THE RAMBLINGS OF
Did you know there are 138 “national celebration days” in the month of March alone?
Some of our personal favorites are:
Let’s assume that there is an average of 100 National Days a month. In total that would mean there are 1,200 National Celebrations a year. Now, we all know as teachers, we receive an official day of recognition as well. But in reality, that means that we receive the same amount of recognition as a pickle.
On a more serious note, as educators we know that we are not often recognized for the blood, sweat, and tears we pour into our profession.
However, somehow a stigma has arisen over teacher recognition.
Many teachers have been shown that it is wrong to be recognized or to be held as an example or role model. Some teachers have been alienated by their peers and shamed for their hard work and willingness to be recognized.
Do others really think we became teachers for the attention and glory?
Make no mistake, there is nothing that can match those brilliant moments when a parent or student lets us know how our teaching has affected them, but this doesn’t necessarily happen as often as it should and many become disenchanted and lose their way.
Why can’t we celebrate and recognize each other between these moments?
If you walk through any school on any given day, you’ll find examples of student success: bulletin boards overflowing with exemplars, congratulatory announcements over the intercom, etc.
But, in your school or district, how often are teachers recognized in this same manner?
Teaching can seem like working on your own remote island, with your own curriculum and your own students. Having a peer group, school, district, or state who collaborates, offers ideas, and most importantly acknowledges your efforts and achievements can make all the difference.
What small things can we do to recognize each other?
1. Teachers should kick off staff meetings with celebrations.
2. Praise peers after classroom visits. Publicly or personally.
3. Continually call out extra efforts in newsletters and social media posts.
4. Send an email to the staff or parents on ClassDojo after witnessing a teacher’s impact on students.
5. Ask teachers to share their areas of expertise.
6. Have someone cover their duty.
7. Have a member of the support staff takeover for the last thirty minutes on a Friday.
We need to become more intentional about recognizing and celebrating each other. Teachers are consistently overworked and underappreciated, that they struggle to celebrate another teacher who is recognized for things they have done in their own classroom.
If there is nothing else that you can take from this post, please remember this:
You are worth, every bit of recognition you receive and more.
Do not be ashamed of it. Be proud of your hard work and that of your students. Do not let others dismiss it or lessen it. We must remember that meaningful recognition focuses us back on our work and that work is to amplify, inspire, and push our students forward.
Finally, remember, not everyone can do what you do. Not even Hugh Jackman.
It has been extremely difficult to adequately explain the purpose and benefits of Virtual Team Teaching. Collaboration has become such a hot topic within the educational realm, that it can often lose the meaning behind it. Therefore we do not want to feed the buzz of collaboration. Instead we are seeking to innovate collaboration.
The heart of Innovation can be an overwhelming concept in and of itself, however it is the simplest innovations that can make the greatest impacts.
Take for instance, PBS' School Inc. In its first episode, Andrew Coulson highlights the slate and how it was initially used for individual practice. Eventually, larger versions were implemented in the classroom. This simple innovation, completely changed how teaching and learning occurred in the classroom which continues to influence the learning today.
We feel as though this same philosophy is inherently present within Virtual Team Teaching. It is a simple innovation that can greatly influence education.
The Three Keys to Virtual Team Teaching:
This is just the beginning. Once teachers and students have become more comfortable with innovative collaboration, they can begin to reach out to the world in deeper and more meaningful ways. In the past, our students have been able to consistently collaborate with high school students from Jamaica and university students from Malaysia.
If the simple addition of a larger slate and piece of chalk changed classrooms for decades; why can’t the simple addition of a small camera connecting classrooms every day do the same?
The best part? Our girls were the most eager to participate in the hands-on experience.
Tools we used:
We created different kind collaborative board running with the theme of "Think Again". We used our iPads and physical space to connect student ideas visually and fluidly. Students were tasked with rapid fire research and connections. First, one student selected an image or video related to Martin Luther King Jr. in the PBS Learning Media database. Once the other students saw what was presented, they quickly looked for a pictorial or video connection within the same database. The first to produce a piece of media with a valid connection, placed their iPad next to the original. Students then transitioned to the last image presented and continued from there.
Here is a sampling of the connections made by students:
Photo of Martin Luther King Jr. ->
Photo of the hotel in which MLK Jr. was assassinated ->
Video of his funeral procession ->
Photo of his memorial with his speech engraved in stone ->
Video of MLK Jr.'s famous, "I Have a Dream Speech"
This activity was anything but stagnant staring at a screen.
Our students were upset that so many people misunderstand technology in the classroom. They decided to reflect & educate. They read ISTE Student Standards and decided to use their iPads and Book Creator to show the power of Apple's iPad and what it means to them.
My colleague Steven Lamb and I have toiled over a change encounter that occurred in San Antonio, TX.
ISTE 2017: there was a desperate need for coffee. Steven and I ventured to a hotel coffee shop to rejuvenate for the next presentation. The woman in front of us overheard our conversation concerning education and said, “Are you teachers? I was a teacher!” She turned to the cashier and says, “Whatever they want, it’s on me. In fact, whomever is a teacher in the line, it’s on me. “ After grabbing a much needed latte and chai, an additionally grateful gentleman in the same line, stuck up a friendly conversation. As it turned out, this kind man was Raul Gutierrez, the CEO of Tinybop apps. As our conversation evolved, we discussed the importance of global mindsets and how Tinybop was designed with this important aspect as a driving force. This was an opportunity. An opportunity to pursue the passion of highlighting the Navajo Language. He said the only thing we needed to hear, “let’s make it happen.”
Thus began, the incredible planning to bring Navajo to the Tinybop Human Body App. To merge tradition with emerging technology. After a series of brainstorming sessions, it became evident that this should not be a unilateral endeavor. Rather it should be what it was always meant to be: Community. The Navajo language is not isolated to tone, intonation, and pronunciation. It’s about culture and a greater sense of family. We reached out to everyone we knew in the schools, in our local area, and family. Our local science center jumped at the chance to provide the venue while a local restaurant provided lunch. Community.
Navajo members began arriving. Senior citizens, high school students, preschoolers. Every age and background imaginable united over a common goal. Suddenly, a barrage of unbelievable moments emerged.
Adults: “Goodness, what part of the brain is the amygdala located?” “Let me look it up.” Elementary school boy: “The amygdala is located above the spinal cord. See?” As he passes the iPad with the Tinybop app activated, he points to the spinal cord and the amygdala located above it. Yes, a 9-year-old upstaged the adults around him. How? Every member of our community has a voice.
Then there are several adults who were on their phone. Out of the need of a distraction? Not at all. They were calling family members asking how to say certain terms. Then turning to us asking, “Will you have another event? We have other family members that want to come.”
Next, the kindergartener who was giggling endlessly, while he manipulated the iPad app with ease. We asked him, “Gus, if you take the skeletal system out of the body, what would happen to him?” “He’d be a blob”. The community was not only emerged in language and terminology, but the acquisition of valuable scientific knowledge.
Finally, a man, who was a stranger that morning, turns to you and says, “I’m proud of you. Thank you for dong this.” It forever alters your preconceived notions not only the capacity of technology, but of the power of community.
On occasion teachers facilitate a lesson so fun and impactful we must stop and take the time to share the experience with our peers. We recently had a couple of those lessons this last week. We want to share one in particular.
We had heard, and read, about “musical chairs writing”. This is where the students in a classroom sit in a circle and begin a story on paper using the same prompt. Once the music starts they leave the paper and walk around until it stops and start writing on the story they picked up in that chair. This goes on several times and a strange and varied tale begins to develop under the eye of several different authors.
We wanted to add our Virtual Team Teaching to this activity. We teleconferenced and performed the musical chairs at the same time while the kids watched the other class through the camera and on the projection screen. We added one new chair and one computer to both of our circles. this chair alternated. During one round, it was for Mr. Lamb’s class, during the next it was Ms. Thomas’ class.
The alternation occurred in the form of an iCloud Pages document. During the student’s “turn”, they had the opportunity to write on a collaborative iCloud Pages document. This in turn became a creative work of two entirely different schools. So not only were there 49 different stories being created in their perspective classrooms, there was a document/story being created by two different schools. That is collaboration on a different level.
We highly recommend you try this in your classroom. Partner up with a teacher in another school OR with another teacher in the same school. The idea is to connect them using video and an iCloud document.
Set up the two classrooms for musical chairs. Connect the classrooms using teleconferencing / FaceTime. Each student has a composition book , or if you have the resources, an iPad to write in. Both rooms have one laptop or desktop computer signed into a shared collaborative Pages document. The classes need to alternate who writes on the cloud document in turns.
The students in both schools/classrooms begin to write based on a prompt until music starts. They will get up and leave the paper/iPad writing there. They stop at a different chair when the music stops and one lucky student stops at the collaborative document. Continue to do this several times to see outstanding work on many levels.
Hello. My name is Steven Lamb and I am a recovering flag pole hugger. (Hi Steve!)
