being me, New Adventure, new year

Embarking on a Year of Yes

December 1st…

Chocolate calendar opened. Candles burning bright. Christmas tree up and presents are starting to appear below it as we think back on the year that was and the look forward to the year that will be. To the year I turn 40, to the 10th year of this blog.

For the past year, I said no a lot, focusing on my family as my husband enters his final year of his education degree – I cannot wait for him to graduate in a year! As my kids settled into new routines, as we worked through another diagnosis for one of the children. No to anything extra that would take my focus away from my family, away from my classroom. And I loved it, mostly, it was wonderful to have time to breathe and time to re-prioritize. But…and there’s always a but. I missed out on great opportunities to learn. On meeting new people. On exploring new facest of my life that I otherwise would have grown from.

So with the blessing of my husband, I am embarking on a year of “yes.” On saying yes to as much as I can manage, on saying yes to new collaborations, to new adventures, to new learning. On saying yes when it feels like a great fit either personally or professionally. On saying “yes” when it feels as if I can help in some way.

While it will not be yes to everything, after all, I am only human and do not want to work all of the time, it will be a lot more yes than no, a lot more let’s try than no thanks. A time to perhaps write another book, to blog when I can, to learn as much as I can.

So this is my invitation to the world; whether it’s for collaboration, working with other teachers or speaking at a conference, whether it is trying a new idea, meeting new people, doing interviews or reflecting through something, whether it’s for friendship or some other thing, send your idea my way. Reach out, send an email, come say hi if our paths cross.

Welcome to the year of yes, I cannot wait to see what happens.

To contact me, please go here

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students

New Adventure, Student-centered, technology, video

Well Hello Adobe and Thank You For Coming To Our Room!

Being a teacher with pretty tech savvy 5th graders means I am constantly on the look out for ideas of how to integrate technology into our lessons.  And while I do love technology, I never want to integrate it just for the sake of the tool, but rather to ensure a deeper level of exploration and inquiry for my students.  We use Flip video cameras quite a bit in our room whether to record our learning, create video projects, or even make presentations for other students.  Yet whenever we had recorded footage we always ran into a major obstacle; no editing software other than Flipshare or Windows Movie Maker.  And sure these programs work alright, they just are not that kid friendly and definitely not up to what our students want to create.  So when Adobe contacted me and wanted to know if I would be interested in trying out some of their software for them and then review it, I jumped at the chance.  Maybe, just maybe, their Premier Elements software is exactly what we have been looking for.

So I told my students about this opportunity and they got as excited as I did.  I am in constant awe of their fearlessness of new technology.  Talk about a huge lesson we as teachers should learn!  Yesterday the software was finally installed on my computer at school thanks to my awesome tech integrator Linda and I cannot wait to have the students use it.  So far the first project we will use the software for will be creating 5th grade survival videos for the incoming 4th graders as a way of working on our script writing and fluency/expression.  I cannot wait to share our honest opinion about the Adobe software and how it worked in the hands of my talented 5th graders.

So from time to time, you may see a post about Adobe and as always it will feature my unbiased opinion – or even better, that of my students. I am as curious as many other elementary educators whether Adobe software can be used at our level, so there will be no holds barred when it comes to reviews.  For now, if you already have access to Adobe software at your school, do check out the Adobe Education Exchange; super great resource for ways to integrate their technology created by other teachers.  I have been exploring it and finding it easy to access and search for grade specific resources.

hopes, New Adventure, principal

Dear New Principal

There you are with all of your hopes and dreams, your expectations, your trepidation, and a staff waiting eagerly to see how you are going to run things.  Will you be someone who comes in like a mouse or will you slug us all with your hammer of power?  What the future holds we can only guess but I know there are some  things we would love to say.

First, be kind.  We are new to you and we may need an adjustment period.  We know you have many changes and visions for our school but take some time to get to know us first.  Figure out the dynamics of our school and see what really works before you start to change and dismantle.  There are many powerful things happening that would be sad to see destroyed.

Second, know your way.  We want to be led by someone with a vision, someone who has convictions.  And yet, make sure your vision doesn’t cloud your judgment.  Does it fit with our culture?  Does it fit with the community we get to call home?  Does it fit with us and you and all of the kids?  If yes, then go ahead, if not, then perhaps discuss, reflect and reevaluate.  For whom are these changes being made?

Third, make it about the children.  We have always been focused on the students and want to stay that way.  So get to know them as you get to know us, make yourself visible and always keep their interest in mind.  Trust me, the children would rather not be tested more or discussed as mere numbers on the wall.  They do not care what standard they are being taught right now but instead whether the curriculum is engaging, relevant and allows them a choice and voice.  They are complicated, delicate, curious beings that we are privileged to work with.  Relationship first, then we can get to the academics.

