Join The #DigiLitChallenge

 

Connecting to fellow educators means more than responding, retweeting, or even favoriting (Real word? Well, it is now.) a Tweet. It means when they ask for help or invite you to a challenge they’ve created, you participate.

That’s what I’m doing this week with the challenge set by Margaret Simon through her blog Reflections on the Teche and on Twitter @MargaretGSimon.  I was impressed with her desire and resolve to reach out and create a challenge and not worry about whether or not anyone took part in it, but rather that she did it.  She took a chance and tried something new, just like we ask of our students.

Please read her blog for all of the details and how it came about.  The gist is that you take a photo and turn it into a piece of art.  I took the app, Waterlogue, that she mentions to create my work.  I then wrote my poems with the Skitch app for the trees and hosta photos, but switched to Phonto for the frog picture.  I am so glad she began this challenge as it provides a creative outlet for me. It’s getting to be a little addictive, and the wheels are already turning as to how I can use this in my classroom next year.

So, if you’d like to participate, hop on over to her blog to learn more and to find out how to link up through various social media.  Just be sure to tag her  @MargaretGSimon and use #digilitchallenge. Also, grab the button to use on your blog.  I can’t wait until Sunday to find out what the next challenge is going to be.

     

Saying Goodbye:  An Open Letter To My Students

The end of the year is always bittersweet. While you are more than ready for a break, it’s hard to watch these kids you’ve invested so much time and emotion in move on to middle school. It’s even harder when you’ve spent two years with the same students. This is my letter to them.

Dear Class,

I can’t believe the year is already coming to an end. We’ve spent two years together, and it’s been a wonderful journey. There are so may memories that I will cherish from our time together. Here are just a few.

Remember the fun we had learning about geometry as you designed and built your Geometry City?  You persevered through many trials and errors as you tested and perfected your marble run. We tried to build a mini golf course, but ran out of time. But what we did finish was an amazing display of math and creativity.

What about our two friends who came to this country last year not speaking any English and have become not only fluent, but leaders as well. I feel so privileged to have been able to see your true personalities emerge, and that I would not have traded for anything. You’ve made me proud to be a teacher.

You will all become great citizens and leaders. This year you’ve traveled even further along that path. You have a thirst to learn about how our country came to be.  I am so impressed with how you let me veer off the curriculum to teach a unit on Veterans. It was so touching to see you let your guard down and openly display how the lyrics of the songs affected you.

You allowed me to take chances, try new things, and to not worry if the lesson didn’t always go off as planned. Your unconditional support allowed me to grow.

We also shared our lighter side as we used games to learn. There were games like Scrambler, Zapped, Draw It,  and the Yes/No game to see how well you thought you knew me. Then there was the silly side. Remember when we got our microphone to work?  Would anyone believe we sang Frozen karaoke?  Shhh, it’s our secret.

I tend to portray a tough exterior, but I know on our last day together there will be tears. You can’t spend two years with a group like you and not feel sad to see you go. You have matured in ways I don’t think even you realize.

As you move on to the next phase of your life, I want you to remember a few things. You are more than a test score. A test is your opportunity to shine. You matter, and you will make a difference in this world. Above all, you will always be my kids and I will always be here for you.

Love,

Mrs. Martin

Why Teacher Leaders Matter

“Developing the leadership potential of teachers empowers them to better support student learning, encourages them to stay in the profession, and makes it possible for principals to be more effective.”-Judy Seltz, ASCD Executive Director

How many principals and superintendents have you had in your present position?  I’ve been teaching in the elementary setting for twenty-two years. During this time I’ve had numerous superintendents and principals.   I’ve been in my current district for fourteen years where we’ve had, I believe, four superintendents and about to go to number five. We’ve also had four principals, and we’re going to number five next year.  You can’t blame someone leaving for career opportunities, but that kind of turnover is what prompted this post.

When I think of a teacher leader I’m not envisioning someone who has the ultimate goal of being an administrator or leaving the classroom for an education job outside of the classroom. Rather, I’m envisioning the teacher who is innovative, current with best practices, a risk taker, and one that provides stability when administrators leave. What’s better than a teacher leader?  Simple, a whole school of teacher leaders.

So how do we go about cultivating teacher leaders?  That’s where the real challenge lies. How can you be a leader with a full plate of teaching responsibilities and a busy home life?   I think the key is to not look at it as one more responsibility, but rather an extension of what were already doing. Here are a few quotes I’ve found that will help us think about how to get teachers thinking of themselves as leaders.

“You don’t have to be a district superintendent or building administrator to be a leader within your school community.”-Justin Zatt in ASCD

This is a great quote, but so hard for many of us to believe.  A tittle doesn’t make the leader. It’s what we do and how we treat others that makes us leaders. 

“Teacher leaders take risks within their classroom and aren’t afraid that they don’t know something.”-Anne Cunningham-Morris, ASCD’s Director of Professional Learning

This is so true about many of the teachers I work with, and what I wish more teachers would embrace.  Fear of failure or not always knowing the outcome, or the answer prevents many teachers from realizing their potential.  We must emulate what we want our own students to do.  It’s hard to say you don’t know, but isn’t that where the real learning begins?  This is what moves a building forward, especially when there is a change in administrative leadership.

“If more educators felt supported in thinking, stepping and even jumping outside of the box, real change would begin”-Carol Hunter, ASCD blogger

This piece is key.  Teacher leaders must feel valued, and that when we do venture out and take a risk, we won’t be reprimanded or ridiculed for taking that risk. It must go beyond an email of support. We need to know that our administrator will truly be present as we experience successes and setbacks. Come into our classrooms not to only evaluate, but to see what it is we’re trying to do. Don’t just stop in one day during a unit, but consider a course of days to really see how it unfolds. Then, either leave feedback or arrange a time to discuss what you observed. True teacher leaders value your feedback and won’t mind you popping into their classroom. We see you as a partner. 

Each teacher has the potential to be a leader. But just like our students, this potential must be cultivated and supported. By growing a building of teacher leaders, change in administration won’t cause a disruption in building morale, building growth, and most importantly, student learning. 

For more about being a leader, view the video, Teacher Leaders. Then think about your answer to the following question. Are you ready to be a teacher leader and support others in becoming one as well?