Is it really over already?
As I wait for my delayed flight at the Palm Springs airport, I can’t help but wonder, is it really over already? It seems like just yesterday that I was running from my classroom to the copy room and back to finish my sub plans two minutes before having to leave. While walking through the adorable airport this morning, looking at the palm trees and finely manicured flowers, I had a reminiscent feeling of leaving summer camp as a child. I independently ventured out to this new location in the desert, so very different from my usual surroundings. There was phenomenal sunny weather, with a classic swimming pool and "cabana boys" to serve us food and drinks during our #poolsidepd (ok, that was not typical at my summer camps, but still worth mentioning). We took risks to help us grow and make rites of passages as educators; always learning and trying new things. We played naughty board games when the adults weren’t looking (#cardsagainsthumanity), and did some arts and crafts (#knitting #chartreusescarf #youhadtobethere). And lastly, and most importantly (for me anyways), we forged new bonds and made friends with people from around the world. I had two roommates who stayed up with me way too late chatting every night; recapping the witty remarks, tweets, and silly adventures of the day. We also were lucky enough to know a local who took us to the best Mexican dinner I’ve had in years, to have some great conversations. These friendships will never be forgotten, and will hopefully continue to flourish (the only difference being we won’t be hand writing letters afterwards to stay in contact, but using “The Twitters” instead). I couldn’t help but feel a ping of sadness about leaving, and having to wait until next year to experience this again.
Although this was my first time attending Annual CUE, it was not my first CUE event. It all started last May at an affiliate North Bay CUE event, and I have gone to every CUE event I have heard about since then in my area. After each conference I feel inspired, innovative, and ready to take on the world to change the education system. But then I get back to school and parents and students and assessments and report cards and principals and expectations and goals and evaluations, and I am no longer surrounded by all the #eduawesome educators of the CUE organization who are ready to change the world with me, and already are. Although I have changed many of my practices since last May, and use many new tools, I still haven’t implemented many of the outstanding ideas I have learned at past conferences, and don’t feel I have become that innovative teacher I would like to be for my students. I’ve reflected on this in the past, and have tried to set up meetings with other attendees to share what we have learned, and keep each other accountable, but it’s always hard to find the time with a group of educators who work 10+ hour days and run from place to place. So this time, I have decided to set four goals for myself, and I am making it public so that my #edubully friends (you know who you are) can help me change my ways. Here they are:
- Create a culture of “Literary Nerds” in my classroom
- Get my students Google Drive accounts
- Start 20% Time in my classroom
I’ve been told for quite some time now that I need to be blogging. There are some people that feel the need to make this clear to me daily (thanks for the #edupressure)! The rationale being that educators need to be sharing what they’re doing to spread #eduawesomeness, whether it be reflections for personal reasons, or activities they’re doing in the classroom. It was hard for me to find time in the past to do this, but after reading some awesome blogs this weekend in the blogging cafe (Joe Wood, John Stevens, Linda Yollis, and Jennifer Kloczko), I realized I need to take the plunge. I also want to get my students to start blogging to share and publish their learning, and it’s just not fair to expect them to do something that I am not doing myself.
I absolutely loved @MeganRoseEllis's session on creating a classroom of literary nerds (resources here). She shared some great practical ideas on how to get your students to read, and love it! Starting in April, I will no longer have the students fill out paper reading logs (that are often filled in randomly at the end of the month) and will instead have the students fill out a Google Form, with responses posted directly below on my website. Students can share what they’re reading and write book recommendations for each other. I need to look into some of the book recommendation websites she shared, like Biblionasium or GoodReads and decide if I want to take that extra step. At the end of the year, I will also hold a Book Club party with the students where they can meet in small groups to share out what they have read, and bring some kind of food to share with their group that represents some part of their book. Lastly, I hope to find 10 minutes every Friday to share out a book in class. I would love to get my principal to come in and do this as well!
So many of the awesome ideas I learn at CUE events make so much more sense when the students have Drive accounts. At the moment, my district is hesitant to allow accounts for students, even though we are already a Gafe district. Our school just purchased a class set of shared Chromebooks to use in our classrooms (well, they were bought for testing, but I will make sure to use them!). In my eyes, it now appears to be imperative for students to have these accounts. I want my students to be cross-aged writing tutors under the advice of Scott Bedley, Sean Ziebarth, and Bill Selak, and I want them to create a digital portfolio on Google Sites (idea from Trevor Mattea and Nicole Dalesio). Lastly, in my class we are starting a huge state report project, with in home and at school work, research and typing. How else could they get their materials back and forth?? Flash drives? Too messy... I will most likely be having to address admin for this one to happen.
My last, and most ambitious goal is to start 20% Time/Genius Hour in my classroom. After seeing sessions from Kevin Brookhouser and Kate Petty, and personal conversations with many, especially Karl LS, I don’t need any more convincing. I have introduced the idea to my students, had them brainstorm about what they are passionate about, and got them excited. Next steps: inform parents about what I’m doing to get them on-board, find a time in the week when I can get both sets of shared iPads or Chromebooks, and start talking to the kids about their proposals for projects. I might need to spend some time looking through resources from Mike Taylor and Anne Newman to get help with the little details that I’m not ready to consider yet. Also hoping to get my students' Google Sites set up so that they have a place to share their projects and reflections from this time in class. Wish me luck!
Back to Reality
Tomorrow I will be up bright and early, and back to “the grind.” Hopefully these goals, and a #TechieTuesday with Ali deGuia (and anyone else who would like to come!), will help me stay on track to create a classroom where students love to come to school and learn in authentic ways (#teamkid).
I cannot say thank you enough to those who made this experience so special for me! I definitely cannot list everyone who made an impact on my long weekend as it would be too long, but some that have to be mentioned: my favorite North Bay crew (Fadeji, Ali deGuia, Tracy Walker and Sergio), Etc. etc. etc. Voxer crew (Victoria Olson, Karl LS, and John Stevens), and some of my favorite presenters (Mark Hammons, Lisa Highfill, Joe Wood, Jon Corippo, and Diane Main). As I keep finding myself getting emotional about saying goodbye and leaving the inspiration that is CUE, I keep telling myself, “Just remember, we will always have Voxer!” :)