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

Just Like That: Innovation Became Our Stabilizer

I was in another conversation yesterday about what school will look like for our children this fall.  That conversation wove its way in and around many topics before it led to the always-asked question, “ So, what grade do you teach?”  My answer gave way to pause and laughter as I answered it incorrectly! Ha!  You heard me… I answered that very question the same way I have answered it for over 20 years with, “3rd-grade!” And just like that, I took pause and said, “Well, I have been in that grade for a very long time, but not right now actually!”  Yep, just like that, I went on to explain that my career path had changed to being a cyber teacher for the upcoming school year. The beautiful part was being able to share the WHY behind it… because that is what our children need right now.  

Simply Stated

It really is that simple. This is what our children need right now. Our children need an opportunity to choose where and how they will learn this fall and my district chose to create a program that would meet those needs. That is called change, not the “new normal,” but quite simply… change!  In my humble opinion, this is the kind of change a community should rally behind! 

My family lives in this very community. 

I work in this community.

I believe in this community!

I want my sons to be grateful for the options they have been afforded and enter their senior and freshman year with an ambitious attitude, along with the mindset that their year will be a success for each of them.  Our own children will be embracing another option that our district is providing, which is the hybrid program, where they will actually go to brick-and-mortar on scheduled days with the offset being remote learning.  Why?  Because it is what meets their needs at this time, just as the cyber program will meet the needs of many other students.  

Goal-Setting Jackpot

What I know now, but didn’t at the time was that my internal goal-setting ways helped me to hit the jackpot and obtain what I needed to be able to embrace the new journey ahead of me.  It wasn’t quick and overnight-like, but with hard work, an open mindset, and determination, I was able to prepare for what is needed for our children today.  I earned my Apple certification last year, my Google certification this summer, in addition to the Special Education certification that I worked on 25+years ago, along with many other countless professional development milestones!  What I didn’t know then, that is staring me in the face now, is that it was a ripple effect of growth for myself and those around me!  Knowing that I am capable of embracing this change definitely has an impact on my own confidence and drive to step forward.  It wasn’t just about knowing that our children need this program, but it was about knowing that I am equipped to step forward and make an impact where it is needed. A need for disruption! New opportunity!

I think exnovation is very relevant and necessary when creative destruction or the need to disrupt is required – seriously challenging the existing practices to spot new opportunities.

Chuck Frey

Just Like That

Something that leaves me in awe is how I have thrived in an innovative space, what I would consider as an “exnovation” or a “best-standardized practice of learning” for our children. I have embraced technology, personalized learning, along with a mindset that sees many more approaches such as Community-Based Learning (CBL) and Project-Based Learning (PBL).  As much as I would create the opportunity for each colleague, student, and parent to see value in these practices and embrace these innovative ways of learning, it wasn’t until the Covid19 Pandemic when it became an actual “need”, a true must-have for learning, that this mindset was embraced.  Just like that, the pursuit of innovation became our stabilizer!

Wow, I restate that last sentence over and over again in my head as I type. Just like that, the pursuit of innovation became our stabilizer! This leaves me with one thought… the kind that I ask myself and now I ask you: What can you do today to prepare for the change that tomorrow will bring? Just like that, it will be here! 

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment

It’s All About the View: Revisit, Reflect, and Re-frame Bet 11

As I close up my remote learning experience and turn my sights towards the fall, I am reminded of an important bet that Jacie and I wrote in our book, “All In: Taking a Gamble in Education.”  In Bet 11, “It’s All About the View”, we pushed our readers to reflect on their school culture.  We questioned whether districts were fostering a culture of yes or no. Our Double Down at the end of the bet prompted each reader to ask themselves… Is there something that you can remove to make room for betterment?  It is my time to revisit, reflect, and re-frame this Bet, and I challenge each of you to do the same.

