Saturday, January 9, 2016

Connected Educator Lunch Break

At lunch yesterday, one of my colleagues asked me what I was doing on my phone.
So, I explained.

  • I reviewed my work emails to see if there were any that needed a response before the end of the day (which would be my next break).
  • I reviewed photos taken during our morning Skype with Jess Lifshitz' class in Chicago, where we discussed our Mock Caldecott winners. I had just started a PicCollage to share later.
  • I responded to a Twitter message from Matt Miller about his Monday Skype with my last two classes. He's going to help my students improve their sketch noting skills, and we were discussing how the 30 minutes would be best used.
  • I read a direct Twitter message from author Gae Polisner, responding that she would be able to read aloud to my students on World Read Aloud Day (Feb 24). So excited!
  • I was reading a group tweet among Chuck Taft, Erik Palmer and myself, regarding my June Summer Spark presentation. I found out that Erik was donating copies of his upcoming book (about teaching argument and reasoning) to give away to participants. So excited.
  • I checked in with my healthy eating/exercise Facebook group and responded to a few FB messages.
  • I listened to/read messages from members of my various Voxer groups, and left a short voice Vox in response to a specific question.
  • I sent a Remind message to parents about our upcoming field trip to the University of Minnesota.
  • I read the day's Nerdy Book Club Blog post, and then opened my Amazon app to put two of the suggested books on my expanding wish list.
  • I looked over my Twitter notifications, responding to a few.
  • I scanned my personal email messages and took care of those.

My colleague was surprised at what I did with these 20 minutes during lunch, all the while participating in conversation with our other colleagues where appropriate.

He commented about my large circle of connections outside our building.

That's what being a connected educator means.
I chat with other educators all over the country/world so that I can learn and grow.
I look for opportunities to connect my students with other students who have different experiences and surroundings.
I seek unexpected and incredible experiences for my students, like Global Read Aloud, Mock Caldecott, Global School Play Day (Feb 3), World Read Aloud Day, March Book Madness Battles, etc. These experiences help get kids excited to come to school.

I'm not content staying inside the box (the walls of my classroom/school/district). Outside the box is much more interesting.

Well, I left lunch a few minutes early to get set up for a GHO with Ms Lifshitz' afternoon class and Ms Picone's class from Long Island. Then, there would be one more Skype to wrap up our celebration of possible award-winning picture books. Before leaving for the day, I finished that PicCollage to post on our class Twitter page and Instagram account. It's how I tell our story.

Just another productive day at lunch for this connected educator.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How/Why I Read 21 Books Over Winter Break

Strange things happen in classrooms the day before a long, two week winter break.

In my ELA classroom, during the last class of the day, I declared to my 38 students that my reading goal was 16 books in 16 days (which was the length of our winter break).

Once I'd declared it, I knew I had to do it.

I knew that I could do it. (An almost every one of them believed I would do it.)

It became my personal mission. Not a bad way to spend my time off work, right?

My "to read" pile has taken over my dining room, my office and even my bedroom. I have over 240 books on my Amazon wish list. I have books on hold at the public library. My 3M app can't accept any more borrowed books because I've reached my limit. I even have a few books en route that I ordered after reading reviews from fellow teachers on Facebook. (And it continues to grow with each Nerdy Book Club winner list.)

Yes, I certainly had enough reading material to choose from.

I started first thing on Saturday morning, December 19th: the first full day of break. I read every chance I got. I read on my iPad, in my recliner chair, at the kitchen table, in bed, in the car (including audiobooks), and on the treadmill (which makes my workout time just fly by).

And I completely loved every word, page, chapter...every minute of it.

I discovered some new authors and read new books from "old" favorites. I took the opportunity to read from the piles of books laying around my house, but also checked out and borrowed books recommended by fellow teachers. I read award winners and some of those books I'd always meant to read...but just hadn't.  I read books that inspired me to read others in the series or others by the same author.

Wonderfully, when I started sharing my reads on Twitter and Facebook, other readers shared their favorites with me. I read many of them during my winter break challenge, while others are now stacked on one of the many piles "to be read" soon.

It's a wonderful thing...being part of a community of readers.

I'm proud of my accomplishment...even reading well past my goal.

Currently, I'm reading my 21st book called Everybody Sees the Ants. By A. S. King. Because of how wonderful Ask the Passengers was.

Here is the list of the books I read over the past 16 days.
What an amazing adventure, getting lost in these incredible stories.
I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. Spring Break can't get here fast enough!

