Thursday, August 31, 2017

Reflections on the start of a New School Year

This school year has started off with a fast pace and I AM LOVING IT!  Mesquite High School is a great place to be. During the summer I met with the principal and then I met with a bunch of the department chairs to plan the professional development sessions that we would have for technology. I was so impressed with what these leaders wanted to focus on. They didn't talk about just apps, computers, or programs, but they talked about instruction.  Together we planned a "conference style" PD with optional sessions for teachers to have choices. There were two required PD sessions that all had to take in the morning, but only one was required. Therefore, we created 3 to 4 other sessions to run concurrently with those. Of course, a long lunch break was in order and then 4 sessions each for the afternoon time slots. It all seemed great until they started naming them and they sounded so tools based. After the great dialogue of how to use technology with instruction, I was a bit disappointed but was hopeful that it could be more.

After starting back to work with our department and finding out more about how the technology plan was going to fit into our year, my planning began to change. We modified the names of the sessions and my teammates took on the task of planning instructional sessions and not tools!  It was so great to have that kind of team spirit and unity for others to pitch in and help me. Some of the teachers from MHS took on sessions as well.

The day came and the CTE teacher and I went around checking on the technology and working parts of all of the rooms in preparation for the day. We got most of the kinks worked out just in time to begin the sessions. Everything seemed to be going so well.  The principals came by and observed some, my boss came by many of the sessions and it all seemed to go so well. Afterwards, I was exhausted!  I cannot thank my team enough for all of the help, encouragement, and support they gave me.

Reflecting upon all of it I have learned that I need to learn how to guide the planning better and steer it towards good instruction by questioning them forward and driving it more.  I need to learn more of the coaching skills to do this better.  As far as the sessions go, I would have fewer sessions with longer times. This would give time to not only teach the instructional portion with the tool but to allow for discussion, questions, and creation.

Another thing that I would hope to see would be for the teachers to truly have a choice in what session they attended. In the planning session, I thought that the teachers would decide what they wanted to learn after attending the mandatory session. Sadly, this didn't happen as much as planned.  Many of the department chairs required their teachers to attend certain sessions. Choice works best when it is a true choice.

Over all, I felt very good about how it all played out.

The Learning Center had me come on two days to teach the technology plan in the morning.  I chose to teach part of it through the Google Classroom by having them as students to do some Formative Assessments and some with differentiation.  If I could do this over again, I would build in more curiosity about the plan before I told about it. I would also add some "soul searching" type brainstorming or journaling activity to push them to honestly think about how they use technology as part of their instruction. Then I would show the plan and continue with the sort and learning in context.

For the afternoon sessions, I continued with them participating in the Google Classroom to experience it as a student and see how and what they would need their students to do for the assignments.  I really like how well this went. The teachers were very responsive with lots of questions. Many times they would try to ask questions and realize that they were actually answering their own question by what we were doing. It was amazing to watch them get more and more curious as to how something was created and we had the time to stop and then create their own in their Google Classroom.   If I were to do this again, I would add in more true collaboration with it.  We did mostly group type work, with a little bit of collaboration.  I hope to be able to do another session with the whole group in the future about collaboration.

Reflecting really puts things under a microscope where you can see the good and the bad. It gives me time to rejoice in the good and plan how I can improve anything that was deemed "bad."

  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

ISTE...International Society for Technology in Education

I hope that you are enjoying your summer!  It is so fun getting to see the grandkids and to do things around the house.  If you haven't heard, I have been assigned different schools for next year.  I am going to miss my schools. Hanby, Range, Rugel, and Academy are very near and dear to my heart, but new adventures now await me. I will be at...wait for it...

MESQUITE HIGH SCHOOL and The LEARNING CENTER!

I have already met with one principal and have begun making plans. I can't wait to meet the other and make plans and continue what my fabulous predecessors have begun!

