Let Me Be Messy

My inspirations for writing often come during unexpected and inconvenient moments – times when I simply shouldn’t stop and jot down my thoughts. (Hence, another example of perfectionist paralysis.)  Today as I was vacuuming, I was going over all the more important things I should be doing instead to prepare for the advent of another year of school. Being a veteran teacher, I know what I need to do; being a perfectionist, I know it takes me FOREVER to get my second grade classroom ready. Things have become more complicated in my teaching after having devoted two years of being part of the Powerful Learning Practices community.  My awareness and vision for 21st Century literacy skills have blossomed into endless opportunities to establish and build connected communities throughout the world – fresh exciting communities for myself and my students – and this creates a disparity with how I’ve done things in the past.  A major purging of my routine  “prepare for the start of school” practices is in order, as many of those cute bulletin boards, run-offs, and sweeet cubby decorations take endless and precious preparation time (hint: stop looking at Pinterest!) – time which could be better spent reconnecting and collaborating/planning for the year ahead with colleagues encountered in my PLN.  Having a showcase classroom simply has little value for the authentic and project-based opportunities awaiting my students.  I need only follow the wonderful roadmap of what I’ve learned from my experiences with like-minded professionals around the world. Sure, I may feel a twinge of envy as I am bombarded by my creative and clever colleagues’ masterpieces on bulletin boards, their lovely displays of pre-fabbed listening centers, the pretty writing centers.  Some parents may worry their child should have been placed in the “cuter” classrooms instead of the room set up to attack the digital world. But, ahh….I know better. Jumping into a real-world, student-inspired project – even if it’s not perfectly planned in advance – affords my kids the very best learning opportunities – and the noise and the mess is invigorating! I have the secret weapon of being connected with enthusiastic and eager comrades – I have the wealth of the world at my fingertips! It’s simple: organize my classroom efficiently in a pleasing and productive manner, and quickly get reconnected with a broader connected community – my established PLN.  🙂

Simply put – J

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Why I Teach – Simply Put!

I was recently interviewed for a magazine article on Top Teachers in Fort Worth.  The questions posed to me seemed simple and straight forward on the surface, yet when I begin to answer each item – I realized, I was being asked to hone in on my educational philosophy!  I, being a paralyzed-prone perfectionist, couldn’t keep it simple of course, but rather had to whittle down buckets full of thoughts, ideas, assertions, experiences, and ponderings. Augh! I ended up writing way too much, I fear, and I worry I ended up sounding like a prim and preachy middle-aged teacher. However, the process caused me to focus attention on those obvious things that I do well, but know I can do better!  My successes from previous years are truly my springboards to offering my students this coming school year the very best opportunities I can provide.  Fixing the “failures” in past messy attempts to shift forward into 21st Century skills affords me the chance to welcome my new students with a fresh canvas of learning. My responses actually ended up being a roadmap of goals for the next school year.  I would suggest that we “interview” ourselves regularly, in order to keep our vision simply fresh and clear!

Here are a few of the questions and responses asked of me.  Perhaps you will discover similarities in the experiences and joys of our fabulous profession?

Simply put… J

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 Why do you teach?

I hope my educational footprints today will help impact the world of tomorrow.  I strive to provide real-world learning opportunities to engage students in becoming visionary thinkers, problem solvers, and respectful citizens, while broadening their local and global views. Students need to interact and learn with the world, not simply learn about the world. Hopefully, these students will develop into adults who connect and collaborate in order to become positive agents of change: competent, responsible global citizens who are life-long learners.

 What is the most rewarding part about teaching?

Watching the eyes of students dance and sparkle, while listening to deafening silence – or the loud interaction –  in the room when students are totally engaged:  invigorating!  Student questions leading to a deeper inquiry into topics; creative and innovative approaches offered by students; witnessing those “Aha!” connections:  inspiring! Learning about successful and positive paths of former students, or hearing families and students reflect that I was a memorable and important part of their lives:  priceless!

