Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tough to Admit

Those of you that know me know that I have a soft spot for some of our most challenged students. Several years ago I was teaching 5th grade and I had a boy that was in my class.  I had been hearing about him for a few years.  For privacy purposes we will call the boy Robbie.  Literally since the boy was in 2nd grade I had heard the murmurs.  I watched other educators shake their heads and I listened to people write the boy off.  Deep down I thought, hmmm, I think he could be a "year ruiner".

The summer before he entered 5th grade I saw Robbie's name on my class list.  I had heard so much negative talk surrounding the boy that my immediate reaction was one of disappointment and defeat. After that initial feeling (which lasted a couple weeks) I decided to change my perspective.  I began to self-talk and read books that talked about teaching the whole child.  

As school was getting ready to begin, I intentionally skipped his CA-60.  I intentionally skipped meeting with his previous teachers.  I knew Robbie's best chance for success was going to be a clean slate.

The first time I met Robbie was at our Back 2 School Night.  He came down with his grandparents and his blonde hair nearly covered his eyes.  The next thing I noticed was Robbie grinning ear to ear. As I mingled with parents and met students I glanced Robbie's way a few times.  Each time he appeared happy.  I didn't see the anger or the defiance that had become synonomous with the young man.  

As the night came to an end, I reflected on the evening.  I began to get angry with myself for thinking the worst.  Shame on me.  Shame on me as an adult.  Shame on me as a professional.  I had listened to the worst and I was the one with a negative mindset directed toward this child.

As the school year kicked-off I met with Robbie frequently.  I discovered his love for riding quads and being outdoors.  I also found out that Robbie didn't like to sit still and learn about subjects and predicates.  I began to see why he caused others grief.  Robbie didn't care to learn what he didn't consider valuable.  He essentially checked out of the learning and disrupted the class.  When he was spoken to he got an attitude and the situation would quickly escalate.  I discovered this within the first few weeks of school.  So, as the professional, I decided to get ahead with Robbie.  I went to one of his football games early in the year.  I called grandma and grandpa once a week and I celebrated Robbie's successes.  What I was finding was that Robbie was a neat boy, but his story was tragic. Robbie didn't have a dad in his life, and mom was struggling to be a mom (her visits in and out of jail were not viewed as strong parenting).  

The more I learned the better I was with young Robbie.  I still look back and kick myself for thinking the worst.  But I feel good about the year Robbie had.  At our final conference in the spring I remember grandma telling me that this was Robbie's best year in school.  I remember the principal commenting to me, "I hardly saw Robbie this year, he must have grown up in 5th grade."  Those remarks wouldn't have happened if I had simply believed everything I had heard.

Most of you are still early in the school year.  I bet you have at least one student that is a "challenge". I'm turning the challenge back on you.  Here is my three tier challenge:

1)  Don't give up on kids!  Whatever you do, find something that is worthy of celebrating.  That child needs you more than you may ever know.

2)  Ask for help.  If you have exhausted your best tactics and nothing seems to work, ask for help. You could have a colleague sit in and watch.  You could meet with a family member.  You could read a book that gives you fresh ideas.  You could meet with other specialists that may offer insight into how to best move forward.

3)  Focus on yourself.  I often see educators showing displeasure through body language and through words.  Our kids see that and our kids hear that.  We must rise above and not tip our hand.  As professionals we need to show a positive disposition.  

For some, you may only be a couple weeks into school.  Have you already thrown your hands-up? Have you tried everything there is to try?  Does the student know when he or she has disappointed you?  The school year is a journey, and what I know is that the best educators are the ones that you cannot tell whether they have a good group or a bad group.  They are the ones that find the greatness and celebrate the small moments that make the difference.

This Week's Big Question:  After the first few weeks of school, can others tell if this is a "good" class or a "bad" class?  If you answered yes, how do you feel about that?


Monday, Sept. 15th:  PM Fire Drill
Monday, Sept. 15th:  NWEA Testing Window Opens
Tuesday, Sept. 16th:  Admin Meeting
Tuesday, Sept. 16th:  Nicole Kelly will be at CPI training in the MS
Tuesday, Sept. 16th:  Final day to submit videos for
Wednesday, Sept. 17th:  Grades K-2 Morning Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, Sept. 17th:  Constitution Day
Friday, Sept. 19th:  Happy BDay to Marcia Etters

Articles Worth Reading:  

Are You a Reflective Teacher? +TeachThought @TeachThought

Expanding EdCamp Leadership +Joe Mazza @Joe_Mazza

Thoughts on Homework... +Jeff Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

Findings: Positive Relationship Between Family Involvement and Student Success +M.A. Stewart @MAStewartMA

Mike Rowe Gives Life Advice  (This is Fantastic!)

9 Signs it's time to take a Step Forward @marcandangel

How to dig deep when you want to quit @ShutUpRun

Why Sharing Your Good Work is Necessary, Not Boastful! +Kristen Swanson @kristenswanson

A Pre-Mortem for EdTech +Brad Wilson @dreambition

It Starts Here +Shannon Degan @shannondegan

Videos Worth Watching:

Can't wait to get a 3D Printer at Warner! (2 min)

Classic Ellen. The POWER OF PAYING IT FORWARD! (5 min)

Pay it Forward...just because. (3 min)

Where did that ball end up? (2 min)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cooler Heads Prevail

Years ago my parents wanted to begin a new family tradition.  They concocted the plan of skipping family gatherings and going to the Thanksgiving Day Detroit Lions football games.  On the surface you would think this would be every sport-loving boy's dream...but then you take into account that I love turkey and I'm not a Lion fan.  Well, let's just say the idea was... okay.

So the first year we decided to go the Lions were playing the Redskins.  We sat in the end zone and I was pulling hard for Barry Sanders.  The first half was very competitive.  I found that the game was a little tough to follow from the end zone, but the gigantic big screen definitely helped.  One memory I cannot get out of my head was the number of fans that booed.  I sat amongst hundreds of Lion fans in the end zone and every poor play was booed mercilessly.  I sat back and thought, "These are Lion fans?"

As the game progressed it became obvious that Washington was going to win.  My brother was a few years younger and I could tell he didn't really care, but he did want a souvenir of some sort.  So we walked a bit and looked for various items he was interested in.  When we returned a group of rowdy fans sitting behind us began throwing anything they could get their hands on towards the field.  I was embarrassed to be associated with any Lions fans.  Then my dad turned around and instead of asking politely to stop, he got angry and frustrated.  The next thing I know there is a full out brawl in the end zone bleachers and I'm pulling people off of each other.  How about that for Thanksgiving?

I tend to reflect on moments like this with thoughts of, "How could this have been handled differently?" It always concerns me when I see moments like this or I read about a road rage incident. Our society reacts with violence and anger.  Everyone would benefit from being patient, understanding and simply choosing kindness.

What I have come to learn is that most people rush to judge, panic and lose their cool when life becomes stressful.

Nothing like that happened at Warner Elementary this past week, but what I did notice is that both students and adults were lacking a consistent routine.  The week was very good, but it did have some interesting moments.  Early in the year we all lack that routine and procedure, and the research tells us we have... The Need For Routines and Procedures.

I expect anxiety, stress and people feeling overwhelmed.  It's important to let cooler heads prevail.  I also try very hard to keep things in perspective.  I read The Last Lecture a couple years ago and it really helped me with perspective.

Here comes a new week. Let's focus on continuing to build strong lasting relationships and let's also focus on establishing the consistency that our students crave.  You should all be uplifted by the fact so many parents have raved about the mood and atmosphere of Warner.  Our kids are excited, we are focusing on the right things and we have each other!  This year is going to be great, so let's keep calm and stay positive!


Monday, Sept. 8th: Happy BDay to Jennifer Schaible
Tuesday, Sept. 9th:  First PTO meeting at 7pm
Wednesday, Sept. 10th:  First Early Release, dismissal at 2:35
Wednesday, Sept. 10th:  Grades 3-5 assembly at 8:45am
Friday, Sept. 12th:  8am Staff Meeting
Friday, Sept. 12th:  Happy BDay to Kristy Soper
Saturday, Sept. 13th:  Happy Bday to Colleen White

Articles Worth Reading:

How can we all keep the Kindergarten Spirit? +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

It's September. Don't Worry Teaching Gets Better. +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

The Best Back To School Apps +Erin Klein @KleinErin

A Teacher's Impact +Jeff Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

Be The Dinosaur +Brad Gustafson @GustafsonBrad

Birthing a Revolution #nerdybookclub

Videos Worth Watching:

Bengals Show True Empathy (2 min)

Cracks me up!  Nice trick Ellen. (5 min)

It's not about the notes on the page.  We must help kids find their passion. (7 min)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Excited with Anticipation!

Exactly 80 days ago we waived goodbye to our students.  For many of us the summer was filled with re-connecting with family, re-charging our own batteries and getting re-committed for an exciting new year!  In just three days we get to welcome our students back and do what we do best, make a difference in kids lives.

Every Summer something occurs that leaves me in awe of our staff.  

My first year at Warner I attended a PLC Summit in Lincolnshire, Illinois.  I spent days connecting and learning from/with Warner teachers.  We went to dinner together, we talked about family and we discussed education (we even scrunched into a cab together... boy that was tight quarters).  As a professional it was the first time I had ever attended a multi-day conference with so many team members.

My second year I remember teachers spending hour after hour in curriculum camp.  Teachers developed calendars, activities, assessments and strategies.  It was once again an eye-opening event to watch the dedication of our team!

Summer number three was a critical time.  Teacher evaluations had taken place and it was vital to take the time during the summer to meet with staff and let them know I care about them. That summer I had several heart felt conversations.  The efforts made that summer by our staff helped build our culture to new levels.

My fourth summer literally blew my mind...we had committed to creating inviting spaces at Warner Elementary.  The plan was to paint the restrooms (beginning our Leader in Me journey).  By the end of the summer the restrooms, the entryways and most classrooms were painted.  That summer I remember walking past teachers and staff and listening to the conversations.  That summer I was so impressed with what I watched.  The building transformed!  The surface looked beautiful, but the connections and relationships are what grew the most.

This summer I fully expected most staff members to getaway and recharge.  Last year's changes simply zapped us.  I knew people needed time.  But then it began to happen.  One by one I began seeing staff come in to the building.  Some came in to get their hands on the new math curriculum.  Others came in to paint and still others came in to redesign their classrooms.  I walked the halls and talked to many staff.  In those conversations you could hear could hear the excitement, the passion and the anticipation in their voices.

Last Thursday was our Back 2 School Night and I can say, in my five years at Warner I have never been to a better Open House!  Families came in droves and the positive energy was simply amazing.

I can't tell you how often I hear people share negatives about public education.  I hear people talk about testing and funding.  I hear people talk about educators leaving the profession.  Most of all I hear people talk about the stresses of teaching.  I may be naive, but I believe Warner is simply different.  Our focus is on relationships.  We have endured challenges and the beauty of it is that we went through the challenges together.  You find out a lot about people in times of crisis.

Everyday we continue to build our culture, we take risks, we put relationships first and we pride ourselves in strong communication.

In three short days our kids come back.  I know this will be a great year!  I know this because I know our staff.  I know we can handle adversity, we can handle challenges, we can handle bumps in the road...because we love kids!  I can't wait to walk side-by-side with all of you.


Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  Make Sure SafeSchools Online Training is complete
Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  Boo-Hoo Breakfast for parents (in cafeteria from 8:30-9:30am)
Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  First day of school! 8:30am arrival and 3:35pm dismissal.  If you can assist with bussing and dismissals that would be wonderful.

Wednesday, Sept. 3rd:  No assembly (early release begins on the 10th)
Friday, Sept. 5th:  Happy B-Day to Jenny Shearer

*  A few reminders
- discuss fire drill, tornado drill and lockdown procedures with your students
- please do not leave doors leading outside propped open, if you need a key please see me
- please be patient with lunch (remember we have a brand new Kitchen Assistant and she doesn't know the kids yet
- the bus situation is always a test at the beginning of the year, please prepare your students early for dismissal
- remember patience...your technology may not be where you want it for day one...but we will get there!

*  I will be posting the lounge schedule on Monday, Sept. 1st


Why Have a Classroom Site +Beth Still @BethStill

Finding Our Element +Dennis Schug @DJrSchug

The Issue With Comfort Zones +Joe Sanfelippo @joesanfelippofc

The Power of Branding +Tony Sinanis +Joe Sanfelippo @TonySinanis

Change Your Mindset... +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

The Obsolete Tech Director +Tom Murray @thomascmurray

What if... +Geniene Delahunty @GenieneD

20 Things Life is Too Short Not to Appreciate +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel


Every Kid Needs a Champion! Must see for ALL EDUCATORS.  (7 min)

If you watched this each morning it would be tough to ever have a bad day.  (10 min) Music starts at 4 min mark.

The Tale of Two Brains... (13 min)

Morgan Freeman on the Tonight Show.  Great stuff! (3 min)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More than just a Challenge

Growing up with a brother often means taking on odd risks.  I remember some ridiculous things we did as kids.  The whole "I dare you" or even the dreaded "double dare", would push us into precarious spots and test our manhood.  I'm not proud of it, but we watched a lot of WWF wrestling and this would typically start the rambunctiousness.  I do remember a specific dare that I took, and if you know me, I'm not really a daredevil.  As kids, my brother and our two cousins, played this game that we created called Shin-Up Steve.  We were nuts. We chased each other through the woods with a rope and some kind of object (rocks, etc) attached to the end trying to whip it at the others. Obviously, this often inflicted physical harm.  I'm pretty sure the whole game started as a dare.  There's something about accepting a challenge that lights a fire in many of us.

Just last week I was challenged again.  I was challenged by +Brad Gustafson and +Tom Whitford to do the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.  I had heard about the challenge and I even watched a few celebrities do it, but I didn't know how it started and I couldn't tell you much about ALS.  This is what I did know, I knew ALS was synonymous for Lou Gehrig's disease.  I knew that once diagnosed a person's life expectancy was less than five years, but I didn't know a whole lot more.  That didn't stop me, I took the challenge...

But then after I took the challenge I realized the importance of understanding the how and why.  My two boys helped with my #ALSIceBucketChallenge and I could quickly tell it was all about the challenge and not about ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).  So the dad and educator in me decided to share, but first I needed to be a bit sharper with my facts.  So this is what I learned:

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects your nerve cells in your brain and the spinal chord.  That's a mouth full.  So what I told my boys was, ALS often includes muscle weakness/loss, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing and breathing.  

My words seemed to make a small difference, but then I decided it would be best to sit down and watch the #SCFeature, Pete's Challenge.  It was after watching this video (below) that my 9 year old started to truly understand that this was more than just a challenge.

So often our society and our children see the final product, but often times the story is an afterthought. I believe the stories are what provide the lasting impacts.  A few weeks ago I didn't know the name Pete Frates.  Now, I'll never forget the name.  We as adults have the power to take these viral moments and create teachable moments.  I urge you to take the time and educate our youth.  With knowledge comes power to be a true difference maker.  Pete Frates' impact on society is only possible if we choose to learn his story and share the real reason behind the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

Kids around the World are heading back to school, and viral moments will continue to happen. Will we choose to treat them as "teachable moments?"  I know that the #ALSIceBucketChallenge is more than just a trendy social media's people joining together to create a genuine movement.