I am attending ISTE this week.  ISTE stands for  International Society for Technology in Education.  I am so excited because this is and INTERNATIONAL event.  People that I have been following from around the world for years will be there!  You can join in and keep up with the learning and thinking by reading this article that gives some great ways to  "BE THERE" without actually being there:  http://www.coolcatteacher.com/5-ways-participate-iste17-even-youre-not-notatiste17/

There is so much to learn and see and try when you are at a conference. I am wanting to learn more about coding, how to encourage teachers using technology in ways to deepen the learning in the student, increase curiosity and to make it meaningful through contextual learning.  I poring over the schedule of workshops, lectures, unconferences, poster sessions, hands-on and makey sessions!  I want to hit on a variety of things to learn all that I can in order to help my teachers and move my campuses forward with Communication, Collaboration, Contextual Learning, and Curiosity.

I hope you join in!


Melinda

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Now the Year is Coming to an End...

It's that time of the year!  Super hectic, exciting, sad, crazy, stressful and every other emotion in between.  I know because I am feeling many of the same things that you are!  Every position in this district has its own set of stress and responsibility. None is more important that the other, yet we often think that they are.  We try to compare our jobs to that of others, but we always seem to fall short or think that we have the heavier load. If we are giving our job our full potential, then there really isn't any time for comparison.  There is so much to do and reading this isn't going to help you get it done!  So, on to what will help you!  Below is the newsletter and it covers the end of year procedures and what to do with your Google Classroom.  There are offerings for Summer Staff Development and an introduction to the new Google EArth!   If you haven't signed up for EdCamp Mesquite 2017, then you are missing out on some of the best professional learning right here in Mesquite.  Here is the link to register:  https://bit.do/mesqedcamp


Friday, April 7, 2017

Growing Pains

How many times can you remember being told, "Oh, it's just growing pains?" Growing pains.  That two-word term has so many connotations. Not only the physical pain of growing up but the pain of growing mentally, spiritually, psychologically and even professionally.  I have been experiencing more of the latter with the other three joining in here lately.

 As a seasoned veteran teacher, and now a seasoned technology facilitator,  age has a way of slowing down your mental and physical faculties. Processing thoughts seem to slow down as well as physical energy.  My campuses had changed in the last couple of years and I have focused on building relationships with my new teachers and cultivating relationships at my one campus that I maintained more than our integration and learning of new technologies. I saw my campuses becoming stagnant or at least I didn't see the technology in use and became very discouraged. Instead of picking myself up by the bootstraps, as they say, I fell unwittingly into a sort of professional depression.  I began having pity parties and withdrawing from my team and not seeking support where I needed it. I also pined for retirement to come. All of these behaviors were making things worse and my usually positive attitude became sullen.

Sullen is how I described it, but during a "mid-year check-up" with my bosses, one of them said that it appeared that I didn't love my job anymore. This boss iterated that there didn't seem to be the same joy in my step. That really hit me hard.  Joy is one thing that comes from deep inside. Joy, to me, is not only a sense of happiness but of things being right, good, purposeful, hopeful and everything that Christ encompasses.  Christ, the center of my life, my stronghold, my hope, is the one whom I trust for everything.  To not see the joy in me is to say that you don't see Him in me.  This brought me to my knees. It began a journey of self-reflection, personally and professionally. God knew that I needed to hear that. Words have such power and the choice of using the word joy was no coincidence. I needed to find my joy in my professional life again.

With probing questions from my supervisors, I began the trek across the desert. Questions, questions, questions. So many questions. What's my job? How do I do my job? WHY do I do my job? What professional learning have I done? What would I like to learn about? How do I interact with my principals and teachers? Have I built a professional as well as a personal relationship with these people?  Do I know who my innovators are? What about the early adopters, early majority, etc.? What is the vision that your principals have for each of their schools? What goals...?  The questions were dizzying! I pored over these questions. I racked my brain, prayed for insight and clarity. I sketched, journaled, read.  I read, read and read more. Still, they were a jumble in my head. Then I came across two articles from A.J. Juliani that came back to back in my inbox.  (no coincidence there, either)  The first one titled "The Real Reason Teachers and Leaders are Overwhelmed"  had me screaming YES! YES! YES! at first. Then he started listing some guiding beliefs and my eyebrows went up with curiosity. Yes! These were encouraging. It was as if he had been watching my career. Then the next article was "3 Mistakes I Made Trying to Be an Innovative Teacher and Leader."  I had that major AHA moment!  I was thinking that this guy must be in my head or something. (don't believe in coincidences) It had to be a vivid answer to my prayers; divine intervention.  I had been making the exact same mistakes!

