How to Post When You’re Working the Most

A version of this post was originally published last week on my department’s blog. Visit the Cobb County School District’s Digital and Multimedia Department’s blog here to read the original.

I know from personal experience that it is easy to get sidetracked and have life and work-life happenings throw your posting schedule off track. (In fact, this is something I am working to rectify right now.)  With this fact of professional life in mind, below are some tips I have learned from personal experience that will help you (and me) keep our online presences active, even when the going gets busy.

  • Tip #1: Schedule blog posts in advance.
    • Time can, at times, seem like a scarce resource.  When you do have more free time on hand, why not take a moment to pre-write your blog posts?  Some of the most popular blogging platforms offer this feature.  Below are instructions on how you can schedule posts on your chosen platform.
    • Your pre-scheduled blog posts could include student resources for upcoming lessons, PowerPoint notes, test notifications, etc.
  • Tip #2: Jot down blog post ideas directly into blog.
    • Most blogging platforms have their own mobile apps.  Each time a post idea comes to mind, you can jot your ideas down into a new post and save it through the blogging app.  If this gives you some reservations, you can use your phone or tablet’s note-taking app instead or you can email your blog post ideas to yourself.  Whatever method you choose, keeping your notes in a safe place that you can easily access at a later time, will keep you from feeling the pains of writer’s block.
  • Tip #3: Schedule social media (Twitter/Instagram/Facebook) posts in advance.
    • If most of your focus is on other social media avenues such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, you can use a few resources to help you schedule posts in advance.  Some resources we found are below:
    • If you opt to use Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to communicate with students, parents, or your school community, you can pre-schedule updates on school or class, notices, and advertise upcoming events.  Remember, there is nothing wrong with posting advertisements for events more than once.
  • Tip #4: Use an app to “collect” interesting links.
    • You can collect links and organize them with tags by using something like Pocket. With it’s Chrome extension (a little button you can have pop up on your Chrome browser), plus its app, and website, you can save interesting links wherever you are. Then you can revisit your links and look through them according to the tags you included.  Use these to provide support or inspiration for your blog posts or as items to be retweeted or shared on Facebook.
    • Resources such as Flipboard allow for you to create your own “magazine” which is a collection of articles from a variety of sources.  You can organize the magazines by theme, content, audience, and can share them publicly or keep them private.
    • Other resources such as RebelMouse collect content based on topic or hashtag and put them in one stream.  This stream can be embedded into a website and can pull content from Twitter as well as Instagram.  Scoop.It on the other hand, works similarly, however it serves more as a newsfeed for content around a topic.  You can then push this content out to your desired social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Tip #5: Automate your online tasks as often as possible.
    • IFTT works a lot like the personal assistant many of us could use (especially in Education!).  Once you sign in online or via their iOS or Android app and grant it access to your social media accounts, you can create what they call “recipes.”  If you do something or some action occurs, such as a new Twitter direct message coming your way, IFTT knows that you want it to follow up with another action, such as sending that direct message to you in email.  Some other recipes include “if I post an image to Instagram, then save a copy of it in Dropbox” or if I receive a comment on my blog, then send it to me in email.”

These are tips for you to use and they are also serving as a reminder to myself.  Do let me know if you have additional tips to share or you just want to reach out to say hello!

Until next time,

Ms. W.

The Other Teacher Conferences

I LOVE professional learning!  Seriously.  I always have…even the boring sessions.  When I was a college student working as a beauty adviser for Aveda, I remember being so entranced by the fancy training sessions held in the meeting or conference rooms of a semi-swanky Atlanta hotel.  The materials, the knowledge, and the new friends all put a smile on my face.  It is no mystery to me these days of how I have ended up in my role as Digital Transformation Coach.  Learning from others, training others, traveling around and collaborating with my classroom colleagues is not too far removed from learning how to sell the Spring eyeshadow collection made from “pure plants and minerals.” The only difference is that the “product” is education, and that now I vacillate between the role of the travelling session facilitator and that of the student.  When I attend conferences, I relish the opportunity to become a student again.

Not only are conferences great for learning from others outside of your geographical community, but they also offer great opportunities to network with other educators.  I often find inspiration from the sessions presented.  The ideas or projects presented might not be what I wish to recreate in my District, but they may set off a spark in my brain of a divergent idea.

Conferences and professional learning summits/forums/symposiums also work like a great professional carrot on the stick of self-advancement.  If you are looking to expand your skill set and augment your resume’, conferences also offer you the opportunity to travel and build upon your credibility and influence within the education field.  If this is something of interest to you, go for it!

From personal experience, I have found that it helps to start small if you wish to become a presenter.  Attend local EdCamps (or plan one!), fellow Georgians of mine reach out to your RESA to see if they need someone to serve as a presenter, or even present to your colleagues at your school during Professional Learning sessions.  No matter what, keep your eyes open for presentation opportunities.  Yes, you may fail.  We all stumble at times.  But as we would tell our students, that is where learning occurs. Remember, mastery comes from the repetition of picking ourselves up and plowing forward.

Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, I have been grateful to have either present at or attend the Georgia STEM Forum (Athens, Georgia), GaETC (Atlanta, Georgia), and SXSWedu (Austin, Texas).  I would have loved to have attended ASCD, which was here in Atlanta the weekend before our Spring Break, but unfortunately, already had plans.  That is quite alright though.  I was able to attend last year and was so excited to have had the opportunity to get my brain juices going.  More importantly, some of my colleagues attended and you better believe that I will be picking their brains to see what they learned.

In the next few posts I will be sharing some of my more specific observations, thoughts, and general notes that I gathered from the conferences I have been able to attend.  Hopefully you will find these as inspirational as did I.  If so, I would love to hear how they got your brain juices going.

Until next time…

Ms. W.

Do You Ever Miss the Classroom?

Yes…

and no.

I have had some of my most exciting professional years as a classroom teacher working with 7th or 8th graders to teach them that literature and grammar are intrinsically awesome (because they are).  I LOVED busting a rhyme rapping about current events or some classroom event.  I LOVED breaking out into song to teach my kiddos how to remember that a gerund was an -ing word and how they could use gerunds in a sentence.  I adored finding inventive ways to to help my students learn and then apply that knowledge in real-world relevant scenarios.  I miss the relationships my students and I built one-on-one and as a whole class.  Each class period had its own personality and felt much like its own sit-com.  We never stopped laughing…well except when someone acted in poor judgement.  Believe it or not, in a middle school classroom, that happened from time-to-time.

So yes, I do miss being a classroom teacher at times.

I also don’t miss it.  Thankfully, these two conflicted feelings aren’t mutually exclusive.  There are aspects that I do not miss, but beyond the typical answers most teachers would offer (“To many politics!”, “Hovercraft parents!”, “Not being treated like a professional.”, etc., etc.) I honestly do not miss all of the paperwork and for the most part, that’s it.  I felt pretty solid in knowing that I had accomplished most of what I wanted to accomplish while I worked as an ELA teacher.  More importantly, I am SO excited by the way in which my new position offers me the opportunity to work with a variety of teachers on a variety of projects.  If anything, I find that there are certain projects that I come across that I would love to do with a group of kiddos, but now I look for teachers who are interested in trying these projects and get to chronicle how they go through the exploration and implementation of these projects and broadcast it to the rest of the Cobb Count School District.  Now, I am able to do something I feel that we teacher folk tend to fail in doing: promoting the awesomeness we are doing!

As I learn the ins and outs of being the Digital Transformation Coach, I enjoy the amount of personal and professional growth that I can continue to experience beyond what I learned from being a teacher.  There, most of what I learned as a teacher was about myself and it was powerful.  Now I can translate that into a role that helps me serve others and learn more in the process.

…this isn’t to say that you still won’t find me randomly popping into a classroom and occasionally (with the teacher’s permission) acting silly with the kiddos and tricking them into learning some random, but useful factiod.

