The EDUCandyCounter

The right book changes everything!  As I prepare for my next journey with #IMMOOC Season 4, I can’t help but feel like a kid in a candy store.  The choices appeal to my core in all facets of my life just like different candies speak to me on different days… in different moods.

#IMMOOC 4 is like walking up to the M&M candy counter and tossing in every shade of chocolate goodness you could possibly desire.  Whether it is my Innovators’s Mindset that draws me in to each book’s positive energy or my personal take on life that leaves me inspired to be better and do better, the choices #IMMOOC 4 is offering has me at the EDUCandyCounter with bag in hand!

m&m

It really is all about the right book.  The book that opens your mind and allows you to wonder…

“What if ?”, say Katie Martin.

So I ask.. what if every student found the right book?

How do you help your students find the right book?  What happens when they simply can’t find their way to the gift of reading?

As a child, I couldn’t find my way until one of my elementary teachers read Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  I just connected.  I wasn’t exactly a hillbilly, but I had very little.  Billy Coleman, a 10 year old boy, was growing up in the Great Depression so he too had very little.  What he lacked in money, he made up for in G.R.I.T..  He set himself Goals and took Responsibility for himself.  He Imagined excellence in place of perfection to find happiness in all that he achieved.  Not to mention his Tough mindset that created opportunities for himself in place of self pity.

It was the right book to help a 10 year old girl see that she had the power to shape her own experiences.  You could say that her Innovator’s Mindset helped her to work within her restraints to achieve success.   A mindset that kept her from blaming the situation that could have lead to a poor outcome of isolation.  The right book changes everything!

How do you open that possibility up for your students?  What book could EMPOWER every child?  Every child… every walk of life!

Maybe the bigger question should be… what are you reading to create experiences for yourself?

As Katie Martin says in her new book Learner Centered Innovation, “What’s in Your Sphere of Influence?”

Your learning, your growth, your sphere… what does that look like for you?

How do you shape it for yourself? 

 

GRACE: How to Find the Path to BETTER

A child sat worried that he was unable to complete the task I had given him.  One that was not timed,  but clearly not going to be finished before the day would come to an end.

A child not sure why anger or annoyance surfaces spilling over into friendships.

A child that arrives late most every day with a look of worry.

A child walking down the hall, head down.

Not to mention the interactions with friends, family, coworkers, parents, community members… and the list goes on and on.

Did I mention me?  Probably not… but I too need GRACE 

Grace comes in so many forms.  Find just one way to show it to others.  To yourself.  A path to BETTER.

GRACE IS:

a bridge… extended from one to another so no one ever feels alone.  A simple hello when a child enters your room or you pass someone walking by.

forgiveness… because any other way builds resentment and lays a poor foundation for both you and others on this journey of life.  It is a heart changer… a life breaker… don’t just push to forgive others, but even more challenging forgive yourself when needed.

hope… this is nourishment for the soul… for emotional and physical well-being

happiness… everyone deserves happiness!  Be the positive… go out of your way to spread goodness.  Be the one to share it… it will come back to you in abundance.

mercy… this is such a huge component of grace.  Not one of us is beyond needing mercy.  Think of how often you need this as an adult… now think of a child.

love…  love a child enough to know what they love… what they are passionate about… what they thrive on… find their good on their worst day. 

kindness… spread it with a smile… a kind word… a hug… acknowledgement of one’s presence… find one way that you can share this part of grace and you will change lives!

blessed… never forget what you have.  Challenge yourself to not ask for one thing and simply acknowledge your blessings.  Blessings are gifts.  Count yours.  Help others to see their own.  Do this during a difficult time when you want to ask for so much… it opens your eyes and you feel the purest form of GRACE!

Grace can mean so many things.  What does it mean to you?

CTA: (Call To Action): find what it means to you and share it.  Bestow it on yourself and others.

For me, I think… Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

 

#grateful

 

The Elephant in the Room~ connecting with mental illness

the quiet one… the loud one

the picker… the tapper

the distracted… the focused

the respectful… the belligerent

the rule follower… rule breaker

the meticulous risk taker!

There are so many ways I have heard this elephant described.  I could probably add 100 more terms and phrases to this list without hesitation.  It is usually followed up with…

he doesn’t look like anything is bothering him 

he just checks out

he wouldn’t have to ask so many questions if he just paid attention

he just won’t let it go

and my favorite… how does he continue to earn poor grades when he is so bright?  Twice Exceptional?  But if I’m being honest the statement is more like…  this is what gifted looks like? #truth

How do you describe mental illness?  How do you view the elephant in the room?  I know an elephant.  I have raised an elephant who is best friend’s with my incredible son.  My son met his elephant at the age of 8.  Prior to this friendship, my son was a compliant rule follower… a straight A student… a role model for others.  Yes, they are separate… their own.  My son.  Mental Illness.

