Ideas for building an ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE in the classroom or school campus #reflectiveteacher

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Avoid negativity and pettiness
Have manners.
Say please and thank you …and mean it.
Don’t offer false praise.
Be genuine and honest.
Apologize for and own your mistakes.
Don’t avoid or ignore difficult situations.
Treat all individuals like human beings and with basic civility.

A memorable moment that reminded me of why I teach #reflectiveteacher

I teach because I enjoy working with and mentoring young adults and I’ve always loved learning. As a lay here bed, yep I’m still in bed I am a lazy lady on the weekends, and reflect on previous years, students, and classes and ask myself what is my most powerful memory that reminds me of why I teach…?
I see a mosaic of faces. The faces of my students. There are moments of laughter, the proverbial epiphany or light bulb moments, a few moments of tears, ball games, conversations at dances or in the stands, or quiet moments of thoughtful reading.

I hate to cheat the prompt, but I can’t boil it down to just one memory.
I am grateful to have had and still have pretty amazing students.

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What new learning has inspired you in your career? #reflectiveteacher

As an alternatively certified teacher I feel fortunate to have experienced some wonderful learning opportunities in the first few years of my career. I’m going list style on this post, because my mind is in NaNoWriMo mode. I am fully embracing exuberant imperfection.
My writing doesn’t have to be perfect it just needs to happen- so here we go…
1. K20 Center- my first year teaching our school was a recipient of a grant that equipped each classroom with a fancy, interactive input device (SMART boards, dual boards, and Mobis)
The K20 Center folks made monthly visits to the campus which focused on authentic learning experiences.
I’m still grateful to this date that they highlighted instructional/learning issues in their support and not just technology “how tos.”

2. Twitter and Blogs
I like reading what other teachers and educational leaders are up to…Twitter and blogs allow me to do that.

3. Colleagues that have challenged me. I treasure the relationships I have with like-minded, innovative, teachers. I love sharing ideas, working together, and helping each other out, BUT I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot from the co-workers I like the least.
I consider myself to be a change agent. I am also outspoken. Challenging coworkers and bosses have inspired me to become an advocate for my students’ best interests and innovative and effective instructional practices.
It isn’t always fun when your professional life becomes muddied with school place politics and pettiness, BUT in hindsight the difficult times have provided valuable lessons.

4. Conferences- ISTE, ILI and others

The list could go on, but it’s Friday and I forgot I had lunch duty!

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My lunch duty pal- Nicole. She’s the best!

Share a quote that inspires you and explain why #reflectiveteacher

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It’s easy to get bogged down in the monotony of the busy schedule of a teacher, coach, and mom of three kids. Every once in a while life really smacks you silly and gives you a wake up call.
June 27th of 2013 was one of those moments. June 27th an amazing young man passed away. Trinton was a former student. His passing was devastating to his family and friends. I was just one of many who could count Trinton as a friend and student.
He had an amazing energy and sense of humor. I will always remember him for that.
Perhaps, I had been fortunate until that day. I had never experienced the pain of losing someone far too early.
Trinton wasn’t being careless. It wasn’t drugs or alcohol. It was a car crash as he was going to a summer basketball practice. It could happen to any of us. We have no posted expiration date.

That’s why I love this quote from Louis C.K. We shouldn’t take our time here on earth for granted.

“The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.'”

The fact that we are alive is amazing. Make your days count, don’t waste them away being bored.

What are your strengths? Which are you most grateful for? #reflectiveteacher

Hello and welcome to my second blog post for the “Teaching with an Attitude of Gratitude” blogging challenge.
I think I could correctly identify some of my strengths as an individual and as a teacher, but I thought it would be fun to see what others believed to be my strengths to be. So I’m going to turn my blog over to a few students for a moment.

“One of the qualities that makes up a good teacher is teaching to where people can understand and relate to the subject. This is especially hard when teaching teenagers, but Mrs. Barnes does just that.”
-Jerry, super competitive noveling superstar

“Mrs Barnes has a great connection with teenagers. She is always compassionate and excited to be a positive influence in students’ lives. Plus she has super awesome Curley hair!”
-Ms. Wasson, current intern soon-to-be kick butt teacher forced blog contributor

I’m pretty sure “Curley” is a reference to Of Mice and Men…I see what you did there Ms. Wasson. (Either that or my phone auto corrected.)

I am most grateful for my ability to keep a sense of humor and cool head in the classroom. I enjoy my job and I believe that is what keeps me centered and effective.

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What are you most proud of to date in your teaching career? #reflectiveteacher

I was challenged by a former co-worker, and still friend, to join him in the “Attitude of Gratitude” reflective teacher blogging challenge.
I always love a challenge, and forcing myself to blog has not been my strong suit. (You may or may not have noticed the date of my last post…just saying.)

I am in the midst of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month- I’m at 17,000 words for the record), so this is going to be a rapid fire, silencing my inner editor, fly by the seat of my pants blog post.

Here we go:

I am proud of my accomplishments in the realm of instructional technology. I recently joined the ranks of high school English teachers, but in my previous life I was a middle school reading teacher and Educational Technology Integration Specialist. I am proud to say that I played a role in developing and launching a 1:1 for a small rural middle school. I’m pretty proud that I earned a nice little award for being Oklahoma’s Technology Leader of the year and a fancy pink jacket from ISTE.

The awards were pretty cool, but I’m even MORE proud to say that the 1:1 program we developed as a team focused LESS on tech tools and MORE on instructional strategies. I can still vividly remember our summer meetings before our launch in August 2010. We collaboratively decided that our focus would be on critical thinking- technology was great but knew we needed to stay grounded in student learning not bells and whistles.
I am proud to say I was part of a team of forward thinking teachers.
I am proud to say that we pushed our students to USE THEIR BRAINS.
As instructors*, we had the courage and faith to know that we could part ways from “traditional” pedagogy. Our faith in and focus on critical thinking, aided by our LoTi rubrics and ongoing discussions and reflections, led to tremendous and deep learning by our students. Students, middle schoolers (!!!), were completing amazing projects and engaged in our classrooms.

Perhaps my proudest teaching moments are when 100% of students are enthusiastic. When 100% of students actually care and are creating and sharing AMAZING, authentic products.

I am proud when I see growth in my students.
I am proud when students actually begin to enjoy reading because I allow them to select what they’d like to read 99% of them time. (S/O Book Whisperer)
I am proud when my students have great state test scores. Wanna know how they do it??? When you design your lessons/activity/projects around higher order thinking amazing things happen- like students actually learning. (Academic Vocabulary is big too, but I’m not particularly proud of that…that’s just part of playing the testing game.)

I’m pretty proud that I refuse to allow myself to fall into the trap of “covering” material or making it through a textbook. I refuse to panic about state tests.
I refuse to teach from a textbook. I’m stubborn and never have…not once.

I am proud that students know that I love them.

I am proud to say that even though I may be quirky and odd, my students learn and grow they create and share. They make ME proud.

I don’t have a fancy way to wrap this up.
BUT it’s NaNoWriMo time so I’m just not going to worry about it.

* I can’t say that 100% of our team was 100% committed, but such is life. We can’t allow our lives professionally or privately to be ruled by the naysayers or negative Nancies.

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I’m proud of these goobers too…just for the record.

Forcing Myself to Blog

My day so far in pictures:

If tea were to vanish from planet earth…I would cry.

I’m in awe of people that manage busy professional and personal lives and still manage to blog daily or nearly daily. I’m still trying to find a model and establish a habit for blogging that works for me. So today, I’m posting pictures. I like pictures.

LoTi PD first item on the agenda today!

Summers off is a myth! Today GV’s 1:1 team, which has expanded to included 5th grade (yay!), is meeting to discuss explore LoTi and LoTi observation with the HEAT rubric. LoTi is my second husband- I love it. More info via loticonnection.com. We have  a couple of newbies to the team so we’re covering Schoology.com too – another awesome tool. Schoology takes the practicial elements of moodle and the social elements of facebook and blends it together for an awesome LMS. Two thumbs way up for schoology from Mrs. Barnes.
(Clearly I am rambling now, but I’m writing so I’m just going to roll with it!)

Looming in my office….

135 laptops are looming in my office. They’re quietly calling my name begging to be readied for the coming school year. Yes, I love, LOVE teaching in a 1:1 environment…but I have a confession… I am not a wire head and prepping laptops and updating inventory makes me grumpy. I feel better now! Laptops will get my full attention later this week.
(and the rambling continues, but I’m having fun…)

WISE Team Meeting

My day will be capped off by a WISE/Leadership team meeting. Confession- I actually enjoy these meetings. I can let my 100% dorky educator side show unabashedly. I work with great people-they tolerate me.

Equally as dorky child

My children, who view GV as a second home, have commandeered a neighbor’s classroom and are letting their dorky sides shine too!

It’s time for me to get to work. It isn’t a masterpiece, but I wrote today. Two gold stars for me.

Revamping Lesson Plan Templates and Design

I am determined to find a way/program/app/site for designing and storing my lesson/unit/project plans this year.
I just haven’t found one that I like so far in my teaching career. It isn’t for lack of trying or available resources. I just haven’t found one that’s “just right” (channeling the three little bears over here) for me.

Last year I used the school’s online gradebook. While there isn’t anything that I specifically dislike about using the online gradebook, it just feels clunky (yes, tech sometimes feels clunky to me…trust me it makes complete sense in my head).

I’m trying something new this year. I figure now is the perfect time for me to find a system with which I feel compatible since I’m expecting a slightly more rigorous and in depth evaluation with newly adopted TLE model. I want to be confident that I’m documenting my lesson/unit/project plans effectively and efficiently with technology tools.

Here’s my model for this year. I’m going to use Plandbook.edu as my daily “keeping myself on track” planner, and I’ve developed a  google form to record detailed lesson, unit, and/or project plans. The google form marries resources from BIE.org, LoTi HEAT, and a few look fors from the TULSA TLE model that GV will be adopting.

