Classroom Practices, Education, Leadership, Learning, PLC, PLN, Uncategorized

Big Little Things

LittleThe sign you see here hangs in my living room. It greets me every morning as I stumble past on my way to the kitchen to get the coffee that starts my day. It welcomes me home every evening, that sign. Watches over us as we hang out, watching TV or eating or talking or reading. It hangs there, that sign. Right there it hangs as I start to do a little work or think about the things at school that I didn’t quite have time to do today. Or those big things I have coming up…..Yeah, like that thing. I really have to block off some time for that one tomorrow.

Where does it go, our time? I wonder that a lot. And as I wonder, that sign hangs, still and quiet. Reminding me to slow down. To notice the little things. The little things that hide inside our days, like tiny glass spheres filled with big, magnificent moments that we can only discover if we look for those little things first. And sometimes, when we are super busy or pressed for time and we just don’t stop to think about those little things….well, sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes one of those little things happens by, right smack dab in the middle of something there it is, right in front of us. And then just like that, right before our eyes, we see it. And we see the big, magnificent moment that is hidden right there…hidden just inside that one little thing. This is about one of those big little things.

I sat down at the desk just inside her classroom, paper and pen in hand as I prepared to take notes and capture data for this teacher’s annual evaluation. As I observed, this teacher let students know that for this particular activity, they would be using nonfiction text. That they would be selecting their own text from the stack of books and magazines that had been placed on the back table. Stacks and piles about all kinds of things, written at all kinds of levels. The students were to use their strategy for selecting a “just right” book and to find one that appealed to them, one that sparked their interest. And then off they went, these excited kids. Off they went to rummage through the piles looking, searching, hoping to find that one interesting book … that “just right” book…that book that fits them.  And then…..he found it. I watched as this student grabbed up a book, opened and scanned the pages to make sure it wasn’t too easy or too hard and then….once he discovered that this book was indeed just right for him, he clutched it to his chest and headed back to his desk, just to the right of where I sat. And as he walked toward his desk, clutching that book, I heard that teacher call after him, “Did you find one you liked?” As he excitedly held it up that teacher smiled and said, “Ah, yes! Wonderful! I thought of you as I was picking that one out.”

And as he turned back around to sit at his desk, I saw his face. And his whole face was smiling. Smiling because he had found a book on a favorite topic. Smiling because that book was just right for him, which meant he could take it.  Smiling, because his teacher had specifically thought of him when choosing that book to bring to the table for this ordinary lesson, on this ordinary day. Smiling, because his teacher had thought of him, period.

In the midst of the day, the life, the 20 other kids. In that moment, that “I thought of you when I did that” moment….his teacher didn’t just pick a book. His teacher picked a book for him. His teacher had said, “You matter”.  “You are important”. “You are unique”. “I know you”. “I love you”.

This teacher did much more than just choose a book. And that, I have a feeling, was the real reason behind that smile….that big, can’t hide it smile that was on his face as he returned to his seat and dove right into that book.  His book.  Chosen for him.

I think we educators have the greatest job in the world. We are surrounded by big opportunities that like to hide themselves inside all our little moments. And these moments, they move quickly. They weave in and out of our classrooms, up and down the halls, around and around our days like those fast moving hands that circle the clocks on our walls. The clocks that count off those little moments, one by one. Around and around they go, minute by minute. Hour by hour. Sometimes, we get so caught up in how fast those hands move past those little moments. In all those things we have to do, all those things our kids must accomplish and yes, indeed. Those moments do move fast. Time marches on and we march with it. We are stretched thin by big things like curriculum and TEKS and STAAR testing and standards and PLCs and parent conferences and meetings and … well, you know the rest. We have such. little. time. to accomplish all that we must accomplish. To make sure that which is supposed to happen, happens. Those moments go by so fast and there are so many things and… we just don’t have time. We just don’t have time, with all the big things on our plates, we just don’t have time to make sure they all happen. There just isn’t time.

Or … is there?

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”

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Uncategorized

Connecting In Your Own Building

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In a previous post I wrote about a way I am using the web tool S’More to invest in the professional growth of the teachers and staff in my building. In one of my S’mores I shared with our staff the why and how of being a connected educator. I have done these S’Mores weekly since school started, each time covering a different idea or topic.  But I have been thinking for a while that it missing something.

Teacher voice.

As important as it is to me to be connected through Twitter, we need to remember how important it is to connect in our own buildings. The weekly S’More is great but it would be even better if it were teacher-driven; I think that would be a great way to get conversations started and ideas flowing from teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom….rather than admin to teacher. So last week, I approached a teacher and asked if he would like to decide the topic and write the mini-blog for the upcoming S’More. I shared my reasons for wanting to make this change. I offered a few ideas related to topics that I know he would be great at discussing, his strengths which I have seen each time I am in his room. He’s a quiet member of the staff and I was really not sure how he would react to this invitation. I sent the email at about 2pm on a Friday.  At 3:30 I received this reply:

“How about this?”  Attached was the following blog he wrote: (Or click the link in next paragraph for the actual S’More).

