General

The Road First Traveled: 10 Tips for New Teachers to Set Off on their School Year Journey with Success

*The following post is a collaborative guest post from a veteran educator of 25 years, Mary Morrison. Mary is a Reading Specialist/Math Interventionist at Anthony J. Schmidt Elementary School and also is the Mentor Facilitator at Lake Shore CSD in Angola, NY. 

1. Build Relationships
Travel this year with connections clearly in your sights. You can’t overestimate the power of relationships… in schools…or anywhere. Maya Angelou made the case so well:

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

New teachers, we challenge you to commit to be remembered. All of us are inspired by kindness and encouragement. Find opportunities to show your students, their families and other teachers how you feel about them and how valued they are. Rally around your school and student success by initiating short, authentic conversations. You can make a significant impact on student confidence and achievement!  

Thinking you won’t have enough time to build relationships? Here’s a strategy that takes an investment of only 20 minutes a week yet can reap immeasurable rewards.  Each week, pledge to make 3-2-1 Connections:

  • Engage in a 3-minute individual conversation with 3 different students – find out what’s important to them, let them know they are important to you
  • Take 2 minutes to positively chat with 2 colleagues – build the team
  • Phone 1 parent of a struggling student –  brainstorm supports, show you care
  • Celebrate that these brief connections may payoff with long term benefits!

At a recent Flipgrid Live Student Voice Conference, educator Ann Kozma of California summed it up greatly. “Be the teacher you needed when you were a kid!”

2. Utilize Resources
Be on the lookout for the riches the road offers. Anyone who made it through the first year of teaching will tell you that other teachers, administrators, students, families and friends made it possible. We truly are better together. The most successful new teachers inquire about/recognize/explore the resources at their fingertips. Resources are there for the taking.  Don’t reinvent the wheel at every turn when you have access to lesson plans, ideas and experiences from a colleague just down the hall or a few keystrokes away.

For starters, here is a nice little resource from Western New York educator, Pamela Warner. It is a Buncee Board filled with advice for new teachers.
https://app.edu.buncee.com/bunceeboard/30ea67cd1a6d44b18c027cce6b9c3a6c

Open Educational Resources (OER) are also a great place to discover high quality, FREE, educational material across all of K-12. Take some time to explore a few of the more popular OER sites.

Looking for what educational websites, apps and games are out there? Explore the EdSurge Index. Common Sense Education also offers reviews of these resources in addition to much more.

3. Fend Off Fear
Unsure how you’ll handle what’s up around the bend on this first-year journey? Although most of what is listed here may cause an element of fear at first, ultimately they help put fear in the rearview mirror. Fend off fear by:  

  • Ask for what you need
  • Admit what you don’t know
  • Take risks
  • Learn from missteps
  • Forgive and move on

4. Find Your Marigold
Scan for the beauty in the landscape. Jennifer Gonzalez in her article “Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers” champions the importance of surrounding yourself with positive colleagues that will help you flourish. In gardens, the marigold provides neighboring plants with protection from weeds and pests. Just as vegetables thrive in the midst of marigolds, you will thrive by surrounding yourself with voices of encouragement and hope. Conversely, Gonzalez warns new teachers to beware the “walnut trees” – colleagues whose negativity can impair your growth and zap your confidence. Be grateful for the marigolds in your midst – be sure to recognize them, learn from them and blossom!   

5. Find Your Tribe
Leverage Social Media to Build a PLN (Personal Learning Network). Sometimes your marigold might be in another town, state, country or continent. Technology makes the world so much smaller. If you know where to look, you might just discover an entire garden of marigolds. Twitter is the most popular place for educators to share in a chat and build community because of the character limit. Educators can drop in at their convenience. Some people make the analogy that Twitter is like drinking from a fire hose. Overwhelming and constant fast flow of information. However, educator Matt Miller looks at it differently. He likens it to a river. Yes it is always flowing, but “you can dip your toes in or jump right in and go for a swim for an hour and leave refreshed.” A PLN can be a source of inspiration and marigolds that can help you flourish, especially if you are ever feeling isolated in your own building. I have found my tribe on Twitter by connecting with groups that both support me and challenge my thinking. You will find so many like minded, passionate educators in these spaces. Here are 20 hashtags where I have found some of my tribe:

