#LessonCrashers

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Who are we?

In mid-August I joined my district’s Instructional Technology(IT) Team.  There are five other coaches, an assistant director and director.  Between the 8 of us we support 3 High Schools, 5 Middle Schools, 17 Elementary Schools, support programs, curriculum and central administration. Numbers-wise that is 19,000+ students and the staff that facilitate student learning.

Our team is in many ways still in its infancy.  Forging an identity, both individually and as a team, seemed a natural and important step.  What I am realizing now is HOW important the identity we were giving ourselves and our team was.

We are a creative bunch of IT coaches.  It is amazing how we complement each other and our individual strengths truly make the team the best instructional team in the district.  But this didn’t just happen because we are individually amazing.  We had a vision, a focus and a goal.  Our intent was to change the perception of what we are to teachers and students and begin establishing our role in relationship to sound quality instruction.

How did this happen? 

Through the process of our roll out #LessonCrashers.

Here is the sequence of events:

1.  Collective brainstorming.  What would happen if we took a teacher and a lesson with difficult content (engagement/motivation wise) and “crash it.” Much like HGTV’s “Bath Crashers” or “Yard Crashers.”

2.  Logistics:  How we would roll out this idea and be the vehicle for changing how IT was perceived not just in our district but across education.

3.  Promotion: We filmed a “promo” Anchorman-style to gain traction and encourage teachers to submit a lesson to be crashed.  Through email, word of mouth and Twitter got the word out to submit a lesson to be crashed.  We also designated two of our district #nisdnov8 chat nights to the topic (which garnered interest beyond our district).

5.  Selection: Using Google Forms for submissions and video the IT team selected our first crash.

6.  Planning: We met with the teacher, collaborated on ways to deliver content, created a menu of  applications for students to create product, designed a rubric, and provided a way for the products to be shared and viewed by students.

7. Implementation: With a plan in place the IT team supported the teacher through the entire process.

8.  Student Product/Result: A gallery walk of product that students accessed through Aurasma including a quick assessment for each product.  All student created.

9. Reflection: There were several benefits, but the top three were:

1) 100% student engagement

2) student product reflecting deeper levels of learning

3) the teacher embraced without apprehension students experiencing and exploring technology without the need for the teacher to be an expert with technology tools

What were the results?

We realize this journey with #LessonCrashers has caused a mind shift among teachers and administration on how they perceive the use of technology from an instructional standpoint as well as how they perceive our role in the district. Since this first crash, each member of the team has “mini-crashed” other teachers and departments. Most recently the IT team crashed a Middle School Staff Development.

Why is this important?

With our first classroom “crash” it was with a well-respected, experienced, department chair.  Her first thought once we did this was “How can I share with others?”  DING, DING, DING!

With our “mini-crashes” many are not asking for a tool to use anymore but are starting with the standards and consulting IT Team about the different choices students can use to create to deliver deep meaningful content.  DING, DING, DING!

With our Staff Development crash we used two tools and multiple devices in a 45 minute time span.  Results… the realization that technology integration does not have to be a huge time consuming event AND most used the two tools modeled THAT DAY in their classrooms! DING, DING, DING!

What are our next steps?

We continue to seek opportunities and are sought out to provide “crash” experiences.  We have developed systems and supports for teachers to take the reins and do for themselves what we have facilitated through #LessonCrashers.  We have created a wealth of resources on our moodle called NetSchool including an online Technology Integration Course that is constantly changing, just like the technology tools.  It changes so much we have even wondered if it is a course that should be encouraged to be revisited every few years to facilitate teachers continual sharpening of their skills.

I am excited how this “idea” called #LessonCrashers has redefined the role of the Instructional Technology Coach.  #LessonCrashers was the vehicle for something bigger.  It’s been just a few months in this position and on this team and the change is palatable. Where this is going is bigger than this district. It’s a vision and change that’s purposed to serve all learners.  It’s a ride I am glad to be not just a passenger on but a navigator and pioneer into the 22nd century of education.

This is how our IT Team is evolving.  This is how our IT Team is redefining Instructional Technology.  Please share how Instructional Technology is changing the face of instruction and student product in your district, campus and classroom.

It’s Not Just an “Hour of Code”

by Sue Fitzgerald, Library/Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach

The “Hour of Code” has proven to be a very exciting adventure for students that has just begun. The development and launch of this event was driven by students’ passion for coding and educators’ efforts to provide the opportunity. It was collaboration in its purest form for everyone involved.

How it Happened

There were several factors that came into play that brought this event to fruition. Here are some of the major factors that made “Hour of Code” a reality:

  1. Our district began an initiative to host student ePortfolios on Google sites.

  2. Two forward-thinking future-minded student library aides took the leadership role in hosting “Technology Club” during 7th and 8th grades lunches to help answer questions on the ePortfolios.

  3. A group of coders took full advantage of attending the “Technology Club”.

  4. The student aides and the librarian quickly realized the “Technology Club” was about to advance into the world of coding.

  5. The librarian informed the Instructional Technology (IT) Coach and principal of the enthusiasm of these students who wanted to code.

  6. The IT Coach found the opportunity for our students to participate in the “Hour of Code.” Not only did our IT Coach offer this opportunity to our school but spread the word through Twitter PLNs and our district to have many other schools join the campaign.

  7. Students eagerly came by the library to sign up for the event after the news spread via our coders.

  8. During our “Hour of Code” event our IT Coach  collaborated with another IT coach in the district to Skype with a sister Middle School campus also participating during the “Hour of Code” and share as we worked through Java coding tutorial offered through code.org.

Reflection

As the adults in this process, we knew very little about coding . We did recognize the  amazing opportunity this would be for our students by choosing to take on this challenge.  We also saw how important it is for educators to take risks when facilitating students’ pursuit of their passions and facilitate the process for student-led passion-based learning.

At the conclusion of “Hour of Code”our students reflected with enthusiasm and determination that this must continue.  The Technology Club decided they wanted to continue to meet at lunch at least once per week with hopes to meet twice when possible.  They also decided they wanted to try and collaborate on a group project that could be presented during our district TechnoExpo event.  Additionally, they reflected upon the JavaScript coding done during “Hour of Code” compared to students previous coding experience.  They preferred another coding format referred to  by the group as “Batch.”  Students left the “Hour of Code” with plans to take initiative to collaborate and together create some type of product.  As facilitators we hope to encourage these students to take on leadership roles in teaching others in our school to code.

Comments we have received –

L.A. Teacher – “I am so excited my student is involved with this group.  For the first time during DEAR he had a book out and was reading.  It was a book on coding!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “This gave me such a sense of accomplishment!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “I have already talked to my teacher and plan to work ahead in his class so I can come for both lunch sessions as we continue to meet.”

Instructional Technology Assistant Director- “By providing ‘The Hour of Code’ you have just provided a social platform for these students that gives them a place to not only pursue their passion but a place for those that are like-minded to meet.  Their lives will be forever changed.”

Librarian – “I just wanted to thank you for sending this out!! I’ve got 73 kids signed up!”

Selfless Service…

I love my profession and the colleagues that I work alongside. All year long I witness their selfless service, but this time of year their constant giving of themselves increases ten fold.

While many see posts on Social Media from teachers celebrating the Thanksgiving break, the upcoming Holiday break or the occasional snow day, few know what happens in the quiet of their “time off.”

Many spend a focused time planning lessons, providing handwritten feedback, grading papers, arranging for authentic audiences for students to present products, completing documentation and of course grading papers. In my previous position as a classroom teacher often 1 day (7-8 hours) out of every 3 days was spent on some part of making sure every part of my classroom needs were attended. In a week that was an average of 2 and 1/4 days. Some that know me well, but are not educators, might blame it on my “work-a-holic” tendencies. However, I am not alone.

In my current position as a Instructional Technology Coach I support teachers. I get to see things through a lens few are privilege to have. Over the Thanksgiving break and our snow day many emailed me with questions on how to incorporate a certain kind of technology for a specific learning experience, asked for my opinion on a project they were working on, while others texted me just to touch base while they were working. Not one complained they had to do this. All were excited to have the additional time to get things in order and even “amp up” lessons that were already exceptional.

They have their own families, their own lives, their own plans to relax. But don’t be naive to think that on these breaks they leave their lessons, passion for learning or student work on their desks in the school house and head care free for the holiday or impending snow drift.

Add to the dedication of their job the thoughts of their students that never leave them. Shopping for Christmas gifts for her family a teacher naturally thinks of her students… ways to bring the holiday joy to the classroom. Even as they prepare for there own personal festivities, they purchase gifts for a Christmas Angel. I never have met a teacher who hasn’t sponsored an angel from the Angel Tree. Something about knowing a child is in need… never rests well with a teacher. We will do anything in our power to make sure we have cared for every child in need.

We donate gift cards from grocery stores, serve at soup kitchens and food pantries, adopt angels, attend as many Christmas events as we are able that our students are a part of, and continue to teach with passion and power while competing with the diversions of this time of year. That doesn’t even cover the additional baking, cooking and celebratory events that happen with a teacher’s campus… because who better to enjoy and celebrate this time of year with than your campus family.

As we head into this season, be generous, be kind, and “Be Awesome” and genuinely thank a teacher for their selfless service to the future doctor, lawyer, artist, nurse, inventor, engineer or… teacher. They are sharing selflessly of themselves with our greatest treasure…children.

#eddies13 EduBlog Nominations

This is my first year to do this and I have been a bit intimidated by the process:

Best Individual Blog: Matt B Gomez

Best Administrator Blog: Engaged and Relevant by Brad Currie

Best Librarian Blog: The Unpretentious Librarian by Sue Fitzgerald

Best Twitter Hashtag: #ArkEdChat

Best Free Web Tool: Screencast-o-matic.com

Best Mobile App: TouchCast

Best open PD: Twitter

Lifetime Achievement: Dave Burgess author of “Teach Like a Pirate”

I have so many people that have shaped me and changed me in the past year that I really could add a lot more but I am worried that I am not going to make the deadline as it is.

Kirsten Wilson, M.Ed.

Thinking about what it means to be future-ready…

Thinking about what it means to be future-ready...

Recently I was asked to answer questions for a colleague regarding technology and curriculum. At the same time I was participating in a chat where a participant Tweeted, “I don’t know what the future is so I only prepare my students for today.”
While I know it is true that we cannot know the future, that comment troubled me. We cannot predict the future, but we must plan for it. We plan our finances for a rainy day. We organize our lives to complete tasks, prepare for future events, even plan for dinner guests with the future in mind.

We do face in the moment and deal with today, but we are constantly cognizant of the future. As educators, parents and individual learners we know that the knowledge and experiences we gain today provide the building blocks for tomorrow. We once learned how to program our phones for speed dial which the basics of that helped us to now know how to add contacts in our smart phones. If we don’t offer experiences with technology today we are keeping the experiences from students that will provide the foundation for the technology of the future.

The following questions and answers are a more in-depth answer to the importance, role and vision for why we, as educators, parents and learners, must prepare our students to be future-ready.

What is the school vision for technology?

The vision for technology is embedded in our districts vision statement.
Our vision statement says: To be the the best and most sought after school-district where every student is future ready:
-Ready for college.
-Ready for the global work place.
-Ready for personal success.

While it is not directly stated concerning technology the initiatives including our superintendent’s 1 of only four initiatives for every student to have and continuously build a digital portfolio of exemplary work and the school board’s decision to use a large amount of funds to purchase devices for a 1:1 ration in secondary as well as laptops, tablets/iPads in every teacher’s possession to ensure integrated instruction of content and technology supports that our overall vision is deeply rooted in technology.

If technology were removed, what learning would be impossible/impaired?

Technology is deeply rooted in everything in the classroom. From teacher documentation, strategic planning and parent communication to creating engaging lessons that reach all learners. Technology is in everyone’s lives. Students need to use it as it presently exists as it provides the building blocks for the technology that has yet to be invented. Technology also allows for differentiation for each learner in the classroom in a way traditional methods, without the assistance of technology, would be virtually impossible. The diverse needs of learners these days along with the amount of content and expectation for teachers to uniquely meet each student’s needs in personal and definable ways would not be possible without the assistance of technology. Furthermore students are able to use several levels of blooms when they create with technology as they not only have to evaluate the best method to deliver the evidence of their understanding, but they have to evaluate the audience it is being delivered to, as well as, create an original product that a paper/pencil activity sheet does not provide the structure for this deeper level of design. Lack of technology would stunt the ability to adequately prepare students to be future-ready as well as impair them as problem-solvers and creative designers as traditional methods are more limiting compared to the possibilities offered with technology.

