Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 in Review - Google+ Style

When I started to see people posting their Auto Awesome 2013 in Review videos I was intrigued. Would I receive one at all? Would the limited # of photos chosen for the video paint an accurate picture of my year? Every day I checked for my video until one morning I was given my Google gift not once, but twice! Both my accounts received their videos at the same time and I was absolutely tickled.

While I love the ease of creation (keep auto-backup on all year, wake up in Dec & click video - it doesn't get much simpler than that!) I find myself missing the details of the plot, setting, and characters that filled my bucket throughout the year. So I decided I wanted a record of these events, locations, and people who contributed to making 2013 what it was. I went through the videos and made a list so I can always look back on 2013 and remember the little details and big moments.

As I re-lived these moments and emotions through pictures I noticed a few education-related themes:
  • I love to learn. I love attending really awesome PD, reading great books, articles or posts, and having conversations (in-person and online) with brilliant people who provide me a different perspective or cause me to think about something more deeply or in a new way entirely. This past year has been a whirlwind of learning new things from people I admire and respect immensely.
  • I love sharing in the interest of helping others learn. Nothing brings me more pleasure than knowing a conversation, resource shared, or email helped someone. I absolutely love to talk to teachers and help them think through a problem of practice, lesson plan, or new idea. I love to share my classroom, my students, and my philosophy with others if I think it might help them think about something in a new or different way. I learn so much from the expertise and generosity others share with me and feel thankful for every opportunity I get to pay that forward.
  • I love to dream. I love to act on dreams to make them reality. I've been ever so fortunate to participate in some very innovative work this year around blended and personalized learning. Through this work I've been given the gift of re-imagining education and seeing a vision of a system that meets the needs of all students. Now that I see the dream I want nothing less. I want students to feel empowered, in charge of their own learning based on what they need and what they love. I want students to graduate completely prepared for the world they are entering because they were engaged in authentic, meaningful learning experiences that mattered. I want them to go out and make the world a better place knowing that their voice matters. I want society to value this kind of education and to value teachers as professionals. I want teachers to feel supported and to be trusted to do what is best for kids. I want to see effective, innovative teaching become a sustainable career.
  • I love my kids. This one is the most prevalent in my pictures, and the hardest to put into words right now. No matter what school, what grade, what class I am teaching I always end up loving my kids with all my heart and missing them dearly when the year comes to a close. Several years ago I was watching my 5th graders play a PE game on the field outside our windows and I got choked up seeing them laugh and run and work together as a team. I remember walking next door and asking my teammate, "Does it go away after you've taught for a long time? That feeling you get when you look at your kiddos at some random time and you just love them so completely with all your heart for no apparent reason at all?" Let's just say she STILL makes fun of me for it, but as corny as it sounds it is also very true. No matter how trying a student, class, or year is I always feel like we connect and come out on the other side like a family - a tight-knit community of individuals and learners who take care of and respect each other. When I see a kiddo reading quietly in the windowsill or watch a group of kids loudly working through a problem together it brings me the utmost joy and I can't help but want to hold on to that moment, that feeling. I am constantly snapping pictures of my kids receiving an award, performing on stage or presenting their artwork, or laying under a table working on their Chromebook because I know those are the little moments and big events that shape our lives.

So without further ado I give you a glimpse back into 2013, a year of loving and learning.

  • GoDaddy Holiday Party w/ my hubby - Dec- Phoenix, AZ 
  • Math-terpieces collaborative art & math project by my very awesome 4th graders - May
  • Some of my kiddos receiving their smART awards - Oct
  • Totally Awesome 80's KCAA Staff Musical w/ a colleague and our principal - Oct
  • Amazing student crew who ran the entire show (lighting, sets, sound, costumes, stage management...) for Totally Awesome 80's KCAA staff musical - Oct
  • Adventures at #EdCamp Colorado w/ Brittany Sundgren, my partner in crime and teaching) - Oct - Colorado Springs
  • A beautiful Colorado landscape one snowy morning along Santa Fe Dr. in Littleton as I headed to school - Nov
  • Our yearly tradition at the Melting Pot when the husband turned 34 in Oct
  • Sitting on the KCAA stage with my beautiful 4th graders after we won the attendance award for Sept 2013. (No small feat for these kiddos.)
  • A brilliant performance by KCAA 3rd graders acting out the story of electricity complete with Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, and a time machine of course! - Oct
  • My babies from last year (big 5th graders now!) tearing up the KCAA stage with their hip-hop routine. - Oct
  • My favorite 6th grade math teacher, Clay Jessen, entertaining some rockstar 4th graders with a game of reverse rock paper scissors after they presented a PD about Chromebooks in the classroom to DPS teachers at Digital Educator Academy. - Oct
  • An important message I've been reminding myself of often: "Trust Your Heart".
  • 4th-11th graders singing and dancing one of their show choir numbers at KCAA First Friday - Dec
  • 4th graders facilitating #hourofcode with 2nd graders. The wifi was painfully slow / nonexistent but they handled it like pros. - Dec
  • View of Chase Stadium, location of the GoDaddy Holiday Party - Dec - Phoenix
  • Delicious pizza and a much-needed break from reality with my patient, brilliant husband. - Dec -Phoenix
  • Gingerbread village we visit every year in the hotel lobby - Dec - Phoenix

