I have a confession to make.
There have been times that I’ve thought to myself, privately, that the teachers that weren’t trying new things were bad teachers. I’m young, fairly tech-savvy, quick with technology. I had failed to empathize with teachers who had been here much longer with much more experience. I had failed to recognize that change can be overwhelming.
Sometimes, when we’re overwhelmed, human beings have a tendency to behave like turtles. We retreat into the safety of our shells, because that’s what we know how to do best. I think it’s something that we don’t empathize much with because we’re so focused on growth mindset right now while failing to recognize how many of us grew up in a fixed mindset culture based on internal beliefs. We grew up in a culture of inherent skills and traits, even though we are trying to teach our students to think differently.
I have colleagues who are in their turtle shells right now because we’re in the middle of an education revolution based firmly in technology, and they’ve self-labeled as “not a tech person.” And, in turn, I had labeled them in my head as a “bad teacher.”
This is neither fair nor right. We need to change how we talk about reaching out to our co-workers. I say this because I’ve seen people that I thought of as rigid, old-school teachers start to change. If someone else—someone who hadn’t written them off—hadn’t helped them out, pulled them out of their turtle shell, then maybe they would never have seen the light about new pedagogical methods.
There’s a reason for this empathy. This was the semester that I feel like I found my limits. (I’ve said that for several semesters in a row now, but bear with me).
I haven’t done a good job of integrating technology in the classroom as I feel like I have in past semesters. I’ve regressed to lesson formats that may be engaging, but don’t necessarily empower students to take learning into their own hands. And recognizing that? It’s made me take a step back.
So what’s my plan when I get back from spring break? Reaching out. I plan on reaching out to the teacher who says, “Until someone can convince me this is better than what I’m doing, I won’t do it.” I plan on reaching out to the teacher who is more open to technology than expected, but is afraid of messing up. Not just in my building, but in this ever more interconnected world of education.
By dismissing people as being “set in their ways” or saying they’re “never going to change,” we’re enabling the fixed mindset that we rail against. Let’s unite and reach out to show that growth really is possible for anyone.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Hunter Lambright. Hunter teaches various math courses at Richmond High School and is the varsity track coach.
In 2012, I was a 22 year veteran of the classroom, presenting at the Indiana Conference on Learning, and I had the chance to see a session by Meg Ormiston (@megormi) on using technology to enhance teaching and learning. During the session she said several times to the whole room, “You MUST be on Twitter!” She actually stopped her presentation and had us create accounts. I created an account…reluctantly. I was thinking, “I don’t do social media” and “it’s a waste of time” and “I don’t want to be a part of the drama.” Well, here’s the deal, I was wrong!
Meeting connected educators
By far the best part of Twitter for me is the connections I have made with people in all aspects of education from around the globe. I am always most impressed by the practicing classroom teachers that participate. They have spent the day fighting the good fight and still take some time to “glow and grow” with the rest of us. What’s the common theme among those that participate in chats? It is not subject, grade level or school district, it’s seeking to improve. And it’s their students-they come to learn, share, and connect to better serve those in their care.
#RCSeLearn #RCSNextGen #RCSeMadness
The @RCSeLearn team hosts a Twitter chat every Tuesday night at 8 pm. This is a labor of love for our team- but none of us had ever hosted (we had occasionally participated) a Twitter chat until we started in January of 2017-an idea from our Director of Secondary Education, Mike Shunneson (@RiskTaker4Kids). We take pride in creating topics of interest, engaging our followers, and moving the needle while having fun. We have all gained so much through this endeavor and want to share it with others. This spring we will host our 50th chat – not something I would have ever imagined doing (see the opening paragraph!). Twitter, and our use of hashtags, has allowed us to learn, share, and keep the conversations going.
Total transparency here – I like getting “likes, retweets, and follows.” It’s not the purpose to my tweets or my “why” on Twitter, but it is a fun side currency and I would be disingenuous if I said otherwise. This is why we included participating in chats, following connected educators, and hosting/moderating a chat in our #RCSeMadness Challenge. We are working at building a Twitter based professional learning community. We are excited to see the growth and development of folks like the @EduTryGuys and all that they have added to our collective experience. We are pleased to have more teachers from the district serving as guest moderators and hosting a chat for us in the near future – it is a sign of the growth we have seen through Twitter.
