Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Binders, binders and more binders

Ok, call me crazy, but I think the older I get, the more OCD I am becoming or maybe it's just that I like things to match and look nice. I take a lot of pride in my classroom and strive to make it comfortable and homey. 

So, binders don't exactly make my room homey and comfortable, but every time I sit down at my desk to start lesson planning and I see my random colored binders with an eclectic variety of inserts I can't stand it!! It always looks so disorganized and messy! So this summer I decided I was going to invest in all new MATCHING, BLACK binders (my boys have been teasing me about how everything I've bought for my classroom the past 2 years is black- but everything goes with black, right?!) I also decided that I was going to make matching binder covers and spines to match my dog-themed room as well. 
Look how nice they all look together? They're going to look fantastic on my bookshelf. They make me smile every time I look at them... it doesn't take much to make me happy! Hmmm... looking at the pic made my OCD kick back in, I think I'll have to put them in alphabetical order on my shelf as well. LOL
Now I just need to find some time to get into my room and redo my files. After umpteen years of teaching, many are getting pretty ratty and dog-eared. To my benefit, the file cabinet effectively hides them~ Out of sight, out of mind! I hate to hope for a rainy day, but I think that's what it's going to take to go in and tackle that job.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer Book Study

Interested in a taking part in a powerful, professional development opportunity from the comfort of your own home this summer? Our #1stchat PLN from Twitter will be hosting a summer book chat on the book, What Connected Educators Do Differently

The chats will take place on Sunday nights at 8 pm EST beginning Sunday, July 26th.

The chat schedule is as follows:

Sunday, 7/26- Key Connector 1 &2- moderated by author Jeffrey Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

Sunday, 8/2 - Key Connector 3 & 4- moderated by author Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy

Sunday, 8/9- Key Connector 5 & 6- moderated by Sara Malchow @smalchow

Sunday, 8/16- Key Connector 7 & 8- moderated by Val Ruckes @valruckes and Leka DeGroot @lekadegroot

Chats will be archived in case you can't make it and ALL are welcome!! Here's the info on the Official #1stchat Blog 

I started reading the book 2 days ago and am impressed with what I've read so far. The authors define connected educators as being: 
"ones that are actively and constantly seeking new opportunities and resources to grow as professionals."
They discuss Personal and Professional Learning Networks (P2LN) and investing with a purpose. I've been a Twitter user for a number of years now, but many of the points they discuss struck a chord with me. To be honest, I feel that I've just started feeling the total power of Twitter in the past 2 years and that has come from the connectedness that has taken place in that time. Taking part in weekly chats such as #1st chat, #adschat, and #adechat have helped me to not only grow professionally but to connect with others on topics that I am passionate about. For those that are not into Twitter or haven't realized it's potential, the authors give some great information on finding the value and investing with a purpose. At the end of every chapter they have a section called "Follow 5, Find 5, Take 5" in which they tie it all together by:
  • Follow 5- listing 5 educators that are models in the particular ares
  • Find 5- giving 5 online resources/tools that you can use to develop further
  • Take 5- Sharing 5 action steps you can take to get started
The book is an easy read with lots of great info!  By no means is the book solely dedicated to Twitter... it just happens that the sections I've read so far have talked quite a bit about it. 
I hope that you'll consider joining our Twitter chats beginning the end of July to discuss this book. Joining us would give you a great opportunity to communicate with a purpose, become more connected and grow your PLN all at the same time.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reflections of an ADE- Part 2

An organized, late night picture of tech central
 (minus my glass of wine)
...4 questions, yup, that's all, except there were limits on how many characters you could use for each answer. How in the world do you share, succinctly and creatively, how technology has transformed and innovated your teaching when it's been a 5 year journey? I think writer's block took over before I even started! I walked around for about 2 weeks pondering that question and the other 3 before I could sit down long enough to begin penning my responses. Once I did though, the reflective journey kept me up many a late night (sometimes with a glass of wine to get me through) and always with my computer, my iPad and iPhone, and a pack of post-its for old times sake to jot ideas as I went. My kitchen table turned into tech central.

In addition to the 4 questions, I also had to bring my story to life by creating a 2 minute video showcasing my learning environment and how Apple technologies has transformed teaching and learning. 
This was my entry...

All in all, I spent about 50+ hours putting my application together and to be honest, there were a few times that I almost said, "I'm done, forget it" as it took so much of my family time away. We even cancelled a trip up to our cabin as my wonderful husband knew I'd get more accomplished at home on the WiFi than at the cabin. In the end, I'm so glad that I persevered. Reflecting made me realize just how deep my passion runs and how far I've come since those early days. 

Waiting for the video to upload so I can hit SUBMIT!
March 1st was the deadline, and I used every last minute to fine tune both my video and reflection questions. It was quite a celebration when I finally uploaded my answers and video and hit submit. Yup, even had to take a picture! Whew! Done! I slept better that night than I had in weeks! Let the wait begin!!! 

