Yes, we’re continuing our month of gratitude and guest posts, but this one has a twist. It was submitted by Rachelle Poth, but she was so full of gratitude, she had her PLN share too. Read what all of them say about gratitude here.
“I am thankful for every moment.” Al Green
“Every single moment that has occurred in my life so far has led me to where I am today. Some of those moments were filled with love and laughter and some were blanketed in sadness and fear. But each turn taken and road followed has helped to mold me into the person that I have become today and who I will be in the future. I am thankful for a mother that fought for her daughters to have everything that the world could give them and more. She sacrificed so much for us, and everything we do as educators today is because of her and for her. I am thankful for a dad, who found his way back to us. We are so glad that you did. I am thankful for grandparents and their love and endless amounts of cookies and candy! I am thankful for a sister who is truly my best friend. Thank you for giving me one of my greatest gifts, Nancy and Finn. They crawled right into my heart and filled in the hole that momma left when she passed away. I am so incredibly thankful for them. I am thankful for the love of my love, Tony. Thank you for picking up the phone when I bravely called you in the fall of 1997. Thank you for being my biggest supporter and for loving me for over 20 years. Thank you to my campus family for loving and supporting me in everything that I do. I am so lucky to get to work alongside each of you! Thanks to all of my former students. You truly schooled me on school. I learned all I needed to know from each of you, and I am a better educator and human being because of you.”
The next guest post is here! This next one is from John Honish, a middle school teacher in Wisconsin. Read on.
“As a 23 year old kid fresh out of UW-Stevens Point, I entered a job market relatively high on supply and low on demand for Social Studies teachers. Wisconsin had just passed legislation to cripple the powers of the Teachers Union and it was a time of great uncertainty for the profession in our state. Math and Science were the hotly recruited positions, but I knew the reality was any openings for a Social Studies teacher would mean my resume would be one of hundreds on an administrator’s desk. I took a calculated gamble: risk looking like an unprofessional goofball that was too young and lacked the seriousness for the job by encouraging anyone thinking about hiring me to look at my crappy parody music videos on YouTube.
Somehow, some way, Beloit Turner called and said they wanted me to come down for an interview, and as I sat there rehearsing canned lines in my ill-fitting JCPenney clearance rack suit, an important looking man walked by, stopped, turned to face me and said “you’re General Dan Sickles!” referring to a “mockumentary” I had made for a college assignment that was posted on my YouTube channel (which you can watch here). It was fun to make, but we’re talking about scenes with the stock Windows MovieMaker grainy black and white effect while my roommate threw a basketball at my leg to simulate Civil War cannon fire. It definitely risked making me look like an unprofessional goofball that was too young and lacked the seriousness for the job.
‘Dennis McCarthy! I’m the Superintendent,’ he said as he extended a hand for me to shake. ‘This is either really good, or really bad,’ I thought to myself…”
Continuing our guest post tradition, which I hope you’re loving, here’s another one on the gratitude of a great PLN. Our guest author is Carol McLaughlin, from Birmingham, Alabama.
“I’ve always felt a little odd. A lone wolf. I usually don’t mind, but you rarely grow in isolation. You need others to encourage you. To push you. To inspire you.
I had no idea I needed a Twitter PLN. I didn’t even know what a PLN was until 8 years ago around this time actually. I was in the last PD session before we were out for Thanksgiving holidays. To say we were all ready to go was an understatement.
The PD was edcamp style and the last session was entitled, “Building a PLN.” I went to it because the others were all on academics areas and I wanted to learn something totally different.
However, I had no idea this session was about to change me in so many ways.
I went to the session and was introduced to Twitter. We all joined and I sent out my first tweet. I enjoyed the session but I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue using it. BUT…I was intrigued enough to give it a try.
My mom had recently had knee surgery so we all had to stay the living room most of the holiday since she was still recovering. We all sat around watching holiday movies and I thought it would be a good time to explore Twitter…”
You guessed it! It’s another guest post, this time from Kansas Middle School teacher Josh Stock.