Disrupting the Status Quo in Your Environment

As members of our greater community, we all have the opportunity to create change in the educational environment.  So, as innovators, what are the key hurdles holding us back?

  • wp-1453410873853.jpgTime
  • Money
  • Resources
  • Outside Limitations

In order to cultivate change beyond ourselves, we have to address any limitations we have imposed upon ourselves.  Do any limitations actually exist?

In order to disrupt the status quo, we have to shake up and disrupt our own.

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This afternoon, I was honored to have the opportunity to present via the EdTech leadership group called Leadership Lift.  Delivered via Voxer, this presentation focused upon two key points:

  • Cultivating change within ourselves by adopting a possibility mindset, and
  • Instituting change management within your organization.

 

Cultivating Change Within Ourselves

Carol Dweck, the pioneer in the realm of growth mindset, uncovered that there are two general mindsets we tend to employ: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

In the fixed mindset, a person believes that he or she is predisposed to have certain abilities or skills.  In education, this connects with the concept of learned helplessness in which one is so conditioned to be averse to failing that they do not push themselves outside of their comfort zone.  The growth mindset, on the other hand, utilizes research regarding the brain’s neuroplasticity, which identifies that the brain does grow and adapt, to help one move beyond their natural aptitude. For example, a student who struggles in math could, with a growth mindset, work to employ different strategies, skills, and tools to help them augment their math skills.  The same is true for adults.

How can we use this information to help us improve ourselves in order to improve our environments?  Based upon the work of Dr. Willard R. Daggett and Susan A. Gendron, there are three key questions we can ask ourselves when we are poised to create a great change:

  1. Why?
    • Why do you want to address this road block? Why is it a challenge? Why must this be addressed to improve your environment, school, or students?
  2. What if?
    • What if there were no boundaries, rules, or hindrances?  What would you do to address the realm you wish to improve?
    • Ed Tech leaders, for example, already exist in uncharted territory and many visions for the future exist.  What is YOUR vision for the future?
    • At this point, dream without bounds.  It sounds hokey, but imagine there are no obstacles.  None.  Give yourself some time to marinate on these ideas and trust your instincts as to when you are done marinating.  Write them down, record them, make voice notes on your phone of them, and do not edit them.  That will come later.
  3. How?
    • Here is where the action happens: How can you make your idea a reality?  What is the FIRST step you can take to make that happen?  Who can you align yourself with to support you in this change?
    • Adopt an entrepreneurial approach.  Daymond John, founder of FUBU Brands and star of ABC’s “Shark Tank says to “take affordable next steps.”  This is one way entrepreneurs with minimal resources move from one level to the next.

Once you have addressed where you wish to impact your environment and inspire change, you can now guide those around you to join in your vision.

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Managing Change Within Your Environment

Dobbs Ferry, New York Superintendend Dr. Lisa Brady identifies three quick ways to begin disrupting the feeling of complacency in your environment.

  1. Remodel (or re-imagine) Faculty or Department Meetings:
    • Whatever meetings or gatherings you conduct or lead, switch them up.  Not only will the participants notice the change which will hook them in, but if it is geared toward areas of their interests or needs, you will cultivate an environment for enhanced buy-in.
    • One idea is to have Genius Hour as Professional Development.  Genius Hour (a.k.a. Passion Projects) is where students can become experts in a tool or topic of their own choosing.  Why not do this with your colleagues?  Is there an ed tech tool one person wants to try?  Is there a new behavior management strategy one wishes to use?  In visiting many schools, the common thing I have heard teachers say is that they wish they had more time to explore things of interest to enhance their craft.  In taking it a step further, creating a Genius Hour-like space in Professional Development provides teachers, administrators, and other education professionals then have a safe space to apply what they have learned and a space in which they can fail without judgement or professional penalty.
  2. Reach Out to Seasoned Teachers/Colleagues:
    • “The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” -Jean Paul Satre
    • People like to be heard.  Tap into the observations, experience, and concerns of your seasoned colleagues or of those who have social clout within your organization.  These individuals may be more likely to present any (sometimes well-intentioned) obstacles.  Why not include them in the movement by providing them with an audience; helping them feel heard and part of the overall team.
    • Remember to provide a forum for constructive criticism and not gripes.  There is a distinct difference that will make the difference between having transparent conversations and kvetch-fests.
    • Check out this simulation where you play a game in which you work to gain support for a new initiative at a school.
  3. Model Growth Mindset and Help Others Adapt One for Themselves:
    • What does a fixed view look like in others?
      • “I’m bad at technology.”
      • “What if the students go to inappropriate websites?”
      • “Our kids shouldn’t spend all of their time in front of a device, they’ll become zombies!”
    • How would the growth approach appear?
      • I know you are a little nervous trying new technology, but here is one small tool/tip/ resource that will make your life easier.  When can I share it with you?
      • Let’s take a look at the lesson plan to make sure that it is really engaging the students.  What tiered or extension activities can be included to keep them too occupied to be off task?
      • How is the use of technology enhancing your school?  Let’s make sure that we are using it to uplift our school/district/environment.
    • Maintain your possibility mindset in your work, be transparent with your failures and your subsequent successes, and by example, others will feel as though they have permission to push themselves beyond their own perceived boundaries.

 

FAIL in order to SAIL

Now I know I put a lot of emphasis upon the word “failure.”  It serves as a perfect acronym for applying a Growth Mindset.wp-1453410973282.jpg

FAIL=First Attempt In Learning

so you can

SAIL=Second Attempt in Learning

Remember, “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” George Washington Carver.  Identify your vision.  Imagine big.  Create a sense of hope for the future.  Take baby steps, but don’t just create a plan, create a movement. Let’s re-imagine education by disrupting the status quo.

Recommended Reading

Below are books, articles and other resources worth exploring to prepare you to shake up the status quo in your environment.  This only scratches the surface, and I encourage you to go deeper into the rabbit hole of innovation.

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck
    • This is the book on Growth Mindset from its creator.  Need more be said?
  • Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimesš
    • I recently devoured this book.  It made me chuckle, laugh, and guffaw.  Literally.  Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the TV shows “Gray’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” chronicled her year of removing imagined obstacles from her way, and how the practice of doing so changed her life. (She even lost 110 lbs.!)
  • Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hil
    • While this book focuses upon the accumulation of wealth, like many business books I have enjoyed, it mainly focuses upon shifting your mindset.  Even though it was written in the 1930s, its concepts are still applicable today.
  • Mind/Shift by KQED
    • I have a bit of a crush on the Bay Area, since it is a hotbed of innovation and just really cool people.  This blog from KQED, a public broadcasting channel, features articles, research, and showcases of ways in which the realm of education is being molded, shifted, and re-imagined.  I subscribe to it and suggest you do too.

References

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TouchCast, a Degree, and Awesome In-Between

These past two weeks have been filled with a lot of great excitement and wonderful encounters.

  • I got to shadow one of my favorite former students for a day.  It was nifty being a 9th grader for the day!
  • I was able to visit some amazing classrooms, one of which brought Physics to life!1209151417a.jpg 1209151409a.jpg
  • My fabulous colleague, the marvelous Supervisor of Library Media Education, invited me to present on TouchCast and its many uses at the Winter Media Specialist in-service.
  • This week, I completed my graduate studies and now have my Ed. S. (Education Specialist, a step between a Master’s and a Doctorate) in Instructional Technology.  Graduation was such a woderful way to wrap up this memorable experience.  (I’ll be sure to expound upon that in a blog post later.) img_57411.png
  • My department mates and I presented a comparative analysis between the book The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and the 1994 classic “Speed” starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.
  • Finally, because of my presentation at the Winter Media Specialist In-Service, TouchCast asked to feature my work in their weekly newsletter!!!!!!!  Yes, I about squealed with excitement.

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While I am so excited for what I have experienced and accomplished, this, paired with having recently finished The Energy Bus, made me realize something extremely important.  We each need to take time to celebrate our personal successes, no matter how small.  This is especially true for educators.  These past two weeks also brought news of proposed gubernatorial takeovers and a resurgence of political support from some for performance-based pay for teachers.  These hot-button issues can cloud our ability to see the great deed we educators do.

Whether you are an educator like me, a parent, a student, or a casual passer-by, be sure to take a moment to celebrate your personal successes of any shape or size.

Back to the Future Day!

Back to the Future Logo

Days like today make me reminisce on all of the wild and wacky things I would do in my classroom.  There was the time I played the sound of a heartbeat as students entered the classroom.  Perplexed, they kept asking me, “Ms. Williams, what is that sound?  Is that a heartbeat?”  I kept playing it off, pretending that I heard nothing.  It was amazing watching them squirm and assert that they were not losing their marbles.  When I introduced them to our activity of the day, in which we read Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, it all made sense.  Back to the Future Day, the day in which Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly travels in time and discovers a wild future in Back to the Future Part II, is one that would have played so perfectly into classroom excitement.  Since I am no longer a day-to-day classroom teacher, here is what I would have done today if I were a teacher of the following subjects:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math):
    • First and foremost, the HOVERBOARD! Imagine the students walking into a room with what looks to be a skateboard with no wheels sitting on the Back-to-the-Future-II-Hoverboardfloor.  It would have wires, magnets, and circuit boards attached to it haphazardly.  After having the students write one paragraph in their STEM notebooks (because, of course they would have notebooks), hypothesizing what it is that lay before them.  Then, I would provide a brief explanation…visually.  I would play a video clip of Marty McFly zipping through the future on his hoverboard before having the students divide up into groups.  Each group would explore the modern attempts made to create a hoveboard by Lexus, Omni, and Hendo.  Each group would first identify their overall thoughts, observed pros, and observed cons of the hoverboard they researched, they would then share their thoughts whole group.  The students would then compare and contrast the examples presented and use that to help them create their own brand of hoverboard.
  • Art:
    • If I were an Art teacher, I would use Back to the Future Day to explore the concept of modernity as it has been shown in art.  The classroom would be set up much like a gallery, but with iPads placed around the room, to showcase the work of artists from the 1950s to today.  After this gallery walk. the students would then watch a short scene from “Back to the Future Part II” and use that, plus one of the artists they observed in the in-class iPad gallery walk, to create their own work.  Their own work could be inspired by the artist they chose in the movie or it could be a rendering of how they imagine the future.
    • An alternate version of this lesson would employ some car design, where the students would learn about the DeLorean Motor Company, its rise, its demise, and its rise to iconic status.  They would then design their own cars that they think could also become iconic.
  • Social Studies:
    • Class would start with the students walking into the classroom decorated to look like it was the Wild West (or the mid-1800s).  With the student desks in groups, each group would feature a metal bucket with rolled up maps placed inside.  Of course, I would not answer a single question about the maps until the right time.
    • In the movie, Marty McFly does not change geographical locations as he and Doc Brown embark on their travels, but in time.  With this in mind, I would have the students watch a brief clip showing when Marty and Doc are transported to two distinct placements in time.  Thereafter, the students would be presented with maps of the school’s community.  They would work in groups to identify which maps were from today, which came from ten years ago, and which came from fifty or one hundred years ago.  They would make observations about these changes and pair this with their prior knowledge to identify potential reasons (other than population growth) for the changes in the community’s layout.
  • Language Arts:
    • I absolutely LOVED teaching English Language Arts because any of the lessons here could be used to teach literacy, grammar, audience, tone, etc., etc., etc.
  • Math:
    • Um, no ma’am.  Math is not in my wheelhouse.  That said, perhaps I would challenge the students to identify places within the film where math would have had to have been used.
  • Film Studies:
    • This film would pair so nicely with others that predict the future such as the “Terminator” films, any “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” film, “Mr. Nobody,” or even the so-called first science-fiction film “Metropolis.”  I would embark upon a whole unit or section of study on films that focus on the future.  The students would be invited to consider the historical context in which the films were made, the genre of films they explored, as well as the features they found made some versions of the future more believeable in some films than others.

Alas, I am no longer in the classroom on a daily basis, but I know many awesome educators who would be willing to create crazy connections to days like today.  If you are such a teacher, please do not hesitate to use the inspiration above to make some classroom magic happen!  If you do, please let me know and I would love to come to see it in action.  If you’re to afraid to do so, I’ll gladly come to your room to co-teach with you for a day (seriously).  While I cannot tell the future, I think its safe to say that ultimately a fun classroom is one where students love being and one in which we educators love working.

To quote the great Doc Brown, “your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.”

Until next time,

Ms. W.

The Adventure of New Beginnings

From the moment I left the halls of East Cobb Middle School last May, each day has brought a new adventure.  If you followed me through my #56DayVacay on Instagram and Twitter, you saw that I had the opportunity to travel for most of my 8-week break.  It was a truly magical experience to top off an amazing year with dynamic students, their parents/grandparents/guardians, and amazing educators.  Last year and leading into this summer, was a collection of some of my favorite moments in education.

This year, a new adventure has begun.  I was honored to accept the position of Digital Transformation Coach with the Cobb County School District.  I am the only one, and am so grateful for this opportunity.  When asked what I now do as “Digital Transformation Coach” I put it quite simply: “I am like Disney World for educators.  I help teachers make their dream lessons come true.”  As Digital Transformation Coach, I have been afforded with the opportunity to pursue another love of mine: helping educators tap into their “inner kid” to create amazing lessons and learning spaces that encourage students to have a veritable addiction to learning for learning’s sake.  I also help teachers meaningfully apply the use of technology in their instruction to take student learning deeper.  An iPad can be a replacement for pen and paper or a window into the world beyond Cobb County.  Which one would make learning more meaningful?  This is the question teachers and I seek to answer with every interaction.

I had SO much fun in the seven years I spent in the classroom as a day-to-day teacher of 7th or 8th graders.  People would often scoff or reel back in surprise when I told them that I genuinely LOVED working with middle schoolers.  I mean, why not?  It was the best of both worlds.  I could create a safe space where my students and I could be mature and thoughtful, but silly at any moment.  I honestly wish more adults tapped into their inner middle schooler.  Leaving the classroom was not a decision I took lightly, but I knew it was time to help others bring more excitement and engagement to their classrooms by sharing my love of creative lesson planning and educational technology integration.

A new role now means a new look for MsWillipedia.com.  As you may have noticed, this site has already undergone a redesign.  Most notably, from now on, this site will no longer be “Ms. Willipedia’s ELA World” but will don a new name: “Ms. Willipedia’s Education World.”  It has also changed locations here on the web as part of its ongoing redesign to fit what I will be able to offer beyond classroom activities and adventures.  Hopefully, you will join me in this new endeavor!

Here’s to new beginnings and limitless opportunities for us all!

-Nadia a.k.a. Ms. Williams a.k.a. Ms. Willipedia

Word Jam

Originally published via Ms. Willipedia Writes via Willipedia Media.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote and Wild Main Blueberry Jam (June 2015)

My best friend’s husband excitedly bounded up the stairs from the basement to present us with his latest discovery: leftover wild Maine blueberry preserves that they had made the year before.  My eyes feasted upon them first before my tongue even felt anything to taste.  The smooth, dark indigo substance paired well with the freshly made strawberry rhubarb compote that was already on my breakfast biscuit.  I took a bite and it was heaven. The differing levels of sweet and tart melded together in tasty layers.

My thoughts, of late, have been such a mixture.  I have wanted to say one thing, but then found myself stuck.  Then another wave of inspiration hit, but then another creative roadblock occurred.  So many layers of interesting things have happened in my life and the world outside that it feels a little insufficient to present just one.  It reminded me much of what observed my students felt whenever we discussed political topics, or themes in literature, or even when they were challenged to put their thoughts into written form through our poety unit.  Teenagers are good at that.  Teenagers are good at having so much to say that it gets jumbled up and they don’t know exactly how or where or when to say it.  Other times, they have such clarity that many adults still lack.  There is, though, like the mixture of blueberry preserves and strawberry rhubarb compote, a beauty in the mess and the layers of flavors.

What’s wrong with being white?  I asked myself this and began sculpting a response, from the point of view of an educator of diverse students, to the story of Rachel Dolezal who for years had been leading people to believe that she was a black woman.  Her desire to partake in the African-American experience is perplexing yet admirable.  Her deception through all of it sullied the perception of her possibly meaning well.  I mean, there are many white people who have “championed the cause” of Civil Rights thorughout the ages.  Why did she feel she had to deny her actual ethnicity to support another?  Did it help?  Did it hurt?

On the other end of the week, and social spectrum, came the mass killings in Charleston.  I found this reminiscent of the Charlie Hebdo killings earlier this year as well as shootings at Columbine, Newton, and countless hate crimes and killings that have ravaged our country, our communities, and our entire planet.  For what reason do we allow the cultivation of such destructive ideas and thoughts?  Why is it ever thought to be okay to take the life of another especially if they have not threatened the lives of others?  More importantly, at what point, and with what event will all of our politicians stop politicizing the issue.  No, gun control is not the answer.  No, loosening gun restrictions is also not the answer.  We are the answer.  The problem is that not enough of us seem to really be asking the true question…then again, I don’t know what that question or series of questions should be.

At this point in life I am not a parent, so I think about how I would address these topics with my students.  They are complex issues that stem from a lack of logic, compassion, and love.  I would, address them as I would any other controversial topic, in an open forum discussion.  I would ask my students questions.  I would have them try to see things from the points of view of others.  I would have them create and ask questions of their own.  More importantly, I would challenge them to see how the would work to make this world a safer, loving, and more appreciative place.

And so Another Year Ends…

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As the buses rolled out of the parking lot for the last time this school year, I was so excited to see my school babies go and grow.  Those eighth graders, who entered my classroom a mere nine months ago, who had made me laugh, shake my head in disbelief, and sigh repeatedly, were going on toward their next chapter in life.  I smiled widely.  I felt proud.

I genuinely feel pride toward all students who have moved through my classroom, but having previously worked in a school with a highly-transient population, it felt more challenging to cultivate a true family feeling in each of my classes.  This has been my goal for years, and this year, at my current school, it felt possible.

It seems so cliche’ to say that I am proud of my students, but this group was an extremely unique one.  In all of my years of teaching (admittedly much shorter than those of others at seven years) I had never taught a group of students that were all so mature, driven, hilarious, and felt like my own children on many occasions.  Thanks to our numerous classroom discussions and explorations of written media, my students tried their hands at poetry, article writing, filmmaking, art, and more all with the central focus on English Language Arts.  Thanks to our Genius Hour projects, my students delved headlong into their own interests and shared them with their classmates.  It was such a beautiful experience, and we did Genius Hour twice.

Next year I know will be even better because this group of students, like the ones I have taught before them, have made me a better educator.  Not only were my students open to approaching class differently and trying new lessons, but the relationships I established with each class and with each student have left me with more wisdom, compassion, and awareness than before.  For that I am eternally grateful.

Next year, as this year’s eighth graders navigate the halls of their chosen high schools and embark upon their ascent into adulthood, I hope that the lessons they encountered have made them better students.  More importantly, I hope that the experiences they encountered within the walls of ECMS have helped them become better versions of themselves.  In the end, I know that I have become a better version of myself from having met, worked with, and taught all of my students throughout the years and especially this year’s group.