  • Roadtrip to Utah & California w/ my husband - July 
  • Denver skyline as we returned home from our summer trip.
  • Trogdor chilling in the backseat during the drive to UT.
  • Interactive exhibit at The Leonardo in SLC ("contemporary museum that explores the unexpected ways that science, technology, art, and creativity connect." - absolutely BRILLIANT, inspiring place everyone should visit someday).
  • Front of our duplex in Long Beach, complete with the Jasmine we planted over 6 years ago. - July
  • Steak dinner at the restaurant we had our rehearsal dinner and subsequent anniversaries until we moved to CO. - July - Manhattan Beach, CA
  • My favorite beach - Huntington Beach, CA - July
  • Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater on the Cal State Long Beach campus. Many fond memories of dancing on this stage and watching others dance my choreography. - Long Beach
  • One of the seven gorgeous studios where I found my voice as an artist and my confidence as a professional dancer. - CSULB Dance Department, Long Beach.
  • The Southern California coastline that I miss dearly.
  • Sunflowers in full bloom welcoming me back to KCAA after a month away. - July
  • I promised a brilliant (former) student an outing to see fashion designs to inspire her own work, so we went to the Denver Art Museum textiles exhibit. I will never forget the way her face lit up with excitement,  anticipation, and pure awe when we entered this exhibit and she first laid eyes on Nick Cave's sound suits. Worth a million bucks and the memory chokes me up every time. - Aug

Saturday, December 7, 2013

For Day 5 of the 12 Days of EdCamp I went back and looked at some of my blog posts from the events I've attended. Reading these thoughts from the past year has been a pretty powerful experience for me tonight.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on my last couple years in education and it seemed to me that my thinking and knowledge over the past few months is completely different because of the opportunities and exposure I've had to blended and personalized learning. As I read these posts I am struck by how aligned my thinking is from then to today. I definitely have grown and learned a ridiculous amount since last spring, but these posts (and recently revisiting my original philosophy statement and portfolios) have shown me that my overall philosophy in education has always had a similar tone and focal point. I'm thankful I got a nudge to go searching for these posts and reflect on my journey since last year. Yay #EdCampGift !

October, 2012

I went to my first edcamp today and it was very inspiring.  For those who don’t know it is an un-conference for educators, meaning every session is built when participants arrive that day.  According to their website, edcamp’s vision is: “Promoting organic, participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators worldwide.”

Essentially, all the sessions are built when participants arrive for the day. There is a blank schedule board and people sign up to lead a discussion or post things they’d like to talk about.  This means that the learning is all relevant to the people who are there, and addresses whatever might be on their mind at the time - a huge contrast to typical PD in many ways.
Another big component of the day is networking with like-minded teachers and having the chance to build your PLC. I was able to meet several amazing people who work in my district with tech, blended learning, PD, and Common Core Implementation.  I’ve emailed a couple of them or seen their work but since they work at the district level I would never encounter them as a classroom teacher otherwise.  They are all highly revered in their circles and travel all over the country / world to share their ideas in addition to working at our district, so connecting with them was quite exciting.
Some of the best sessions posed more questions than answers, but in a way that was exciting and fulfilling.  I find that a lot of PD feels like drudgery, doesn’t address the immediate concerns of the participants, and can easily get pulled into a black hole of negativity if the teachers attending are not willing/able to see how it could help them. I appreciate the immediate takeaways as much as the next teacher, but sometimes it is more fulfilling to ponder the big questions in education because it feeds my soul and reminds me why I love education.

(I’d love to use this format for a PD at my school or even hold our own school un-conference on a Saturday so we could have some dedicated time to share what we are doing, thinking about, and trying to solve in our classrooms.  As a K-12 we have so many different voices and could really learn a lot from each other.  Every other Thurs we have choice PD where teachers are asked or volunteer to lead 30 min sessions, so I think it would be easy to get buy-in since it is a mentality we already embrace.)  

Edcamp is held all over the world so I highly recommend checking out their website and trying to attend.  I walked away with so many great tools, apps, ideas, and things I am pondering.  I will be putting together some posts and getting them in the queue, which will be a first for me this school year.  Blogging during the week..wha?

