Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Power of the PLN

Not too long ago, I sat and watched a friend in Kansas connect with my friends in Montgomery, TX. As I was sitting there I started to reflect on the importance of connecting with others. The importance of knowing that we aren't the experts at everything and that reaching out for guidance and inspiration is more about growth than it is about deficit.
It took me a while, as an educator, to come to this realization. To completely understand the Power of the PLN.

What is a PLN? To me, a PLN is a group of professionals that thrive on the concept of "sharing is caring." The more that I think about the term PLN, it makes me think of a Kindergarten classroom or any classroom for that matter. When learners first enter elementary school, what is one of the first things that we teach them to do? Share. We foster a learning environment that encourages and inspires students to collaborate, share, and bounce ideas off one another. Isn't that exactly what a PLN is to us today as lead learners? So why, as educators, is it sometimes so hard for us to ask for help? Why does that fear sometimes win?
I didn't realize the power of connectivity until about 3 years ago, when I finally decided to start a classroom Twitter account.  I was inspired by Kayla Delzer, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made as an educator-the decision to make my classroom more than the four walls that contained it. During that school year and the next, my kids connected with Ryan Davidson, a meteorologist from the weather channel (check out his story here), a Martian soil expert from Kansas (check out her story here), a college professor and her students from South Carolina, and so many more. Little did I know that meeting this college professor would mean so much to me and my profession!
Dr. Julie P. Jones was one of the first educators that I met on Twitter, and it was all because we (my 4th grade classroom) thanked her for being our 200th follower. She quickly responded, but not just with a "thank you". She sent my kids some challenges about #make200. It was one of the first instances where I recognized the power that Twitter had, especially for my kids.  Dr. Julie P. Jones is a professor at Converse College in South Carolina, and she works with educator prep students. Because of our initial connection, our classes soon connected for other reasons! My 4th grade students visited with her college age students about classroom management, technology tools, and classroom jobs. They loved being able to voice their thoughts about the classroom and education with future teachers.
A year later, we finally met in real life! We presented about Twitter at a conference in Orlando, FL called ATE about the magic that is social media.  It was such a surreal experience to meet one of my Twitter heroes!! 
Even from afar, her and so many others like Jed Dearybury, Marialice Curran, Matt Murrie, and Jaime Donally support me and lift me up from various corners of our world.

I am forever blessed to know and love my PLN, and I have Twitter to thank for 

My advice to you: Get on Twitter and grow your PLN!  You will not regret it! 

Some of my other favorite things:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

I Sat Next to My Heart Today

I started to write this blog post a couple of weeks ago, and I have been thinking about it ever since.  It was inspired by my niece, Nancy.  Nancy saved me almost 6 years ago.  I never knew she was the missing piece to my heart.  The piece that I lost after my mother, Nancy, passed away from stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2006.  Losing my mother was and will always be the hardest thing that I have ever gone through.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of her or go to pick up my phone to call her. Everything I do as an educator is with her in mind.  She was a phenomenal teacher, and I am who I am today because of her.

I as I sit here, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face, I hope that this post inspires you to do great things for your kids. They deserve your very best!

I sat next to my heart today, and told her that I loved her.  As soon as I said it, I asked myself "Am I telling her this enough?". Do I tell her that she is strong and beautiful and everything in between?  Have I told her that she is the half to my whole heart?  That she is the vivid color in the dark?  That I can't wait to see where her life takes her?  To answer that first question, what is enough?  There shouldn't be a cap on how many times you say I love you or how many times you show the ones you love how much you care.

I wonder if our kids, our students, are hearing these things as much as they should in our classrooms or as much as they deserve.  Are they hearing that they will move mountains with every word spoken?  That they will rattle and shake the norms of society?  That they are loved and appreciated for being exactly who they were meant to be?

Love them.  When they fight and struggle, love them.  When they tell you they don't care, love them.  When they turn away, love them, and remind them of that daily.  Love them on good days and bad.  Love them all.  You might be the only bright light that they've seen in a while.  Make sure your time with them is intentional and full of love and laughter.  Just love them.  We all make a choice as educators on how we choose to impact the life of a child.  Our job is an important one.

Thank you, Nancy, for making me an aunt, or as she likes to call me, her "Mamy". Thank you for inspiring me to be the best human being for my kids, past, present, and future.  I am the lucky one.  Love you, forever and always! #breadandbutter

Video Created in Grad School
"It All Began With Nancy"

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Read Alouds and Sketchnotes

When I was a little girl, my mother read to me and my twin sister every single night.  She made these instances more than pictures and words.  She turned every read aloud into an experience for us.  She added funny voices and expressions, and she always stopped, every now and then, to ask us questions. She, intentionally, made us a part of the book. I know, without a doubt, that my love of reading was because of these experiences.

Recently, a teacher (Mrs. Pilgrim) on my campus reached out to me to work alongside her to expose her students to sketchnoting.  Her kids were reading Number the Stars, and she wanted them to sketch their thoughts after each chapter.  What a cool idea, right!  Sketchnotes, sometimes referred to as visual notetaking, are purposeful doodles while listening to something interesting. (Sketchnote ArmyTanny McGregor states that drawing and doodling can keep us from daydreaming and help us to focus on the task at hand.  When the need to understand is high, SKETCH! Check out Kathy Shrock's Guide to Sketchnoting to learn more about it!

Created by Tanny McGregor

Practice Day for Sketchnotes

When I was in Mrs. Pilgrim's room, she asked if I wanted to stay and listen to a chapter from the book.  You know me...I didn't hesitate!  Even at 36, I crave read alouds!  Mrs. Pilgrim was so engaging, and the kids and myself could not get enough! I visited her class more after that just to hear another chapter, and every time a chapter ended the kids begged for one more!  That is when you know that you have created and fostered an environment in your classroom that supports and honors a love of reading.  I was reminded, once again, how important it is to read to kids. Read to your kids, no matter the age, no matter the grade level. 

Just Read.

Thank you, Mrs. Pilgrim!  Thank you for the fond memories of my mother and for making memories with me! I loved every minute spent listening to you read! As Adam Welcome says, keep being awesome for your kids!!

This blog post is also featured on our instructional coaching blog page.