1. I Am the Mission by Allen Zadoff
2. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
3. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
4. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
5. I Am the Traitor by Allen Zadoff
6. Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler
7. Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera
8.  Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin
9. The List by Siobhan Vivian
10. Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
11. The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
12. Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
13. Every You, Every Me by David Levithan
14. Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko
15. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
16. The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
17. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
18. Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith
19. Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
20. I Survived Collection #1 by Lauren Tarshis
*My current read:

21. Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King

**If you want to see my short posts celebrating each one, check out my Facebook page.

Here are the books on my "to be read" list right now. Guess you know what I'll be doing.

Happy reading!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Top 12 Going Against the Grain Posts From 2015

Here are my top 12 posts from the past 12 months, based on views.
They show my thinking, my struggles, my joys.
My journey as an educator.
I love this profession.

1. 53 Precious Minutes 8/16/15 (1,024 views)

    This post evolved as I tried to wrap my head around teaching all of the ELA standards in 53 minutes each day (which is actually 50 minutes when you remove passing time). I wanted to focus on all of the experiences that I knew would keep my students excited about reading, writing, speaking and listening.

 2. Reading Freedom 8/29/15 (953 views)
    This post was inspired by my reading of The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner. I was thoroughly enjoying the book, and was struck by how frustrating it must be when students are assigned books (lacking choice) and are asked to complete worksheets or answer questions about their books. I knew i wouldn't want my pleasure reading ruined in this way, and wanted to reflect on how I could create the same pleasurable reading experiences for my students.

3. I'm Not in Kansas Anymore 9/12/15 (822 views)
     This post was my response to a conversation I had with my instructional coach one morning. I was trying to be the same teacher I was in elementary (with 120 minutes each day for ELA and 55 students) as in middle school (with 50 minutes each day for ELA and 130 students). He helped me realize I would go crazy that way. I needed to find a way to be me in this new place.

4. Owning My Teacher Failures 9/20/15 (603 views)
     This post grew from the realization that although I encourage my students to learn from their failures, I wasn't owning mine. As I thought back on my first few weeks as a middle school teacher, I felt it was important to acknowledge my failures in an attempt to better my teaching. Now that I think about it, I have failed so many more times since this post.

5. I Say Yes to the Desk 8/23/15 (582 views)
     After reading so many articles about getting rid of teacher desks, I felt strongly about keeping mine. I wanted to be brave and share my thoughts. This post inspired many who felt similarly, as well as those who disagreed with me. That's ok. We can agree to disagree. Just do what feels right for you.

6. My Twitter Chat Menu 8/13/15 (572 views)
     This post was inspired by a Twitter chat, hosted by the amazing Michael Matera. I was a learner in that chat, having nothing much to share with others on the topic of gamification (where Michael is the expert). It inspired me to think about the different purposes for joining chats. Sometimes I share, sometimes I discuss, sometimes I lurk and learn, and other times I stretch. 

7. Multiple Personalities 8/2/15 (553 views)
Writing this post was cathartic. I had been unsuccessfully to clone myself into all of my teacher heroes. I say unsuccessfully because I was never going to be as good as each one of my mentors. Luckily, I don't have to be. I just need to take the best parts of them and incorporate it into my teaching. It's me, but better.

8. The Little #stu2stuchat That Could! 2/27/15 (470 views)
I wrote this post when my #stu2stuchat was on a roll. Wanting to reflect on its origins and marvel at how a little idea, with effort and belief, can become something bigger than you imagined. So proud!

9. I'm a Bookaholic 8/8/15 (468 views)
This post was a way to reflect on my reading life. The way I approached pleasure reading. The sheer magnitude of choosing reading material from the vast array of incredible books. I realized that I was addicted to reading, hence the title of this post.

10. The Power of a PLN 9/5/15 (361 views)
I wrote this post to honor my PLN. Having just had yet another amazing discussion with one of my Voxer groups, I thought about how fortunate I have been to know and access the collective wisdom of so many educators outside my building. These connections have made me a much better teacher. For that, I am so grateful. I hope to inspire them in the same ways.

11. My PD Stack 7/31/15 (317 views)
The sheer number of PD books in my stack inspired this post. I needed some way to process the importance of reading and learning from PD books. The power of choice and utilizing my time to push myself as an educator. My stack has meaning to me. I hope yours does as well.

12. Who I Read For 8/5/15 (308 views)
As I was reading a plethora of books last summer, I got to thinking about the students I was reading for. Even though i read for pleasure, I always read with students in mind. Who might connect with this book? Who might like this book after reading another? Who might see themselves in this book? Who might understand someone else after reading this book? Over winter break, my goal was to read 16 books in 16 days. I met my goal, and realized I read for many of my students. I can't wait to share these books with them.

Happy New Year everyone!
Thanks for reading posts from Going Against the Grain in 2015. There's much more to come...