Saturday, January 20, 2018

All The Learning

Currently, I'm reading Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker. I'm a huge fan and follow her on social media. I also read For the Love - and after following her and reading her books and listening to her podcast, I feel like she is a friend. She speaks some serious truths and makes me laugh, cry, and think.

As she was sharing in her book about her journey as an author, she mentioned how she is always learning and working on her craft. It really struck a connection with me. Years ago, I had a great leader on campus that would fill us with information and ask questions that challenged our thinking. When she moved on to another role, I was left at first very confused about who was going to feed me (information)? It was frustrating but I'm thankful for that growing pain, because it brought me to the realization that I am responsible for my own learning and I took it from there. I hope I was able to push my students to do the same and now, I was to be able to motivate our staff to want to know more as well.

I love this part of Jen's book. I even made a #BookSnap about it:


She said "The day I stop learning...I need to hang it up" and I thought YES! In this role, all roles, we are constantly learning - most often it is on the job and in the moment (especially as a parent).

Several years ago I was made aware of conferences. Previously, I thought conferences were only for administrators or the people at the top. I had no idea there were conferences for teachers. An Instructional Coach shared a few opportunities with me and I selected a few. Those truly changed my life as an educator, and even my path!

For years when my children were young they took all.of.me. Every. Day. I couldn't even think about reading anything other than Good Night, Moon or Love You Forever. However, as my children grow and gain independence, I find I have time to do things like... read!

However, always as an educator I've learned from others. I value the thoughts and knowledge of those who surround me. ALWAYS I find greater development of ideas from a group than just myself. My students have always inspired me and taught me, as well. Be an inspiration to your students and model what you expect from them each day.

I'm thankful to be in a profession that constantly challenges me. Yet, I also hope those in other roles continue to learn, as well... I hope my doctor, dentist, pastor, etc continue to read and learn and grow. I owe that to myself and to those I get to work with and especially the children I am blessed to be surrounded by.

#PassionForLearning

Wow!

That is all I can say ~ WOW! The last few months have been an amazing rollercoaster of quick decisions, celebrations, prayers, mourning, and all. the. learning. Seven months ago I had NO idea everything was going to change with my career. I was finishing up grad school with a degree in Education Technology Leadership and passed my Principal Certification. My fresh, new notebook was already filled with ideas and lists of things to do for the upcoming school year and I was pumped to get started in my second year as Instructional Coach with the Technology Team. My focus was Digital Citizenship and I was hoping to start some Genius Bars or Student Tech Groups at the elementary level. Last year was an enormous, exciting learning curve after 17 years in the classroom. I was going to really have a clue this year and do things well. ... Then, I received some phone calls and within a short amount of time I had interviewed three times and was named the new (recommended) Assistant Principal of one of our amazing elementary school. Y'all. WOW!

I was not expecting this opportunity and it absolutely thrilled me. The school, staff, students, families - all are the best! And my team - I am SO thankful.

At a recent meeting, we were asked to share how we came into administration. Of course, I mentioned the amazing leaders before me - my father, my former principals and assistant principals; not to mention those who were my boss or leaders in prior jobs. I shared how I never imagined I would leave the classroom and I was certain I'd never return to school. The older I get the more I learn we eat our own words all too often. ; ) My teaching experiences brought me here. My love for learning that was reignited by amazing leaders brought me here. Those I surround myself with, who lift me up and encourage and motivate me - brought me here. My former students and my own children - brought me here. I truly feel that all the dots (learning experiences) I've been collecting for years and years are now connecting. And I continue to learn - every. single. day.

This role is so different from what I imagined, not good nor bad, just different. Each day is a new day that is challenging, unpredictable, and amazing - all at the same time. Today I did three observations, watched chicks hatching while first graders 'oh-ed' and 'ah-ed', got a kagillion hugs, coached a student on making choices, called parents, completed online training and a test, thanked some teachers with Sonic drinks, facilitated a make-up CogAT test, walked many steps, met with our amazing specialists in three separate meetings, debriefed on our day with my leader, chatted with some teachers, and ate a HOT lunch in under ten minutes. It was glorious. I love it! This role is hard. This role is rewarding. I'm so thankful for this experience.