Personalizing your Professional Development
Twitter provides a tremendous opportunity for personalizing your professional development whether you are a teacher, coach, or administrator. You can search Twitter and find a hashtag and/or a chat for virtually any area of educational interest. Some of the best chats I have participated in have included a mixture of young professionals, weathered veterans and pre-service teachers- each bringing their unique perspectives. Twitter chats have also led to a steady diet of professional reading: Ditch That Textbook (@jmattmiller), Teach Like a Pirate (@burgessdave), Explore Like a Pirate (@mrmatera), The Innovator’s Mindset (@gcouros) to name a few.
Share your knowledge and receive so much more back
We all have felt the isolation of “teaching on an island.” Twitter allows you to break out of the classroom walls, reach beyond, and connect with educators from your school, district, state, nation and world because it is not confined to “the schedule.” It has been my experience that when I have shared – I have received far more by just being present, engaged, and interested. Not a week goes by that I don’t find a new source, app, or idea shared by someone in a chat.
Connection to our Professional Library
By following connected educators, interacting with them through chats, and seeing them present at conferences (even hosting them as keynotes at our own conferences) -Twitter has led us to build a substantial professional development library available to all RCS teachers. As mentioned above, most of the professional reading I have done in the past two years is directly related to people I have connected with on Twitter. Often, the authors have made appearances in our #RCSeLearn Chats – I think the current record is three published authors participating in one of our chats! We have even based some of our chats on the authors we have met through Twitter and their books.
Twitter Changed My Life
Twitter is, like any technology, a tool that can be used for positive or negative purposes – it’s how people choose to use the tool that makes the difference. It provides a powerful opportunity for good, for personal growth, for ending isolation, and for connecting people interested in serving others – that’s what I would tell my 2012 self anyway!
Today's post comes to us from Mr. Tim Arnold. Tim is in his second year as an eLearning Specialist with the Richmond Community schools. Prior to that, he spent 26 years as a social studies teacher, coach, and educational leader at Nettle Creek Schools in Hagerstown. Tim curates a nationally recognized technology and learning blog and was selected as a top ten educator in the State of Indiana in 2008. Tim and his wife Julie, a “rock-star” 6th grade science teacher, are graduates of Indiana University (BS ‘90) and Ball State University (MA ‘97) and have two college age children, Kelsie and Nick. Find Tim on Twitter @arnoldtimw.
This whole year has been about pushing my limits. I knew walking in on the first day I would have my work cut out for me. I watched last year’s K kids grow and mature into almost first graders and at the same time, I watched the K teachers struggle and push and encourage these changes to happen. By the end of last year, these kiddos were still a work in progress, and most definitely headed to first grade land. This was a whole different beast of firsties than the crew I had currently. Changes were a must. I had to readjust and purposefully plan, do things I had not done before. Classroom management was CRUCIAL for these upcoming first graders.
From day one I have had to make strategic plans of action to deal with behavior, readjust how I teach, constantly rearrange my room layout, and move seats, often times on a whim. When talk of the cadre came about, many thoughts ran through my head. Well this is interesting. Do I have time? What will my peers think? Can I push 6 and 7 year olds to use iPads and technology with a purpose? Can I learn all of these new things while keeping up with the current? Is it worth that many days off? How will my students behave when I’m gone? Will they be upset that I miss one day a month?
It was overwhelming to even think about taking on this challenge. However, after a few days of debating and weighing my options, I submitted my application.
Just hitting that submit button pushed hard on the threshold of my comfort zone. I felt a wave of anxiety rush through me. What have I done?! Can I take it back? What if I hate it? What if I can’t keep up? Then I got accepted. Oh gosh, I’m going to miss so much school! So many sub plans! What if I fail?
Fast forward to now. The cadre has been a game changer for me. I have found strengths within myself that I was unaware of before. I have pushed my teaching to new limits. I have stepped SO FAR out of my comfort zone. AND I LIKE IT!