CALL TO ACTION: OWN your part as a leader for every child and create new opportunities for betterment

REVISIT and REFLECT

The million-dollar question being asked right now is, “What will learning look like in the fall?”  There is no doubt in my mind that I will not agree, nor will I want to teach and learn within all of the constraints and restraints that will be what I call side-effects of #COVID19. That leaves me with more out of my control than within… if that is my view.

I could spend my summer planning what I hope to be.  But I won’t.  

I could reface the curriculum based on remote learning.  But I won’t.

I could fill up with resentment that flexible seating has been removed from my students’  learning space.  But I won’t.

I could have negative conversations about the “What ifs” that surround the unknown.  But I won’t.  

I could fill my community up with my disappointment on how my philosophy for learning and teaching may no longer mirror the execution of what needs to be or will come.  But I won’t.

I could keep revisiting what once was and reflect on what I once did. But I won’t.  It is now time for me to re-frame my thinking.

RE-FRAME

In place of that, I will make room for betterment.  I will look towards the fall with hope.  I will move beyond a dream and plan for what I can do to make a difference in the lives that I am blessed to impact.  Let’s not forget, THEY ARE WATCHING… what view are we creating for them?!  Our children are relying on us to lead them through this time.  We don’t get to step down from that leadership role as adults, especially now. This is not about school boards, administration, and teachers in isolation as educators, this is about our community as role models.  WE, as adults, are leaders with our actions and words, so I ask you… how will you lead?  How will you open up opportunity for betterment? They are watching.

I will give my children (both biological and community-blessed) the summer to be the resilient humans that they are in order to replenish and recharge themselves (never underestimate the resilience in a child).

I will remind them that their mindset is a powerful investment and they themselves must give, in order to gain a return.

I will embrace moments to fill others up and remind them that education is a privilege that each of us is blessed and responsible in supporting.

I will take hold of the unknown and settle my fears by staying focused on the known fact that one way or another I will be able to help children learn, grow, and find purpose in their efforts. 

I will refocus, rephrase, and redirect conversations within the community to re-frame our efforts on positivity for our children.  WE OWE THIS TO THEM! 

I will nurture my own self-care and refrain from apology when I am in need of disconnecting. This cannot be just when I am burnout on life, this must be a way of life!

  • Exercise
  • Increase time with those that care about me
  • Refocus mindfulness
  • Listen
  • Make time to play
  • Rebuild problem-solving skills

I will own my part in my role as a member of this community.  I will own my views and the impact of them on others.  I will own my role as a leader to which goodness, faith, hope, and love are being sought by the children who have just lived through something that no adult can possibly ever understand. I owe this to them.  

Children are truly amazing! It is said that when children are resilient, they are more curious, braver, more courageous, more adaptable, and more able to extend their role into the world.  The one thing that a child needs in order to regain and build resiliency is a strong relationship with a loving and caring adult. Stop and ask yourself, “What am I projecting?” What legacy am I leaving for our children?  How am I owning my part in raising our future leaders? Are you owning your part? Will you be the loving and caring adult building a strong and positive relationship for a child?  Let’s remember,

They are watching.

They are learning.

They are growing.

They are leading… by our example! 

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Intentionally Positive

As the “ALL IN” book study kicked off, the questions that were laid on the table were thought provoking and reflective all at the same time. I would have never looked at Bets 1-10 and found these very questions to be the ones to light up a conversation, but they did just that. Intentionally, positive… these two words are what struck me the hardest when combined into one single thought. These two words are the ones that my mind raced back to with each response that came through.

Intentional

The word intentional was embraced in a variety of ways. With some being intentional about the relationships that they built, while others being intentional about keeping balance between nurturing others’ needs and their own. There was not a “right or wrong” in this conversation, but a solid respect for the perspective that each of us took. We were “sitting down at the same table” and having real conversations. From the perspective of admin to teacher to support staff… it was all there and we were “all in” listening to each other’s take on being intentional. Whether it was actually said, or possibly my mind just computed it this way, I was left reconsidering how being positive affects others.

