Thursday, January 30, 2014

#tarteineurope was born...

If you've seen any of my tweets lately, you may have noticed I am out of town.

I'm currently traveling with my wife as she is in Europe for work. This seemed like an opportunity of a lifetime for us both to be in Europe and have the opportunity to see three different European countries in a short timespan.

You also probably know that the school year is in full swing and that by being out of the country, I'm obviously missing work.

This didn't really sit well with me since I pride myself on being available and responding quickly to those in need.

Having said all of this, I worked with our district technology coordinator, Josh Hall, and our WITs (Wildcat instructional technologists) in my district on ways we can make this personal experience for my wife and I a global and collaborative learning experience for students and staff back home in my district.

That was when #tarteineurope was born as the official hashtag of the trip.

Basically, as I travel and experience new things in Europe, I will tweet out images and short Vine videos. Simple enough...

We are encouraging students and staff at all levels to use the information I am sharing as they need it and as warranted with what they are currently doing in their classes.

So far we have had a 3rd grade class work on a 'where are you' mystery experience and we've had a high school geography course talk about the geography and terrain of the Netherlands.

Here's hoping this experience for my wife and I will be a wonderful learning experience for many others and encourage students and staff to appreciate our global differences, as well as possibly encourage others to travel abroad and experience this for themselves.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

10 ways Twitter makes me a better educator

1). Twitter is the most powerful tool in helping me to take control and responsibility of my own learning. Twitter provides me what I want when I need it, which results in me not needing formalized PD to grow and develop. I am no longer dependent upon others for my learning and my growth, which is quite empowering.

2). I want to be able to share resources, links, images, videos, and information with my colleagues quickly and easily. Twitter enables me to share and allows me to be precise with my sharing to those who need information that is relevant to them. I've had colleagues ask me numerous times about how I'm able to find all these resources and then share them with them so often. I tell them that I don't find these resources... they find me.

3). Twitter allows me to share my ideas and share my thoughts on education with the masses. This results in me getting feedback and input from others, which then allows me to learn collaboratively from others with different viewpoints and different perspectives. My ideas now become the accumulated and adapted ideas of many with lots and lots of levels of revision/feedback.

4). Being actively involved in Twitter and other social media spaces gives me credibility when working with others on being 'connected.' Too often we have people who say we need to do something and we need to start doing something but yet they aren't doing what they are telling others to do. By being on Twitter, I can give first-hand experience and have the credibility to back up what I'm advocating.

5). Twitter allows me to develop and enhance my own personal digital footprint/brand. I've been contacted to speak and work with school districts as a result of my Twitter presence, and this in turn has helped me establish new contacts and new networks that have provided me opportunities that I otherwise would never have had.

6). In my district we are looking to continue conversations and move forward with a redesign of our assessment and grading practices. Twitter allows me to reach out to educators from across the globe to find others who have already been through this process to help us along our journey.

7). Twitter provides me timely, relevant, and up-to-date information about the hottest and most current trends in education. If you are like me, you don't have a ton of free time, but by spending 10-15 minutes a day I can get a quick snapshot of the most discussed topics and issues going on in education.

8). I'm able to connect with and learn from the most well-known and most current education experts. These folks used to be considered 'unreachable' unless your school/district was interested in ponying up a ton of money to have them come out and speak. Now you have virtually unlimited access to these experts who are more than willing to share their thoughts and ideas.

9). Twitter also helps me understand who I am as an educator. By tweeting out my thought and ideas, I have to really think about what I'm tweeting, which means I have to really know what I believe and what I stand for. Twitter pushes me to be more self-reflective and more aware of my beliefs toward education.

10). Lastly, Twitter gives me a boost of energy and inspiration and frankly reaffirms the work that educators all over the world are doing. For the most part, Twitter is a positive environment, and it's because of the good-spirited nature of educators, the Twitterverse is a hotbed for optimism, positivity, and the sharing of new and exciting ideas/approaches.

I'm not saying that you have to be on Twitter to be a great educator, but I can say without hesitation that if you are on Twitter, I can guarantee you will be better than you were pre-Twitter. Go ahead, give Twitter a chance... I think you may just like what you find.

Check out this '10 steps for educators new to Twitter' post for more information on how to get started using Twitter.

Happy Tweeting!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Do your actions align with your beliefs...?

