Personal Learning

Double Down on Your PLN: Revisit, Reflect, and Re-frame Bet 20

“If I took my connectivity out of the equation of who I am, I would probably understand how much more I really can do as a human and be what I need to be for people in my life. I feel that I have been so incredibly blessed to be a connected educator and appreciate how it has helped me both professionally and personally with the friendships that I have acquired.  In turn,  I now know that other parts of my life have taken a hit because of it.”

This was something that I shared with my friend, Rachelle Dean-Poth, as we voxed back and forth one-day last week. I was flying solo on my 3rd walk of the day while camping. Rachelle and I weren’t engrossed in a conversation of learning, this was simply a moment of missing a friend. One that I have been blessed to have in my world for the past several years. We were talking about all that we love about everything we do. We spoke about how we miss many conversations that we used to find ourselves in on a daily basis, but that the reality is that there simply are not enough hours in a day. It came down to one point… if we use too many of our hours being connected we will miss out on what is right in front of us. In the midst of our conversation, I literally stopped and said, “You know, I should blog about this!”  Ha! Well, here I am!   

REVISIT and REFLECT

As I continue to revisit and reflect on bets (chapters) that Jacie and I wrote in our book, “All In: Taking a Gamble in Education,”  I turn my attention to Bet 20: “Double Down on Your PLN.” In this bet, we reminded our readers how social media can transform relationships and connect you with a network of educators to provide support and inspiration.  We asked our readers to share what inspiration they found outside of their personal school district that has helped them to move forward. Our Double Down at the end of the bet prompted each reader to ask themselves… what is one way you can contribute, in place of consuming? 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: As a connected educator, OWN your part as a leader for every child and contribute what you have learned through your PLN without giving up your own identity and balanced existence

RE-FRAME

One of the biggest gifts I have been given is my incredible PLN.  No buts about it.  The one thing that I have learned is that by surrounding myself with those that are incredibly passionate about the same things in life as myself, I have grown beyond anything I have ever imagined!  With that has come something else that I have learned… when I am contributing all that I have gained, at times I knock myself off balance from the world that I share with my family.  This is where I re-frame my accountability in how and when I use my social media, not to mention how and when I connect with the most incredible friends and passionate educators that have truly blessed my world.  I don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach, but for me, I have learned to navigate this in a different way over time.

Did you ever have someone say they love how your friendship can pick up where you left off? Whether it is a week or even a month, we don’t look back thinking of “what we missed”, but in turn, we live in the moment and look forward to “what can be!” No apologies, just welcoming arms. These are the people within my PLN/PLF that I find to get the most out of what I can humanly offer.  We learn great amounts from one another. We take that information to create a better tomorrow for every child, but we do not hold the other to an obligation of connecting continuously. Let’s face it, now that we are truly connected educators we have blended “colleague status”/acquaintances with friendships that we are wired to give more attention to… so where do we go from here? Let’s get back to the roots of why being a connected educator is so important to you, your students, colleagues, and community.  

For me, a connected educator means (not in order of importance, simply a list of impact):

-A constant support system (that is a give and take)

-Embraced risk-taking and disruption

-The constructive push-back that propels me forward

-Learning with a diverse PLN (Professional Learning Network)

-Leading beyond the four walls of my own existence

-Kindness connections that nurture my soul

-Joyful Leaders that remind me that my heart can impact the same as my brain

-The laughter that comes with endless conversations

To Be Better Than My Yesterday!

(graphic created and posted in 2018)

Being better than my yesterday has been my mantra since I was a child. Keeping my focus on a “me vs me” mentality and limiting my comparison to others has helped me to grow. What I am humanly capable of looks different from week to week, but for me, I must prioritize and keep focus… I challenge you to do the same!  

  1. Family First Always
  2. Self Care/Well-Being (#1-2 are the same level of importance… the analogy of putting your mask on before trying to save others always stops me in my tracks)
  3. Friendships
  4. Learning and Growing/Social Media
  5. Contributing in all ways possible!/Social Media

If I truly want to Re-frame this Bet and take this CALL TO ACTION and live it, I must first keep numbers one and two on my list in balance.  From there, anything is possible! 

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

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

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! 

Personal Learning

Digging Deep, Finding Hope

During this historic time, each of us have been tested. We have been pushed, pulled, poked, and prodded in ways that I do not think any of us could have ever imagined. Those who know me, know that I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. As I referenced in a recent post, there are always good things that come out of hard times. For me, this has been a time of tremendous reflection, questioning, and pursuit of deeper understanding. I am grateful for my #PLN and especially #BlogginThruIt. They have given me the space to express my thoughts, analyze my thinking, and dig deep. 

