Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Many years ago I watched this movie I’d call a “c” movie. The “c” comes from growing up being forced to watch these bad movies because we had one TV and my Dad chose the movie! Remember those old Kung Fu movies where they just grunted a lot and made Kung Fu movements? Yeah, those. So, I started a rated system of letter grading for them. He’d just laugh. But, it was the summer in the middle of the night and I watched it. I can’t remember if the name of the movie was Lather, Rinse Repeat or it was just the moment at the end of the movie that pulled all of it together. (A Google search did not help  me.)

The storyline was a group of grown friends stay at the home of a friend’s whose parents are selling the house in which she grew up in and the whole group had memories there. So, they stay one more night and party like they used to or tried. The culminating point of the story is that they haven’t past the best parts of their life as they thought, they just need to lather, rinse and repeat. Have you ever tried it? Followed the directions on the back of the shampoo bottle? Well, if you have, you’ve experience a much richer lather and fuller experience.

For some reason, this movie kept popping into my head at the most random moments; in my classroom, in our PLC time, researching, etc. It kept coming up. What came to me is the connection within the classroom. When educating our students all of whom have very diverse background experiences, we must lather, rinse and repeat often. We must let them experience our content in multiple ways so they can grasp the meaning and connect to their prior learning; and hopefully, close the performance gap increasing their success.

 

Empathy & Probation Officers

As I worked with a colleague on our next topic, Empathy, in our Leading Innovative Change Series through our Tech Tuesday professional learning community (PLC), I reflected back on my own experiences.

To add to my personal Learning Moments Blog Series, a very dear to me student came to mind. After four years teaching and coaching north of Houston, I was ready to move back to the Dallas area closer to family and away from the humidity and bird-sized mosquitos! I found a job on the Irving side of Valley Ranch. As I started the year, a young man (we’ll call him JA), asked me to sign a form for him. I gladly took it and said, “Ok, what is it for,” as it didn’t look like the normal school form for anything. He said, “Oh, my PO.” In my mind, I thought PO. What’s PO. And it dawned on me, Probation Officer. It made me wonder about him. I was still getting to know my students. As I progressed day to day, I watched this young man. I saw pleasantness, courtesy, calmness…I saw love in his eyes. His eyes that were as deep as wells, showed love and kindness. I wondered, Why does this kid have a PO?!”

I learned over time that he has a twin brother that was always getting into trouble and who was not kind in any way. JA being the good brother he is, would always back his brother which got him in trouble as well. JA became one of those students whom I would fight you for, a surrogate son of sorts even though I was not old enough to be his mother. Maybe and little brother. I say this because I did develop the relationship with him that allowed me to stop on the side of the road when I saw him trying to look “hard” with a group of boys he did not belong with to tell him if I ever saw him there again with those boys that I would lead him by the ear to my truck and drive him home to his mama. That got some, “yes ma’ams” out of him. He knew my threats were not empty.

One day, JA, was in a neighboring class and was brought out in the hallway because he was so upset. I joined as I was on conference, the teacher was a friend and it was JA! We learned that he was upset and crying-a 17 year old boy crying at school-because he was caught “slap fighting” and this would be his third strike and he would go back to juvenile detention. On our campus students could not “slap fight,” the act of play hitting and rough-housing, as it would typically turn into a rumble between students.

Oh, well… I wasn’t having that! I marched straight down to the principal’s office and said let me talk to his PO! The principal trying to talk me off the ledge said he would talk with her and explain things, etc. After much debate, I told him I would trust him to  handle it. I was skeptical, but he did handle it to my liking. He later told me that he had never had a teacher come in and go to bat for one of the “bad” kids.

That’s just the thing. Yes, JA had been in trouble and yes, he was a teenage boy and “slap fought” in the hallway not remembering that behavior was not allowed. That’s how boys go through their entire life! What a ridiculous thing in which to send a kid back to juvenile detention! Are you kidding me?!

I could empathize with JA. I could understand how being a teenager is hard enough even when you don’t have a brother bringing you down. I have lost touch with JA, but I think about him daily. I wonder how he is. His mom finally separates him and his brother by sending JA to a private school so he could be his true self.

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So, I challenge you to see all your students with empathetic eyes; especially the ones whom give you gray hairs and make you rethink your professional decisions. I could have written off JA at the first signature on the PO form like so many others. Make those connections. Grace goes a long way.

