Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 3 Words for 2016

This wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I had the first word earlier this week, but when the challenge was issued for three I hesitated. The second one came easier, the last one took longer. Here are my three words for 2016 and why I chose each of them. I went with words that encompass not only the professional side, but the personal side as well.

Forward: The saying goes that the rear-view mirror is smaller than the windshield for a reason. We should be looking ahead more than we are looking back. While as educators it's important to look back to know what to build upon, we shouldn't stay so focused on previous years that we forget to enjoy and experience the moment we are in right now, the present. This year I want to stay focused on what's ahead. This is a new year for creating new memories and leaving an impact on others. Leave the box of "we've always done it this way" in 2015. Don't dwell on what you didn't finish in 2015, but look ahead to what you can do in 2016. 

Focused: This word goes with the first one in a way. I'm the world's worst at having multiple projects going at one time. I wish I could tell you I have finished them all over the break, but I haven' fact I even started a few new ones. While multi-tasking is good at times(especially as educators), a browser can only have so many tabs/windows open at a time before it starts to freeze. I think that's true for us as well, we can be doing so many things at once that at some point we can get overwhelm and may freeze. I want to be focused in 2016. I want to be in the moment (and disconnect at times from that device that never seems to leave my hands). I want to finish these unfinished projects and start some new ones that have been on my list for way too long. Staying focused on the goal(s) this year and not letting the distractions get in the way. 

Faithful: This one was harder to choose. I thought about the word fervent (which also means passionate) because I want to pour into the things that I am passionate about this year(Writing etc.). I also thought about free because I want to be just be the me that I was made to be this year. For so long I have listened to what others said and discounted what I had to offer because of my title or position. Thankful for a PLN this past year that told me I had a voice and I had something to share with others. Finally I settled on Faithful. As a Christian, I want to be found faithful in all of the things He's given me to do. Faithful to give each and every day all that I can give. Faithful to be that ear when the parents may need someone to listen to. Faithful to remind my students each and every day that they matter and they can make a difference. Faithful to share what I am learning or pondering with others and to grow with a network of educators that help make me a better me. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Technology Integration: Once an a routine

We've been in school for almost 6 weeks now. It amazes me to see people posting about the first day of school for tomorrow and we are already half way through our first quarter. Teachers have had more technology changes thrown at them this first term than in the past and most have endured with a smile. A few are still trying to grasp the change from clicking on Outlook (a task they have used for years) to click on the Gmail button. We have also moved to Canvas as our LMS. Students are embracing the change quicker than some of the teachers. These are students that are growing up in a technology age and the thought of not keeping up with a paper is exciting to them. I long for the day when BYOT/BYOD becomes every day instead of just a special day. 

The move from technology integration as an event to a routine, starts from the top down. Once that mindset is embraced by the Central Office staff, then it is shared with administration, who share it with teachers, who share it students, who share it with parents. It's a ripple effect that impacts more than we can see. Not every teacher will understand the mindset shift at first, but that is when those that do need to step in and demonstrate how it works. This is also where having a PLN and being a connected educator is important. If you are one of the connected ones, share with others. I still have teachers that ask, SAMR what? Share with your colleagues the knowledge of the model and how to model it for their students. The ocean will always be there, it's not an event. Technology can be compared to the same. 
Created by Sylvia Duckworth

There is a shift in mindset that has to happen for teachers to see how technology is changing. A worksheet on an iPad is still a worksheet. A digital projector used to show a worksheet is jut a fancy new overhead projector. I have found as tech leaders it takes demonstrating to teachers how the new technology can be integrated into their curriculum for them to embrace the change. They have to see it to buy into it, then the next step is using it so they can own it. Students can see it and figure out how to use it within minutes, therefore their step to owning it is quicker. Technology is a life skill. Students today will not know what it was like to call a place, use a paper map, or pass a note in class. If we model that technology is an event, students will see it that way even though life requires it another. They have access to the equipment, let's teach them how to use it. The next Steve Jobs could be sitting in your class and you just told him(or her) to put up that device and get out a pencil. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fueling your Fire

I love the Natalie Grant song "Burn Bright". It came along at a point last year when I needed to be reminded of the message within it. This morning while scrolling through my NewsFeed I ran across this quote from Todd Nesloney. This rocked my world in a good way this morning. I'm three weeks into my 10th year teaching and I'm already tired. I'm already at the point where I feel like I have given out more than I have to know the moments I'm talking about teachers. The moment when you feel like the Energizer bunny has already been wound as tight as it can go and the battery is about to need charging. Then I read this quote and started thinking....

As educators, as people in general we have to protect our flames. I'm not much of a camper, but I do remember a few fire pits over the years. The fire dies out when the coals grow cold or the wood becomes wet. Protect your flame, so that spark continues. There will always be ones who want to speak negatively, find fault, complain, or share criticism. Pleasing everyone is an impossible task. Words that help you grow, even constructively are beneficial, words that tear down are similar to wet wood and cool coals. Protect your flame but not allowing those to linger on your fire and smothering your flame.

We are all going to have times where we feel like the roaring fire and moments where we will like the flickering spark. It's natural, but it's what we do in those moments that determine whether or not the fire continues to burn or begins to smolder. On the days when the fire is roaring, share it with others. On the days when the fire is just a flickering spark, find something to fuel that fire. As teachers, we do what we do because we of the students. Some days the students can fuel that spark without even knowing it. Those light bulb moments that remind you why you went into teaching, that former student that comes back just to say thank you, that parent that reminds you of the difference you made, or even that colleague that says I appreciate you. We can also fuel our fires by connecting with those who are burning bright as well. Find someone to connect with that shares the same passion that you do. It may be someone you teach with at your school, in your system, or simply someone who you connect with via social media. Twitter is a powerful connector of educators who want to continue to fuel their fire. If you haven't joined or are still in the lurking phase, jump in and start adding to the knowledge that is being shared. You may be the one that fuels another educator's fire.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Building the Foundation

A new year, a new start and what better time to build the foundation for an incredible year. This is my 10th year teaching and each year it seems like I start off in a panic and a rush because are things really ever ready at the beginning of the year. I am determined to start this year off in a different way. I am a special education teacher and I work with students in 4th-6th grade that are inclusion/resource students. I had this bulletin board in my room last year after being inspired at ISTE 2014 by Angelia Maiers and the You Matter message. There were times the students would come in the room defeated and discouraged because they were having difficulty. Instead of facing that difficulty, they wanted the answer or to just give up. Sometimes they would even come in down and speaking negative about themselves. I directed them to the board. Often times I would have them read it out loud or at least to themselves. Time after time, it helped them to focus on the task at hand and to quit speaking negative. If a student was upset, it also helped them to calm down. It's hard to read these positive affirmations and stay mad. This year I am also writing notes to mail out the second week of school to not only introduce myself to my case load students, but to also tell them they matter! I also added this growth mindset bulletin board that I saw on Pinterest.  Students can learn when students feel safe. They learn when they know that you believe in them and that they have something to contribute. This is the foundation to build on this year...reminding students that they have a voice and have something to contribute. I'm also doing a new student survey/interview with them towards the end of the first week.  Here is a link to the survey:3-2-1 Beginning of the Year Survey

Last year was the inaugural year at my school. We were an assortment of teachers from three main schools with a few others here and there. The struggle last year was for those of us from here and there to learn where we fit into the pieces of the other groups. One thing at the end of the year the principal at that time encouraged me to do was to ask for feedback from the general education teachers. It was a scary yet positive experience. I think as teachers it is difficult to open ourselves up for criticism, even that which is constructive. I learned through the process, we all have strengths and weaknesses, when we share those with our team members with the intent of productivity, we can find help with our weaknesses. An example for me, is making a schedule. Some teachers can take all of the pieces and fit it in a puzzle. I'm not one of them...I tend to over extend myself, which leaves me without a lunch or planning (and burned out and frustrated at the end of the day). This year two of the teachers who I sat down with last year have offered this week to help me take my pieces of the puzzle and make a workable schedule. It takes time to build relationships with other staff members. Helping each other with our strengths and weaknesses though that relationship builds a team over time. 

Have a great year teachers! 
Remember you matter and you are making a difference! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Teacher Truths...

I'm committed to posting more on this blog. It may be a techie treasure or it may just be a teacher treasure. Tonight are some teacher truths. I started my 10th year today. It's hard to believe, because I remember my first day ever like it was yesterday. I was at New Teacher Orientation yesterday and the excitement in their faces told it all. They were still energetic, focused, and ready to make a difference. That should be all of us every day we are with our students or even with our colleagues. There will always be days that make us want to cry, days that make us want to scream, and days that make us question why did I go into this. There will also be days that make us smile, days that make us cry happy tears, and days that make us go this is why I love what I do. Those are the moments that should drive our day. Those are the moments when we lay our head on our pillow at night and think back over the day that we should remember.

Over the last couple of years I have learned that it is easy to get discouraged in the field of education. We are constantly dealing with multiple things that pull at our attention, our focus, and our heart. These things can weigh us down if we are trying to do carry them on our own. As teachers we are life long learners(or at least we should be). PD sessions fill some of our days throughout the year. The type of PD can add to our day and encouragement bank or subtract from it. Meaningful PD is something that can help you grow as a teacher and a learner. I have learned if you are feeling like your encouragement bank may be empty, find a professional book to read, join a Twitter chat, connect with other educators...reach out of your box. A PLN is an assets to have and crucial to keeping the teacher fire lit. A PLN keeps you from feeling like an island and part of something bigger. Ideas, suggestions, and advice from outside of your teaching circle is always helpful. Teacher truth: We were never meant to go at it alone....collaboration is essential. Sometimes you just need someone to say you can do it or have you thought of this. A connected educator is one that has a power source to connect into when they start to feel like their battery is low. A connected educator has a source to tap into for information, ideas, and resources. Connect within your school, but also take the time this year to reach out and connect outside of your school or maybe even your school system.. Connecting with each other as we learn together allows us all to become better teachers and in turn make an impact with our students.

Have a great year!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Conference recap

I truly enjoyed the state tech conference last month. I have enjoyed it in the past, but something was different last week. I know attending ISTE last year helped to open my eyes to a new world, but I also think I'm finally gaining a confidence in myself as an educator. Confidence not in a prideful way, but in a believing in myself finally kind of way. It has taken me awhile to be able to see what others could see(even though I hear/read the feedback). If you are not involved in some sort of PLN (Personal Learning Network) via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or some other social media....start today! Look for a post next week more about this....There is something though about being connected with educators across the state and even across the country. Even though some you may never meet in person, the wisdom, experience, and growth that is available through a PLN is priceless. Be a connected educator...learn from others and share what you know. Learning is a cycle, share to keep it going. Connecting with your PLN adds a new depth to conferences and a growth opportunity that is unique. On to the Top 10 style ;-) Here are ten things/take-aways that I gleaned from the conferences last month. It's a mixture of big ideas, ah-ha moments, and tools to use. Some may be from the local tech conference...I never finished the blog before that, so here's to combining the two;-)

  1. TestMoz I had never heard about this site until last month(Thank you Dr. Mayburn from Tech in Motion). It allows you to create quick assessments for students. It also shows you how they did. Remember your password and code to get back in though, because other wise you can't log back in. You can take the link it gives you for the assessment and create a QR code or share digitally via another way. The possibilities are endless....and the best part's FREE ;-) and no email is required for students to log in. 
  2. My eyes were opened to the educational uses of Wikipedia and Flipboard...I will be working on some smore handouts to share with teachers at my school later on this year to include these resources. Flipboard is a great tool not just for catching up on "news", but for updating events, academic topics, and textbooks. Wikipedia is also not what it used to be. There is an intense process of rubrics and looking at information before something is published. It's also one of the biggest ways students can contribute to the information being published. 
  3. Major takeaway from the keynote speaker, Jeff Utecht: Students are going to use Technology, let's teach them how to use it. Their social life includes social media, their school life includes social media and technology. We need to teach kids how to balance social and school life and use time wisely. 
  4. Kids in 4th grade should know how to navigate and use the Google search page. The information is out there, are we making sure we teach students the skills needed in order to find it? 
  5. Brand your school: Make sure parents know how to interact with the school's Facebook page and develop a school hashtag....
  6. Evernote: Leslie Fischer has an in-depth handout on tools that even I didn't know about when using Evernote. Check out her website...well worth the time to look at it. 
  7. IF app (used to be called IFTT).....I have heard about this app for two years from Dr. Buck, but I am FINALLY starting to be able to integrate it for some organizational things. I'm one of those once I find the way to best integrate it in, I will use it on a regular basis and share with others. My new favorite is the recipe that lets me send favorite tweets to a notebook in Evernote so I can check out the links later. 
  8. Power My Learning  Excited to share this site with teachers and to start using it with my students. 
  9. Tellagami and Vocaroo are two apps I wish I had more iPads so that use these tools with my students. There is so much out there for exceptional learning students. 
  10. Google Katie L. Greer, she spoke at our local tech conference on apps and cyber security....follow her on Twitter, FB, and her blog. Solid information that needs to be shared with parents and students. 
I was unable to attend ISTE in person this year, but I was so thankful for Twitter. Here is a link to all of the resources that were compiled and shared on Twitter. Not at ISTE LiveBinder

Stay tuned to the blog....I know I always say more is coming, but I promise it is. Year 10 starts for me next week and I have already made this blog a priority. I held off on my Summer PD books until work starts back....I find the first few months are when I need recharging the most. I need to be reminded I'm not an island and to connect with other educators. So look for thoughts from those books as well....Also don't forget to check out my own LiveBinder for updates on handouts, resources etc. Feel free to share with other teachers..

Have a great week! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Data collection Tools

Working on updating a presentation for a webinar tomorrow and realized I have never posted some more Skitch here they are:

These are all from a 4th grade Homebound student who had fine motor difficulties. Skitch is a great way to build a portfolio of work for any student that may have fine motor difficulties or need to be a little more "creative". 

Link to the presentation and more tools to come after the webinar tomorrow ;-) 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Social Media for Parents link

I made this Smore to share with parents tomorrow night at our Book Fair Family Night.

Here you go: Social Media and You

Feel free to share! Have a great end of the week ;-)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Live Binder Update

Two new Symbaloo Links were added to my Live Binder of Resources along with a new tab for my Smore creations. As the summer approaches, and conference season is among us I will be updating these frequently so stay tuned here or follow me on Twitter for updates.

Tech Treasures Binder

Thursday, March 5, 2015

6 + 1 Traits of Writing review

This was the first book we read for our PLC's at school this year. I finished it last week during a snow day and am using this week to write what I've learned etc. I have post it notes throughout. If you are teacher of students third grade and up I highly recommend this book. It was very practical with tips and examples of student work throughout the book. All quotes/notes are from the book and items that I found to be beneficial.

Chapter 1:
This chapter talks about how writing fits into assessment and instruction as well as the differences in revising and editing. Students need to see the differences in the two, so they can start to apply the process.

