Tech Bingo is rolling this week. Our staff learned about this opportunity right before Spring Break. My principal attended EdTech Teacher’s conference in California in January and FETC’s conference in Florida this same time was a first for me. When attending a professional development event, I typically have a pre-agenda of what I hope to learn and end up adding some unexpected gems to my goals-met list. With two amazing events, we brought home a vault of ideas. One of our favorite ideas was snagged by my principal from @techtraci2000 at this Twitter post. As a coach and a principal, the challenge of sharing new information in a timely, efficient manner is ongoing. Tech Bingo is our version of this gem. Our tech bingo project is an optional project that will allow staff to revisit some old tools, teaching strategies, learn a few new tricks, collaborate, and have fun. Our end goal is for everyone to have fun, reward staff for their accomplishments this year, encourage collaboration, and create an awareness of how much we have accomplished. Staff can work on these challenges until May 18th. Prizes such as drinks, snacks, and the coveted jeans coupons for the last few weeks of school will be awarded. The individual intrinsic satisfaction of realizing the gains our campus has made this year as a Verizon Innovative Learning school is the ultimate goal. Each of our staff has contributed individually and as part of our team to make changes in the teaching and learning processes that contribute to student learning outcomes. We are a works in progress. We are learning. Each day is a new day. We are a changed campus, each day, one better than the day before. We are Austin Broncos!
This week I was able to attend the Texas Instruments International Convention in San Antonio, Texas. A lot of hard work in the past year has propelled me to this point. This conference while smaller than FETC and TCEA packs quite an intense punch. The attendance was estimated at 1800. Listening to keynote speaker John Urschel, mathematizing with Jill Gough, Pamela Harris, and many others energizes you. Learning about #slowmath, productive struggle, and rich learning tasks challenges you to rethink lesson design principles for all content, not just math. I am constantly writing notes, planning, and carefully designing how, where, and when to plant seeds of all that I have learned. I registered to preview a course taught by Pam Harris to see and learn more about strategies that I can help teachers implement. The fabulous math practices and learning progressions shared in Jill Gough and Jennifer Wilson’s sessions are available for download on Jennifer’s blog. Texas Instruments offers a wealth of resources for educators. Check out what is available for your classroom. Attending conferences offers great opportunities for learning. The best part of the conferences are the new connections made that will offer continuous resources and lasting friendships. To my new friends from Australia and Sweden, safe travels home. And to Travis… every campus needs a Travis. You are energy, passion, light for our children. Thank you for being my partner in two sessions. You taught me a lot.
Walking into Junida Howard’s first-grade classroom, I will never forget being greeted by a first grader who knew who I was, why I had come to the room, that he had determined the issued, and what I needed to do to resolve it for the teacher. I sat down that day and asked him to explain his process. I was intrigued by this student. He clearly stated how he had logically determined the root cause of the computer monitor issues. While not common practice for first-grade students to do so, he was correct. Because I sat down and listened to him, found value in his thoughts, a bond formed that day with that student. This week, I realized just how strong this bond has continued to grow. Each year at his elementary campus, he continued to grow, learn and share experiences. He and I often ate lunch together just because we could visit. At the end of his fifth-grade year, I asked him which middle school he would be attending. When the new year started and I discovered that he was attending one of our VILS campuses I was so excited because I knew that this would provide opportunities for this student that he would not otherwise have available to him. And just as I expected, he has exceeded all expecatations. He entered iCreate this year for the first time and was selected as a Featured entry. He showcased his project so well, so proudly. I was able to introduce my principal and a district communications specialist to him. He did such a great job that he will be interviewed by a local station this week to be the student spotlight. When others speak of him, I feel so proud of him. I have watched this student grow, and be successful. In a previous conversation this week, a staff member was concerned about students, teachers, test scores, lessons and changing outcomes. Relationships! Reading Jon Gordon’s Book “Soup” in a recent book study, helped our department grow as a team and serve our campuses better. Life is based on relationships. Relationships must be formed before anything else can occur. My relationship with this student formed a long time ago because I took a few minutes to listen. Stop and listen today. See where it will go.
A few weeks ago, I walked into the building one morning with plenty of time to spare before students arrived. I was always early and this day was no exception. I would have been earlier but a meeting with a 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper resulted in me changing clothes. Dr. Pepper 1, Me 0. As I walked down the hall toward my room, I noticed the door already open and thought that strange. As I got closer, I could see the light was on and then I thought that was surely odd. As I walked into a room of people, my mind was full of a million thoughts that were clearly displayed on my face at once because they all broke out into an uproar of laughter. I can’t imagine what my face must have looked like. The only words that I could muster were, “I’m sorry”. They had all arrived at 7 a.m. for a purposeful planning session. I had not. They had taken their learning into their own hands. I was so proud of them. They had a list of “knows” and “needs to know” I jumped right in and was able to answer their questions for them. Later that day, my principal shared with me (as I apologized repeatedly) that was probably a great thing. Seeing vulnerability can be a strong point. I also remember another story about twenty years ago one morning when we were finishing our morning KEGL morning broadcast. Our principal was signing off and stopped to say she had one final announcement. She said, live on the air, to a student and faculty, if you see Mrs. S, be sure to tell her how much you love her shoes and signed off! I immediately looked down. I was shocked but could do nothing. I had on one navy shoe and one black shoe with gray pants. My shoes glared at the world. I received more compliments that day than any other day. What do you do? Yous smile and say thank you! Turns out Brené Brown thinks the same thing. Watching her TEDTalk, The Power of Vulnerability recommended by Patricia Alvarado, shed some additional light on this subject. She closes with, “…Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.” It is okay for people to see you make mistakes. It lets them know you are human. I want to be kinder, gentler, compassionate and connected. I care.
Making any kind of change is hard. Most people tend to hold on to what we know best. Thirty-two years in education has revealed a lot of changes, period. Years ago I read the book, “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. I’m reminded again this week about the parable in this book as our staff enjoyed a week of Pineapple chart classroom observations. Model classroom teachers offered times that teachers could visit. When visiting, staff took a picture of the environment and wrote reflection statements on a padlet regarding how that classroom environment supported teaching and learning. We modeled this process from a similar process in Apple’s Elements of Learning. Reading the reflections and viewing the pictures posted provided invaluable insight. Understanding that the online classroom is part of our class environment is a change. Understanding that students collaborating is part of the class environment is a change. Understanding that our classrooms today, are different than even so close as yesterday is a change. Understanding that for our students to be successful, we must change how we teach. Change is inevitable. When we acknowledge this, the change is no longer hard, it becomes a part of who we are, and what we do. We evolve into the person we are because of change. I love who I am! A brand new middle school staff, after thirty-one years elementary!
FETC (Future of Education Technology Conference) is a conference I have followed online via #FETC for many years. It is a huge independent conference attended by many well-known presenters. Four days of learning opportunities were exhausting but exhilarating. To be able to hear, see, and learn from speakers such as Eric Sheninger, Kyle Pace, Leslie Fisher and more was an amazing opportunity. BreakoutEDU was on the top of my list to learn more about. The digital version has really enticed me as I have been looking for some insight on how I could bring this to my campus. Being able to help implement this on my campus will be huge. During the week, I learned some new tips, tricks, and hacks that will also provide nudges where needed. I connected with other educators and learned from them as well. My biggest takeaway from the conference is that all my beliefs, passions, visions are aligned with 21st-century learning. We have to change our old ways of doing things to get different results. Excuses are just that –>EXCUSES. A little grit and effort on our part to change things up for better learning outcomes is what is needed. Sir Ken Robinson summed it up best in his keynote. We are trying to standardize humans… they are diversity in and of themselves. We have to do better if we are truly going to improve learning.
A promise I made to myself earlier in the year is that I would begin blogging, again. I am now fulfilling this promise.
This past year a new opportunity became available. My district was receiving a grant for a 1:1 iPad implementation at five campuses and with this grant also came a new Digital Learning Coach position to assist. I have been an Instructional Technology Specialist for 19 years in my district, one of the very first hired. This new position accompanying this grant focused solely on coaching and co-teaching. The catch? The grant was not for elementary campuses. This grant was for middle school campuses. Elementary was what I knew, loved and had worked in for my entire career for thirty-one years. Most people that I know, would have immediately dismissed the idea of moving to middle school at this point in their career. After all, why rock the boat? I took the leap and haven’t looked back. My new family has been welcoming, hard-working, caring, excited, and helpful. We are beginning our second semester. The changes occuring in teaching and learning are evident everywhere. This can only get better.