“Every year hundreds of people attempt to climb 29,035 feet to the highest point in the world, the summit of Mt. Everest and every year hundreds of sherpa guides, porters and yaks make sacrifices to get them there. Without their help, most wouldn’t make it to the top alive, and many of them don’t come back. The life of a sherpa and porter comes with great risks. Most climb to provide for their families.
My classes talk about all of this while we read the novel Peak by Roland Smith. At one point in the book the main character, Peak is being filmed for a documentary and the film crew doesn’t want the sherpas, porters and yaks interrupting the shot. Peak yells at the film crew. He explains that without those sherpas, porters and yaks, none of them would be able to climb Mt. Everest. They help carry the needed supplies up the mountain and help guide the climbers when things get tough.
The sherpa guides help lessen the load of the climbers. After we discussed this point in the book, I asked the students: Who are your porters? Who can you not survive without? Who helps carry the burden when things get tough?”
Like what you’ve read? Keep reading at https://mrstockrocks.com/2018/11/07/who-is-your-guide-when-things-are-tough/
Social media can really skew our view of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but the more I see people’s perfect families, perfect houses, and perfect lives, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. It can make my gratitude meter run a little low. However, in this month of gratitude, I want to be very intentional to be thankful for the imperfect.
Three Ways I’m Still Grateful for the Imperfect
Specifically in teaching, when you have a whirling dervish of thirty students or more, there will be imperfect moments. Plenty of them. It’s time, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, to be thankful for those classroom days that don’t always work out as they should. Or the things that seem to be imperfect expectations placed upon us. The tasks that we vow we wouldn’t put on people if we were in charge. If we take time to be conscious of what the blessings behind the imperfections are, we won’t have to yearn for someone else’s happy social media life; we might just have a happier life ourselves.
Imperfection #1: Others’ Expectations
It wasn’t the worst part of teaching, but having to write lesson plans wasn’t the best part either. When I taught at my most recent high school, we had to write very detailed lesson plans. I could get so stressed out trying to write exactly the perfect plan in case of observation and adding all the ways I was going to differentiate or substitute or color code. You get the drift.
But here’s the deal and the blessings in that imperfect expectation. Now I can teach anywhere. Ask me to go to a conference and I can quickly write at least a rough draft of my plan in no time. Ask me even to teach at church, and my lesson is ready to go. I now can form an outline in my head, and lesson planning for any situation is much quicker. As a tech coach, I’m able to quickly direct teachers in their own lesson planning to add the right technology application or lesson hook or check for understanding to their lessons. If I hadn’t worked so hard in my own lesson planning, which was definitely imperfect, I would never have been able to do any of what I can do now.
Imperfection #2: Technology
Oh technology. As a coach now but also as a classroom teacher, don’t I know that it the tech we love is sometimes the tech we love to hate. It’s imperfect when we need it to be more than that. When I was coaching in the middle school two years ago, our whole school launched OneNote pretty successfully. However, the very next year, our district decided to switch to Canvas Learning Management System. It was a great switch, however, the thing that people had just gotten used to they were now being asked not to use anymore.
It’s never ideal to launch something in a big way and then abandon it in favor of something else the next year. Here are the blessings I found in that in imperfect situation, though. By preparing ourselves with OneNote the year before, we now were doing things we never could have done before. We were no longer having to require kids to bring a pencil or remember to write a name on a paper or even keep up with a paper, for goodness sake. Even when technology doesn’t work, we’re still further along than we used to be. It gives us a chance as teachers to model perseverance despite frustration. It also allows us to break down the instant/microwave speed that students think should accompany every task. If we model viewing the positive through the imperfect, we and the students are able to practice the gratitude we say we celebrate this month.
Imperfection #3: My Own Failures
Probably the hardest place to forgive or even be thankful for imperfection is when we mess up as a teacher. I messed up so many times in the classroom, but one of my most recent snafus actually involves my first year as a tech trainer.
Picture this: I had ninety high school students in a room with no whiteboard on which to project my technology lesson, of all things. Recipe for disaster, right? Well, one of my pupils was a boy who had been very hateful the year before when I taught at the same school and had lunch duty. He never would clean up his trash and then would even have an attitude about it. Well of course I recognize this kid, so in a situation that was already frustrating, he and I exchanged some words. I felt terrible, of course, because I was the adult and should know how to be more professional. I let my emotions get in the way. The worst part was that this encounter was on a Friday, and I had to think about it all weekend. What did he think about my words? Worst of all, would he tell his parents on me, haha? Monday morning, I determined to be at his first period class. As soon as he got there so that we could talk, I was able to apologize to this kid, and he actually apologized to me as well. Come to find out, this kid could have been showing off for his friends in lunch was actually very pleasant in real life and very forgiving of me for having lost my temper.
Here’s what I learned from the situation; We can be thankful when we mess up because that disaster gives us an opportunity to be raw and vulnerable and model for student what it’s like to be human. To model for students what it’s like to apologize sincerely. To model for students what it’s like to eat some humble pie and be a little nervous when we’re worried that our actions will have bad consequences. In my story, three blessings came out of one situation that was imperfect for sure and could have been much worse.
The Takeaway: Grateful is Possible
Whether it’s the time we spend on our imperfect attempt to meet impossible requirements or the technology that doesn’t work when we really need it to or the times we mess up as people with our students, we must still be grateful. We are living a life that, although it’s not perfect, makes a difference in young people every day. What other job in the world allows one person to impact so many over the course of a career? In my sixteen years, I’ve impacted well over a thousand students. Some of them probably experienced a negative impact, but so many more were impacted for the positive. And whether I ever hear from them again, or whether I’m ever featured in their perfect social media post, I have something to be grateful for. And I don’t even to be perfect to appreciate it.
What have been your imperfect moments that still made you grateful? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.
I hope you enjoy this second guest post on our month of gratitude, one from Melissa Pilakowski.
“It’s been a stressful past two weeks. I was senior sponsor for Homecoming. We’ve had daily rehearsals for our one-act play. I’ve had observations by our local service unit and the department chair of our local college (and as much as I’d like to say that doesn’t make me nervous, it’s still an energy zapper).
I may or may not have eaten an entire bag of cheese popcorn and a bag of dark chocolate chips this weekend.
This was the first time this school year when I felt myself slipping under the water, where every time I crossed something off my to-do list, two more things popped up. I was simply surviving the days, dragging myself home, and procrastinating my ever-growing list. I was missing the proverbial forest for the trees–focusing only on what I had to do and forgetting about my long-term goals, my vision to help others, my commitment to my blog.
If I haven’t shared it before, I struggle with forgetfulness. They say it’s a sign of creativity or even genius; that’s what I’m hoping for, but as a teacher, forgetfulness, whatever the indication, isn’t generally considered a positive trait. Welcoming new students into a classroom, especially a high school one, where the students notice everything, takes enthusiasm and finesse. It also takes a lot of organization to get the student caught up and familiar with class procedures. That’s why I developed a procedure I used in my classroom and want to share with you: the new student welcome packet.
Why do teachers need a new student packet? I can think of three reasons.
Your class has been up and running the whole time this student has been elsewhere. You have procedures, policies, and content that is crucial for students to know if they are going to catch up and have success in the class. The packet gives them that information in one place.
In addition to these procedures, it’s easy to forget what the new kid doesn’t know until you assign homework for which he doesn’t have the information. He might need a copy of the syllabus, the LMS login, the Remind code, etc. Having this information for future reference takes stress off both student and teacher.
By using the folder, the teacher can give new students purposeful activities to do the first day they join the class or for homework that night, especially if the class is finishing something they don’t have time to catch up on.
How was the folder structured?
I gave my students a colored pocket folder with prongs, instead of just a packet, because it was reusable. It was labeled with “New Student Packet” on the front and copied the elementary use for the two pockets–one pocket labeled “read and keep” versus the other labeled “sign and return.” Students were instructed to return the folder to me when they were finished with it, as well as the returned contents.
Let’s look inside now at the folder contents. I provided a list of these requirements on a cover sheet, which I have attached a copy of in the resources section below.
