Saturday, October 15, 2016

Give Your Kids the Bird

photo: Sarah Hickle
It was an honor to be invited to deliver one of the Ignite talks at the recent Indiana Connected Educators (ICE) Conference in Noblesville, Indiana. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to come up with a topic that showed how my 6th grade class used a familiar platform in innovative ways.

We certainly weren't the first classroom to use Twitter, but I think our use magnified student's voices and helped provide them some memorable experiences.

The following is the text of my talk and some of the images I used. The ignite format used at ICE was a traditional 20 slide, 15 second automatically advanced slides for a 5 minute total time.

This was the script, I just couldn't remember everything when I delivered it. :)

October 14th, 2016

"This is not a talk about Twitter. I'm not going to use my time to extol the virtues of the most powerful professional development tool in my teacher quiver.

I'm not going to spend my 5 minutes trying to convince you that this micro-blogging site with the funny sounding verb for broadcasting your message, a tweet, will shrink your world, widen your world prism, and expand your possibilities.

Twitter isn't about the numbers. It's about the relationships. I don't care how many followers you have or what your Klout score might be. I follow you because you make me think. I'm on Twitter, because I want to make you think.

I put Twitter in my kids' hands because our classroom isn't preparing them for the real world. It is real world. It's their world. Let's stop pretending that we have to prepare our students for the next level. Let's meet them at the level they're at and respect it.

You see, we've told kids they should fly, shoot for the moon. But Christian Long reminds us that we've forgot to show them how to land. We've got to do better than that. We can do better than that? Right?

We dictate social media in terms of don't. The opposite of do. The opposite of my purpose as a teacher. I don't want to tell a kid they can't do something. I want to show them how to do something. how to thrive.

Put the power of Twitter in their hands. Take the teachable moments and teach. Don't forbid. Don't preach. Show 'em another way. Give them the tools and skills to make connections and share their world.

The world as they see it. See the day through their perspective is priceless. Let them find and share their voice with the world. Help them to realize they matter. My kids are amazing and I think the world should know it.

Have some fun. Put the lens of freedom in the hands of your kids and empower them. You might be surprised what you find out.

Like they want to chat about Great Lakes fish with a world class aquarium. FISH! Or learn writing tips and advice from their favorite Sci-fi author. In England! or Gather information to support their position on which sled dog team will win the Iditarod! We live in Indiana!

Have fun sharing. Sometimes at your expense. School is supposed to be fun. It's about relationships. It's all about relationships.

Empower you students to create connections that aren't part of any state standards, but skills that are standard in our everyday lives. These things matter too.
Trust your students to create unique and powerful moments that will stay with them long after they leave your classroom. Help create experiences that the four wall of your classroom cannot provide. Let 'em connect. Let 'em share. They shouldn't have to ask permission to tweet anymore than they need permission to sharpen their pencil or got to the bathroom for cryin' out loud.

I don't know of any other platform that breaks down the walls of access more than Twitter. Can you imagine being the student whose favorite author just told them that the film they made that recreated a scene from that authors book was amazing?!

Imagine. Just imagine taking a shout-out tweet and getting a response from the guy who was in the inspirational documentary your class just watched? The next thing you know you're naively offering to pay gas and tolls to take him up on his offer to come and spend a day with your kids.

Then you're selling donuts and candy bars, negotiating contracts to create a day of writing workshops with the guy who started the largest youth poetry festival in the world.

What would you do to have the opportunity to have one of your 12 year-old students hear they're a good writer from one of the world's best break-beat poets?

It can start with a tweet.
This wasn't a talk about Twitter. It was a talk about kids. It was a talk about relationships and empowerment. Let 'em tweet, let 'em share, but don't expect to get your phone back.

But, make sure you give your kids the bird.

Thank you"

and thanks for reading.
Follow me on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher

All accompanying slides available on Slide Share.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Grabbing their hearts

I'm a proponent of big changes. We need to challenge practices and processes that exist just to exist.  I think we need a revolution of sorts in how we're educating our kids. We need to recognize that what we're doing in so many classrooms isn't right for kids and quickly casting these things aside for something better. 

"We've always done it that way" is the scariest phrase in education.

Trying to change archaic practices slowly won't work.  Gradual gives entrenched practices a chance to stay in place. These practices have deep roots and are often in place to make the adults in a school comfortable. School shouldn't be about the adults.

Practices like elementary homework, morning 'work', and spelling tests don't help kids learn. These things exist because they're there. They've always been there. We continue to let these things exist in our classrooms because 'we've always done it that way", not because they enhance learning.

Like the way we've done back to school. Spending the first days of school driving compliance instead of community. Establishing a hierarchy in place of partnerships. Spending the first days going through the rules, not harnessing the undeniable energy that are kids are bringing into our classes after summer break. We've only got our kids for ten months. Why would you wait until Christmas to smile? 

Grab their hearts.

We humans are not very good at noticing change as it happens. (see climate change) Things just seem to pop up and we go, "oh hey, that's new." Slow change is almost imperceptible. "When did you get so tall" has probably come out of your mouth. Despite my preference, incremental change can be good and you can argue that that pace is how most change happens. Slowly. steadily.

As we approached back to school this year, I noticed a big change. Subtle, but undeniable.

Filling my timeline were efforts to make sure our students knew they are important. That we love them. That they matter. 

And El Cajon's magnificent video. What an innovator David Mishayaro is for his kids and educators! No rhythm :) but a great leader. Everyone who is involved in the education of El Cajon's kids are involved in this effort. Splendid.

Or this amazing video that challenges us to look at how we interact with our kids. Every interaction matters. You never know.

There was a moment at some point during the lead up to the first days, when the collective impact of all these positive messages when I noticed the change. Gone were the posts on establishing rules and solidifying procedures. Fewer posts on classroom management and more on creating culture. I couldn't find a post on how the teacher should establish themselves as the center of learning. I didn't see a single picture of a classroom setup with rows.

It was fantastic. There is always a great energy as schools approaches, but I think we've figured out that we have to capture the energy and use it to build long term positive relationships. Relationships are everything.

We've changed to align with that simple fact.

Thanks for reading.
I'm on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher