Embarking Toward Kindness

This year, I have decided to try some different in how I interact with people. A fellow colleague, Tamara Letter, has inspired me with her work with kindness and her own students. I wanted to do my own work with kindness, and though I feel as though I am bumbling along, I feel like I am starting to make a difference, even if it is a small one. I’m finding my way along, so a lot of what I do is trial and error as I come up with different ideas.

My first act was designing the FlucoGram program. I have everything set to roll with this pretty much, and the school will purchase the supplies I need. Once a month during lunch shifts, students and teachers will be able to visit my table. They will be able to fill out 1 card for another teacher or student. I’ll take the cards collected and sort through them to be delivered. Teachers will also be made aware that if there is a student they know of who could use some kind thoughts to let me know and we can send a FlucoGram to them at any point in the year.

While I was designing the FlucoGram program, I also planned to really get new staff at both of my schools off on the right foot. I had already been asked by my high school principal to keep in close contact with his new teachers via email, so I decided to do the same with the new middle school teachers. However, I knew that I wanted to do more, and so ended up writing a welcome card to each new staff member. I had bought some scratch ‘n sniff stickers and put those inside as well. I placed them in each teacher’s mailbox.

What was funny was that I did hear back from those teachers. Not every teacher, of course, but some of them. They were grateful for the kind words. One teacher even told me that she was worried and doubting herself as the year started, and then she received my card and the words just spoke to her. What had seemed like just words to me made a powerful impact on her. That made me smile. Doing this is not about receiving thank yous or accolades, but it is about making others feel good, making them smile. That’s all I care about, whether they tell me about it or not.

Because of this bright start, I’m going to pick some staff members from each school every week and write them a small card. I have plenty of extras, and I want to make them smile as well. I have a list of staff from each school, so I can easily track this and try not to miss anyone. It will be a lofty goal, as I have almost 100 teachers alone at the high school. No one said it was going to be easy though.

I do have another plan for my Kindness Project, but I’m not going to share it just yet until I get it rolling at both schools. It will be in the media center, and both library media specialists have approved the idea. I just need to get things rolling with it first because I want to have some images to share as well.

I hope to have more ideas and inspiration throughout the year. I just want to try new things and make my schools a little bit brighter for the teachers and staff. It’s hard work, but it’s fun and it’s rewarding, and that’s what matters most.

3 Friendly Reminders for Teachers With Social Media

As the school year begins, teachers start fresh. New ideas, new plans, new room layouts. While the new year prep work is completed, teachers shouldn’t forget to double check their social media accounts.

From Facebook to Instagram, Snapchat to Twitter social media has found its way into our lives. Not everyone is on social media, but those who are, especially teachers, should remember to keep these points in mind:

  1. Privacy– It’s always good to do a privacy check every now and then for all of your social media accounts. Check to see what things are shared publicly, and how easy it is to find you. Some teachers opt to use different parts of their name instead of their true last name. This is really up to the individual’s tastes and desires. However, do keep in mind that no matter how locked down you think your account is, it isĀ not private. Those party pictures, drinking, or somewhat inappropriate posts can easily be used against your with screenshots by any of your friends or family, no matter how unlikely you think it is to happen.
  2. Friend Requests– As the year begins and things begin to settle into a routine, you may find yourself receiving friend requests from students and parents. Student requests should never be accepted. Some teachers opt to tell the student that they may send a friend request the day after their graduation from high school, while others do not want to friend students at all, even beyond high school. Parent requests are a tricky beast because while you may get along with the parent at the time, there’s always the chance of fallout. It’s better to be safe than sorry and refuse parent requests. I usually message students and parents who try to friend me to let them know my thoughts, and then I leave them in friend request limbo. Leaving them in limbo means they are always showing on your friend requests page, BUT they can never send a second friend request as long as they still have one pending.
  3. Content– Content brings our social media to life, but it can also be used against us at any time. No matter how locked down you think your account is, it’s not going to keep your content absolutely private. If you’re sharing drinking photos, party images, or anything that might come across as possibly offensive to someone, be cautious. The rule of thumb I usually tell others is that if it’s not something you’d want to share with a respected older person or religious figure, then it’s probably not something you want on your feed. Even if your account is locked to a certain group, always consider everything you post as having the potential to be very public.