Student number and directions for self-reported attendance
Syllabus plus directions for syllabus quiz to get them a real grade
Literary essay handout–adapt for all courses (background knowledge)
Account setup or orientation for LMS
Sign up for accounts: Remind, Turnitin, Noodle Tools, etc.
What the kid does need to do along with the class and extended deadlines as necessary
Contact information for the teacher and a reliable friend
Procedures list and coping strategies:
How to find help at home: friend, read directions again, teacher (email shows me you tried)
Absent work policy
The Making of a More Modern “Packet”
When I last taught high school students, I did use Edmodo as a mini-LMS, but that platform was more project-based for my class. It was not as robust as the Canvas LMS our district has now adopted. If I were to take my packet into the modern era, I would make these two changes:
The information would not be a packet at all but would instead be an interactive module in my course that students and parents could access repeatedly and from anywhere.
Instead of just listing the assignments the student had to go back and complete as prerequisites for the course, I would assign those to him with a different due date than the rest of the class as needed.
Want a more robust tour of my strategy? You have two ways to hear me share more about the content!
Love a good podcast? Listen to the episode of The Suzy Show where I describe even more about my new student strategy. Click to play below, and make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player app.
Want to watch me talk about it? Tune in to this episode of Tech Tuesday, which you can join every week at 8PM EST at https://www.facebook.com/techlolley/. The episode about my new student packet is embedded below.
Below, I’ve linked my resources for you, but I would love to hear the resources and tips you would add to my list. Be sure to leave a comment!
What happens when a Georgia girl gets flown to Austin to present at conference where the goal is to keep it weird? Let’s just I fit right in, except for the fact that sweet tea was a hidden treasure I had a hard time finding. But I didn’t mind having to navigate the loss of my favorite drink, as long as I got to share my love of OneNote and gamification. My passion for gaming the classroom first hit me when I was reviewing resources from a Georgia technology conference. Having just left the classroom about four years ago to work for technology in the district office, I’m still very much aware of teachers’ struggles to get their students to be motivated and turn in work. The concepts of badging, leveling up, and missions seemed to be what I was looking for, and what I would love to share with teachers. At this conference in Texas, I decided to give my gaming brain a break and follow a couple different tracks: blended learning and using an LMS with little ones. Thus, my overview below will not cover every session I attended but those where I got valuable information related to those two topics.
On the blended learning track, my first session was “Blended Learning for Elementary” on Tuesday morning. Because I’m from a Microsoft-using district, and many of these sessions focus on Google tools, I always go in with the mindset that I will need to adapt. In this session, I certain received several insights on what I could adapt. As teachers are sharing Office Mixes with students, they can use their LMSs to deliver either a Word online or PowerPoint cloze-style online recording sheet for students to take notes and make sure they got everything out of the video. I also thought of ways to use the new Microsoft Whiteboard app for students to do collaborative brainstorming; now all it needs is an embed feature, so students can access the web version without having to download an app. Later that morning, I went to a session on “Hacking Canvas,” hoping to learn even more ways to make our district’s chosen LMS do more. In this session, I was reminded how much I like Thinglink for its linkable hotspot capabilities. The session leader gave us the idea of using a Thinglink image to give a classroom tour with a reminder of procedures that happen in each area of the room. Because these enhanced images embed beautifully in Canvas, I want to show them to teachers for a way to bring even more capability to blended learning. A Wednesday workshop continued my thought process about the pedagogy behind the tools with blended learning. Using different types of hammers, the workshop facilitators showed us that a good tool is not always the right tool. Different types of blended learning should be used when they work, not all the time. They emphasized the tendency of many teachers to fall back on old habits, even with new technology, and reminded us that an LMS should not be just a filing cabinet, but a place where the resources truly are interactive. They reminded me of the true definition of blended learning; students have at least partial control over time, place, path, and pace in which their learning takes place. My final blended learning workshop, which was later on Wednesday afternoon, added these tips to my well-rounded exposure to this topic. These presenters emphasized the need for student engagement; their workshop itself relied on a “BLT” theme to get our attention, which stood for Blended Learning Toolkit, and even involved the presenters wearing themed shirts. They showed us how hyperdocs could be engaging but still meet academic content. They also suggested having students create memes to summarize reading pieces. Finally, they showed through their examples that a teacher should always plan two different activities or articles for each standard students are to learn. This tour blended learning certainly broadened my horizons, and I look forward to being able to share with teachers as I model strong blended learning in my own trainings.