Positive

I am positive that I have a fresh take on this one word! To know that there are educators at all levels doing everything they can to bring out the best in others is so incredibly uplifting. We see it on social media and hear it in chats, but this study has brought about a way of thinking to which pushes my own and that is what I thrive on! Being positive is a choice for many on more days than others realize. The poker face is one that gives us each pause as we realize that even though it may not be intended, that a poker face can be a cultural bust. Even though it may be the one way to hold back what is truly behind those eyes, someone else has already written your story with one glance. On the flip-side, it can be a necessity… one that is a gift of respect in a way of handling a moment. One that does not need explanation. In the big picture, if a poker face is the norm, then the norm is the perception other’s are having. Regardless of our role, in order to create positive relationships, we must allow others in at one point or another.

Are you intentional with connecting with your colleagues? If so what kind of impact has it had?

How does having a positive attitude impact your role? Does a poker face help or hinder?

#2MenAndABook is comprised of Matt Larson and Ricardo Garcia, two principals that continue to shake it up within education by giving each of us a place for safe and vulnerable discussion surrounding incredible topics and books. Some books have been full-blown educational, while others are not, but the common thread is pure goodness, positive push-back and the challenging of one’s thoughts to think beyond our own perspective.

Are you ALL IN?

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Stepping Into the Light: OCD/Mental Health Awareness

the serious one… the humorous one

the focused… the squirrel chaser

the rule follower… the teenager

the brave 15 year old, who stepped into the light, leaving the elephant in his shadow

the one who has added awareness to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is now 17

my incredible son, Trent

At the age of 15, Trent was just beginning to see life differently… the life he was gifted, not burdened by. The one that he shared responsibility in. The one he was able to take charge of, given the right tools. In 2017, he asked me to talk about “The Elephant in the Room.” He wanted me to share his story. The thing is, he didn’t want me to share it so that I had something to blog about. He didn’t want me to share it so that he could obtain likes and shares within social media. As a matter of fact, not once has he ever even asked me if it was even read.

He simply wanted others to know they were not alone.

Leading up to this point, he had been consumed with thoughts for so long that he had almost forgotten what life was like when he himself could turn it around. The time when he felt a sense of control. As an 8-year-old child, he was in need of skills. The kind of skills that we weren’t prepared to teach him. The kind of skills that would take years of practice. There was no “quick fix.” My teaching background urged me to dial the phone for help, while my husband’s hand wanted to hang it up. Not because he didn’t want to help, but because he only knew how to keep personal worries and concerns to himself. He knew how to push forward with a tough mindset and resiliency. He knew how to break within the privacy of his own space and forge ahead projecting strength, even when he didn’t have it. He thought that it would be the same way for Trent. He thought Trent would grow and be the man we were wanting to raise him to be or more like how we wanted to raise him. Trent would do just that, but in order to get there he needed a different upbringing, different supports.

The elephant was sitting right there, staring at us in full control. He had us running around making everything perfect so Trent wouldn’t hurt. He had us walking on eggshells, just trying to get through a dinner out with family and friends. He had us working overtime to create the “perfect scenario” in hope that Trent would survive the moment, whatever moment that was on that day. He was in charge… not us, not Trent, but the elephant in the room.

Then the day came that my husband knew it was bigger than us and my hand freely reached for the phone once again.

As Trent has aged, he has grown stronger than ever. That is not to say that his life is easy, or without the whack-a-mole effect of OCD, but “the elephant” is no longer his best friend. It is actually not even a friend at all. It is more like an acquaintance. One that passes through, but does not dictate his world. Impacts it, yes. Challenges it, most definitely. Creates walls in place of bridges, yes… but the difference is he knocks them down over and over again. He now takes full advantage of the strength within his OCD, as he knows it will always be a part of his world. Now he finds positive use for it. Obsessing over his grades so that he can maintain high scholastic standing. Obsessing over the next big catch, as fishing eases his mind. Knowing how to distract when OCD wants to gain attention. If you ask him how he got this strong, he will tell you that his family loved him like no other, but that without therapy he would not be able to answer that question to it’s entirety. Therapy has given him a new lease on life, one with conviction and strength. Reaching out to the experts was the best decision we had ever made.

Some ask me, how I handled it as a mom.  How did I “handle” watching my son painfully navigate his world of anxiety.   My reply… the best that I could. That is where I myself took pause. “The best I could!” Was my best enough?  The answer was no. My best could never have brought Trent to where he is today. Yes, I had a background that was very supportive of Trent’s needs, but to truly be the best mom I could be, I needed to see beyond my strengths and value the ones that were one phone call away.  One call away to make an appointment for therapy.  My role as his mom was to give him the opportunity.

As we talked to others about this, we felt the cringe. The secret society that we just entered. The judgement being made in place of support. I’m not sure how or when the term “therapy” became such a cringe-maker in society, but to me it was a gift that I was ready to open.

So I ask you, are you going to be the one that tries to break him by cringing over the topic of therapy? Are you going to be the one spotlighting your “perfections” so that he questions why he is incapable of such a high non-existing standard? Are you going to judge him for being brave enough to share in this very conversation?

Or are YOU going to be the one driven for a better tomorrow by walking alongside my son as he ventures into this world contributing to the society that you helped to create?

Let me ask you something. As an educator do you find yourself opening doors of possibility for others? Do you try to link passion to purpose? Do you try to teach the whole child and then tell others to do it too? Do you speak at conferences about Project Based Learning, Universal Design for Learning, Building Character, Creating Leaders and Making Changes for the Betterment of Education? Do you sit on your own thoughts to stop and listen to others speak so that you can learn more about their WHY, their purpose? Do you take time to network because relationships matter to you? Do you want to be better?

If you said yes to any one of these questions, I ask you then… do you have conversations about the gift of therapy? Do you engage in tough conversations? Do you open yourself up to vulnerability, either to allow your story out or to let someone else’s in?

As long as we lead others to believe that this is a taboo topic, a private conversation, something that we attach shame and guilt to, what good is the rest? What are we really trying to say or not say? Are we truly equipped to function in the society we have helped to build without the supports of those passionate about the whole person, the mind, the balance, the brain, mental illness, social emotional learning and so much more?

In education we do not get a free pass on our impact. We will create an impact and it is up to us if it will be positive or negative. Where do you stand on this? Are you having conversations about self-care, mindfulness, and balance? I am asking you to amplify those conversations… to be courageous. I am asking you to open your heart and mind, and use your ability to make change by having conversations about the importance of therapy. For educators looking to prepare kids for their future role in society, you must do your part to remove the judgement cast. Then and only then can we build up human growth and potential by walking in one’s shoes.

While attending #TeachBetter19 this past weekend, I continued to build my professional growth portfolio, but even more I made incredible friendships. I witnessed a truth and vulnerability like never before among educators. You could feel the sense of comfort, acceptance and care in every room that you walked through. Towards the end, I started to get pulled into private conversations revolving around this topic, the elephant, OCD, mental illness, therapy, and Trent’s bravery. Each conversation came with pain, emotion, emptiness, questioning, and a whisper. Yes, our personal lives are private and we hold these conversations close to our heart, but I am left wondering if we can turn up the volume just a little bit. How has my son found the strength to tell his friends, family, and acquaintances and we are left with a whisper?

As I left the conference I heard my name being called one last time. It was then that I knew my purpose was clearly being conveyed. It was then that I knew I was being seen for the imperfect human I am… and it filled my soul. That’s when they said, “Thank you for being vulnerable, you will never know how much I needed to hear this today.” They went on to say, “you are always smiling and so positive that I would have never known if you wouldn’t have shared. You give me hope.”

I challenge you to follow my 17-year-old son’s lead. I challenge you to share vulnerability. I challenge you to better yourself and others by spotlighting the whole child.

