groups that have forever changed the shape of our world. As we study history we understand the causes of social and political conflict. We guide our students to understand that regardless of era, human behavior and the motivation for actions remain at their core, very similar no matter when they occur. We celebrate advances in the fight for equality like the Emancipation Proclamation as a watershed moment in American History. However a hundred years later we are witness to another significant moment in the quest for equality, the Civil Rights Movement. While we celebrate this event as moving us forward, it spotlights the fact that we still don't have equality. We are still fighting intolerance. In 2017 we witnessed the beginning of the movement of Black Lives Matter in response to social injustice. And this past weekend, we have Nazis, and White Supremacist groups protesting that they need to take their country back because they are now feeling like they don't have power. As educators we understand that the advancements of the past still have not led us to a society of equality for all.
We are responsible as educators to be positive role models and must take a stand against actions such as we have witnessed this weekend. As someone who taught political science and government, we debated the idea of freedoms and rights. Students debated the idea of having freedoms and whether freedoms could or should be limited. With the events of this weekend, I believe the actions began as an exercise of Freedom of Speech. The group that gathered with the Nazi and Confederate flags have the freedom to assembly, protest and the right to say what they want. While I dislike what they stand for and say, if I limit their speech, it is only a matter of time before I will see my freedom of speech limited. Now there are limits that I agree with that have been created by the supreme court through the legislative and judicial process. Someone cannot incite violence against others, or yell things like Fire or Bomb in a crowded room whereas these forms of speech could result in injury to others or to property. The events of this weekend go beyond the issue of freedom of speech as they boiled over to violence between two groups that gathered. Then it evolved into an act of domestic terrorism as a car was used as a weapon mowing down a crowd of protestors killing a young woman.
I spent the past few days reflecting on how to respond to these events. How we could address these in a chat. How do we possibly turn these events into a teaching opportunity. I am nervous about this week's chat as I am not sure I will do justice to the event or more importantly delve deep enough into the conversation to begin to transform out teaching practices to make social change. Real, lasting social change that can help us create a society that sees diversity as a strength.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.