Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Eclectic Educator

I Want to Be Known as "Teresa"

Dear Readers,

I was recently listening to Chat with Teachers and advice for new teachers was one of the topics being discussed. (I highly recommend checking out these podcasts, despite them being approximately 60 minutes, they are worth a listen to!) One of the suggestions was to observe other teachers, gather ideas and then turn around and make them your own. 

In a world where people are always striving to fit in, I have worked hard at striving to be "Teresa". One of my students recently commented that I am my own person. Another commented that he did not think I was the "popular" kind of student who "fit in", but rather someone who did what I wanted to do. Years ago, a colleague told me that I beat to my own drum. My personality has been described as quirky and a colleague always tells me my "style" is "funky". From the purple highlights to my "personalized" outfits. I take great pride in being myself.

As I reflect on this, it does not mean I want to "stand out" either. I just want to be me. I do not want to be a ___________ (fill in with whatever word you like) teacher or leader or educator. Paul O'Neill has recently started #PLN365 and a question of the day was, what would you name a book written about your educational career? I was going to use the title of my blog, easy out, but challenged myself to think deeper. I realized that I did not want to be associated with one thing, but rather a "collection" of all the skills, strategies, ideas, resources, etc that I have implemented throughout the years.

The title The Eclectic Educator came to me. It describes my journey perfectly. I have always had the ability to see the big picture and how things fit together. I am always learning, trying, failing and succeeding. 

I read books from the literacy world as well as the business world. I incorporate ideas from Teach Like a Pirate to Falling in Love with Close Reading. I can integrate social media trends from #CelebrateMonday to Slice of Life Writing. My students are the center of my "professional universe". In order to meet their needs and challenge their thinking, I need to have a diverse toolkit to pull from.

My advice to new teachers would be to ask questions, observe as many colleagues as possible and soak up everything you can! Then take all that learning and make it YOU. YOU are unique, special and have something to offer that nobody else does. Enjoy the journey and be kind to yourself.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Who Motivates You?

The Power of a PLN

Dear Readers,

Recently Meredith (@mjjohnson1216) contacted me about a new idea for educators to share, learn and grow together. The first thing she asked me to do was take a picture of some of my professional resources.

It was really cool to see some (not all) of them stacked like this! She also asked about my sketchnotes. I pulled out a few favorites.

An idea started to come together! Meredith loves connecting people and helping them share their incredible knowledge with each other. What if there was a hashtag that allowed people to share their professional learning using #BookSnaps, sketchnotes, annotations, highlights, post-it notes, etc? #BookCampPD was born!

What Motivates You?

Meredith asked me a surprising question. She asked me, "What motivates you to get this going?" I said, "You! Your passion motivates me to do this with you!" A collaborative friendship has developed. We will be hosting an informational chat on Monday April 17th at 10:00 PM EST (7:00 PM PST). Just 30 minutes to find out what #BookCampPD is all about!

Additionally, another amazing educator, Paul (@PaulONeill1972) has started #PLN365. It will post a daily question, in addition to being a weekly chat. Paul continues to motivate me with his kind words, support of my blog and always encouraging me.

What is #PLN365?

The question today was, Describe the greatest lesson you have learned from your PLN. My response was, that I can try things (and fail), but will always be supported and encouraged by my PLN. 

The example I always think of was when I moderated a chat for the first time ever, #satchatwc, and forgot to include the hashtag as I was posting my questions (I had no concept of Tweetdeck at that point.). Shelley (@burgess_shelley) and Dave (@burgessdave) were kindly helping me through it by retweeting and letting me know. They gave me the opportunity and supported me when I needed it. Since then, I have moderated many chats and love doing it. However, had that been a negative experience, not sure I would have continued to try. They motivated me to keep going and gain confidence in myself.

Check out Shelley and Beth's new book!

Also, Dave's blog post for Teach Like a Pirate.

The awesomeness continues with Melissa (@ChouinardJahant) on Thursdays from 8:00-9:00 PM EST with #teachmindful. Then follow Alana (@StantonAlana) and her husband Mike (@MicronMike) as they co-moderate #MoreEdu on Thursday nights from 9:00-9:30 PM EST. 

My Favorites

There are so many amazing chats taking place 24/7/365, but here a few of my favorites! (most run weekly, but not all of them) I apologize profusely for those I am unable to specifically name!

  • #Hacklearning (8:30-9:00 AM EST)
  • #Peopleskills (10:00-11:00 AM EST)
  • #fitnessedu (7:00-7:30 PM EST)
  • #Read4Fun (7:00-7:30 PM EST)

  • #ImpactMatters (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #LearnLAP (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #tlap (9:00-10:00 PM EST)

  • #2pencilchat (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #TWOTCW (9:00-10:00 PM EST)
  • #ShelfieTalk (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #Ohedchat (9:00-10:00 PM EST)
  • #MakeItReal (9:30-10:00 PM EST)
  • #whatisschool (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #G2Great (8:30-9:30 PM EST)
  • #satchat (7:30-8:30 AM EST)
  • #LeadUpChat (9:30-10:30 AM EST)
  • #satchatwc (10:30-11:30 AM EST)
  • #EduGladiators (11:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST)

Thank you to all the moderators who take the time and energy to create amazing chats for us to participate in! We learn, share and grow together!


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Invisible Scars of Life Experiences

The Power of Empathy

Dear Readers,

On Friday morning I awoke to snow on the ground. I was so incredibly happy to say goodbye to March and what I had hoped was winter that it knocked my mood down a few notches 5 minutes into waking up. As I got ready for school, I had to take Ellie (our therapy dog) out in the freezing cold snow, could not decide what to wear (I have been freezing for weeks) and was running late due to having wipe off my car of thick, heavy, slushy snow.

I proceeded to drive to school where I was stuck in heavy traffic along with school buses. In fact I called the office secretary in fear I might be a few minutes late. Fortunately, I got to school on time. Unfortunately, I noticed my shirt was on inside out. A race to the restroom before Homebase completed my crazy morning. All of this happened by 7:30 AM.


Luckily, I was not too horribly frazzled and instantly immersed myself in teaching and the school day. My first class was extremely understanding and helped me put chairs down and get the room ready for the day. I had planned so I knew exactly what was coming. As the day unfolded I fell into my normal routine of teaching and learning.

However, it made me wonder. How many of our students come to school with invisible "baggage" we know nothing about? As an adult, I had coping strategies to make the best out of a frazzling situation. 

What about the student who has to wake up on his or her own? What about the student who has to get himself or herself ready, along with possible siblings, cousins or other children in the house? What about the student who comes to school hungry? Or tired? Or having just witnessed an argument? Or fight? What about the student who was recently yanked out of his or her home and placed in foster care? 

Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall

I just finished an incredibly powerful read about a courageous young woman who was sold into slavery, forced to move to the United States with her captors and was freed after a neighbor called the authorities due to an uneasy feeling about what he or she was witnessing at the household.

It was a reminder that some of our students come to us from horrific living conditions. We must always meet them where they are and build those relationships that are so critical to feeling safe and cared for in their learning environment. 

We must look outside of ourselves and focus on the student. The more we get to know our students, the more we learn about them which in turn helps us create a comfortable school community. It is so essential to have critical conversations and be empathetic towards our students and families. They may have past experiences we could never imagine.

May all our students find safe, caring adults to love and nurture them.