It is hard to believe the my journey with SSTLAP began 5 years ago. I began this journey after connecting with Reuben Hoffman who taught with Dave Burgess. Reuben shared his sociology materials, lessons, activities, tests, presentations, everything. He then suggested that I read the book Teach Like A Pirate, connect with Dave Burgess on Twitter and find #TLAP. My initial reaction was thanks, but Twitter is just celebrities trying to break the internet, and I can't keep up with the Kardashians, nor do I want to. But I did all of those things anyway.
So I joined Twitter and found #TLAP, and through trial and error figured out what # were all about. I got into #TLAP chat, in what I think was was during a book study session. They were talking about the book and it peaked my interest, so I came back again, and more ideas from the book, so I eventually bought the book. After reading the book and joining the chats I was hooked. I loved the chats, the ideas, but also felt overwhelmed by the speed of the chats and that they were general, and not connecting directly to my subject area of social studies.
I embarked on my journey of implementing TLAP ideas in my class that year, but still felt like I needed more specifics to my content. Ryan McLane did a chat using SSTLAP that was I believe connect to social studies that first summer. I participated and then went back to TLAP. Time went by and I was still longing for ideas on how to connect TLAP to Social Studies. I eventually reached out to Ryan and asked about SSTLAP. He gave me the green light to get it going and 5 years later here we are.
As I reflect on my time with SSTLAP I have seen the evolution of the chat. It honestly started as a way for me to gain ideas and resources for my classroom and students. I created topics often, hours or minutes prior to the chat beginning, that were inspired by my immediate needs or something that sparked an interest. The first chats were created with simple typed questions and would eventual evolve into the picture questions that everyone has come to expect. Along the way we have tried some new things like video questions made with a variety of tech tools in an attempt to share what is possible. We dabbled in video responses including Flipgrid, and even tried a Google Hangout chat.
SSTLAP has always been a source of inspiration. When I participate in the conversation I was energized for Friday and couldn't wait for the weekend to begin planning how I would implement the ideas I had learned during the chat Thursday night. SSTLAP not only filled my bucket in terms of learning and inspiration of new ideas, it has provided me a ton of connections and relationships with the most amazing, passionate, and caring educators. As I have gone through the journey of SSTLAP these past few years, I have seen educators come and go, and some have been constant. With each encounter, and conversation, I have been strengthened as both an educator and a person. For that I am eternally thankful.
This year marks the beginning of my fifth year as a tech integrator. That means that I have been out of the classroom for four years already. The past two years I have been working on my admin license and was able to complete that this past June. While working on this, and a shift in teaching roles has pushed my learning focus away from the original mission of SSTLAP. When I started the chat I wanted to always be about connecting TLAP and all best practices to make teaching social studies the best experience for teachers and students. As I continue on my own learning path I have found it more difficult to stay true to that original mission.
What I have come to realize is that I am no longer the best person to lead SSTLAP. I have been struggling to create topics that I feel meet the vision of SSTLAP. I haven't stayed true to a focus on social studies, but worked on topics that were either of interest to me in my learning, or when trying to return to reconnect, I wasn't finding the same payout. I realize this wasn't because of lack of awesome people and ideas, but rather, since I was out of the classroom, I couldn't put those ideas to use immediately. This has been my struggle of late. I haven't felt that I have been leading SSTLAP down a path that benefits you. I haven't found a way to make it connect to the incredible group of educators that are the foundation of SSTLAP.
As I struggle with the finality of sharing this post and what that means for me I know SSTLAP was never about me. The success of SSTLAP has always been derived from the fact that there have been amazing educators who show up each week, engage in conversation and inspire each other. As I have often said, I was just the guy who came up with 8 questions each week. The real testament of a good chat is whether or not people show up and what great ideas come out of the conversation, and with SSTLAP we were fortunate to have an amazing PLN carry the load.
While I am stepping away from leading SSTLAP, I am filled with hope. Hope that people will step up and take over as the next leader of SSTLAP. I have hope because I have seen this awesome group jump in whenever asked, and this summer jump in even when not asked just to keep the conversation going. I don't know if SSTLAP will remain a Twitter chat, become a Voxer Group, or just continue to be a place to share #eduwins and great ideas. I am hopeful that one of the amazing educators that have been part of SSTLAP throughout the years will step up. Maybe it becomes a group, or an open call for anyone who submit a topic and take a week to get their ideas or questions answered.
As I am wrapping this up, I will share that I had spent a hour or so writing this post earlier today and had what I thought was a really good representation of what SSTLAP has meant to me over the years. However, when I clicked post, something went wrong and it didn't save the post. I lost everything. So this is a cheap facsimile of my earlier post.
This is the part where I am supposed to share something profound, but that isn't me. Instead I will simply say, Thank You! Thank you for supporting my efforts throughout the years. There have been people who have been regulars, some who have been part of the group for awhile and left, some who discovered SSTLAP for a week or two. All of you have made a difference in my life and the lives of every teacher you have engaged with and their students as a result of planting a seed of inspiration with them. I thank each and everyone who has shared an idea, and those who have taken the inspiration they have received from this group and made your students' experiences better.
For anyone interested in leading a chat, a week, or working with a group to steer the ship, please let me know. I would love to assist in keeping SSTLAP alive and thriving. I plan on participating in the chat, I just need to step away from the responsibilities of leading each week. No matter what happens, I will continue to learn and share with my PLN and am just a Tweet away. - @Braz74
Last week I wrote a post about Daniel Pink's book Drive. In the book he spends a significant time discussing FLOW. Here is the link to the post. Flow is the aspects of life that bring us satisfaction or those things that invigorate us and bring us to our happy place. This week we are going to explore FLOW.
It is hard to believe that it has been five years since this journey has begun. The journey of #SSTLAP. I learned about TLAP and Dave Burgess through an online encounter with Reuben Hoffman who used to taught with Dave. Reuben shared his Sociology materials with me and then pushed me to get on Twitter and read Teach Like a Pirate. I did all of those things and then got hooked! I am a huge fan of Dave's work, and have enjoyed seeing so many other educators share their vision and passion for education with their own books, chats, and educational events.
I was so inspired by the message of TLAP, and honestly looking for help in making it a reality in my own classroom, that I embarked on the journey of SSTLAP. My vision for the chat was simple, to discuss how the ideas of TLAP could be embodied in a social studies classroom. The chat grew out of my desire to find answers to my own questions and needs. Most of the early chats were written hours and sometimes minutes before the chat took place. Those chats were representative of things that were happening in my classroom. As a result, I was able to take great ideas from the amazing educators who joined and use them in my own classroom the next days or weeks.
The early days of SSTLAP were fast and furious and invigorating. I was amazed at how positive the conversation was, and how creative and willing to share members of my ever growing PLN were. I left each chat excited about what I was going to do on Friday and the planning this would lead to during the weekend.
The chat has evolved over time. It started with the typed questions, then became pictures that we have all come to expect of chats. There have been those experimental sessions where I used videos as questions, or asked participants to respond with video. We tried using Flipgrid and even a Google Hangout. I enjoyed the learning that accompanied the creation of these chat sessions. I appreciate everyone's willingness to try something new.
As I look back on five years of hosting the chat, I experienced so many amazing conversations, positive energy, and have been inspired by all those who participated and shared their ideas. The dialogue has enriched me as a teacher, but more importantly as a person.
I am about to embark on my fifth year as a technology integrator, which means I have been out of the social studies classroom for four years already. While social studies is an area of passion, I have found myself not being true to the vision of SSTLAP. I have seen the shift from Social Studies to other areas, especially technology. I have seen participants come and go, and always wonder if I was meeting the needs of those who decided they were willing to give up their time that night, or each week to be a part of the conversation. I spent the last two years working on my administrator license and completed the program in June. I have felt my passion for the chat waning. I have struggled to find a way to make it relevant and engaging to others, partly because I was struggling to create topics that fit the original vision that would also provide me with new learning.
In the end I don't think that I am the best person to lead SSTLAP. I love what the conversation has provided me, but I also know that it isn't about me, it is about the group and what is best for them. I want the chat to be lead by passionate social studies teachers like so many that show up here on a regular basis. I started naming people but know if I did that I would run out of room in this post as it would be pages upon pages of names from my amazing PLN.
I appreciate what SSTLAP has done for me. It has shaped me as an educator, provided me with confidence to try new things, and most importantly allowed me to cultivate important relationships with other passionate educators.
