Blogs

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Small Town Vibe

You know the small-town vibe that you get when you are passing through… if you blink you will miss it.

One restaurant

One traffic light… no, make that one stop sign

One grocery store

One way

I am currently in a book study hosted by #2menandabook on “Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm” by Hamish Brewer. Recently, my dear friend Jennifer Ledford shared her small town experience in her reflection regarding her purpose. For as many positives as she has experienced, she went on to say,

The problem with living in a small town, especially when you don’t have the best childhood experience, is that everyone knows. My purpose was a little clouded because of what was going on with my family.

Jennifer Ledford

WOW! This reflection truly resonated with me. It made me think of how small our classrooms can be if we don’t recognize the whole child and how lost they may feel in finding their purpose. We may not be able to control outside factors for every child like Jennifer or my own childhood self, but we have full control over ourselves and the way we help to build a positive experience each day for each student that we are privileged to work with.

Big City Impact With A Small Town Vibe

If we really want to create impact, the big city kind with choices around every bend, we must allow room for life experiences that come packaged in the size of a child. Imagine if our room felt like that small town, where everyone knows you and your story… not the kind that builds relationships, but rather the judgmental kind that adds roadblocks in place of detours. There is a simple way to shine the spotlight on every child so that their small town classroom experience is loving, supportive, and full of understanding that allows for a new day and a new choice around every bend.

Building the Right Reputation

As the adult in charge, helping a child build a reputation is not only a privilege but a professional responsibility. This is a deal-breaker on how a child views themselves, reacts and lives up to their potential by thriving on their purpose that they are most likely still searching for in their world. The question is, how do we handle behavior so that we can cultivate a positive reputation for each child with their peers, staff members, and for themselves? A positive reputation builds confidence and helps a child recognize that poor choices are lessons in life, not defining. Have we forgotten that is how we too have learned (and still do). These very lessons help to build resilience and the potential for goal setting that leads to growth.

We need to ask ourselves how we handle this very delicate matter. Do we treat it like a coat that can be switched out in a minute’s notice or a layer of skin that becomes a part of who they are? A child’s behavior should be personal… a one to one conversation wrapped up in care, love, and respect. The behavior itself is their story… a road map if you will, to what that child needs. It is a way for them to express themselves and often times it comes out poorly when they do not feel valued and invested in with a strong relationship that will love them through unconditionally. In the end, we share in the responsibility of how that child’s reputation builds up from day one, as we are the adult in charge with an opportunity at hand. Let’s not forget, a child’s reputation is not the only one being shaped when we choose how to respond. Let’s create a big city impact with a small, positive vibe!

Let me leave you with my childhood hero’s words. Mr. Rogers, a Pittsburgh native and role model for all parents, always invited me into his small town neighborhood where he created a big city impact on my world. This was my safe place, where he reminded me that he loved me “just the way I was”.

Our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable EACH ONE OF US REALLY IS, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.

MISTER Rogers
Personal Learning

Truly Listening

There are times that I am left in complete awe of the words my children share with me when I am truly listening. Their willingness to be so transparent is remarkable and the way they speak with such conviction most often stops me in my tracks. Trent will soon be 17, so I suppose I have grown to expect it from him at his age. Jack, my youngest, not so much. Although, I have to say that when I stopped and truly listened I learned more than I ever imagined.

This past weekend I learned he has quite an outlook on life for a 13-year-old boy. One that gave me pause. One that spoke directly to my heart. When I was his age I simply kept most of my thoughts to myself or stored them up for conversations with my friends, but not him… or at least not this past weekend. His words were for me. #GratefulMomMoment

We were packed and ready to head to camp. A place that has become our summer sanctuary… a place of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. We listened to a variety of music on the way up and then once we arrived we nestled into our spots in the warm sun. For many reasons, including the music, the warm breeze, and the peace surrounding us, we were reminded of my late mother-in-law, most lovingly known as Nana. We fell right into a conversation about

all the times

all the memories

the laughter

the love

We were truly listening to one another… in tune with the same heart. Maybe it was the music that took us on our journey or maybe it was just our time to connect (Jack’s song pick was”Faithfully” by Journey). It didn’t matter, we were both embracing it as if we had never known such a bond and understanding. We were truly listening to one another. I asked him what he missed most about her and he quickly replied just having her here with us. I knew exactly what he meant and he seemed to trust that I was speaking his language. As our conversation came to a close, I said to Jack, “we thought we would have her for a lifetime, huh buddy?” To which he replied,

In a way we did, it was just hers.

