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

Book Study Game Changer: STOP. RIGHT. NOW.

Did you ever read a book that continuously stops you in your tracks? I have been blessed to read many like this over the last couple of years, and once again I feel that I have hit the mother-load with my newest adventure “STOP. RIGHT. NOW. The 39 STOPS to Making Schools Better” by Jimmy Casas and Jeffrey Zoul. This book has left me in complete AWE, smothered in embarrassment, and standing on a soapbox all within a few short STOPS! Oh yes, I am uncomfortable… and crazy enough I thrive on on that feeling because it equates growth in my world and that of the entire educational community!

Oh to the AWE…

I have never really thought about it as much as I should have, but so often we as educators take the immense amount of pressure placed on us to get our students ready for the next grade and we literally create a culture that is developmentally set up for failure. In place of focusing on the now, we feel we are always needing to prepare them for the next level. In STOP 8 Jeff and Jimmy remind us that in order to find balance for every child socially, emotionally, and behaviorally, we must “focus relentlessly on the moments-and the students-before them today.” They are not saying that we ignore yearly goals or refrain from looking to the future to work back to the point we are at, but “if students learn precisely what they need to at each step of their journey, they will ultimately acquire all of the knowledge and skills teachers expect them to possess upon high school graduation.” I too have heard the words come out of my mouth like… “in the real world you will need to OR come next year you will need” and what I really want to be saying is… today we are focusing on ____________ to build a stronger tomorrow for every child!

Eeeek to the Embarrassment…

STOP 1: Assumptions! BOOM! This is my STOP… the one that I have felt on both sides. The one that embarrassed me most because I have been guilty of judging/assuming and let down by being judged. The vulnerability that Jeff showed in sharing his own “humbling- if not humiliating- moment” definitely encouraged readers like me to take a long look on the inside. I have always taken pride in knowing a child’s story and not assuming anything good, bad or indifferent. I have always felt my bonds were so strong because they did not feel judged and that I was always looking to know more to help them grow and be a part of their world. I have felt that so often others come to me and share heartfelt moments that can be challenging to even get the words out, because they know I will listen and won’t judge or assume. However, the one area that I have assumed more than my share has been with my administration. Often, I have passed judgement on decisions based solely on my perspective and the reactionary thought of “have you forgotten so quickly what it is like to be in the classroom or is this really the best for kids?” I have assumed decisions were based on their needs and not of the staff or children. I have assumed their intentions were skewed from what I deemed “good”. I am not excusing myself in any way for making these assumptions, but it wasn’t until I took a risk and started having tough conversations with administrators that I could see their perspective. I am not just referring to my district, but the network of principals, superintendents, tech integration specialists,curriculum directors, assistants at all levels and more that I have brought into my life through my global PLN (Professional Learning Network). This open conversation that gets rather sticky at times and doesn’t always end with agreement. At times we must agree to disagree to be quite honest. However, it nurtures a culture of trust, respect, understanding, appreciation, and a well-rounded balance for the betterment of our community through relationships that do matter. We can try and convince ourselves that there are sides and levels and that crossing them takes you to a “dark side”, but what I see is light… the kind that shines brightly on relationships being built around conversations that need to happen if we want a culture that thrives and not just exists.

Standing on My Soapbox…

When I am really hooked on a book, my students always know because it will be the same one in hand each time we stamina read. I am always with book in hand when they are, but for the same book to be in and out of the classroom for a stretch of time means one and only one thing… Mrs. Nan is in a book study again and can’t get enough! What I love most is when my students’ curiosity peeks and they just have to find out what it is all about. This time, I didn’t share right away. I told them the full title of the book and spun around the question to ask them what they thought we should STOP in education. You could have heard a pin drop… literally. NO ONE spoke and trust me this is RARE! I was actually sad at first because I pride myself on the relationship I have with them and the vulnerability that they normally embrace. This was different. To them, this was crossing a line… and there is no doubt other educators would feel the same. Not me, I need to know. I must take that risk in order to move forward. I reassured them of my love and that in no way would I be offended by their response. I reminded them that I trust them to share their STOP for the betterment of children and their learning. In turn, their hearts shared countless changes they feel would make a difference for all children. These 2 STOPS hit me hard (the lasting impact that they have had on these children for them to talk about it when it isn’t occurring for them this school year is profound.)

“Kids have so much energy, STOP doing NO RECESS!”