I cannot wait to hit the ground running next school year. I am excited to redesign some things and start with iPads and Canvas from the first week. I have been more successful teaching small groups while my kiddos are independently working on iPads completing meaningful work! It has been fantastic!!! Math time was a HUGE struggle for this crew. We just couldn’t do it whole group. I had to change something so I dove in whole heartedly and completely changed how my classroom ran during math.
Reflecting on the year, this was probably the best change I made. In addition to the match switch we also worked with Chatterpix and FlipGrid. These apps were amazing because I have so many kiddos who are not independent writers and through these apps they were able to express their thoughts and ideas successfully!
Cadre has changed my teaching mindset. I have always been an active learner, but this year I have truly stepped out of my comfort zone. Aside from Cadre, I have been accepted to Butler as a non-degree grad student beginning this summer. I will receive my certification in educational neuroscience. Signing up for school was another HUGE LEAP right out of my little safe box!
I am SO excited to start this new journey in my teaching career though and I can’t wait to see the affects it has on my future students! After this school year, my comfort zone has grown immensely.
Cheers to pushing those limits for days, weeks, months, and years to come! If your comfort zone keeps expanding, do you really even have a comfort zone? #foodforthought #challengeyourself #orremainthesame #whatcomfortzone
Today's thoughts come to us from Kaylynn Hooker. Kaylynn molds minds as a first grade teacher at Starr Elementary. She is the mother of 2 children (one biological and one bonus!), a wife, educator, pet lover and avid cross-fitter. She loves simplicity, family, friends and fitness.
How did twenty years go by, and I somehow land at Charles Elementary School, and in a course about something called Canvas? I won’t bore you with my entire career story, but I would like to focus on my certainties as an educator. One thing I know for sure is that technology has enhanced my teaching from the moment my career began. The other is that embracing change isn’t that difficult if you don’t overthink it. Just jump!
In my first experience in 1997 as a fourth grade teacher, I plunged into a low socio-economic classroom that provided computers to students from a grant. Each student was given a PC to take home to complete assignments and involve their families in using technology. Little did I know, I would add computer technician to my job duties, visiting the homes of my students and trouble-shooting their PC issues. Wow! What a hands on learning adventure. I built relationships with the families, and grew my problem solving skills. Where would I be today without this beginning experience with technology? Would I have been a teacher that feared change and let it cripple my growth as an educator? Thankfully, I’ll never know. I kept jumping!
After a few years, the grant ended. But if monies were allocated to technology, I took advantage of my opportunities. Whenever I was approached to pilot anything digital, overthinking was not an option. My answer was always YES! Smart boards, document cameras, clickers, extra PCs, netbooks, and iPads found their way into my 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classrooms to engage and empower my students. Somehow I didn’t have the fear that my colleagues felt when they heard the “T” word. I leapt!
Perhaps some teachers at my school groaned because with new technologies comes new programs to learn. New programs can mean new problems. Who has time for that? Learning and creating takes time, but blending technology can save time too. Knowing this, I became part of the corporation technology team and learned about GAFE, Adobe Spark, Book Creator, HyperDocs, Padlet, Kahoot It, Quizizz... The list goes on. This team experience helped build my resume and helped land my position at Charles today. My journey has brought me to using Canvas with first graders.
I never thought I could handle teaching students below the third grade, and I admit I thought that my days of using technology would decline with young learners. After all, they are learning to read, write, add, and subtract! I didn’t have much time to overthink it, and I jumped! My preconceived notions were all wrong. I CAN manage first graders, and they CAN use technology in ways I didn’t expect. My Canvas course has helped me create digital learning experiences geared for their needs. They CAN log in with complicated passwords, access websites, record videos, take pictures, submit assignments, and reply to messages. Who knows what else they are capable of? I know for certain I’m going to keep embracing change to find out!
This post was written by Kim Weber. She teaches 1st grade at Charles Elementary School in Richmond, Indiana. She taught at Fayette County School Corporation for 20 years in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Indiana University East and her master’s degree at Indiana Wesleyan University. She lives in Connersville with her husband, Art, and 2 teenage daughters. Boating on Brookville Lake is her favorite way to pass the time during the summer months.