My second path for the conference was bent on trying to find ideas for engaging young learners, and thus their teachers, in using our Canvas LMS more effectively. Though I did get some ideas, which I will share momentarily, other interaction came with fellow attendees in person and on social media. One such interaction came when a group I met in a session shared that they were having the same trouble as me getting their K-2 teachers from Seesaw into the Canvas LMS. I was able to share information with them to help students do work in Seesaw but then submit it and share with parents in one place, Canvas. Also during the conference, a podcast episode I recorded with a first-grade teacher got a tremendous number of retweets and listens. That fact prompted another trainer to reach out to me on Twitter for some inspiration on getting more use for the LMS with his K-2 teachers as well; nothing but positive can come out of organic interactions and brainstorming sessions like those. As far as more formal sessions, I went to one on Tuesday morning called “Canvas for Littles.” In that session, I was reminded that by organizing our materials well in the LMS, we are “buying time back” to work with students. The facilitators told us that anything that takes students more than three clicks to access is too much. I was inspired to think about how I can simplify the workflows I’m asking teachers to try with their students to limit students’ and thus, their own, frustrations with putting work in the LMS for little ones. As far as practical ideas, I saw that Padlet embeds right into Canvas for students to use without going out of the LMS. Also, although the example was with Google Docs, I saw a drag-and-drop flower label worksheet that would be cool to share with students. The two presenters were both instructional technology specialists like myself; they reminded me that my making a resource to share accomplishes two things: it inspires my teachers to create the next one, and it helps me build up a repository of resources I can with teachers in the future. Everything I learned along this “littles” track may not have been new, but I was fired up afresh to get my teachers and young students using Canvas even more.
Technology conferences aren’t just conferences. Perhaps the best part of any conference is the congeniality that develops among new friends who find common areas of interest, all looking for solutions to help their kids do more. TCEA was that for me. Though I mostly teach adults nowadays, the excitement of my new friend and roommate attending the conference was tremendous. The travel program for MIE Experts should continue to be a valuable resource that educators like me can access to find renewal, ideas, and an outlet to show the great things about Microsoft tools to a larger teaching community.
Want to see my top ten tips for doing blended learning right? Watch this video from my weekly Facebook Live session, happening every Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST right here.
I took a podcasting class maybe eight or nine years ago. I don’t remember exactly when, but I know it’s been a while. I hadn’t thought about podcasts in years, and unitl my husband and I started listening to one of a faraway church we like, they were just a distant memory. Who knew they were still alive and well?
Since I’ve rediscovered them, I haven’t been the same. I really enjoy my commute because I always can listen to something in the car. Why would you want to listen to podcasts if you haven’t already? I think can think of three reasons.
Number one: you can learn while you drive. If you’re a teacher, it’s because you like to learn first. Obviously you can’t read books and take notes in the car, so podcasts provide a great way to learn and listen, and good podcasters also provide show notes that you can refer back to after your drive is done.
Number two: Twitter is also a great Professional Learning Network (PLN) for me. But I can’t tweet while I’m in the car. Podcasting allows me to participate in that great PLN in the car. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been listening, and I’ve been referred to another great educator with whom I can connect. Or have heard someone I already knew being interviewed on the podcast. There was even the one time I got to be on Vicki Davis’ show. Very cool 🙂
Number three: Finally, podcasts are great because if you make one in your classroom featuring your students, you’re giving your students an authentic audience. We all know that, beyond elementary school, students don’t really want to write for their teacher. Or they don’t write authentically for their teacher. But if they know someone else is listening to their work, they will be more likely to write and produce good content.
I hope the reasons are convincing enough, but if you want to hear what gets me excited about the particular podcasts I follow, watch the video below, where I feature these six favorites:
If you’re looking to get into the podcast game for the first time or the first time in a while, push play on the video below now: