So, maybe I’m not a blogger?

Posted: November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

Last January a colleague posted a link to Shelley Wright’s blog (my tools aren’t working correctly so it’s not letting me provide the link http://shelleywright.wordpress.com/) and that post inspired me to start my own blog. From Shelley’s blog I began exploring other blogs which then led me to Twitter. Before I knew it my reader was brimming with incredible ideas and insights from people around the world and I loved it! I was active on Twitter, reading blog after blog and well, kind of active on my own blog.

As I continued to grow and learn, my blog became something I thought about, but seldom acted on and the more blogs I read, the more I believed I was a blogging failure. Time and time again the value of blogging was demonstrated and I can see the value, but I just can’t put it at the top of my list of things to do. So, this isn’t good bye, but I don’t think it’s quite the right time for me to have an active and passionate blogging career. Or maybe I just haven’t found my blogging voice quite yet.

In the meantime, I’m loving sharing the things I’m learning with my colleagues and continuing to learn and grow and who knows, I was inspired to write this blog after a bit of a hiatus, maybe this is a new beginning!

Saturday! I made it. As my body alarm went off at 6:11, I groaned just a bit because I wasn’t ready for my brain to be awake, but alas it was. This past five days were my first full week of teaching in almost eleven months. On Monday I was afraid I’d never make the end of the week, but last night as I sat dozing in a comfy chair, surrounded by close friends, I celebrated my return to the world.

My most recent bout of health issues gave me pause and a reason for some real soul searching (walking close to death does that I guess). In my reveries of times past and things to come, I forced myself to truly look at who I was and what I was doing. Two years ago when I first got sick, I almost left teaching because I just didn’t feel like I was being the best teacher I could be. Sure, I inspired kids to do good things and I helped kids find their way, but something just didn’t feel right and I was unhappy. I only ever voiced those words to my husband because it was scary to say them out loud. I’m not afraid of change; I’ve reinvented myself three times so far and I thought teaching had finally allowed me to find my niche — my passion.

It wasn’t until I found Twitter and started connecting with an incredible PLN that I realized that I’d lost my passion and that was why I was unhappy. Now, with my passion firmly in place, I’m reinventing myself as an educator. I’ve never been so tired, so excited, so scared.

Five days ago, I introduced myself to my kids and gave them a tiny bit of insight into who I am. I shared my beliefs about technology and what I think learning should be. Four days ago, I started rolling out how I thought our classes should look and asked them their thoughts and for their feedback. I was met with many a snicker of disbelief, blank stares, and a few interested looks. I desperately want them to direct the learning and not wait for me to tell them how. I want them to make choices for themselves because they want to learn and discover and explore. I want the things they learn to be things they’ll use in their lives or that are relevant to their lives. I want to teach them how to learn — not what.

Three days ago, I asked them to show me how we could meet the curriculum expectations. I told them what was considered to have successfully completed the requirements of the course. That day, I asked them questions and then asked them to show me what they wanted to learn and how we could publish the products they create. I sat watching and waiting, knowing that wait time was more important now than ever before. And I waited and waited, but nothing was offered.

Now, I realize that what I am trying to do was quite possibly something they’d never encountered in an academic class before and quite possibly way out of their comfort zone, so I threw out a couple of ideas. I really wanted them to take ownership for what we do, but I really can’t expect them to dive in head first, can I? You can’t undo thirteen years of training in two days (I have to keep reminding myself of that.). (I should mention that this is only what’s happening in one of my classes — the one I think is the most resistant to the change).

That night when I got home, I was exhausted and worried. I’d given my kids the freedom to choose, to make it relevant and as I moved among them, talking and listening, I was discouraged as many of them were off-topic and just enjoying the freedom from ‘worksheet hell’ (not that I’ve ever been a worksheet distributor). As I sat working on where I thought we should be going I was so tempted to step back into my safe and secure, tried and true lesson plans, but my heart won out over my head and I put together a handout to give my kids some guidance while still allowing them the freedom to choose.

I used that handout on the last day of the week and although I still had some kids off-task, most of them were exploring and seemed to really understand what I’d hoped they’d get out of the lesson. So, tomorrow, I’ll be exploring how to provide my kids with guidance without hemming them in. I’ll also be wandering through the resources shared by my PLN to reassure myself that this really is a great idea and to stick with it even though it’s exhausting. I know all the work is really worth it — for them — for me, but oh, how I wish there were an app for that.

So, hang on kids, we’re in for quite a ride as we figure this out, but I promise it’ll be different and worthwhile.

Oh, I almost forgot — the kids have decided to publish a magazine (for which my generous principal has offered to pay the publishing costs) for the school. I couldn’t ask for a more authentic audience and it hits all of the required reading / writing tasks and it’ll let the kids who want to use tech to use it, and those who don’t, don’t have to. We hope to publish four issues before the school year ends. So, here’s hoping that we can actually pull it off and put it together.

So, yeah, I’m exhausted and I’ve only been back a week, but it’s a happy exhausted. Now, if I could just get my brain to shut off for longer than five hours, I could really enjoy a leisurely Saturday or Sunday morning.

I think I’m procrastinating. I have chores around the house that need to be done, my income tax isn’t filed, and my lessons for tomorrow aren’t ready. Now, I’ve been avoiding household chores for years and it doesn’t really cause me stress anymore and I’ve been teaching for thirteen years so I’m not particularly stressed about the lesson plans, but then again, I kind of sort of am.

I’m stressed because I’ve been inspired to revamp my teaching style and add project based learning to my two classes that haven’t traditionally done so. I have the idea of where I want to go (see my last post about my Literacy Epiphany) and where I’d like to end up, but it’s all new territory for me in those two classes. (Did I mention I haven’t even thought about what I want to do in my class that has always been a project based learning class?)

Yesterday, I went out and bought myself three flip video cameras because my idea may result in kids who want to create videos so I wanted that resource available for them. I vaguely told my principal about my plans, and as usual, he supported me and was excited about the direction I’m heading. (He has even offered to pay for materials for the Literacy project – woo hoo! Maybe when I show him the work I’m doing with the Flip video cameras we can purchase some for the school.)

I was nervous and anxious about going back to work after such an extended absence, but being with my kids on that first day reminded me just how much I love what I do and how important it is that I continue to do it well and continue to reach beyond my own comfort zone.

So, I’m a lot disjointed today, a lot excited, a little bit stressed and a little bit crazy, but hey, I like it here. I think I’ll stick around for a while and figure it out.

Tomorrow, the real work begins — I have to convince my students that I’m not completely crazy, that we can and will try a new way of learning, and that it will be worthwhile for all of us. I think I’m up to the challenge — I hear the Little Engine That Could chanting in the background, “I Think I Can, I Think I Can…..I know I can, I know I can…” Toot toot! Here we go!

Literacy Epiphany

Posted: March 31, 2011 in School Life

So, I start back to work tomorrow after an eleven month absence. That in itself is a whole other post. As I lay in bed this morning contemplating what I needed to do to complete my day today, I reflected on the past two months. In February, I was encouraged and supported while I discovered Twitter. And Twitter has revolutionized / re-energized / impassioned me. So, now what?

Well, back to my morning epiphany — as I lay there thinking I began to consider what I wanted to do with each of my classes. I’ve promised myself that my kids will have input and that we will use technology (when it’ll enhance the lesson not just dress it up) and that if my classes aren’t ‘flipped’ then they will be project based learning. My Leadership class (GPP30 for you Ontarians) is already project based and has been since the day it started so it’s the no-brainer for me, but my grade 9 academic English and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC), well they’re a different matter.

My epiphany had to do with the Literacy course. I’ve spent time the past two months exploring curriculum documents more than I ever have (well since teacher’s college) and as the requirements for the course wandered through my brain (Writing – News Report, Summary, Opinion Piece and an information piece; Reading – informational / graphic / narrative texts) I kept thinking about how I could give these kids an authentic audience and then it hit me! We (the students and me) can create a student newspaper for our school since we don’t currently have one. What more authentic audience could they have and I think it’ll cover all of the curriculum points.

My next step, what the heck am I going to do with my Grade 9 class? Anyone have any ideas? Oh yeah, I start tomorrow and I don’t have a lesson plan, but that’s okay :)

I’m just a little bit scared…There, I said it. Yesterday, I began the work of coming back to work. I’ve been out of the world for almost a year because of some health issues and in six days, I’ll be back in my classroom.

Now, I know I’m a good teacher and I love what I do, but Twitter and my PLN have introduced me to a whole new world that I want to bring into my classroom, but can I do it in three months? I’m scared that I’ll slip back into the ‘safe’ routine that was my classroom because it’ll be easier than tackling the new world I know exists. I have lesson plans in place (I created them for my covering teacher), but they’re the old way I taught and I want to embrace the things I’ve learned in the last two months and let my kids show me what they want to learn.

To be fair, I know that one of my classes will be easy because I already taught it the way I want to teach my other classes, but it’s the other classes that have me scared. Will the kids resist the change? Will the kids resist because it’s just easier to stick with the traditional method or they’re tired and don’t want to figure out something new? Will my colleagues think I’ve lost my mind in the past year? Will I care? All of these questions and many more are exploding in my brain and I needed to put it down on ‘paper’ so I could move on and get a move on with figuring out what I’m going to do with and for my kids.

So, yep, I am just a little bit scared, a little bit worried, but most of all, I’m excited — a lot! I can hardly wait to tackle this next step and share where we go. The Twitterverse, the twenty odd blogs I follow, and my PLN have provided me with ample ideas and resources and I am ready to go and put them into action. So, look out world, here I come.

And thanks — for sharing, for listening, and for caring.

One month ago if you’d told me that I’d be blogging, Twittering, and offering to teach others (parents and colleagues) how to do it, I’d have told you you were crazy. But, that’s exactly where I am now and I couldn’t be happier.

On Thursday, @joe_bower from my PLN shared a “How To: Twitter for Educators”. I immediately jumped onto my Board’s email client and shared the link. What followed next was the surprising part for me — I offered to teach anyone who was interested in learning how to Twitter, how to Twitter. I even left detailed instructions on how to access my Diigo bookmarks and then to find my Twitter lists so they could explore on their own if they preferred. Now, as of today, no one has taken me up on my offer, but it is the week before our March Break and I have been quite zealous in what I share with my colleagues so who knows.

The second part of my offer went to my principal when Technology Night for Parents was shared by my PLN and I immediately saw the value of the idea for my own school. Not only did I offer to teach a night or two, I offered to establish this initiative and maintain it (because I don’t already wear enough hats in the building) because it’s a great idea. A great idea that will benefit parents, the community and ultimately our school and our kids. What’s not to love?

So, if you’re thinking that Twitter might be a good thing to explore, but you’re worried about jumping into something new at a time of the year when you may not have a lot of energy left to spare, my recommendation to you is to just do it. Twitter, blogging and my ever expanding PLN have re-inspired me and helped me find my excitement once more and nothing is more energizing than that.

So, give yourself a chance and try it. Who knows, you may just end up like me and love it!

Oh, and if you want a semi-fluent tutor — I’m game. We can Skype and I’ll talk you through it!

Should I put my hand down?

Posted: February 28, 2011 in School Life

Today as I was reading / working through tweets in TweetDeck and the various blogs in my reader, I kept flipping back to our Board’s email / conference client and sharing links and articles that I found compelling. In under five minutes I’d made over ten posts / emails to various conferences and topics. As I read through a really exciting blog The Learning Nation, I immediately flipped to share it. As I did, I had the most skin crawling reaction that I had become the kid at the front of the class that the rest of the class hates because they know something about everything and can hardly wait to share it.

So, my momentary epiphany gave me pause and I only posted the link to my own school because I know most of my colleagues think I have stuff worth sharing and it was a safe place to share.

I’m relatively new to blogging, Twitter and so many of the other things I’m now exploring, but my excitement is boundless. I wrote a post about being hungry yesterday and Twitter has helped me stay that way. And today I’m concerned that the incredible resources (I think they are anyway) I’ve been sharing will simply be ignored because I’ve ‘had my hand up so many times today’.

So, my question to my PLN and anyone else who stumbles upon my post — should I put my hand down? Should I care that people may simply ignore my shares? This is me thinking out loud, but if anyone has any experiences to share or some insight, I’d love to hear it.