Kids Deserve It! And…So Do Teachers

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Have you ever read a professional book and found that you just couldn’t put it down until you finished reading it?  Or, once finished you just had to share with all your friends, especially those on social media.  Well, you will once you get your hands on Kids Deserve It! you’ll see what I mean.

The book is written by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome.  What’s great about these gentleman is that you feel like you already know them as you read through the book.  LIke you could be sitting out on the deck after school discussing your crazy ideas and how to make them happen.  I’m particularly impressed in that these are practicing educators.  I find myself trusting these kinds of writers much more.  After all, they still know what’s it’s like to be educating kids today.

This book is an inspiration for teachers who are in all phases of their career. I find it particularly inspiring for those of who have been in education long enough to have experienced the pendulum swinging back and forth a couple of times already.  Kids Deserve It! will remind you of the teacher you started out to be, once were, but may have gotten side-tracked along the way.  It’s a book that will speak to you, but not in an excessively preachy way.  Rather in a way that you wish you were in your classroom right now, ready to set the world on fire.  Yes, it’s that good.

The premise of the book is to create an atmosphere and experiences that kids deserve to learn in each and every day.  However, I’d like to go further and say it’s what teachers deserve as well.  The book will not tell you exactly what to do to in order to achieve certain results.  Rather they offer you suggestions, examples from their experiences, and fill the book full of personal anecdotes.  In addition, after each chapter they include things to consider and Tweet about.  I mean, come on, they’ve already included a ready made book study and Twitter chat.  Now those are principals who are taking care of their staff, whether their personal staff or those of us who have now adopted them as our virtual principal.

Here are just a few of my favorite ideas/quotes from the book and my thoughts about them.

Worse than loneliness is the negativity that comes when we’re in an environment where, even if you want to innovate and push boundaries, you feel isolated by people who aren’t willing to do anything but push back.

I’ve often referred to this as being on an island.  Todd and Adam often talk about that alien look.  You know, the one where  you are talking about something you are doing or want to try, and some of those around you look at you like you’re an alien. We have to learn to not let it bother us so much, or we have find a way to get them on board.  Regardless, your kids deserve a teacher who is willing to go it alone if necessary.

The good news is that you can choose whom to connect and collaborate with–and they don’t have to be within the walls of your building.

Collaboration does not mean everyone on the grade level team is doing the same thing, the same way, sharing the same planbook.  To me, it means sharing ideas, helping a teacher who may not even be in your grade level, being a sounding board when needed.  It’s great when this happens in your own building, but why stop there?  I have learned so much by being on Twitter.  Not just reading the feed, but by interacting in chats.  When I’m asked how I heard about a new piece of technology, found a new book to read, or how I knew what was happening at the state level with education, my answer is often that someone in my Twitter PLN told me about it.  Don’t  limit yourself to someone else’s idea of collaboration, or even the walls of your building. Get out there and connect with people who will support your desire to grow.  After all, kids deserve it.

While you think we may be talking about being “techie,” what we’re actually talking about is being relevant for your kids.

In some education circles it seems that in order to be considered an innovative teacher you need to be using technology in everything you do. Yet, like everything else, you need balance in your approach. Some of my best projects have been those that involved roles of various types of tape, paper, and cardboard.  I do love technology.  I just want to be able to offer my kids the best approach for the task at hand.  My kids deserve it.

When leaders don’t lead, no one grows, and superstars leave.  Without strong leadership, exceptional team members will leave in search of a campus where they are challenged to grow.

Sadly,  I’ve seen this happen all too often. Teachers feel their ideas aren’t being listened to, or there’s no real support. Or, I’ve seen teachers who demonstrate innovation and leadership only to be accused of showboating or bragging.  Sometimes, they just don’t feel like they belong because their ways are so different than their team or building. Sometimes a lack of vision and culture of growth can drive teachers straight into the arms of a school that will.  Teachers deserve to work in a school where growth mindset is not just for kids, where our ideas and research are respected.  We deserve the respect we are due.

I got lost in the scores and judged my entire year by one day of testing-forgetting the ways we’d touched and changed lives.

While I am great at letting my kids know that they are more than a test score, I have a hard time telling myself the same thing.  That I am more than twenty-four test scores.  When scores roll in, I find myself wondering what more I could have done.  For the past few years I have felt that all I do is test kids.  Yes, I know I do way more than that and provide my kids with numerous learning opportunities, but it feels that I am just a testing machine. I tend to overlook all the growth and excitement in learning when scores don’t always meet my expectations. My goal for next year is to actually believe that I am more than a test score.  I’m not a test giving machine, I am the person who helps kids realize their dreams.

When you relinquish some of the control, stop making excuses, and trust kids just a little, they’ll always surprise you.

I started doing that more this year.  Not just with kids helping me learn new apps or other technology, but in the classroom itself.  Why can’t they be given more responsibility?  My goal this year is to give my students more opportunities in which they can do this.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is to go into anything new with the attitude that it will succeed.  Kids can’t be responsible and make the right choices if they are never put in the position to do so.