Check out the edcamp website, and the wiki of upcoming events: 

April 2013 (Part I)

Started up and early for EdCamp and, as usual, left feeling inspired and excited to be an educator. I love this event because you sit in a room with amazing minds and talk about education in both a practical and theoretical context. I also appreciated feeling like my thoughts, ideas, and experiences are valued instead of them being seen as a downfall or hindrance to others. It’s nice to be with people who “get” you, even if many of them are strangers or people you encounter a couple times a year.

Some great conversations at EdCampCO about blended vs flipped, Google scripts, and tons of other amazing apps for education. Excited to post a list to share at the end of the day.
Now time to talk Design Thinking!

April 2013 (Part II)

Started up and early for EdCamp and, as usual, left feeling inspired and excited to be an educator. I love this event because you sit in a room with amazing minds and talk about education in both a practical and theoretical context. I also appreciated feeling like my thoughts, ideas, and experiences are valued instead of them being seen as a downfall or hindrance to others. It’s nice to be with people who “get” you, even if many of them are strangers or people you encounter a couple times a year.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Headphone Organization

We original purchased cheap over the ear headphones for the kids this year, but the organization of them was a nightmare and caused them to get tangled and break easily after just a couple uses. A friend saw this need and donated earbuds to our class, so generous and helpful! I took an old calendar pocket chart, labeled it and the headphones with the kids' numbers (we use our alphabetical numbers for everything) and voila! The kids quickly and easily get their headphones out and put away neatly.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Student Led PD for Teachers

Last week my teammate and I worked with our 4th grade students to create a teaser video for a district PD we have been asked to co-present on Chromebooks and Google Apps in the classroom. My teammate had the brilliant idea of bringing some students with us, and it has been a whirlwind of exciting developments ever since. This opportunity has gotten me thinking about a world of possibilities for student led professional development, but more on that when I organize my thoughts.

So for now I bring you our amazing kids:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Renewed Commitments to Reflection

Since last spring many amazing things have been happening for me as a teacher, a professional, and as someone who loves to learn and share that learning with others. I've been trying to organize my thoughts and reflect more deeply but have been struggling with how and where to do so in the midst of an intense school year. I try my best to make time to read and contribute on the Google+ communities that I value greatly, and to connect with colleagues in my building and around the district and state, but I keep feeling like something is missing. This morning I realized it was a space all of my own to share anything that feels important to me in that moment. I struggle with over-sharing my personal experiences or thoughts when responding to others because, while I know how helpful other people's experiences can be, I don't want to hijack a post or shift the focus unnecessarily. But in the end I still need a place to process.

From a young age I have been one who is constantly thinking and reflecting but have learned to be cognizant that my processing experience may not be of value to others. In every situation I'm in I seek out the like-minded person or people who I know will understand my endless, and sometimes wandering, thought processes. Many would say I "over-think" just about everything. But really, can one think too much? I don't know if I've ever been in a situation or job where my constant reflection and need to make things better hasn't been turned into a negative. People have told me I'm threatening to those who don't think as much as I do, too thorough, idealistic, and that I need to lower my expectations. As a person who is so reflective I open myself up to continual feedback, but it took me a long time to realize that my need for positive change is not something that I need to fix. I cannot own how others react or feel about who I am and what I set out to do. If we're being honest I still struggle with truly believing that at times, but even when I doubt myself I refuse to give in and let others dictate what is best for me, or my students.

So today I came back to this lonely little blog that I started in 2012 when I was struggling to not get bogged down in the negativity and stress that plagues so many educators. When I saw that I made only one post my instinct was to trash it and start over, but instead I am choosing to continue something I started and see it through this time. I am committing to at least one post a week. If I need to vent or process negativity I am committing to also posting an idea on how to improve the situation for myself and others. Sometimes I may just want to share something funny a student said, or a beautiful moment that happened in my classroom, or to brag a little about something I felt successful with. I think one of my struggles is trying to compartmentalize the different aspects of my life and career and to worrying whether my thoughts are appropriate for that audience and purpose, but that is what leads me to creating blogs that contain only 1 post! I am choosing not to limit myself here in that way. I am also choosing to not obsess over the writing itself. I usually proofread emails at least once before sending, so you can imagine how many times I edit and revise a blog post before submitting. Again, do we wonder why I have no time for blogging?! I have to give myself permission to ramble, to say as many or as few words as I feel necessary, and to not over-analyze any of it.

My hope is that this will become an outlet for me to reflect on my own practice, on the joys of teaching and learning, and on the possibilities we each have to make things better. If others find value in my thoughts or contribute to push my thinking forward it will be a great bonus.