Don’t exclude us but think of us as your team.  We want you to be successful as much as you want us to stay that way.  Believe in us and our crazy ideas.  Push us to do new things but know when to hold back and perhaps even hold our hand a little.  Trust us as professionals who do really want what is best for the kids but sometimes need some guidance.  Bring in new ideas but one at a time, let us figure out one before we rush into something new.  Don’t micromanage but believe in our judgment and also in our dreams.  Make friends but don’t create cliques, we are a family here and yes we may disagree but we take pride in who we are and what we create.  Trust us as professionals and defend our decisions if you agree with them.  Don’t lose yourself in trying to please everyone.  Be fair but listen to all the sides, don’t take sides whenever you can.

Don’t punish when it doesn’t fit the crime, whether student or staff.  Push us to excel and give us someone to look up to.  There are many leaders in this school but look for new ones as well, there are people here who who have such incredible ideas but never can find the words to share them.  Tell us when we do well, tell us when you notice something and do the same for the kids.

Welcome, new principal, I don’t envy your position but we are excited to have you.  We hope you are everything we have hoped for.

being a teacher, New Adventure, Student, technology

So You Want to Integrate Technology – Now What?

Technology Is Not TechnologyTechnology Is Not Technology (Photo credit: lgb06)

I have been given a new label this year, I am now the “techy teacher.”  This label brings many odd and interesting conversations with it, most often involving how to integrate technology into a classroom.  So for all of those just getting started, who perhaps are ready to move beyond use computers as research engines and typewriters, here is a little advice from someone who has been there:

  1. Decide on time.  Ask yourself, and be honest, how much time do you really want to spend on technology in your day?  If the answer is as little as possible then perhaps this is not the year.  If the answer is some, then do  read on.
  2. Figure out the “Why.”  What are you aiming to do with the technology?  What are the goals for integration?  Is it to connet with others then Skype or blogging might be a great thing to learn about.  Is it to give students different project options then perhaps Animoto or Glogster are your venues.  Is it to give yourself more professional development then Twitter is a must.
  3. Do your research.  Reach out to others (through Twitter perhaps) and ask them what they use.  Google your needs, look at reviews, and then decide whether it is a good fit for you or not.   There are so many websites and blogs out there that do all the work for you, Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers is a great place to begin!
  4. Chose a few.  While there are so many things out there technologically speaking it is best to choose a few to focus on.  I thought I was going to integrate many things the last year and it honestly just got too time consuming.  So align the technology with your goal (see number 2) and get ready to mess with it, and…
  5. Play.  Technology needs to be pretty self-explanatory and I better be able to figure it out within a short amount of time.  If it is something I am showing/using with my students then I better have it figured out within 5 minutes or so.  If it is for my own personal use, I give it 30 minutes but after that, no thanks.  Play with it, walk through it as your students will and learn a little about it.  Often this gets me more excited to use it.
  6. Again – how will you use it?  Now that you have decided on what to use, ask again whether this will work for your educational goal.  I love the idea of VoiceThread but found it too cumbersome for the presentation format so I went a different route.  Just because it is technology does not mean it is helpful.
  7. Stick with it.  The first couple of times I introduced new technology to my students I was a little bit apprehensive, after all, these were 4th graders I was asking to do the work.  And yet, they got it.  The beauty of technology integration also is that if one students gets it then they can also help you teach it to others. 
  8. Embrace failure.  Go into this adventure knowing that things will break, signals will fail, and computers will crash.  Have a back up plan in mind that still accomplishes the same goal.  We have had missed Skype opportunities, blocked websites and overall disasters on our hands, but always managed to laugh about it and move on.  Don’t waste your time lamenting lost technology.
  9. Be courageous.  So what if you are the only one at your school trying this out; be the one who tries new things.  No one at my school was blogging before I started and now all of the 5th grade tried it as well.  You never know who will be inspired by you trying something out.
  10. Make it worthwhile.  I do not believe in tech for tech’s sake.  I only use it to further our learning goals and to broaden my students’ horizon, so use it in the right sense.  Students will respond and be engaged if they understand and see the genuine purpose, they will quickly lose interest if it does not further your purpose.  Remember technology is not always the answer to every lesson,  sometimes whipping out paper and pen can produce the same (and sometimes better) results.  So make sure you use it when it fits, not because you feel you have to.

being a teacher, Lesson Planning, New Adventure

A New Adventure Begins

With the start of a new brilliant year, I am excited to unveil my new blogging adventure:  Lessons from the Fourth Dimension, a blog dedicated to sharing lesson plans and resources in my classroom.  While I teach 4th grade, these plans are meant for anyone to use and adapt to suit their needs.

I have been inspired by so many people, so this is my way of trying to give something back.  Thank you so much for your support on this blog, I hope you enjoy this new adventure.