 What is the most challenging thing about teaching in today’s world?

Teaching core content along with critical thinking, problem solving skills, and responsible citizenship – within the framework of 21st Century learning – requires a teacher to stay current on research and alter pedagogy when warranted. Expanding and reframing the role of a traditional instructor into that of a facilitator for student-based learning has been a growing experience. Ensuring that every teachable moment builds independent skills for real world application is essential.

 What is your greatest frustration as a teacher?

Time!  An educator needs to develop a balanced blend of solid academics with authentic lessons of value and substance. Integrating foundational skills with evolving digital literacy skills requires programmatic and logistical shifts. I am blessed to be part of a school deeply committed to the development of global and digital competencies for students and faculty alike.  Through a generous grant program at TVS, I recently was able to study at the American School in London’s 21st Century Educators Summer Institute, travel to Cambridge and Edinburgh to meet with world-renown curators at museums and libraries, and participate with fellow instructors at the Global Educators Conference in California. With a wealth of experiences and resources, I dream for more time to plan, implement, and share!

 Are today’s students different from yesteryear’s students? If so, how?

Students continue to present an eagerness to learn, along with the same emotional needs for guidance, nurturing, and validation, as did students from the past. Young children still love to gather around my rocking chair as I read to them, and many time-honored instructional strategies continue to keep their interests piqued. However, students today are far more sophisticated with respect to social, media, and technological experiences, and they need to develop more critical thinking and collaborative skills. With overbooked lifestyles and an increasing world connectedness, it is essential to address character development, universal values, and corporate obligations for citizens.  Responsible social and digital citizenship is emerging as an educational priority.

 What do you do when you aren’t teaching?

I enjoy traveling both within the United States and around the world. Cooking, baking, gardening, reading, music, and soon “grandmother-ing” are additional pursuits when I’m not teaching.  And yes, I often devote free time to professional development opportunities. We need to model the concepts of global citizens and life-long, Renaissance learners ourselves!

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Starting Point – The Three Rs

I am a simple teacher with basic ideas…I’d like to ponder about Rights.

Having been a teenager in the 1960s as well as a student of history, I recognize that throughout time, there have been horrific violations of human rights aimed toward entire populations or factions of citizens. Please understand that I am not addressing these extreme situations in my Pollyanna-ish approach to rights. Rather, I am concerned about how the use of the word of rights has been expanded to encompass “wants” in our society.

I’d like to ponder about the fulfillment of individual or group Rights in our everyday life. Be it a major or minor expectation, folks seem to always be lobbying for things to go their way (their “rights”).   Whether these privileges involve takings turns for a swing at recess,  job search opportunities, or the establishment of borders between countries… it often becomes a non-ending battle for people to assert/claim what rights are owed to them.  Sigh…I simply do not enjoy listening to anyone whine (child, politician, or activist).

How does one determines what legitimate rights really are due a person or a group of people?  Sometimes the answer is so fundamental and obvious; other times, it is a difficult, unpleasant, debatable, and time-delayed process.  (Deferred gratification is not fun!)

As I school teacher, I have always dealt with the Three “Rs.” However, in determining how to make life “fair,” could we keep it simple for children and adults alike? A new simple equation ~ what these “New Three Rs” could be for persons of all ages – may simply be as follows:

Respect + Responsibility = Rights

(Our current math topic in second grade is about using turn around facts, so…we could reverse this simple equation.)

Rights = Responsibility + Respect

Perhaps it is merely a simple and fundamental philosophy for students and adults alike. If you want to expect the Rights you feel are deserved to you, you must take care of your Responsibilities in a Respectful manner. Whether it’s cleaning up your supplies after a project, paying your taxes or bills on time, voting, or protecting the environment … you simply must put forth the effort in order to reap the rewards of obtaining your rights.  Don’t whine about things/priviledges owed to you, if you are not willing to make the investment requisite for the result. In other words, roll up your sleeves, put a little “work” into the effort, and things just may go your way.

Simple enough…‘Nuff said!

J

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