As I navigate through this time, I have been grappling with my role as a leader and what relationships should and could look like. Vulnerability requires trust. Trust requires vulnerability. Healthy relationships require trust AND vulnerability!  -Sari

As soon as I heard Sari say she was “grappling with her role as a leader,” I knew our friendship would be lifelong.  It is the grapple that we feel inside that leads us to a better way.  Through self-reflection we question and when we question we face honest answers that may be tough to hear at times. It is the grapple that makes me thrive, not only within, but with others!  -Kristen

The Beginning of a Powerful and Healthy Relationship

Kristen and I connected through Twitter over a few tweets about George Couros’ inspiring book Innovate Inside the Box. Little did I know that when we connected, Kristen was wrapping up her own powerful book with Jacie Maslyk, All In: Taking a Gamble in Education A few short months later I was honored to join the first #AllInEDU book study, facilitated by #2MenAndABook. Chapter 2 of All In, or as Kristen and Jacie call it, Bet 2, is titled Poker Face. This chapter dives into the misguided belief that many of us have heard over the years: Don’t smile until Christmas; don’t let your guard down or you will lose control. As I started this chapter, I thought, I don’t have a poker face! I am open and transparent. I pride myself on the value of relationships. I continued to read in agreement. This is not a time to put up walls and create barriers; it’s time to break them down and make connections. Exactly. 

Jacie and Kristen’s words spoke to me in a very dynamic, meaningful way. Integrating both perspectives, teacher and administer, resonated with me on so many levels. Understanding perspectives is key to developing empathy. As I reflect on who I am as a leader and consider the type of leader I strive to be, Kristen shared a courageous statement that profoundly impacted her district, and now me. -Sari

-Kristen Nan

Through Sari’s reflection, I just felt this in my core all over again… this was such a bold and vulnerable statement I made that turned my entire life upside down in the blink of an eye! To know it resonated with Sari, and brought us to this blog together, speaks to me in the most profound way possible! -Kristen

Seize Vulnerability

Simultaneously, at work, we were having some very serious conversations that I needed to process. The discussions were truly weighing on me. I bottled up my emotions on the inside, placed a smile on the outside, and considered what I was feeling. Then it hit me…I was NOT being open. I was NOT being transparent. I was NOT being vulnerable. I was wearing a poker face. -Sari

This right here is such an awesome moment! This new perspective on something that I wrote with such conviction resonates with me. The idea that something could be perceived so differently.  It is “push back” or questioning that gains perspective, and it is that space of vulnerability that affords for this to happen!  Although my questioning has been viewed differently by others throughout my career, I believe that push back to one’s view should never equate disrespect (and that is how the admin felt that day with my bold statement).  There are times that I feel when someone is invested in their own perspective they cannot stop and feel, or see someone else’s view. What then? How do we possibly serve and move forward if we cannot see what is right in front of us? -Kristen 

Was I pushing back? Do I have walls? And even worse, do I have walls that I don’t see? Am I living a belief that mirrors “not smiling until Christmas?” Am I missing what is right in front of me? I struggled with this…I began to consider that perhaps I don’t lead by example. I felt a flash of discomfort. 

I pushed my thoughts and questions into our Voxer book study and an incredible discussion ensued. Is it ever okay to have a poker face? Can a poker face protect others? Be vulnerable, but be strong….what does that really look like? Does a poker face mean dishonesty? How do you support others when you are still struggling yourself?

For our students, it is important that they receive information in a developmentally appropriate way. Or perhaps there is information that our little people should not hear at all. Does that mean that I am lying by omission? 

“You don’t seem concerned, so I’m not concerned.” That phrase was said to me just last year by a staff member. It served as a reminder that our emotions can be contagious, both positive and negative emotions. If I choose to process my emotions before sharing with my staff is that dishonesty? -Sari

OM to the G! This right here is full gains! Another perspective… Maybe this perspective states that it is beyond appropriateness for just children… is it possible that there is information that adults should not hear/share just yet or at all… it all takes on a different view when restated with different intent. -Kristen

INTENTION! When I read Kristen’s words I realized that our WHY behind the poker face is most important. It is not about power or losing control of our classroom, building, or district. It is about putting others first. As educators, we have a responsibility to ensure we discuss important topics with students in a way that is developmentally appropriate but also provides opportunities to hear all stories, practice empathy, and build understanding. 

We are navigating a precarious time. There are so many unknowns. School districts are facing significant state budget cuts. School districts are making decisions that no one ever wants to have to make; their impacts will be felt far and deep. Many districts will come out of this looking very different. What is the best way to handle this? There is already so much tension in the system. -Sari

Building Trust

How will it look?  At first glance, it may appear that it is possibly not for the better… for now! Is it possible that these moments, when we have fewer options,  will help us to appreciate the ones that are given? Think about the budget cuts and the shifting in one’s practice… will we still find opportunity in this change or will we snub it because it does not mirror the vision we once had. MakerSpaces… gone, but why? Is this a blame game? Do we trust those that have these very difficult decisions to make? Options to learn a foreign language… will they exist? Will they be plentiful? What about flexible seating… something that students love and are now embracing with ownership over their choices and actions?  Will it be gone?  Will it come back?  Will we find voice and choice in this most radical time of change OR will we do what has already been done before and REVOLT? Is it the emotional attachment to what could have been? Is it the reality that our dreams are no longer our own to shape? Is it the vulnerability that we feel to be within a space of less control? What is it that scares you the most? Is it trust? What is it about education that children fear will change? Will we ask them? And if we do, how will we receive their answers. Will we cut them off and hand them the reason or excuse? Will we steer them to be more empathetic in their response so that it hurts us a little less? Will we even ask? And what will we do? Is it possible that the solution or vision of change lies with them and not us at all? Are we willing to let children reshape what we have created for hundreds of years… all while doing it within the constraints that our reality lies in.  

Reality check… can we afford it?  Have we given enough voice to our students to open their eyes and minds to an opportunity that does not look like their initial vision?  Do we trust? Can they innovate inside the box, as George Couros has pushed us to question and rethink our philosophy and our practice?  This right here will be very telling of what was before and what will be! -Kristen 

One lesson I have learned during this time is the power of “I don’t know.” Kristen poses so many thoughtful questions. My answer to some of those questions has been…”I don’t know.” As a person, let alone as a central office administrator, it goes against the fabric of my being to just hang within a space of…”I don’t know.” I am not implying that I believe that I have all of the answers. However, I know how to seek out the answers. David Weinberger said it best, “The smartest person in the room is the room.” In order to get the best answers, we have to bring all perspectives into a room and hash it out. During this historic time, even that strategy has not worked. Throughout this pandemic, we have only been able to answer questions that focused on the here and now. All along we have been missing critical data to answer questions about our future…When will schools open their doors again? What will graduation look like? What is the best way to support students when we return to brick and mortar? How do we create a warm, welcoming learning environment while following CDC guidelines? How much more funding will the state cut? Will there be another wave of the virus? If so, when?

My experiences these past few months have reinforced that responding “I don’t know” is not bad. Saying nothing at all, avoiding the conversation, wearing a poker face, or faking it, breaks down the relationships and shows a lack of respect. Being vulnerable, discussing the facts of the situation, rather than silence, avoiding the question, or guessing, has proven to be invaluable. -Sari

Embracing Hope

The one thing known right now is the unknown. I have the utmost respect for the response “I don’t know.” Would I like to have a more detailed answer… of course! But in the end, the upfront honesty is what I need the most as an educator and parent. My friend, Tara Martin, shared with me that if I don’t tell my story someone else will, and in many ways, I feel that the same idea applies to this situation as well. If I am led to believe that administration has all of the answers, but are not divulging them, I may assume that they are withholding valuable information when in all actually they simply do not know. Assumptions can lead to inaccurate thoughts and unwarranted worry. That assumption is driven by a similar fear that holds leaders of all roles back in simply answering, “I don’t know.” Assumptions can be the detriment to most everything, with one being relationships. It is our relationships that will see us through… with them, we have trust and with trust we have hope. – Kristen

Each of us has a choice. In the absence of the answers, I am present and intentional. I choose transparency. I choose vulnerability. I choose to trust. I choose relationships. I choose HOPE! What do you choose? -Sari 

Sari Goldberg McKeown has served as an educator in an array of K-12 roles for over fifteen years, including classroom teacher, literacy specialist, supervisor, and coordinator. Currently, she serves as a central office administrator on Long Island, New York. Sari is a lifelong learner. She is pursuing her doctoral degree at St. John’s University and is honored to be a part of the #EdCampLI planning team. Sari believes education is about who we teach, not just about what we teach. She is passionate about culture, relationships, and learning from each other. Sari believes in the power of being a connected educator. As educators, we are all in this together!