Then the day came.  The meeting.  The joint kinship.  The one that introduced my son to distractions, rule breaking, meticulousness ways, perfection, and repeated behaviors to sooth and calm his new friend the elephant.

I saw the changes.

I saw the elephant!

My gut knew from an early age that the tendencies were there… the kinship… the illness.  They were one with their own identities.  Our family walked on eggshells of anxiety… we reassured to the point of exhaustion, we centered our lives around the elephant in the room without saying a word.  We started to speak it’s language.  We fed it.  We calmed it and tucked it in at night.  We were literally raising an elephant alongside our beautiful son…

the elephant in our room…

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER

We faced it head on.  Therapy 5-7 days a week.  We exposed ourselves and our son to his anxiety.  Yet, the whack-a-mole effect of OCD did not go away.  It simply became a part of our existence.  Yes, our existence.

This is what we as educators need to understand… the elephant is NOT GOING AWAY!

Need I mention that I have a background in Special Education.  An emphasis in Emotional Support.  A Masters Degree in MOM… yet listening to fellow colleagues struggle with the elephant in the room leaves me… speechless.  

So where do we go from here?

Let’s start by acknowledging that mental illness is a part of OUR lives.  NOT just a child’s life… OUR LIVES!  We are in this together.  We must educate ourselves.  We must find a way to understand a child’s way… their being in order to educate them to the best of THEIR ability! To bring out their best… to let their light shine so bright that it puts their elephant in their shadow (in place of just the opposite.)  They deserve it!

Have you ever tried to walk in their shoes?

My son is now 15.  He battles mental illness better than many adults I have come into contact with in my lifetime.  He has strength. He has courage. He has empathy.  He has GRIT.

He said to me, “Mom, tell my story… it will help other kids.”

Yes, Trent, I will.

 

 

 

 

 

Make it a GOOD YEAR: BLIMP Worthy

Did you ever catch a glimpse of the Goodyear Blimp and think WOWZA… now that is AMAZING!  Think about it… simply stated this MASSIVE balloon floats through the sky and takes your eyes off of just about anything that you are doing!  Did you ever read the history of the blimp?  The key words are “momentum, unique, expand, and creation!”  Sound familiar?  The ride in education is just as eye opening!

What if our students caught a glimpse of the New Year that is about to begin in our very own classroom AND had that same reaction?  Wouldn’t that be EPIC?  That’s what I am aiming for… I most definitely want to BRING IT in 2018!  I am committed to making learning BLIMP Worthy for my students!

I decided to go back to my T.R.U.E G.R.I.T foundation and from there I build my “G” for new Goals!  I have learned over time to keep my goals attainable with a twist of Risk that could possibly fail, but worthy of learning through.  Overall this year, I am honing in on the and R in T.R.U.E and G and R in G.R.I.T.

T: Take Risks!  I am a natural born risk taker so this area can be… let’s just say interesting for me.  I am a sharer by nature because that is the way I learn.  I love to attend conferences, but I never once thought of speaking at one myself until one day  I was hooked when this one simple idea was planted in my head.  So… I took a risk… I submitted my first proposal to speak at a conference in February and was approved this past month.  Risk!  I must model this for my students, colleagues, and my PLF!  I will own it, whether that makes it a hit or not is yet to be seen, but I will BRING IT to The Mid-Atlantic Conference on Personalized Learning (MACPL) right here in Pittsburgh! 

R: Resilience~ Be Tough!  This amazing movement in education is tough!  Push back from all angles makes it so challenging to move forward. Each day brings a different hurdle… 

  1. Educators who have a different philosophy or simply fear the change.
  2. Parents that are left with questions of uncertainty for the change is so skewed from their own experiences in the classroom.
  3. Students who find the simple change in structure challenging by bringing an unknown to their compliant predictable world.

We must be tough… we must keep our focus on every child and stand strong for what every child deserves!  How do I stay resilient?  

I will continue to surround myself with positive mindsets and goal driven educators through twitter chats, Voxer PD groups, book studies, conferences and other possibilities on the horizon.  I will remind myself of what I have been taught by incredible educators in my life and will seek new relationships to create a stronger mind within myself!