My fellow Apple Distinguished Educators will understand this term, others may find it an oddity.It was my experience at the 2017 Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Academy that introduced me to the change management idea. In a nutshell:
Metaphorically:Change is going from one island to another. The three type of people on the island are:
I did not look before I swam, and I naively thought the water would be clear and calm. I was wrong. Not everyone is ready for change or a different perspective. It may go against what they have always believed. I won't go into detail, but many of the people knew only to attack, or as they see it, defend. Either way, it stopped my swimming for a bit. I crawled back to my island and grabbed my flag pole. Except my flag pole wasn't about being stubborn with traditional teaching methods. It was how I refused to loosen my view about the perceived new methods. Please don’t misunderstand me, my frustration didn’t completely stop me from developing wonderful co-worker relationships. It did, however, result in my spending an exorbitant amount of time trying to change peoples minds in a heavy handed way. I was so frustrated by the shark attacks I would not budge anymore. Tech and innovation is all there should be and everything (and everyone) is ridiculous if they don't believe the same. I refused to see others’ reasons why they might be hesitant.
I forgot there needs to be balance.
My experience with the 2017 ADE Academy, and other recent events, allowed me to loosen my grasp on the flag. I met other teachers with similar experiences. I met educators with brilliant ideas and a vision that matched my own. Yet many of these educators were clear and calm. They had found balance and understood that in order to affect change, everybody on the island has a role. The change management solidified that idea, and Sady Paulson hammered it home. If Sady would have held on to one flag pole for too long, she would have never reached the other island or the many islands that followed. Her story taught me that whether we hang on to a flag pole or not, we cannot be stagnant. Sometimes we dive in, sometimes we’re cautious, and sometimes we hold on a bit. Eventually, we must move and I am now ready to let go and move on.
Upon arriving home, the ultimate endeavor of reflection has begun. When challenged to pen the impact of the 2017 Apple Distinguished Educator Academy, a plethora of thoughts, impressions, and images flooded my mind. However, one very chance encounter challenged my way of thinking in a way I had never experienced before. In the middle of watching Matt Baier challenge the playground attendees to a rousing game of SongPop Party, I had the pleasure of meeting Douglas Kiang. After the exchanging of educational backgrounds, and learning about the amazing work of which this gentleman is a part, an unexpected commonality came to light. One of lost or misunderstood identity.
Sixty years ago, a five year old Navajo boy was sent to a government ordered boarding school. Within minutes this boy, known as “boy who plays with fire” to his family, decided the entire experience wasn’t for him and walked miles back to his hogan. The next year, he did not have a choice, and was sent back for the beginning of his lengthy boarding school education. All of the accounts and stories of native boarding schools are true. The nuns prohibited Navajo being spoken by the students and enforced this rule with the swift flick of a ruler. Thus the slow, but inevitable, loss of language began. Over time a few words were forgotten, then tens more, until decades later, it was difficult to recall words to speak to your mother who solely speaks Navajo.
As the daughter of this man, I always heard Navajo spoken at home. However, it was not a fluent, second language. It was the basics. Hello, thank you, dad, and of course, the string of words that accompanied being naughty as a child. Beatrice Taylor once said, “You’ve got to know your language to understand your culture.” I fluently speak English, some rough French, and purely shameful Navajo. Does this mean that I identify with my American culture but not my Navajo? This beautiful group that I am so honored to be a part of, that values land, women, water, and appreciates all that is front of them. However, I don’t have the language, that reveals portions of culture that is not explained or understood in any other way.
As I have become older, I am beginning to understand and yearn to know more about what being a Navajo woman means. But does that honor and right belong to me? I am so far removed from that life that it seems unfair for me to claim it.
While my father’s story may only apply to a small group of people, the cultural uncertainty is not unique.
While I would never want to speak for Mr. Kiang, this is what I took away from our conversation. In Hawaii, a beautiful and isolated location, there are those who feel exactly the same way. Douglas Kiang helped me understand that they are in the same situation. They are told they are part of the culture, but through a variety of factors, they feel as though it doesn’t rightfully belong to them. However, it becomes even more of a challenge when taking into consideration how isolated Hawaii is from the rest of the nation. It brings new light to the concept of “lone island”.
While I had never stopped to consider how much land and language contribute to a grand sense of not deserving the right to claim our culture, it has struck me that this is now a much larger issues that needs to be considered. If it weren’t for the ADE Academy, I would have remained stagnant in my understanding of cultural confusion. However, now I seen a rich resource from which I can learn. I look forward to exploring this idea with my fellow ADEs and perhaps gaining more insight to myself in the process.