Presenting a Goal 68:365

I will be short and sweet.  I have goals for the upcoming year before summer 2015 I want to present (or lead a discussion) at a education conference.  I had thought about this many times and always come back to the idea.  I want to share ideas with other educators to help make them grow.  I want those ideas to grow not just in others, but in myself as well.

My second goal is to come up with a book topic to start writing.  (I have a few ideas now).  I have always wanted to write a book, a book about education will be great.  I hope that to have several ideas soon, and presenting at a conference is great!



Sending the Message 67:365

What message are we sending when we talk about our profession?  What story are we sharing when we talk about problems we face, struggles we share, and issues that frustrate us as professionals?  How is all of that perceived?

As educators, many of us have an ability to share, write, think, and learn.  We share our thoughts on things we have discovered, techniques we have learned, and pieces we have written.  So often now I hear about sharing our story; being the author of our own stories so that no one else can write them for us.

What then does the story say?  When we write about our great school, our incredible students, and our inspiring colleagues, it says so much more.  When we write about our frustration with the public for any number of things, complain about students, or school policies, it says something very different.  Our task has got to be to train new educators (and current ones) to be conscious of what our stories say about so many things.  Each story not only tells about the individual, but about the school, the kids, and the community.

When you share your ideas online, you are not documenting it for others to see! How will they receive it?  Are they taking it the way you intended?  These are important ideas to consider before publishing your ideas on a topic.  How do people respond AND how does your idea change the story?  Identify how the story changes from adding your perspective, then you can begin to understand what your words will mean to others.

Choose your story carefully.  It should be used to inspire, connect, or share.  Why else do you have a voice?

How U.S. Soccer Explains The Plight of Teachers

How Soccer Explains the World is one of my favorite books.  Given the excitement built up around the United States Soccer team and the World Cup, I felt compelled to discuss the parallels between the U.S. Soccer team’s popularity and the difficulty that many teachers face in the public eye.

Every four years Soccer in the United States becomes relevant.  I am not talking about the real fans that love the game and follow it (which are growing continuously), but relevant as in: it leads Sports Center, everyone is talking about it, and people take off from work to crowd the streets and watch it.  The kind of relevance that only the NFL really holds in this country in terms of sports.  When the U.S. is in the World Cup and playing well, Americans care.  It thrusts soccer into the national spotlight.  Every four years every American knows how what the U.S. soccer team should do to improve the game and how to make it more relevant all the time.

Education (though gaining in continual relevance) gets thrust into the national and state spotlight every four years as well.  It is made epically important during election season (the World Cup of Politics.)  Every four years Teachers, education, and the future of our children become a bargaining chip on the political playground.  Everyone talks about it, everyone knows all about how the schools can be “fixed” and ways to make teachers better.

The truth is, get ready for it all of America, most people, even educated people in the game of Soccer, do not have a clue how to make the American team better.  There are a number of people who do, but the vast majority of people who talk about it know very little about the way to make it work. Those people who do have a good ideas about  Many people who are involved in the game are not making it better.  We who love soccer are mainly either not instituting good ideas, or don’t have them.

Now are you ready for this bombshell Americans?  When it comes to education, most people involved in creating the policies surrounding education, either do not have a clue about it, or do not have education as their goal.  Yes there are many people who have good ideas, many people fighting to make the field better.  Often, as is the case with U.S. Soccer, those ideas are not heard, or acted upon.

Finally, every four years, when the dust settles, the cameras go away, and those of us who love it (both Soccer & Education) are left to keep the fight going behind the scene.  While there will be a few stories here and there, the only people who will truly care, are those that have a stake.  The people left in the wake of the cameras and glitz of these two things I love are the ones left to continue building them for the future.  The biggest difference however, is that four years from now, the U.S. Soccer team will be able to showcase their quality to the world, while American teachers are left to continue improving education in the face of criticisms and negative perception.

If you ask the average person, What do you think of Soccer/Teachers? You will get similar answers.  I like it/them.  The general answer is that yes, we like Soccer/Teachers but we are not willing to really commit to the work they are doing.  We are not willing to fully invest ourselves year-round to helping them, or even committing to keeping them from harm. Those same people will sit quietly while people bash teachers/soccer because they know it is considered socially acceptable.

If you understand how things work on the world stage of soccer for Americans, then you understand how American teachers have been viewed over the past eight to ten years.  If you understand the plight of teachers, then you will understand how Americans view soccer and the struggles of American Soccer.

Being There from Here 65:365

Business have taken advantage of this for year. We in education have started to jump on the bandwagon too. This weekend there is a major conference in education going on in Atlanta, ISTE. ISTE is a techie educator’s dream. It should be a chance for every educator to improve their craft through learning how to incorporate technology into their classrooms and schools.

But, most of us do not get to attend for various reasons. We could miss out on this great opportunity, but the combination of several digital age technologies with social media have made the learning (in many ways) open to everyone. Right now I am following the information coming from Atlanta with my toddler on the couch through video podcasts, twitter, google+ and later this weekend on Voxer.

The learning is available! Can’t travel to an academic conference? Educators need to be digitally and socially active so they can learn from everywhere! Not at ISTE? Follow it anyway with #notatiste14 Teacher Cast, The Two Guys Show, and more! It is there for us to learn! Start taking advantage!

Giving Up Control 64:365

So often we talk about giving control back to students, back to teachers, and not trying to own and control everything.  It is easy to say, but it becomes very difficult to do.

Tonight and this summer I have started to do this.  Granted, this is not by choice, but by necessity.  It has become ideal for me though.  Several months ago I began my own edchat on twitter.  It started quite randomly and then turned into something I have truly enjoyed.  I began the chat during a conversation with around 10 people about teacher leadership.  It was frustrating being limited to so few characters with so many people involved and I decided to create the hashtag for #tleadchat.

I began the chat thinking lots of teachers would take the lead, but as the weeks went on, I had lots of things I wanted to learn more about.  I started using the chat as a personal learning space for topics I found interesting.

Finally, as the summer approached, I had a problem.  I work nights during the summer, specifically the nights that #tleadchat took place.  I was forced to either watch my chat disappear for the summer, or give up control to the teachers I hoped to see lead at the beginning.

Tonight was the first chat that I gave to someone else. (not counting one that I co-moderated a few weeks back) I was a participant in her ideas, her questions, her learning.  It gave me a great perspective.  I need to be that participant.  To me, running a chat seemed like such a simple task because I had done it over a dozen times.  I forgot that it can be intimidating.

She (@ChEdTn Julie South) was AWESOME.  She asked great questions, adjusted to the learners in her chat, and offered a lot to the chat!  It was better because I stepped aside.  In reflection, I realized that I should have stepped aside earlier.  I can always take days here and there, but by turning control over to someone who wanted the chance, I got to see her success.  I got to witness her being great, which was an even more exciting than getting to do it myself!

As a leader, giving up control is the hardest thing we do.  Trusting that everyone else around you will rise to the occasion and do something well, is a huge part of what being a leader means.  Almost every date on the summer schedule is now filled.  I cannot wait to see how great everyone does as they continue to take control.  If you are on the fence about giving up some control, jump off, trust your people to do the best they can and do great things!

Out of the Loop 63:365

Now that I am working nights, I have been less active on my twitter feed.  I have been very active in connecting with fellow educators to discuss significant numbers of educators from across the globe.  It has been an incredible and rewarding experience from which I have learned so much.  

This new schedule has created for me, a void of my general twitter chat schedule.  I understand that during the summer there will be a less stringent schedule, but so many educators continue to be active and maintain a strong desire to learn.  As I spend time in the evenings trying to catch up and connect, I find that I am feeling very disconnected for the first time I can remember.  Before, when I did not use twitter, I did not feel disconnected because I did not realize the treasure chest of information I had yet to experience.

I am hoping to determine new ways to find connection with my fellow educators.  It is challenging to stay connected, but I will continue to  try!  

Creating the Shared Experience 62:365

In my last post I asked a question!  How do we create share experiences in our schools to build the love, passion, an “buy in” (I hate the term but I am blanking on a better one.)  Thanks to Jenn for posting a great response!

Here are a few ideas I think are helpful in creating a shared experience on a school.

– Some kind of theme or goal (can change yearly)

– School Spirit days that celebrate  the school’s achievements

– Staff opportunities to collaborate and also spend time together socially. (When your staff start to care about each other as both fellow educators and as people, it can be infectious.)

– A symbol or a mascot that everyone in the school identifies with and can rally around.

– A strong connection to the community

– An identifiable school brand.

– Active social media/ online school presence.

– Service learning

– Putting your personal stamp on your school in some way. (Each graduate gets a “brick” kind of idea.  In my first school where I worked as an aide, everyone there put their hand on the wall in paint with their name on it.  Every student and staff member that has gone to the school in the last 12 years has a hand on the wall.


This is certainly not an exclusive list, but it is a good start.  Building a shared experience is not about making a place better, it is about building something people love and care about.  It is about developing a culture where people say, “I Love This Place” and where they feel passionately about seeing it succeed.

Shared Experience 61:365

There is something special about being a part of a group all pulling for the same goal. While the experience I shared was not an educational one, it inspired me to think about the value of a shared experience.

During the summer I work at a bar/Restaurant. Tonight was the USA World Cup game against Portugal. At my place of summer work, there were easily 1,000 people cramming into the building to watch the event. The collective group shared highs and lows in a way that would otherwise make no sense.

Why? Ultimately, I believe it is because Americans have a deep rooted desire to see anything American do well. There is a collective identity that runs deep within the group.

The ultimate question then, how do we create shared experiences within our school community that build the kind of collective identity for our schools?

Please share your thoughts and ideas… I will be posting mine in my next blog!

You Can Lead Them to Water 60:365

We have all heard the cliché’, in fact, I just came across it rehashed on Twitter by @johnwink90. It prompted my immediate response, “but you can’t drown them…then its a cult!” I then read another comment by the incredible @lizdavis2 who suggested making them not only want to drink, but to make more water of their own.

But, right afterward I had a more serious thought about the old metaphor that made me want to share!

Instead of leading your followers to water, why not just give them the map. Help by putting some guide markers along the way. Check in on the group when they are in their most dire straits, and otherwise let them find their way.

This style of leadership will still get your group to water, but will also create a thirst when they have arrived. It reminds me of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. He is with the group at times, he never lets them fail, but ultimately, they do it on their own!

So, maybe the problem is not making your followers drink, but the fact that you led them to the water in the first place.

A Space of Our Own 59:365

20140620-192645-70005368.jpg (this is a picture from @PrimaryTeachNC I love her room) I have given a great deal of thought to what a learning space should be. I have watched podcasts, asked my pln, dedicated a twitter chat to the topic, and looked for pictures on Pinterest.

In doing this, I have decided that there is no right way to set up a classroom. Instead, ask yourself: “What is this space going to be used to learn?” A big part will reflect your learners, but an equally big part should reflect your personality. I want to see more movable furniture, more inviting reading spaces, and more choices for ways to learn.

That might not fit with everyone. It might not fit for every grade or classroom. I am still trying to figure out exactly what my ideal classroom looks like, but I have much better picture.

I had my room checked out today to end the year. I think it is the 1st time our Business Administrator REALLY looked at my room (his daughter will be in the class next year) and he was shocked as to what was in the room for furniture! I have his support, but the funding is up to me! As soon as i determine EXACTLY what I want, I will be setting up a Donor’s Choose page (I will add the link here soon.)

I hope to show off a new learning space soon!

Remember, your learning space is not just what everyone else thinks is good, it is what is best for the needs of you and your learners. Follow that maxim and your learning space will always be great!