In the coming months, we will need to engage in preparations for the unknown. What will the reopening of school look like? How will adults handle this? How will students handle this? How will leaders handle this? What discussions will need to take place? We have a long road ahead, but one thing we can all count on is that we will get through it. We will get through it...together. This Blog Is Why Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is not just important after a pandemic, but it's okay to start there.
During my time in quarantine, I have been able to focus a little more on my own professional growth. Virtual conferences have almost become a normal part of my daily/weekly routine. The NCTIES2020 (or #NCLearnsTogether) was a popular one for me. In my initial round of this conference, I had fun creating virtual classroom options with Bitmojis. The next round was more serious as I attended a session entitled, "I’m too Stressed to Learn: Understanding the Connection Between behavior, learning, and stress (From Crisis to the Classroom)". It's a long title for an intense topic. As I sat through the online session, there were so many "aha" moments. By the end, I was convinced that this information would definitely need to be shared with my colleagues. Although, I will share the entire presentation with them, I just want to address some key points here.
🞺In order to decrease student stress, increase student choice.
The more choices teachers can offer, the more some students may feel a sense of control.
🞺In order to decrease student stress, increase movement during instruction.
“Physical activity has been linked to enhanced cognitive function, improved self-esteem, reduced stress...”
🞺In order to decrease student stress, increase student self-awareness & self-management.
When students return to the school environment, allow for discussions about their time during the pandemic. How did they feel? What changes did they experience? What did they like or not like about the experience?
🞺In order to decrease student stress, build your relationships with students.
“To be resilient, a student needs someone to walk with and somewhere to go.” Ricky Robertson **Resource: https://teachfortrust.com/
Get to know students on a personal level. What are their goals? What are they passionate about?
🞺In order to decrease student stress, increase mindfulness.
The Mind-Body Connection
The more stressed we get, the more the fight or flight response of our amygdala is on high alert causing it to get larger. Simple and small activities such as breathing exercises and meditation or mindfulness help to shrink the amygdala.
Presenters Credit: Dr. Patricia Hilliard Nancy Mangum
This COVID, 2019 summer is very different than any other. In the past, I have shared some ways that parents could keep kids learning during the summer months. Now after a few months of teaching and learning at home, we all need a well-deserved break. This Blog Is Why while we may be "breaking", we can still keep kids' minds active.
The number one suggestion is to simply have your children read. Committing to just 20 minutes per day can make huge difference.
For South Carolina students: You may consider enrolling your child in an online program. Clemson University offers a Summer Reading Skills Program. You can find more information here: https://clemson.readingclasses.org/
Participate in the Elementary Reading Challenge presented by Help Teaching. Don't forget to Rate Your Books and share with a friend!
If you will have a child entering school for the first time, make sure they are prepared by participating in a few activities at home. See the attached image.
Finally, the Big List of 100 Summer Activities can be used as your go-to-guide when your child gets bored over the long summer. Set a personal challenge to see how many activities can be completed in a month's time. A huge thanks to Help Teaching for this comprehensive list that spans a variety of interests.
Another hashtag. Another life lost. It's too much. It's hard to watch. The images, the video, the comments. At least I can turn off the news or log off of my device. But somewhere this is someone's reality. A loved one is gone. Never to return home again. Their voice forever silenced. Say Their Names: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Bettie Jones, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, and now George Floyd. This Blog Is Why #ICantBreathe is not just a hashtag, but a cry...a cry for help.
I will never forget that day. The day that changed my life forever. It completely changed my perspective. November 21, 2018. I see the blue lights and my first thought is, "I don't want to die today." Wait. Why did I think that? Where did that come from? They have me blocked in. One way in and one way out. I'm scared. Immediately, I need to hear a comforting voice. Or do I need a witness? I reach for my cell phone. I'm in a trance, a nightmare. My thoughts are racing.
I wonder why I am being pulled over. I just pulled off from a stopped position.
You need to see my bill of sale for my car? Okay.
Am I under arrest? No. But I am placed in the back of the patrol car.
You have my car towed. "Can you please give her a ride, sir? Her destination is just up the street."
No. You are not a taxi service.
I am left abandoned. Scared. Shaken. Embarrassed. Disappointed.
Strangers approach and ask am I okay. No, I am not okay. I. Am. Not. Okay. I appreciate the drink. It is the only thing that helps to hold back my tears right now. I won't let them see me breakdown. I need to escape. Where is the restroom? I need to compose myself without the stares of strangers.
How could this happen to me? I am a respectful, law-abiding citizen. As an educator, I can remember teaching my students, "The police officer is our friend." He is not my friend. This is clear as I hear those words echo in my head. No. You are not a taxi service. I was the one who had those conversations with others. The "all you have to do" conversation that so many African-Americans are all too familiar with having to try and ensure that loved ones will return home safely. "All you have to do" is stay quiet. "All you have to do" is remain calm. "All you have to do" is say Yes sir. No sir. I quickly learned that none of this matters. All it takes is one wrong move. One "perceived threat". And I don't get to decide that. You decide that.
It's disappointing. I came out to the community event sponsored by police officers and community leaders. I didn't come for me. I already believed. I came to show support. I shook hands. I smiled. I engaged in seemingly meaningful conversations. How many invitations did I receive for a ride-along? And now the words that echo in my mind are: No. You are not a taxi service. How would you feel if a fellow officer left your mother or sister abandoned on the side of the road?
In the days ahead, I get nervous and panicked when I see a patrol car. My routine becomes: go to work and directly back home with very minimal travel elsewhere. I'm scared. I'm shaken. I'm affected. In that moment, you realize that no one can help you. Story after story and you know that all it takes is one wrong move. One "perceived threat". And just like that you could be taken away from your loved ones. Your voice forever silenced. For some, these images, these videos, these protests, and these conversations are triggers. They take you back. Back to a moment when you felt your most vulnerable. An experience where the one who you look to for protection sends a clear message. There is no care. There is no compassion. And then, the tears.
(Photo Credit: NPR CodeSwitch)
Looking over my career, I guess you could say that I have grown up in education. As a new teacher, my focus was on my classroom, my students, and my own professional growth. Early on in my career, I even managed to get to a place of frustration where I felt that "teacher burnout" and took a brief hiatus. I quickly learned from those around me that teaching/education was my true calling. Even when trying to get away, I landed right back in a school. Further along in my journey, I began to have the desire to make a bigger impact, an impact beyond the four walls of a classroom. Really beyond the walls of a building. I began to see my role as not just teaching content, but my role was to prepare students for their future career, their future lives, their future selves. So where am I now? Now, I find myself expanding my reach even further. I have a desire to be a voice for education. Outside of education. And that has landed me in this place of teacher advocacy and building a more political scope to my support of the profession. This Blog Is Why education is changing and now is the time to elevate the voice of teachers/educators.
Teacher Advocacy can be lonely. It can be frustrating. I get it. Things have been the same for so long that many are just in a place of complacency. The silence is telling. I feel your pain and I also feel your fear. The fear of speaking out and not getting the support you so desperately desire. The fear of the unknown. The fear of rocking the boat. Even if it's just a little ripple. It's there. It's real. And I get it. I have seen and come up against the negativity. The negative comments. The naysayers. But I keep the overall goal at the forefront of my mind. I know that my advocacy is not just about me, my position, or even my small circle. Teacher advocacy is about making things better for the collective. Moving the profession forward. And ultimately, creating a better system for our students who deserve the very best that we can offer as educators.
At times, it does get personal. It gets personal because I know my struggles. And when I hear someone else's story, it triggers a memory and/or experience for me. I know the struggle of working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I know the struggle of working with students of poverty and reaching into my own sparse pockets to pay for supplies, field trips, snacks, etc. I know the struggle of working long hours to create lesson plans, grade assignments, and attend school events. I know the struggle of dealing with extreme student behaviors. Behaviors that even the student doesn't understand. As easy as we make it look, it's not easy at all.
I am thankful for the experience that I had on May 1, 2019. The #AllOutMay1 Teacher Rally held in Columbia, SC was a unifying experience. Being in the crowd of educators and supporters was inspiring. The energy was electric. And more than anything, it sparked a desire to do more. After returning home, not only did I want to share my experience with those who did not attend, I also wanted to connect with those who had that same sense of urgency to be the change. Eventually, I connected with the sponsoring group SCforEd via social media. As with anything on social media, you can get lost or caught up in the craziness of the comments. I was determined to maintain my positive focus and eventually began to attend some in-person meetings. One year later, I was proud to become an Area Representative for the group. And now the real work begins. Now, being on the front lines, I hope to be a part of the change that educators have desperately needed and wanted for a long time. Let's get to work!