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 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

#OneWord2020: MOMENT

The Gift of a Moment

The moment you realize it is right in front of you and all you have to do is embrace it, the gift! That gift may come in the smallest of packages or so large that you need two more people to help you lift it, nonetheless it is a gift that you will miss out on if you do not embrace the moment. Two years ago I chose GOODNESS for my #OneWord as it resonated with me through the act of someone’s kindness. Last year, I moved from the feeling of goodness to the action of OWNit to which I challenged myself to contribute more than I consume. As I reflect back on both of these words and the blogs that I wrote, I see the MOMENT I was attempting to embrace.

this year

this word

every moment

Small Package Moments

I suppose it is all in the eye of the beholder as to how small or big a moment feels, but for me, these are the quick and candid times that I never see coming… the small package moments. These are the unplanned, unforeseen, or unnoticed times that may get past me when I am not in the moment of life. This holiday season, I saw each one so clearly… big and small!

A Smile

I never seem to pass up the feeling of a smile that speaks to my heart, a small gift that comes my way. It is one of the kindest moments shared between two people. As I shopped this holiday season, I took in every smile and allowed it to sink in and warm my heart. It was a reminder that these moments I am living in are such a gift to me. I wouldn’t be able to shop if I didn’t have the means to do so and I wouldn’t have people to buy for if I didn’t have loved ones in my world. I wouldn’t have conversations without someone taking the time for me and I wouldn’t know the joy I may be able to give if I didn’t look up to see their smile. These smiles are small moments. Each one fuels my soul and I do my best to pass it on to the next person I encounter.

eye contact

one smile

fuel a soul

A Laugh

When my children laugh I can feel it to my core. Whether it is a “boy moment” or one that we all create together as a family, it has a way of navigating my entire mind leaving me chuckling for hours to come. What isn’t lost on me is the joy of living that brings about these moments. Our journey over the last 2 holidays was overshadowed by loss, leaving a void where laughter was once filled. This year, in place of feeling the loss, I feel the gain. The gain of those here with me and the joyful spirit of those that no longer are. My moments are not just with my home family, but with my work family as well. There was once a time when I would be in a hurry to leave my staff Christmas party.  Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I couldn’t bring myself to live in the moment.  My mind would race to the list of holiday goodness yet to be bought or the mounds of wrapping that were hidden from plain sight.  This year, however, I took it in. I heard the laughter roar across the room and felt myself smiling and laughing without even knowing what had truly transpired.  It was a reminder that happiness is right here and that it is my choice to

feel it

embrace it

take it in

A Thought

A fleeting thought. That is what it is to me, but I stop and embrace it for what it is and share it with those I am thinking of in that very moment. It has happened more than I expected or maybe more than I had realized ever before. At times it is a feeling, other times it is something I see that reminds me of someone or simply a memory that resurfaces. No matter what it is I have been trying to take the time to reach out to the person. That thought put into action rekindles some relationships while nurturing others. It isn’t that I have been too consumed to have the thought before, I just let it go at that and did not put it into action until now.

a phone call

a tweet

a direct message

a vox

a note

an action gifted by a thought

Big Package Moments

The big package moments are what I receive when embracing the small ones. These moments occur with friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers and strangers alike.

A Moment in Time

I was blessed to travel to Nashville, Tennessee to visit my brother and his family as the holiday was being kicked off in November.  At the time, I was preparing for my first ever book launch, had not even started my Christmas shopping, had a 2.5-hour workshop to create on a topic I had not presented before and my house was in need of my attention, along with the endless loads of laundry strewn about my basement floor.  I knew that this moment in time maybe something that I cannot get back so I chose to take in everything that my visit had to offer. I did not let my to-do list get the best of me and I even made a conscious effort to walk, relax, and sleep in! There were laughs, smiles, and an abundance of positive thoughts that we each got swept up in together! Although my family left feeling the warmth and love of our time with loved ones, it was a phone call days later that gave me pause.  My brother phoned to tell me that he and his family needed that visit more than I will ever know. He didn’t elaborate, but the message was clear. This was a big package moment.

Another moment in time was the day of my book launch.  I was nervous in the most exciting way possible, yet a fear crept over me that the world was about to view my heart and possibly not like what they see.  I had a last-minute meeting scheduled for a student, or so I thought, and I was trying to make it all happen without a breakdown.  I was determined to get to school, settle in, stay on top of the book launch challenge, and be an effective teacher, all while taking in the moment I had worked so incredibly hard for… oh, and do it with grace.   As I was focused on getting paperwork together for my “meeting” my colleagues put the finishing touches on the celebration they masterminded for Jacie and me. I was quickly scooped up and sent to meet another teacher before I had enough time to say anything at all.  When I entered the room for the surprise celebration,

I saw smiles

I heard laughter

my thoughts were scattered, endless, and full of emotion, and I felt a love that was ALL IN!

Most recently, my #4OCFpln family started a spreadsheet listing each of our #OneWord2020 choices. I told them I would pray about it as it hadn’t come to me so easily this year. I left my hometown and headed for the Omni Bedford Springs in Bedford, PA to create new memories with my family. I was a bit apprehensive, as this was our first visit without mom and I wasn’t sure how it would unfold or whether I would have any control over the outcome. All I knew was that my family needed me focused on them and that my one word would have to go on my perpetual to-do list. As we entered the town, a warm feeling came over my family. No-one said a word, they just smiled as they looked out the window. We stopped for lunch, and it was there that we were lost in thought and started sharing some of our fondest memories of Nana. Those memories created by moments that gifted us an abundance of love. As the weekend unfolded, we switched up our traditional routine and opened ourselves up to new ideas, ones that led to laughter and joy. As the weekend came to a close, I sat in a chase-lounge down one my favorite corridors of the hotel and opened up a journal I had gifted to mom the summer of 2017. It was something to help her regain her focus. A way of making a choice to see the good around her when her world felt so dark with uncertainty. I open it often and reread some of the moments she captured. I had no idea that the small gift I was giving mom that day would eventually be one of the biggest gifts for me to receive. I hold onto her words and live in each moment as if I am reading them for the first time. It is the cover that spoke to me this time. When I picked it out, I knew mom needed a reminder to live in her final days and so when I stumbled across the cover of her journal I knew it was perfect for her. It reads,

MAKE

THIS

MOMENT

COUNT

The Moment of Truth

This moment in time is a stark reminder of what I may miss out on when I become laser-focused on life, my goals, and at times my loss in place of my gain. What I realize is that I can’t make it all happen without something or someone suffering along the way. There must be give and take in my life if I am going to make this moment count! The moment of truth is in front of me.

I may pass up a phone call in order to be present in a conversation.

I may skip my favorite Twitter Chats in order to make time for family in my evenings.

I may say no without apology.

I may have to skip blogging to create a workshop.

I must live without regret.

I must reserve judgment.

I must have grace.

I must lead with humility.

I must advocate for every child, including my own, when needed.

I must continue to contribute more than I consume.

I must redefine my focus.

I MUST MAKE THIS MOMENT COUNT!

Personal Learning

“Twas the Night Before Book Launch”

Twas the night before “book launch”, and all through my mind,

Thoughts of worry and fear were all I could find.

Everything in its place, Tweetdeck was loaded,

My heart skipped a beat and then it exploded.

I tried to lay down and snuggle my pup,

Her comfort is what always perked me up.

And Ellie in her spot, and I in mine,

We loved one another time after time.

When a thought hit me, like a snowball in the face,

I sprang from my couch and tried to find my place.

Away to the computer, I flew like a flash, 

Threw open my PC, and clicked on the trash.

It was there that I knew what had sunk in my heart,

A doc that was not finished, rather just a start.

What to my wondering eyes would appear,

To the right a picture of someone, I hold dear.

With a shrug of my shoulders, and a long deep sigh,

It hit me in the heart, my reason, my why.

More rapid than ever, my reasons did come,

And I stopped, took pause, and counted one by one: 

Now children! Now parents! Now colleagues and friends! For learning! For growth! For the whole child within.  From Bet 1 to Bet 2! From Bet 3 and 4! My reason, my purpose is to open the doors!

I want them to open, open for all, 

so that learning can happen in classrooms and halls.

Where children are thriving and leading the charge,

Where questions are welcomed and new ideas grow large.

And that’s when it hit me, my fear, where it had come,

From a place of three, not two, not one.

VULNERABILITY, RISK-TAKING and of course a CHANCE,

At rolling the dice on education at a glance.

This book has heart! The bets are daring! 

The Jackpot is a win with an abundance of sharing!

Double Downs will push you

With every turn.

You will stop and reflect,

and hopefully, learn.

The Ante Up is just brilliant as they come far and near,

The leaders within education,

That lead, learn, and share!

Jacie, my super, colleague, and friend,

Has shown me a new way from beginning to end.

Her openness to push back,

Her gift of trust,

Her unwavering ability to learn is a must.

A snapshot of what she has given won’t compare,

To the impact she has had on the one over here.

I read it again, I looked up and down,

I pushed my PC closed and my thoughts ran around.

These terms, these ideas, the pushback, they win

Because tomorrow the world gets a look at “ALL IN

Happy reading to all, and to all a good night!