Sunday, August 24th:  Back-2-School Bash at the Gilpin's 5-8pm
Monday, August 25th:  New Teacher Orientation
Tuesday, August 26th:  (Optional PD day)  All-Staff are welcome to come to Parma at 11am for our Nurtured Heart Training.  11:30 - 3:00pm
Wednesday, August 27th:  7:15 All Staff BKfast followed by Welcome message
Wednesday, August 27th:  MAISA Writing PD day
Thursday, August 28th:  8:30am All-Staff meet at Jackson High School for Ruby Payne
Thursday, August 28th:  12:15pm Staff Luncheon provided by our PTO!
Thursday, August 28th:  1:00pm Staff Meeting followed by classroom time
Thursday, August 28th:  5:30-7:30 Back-2-School Night

Articles Worth Reading:

5 #ALSIceBucketChallenge Takeaways for Educators +Joe Mazza @Joe_Mazza

10 Things to do with QR Codes on Back to School Night +Gwyneth Jones @GwynethJones

Looking for a Silver Bullet? It Begins with Us. +Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy

Some Ideas for Book Clubs +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

Bright Ideas: How Voxer changed my personal & professional life +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

The Most Dangerous Phrase In Education +Terry Heick @TeachThought

Opening Day! +Jeff Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

15 Examples of Student-Centered Teaching +Terry Heick @TeachThought

Classroom Cribs Challenge +A.J. Juliani @ajjuliani

OK, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Worked, now where will the dollars go?

25 Things to Remember When Life Gets Rough +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Lou Gehrig's famous speech... (1 min)

Rhode Island Coach Truly GETS IT! I wish all adults had this mentality. (2 min) MUST SEE!

Moments to Fill Your Heart (5 min)

Facebreakers with Jimmy Fallon (3 min)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Together We're Better

The other day I was sitting in a conference and I heard an amazing story by a fellow educator. Some of the people in the room were brought to tears...but everyone in the room was inspired. After I heard the story I approached the individual and thanked him for sharing.  Then I asked him what his twitter handle was.  I told him that his message was moving and I wanted to share it with others.  His response surprised me...he laughed.  In the next moment he turned and began to talk with other people.  As I stood there for a moment, I began to genuinely wonder why there is such a divide in our profession. 

I hope I never come across as pushy or forceful when it comes to being a connected educator.  I simply see being Connected as a tremendous resource.  I believe the World needs to hear the positive stories. As I reflect, I think his story reached a couple hundred...but what if his story reached more...?

Recently I attended #edcampldr in Philadelphia.  For me the event actually began months earlier. My good friend +Tom Whitford reached out and asked if I was interested in doing a road trip to Philadelphia. Without much thought, I committed!  I was all-in for this event.  I viewed it as a chance to build stronger relationships and to be a part of one of the most amazing think tanks in the nation.

Shortly after Tom and I committed, others decided to join in the fun.  The Road Trip was taking on a life of its own.  Our group communicated through Voxer and Twitter for the better part of three months.  Some of us even got together in May and took in a Cubs game.  Finally the time came and we flew to Philadelphia and stayed at the home of +Tom Murray.  

People that aren't connected look at me in disbelief.  I had one person say, "You're flying to Philadelphia to spend four days with people you've only met once or twice in person?"  I casually responded, "Yes."  You see, being connected is about learning...but even more importantly it's about connecting.  You've probably heard it's about relationships!  For over four years I have leaned on my #PLN for support.  I'm blessed to work with several of my #PLN members, but what's great is I have friends around the country willing to help out anytime.  Would I be an effective educator without my #PLN? Maybe. But I truly believe "Together We're Better!"  

During the weekend leading up to #edcampldr I had the opportunity to talk with experts.  We discussed Google+, Blogger, WordPress, Instagram, Learning Spaces, Edcamps, Conferences, Books, Voxer and more.  The learning and connecting was truly fantastic.  

If that wasn't enough, Monday arrived.  All of us got there early to help +Joe Mazza set-up and get #edcampldr rolling.  Watching a group of educators acting in a completely selfless manner is powerful. It wasn't about one person. Again the attitude was "Together We're Better!"

I will tell you that I've attended a lot of conferences, but nothing compares to the four day learning experience that #edcampldr was for me.  That Monday, over two hundred people were tweeting and sharing their learning on Twitter and Voxer.  The positive vibes at Penn Law were contagious.  

I do have one regret though.  I wish it would have been longer.  I left thinking that I can't wait to connect with +Brad Gustafson and discuss Augmented Reality.  Plus I was thinking of more ways to stay in contact with +Victoria Day so we could discuss #PTcamp.  The day flew by and I was only able to spend minutes with some of my favorite #PLN members.  

I share that with you because I strongly believe that Together We're Better.  

This Week's Questions Are:  Who pushes your thinking?  Who challenges you to be your best? Who gets you out of your comfort zone? 

Whether you are connected or not we all need a Personal Learning Network.  I encourage you to build your #PLN; find those people that make you a better person.  I feel lucky to have so many caring friends.  I truly have an amazing life!  Thank You 

For more on #EdCampLDR check out these photos: EdCampLDR Photos

For more on the Power of a #PLN, check out these posts:

Upcoming Dates For Your Calendar:

Tuesday, August 12th:  Jackson County EdTech Kick-Off at Western High School
Sunday, August 24th:  Family Cookout at the Gilpin's 5pm
Monday, August 25th:  NEW teacher orientation
Tuesday, August 26th:  TBD...stay tuned
Wednesday, August 27th:  ALL Staff - 7:30am BKfast followed by 8am Western Kick-Off!
Thursday, August 28th:  ALL Staff - 8:30am in the Jackson High School Auditorium
Thursday, August 28th:  5:30 - 7:30pm Back 2 School Night
Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  First Day of School

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Stuart Scott's Moving Speech... (7 min)

Young Boy and a Soldier (7 min) +TheEllenShow 

I'm not a huge Badger fan, but I must say this gets me jacked up for College Football! (2 min)

Thanks for Leading Sessions with me friends, I appreciate you all. @thomascmurray @KleinErin @Joe_Mazza 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Transforming Learning Spaces (2 of 2)

Our society typically views bigger as better.  We also prefer more, rather than less.  What am I referring to?

I often meet educators that think money and space are the key factors in creating the most optimal learning environment.  I believe this mentality is off base.  I will admit that I've had that belief in the past, but I have learned through the years that even small spaces can lead to amazing outcomes.

Last week I shared some takeaways from #NerdCampMI and I began discussing learning spaces in this post Transforming Learning Spaces (1 of 2).  It should come as no surprise that Learning Spaces is a hot topic.  Educators around the country have adjusted their thinking about student learning.  The focus is centered on relationships, teamwork, student choice and movement. Essentially the space should reflect the culture and learning you aim for in your classroom.

Classroom Design is not a new topic.  What I'm sharing is not groundbreaking, but I will say that I have witnessed a profound shift in classroom design over the past few years.  The shift has coincided with three things:

1.  The Common Core:  As educators around the country shift to CCSS the importance of differentiation takes on a greater significance.

2.  Technology:  Increased classroom technology has brought the need of flexible spaces to the forefront.

3.  Project Based Learning/Genius Hour:  Teachers are transitioning to Facilitators, the "teacher-centric" way of conducting class no longer fits the demands of the current classroom.  Many educators are re-designing with a focus on collaboration and movement.

With all that being the foundation, now let's get to the challenge.  Several weeks ago I began working with +Erin Klein and +A.J. Juliani in an effort to inspire and motivate educators to transform learning spaces. The intent is truly student-centered.  Our students crave a new learning environment.  One that will allow freedom, exploration and creativity. 

Here is the challenge, if you choose to accept!

We have launched the website ClassroomCribs
Check out the website and then...

Between August 14th and September 14th - 
Create and Share a 3-minute (or less) video of your learning space detailing the setup, aesthetics, function and overall rationale.