Mistake #1: Too much time spent thinking, reading, and watching what might change your teaching, your school, education - and not enough time spent doing the work.

Mistake #2: Focusing on the shiny new programs, apps, products, technology instead of what works.

Mistake #3: Trying to do everything by yourself You aren't a lone wolf, you are human, and humans need community to thrive and innovate.

WOW! I took a break from reading and began delving into the questions that I had been asked, but this time with purpose!  I wrote down my why (in a previous blog post),  made appointments with principals and had REAL,  purposeful conversations which have started a new "era" in our planning. I walked on campuses with a purpose in mind for being there. I began having better education-centered conversations with my teachers. I began planning. I boldly stepped out and asked colleagues if I could join them in planning, sharing and even asking for help. It is as though the light bulb finally clicked on!

Am I there yet? NO.  Will I ever be completely there?  I hope not.  There is not a place to be. It is a continual process. Am I still struggling? YES.  I am in a better place professionally, spiritually, and mentally?  YES.  Besides, I'm not that old. I have a lot of good things to do and innovation left in me. Best of all, I am not doing this alone!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Downhill Slide!

I have heard it said that after spring break we are on the "downhill slide" for the rest of the year.  What!  It usually carries with it the connotation that everything is basically over and we are just running down the last few things.  I like to think of it as a race.  When you are at the very last part of a race, game or event that is when you have to not only give it all that you've got, but you've got to try to drag up even more courage, effort and "umph" to keep the momentum up and win the contest. One of the ways that I like to inspire myself to keep on is to open up my Tweet Deck with my Twitter account and quickly read all of the inspiring quotes and tweets from great educators that I follow worldwide.  Next, I like to look for the local teachers who have tweeted and see the videos that they post of the amazing things that their students are doing. Here's a link to great hashtags to follow on Twitter:  MISD Twitter Info

If that doesn't do the trick, then I seek out the websites of my favorite EdTech gurus.  Some of these folks are:

Vicki Davis, the CoolCat Teacher
 Leslie Fisher
Tony Vincent (Learning in Hand)
Kathy Schrock
Tammy Tang
Todd Nesloney
A. J. Juliani
George Couros
Chris Casal

Finally, you just can't beat sitting down and having a heart to heart conversation with yourself. This comes in many forms.  Journaling, praying and talking to my fellow teachers whom I admire are just a few of the ways that I try to reflect and improve upon my game.  It may be a "downhill slide" but I am preparing for the next run!  Come go with me.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Why Do I Do What I Do, you ask?

A best friend and colleague passed away years ago at the young age of 37. She was an amazing teacher who loved kids and they knew it. At her funeral, there were as many, if not more kids as there were adults. One student, whom we had in both of our classes, came up to me and said, "Because of Mrs. Henderson and you, I am no longer in a gang." This let me know that what I truly believed  about kids and teaching was the real thing. All kids can learn, all are worth every bit of the struggle, hard work, countless hours of planning, grading, studying and although I may not see the results immediately, I truly believe that I can make a positive difference in their lives.