To order your very own copy click here and go ALL IN


Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

The EDURelevance In Social Media

Two, maybe three years ago now, I opened my first social media account.  Not because I wanted to, but because I was challenged to do it by my then new assistant superintendent Jacie Maslyk.  She had a reason.  A purpose.  Relevance!  Behind her challenge was… GET CONNECTED!  Connect to other educators.  See what the world is doing WITHOUT you!  The relevance behind that one simple challenge gifted me a new life in education.  A new life for me.  A new life for my students.

Opening my Twitter account was not an easy task for me.  I seriously had no clue what I was doing.  However, my teenage son did and after chuckling a few times that his mom was about to “connect” with the world he was living in, he gave me a hand.  From that point forward, Trent and I had a new connection too.  My purpose may have been slightly different than his, but we had common ground to share in conversation.  This one platform led to every single opportunity that has unfolded for me to date.

Every part of my PLN.

Every conference I have attended.

Most every idea that I have taken into my classroom.

Every single book I have read, starting with my first… Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  That one book has led to over 30.  That one book has led me to connect with educators all over the world through IMMOOC.  That one book set me on fire and gave me purpose to find conferences connected to this network of incredible educators.  That one connection pushed me to…

be a better me.

offer a first ever book study in my district for fellow teachers.

build relationships and value their importance.

take risks.

reflect.

Yet, the naysayers still pushed back on teachers putting themselves out there on social media.  So, I felt as long as I stayed on Twitter and journeyed as an educator, I could at least defend myself.

What to the what?  Defend myself?  Defend relevance to my growth?

My family kept asking when I would jump on Facebook so I plunged right in… relevance.  Family ties, enough said.

Then I started to blog.  Oh wow, was this relevant to my world.  I have always loved to write, but lost the time to do so when juggling mom, wife, and teacher.  Not to mention all the other relationships I attempted to hold on to… but in order to share my blog I needed social media connections.  Perfect, I got this!  I was already on Twitter with other educators.  Facebook connected me with family, but why not educators too?  So I went on the search for my global network of #eduawesomeness.   Wow, another moment forward for me.

You are not on Instagram?  Friends asked me this often, but I felt I had enough to juggle and already had great connections so I was okay without.  Then came George’s newest adventure… A Book Study on Instagram!  What?  Come on George… I’ve been in the last 3 with you on Twitter and Facebook… can’t we just use those platforms?  Ummmmm… NO!

Risks

Relationships (L.E.G.I.T. Relationships)

Relevance

Triple Threat… jump in or be left behind!

Time to GROW AGAIN!

I logged onto Instagram 2 days ago.  Created an account.  Asked my son Trent AGAIN, to give me a hand.  This time he didn’t chuckle.  He smiled.  Then he said mom, that’s cool… now follow me!

#relevance #growth #gift

 

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

March Madness

ButtonMakers Pattern TemplateIt’s March… what vibe are you giving?  Have you gone mad with assessments piling up or yet on the horizon?  Are your students feeling pressure or are they welcoming it… feeling empowered to take on the world?  To show off their MAD SKILLS!

Where are you… your mindset?  Are you on the countdown or upswing… planning life changing lessons (Dave Burgess, #tlap) and embracing the new life around you?  The kind that is a steady reminder that we are always growing whether it is day 1, 80, or 180.

You know you have already heard it… ONLY X amount of school days are left.  The countdown is on for students, parents and teachers.  Don’t get me wrong I have those days when the sun is shining and I think… ohhhh poolside would be nice.  Or the day that feels like 17 rolled into one.  But that doesn’t mean my life with my students turns to madness.  The question is…

if we had a March Madness bracket with awesome lessons planned for our students, where would yours land?  Would you be willing to throw it in the ring with the competition?  

if we had a March Madness bracket for EMPOWERED students, where would your students be?  Would they be sprinting to the front of the line… stepping up to add their name to the bracket? 

Is our role really any different from day 1 to 180?  Just like day 1 our goal should be to create empowered learners that are off the bench, jumping, clapping, ready for their call to step up and shoot.  Don’t leave before the buzzer. How would you feel if your leader, coach, or biggest fan stepped aside a quarter into the game… or when the last quarter started and the score was tied?! Every day is day 1.

