Call me stubborn, but I refuse to quit! T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is the foundation to success in learning and life! Exploring the dynamics of a successful classroom and how grit is a vital characteristic for student achievement through empowerment!
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!
It really is all about the right book. The book that opens your mind and allows you to wonder…
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 shehad 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?
Introducing first…. from the innovative mindset of education… He hails from Edmonton, Canada and was rated by many as the best influence on change in education… and for best change agent of the last decade. With a leading book in education, sought after keynote, and leadership consultant… Weighing in on student voice and giving their education a purpose. He is a former teacher champion, principal champion, and CHAMPION FOR ALL STUDENTS AND EDUCATORS…
SIGN UP… just do it! Once you add your name to the list of EDUrisktakers you have already stepped forward in your thinking. (sign ups will be posted soon!)
YOUR VOICE AND CHOICE will steer your learning… you decide how much you can give and in return that is what you will take away. Big or small the takeaways ALWAYS impact!
DON’T FEAR THE BLOG… this may be the biggest issue for many educators. Worrying that they do not know how or may not know what to write. THAT IS HOW MOST OF YOUR STUDENTS FEEL EVERY DAY! This is your safe place just like you provide to your students… growing together in place of isolation is powerful!
TWITTER CHATS… you won’t receive a personal invite in a fancy envelope. This is a platform open to EVERYONE. Type in #IMMOOC and you will see the questions posted. It is a typical Q and A style format. You will see Q1 for Question 1 and you will respond with A1 for Answer 1. Just don’t forget to put #IMMOOC at the end of your answer (If it isn’t there automatically) to keep your response in the chat itself.
BE A CONTRIBUTOR not just a consumer… WE NEED YOU! If everyone simply consumed we would be self absorbed mirror images of one isolated way of thinking. Give… get into conversation… SMASH up your ideas with others and let EDUrelationships form for the betterment of your students, colleagues, and YOU!
Most often there are weekly videos to watch and reflect on… this is usually the jump-start to your blogging. There is no one way to reflect. This is your blog… JUST SPEAK YOUR TRUTH and others will chime in!
Here is your opportunity… get ready to do something AMAZING!
I remember my hiring day vividly. Jubilation for me and feelings of betrayal to the small community that did not get the teacher they had hoped for… the one that they nurtured through the district as a child, the one that learned from them, tackled hours in the classrooms with them, and was hand picked to complete a long term sub position that very spring. I was the new girl in town. The unknown. The crazy redhead ready to take on the world with one very big smile. The one who wore a pale pink suit with matching shoes to my interview to stand out from the traditional black. The one who didn’t know a single teacher to lean on or to have a glimmer into the mindset of a school not yet connected to technology.
I was not from the district… not from the county. This was NOT common practice. I was the Junie B. Jones, the Clementine, the Outsider.
Fast forward to 2016… the hiring process was about to begin and the buzz among the teachers was intense. Each had their own connections and experiences with whom they felt would best serve…
well that is where I stop and question. Best serve… who?
or them as teachers?
See the perfect sub kept the ball rolling. The perfect sub completed the task left by the teacher. The perfect sub kept children quiet and out of trouble. The perfect sub was compliant and maintained perfectly compliant learners. So what’s wrong with that? Who wouldn’t want to return from an absence to the work completed and no behavioral reports?
I was with several of my colleagues when an intense discussion unfolded… one that included our then new Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jacie Maslyk. Teachers started asking about the possible new hires and with all due respect Jacie just listened and did not comment. Then one teacher decided to throw out their pitch to have a particular substitute hired, which then opened the door to other names of “future ready colleagues”. This is when it happened…
With confidence like no other, without hesitation and very matter of fact, Jacie said,
“You need to understand that every hire is a Million Dollar Decision!”
Mic Drop! or was that a pin?
Silence settled over the room. Their eyes told a story. Were they thinking what I was thinking? Were they wondering the same thing as me in that very moment?
I sat there wondering, after 21 years of teaching… if I were interviewed today… WOULD I BE THE MILLION DOLLAR DECISION? I immediately knew the answer… NO! I was sick to my stomach. What had happened to me? Why wasn’t I good enough anymore? (This was not a pity party… this was legit!) More importantly, what on earth was I going to do to be BETTER?
PERSONAL CALL TO ACTION! I believe You must DO BETTER to BE BETTER! (spin on Maya Angelou) Where would I start? Who do I ask?
I started in-house by taking Jacie up on whatever she had to offer. Summer PD, opportunity to visit other classrooms, visit other schools, be a part of a team of teachers within the county striving for innovation, reading her book STEAMMakers, and yes, I joined twitter as Jacie had challenged each of us to do.
Now find time. I hadn’t read a book in years! GOALS! I was going to read this book… her book! I became engaged in the material… the words were jumping off the page because they reminded me of my childhood… I was a maker, as all children should be. My game changer with that book came when I was looking for a bookmark. I glanced at a dollar bill that I had laying on the table next to me. That was it… The Million Dollar Moment! I quickly snatched it up, folded in in half, and placed it in the book. That dollar became my reminder. My incentive. My mirror… if I were interviewed today, would I be the Million Dollar Decision?
I wasn’t in that moment, but I was determined to be.
Why was joining twitter the biggest game changer? Well for one, I was as good as I was nurtured to be within my district, and this one is on me. (I own it because I was waiting for others to impact my learning when I could have been empowering myself all along to be better). I always took on new initiatives, I always volunteered, and I always tried new things. So why wasn’t this enough?
Simple… there was SO MUCH MORE OUT THERE! Twitter gave me a connection to discussion on NEW topics, opportunities to connect with others that opened doors to my learning, EdCamps galore, and an array of conferences that would fit me. Twitter helped me build relationships. These relationships opened my eyes to new ways that I could learn by reading life changing books such as Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess, EMPOWER by A.J. Juliani and Jon Spencer, and so many more. It gave me a chance to find EDUrelevance behind SnapChat by creating BookSnaps with Tara Martin. It encouraged me to join learning platforms such as IMMOOC, DitchSUMMIT, and personal Voxer Chats with an array of educators. Twitter connected me with society… entrepreneurs, universities, and businesses.
My journey over the last year and a half has set me on the right path… the one that takes me from hire to retire. The one that helped me point my EDUcompass in the right direction.
Do you want to be the MILLION DOLLAR DECISION for your students? What questions are you asking yourself to fulfill that vision, that goal, that EDUresponsibility? After inquiring as to what questions may come into play with hiring today, I was left struck by the following:
How do you use technology to enhance your instruction? Not add to instruction, but infuse. Not what YOU use it to instruct, but how your STUDENTS use it to create.
How do you collaborate with others… beyond the four walls of your building?
What is your digital-footprint? If your name was googled what would the world find? What would it tell the world about you as a person and educator?
What are you reading? How has it impacted you? your teaching?
I was hired by the Hopewell Area School District on a beautiful sun shiny day in 1997. Why did I get hired? I believe on that day, I was theMillion Dollar Decision.
Do you tag your “PLN” when you post? Why? Please share with me!
I recently was given a challenge by someone whom I consider an incredible mentor in this crazy EDUawesome life of mine. The challenge was to make my writing so good that I wouldn’t need to tag anyone to my blog posts. I was floored! What about my relationships… my people? The ones that give me feedback, direction, and…
well enough said… challenge accepted. I cannot say no to a challenge! BRING IT!
It is so interesting to see how this unfolded for me…
My life as a blogger was born on September 27, 2017 during Round 3 #IMMOOC created by George Couros, author of Innovator’s Mindset. It was a natural path for me as I have been a lover of writing from the young age of eight. I wrote a lot as a child…
scraps of paper ( a LOT of scraps folded up as small as possible)
the back of composition notebooks
in my head… my safe place.
My first “legit” journal came in 1988 from a close friend. It was a birthday gift for my Sweet 16 (Thank you Amy). Whether it was intentional or simply a coincidence it was a priceless gift that I needed in my life. It was absolutely perfect… and it was for ME! MY EYES ONLY! This is where my darkest secrets were kept. Ones that I felt the world could not handle. This is where my break ups went down… my friendships were built… my dreams were first committed to a pencil mark. See, I never used pen… that was too final for me. I had to have the chance to let it all out and then tweak and code what I didn’t want others to really know if they stumbled across it. Yes, I still have it!
Fast Forward to 2017… the worst timing possible for me to give up MORE precious family time. I was just pulling myself back together from the loss of a dear friend, my beautiful extended family was living with me during a military transition in their life, my amazing mother in law had been ill with countless diagnoses including lung cancer, my dearest friend diagnosed with breast cancer, a commitment to book studies, a mentor, a Virtual Co-op, my sons need me, my husband needs me, and the list goes on and on.
I like to describe #IMMOOC as a book study on steroids (aka huge muscles). This multifaceted learning EDventure is beyond mind-blowing due to the diverse talents, viewpoints, and experiences of each participant.
However, it’s so much more!
It really is about the connections; it’s ALL about the people. Every round, new members join the course, and together we become an EDU-family–spanning the globe. We encourage and challenge one another, and in many instances become face-to-face friends.
Round 3=#IMMOOC Family Reunion with new family members!
“No” simply wasn’t an option! See, I was a lurker Season 1 and 2. Why? Well, I didn’t know how to share my writing publicly. The only time I wrote I wrote for me… MY EYES ONLY!
Then came the first video… Alice Keeler! What a hoot! I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, and learning! Wow, was this fun! I was nodding my head, talking to the computer, carrying on as if Alice was talking to just me… preaching the gospel of EDUtruth! The hour flew by and I was empowered to start my first blog.
What do I write? (That was my first question of course) That was when I knew I had to simply write from my heart… my experience… my belief. As one of my incredible mentors would say, write from “MY WHY!” This wasn’t about being right, or politically correct… it was about sharing… letting others into my world!
This was the day T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. finally went down on paper. Prior to this moment, it was solely mine. In my head. My conversation. Mine to use in my classroom because it was my foundation for learning and so it became my philosophy for education. It was mine… and now it needed to be EVERYONE’S… at least an EDUspin for others!
Since that first blog, my writing and reflections have grown stronger, deeper, and more powerful for me. My thoughts need to come out. Just like the child in class that I pull to the side… where a journal is born… where we create a special cover for that “personal space” to write. Where we take a digital approach to this paper masterpiece and start blogging to connect… to build relationships in our isolated universe of thoughts!
So what about that challenge? To Tag or NOT to Tag? Here is how it went down:
Where does this leave me? I want to hear your thoughts. I know I need to follow my heart… because that is where others will “read” my writings. I love to blog, but it isn’t just about me. It revolves around my Why… and that in itself has changed. My Why is connected to people… my tags are different every time. They are personal. No doubt, there are a few that are tagged more often than others, but it is a connection. A relationship I have built. One that happened through #IMMOOC #tlap #DitchSummit and more!
Relationships within my #PLN have transformed my way of teaching.
I had 240ish connections in September 2017 (one year of being on twitter)
After IMMOOC I had 700ish
Before my SAS Conference in Hershey (December) I had 800ish connections
During the conference I went over 1,000
Today I have an amazing 1,244 connections to incredible educators on #Twitter alone!
I have 400 TIMES the connections from #Twitter than I personally had in my own district from the start of the 2017 school year
I now have published 24 blogs in just over 3 months. A sense of pride has emerged, a desire for more, a need to grow. Yet I am left wondering…
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…
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.”
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!
Why does one go to a conference? What draws a person in? The conference mailings arrive weekly in my mailbox at school. For some I open, but for most I toss them straight into the garbage. In order for it to grab my attention it needs to provide me with more than my daily growth within my PLN and twitter. (Twitter alone nurtures my love for teaching and can be done from the comforts of my home.) It cannot just be a buzz word. It must be legit. So for me it is the keynote. The person chosen must be relevant to teaching and learning… not only for my students, but for me.
George is key to my attendance. It really is that simple. I am an educator making positive change in the classroom. I am pushing myself forward every day without a conference, so for one to grab my attention, be worth my financial investment, and hold value to my students and to me, it must have impact!
IMPACT: the kind that pulls on every emotion possible! The kind that changes me for the better!
Truths that were spoken by George… hard core truth:
Truth: “Learning is your job so stop whining and settle down.” (I about jumped up and gave him a standing ovation!)
Truth: “If you do not have a twitter account you are no longer relevant to teaching!”
Truth: “If you still have a computer lab, the question is do you have a pencil lab too?”
Truth: “Isolation is now a CHOICE that educators make!”
Truth: “Do kids do it because of school or in spite of it?”
Truth: “Data driven is the stupidest term in education!”
Truth: “Stop making excuses!”
Truth: “What serves kids the best?”
Truth: “Make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear!”
Truth: “CHANGE IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING AMAZING!”
The energy in itself… the mere magnitude of educators buzzing with enthusiasm has drawn me in to conversation. Conversation that I don’t normally engage in. (Don’t laugh too hard… I have the gift of gab, but I’m talking about the choice to put myself in conversation.) The truth is, I don’t like the downers… the fun suckers… closed mindsets. Most groups I have encountered at school conferences have always included closed mindsets. One that sucks the positive life right from my soul. But this conference is different… the buzz is about George.His truths. His innovative practices. His doors he opened… for us! His relationships he nurtured… with us. In turn, I have engaged beyond the keynote… into small groups… lunches… dinners… downtime. I came with an amazing group of educators, connected with my twitter family, and am growing each day with incredible educators! The power of a keynote has created an opportunity for me to do amazing things!