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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Deciding to be a great teacher: it starts with YOU!

Teaching is a profession. Teaching is also a decision.

I decide if I am going to teach. Each and every day, I decide if I am going to teach. Just because I'm called a teacher doesn't mean anything.

Some beautiful students from Japan, China, Hawaii and Georgia at Flat Classroom Live in Hawaii last week. I love students!! We had a blast at Punahou School. Thanks to Emily McCarren for inviting me and Julie Lindsay. It was great!

I can call you a car and ask you to sit in my garage but if you don't have 4 wheels and a motor, you're not going to take me anywhere.

Every morning as I wake up to face my day, I start gearing up to teach. Speaking is pretty easy for me because preparing for a keynote feels a lot like preparing for class with one exception. Teenagers are a much tougher audience than you beautiful, wonderful educators out there.

If you have too long of a gap or you're caught unprepared you might end up with a mess on your hands.

Do I upgrade and make it hard or keep it the same and go easy?

This year, I was faced with a decision. Do I stick with Windows 7 and the last version of office or upgrade to Office 2013? I had no choice. I have decided to keep my students on the leading bleeding edge of technology where it hurts. Often, it hurts me more than anything as I have to update my plans and create new tutorials. Everything ends up being new. It hurts, but it fits with my decision.

My decision is to have, as far as I know it, one of the leading technology education programs in the world for high schoolers. We don't have the money to have such a program but really, as long as my computers are 4 years old or less, the only thing it costs me is myself.

Decisions. Decisions.

I have decided to teach. I decide to teach every single day.I teach with decisions. I teach with my life. I teach with my own willingness to put myself out there and learn new things even when I feel clueless.

If teaching is a decision and a lifestyle, learning is too. Those precious children decide if they are going to learn from you. If you decide to teach, they have to decide to learn from you.

But inherent in my decision to teach is my decision and commitment to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get their attention. Sing, dance, swing from the rafters, turn off the lights and use lasers to teach about fiber optics. Whatever it takes. This, as you know, those of you rebels among our profession who are insanely committed to our craft - this takes everything we have.

Teacherpreneurs like us are all out committed. We are committed with heart, soul, and mind and will not stop until the last bell rings on the last day of school.

Deciding to teach doesn't mean we're perfect. It means that when we mess up and fall down that we get up and start over. It means that we don't quit. It means that the only failure we cannot accept is quitting because failure is a daily part of what happens in our classrooms.

We need admins to protect the teacher's heart

This is why anything that tries to kill the heart of a teacher should be watched for closely by administrators. Such tenacious commitment takes a lot of time, heart and energy. So, when you have others on staff who aren't in the classroom who make it extremely difficult for teachers -- Those who create hurdles.-- Those who are rude. --- Those who just try to be a pain because they can... you have to watch for that because with the amount of effort that it takes to make the decision and carry through with that decision to teach... we teachers don't have a lot of energy for other guff from non-classroom spaces.

Will you decide to teach?

Teaching is a decision. It takes all you have. But as anyone who has given their heart and soul to such a worthy cause will tell you, students give back far more than you could ever give. My heart and soul are overjoyed with the presence of my students.

Teaching is a profession. Teaching is also a decision. It is a decision you make each and every day.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 07/30/2013

  • This is an excellent overview of how to use ifttt.For example, you can have ifttt put your Facebook photos in a Dropbox folder or Google Drive. There are many different things that ifttt.com can do for you. This lifehacker guide is one of the best for getting started.

    tags: news productivity

  • Phillip's hue is a lighting automation system. I was perusing ifttt.com and noticed some cool things like using hue to match instagram images (not sure why I'd want to do that.) I would, however, be interested in changing lighting in my room depending upon what we're doing. I do think color has a lot of impact as does smell and other environmental factors. What impact would it have -I don't know - but it is something that is now possible.

    tags: news automation lighting decor

  • The new $35 Chromecast USB looks to be a great option for those of you who haven't purchased a Roku or Apple TV yet - even if you have, you might still want to get one - especially if you watch a bit of YouTube. Take a look at the setup information about how to do this.

    tags: news tv google chromecast iptv

  • This lifehacker article shares some of the research that has to do with productivity. This is one I wish all schools understood "when office workers get to arrange their space, productivity is increased." Some teachers I know have no ability to determine where they put their desks or the desks of their students. At my school, we are allowed a lot of freedom with arranging our rooms and it shows. The article also points out that office plans lower stress levels. Some interesting color research as well.

    tags: productivity office news education design

  • Markdown is a simple way to format text and is being used in many notetaking and to-do apps. I'm learning about markdown and came across this excellent article so you could learn more too.

    tags: news productivity markdown

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A wish for every staff member of every school: to get it and get at it!

With major jetlag, I sit here bleary eyed on the couch considering the fact that in 7 days I'll be back at school. The summer will be done and it will start again - the 12th year of teaching for me.

Are you waiting for someone to fix it?

As I look at tweets, I see someone looking at the statistics on poverty saying, "The government isn't doing enough" and another person wanting someone to "fix education" and yet another bemoaning the fact that they don't have enough technology.

Here's the thing. If you externalize the problems of the world and expect someone to come in miraculously and "fix" this or "do" that, you'll be waiting forever.

You've got the classic superman complex. You're waiting for some super hero sized person or government to come in and fix the things that need fixing. You'll be waiting until your hair turns grey and your skin blows off your bones, my friends. Fixit doesn't happen.

You've got problems too. You don't have enough time to do this or do that. You might be overweight, like me. You might wish you had one more planning period or one less student in that tough to manage third period class. Good luck getting any of those things to change. Fixit doesn't happen.

Do you get-it?

Let me tell you what does happen. Get-it happens. When start getting on my exercise equipment 45 minutes a day. When I get-it and attack my weight by eating healthy and working out then I'll get change. Wishing doesn't make things happen. Blaming just makes us bitter. When we get it and get it at - then, we see real change.

When I get the fact that nonprofit organizations with far less money often do far more than the government to help combat poverty and join in supporting such organizations. When I get the fact that some employers are in fact owned by good people who also help combat poverty by taking steps to hire people who can't get jobs in other places and I support those organizations - then we can get at it. When we get-it that student "tech angels" and other organizations that give kids practical skills help them get summer employment now - we start looking for teachable, practical activities to interject into our schools.

When I get-it that a child receiving a good education will do more to help that child stay out of poverty as an adult, and start doing everything I can to help that child - then we can get at it.

The Easy Way: It is not my problem - you fix it

You see, there are some educators taking the easy way out - the easiest ways to improve their test scores is for the lowest of the low to drop out. So, they sit back and let it happen and expect someone else to fix-it.

The Hard Way: I get it - it is my job to do what I can to combat tough problems.

But there are some educators who are frantically committed to the fact that they want to reach every child.

They look problems in the face and yell into the storm: NOT ON MY WATCH! I've got these kids under my care and I'll get at it until I retire and even then, I'll spur other educators on to get at it. The only way to fail is to quit.

They want no child to drop out. They will do what it takes to be relevant and reach every child -- they get it and want to do what it takes to get-it. They get at it every day and don't quit. It is hard and they are heroes. They work in all types of schools because every school has tough problems. Those problems might hide behind crisp uniforms and clean faces - but they are there just under the surface. If you teach, you know it too.

Meet the Front Lines

Educators are on the front line of just about every societal problem out there. When we get-it - when we realize just how important our job is, then we can get at these problems in our world.

When the world out there finally gets it that we have to all be part of the solution. Teachers can't fix it, sometimes parents can't fix it either. We have societal issues that do start at home but go into the movies we watch, the food we eat, the entertainment we pursue, the schools we attend. All of these things are in a mix that causes poverty, crime, gluttony, thievery, abuse, murder and more. Ah, but none of us can fix it. None of us.

All we can do is get-it.

We can get that we each have a role and part to play and get-at-it. We can do our best with what we have. We cannot do everything but we can do something.

But if we sit back and make excuses for why we're unimportant and leave it to someone else to "fixit" we will not be doing our part. We are failing because we are quitting and saying it is someone else's job.

We all have a role to play. We are all shaping the future of our world, right now. Every classroom and teacher is an important part of this. Get it! Please! Get it!

Teachers dance with the future today.

Tomorrow's debates in Congress are born today in your classrooms. The eating habits of tomorrow are being formed in our lunchrooms now. Healthy habits are born in our bathrooms and PE classes today. The entertainment of tomorrow is first acted out on the stage in our auditoriums today. The sports heroes of tomorrow are getting dressed in your locker room right now. Tomorrow's congressman may be running for secretary of the Chess Club right now.

If we want to impact the words, deeds, and actions of tomorrow - the school bell is ringing. May we all get the fact that we do have some very important work today. It may take 10 or 20 years to see the results, but some results of the future will show that many of you are faithful today. The sorry results will be seen from those educators who sat around with their feet up on their desks blaming society for the sorry state of things and wishing society would fixit without getting the fact that teachers play a very important role today.

Educators. Teachers. Para professionals. Volunteers. Principals. Janitors. Coaches. Lunchroom staff. School nurses. Security staff. Front office administrators. School secretaries. GET IT. Whether school is about to start or you're already in the midst of it. GET THIS: YOUR JOB IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE YOU WORK WITH KIDS. Kids are important. They are our future. Please "get it" that unless you handle the problems and struggles in front of you today that no one else will fix it. Don't settle. Don't relax. Don't expect someone else to handle it. If a problem is in front of you. GET IT and get at solving it. Now. This is your job and the future is only as bright as you help make it to be. This is hard work but our future needs us to get how important our job is today.

You can't do everything but you can do something. That something is usually the thing right in your face or under your nose at that moment. If more of us would get it and handle the problems right in front of us, it will be less problems for others to handle later.

What a place every school would be if each staff member really GETS the importance of their job! Every one of you are important. Every one of you matters because every single precious child in our doors matters. Each one of them is precious and needs love and attention. It will only happen if people who work in schools start realizing that we aren't just here for the pay - we are here because we get to work with the future. Our job is important because kids are important. Do you get that? Do you really get it?

I'm ready to start school. I get it - do you? If so, let's get-at-it together. The future is calling.


A special request:

How do you help the others in your school get at the importance of their jobs? What do you read? What stories do you tell? Will you please share in the comments so that others who are working to inspire staff members to "get it" will have those stories to tell too? This is important.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reading Tips to Program Your Mind for success

I have a second generation Kindle. I will use it until it won't run for a few reasons:

These Kindles are newer than mine but still offer a focused reading experience without notifications.
  1. I can operate it with one hand (I like to read everywhere.)
  2. I get no messages or notifications of any kind, meaning I can focus on what I'm reading. Silence is really golden, especially when it comes to reading.
  3. I can organize my reading in intentional and powerful ways.

Brian Tracy shares in several of his books that if you want to be in the top 10% of any field that you should read an hour a day in field. That is my goal.

Michael Catt, my pastor says "Leaders are readers." I'd like to lead and encourage others, so reading is important. It brings new ideas. It motivates. It encourages me when I'm down. Now that I've written one book and almost done with a second, I see that a book is really an author bleeding on a page. It is that much of your life. I have always cherished books, now many of them are almost sacred.

Let's look at #3. If you have a traditional Kindle, you can likely organize your books into collections. This is a major feature missing from the Kindle app on the ipad, in my opinion. I organize my books 4 ways.

Type of Reading

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction

Right now I have 36 fiction books and 219 nonfiction books. This is not because I don't read fiction, but typically, most fiction books I remove from my kindle when I'm done. I see no reason to keep them because they are still in my archive.