How do you support professional development?

Professional development from my perspective is self-directed with the development of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), MOOCs and online courses. The Instructional Technology department within our district is moving to Professional Development courses that are accessible from our Moodle structured online course framework called Netschool. Many of our face to face courses are built in Netschool so that teachers can continually refer back to the content. Additionally, we are utilizing the online courses to create “cohort” like courses where it is moderated by facilitators, requires quality product submissions applicable to classroom needs/instructional design and fosters collaboration through forums. Furthermore, our district provides two district led chats. One is led by mid-administration for current discussions regarding community, curriculum and initiatives that move us closer to the goals within our district vision. The other chat is promoted and facilitated by our Instructional Technology department but is led each week by guest moderators that are most often teachers. The discussions in this chat revolve around instruction and how technology is or can be integrated. Discussions range from student blogging to parent communication.

What is the best “advice” you would give for moving technology/learning forward in a way that will make more impact for all students?

The best advice is to commit to doing one thing at a time every few weeks and learn to implement it with purpose. Be sure that your use of technology or the product students are creating is with purpose and meaningful to the content. It shouldn’t be a “bells and whistles” piece but a seamless part of the entire process of learning.

The other piece of advice is be willing to “fail” or struggle with your students when it comes to using technology. Allow them to see you problem solve challenges and involve them in the process of finding solutions when, at first the technology does not work as intended. We as instructional engineers design learning with the intent that there is no bumps in the road, but the beauty of bumps in the road is that they are seeing “real world” happen before them. If we are going to push our kids to be problem solvers and find solutions to everyday challenges we must be willing to be transparent and show our “struggle” to solve everyday challenges with technology. It is one of the most authentic lessons you can provide a child. It teaches the lessons of grit and perseverance that lessons without the opportunity to create with technology do not provide.

In the book “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzer it talks about decision making with today’s generation. While it was talking about a move to action with decision making it did say,”Today’s generation of employees (and children, for that matter) expects to be involved in more decisions than their grandparents ever faced. That’s where the empowerment movement came from. Younger people don’t see themselves as a pair of hands seeking direction. They want to think. They want to decide. They’re willing to take on more responsibility.” That reminded me of how critical it is that we have devices in our students’ hands allowing them to think, decide, create and take on more responsibility. When we neglect to do that we neglect to speak to their inner driving force… we remove the ability to allow them to be empowered.

Kirsten Wilson, MEd
Instructional Technology Specialist
Follow me on Twitter @teachkiwi

“To love a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce

Public Education and Positive PR…

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This post has been developing over time.  The seed for this was planted many years ago within my own family.  I received my formative education from public education while my siblings received theirs from private education.  While I could start from this experience to develop this post, I would rather move to the most recent events that have spurred this post.

Every year our district brings the entire district staff together for convocation to “kick off” the new year. Each year we have incredible key note speakers.  This year was no exception when we were gifted with speaker Jaimie Vollmer.  In his address he encouraged us to take action to change education and the common misguided public perception through the “Great Conversation” (Outlined in his website). While there are formal avenues he suggests, what resonated with me and was actionable by all educators were 4 steps. The 4 steps (which are also found on his website) were:

1. Shift your attention from the negative to the positive.

2. Stop bad-mouthing one another in public.

3. Share something positive within our social network.

4. Monitoring our progress.

This stirred my passion and love for the profession that I have committed my life to and gave me new resolve.

My thread of thinking was further influenced by a chat on #sunchat a few weeks back that discussed bullying among colleagues.  I am not too naive to believe it doesn’t happen but to the extent that some shared broke my heart.  Why it happens I don’t care to really know.  What upset me is that ultimately it hurts our students… the reason we do what we do.  So to add to Mr. Vollmer’s list, I suggest:

5. Work together toward our common goal, students. (Not against one another… leave our egos at the front door of the school.)

Then, this week I had a conversation with a campus principal.  We have been through the amazing program together called “Coaching for Results” where we transparently shared our passions, fears and truly listen to one another.  She shared with me concerns with how public education is perceived and how it is not accurate of what an amazing job educators are doing day in and day out across this country. We agreed with one another that changing public perception is a responsibility all educators should feel charged to take on and take action.  Out of that came an additional point:

6. Public perception can be changed by each one of us one conversation at a time. (This can also relate back to Jaimie Vollmer’s point #3.)

Finally, on September 6th, 2013 CBS aired the documentary “Teach.” As I watched, cried, laughed and had conversations simultaneously on Twitter and Facebook (a.k.a. back-channeling), I asked myself why is this so powerful to me and my fellow colleagues?  I think it was because, for the first time, the “struggle was witnessed” and the “passion was honored” in what we do day in and day out.  They presented the reality of our profession, the passion of our commitment and the hope that never wavers. But there isn’t a weekly documentary that can build our spirits, provide us a source of encouragement, and “just in time” help.  That brings me to the final point:

7. Participate in positive collaborative groups, i.e. Twitter PLN chats, or organizations that support us and help us stay the course.

As we go into another week as “instructional designers” determining the best way to develop students’ desire for learning, my hope is that we also take action to share our “work” with the world. We have been charged to develop the learners of today into the leaders of tomorrow by helping students discover their passions.  We coach them to have resilience and grit as they approach challenges today and in the future.  Does anyone beyond your classroom know how awesome  you are?

Brag on yourself, brag on your colleagues, and brag on your school.  YOU are the positive PR that will begin to change the public’s perception of public education.

Please leave your ideas, comments, and/or thoughts below.

Works cited:

Guggenheim, Davis, prod. “Teach.” Teach Documentary. CBS. Nationwide, 6 Sept. 2013. Television.

Sackstein, Starr (moderator), Twitter, “Bullying in the Workplace”, #sunchat, 8 Sept. 2013.

Volmer, Jamie. “”The Great Conversation”” Jamie Vollmer. Jamie Vollmer, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.

YouTube. Prod. Soul Pancake. Perf. Kid President. PepTalk to Students and Teachers. Soul Pancake- You Tube, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.

 

Content, Collaboration and Curation… Part 2

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A Curation Epiphany

As I reflect upon the last week and the start of school in the district I am privileged to be a part of, it struck me how curating has become a method of improving not only my practice but supporting other educators in theirs.  In a day and time when there is more accessible knowledge, content and practices out there it makes me wonder. Can a teacher remain effective, relevant and current in his/her practice without being connected? Even more, can a community, organization, company, etc. remain current, relevant and plan for the future without being connected? I cannot answer for others, but I know for myself, my own children, the teachers I coach and the students on the campuses that I impact, being globally competent is paramount.

To that end I address the idea of content, collaboration and curation again.  I addressed this in an earlier post “Content, Collaboration and Curation.”

First, since I last posted I have realized that there are levels of curation.  Secondly, curating ultimately is meant to facilitate learning and collaboration. Finally, if you do it well, people in your circles of influence and PLNs will bring information to you to add to the curations you have created.

In regards to levels of curation it is much like Blooms. There is knowledge level curation- it is done for remembering and understanding (the “Learner Level”). Another level is applying and analyzing- it is curated for use or been used and is a proven tool for using whether it be your tool or a tool you have discovered from your global connections via Social Media, blogs or simple internet searches (the “Facilitator Level”).  Finally, there are curations that go to the level of evaluation and creation… these are the curations that become invaluable tools to others.  It takes the most work, but the result is most thorough and the resource it provides to others can be invaluable (the “Designer Level”).

The “Learner” Level:

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On the “Learner” level… remembering and understanding, curation would be in the way of Twitter.

It is how I and all those new to a concept learn.  When I first began curating this was the level at which I curated.  I “retweeted”, emailed links for continued contemplation or bookmarked sites.  It brought me knowledge and I shared the knowledge.  It is a great way to step into curating.  Honestly, its a great place to stay.  I still curate this way; especially when I am collaborating with those that are not yet fully involved in the connectedness of social media as a means for global competency.