If you are looking to bring your A Game in the last quarter try one of the following:

  1. Grab a book!  Dave Burgess Consulting, INC offers over 40 incredible innovative reads that are life changing to every child through educators like you!  Are you into STEAM and Makers?  Bring out your creative genius with books by Jacie Maslyk or Laura Flemming for go to quick action plans!
  2. Join a twitter chat!  #tlap #Leadlap #LearnLAP #MasteryChat #DitchBook #KidsDeserveIt #PlayLap #STEAMMakerChat #IMMOOC and so many more!
  3. Find or create your own PD… look into #4OCF with Rich Czyz and find many ideas that can be implemented at the drop of a dime.  Message me and I can add you to the incredible VOXER Chat led my Matthew Larson.
  4. Locate an EDCamp near you!  Close to Pittsburgh or ready to shake the winter blues with a road trip?  Join us as my district host Pittsburgh’s very own camp coming up in 2 weeks!  CLICK HERE to register!
  5. Make a REAL connection with the your students by bringing #BookSnaps into your classroom!  Book Snap Queen Tara Martin will walk you and your students through the learning process with one simple HOW TO VIDEO CLIP
  6. What about starting your own BYOB to build relationships in your building?  Bring Your Own Breakfast and hang out on Payday Friday!

Where is your creative spark (grab Katie Martin’s new book “Learner Centered Innovation” to help you find it)  What are you doing to keep the momentum so you aren’t left on the bench when the driven are playing?

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

Creating Change Agents

Most often people choose teaching as a profession because they want to create change… change for the better!  Some will even tell you that their own experience was so negative they felt compelled to become “the change” that children need in the classroom.

Do you feel our children deserve more… do they need more?  If so the question is… are we delivering instruction in a way that will create this opportunity?

I often wonder why so many graduates are cramming for interviews.  Literally, I have witnessed interviewees grab hold of books such as Innovator’s Mindset (George Couros),  Teach Like A Pirate (Dave Burgess) and STEAMMakers (Jacie Maslyk) right before interviews in order to gain the edge on hiring.

Why are they cramming?

Do you feel our future teachers continue to prepare the same way as teachers did 5… 10… even 50+ years ago?  Are we helping to create change or are we still teaching and learning in a way that is no longer relevant in today’s society?

If we are given the opportunity to create change in education why wait until teachers are graduated and in the trenches to fire them up with incredible learning opportunities?

Let’s look at what current educators are doing to move the world of education forward and in turn pass this practice down to our future educators.

Let’s connect with future teachers.

Let’s make change.

Dave and Shelley Burgess of Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. have gifted education with a platform that works as a springboard for innovative teaching.  Are these revolutionary resources accessible to every college student preparing to be a teacher?

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If not, we must ask ourselves a very important question… Why are we preparing our future with the same mindset we are trying to alter?

Are we creating experiences for our students? Are we still using the traditional checklist that no longer reflects the future of our students or better yet the future of the work force!?

What is guiding our future teaching practices?

In my opinion, you cannot advance a student’s depth of knowledge with a five day death march of a story that was taken from the required/chosen anthology.

Has anyone asked their students?  Do students really want to read the same story over and over for mastery?  Mastery of what?  Who needs skill when you can memorize the central idea of a story by reading and rereading day after day?

Don’t get me wrong, we are all in tune with Bloom’s Taxonomy and how to embed higher level thinking into the traditional way of learning, but that is simply not good enough anymore!  Our children deserve more… they need more and we must deliver our instruction differently to serve them the best possible way.  Our children need to be engaged in their learning where by they are empowered to move their education forward by choice and not through compliance.

It is not a free for all… there is accountability for all of us.  There is definitely a place and purpose for philosophy, domains, and pedagogy.  But who ever said that it had to come from the same mindset and discipline that was used all those years ago.  We must have accountability to change with the times!  As George Couros of Innovator’s Mindset so eloquently states,

“Change is an opportunity to do something AMAZING!”

Over the last two school years, I have had the privilege of being a virtual cooperating teacher for future educators of Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.  Education majors are required to take a technology course their freshman year.  One of the professors is Dr. Sam Fecich and she is a change agent!  She is connecting our future teachers to classrooms while instilling skills for both the future leaders in education as well as the current classroom teacher.  Her students are building their PLN (Professional Learning Network) on twitter and engaging in meaningful learning with a variety of resources including books posted above.   Dr. Sam, along with the education department of GCC, is making change in current practice… investing in our future!

If we really want to educate future teachers to be AMAZING CHANGE AGENTS we need to communicate at all levels.  Colleges, universities, public and private school systems, along with the community and work force… we must sit down at the same table and break bread together.  We need to share in the same meal, prepared by the same hands, and with immense compassion and understanding have the conversation that WE share in the responsibility to MAKE CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!

Why?