Was it hard to leave a role I loved for another? Yes! Of course it was. I really enjoyed my role as Instructional Coach and I have a passion for purposeful technology integration. However, I felt led to go for it. In my belly and in my heart, I knew. It was sad. I cried. I love my team from last year. I miss them very much. Yet now I see what I needed to learn in that role also contributes to what I'm doing now. After all, one of my favorite quotes from George Couros (@gcouros) is "change is the opportunity to do something amazing" and I remind myself of this every time it gets tough, and when it is awesome.

My hope is I can empower others the way others empower me. I hope I can still accomplish some of those tasks I had as a goal for this year, but they may look differently in my new role (social media interns, lunch and learn, book clubs, etc). I'm excited - I'm overwhelmed (and have struggled to blog on a timely basis) but it is all good.

Every day I see it: Teachers are working hard. Students are growing and learning and they make me smile! Families long to be connected and want what is best for their children. Communities want to encourage children to grow into outstanding citizens. It is happening.

#OneWord for 2018

Well, hello 2018! Finding my #OneWord for this year has had me pondering for several weeks. I decided to begin with my words from prior years:

balance - always a struggle to strive for equity in all areas: family, faith, friends, career, me

purpose - reminding myself daily of my WHY

2016: choose - make decisions that I feel confident about

2017: be - to be present (work at work, focus on family at home)

One lesson I've learned from using #OneWord (and also perhaps from being over 40...) is:
WORD.
This year I struggled to find THE word to focus my year. I am such a thinker and over-analyzer that I'm quite certain I have been over thinking THE word for ME. After all, it is not the only thing I will concentrate on, but I like having a word that encompasses all of MY current needs and goals.

After years of practicing one word to focus my year, this year I decided to read the book One Word That Will Change Your Life (plus I actually had the time over the holiday break - celebrate!) The book was helpful and reinforced that I've been selecting my words correctly, but reading it didn't bring my word to me. The book suggests reflecting, spending quiet time thinking, praying, being aware and open to insight into what word will best drive my year. I tried it all. I have a list: worthy, forward, joy, enjoy, peace, courage, hope - but nothing fit like a puzzle piece to me.

I kept reflecting ... recent years have been super busy and so much has happened! The last five years just of my career have each been different:
2013 - taught my tenth year in first grade, my second year in dual language
2014 - taught second grade
2015 - looped to third grade (looping is the BEST experience ever!!) and began grad school
2016 - left the classroom after 17 years and spent an amazing year as an Instructional Coach with Technology
2017 - graduated with my degree in Educational Technology Leadership plus earned my Principals Certification AND accepted an amazing opportunity to be Assistant Principal

I mean... WOW. And that does not include personal, family, house, and other gains and challenges. My boys are growing and parenting changes as your children grow (News Flash: it does NOT get easier, just different... costs, interests, activities, celebrations, and challenges) and marriage continues to evolve (celebrating 15 years). We have also been in the process of remodeling our home very slowly, focusing on one area at a time.

So, all of that to be said... finding a word to push me forward, to remind me that I am worthy of these things, to stay focused on continual growth, while also being present enough to enjoy the blessings I have... has been a challenge.

For a while I almost selected MOXIE. Partially because I finished Jen Hatmaker's book Of Mess and Moxie over the holiday break and I thought 'moxie' might fit. After all, it means "a force of character, determination, or nerve" and I really like the determination part. It made me realize that the things I've been working on and striving for are here. Right on my plate. So, now what do I do with them??

So, after much thought (and viewing 100s of other people's #OneWords) I decided I need to take ACTION. An action is "the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim". You may think: 'well, duh. Of course, you need to act on all you are working toward'. However, sometimes when time starts rolling quickly and you get caught in the whirlwind of marriage, parenting, children's athletic schedules, house care, laundry (All. The. Laundry.), work, and trying to have a social life and not lose all your friends ... AND ... eat well and exercise, while also finding time for yourself, you forget to stay focused on what you have worked so hard to achieve. So, for me, ACTION makes sense:

*ACTION in my marriage means always working toward building a positive, loving relationship that will continue thrive after our children become adults

*ACTION as a parent means being present for my children - really listen when they want to talk, drive them all.over.the.metroplex for sports and fishing and movies and friends because one day they will drive themselves, and soak up these moments and continue to create memories

*ACTION as a sister and daughter, not to neglect my parents and my sister, especially as our family really needs each other now

*ACTION as a learner, to not let the exhaustion of completing a degree turn me off of additional learning, but instead fuel me further

*ACTION as a leader, to instill a passion for learning and leading in others (students and staff) while continuing to prioritize build trusting relationships

*ACTION as a friend means to send a quick text to let someone know I'm thinking of them or call a friend for dinner or coffee (look, we are past the age of caring what our house looks like and if we are in a messy bun and jeans for dinner, THANK GOODNESS) and lean in to each other


*ACTION for myself to eat better, move more, and revisit some of those hobbies I enjoyed BC (before children) now that my boys are becoming more independent, plus focus on fueling my body with better foods and having fun when I exercise


This year for me ACTION is my word. It reminds me to implement the things I've learned and DO SOMETHING with it all.


So... I hope my reflection on 2018 will bring me great happiness by putting in to practice the things I'm learning while keeping my priorities in place!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Whole Child

This morning as I work on my final assignment for grad school (WOOHOO) my mind is spilling with thoughts, emotions, ideas, and questions. Our assignment is to first watch Sir Ken Robinson's TEDTalk "Do schools kill creativity?" then respond to a variety of questions and prompts. I find myself overflowing with what I want to say and hope that by blogging first, I can streamline these thoughts.

Several years ago our school read Sir Ken Robinson's book Creative Schools and I remember it being one of the first educational books that made me think - made me REALLY think and reflect and consider. It so happened at the same time my first child was beginning school. Listening to his words made all of these memories come flowing back and all the feels! *I must say before sharing more that in no way at all do I blame any educator for my children's experiences. As an educator, I have grown and evolved and understand how things work and I do not place blame. However, I do want to see and be part of the change that continues to push the boundaries of traditional education. I am thankful I belong to an innovative district that is constantly moving to provide new ways of learning while asking questions and encouraging learning forward.*

It is stated in the TEDTalk that 'all kids have talents and the education system squanders them' and I completely agree this is true when we only focus on academics. Sir Ken Robinson shares the story of a girl - her parents were told she may have a learning disability when in fact she was a gifted dancer! Once given the best learning environment for her needs, she was able to grow and learn and eventually create CATS! Wow!

What are we doing to ensure our children are provided all they need to be well-rounded members of society? Not later - not when they graduate, but now? Please know there are children around the world making a difference at very young ages - thanks to technology and social media, people of ALL ages make an impact. We do not need to prepare them for tomorrow as much as preparing them for today. For now.

Traditional education systems were formed to educate the masses, often preparing students for factory work or war - hence the lines of silent students walking from one place to another, or completing a set of tasks to show mastery of a concept. If you look around, few work environments function this way anymore. People collaborate, must have strong communication skills, must be able to work independently and self-motivate to complete a wide variety of tasks in multiple environments. Where are all the people walking in a line silently? I struggle to understand the reasons for some of the expectations we still hold in high regard without understanding how it is best for children.

One child I know has such a strong athletic ability. He shows exceptional control on a pitching mound, where he is still and focused and holds the entire game on his shoulders with confidence. Yet if you ask this child to read a book or write a story, he faces multiple challenges. He can appear to be impulsive and hyper, but if you really know him, he is the most caring and loving person and wants to be accepted. Another child I know is overflowing with curiosity. He wants to take things apart - not just physical items, but also ideas. He begs to gather information and question the norm. He finds no value in knowing facts, he knows he can 'ask Alexa' or Google it; so memorization holds no weight to him. He wants to program things and feel challenged. At three years old, he carried a tiny notebook around drawing ideas and writing questions; but at school, he had to put it away. These stories I have seen first hand, as these are my children.

Please, know your students. Please, ask them questions and value their answers. Know who they are and what their strengths are. Some people need to move. They feel like they can't breathe when they have to sit still and conform. Some people need to talk. They thrive on learning from others. Some people need to be alone. All of the noise, movement, action just exhausts them. Don't you know adults like this? Children are no different.

Continue to ask questions. Continue to learn forward and provide options that are in the best interests of your students. Let's continue to promote educating the whole child.

In what ways can we challenge the traditional system and evolve to value all unique strengths of students?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TCEA #Tots & Technology 2017

TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) is a great organization that promotes and supports the use of technology in education. TCEA provides a wide variety of learning opportunities, such as a statewide conference and local area conferences. TCEA also provides online learning options, including their Lunch and Learn series.

In 2015, I attended TCEA in Austin and reflected on it here. Plus, I attended TCEA Tots & Tech in Galveston and reflected on it here. This year I am thrilled TCEA Tots & Tech is in Arlington, which is very close by! Many teachers and librarians from our district are attending, which makes for great collaboration and deeper learning opportunities. Plus, it is a great time to continue to build relationships.
Some of the GCISD Educators at Tots

One of my favorite things about attending a conference is making connections with others. I've been in touch with another educator in the area for a while as she is looking to find the best next steps in her journey as an educator. We had the opportunity to meet face to face and chat today. It was great to meet the person I've been talking to on the phone and via text and email. One of the sessions today was called 'Birds of a Feather' which provided a room for same area educators to gather, connect, and collaborate. So, all first-grade teachers met in a room, etc. My group consisted of five instructional coaches. We were given questions to discuss then tweet, like a Twitter Chat. It was so nice to have time to meet others in a structured, yet flexible environment. We shared ideas, got connected on Twitter, and discussed challenges and celebrations from our year.
Our Birds of a Feather Group
There are so many opportunities for learning, and some sneak up and surprise you! While attending Miguel Guhlin's session on Blogging and Podcasting, he used me and a few others that were 'voluntold' to share our experiences with blogging in our classrooms. You know I LOVE to blog and had great experiences with my students blogging, but impromptu speaking is a HUGE fear of mine. However, I think once I got going, I shared our blogging story well. He recorded the conversation to share on Voxer, which I think elevated my anxiety; but afterward, I was pretty pumped to share more. I looked up the microphone he used on his phone and want to purchase one for recording students and teachers when I'm on campuses. It was a fun time and I will remember that presentation, for sure!
Me getting interviewed
Other topics included using QR & AR for Early Literacy (@techwnancy) with TONS of ideas and resources plus Lawsome Elementary's (@SusieTowber1 & @SeaLionLibrary) journey to "Playker" Spaces. The resources shared by other educators (blogs, books, robotics) are on my Amazon Wish List and I will share those ideas forward with others I work with. CISD Coaches shared the idea of having a 'Play Date' with teachers and admin to provide time to explore coding and robotics with support nearby as needed, making connections on how to integrate with the curriculum. Our team has InTech Coaching, which made me realize I need to be more intentional about using that time to expose others to the tools we use and learn about on a daily basis.

As silly as it sounds, another fun feature I enjoyed was TCEA provided good food and time to enjoy it with peers. By having food available, we didn't have to leave and waste time going somewhere else, plus we got to visit and enjoy time with people - building relationships and sharing ideas. In my role, I work with staff district-wide so it is wonderful to have time with others to get to know them and share ideas. Plus, it is nice to gain new ideas while hearing new ways to use tools we already love.

Be sure to check out #TCEA to see what kind of professional learning opportunities meet your needs and goals. In what ways do you enjoy learning and connecting as an educator?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

#ISTE17

WOW! Attending ISTE this year was awesome! ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education. This year it was held in San Antonio, which made it easy for me to travel to and attend. However, nothing - even the wonderful blog posts and emails prior to - helped me prepare for all that was in store.
Before I begin, I want to encourage you to attend a conference. ANY conference! In Texas, there are so many offered, it is a matter of connecting with someone to find one or more that fit your learning styles and goals. An instructional coach in our district led me to several which in turn began a new platform for learning and sharing for me.
A few of my favorite are:
*ISTE - annual conference bringing people together from around the world
*TCEA - annual conference located in Texas
*TCEA Tots & Technology - primarily focused on elementary (Pk-5) educators
*EdCamp  - an unconference where educators come together and create the agenda on site based on needs of attendees
*iPadpalooza - a learning event unlike the others focused but not limited to iPads and integrating technology
*EdTech Team GAFE Summits - conference learning how to use Google (GSuite) in education in more depth
There are many others, such as SXSWEdu and local area conferences that I enjoy. Search and find some that work for you and GO!
A helpful hint I picked up before attending ISTE was to pick a few topics of focus and stick to them. There are hundreds of options each day and over 15,000 attendees - so many choices made it hard to even know what to do, let alone where to go. So, I picked a few based on what I thought would be beneficial learning to meet my goals. Another hint I read but did not take seriously was wear comfortable shoes. I was dressed more professionally and most people were comfortable (it was super hot and humid and completely appropriate for shorts and tennis shoes). My feet had many blisters and were hurting terribly.

Students sharing how AR amplifies
their language acquisition.

Poster Sessions on all sorts of topics.
This topic is 50 PE Tech Tools!



















First, I selected several sessions on Makerspaces. In my classroom I enjoyed exploring the idea of a makerspace and it was always evolving. In my new role, I get to work alongside teachers and librarians who are introducing or evolving their makerspaces in their learning spacees. It was so beneficial to see and hear so many ideas! Pamela Howell shared the idea of Makerspace Ambassadors to create task cards, train teachers, and assist students. One of my favorite new manipulatives I spotted are www.plus-plus.us What a fun tool to use for creating and imaginative exploration! Plus, they were invented by a dad at one of the schools and I love supporting small businesses. Most of the information I gained on makerspaces was at Poster Sessions - these were set up similar to what I would think of as like a Science Fair. Educators would set up with resources and share their ideas. Some included students, which was also a huge favorite of mine! I was able to hear Colleen Graves, who is an amazing educator that I've followed for years, speak on her experiences with makerspaces. All the information - so excited to share!













My second focus was on Tech Teams. As a classroom teacher, I (along with many others) had a Tech Team in the classroom that consisted of students rotating in roles to help support others with their technology. This may include a tech issue or how to use an app for learning purposes. It also often included charging devices and setting them up before we were 1:1 in the classroom. A hope I have in my current role is to begin a few Tech Teams at the elementary level. I was able to visit with many students at Poster Sessions about their roles on a Tech Team. I loved the ideas from Jennifer Casa-Todd @JCasaTodd on having roles that include social media and public relations on the Tech Team. I gained so many tidbits of ideas, like being sure to have a team that is inspiring students to solve problems and promote healthy digital use.












With all the information coming in (there is SO much I'm not including in this post) I felt most moved by the learning I gained regarding Digital Citizenship. At the time, the grad school class I was in was Digital Citizenship, so I already had it on my mind. Plus, our district is working to become Common Sense Media Certified for Digital Citizenship and our team is providing resources and support to students, staff, schools, and community. It is a big goal of mine, but even more so now. I had also just ordered Jennifer Casa-Todd's book Social LEADia the week prior to ISTE after learning about it on Twitter. When I figured out she was presenting, I HAD to go - and meet her! (I did.) Her presentation was amazing. It really made me think. I need to write an entire post on Digital Citizenship soon, but this topic was fueled for me at ISTE. One piece in particular that made an impact on me was at the IGNITE Smackdown by Keegan Korf @OPSMrsKorf She discussed how often we shame students/children into FEAR from their mistakes made on social media, that they do not understand that they can recover from mistakes and trust adults to help them. Instead they often feel alone and ashamed, that they have no future if they do make a mistake or if something hurtful is posted about them. This five minute speech really got to me. How do we support students to see the positive? How do we support students to recover from mistakes? @jdayedu suggested we ensure students know that we are there for them and 'when in doubt, talk it out' but we have to listen and act. As Jennifer Casa-Todd mentioned, it takes more than hanging some 'THINK' posters around campus. As I stated before, more to come on this topic. Another post, another day.