G: Goals!  Blimp Worthy Goals! 

  1. My #1 goal is: To find the standards to which I am accountable for beyond my professional portfolio that reflects the Danielson Framework
  2. Create categories in my blog so that I can build a portfolio of my learning, as well as my teaching by connecting my actions to the betterment of education.  
  3. Create a blog for my class on WordPress!
  4. Place #EDUAwesome books in the hands of others!  Share my blessings of the many DBC books in my possession so that others can see “Change is as an opportunity to do something AMAZING!” –George Couros change by george
  5. Bring  30 Second Pitch to other classrooms! I must open doors for students beyond my own room… they need options so that each child can make choices as to where their learning can go.  In place of the compliance that traps a child into being dependent upon a teachers response of yes or no, we need independent thinkers that are empowered to create opportunities!  Empowerment… that is what I believe future employers dream of in an employee and the 30 Second Pitch can Bring It! #growth

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R: Responsible!  I am accountable for how I serve my students, leading my team (Lead Like A Pirate), and how others feel about the change in education via my positive projection.  I will foster goodness through my conversations, actions, and teaching.  I will hold myself accountable for thinking inside the box in which I serve, while continuing to break down the walls of a closed mindset in education!  

I am looking forward to a GOOD YEAR… what can you do to create the same for you and your students?

Guaranteed Impact: make it POSITIVE!

When a child walks into your life, what thoughts race through your head?  Are they thoughts of…

excitement? Excitement for the opportunity to have someone’s precious child in your life.  A chance to make a difference.  A gift of time to impact their life… to open doors and encourage them to walk through!

wonder? Wonder of who they are under that smile… frown… or look of fear.  Wonder of how you will connect and build a relationship that will set sail the journey of learning together.

worry? Worried that you may not be able to connect.  Worry that they may be the most challenging student you have had to date.  Worried that their own life may hold them back from trusting you.  Worry that you don’t have enough time in a day to make a difference.

judgement? Judgement of who they are…

When you walk into a child’s life, are their thoughts the same?  Are you setting the stage for a relationship with EVERY child…

Do you make school exciting?  Do you give them a reason to be there?

Do you create a connection to every child or do they wonder why they don’t fit in your world like others do?

Do you foster a caring environment?  One that eliminates worry from their life… possibly the only stretch of time in their day to let their shoulders down.

Do your students feel judged?  Or do you give every child a “Planet Fitness: Judgement Free Zone”?

This Christmas I received a very special gift from a very quiet and reserved child.  A child that walked into my room withdrawn, with limited social interaction, lack of engagement, and little interest in school.  None of this due to home life… as a matter of fact he comes from a beautiful loving family that builds him up and sets him off each day to conquer the world trusting that his teacher will bring out his best.  

This precious child handed me a special gift.  Then he did something that caught me off guard… he insisted on opening it for me, which warmed my heart to the core because he was so invested in the moment.  He unwrapped a snow globe that took my breath away.  It had a 3 dimensional silver snowflake with the words WISH*LOVE*HOPE that sparkled while music played and snow floated effortlessly within the globe.    He said, “Oh Mrs. Nan, I know the snow globe is nice, but look what it says to you.”  To which I looked at the inscription that read:

“Students may forget what you said, but never how you made them feel.” 

Tears of joy streamed down my face.  Not the first time my students have seen my emotions.  Why?  Because they impact my life!

Over the months we connected.  We found his passion of art and embedded it into his learning through sketch-noting (THANK YOU Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome in my EDUAwesome @Twitter PLF)  This child is now engaged.  He is building relationships stemming from the one that we created together.  He is happy to be in school and moving his bright mind forward with each given day.  He is a #LeadLearner with Sketchnoting, #MakeyMakey and #Osmo in class.  He has found relevance in learning and a purpose for being a part of a learning community.  He is empowered! 

I start my Christmas vacation with heart full… of love and joy for I know that I have lived by my own advice…

You WILL have impact on EVERY child… it is up to you whether it is POSITIVE or negative!  

So with that I leave us with my favorite George Couros quote from one of my favorite books, Innovator’s Mindset:positive george.jpg

Merry Christmas!  May your holiday be as bright and beautiful as YOU! 

Our Students Are Our Customers: Service Counts!

