Monday, September 14, 2020

Back to School Night traditionally brought parents into the school to meet their child’s teachers and hear about the great things that would happen in the classroom and the expectations for their students. Since an in person event may be still risky with the virus looming, here are some ways that teachers and schools can create a strong partnership with families for a virtual back to school night...and they are free:

Screencastify- Creating a Google Slides slideshow or Powerpoint presentation is a wonderful; way to share information and visuals, but it is greatly enhanced with an educator voice-over describing each slide in his/her voice.Kim Huls, a third grade teacher in Western Michigan came up with a creative solution: an interactive Google Slideshow. The final presentation can be shared by downloading as an MP4 and then shared as a google link or uploaded to youtube. 

Prezi video- Prezi has been one of my go-to presentation builders for many years. It engages the audience differently by allowing the presenter to zoom in on objects, words and pictures. Videos and music are embedded and start automatically. The new features of creating a video take engagement to another level by allowing the presenter to narrate the slide show with not only a voice-over, but video of the presenter speaking. This is a game-changer! The audience is able to sense the energy of the presenter by not only hearing them, but seeing them. There is also the feature of a virtual meeting that can enhance the presentation. The file can be shared to Google Classroom or download as an MP4 and then shared as a google link or uploaded to youtube. 

Adobe Spark- This app allows the user to create beautiful graphic images, webpages and video. Much like screencastify, the user can do a voice over for each slide that has been uploaded. The bonus is being able to upload video to the presentation. The final product can be shared easily with a link and saved as an MP4 file.

Virtual Meeting Apps- Zoom and Google Meet are now common household words that everyone is familiar with, but there are some other virtual meeting apps that can also do the same thing. Whichever one you prefer, interacting face-to face (albeit virtually) helps to create a connection and a foundation for positive relationships. As the moderator, you have the ability to share your screen or presentation with participants with the added features of a live conversation.  

Bitmoji- join the craze! Teachers discovered the power of creating a Bitmoji classroom to engage students, why not create one for parents? Try sharing information about your classroom rules, syllabus, textbook and resources, grading policy and other information in a fun way. 

FlipGrid- Video platform that allows you to record a message and then share it out using a link. This is perfect to greet families virtually and share information about your class using the new feature of sharing your slide show. 

Students are unique--and so are you. Whichever way you feel the most comfortable sharing information with families about your classroom or school events is what you should do. The important thing is to maintain lines of communication with your students and their families. We are living in a new normal, accept it, embrace it and share your best self. Have a wonderful school year! #YouGotThis


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How to build a meaningful relationship with your school board

Schools are filled with students, teachers, support staff and administrators — everyone knows that. These are the recognizable faces of the people who are making a difference in education. But there is also a group of dedicated individuals who shape policy and make decisions that affect each school and school district: members of the school board. 
Though school board members often aren’t the first people we consider when we think about who impacts our school districts, but their ability to affect the overall culture and success of a school is undeniable. The relationship between a school and their school board members is an important one — and when students, staff and administration join arms with school board members, the entire school is better for it.
A typical school day is filled with events and celebrations, crisis (whether it’s imagined or real), extra curricular activities and so much more. School board members participate in all of these, even though it’s often behind the scenes. Thus, relationships with board members are key. With that in mind, here are some ways to foster a more connected and public relationship with BOE members:
Invite them in! 
We  send calendar invites to upper administration to attend school events, but we also invite members of the school board. These individuals volunteered to make a difference in education and they love to see what’s going on in your school. 
Attend Board of Education meetings. 
Not because you are obligated to, but because you want to. Attending school board meetings helps build an amicable relationship and partnership between school employees and members of the school board. It also keeps you in the know of what is going on, issues that are being considered and decisions that are being made. Pride and best practice presentations at board meetings bring both sides together and showcase the great things happening at schools in your district.
Create a School Board Advisory Unit.
An SBAU composed of interested students, staff, administrators and community members can forge a productive working relationship that shapes policy in meaningful ways. Having stakeholders from every sector weigh in on important decisions and issues strengthens relationships and forms a wonderful foundation for collaboration. 
Partner with members of the BOE.
Every community has events throughout the year and are frequently looking for organizations to participate. Partner up to offer service to others or create an experience that is facilitated by both school personnel, students and school board members. 
Design a space for BOE members
BOE members come from all walks of life and from all professions. If possible, have a space that BOE members can use and hours that they can use it. It keeps them in the loop of things going on in the school and invites them to build relationships with students and staff. 
Create ongoing learning experiences. 
School board members may not be well versed in your school’s latest curriculum, technology, or initiatives in an intimate way. Hold work sessions for school board members so they can educate themselves on the trends in your school. It a wonderful way for them to experience being a student again. 
Let them be part of the magic!
Have your board members announce the educators of the year and other celebratory rituals. When people feel that they’re a part of the fabric of a school, they want to show up and show out!
Great school board members work as part of the school team to ensure that the vision and goals of the school district are carried out. They focus on what’s best for students by actively advocating at the local, state and national level. Welcome them with open arms and let them share in the successes of your school and district. 

What Kind of Educator are You?

Twitter is the home for hundreds of educational chats each week. Some of us lurk, while many of us actively participate in thought-provoking chats. Whichever camp you fall into, there is one thing that is certain, there is a plethora of ideas, resources, inspirational tweets and eye-catching graphics. But sometimes, there are “Ah Ha” moments when you stop everything that you are doing, and pause to think deeply. The discussion that happens from such moments like these are often an inspiration for our column; that’s the power of being a connected educator.
Recently #edugladiators hosted a Twitter chat on the topic of #BeTheOne moderated by Ryan Sheehy. The second question posed was two-fold, “What type of educator did you need as a student?” and “How has that shaped you into the educator that you are today?” The question itself did not spark the “Ah Ha” moment, but surely the responses of people participating in the chat most certainly did! The responses were so varied, but yet shared a common thread of students needing educators who cared greatly. Students want to be seen, valued, pushed, protected, coached, celebrated, empowered, and unconditionally loved! What did you need your teachers to be? –and what kind of educator are you for your students? Your answer matters, because it likely shaped you into the educator that you are today. So, are you the educator you needed when you were a student?
Most students naturally crave structure and firm boundaries, but many are not great at self-monitoring. These types of students need educators who will hold them accountable in a loving way. Kim Griesbach tweeted “I needed teachers who could help me stay focused and on track despite some chaos in my life outside of school. I needed teachers who believed in me!” Are you the educator that ensures that students have routines that help them to feel safe in school and stay on track to achieve success?
The best coaches know a thing or two about getting the maximum results from their athletes. They walk a fine line of pushing their players to their absolute best without breaking them down. They understand, when and how to apply pressure for outstanding performance and recognize the power of positive feedback. Great educators do exactly this; they push students outside of their comfort zones to reach maximum performance in the classroom and celebrate their accomplishments.  Cristina C. Dajero tweeted “I needed a teacher that helped me come out of my shell and gain the confidence needed to overcome obstacles & challenges and learn that failure was not the end, but an opportunity to try again. Are you the one who challenges your students to see obstacles and failure as an opportunity to start over?
Let’s face it, some of our students are shy or they lack the confidence to speak up for themselves. Many go unnoticed, and their physical or social/emotional needs are not being met. They are the ones that fall through the cracks.  Tonya tweeted that she needed “Someone who understood how sensitive I was and how my feelings got hurt easily when I was little”. Are you the one who ensures that our students have access to all of the resources and things that they need to be healthy and successful in school and in life? Do you go to bat for them and challenge others when necessary?
Students need to feel empowered in their lives–and in their learning. Great educators recognize the power of student voice and the importance of student-led learning of themselves and others. Erin Forbes said “She saw the leader in me and empowered me to take charge, had incredibly high standards & required deep independent thought”. Are you the educator who is brave enough to step aside and harness the power of student-led learning?
Passionate Educator
They say you can’t fake the funk – and students surely know when you are doing just that. Students know which educators relish in their job, and which ones are just going through the motions. Jennifer Eyre tweeted “I needed an educator who loved their job and kids”.  Are you the educator that students can sense that you love what you do? If not, maybe it’s time to make a career change. 
Relentless Educator
This word can conjure up some negative connotations, but being a relentless educator is an admirable quality. Students need someone who will never give up on them, even when they make some pretty big mistakes!  Dennis Griffith said “ I needed an educator that saw my potential and would be relentless in challenging me to defy the stereotypes that I would confront later in life” Are you the educator who looks for the silver lining and helps students navigate the tough tough times, all-the-while NEVER giving up on them? They know who you are!
Great educators cheer on students everyday, all day! It’s no secret that people respond to positive affirmation. Some of our students never hear words of affirmation outside of school, and therefore lack the confidence to try new things or participate in sports or school activities.  Barbara Page said “he saw me finishing the race in first place before I even knew I was in the race” Students make great connections to those educators who acknowledge their success in the classroom, but they really love it when you show up at extra-curricular events and activities and cheer them on. That’s what great educators do everyday; we build champions!
ome educators just have a bag of tricks! Students have different learning styles coupled with diverse backgrounds that can make reaching ALL student difficult. Great educators have a magic bag that is filled with resources and strategies mixed with an amazing intuition of what each students needs to be successful. Tika Epstein tweeted “I needed someone who was patient & motivating. I needed multiple strategies to learn math especially!” Are you the educator who develops a rapport with your students and understand the dynamics of his/her learning style?
If you are like us, you probably recognize yourself in more than one of these educators–and you should! Each of our students come to school with different needs and diverse backgrounds that a “one-size fits all” type of educator just will not do. The best educators are flexible and adaptive to the needs of their students, while at their core, they are their true selves; they instinctively know what to do. Whatever kind of educator you are, if you are genuine and passionate–and you put the best interests of your students first, you surely will #BeTheOne. They can feel it!
You can follow the #edugladiator Twitter chat on Saturday mornings 8am/CT 9am/ET

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Why I Tribe!

Why I tribe!

That question was the theme for last month’s #compelledtribe challenge to the amazing group of educators who blog. My immediate reaction to this question was “why would you not tribe?” Developing a network of passionate people who help to elevate the education profession seems like a no brainer, but so many people go it alone—and I’m not sure why. 

Personally for me, I am sure footed in why I surround myself with others.

I tribe because:

I want to remain relevant in my craft

I want to be influenced by other positive educators

I want to impact education in a positive way

I want to share resources and ideas and I like when my tribe does the same.

I want to connect people together

 I want to grow in my pedagogy

So, again....why not tribe? We are better together. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Opening the Door to New Possibilities

My feet have finally landed and are now firmly planted eager to begin a new chapter. It’s been a whirl wind of excitement and change. After 25 years of teaching, I am embarking on a new career. To say that this was a tough decision would be an understatement. Honestly, I am not a crier, but I cried the last three weeks of school—at the drop of hat. I didn’t even recognize myself! The thought of leaving a school that I loved, colleagues who have seen you through the good, bad and the ugly--and my students (well you know, it was like a death). I mourned the thought of not walking though the door to my classroom, I mourned the loss of the family that I had become an integral part of, and I really mourned the thought that I was losing my identity as a teacher.  

It’s not that I wasn’t excited about my new role, or that I feared making new friends, but it was what I was leaving behind. I had a career that I was crazy in love with. With every breath, I was a passionate educator who wanted to help shape education in a positive and profound way—and that’s why I left the classroom. I recognized that it was time to embrace an opportunity to influence education on a broader scale. My new role will allow me to embrace my inner teacher and creatively weave my experiences as an educator into the new role as a central office Coordinator of Admisssions and Strategic Marketing. I’m jumping in with both feet!

Change is good. It breathes new life into us, presents us with new challenges and opens new doors. The question is, do you take the opportunity and walk through it? I did! Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Finding Balance-Is it possible?

  1. 1
    an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

    "slipping in the mud but keeping their balance"

    synonyms:stabilityequilibrium, steadiness, footing
    "I tripped and lost my balance"
  1. 1
    keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.

    "a mug that she balanced on her knee"

    "she balanced the book on her head"
  2. Even distribution of weight, keeping things in a sturdy position so that it does not fall over-- sounds simple enough, right? But balancing all that life asks of us can be very difficult, downright elusive on many days. 
    Admit it! You ARE envious of the person who seems to have it all together. They appear to be perfect. They exercise regularly, they are widely successful in their careers-- and they have the perfect family. You scratch your head--and ask yourself "how do they balance it all?" and "why can't I?". 
    Well let me in on the secret, not everything is as it seems. I've learned that balance and perfection are quite elusive. We can certainly strive for them, but at what cost? Some days you are able to get to the gym and some not. Some days you may give up family time for work, and other days you may miss work for family. And it's all ok! What is really important is that you work toward balance and not beat yourself up when you can't achieve it. 

    Jen Hogan recently tweeted this out and it resonated with me. Admittedly, I am my worst critic, and seek perfection, but this quote gives us all permission to do our best and be happy with it! Each day, I do my best to feed my body and soul with things that make me whole. Some days I get everything in--and other days, not so much. But everyday is a new day to seek balance; it's like the movie Groundhog Day!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Teacher Evaluations Should Never Be About A Grade

Are we out of the line of fire yet?
 In the past two decades, educators have been in the line of fire from politicians, parents, tax payers and even administrators--and we are exhausted! We have weathered storms that described us as lazy and greedy, along with incompetent and irrelevant.

These disparaging assertions have borne new ways to evaluate teachers with expensive evaluation tools and programs to determine if teachers are truly making the cut. So what's the verdict? Not much has changed! Since the inception of new evaluations methods and tools, many claim that there is not much change, but that there are new hurdles to jump and hoops to go through.

Great teachers are still great!
Evaluation tools can assist in dialog about teacher performance between the administrator and the teacher, and that's a great thing, but is it genuine dialog that will result in meaningful change-- or just better observation scores? Great teachers do not rely on formal observations to deem them
proficient; they are constantly reflecting and seeking feedback from their students, colleagues and administrators without fear. They are modeling learning to their students everyday by adapting lesson plans, seeking innovative practices and welcoming new ideas from colleagues. Great teachers are not sitting down and mulling over their formal observation reports looking for ways to improve (sorry administrators!) They understand that these evaluations are part of the job and must be done, but do they really learn and grow from them? That depends!

                                    Meaningful Feedback and Trust
It's not about the grade, it's about the learning.This is the mantra in my classroom. I am constantly reminding my students that the grade should be an indicator of learning and level of proficiency. My students trust  that if they do not do well, we will remediate and re-assess.

Teacher evaluation should NEVER be punitive and always about giving feedback to help a teacher grow pedagogically. Grades and numbers muddy the water in the effects of teacher observations. The best evaluations are informal and void of number data; they are the meaningful conversations about what worked really well, discussing areas for improvements and suggestions of new ideas that are possible. These genuine conversations can only happen when mutual respect and trust has been established between supervisor and staff member, otherwise it  can be be a waste of time.

Feedback can carry a negative connotation, but shouldn't have to--it's all in the delivery! Be clear, honest and credible, and lead by example! Teacher evaluations are no different than student evaluations. The goals are the same: reflect, grow and reach for excellence!

We all need feedback, that's how we improve!-Bill Gates

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Serendipity Happen BECAUSE of You!

This blogpost is dedicated to Allyson Apsey, a fellow member of the #compelledtribe bloggers and author of  The Path to Serendipity. She got me pondering about how life happens because of us!

Truth be told, I don't think the word serendipity had crossed my lips often in my life time. I've heard the word, surely, but couldn't quite grasp the true meaning of it--and certainly I hadn't thought that life was full of serendipitous moments. Full disclaimer: I am a person who believes that you make your luck by working hard, following a set plan and being resilient. And--while all of that is true, I've recently discovered the thing called "serendipity" exists and plays an integral part in what happens in life!

Another tidbit about me, I am full of energy My brain doesn't seem to shut down.  I am always thinking and moving. As a veteran teacher of 25 years, I kinda got this teacher thing down. Now, don't get me wrong-- great teachers are reflective and remain relevant by seeking new ideas and resources to enhance their teaching, and there is always something new and exciting in teaching, but you can get into a groove and begin to think about new challenges--and what's next?

Often the path of change is predictable. You MUST do this in order to do that, kinda thing. We seek opportunities or roles that will lead us to the pre-determined destination and grab the pre-existing brass ring. But, how about if that doesn't happen? What do we do? That is exactly the conundrum that I faced. How do I go about becoming an educational leader without exactly BEING an educational leader? Serendipity, that's how! It doesn't happen to you, it happens because of you. Because you remain passionate and pursue opportunities that will lead you to your purpose, great things can happen.

Three years ago, I could not have imagined all that has happened to me professionally and personally. I am thrilled by opportunities to share my voice to elevate and celebrate educators and improve education in some small way. I have met incredible #eduheroes who have deeply inspired me to have faith and follow the path of serendipity that intersects with purpose and determination--and there, at that precise juncture, will be where I am supposed to be.  I don't know exactly what it will be or where, but I am enjoying the journey. I am confident that I will arrive exactly where I am to be.

Look for Allyson's book published by Dave Burgess Consulting. You will be inspired to savor every serendipitous moment that life brings you; I sure am!!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Have a Little Faith in Me

Cue John Hiatt, Have a Little Faith in Me for background music because this song rings true with me!

For the record, I was quite a happy little camper as a classroom teacher, with no real big dreams or aspirations of more, when my principal suggested that I sign up for Twitter to follow a certain educator who was killing it. So, reluctantly, I did...with no idea what I was getting into; boy was I surprised!!

Baby Steps

I stepped cautiously during my first year in building my PLN. Slightly reticent about following people, hanging back and re-tweeting things that resonated with me...when all of the sudden, I stumbled upon this amazing group of women leaders,#WELVoxer, who immediately took me under their wings and helped me recognize the leader lurking inside of me-- and I have never looked back. Jennifer Hogan, Lisa Dabbs and Deb Campbell, along with many others, became my tribe! We had an awesome experience of presenting together at ASCD #Empower17 last year in Anaheim.  Talk about fate, I finally found other passionate educators, in all roles, who were willing to share their knowledge and resources for the greater good. Who knew?

Just say yes....

said +Lisa Dabbs! Lisa encouraged me to embrace new opportunities--and that's just what I have done. It's amazing how many doors will open when you are willing to take risks. I have entered contests, applied for grants, submitted articles to be considered for publication, volunteered for EdCamps and so much more. To put it into two words, I've grown! Professionally and personally. I have discovered things about me that I didn't know--I have become more comfortable in my own skin. Who would have ever thought that would happens a result of social media and a PLN? 

Fast Forward

Fast forward to now. I am connected with thousands of other educators who are making their mark and disrupting the traditional idea of education and schools. Together, we are challenging the status quo and inspiring one another.

Finding your Tribe

Today, I have become a member of a terrific group of passionate educators who blog and post about all things related to education. I am over the moon to be welcomed in this elite group of people who exude positive energy and support one another to strive to be the absolute best version of themselves by impacting education and educators all over the world. Today, I am a #compelledtribe blogger--and I couldn't more excited.!!A big thanks to CraigVroom for taking a chance on me. I look forward to this journey of writing and reflecting about all that is education.  I just had a little faith in me-- and look where I am!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Looking in the Rear View Mirror, Happy New Year!