  • #waledchat
  • #122edchat
  • #CBLchat
  • #edumatch
  • #2pencilchat
  • #passthescopeedu
  • #ARVRinEdu
  • #TeachSDGs
  • #globaledchat
  • #collaborativePD
  • #bethatKINDofkid
  • #CelebrateMonday
  • #TrendThePositive
  • #gratefuledu
  • #SparkEmpathy
  • #FlipgridFever
  • #BunceeChat
  • #socialLEADia
  • #Culturize
  • #bfc530

A PLN made so much impact on educator Sarah Thomas that she coined the phrase PLF (Personal Learning Family) at her ISTE in a 2017 Ignite Talk.

6. Learn the Expectations
Right from the get-go, set the course for your year by operating between the lines. Read your faculty handbook as well as your teaching contract.  If your principal requests lesson plans by Monday at 8:00 A.M., submit them on time. If the faculty needs to report at 7:30, be there. Keep your focus on student success. You are significant in the overall school culture so bring your best daily. Work hard. Greet everyone you meet with eye contact and a kind word. Dress for success – don’t be mistaken for a student. Smile. Stay positive. Be grateful. Hope.

7. Don’t Dwell on Mistakes. We ALL Make Them.

“The only mistake in life is the lesson not learned.” Albert Einstein

No doubt you will have to maneuver a rough stretch or reroute from a wrong turn. The road may feel like a high-speed 12-lane freeway at times. Teachers have hundreds if not thousands of interactions in the course of a school day as well as countless decisions to make. How do you efficiently and effectively navigate those interactions that may be difficult?  Jimmy Casas, in his 2017 Culturize, explains that you need to “ARM” yourself when navigating tough conversations in schools. “A”  is for acknowledge. Communicate clearly that the student, parent, colleague has legitimate feelings worthy of being addressed. “R” stands for rectify.  You can rectify a situation by using problem-solving strategies rather than focusing on “fixing it” (a strength that many of us educators possess and therefore immediately “go to”). “M” is for move on. Once a situation has concluded, of course you will want to reflect on and learn from how you handled it.   But then consciously stick it in the rearview mirror and look ahead. If you perseverate on what more you could have done or place blame on the others involved, you are setting up roadblocks to your own progress. ARM yourself today with an emphasis on the “move on” so you’re ready when it’s time to ARM yourself again down the road.

8. Celebrate the Wins
Honk for the small wins! Sometimes the small successes make a big difference – they certainly add up over time. Unfortunately, they can be easy to miss and overlooked. Just like the mainstream news, it is easy to focus in on the negative. Our losses do not define us. Adopt a growth mindset and recognize your successes. Finding them, no matter how small, is critical, especially if you think you don’t have any yet.  And when you learn to spot your wins, chances are you’ll discover more than you think. Take the time to celebrate them in any way that lifts you up. Whether it is a smile from a student or colleague or a thank you from a parent, know that you are making a difference. If being a teacher was easy work, everyone would do it. Just by setting forth on this journey for kids, you’ve tallied a BIG win!

9. Attitude of Gratitude
Do you already set your cruise control for “appreciation’?  Do you put a thankful spin on daily events and interactions? If not, you can retrain your brain toward positivity. Start small with simple wellness activities like getting one more hour of sleep each night, eating fresh vegetables at lunchtime and keeping a water bottle close by throughout the day. Then practice daily metacognition exercises to take control of your outlook and reactions. Work up to trying more strategies that promote a positive mindset. Need a little more inspiration. Child author, Muskan Virk wrote 365 Days of Gratitude when she was just 6 years old and has even Skyped with Lake Shore students to help them learn to embrace an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes children are our best teachers!

