Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Word Challenge

In my #PT camp PLN voxer group, we have challenged one another to pick a word to guide us for 2015.  It's a twist on New Year's Resolutions, most of which fail anyway.  Here's a link to a website that provides some direction for us.  I have thought of a number of words (balance- I need to be much better at this, commit- find one thing and do it with all of your heart, perseverance- work on something I'm not good at until I get better at it) but one word sticks out- FOCUS!


Focus is something we can all strive for.  In the words of Jim Detwiler (@JimDetwiler1) from his most recent blog, we must live in the moment.  In order to do that, we need to have focus.  Put all other thoughts out of your mind and give your all to the person or topic at hand.  Live in the moment.  Put all of your efforts into what you're doing at the time.  Listen more intently.  Find a distraction free environment.  Unplug.  Pay closer attention.  Put the important people and things at the top of your "to do" list, and then do them.

I also thought about ways that I can be more focused at school.  Get out of my office when the staff and students are around.  Hang out in classrooms and learn with the students.  Be more available for the students at lunch and recess.  Meet with staff in their classrooms and not in my office.  Provide more valuable feedback more often.  Block off times on my calendar every day to not be in my office.  Totally unplug when meeting with all individuals (staff, students, families).

The list of things to focus on seems long but that's alright with me.  The key is to focus on the moment at hand.  That's really the only thing I have control over.  And I would tell you it's the only thing each of us has control over.  We can't change the past and we can't alter the future.

So that's my challenge- focus on the moment and make the most of it.  It's quite a challenge for someone like me who pretends to do many things at one time.  If I don't focus on one thing, I'll do nothing well.  Focusing on one thing will ultimately lead me to being more successful.  And for those of you who know me well, don't hesitate to remind me to focus on the moment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First #mertonint chat- Sharing our school story

Yesterday evening, we had our first #mertonint chat for our school.  We began the night with a twitter tutorial for 30 minutes for the one staff member (@MrsJones_Merton), one parent, and seven students.  The students used their chromebooks during the chat and tweeted out posts with Mrs. Jones' classroom account (@jonesclass103).  It was an exciting evening for all of us in attendance.

I really didn't know what to expect in terms of attendance, but those who were there really enjoyed the conversation.  We even had a principal from California (Adam Welcome- @awelcome) visit our chat!  The excitement of the students making connections with another school principal was awesome.

This was our first effort in having a chat for our school and the topic was "Sharing our school story".  Instead of the normal hour long chat, we decided to try a half hour the first time.  Some may be disappointed with our turnout, but I realize it takes little steps to build the capacity to have these conversations include more voices.  The ideas that were shared helped me better understand how I can share our school story on twitter and in my weekly smore.  Here is a link to my smore from last week.

Telling our school story is an important part of my job as a principal.  I have used twitter to share our story but I also have a webpage that I update often.  My webpage has daily announcements, a link to my Friday emails, this staff blog, and school board presentations.  Anyone who wants to know something can probably find it there.  I would love to know other ways that you share your school story with your families and the community.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why not take a risk?

This morning I took a big risk with 430 students.  I shared my idea with colleagues and my PLN (Professional/Personal Learning Network) before moving forward.  Sometimes as educators, we take risks but keep them to ourselves.  I understand why.  What if it's a complete flop?  What if the kids don't learn what was intended?  What if the kids don't understand the purpose of the activity?  What if the kids don't participate?  But those are negative questions.

I would prefer to focus on the positive question.  Why not share my idea with colleagues and my PLN?  They are bound to have a myriad of suggestions, dos and don'ts, and things to think about.  They became my cheerleaders and support system since I first began planning my idea on October 29th.  I even saved a vox from Scott Capro (@ScottCapro) of #BFC530 fame who got me thinking more clearly about the risk I had promised to take with our students at Merton Intermediate School.  (If you don't follow the #BFC530 hashtag on twitter, you don't know what you're missing.)