As the end of the year comes and the new year is on the horizon, we pause and look back. We may be disappointed that we did not accomplish the things we set out to, we may have experienced a really tough year and can't wait to ring in the new year, or we may have had the best year of our lives--but we should always reflect.

Reflection is a key component in growing. As Dr. Phil says "you can't change it until you own it!" We must come face to face with our personal and professional failures and successes. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What were the highlights of this year?
  • What were the low points?
  • What should I have done more of? less of?
  • Did I honor my commitments to others? myself?
  • Did I step forward? step outside of my comfort zone?
  • Did I love others as I should? Did I forgive?
  • Did I spend time with who matters most?
  • Did I learn and grow? or am I stuck?
  • What changes should I make to have the best years ahead?
  • What scares me? 
  • What are my passions? Do I make time for them?

When I was young, people would say "time flies fast" and I naively thought, not fast enough! I wished away time to reach the milestones that every child looks forward to. Now, as I am older and wiser, I am slowing down the hands of time and enjoying life's abundant gifts. As you approach the new year, look in the rear view mirror and savor the beautiful memories made over the past year, but look forward and see what's on the horizon for you. The great thing about a new year is that the story is unwritten. You have a fresh start to make 2018 an incredible year. Be intentional!!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Gratitude--Does it Have to Be Genuine?

After years of a global economy where employers were in the driver's seat telling employees 'you are lucky to have a job!', the pendulum is finally swinging back. Employers are searching for ways to attract and keep dedicated employees." For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses"--and a big part of it is feeling appreciated by the boss. CEO's have spent countless dollars to have an expert tell them that expression of gratitude to staff is a critical component to the overall culture of a company and the success of a boss. Companies are instituting planned initiatives on how to make staff feel appreciated--but does it matter if it is not genuine?

I think so! During the honeymoon stage, almost everything works. People feel more connected, more valued and appreciate the little things done for them to express gratitude, but after a while, they know...they know these actions are planned and required, and soon enough they lose their luster. It's intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. So, how do you show gratitude that is authentic and heartfelt? Like everything else, it begins with a relationship!

Relationships Matter
 You have to know your people. Take the time to get to know your staff and colleagues. What makes them tick? What are their hobbies? Do they have a family? etc. You may not think you have the time for small talk, but those connections are invaluable--they say "you matter". Build a foundation of positive relationships and watch things blossom!

Celebrate them
Gary Chapman says the there are five emotional love languages and how each individual wants to be celebrated can be different. It does not need to be a ones size fits all approach. It's ok to honor and recognize people in a variety of ways, just make sure that its equitable and that you have communicated the idea of individual recognition is advance. Better yet, let them choose. Have different ways that you celebrate people and let them tell you what how they want to be recognized or celebrated.

Have a Heart
"when you can be anything is this world, be kind!" Appreciating your staff and colleagues means that you understand that there will be off times or emergencies that can impact work. Great bosses understand that people are human and cannot always be "on" 100% of the time. Be understanding and see how you can help. Offer to jump in and take something off of their plate or help in other ways. Practice random act of kindness; you will be amazed at how it spreads.

No "I" in Team
Nothing says team like rolling up your sleeves and jumping in! Great bosses are part of the action--and they take an active part in what the staff is doing. Help a colleague with a project or an idea. Volunteer for social and service events. Team work makes the dream work! Work of any kind can be really challenging or at times mundane. Having others participate with positive energy makes all of the difference in the world.

Be Consistent
A one and done approach will not shape a positive culture. Great organizations are consistent with showing gratitude to their staff and colleagues in numerous ways. While the ways in which they express their gratitude may change--and they should, the best organizations continue to celebrate and honor their staff that sends a message that #youmatter!

"A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected"

Back to School Night traditionally brought parents into the school to meet their child’s teachers and hear about the great things that woul...