As educators we all have beliefs about education and the formalized process of 'learning.'

We are probably quite passionate about our beliefs and most likely feel pretty confident in our execution.

Try the simple task of writing down your top 5 beliefs about education. Then, simply go down the list and think about all the things you do on a daily basis.

If you are a teacher, then this is going to be the things you do in your classroom. If you are an administrator, then think about the things you do in your building or in your district.

When thinking about all the things you do on an average day, keep your top 5 beliefs in mind. Are the things you are doing every single day aligned with your beliefs? Are your actions representative of what you believe? Are you saying one thing but doing something completely different? Are your actions in agreement with your philosophy of education?

The truth is that if you actually spent some time doing this activity, you most likely came across a few things you do that don't really align with your beliefs.

In fact, you probably do a few things that contradict and completely go against your top 5 beliefs in education.

Don't beat yourself up too bad over this as it's pretty normal and pretty common.

Do however spend some time figuring out ways to adjust your actions to ensure they become more closely aligned with your beliefs.

Moving forward, keep your top 5 beliefs about education posted on your desk or on the wall in your office as a constant and frequent reminder.

Take it a step further and don't be afraid to revisit your top 5 beliefs and adjust as needed... remember, as we grow in our development as educators, it's not unreasonable to think that our beliefs could shift and change in time...


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

8 things we know better but do anyway...

1). We continue to point fingers and do the same things over and over and expect different results. If kids continue not doing what we are asking them to do, then maybe we are the ones who need to reconsider what we are asking them to do. If parents just don't understand, then maybe we need to do a better job of working with them and helping them to understand. If it didn't work the first 10 times, then now is a perfect time to try something new.

2). We treat a brand new teacher/administrator the same as we do a 25 year veteran teacher/administrator in terms of their growth and improvement. Here's the deal, if our 25 year veteran folks have the same needs as our brand new folks to the profession/position, then we have a major problem. We talk about personalizing and customizing education for our students, why aren't we doing this for our colleagues?

3). We pull kids out of their elective courses (the courses they most likely enjoy the most therefore giving them a reason to enjoy school) and we put them in even more classes they are struggling with. School quickly becomes something that kids resent and try to avoid simply because we force them to spend all their time dealing with their weaknesses and their deficits.

4). We continue to develop and implement our school schedules based on what's convenient and easiest for the adults. Let's think about this for a second. Accountability and testing seem to be more and more prevalent in our schools, but yet we are making scheduling decisions that aren't in the best interest of our students. Why don't we make scheduling decisions based on what's best for our students (start and stop time and the elimination of bells) and in turn see an improvement in test scores, which then will be what's easiest and best for adults? 

5). We continue to use and structure our learning environments in isolation and in silos with very little transferability and connectedness. Our classrooms have four walls and are packed with uncomfortable desks. Schools are designed with a segmented approach and most information that is presented is not presented with context and connection to other classes, but rather presented in isolation. The gap between the 'real-world' and the 'school-world' couldn't be more apparent, but fortunately, the same advances that are widening this gap also have the ability to shrink the gap.

6). We say we want people to try new things and we say we want our kids to take risks but yet our actions tell a completely different story. Instead of punishing students and educators for taking risks and finding limits to their abilities, we should be encouraging kids and educators to explore, discover, and attempt what has never been done. On a related note, when we reward and recognize simple 'compliance' and 'robot like behavior,' we are sending the same basic message.

7). We know that incentives and 'carrots' only work for a short time and are not long-term solutions to issues in education. Despite us knowing that best case scenario it a short-term boost, we continue to use these incentives and are conditioning students to always ask, 'what's in it for me' and 'what do I get when I'm done?'

8). We know a free-thinking and independent mind is the path to prosperity, but yet we continue to approach education as if it's only for certain folks in certain areas. We need to focus on creating learning opportunities for all... even more so for those folks who wouldn't otherwise have these opportunities. Education should be and needs to be a societal gap minimizer and equalizer, not a reminder of our differences...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Don't live your life in fear

Should you, or shouldn't you?

How will others react to what you've done?

Will you end up regretting what you've done at a later date?

This opportunity doesn't come around often, will it come around again?

If you do this, will others look upon you differently?

Can you recover from your actions if things don't go well?

We all live a life full of choices and a life full of decisions.

