Thursday, September 4, 2014

Love the Most? #reflectiveteacher Day 4

My small contribution to the Reflecting Teaching: A 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers.

What do I love the most? That's going to be a problem for me. There are a million things in life I love. Mint chip ice cream, glitter, a new set of colorful flair pens, fire pits, inspirational videos, red wine, teachers who tweet, down comforters, books, hammocks, sleep, singing in my car, 5 year olds, the list goes on. But what do I love the most about "teaching"? Well, that's easy.

Quality time.  

I have a hard time when educators talk about making connections and having meaningful relationships with students because it feels SO obvious to me. Sadly though, having these intentional relationships with students is not as frequent as one might think.  I had to take a #caedchat sabbatical about a year ago because it felt super "trendy" to say things along the lines of, "Invest in the lives of your students" and I found myself getting a little agitated that those words even had to be stated.  Thankfully, I've been able to take a step back and remind myself that even the most dedicated, loving, hard-working educator has to make a conscious effort to set aside quality time for students. 

When I was teaching, one of the things I loved most about my job was taking my students on field trips.  I know field trips can be a challenge.  Driver insurance paperwork, car groups, bus reservations, the fear of losing a child, money, gift shops, rule breaking chaperones (yah, you know who you are), the list goes on! For me, field trips were just such a huge gift.  A time to step away from the daily routines and to really spend quality time with my students, their parents, and my teammates. 

When I transitioned from being a classroom teacher to a site principal, I promised myself a lot of things. I promised myself that I would never get too far away from my students and that I would always make spending quality time with them a top priority.  Those special moments are just priceless.  

One of our Penngrove teachers spending some
quality time with one of her students.
Yesterday, I spent the day with one of our 4th grade classes, our two 4th grade teachers, and about 15 parent volunteers at the Fort Ross Historic State Park on the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Honestly, the day was perfect. It was full of quality time.  That's what I always loved most about teaching, and being a principal has made me appreciate those moments even more.  I could write about Fort Ross for hours.  The lessons learned, the personalities that shined, the struggles that were overcome, the relationships that were solidified. It was a magical day. For me it was a reminder of the importance of quality time. And that's what I love the most about teaching, about being a principal, and about life. Time is a gift. How are you using yours?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Tech This Year. #reflectiveteacher Day 2

My small contribution to the Reflecting Teaching: A 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers.

Hold me accountable: My Nexus 7 and Feedly. 

This year, I have a new toy thanks to the amazing Google for Education team and the Google Teacher Academy.  Meet my Nexus 7.

The first device I've EVER put a sticker on - still cringing inside.

I feel like I should name this bad boy. Any suggestions?  Having a Nexus 7 feels super glamorous I just have to say. Being that I have plenty of devices, this just feels excessive. In my house currently, I have an iPad given to me by my last 2nd grade class, a Chromebook, a huge Dell laptop, a MacBook Air, and a MacBook Pro, I mean it's kind of ridiculous. 

What I love about this Nexus is that I don't know anything about it. It will be my first Android device in YEARS. Learning about my Nexus is going to push me to be curious, patient, and well, patient. (Not my strong suit.) I am sure there are all sorts of great things I'll learn to do on my Nexus but what I'm most excited to do is finally set up my Feedly account just the way I want it.  I love reading and I love writing but I dream about the day when I can sit on my couch in the evenings and scan through new blog posts, articles, and other topics of interest on Feedly. Yes, I realize I could do this on my other devices but for some reason, my Nexus is just screaming, "Feedly!" to me! And there you have it. Those are my tech integration goals of the year. Simple, but hearty.  If you read yesterday's post, guess what?!  I asked lots of questions today! SCORE!

Asking: My Goal for the Year #reflectiveteacher Day 1

Thankfully, addiction has never been something I've struggled with, well - until I became a connected educator.  I've always known that I was a "people person" and I grew up having others comment on my "outgoing personality" and "extroverted tendencies."  However, this past year I've come to realize that I'm pretty much addicted to a certain type of human being and no matter how hard I try, I just can't kick it.  Since I've never been addicted to anything other than energetic, passionate, forward-thinking, exhausting, inspiring, thoughtful educators, I guess I shouldn't complain but every now and then, these "friends" of mine, can get me in some real trouble.  Enter Kenneth Durham, also known as the famous @PrincipalDurham.

Durham and I are only one month shy of our one year anniversary of being official #edubuddies (I wonder if he has a gift picked out for me yet?) but in that year, we've supported each other through a number of every day admin duties and roles.  Whether I've needed a reminder to get out of my office, had a question about discipline, or just needed a good laugh about life as an administrator, Durham has been a pretty solid source.  And that's where I find myself in trouble. 

In a recent Voxer chat, Durham posed the question to our group asking if we were going to participate in the "Reflective Teaching: 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers."  Now let's just be honest, who has time for one more challenge, daily duty, blah blah blah right?! Clicking the link to the blogging challenge was my first mistake. Don't do it....I'm serious, don't do it. But now it's too late. I read the challenge, I read Durham's post about "service" and I got all "Fadeji" on myself. The thing I like about this challenge is to me, it feels more about accountability and responsibility, rather than just another item on my checklist.  I should be reflective and I should be reflective daily. In a way, I'm sure I am, but for me, right now, I think some intentionality behind my reflection with the support of some of my closest #edubuddies feels pretty darn good. 

So what is my goal for the year? Asking. This year, my goal is to ask more questions.  I plan to ask easy questions, hard questions, silly questions, and deep questions.  I want to ask all kinds of things to my students, our staff, and the larger community that I serve. Asking means I'll be doing a lot of listening and we all could use a little more of that in our lives.  

I bought a shirt yesterday that says, "Take less. Give more." It's funny, I was in a rush and bought the shirt thinking it said, "Talk less. Give more." I was pretty pumped to wear it to a staff meeting and challenge our teachers to do just that but once I took it out of the bag, I realized that I liked "Take less. Give more" a whole lot better any way. If I could add another line, I might add, "Ask hard." This year, I'm going to think harder about asking questions.  We'll see how it goes. I did a little exercise with a colleague last week thanks to the coaching of Liz Wiseman, author of The Multiplier Effect.  My colleague and I had to converse for FOUR minutes and Partner A could ONLY ask questions of Partner B.  It was hard! Level two was asking deeper, more meaningful questions, and let me just tell you, "asking" is an art to be practiced! 

As I wrap this up, I'm looking forward to all bonuses that will come with asking questions this year.  Hopefully, I will know a lot more about the things and people around me. With luck, I'll feel be even more connected to our thriving school culture. I'll have a lot more answers when people need to ask me questions. And finally, I'll be doing a lot of listening and reflecting along the way. Perhaps I'll even Talk less. Take less. Give More. And Ask Hard.