Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gettin' My Blog On

Here I the beginning of a new journey.


I always wanted to start a blog, but never felt like I had anything to say that hadn't been said many times before.

Not anymore.

I've been passionate about teaching reading and writing for many years.
Passionate about reaching my highest readers and pushing them to think deeper and more critically than they ever had before.
Passionate about inspiring a love of writing, making it fun, and creating a sense of writing purpose.
Passionate about sharing my love of reading with students in such a way that they continue to be lifelong readers.

Up until last summer, I kept that passion within the four walls of my classroom. Sure, I'd share ideas with colleagues. I even co-taught a June workshop to (in total) 200+ district educators (I'm going on my 4th year). During these workshops, a high school colleague and I share our creative ideas and books/authors we admire. However, none of my 4-6 grade teammates shared my philosophy or read the same educator books. They didn't teach like me, and I felt stuck.

I received my Masters in Adolescent Literacy & Technology.
I was reading all things Kelly Gallagher (and still do).

I read and loved books by:
Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer)
Ralph Fletcher (Mentor Author, Mentor Texts)
Matt Copeland (Socratic Circles)
Edward de Bono (Six Thinking Hats)
Chris Tovani (I Read it, But I Don't Get It)

Immersing myself in these books set me on a personal professional development trajectory, shaping me into the best teacher I could be.

Then, a spark...

I attended Kelly Gallagher's 3-day writing workshop in Eau Claire, WI last June. Yes, it was the highlight of my career. I walked in, and there he was at the podium, looking all...normal. Here was my idol, the one whose books were so dog-eared and full of post-its that I could pretty much open up any page and find a lesson I'd taught. Of course, I sat in the front row, a lonely MN teacher among all of these Wisconsinites. Many were not as star struck as me, and some, GASP, had not even heard of Kelly Gallagher. For three days, I soaked up all the learning I could from this master teacher, and listened to him talk passionately about ideas from his book (many that I had tried). He was an engaging storyteller, and the three days were over too fast. His words renewed my passion for teaching real-world writing purposes and deep reading strategies.

Yes, I had my Write Like This book autographed, and got to share a conversation and shake his hand. However, something more important happened that week.  I joined Twitter! 

Funny enough, my husband had said on numerous occasions, "You should join Twitter." He follows national news and ESPN, and claimed Twitter was a great way to stay up to date on current events. Repeatedly, I dismissed his requests, thinking I could just get my news from my homepage and Facebook.

But here was Kelly Gallagher emphatically encouraging every educator to sign up for Twitter. He said that he had resisted at first, but found it to be the best professional development anywhere.

You can guess what happened next.

I signed up for a Twitter account that same night in my hotel room, and the first person I followed was @KellyGToGo. I looked for other teachers and authors I had read, and followed them too.

For the first few months, I lurked. Gradually following educators who shared engaging ideas and links to inspiring blogs. I received a few followers in return. I was not a large personality on Twitter, but Twitter was having a large impact on my teaching.

I'd read about an idea, and then try it with my students. I started posting some of my own ideas, complete with pictures, and replying to other educators with questions and thanks.

My reading this year included:

Kyleen Beers and Bob Probst (Notice and Note)
Donalyn Miller (Reading in the Wild)
Teri Lesene (Reading Ladders, Making the Match)
Erik Palmer (Well Spoken, Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking)
Dave Burgess (Teach Like a Pirate)

All of these great reads I owe to Twitter. I linked up with educators who share my passion and philosophy of teaching. I joined Twitter chats, not just lurking- but tweeting my name/location and becoming a contributing member.

My first chat was #tlap, where I got to know Dave Burgess and found out that I am a pirate at heart. There's an enthusiastic group of educators!

I chatted with #titletalk (and Donalyn Miller), #teachwriting, #5thchat, #sstlap, #txedchat, #21stedchat, #engchat, #nctechat, and most recently #larcstl (where I tweeted with THE Kyleen Beers and Bob Probst).

My students and I participated in the Global Read-Aloud after reading about it from teacher creator Pernille Ripp. I introduced my students to Skype, chatting with authors Dave Burgess and David A Kelly. I want to ramp it up next year and Skype more often, hopefully joining MysterySkype. I heard about FlipGrid through Twitter chats, and now have a yearly subscription. My students love it!

I consider Twitter my teacher "family" and look forward to reading the feeds and joining in on chats to both learn and share. I have met so many fabulous educators who share the same passion for their craft as I do. I have opened up my classroom and my teaching to the world, no longer containing my passion within the walls of my classroom.

I do have something to say, and now I am sharing my voice with the world. It fulfills me as an educator. I am part of something larger than myself.

So, here it is. My first blog post. My new journey has begun!

Thanks for being part of it.


  1. Awesome! I share many of the same feelings as a recent Twitter educator! So glad to have you as a friend and colleague!

  2. Thanks, Greg! I am learning a lot from you and your passion for teaching and writing!

  3. #tlap was one of my first chats also! The book was so inspiring. I hope to do some Skype projects next year if I can figure it out. In the meantime, learning so much from Twitter and blogs. Great first blog! :)

  4. Great first post, Sandy! I love that you have joined us in #tlap and it was a blast to Skype with your class. I hope we can do it next year, too!