On the night of April 21st I started seeing people tweeting that they had gotten in. My heart sunk as I didn't hear anything but after a few hours, began to realize that all of these people were alumni that had applied and were being accepted. At this point, the wait was excruciating! When would we find out? 
The next night at around 9:30pm, I again saw people tweeting that they had been accepted. I remember telling my husband it was happening and the 2 of us sat on our computers and iPads constantly checking my Twitter feed and email. Still nothing... the anticipation of just not knowing was the worst. Funny story with this though... we were watching my Twitter feed, school email and my iTunes email address and hitting refresh literally about every 30 seconds. After about an hour and a half we decided to just go to bed with the thought that I didn't get in. I'm terrible about email so I checked one last time and then also checked my personal email quick, and there it was... an email from the ADE Program from about 30 minutes prior!! All that waiting and worry and it was there waiting for me the whole time! I'll be honest, I was scared to open it though. I wanted to know what the answer was, but at the same time, I didn't. 
Needless to say, We opened it and I was speechless, and for those that know me, you know that doesn't happen very often. It was official, I was selected to join the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2015!!

I am beyond humbled, excited, and thrilled to be on this journey. I have made so many new connections already and am excited to be able to learn from others with the same passion and desire that I have. I am excited to see where this path may lead and what opportunities lie ahead. I am still in disbelief and probably will be until I get on the plane to head to Institute,  I get off the plane in Florida, I actually walk in, somebody hands me my registration materials and pinches me! Yup, I think it's going to take somebody pinching me as it all still seems like a dream--- a dream come true!!!
Image credit: Apple

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reflections of an ADE- Part 1

And so another year has come and gone. Hard to believe that it was just 180 days ago that a new batch of 1st graders came to my classroom with various interpretations of what 1st grade would be like... some excited, some shy, some nervous and some who, well, were ready to just move in and get started the minute I met them. All 17 of these kiddos in their own ways amazed me this year! We had a phenomenal year of learning together along with many ups and downs along the way- learning is always messy and never comes in a neat little package.

As I mentioned in a post awhile back (yes, it's been awhile~ sorry about that! Time has gotten away from me with the various commitments I made this year) some major things have happened in the past few months- some disappointing and some fabulous!  In my classroom we always ask for the bad news first so we can end with the good, so I'll do the same here and not dwell on the negative for more than a paragraph. 

As a district, we've had a vision for technology integration for quite some time. We've been chipping away at making this vision come to fruition by adding devices to classrooms, providing professional development for staff, and educating our parents and community members. We were at a point that funding was a big hindrance to the vision and so we brought our proposal to referendum. This was the 3rd time in 5 years that we've done this, but every other time, other items were attached to the referendum and it failed each and every time. Sounds like the next sentence will be positive right? but remember, start with the bad before the good. Well, needless to say after many planning meetings, share shops to answer questions and present the information to our stakeholders, and much blood, sweat, tears and passion... our referendum, with technology only, also failed. It's been a very disheartening blow, especially after putting 5 years passion into this. I walked around for a few days afterwards just numb, literally numb of all emotion. I taught, I put on a happy face for my students and my colleagues and said, we'd find a way, but in my heart, I was just numb. Nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch- devoid of emotion. It was sad and I didn't have words to explain my disappointment. I am still frustrated by the outcome of that vote, but as I said above, you can't dwell on the negative and so I've moved on and continue to implement what I know is good for student learning. The answers are coming, but the timeline will be much longer than planned. But that's a post for another time as that's my paragraph, and a long one at that.

On with the good... in November of 2014 I finally met Sue Gorman face to face at a conference. I have followed her on Twitter and connected a little here and there over the past couple of years. We spoke only briefly as she was presenting but she encouraged me to apply to be an Apple Distinguished Educator. I have admired those that have attained this title. I follow many "of them" on Twitter as well as their blogs. I have networked "with them" and collaborated "with them" on projects all with star-struck eyes; but when Sue told me to apply, I kept telling myself, I wasn't of that caliber. Not me. I just teach 1st grade. What's so innovative about what I am doing? I will say, it has been a dream of mine for a few years, but I just didn't think I was at the level needed to make a run for it. I looked into it, but applications were not being taken at the time and so I put it on the back burner with the intent of checking into it again at some point. On February 3rd, I received an email from Sue simply stating, "Please apply kind friend! The ADE Application is live."  That email sent me into a tailspin. I clicked on the link she had sent and logged in with my Apple account to see what would be involved in applying. The application process consisted of 4 questions and a 2 minute video and was due by March 1st. Ok, 4 weeks to get it all together, seemed doable. Once I read the questions though, I quickly realized that this was going to be quite a reflective journey, and reflective it was. 
Part 2 coming soon....