So here's some background.  The second Wednesday of every month I have an assembly in the gym with all 430 of our students.  Two instructional assistants and I are alone with them for 30 minutes.  This 30 minutes of time provides an extra hour and 15 minutes total for staff collaboration time.  It costs the district nothing and has had a limited impact on me, mostly involving less sleep than normal due to being nervous.  I share personal stories and motivational stories and review school procedures.  Most of the time, however, I spend talking with little interaction for the students.  So I decided to take a risk this month and many of my colleagues offered to help me out.  I laid the ground rules and my colleagues (Mr. Rheineck, Mrs. Oppermann, Mr. Binney, Mrs. Niemczyk, Miss Luberda, Mr. Pomeroy, Mrs. Behnke, and Mrs. Clague) started with me.  Many others joined during the event.  I cannot thank them enough.  They certainly helped to reduce my stress (see yesterday's post entitled "Are you scared by risks?") and made for an even better experience for our kids.

Here is what I did this morning.  I had the students come into the gym and sit on the floor.  They are used to coming in and sitting in the bleachers so this was the first risk.  I had a short presentationwith minimal directions on the screen in the gym.  Then I sent them to work to design their ideal learning spaces whether they be classrooms, outdoor learning spaces, or in their own homes.  They were able to pick groups and some of the groups had a mixture of all four of our grade levels (5th-8th grade).  Then they spread around the gym and the commons, which is the hallway outside of our gym, and they went to work.  I have not had a chance to see all of their ideas, but what I have seen is fantastic.  Once I have a chance, I'll put these ideas into another blog.  Before they left, they turned in an exit slip which asked them three questions-

  1. What should we keep doing as a school?
  2. What should we stop doing as a school?
  3. What should we start doing as a school?
The responses to these questions will also be a future blog post.  With both activities, I told the students I would be meeting with Student Senate to discuss the results.  Anyone can be a member of Student Senate so everyone can attend the meeting.  I'm really looking forward to these follow up conversations so that the students know that their voices are being heard.  I have shared some pictures from this morning on our Twitter page, @mertonint.

This morning was awesome!  The kids were great.  They were creative.  They shared their voice in designing learning spaces.  They were honest answering the questions on the exit slip.  They cleaned up after themselves.  There was only one thing I would change and I'm sure someone had reminded me to think about it.  I laugh about it now and even said to a colleague, "I forgot that when I had students get paper in my class that I only had about 30 students, not 430!"  Next time, I'll remember to have the paper ready in advance, that's for sure.

My message to you, whether you are a principal, a teacher, or a superintendent, is this.  Don't be shy about taking a risk.  Share your ideas with one another.  You may not be able to replicate an idea in your own school or classroom, but it sure can provide some excellent ideas and conversations.  So go ahead, take a risk.  Take a chance.  Share an idea.  Your students will thank you for it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why We Can't Take the Summers Off

As a teacher, one of the most common things I hear in the months of June, July, and August is, "It must be nice to have the summers off." While I can't completely disagree with the idea that having some time to recuperate after a stretch of intense instruction, curriculum development, and professional growth, I also have found myself saying in response, "No one - not teacher or student - can really take the summer off"

The truth is that good teachers are not truly off in the summer, just as good students don't throw everything they learned to the side as they board the school bus on the final day of the school year. Good teachers use the summer for a number of things that are vitally crucial to their success as an educator in the coming school year. Here are a few examples from my life of why summers are critical to my success in fall.

First, summer gives me time to engage in extended professional learning and growth opportunities. I was fortunate enough this summer to take part in two incredibly beneficial, week long, training sessions over the summer. The first was through MSOE and prepared me to teach the Design and Modeling curriculum through Project Lead the Way. The second was through Columbia University and was a Writing Institute held in New York preparing me to be more effective in my Writer's Workshop. What I have noticed is that just as summer gives students the opportunity to engage in summer school, camps, and classes, summer gives teachers the opportunity to engage in extended periods of professional growth that are far more difficult to partake in during the school year when it requires time away from your students.