  • Revising: Re-visioning your work....Messy ideas until they come into focus 
  • Editing is putting the house in order before company arrives. 
  • "The purpose of revision is not to correct, but to discover." ~Lucy McCormick Calkins
  • "Revision is re-seeing the topic so the writer can discover meaning. Editing is making the meaning clear so that the reader can understand meaning." ~Donald Murray 
Chapter 2
This chapter introduces the Ideas trait. It details the process of ways to teach the trait as well as assess the trait. This chapter was full of meat and ideas ;-)
  • Writing begins with having something to say 
  • Writing is always better when it is written for the writer and not the teacher or reader. (I loved this point because writing is such an outlet for me. I love blogging, writing in my journal etc.)
  • Students have to see themselves as writers not just finishers. 
  • Details need to be unique to writers' experience. 
  • Teachers should always reinforce the positive. 
  • The purpose of assessment is to improve student performance the next time the task is attempted. 
  • Telling statements vs. Showing statements ...Show me, don't just tell me!
  • When you write about things you care about, ideas soar. 
Chapter 3
This chapter introduces the organization trait. I love how throughout this book using examples for literature that is familiar to the students is encouraged. Examples are also included in various chapters. 
  • A piece with strong organization begins with a clear purpose that creates anticipation in the reader. 
  • The reader never loses the big picture....
  • For every piece of writing there is a structure that makes sense...(In other words it's not always a five paragraph format that works for every prompt...)
  • Am I process teacher or a product teacher? 
  • Birthday gift illustration: Main idea: Box's content, Details: Bow and Wrapping Paper, Conclusion Sentence: Ribbon that ties it all together.
Chapter 4
This chapter introduces the trait of voice. Students need to learn and see how to create something that is a voice and not an echo. I loved the voice 
  • Almost every writer has a style or voice. 
  • "Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish." ~John Jakes
  • Voice: the writer's music coming out through the words, the sense that a real person is speaking to you and cares about the message. 
  • Emails can confuse reader at times and is subject to interpretation....needs to be well crafted (oh how true this is. We often times forget that our voice must shine through our words in every text or email, so that our true purpose can be felt.)
  • "Live in the moment with your students, and they will prepare themselves for the future." (My favorite quote of the entire book)
Chapter 5
This chapter introduces the trait of Word Choice. 
  • learn to look for the logic behind the errors ( most students have a reason or rhyme to why they choose the words they do(right or wrong). 
  • Steer students away from impressive vocabulary and toward the skill of to use every day words well. 
  • Active vs. Passive Voice
Chapter 6
This chapter introduces the trait of Sentence Fluency.  Many strategies that we use to teaching Reading Fluency can also help with teaching Fluency in writing as well. 
  • Giving students an opportunity to read their writing aloud is vital. (I've found that reading a students written work out loud to them is a way for them to recognize their mistakes. When they hear it read, it becomes obvious it doesn't sound right.)
  • Classrooms where there is writing taking place should have noise. 
  • Fluency can work hand in hand with instruction on other traits (i.e. conventions). 
Chapter 7
This chapter introduces the trait of Conventions. The author compares the use of conventions to the good table manners of writing. This chapter was one of my favorites, not because it is a topic I enjoy, but one I found very beneficial. Many times in the classroom grammar and conventions are practiced in the form of worksheets etc. When this is done, students have difficulty applying the skill in the writing process. This is also an area that needs to be practiced and reviewed daily, even as adults. We tend to forget what we do not apply. 
  • Make sure conventions are correct when "publishing" 
  • See conventions for what they are and pay attention to evolving language and how technology plays into it. 
  • Hold students in Grade 7 or above to a higher standard for conventions. (By this time most students should know how to apply most conventions). 
  • Teachers/Students should choose a convention goal. Practice applying one skill, area at a time until mastery. 
Chapter 8
This chapter introduces the trait of Presentation. The student examples in this chapter brought to life the information the author was discussing. Presentation is the additional trait that was added later. This trait is referenced to rolling out the welcome mat for the reader. 
  • How the paper looks influences our reaction to it, no matter how hard we try (Often times as teachers we learn how to read writing that non teachers would dismiss as illegible). 
  • Presentation demonstrates to students that first impression (in many areas) means a lot.  
As a teacher I enjoyed this book as well as a writer. I read the content with instructional practices in mind as well as application as someone who blogs or writes on a regular basis. Writing is quickly becoming a lost art in the classroom. Students are feeling forced to stay within set limits, set parameters, and the creativity that often times makes a student's writing come to life is not found. When we give students an opportunity to demonstrate their voice, to show who they are, they begin to learn to write with a passion. I have been fortunate to see these traits applied in the classroom. Using these traits and the rubric the book provides has guided my conferences to them to see what they did well and how they can improve. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