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I set out to find links to resources, both print and video, to correspond with the “theme” of his blog and package the S’More. I forwarded it to my principal, who then sent me her “Principal Ponders” section of the S’More (which was a feature added about 4 weeks ago),  written to correspond with his chosen topic.  The end result was great and you can view it here.

Feeling pretty excited, I recently emailed another teacher and asked her if she would like to be the next “Teacher Guest Blogger” for next Friday’s S’More. She replied that she would love to! She is currently thinking about her topic and developing her blog post for it. It was always my hope that this S’More would morph into a kind of self-driven “teacher blog”, one that would generate chatter, build connections, give teachers a chance to hear from peers whom they might not have many daily dealings with, and give our teachers a “voice”.  I also secretly hope that this is sort of a “safe” entryway into a full blow staff blog site one day….

I will continue to solicit for guest bloggers and after a few weeks, I will create a sign up genius for teachers who want to volunteer so that they can go in and choose a week that they wish to contribute. For these early stages, it seems to be working best to personally ask.  It is also my plan to eventually (maybe after the first of the year) add student guest-bloggers to our S’More. I think that would really add another dimension to this school community collaboration tool. I would also love to have students appear on the staff blog that we (I hope) one day start!

I guess the main thing I’m learning is that there are many ways to be a connected educator. We focus a lot on connections globally, but I think it is also really important to focus our efforts on building and supporting connections within our own buildings.  

Here is a sidenote to those members of my PLN who are following, supporting and mentoring me in my first year as an AP. The funny thing about this is, this weekly S’More was originally my little way of impacting and supporting teacher growth as a new Assistant Principal. Pretty soon my principal had a section, and now I have teacher guest bloggers….  I think it is one of the best things that could have happened because, all this time that I have been preparing to become an A.P., going to administrator chats and learning from all of you,  I have been told by so many that “Great leaders do not seek the limelight, great leaders build capacity and enhance leadership in others“. So, I think “my” S’More is going in the exact right direction and I am actually excited that it is not just “mine” anymore! So thank you for the wisdom…I was (and still am) listening!

PLN

The View On Atlanta – From The Hashtags

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My Twitter feed this weekend has been blowing up with all the great learning going on at ISTE2014. Sadly, I was not at ISTE. But that has not stopped me from learning a great deal from all the educators who are attending and presenting, thanks to the power of the hashtag!

One of the reasons I enjoy Twitter as a professional development tool is because it allows me to connect with and learn from educators across the globe. This past Saturday, while I co-moderated our weekly chat for teachers new to Twitter (#NT2t), we discussed the power of the hashtag. Using it to follow conferences was one of the suggestions made for maximizing the potential of Twitter.  I have been doing that the past couple of days and, thanks to the connected educators who are so graciously tweeting their learning and resources, I have been able to learn  quite a bit! But, as Dewey says, we learn from reflection. So here are some of my takeaways ISTE2014…errr, while #NotAtISTE:

Genius Bar:

Someone retweeted this tweet about a student – run Genius Bar (original tweet by @TechGirlJenny):

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I was pretty intrigued by this, so I went to researching the idea. I found this PDF from GenYes, which gave a lot of information about it. I played around with the idea, considered how we might fit this into our school within our current student leadership opportunities, and now plan to pitch it to my principal after I have it a little more planned out. What a find!

Google Hangouts On Air:

This tweet from @2footgiraffe includes a Google Doc with lots of great GHO tips. I have a planned GHO coming up in a couple of weeks, and this will surely come in handy for me.

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Ultimate Word Wall:

So someone tweeted “We are building the ultimate word wall on Padlet”! Clicked on the link, and saw this amazing set up! What a treat for teachers to be able to use what is here, and then become inspired to build their own! I will definitely share this with teachers on my campus next year.

IFTTT

Saw this tweet below from @chadkafka and WOW! What an awesome way to curate tweets!! I used if for this blog! (IFTTT stands for If This Then That).

iste2Technology by Blooms:

This handy Google Doc tweeted by @Jepson contains loads of technology platforms and they are aligned with different Blooms levels. Very handy sheet if someone asks, “What technology would be best to use with ______”.  Saved to my drive.

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Pinterest Board for ISTE:

I discovered this board which is being populated by many ISTE attendees. I have only skimmed this, but I am planning to spend a day next week going through all the curated material loaded onto it!

I have so many more resources saved, and I will share them out as I go through them.  All in all, I have had a very productive time the past couple of days as I learn a lot of new things while #NotAtISTE14.

Now, if you are wondering about that hashtag….it is for all of us who could not attend –but wanted to feel like we were a part of it. We were even invited to participate in various giveaways by event sponsors, and @CraigYen even set up a Google Hangout for anyone who wanted to, well, hang out!

As far as a learning community goes, it just doesn’t get any better than your Twitter PLN. The tweet below from @JanRobertson sums it up pretty well.

 

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I hope you will join us Monday for more learning at #ISTE2014 and #NotAtISTE14 via the hashtags ! Please share your conference hashtag experienes in the comments below!