Stage of Reading

  • on deck
  • @ctive
  • Finished Reading
  • Stopped Reading

On Deck

On deck means I want to read this next. When I get the urge to buy a book just because that is what bibliophiles do, I "shop" in my on deck and always find something. If I have to shop, I will put things into my "wish list" on Amazon and come back to it if I know that I really need to read it.


Active means I'm reading it RIGHT NOW or have within the past week. I usually have a fiction, a nonfiction / inspirational or leadership book, and a nonfiction book on writing. I limit myself to 3 or sometimes 4 in the active category. If I add more, I have to move one into the next two stacks and admit I may not finish that book. I use the @sign out of habit because I start my @ctive folder on my computer with an "@" sign to help me sort it first in any folder where it appears. By limiting my "active" books, I finish more books and am also intentional about my reading. I don't go on guilt trips because I haven't finished 15 books, I just say, "hey" that book needs to wait a while.

Finished Reading

When I finish a book, I always move it to finished reading. I often leave them there for a bit if there's a reason. Some of them are reference books that I'll want to keep. I have a special category I also tag this book with called "Reference Library." I keep it there but mark it finished, so if I ever wonder if I've completely finished the book, it will show up as finished.

Stopped Reading

When I have a book that I've been reading but just stopped for some reason but think I'll want to come back to it, I'll move it from @ctive into "Stopped Reading." There are several multipart books in here - I'll come back to them. Things like a series of short stories by Agatha Christie (ohhh she's awesome) or the Philo Vance series from the early 1900's. I"ll finish one of the books and then come back to it. I do enjoy Philo Vance but he's a bit of a tough read because of all of the classical book references and use of other languages, so I'll take a break and come back to him.

This trick also helps jumpstart me into realistically determining if I want to get back into reading a book. Sometimes if I know I do, I'll put it back in the "on deck" folder. Sometimes after a few months, I'll go ahead and face it that the book doesn't measure up.

A good life is too short to waste on a bad book. Sometimes the book isn't bad, it just doesn't match with my needs from the book or why I bought it in the first place.

Purpose for Reading

I have numbers for these types of readings based upon my priority. Here's my categories:

  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Follow God]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Healthy Body]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Be Productive]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [Read Classics]
  • 1 - Sharpen Scissors [ Dream Team]
  • 2 - Show my family love
  • 3 - #love2teach
  • 4 - Be an inspiring author
  • 5 - Manage Wealth

What is sharpen scissors?

Stephen Covey talks about "Sharpening the Saw"in his classic productivity book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people." When I use illustrations to motivate myself, I want to use metaphors that mean something to me.

An old trick to sharpen scissors is to cut sandpaper. I do this quite a bit, particularly if I've been cutting something kind of thick. When I read "sharpen scissors" I picture how hard life can be and know that sometimes I need to read things to shake me up so I can take action. I've got 5 1's because all of these are part of taking care of myself - body, mind, soul, heart. If I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of my husband, children, or any of my students.

I write the parentheses in a way that gets me to act. "Follow God" "Be Productive" "Read Classics" "Healthy Body" are all examples of this.

The Dream Team: You Become like who you think about so think about great people

Then, there's my Dream Team. When Angela Maiers was at my school this past January, she shared some research that shows that we become like the 5 people we think about the most. She calls these 5 our "dream team" and says we should be intentional about selecting the members of our dream team. She has these people on a bulletin board in her office.

My "Dream Team" folder holds the auditions for my dream team. I've got a few already selected but have 3 slots open with quite a few candidates. So, I select biographies of those who I have admired in the past so I can learn more. Biographies keep us grounded. When you read a biography of a great person, it is striking to realize the struggles and normal-ness of most people's lives. When you strip away the accomplishments of great men and women of history you most often see people with purpose, persistence, and a plan (and very often, prayer.) If I will become who I think about, I wish to become a better person and must intentionally take time to read biographies. After reading books like Theodore Roosevelt and the "River of Doubt" I'm forever changed and glad I do.

2 - Show My Family Love

There are great books about being a better Mom. If I'm not careful, I'll read so much about succeeding in my career that I'll forget about the most important thing. Reading about how to be a better member of my family helps me stay balanced and keep perspective. Some things need my most careful protection.

3 - #love2teach

This is the category for everything about teaching. I use this hashtag sometimes, I don't know that anyone follows it, but instead of "teaching" or "Be a great teacher" this is a simple reminder of 2 things for me. 1) That my teaching is a calling, a passion, and a love for my students and 2) The hashtag reminds me that I want to share this with other educators. It can't stop with me.

We need positive voices in this negative world and I am passionate about being one of those positive, constructive voices. I want to help any of you reading this post. I want to help you be a better teacher and a better person. I want to help others love2teach too. This hashtag reminds me of who I am.

4 - Be an inspiring author

I love writing and want to learn more. I am planning to self publish my third book, so right now, I'm reading a lot about it. I want to compare the different types of publishing and also have some things I want to write that I just need to get out. As much as I've appreciated my editors and publishers, I got some things to say unfiltered. This section helps me do this.

It also includes social media books and anything that helps me learn how to be more helpful and learn more about modern media and what works.

5 - Manage wealth

This is a hard one. I'm a teacher after all. I used to have this category as "manage money" but it is more than about that to me. For example, in my belief system, my husband and I believe in tithing and storing up for ourselves "treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt or decay." When I use the word wealth it helps me focus on that attitude.

There are people who don't have a fortune in money but are wealthy beyond measure. Money is also supposed to be a blessing to others. Helping others is a joy and tithing often unleashes the divine providence of God in ways that cannot be explained. Money is not why I tithe, but I am often curious how God provides a way when there seems to be no way in the months I tithe and when I hoard, I not only am more impoverished in my bank account but am a more impoverished person spiritually. Money is hard because I have one child in college and there never seems to be enough but there are choices to make. Unmanaged money has wings. It flies away and you can't hold it. I study this area intentionally so that I can learn to live beneath my means and manage money well to accumulate wealth of all kinds.

Are you intentional about organizing your books?

This one system of categorizing collections of books is a powerful motivational tool. I will give you one word of caution. I will only let myself have 2 pages of collections - no more. More and you feel like a failure and don't focus.

Also, when you buy a book, immediately categorize the book so it will be in your system.

Finally, books do you no good if you don't take time to read them. I make an appointment with myself daily to read. Morning and night, I am usually reading by lamplight. If you're not a big reader with your eyes, you can listen with your ears. You can do something to take in the world and shake up your thinking.

Leaders are readers. Successful readers are intentional about what they read and make time to make it a habit.

If you want to change your life look to the people you meet and the books you read. Sometimes you can't help who you meet, but you have a lot of choice when it comes to picking up a book. Be purposefully about what book it is you want to read next and which ones you keep reading.

Remember your noble calling teacher. When we inspire a love of reading, we are inspiring leadership. Let's read!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 07/20/2013

  • This post from Angela Watson garnered more than 100 retweets when I shared it. It is a great summary of ISTE this year and bravely points out some things that must be discussed for future ISTE's. It is a must read if you follow edtech. Here's to you Angela for a great post.

    tags: education iste13 edtech trends news

  • Listen up: nothing is ever free! If you're gong to take a MOOC or other course, you have far less accountability and must have far more discipline. Maybe paying for college classes is more paying for someone to hold your feet to the fire. But the failure rate in these MOOCs is atrocious. If you look at the cost per passing student, it might just be back up there at the regular credit price. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING is free and that ESPECIALLY includes education. Read this article and discuss. What do you think, what is the place for MOOCs? (If you write on your blog, please leave a link in the comments so others can see.)

    tags: education mooc news tumblr

  • Evernote is an incredible app. I like how gifted teacher Aaron Maurer shares how he uses Evernote in his classroom and in his life. This is a good read for those of you figuring out why so many of us teachers are crazy about Evernote. Also, on the right hand side of Aaron's blog is a very handy guide for those of you getting started on Twitter. He has 11 tasks to get you started on Twitter. Go on his blog and scroll down to get started. It is on the right under the heading "Twitter for Educators."

    tags: education news evernote tumblr bestpractices

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Navigating the rough waters of teaching

It has always bothered me that I have nightmares about teaching. Always. Just before I have to go into the classroom, I have them...Full color, noise filled nightmares.

I'm working with second graders last week at Vacation Bible School at church and last Sunday night I had another one of those dreams. It really bothered me, so I thought about it and these were my conclusions.
This was a nightmare for me. My son and I went down
the Nantahala Falls the total WRONG way this time.
We didn't go under because we didn't stop padddling.
I righted us and we sailed on through but it was scary.
Teaching can be scary, especially if you don't respect
the power of the classroom and if you stop
rowing your own boat, you're in trouble.

Why do we have teaching nightmares?

I've talked with other teachers on my Facebook page about this and we all seem to have nightmares, but why?

Why should we dream about failing as a teacher when it is something we just do?

Shouldn't we be confident masters knowing we can navigate any waters?

Navigating an understanding of common teacher nightmares

I hit on the answer as I asked myself this yesterday morning. My thoughts turned to white water rafting pros. These people are always dealing with water. They guide people down rivers and they enjoy the river themselves. Yet, even these pros come up against situations - often unexpectedly - that scare them.
This is the scariest of all. My son sucked out in the
worst rapid. He had slowed down because
he was too close to another boat
and the raft was sucked out from underneat
him. But he went back in again with the
knowledge of what NOT to do.
When we mess up in the classroom one day,
we have to go back in and do it again and learn.
A mistake is only permanent if you don't learn from it.

The respect for something that comes with being a professional

Last year were were on the Nantahala River in our duckies (1 or 2 man inflatable self bailing rafts - kind of like a canoe) and there was a strainer in the river. A strainer is a tree across the river. It is very dangerous and life threatening.

While some of those unwitting (unexperienced) dummies in the rafts said "let's just go over it" - the guides responded with a some what paling face:
"No, we have to wait until they cut it out." 

They know that strainers are very dangerous. Period. End of story. Stay away.

We teachers are like those guides. When people from the local town come to speak in our classrooms, they don't realize that they are on a guided tour. They might think they are dipping their oar into teaching, and certainly, they are somewhat, but they aren't experiencing the wild rapids that teaching is - nothing near it. They are being guided by a professional.

Surely river guides also have their own nightmares. The unexpected tree or rock - the river that shifted in the night.

One rafting pro this summer said it to me like this
"when you're a professional, you don't know the river, you respect the river." 
He acknowledged that he learned to navigate the river and that he was not its master. He could navigate and do it well, but he would not dare to think he was master of that river.
Another trip down. My kids know how to row their
own boat. This is important to me and a life lesson that
they learn from rafting.
The only people not afraid of just how quickly a class can be "lost" are those who are not professionals. The only people unafraid of rivers are those who aren't professionals. 

Professionals who have "seen it all" know that the unexpected, unforeseen can happen to them too and things can go terribly wrong in a heartbeat.

The truly unnavigable rapids

When in South Africa, I met a woman who said she taught a class of 500 high school, inner city kids. She was their "teacher." I cannot begin to comprehend this sort of rapid - for, to me, it would be a 500 foot waterfall - fatal to my life, psyche and all I am.

This was actually a perfect run. It looks like my
son and I are going under. We are not. We are paddling
like crazy and going through the hole at the bottom
of this fall. Sometimes it looks like we're going under
in the classroom when we're navigating an especially
challenging unit and are doing PBL or inquiry based
unit. This is why it is hard to evaluate teacher
classrooms at a glance. If you looked at this picture without
the before and after, you'd think I was in trouble.
In fact, I was probably right between the "Ya" and "hoo!"

So, this is what we teachers have nightmares about. We have nightmares about the unexpected. We have nightmares about the little situation that suddenly gets out of hand. Sometimes we have nightmares that we just aren't ready.

1. We can be taken by surprise

Just as master river guides can suddenly be taken by surprise if they aren't paying attention - so can we. We, as teachers, know our position is precarious.

We respect our classroom but we don't think that we own the kids in it or are their master. We know our place - an important one, for sure - is riding something far bigger than we are.

2. We cannot ever afford to stop pushing ahead

Like a river guide, we know that it is fatal to stop paddling. If you stop paddling, the river takes you. If you put your feet up on your desk. If you stop teaching or stop trying - you're gone.

Swept over the rapids, your room will descend into chaos -- unless you have methods and systems still in place and the students know what they are to do -- in which case, you didn't really stop paddling. You just have a system for the calm waters.

3. If a great guide is truly great, their presence seems almost unnecessary

Like a river guide,we teachers love it when we see people who need us less and less. This year as we took the duckies down the river, the guides said they enjoyed the trip so much because we were good at what we did. No incidents because we all handled our own boats.

We knew we needed the guide and followed him (like "duckies" thus the name) but we took care of our business. This is what happens when we have students who are following and rowing their own boat of learning in the direction we head. It is a fantastic experience.

It might look like the teacher is doing nothing, but in truth, like the guide, the teacher is still everything.

We would have gotten out of that river if our guide wasn't there. We knew if we followed him, we'd be safe.

Like white water, the more challenging the work and the more independent each learner is expected to be, the more they need a good teacher.

4. The healthy fear that comes from experience

Like a river guide, we fear because we know what it is like to be afraid. I'm not physically afraid of my students but I have had a class that "got away from me." I made a false move and somehow I'm somewhere I don't want to be with this class -- either disorder, off track, or just not focused on the task at hand. T

his is a horrible, awful feeling when you know it is has happened. It is an unspoken - most teachers pretend like they've never lost a class but most of us have.

If you love teaching and want to do a good job, it is the worst feeling you'll ever have.

Some teachers allow this to happen the last few weeks or God forbid - month of school. You can see them, feeding movie after movie to a class of kids who went on vacation months before.

I don't want that. I always want to know I'm doing my job. I always want to be teaching and helping kids move ahead - sometimes it might be showing a movie with a purpose.

You'll hear veteran teachers talk about this quietly --
"so and so can't 'hold a classroom'"
 -- it simply means, that if they get in their boat, they drown and give up. Sometimes it shows because these teachers leave their classroom -- a lot.

I was talking this with my nephew today and he said, "Aunt Vicki, I can't remember you ever leaving our class this year." I really try not to, although, when there is a network problem, sometimes it is unavoidable.

Principals, I promise if you ask a veteran teacher who can't "hold a classroom" - they'll tell you exactly who they are. It is often the teachers who have kids in your office the most. Teachers who can't hold a classroom often look to external sources -- often times the principal - to do it for them.

Front office discipline is no substitute for an undisciplined classroom where the teacher is completely irrelevant. I have to be careful not to "butt in" in these classrooms when I'm on the side fixing a computer but sometimes it is more than I can bear.

So, why do I have nightmares?

Quite simply, it is because teaching depends on a lot more than me but it also depends a great deal on my tenacious determination to keep going. I must be there: knowledgeable, persistently paddling, teaching. But even if I am there, there are circumstances and things beyond me.

I have no idea when a real boulder of a behavior problem will rear its open mouth trying to drag me down. I have no idea when the river may just be more than I can navigate. I sometimes don't spot undercurrents of a problem between students before we're right there in the midst of a mess.

The classroom river is wild. It can be directed but often cannot be truly tamed. It can be guided but it cannot be controlled any more than a raging river.

Insight into the mind of why teachers quit

In fact, many teachers are getting out, not because they are bad teachers, but because the waters of teaching in their classroom environment have become simply unnavigable. Experts won't go in the water, if they are afraid and feel it is impossible. They avoid the strainers at all costs.

Our mind and attitude is vital to our success and ability to keep going on

Our attitude about our classrooms is the most important thing here. As expert teachers, if we feel that the classroom is unnavigable - it might be - and it can lead to mistakes as well as stress and fear that we're going under. It might even lead to the teacher quitting and no longer rowing her boat - which will lead to further failure.

Yes, whitewater raft guides are one of the closest things to teaching I can think of. The nightmares are real.

Plus, you have everyone who has ever gone down the river in a guided tour raft trip thinking that they can easily do it.

I've heard that teaching is the most impossible job everyone thinks they can do.

Get out there and paddle. Realize that the nightmares are just a normal part of teaching. If all the teachers conversing on my fanpage are to believed, we all have these nightmares. Accept and understand what these nightmares say about your feeling and our profession. I'll be having more of these dreams soon - I tend to have them the week before school starts. I think this illustration will help me deal with it and not psych myself out that I've had another nightmare.

Heading into the rapids of another day with these beautiful second graders. It is going to be a great day - I'm ready to paddle!

I would love if you'd share your insight into your own dreams and "nightmares" about teaching so that other teachers can realize that it is OK to have these.

Paddle on, professionals. Paddle on.

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Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 07/17/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why you should set soft goals for your classroom this year

When you set your goals for the fall, don't forget your soft goals.

There are hard and fast things you must do in the classroom. There are tasks, standards, and objectives that must be met. However, it is easy to be so busy as a human doing and forget that you're teaching human beings.

This is why I like the Classroom Habitudes so much. (Read the book by Angela Maiers) It gives us a "to be" list before you hit the to do list. Students need to know what we want them to BE as we reach to do the things that they need to do. They need to see the purpose behind the plan.

Make a list of the things you want your students "to be"

Even more so, we, as teachers, need to be intentional about what we want to help our students be. Thankful. Passionate. Curious. Ethical. Perseverant. Creative... and the list goes on.

Intentionally think about your soft goals because these give you a canvas upon which you will paint your class activities. They should influence the posters you select, the projects you design, and the lessons you plan. You can teach math in a way that harnesses the power of passion. You can weave lessons in that will allow students to show thankfulness to others. You can have projects that foster curiosity.

Purposefully determine what these "to be's" are. Know them. Use the language. Discuss them.

These are things you can do, but important things never do themselves. They start with you.

I think it is best to look at these soft goals in the summer. Take some time and write down the important things you want to help students be.

Activity to get you started

Try this activity.

1. At the top of a page write... "this year, I want my students to be more..." then, answer the question. This will help you get started on your soft goals.

2. Brainstorm the books, music, projects, movies, and creative ways you can redesign the lessons you have to incorporate these to be's. Write these things next to each of the items you wrote in step 1.

TIP: State your "to be" in the positive

When you pick them be careful to state your "to be" in the positive. Instead of "don't bully" select "speak up when injustice happens." We inadvertently remove the negative - so when you say "don't bully" - you're really hearing "bully." (This is why most of us teachers are taught to say "be quiet" instead of "don't talk." "Don't talk" will typically have the opposite influence of what we desire.)

Do this now.

School is right around the corner. Educators, we have a huge responsibility to educate a generation. If we forget the human beings in our classrooms we will one day have those humans be so busy doing that they might just forget about being kind, respectful, helpful, and understanding towards our generation. Things have a way of going around. You will reap the results of the soft goals you set now as will society, so choose well.

Schools can set soft goals for their year.

You can also be assured, that schools who are intentional about the "to be's" they select will reap the benefits of emphasizing those to be's. Principals can do the activity above. This is part of having vision and when it starts with the principal and superintendent - it becomes unstoppable. You are casting vision for what you want to be. Just prepare to work hard to be that yourself. If you say you want everyone to be something and you glaringly don't try to be that yourself. (For example, if you emphasize work ethic but find a way to leave early every day, you'll cause a morale problem.)

Please share

What are the "to be's" you want to emphasize this year? I am using Angela's Classroom Habitudes book for mine and adding "Integrity" as one of the to-be's.

What are yours? Please feel free to share them or the links in the comments. Do you create "soft goals?" Why or why not?


Friday, July 12, 2013

Why teachers should help lead a thankful revolution

I've been thinking about the 19 firefighters in Arizona who died unexpectedly with the sudden turn of a fire. I've also been thinking of the teachers who gave their lives protecting children from gunmen and tornadoes this year. I've even been thinking about the janitors who quietly do their jobs in our school - do you know that if they scrimped on their job when no one was looking - we could literally have outbreaks of disease among our precious children?

How can we help promote gratitude and active thankfulness among this generation?

I just wonder what we as teachers can do to help promote a grateful generation. How can we help kids know the importance of saying "thank you" to and to be glad for what they have?

This is something I want to be more of what I do this year at school.

Sure, I've got standards to meet and a curriculum to accomplish, but it is kind of like this.

If I focus on making sure my children keep their room clean while forgetting my relationship with my children - they might have a perfectly clean room but have no kind of relationship with me. We have tasks and relationships to balance. The relationship is vitally important. There's a human side to every task. When we forget the humans, their task becomes almost irrelevant. (Ahem, overtesting...)

Thankfulness as a habit

If teachers aren't thanked, perhaps it is because we don't help kids see and thank others. I'm not proposing we do this so that suddenly people can acknowledge that we are a noble calling (as they should, by the way).

I am proposing that we help our children tell others that they matter and thank them for their work because it is something we must do. When we acknowledge the sacrifices of others, we are more sensitive to notice it everywhere we see it.

A self centered generation will be an unhappy one

The unhappiest people I know think only of their own happiness. An unhappy generation will be a self centered one. Kids are self centered by nature -it is pretty much how we are born. As I've matured and begun to see the value in helping others with my own life, I've grown in joy and fulfillment.

Because one day tragedy will strike every community - it does. And communities that can live with the peace of mind that they've thanked the heroes among them will rest much easier on this.

Please share your ideas and links

How can we thank our law enforcement, EMTs, and all of those people who serve us every day? I'm looking for all kinds of ideas beyond having them come and sit at an assembly and taking food (I think they like the second one the most, from what I've heard.) What can we do to really shower and show gratitude to the heroes among us?

If you've done something special, please write about it on your own blog and put the link in the comments below so that those of us gathering ideas can learn from you! Thank you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 07/10/2013

  • From my friend AJ Juliani - if you want to do 20% time - perhaps you should join in this MOOC right now - it isn't too late. "In the past year we have seen a boom in 20% projects and Genius Hour projects happening in the K-12 classroom. Amazing educators have pushed this movement forward, and Angela Maiers Choose2Matter campaign is another way for students to find their passions and learn with purpose. This July we are running a “20% Time MOOC”. The course offers two outcomes. Teachers will learn about the research behind Google’s 20% policy and how it can be applied in K-12 education; and, learners will also participate in their own 20% project throughout the course and present as a final product. I want to encourage you to join this MOOC and connect with so many teachers who are giving their students the power to choose (Access Code for the course is ZXQ2B-8CWMV). We’ll be using the #20timeacademy hashtag throughout the course to share with each other!"

    tags: education news teaching geniushour google20% tumblr

  • Cool trick to archive and keep what you've read in Google reader. Here's how you can do this trick -- that is if you ever used Google reader - or used it a lot (like I did for quite a period of time.) Very cool hack.

    tags: education news google reader rss googlereader tumblr

  • If you're not already using Dropbox - you should. They had a developer conference and will likely end up everywhere in every app. Some very cool things coming. Just like Evernote - who has a powerful "trunk" features where developer work is showcased - Dropbox is going to find that opening up to development opens a whole new marketplace and ingenuity beyond what they have in house.  Some info from the wired article.  "But after all that single-mindedness, Houston and Ferdowsi now want to let their baby sing. Today, at Dropbox’s first-ever developers conference, the company is officially launching a new set of coding tools designed to push Dropbox into every corner of your digital life. Not content to stay sequestered inside the box, the company’s co-founders are unveiling ways for developers to meld their service with every app on every device you own. For the first five or so years of its existence, Dropbox was synonymous with its “magic folder.” Save your files in the Dropbox folder on your computer, and they “magically” reappear in your Dropbox apps on your phone and tablet and in your Dropbox account on the web. Now, if developers take to the company’s new tools, the service will escape the confines of this folder, fusing with third-party apps running on practically every computer and smartphone operating system. Houston wants Dropbox to become the “spiritual successor to the hard drive.” He says the hard drive needs to be replaced because so many of us are doing so much computing on devices that don’t fit the traditional paradigm for working with files. Users don’t interact with files on iOS, Android, or the web the way they do on PCs. Apps don’t have “open” or “save” options that launch a separate window where you tap through a folder tree."

    tags: news dropbox edtech tumblr

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, July 08, 2013

We Need Principals with Principles: How #SAVMP can help

Pioneering Canadian administrator George Corous announced the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program #SAVMP on his blog. It isn't really as much as MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) as it is a MOOM (Massively Open Online
When you build bridges, interesting things happen.
Mentorship Program). One of the biggest challenges for administrators in addition to the incredibly tough, taxing job they have every day is how to move their district forward with vision into an interconnected world.

Our principals and administrators must understand principles of an interconnected world, how to present themselves in social media, and just how these online connections work. IN a world where experience not only counts, but is transformative, I think that George is onto something big. While aligning with Canadian standards for principals, I think that these could be tweaked to align with many other standards out there if someone is creative and jumps in.
Visionary people can spot trends. Visionary people are out front pioneering and experimenting. Visionary people help others learn. When you invest in others, you receive it back, multiplied.  

George has over 100 people signed up. It is open to Administrators all over the world. This is the sort of thing I think is going to be transformative for many. Teachers have had this sort of thing for a long time: webheads, Google Certified Teacher, Discovery Educator programs, Flat Classroom -- while not mentorships - that is what really happens. You end up with friends to mentor and share. 

While I'm sure that George will attract critics, let them suggest an alternative or join in this movement to see what happens when administrators around the world connect. I smell change in the air. I also have watched and know that what George does is quality. He'll be transparent. He'll teach us what they learn. He'll be open as well. If you want to sign up, read below and and pass this on to your principal or your administrator. Now, some "organizations" will likely say "No, we can't have this, let's start our own." That is fine -we need great mentorships. But we also need one in the "MOOC" style so that administrators can actually experience and see what this form of teaching and education is about. They need to experience what is happening when people connect in this type of flattening the classroom experience.  

This is an exciting thing and I'll tell every administrator I can find that is willing to learn and connect to join in. My best wishes, George and #SAVMP pioneers. There are really some great administrators rising up via social media and their blogs to show the world what world class really looks like. I have a feeling that quite a few who may not be active in social media will break out via this experience as well. Good luck administrators, education needs your leadership and vision! #SAVMP -- This intro written by Vicki Davis. The rest is a guest post by George Corous 

School Admin Virtual Mentor Program #SAVMP
Looking to help develop administrators to lead innovative school environments that meet the needs of students today, we have decided to start the “School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program” (#SVAMP). This program is to pair a new administrator with one that has more experience. This is not meant to be the typical “mentor-mentee” relationship, but the hope is that through active sharing, each administrator will be help to learn from each other, and others can learn from all of the shared experiences.

Program Design
This program is meant to last for the 2013-2014 school year (typically August to June) although it is open to administrators from all over the world. Each person that is a “mentor” will be paired with three (maximum) “mentees” that they will be able to connect through virtual means (email, twitter, videochat, etc.) to help them develop their leadership. There will also be an online sessions (once a month) that will help to share ideas for learning and leading with guest speakers. All of these talks will be archived and shared if they do not fit into your regular schedule. This is more than likely to be done through the use of Google Hangout.

All of the standards that we will be focusing on will be based on the Alberta Principal Quality Standard. They are as follows:
1. Fostering Effective Relationships
2. Embodying Visionary Leadership
3. Leading a Learning Community
4. Providing Instructional Leadership
5. Developing and Facilitating Leadership
6. Managing School Operations and Resources
7. Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context
Although these “standards” were created within the province of Alberta, Canada, they are not unique to other areas of the world. The focus will be to continuously look at these standards and how they look in schools currently. The hope, through open group forums and mentoring, is to look at all facets of leadership that take place within schools.

This should NOT replace mentorship within your own organization, but is to give you an outsider perspective to leadership that you may not be receiving. It would be beneficial as a new leader to have mentorship within your own school/district.

Program Requirements
Each “mentee” will be required to keep an open blog to share their learning openly with the world, while also helping to create a digital portfolio of their work. Each “mentor” that takes part in the program should already have a blog to model what we are expecting from the people that they are mentoring. It will also be required that participants have a Twitter account that they will use to actively engage and share their learning with others in the program through the #SAVMP Twitter hashtag.

Since the program is free, the expectation to share through a blog and Twitter is crucial. Mentors should have a minimum of three years in administration. This is not limited to Principals, but we encourage Assistant Principals (Vice, Associate, etc.) to apply as well.

Application Process
To apply for this program, you will need to simply fill out the form below and indicate whether you want to be a “mentor” or “mentee”. Although there is a lot of interest to do both, you will have to choose one role.

Once applications are received, we will be looking to pair people with one another that are in the same continent. The hope is to get an outsider perspective on education and learn from a variety of people and viewpoints. We are hoping to accept all of those that apply, but it is crucial that we keep the “mentor-mentee” ratio no higher than 1:3.

Applications will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Location will also be considered to try to pair up applicants to someone in a relatively close time zone. There are no set limits to the program for numbers, only to honour the 1:3 ratio.

Program Focus
To clarify, this is not focused on the development of leaders to use social media, but to help leaders openly learn and share with others so that we can all improve practice and do what is best for kids. This is also focused on helping to build relationships with a few people that you are able to bounce questions and ideas off of that you have known over time. It is imperative that we promote the use of social media to create strong relationships to enhance leadership.
If you have any questions specifically about the program, please do not hesitate to contact georgecouros@gmail.com.
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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 07/06/2013

  • There continues to be a problem that not all books in the Amazon kindle store have real page numbers. If students are expected to cite sources and not allowed to use location numbers, then Amazon can expect the pushback seen on this forum post. Meanwhile, a helpful person on the forum has noted how you can know what to read on the Kindle if your professor or teacher says "read page 80-92" - you can dive into the table of contents on the website and save a copy. This is the only solution. It is time for Amazon to get their act together and have all Kindle ebooks display page numbers if there is a printed copy of the book. If there is not a printed copy of the book, there needs to be a consistent reference point or "page" that all can use for sourcing and citing content. "1. Look up the book in the in the Amazon Kindle store (where you purchased it). 2. Click on the book where it says "Look Inside." You want to look at the table of contents, which will have the pages numbers for each chapter. 3. It defaults to the "kindle edition," which does not have the page numbers in the table of contents. However, there is a tab above that says "Print Book." Click on that. 4. Once you're on the "Print Book" display, it shows the page numbers in the TOC. By doing the above, I was able to determine that "the first 26 pages" = Chapters 1 & 2. I used Evernote to take a screen capture of the entire TOC, which I'll refer back to."

    tags: education news ebooks ebook amazon kindle tumblr library bestpractices literature

  • This is a fascinating wiki full of myths and truths about ebook readers. It says it is maintained by the users of the site. I've found it to be quiet accurate as I perused this page. If you have questions about ebooks, this is a great reference.

    tags: education news kindle ebook library bestpractices

  • Information on whispercast and how to sign up. This looks like the system for managing Kindles (you can send content to school owned kindles or personal Kindles) and in fact, you should move towards this. I don't know about moving the books you already have. I do like how you can upload pdf's etc. to distribute.

    tags: education news library ebook

  • Some rules have changed as I've been reading up on having Kindles at schools. (Back in February I read a spate of posts mentioning that Amazon said that having 6 kindles share one account was just for "personal use" and that libraries can't do it.) But Amazon does have information on Whispercast which lets you handle distributing books. It is a "free self-service online tool" and I'm thinking that it is something we need to be using. It looks like you can also distribute many of the free ebooks onto Kindles. 

    tags: education news ebook amazon kindle bestpractices edu_news library tumblr

  • The recent Kindle updates over the past few months have quite a few teachers. In particular, if you have a textbook on Kindle, you can collate notes by color, which is a major enhancement.  This article does a nice job of summarizing the features important to educators. "The update also brings some changes that should be especially helpful for students and teachers, like the ability to highlight long passages that span multiple pages. In addition, the Notebook feature for textbooks has new filtering options, which should help you more quickly and easily find all your notes, bookmarks, and highlights by colour"

    tags: education news kindle reading literacy ebook edu_news

  • An excellent compendium of information about writing and publishing ebooks that is continually updated by the author. Great work.

    tags: education news ebook writing amwriting

  • I"ve been hearing a lot of great things from teachers about Book creator as a new way they have students create reports. Called, Book Creator, children can create pages, send them to their teachers and then the teacher can put them together further. 

    tags: education news engchat writing ipadchat

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Writing tip: keep a list of "wasteful words" #blogchat

clutter (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
Write compelling words that promote action. If you're writing online, it probably isn't just because you want to read it. Study impactful bloggers. See how they use words. Learn from them.

Here's a trick that has helped me craft better blog posts. I keep a list of wasteful words. They are enemies of clarity.

What is a wasteful word?

This is my list of wasteful words.
What are yours?
A word that clouds meaning or takes up space. Word clutter makes you hard to read.

My list of wasteful words

  • There are / There is
  • It is
  • very * extremely * really * actual
  • Given the fact * in fact * the fact is that
  • had a * have a * had an * have an * have on * had on
  • on how to
  • of the
  • say that * think that
  • successfully
  • along 
  • has 
  • ones 
  • specifically 
  • again * available
  • with regard to * with respect to * in reference to * in connection with * for the purpose of
  • advance * together * basic * close * end * free * past
  • you need to
  • a lot

Find and eliminate

If you press Ctrl + F (on a PC) or Command + F (Mac) you can find and remove these words. Most offending words take up space, clouding your point. 

Create a Word clutter collection

Add your own crutch words to your list. (Mine is "a lot.") If you put them in your computer, save time by copying and pasting the words in the find box.

Teach powerful writing and blogging

If you teach writing, keep a word list or add to the list throughout the year. Teach students (especially bloggers) to search for and remove these words as part of writing.

4 Times I always clear word clutter

  1. Before I turn anything in to my editor. All chapters or articles get searched for every word. For frequent words, save time and turn on the advanced search feature and check "match exact word."
  2. "Epic Blog posts" - If it takes longer than 30 minutes to write, I'm going to check it. If a post starts going viral, I'll recheck it for clutter words.
  3. When I'm trying to communicate simply. Less clutter words, more meaning. I've used this in important emails and letters.
  4. This post. I am afraid of using these words and harming my thesis here. I've already searched three times! ;-)
Clutter words are a problem for me. I have to intentionally take them out.

What are your offensive words? Please share in the comments.

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Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 07/05/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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