Now, go out and buy this book.  But more importantly, join the movement and the conversation using #KidsDeserveIt.  Get on Twitter and follow Adam (@awelcome), Todd (@techninjatodd), and the book (@KidsDeserveIt).  They also have a website, http://www.kidsdeserveit.com, as well as being on Facebook.  Our kids  deserve the very best that we can give them.  And teachers, you deserve to be the best teacher that you can be.

 

3 Ways to Attend a Professional Conferences When Money and Location Are a Factor

Ok, so you can’t attend the conferences for your dreams due to money, time, or the location. Don’t let that stop you. Here are a few ways to attend conferences for free without leaving home.

One way to attend a conference is to see if your conference has a virtual component.  Blackboard World is a conference I attended last year. And by attend, I mean from my couch. You can sign up to watch their sessions live.  They even make it possible to send in your questions.  With it being in real time, it’s like you are there.  If you area BlackBoard user, or interested in blended learning, consider “attending” this conference.

Another is to follow the conference hashtag.  Last year I stumbled upon #notatiste.  This is where all of us who couldn’t attend the ISTE (International Society for Technology  in Education) conference could learn from those who were there.  The conference has an official hashtag where many of the speakers/presenters will share their material or conference attendees will share what they are learning.  Follow along on Twitter @isteconnects and #iste2017.

Are you on Periscope?  Periscope is another great way to attend a conference virtually.  Last year I really did feel as if I were at ISTE2016.  I follow @TonyVincent on both Twitter and by using the Periscope app.  Last year he went through the poster sessions and interviewed those presenting.  He even zoomed in on their name tags so that we at home could get their name, school district, and Twitter contact information.  Even better, the app allows you to post questions to the person broadcasting, they read them, and then answer you verbally in the broadcast.  It really was amazing and I learned about so many new technologies and the amazing things that schools around the world were doing.

These are just a few of the ways I have found to be able to attend conferences.  How do you do it?

Flipping The Back-To-School Night Experience 

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Don’t let the title fool you. Flipping the Back-to-School Night or Parent Information Night doesn’t mean you won’t be meeting with parents and students.  Think about it, though. You are often required to share things from your school that eat up precious time, and that could have easily been shared differently. Or, you have your own agenda items that don’t really  require a face-to-face meeting. Here’s what I propose.  Flip these events.

First, think about all those things you share that are more procedural in nature and create videos for them. A couple of years ago, as a project for a class I was taking, I created a video showing the components of, and how to use the homework folder. Parents loved it!

Video Ideas

  1. Homework Folder 
  2. Planner or agenda
  3. Explaining class website/learning management system
  4. Reading/math calendar
  5. How to order books on http://www.scholastic.com
  6. Modeling how to send in money
  7. Picking up kids in the car loop
  8. Walk parents through how your newsletter is set up and what information they will find
  9. Tour of the classroom 

What video ideas would you include?

The car loop and homework folders would be actual video creations. The car loop would be more of an iMovie.  Wouldn’t it be fun to get staff and students involved in this one?  For the homework folder I used the Explain Everything app and then uploaded to YouTube. The rest could be made using a screen capturing tool. I’ve used Screencastify in the past. My current favorite is the Chrome extension, Snag It.  You could still upload all these to YouTube to make them easily accessible to everyone.  IF you really wan to go all out, embed a quiz for their understanding using the Zaption or Edupuzzle apps. The key is to use what you like, or maybe use this as a way to try out a new program or app.

Now, once the videos are made, you need to think about how you will share them. I already use SMORE as my newsletter, so I plan to use it to send home the links they may need to refer to over the year. This would be my back-to-school edition. In addition, I’d post on my website or LMS as well. Now if I need to remind parents or students of a procedure, I can easily send out the video.

Go a step further by creating QR codes and print them on card stock. I actually put the QR code for the homework folder video on the folder itself.  Again, I had lots of positive feedback from doing this.  If you print them on  cards they are then available to scan for home use. You can even have a page of QR codes or have each on a ring for families to take home that night.

You may still be asking how this is really flipping these events at all.  Well, what if you send these links or QR codes out at your Back-to-School or Meet Your Teacher Night?   If parents are unable to attend, send them out in your first few newsletters. Then, ask parents to look at them before returning to school for your formal information night.  This way, parents can view and digest the information leaving more time for them to ask the specific questions they may have.  Too often parents are given so much information in one night that they really don’t know what questions they have until they’ve left.  By asking them to view the videos and come armed with questions, the night can be so much more productive.  Parents can actually get the information they are really wanting.  It may even set the stage for a more collaborative relationship.  And, yes, not all parents will view the videos or even attend information night.  Don’t let that stop you.  If you want to do this, just go for it.  This will be my first year to try this.  I’m going to make mistakes.  I’ll learn from them and make it better for the next time.  I just want to provide my families with as much information as I can in a format that works for them.

I’ll be posting my resources as I make them in order to provide you with some examples and even get some constructive feedback.  I’d love to hear from you if you’ve already tried this or after you try it yourself.  Technology is all around us.  Let’s use it to improve communication and connections with our school families.