10. Take Care of Yourself
Those regularly-spaced rest stops along the road are there for a reason. Often we have to remind ourselves to take a break and stop working. So how do you determine the right time to stop and rest?  Rather than finding “Wellness Balance” between work and home, Jimmy Casas proposes seeking a “Wellness Life-Fit.” He points out that each of us has a unique wellness balance based on our current circumstances. The optimal ratio of work time to home time changes for each of us as our work and home demands change. The “right” home/work life-fit is what makes you happy and fulfilled at this point in your career. Embrace where you’re at right now! Read more here.

Embark on your first-year journey fueled by a positive outlook.  You are in the driver’s seat. Happy travels and thank you for all you do and will do for kids!

#LoveTeaching

It’s Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. As teachers, there are days we love to hate and days we just absolutely love. That mix keeps us on our toes and keeps things interesting. It’s #LoveTeaching Week starting today from February 14 – 21. A challenge was put out to teachers from https://www.weloveteaching.org to “Share the Love.”

I’m not sure I’ll have another story in my career that shares love more than this one from the #K12Valentine project in 2017. I still think back to this often and it immediately brings a smile to my face.

For Valentine’s Day, I came up with some reasons why I love teaching.

  1. I love teaching because I love sharing my passion with others.
  2. I love teaching because of the people I meet along the way.
  3. I love teaching because of the sparks of curiosity.
  4. I love teaching because of the wonders and what ifs.
  5. I love teaching because of the questions from students and colleagues that really make me think.
  6. I love teaching because of the fresh start of a new school year that comes around each Fall.
  7. I love teaching because of the feeling of accomplishment after a full school year as well as the reflecting and recharging that comes with Summer.
  8. I love teaching because of the smiles and laughs.
  9. I love teaching because of the “everything’s going to be OK”s both given and received.
  10. I love teaching because of the creativity displayed day in and day out.
  11. I love teaching because of the powerful collaborations both near and far.
  12. I love teaching because of the brainstorming and problem-solving in moving things forward.
  13. I love teaching because of the discovery of a new resource or tool that empowers us and/or students.
  14. I love teaching because no two days are the same.
  15. I love teaching because of the involvement and connection with the community.
  16. I love teaching because I get to #BeTheOne for someone.
  17. I love teaching because it is just plain fun.
  18. I love teaching because it will never be perfect.
  19. I love teaching because of the unknown and potential for what lies ahead.
  20. I love teaching because of its importance in building a better world.

I love teaching because of ALL students, even the ones that set out to challenge us the most! I love that this list could be added to on any given day and love knowing that I wouldn’t have it any other way! Here’s to teachers everywhere. Thank you for all you do.

Why do you #LoveTeaching?

 

One Word 2018

My one word for 2017 was ‘discover.’ One of my final discoveries of the year was my one word for the year ahead. My one word for 2018 is ‘reach.’

Why reach as my one word?

I will aim to reach my goals for the year.

I will aim to reach that one student who hasn’t been reached just yet.

I will aim to reach that one teacher who is feeling disconnected.

I will reach to apply new ideas in the classroom and remix old ideas that worked well in hopes that they have more effective reach in the classroom and beyond.

I will not overextend my reach. I will be mindful of balance and being the best version of me so that I can give my very best all the time.

I will continue to reach out of my comfort zone.

I will reach out to my family, colleagues, and PLF for support when needed.

I will reach new destinations along my journey. Just as my one word this past year allowed me to ‘discover’ so much that was unplanned or unexpected, I plan to reach new places, new ideas, and most importantly new people along my learning and teaching journey.

I will aim to reach those I already have built relationships with in deeper ways.

On a somewhat related note, shortly after landing on this word, my hometown Buffalo Bills have reached the playoffs for the first time in 17 years ending the longest playoff drought in North American professional sports history. Now that they’re in they have the chance to reach the Super Bowl. Memories of the early 1990s are flooding back. Go Bills!

I hope this post will reach you and inspire you to select your one word in 2018 if you haven’t already.

Here’s to REACH in 2018.

One Word 2017 Reflection

Looking back at 2017, my one word was ‘discover.’ It is safe to say that this was THE perfect word that I landed on for the year. I had no idea just what I would discover at the time of choosing my one word for 2017 but here is my reflection and look back on the year.

What exactly did I discover?

I discovered that so many of our teachers are moving forward in terms of trying new things in their classroom with educational technology. I love their attitude and openness to new ideas. I also discovered that nobody knows their classroom better than them. By acting as a thought partner and not through me fully driving the direction of the lesson, our collaboration created better learning experiences.

I discovered ways to amplify student voice. From throwing a random tweet at Sean Farnum about collaborating on a student podcast (which led to this and this and this) to harnessing the power of tools like Flipgrid, Buncee, and Seesaw to hosting a student edcamp, I not only discovered ways of amplifying student voice but the real power and value that comes from doing so. Just tuning in to what students have to say is powerful. Listening to the Student Ignite sessions at ISTE 2017 is something I recommend. Check out Curran Central’s talk here to get a taste.

I discovered the true value of a PLN, or PLF as Sarah Thomas remixed the term for the better at ISTE 2017. This PLF exists on Twitter and in my own backyard. Folks down the hall and teachers in the region at our regional educator forums are a wealth of experience, knowledge, and resources. We share the same vision and the face to face conversations and sharing is always special. I am grateful for Andrew Wheelock and Melanie Kitchen leading and facilitating these sessions. On Twitter (and Voxer), social media has been such a powerful way to connect. The folks here are truly dedicated and looking to create the best possible learning experiences for their students. I discovered that so many of them go out of their way to help, encourage, support, stretch my thinking, and most importantly, share some smiles and laughs together along the way.

I discovered the need to move from digital citizenship to digital leadership. Are we providing these opportunities? Digital citizenship cannot be taught from a textbook, worksheet or lecture. Discovering the book Social LEADia from Jennifer Casa-Todd was a game changer for me. I was grateful to meet her at Canada Connect Conference this year and also connect with her coding club over a video Google Hangout session. Meeting Marialice Curran also helped shape my view of what positive digital citizenship and leadership can look like. Discovering Dig Cit Summits and following along with them led to some great learning and new ideas.

I discovered failure. That’s right. I messed some stuff up. Not that I haven’t experienced it before, but I discovered looking at it differently. Things did not always go as planned. Nobody got hurt and I did not lose my job over it. One of my flaws is that I am often concerned with how other people view me or think of me. Trying to get things perfect comes along with that. This past year I let go of that worry and it was freeing. If I could travel back in time and give the high school me one piece of advice, this would be it.

I discovered the Teach Sustainable Development Goals movement thanks to Fran Siracusa. I was fortunate to be able to connect virtually to learn about how technology can help make the world a better place. Through this tweet she shared, I also discovered #CelebrateMonday, eventually connecting and learning from Sean Gaillard, the founder of #CelebrateMonday! I took the pledge shortly after and promise to keep the conversations active. Through Fran, I also discovered Connections Based Learning and some amazing projects their team led by Sean Robinson participated in. It completely changed how I look at the integration of educational technology. It is so much more than just improving academics (while that is important) and test scores.

I discovered global connections and collaborations are amazing. I have yet to experience a global collaboration and thought I could have made a better use of the time or done something differently. Each one is unique and each one helps students ask more questions than provides answers. I want all learning to feel like this. Buncee Buddies, Belouga, Empatico, STEM Hub, Mystery Skypes, Global Maker Day, K12 Valentine, Awesome Squiggles, Gingerbread STEM, Best Class Podcast, Minecraft Literature World, Read Across America, Global Speed Chat, PenPal Schools, Seesaw Connected Blogs, Skype-a-Thon, and even a high school Student Twitter Chat (#usetech4good – #positivelykind – #digcit). I will aim to discover even more of these learning opportunities in the new year and beyond. I really appreciate the hashtag created by Bronwyn Joyce, #OneWorldOneClassroom.

I discovered just how much I don’t know and how much room I have to grow. As a father, as a husband, as a friend, and as an educator. I am on the right path but discovering and identifying this will make me better.

I discovered the power of gratitude. I have always been a grateful person. My parents raised me this way. However, I never gave much thought to just how powerful gratitude can be. When at the Children’s Book Expo I stopped at a table with a sign reading 365 Days of Gratitude. I met a student author, Muskan Virk along with her mother, Meera. I picked up a copy of the book. Inspired by her message, I invited Muskan to Skype with our school. She agreed, shared her story and her message with students and teachers. It was a highlight of the school year and will leave a lasting impact. I look forward to connecting with her again to discover other ways she is making a difference in the world.

I discovered the real value in Minecraft Education Edition thanks to Mark Grundel and Garrett Zimmer. Their MOOC helped me learn so much about game-based learning and taking risks. It carried over to our classrooms and our students benefited. I took the leap and applied to become a Minecraft Education Global Mentor and was accepted into the program this December. It will run throughout 2018 and I am excited to discover more possibilities from others around the globe part of this community.

I discovered the need to give myself a break. Sometimes I push and push and push to the point of exhaustion. I discovered while the push helps me do what I do well, that pushing too hard will never bring about the best version of me. It is all about balance.

I discovered the power of leaning on your support. Doing it alone will always be an impossible climb, even if you think otherwise. The term “better together” is the truth.

I discovered to appreciate the unknown and what might lie ahead. We’ll never be able to predict our journey but appreciating that we are on one with great people around us is something special.

I probably discovered much more than I am even capturing here but this is what jumps out. I encourage you to take the one word challenge. If you want to take the idea a bit further to your students, check out what Dene Gainey did with his class here. That’s right, he turned it into a writing activity for students and created a podcast from them!

Goodbye 2017. Hello, 2018! May your one word help you discover as much as it did for me. 

Miles of Smiles

As an educator who seeks to bring creativity and imagination to the classroom, often through educational technology, I have experienced first-hand the power of Buncee’s Buncee Buddies program. Past project themes included International Peace Day, Earth Day and U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Empathy is at the heart of these Buncee Buddies projects. Empathy isn’t a subject taught in school but a topic that can be woven into activities that can leave a lasting impact on students. Educators striving to make a difference in the lives of their students can do so by creating opportunities to build empathy in students. Another important aspect of these projects is community building. A community is built within the classroom amongst classmates and it is also built between partner classrooms many miles apart though appreciating similarities and differences. To extend building empathy and community beyond the school walls, we created a Buncee Buddies spin-off.

For many of us, the holiday season will bring smiles as we spend time with family and friends. Knowing this is a great part of what makes the holiday season special, the idea of Buncee Buddies Miles of Smiles was born. When we asked our students if they would be interested in creating a slide (or slides) using Buncee for someone outside of the classroom, their reaction of smiles and cheers reinforced to us that it was worth the effort. What can be created? Anything (since Buncee is a tool for creativity and imagination) one can think up that is smile-inducing but our ideas were: holiday humor, holiday stories, a holiday song, and holiday stickers and animations.   

The Buncee Board (collection of Buncee creations) reads:
#BunceeBuddiesMilesOfSmiles – Have a Buncee that is sure to make someone smile? Add it to this board! We’ll be sharing these with folks away from home for the holidays serving in the military, in retirement communities, nursing home/assisted living facilities, hospitals, etc. Let’s use our creativity and imagination to bring smiles for miles.  *Add a QR code to your Buncee to activate any animations, video or audio features you add.

If you are interested in spreading some smiles for miles, feel free to create a free Buncee account, create a Buncee and copy your Buncee link to the Buncee Board found HERE. Don’t be surprised if creating brings you a smile in addition to bringing a smile to many others. We cannot wait to share these with others. Anyone can view and share the board link. Buncees can be downloaded and printed or viewed digitally on any connected device.

Thanks to Buncee for supporting this idea and to everyone who has shared or contributed to #BunceeBuddiesMilesOfSmiles in some way. An especially big smile was created when Shannon Miller, fellow Buncee Ambassador, shared out a blog post on the project this week. At the time of this post, the Board has over 75 Buncees, almost 400 views, over 300 reactions, and over 50 comments. That is A LOT of smiles.

Enjoy the holiday season. Take time to create and especially take time to smile and spread smiles!

100 Word Challenge

I’ve always been up for a challenge. Sometimes they go great, other times they flop, but every single time I learn something new through the experience. I am not much of a writer but fully appreciate the value in it. My blog has accumulated a little dust since I launched it last January, however, I am feeling more inspired to write lately. Maybe it is the Christmas spirit in the air and the general cheer that is found this time of year. Whatever the reason, I am taking on the 100 Word Challenge put out there by Jessie Boyce on Twitter. The challenge is to share “Why You Love Teaching” in 100 words. Others in my PLN including Dene Gainey, Don Sturm, Dan Krieness, Sherri Spelic, Justin Schleider, Tammy Neil, Doug Timm also took the challenge and their responses are incredible. Reading their awesome thoughts makes it more challenging to write this. Knowing we all have a unique story to share, I am going to give mine a go. This is a challenge where the 100 words might very well turn out different on any given day, but for today, here is what surfaced.

I love teaching for the paycheck, summer and holiday breaks and weekends off. Did I get your attention by wasting some of the 100 words? Those not in education might think only these to be true. However, none of these listed represent why I love what I do. 44 words left to get my message through. I didn’t choose teaching, teaching chose me. It’s 100% where I’m meant to be.  Each day matters. Each day unique. I love this journey, everything it brings and being gifted an opportunity to help others uncover the joy of learning, their passions and purpose.   

Why do you love teaching in 100 words? Take the challenge. It isn’t easy but there is a great feeling that comes with expressing your ‘why.’ Reading them also makes me feel great about the work we are collectively doing in education to move things forward and make a difference in the world. Share yours to #my100words and #100WordChallenge.

Just Start

After joining Twitter in 2012, it didn’t take long to value what educators were sharing in this microblogging format. Many of the educators I follow share great ideas and experiences through blogs. Reading these blogs have both inspired and challenged my thinking. I am grateful for those who have put time and energy into them. In a recent ISTE winter 2017 book study from the Ed Tech Coaches Network participants were asked to share their blog or website. I had no blog to share. From reviewing what was submitted it was clear I was missing something key to my effectiveness as an educator.

The thought of starting a blog has been swirling around in my head for quite some time. I should have started a long time ago. Who has the time? Do I really have something to add that hasn’t already been said? Who will actually read this? What if something I write is viewed negatively? Am I ready to commit to this? These among other thoughts have held me back but something has brought me here. Today, I start.

I’ve written a few guest blog posts in the past here, here, and here. I very much appreciated being asked to share my voice as a guest but know that if I am going to ask students to publish their work regularly, then it is imperative that I model this myself. Someone once said to get the most out of Twitter one should give, give, and give some more. This blog can be the start of more giving and sharing.

At this time I do not have a set vision for this space. I hope that it takes shape and evolves into what it needs to be. It will likely serve as a transparent journal. I think it can serve as a space to share ideas, resources, and experiences. This blog may very well attract an audience of none but I know what matters most is an audience of one. If an idea or experience shared here helps just one person, it will be worth it. If it helps just me, it will be worth it. I truly believe that just starting will be worth it.

Tom Whitby, an educator and co-author of The Relevant Educator whom I respect greatly recently wrote questioning the purpose of blogs. George Couros, educator and author of The Innovator’s Mindset recently wrote Why Aren’t You Blogging More? Matt Miller, educator and author of DITCH That Textbook wrote why every teacher should blog. These are three educators who I have learned so much from. Hearing what they have to say, it seems as though by not blogging I would be missing out on a great opportunity to wonder, explore, question, create, share and connect.

I don’t expect this to be easy. I expect it to be worth it. Here’s to writing to reflect, learn, and grow as an educator. My one word for 2017 is discover.

Here’s to opportunity. Here’s to discovering. Here’s to not holding back and maintaining a mindset that always says just start.