Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Help Wanted!

So, I have spent most of my week chatting with my students and my Voxer buddies about how to best find outside experts for our Genius Hour projects.  As an elementary teacher, it is very time consuming to search for an outside expert for every single project.   Outside of school, it is next to impossible for me to spend my time calling, emailing, and tweeting people that may or may not respond to our requests.

As I have talked with others and played around with different ideas, I think I finally stumbled across what will work for me and my students.  Today I created a Padlet board titled Help Wanted.  We made it look like a bulletin board and posted our requests.  I did not include student names, just project titles and descriptions of what they needed in an outside expert.

After we wrote the posting, I created a Google Form for our experts to fill out.  They simply click the project that they are interested in and fill out the form.  I used notification rules in Google Forms to set it up to email me each time the form is completed.  This way, I don't have to remember to always go check for responses (because I won't).  As experts make a connection and submit the form, I will just receive a notification in my email inbox.  How awesome is that?!

I then clicked Modify This Padlet and Address.  I changed the address to one that would be easy to remember and share out on social media.  After doing so, I shared on Twitter, Remind, Google +, and even emailed the link to our entire district.

I immediately began to hear back from people in our district that knew someone that could fill some of these roles.  As the board continues to be shared on Twitter and Google +, I expect to hear back from several experts that are willing to help.

As a community, we have several parents and community members that are always willing to help.  I plan to create QR codes that link to our Padlet board and place them around the school and maybe even local businesses.  This way, community members will have easy access to the projects and may be inspired to serve as an outside expert for my students.

I am so excited about our Help Wanted board and hope it helps us find the experts we need to make meaningful connections to our learning.  I know it will save me so much time to have a central location and single response form for the experts that are interested in helping us out.
Sunday, February 7, 2016

Classroom Conversations

I've been thinking a lot lately about my students and what I can do to help them realize their worth, their capabilities, and their strengths.  I want them to leave my classroom knowing that I thought that they could tackle any problem.  When they leave elementary, I want it to be with the courage to do amazing things because they have been encouraged to see themselves as nothing less than amazing.

As an educator, I definitely have days when this is not the case.  I get frustrated, tired, and even discouraged at times.  I wonder if they understand why we do the things we do.  I wonder if they grasp the reality of the impact that they can potentially make.

This morning, our pastor was sharing about the impact we have on others and spoke about something that he does every year.  He said that he makes two list titled "What Others Think About Me" and "What I Want Them to Think About Me".  He then looks at the differences and spends time thinking about those differences on the lists.  He responds by writing how he can change their perception.  What can he do for them to make an impact, help them see him for who he wants to be, and really make a difference?  

This afternoon, I began to think about my students and how such an activity could help me become a better teacher and have a greater impact on my students.  In doing so, I realized that making this list would be a wonderful start.   So, this week, I will ask my students, "What do you think about our class and how things are going?"  I will listen and reflect as they share.  I don't want to respond with excuses or justification with the things that they think I should change.  I just want to hear them.  

After I have reflected on their responses, I will make a list of "What I Want My Students to Think About Our Class".  Then I will compare the two lists and determine how I can make changes to ensure that my students are seeing the me that I want them to see.  I don't want to assume that I am doing what I need to do to help them succeed, I want to hear it from them.

In an effort to give our students control of their learning, it is so important that we, as teachers, are willing to learn from them.  We need to take time to really listen to their voices and then react with intention and purpose.  We may not be able to take every suggestion and make every single change that they suggest but if they see the classroom as "ours" instead of "mine", they will begin to take ownership of their learning.  

So, if anyone wants to join me in having this conversation this week in the classroom, please do!  I will write again before the end of the week to share my lists and the changes that I will make as a result of the conversations that we have.  I will use the simple chart below to document our conversation.  

Feel free to do the same and share with me on Twitter.  I would love to see how both teachers and students respond to the conversation.

Have a wonderful week and be the teacher that your students deserve!  

Friday, February 5, 2016

TCEA Reflection

Wow!  TCEA was such a great experience and I am still reeling from all of the wonderful things that I learned and the wonderful people that I met this week.

This year, I was able to attend TCEA on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I went with one of our amazing science/social teachers, Desiree Toombs. While I would have loved to stay all week, this was just enough time to attend several sessions and meet lots of new people.

On Tuesday, I was able to present with an amazing group of girls including Jaime Donally, Fran Siracusa, Kari Espin, Lisa Monthie, Cassie Reeder, and Deb Atchison.  I was so surprised to find out that Fran was calling in from Clearwater to share during the session as I had met her at LaunchMe with Brad Waid back in October.  It was so fun to realize that connection and be able to say hello again.  I also had a blast sharing laughs (as usual) with Kari and Lisa. Jaime did an amazing job sharing Live Video Streaming and we played a fun game with puzzle pieces that gave everyone a chance to experience the different tools that we were sharing.

I also stopped by the TCEA Radio Booth to say hello to my sweet friend Christy Cate who was amazing all week.  She did such a great job keeping us updated and interviewing so many people throughout the conference.  She is one of the sweetest, friendliest people that I know and I can't wait to hang out with her when I visit Region 14 in Abilene this summer!

Wednesday morning, I was lucky enough to present Genius Hour with Don Wettrick.  Don has played such a huge role in changing my mindset.  After meeting him and learning from him over the last two years, my mindset and reasons for teaching have completely changed.  I no longer see my classroom as my own but instead see it as a space for my students innovate, create, and learn based on their passions.  I understand that my students deserve time in their school day to make connections and learn about things that are important to them.  Presenting with Don was such an awesome experience and one that I will remember for a very long time.  

Then it was lunch time with one my favorite GT educators, Terri Eichholz.  I love her blog, Engage Their Minds, and I learn so much from her on Twitter!  We were able to catch up, share some laughs, and hang out.  Her passion for doing what is best for students is so contagious and I absolutely love chatting with her every chance that I get.

After several great sessions that afternoon, it was time for some relaxation with great friends.  I am such a fan of so many of the educators from Weatherford ISD.  I absolutely adore Amanda Rogers, Shelly Stout, Jacqueline Rose, and the rest of their crew! They are so passionate about giving their students opportunities to be innovative and creative.  It seems they always have something new to share and contribute.  We chatted over dinner and came up with some amazing ways for our students to collaborate and connect.  The AMAZING Jaime Donally joined us and kept us laughing.  She is so full of energy, passion, and ideas.  I am so thankful that we connected as I learn so much from her every time we are together.

Wednesday evening, we joined the #gueri11aed and #txeduchat for a Tweetup.   All I can say that is Region 11 rocks!  How could it not with amazing people like Charles Cooper, Tom Kilgore, and Tracie Cain?  They are doing amazing things and I am so excited for Elementary Con in June!  I feel like I already knew Tom Kilgore but we were able to meet face to face and share more about what we do in education.  Such a great time connecting and collaborating with some of the very best!   Cassie Reeder and I chatted about Genius Hour and I can't wait to hear the amazing things that happen as she introduces it to her students.

I started Thursday morning with the hilarious Laura Kile.  I met her when I presented in Midland last summer and we became fast friends.  She always makes me laugh and has such an amazing personality.  Being able to run into her and then spend time catching up was such a treat!

After my presentation on Thursday, it was time to say goodbye.  I had made so many connections and was reminded of why my PLN is so important to me.  They are the ones that keep me going, encourage me to do things that are WAY outside of my comfort zone, and give me the courage that I need to be real about what is best for my students.  I don't know that they will ever know the impact that they have on my classroom each day but I am better because of their awesomeness!

So, until next year...