This is what is preferred:

*  Before & After pics/video - please have the video in a URL so it can be posted
*  250 word (or less) rationale of the space
*  Bio of the teacher

We also encourage educators to share pics and videos on twitter using the hashtag #classroomcribs

Your videos will be on the website and Youtube channel to help inspire educators!

You may be wondering, what is in it for me?  First and foremost it is a chance to reshape learning.  If you are anything like me your classroom is a second home.  Shouldn't you feel happy and proud of your space?  Second, there is a panel of judges that will choose the best designs. Check out the website for more information on this aspect.  Third, this isn't just for teachers.  We strongly encourage all educators to re-design their spaces.  That includes librarians, administrators, name it! The goal is to focus on pedagogy and brain based theories...not just the cutesy stuff.

Still have questions?  Check out Erin's video for the #SummerLS

Finally, I can't say it enough...our students desire learning environments that promote creativity.  I challenge you to sit in your classroom, if you were a student how would you feel?  Is it time to re-design?

Articles Worth Reading:

Do You Wanna Play? @Jonharper70bd

Videos Worth Watching:

For the Heroes! (4 min) shared by @bethhill2829

Meet Mighty George! (7 min)

Food Labels?  This will make you laugh! (5 min)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transforming Learning Spaces (1 of 2)

Last week I attended #nErDcampMI and the electric atmosphere was contagious!  I was working one of the check-in areas on the first day and at approximately 11:30am I looked up to witness dozens of educators collaborating, connecting and sharing stories.  I was proud to be an educator and I was also proud to be a part of #nErDcampMI.  This year #nErDcampMI moved to the Western School District where I am an administrator.  The event took place in our newly re-designed high school.  I was impressed with the use of space and the opportunities for people to gather in groups.  Some of the best parts of #nErDcampMI were the scenes of educators gathering together.

During #nErDcampMI inevitably I reflected on what I was hearing and learning.  Several topics came up frequently.  These were my big takeaways from #nErDcampMI:
1)  The importance of building relationships with your students and tapping into their interests as learners and readers.
2)  Incorporating some level of choice in student reading, writing and learning.  As educators we can still narrow the scope, but choice creates intrinsic learning.
3)  Educators should be modeling and sharing more.  Let students see what you are reading and talk to your students about the book.  
4)  Embrace technology in the learning environment...unfortunately this still exists in our classrooms...

All of that was wonderful, the discussions were engaging, productive and thoughtful.  But there was one more topic that really caught my interest...

5)  Classroom Learning Spaces!  Teachers were openly discussing getting rid of student desks, teacher desks and transforming learning spaces to best meet the needs of students.

What I enjoyed most about these conversations was the simple fact, it wasn't about the cutesy was centered on pedagogy and student learning.  I consistently heard educators talking about open spaces and having the ability to meet the changing needs of their students.  The conversations were fantastic!  As an administrator I enter several classrooms each day and I see the benefits of well organized, student friendly learning spaces.

What happened after #nErDcampMI was ironic.  Within days I was contacted by +Erin Klein and +A.J. Juliani about doing a post on Classroom Learning Spaces.  Then I read a post by my friend +Nicholas Provenzano his post is titled: NerdySpaces 

This really got my wheels spinning.  This is the ideal time of the year for educators to redesign classroom learning spaces.  As I wrap up this post I will leave you with a couple of things to think about - 

First, classrooms must be hinged around student learning.  Is the space student-friendly and flexible in meeting the diverse needs of our students?

Second, classrooms should be interactive, creative and adaptive.  Does the space allow for communication and collaboration?

Finally, is your learning space teacher-centric or student-centric?  Have you ever asked the students how they feel in the space?

Next week I will be focused squarely on Learning Spaces and I will share an exciting challenge that begins in August.  Stay tuned for part two...

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Re-Designing the Classroom Experience (8 min)

Finish Line... (8 min)

RE2PECT! (2 min)