I had to know more so I asked. What do you mean by this? I have never known you to lose your recess. To this she replied, “I don’t lose my recess, but the ones who do distract me in class because they need it to get rid of their energy.” BOOM! OH MY WORD! I took pause and thanked her for sharing. Next up…

“STOP Right Now moving bees, clips and more.”

This one came from a child that had grown so much this year. He was learning to value his own voice, behaviors, reactions, and ability. He himself chose “cooperate” for his #OneWord2019 because it can be hard for him and he has realized that when he does do this he really likes himself and school. Once again I needed to know more… Can you tell me what you mean by this? He went on to say that it was really hard for him to sit still and focus and that this happened to him a lot before 3rd grade. He went on to say that it was hard to make friends because of it and it just built up anger and sadness. Sigh…

After these tough conversations, I felt I owed it to their parents to share this unexpected journey with them. I sent out a message that explained the book and how the children shared their viewpoints. I wanted to make sure that they knew it was discussed with respect and that if the topic came home in their daily “table talk” to embrace it and share with me. Not only did the parents appreciate the opportunity, but several of them asked how to purchase the book. This to me was one of the best unplanned lessons I could have ever experienced. This takes me to STOP 39…

STOP #39: Doing What You’ve Always Done… if I were the teacher that I was when I graduated in the spring of 1995, I would be coming up short at every turn. Computers were just arriving on campus and emails were being passed out to many of us who only owned a typewriter. I would have a classroom built on the Industrial Revolution factory/mill mindset in place of the 21st Century. I am the teacher today that my students need me to be. It can be uncomfortable and at times down right messy, but isn’t that what learning and growing really looks like? I cannot guarantee every parent that what I am trying to do in education is the perfect choice with 100% accuracy, but I couldn’t do that 22 years ago when I was hired either. What I can guarantee them is…

  1. I am not doing what I am doing because it has always been done that way, but instead I am doing what I feel is best for their child.
  2. I am willing to take any risk that will help their child.
  3. I am willing to learn with them and from them and alongside them, as I am not and never will be the expert on every topic or idea.
  4. I will always choose learning that is in their child’s best interest. That will involve state standards, passions, uncomfortable ideas of the unknown, empathy, compassion, respect, confidence, and anything that may bring growth academically, emotionally, behaviorally, and socially.
  5. I will always advocate for their child.
  6. I will give second chances because at the age of 46 I still need them.
  7. I will never take for granted the amount of impact that I have on their child.
  8. I will create boundaries and discipline their child, and they will know it is because I love them.
  9. I will empower every child to create opportunity for themselves.
  10. I will always believe I can be better and in turn they can be too!

We cannot START creating a culture of betterment if we do not STOP doing just because it has always been done. Thank you to Jeff and Jimmy for sparking the conversation that is desperately needed in education today.

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, ISTE Standard for Educators

Global Impact Blog Challenge

When my students heard “The world is waiting to hear from you” they knew that they were destined to OWN their moment.

So I asked one question… “If you could pick one word that you feel would be a challenge, yet help to better you in a magical way, what word would you pick?” Now is the time to OWN your #OneWord2019

Without hesitation, this is what they wrote…

My one word for 2019 is LEADER! I picked this word to help me become a better person. This word is now my own personal goal. I can lead ME! I can lead with my actions. I can make good choices in the way I act even when an adult isn’t with me. I can lead with my emotions. I can lead with my words. A good leader is not bossy. A good leader helps someone when they don’t get it. I can lead with my friendships. Being kind is very important. These are all the reasons I picked leader for my one word this year. -Karsten, age 9

My one word for 2019 is BALANCE! I choose balance to help me be become better. I will not play the Wii U for 5 hours a day and instead I will play the Wii for 5 minutes and then with my dog for 5 minutes. I will also stop playing alone for 10 minutes and instead I will play with my sister for those 10 minutes. -Emma, age 9

My one word for 2019 is BREATHE! I picked this word to help me when I am worried. This is now going to be a goal for me. I am going to breathe when I have a hard test. I am going to breathe when I lose something so that I don’t get upset. I am going to breathe when I am building Legos and they break. When I worry I am going to breathe. I picked this word because I am not that strong at it and I never tried it before. If I can stop and breathe instead of getting upset I will be so proud of myself.-Madeline, age 8

My one word for 2019 is HELPING! I picked this word so that I can become better at it. I want to help people out instead of watching them struggle. I’m going to help raise money for the hospital instead of letting someone else do it. I am going to donate to the poor instead of watching them stand and wait for a donation. I know I will feel better if I do this all year. -Thomas, age 9

