Sunday, February 7, 2016

Anthony's challenge


My friend Anthony Purcell, an amazing Educator in Oklahoma, posted a challenge last week and I while I couldn't accept it right away, I think it's a valid exercise. Lately, once Monday hits, the week just flies by. Too many things to do, plans to stay on track for, and things to put into place and/or keep in the air. It's nice to slow down for a minute and look back on the school year so far. You can read Anthony's original post on his blog, Random Teacher Thoughts. Feel free to answer Anthony's questions and share. If you share on Twitter, please tag me, @YourKidsTeacher, I'd like to read your reflection and vision for this school year.

What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?

Being able to reconcile what I know is possible and what is. I've surrounded myself with people who believe that we can make school better for kids. My TED-Ed colleagues  are at the cutting edge of change and have inspired me over this school year to make changes in #Room216 for my kids. Our district's new administration is also focused on innovation and change. It has been great to be part of some the district-wide efforts to implement a new vision of what our schools can be. 

My struggle is that too frequently, that's where the innovation stops. Too many afraid of change, too afraid of striking out on their own and trying something new. There have been too many times where I've stopped myself from sharing, engaging, and influencing, because the effort just brings more whispers and tattletales.  There have been too many times times that I've let myself become hostage to the 'rule follower's' suppression. I'm not the kind of teacher that exists to enforce rules in the sacrifice of change. I refuse to get in the line of "we've always done it that way". I don't think we can be solely focused on the minutiae of compliance, that we look past the kids. Yes, kids need structure and consequences, but they don't need petty. 

Relationships are everything and you can't build them with behavior reports. Give 'em a reason to come to school. We need to inspire, motivate, and find ways for kids to unlock the greatness that all kids have inside them. 

Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.

  1. I've helped my kids become better writers. I was shocked at the beginning of the year at the quality of writing from my incoming class. I never thought I could get them to a point where they would be able to create meaningful pieces of writing. We're not there yet, but I'm happy with our progress. We're staring to put the commas in the right place and choose the perfect words.
  2. We've brought some (more) pretty cool things into our classroom. We've added an additional Sphero, an Ozobot, and our Lego organization is taking shape. We've turned up the quality in our maker space and with our new tools and materials, they're producing some great designs. We're about to launch Minecraft as a learning tool in our classroom. Using this game is something I've wanted to do for three years now, but have never been able to get over the hurdles. I'm excited and I'm pretty sure I'll have to peel the kids off of the ceiling once we get going.
What are THREE things that you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

  1. I want to pull off another "Louder Than A Bomb" - LaSalle Elementary poetry event. Our event, based on Young Chicago Authors, LTAB event has become the highlight of the year for me. Poetry gives a voice to the voiceless and I've been witness to the amazing things that this type of writing and performing can do for a kid. I can't ever imagining not doing it for my kids, but I want to make sure this year's is just as amazing. Ultimately, I want to bring this to my city and start a city-wide LTAB event here.
  2. I want our kids to be an example that learning can happen in a variety of ways. I want them to find what gets they get excited about in our class and feed their passion.
  3. I want to continue to broaden the reach of Erasemeannes.org. My series of little lessons that helps kids realize that kindness matters has grown beyond my expectations. We've done some great things this year, but there are a number of things (legal type stuff) that I need to get done before I get to the next level. I'm determined to keep moving Kindness forward.
Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.

  1. I like being able to pursue things that excite me and through those pursuits, fostering change. I don't mind being a maverick, but sometimes it's lonely.
  2. This is the most amazing job in the world. You get to work with and inspire kids to see themselves in different way. I can help them to realize what's possible and what they are capable of. I'm not sure how you top that.  
  3. For many of my kids, our class is the safest place that they'll have all day. I can't control what happens when they walk out our door, but I know that everyday I try to create an environment that they want to come back tomorrow.
  4. Knowing that for a lot of my kids, I make a difference. When they want to say hello years after walking out of Room #216 makes me feel like I've done something right.
Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?


    1. Will Gourley - I brushed shoulders with Will four years ago, but didn't really meet him until this year. I'm trying to make up for lost time. I think he's an amazing educator and we have a similar story of how we chose to work with kids. He also has an affinity for purple Muppets.
    2. Andrew Kauffman - I finally got to meet Andrew at 2015's Edcamp Michiana and have since learned what an amazing Educator he is. Doing some great things for our kids. I'm glad he's in my circle.
    3. Jenn Hesseltine - A TED-Ed Innovative Educator and one of the coolest people I've met. Having a chance to work with her has been a great opportunity. While she writes, I can't understand why she doesn't have a blog, so maybe this challenge is a way to get her started. The world needs to hear her voice and perspective.
    4. Dylan Ferniany - A extraordinary educator talent, TEDx Birmingham Organizer, and another voice that the world needs to hear. She just recently started blogging and I have enjoyed her writing.
    5. You, dear reader. If I fill this last spot, I'm sure to leave someone out in the cold that I look up to, respect, or inspires me. Use this challenge to allow me to get to know you better.
    Thanks for reading and thanks to Anthony for his 'homework." I enjoyed sharing with all of you.Follow me on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher

    Thursday, December 31, 2015

    Another One Bites the Dust

    photo Pixabay CC/NA
    It had been a terrible mix of freezing rain, sleet, snow, and rain all day. When I stepped out in the morning, the sleet felt like little stinging needles on my cheeks. Coming down hard early,  it never let up, just changed form. From sleet to shower-glass like coating of ice, to pouring down 'sideways rain'.

    Since I was on break and the fact that some porch pirates had stolen a package off of my front porch while I was doing dishes earlier in the week, I was keenly aware of when my postal carrier was most likely arriving at my doorstep. When I saw him approaching our porch, my intent was to minimize the carriers exposure to the elements and relatedly my mail, to the bucket-filling rain. I was not expecting the response.

    The carrier handed me my mail and then called me by name. Not the name on the envelope, "Mr Johnson" I was still processing the seemingly out of place recognition. It was similar to when you encounter a student in the grocery store or street fair. Out of context or a familiar surrounding, recognizing a student, parent, or co-worker is not always instantaneous or a given.

    The voice was familiar, but the face mask, thermal hat, and zipped high collared coat didn't give me any hints as to who certainly knew me. Even after his bearded face was revealed, it took me a second to register the letter carrier's self-identification.

    A former classmate in our Transition to Teaching cohort and a co-worker at my first school. After my first year, he was to take over my first-grade class and I moved to his fourth-grade class at the request of our administrators. I left the charter school shortly before the start of the new school year to join a larger, more stable district. I saw him a couple of years later at a meet-and-greet for  conference presenters where he was playing  keys for the night. Teaching and loving it.

    A gifted and kind teacher, I assumed he was picking up some extra work during the holidays. I was wrong. We lost another one. A teacher who couldn't hold on. I don't know what the specific reason was, but it really doesn't matter.

    We lost another one. To the Post Office. A teacher who would rather work in the rain, sleet, and snow, and on this day all in the same day, than suffer through the low pay, disrespect, shifting priorities from politicians, and high-stakes testing.

    We lost another one. It breaks my teacher heart.

    Thanks for reading.

    Follow me on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher