A Personal Invitation

I knew at 18 years of age, the profession of teaching was what I was made to do. The passion for education burned through my veins and I was inspired by those who taught me and who had gone before me. As I marched towards my goal of the classroom I used journals, magazines, even one on one testimonies to help give me perspective and prepare me for my classroom. The brave teachers who opened the doors of their classrooms and let me sit front row viewing their strategies, witnessing personal reflections. I gravitated to their vulnerability and strive to learn from their experiences in order for the betterment of my students.

Six years later, I have become one of those people who enjoy waking up and going to work. I am inspired by my students to be the best version of myself. To be transparent on my quest to ensure ALL students are reached right where they are. I cling to the refreshing springs of my fellow educators pouring themselves and their experiences out whether through blogs, twitter chats, podcasts, or other outlets. I sit and ‘drink-in’ the conversations and reflections noting how I can personally take the journey my fellow colleagues have taken and use it to help empower and educate my students. Recently, I find that the spring seems to be decreasing. The same voices contributing, while majority lurking in the shadows, waiting to be called upon and reassured you have something to offer.

This invitation is for you. Today I am asking for you to join me. To join the ranks of teachers who want to improve our craft. The teachers who are opening their classroom doors. Who are prepared to be vulnerable. Who embrace the ideas of transparency in the school setting. All with the mindset that we cannot change the way students are taught if we do not start the dialogue. The education system will remain the same even while our students are ever changing. If we let this occur then we are doing a disservice to the very children who inspire us to stand in the front of the room each day.

Today! This moment! I am inviting you to be a part of a group whose sole goal is to reach, connect, empower, and educate ALL students. Your voice is important. Your perspective is vital. Your lens and experience have the power to shape the methods in which we utilize strategies. Please do not wait till you have reached that “level”. We want to hear from you while you are walking the path. We want to hear from you as you reflect. We want to hear what worked and what didn’t. We want to know what you would do differently. To discuss with you about the results of your choices. If you ask why? The reason is because we are not meant to be isolated. We are better together. We are better as a team of teachers, band together to meet the goals of our students.

Your voice matters. You matter to your students, your community and our profession. I am inviting you to step out of your comfort level and contribute to the NGSSBlogs Project. Our goal is to provide teachers a place to connect, collaborate, and empower to educate. We are walking the journey of applying and understanding the NGSS curriculum so that we can apply it in a meaningful and realistic manner in the classroom. In order to meet this goal we need to hear from you. We need to know what you are doing in your classroom.

I understand, what I am asking of you is risky business. You could be rejected, go unnoticed or be challenged. I am asking you to pour out pieces of your teaching experiences and stand front and center, and that can be scary. Before you make your decision though, think of your classroom and the people you reach. You have an amazing opportunity to mold and shape our future. Each one of us as educators have an enormous role in a child’s future. So wouldn’t it only make sense that we are equipped to ensure that each student, no matter whose classroom they are sitting in; are able to access the curriculum in a meaningful manner.

We have supports for you in place, which mean you will not walk this journey alone. We have a community which we encourage you to be plugged in and dive into the resources. We are here working and all that is missing is you.

If you are interested in joining our blogs project please visit us at  NGSS PLN

If you are interested in taking part in an inspiring book study we are reading and discussing the book “NGSS for All Students” Edited by Okhee Lee, Emily Miller, and Rita Januszyk please visit here: http://goo.gl/forms/7Iz2CZ7MFT