Do you have stories to share? Share them in the comments.! I would love to hear of the ways you’ve shown empathy with your students.

Smoking Weed to Cap & Gown

To continue my Learning Moments series, I want to share a story and a connection to an activity my Digital Learning Coach (DLC) and I lead in our campus’ Tech Tuesday Professional Learning Community (PLC.) Today we launched our Leading Innovative Change Series (Inspired by George Couros‘ The Innovator’s Mindset) in our Tech Tuesday PLC. We started with getting back to our beginnings and why we chose the teaching profession before we jumped into innovation. We wanted to remember why we are “here” and what keeps us going. We used the Teachers2Teachers toolkit for #whyiteach to focus our thoughts for today’s PLC time. Take a look! (Check out the hashtag #whyiteach on Twitter.)

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When thinking of the why behind teaching a memory came to my mind of my first year teaching. I had a student, we’ll call him Tommy, in my first year who was assigned ISS or Alternative School often due to his use of weed and lack of shall we say focus. We’ll as all teacher’s know if a student is assigned one of these alternatives to their regular day, you have to make an assignment and send work for the day(s). (And, this was before technology.) If you’ve read my previous blog, Horses, Goats & Prayers, Oh My!you know that I had the surprise assignment of PE and Speech my first year of a non-teaching position!

Tommy was in one of my PE classes; in which I had to just makeup work for him to complete as it was an activity class. Since I knew why he had been assigned to ISS and his extracurricular activity, I made him research Cannibis – the effects, longterm issues, etc. This evolved into writing essays as to how weed was going to help him be successful in the future. He knew every time he was in “need” of an alternative assignment I would get creative with the assignment  and center it around his use of weed.

Well, after this year Tommy joined the work program offered in the district. He was able to work and alternatively finish school as he was behind his fellow classmates. Two years later, Tommy found me in my new (fitting) teaching assignment, Biology, in a new classroom. Why did Tommy come find me? To show me his cap and gown as he was graduating from high school. As I am typing, I’m getting goosebumps. This still affects me nearly 15 years later. This is #whyiteach. When you can see success like this from students in general and, especially; in those circumstances where they have a few more hurdles in their way.

Why I Teach:

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Today was one of those days that was just uplifting!  It is great to learn more about your fellow educators and remember the reason(s) we go back day after day to a very demanding job with little light at the end of the tunnel at times. Today we remembered the real reason we teach: our learners.

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Vicariously Experience #ettipad

IMG_3118     I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the EdTech Teacher iPad Summit, Boston 2015. I was asked to co-present by my friend and rock star educator, Jodie Deinhammer. (See Apple Story Here.) The trip was then approved by the powers that be and I was set to go to Boston. Now as my two days of learning and sharing has come to a close, I want to reflect on my own learning. Right now, my brain is swirling around trying to find a starting place.

     Well, after a non-eventful late plane, maintenance delay and weather delay followed by a somewhat concerning cab ride later; we made it in late to Boston from DFW. Running mostly on adrenaline that morning, we joined Guy Kawasaki as he commenced the summit with a fun and moving keynote. I love his eleven top 10 rules of The Art of Innovation.

What I learned from Day 1:

  • I gained some great insights on The Art of Innovation. I love hearing how other disciplines can influence education; like marketing and business. These tips hit home with me as I work with a blended learning program that is in transition. I now have tools in which I can tweak my ideas, “perfect my pitch” and let “100 flowers bloom;” amongst others to help support the evolution and growth of the program.
  •  I learned how to make App Dice with PicCollage and many other great technology support ideas from Craig Badura and his Digital Dog-pound.  I hope to incorporate some of these ideas within blended learning to support my team.
  • I am eager to study the HACKing PD model of innovative instruction and decipher how it may help my team to continue to move past the S of the SAMR model. Moreover, it is always good to hear other’s lessons learned with technology integration. Here are the lessons: 1. support of Administration is key, 2. professional development should be continual, 3. it should be a systematic approach and 4.”evidence of learning” should be an accountability piece.
  • I was rejuvenated by The Tech Rabbi’s session, The Invisible iPad. Mr. Cohen emphasized the need for purpose and meaning for learners and that technology should not separately exist. Share-Visualize-Connect-Purpose are central to learning. Finally, be Ad”APP”table. “Technology is only as innovative as You.”

What I gained from Day 2:

  • “Most exciting time to be a learner.” – Justin Reich  I agree! We need to embrace all the resources we have instead of digging in our heels and refusing to embark upon change. Justin emphasized that Design Thinking is the closest thing we have to solve ill-structured problems; which computers cannot do! We need pocket changes to move to systemic changes in education. Get better together. Read it here.
  • One of my favorite sessions of the summit, Creating Digitally Curious Classrooms, with Larry Reiff. This session was packed with examples of engaging lessons and experiences. Point to ponder: “The world is not broken down into 40 minute segments. Why is school?” Learning should not be limited to a single discipline. Use video, karaoke, iBooks Author, etc. and create content instead of consuming content. Engage students.
  • I liked Sabba Quidwai’s message in her session, Are You Indispensable – A Design Thinking Approach to Education.  As educators, we have to be thinking, “What are the challenges and opportunities of our next decade?” Planet – People – Economy  Check out the The Global Goals for Sustainable Development! 
  • Beth Holland and Avra Robinson lead the Are iPads in the Driver’s Seat? What Really Drives Learning?  I gained a new definition of learning; it is measurable change. This change is a shift in knowledge, perception and beliefs. The keys for learner progression are: 1. given voice and choice, 2. connecting to community and 3. gaining a meaningful audience. This will end the question of, “Why are we learning this?” Check out the presentation for some great examples! Let’s build life-long learners!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the session I co-presented with Jodie. Check it out here!  Our session, Design-Engage-Connect, Student Designed Curriculum highlights student learning experiences and steps to a learner-driven curriculum. I really enjoyed the session. I was moved by the very thoughtful questions from our attendees. They were there to learn and share and it showed. What was also impactful about this EdTech Teacher group, is the openness and accepting nature. I felt as if these were my people and I’d know them for so long even though we’d just met. I hope to attend and present at future EdTech events and take a few friends with me!

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Making Connections as Lifelong Learners

While attending ASCD’s Ignite Conference in Irving, TX today and listening to Eric Sheninger speak on Creating Schools That Work for Kids  and catching the second half of Digital Leadership and the Educational Landscape, my mind jumped to a quote from a book I’m reading. Mr. Sheninger was talking on changes we need in our schools and challenged educators with this question, “Would you want to be in your colleagues’ classroom?” He later talked about Free Range Learning and Twitter as a PLN.

The book I am reading is Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. The quote that stood out to me while reading prompting me to mark it and that came to mind during this presentation is, “Resist any movement that attempts to clone teachers and lessons and instead rejoice in the fact that it is your individuality and uniqueness that will always lead  you to become the most effective teacher you can be.” If your soul did not just leap for joy, reread that quote! Being the rebel or shall I say pirate that I have always been, I get really excited about that statement. Mr. Burgess put into words how I’ve always felt and what has been my natural path. I have never played Candy Crush. Why? Everyone else was dong it!

The theme of the presentation by Mr. Sheninger was moving away from control and compliance toward authentic learning or Free Range Learning. In speaking of Twitter PLN, I’ve previously blogged on how important it is. I would also goes as far as say that I would want to be in my #tlap Tweeps’ classrooms any day; which I cannot say for all of my coworkers over the years!

So, educators I challenge you to be your authentic self, share your passion and blaze your own trail. Because there are no roads were you are going!

Benefits of a Twitter PLN

@SunnyJune77
@SunnyJune77

     If you do not have a professional learning network or PLN via Twitter, I sure hope you start one. My best professional development is gained from Twitter. Not only is there a multitude of resources, you can obtain them on demand when it fits your schedule. You can follow and be followed by fellow educators; which is inspiring and rejuvenating. Taking part in twitter chats is an immeasurable experience. You can just lurk (watch the chat) or participate. Either way you can secure contacts and obtain relevant information and ideas.

     I recently was tweeting among my Tweeps (Twitter peeps) and had an idea that has grown into a App Smash contest; which is being supported by Tackk! All because three educators connected on Twitter.

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     Check out the #YouveBeenAppSmashed Challenge HERE. I hope you challenge yourself professionally to use Twitter to its fullest potential and to smash some apps! Stretch yourself this summer!