Second, summer gives me the time to read. I will admit, that in the hustle and bustle of the school year I do not have very much time to read for pleasure. I look forward to time in the summer to read for fun. This summer I tackled the Divergent series and will come into this school year with a whole different outlook on the types of books that are engaging my students. I am hopeful that my students took the same opportunity that I did and used some of this summer to read. Whether they read magazines, manuals, fiction, or nonfiction, I am optimistic (maybe blindly) that when I ask tomorrow what books my students read this summer, they will have a new favorite author, a series they love, or at least be able to name one book that they finished this summer.

Third, summer gives me the opportunity to travel and see something worth talking about. This summer I was fortunate enough to travel overseas and spend 10 days taking in the sites, sounds, and tastes of England, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and France. I don't need to travel in the summer to have something to brag about to my students, I travel in the summer to continue being a person of interest to my students. As we converge on the hallways tomorrow my students will share stories of their adventures to the north woods, the ocean coasts, or the country in between. They will share stories of birthday parties, weddings, days in the pool, and afternoons biking back and forth to friends house. As a teacher, it is important that I have something in my reservoir to make me a person of interest to my students. I didn't need to go to Europe this summer to be a good teacher in the fall, but I think that it is important that teachers take time in the summer to do something interesting that will help them connect and foster relationships with their students when they arrive back at school.

Finally, I use my summers to relax and regroup. I work hard during the school year to make my classroom and the education that I provide my students the very highest quality that it can be. I share my nights, my weekends, my holiday vacations with my lesson plan book, piles of grading, and curriculum to be read. I signed up for this job, and knew (for the most part) the work that would come along with it. I hold my students to a high standard during the year and push them to continually raise their expectations of themselves to a higher level throughout the year. This means, however, that by the middle of June when both students and staff are done with school, to the middle of August when I start trickling back into school to organize myself and my classroom, I take some time to relax and regroup. I think that is time both students and staff need, and deserve, and I use that time to put myself in a better mental state to start the school year.

People say to me all the time, "it must be nice to have the summers off." I could lie and say, "NO! I hate it," but I have never been good at lying. What I am good at doing is putting it in perspective that the best teachers and the best students don't actually take the summers off. Off implies a switch that flips when school ends, and doesn't flip back on until the day school begins, and it is my hope that neither teacher, nor student, has the capacity to do such a thing. Too much is lost when the summer is taken off. We (teachers and students) would lose the opportunity to come back to school better human beings then we were when we left it in the spring, and that is something that I think the best of us would say is simply not right.

Here is hoping that my summer break has given me the rest, adventure, study, and literary time I need to go back to school tomorrow a better human being & a better teacher. Best of luck to everyone, but especially to those who "took the summer off."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Steep Learning Curve Continues

A week of learning about two of the four domains of the Danielson model was stimulating, frustrating, invigorating, and reassuring.  The reassuring aspect is the result of being joined by colleagues of our Effective Educators team and their responses to the videos that we watched.  The nuances of the teaching practice are many and we are charged with sorting out them out according to the components' attributes.  Sounds like a challenge?  Yes it is.  A bit of fatigue set in over time, yet with it comes the realization that learning new ways is hard work, yet we come away with a new skill set to implement.  After a few years of observing teachers practice their craft, these components will certainly assist me in determining the qualities and attributes of those charged with educating our children.  I am very appreciative of the rigorous conversations we had and will use them as I take the assessment next week.  As Paul Simon wrote, "Still crazy after all these years. . . . "

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just When You Thought Twitter Couldn't Get Any Better!

Have you ever hosted or moderated a chat on twitter?  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to host #tlap this past Monday night and it was an awesome experience!  In fact, it's Wednesday night and I'm still "flying high" from the thrill of the whole thing! 

First of all before I go on and try to convince all of you to host a chat, I would like to give my most heartfelt thank you to Dave Burgess.  Dave is the author of "Teach Like a Pirate" and just an all around great guy.  He has skyped with my class, signed my book, and even gave me a big pirate hug!  So when Dave asked me if I would moderate #tlap of course I said, "Yes!" I remember chuckling to myself after blurting that out, realizing I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  I had only been on chats before, not hosted them!  They say all of the magic happens outside of your comfort zone, though, so I figured I had nothing to lose. Also, I saw this as a way to "give back" to the twitter community...one that I had gleaned so much from in all of my chats.  Dave also mentioned that I would have the help and support from two other amazing educators that I had met at the #ICE14 conference:  Julie Nilsson Smith and Mary Kienstra.   

I immediately voxed (that's a whole different blog!) my principal, Jay Posick, to tell him the great news.  He was just as excited as I was! Then he told me this, which made me feel so good, "I will be sure to be on that chat Monday night."  That put me at ease right away knowing that I would have a familiar face on the chat. 

After voxing with Julie about the topic of the chat, we finally whittled our thoughts down to one: "The First Day of School." With that, I went to town on questions.  I had seen in #complitchat that they posted their questions on visual slides and was inspired to do the same thing.  I enlisted my husband's help and soon we were looking for pirate fonts and images!  

Next, I "scheduled" my tweets which is an amazing feature on twitter especially when you are the moderator of a chat. It is incredibly easy, and allowed me to respond to other tweets without having to worry about my own.

Then I recalled that the chat needed to be archived and heck if I knew how to do that!  Enter Paul Solarz.  Another friend I met at #ICE14.  I've seen him archive other chats so I asked him if he would do the same for #tlap.  He said yes, and I was so thankful.

Next, time to vox with Rik Rowe, another twitter friend who gave me some tips on how to run the chat.  I look forward to the day when I can meet Rik face-to-face.  In fact, I look forward to the day when I can meet many of my twitter friends face-to-face!

It's now Sunday night and I'm pretty sure I have all of my ducks in a row. The excitement is building and I touch base, via voxer, with Julie and Mary. Monday comes and I'm just giddy with excitement.  But first I have to sit through an eight hour training on Reader's Workshop. 

Finally, it's time!  8:00 CST comes and I couldn't be more excited!  The chat starts, lasts 2 minutes, and it's all over!  Well, not literally two minutes, but that's how fast the hour seem to fly by.  As I reflected on the event I came up with my "a-ha moments" from the chat.

1.  There are brilliant teachers on #tlap who have incredible ideas that they're willing to share with the rest of us.  With every tweet I read I just wanted to teleport myself to their classroom!  We can rest easy knowing that #tlap teachers are creating experiences for students all across the globe.  

2.  Educators on twitter are SO kindgenerous, and supportive.  I was blown away by how helpful and kind everyone was to each other and me.  I feel so fortunate to be part of a community that fosters such kindness and generosity among all of its members.

3.  Moderating this chat affirmed my passion for being a connected educator.  

Thanks for reading.  Perhaps one day you will consider hosting a chat and expanding your horizons. Try it!  You won't regret it!  

Looking Through the Window or Looking In The Mirror #ptcamp

During the summer of #ptcamp, an awesome book chat of Beyond the Bake Sale initiated by Joe Mazza (@Joe_Mazza), the Leadership Innovation Manager at Penn, one comment has jumped out at me and slapped me square in the face.

Are you looking out through the window or are you looking in the mirror?

The comment slaps me in the face every day while I take part in the Voxer chat or read someone's blog.  And the slap hurts.  Every time.

Image from dreamstime.com

The look through the window is so much easier.  I look out to see what others can do for me, for our school, for our students, for our staff.  Looking out the window is passive.  Frankly, it's the easy way out.  But sometimes I need help with my ideas or for someone to tell me my ideas just aren't practical.  The view out the window, however, can guide us as we look in the mirror.

Image from dreamstime.com

The look in the mirror is much more difficult.  It's all about you and what you can do.  You can still ask for help from others, and you should, but it starts with you.  I think it's a good idea to check your own pulse before you check the pulse of those with whom you work or your family partnerships.  Ask yourself these questions-
What should we start?
What should we stop?
What should we continue?
I have a habit of hearing a good idea (and there are so many in our #ptcamp discussions) and I want to get it going in my school- RIGHT NOW.  I really need to step back, look in the mirror, and determine whether it fits in our school.  If it does, then I need to look out the window and ask for help from others.  But it all starts with that look in the mirror.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Patience- Where can I find some?

Patience is a virtue.  Until I read the definition on Wikipedia, I had no idea that it came from Psychomachia, a poem written in the fifth century.  Fortunately my internet was working well so I didn't have to be too patient to find the definition.  It may be that I do have patience, but I don't know if I exhibit it often enough.  When I want something to happen, I want it to happen sooner rather than later.  With everything that I've learned from my PLN on Twitter and Voxer, I sometimes just need to stop and make things a priority.  So that's where my patience needs to begin.

I enjoyed a post from Joe Sanfelippo (@Joesanfelippofc) recently entitled Learning to Lead that made me think about my lack of patience.  It also caused me to determine the three things I will work on this year.
1. Celebrate a risk with a staff member or student.
2. Model energy and excitement.
3. Share out the great things our Merton family is doing.
I truly believe this will help me with being more patient.  Everything that I do as a principal every day can be done with my focus on these goals.

Celebration of risk is a great way to show the importance of learning something new.  Modeling energy and excitement may seem contrary to patience, but if I choose a few items to focus on (Readers' Workshop and family engagement come to mind), hopefully the staff and students will focus on these items as well.  Having fewer things to focus on will help me maintain some semblance of patience.  Sharing out as much as a I can about all that we do in Merton will help me to pause and be involved in classrooms, allowing me to be more patient.

As many of my friends and co-workers will tell you, I can't stay seated for very long.  I always need to be doing something.  I just spent the last week in Myrtle Beach and couldn't just relax on the beach without jumping in and going boogie boarding every 15 minutes.  But I can feel my patience increasing while writing this post.  I was able to sit for 15 minutes to write on my Chromebook.  Maybe I can be patient after all.

Principals are people, too

As I sit in a condo in Myrtle Beach today, watching my daughter and her friends fix their hair and makeup for a dance competition, I realize that I am just a normal person who is a principal.  Now I always felt that way, but some things just bring the realization into more clarity.  Being a dad at a dance competition is one of those things.  So are mowing the lawn, snow blowing the driveway, grocery shopping, and going on vacation.  It's at these times that we are most human to our students and parents because they see us in a different way than when we are at school.  My wife and friends joke about how long it will take until I see a current or former student.  I was given a hat by our real estate agent that just says "NEIGHBOR" on it that I wear to subdivision parties.  And you know what?  I think it's great that students and parents see me as just a regular person.
What do regular people do?  They do great things for and with each other.  They take risks and fail.  They take risks and succeed.  They agree.  They disagree.  They come together.  They ask questions.  They determine next steps.  When regular people have a focus, like what is best for a school, imagine what can happen.  So is it bad for me to be just a regular person?  I think it's the best thing for our kids and our school.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z Blogging Challenge

A to Z Blogging Challenge

As part of my writing work with my students this year we have been talking about writing for an audience. Students need to write with purpose, and one of those purposes can be that it will end up in their blog where other people have an opportunity to read and comment on their work. Though I have not done nearly as much blogging with my students as other teachers in the school, I thought it was important for my students to have an opportunity to participate in blogging, and experience what it is like to have a truly global audience.

Here enters the A to Z Blogging Challenge. The website explains, “You would start beginning April First with a topic themed on something with the letter A, then on April second another topic with the letter B as the theme, and so on until you finish on April thirtieth with the theme based on the letter Z.  It doesn't even have to be a word--it can be a proper noun, the letter used as a symbol, or the letter itself.  The theme of the day is the letter scheduled for that day.”

I translated this idea to my classroom with 24 students. Each student took a letter of the alphabet and wrote a blog post about something 5th graders care about that begins with the letter. My principal and I picked up the remaining letter (X and Y). They had a wide variety of topics, and a wide array of ideas about how to talk about the topic. I did not set specific guidelines as to how the students had to write their post, nor did I ever tie a grade to this assignment. The sole purpose was to get students excited about writing, and help them see themselves as writers worthy of reading (even by complete strangers).
I started a classroom blog “Ideas from Mrs. Iwanski’s Classroom” where I posted the daily blogs. Having one classroom website allowed me to officially register our blog through the challenge, and gave people a consistent site to come back to, instead of jumping from one student’s blog to the next. I tried to remember to tweet the link out each day with a snapshot of what the topic was in hopes that we could gather some views and comments.

All of the blog posts were due to me by April 1, and I scheduled them through Blogger so that I didn’t have to remember to post a new one each day. We went on during writing each day and read the comments from the day before, checked how many views we were up to, and (most exciting) checked which countries had stopped by our blog. Though our number of views won’t rival some of the blogs that have been around a while, our blog has gotten more than 1000 views in its first month of existence, and has been currently seen by people in 10 different countries. This activity has helped my students to see themselves as global writers who have something worth sharing.

Blogging is an incredibly powerful tool for our students, and I think that it is important that students are allowed, encouraged, and required to use it as part of their writing life. Whether it is individual student blogs, or a class blog being used to highlight students work, helping our students see themselves as writers worthy of reading outside the confines of the classroom or school is an experience that all students should have.

Please check out the amazing blogs of teacher and students from Merton School.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pi Day on a Friday

Once a year an amazing day comes up on the calendar. It is the day that the numbers align so that the date reads 3.14. What is more rare than this date coming up, is when this date (known to math geeks like me) lands on a Friday. The alignment of these two things is a cause for celebration.

As our curriculum continues to become more difficult, standards continue to be raised and time continues to be compressed, I found myself doubting that I would be able to do this day justice this year. But reflection has lead me to the realization that I would do my students an injustice by not celebrating. Pi Day is an opportunity to get students excited about learning (and particularly math) and simultaneously engage in a completely abstract concept (). I figure if our schedule is interrupted at other times in the year for various holidays, there must be time in March to celebrate irrational mathematical existence.

So, how does one go about giving Pi Day proper justice, without throwing academic opportunity out the window? Our day will start with a musical introduction of “American Pi(e)” playing as students enter the classroom. This serves as a hook for the day, as music is not a typical part of our morning routine.

Once students are in, asking about the music, maybe breaking into spontaneous dance, we will start our day. Reading starts our daily schedule, and I believe it is important to maintain some routine even on days of fun. I will substitute my typical read aloud for Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi: A Math Adventure. This allows me to continue my typical response question Friday format, while integrating pi related activities into my time with the students. We can discuss use of mathematical vocabulary, theme, prediction, and plot summations all within this picture book text.

Math is where the major celebration comes into play. I set up stations for students to rotate through participating in a variety of pi based activities. Examples of stations this year include: a paper chain representing the digits of pi using colors to visually represent that the digits (colors) do not repeat, the chance to turn pi into artwork of a skyline, a pi memorization contest, the option to take a favorite song and rewrite the lyrics to include , try their hands at writing a pi-ku, and challenging themselves with various puzzles & problems involving geometric ideas and vocabulary. Of course, the celebration would not be complete without a pi(e) treat and some math to go along with it (fractions, circumference, area, etc).

Each year that I am able to inspire a bit of math excitement in my students is a year that I believe I have made a mathematical difference. As my students make choices about what they want to do to celebrate and express themselves in math class in nontraditional manners I see a different side come out in them. Students who often struggle, find math class success. Students who sit to the side without a partner on other days, become top choices for creative activities. Something changes in math class on pi day that allows everyone to be a math champion, and that I can justify spending a day on in math class.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


The idea for having students create e-portfolios (digital portfolios) has been rolling around in my head for years. First, I was talking with others about how they could set them up in their classroom, and for the past year and a half, how I could do them in my own Social Studies classroom. However, this idea had no place to go until now. The catalyst was an article I read a month ago about reflecting on learning. Oh, the article's content wasn't really important nor earth shattering, but the idea of reflecting on learning was. It isn't new, but it is something I realized we don't do enough of in my class. Best of all, an easy way to do it is through ePortfolios. Now the ideas started flowing and I knew we were going to start. 

All of the 7th grade students created a Google Site website one day as homework and they loved personalizing them! We did this before we started any writing as I didn't want to distract from either process. They also shared them with me on a Google form so that I could easily find them for grading. Finally, we prepared to write. 

Our first reflection was about poverty in India. The students evaluated it, discussed why we were learning about it, and compared it to life in America. They did an amazing job with their writing! Our second reflection was shorter, discussing pollution problems in India. Along with their writing, they created wonderful pictures, digitally or on paper, that were included in their reflection. This is where the e-portfolio component shows up. By using Google Sites, we can add many types of digital creativity to our portfolios. 

Today we are doing our third reflection. The student's have a choice of topics - monsoons or Gandhi. This is another important part of e-portfolios: Student choice. Currently, our portfolios look similar. As we go through the year, they will also house projects and independent learning. Since I will have the 7th graders next year as 8th graders, we will be able to keep these portfolios going to show two years worth of learning. The students have done such a nice job reflecting on their learning, that for our next unit, I decided their writing pieces will replace our unit test. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Learning Curve

Have you been checking out your learning curve lately?  I checked in on my this morning. We had no students today as it was a vacation.  So I called on my personal PD colleague and began to climb the curve of learning about technology with a little deeper meaning.  I will be attending the ICE conference for the first time-although I have attended SLATE and WEMTA, this is supposed to be somewhat of a pinnacle of personalized learning.  My PD buddy helped me to navigate the lists of many possibilities of sectionals that I could attend.  My head was swimming.  Yet, with support, I waded in and to my surprise, I concluded I could navigate a bit in these amazing waters.  My informal handle for twitter is @headlearner and that is what I ascribe to be each day.  Pheasant Run will be an experience for me to continue my ascent up Learning Mountain.  I may need a hand along the climb, yet I know the support will always be there.  Thanks!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Magical Moments "@mertonint"

Magical moments are everywhere.  We just need to take the time to look and appreciate them no matter how big or small.  Magical moments make me smile and I smile a lot during my school day at Merton Intermediate.  :)

The students are magical in their own right.  They are the reason I went into teaching in the first place.  The magic lies within getting to know each student in the room and figure out what makes them tick.  They each have their own special qualities, talents, and gifts.  Each one of them matters and each one has something unique and special to bring to the group.  Our classroom is a family; we are there for one another and we support each other through good times and bad.  My favorite magical moments are when I get to witness the light bulb turn on in the life of a student...there is nothing quite like it.  High-fives and smiles all around!  :)  The intrinsic feeling of, "I get it" can't be beat.

A more personal magical moment happened for me when I discovered twitter back in October of 2013.  I can honestly say, "Where has twitter been all of my life?"  It is amazing!  Twitter allows me to connect with educators all over the world.  We share ideas, we learn from one another, and we connect our classes beyond the four walls of the classroom.  This is magic on a global scale and global is the type of world in which my students will grow up.  Here is a recent example of something that happened on twitter.  I read a blog where "Jose" had these words (see quote below) at the top of his blog. These words spoke to me so I printed them out and hung the message in our staff bathroom for all to see [I learned in college that the bathroom is a great place to post things because it is sure to get read!].  Mr. Posick, our principal, liked the message so much he tweeted it out and from there it just exploded on twitter!  EVERYONE loved it!  Now, mind you, I've never met Jose Popoff, who even though he is from Honduras, his positive message is now being seen around the globe.  I think that is so powerful and that makes me smile!  :)

Some of my favorite magic comes just by walking into school each day and getting to work with incredible people at Merton Intermediate School.  The teachers here are dedicated to helping students reach their fullest potential. Staff put themselves out there to learn new things so they can serve their students in the most relevant way possible.  I am proud to call many staff members my friends.  Having colleagues that I laugh with, learn from, and just plain enjoy being around is magical.  This is a good thing.  After all, I spend a significant amount of time in school.

I invite you to seek magical moments in your day, because after all, people who love their job don't work a day in their life.  My students are what bring me back every day wondering what magical moment will I witness today? That thought alone just brings a smile to my face!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Merton Staff Blog

Welcome to the Merton Staff Blog.  Here you will find some phenomenal posts by our talented staff.  They will share their ideas about students, staff, and education in general.  Each week we will have a post from a different staff member and these will be posted on our school website as well as when they are tweeted out on our @mertonint twitter account.  We look forward to sharing with you the wonderful things that Merton students and staff are doing.