My hope is that a group of SSTLAP teachers will want to share the responsibilities of leading the chat and it will continue to be a place where the message of TLAP comes alive in Social Studies.
As I prepare to share this post and struggle with the finality of it, I have hope that others will keep SSTLAP moving forward. It may be a Twitter Chat, or a Voxer Group, or just a # where the magic of the classroom is shared. I have hope because this summer there were awesome teachers who stepped up and led chats. I am filled with hope because I know there are those out there who have experienced the magic of SSTLAP chats and been inspired just like I have been, and they want to continue the journey.
I still want to be a part of SSTLAP, I just am stepping away from creating the questions each week. I am looking for someone or a few someones to take over steering the ship each week.
If you are interested, please let me know. I would love to work together to set up a rotation of people, or a way for other members to submit a topic and volunteer for a week. I have always wanted this to be about the group, and I see no better way than to open the doors and invite everyone who participates in SSTLAP to have the opportunity to host a chat.
I was hoping to end with something profound but that wouldn't be me. Instead I will simply say Thank You! Thank you for supporting me for the past five years in my learning journey. As I have often said, I was just the guy who came up with eight questions, it was all those who shared their amazing responses who were the geniuses behind SSTLAP. So Thank you, and please keep in touch. I will always be just one Tweet away - @Braz74
Violence, unfortunately, is nothing new in the world, and especially in America. One thing I think may be changing is our view on violence. The nation mourned as we bare witness to the school shooting at Columbine. We were confused and unsure of the how and why after the Virginia Tech shooting. Then Sandy Hook Elementary happened, and while some vowed Never Again, others said now is not the time to discuss guns. Each time we heard it is a time for thoughts and prayers. Unfortunately, thoughts and prayers didn't bring about the end to school Violence. So we find ourselves in what is becoming a familiar place, the aftermath of another act of senseless violence against children. This time, however, the children are demanding change. They are spearheading a movement to not only bring attention to the issue, but to demand action. They are doing what the adults have neglected to do for too long and that is take a stand, and take action to make their demands a reality.
This group of courageous young people are using their first amendment rights to shine a light on the failings of our elected leaders, and other adults in our society to protect them. They are attacking the inaction, the apathy these adults have shown to making sure our children, our young people can attend school and be safe. They are using their voice to call out those who have failed them and all children in this country.
If you have been following this movement, you see the courage of these young people, but you also see the dark side of any push back against the status quo. You have some of the adults in the room, especially elected officials whose job it is to represent and protect all citizens of this country acting like infants. I don't use the world child because the children in this movement are through their actions, and words representing our nation in such a positive manner that I don't want to tarnish them. The adults are acting like infants as they attack these young people. They attack them for the way they look, dress, or for being an immigrant. They attack the movement as being anti-second amendment, when the conversation is so much more than guns. They show how out of touch they are by telling students to stop protesting and learn CPR. They provide classrooms with buckets of rocks. They want to arm teachers, as the idea of more guns in schools is the answer. It is not!
The young people and all those who have joined the movement across the country are helping move the dialogue from thoughts and prayers to a discussion of action. It is still early, but it is my hope that the outrage by our children, will force the adults in Washington and the rest of America to sit down and really discuss the issue and come up with a viable plan to protect our students. We must encourage our students to stand up for what they believe in to fight injustice and make this world better for all of us. While we give them the tools to find their voice, we must join their cause and make sure school shootings never happen again!
This week I attended the WCSS, Wisconsin Council for Social Studies in Madison. It was a great conference filled with young and veteran educators exchanging ideas and connecting. I was fortunate to get to hang out with amazing educators, including Chuck Taft and Michael Matera. These two are incredibly talented, creative and most of all passionate about education and kids. Each time I get to connect with them I am filled with energy and inspiration.
I was also fortunate to hang out with Erin Patchak who is an incredible middle school teacher and an Ambassador for National History Day. Between sessions she and I were talking and she shared that she was working on a Presidential March Madness project for her students. I shared that I had done a similar project a few years ago. As we were talking through the activity, she mentioned that she was struggling to find a bracket that you could enter the names in and edit it beyond the first round. So many allow you to enter the information in for your first round teams and then you have to print the bracket and record the subsequent rounds by hand. I started to search for an alternative and found an example made in Excel. It didn't do what I wanted, but it provided the inspiration to create my own version.
I worked Sunday and Monday during the conference when I had some free time to fine tune the bracket so that teachers would have a template that would meet multiple needs. I created a sheet that can be used for multiple bracket configurations. You can do an 8, 16, 32, 44, and 64 team bracket. To use you go to the Team Names tab and enter the names of the teams in column B. These names will then populate each of the various brackets. If you want to use the 32 team bracket, you need to enter 32 team names. You can delete the names in column B for 33 to 64. The same is true for each of the other brackets. Only enter the number of teams, people, topics that you want to use.
If you want to use images instead, you can add the url of the image in column C on the Team Names page. This will put images into the brackets just like the names. I put examples of numbers and images to show that you can use numbers to outline the seeds for your tourney, or you could even use the team logo instead of team names as you move through the bracket.
When you click on the brackets there are additional directions to help you set up the brackets.
I am including the link to the Team Bracket Tourney. Please let me know if you use it and what you think. I appreciate your feedback and how you used it with students.
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and the list goes on. And unfortunately the list goes on. We say never again, and yet just weeks ago we witnessed another tragic loss of life. Each time the typical response from our elected officials is "Thoughts and Prayers" or it isn't time to talk about guns, or it's a mental health issue. Each time the difficult conversation that would lead to change never happens.
This time a group of young people have said enough is enough. They have begun to mobilize and call for action, no they have begun to demand action. Unfortunately, some who are afraid of engaging in the conversation attack these students instead of hearing them and try to change the narrative or distract us from solving the problem.
I am seeing a different response to school violence than I have seen in the past. Maybe, hopefully we engage in conversation that results in real action, real change and ends school violence. I have children of my own and knowing they have to do ALICE and active shooter drills. That they have to think about what they would do in those situations, or hearing people talk about adding more guns to schools, Tonight I want to engage in conversation about what we can do to prevent these events from happening. How many children have to lose their lives before we say enough?
In case you missed it, the Winter Olympics has been showcasing the best athletes in the world. I am a huge fan of the Winter Olympics because of the unique events. I mean you have a huge range of events, most I can't do. I tried downhill skiing once and left with a badly sprained ankle. #neveragain And the halfpipe where they contort themselves and complete insane tricks is even more amazing as it calls for not just ability but a little insanity that you would fly out of a halfpipe of snow that is 22 feet high and propel yourself another 14-17 feet higher revolving and flipping before coming landing on a curved wall of the pipe to do it another 5 times before your run is done. Then there are all the games on ice. Well most of them are again mind boggling to me. Ice skating, speed skating and hockey take talent to be able to run and jump while on the ice. It is inspiring to watch the figure skaters leap in the air, much like the snow boarders flying through the air with reckless abandon.
The one event that I could remotely have a chance at participating it is Curling. I have gone curling. And while I only did it once, I didn't leave with any injuries. I don't want to portray curling as easy, as my experience demonstrated to me that there is a lot of skill involved. However seeing people of all ages participate in curling provides hope that this could be an activity that I do participate in for years. While I don't have delusions of grandeur that I would be an Olympic athlete, I love the fact that the winter Olympics has such a variety of events that inspire people to get up and move even when temperatures fall.
One great example of this was the Men's Cross Country event where one of the athlete's fell down after getting tangled with a group in the front of the race only 150 meters into the race. He fell, was hit in the head and had another athlete fall on top of him. This athlete upon getting back on his feet found himself at the end of the pack, in last place. The question for him at this point is what to do next? He could have given up. I am sure he was hurting from the blow to the head and the rest of the fall. He could have given into the pain and disappointment. He didn't chose to give up, instead he decided that he came to the Olympics to do his best. As the race went on the announcers discussed the leaders, strategy, and the back and forth action of the lead group trading places in the front. The race continued with little notice of the racers who fell so long ago. It wasn't until the final leg of the race that this determined individual was able to catch the lead pack. Then incredibly he was able to move up to the front of the pack, but even more amazing was that he broke away from the pack and was able to win by a sizable margin.
The Olympics has been an inspiration experience for me and the basis of this week's chat.
Check out the questions here.