Let’s give HOPE

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

Self Awareness-Mastering One’s Self

It started off as a typical day. I was ready to take on the world and create moments for every child along the way. Groups were being made. Goals were being set. Then came the hesitation. I started to question if they were “ready” for the experience with a new app, a class challenge, or the choice to delve into a passion project of their own. Were they ready to level up their learning and open the class restaurant on a weekly basis? Were they ready? Was I ready? My hesitation was my answer, but I just couldn’t leave it at that. Why weren’t they ready? Was it me? Was it them? What was it that stuck in my gut as a red flag, if you will. That was when it hit me… their lack of self-awareness was invading our learning space and I needed to shed light on a topic foreign to the list of 3rd grade standards written out in my daily lesson plan.

We set daily goals, but are my students clear on their strengths and weaknesses? Are they sensitive to how they project themselves on others or take away from one’s focus and ability to learn? Are they aware of how their actions and choices are pieces to their very own puzzle? If I had to answer that honestly, my answer would be no. It was then that I thought of a method that I used to use with my son, Trent when his OCD would rear its ugly head and trigger rituals that needed his awareness to help fight for himself. We would have him use a post-it-note to track each time he gave in to the ritual by making tallies. After adding several tallies to the note, it would create an awareness of the issue at hand and help him recognize that change was needed to forge ahead. Somehow this simple method built a foundation of self-awareness that in turn opened doors of opportunity to build confidence and pride in one’s own actions. This is what my students were in need of… starting today!

Post-it-notes were handed out and a line was drawn through the middle of each. We were ready to begin. “Today we are going to take the time to give ourselves credit for all the things we must hold ourselves accountable for to be empowered and productive learners,” I said with an upbeat tone. Ears were open and eyes were wide. I went on to ask simple questions like…

Has anyone ever felt a step behind because they were having a sidebar conversation or may have even drifted into thought? many hands were raised

Has anyone ever felt like there should be more time in their day or simply wonder where the moments went? many hands were raised

Has anyone ever wondered what their parents would think of the decisions that were made without them to guide or instruct? many hands were raised

Have any of you ever had your parents get frustrated because you didn’t “hear” them or acknowledge them the first time spoken to? eyes shifted to friends sitting nearby and hands went up at a rapid pace

Has anyone visualized their future self? What are you willing to do to make that vision a reality? Was that a light-bulb moment I just witnessed?

I then said, “With each directive that I give over the course of the next 40 minutes, I want you to give yourself a tally above the line if you follow the directive without redirection or restating. If I redirect or restate, place a tally below. Remember, this is not what is good vs bad, but what we are honing in on as our strengths vs what we are in need of making stronger. “

“But what if someone sees our tallies?,” one asked. “That is a fabulous question, I replied. I speak of respect every day and how we show that by keeping conversations between us, but I must tell you that your peers already see your tallies each and every day through your own choices and actions that you so freely give.” a quizzical look settled over their faces

Let’s begin!

I watched their eyes go straight for me as I began to speak. I watched their pencils go down when I gave directions. Tallies were being placed above the line and the momentum of goodness was on fire inside each one of them. Moments were rolling by, and I watched as many of them responded with a tally below the line when they found themselves off task or not engaged in their own learning. It was working. Self-awareness was coming to life right in front of my eyes.

As we headed to special, I told them that this new “thing” we are working on is our own little tool and we were about to test it out without the post-it nearby to give us our visual reminder. The beauty was in their faces when I picked them up and heard the raving of goodness shared on their behalf.

“This is amazing,” one said.

“This is showing me a lot about myself,” said another.

“I have so much choice,” stated with such conviction from yet another.

Yes, boys and girls. With each moment of self-awareness, we build confidence.

We build PRIDE!

We continued on with our tallies towards a new and better self. The kind we visualize for our future!

We are ready… bring on the next challenge!

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
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!

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.