This year, Teacher Appreciation Week would need to look different, very different. With everyone working from home, social distancing guidelines, and a general quarantine, old plans would need to take a new twist. This was a challenge for our Leadership Team, but I think we handled it well. This Blog Is Why teachers need to know now more than ever that they are truly appreciated.
During this time of quarantine, one of our highlights was a Virtual Spirit Week. It was a great way to get families, staff, and students involved while also keeping the lines of communication open in a creative, fun way. That was a success, so why not follow that same model for Teacher Appreciation? And that is exactly what we did. Our week consisted of a theme per day and staff had the opportunity to compete for a variety of prizes.
Musical Monday-Staff participated in a Google Meet Music Trivia session.
Take Care Tuesday-Staff completed a Self-Care Bingo Board/Emoji Pictionary
Water Color Wednesday-Students were encouraged to send a special picture to a teacher.
Thankful Thursday-The administration, coaches, and office staff created a video with special messages of thanks.
Fabulous Friday-The culminating event was a Google Meet Scavenger Hunt session.
My special contribution to the week as Technology Instructional Coach/Webmaster was to create a special TEAM Bitmoji scene for each grade level. This was my way to honor our hardworking teaching staff. Here is an example featuring our coaches:
There were a few other surprises that helped make the week super special. Our local businesses, administration, and community partner kept us fed during the week. And the highest compliment for me, was receiving a shout-out from one of our faculty members. As an instructional coach, TAW is very different without having your very own classroom of students. But, the love that I felt from this teacher's message makes my job well worth it!
Today was an exciting day. Another professional learning opportunity. For FREE! I have been looking forward to this course or, "Leadership Academy" as it's called, for a while. During this pandemic, a time of social distancing and working from home, it gives me (and others) the chance to take advantage of some online learning with educators from around the world. This Blog Is Why even in a pandemic our learning never stops.
In this post, I will share with you a few highlights from my learning journey and then let you know about some courses that may spark your interest.
First up...well, I tried doing double duty with Edcamp Remote Learning and NC (North Carolina) Learns Together. It didn't quite work out. I made an appearance at #EdcampRL but spent the majority of my time with our neighbors to the north. In the beginning, I felt like I was crashing the party, but the participants were very welcoming. I learned so much from the various presenters. Some topics of interest included: podcasting, app smashing, Google Meet with families, and Bitmoji fun. Many of these are topics that I share during professional development sessions, so I am always excited to be on the learning side of things to improve my craft. As I continue to build my toolkit, I can expand my knowledge as a coach and share with my colleagues. I must admit the Bitmoji craze/movement has me completely in a zone. I am loving it! Check out my banner at the top of this page.
Initially, my blog post was going to be solely focused on this session. But I just had too much that I wanted to share! In the coming months, I will be joining others who are aspiring administrators or current leaders as we get inspired by Principal Kafele. His first session was very motivational. I am not surprised. He always delivers. If you missed it, no worries, you can still catch up and jump in next week. He is going live on Facebook and Twitter each Saturday at 11am (May 9th only at 1PM) for 30 minutes in the Virtual Assistant Principal Leadership Academy.
My takeaways from today:
1) The BIG question: "Does my assistant principalship benefit my school academically?"
2) Self-reflection + Self-assessment = Self-improvement
3) Know your "why".
In the coming weeks, we will dig deeper into these ideas and I look forward to sharing with you. Of course, there were a few other stops in my learning journey, but those are just some of the highlights.
My Final Thoughts
Before I wrap things up, let me share some upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.
1) Matt Miller from "Ditch That Textbook" is one of my faves. I have enrolled in his FREE course. Remote Learning 101. It is a self-paced, virtual course and you earn a certificate at the end.
Sign up NOW!
2) Monica Genta has been amazing in this pandemic from offering a free copy of her book to live science lessons and now she is offering a free online webinar. The title is: “What To Do...A Webinar for Educators Who Feel Sad, Stressed, and So Overwhelmed.”
Sign up NOW!
3) Well, since I pretty much failed at the first Edcamp. I am going to give it another try and I hope you will join as well. The next one will be May 9th and it is Edcamp EdTech.
Sign up NOW!
Wow. I cannot believe that I did not blog at all in 2019. But, that's okay because now I'm back and ready to continue this journey with you. I believe in setting goals for myself. So, my 2020 goal is to get my blog back up and running with a post (or repost) each day in May. And you know the blogging rules: That's my goal and if I don't actually post every day, it's okay. It still gives me that little spark I need to get going. And now for my tagline: This Blog Is Why we are in the middle of a pandemic, a new normal, and I hope everyone knows "Whatever you're feeling is okay."
Well, we are all experiencing this "new normal" together. How are you doing? I must admit that I am scared. I probably watch the news too much and I have had my health struggles recently. In a time when I just want to know that I will be okay, that things will be okay, no one can provide that comfort or reassurance. There are so many unknowns, and even though I try to protect myself, I'm not even sure if that's enough.
What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic? I keep seeing this question in the social media feeds. Well, I am probably learning a great deal. My main two are the following:
1) I have learned that I LOVE Olive Garden's Buy One, Take One. This has never been one of my favorite restaurants until the pandemic and now
I can say they are definitely in the top.
2) So, all of those little projects that I put off around the house because I didn't have time...apparently, time was not the issue. They are still unfinished. And I have had more than enough time to get to them. Oh well, next excuse!
My Final Thoughts
I want to end this post by saying how proud I am of my profession. Not only my profession, but so many have stepped in and stepped up during this time. My main focus is on educators, though. Educators rock! As an Instructional Technology Coach, I love the creativity that I have seen with the way we are communicating with families, teaching lessons, and even just improving our craft through online professional learning. I have enjoyed seeing the Teacher Parades, Virtual Spirit Week, Read Alouds, etc. It has been a whole movement, ya'll! And I am here for it.
As a connected educator, I get so many great ideas from my PLN (professional learning network). It was my pleasure to be able to give back through my involvement with a specific group on Facebook that targeted provided resources for families. If you are still looking for resources or just want to take a look the group is : Top Educators’ - Home Learning Tips for Parents.
You can also see some of the resources from the group compiled here:
It is really good to be back. I am looking forward to sharing more with you in the coming days and months. Let's connect:
This was my second time attending SC Midlands Summit in beautiful Columbia, SC. As promised, last year I was just an attendee while this year I was invited to present two sessions. This was a great way to end my week and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. While the sessions were great, that wasn't the high point of my time at the conference. The high point for me was connecting with people. It was great to see my colleagues and spend some quality learning time with them. I am so fortunate to know some great educators. I love supporting them and I truly appreciate the support they give to me. This Blog Is Why professional development and relationships go hand-in-hand. Love my PLN!
After leaving the Partnership Conference at Winthrop University and attending Midlands Summit, I definitely detected a theme in the learning this summer. Computer Science/STEM/STEAM are the hot topics. There were so many connections from the keynote speakers Mike Meechin @mikemeechin and Dr. Cindy Moss @stemboss. I learned about several careers in the computer science/tech industry that I did not know before. This is the information that we must share with our staff and students.
Have you heard of these career options? Mind blown.
Some other conference highlights:
1) Over the course of the conference, I was able to support my colleague and PLN friends. The great thing about technology is that there is so much to learn. I was proud of my colleague for presenting her first session on Guided Math. I was also proud of myself for being able to complete most of the activities that she shared (despite my math phobia!). I also learned some great tech tools thanks to @sblakeney3 and @psjoseph718 that I will be trying out soon. Check them out on Twitter.
Random Name Generator
2) This year, my favorite session was presented by Mrs. Shambi Broome. I have been using Scratch this year with Google's CS First curriculum and Shambi has opened my eyes to a whole new world of options with Scratch and the new Teacher Account. I am excited to get started creating and sharing in the Scratch community. I look forward to sharing more with you soon! In the meantime, check out her website:
3) Seeing so many familiar faces in the audience helped to ease my stress level as I presented. I also truly appreciated the participants' willingness to try new tech tools. My first session was my version of an EdTech Top 10. As I shared with my audience, this list could include so many different resources. Even in preparing my presentation, I changed and switched out items several times. Check it out and drop me a line if you have something new that you think I might enjoy! And my second session was all about blogging. I love talking about blogging and my goal is to inspire others to pursue blogging as a reflection tool.
EdTech Top 10: Tips & Tools to Implement Now
Welcome to the Bloggers' Cafe
**@ = Twitter connections
Wow. What an amazing week of learning! Well, this conference wrap-up is not brought to you by "computer science" but the 9th Annual Partnership Conference for Educational Renewal. Long name, right?! I always love presenting at my alma mater, Winthrop University. And this time was no different. There were a couple of firsts for me this time around: co-presenting with colleagues and focusing on the topic of computer science. This Blog Is Why after co-presenting two sessions at the conference, I am more committed than ever to implementing computer science (standards) into our elementary curriculum.
Before we dive into the wide world of computer science, I want to give a huge shout-out to one of my former colleagues (really, still a colleague; we just don't work in the same space any more!). She was a presenter at the conference and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing. I learned all about the WriteReader program and I can't wait to explore it with teachers in the upcoming school year. I enjoyed seeing samples of work from her students. What a great way to start grooming those future authors in the classroom!
Our computer science sessions focused mainly on three areas: the standards, hands-on learning, and curriculum connections. I will share some resources here, but I am also motivated to create some professional development sessions for schools in our area as we begin (continue) to implement these standards. We really hope to alleviate the "one more thing" feeling and help educators to recognize the importance of preparing students for jobs in this market. As we discussed this topic and the standards, I thought of the video linked below and how crazy that at my very next conference (see Conference Wrap-Up: Midlands Summit 2018) the keynote used it in her address. I hope you will share these videos with fellow educators, students, parents, etc. Share the possibilities. Let's expand kids' minds!
First Step: Familiarize yourself with the Computer Science standards. Decide which ones you can implement easily and which ones may be a bit more difficult. What are some key terms that stand out? Are there any that will require defining (for you and/or students)?
SC Computer Science and Digital Literacy Standards
Next Step: Identify where these standards fit into your current curriculum. Are there areas where you already address certain skills? If not, how can you incorporate computer science standards into the core subject areas?
Final Step: Create opportunities for hands-on learning. And keep in mind that you do not always need the latest, greatest tech tool or gadget. You can teach many concepts without the use of a device. During the conference, I enjoyed getting to explore with my colleagues and brainstorm how I will implement these activities in the upcoming school year. But most importantly, it was just fun. So don't be afraid. Dive in!
As many of my fellow colleagues are heading back to work after a relaxing Spring Break, I am just getting started! And how do you think I started it off? That's right, work-related! But, in my defense, it was a much needed laugh break. This Blog Is Why: if you have not had the chance to hear principal Gerry (pronounced "Gary", but southern) Brooks speak, make plans to be at his next event.
Here is one of my favorite clips, just in case you have not seen his work (no judgment):
Even though we may know him as the fun-loving guy who makes us laugh with his southern accent and funny videos, he delivered some powerful gems. What I enjoyed about his presentation was the REAL-ness. He shared his journey as an administrator and a YouTube sensation (my words, not his). As educators, we all face similar struggles. Principal Brooks sheds some light on how he has handled situations and adds in a little humor through video messages. There were several times I had tears rolling down my face and I just could not help but laugh out loud (no, really).
His message is great for principals and/or staff who may need a little culture and climate boost. It's like standing before a mirror and realizing, "Yes, I do that." Or "You know, I could do that better." It's not about pointing fingers or placing blame, but understanding our role in building the culture/climate of our work space. So as not to ruin the experience for you, I am going to share a few general points.
Keynote Speaker Highlights:
1) As a former administrator, one of my mantras was "Have Fun" because we are in a tough business and if we don't take time to laugh, the stress becomes unbearable.
2) There are some things that are within our control to change. If so, change it if you don't like it. And the things we cannot change, we should not allow those to consume our days.
3) Finally, do you reflect on personality types in your building/work space? What makes you tick? Do you pay attention to the likes/dislikes of those around you? One of the ways that I like to start off a semester with my college students is by completing some type of fun personality quiz similar to the Myers-Briggs inventory. I also like to share my results. I completed the real (paid) version in college and again as an administrator. My results were exactly the same despite a span of about 15 years. What that tells me is that this is just who I am: good, bad, or indifferent. I think it's important to know how others like to work and/or interact with others. Let's take the guess work out and really get to know those that we spend a great deal of time with in our work lives.
Here's one that I like to use: Personality Test
One final video for the road...Happy Spring Break!!
Blogger/Educator/Grant Writer/ Future Ready Presenter/Aspiring Administrator