Sunday, July 26, 2015

Taking Action

My previous school is an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme School.  (To read more, click HERE.)  One of my favorite components of PYP is the action piece.  Through each of the six inquiry-based units, students were challenged to take action based on what they learned.

Action based on what they learned.

That was a tricky concept for the kids, and a hard thing for me, too, because I didn't want to "give" them the action ideas.  That wouldn't have been organic learning.  Now, granted, these were 8-9-10 year olds, but just because they're young doesn't mean they can't do great things in the world.  It's just a bit challenging, at times, to get them to see that, and more specifically, see how to connect their learning to taking action.

Three boxes of Rice Chex = 15 LOCAL meals!
I so think that everyone is capable of making a difference, of taking action, small or large, no matter their age.  And while this doesn't necessarily connect to a specific learning, it certainly could.  General Mills has teamed up with Feeding America to Outnumber Hunger.  All of April and May 2015, boxes of GM cereal were printed with a special code on the box.  If you take that code and enter it on the Outnumber Hunger site, five meals are secured for a local food bank.  Five meals, just by entering the code on a box of cereal that you buy anyway.  Yet, that box, that small action, can provide five meals to your community's needy.

My FAV poster from FreeSpirit, based
on 26 BIG Things Small Hands Can Do
That's where I struggle keeping my mouth shut.  There are SO many little opportunities like this, from FreeRice, where each correct answer on the quiz donates grains of rice, to the "click to save" sites like The Rainforest Site, where literally, visiting and clicking each day, helps raise money and awareness to save the rainforest from destruction.  The balance between giving kids the action ideas, and showing them where they can find action ideas, not an easy one.  The connection part, while easy for me as a teacher to connect just about anything to our learning, not an easy one either.

But while challenging, it's worth it.

Taking action, no matter how big or small, is a fulfilling, empowering part of life, one that we can't instill in children early enough....

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Yes.  Yes.  YES.
Life isn't like those strangely sized garments that have a "one size fits all" label sewn in the back.  Neither is the world of education.  Let's remember that, k?

I know, I'm likely preaching to the choir here.  Probably those of you that read this blog already "get" education and where it is.  And most of you probably aren't thrilled. 

 It's like that standard discussion that we have on a fairly regular basis -- we are expected to differentiate (remember that buzz word?) instruction for our students, yet as teachers, our professional development is standardized?  The tests our students are required to take are standardized?  The students that come to us are far from standardized, yet they're expected to succeed on the same standards, the same assessments, in the same time frame?  Where in the world is that even possible?

I'm glad that we have educators like Ken Robinson and Ron Ritchhart and Pernille Ripp and Will Richardson and Tony Vincent and Nicholas Provenzano and Kevin Honeycutt and SO many others that I could mention.  It's people like them, people like US, that are going to make sure we keep kids at the forefront of education.  Each and every child, and all their differences, everyone can learn.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

It's Elemental

I love reading books that are littered with quotes like this.  It makes me feel like I'm on a treasure hunt, and there are gems buried everywhere I look.  This one though?  Super timely for me.

The idea of finding your passion, of being in your element, it's what convinced me that it was time to consider a change.  I've loved my 13 years in the classroom.  I love meeting a new group of kids every September, and crying when we part in June.  I love setting up my room each fall, clean and shiny desks, awaiting eager little brains.  I love watching the light bulbs go off as dendrites are built.

Mostly, though, I love watching kids do things they never thought they'd be able to, things they never knew were even possible.  Most of the time, this involved technology, an element in which I love using to connect with kids.  I love using technology to light up little brains.  Figuratively, of course - no electrodes touching any heads in my room! (arms and legs?  That's a different story, thanks to the MaKeyMaKey, of course!)

So when the opportunity came for me to transition out of the classroom, and into a position that revolves around using technology to help turn on light bulbs for a whole school?  I couldn't pass it up.  And I am SO excited.  I love walking into my new school, the energy is unlike any other I've been to.  I mean, it's hard not to get excited when you enter a building, a school community, that has devoted time, energy, resources, and funding to "inspire a passion for learning... in a warm, innovative, and engaging environment" for all members of the community - teachers and students alike.

They don't just talk the talk - saying they incorporate technology as a tool in all learning areas.  They walk the walk.  They do whatever it takes to support learning in all areas, from providing laptops and iPads to students and teachers, to scheduling time in the innovation hub, to providing recess for ALL (yes, even 6th - 8th grade) students because it's the right thing to do for kids.

Walking into this school, I am in my element.  The passion is palpable.  And I so LOVE what I'm doing!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Reading

I love summer time because I actually have time to read.  Or, I should actually rephrase that.  I have more success making time to read in the summer than during the school year.  Ironically, a good chunk of my summer reading is always school related, and this summer is no different!

I have two books that are required reading for school - and while I read one of them, the second one was new to me.  Mindset, by Carol Dweck, is a book I read a few years ago during my time in Galileo.  It.  Is.  Fabulous.  A true must read for anyone and everyone, even if you're not in education!

The second required book is Creative Schools, by Sir Ken Robinson.  Wow.  I love reading books that both support my perspective and challenge my thinking at the same time.  At this point, I'm seven chapters in and have gathered so many tidbits it's hard to keep track of them.  I am so inspired by the stories shared thus far, as they show that even in the least likely of situations and circumstances, schools, teachers, and most importantly, students CAN and DO succeed.  In a time like this, where education is spending more time under the bus than students spend on the bus, this kind of reading should be required for anyone who has their hand in the ed pool, teachers, politicians, and anyone who makes decisions that impact education!  I'll share more when I've finished.

The second book I'm reading right now (which is actually unusual for me to be reading two books at once!) goes right along with Creative Schools.  I downloaded Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger to my kindle app right after school ended.  I think part of why I'm actually reading two books at the same time is because they compliment each other SO well.  I'm only three chapters into Digital Leadership, and am so intrigued by the concepts Sheninger shares.  The book is actually more than a year old, but the way it's written isn't time bound by specific technologies.  Instead, it's focusing more on the mindset shift required to bring creative use of digital tools into learning.  Talk about connections!

I leave you with a few quotes from the two books pictured above....
"One mistake has been an overzealous attitude toward technological innovation leading to the undervaluing of existing educational practices." -- Eric Sheninger, Digital Leadership
This quote struck me because it provides extra underlines and exclamation points to a concept already swimming through schools - the fact that it's the TEACHERS that make the experience, not the technology.  Good teaching is about the RELATIONSHIP between students and teachers, not about the tools used.  That's why I think this book will remain relevant for a while.
"...the heart of education is the relationship between the student and the teacher.  Everything else depends on how productive and successful that relationship is."
Yup.  Yes.  And absolutely.  Relationships are key to so much in the world, especially in education.   I can't think of a situation, anywhere, that wasn't enhanced by a positive relationship.  From my doctors to the server at my favorite restaurant, relationships are forged over time, making the experiences that much better.