Diving into the Twitterverse through Twitter Chats

I decided to take the next step in my Twitterverse experience and joined in on chats. Honestly, this was nerve wrecking; so for baby steps I started with New Teachers to Twitter (#NT2T). The people involved are amazing and extremely supportive; they help guide me through the newness of twitter. This weekend I wanted to step my game up so I participated in a Saturday Chat (#satchat). First thing first I didn’t understand why everyone was putting #Satchatwc until a friend told me I was in Saturday Chat West Coast. So that was fun!!! Here are the things you’ll notice when you join a chat. Things move fast. I mean really fast. To combat that I use a program called tweetdeck. This allows me to make columns organizing the chat and I can watch the activity as well as interact. Which helps me to not feel overwhelmed. If you start to feel overwhelmed take a deep breath and step back for a minute. Most chats start off with you introducing yourself which is simple enough. Some will have the questions up ahead of time and others will not. (this is where tweetdeck has its advantages) Remember that you can be as active as you would like to be. There is no pressure. #Satchat is an amazing educational chat that happens on Saturday 7:30 am on the east coast and then #Satchatwc happens at 10:30 am EC. I was logged into Tweetdeck had my columns ready and decided to dive right into the twitter experience. It was amazing! I felt so empowered while in the chat. Being surrounded by so many brilliant teachers who are sharing and contributing. When the chat was over my head was spinning. This was like a recharge for me. There are moments, during the day to day and lesson planning then implementing I start to feel drained. Even start to wonder if I chose the right profession. But this place, this chat, it made me feel not alone. I am not fighting for my kids success all by myself. I don’t have to come up with all the answers. I found a place that I could plug myself into. Where I could recharge as well as get resources that I could use. Even talk to the people who were actually following the practices. After the chat, my wheels were still turning. I went back through the chat and saw that there was not one thing said that would not have been helpful. The strategies suggested and resources provided were enormous. The connections were priceless. Yet, I had never heard of this chat or just any chat two months ago. Now I am engulfed in a passion to connect more teachers. To inspire and connect teachers to a hub of ideas that can empower and encourage you. If you are on twitter I encourage you to join some of the chats. I have included a list of educational chats that occurring. If you are not on twitter don’t be afraid to dip your toes into the water and come and join an amazing tool to move your thinking and teaching to another level. Twitter chats is a lot like swimming. Some are fast paced in the deep end for the more experienced users and some are calming and slow paced. You just need to go at your own pace. I hope to see you at the chat. If so feel free to say hi. Remember: what you have to offer is valued and needed. As well as if you have questions there are people who are ready to offer support and assistance if needed. See you soon

Contributing to the Conversation

I am a special education, collaborative (or inclusion) teacher – it depends on where you are from. I work mainly in science classes. As a collaborating teacher, my job requires applying subject standards, working with new teachers and students, all to further the success of not just SpEd students, but all students. All this “new” makes it very easy to feel overwhelmed and retreat back to what I know. I find myself turning a cold shoulder to the enthusiasm and excited go-getters and instead running back to the safety of what I know. But (and this is a big BUT!), no one benefits from that choice. Not me, not the teachers, and especially not students. Which leads me to how I took a risk, embraced a new idea, and began blogging about my experiences.

My blogging serves as a tool for reflecting and sharing. At first, I was apprehensive about my ability to be successful. After jumping in head first, I have grown more comfortable being vulnerable and find myself encouraging fellow educators to join me in blogging. Which brings me to the point of this post, how writing a blog can help you to communicate your thinking and grow professionally. The act of putting your thoughts into words can be challenging. Then to share those words with strangers may be downright scary to even suggest. However, I want to share what motivates me to blog. I blog because (1) blogging is a tool to help others and (2) there are tools to support my writing when I feel insecure.

As an educator, my goal is to engage students as well as empower them to become the best version of  themselves. The same concept can be applied to supporting teachers. I have had many experiences in my education career that have shaped my outlook on teaching and learning. I don’t believe I would be the teacher I am today had amazing teachers not shared their experiences with me. Blogging is my way to professionally contribute to the development of other educators. What you have experienced – your successes and amazing lesson plans as well as your missteps and units that you think should be burned – are all tools for another teacher to benefit from. In a quest to improve student learning, I yearn for knowledge of what I can do better. You and your experiences are avenues for me (and others) to meet that goal.

I am pleading with you to be vulnerable by sharing both the triumphs and disasters. I am asking you to open the door to your classroom and let us in – which can be very intimidating. The overall reaction I have received from teachers is that they want to share, but the actual action of putting pen to paper and then to be judged is what is holding them back. Well, I have been in that situation and I can tell you the way out. If a lack of confidence in your writing is what is holding you back, there are many tools to overcome this obstacle such as, @ProWritingAid (www.prowritingaid.com). 

ProWritingAid is a fabulous editing tool that will check your writing for all sorts of errors. I have been using this tool and I am in love.  It is very easy to use and its design is simple to manipulate. After using it, I am even more encouraged to write my heart out. The first thing is to write your initial thinking. Once your ideas are on “paper”, you can have the site edit your work. First, you will click the “use the editing tool” button. This will open to a page where you can paste your writing. This site also allows you to upload documents from Google Drive rather than pasting. Once it is pasted, you will then click the blue Analyze button.

The program will analyze your work and then divide the errors into categories. You have the ability to review and make changes for all the areas that are highlighted within each category. The program is extremely thorough for being a free tool. Although, there are some functions that come with a paid premium account – which you can do at your convenience. Once you have used the tool,  feel free to have another set of eyes to check it for readability and then post it to a public forum, such as WordPress or Blogger.

Hopefully, by using a tool such as this, you will build confidence with documenting your experiences and be encouraged to share your insights. There is an audience for your ideas. They are in need of hearing what you have learned in order to sharpen their practice and build their classrooms. Go ahead and try ProWritingAid and begin the journey of getting comfortable being uncomfortable.