Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dear Teacher...You Matter

So tomorrow is the first day of school for teachers in my system. Yep summer is a thing of the past for this year and exciting days are ahead to welcome in an multiple opportunities to make a difference. I've been thinking about this blog for a couple of weeks now and what exactly I wanted to say. I thought about doing two separate ones...one for my tech blog and one for my devo blog, but what I have to say fits with both. So if you follow both you will see the same post.  Tomorrow starts my 9th year of teaching. What I have learned in the last year and half could more than fill a book about teaching, sadly most of you would question whether some of it is true or not. So here is my dear teacher post to start the year. My hope and prayer is that EVERY teacher regardless of what they teach will know at some point each and every day how much they matter.

Dear Teacher,
I know you are sitting there thinking where did summer go and how quickly the time has passed. You are also sitting there questioning how it will all get finished before the students walk through the doors on their first day of school. Rest assured it will because it always does. By now your dreams have been filled with lesson plans and designing your classroom in your head, that was how I always knew the start of school was soon ahead.  Get to know your students that first week. More than everything you will study for the year, they want to know how much you care. Give it your all during the day, but remember to take time for you. It's about balance and giving to yourself allows you to give to those precious kids you impact every day. I know you will have days when things do not go according to plan. You will feel stressed at times, frustrated at others, and some days may just leave you feeling wore out. It will happen, but those days and moments will pass. On those days though remember this...YOU MATTER! What you do is important and you are making a difference in lives. Don't let the feeling of stress or frustration cause you to doubt this important truth.  So teacher reading this, take those two words into your room this year and into your school. Share them with a colleague and your students. Thank you for doing what you do, for giving your heart to those kids, and for loving them for who they are. You make a difference, what you do matters, and most of all remember YOU MATTER. 

A fellow teacher

So where is this coming from? I am on a mission. I can be pitiful about some stuff this year or I can do something about it(aka powerful as Joyce Meyer always says).  My words for the school year for me personally are intentional, determined, and discipline. I'll blog about more of that later, but I have decided to look for ways to be intentional with encouragement. I know who I am as a teacher (finally) and regardless of the actions of others, I have to move on from that. That being said, I've learned from past experience that sow into others and God will sow back into you. Have a wonderful school year teacher friends and everyone! I wish you the best. I pray your year is filled with moments that make you smile and love what you do. Don't let anyone make you feel like you aren't enough or that you don't matter, because you do! 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Flipping your PD

Out of the three sessions I presented at NATC, this one was my favorite topic. Flipping your PD and expanding your PLN is a topic I am passionate about. A little background on where I am with this topic. This time last year I was only beginning to understand what a PLN was and how to Flip my PD. When I say beginning to understand, my Twitter was set to private, I mean beginning to understand. My first EdCamp opened my eyes to a whole new world of connecting and I started to see the possibilities. Before I only used Twitter to follow people and read what they wrote. I can't remember doing any original tweets of my own other than re-tweeting what everyone else was posting. (I now realize that only showed up to a select few). As far as hash tag's go, I was still clueless. Fast forward a year, Twitter has become one of my favorite social media outlets. The value of a PLN is priceless. There were days last school year when I know I would not have made it without having a group to turn to. I've helped moderate a few of the spedchat's on Tuesday nights and participated in a few of ALedchat's. I was honored at ISTE last week to meet some of the people whom I have followed from a distance via Twitter. People who also train with Simple K-12 and who I have looked up to from afar for a couple of years now. I'm a better teacher because I learned how to expand my PLN. I'm a better teacher because I not only learned what to do, I did it. We can sit in session after session on the same topi, but if we never put anything into practice what have we learned?

Every educator has a PLN because you work with others. How you utilize that PLN is up to you(whether you collaborate, learn from etc.). When you expand your PLN outside of your school and even your system, you open yourself up to the opportunity of not only connecting with other educators but growing from their expertise. Your PLN can help you take the knowledge you have and apply it in the classroom.

So here are some practical steps in expanding your PLN:
1. First create the account and get started on Twitter! Make sure you set it as public so you can connect and reach out to others through hash tag's. If you are hesitant, just keep a watch on your account. If someone strange follows you, you can block them with a couple of clicks.

2. Find people to follow....For me when I first started I went to the list of trainers on Simple K-12 and followed some of them. That list includes some of the best in their fields, so I knew this was a place to start. I had also attended several of their webinars, so I wanted to continue learning from them. Then once you follow someone, find out who they follow. Eventually you start connecting with others and they are connecting with you!

3. Keep it short! You want someone to be able to re-tweet what you said. Learn the lingo...I was about six months in before I caught on that Ts meant teachers and Ss meant students. You have 140 characters, make them count and make them meaningful. Also make some original tweets. I was nervous about this at first, but I am slowly getting it right. Don't get discouraged, it will come.

4. When you see a post that you like or a link you want to revisit, favorite it. You can access your favorites in a certain spot later. Don't make the mistake of saying oh I'll find it again later. You won't. Favorite it by clicking on the star and look at it later.

5. Flipping your PD means nothing more than Rewindable Learning. It's learning that you pick to meet your need and where you want to grow. There are webinars out there now and a Twitter chat for every area. The link to the master schedule is on my handout (link below). One of my wonderful PLN members whom I have learned so much, used that phrase at an EdCamp and it has stuck. Flipped Learning is just that Rewindable. If you need to hear it again(or read it again), you can. We have all sat in sessions and thought to ourselves how does this apply to what I do. You hold the key to finding that learning avenue that is meant just for you. Sessions will still be there at various workshops(we all have to attend them at some point), but flipping your PD and expanding your PLN will help you to stay focused and learning at all times. It allows you to reach out to others that you may never think to ask a question or help from. We all are better when we are connected and stronger.

 Flipping your PD handout

Any questions let me know! Follow me on Twitter(@mnmann) or leave a comment here!
Keep growing through connecting,
Always remember #YouMatter

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I am an educator...

This was on the front of a T-shirt I received at ISTE last week. The back said, what are you. It is one of my favorites and I can't wait to wear it one Friday at work. This is a different kind of post, but it will be short I promise. This summer I have had a lot of time for reflection. I needed it after the year I had. We all have one of those years though. The year when we question why we are doing what we are doing. The year when we seem to analyze every one of our "teaching" philosophies so to speak. With that being said here a few of those revised and reflected philosophies. Maybe they'll tell you a little more about me ;-) Back to Technology posts on Monday with two webinar recaps and then later this week we have our local tech conference!

1. I used to say technology was one of my passions. Now I know it is Technology Integration that is one of my passions. It's not enough to just give teachers or students the tool, we need to show them how it applies to life(and content). Then let them create!

2. All behavior has a reason period. The student isn't acting a certain way just to act it. It may be a learned behavior or trait, but there is a reason behind why they do what they do. Same thing can be said for working with adults. Most that have put up a wall or seem hard to get to know are that way for a reason. Be yourself and you may be the one who can find a way to push a brick through on the wall.
(I loved this from Pinterest!) So true!!

3. Everyone matters. I read about the #YouMatter project/campaign on Twitter early last year. I actually had the opportunity to implement it at one school before I left. It was eye-opening to watch the teachers read their notes. Everyone needs to hear they matter and make a difference. I know for me personally, I can do a lot and deal with a lot if I know someone cares. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. Give it out and it will come back to you. I'm looking for ways to implement this next year period. I will post on here as I am able to so that others can have ideas of ways they can possible share it as well.  If you are not sure what I'm talking about watch this clip on YouTube: You Matter YouTube

4. Share what you know and what you do not know. You may never find the answers to your questions if you are not willing the ask them. I love having a PLN for that. I had the privilege to meet some of my PLN while in Atlanta for ISTE. Find a group you can learn from and grow! If you are having trouble doing that in your own school environment, reach out to a PLN through a webinar or on Twitter. It will renew you as a teacher and light a fire in you that hopefully you can spread to your local colleagues. We are all in this together and together can help each other grow. I'll be posting more on this in a couple of weeks. 