You Make a Difference

So for most teachers in the country, last week was a crazy week of weather closings and/or weather delays. It's left everyone scrambling over the weekend to "catch up" and the traditional Sunday night panic has started to ensue. Regardless of what you teach, everyone seems to be feeling some kind of stress right now. As a special education educator, it's paperwork. The demands of the paperwork seem to never end and just when I think I've gotten a handle on it and it's organized for now...boom something changes to mess with that "plan". Teachers by nature are good at being flexible and "rolling with things" to a certain point as long as they know what they are doing makes a difference.  Some how every year we justify the stress as long as we know that in the end it is making a difference for at least one. That's why we do what we do so much and why we push past our own needs. Recently I was met with a comment that rubbed me the wrong way. It made me question what I do and made me analyze my time spent on certain tasks. In short it made me feel like what I was doing, the time, the effort, to put towards not only Plan A, but having Plans B-Z ready just in case wasn't worth it. Sometimes I think it's hard to not see past our own stresses and realize everyone is stressed this time of the year. So I had a decision to make, could I keep pushing the replay button on that comment and let it affect how I view what I do or could I do something about it. Inspired by some amazing ladies in my PLN I pulled together some of my favorite quotes. This blog post is not a techie post, a book review, but simply an encouragement post. For a minute I realized, if I am feeling this way, maybe someone else is. My hope is that one of these quotes will be what you can hang on to this week and push through all of the demands. Despite the stress, the endless to-do list, and the calendar that has more to do than hours, you are making a difference. You decide which comments go in the replay section and which ones go in the delete section, choose wisely. One last shout out before I add the quotes....if you are a special education teacher...YOU MATTER! I know we do not always hear it as much as the general education teachers do, but what you do makes a difference and matters to so many.

Have an amazing week teachers and never forget... You Matter!! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Webinar tomorrow...

Webinar tomorrow for Simple K-12 and I found an amazing website:

I wanted to give my blog readers a sneak peek at this resource I will be sharing tomorrow. I'll post a Symbaloo Link on Twitter tomorrow and on here later this week of all of the resources that I will be sharing. Stay tuned more coming I promise!

Follow me on Twitter @mnmann

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My word for 2015

I started off with choosing three words for the year and then later had to narrow it down to just one. That took some time. When I think of imprint, I think of an impact and indention in something. I want to leave an imprint on the lives I come in contact with in 2015. I want my students to know how much they matter each and every day. I want my students at school to know that they can do anything they set their minds to. I want them to know what it feels like to reach that goal they have set for themselves. I told them at the beginning of the year that if they would put themselves in the game, I would be their biggest cheerleader. I want the kids I see outside of school to know that someone believes in them and is there for them. I want them to see the importance of time. Time doesn't mean playing a game on a computer or a video controller. Time sometimes means listening. I want to leave my imprint on them and I'm working on now to listen more than I talk. To listen more than spending time on my phone(ouch yeah I'm resolving to work on that). To leave an imprint this year I also have to take care of me. I have to pour in so I can pour out. I have to strengthen myself inside and out in order to make that imprint throughout the year and to have the stamina to keep the pace I have created for myself. So after reading two blog posts, I finally settled on a word for the year..2015 is the year for leaving an imprint like footprints in the sand because whether we realize it or not...others are following.

Imprint...touching others so they can impact and touch on their own! Imprint...being God's hands and feet and making a difference in 2015. Imprint...taking the You Matter message to every student I can. Imprint...taking care of me when needed so I can give to others.