Friday, February 27, 2015

What was the defining moment you decided to be a teacher? #YourEduStory

From an early age, I knew I wanted to teach. I had no idea what I wanted to teach, but I knew I loved instructing others. My brother can vouch for this.

Many times, I tied him up to the chair and forced math books upon him.

In third grade, I was lucky enough to join the class of a life-transforming teacher. She encouraged me to reach for the stars. It was that year, that I found my identity. I found confidence in things uniquely me. And, it is a year that I will never forget.

As the years went by, I fell more in awe of English, reading, and writing. So, it was only natural to me to choose to become an English teacher when I was a sophomore in high school.

However, what I didn't know at the time was that it was never about the subject for me. I loved English, but I loved teaching more. Therefore, after five years of teaching high school English, I switched to become a different teacher.

I can't say I ever had a defining moment that lured me into becoming a teacher. Rather, it was a series of shaping events.

As a K-12 student, I was shy. I was afraid to talk in school. I spent many of hours alone, dreading group work. However, from the outside, I was in the top of my class and a star athlete. But, I would get ill just thinking about going to school.

And, while, I had this urge to teach when I was in high school, I never thought I could do it. I knew talking in small groups was a struggle so, how could I manage talking and leading a class?

But, during my sophomore/junior year of college, I was impacted by several great teachers. Several empowered me and instilled that confidence in my abilities that my third grade teacher did. By the end of college, I was sharing my ideas. I felt bright. I felt empowered. I shined. I knew what I said was of value.

And, it was that feeling that I wanted to give to other students. I wanted to help students like myself shine. It's one of the most important things someone can do for another. And, though, my students have changed over the years, my goal is still the same - to make others shine.

Does it work all the time? No. But, it's my constant goal.

What's your defining moment?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why I Do What I Do #YourEduStory

"People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it" Simon Sinek - Why do you do what you do?

This is a great question that I wished we asked others more often - not just educators, but students. Too often we ask students to focus on a product or the WHAT, but we don't ask them the why. Why should you do this, Why is this important, Why is this relevant.

As educators, we need to ask ourselves this question often - why do I do what I do? And, we need to challenge students to focus on the whys: why do they do what they do. That is far more important than the whats.

At the end of the day, I am evaluated on what I do. However, how well I do that is greatly affected by why I do what I do. And, the answer is simple: I love it. I absolutely love teaching. I've loved it since I was a 7-year old girl, tying my brother up to the chair, and forcing him (a 4-year old) to read.

Image result for dennis the menace reading

What rubs off on others are the whys  - not necessarily the whats. Yes, I impact others because of my knowledge and understanding of various tools and strategies. However, it's the whys that capture them.

At our district, many teachers go to Capture Kids' Hearts training. And, I often see and hear teachers using technology as a substitute for the teacher. Though, I could go on and on this subject, I'll make it simple.

Technology engages kids and teachers capture kids. The is the difference between the whats and the whys. Technology is needed, but without the why, without the teacher, it does not have the same impact.

Why do I do what I do? I love to help others learn. In some ways, I enjoy facilitating that learning and, in other ways, I enjoy solving problems and coming up with new solutions. Teaching is problem solving.

Be the why to your students. Capture them.

Why do you do what you do?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What is connected learning and WIIFM? #YourEduStory

So...I had to look up the meaning of "wiifm." Did you?

The best learning is connected. Learning on your own does not yield the same as what learning with your network does. I am as useful as my network. I know that I will never know every gadget, every new strategy, or every new idea. However, I lean on my  network to shine in the areas where I am not an expert.

Connected learning is one part learning from your network and the other part building your network. I've grown in my own learning as a result of my network. I can now help my teachers in a matter of minutes by simply "phoning a friend" or, in my terms - Google chatting, Hanging out, or "Slack"ing. My results are almost instantaneous and go beyond my own knowledge.

However, I am not of the belief that we need to define teachers' success by whether or not they are on Twitter, or have a large virtual learning network. Connected learning also includes face-to-face networks as well as implementation. I am exposed to some great teachers on a daily basis who help their students and fellow teachers grow, but they are not as connected in the 21st century meaning of the word. WE need to highlight these teachers. WE need to share their stories. WE need to learn from them.

So, my challenge each day is not falling into the "Twitter view" of teaching, but staying connected to everyday educators and everyday problems. That is being connected. It's a blend. It's moderation.

What's being connected mean to you?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Learning in 100 words #YourEdustory

Today's #YourEdustory challenge: What is learning in 100 words or less? Now, that's a challenge.

Learning is sharing. When you share your story, you and others learn. When others share, both you and they learn. It's a wonderful cycle of sharing and learning. Learning is freedom and empowerment. When you learn, you are released into a new world of opportunities. It's like walking though the doors of Alice in Wonderland. It never ends...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's the best thing you do in your job? #YourEdustory

What is the best thing you do in your classroom/school/district/job? 

Education, like many professions, is full of ambiguous words. And, the words "you" and "best" are no exception to that rule. It's hard to define the BEST thing that I do in MY job. 

To start, I'll clarify that I am only as effective as my network and my students. So, it is hard to define the BEST thing that I do. But, I can say that collaborating and building up my network does bring benefits to my job, teachers, and students. 

My creativity and perseverance are, perhaps, my two most valued assets. They are what I bring to my network. My network, in turn, turns that creativity into practical solutions. Case in point - I am only as effective as my network. My creativity and perseverance are a great asset, but my network spins them into gold. 

So, what do I do? I bring in my network. 

Google Teacher Academy (GTACHI) Reunion 2014 - my best network I can bring!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How are you or is your approach different than your favorite teacher? #YourEdustory

Third grade. That was the year I became a learner. It was also a year full of challenges I would not wish upon any third-grader.

On one particularly challenging day, I was sitting alone at recess. After a humiliating lunch of sitting alone, I was ready to hide in a hole and be transported home. I desperately wanted to not be noticed. But, I noticed a shadow approaching and the slight ring of "Christy" coming my way. I looked up and there stood my teacher, Mrs. Estes. I can't say whether I was embarrassed or relieved that my teacher had broken my silence. Whatever that feeling was quickly changed when I noticed that she had two students behind her.

By the time I was in third grade, I had some clear passions that I made evident through my dress. I only wore race shirts I had earned in road (running) and track meets. My shorts were fitting of a runner. And, I only wore Nikes. I had a Nike binder, bag, shoes, shirts, and shorts. In short, they called me "Nike Queen." From Mrs. Estes' perspective, there was no doubt I LOVED running.

Mrs. Estes greeted me and introduced the two students as classmates of mine. She noted that they were interested in running road races and that I would be the perfect person to talk to. I was fearful of talking to other students. However, Mrs. Estes pinned with with a barrage of questions. Quickly, I assumed position as the leader of all things running. And, I was talking on my own to the other students.

It was after that moment that I found my identity - I was the runner. That changed over time, but it provide me a sense of pride and a safe place that I had never found before. And, for that I am forever grateful to Mrs. Estes.

So, what did she do? What made her special? Simply put - she listened and she gave me the chance to find my own passion and be an expert. Listening is one of the best skills and gifts a person can offer to another.


When I  became a teacher, I set out with Mrs. Estes in mind. She was my ideal teacher and the kind of teacher I wanted to be. And, I can't say that my approach is all that different from hers. However, I am different. That is the factor we forget as we become teachers. We can mimic an approach, but we are different. We have had different life experiences and different moments of inspiration. Mrs. Estes inspired me but someone else inspired her.

So, as I have grown into my teaching shoes, I have changed. My outlook is still similar to Mrs. Estes, but because of my life experiences - because of people like Mrs. Estes - my approach has changed. I work to empower teachers and students like Mrs. Estes did, but I also work to innovate my classroom in ways others don't. And, I work to innovate it because of students who have crossed my path.

I had those moments like Mrs. Estes had with me when she taught. They changed my teaching just as I may have changed her teaching. And, gradually, I became the innovative, creative teacher. I became the artist and runner that she brought out in me.

How are you different? Share #YourEdustory

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How will you make the world a better place? #YourEdustory

I had a teacher you used to tell us to leave our classroom better than we found it. At the time, we all said, "that's not fair - the other classes left it that way." And she would always reply, "we're in this all together."

I had no idea what that meant. To our class, it seemed unfair that we would have to be responsible for making the classroom look even better. But, ten years later, when I had my own classroom, I found myself saying the same thing: "Leave this lab better than you found it!"

Why? Because we are all in this together. We are all connected. Our lives intersect constantly. We are a community.

When a community member builds a park, soon, children go out to play. And after that, play groups form, and park events develop, and members connect. And, that's how I met my very first friend. We are connected.

So, if we are all connected, how does one person make the world a better place?

One person does NOT make the world a better place.

But, a community DOES make the world a better place.

For starters, the mindset that you alone will be the one to to make this change is incorrect. You can come up with a brilliant idea to create the change, but without your followers and implementers, change will not come. So, to begin, we must begin to think of ourselves as a community. That alone will make the world a better place.

So, how will I make the world a better place?

I will not make the better place.

Instead, I will work each day to be a member of a community and to make others feel welcome in a community. When we belong somewhere, we can help.

So, we should not strive to see what we alone can do to make the world a better place, but what we can do as a group. We can all have great ideas, but if we are all leaders, we have no room for implementers and followers.

This video summarizes it for me.

I ask you - how will WE make the world a better place? I'm starting changing one negative thought at a time.