My one word for 2019 is BE to make ME a better person! I need to BE kind so that other people are kind. I picked BE because I want to BE the person that is different. A lot of people don’t think about it. I picked BE because I think that it is an awesome word. You need to BE yourself because everyone else is already taken! This is my one word for 2019. -Jayde, 8

My one word this year is FRIENDSHIP! I picked this word to help me become a better friend. Friends can motivate you. They can help you. They can help me when I am down. -Bobby, age 9

My one word for 2019 is SMILE! I picked this word to help me crush more goals. I want to smile at people instead of frowning so people won’t think that I am miserable. I want to smile and most of all be happy. I want to smile at people because if I do they will smile back! That is why I want to smile! -Grace, age 8

Help me by sharing this opportunity across the globe with others to spotlight their voice! I am looking for voices of all ages to share their thoughts over the next 12 months… a moment in time for us to journey together! Let’s start sharing! Anyone can guest blog… no age limit or title! Pre-Service teacher… YES! Teacher… YES! Admin.. YES! Professor… YES! STUDENT… YES! Parent… YES! Your own personal child… YES! If you are invested one way or another into the betterment of education, I want to share your perspective! For details…

CLICK HERE

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

12 New Chapters

Twelve new chapters equals 365 new opportunities. Maybe, just maybe we are writing this “book on life” together and Chapter 1 has already started to develop with the New Year. Social Media is the new handshake and it is time we reach out and meet some new friendly faces! Twelve “chapters/months” filled with the most incredible opportunities available to every educator and in turn to every child. Maybe, just maybe we should be challenging our students to the same things that we ourselves are challenged to do. Maybe, this is what growth really looks like… the kind that lights the world on fire and resonates within the soul! What would these “chapters in a book” look like for you and your students? What about your administrators, parents, or own personal child? I would like to find out by having others guest blog each month, so…

Let’s ASK THEM! Help me by sharing this blog across the globe with others to spotlight their voice! I am looking for voices of all ages to share their thoughts over the next 12 months… a moment in time for us to journey together! Let’s start sharing!

Anyone can guest blog… no age limit or title! Pre-Service teacher… YES! Teacher… YES! Admin.. YES! Professor… YES! STUDENT… YES! Parent… YES! Your own personal child… YES! If you are invested one way or another into the betterment of education, I want to share your perspective!

The world is waiting to hear from YOU!

Pick a “Chapter AKA Month” below
Open a Google Doc and start writing!
Then share your Google Doc with me @nankr1120@gmail.com

Chapter 1/Jan.: OWN your #OneWord2019

Chapter 2/Feb.: Kindness Kudos

Chapter 3/March: Lucky Enough to CREATE that Pot of Gold for Others

Chapter 4/April: Purpose

Chapter 5/May: The Championship Game- We Cannot Win It Alone

Chapter 6/June: Personalize Your Joy

Chapter 7/July: In It To Win It

Chapter 8/Aug.: Breaking Traditions- Tossing Out the Old and Creating New

Chapter 9/Sept.: Friday Night Lights

Chapter 10/Oct.: Fall Into the Future

Chapter 11/Nov.: Finding Gratitude in Grace

Chapter 12/Dec.: ________________ (Give this chapter a title)

Natasha Bedingfield… nailed it:

“Let the sun illuminate your words… “

“Feel the rain on your skin, no one else can feel it for you”

“Live your life with arms wide open”

“No one else can speak the words on your lips”

“I’m just beginning… the pen is in my hand”

Pick the pen up! Let’s write this one together!

CLICK HERE to message me with any questions/and or ideas!

#OWNit365edu

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Personal Learning

Tis’ the Season to Create Opportunity

Tis’ the season…

for true insanity!  The kind that comes in the form of 

gift brainstorming

decorating

celebrations

shopping til’ I drop

(let me toss in the excitement of presenting at my first conference)

and…. oh, yes…

planning engaging lessons that supersede that of the jolly ol’ man himself!

Now that last one is a dooooozy!  So how on earth can we as educators keep learning at the forefront of the holiday season.  Quite simple… just ask our students!

What would you like to do in math for the next couple of weeks? Their eyes were wide open to match their little voices that were going nonstop as they talked over one another to get their idea out.

We had just finished up celebrating our Chick-fil-A luncheon reward for embracing flexible seating in the classroom.  Our local Chick-fil-A in Robinson Twp. had closed one store to build a new and better establishment across town.  In turn, they offered out their used furniture to anyone interested.   My fellow colleague Olivia, who formally worked at their business, called me up to see if I was interested.

Interested? Ummmm… YES!  I brought home tables, chairs and stools that have added more awesome options to our already flexible classroom.  But the one thing that I felt would take our learning right over the edge was the ENTIRE LIGHT UP MENU BOARD!  You heard me!  Yes, I’m the one that looked over at the heap of metal stacked up, ready for the dumpster and said, “Any chance I could have those too?”  I remember the look on the manager’s face as if that was far from something that she envisioned we would desire.  “SURE!”, she said.  Oh yes, this was the game changer I was looking for… math would never be the same in the most exciting way possible!

Rewind… If I am being totally honest, the menus sat in a stack for almost 3 months.  They were huge and heavy.  The idea had gone from complete excitement to… what was I thinking?  Then the day came.  The reward luncheon was about to unfold and what better “decoration” to have than the menu boards, right?  I brought each one in with the intention of having a simple “REAL-WORLD” math lesson and then off to the stack they would go again.  I mean, come on… where on earth was I really going to put all of them?

But when the hype of Christmas came barreling in, I found myself questioning my plan to move into a new unit so I had to ask the experts… the students themselves!

“Let’s run our own restaurant!”, one said.  WHAT? HOW? WHEN?  We haven’t even learned decimals yet… or money.  Wait, we don’t even know the first thing about running a business.  How will this take shape?  All these questions whirled though MY mind.

HOW WAS I GOING TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

Crazy how I thought this was a PROBLEM that had too many hurdles to make happen.  In reality, it was an INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY with a personal invitation to authentic learning at its finest!  Even crazier to think I felt it was MY problem and not an opportunity to problem solve in the most authentic way possible.  A restaurant… WOW!

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A new space was created for the menu boards

Well my friends, that is exactly what we will do for the next 2 weeks of school.  I smiled and said, “Let’s get this plan in place.  Remember, we have to connect it to our learning goals… whose in?”

“WE ARE!”  And off they went.  The research began instantly.  They began talking about managers, shift managers, cost, employee responsibilities, resumes, interviews, and so much more.  We have reached out for a little more support from Chick-fil-A to donate bags and paper products to give our “business” life!  Students are ready to bring in their kid friendly cash registers, along with additional play-dough and other materials they have listed.  Over the next week, my students will be creating their own math journey.  One that I know will leave a lasting mark.  All of this excitement has unfolded because I simply asked one question.

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Tis’ the Season!

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

Student Mantra: Crushing Goals

CRUSHING GOALS has become our daily mantra in The Ingenious Lab.  When you walk in on any given day you will here the sounds of…

“YES, I did it!”

“Ahhhh, sooooo close”

“Look Mrs. Nan, I made it to the next level!”

or

“Can I have just another minute… I know I can do it?!”.

This is incredibly rewarding for me, but it didn’t happen over night.  These are the same students who despised math fluency in August and barely completed a set amount of math facts in under an hour.  These are the same students who found little to no value in the NWEA assessment and whizzed through it just to put their heads down.  These are the students who groaned at working on phonics when they felt they were past that skill even with gaps in their foundation.  They honed in on what came easy for them and snubbed the challenge of other skills and subjects.

Does this sound familiar?  Do you find that children have already predetermined what they are good at or not before you even get the chance to show them otherwise?  Do they simply push aside areas that require critical thinking, perseverance, or maybe a fresh mindset?

My students needed a fire lit under them and I was determined to do it!  They needed a purpose to tie into their learning.  They needed to be passionate about their learning.  They needed to take pride in their work and the journey they would go on to achieve success.   I was committed to making that happen and you can too!

Ways To Make Goal Crushing Achievement Happen:

  1. Kids need to have fun… it makes them tick!  Find their joy and tie it in to the purpose of what they need to learn.  For my students their joy stemmed around creating and making, spending time with friends, and having options to choose from that would fit into their current world of interests.
  2. Find out what they want to be or what they enjoy outside of school that could connect to a profession.  They are never too young to visualize their future.  This may be a moment of hope for a child.  Hope that they can be what they want through determination and hard work.  That their future does not have to be defined by their current situation.  This is about building a relationship with them beyond the skill, yet listening to their passions to bring relevance to what they are learning.
  3. Give options for seating.  How they learn is a major factor in how much they learn.  Flexible seating has been at the forefront of education for a few years and we as educators owe it to every child to jump on board.  No two students are alike and we need to help them learn their strengths and weaknesses and then empower them to know what they need to succeed.  Do they need to stand?  Do they need an outlet for their fidgeting?  Do they need to bounce?  Do they need to stretch out and put on music?  Most do not know.  Most students have been told how to learn and now they simply want to sit by a friend to get through the day.  Is this really how we want to define learning for them?
  4. Celebrate their successes… you may be the only one who does!  No “buts” involved.  They don’t need to hear “you did great, but…” what they did wrong or that they could have done even better.  They need to wrap themselves in that moment and celebrate!  HUG them, high-five them, do a dance, shout it from the desktop, just make that child relish the moment of success.  Believe it or not once they become self-motivated they will no longer hinge their successes on your personal feelings, but instead on their own!
  5. Have student conferences!  These can be as little as 2-3 minutes in length.  You must take the time to speak with love and care for their well-being and growth.  They are not able to create goals if they do not know where they are at in their learning.  They need concrete examples and then an opportunity to create a plan with you.  Make this happen for every child!

Be a GOAL CRUSHER for and with every child!  Their learning depends on it!

 

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction

The Championship Game

Opportunity lies ahead with PSSA’s!  A challenge is knocking on our door AND the anxiety decreases as we talk about the opportunity it provides.

change.pngIt paves the way to our learning.  It is a road map to each child’s knowledge and ability.  It is the compass for future teachers to find the direction to each child’s learning.

PSSAs are not as closed minded as we make them out to be.  Hands on?  No.  But they do allow for voice and choice if we see the opportunity behind each question.  This is our championship game!  We got this!  How?  We need to Innovate Inside The Box

Flip The Mindset

Each child gets to choose which strategy works best for them.  Do they prefer the traditional method?  Drawing pictures?  Counting on their fingers? Partial products? Trade-first?  These are simply methods that each child may choose from… their choice to show their voice on how they know the concept.

Are they curious as to why they need to read the article, passage, or summary?  Each child has the choice to read the questions before they read the passage.  This does not have to be such a mystery to them if they truly want to switch things up.  What if they get to a question and the problem is that they cannot remember what they just read?  No worries!  Their choice… they can simply go back into the passage and find what it is they are looking for to complete the question.

Take Action

However, if never given the opportunity to use their voice to choose their learning how will they see it so clearly when it lies in their path?  Time to hit it out of the park and empower every child with opportunity!

Batter Up!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction

Beyond Flexible

I am a huge fan of flexible seating.  Why?  Because it speaks to me… to every child.  It is a language all on its own.  It says … come in and choose what works for you!  Choose what is best for your learning.  To me “beyond flexible” is a respect to all languages of learning…. it builds a culture of value, trust, and respect.

Respect for differences. 

Respect for prior knowledge.

Respect for one’s strengths… because everyone has them! 

By providing flexible seating I am “speaking and interpreting many languages to learning.”  It is the “multilingual approach to learning”… each child’s own personal language.  I am letting each child know that I am privileged to learn with them and I cannot wait to see what they have to offer in their own way27C9FC8A-82E4-4FD5-87A4-F31C751D79DEBut why stop with seating?  Why not go beyond and have flexible learning too?

It makes me think of how I choose my shopping experience.  I am in the moment.  My moment looks different based on my day… my mood… my energy.  I am the one who likes to walk in to a store that offers a variety.  I want different.  I don’t want a carbon copy of someone else.  I don’t want everyone to know where I bought it just by glancing at a “label.”  I am different and I embrace it, just like I embrace the different learners in my classroom each day!

George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset,  made a strong point this week (during the IMMOOC YouTube live session)… one that resonated with me.  He mentioned that when leading there are times “I am literally trying to figure this out right now.”

Thanks George…  that is me!  That is my shopping style!  My life style!  My learning style!  I am wrestling with what I want… what I want to wear.  I may not even know until I see it.  I feel my shopping is similar to students’ learning.  I feel they wrestle with their own learning and it may change from subject to subject like brand to brand.  They may not even be in touch with their own likes or dislikes, yet they are trying to win at the “game of school” through one experience.  Shouldn’t they come out with an amazing outfit of learning designed just for them?  Shouldn’t their learning be flexible too… the kind that goes beyond differentiation?  Isn’t it their own learning language?

“It’s more than just a skill level.  Each student has a different set of interests and passions and prior knowledge.  Each student has a different set of questions.  Each student has a different system that works for them.” –A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, authors of Empower

 

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