August 19, 2011

Share Like a Family

This morning in our Community Circle, we each shared something that made our week fabulous.  I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear as I listened to their comments about making new friends, getting to choose books from the classroom library, and being in this class.  This fall, I have a student teacher working me and when it was her turn to share, as deemed by the passing of the Koosh ball (many thanks to my dear hubby who uncovered this treasure), she commented that after only one week this class is already like a family.  

This idea of family stuck with my students as we put the finishing touches on our class contract.  While brainstorming buzz words to describe the kind of learning environment we want, one student wanted to add, "sharing and trusting" to our list.  This is the kind of thinking that makes teachers go weak in the knees!  I asked the student to explain what was meant by "sharing and trusting."  The explanation was that we should share if someone needed to borrow a pencil and share if someone had a good idea about something.  "Does trust go along with sharing, or is it its own category?" I asked.  The class felt that "sharing and trusting" should stay together because we needed to trust each other if we were going to share our thinking, writing, and ideas.  They worked in triads using the buzz words to write a phrase or statement about our learning environment.   As I moved from group to group, I was struck with how their statements were very serious, intentional, inspiring, and honest.  

So, what made my week fabulous?
"Sharing and Trusting: Where we share like a family, take risks with our learning, and trust each other with new ideas."  20 amazing, thoughtful, curious, innocent 3rd graders who completely humbled their teacher.

August 14, 2011

Inspiration has a Sense of Humor

Sometimes inspiration strikes in the oddest ways.  Music has a powerful effect on my creativity, and in this case, it became the vehicle of my latest inspiration strike.

Teachers Back to School Music Video

Yes, the school counselor and I wrote a parody song and made a music video, which we shared with the staff at our school on the first teacher day.  

Why take the time to do this the week before school starts?  Why dress so ridiculously?  Why post it to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog?  Why would an educator so passionate about learning, integrating technology, and educational reform do something so silly?

As the video played in a room full of teachers and school staff, each one of them could connect to some part of our goofy (yet fabulous) lyrics.  Together, we laughed, and laughed, and laughed with one another, a positive affirmation of what it takes to prepare for the start of school this year.  That four minutes brought our staff together in a shared experience that we will carry with us throughout the school year.   We were also reminded that through all the drastic changes and stresses, we have each other to lean on and laugh with.
At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
Jean Houston 
When you laugh, "you're changing your brain chemistry, which causes the brain to produce a variety of chemicals that naturally make you feel better. It also stops producing the chemicals that make you feel anxious and tense," said Paul Antokolsky of a laughter therapy group.  Like a "brain break" for our students, this funny music video for teachers was the perfect release and recharge for the start of school.

With all of my collective new learning from the summer, I truly want to "be the change." To me, this means I must be transparent in my practices, ideas, resources, successes, and failures. I have to be willing to take risks and do what others may not be ready to do or try. This holds true with my students as well. I strive to create a safe and creative environment for students to be open to taking risks, and I feel compelled to live that model myself.

Making this video was completely hilarious and fun.  We laughed so hard that now there is a "kaleidoscope of new possibilities."  As it says in the credits, suggestions for future parodies welcome.

Have a dynamite year,
ShFresh (aka @ICETeacherSara)

August 9, 2011

The Gift of Gab

Last week my school held the annual Staff Retreat where we review logistics for the coming year, important changes and school-wide initiatives, and teachers share about summer professional development.  Naturally, I was among the teachers sharing about summer pd.  In fact, the morning of Day 2 of #RSCON3, I emailed my principal sharing all about #RSCON3 and asked to present at the staff retreat.  I may have also included the superintendent in on the email (it seemed like a good idea at the time...).  This is the email I sent on 7/30/11.
Dear Principal and Superintendent, "I've had an educational awakening of sorts this summer, which has led me to discover an amazing wealth of people, resources, ideas, and innovations online.  I've started a blog,  (shameless plug, I know), I'm creating a PLN comprised of educators all over the world, and I was even convinced to create a Twitter account.  Now you know where I'm coming from as I actually get to the point of my email.
This weekend is an online global event for education called Reform Symposium (RSCON3).  It began yesterday and I was able to participate in several sessions which were phenomenal.  You are both strong influences in my career as an educator because of your ideals, passions, encouragement, and leadership.  I think you would appreciate some of the topics being presented in the next two days of RSCON3 and I would like to share the links with you.
(links were included in email)
With the changes and struggles that education is facing in Indiana (and globally), it's been easy to feel limited and frustrated at times.  Through my journey of awakening this summer, those feelings have changed.  I feel empowered and capable to break down the walls of my classroom, redefine barriers, connect and create community in my classroom, school, and on a global scale.  Chuck Sandy presented last night and shared about the Design for Change initiative.  These five words are the essence of the movement: feel, imagine, do, share, continue.
Thank you for letting me share a little bit about my journey and the information about RSCON3 with you.  It kind of feels like I've hit the "educational jackpot" for inspiration, innovation, and community. "
I am so fortunate to work for a supportive administrator who encourages my enthusiasm, wild ideas, and said she wouldn't put a timer on me while I shared at retreat.

Back to the retreat...  #RSCON3 was such an inspiring event that I just had to share some of my favorite quotes, lightbulb moments, and themes.  So, I created a prezi (because I also wanted to share prezi).  This was my first Prezi and it's a bit rough around the edges, but once I got the hang of it, prezi was truly fun to use.  No link to this prezi, trust me, it really is rough...  The next prezi on my to-do list is the daunting task of my Parent Curriculum Night presentation.

Also, I had so many amazing links and resources I wanted to share with staff, but I felt flustered with how to provide this information in a format they could readily access.  I ended up creating an account on Diigo because of the feature to publish lists and links publicly and teachers could access the links from home or school.  I'm also working on creating a group for teachers at my school so we can collectively add and share the resources we find.

Our retreat was in the computer lab at school so I had teachers go to my Diigo site.  I did pass out one handout with the title "learning is changing" (thank you for that thought @chucksandy) and the web address for the Diigo site.  The rest of the page was blank for their own thoughts, ideas, and connections.   I shared a few specific links from my "Connect and Collaborate" list.  One in particular is Michael Graffin's post An Important Milestone - #RSCON3.  I really wanted to share the idea of a PLN with the staff and his reflective post was well worth sharing.  The post is so well published in many ways.  The images were an immediate hook, like the world map slide of attendees (yes, I was one of them!!) showing the international presence of educators, the response slide to "How do you Connect and Collaborate?" with so many different means and media, and the take-aways slide image which is so encouraging.  Plus, all the relevant links to the recordings and the actual slides from his "What the Heck is a PLN" are included.

And that's when I lost my audience.

Really, it was a great moment to realize that none of them were listening to me anymore.  They were viewing the presentation, exploring other lists on Diigo, and sharing their own favorite resources.  If their connecting and collaborating had been colors, I could have painted a masterpiece.  I just had to smile because suddenly in that moment it wasn't about what I had to share, it was about their exploring and learning.

P.S.  The superintendent sent a reply to my email on 8/2/11,
"Yo, Sara--  I like it when you're on fire for the work!  Bravo.  Have a great start and great year."
Three days after his reply to my email, he published his first post on a new blog.  Butterfly effect?  
You decide. 

August 1, 2011

Defying Gravity - My RSCON3 Transformation

"Something has changed within me, something is not the same.  I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game.  Too late for second guessing, too late to go back to sleep.  It's time I trust my instinct, close my eyes, and leap.  It's time to try defying gravity..."
 "Defying Gravity," Wicked, the musical

Attending the Reform Symposium Worldwide e-Conference has truly been life changing experience and probably the best professional development so far in my career.  The lyrics above came to mind as I realized that something within me really has changed and I am transforming as an educator.  Throughout the symposium I was amazed at the transparency of each presenter who so freely shared their experiences, knowledge, resources, ideas, inspiration, and encouragement.  As if someone has switched on a lightbulb, I have an entirely new understanding and enjoyment of collaboration, community, and Web 2.0 tools thanks to this event.  

Prior to RSCON3, I was not on Twitter.  It became glaringly clear to me after participating in my first two sessions that I was missing out, so @ICETeacherSara was born and my transformation as an educator had begun.  I hadn't joined Twitter because I thought I didn't need another social media tool.  However, in two days time I've come to realize that Twitter is an extraordinary, powerful, and essential tool for educators.  Many thanks to Shelly Terrell for unknowingly helping me learn this lesson! 

Each presenter had so much relevant information and many inspiring words of wisdom.  I look forward to posting more as I implement my new learning in my classroom (less than two weeks now!).  I would like to touch on one take-away thought that really stood out to me.  Chuck Sandy spoke about the Design for Change School Challenge initiative, whose mission can be summed up with five words:

Feel   Imagine   Do   Share   Continue

These five words have resonated loudly within my educator conscience.  This may become my new mantra  and challenge to myself as an educator and a challenge to my students.  Chuck Sandy also reminded us that Ghandi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."  Now more than ever in education, I feel this quote is a call to action to roll up my proverbial sleeves and take action on my new learning and inspiration.  

As I prepare for the new school year, I will rethink the four walls of my classroom and model what it means to be a global citizen.  I will learn (however painful and difficult it may be!) to give up some control and give my students ownership of their learning.  I will value individuality, create community, involve parents, embrace social learning and Web 2.0, and share my experiences and resources.  Above all, I will continue to be a passionate and enthusiastic educator of the children who are the present, here and now.