Imputing components of plans should happen with ease via the google form, BUT I’m concerned about the final product being stored as a spreadsheet. My plan is to share the spreadsheet with my administrators and peers, and in a perfect world, since it is a collaborative document,  they could offer feedback via the spreadsheet.

Eager for feedback. How do you or teachers you work with use technology in documenting lesson plans. Have you found a model that you love. Have you spotted a crucial MISSING component from my proposed model?

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What do we want? CHANGE! When do we want it? YESTERDAY! What do we get? DISAPPOINTED?

Keep Your Coins, i Want CHANGE Pictures, Images and Photos

This evening I came across a lifehacker article on my Facebook feed (hyperlinked in the quote) regarding passion and career choices. The article closed with:
“Choosing something you love shouldn’t be so much about looking for a good feeling, but more about how you handle the bad ones.”

This line is bouncing around my mind. I’m relatively new to education. I embarked on my formal education career ( I say formal because I consider my 7 years as a stay at home mom as valuable ‘teaching’ years too.) 4 years ago. As an alternatively certified teacher, I sometimes look at educational issues, policies, and procedures from an outsider’s perspective and, at times, find the system perplexing.

However, my passion remains…almost to fault. I believe in pushing myself and pushing for our school to be its best- pedagogy, methodology, PBL, PLN, CCSS, LoTi, and who knows how many other scholarly acronyms!

The “good feelings” abound. Watching students that are truly engaged by relevant projects and rigorous learning experiences facilitated by skilled teachers in a 1:1 environment- Good Gravy, it truly is amazing! I leave the campus feeling beyond lucky to have talented peers, amazing students, and phenomenal technology resources almost everyday. Wait…almost?

There are bad moments too. I can honestly say that my “bad moments” aren’t caused by students or classroom management issues. Perhaps students provide some challenging moments, but not bad moments.
Because I see the power of PBL and routine technology integration on a daily basis throughout the school year, sometimes I become discouraged by the rate of change in educational institutions. I want everyone to integrate technology (not necessarily my way but in some way), I want everyone to be reading educational blogs. I want everyone to love their students and find joy in teaching. I want every teacher to be effective. I want everyone to be engaged in dialogues to improve professionally. I want schools to be positive environments for students and teachers. Since I’m confessing here…ya, I want a lot of things and I know they may not all be reasonable or realistic- I’m a dreamer with high standards.

So how do I handle those moments when my educational fantasies and day dreams come crashing down around my ears? When my passion for education turns into disappointment, anger, or tears pooling in my eyes? How do I overcome the bad moments?

As a teacher, I literally do some deep breathing then close my door and dive into learning and teaching with my students. Or the year that I acted solely as a edtech coach, I went into a teacher’s room that inspired me and observed the power of an awesome learning environment.

It works for me.

How do you cope with the bad moments?

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Superb Teachers, What makes you tick?

I originally created/shared this post on June 18th via Wes Fryer’s blog. Just thought I’d share/archive it here too.

I work in a small, rural PK-8 district, Grand View. Grand View consists of an early childhood center, elementary, and middle school all close and comfy with one another on one site just north of Tahlequah city limits in Northeastern Oklahoma.
Recently, our superintendent announced that he’d be interviewing applicants for a few different teaching positions. Two positions are in 1:1 classrooms. (I’d be glad to share details with anyone who wants to join the crazy, BUT awesome, Grand View 1:1 team!)

Lately, I’ve found myself pondering what ingredients make for an amazing, high quality teacher? These new teachers to the Grand View district will be responsible for teaching students that I love. My own children may wind up in these classrooms too. As a parent, district patron, and employee of the district I want the very best for this little country school, but what qualities do you look for in an amazing teacher?

I wonder what students would list as their ‘must haves” for new GV teachers?

What attributes should potential, AWESOME teammates possess? Let me give this a go:

  1. RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS!
    Teachers that I respect treat students with respect and take the time to develop positive relationships.
  2. PASSION
    People with passion for education teach with gusto.
  3. CREATIVITY
    Schools need to be places that foster CREATIVITY- lets start with creative teachers! (If all the textbooks vanished tomorrow would you freak?)
  4. DEDICATION to continue to learn and grow
    Dedication to learn isn’t demonstrated by attending a few PD days a year. Are you having ongoing conversations with your team mates? Planning projects together? Do you attend conferences? Are you connected with folks in your building and beyond to push yourself to learn and grow?
  5. NOT a control freak!!
    True student/learner-centered instruction means you have to let students have ownership of their education. Are you cool with that?

I realize that I haven’t included technology integration on my list. That’s on purpose. Technology is never the focus in my classroom although it’s used everyday. Teachers today should strive to develop a comfort level with using technology for their own learning and to create an environment for their students that allows for creativity and critical thinking. Many professionals use technology to complete their work tasks- let your students research and create using technology too- not as a special event but a daily necessity.

These are the characteristics that popped into my head; what ingredients do you think make for a superb teacher?