Though it may not seem like it, these choices and decisions we are faced with on a daily basis ultimately end up defining who we are.
As someone much smarter than I said, it's not what's inside of us that matters... it's what we do that defines us.

Obviously the choices we make affect those around us, and it's how these choices affect others that typically ends of deciding if or whether the choice was a good one or not.

I'm not saying we should ignore how our choices affect those around us. This is a vitally important part of life.

But let's be clear about one thing...

We too have to live with our own choices and we have to live with how our choices affect us as well.

It's easy to say why you can't do something or why you didn't do something. It's frankly too easy which makes it far too common.

Fear is an important emotion that which we can't ignore.

However, if your life is consumed with your fears and 'what ifs' and 
what abouts.' you will surely miss out on all the possibilities that you can't yet imagine and can't yet foresee.

It's those decisions and choices we make when fear is all around us that teach us the most.

It's when fear is at its tipping point that true character and courage shine through.

Fear let's you know you are human... 

Being human is what allows you to act inspite of your fear...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

10 steps for educators new to Twitter

Educators from all around the world are beginning and continuing to see Twitter as a valuable piece in their professional growth toolbox. As professional development continues to evolve and transform, we will need new ways to encourage teachers to embrace new opportunities. Here is a "How to Twitter Guide" to share with new and veteran teachers on ways to utilize Twitter. Also, check out my '10 ways Twitter makes me a better educator' post.

1) - Sign up for your Twitter account! Click Here!

Sign up for your Twitter account and get started. Make sure to fill out your profile as much as possible, and it is also a great idea to make sure you upload a picture of yourself! Educators on Twitter will feel more comfortable knowing what you look also helps to keep the social in social media - say cheese!

2) - Spend some time watching and observing others... Check out my Twitter video!

Take some time to learn the ins and outs of Twitter. This step is important because it will lay the foundation of how others are using and embracing Twitter as a professional development tool. If you are looking for a few awesome educators to follow and learn from, here is a great list to start with:

@gcouros @web20classroom @NMHS_Principal @tomwhitby @kylepace @cybraryman1 @principalspage @ShellTerrell @ChrisWejr @shannonmmiller @patrickmlarkin @lynhilt @ToddWhitaker @Dwight_Carter @datruss @mcleod  @plugusin @stumpteacher @kleinerin @mattbgomez @rickwormeli @edrethink @teachthought @edutopia @coolcatteacher

3) - Talk to educators who are using Twitter...

I would be willing to bet that you learned about or heard something about Twitter from a colleague. This is great news! This means you most likely have someone in your building or in your district who is using Twitter, and this gives you the opportunity to question them about how they use Twitter as a professional development tool. Tap into their experience and find out how Twitter has affected them professionally. These colleagues can be huge when it comes to supporting you and your future growth and development. Treasure them!

4) - Start to interact with your followers...

The key to making the Twitter experience the best it can be is in developing relationships with the people with whom you interact. By interacting with people you are able to foster an environment of sharing and collaboration. People are more willing to help and support you when they know they can rely on you to be a valuable member of their Twitter community. Building and establishing relationships with your followers is crucial.

5) - Continue the conversation by leaving comments on their blogs...

As you start interacting more you will take part in more and more conversations. You will find that many of these conversations can lead to future blog posts. Take time to read the blogs of people with whom you interact, and make sure to continue the conversation by leaving comments. By leaving a comment you are showing your dedication to the thoughts and musings of others...this is extremely important as you continue developing relationships.

6) - It's okay to be social...

Twitter conversations need to be focused and on topic, and for the most part should remain professional. However, it is important to remember that the people with whom you interact are people with lives and families, and as such it is okay to be friendly and social from time to time. In fact, I would say it is encouraged! Being social helps to develop and refine your Twitter relationships, which in turn will lead to more productive professional conversations.

7) - Be selective when it comes to who you follow...

There are some people on Twitter who are going to challenge you and make your Twitter experience greatly rewarding...there are others who will not. Make sure you find and follow those people who are actively tweeting and participating in conversations. Just because somebody follows you does not mean you have some obligation to follow them. Twitter follows the "unconference" model...if somebody adds value then you follow them, and if they don't add value then you move on.

8) - You will get what you put into it...

As mentioned several times already, building strong relationships is key. If you tweet once a week and never check to see what the people you are following are tweeting, then you probably won't get too much out of Twitter. To get something out of Twitter you will need to be an active and frequent participant. You don't have to tweet 100 times a day, but you will need be actively involved if you wish to get any meaningful use out of Twitter.

9) - Remember...use Twitter as a tool to meet your needs...

Twitter is anything and everything you need it to be. If you want to get professional development ideas they are out there...if you want to collaborate and share with math teachers they are willing...if you have questions and need help it is available. When somebody helps you to meet your needs, please make sure to repay the favor if possible. Twitter thrives on the generosity and reciprocity of the Twitter community.

10) - Share, explore, discover, collaborate and encourage others...

Enjoy Twitter and take advantage of the many great educators who are willing to share and help. Some of the most progressive and influential educators can be found on Twitter, and it is their dedication to improving education that makes this such a powerful tool.

If you have any additional questions on how Twitter can be used for educators I would suggest checking out these links:

Twitter for Teachers: a Professional Development Tool

10 Commandments of Twitter Etiquette

Educator Hash Tags via @cybraryman1

Friday, January 17, 2014

6 myths in education that need a debunking!

Myth 1 - Students will abuse and take advantage of a situation if we treat another student 'differently.' We all believe in differentiating, personalizing, and customizing the educational experience for our students as much as possible. Having said that, many believe that if you do something perceived to be 'easier' for one student or you 'cut them slack,' then other students will exploit and use this situation to their advantage. Here's the deal, what's fair isn't always equal, and what's equal isn't always fair, and a majority of students aren't going to take advantage of a situation just because you treated another student 'differently.'
Myth 2 - Students learn from 'zeros.' When a student receives a zero for not completing an assignment (this could be for numerous different reasons), the student deserves a zero because in turn they will learn from this zero and learn not to repeat this behavior. For the record, I'm still waiting to find the kid who gets a zero and says 'I have now seen the light and I will no longer commit myself to such atrocities and hence forth all of my future assignments will be turned in completed and on time with a little pretty bow on top...'

Myth 3 - Teachers need lots of 'summative' type assessments and excel spreadsheets to determine if a kid has actually mastered the content/skills. Teachers work with their kids on a daily basis and they know their kids really well, both academically and personally. For some kids, they see their teachers more than they do their own parents. It's unprofessional and degrading to educators to think they have to give their students a formalized 'test' just so they can prove what they already know. Save the time, save the aggravation, and focus on continuing to learn...

Myth 4 - If a student has an 'A' they've obviously mastered all the content/skills for that particular course. Far too often we get lost in what grades really mean, and unfortunately, we are finding more and more that a grade really isn't very aligned with actual content/skill mastery. Pressure from students, parents, and society, make it difficult to transition away from grades, but the closer and closer we look at grades the further and further away we get from actual definitive proof of learning.

Myth 5 - When we offer rewards and incentives to get kids to perform at higher levels we are going to get a sustainable and long-lasting positive difference in their effort and overall performance. We live in a society where saying 'what do I get' is far too commonplace. Kids and adults always want to know what's in it for them. This strategy and mindset of using extrinsic motivators and rewards to get better and higher performance is short-term at best. Perhaps you get a boost in performance for a couple weeks, but eventually that 'reward' is going to wear off and the current reward will no longer be enough to warrant that level of performance. True reward is born out of intrinsic motivation and a self-driven interest in doing whatever the task may be. Rewards and incentives are a dangerous game to play and I fear the game has been spinning out of control for a while now...

Myth 6 - To be a good and 'tough' teacher, you need to give out tons of homework and do lots of pop quizzes. Parents hate to see their kids at home without any homework because without any homework they assume the students aren't learning anything, thus the teacher must not be teaching anything. This couldn't be further from the truth. Aside from the negative effects of homework and the fact that many students are missing out on what really matters as a young kid growing up, homework is becoming a 'love of learning' killer.

Far too often homework is used to replace a lack of class time and kids are expected to teach themselves and learn on their own. Many kids then struggle and end up doing the work incorrectly anyway. If the kids can already do the work, then homework becomes a simple task of compliance. Lastly, pop quizzes should be avoided. If you trust the validity of your assessments, you shouldn't fear the kid knowing your expectations and knowing the exact time and place of the assessment. Pop quizzes shift the focus away from the content and skills, and put the focus on kids being stressed and pressured... neither of which are good for academic performance.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

We always have a choice...

Sometimes things don't quite work out the way we planned...

Sometimes life throws a curveball when we're expecting a fastball...
Sometimes people act in ways that we never could have imagined...

Sometimes we're put in a position that is less than favorable to say the least...

Sometimes despite all the advanced planning and preparation, things just don't work out...

In life, when these 'sometimes' happen, we have a choice in how we are going to respond.

It's not complicated and it's not really multiple choice.

It is however extremely difficult to regulate our emotions and maintain a level-head. There is no doubt about that...

Remember, no matter what happens you will always have a choice as to how you are going to let whatever happened affect and impact you.

This is your choice and only your choice.

Here's hoping you are making the right choice...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

5 helpful strategies for self-reflection

One of the beauties of education is that we get the opportunity to try and explore new ideas.  In fact, we are encouraged to think outside of the box to discover new and improved ways to engage, inspire and motivate students.  Moreover, when we have new ideas and solutions to problems, we are forcing ourselves to evaluate and assess our current practices.
A fancy word that all educators have heard (some so much it makes them sick) is "reflection."  At the risk of potentially sickening more educators throughout the world, I would like to reemphasize the importance of self-reflection by providing 5 helpful strategies as they pertain to "reflection," and our unyielding pursuit of improving education.

1 - Ask yourself if your actions truly represent your beliefs and opinions...

The first step in self-reflection is to really evaluate and assess what you are doing, and how you are doing it.  Looking into the mirror and being honest with yourself is crucial as you determine the consistency of your beliefs and actions.  Most people realize quite quickly that they do very well with certain situations, while other situations are definite weak spots that could use improvement.  If we are saying one thing and doing something completely different, it is time to change and align our actions with our beliefs.

2 - Accept the fact that what once worked perfectly, might not be the best approach for now...

As educators we are bombarded with new ideas and so called "silver bullets" promising a quick fix to educational issues.  With all of these new ideas, it is easy to slide into a comfort zone to avoid the ever terrible issue of "change."  It is unavoidable, but we all get comfortable with certain strategies and methods, and as the educational setting evolves and changes, we have to be willing to update and modify our approach to educating students.  As hard as this may be, we can not ignore that the students are different, and similarly we are different, and as a result our approach and methodology must be different.

3 - Include others as you begin the self-reflection process.  People are very willing to help when you ask for their advice and assistance...

It is human nature to be somewhat biased toward your own strengths and weaknesses, and because of this it is extremely important to obtain assistance from others as you move closer to self-reflection.  The best thing about recruiting others to help you in your endeavor is that most people will give you honest advice and feedback since they know they are an integral part of your self-improvement.  Additionally, there are things other people see and notice about you that provide insight into who you really are as an educator.

4 - You are like a "living document," and as such you should be in a constant state of change...

Rethink, reinvent, reinvigorate, redevelop, redeploy, renew, reemphasize and any other word that prevents you from being a 'static' educator.  Just as kids are continually changing and evolving, we as educators need to remain flexible and adaptable.

5 - Remember that self-reflection is an essential piece to growing and developing as an educator...

Almost everything we do in education requires an evaluation along with reflection.  A new program, a new idea, a tweaking of an assessment, and any other piece of education we use to help students should be subject to reflection and evaluation.  There is no greater tool than sitting down and thinking about what happened, why it happened, and how we can make it better and improve upon it for the next time.  Sharing and collaborating through self-reflection will continue to be one of the most important resources for educators, and with the advancements in technology and communication tools, the process is getting a lot easier!

Remember, when you think you have it mastered, perfected, or you just feel really comfortable, it is time to self-reflect and time to evaluate your current practices. 

The great educators and the great minds of the future will be those who get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Similarly, the great educators and the great minds of the future will be those who plan and act with purpose, rather than simply acting out of necessity...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The door swings both ways...

We ask a lot of students... perhaps more now than ever.

Our students are in a world that is changing so quickly that as soon as a new trend is established many are already moving on to the next emerging trend.

Likewise, what we know about education, what we know about the brain, and what we know about how learning and instruction are maximized, are increasingly and frequently changing at a rapid pace.

On the positive side, both for students and for educators, there is more information and more of 'the world' available to us than ever before.