WOW! That barely scratches the surface on my #ISTE17 experience. Y'all, there was so much more!! I was fortunate to meet so many people I connect with on Twitter and Instagram IRL (in real life) A few I met were @TaraMartinEDU @MrsGadtke @jess_malloy @JCasaTodd and SO many others. I got to work as a Seesaw Ambassador in the @Seesaw booth in the EXPO for an hour and loved sharing Seesaw with others. The EXPO!! Oh my - this is where I connected with so many vendors and tools that I use and share with others. It was great to chat and give feedback on how we use these tools in classrooms to amplify learning. I was able to learn from @AliceKeeler @jmattmiller @KleinErin @lhighfill - right there in the EXPO! I met a few educators, too - yes, this shy, introverted person felt brave and met some new people to learn with. I also met a few of my LAMAR professors and one of my online peers IRL.
Meeting @TaraMartinEDU and @MrsGadtke
at the @Seesaw Booth
@lhighfill


@jmattmiller PLUS got a book!

@AliceKeeler


My LAMAR professor and peer.

Remember to take time to digest all the information and reflect. Getting away for a conference is also a great time to build community with your team and peers. Meet for lunch, chat about your learning, CONNECT THE DOTS. It's ok to have fun!
See the sites!
Remember the Alamo!
Take time to reflect and
digest ALL the learning.














ISTE was amazing and overwhelming, but I left overflowing with ideas to share and implement. Have you attended a beneficial learning opportunity lately? What is one of your new tidbits of learning to share?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blogging Buddies

One of my favorite things to do is reflect. Ideally, it is by the pool soaking up sun or watching the waves in the lake, but realistically I do not have those opportunities often. I do like to think about what I've done and consider what the celebrations are plus how I will face similar challenges next time. I was probably the kid took it literally when my mom or sitter said 'Now go think about what you've done!' after I got in trouble. Recently I completed an assessment on my leadership skills and one area that stuck with me was that I tend to over analyze my failures and it recommended I should also celebrate my successes. As someone who is more on the introverted side as a communicator, I enjoy blogging as an outlet to share my learning.

I began my blog a few years ago to model for my students the benefits of reflecting. If I was going to expect my students to do it, I would do it myself, as well. I really love to blog, however over the last 15 months I have not dedicated much time to it. My #OneWord this year is 'Be' since I am juggling (as many people are) many things at once - new schools for my boys, new job, grad school, kids in sports, friends, family, ME - that I need to refocus and BE present which means, for now, my blog may be quiet, but only for a few more weeks because I graduate in August! Woohoo!! ALL of that to say (in a super long sentence), I recently read about Blogging Buddies in my ISTE Ed Tech Coaches communication and thought THIS will get me back into blogging with intention, plus it will grow my PLN and continue to connect me with others to learn along with!

What are Blogging Buddies? Blogging Buddies is an opportunity for ed tech coaches to connect, network, and learn together through blogging. We have this platform to provide feedback among each other to promote growth and reflection. We will blog at a minimum of once a month and provide feedback on each other's blog posts while practicing good digital citizenship. Interested? Sign up at bit.ly/joinetbloggingbuddies and join us!


Joining this group has reignited my passion for blogging. I may start off slowly but I am looking forward to making new connections and learning together with my group! Check out my buddies and follow them, too:

Penny Christensen @Pen63

Michele Bond @MrsBond

JP Prezzavento @JPPrezz

Tara Waudby @TaraWaudby

Plus check out #ETCoaches to grow your PLN, too!

How do you reflect and share your learning?