I’m not sure why I always equated a large number to a lifetime, but Jack, at the young age of 13, seemed to get it completely. A lifetime… the duration of one’s life. Not a number, just a span of unknown time to us.

I looked at him a bit differently that day. I saw my husband differently, too. I went for as many walks as anyone wanted to and never once took out my computer. I plugged my phone in and walked away. I was truly listening. Such a gift! It was then, that I knew I create my own choices… “my lifetime”.

How will you live YOUR lifetime? #ProfoundWordsOfA13YearOld


Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Creating A Culture of Impact

Most recently, I returned from a cruise that was not only refreshing for my mind, body, and soul, but it also reaffirmed how the simple things mean the most. Don’t get me wrong, I was pampered beyond belief and never wanted for anything, yet it was the small gestures that truly created the largest impact on me. It wasn’t an isolated occurrence, it was a culture. That my friends cost absolutely nothing and left me with the affirmation that we make choices every day that will impact… it is up to us whether it is positive or negative.

A Smile Speaks A Thousand Words

If ever there was a truer image of happiness I don’t seem to recall one that impacts greater than a smile. It is like picking out a new pair of glasses when you know that they will be your statement piece. You search and search for the perfect look so that when people see you coming they get the exact impression that you are trying to project. Search no further, as your smile is free and yet it gives to others something that is absolutely priceless and easy to obtain.

The minute I walked out of my stateroom each day, I was greeted with a smile at every turn. The smiles that I was seeing were not limited to the guest relations desk, it was the mantra for all that worked and inhabited the ship. Whether I was heading to the staircase or the elevator, someone was right there smiling and saying hello. Whether I was passing through the sun-filled pool area or sliding into quiet space for shade, there was someone’s smile greeting me that said, “all is good in the world today”.

You can just imagine, my thoughts connected with every child that we are privileged to create this same environment for… one of impact. See, that is the key… those working on the ship never underestimated their impact and the privilege of creating an opportunity of happiness for every single person aboard. As educators, we have that very same privilege. One that extends more than 7 hours every day of a child’s life. Beyond anything else, the one thing that we can single handily do without permission, without connecting to a standard, without hesitation, and with incredible impact is SMILE! It is a welcoming gesture that invites others in. It speaks a universal language of love. It exudes tenderness. It cares. It says, “YOU are important!”

It really is that simple.

Called By Name Makes the Invisible Visible

I don’t know how they do it, but if they can we all can! Yes, I was visible. Yes, I was important. Yes, I was cared for in abundance. How did I feel that every single moment of the day? It all came down to my name. Whether it was the cruise director, a deckhand, a fitness instructor (yes, I found the gym for the first time on my vacation), the stateroom steward, gift shop attendant, iLounge representative, shore excursion staff, youth counselor, photographer, or entertainer, the head of a department or the assistance’s assistant (and I could go on and on), they valued me enough to learn my name.

Miss Kristen, may I help you?

Hello, Miss Kristen, have a beautiful day!

Good morning, Miss Kristen!

When was the last time you heard your name being called out in abundance and it wasn’t because someone needed you, but because they cared for you? When was the last time a child felt that type of acceptance and belonging the minute they walked into your school? Your hallway? The lunchroom? Recess?

Do we make the invisible, visible?

Do we make every child feel important?

Do we smile

Do we call every single one of them by name?

“Impact” is what that creates and it all happens with a smile and a name. That is what we as educators get to do every single day… create impact. The question is, do we create the right one?

A culture of impact is what our children need!

Personal Learning

Boost Your Self-Care Package

I decided that I needed a little boost before I head on vacation so that I can truly relax and soak it all in with my family. I stopped to think what that really meant to me and was surprised at how quickly I was able to figure it out. Self-care is not a foreign concept to me , as I have been empowered by it from an early age. The mere idea of taking a walk by myself to allow for my thoughts to escape me has and always will be a part of the “Kristen Self-Care Package”. As I have aged, I find myself exploring new ways to boost myself in order to balance new responsibility. Simply stated, I am always open for new innovative ways, while leaning in towards what I know has always worked.

As I sat waiting for my massage, the deep tissue kind that removes the knots that I create by not breathing properly when I am under stress, I noticed a “Personalized Total Body Care” handout that the establishment was promoting for skin. I glanced over and giggled a bit as it was an “innovative approach” that I had encompassed in my own world for so long for things unrelated to skin itself. I had used these particular ideas/methods for so long that I was actually searching for something different. The crazy part was that I was searching for something that I really didn’t need, as these methods were always of value to me and worked great… it was just that with my mind always spinning towards innovation I just felt that I should be reaching out for something better, even if it didn’t exist just yet. The breakdown for this product promotion was so incredibly similar to my own methods that it felt like they had entered my mind and ran off with a little piece of me. Was this exciting for me or annoying to me or was this simply intriguing? I honestly couldn’t figure it out, but it led me to more reflection and in turn this post.

Energizing BOOST for my Soul

My energy level fluctuates, as it does for many. The thing is… that there are times I’m not so sure if it is because I am overextending myself, low on iron (I’m that girl), sitting too much (writing manuscript, blogging, curriculum, etc.) or if I am running wild through a self-pity moment that is comparing myself to the many other incredible people around me that appear to have their “stuff” together a bit more than me and my post-its. Then I pause and ask myself, did I have my coffee yet? ha! Oh, yes… 2 cups! Recently, I started “power” walking with my husband at the crack of dawn. The first day out, I thought I was going to have a heart-attack… something like, ” I can’t make it… this may not be for me!” He replied with, “Come on, you got this!” I didn’t have it that day at all and cried a few pitiful tears for myself as my chest stretched and I couldn’t catch my breath. Then when we got home I could feel that I was ready to move on with my day in a different way I hadn’t felt in awhile. I embraced the boost in my energy and accomplished quite a bit to my surprise.

Clarifying BOOST for my Mind

Power-walking led to a different accomplishment… a more clear-headed accomplishment. Here I am a month later, and I am now on fire with my walking. To be honest, I am giving my husband a real run for his money. The thing is, walking had boosted my energy level physically that in turn nurtured me mentally and ultimately gave me more time with my husband, Eric, that I didn’t even realize I was missing. WOW! This is where balance comes in for me and that needs to be my definition of balance, not that of others. When I look at others crushing balance in their lives, I compare myself to them and find myself discouraged when I am not mirroring what works so well for them. Clarifying what works for me is a self-care chat that has to happen… so when you see me engrossed in serious conversation and no one else is around, let’s just say it’s all for the good!

Hydrating BOOST for “ALL THINGS”

Ahhhh, hydration! This is a game changer, right? The amount of water I drink could float a ship… one full of my fabulous friends, family, and PLN. I find that the more I drink, the less garbage I eat, the more water I want, and the boost in my energy level goes up and up! The thing is that I actually feel like I’m glowing a bit different these day and yes, the water is a definite support, but there is something else. Somewhere in my “Kristen Care Package” I recognized that in order to put more in, that I need to take some things out. For me that meant having a “come to Jesus” moment where I recognized I needed to go through something, not around.

Renewing BOOST for Resilience

For those that are close to me, you know where this is going and for those of you who may be connecting with me for the first time, building resistance for my broken heart is something that I must go through, not around. In order for my smile to return on a regular basis and my cheerfulness to be at the forefront where others are used to, I had to seek a therapist for the grief that I had yet to go through with the loss of my mother-in-law… one of the closest people in my world. For me, it was a struggle of honoring her wishes, maintaining her confidence, fulfilling our relationship as friends beyond family, helping her to embrace her new journey with God when she wasn’t ready to leave her loved ones, and assisting her with the transition from here with us to her precious spot in Heaven. For many families, hospice provides this support, and even though they were a major support to us, with the quick unraveling of health, I took on the full responsibility to administer her medication. At the time, my mind knew it was what had to be done… my mind just didn’t convey that to my heart. As the months passed, and I tried to hold my family up in their own grief, I found myself retreating into a space unfamiliar… alone. It wasn’t until recently, and through therapy, that Eric and I realized that when mom passed, she took with her a piece of me that will never be back and left a hole in my heart no one ever had to fill, as she was the one to do just that. Building up resilience for my heart has meant opening it up to new possibilities. Allowing it to beat again, to be loved in a different way, and to trust that I can do this without her. I am getting there… a boost of love and support is around my every corner. Smiles, kindness, support, and love are renewing my heart in a way that is now able to relate to my mind.

Self-Care Package- Just For You

What is it that boost you? What is it that creates that moment of joy that you feel entering your mind, taking over your body, and filling your heart? I encourage you to find it… create the package that is made just for you. Open it up, use it daily and allow yourself that boost that you are worthy of… yes, you!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, ISTE Standard for Educators, Personal Learning

ISTE19 BE BOLD BE YOU BE CONNECTED

#ISTE19 was no doubt one for the eduRecordBooks! Oh yes, it was the conference for every global #edtech inspired educator, but for me it was far more than that… it all goes back to relationships and the bold way of becoming a connected educator! Here is why ISTE got it so right with me… their BOLD mission statement empowered me to reach beyond my walls of learning and connect with countless educators of impact.

BE BOLD

The International Society for Technology in Education’s mission is very clear: “ISTE inspires educators worldwide to use technology to innovate teaching and learning, accelerate good practice and solve tough problems in education by providing community, knowledge and the ISTE Standards, a framework for rethinking education and empowering learners.”

That in itself is a mic drop… what a BOLD statement, right? That very mission captured my attention about 4 years ago. I knew at that point I was destined to be transformed as an educator. I immediately wanted to get to that year’s summer conference, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. However, the wait was well worth it in the long run. The thought of going one day ignited a passion and love for technology that would powerhouse my own learning in the BOLDest way possible! Who wouldn’t be intrigued by ISTE’s statement of, “BE BOLD WITH US. Dreaming big. Transforming teaching. Empowering learners”? In a 4 year period I collaborated with educators across the globe, grew as a learner, stretched myself as an educator, and was about to attend a conference that would place the foundation to this transformation all under one roof! Priceless!

BE YOU

BE YOU… I got this! Being me meant heading to this conference with an endless amount of hugs packed tightly in my suitcase. I was ready to meet the incredible people within my network face to face in place of our typical virtual connection. BE YOU… meant collaborating with my PLN and signing up for sessions, dinners, after dinner get-togethers, along with random happenings that we just had to embrace while in Philly! BE YOU… meant buying 80s gear to wear for the Go Guardian/Class Link night to remember, starring the The Spazmatics. This very night was one to remember… laughing, smiling and dancing the night away! BE YOU… meant leaning into my passions, my voice, my creative outlets, my joys and my people! Note: It takes most people a moment before they realize I am describing fabulous friends that I had just met face to face for the very first time. BE YOU… meant embracing my friends and acquiring new ones as the connections ran rapid throughout the conference. BE YOU… meant that I was able to embrace all things that resonated with me and the common thread would go back to the BOLD way that ISTE empowers learning with technology.

BE CONNECTED

To think that ISTE was my first face to face interaction with the majority of my PLN (yet I talk about them around the dinner table to the point that my entire family knows them, their spouses, and children by name) is mind-blowing! To be a connected educator has brought about a powerhouse of ideas, resources, support, innovation, empathy, understanding, goal-setting, and love that I personally could never imagine my life without ever again. And the crazy “ISTE connection” to this entire experience is technology! My invaluable relationships have formed through many platforms, and without technology most of them would not have transpired. Being connected as an educator has changed my world and that of my students on a daily basis.

There is no turning back now… it is more than infusing technology into my practice, it is using the technology as a vehicle to steer learning towards the future of education!

Kristen Nan #ISTE19

Don’t wait… get connected! Don’t overthink it, don’t belabor the task. Simply choose what works best for you and create your own opportunity to collaborate with others. Here are my top 15 go to ways to collaborate and connect with my PLN globally:

  1. Google Hangouts
  2. Skype
  3. Facetime
  4. Twitter
  5. Twitter Chats
  6. Hashtags
  7. Snapchat
  8. Instagram
  9. Facebook
  10. Voxer
  11. Texting/Calling
  12. Podcasts
  13. FlipGrid
  14. YouTube
  15. email (true story… we actually still use it! ha!)

Thank you, #ISTE19 for the opportunity to present to and with others, for the powerful learning, the memories made, connections fostered and the possibilities yet to come!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Personal Learning

The Writing ISN’T on the Wall

The writing isn’t on the wall from the day that you were born. Your life, circumstances, privileges, hurdles, triumphant and tribulations are factors, but not the product. In my eyes, we are all born into a “role”, but the person you become is truly up to you! That role may be influenced by our family and it is likely impacted by the experiences surrounding it, but that does not become our defining role in life and we must be fully aware of that in order to take our best step forward at being ourselves. I not only believe this and live by it in my adult life, but I instill it in my students to teach them that life can be what you make of it… you must take your part and own it. T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is what I taught myself at young age, and continue to empower my family, friends, students, and PLN with it so that they can write their own story in life because it isn’t written on the wall.