If you are still not connected through Twitter and want to ignite and infuse your professional development with passion refer to the earlier post in my blog “From Creeping to Curating” where I include a link of a great step by step process to Twitter from @bcurrie5 ‘s blog “Connect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself”.

The “Facilitator” Level:

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On the “Facilitator” level of curation.. the curator begins to analyze and apply the content they have curated.  This often is where a person will truly digest the content. Often many resources about a particular topic, idea or concept will be collected and organized.  Often this content comes from PLN (Professional Learning Network) chats.  I participate in multiple chats and follow a couple of dozen hashtags (#), participate in professional networks through LinkedIn, follow amazing educators on Pinterest, and keep my eyes open for great content. Also, by reputation for my curating many in my circle of influence share content with me that I then curate. Once I latch on to the content I go through a process with information I want to assimilate for myself and/or others.  In my position as an Instructional Technology Coach I take the coaching part very seriously.  For that reason I curate not just for my personal professional development, but for my teachers, students, administrators and parents.  I take the content and analyze where it should be curated and who it should be curated for. Then I determine the best place for the content so that I can access to share and/or those that follow me can note it and utilize it.  I also try, when appropriate, to learn how I can apply what I curate so I can share with others.

At first, this may seem tedious, but over time it becomes almost automatic.  Typically over the course of an hour chat I will end up curating half a dozen ideas, links, and/or blogs into either my Flipboard, Pinterest account or ScoopIt pages.  I will have also shared with that same PLN chat content from those curations that apply to that chat.  I haven’t done this long.. maybe six months, but it is so automatic now that I may be out getting groceries, waiting in line to check out, looking at my feed, and see a great link that has been tweeted. In a matter of seconds, after reviewing the content, I will curate the link and retweet with comments on how to apply so that others can add to their learning.

The “Designer” Level:

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The “designer” level of curation is probably the most involved form of curation.  It is where you take content that you understand, apply and analyze and then evaluate and create a method of sharing the content where it has become uniquely your own content.  There are multiple methods for this to be done.  It is where you truly digest the content, assimilate it, evaluate it and then create a way to deliver the content after it has been through your filters, experiences and processes.  In many ways you are the designer.

The “designer” level is probably the most satisfying because it reflects most deeply the designers philosophies and beliefs. It carries with it a certain kind of personal stamp of approval and is purposefully crafted to collaborate and help others.  The “designer” level of curation most reflects the tenets of the mindset of #geniushour and #passionbasedlearning .

At the “designer” level I use the method of blogging.  There are several different sites out there that offer free blog accounts.  I use WordPress my 8 year old son uses Blogger (http://minecraftcreeperlovers.blogspot.com/).  To create online experiences that curate content I also, for focused educational purposes such as webquest experiences or lesson experiences, use my district’s Moodle that allows limited guest access and password access for teachers and students.   Additionally, you can create/build a website.  My 10 year old daughter created a website through www.wix.com to curate kid friendly information about Greek Mythology (website: http://embug101.wix.com/myth).

Final Thoughts:

As I continue to collect content through curation and collaborate with others the depth with which I understand curating grows.  I urge those of you that read this to start at the “Learner” level with Twitter like I did. Then start curating at the “Facilitator” level.  The “Designer” level may never be your course… that is definitely ok.  However, I do encourage all who are growing and learning as connected educators and becoming globally competent to curate in some way.

Whatever level you choose to curate, Learner, Facilitator or Designer, the key is to continue a spirit of open Collaboration.  In this world of immediate access and available content make every effort to honor the source of your curation, inspiration and/or springboard for design.  Those that do curate at a “Designer” level and in many cases are the first in their field of expertise to find a new “method” put hours into the development and design.  What a gift to learn from their genius and be gifted the time we don’t have to spend figuring it out on our own.  Protect the integrity of open collaboration and of course, share your curations!

All comments welcome.  Please let me know your thoughts and how you are curating and collaborating!