If you keep these three things in mind, then you’ll find your life on social media much easier. Of course, you can avoid social media all together, but then you leave yourself open to other issues. That’s a story for another time!

Teach Like a Pirate: A is for Ask and Analyze

Upon reading this chapter (for the 1st time, I might add) I was reminded of an evening last week. It had rained heavily earlier in the afternoon, so there were puddles everywhere. I went walking around my apartment complex with my fiance, Bethany, as we often do now after dinner. On parts of the property, there are Southern magnolia trees scattered about. When the petals fall, they land on the ground and look like large white scoops. I had picked one up before and turned it into a hat upon my head. On this evening, I picked up one and twirled it in my fingers as we walked. Not too far from the tree, I had deviated from our path and headed toward a long puddle. Bethany asked me what I was doing. I replied, “It’s a boat!” She found it odd, but watched me put it in the puddle and float it about.

Every time we made another lap around, I added another petal to my collection until I had 4 “boats” of varying sizes. The wind was picking up, so I would talk about how my boats were being tossed about, or were horrible at floating. One kept flipping over. My little armada was gone the next day, but my creativity was not. Again I found the petals and this time I talked of how it would make a water cup in the wild or a food bowl.

The focus of this chapter is on asking and analyzing. Creativity is a large part of it, and how looking outside of the box for potential in any items or objects. I’ve always had an active imagination, and let my creativity stem from that. It doesn’t come easy or always flow easily, but it’s there. Throughout my life I’ve been told at different times that I’m so creative, that [other person] couldn’t do that.

I used to take the old greeting card creator computer program that my family had and make my own cards using the clip art provided instead of using the pre-designed ones. That eventually turned into me designing photo books on Shutterfly that told stories. My most recent one tells the story of Bethany and I, while featuring our engagement photos. I have been finding ways to be creative since way back when, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

But… creativity takes work. Dave is absolutely correct about this. It’s not easy to come up with and it’s not easy to implement. It often takes me a long time to come up with ideas or plan them out, which is usually done as a cross between handwritten plans and computer-based ones. If it were easy, I suppose that I would have way more ideas than I do. However, I prefer to let them simmer and work themselves out over time. If something doesn’t seem right or a decent spark, I let it simmer and see what happens.

The six words story was indeed powerful. I hope I get to hear it in person to see just what an impact it has on others. I need to remember this the next time someone tells me something similar. I’m going to take to heart that creativity is not a natural-born talent. It’s something that anyone can harness, if they open their mind and work hard to follow the process through to the end. It’s not enough to just have the idea; one must work at it, nurture it, and let it grow.

One thing I am going to take from this chapter is the idea for note taking. I don’t currently have a system for writing down my ideas all the time, and I should. So I’m going to download a simple note taking app and have it available to me whenever I need it most. I know there have been times I have needed one, but didn’t have it so didn’t write down whatever I was thinking. If I were really desperate, I would email it to myself, but that was a rare scenario.

Already I feel inspired and ready to move forward. I’m getting more and more pumped for Copenhaver and looking forward to 3 days of learning!

Check out my other reflections on Teach Like a Pirate

Teach Like a Pirate: R is for Rapport (2.0)

Rapport is one of the best ways to gain the trust of a person, student or adult. I have always found it easier with students, and harder with adults. It’s easier for me to build connections with my students than with my teachers, as it’s hard for me to find ways to connect to their interests. Instead, I have to find ways to be personable and friendly, and listen to their needs.

If there isn’t good rapport in a setting or atmosphere, something will feel “off”. You’ll notice it in the body language and spoken language of the others around you. They may be distracted, or there may be some form of tension in the room. Simply put, they’d rather be somewhere else at that point in time. I’ve been part of those meetings before and felt all of these. It’s horrible to be a part of. Without rapport, you’ve most likely no trust, and no respect.