My Person

Have you ever heard someone call you their person? Or maybe you have said it yourself. It’s that person that just gets you. Maybe they are a great listener or maybe they share a life experience that makes you feel just a bit less isolated. No matter what the situation may be, “my person” doesn’t just get thrown around with ease. As my phone rang, I listened in. A dear friend was talking about their day and how they felt they simply could not shake off a time period in their life that seemed to “reoccur as often as it wanted to”, making the situation out of their control completely. I listened. My person. They continued to feel as if their past was defining them and that it was inevitable that they would have to be attached to this situation the rest of their life. I listened. My person. Empathy, Understanding, Empowerment , ran through my mind.

Shape NOT Definition

There was a time in my life when I would look back and wanted to place blame, erase experiences, cut ties, or even run at sprint speed. Why? Because I truly felt those poor experiences defined me… what a helpless, restricted, almost imprisoned way of thinking that I had created for myself. I didn’t even realize that I walked around feeling so vulnerable… as if it was written all over me, defining me, my actions, my future.

Then there was a point where others did not see what I saw. They saw my smile, not my pain. They saw my strong will, not my defeating moments. They saw my grit, not my adversities. They saw me. Yes, that was it… my experiences had shaped me and I needed to embrace and own the person I was choosing to be because of and in-spite of my journey in life.

Only YOU Can Be YOU

I suppose in many ways we compare ourselves out of simple human nature. At times that may be in our role as a parent, child, friend, sibling, or professional. Comparison can bring awareness. It can light a fire under us. It can open a door to something that we had not considered. It can also be damaging. It can hold us back from our own purpose. It can weigh on us like judgement. It can defeat us if we allow it. In the end, only you can be you! You choose. Just remember, experiences will shape you, but never define you. Grab a marker and go write on your wall!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Personal Learning

Creating Impact: Take A Walk in My Shoes

When it comes to understanding others and developing true relationships, there is never a time table that is fit for all. While some open up quickly, others need extra nurturing that builds trust and strengthens a bond over time. The relationships I build with my students are no different. The one thing that is for certain is that the bonds are not limited to 186 school days and continuously create impact for years to come. While many schools are looking to close out their year, my class is opening up to new conversations, as well as reflections of our journey together. As empathy and understanding are such a large part of our T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. experience, there is always a special vulnerability that is tied into my lesson called “Take A Walk In My Shoes.”

Days before I plan on embracing this heartfelt lesson, I ask the students if they could please bring in an extra pair of shoes to school that they can leave for a week or two. A pair that they have possibly grown out of, maybe a pair from a different season that is no longer needed, or even from an off-season sport. I remind them that if they are unable to bring a pair in, that I will have extra pairs in the classroom for them to borrow.

When the day comes, I start by reading a special book written by Dr. Seuss called “My Many Colored Days.” This book is so simple in so many ways, yet the impact it creates by gifting an opportunity to relate and generate their own version, gives way to a complexity that allows you to see inside their little souls.

With each page, I pause. Maybe it is the color yellow that allows some to feel free to imagine the unimaginable. For others it is the color blue that speaks to them and gives way to sadness. Whatever the color means to them, they simply take in the moment while I read.

Next, I hand out an index card. Just one… one that they use to design their own “colored days”. At this point, I reread the book to them and they embrace the time to add their artistic touch to their card. Once their card is complete, I pass out another.

The first 3 cards are specific colors. I always want to know what their day looks like when it is yellow, black and a rainbow of mixed up colors. I put on music and give them unlimited time to just draw. When they are finished, they then flip the card over and tell me two things:

  1. What this color day is like for them or a story of a specific day that they want to share.
  2. What they need from others on a day like this in their little world.

Once they are done, I put a stack of cards out and allow them unlimited access to add any color days they wish. Most often they take 3-4 more cards, but there is always a handful of students that take ten or more. After completing them, I ask them to bring their cards and their shoes to meet me for a little time together.

During this time, they pick out a special color pipe-cleaner to attach their cards to their shoes and then they are encouraged to pick just one they would like to share with me. After they share with me, I allow the to share with others if they would like. We then gather around and talk about our walk in life… our journey. I prompt them with questions and we take time to listen to how others feel. After many prompts, such as “Do you think others understand what you need on your black day?” or “How can you make someone else feel if you share your yellow day with them?”, I take suggestions on how we can lead others in empathy. There is always a student that suggests placing our shoes in the hallway and that is a moment for me. A moment of trust, love, and leadership. I make sure that they have the option of leaving theirs in the room, but one by one they always take their shoes to the hallway. Such vulnerability, strength, and courage found right there that moment. Come along, take a walk in our shoes.