Because…

When you know better, you do better!

 

 

 

 

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

30 Second Pitch: Engage-vs-Empowerment #IMMOOC

If we are truly trying to transition learners to leaders, don’t we also need to transition from today’s buzz word engagement to the future of empowerment?

A powerful and impactful challenge flag was thrown last year by my new administration… 100% engagement for all students, all day… and yes, every day!  That was a challenge that I couldn’t wait to get ahold of within my classroom.  It was absolutely incredible to see my students embody my love for learning.  Was this for the day?  The week?  The month?  That is when it happened.  The moment I realized that engaging my students was only going to be sustainable if I empowered them!  WOW! That was a moment!

A moment“… that was what I needed to give my students.  I started with asking them to pitch me an idea in 5 minutes or less.  I gave a little criteria, but I didn’t want to close their minds to revolve around my thinking, so a laundry list of stipulations went right out the window.  I simplified and initially gave 5 minutes.  FIVE MINUTES is a LONG TIME!  Either they know what they want or they don’t.  Period.

Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate, says, “I’m more than willing to take advantage of and influence everything around me to increase my students’ chances of success.”  Yes, that is my thought exactly!  How can I teach like a pirate?  Here it is- challenge the holder of the hookThey need to hook ME!  My students need to be the ones creating the hooks too!

EMPOWERMENT:
-authority or power given to someone to do something; the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights

This definition is embedded in my brain so I reread Innovator’s Mindset, again and again!  I needed an example… something concrete.  I absolutely love how George Couros shared his moment with engage vs empower.

“So instead of trying to create engaging content for my students, I decided to turn it over to them.  Deep Learning occurred- they understood and remembered what they taught each other.  I had given my students control over their learning, and the change in atmosphere was palpable.” –George Couros, Innovator’s Mindset

empowerment1

Then the moment came when a student came to me and asked for the use of Ozobots outside of tech stations.  YES, I was that teacher… the one excited and willing to bring as much technology in as possible, (Thank you donorschoose.org and my supportive community) but ONLY used it in isolated learning moments… UGH!  Weekly, even daily isolated moments, but I literally separated it from the content!  What was I thinking?

So, on this particular day it just so happened that I barely had the 5 minutes to spare… no time to hear why or how they could possibly make this applicable to character, setting, and the plot of our story so I challenged them to tell me in 30 seconds or less.

#30SECONDPITCH

Mrs. Nan, I can CREATE a setting based on the chapter we are in today.  I can CONNECT it to technology by using Ozobots.  I may need to go on to the computer to look at a coding idea that I have, but that isn’t a big deal because “Rachelle AKA RESOURCE” is an expert and can show me.  Oh, and then I can turn the Ozobot into a character and have it navigate the setting.  AND I would really like to blog (MOMENT) about it after! #micdrop

WOW… the excitement in my student literally infused the pitch into my mind in LESS THAN 20 SCEONDS!  It reminded me of  Jacie Maslyk asking me what my “1 minute elevator pitch” would be like.  My response, “What is an elevator pitch?”

“It’s that 1 minute when (insert name of famous person) walks into the elevator with you and you have your chance to tell them your brilliant idea before the elevator doors open again. It’s your brief moment to grab their attention, pull them in, and convince them that yours is the next great idea.” –Jacie Maslyk, STEAMMakers

This was it… the moment the 30 Second Pitch came to life!

30 Second Pitch

  1. Mindsetthis is your creative moment… approach it with excitement and use your creative juices!
  2. Connect4: Explain how you can connect your idea to technology BEYOND our 4 walls of learning!
  3. Research: Call on your resources!  Collaborate ~ Communicate ~ Dig into your idea! #WhoIsYourCrew
  4. Moment: This is YOUR TIME TO SHINE!  How will you do it?  #VoiceAndChoice

I have shared this with a few of my colleagues, as well as many parents, who have been curious as to how on earth I can justify the use of this technology (Hour of Code, Sphero, Ozobot, Osmo, Edmodo, Canva, Snap-Circuits, Bloxels, Makey Makey, EdPuzzle, Scratch, and more) in my room.  How can I possibly teach the “curriculum/book” and also have time for this?  Well, to be clear, I actually teach skills.  The PA Common Core skills that are a foundation to the success of every child in 3rd grade.  How I teach that skill is choice… and not just mine.  When I really want to know how to make something happen (the thing that will light the world on fire) for my students, I simply ask!  They always tell. #empowerment

Note: Thank you JESSE REESE for the incredible “piece of art” you created out of my very sloppy notes!  YOU ROCK! #grateful

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