5. Keep learning! It doesn't matter if is reading an article or taking the time to catch up on a piece of literature, always find time to be a student yourself. I am finding it makes you a better teacher! 

For some the summer is on the down hill slope and for some they have a little longer to go, before you go back to school this year, take some time to reflect. Reflection is a key piece to good teaching. It takes the teacher who struggled and turns him/her into the teacher who has overcome. Always remember though that what you do matters! Do what you do with your head held high knowing it matters and has value! 

Enjoy your day!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Skitch examples

Skitch has become one of my favorite apps to allow students to create and take ownership in their work. I thought I had deleted all of my Skitch examples when I switched classrooms this year, but I found some of them. (Apparently Evernote saves your deleted files until you empty your deleted file folder ;-).  So here are some examples. If you have any questions let me know. I am working on a pictorial handout to include on my LiveBinder with how to use Skitch.

This is a worksheet that I took a screen shot of from the Safari tab.  Then using Skitch the student was able to annotate on top with his finger. The annotation is saved into Evernote or can be emailed to the Teacher. 

This is a screenshot of something made in the Easy Bake app. In Skitch the student could write about their creation or even write directions. 

These are pictures from a classroom. The wording on them is from a student. These could easily be inserted into a student's picture schedule or list of what to do during the day. The student(s) will feel ownership since they have helped create it. The pictures are saved into an Evernote folder and can easily be saved into a folder on the Desktop for printing purposes. 

Another screenshot used to to collect data on a student. The annotations are done using Skitch and are saved into an Evernote folder. 

This is a picture of a worksheet that a student needed to re-do. Skitch allowed for some guided practice/assistance and the student was able to complete the worksheet again on the iPad. This would also work for students with fine motor difficulties. They could type the answers using Skitch instead of having to write them out. 

I will include more this year. I apologize that I didn't think about it before, but I am glad I had not emptied out my deleted files on Evernote. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I would also love to hear how you use Skitch 

Until next time,

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ISTE Recap

Oh my what an amazing conference ISTE was. It was my first time and honestly I did not know what to expect. Others had tried to tell me, but until you experience that many people (16,000+) in one area it is hard to put it into words. I am only beginning to reflect and process what I learned, what I want to do next, and goals. For too long I have let others write my goals and attempt to define who I was as an educator. This post will be my three main take aways from the conference and a few pictures ;-) I will share more of the tools I learned later. ISTE taught me that I have a voice and reminded me I matter. I learned that what I say and do is important to someone and they are watching/listening. The line of but I'm just a special education teacher is not valid. I think often times teachers do not feel like they have a voice so they keep to themselves when the truth is they have more to share than anyone realizes. Find your voice and share it. You have something to offer and what you say/do matters to more than you know.

1. Stay connected....If you do not have a PLN, find one. You will grow from them more than you realize. Last year was a rough year for me in the classroom. My PLN helped me find my voice, ignite a fire, and then reminded me of both when I wasn't sure. If you need help starting one, leave a comment or connect me with me on Twitter.

2. You have a voice and your students do as well. Empower them to find theirs and remind them how much they matter. (Give them tasks that matter and watch the seeds bloom).

3. Technology is a tool. Put it in the hands of students and let them create the masterpieces of tomorrow. Technology is just that a tool. It's not for playing games, but giving students an opportunity to create. Give students the what of a project and let them figure out the why and the how.

Do I have more take aways from ISTE, yes but they are not in words just yet. Below are a few pictures of some of my favorite moments at ISTE. I was incredibly blessed to be able to share in a BYOD session and help out in the Simple K-12 sessions with the other trainers. My teaching cup is full and I am determined more than ever to keep it that way. Share it out and then take time to put more back in keeps a cup full and a teacher healthy.
Thanks for letting me share!

Till next time ISTE!