We all know how important it is to build relationships. I want to share with you six basic and easy steps I take with students to help build a relationship, that will help me help the student down the road.
Greet Your Students
Everyday, make an effort to step out of your classroom and say hello to each student. This could be a simple “hi” or a complex handshake. I like to stand in the busiest corner in my school, and say “good morning!” to as many students as possible. I also usually try to stop at least one student and talk about what happened last night at home. This simple act then helps me work with students in the classroom. When I walk into a classroom at least one student will turn and smile or give me a small wave. Most of you are likely classroom teachers and need to stay close to the door to handle classroom issues, but at least make yourself available to students. This could be a students first positive interaction today, and you now have at least started the road to a respectful relationship.
Share Something Special About You
Remind students you are a real person too. This may seem simple, but sometimes we forget with all the pressure of meeting standards, and tracking assessment data. At the beginning of a year I like to bring a couple items from home and share what I do outside of a classroom. I share things like vacation photos, my softball jersey, and a flamingo sun-catcher. I also give students my education history, going from K to the current status. After I share I give students a chance to ask me questions, and just about anything is okay. Once I have shared and all the questions are out of the way, I ask students to think and share.
Learn About Your Students
Students heard my story. I ask them the first day to draw a picture that would represent them. At the end of the period I ask students to put together their story and be ready to share with me, and, or the class on Friday. (We usually start on a Tuesday.) On Friday students have the opportunity to talk to the whole class about themselves, or if they are a little more reserved we have a quiet conversation while others are working on assignments. Throughout the year I try to talk to the student about one or two of the things they shared about themselves. It may be the middle of the year and you don’t have time to spend letting students create and share. Don't let that stop you from getting to know your students. Start asking students to share with you something that you don’t know about them when you are greeting them at the door. When you can recall something special about a student the trust and respect between you and that student grows quickly.
Listen to Your Students
I recall a great teacher in my early years teaching me this lesson. She would always greet each student individually and we were expected to start on our morning work. She would then move to behind her desk and take attendance and attend to other morning duties. She told us that she loved to hear from us each day, but if she was not looking at you she was not really listening. Many years later I was in the same boat I needed to take attendance and collect field trip money, when a student came up to tell me a story. I did not stop what I was doing and look at that student. I kept working and counting money. I replied at some point “oh that’s nice, glad you had a great weekend.” I then heard a sniffle. Turned and found a student in tears next to me. I was not listening. I had no idea that student had just shared that their pet had died. I killed that relationship, because I was worried about field trip money, and not the student. When a student wants to talk to you actually listen. Stop what you are doing look at them and listen, you could be the only person they tell.
Go to After School Events
Simple go to games, dances, concerts, or any other activity students may be doing after school. Students love to look in the crowd and see at least one familiar face. The next day at school you can talk to that student about their activity! You learned maybe something new about this student.
Talk to Students with Respect
You have learned several ways to build a relationship up to this point, but if your communication with a student is not respectful the relationship could be over. Let's face it at some point students can make us feel frustrated. In these moments take a thoughtful pause before reacting. Then talk to the student about why you are frustrated with their behavior. This communication with a student could be the difference between a classroom consequence, and an office referral. Try not to push a students button, and try not to let them push yours.
The relationship piece is important to managing your classroom, and can help your students achieve more. Remember these are just a few ways to build relationship, try one and see if you notice the difference it makes in you lessons, or classroom environment.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Ashley Garrad. Ashley is an instructional coach at Test Intermediate School. She graduated in 2008 from Ball State University, and began teaching that fall. In 2010 she began teaching for Richmond Community Schools. She has spent most of her time in the classroom with a focus on Math and Science in the 5th grade. Ashley has a passion for STEM, but know the importance of all areas working together to help our students find a personal passion. Ashley is currently attending Ball State and working on completing her Principal’s license. She believes education should be fluid and constantly adjusting to the demands of our economy and society. She believes we should be working with students to build passions, and create problem solvers. Ashley is married with one daughter and one dog. In her free time Ashley loves boating, swimming, and doing any activity in the sun.