On the other hand, building rapport means that these same activities are pleasurable, or at least, something that’s not dreaded. The language in the room changes, and the atmosphere is charged. You can tell when there’s rapport amongst those gathered, even if you’re a stranger in the room.

Rapport has always been my easiest way to connect to students’ interests in the past. I learned to play Minecraft because of up and coming students. I started using Classcraft one year instead of Class Dojo because I had a room of gamer kids. I always bought books based on the interests of my students in that particular class. When I passed out book order forms, I told them that if anything looked like we needed to buy it for the class library to let me know. The list goes on and on… My goal was to build those connections.

With adults, it’s harder because I don’t share many interests with most of my colleagues. I try to understand their world and likes, so that’s a start. Building rapport there is going to be more about talking about their classroom and observations, as well as their home life activities. Then combine that with breaking into the classrooms where I know teachers are more likely to be open to using new technology.

In this particular chapter, Dave shows ways that he began the year with building rapport with his students. I remember the one question I had the last time I read this chapter was how to have this big of an impact with elementary students. With older students, it’s easier to do these “big bang” activities because the bell dictates the class schedule, whether it’s 45 minutes or 90 minutes or something else. With this up and coming training, I’m curious as to how this applies to elementary, or what ideas other teachers may have.

Clearly, I need to figure out more ways to build rapport with the adults I work with, as this is an area of weakness. Hopefully I can figure out some new methods and improve on this area.

Check out what I wrote in the 1.0 version of this post

Check out my other reflections on Teach Like a Pirate

Teach Like a Pirate: I is for Immersion (2.0)

Immersion is putting yourself into an activity or event mind, body, and soul. You are caught up in the moment, you are focused on what you’re doing, and it’s hard to pull you out of the bubble you’ve gotten yourself into. Teaching can bring about this same immersion, though we don’t always find ourselves immersed.

I know I’m guilty of this. There have been times in my position where I’ve not been myself, or felt tired, or not up to the task at hand. I can think of many reasons why I felt any one of these things, but they all show that I was not immersed in the task at hand, and I’m sure my fellow peers noticed it as well.

When I was a teacher, I remember immersing myself into my favorite lessons. It wasn’t hard to do because I had a great love for those lessons and had fun teaching them. I remember my Mighty Morphin’ Rock Cycle skit, my “That’s a Nice Number” rounding lesson with Donkey from Shrek, and all of my hands on science labs. I also remember the not so immersed lessons, the ones I’d just rather get through and be done with. Of course, this links back to passion and the lack of passion I felt for those particular lessons.

Beyond working with others, I find myself at times becoming distracted and not immersing myself in the moment in my every day life. I have often found ways to distract myself or put off things, even if I love them. It is something that I’ve noticed throughout my life, so it’s nothing new. I have been working on it. I try to force myself to focus on what is going on at hand, and to immerse myself in the task. Sometimes it’s really hard to do though. It’s definitely a work in progress.

I’m hoping to find ways to work on my immersion, and become better at it. Beyond this particular book, I’ve also picked up one calledĀ How to be a Productivity Ninja, which I feel can also help me with my immersion, especially when I am working on tasks at my desk. One thing’s for certain: I have to keep working on improving myself!

Check out what I wrote in the 1.0 version of this post

Check out my other reflections on Teach Like a Pirate

Teach Like a Pirate: P is for Passion (2.0)

Ahh passion. It’s the one thing that drives us forward and helps us seek the things we love doing best. The last time I read this book, I also wrote about my passions. However, I can’t even remember what I wrote about, and I won’t read the original post until after I’ve written this one. I will, however, link to the original post at the end of this one. That way you can see, like I will, just how my passions and perspectives in education may or may not have changed within a year’s time.

One thing this chapter asks every reader to do is focus on three particular questions and answer them. I have written out the questions here, along with my own answers. One thing I am specifically trying to do this time is how I define students. Since I am not in the classroom or teach a class, I don’t have my own roster of students that I see on a daily basis. However, I have teachers, and it is my job to help them to learn and grow. Therefore, when thinking about “teaching” and “students”, I’m adapting it to what my job is all about.

1. Within your subject matter, what are you passionate about teaching?

I am passionate about teaching others about social media and school branding. These things have taken on a life of their own this year, and they have featured in my blog multiple times as well. I want others to know the impact that using social media to connect and build one’s PLN can have. I have been building mine for a few years now and it has made a difference in the way I learn and grow. I don’t think I would be as passionate about what I do without the connections I have made with these folks.

I also want other educators to see exactly how school branding can help improve the image that the community shares of their school. Families want this, and yet, so many schools aren’t on board with it just yet. I am working to change that in my own district. So far, we are moving in the right direction, and I want to develop some tools or guides to help teach ways that we can further this next year. I haven’t looked at or analyzed the survey results from our branding this year, but I am excited to learn from them and improve.

2. Within your profession, but not specific to your subject matter, what are you passionate about?

I am passionate about learning new things and finding new ways to do things as an ITRT. I really cannot think of anything that’s not specific… but I do enjoy learning how I can incorporate building and design theory into Minecraft and turning it into more of a learning game. I keep working to improve upon it. This year I’ve added components for rising first and second graders and will soon get to see those in action. I am looking forward to blogging about every day of this particular workshop.

Speaking of blogging… I am passionate about keeping it current and sharing my own learning and ideas. This summer I plan to upgrade it more and prepare it for the next school year. I’m excited to add some new features to it and see where that leads me.

3. Completely outside of your profession, what are you passionate about?

I am passionate about Minecraft in terms of learning how to become a better builder and relaxing. I am passionate about the things I love most- my favorite kiddos, my favorite shows, my furbrats…. I am passionate about reading and always having something on my Kindle for any time I may need it. I am passionate about passing on my love of reading to my future children, whenever that may be. There’s already a huge library waiting for them.

I also love new technology and playing with new gadgets. I like seeing the new features, and how the system itself works. I like comparing new features to old, and seeing how technology has changed in short periods of time.

Each of these passions, whether work related or personal, always seem to somehow make it into my teaching methods and styles. I am looking forward to seeing Dave in person and learning more about how to work these passions into my work.

Check out what I wrote in the 1.0 version of this post.

Check out my other reflections on Teach Like a Pirate

Teach Like a Pirate: Here We Go Again

In March of 2016, I began reading Teach Like a Pirate. I made it all the way to the “R is for Rapport” chapter before I stopped. Things got crazy, things got hectic. The end of the school year was upon me, and I was also job hunting at the time. Summer led to a new job, which led to a move to a different state and a start at a different school. The year became filled with searching and seeking and learning all about my new position.

Summer is once again upon me. Well, sort of. School is finished for the year, and teachers were finished on Tuesday or Wednesday (dependent upon if they were high school teachers who attended graduation or not). I am still finishing out the remainder of the days on my contract, and I’ll also have 2 weeks of KidsCollege to teach in there as well. I certainly don’t mind, especially since KidsCollege will pay me for teaching the things I love.

After KidsCollege comes Copenhaver Institute, which means I will get to meet two fabulous folks in education- George Couros and Dave Burgess. I have already received a package from the Copenhaver folks, and in this package was a copy of Teach Like a Pirate. We have been told that it is highly suggested that we read the book before the Institute. I already have my own copy of the book, but it was a reminder that hey, I’d better get my butt in gear.

So I am going to read the book again, and I am going to start from the beginning. I will end up reblogging about the 3 chapters I had already read. I am also going to continue the tradition of creating QR codes that link to my blog posts. These codes are printed and taped into the book on the corresponding chapter. That way I can easily go back to see what I wrote about that chapter, and if I have read it more than once and reflected, I can see how my thinking has changed with time.

So here we go again: Teach Like a Pirate: Round 2!