The tools and technology we are using now will be the 'worst' tools both we and our students will ever use (assuming that technology advances and improvements continue).

So here's the deal, we all expect our students to have some self-driven intrinsic motivation toward learning.

We expect our students to thrive and embrace autonomy and self-directed freedom when it comes to their learning.

We expect our students to take ownership and responsibility of their learning and their overall academic well-being.

We expect more from our students than we ever have before...

So, why don't we have the same expectations for ourselves?

Why don't we have the same expectations for our colleagues?

Why do we allow, accept, and by being passive, encourage the type of behavior that we won't accept for our students?

We are asking a lot of our kids.

I think it just may be time we ask a lot of our colleagues and ask even more of ourselves.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dear Mr. Connor...

I would personally like to thank you.

You've taught me a very valuable lesson and reengaged my interest in a particular area that is affecting every single student that enters our schools.

Last night, your school district Superintendent posted via Twitter that school would be in session the next day... (many schools in the St. Louis area have been closed all week due to #snowpocalypse2014).

Your district Superintendent was also kind enough to send a tweet immediately before the school open/close announcement saying simply 'that just because an idea pops in your head doesn't mean you should share it with the world.'

Unfortunately, Mr. Connor, you failed to heed the advice of your notably wise and future predicting Superintendent.

What you posted via Twitter back to your Superintendent is really not important, but what is important, is that it was extremely inappropriate and frankly shocking to me.

My immediate response...

Now, Mr. Connor, would your tirade have ended with one simple misdirected tweet, that would have been one thing, however it continued for several more tweets.

I felt the need to say something, Mr. Connor, since you weren't understanding the levity of the situation...

**For the record, I don't believe expulsion is even remotely close to the best option in this situation... just want to make that clear.

As you can see Mr. Connor, my tweet got quite a few retweets and favorites by mostly your peers. The tweet was going viral in our little neck of the woods so to speak.

Within 10 minutes Mr. Connor, you had deleted all the inappropriate tweets, you had changed your Twitter profile picture, and you had changed your Twitter account to 'protected.'

Obviously at this stage you must have realized you made a mistake.

Now, here's the deal Mr. Connor, you've demonstrated to me and MANY others the importance of teaching digital citizenship within our school curricula. It's exchanges and events like this that can have a lasting and devastating impact on a prospective college student or prospective job applicant such as yourself.

Mr. Connor, learn from this event and please know that what might seem like nothing, can quickly turn into something much bigger and far greater in a short period of time.

Mr. Connor, I honestly believe you've learned a valuable lesson, and I wish you all the luck in helping others to learn this lesson the easy way, and not the hard way...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

10 little things that make a huge difference...

Start saying 'please' and 'thank you' even when it's for seemingly small and trivial events/transactions. Nobody has ever been shunned for being too polite and kind...

Go the extra mile and make that one last phone call, send that one last email, or finish that one last conversation. Those little things that most put off for another day (and tend to forget) make a huge difference to those around you...

Give support and encouragement to someone who you know is pushing themselves and trying something new. Added bonus... check in on them from time-to-time and offer assistance as needed and requested.

Share something that positively affected you with someone else. When we share what we value, we share a piece of who we are, and that is how trust and relationships are formed.

Make humility a top priority when working with and interacting with others. Nobody wants to be around the person who 'knows it all' and the person who is 'never wrong.' Be the person who wants to find out and the person who is human and makes mistakes...

Don't ever be caught talking poorly about someone. Remember, when someone hears you talking poorly about someone else, it's natural to think about how that person talks about you behind your back. Keep it simple and stay positive.

Stay calm and keep a level head. When people start to get 'crazy' it tends to put everyone in a state of frantic. Be the one who remains calm and brings everything back under control.

Make it personal... Yes, of course we all have jobs and deadlines that need to be addressed. But, there is always time to get to know folks and know them on a personal level that goes beyond just the professional level. No, you don't need to know their favorite color or their favorite type of ice cream, but knowing the basics of their life can mean a lot...

Put yourself in their shoes and show some empathy. This has nothing to do with being 'easy' on people... it has everything to do with knowing that we are all battling our own set of challenges. Remember, what comes around goes around, and your empathy will be repaid in full when you need it most.

Smile and be friendly...   :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Does 'boredom' always have to be a bad thing?

I've been thinking a lot lately about being 'bored.'

These thoughts are not just for students in school, but also for adults or anyone else for that matter.

Far too often we hear of being bored as being a bad thing.
Students are bored in class because the information is irrelevant, outdated, or presented in isolation with no clear connection to anything else. And, we've all heard it before... idle hands are the devil's playground.

Employees are bored because their job has become mundane and has become far too predictable and lacks any real excitement. And, we've all seen it... somebody has a case of the Mondays.

Outside of school and the workplace people avoid boredom like the plague because sitting around and 'doing nothing' is only for 'losers' and nobody wants to be a loser (#sarcasm).

Nobody wants to be that person sitting at home on a Friday night reading Facebook posts and Tweets about what everyone else is doing with their exciting lives...

But then I start to think about my life and what I do during these so called 'bored moments.'

*For the record I'm not bored with my job just in case my boss reads this. :)

I've found that during these moments when I don't have anything concretely planned or expected of me, I find other things to do.

Sometimes I revisit previously completed projects or ideas, while other times I explore further an idea or a project that I've been wanting to dive into.

Now, maybe I'm just talking about 20% time in a different way, but I'm starting to think that 'boredom' doesn't need to be and shouldn't always be seen as a negative.

I think we need a little boredom in our lives because it's during this time that existing things get improved and new things get discovered...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

10 things your students need from you this year

1). Your students need you to recognize and accept that the world they are growing up in is quite different than the world you grew up in. As a result, classroom instruction and learning must be and should be different than what may have happened in the past.

2). Your students need you to trust them. Your students want to be given the chance to prove themselves. Just as you want your students to trust you, they want that trust to be reciprocated.

3). Your students need to know you see them as more than just students. Your students need to know that you see them as individuals with needs that are changing often and frequently. Your students need to know they are more than just a 'number.'
4). Your students need to see you fail and they need to see you take chances by doing things you've never done before in your classroom. Appropriately modeling failure for your students can be extremely empowering for kids.

5). Your students need you to provide them autonomy and flexibility to do things their way. Obviously this may not be possible with every single activity, but giving students more freedom in how they demonstrate their learning is absolutely critical.

6). Your students need you to accept that fair is not always equal. Your students are getting to a point of frustration because they recognize that things are rarely 'black and white,' thus what happens in the classroom shouldn't be treated as such.

7). Your students need you to recognize that your classroom instruction should be geared toward how your students learn best... not how you learn best.

8). Your students need you to be organized and need to know you are planning with purpose. This isn't to say that those 'teachable moments' are avoided, but students need and want smooth transitions as a result of planning rather than disorganization and uncertainty on the part of the teacher.

9). Your students need to know the work they are doing serves a purpose and is relevant. Your students need and want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and they want their time to be validated.

10). Your students need you to be your best every single day. There are some careers that allow for 'bad days' and allow you to fly under the radar so to speak... education is not that career. Your kids need your 'A' game every single day.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How far is your social media influence?

We've all sent a tweet that didn't get any retweets...

We've all written a blog post that didn't get many pageviews...

We've all posted something on Facebook that didn't get many 'likes'...

We've all posted a video on YouTube that didn't get many views...

When any or all of these events happen, it doesn't always feel too good.
Granted, it's not about the retweets, 'likes,' and pageviews, but obviously we all want to think the stuff we are sharing is valuable to others, therefore being worthy of retweets, 'likes,' and lots of pageviews.

But here's the thing that we tend to forget and not realize...

Just because a tweet doesn't receive a ton of retweets, a blog post doesn't get a lot of pageviews, or a Facebook post doesn't get huge amounts of 'likes,' doesn't mean it didn't have an impact or an influence on others.

We have to look at it like hobbyists and collectibles. We have to look at the quality of the influence and impact over the quantity of retweets, pageviews, and 'likes.'

I've personally had blog posts that have gotten very few pageviews but have greatly impacted others.

I've had tweets that didn't seem to get much attention but they've changed somebody's mindset about a particular issue.

Here's my point... don't assume that just because you didn't get a million retweets, 74,389 pageviews for that blog post, and a truck load of 'likes' on that last Facebook post, that it didn't affect and impact others in your social network.

The last thing we need is for you to give up and stop sharing your ideas just because you think no one is listening.

Your social media influence reaches far beyond what you might think...