Years later as my energy waned and results were hard to see, my why came to life again through technology. I had taught with all of the tried and true methods, even abandoning many of the strategies that I thought best, to teach like the majority of my colleagues who were "making the grade" and I was still getting the same results. It was that year, that I not only had a student computer in my room, but I received a Promethean board. It began to engage students in ways that I hadn't seen in years. Some reluctant learners began to join in. Then the same year I piloted a program for iPods in the bilingual classroom. This broke down barriers for the most shy and reluctant children. They could take the iPod alone to a corner or outside the door and listen to a story or record their passage and then listen back while increasing their reading comprehension and fluency skills. Before, they may not have written but a few sentences, but after recording what they wrote and then listening back to it and revising their papers, they began to write more. The stories became intelligible, creative and interesting. The passages became easier for them and their scores increased! I was able to reach more students than I had ever before! I was sold on how effective technology could be, not to mention a time saver in many ways.  Finally, I had more tools in my hands to differentiate in so many ways, traditionally and technically, that I was not just making a difference in children's lives, but in their educational outlook as well!

From there I began showing my colleagues what I was doing and how easy it could be to individualize learning and even use "stations" at a middle grade level to allow for more personalized and small group instruction. After that, I got the job as an instructional technology facilitator. In this job I am able to engage children at their interest level, see a teacher who struggles with understanding how technology works finally be able to do something on their own. It makes every day more satisfying. I meet with administrators and push them to move forward. I plan with teachers to see the possibilities of greater experiences for their students through technology and how it allows students to create and show their learning in many different outlets that used to not exist and possibly find ways to innovate that haven't even been conceived. I connect with people on a personal and a professional level and build relationships with them to encourage, teach, love and push them to be their very best because I truly believe that all people can learn and that I can make a difference.

This is why I do what I do. Thank you for asking!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Differentiation in Real Life

One of my campus principals reminded me the other day that all campuses are at a different place.  This reminded me of the classroom where I knew that every student could be at a different place, with different needs in and for their learning. This was like an aha! moment.

I have four campuses and, yes, each. one. is. different.

One campus has had lots of devices and technology trainings and the likes for many years.  They are in a routine now and many times I feel they are in a rut doing the same old, same old with the same results. Just like the driver who tries to get the horse to move and pull the wagon out of the ruts, many times it doesn't work unless there is more help than just the horse.  Having additional people and methods together can often get the wagon moving smoothly and, more often than not, more rapidly. I need to plan and collaborate with colleagues and teachers about ways to move the campus out of its ruts and onto more fruitful terrain.

The second campus has quite a bit of technology and has acquired quite a bit in the last couple of years. There are eager users and insecure users. There are those that have tried and true methods that they still want to continue doing the same things using the current technology. Some of these still work with it, but others do not. What it doesn't do is push the students further and it doesn't use the device(s) in the way that it was designed - to create. For this I am excited because many of the new teachers have come from campuses that have lots of technology and are avid users striving to know more and push it more to its limits. This type of use is contagious! Now do you see why I am excited? As others talk, I hope that they will seek me out to come and plan innovative lessons together.

The third campus is experiencing growing pains. They have not had for so long, but had begun to thirst for technology. They have been able to make some purchases and have received them. Now it is on to learning, trying and spreading their wings.  As baby birds still need nourishment and growth before being pushed out of the nest, so do these teachers.  I am setting up meetings with them to gather information of what they feel they need and tailoring their planning and learning to meet those needs. It is exciting and very scary for some. Many are so eager to fly.  I can't wait!

I wouldn't say that my fourth campus is stuck in a rut with tried and true methods and not so eager to fly, but the true course of this campus is to do everything that they can to provide, foster and push these students to graduation. That being said, the method that is given to them is an older online version of technology that has been put to the test and it works. That being said, there are some teachers who, like new car shoppers, have found that there are newer models out there to be had and could possibly assist them with their work allowing them more time to spend with those students who so desperately need them.  I cannot be the used car salesman that tells them everything and sells them something quickly and it not be what truly meets their needs.  I have to be more of the high end car salesman that seeks the exact model and accessories that fit each individual owner perfectly.  It is a slow process, but it is working!

Innovation isn't overnight, but it can be done.  Watch and see.