16+ Ways for Teachers to Be Sure to Start the School Year Off Great

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The new school year is almost here! It’s hard to believe.  As we get back into the routine there are a few ideas that may help. Beginning a new school year can be exciting.  When you have a plan to get started it helps make those first few days of adjustment better for both you and your students.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start browsing through your curated sites (i.e. Pinterest, FlipBoard or ScoopIt), think about your classroom and curriculum, make notes and jot out diagrams of modifications to you would like to make to your curriculum and/or classroom, update your website (nobody likes reading a biography from 2 years ago). Look into participating in some Twitter chats (Jerry Blumengarten has an inexhaustible list of PLNs based on the topic or content of your choosing complete with description and times when the group meets for a live chat on his website: http://edupln.ning.com/groups . Don’t forget to follow him @cybraryman1). Update your accounts (i.e. descriptions and pictures) and make sure you have the correct logins. Look for new ideas and share your successes with your PLN. 
  2.  Clean the house, stock the pantry, cook and freeze some meals (Pinterest has some great recipes or stock up on Sam’s or Costco meals), mow the yard and work in the garden, and make sure the laundry basket is empty. This way when you come home from school exhausted those first few days, you won’t be concerned with domestic chores.
  3. Have a ME day. Make an appointment at the spa, get your nails done, play a round of golf or shop until you drop. Just take some TLC time for yourself before the school year starts.
  4. Eliminate last year’s baggage. Last year is behind you so get over it and proceed on with the new school year. If you have legitimate concerns, make an appointment with your administrators and address it with solutions rather than complaints. 
  5. Return from your trips at least 2-3 days before the school year starts. This will give you a few days to relax and get ready for the adventures of a new year.
  6. Pull out your positive attitude and smile. If you have put the positive vibes and attitude away for the summer get them out and practice smiling and enjoying life a few weeks before school starts.
  7. Keep exercising. If you don’t exercise start a program. Take a walk, ride a bike, jog, join a Latin dance class or get involved with an activity that gets your heart rate up. Begin with a simple plan and incorporate it into your daily schedule.  If you have troubles sticking with an exercise regimen grab a partner to hold you accountable. Adding this component to your life will make you feel better, give you more energy, help decrease stress and encourage you with a sense of accomplishment
  8. Start getting up at your regular work time at least a week before school starts.  Practice timing how long it takes you to get ready so that you know exactly the time it takes and don’t feel rushed the first day back. Also, getting back into your routine won’t be such a shock to your body.
  9. Evaluate last year’s “try its” and delivered instruction.  Make changes where necessary; eliminate things that didn’t work, and enhance something to make it awesome.
  10. If you don’t already have a professional mentor set a goal to find one and quickly.  Rely on them for advice and or suggestions.  This will empower you as a teacher/leader to others outside your classroom walls allowing you to be a true facilitator of learning and helping ALL students in your path directly or indirectly. 
  11. Start planning for ways to continue a growth mindset. Look for some virtual PD opportunities and/or book study with other teachers on your campus or through Twitter or Google Hangouts.
  12. Step back and evaluate the atmosphere of your classroom, your team and your campus.  Come up with a plan to jazz up your classroom, your team’s PLC meeting spot and help to rejuvenate a “dead spot” in your hall or building.  Sometimes freshness in the environment may create freshness in ideas.
  13. Remember a happy healthy teacher is essential for positive productive students. (I take a daily vitamin and bump up my immune system during the flu season with Airborne.)  When flu shots come available get yours… I am fortunate to be in a district that provides the flu shot to all employees.
  14. Think proactive rather than reactive.  
  15. Try to meet all the new teachers to your campus. Especially welcome the new ones that are on your team or hall. I like to bring them a soda, homemade banana bread or offer to help for a couple of hours in their room to get things together.  I want them to know how awesome the place is they have come to work and embrace the culture/environment.  The sooner they feel like family the happier they are.  The happier they are the happier their students are.
  16. Stock up on some healthy snacks.  You may not have a relaxing lunch period for some days to come. I like to have dried fruit and nut trail mixes, popcorn, and protein bars nearby along with a decent sized stash of water bottles and drink enhancers like Mio.  This helps stave off the desire to hit the vending machines in the lounge and fill up on unhealthy snacks and sodas.

 

***This list was inspired and somewhat “pirated” from my friend and colleague Sue Fitzgerald who writes the blog “The Unpretentious Librarian” you can find her original post here: http://unpretentiouslibrarian.blogspot.com/2013/08/tips-to-start-new-school-year.html

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