As I was checking into my room for a recent conference, I found my customer service to be over the top fabulous.  I was greeted with a smile, my questions were answered with ease, and to top it off I was given an opportunity to upgrade at the same cost.  What more could I possibly ask for?  Well within minutes, I needed directions to my room to which the concierge was pleasant and more than willing to help.  This amazing customer service left me smiling… I was delighted to be there!  The atmosphere was pleasant, everyone greeted me with kindness, and I was left with the feeling of importance.

As I checked out days later, I overheard an irritated woman share her disgust over the refrigerator outage that occurred in her room.  Immediately, the manager stepped in and offered reimbursement for any loss that she may have had in food.  Within minutes she was calm, appreciative, and relieved to hear that her concern was taken seriously.  What could have lasted minutes, dwindled to a moment based on the incredible customer service she received.

I then went to have breakfast.  My waitress noticed me sitting down and welcomed me at once.  Her prompt attention to me, delivered with a friendly smile, gave me the feeling that this simply was a place where people enjoyed working.  She buzzed around working effortlessly and making my time worth hers.

Then it happened… she noticed a line of jewelry that I was wearing.  One that is not common within the states and not easy to come by without being close to a rather large city.  She complimented the pieces that I was wearing and asked me if I liked them.  I raved about each piece as I love the uniqueness they deliver.  She then told me she owns 3 pieces that have each broken in some way.  Right then I knew what was coming next.  See, this company is unique to its customer service or lack there of.  Unless you order and return to the main store they are unable to fix or replace any of their pieces.  I have never known the downside to this service as I haven’t needed it, but this woman can tell a different story.  It was then that she said as much as she loves the look, she will no longer purchase their work.  She elaborated on her dissatisfaction in their service.  She simply felt that her needs were not met and in turn cannot trust the product or the makers.

This left me thinking about my customers… my students. 

Do I make them feel important? 

Do I answer their questions? 

Do I listen to their needs? 

What do you think great customer service look like in the classroom? 

Here are 6 Key Rules I have created within my classroom to deliver the service I feel my students deserve.  How do I know if it works?  I survey them!

  1.  Patience!  Without this we lose them from the very start.  We must walk the walk like a grandparent does with their grandchild… slow and steady.  As if the entire universe just stopped and we have nothing but time.  The minute you speed up, become agitated or frustrated, you have now left that child’s needs behind and made this about you.  Be patient… their time is valuable too!
  2. Attentiveness: BE PRESENT!  Look them in the eyes.  Do not allow others to distract you… their words are your teacher!  If you want to know what they need or what bothers them you need to listen attentively!
  3. Knowledge of Product:  Whatever it is that they are in need of you must be able to deliver a knowledgeable response.  That doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers, but you need to be able to be open and honest with them that if you don’t you will be putting this concern to the top of your list and yes, you will be getting back to them in a timely manner.
  4. Positive Vibes: If you cannot be positive when working with children PLEASE take your business elsewhere!  They don’t sign up for negativity and if they come packaged with it, YOU should be the one that puts positive vibes in their world!  Bottom line is YOU will have an impact on every child… it is up to you if it is POSITIVE or negative.  Choose wisely… every child depends on it!
  5. Handle the Unknown: Teachers can write books on the things that children say… so be prepared.  There is not a blueprint to the day in the life of a teacher with 27 different little people with 27 different backgrounds, let alone “starts” to their day.  BUT there is ONE constant… YOU!  BE PREPARED to handle the unknown with kindness and grace.  You will pay it forward without a doubt!
  6. Willingness to Learn: PLEASE acknowledge that you do not know everything… open your mind and your students’ minds to growing and learning together!  Be willing to learn something new and never underestimate the power of learning from your students.  They are a force to reckon with as long as you force yourself to recognize they may know something you don’t!

6+ I cant help but think there should be just one more take away to customer service in a classroom… DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL!  The minute you think it is about you, you have lost the battle.  There will always be a child hurting, worried, frightened, (or worse) that ends up letting it out with their behavior.  That behavior is not about you!  It is about the child.  Go back to #2 and learn about the child!

In the end customer service is about one thing… the customer!    What are we doing to maintain customer satisfaction in our classrooms? Are our customers “delighted to be there”?

Do we greet them with a smile?

Do they get up”grades” to their learning?

Do we leave them smiling?

Are they left feeling important?

If we don’t know, we need to survey them!

What if your students made a video that reflected your customer service?

Would it look like this? #NoSoupForYou

or this? #positive

The Day I Was So Grateful I Asked

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started collaborating with others.”

-current student

I was so grateful I asked!  

A moment is all it took.

An opportunity.

A lifetime of learning took place for me as his teacher.

It all started the day before when I was asked to teach a lesson for The Beaver County Innovation & Learning Consortium.  The BCILC is a group of teachers made of three school districts in my county.   The districts are collaborating to bring STEAM learning and Maker Education to children.  We are currently working on an area of lesson study and I was about to teach a math lesson for my team.

Let me bring you in the loop… My team consists of a gifted educator, a learning support teacher, a superintendent, and myself, a 3rd grade teacher.  We chose to have a full inclusion math lesson which included learners from the 9th percentile up to the 97th in the subject area of math.

This in itself created doubt in my head.

I have watched the dynamics of this vast ability range come as a detriment more than a benefit during my years as a full inclusion learning support teacher.  I was worried that the lower ability level students would frustrate easily and the higher ones would check out.

I doubted my own impact on their learning up to this point.

THIS IS NOT TYPICAL OF ME!

I was trying to close the door on the experience and “protect” my children… all 27 of them!  But the mere suggestion of having them all together pressed in my gut and I knew what was best… include all students!

I needed to stay focused on the goal.  To observe students using the 4Cs (Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking) with their groups.  There was no doubt this would be observed!

Typically my students have voice and choice when collaborating.  They are incredible at choosing people they can thrive with and in turn push themselves to conquer the goal set.  But on this day, the groups were picked for them.  I was so nervous.  I didn’t want them deflated before the lesson even began, but I went with it mainly because it made me nervous and I thrive outside my comfort zone.

I started the lesson with a hook first thing in the morning.  A pirate bucket covered up with a sign reading DO NOT OPEN UNTIL MATH! Oh I had them, right where I wanted them.  Then I started the lesson with a typical Mrs. Nan moment of craziness because my kiddos know crazy and fun go hand in hand with learning.  There I was…putting my sweat band on with a jump rope ready to roll!

The chosen math problem was a poem about jumping rope that tied in fractions.  Simple?  Well, considering we are smack dab in the middle of a VOICE PBL and my students just wrote “Odes”, but have never learned fractions this was definitely a SMASH MIX UP of learning!  Literally one student asked if this was math or reading class.  I WAS LOVING THAT MOMENT TO THE CORE!

Groups were formed and off they went.  This is when my keen observation skills went into hyper-mode!  I just took it in.  Some literally did not know where to begin, but were not giving up.  My students are “raised” on T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. in my class and this was a time for that to shine!

But here I was noticing what I felt was different.  I noticed:

  • Sketch noting… in math? What? Why?
  • Numbers that weren’t even in the problem.
  • Confusion for a higher level learner.
  • Full engagement for most, but most is not enough for me!
  • I was stuck… stuck on the learner that I though would get it, but “appears” to have checked out.  He never checks out.  What is going on?
  • Jump ropes out.  String being cut.  Rulers being taped to the ground.  Pure madness.
  • One higher level learner “checked out”

The lesson came to an end.  We debriefed and gained great insight to what they knew, what they felt they needed to know to complete the problem, and yes the 4Cs were fired up and easily noted.

The next day came.  I questioned it all… Did this have impact?  Did this opportunity pay forward?  I couldn’t help but think about that one student who appeared “disengaged”.

SO I ASKED!

Me: So tell me about yesterday’s lesson… what did you think?

Student #1: It was cool.  I liked it

M: What did you like?

S: I really liked how “Student #2” was sketchnoting

M: I saw that!  I didn’t expect that in math… what are your thoughts?

S: I didn’t expect it either, but I was so happy he did it.  It really helped me make sense out of the problem.  I’m used to just looking at the numbers and figuring it out, but I couldn’t figure it out until I saw him sketch-noting.  It distracted me at first because I’m not used to that way of thinking, but then it really helped me.

M: WOW!  That is amazing!  Was there anything that you didn’t like?  Anything you would change?

S: No, not really.  It was a great mix of people and ideas.  I would definitely want to work with “Student #2” again because he thinks so different than me.  The problem pushed me.  I couldn’t figure it out. I am really happy that I have people to work with this year. 

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started collaborating with others.”

M: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and sharing your feedback.  I thought you were checked out.  Bored.  I had no idea that was what unfolded for your group.

S: S-M-I-L-E

Note:

  • Student #1 is 97th percentile in Math
  • Student #2 is 9th percentile in Math

This teacher just learned another great lesson!

I was so grateful I asked!  

A moment is all it took.

An opportunity.

A lifetime of learning took place for me as their teacher.

#collaboration