2020 makes the 3rd year that I have taken part in the #OneWord movement. I have found that condensing my goals for the year into one specific word is a great way to self-reflect on where I have been and where I want to go. It is one word…no mantra or goal statement to remember. It is a more natural way to always keep my word on my mind. I continue to come up with a guiding word because it has worked! 2018 my word was CREATE and create I did. 2019 was DISSONANCE. My whole goal with PD was to get people thinking about what they believed versus how they ran their classrooms.
My #OneWord2020 is EMPOWER. In my position as a technology integration specialist, it is easy to get into a rut of putting out fires related to tech problems. I will continue to do that, but my goal is to also be sure to work closely with teachers and administrators to make them feel like they can start to make empowered instructional decisions. The issue with starting a conversation with the other party having a problem that has to be solved is that there is a problem that has to be solved! Usually, that problem has to be solved pretty quickly so that a lesson or unit can run smoothly. Many times, I solved the problem, and the other party is grateful beyond belief. It is a good feeling, but it doesn’t do much to empower the person with whom I was working. In fact, sometimes the other person feels deflated because of the feeling that they couldn’t solve the problem.
Empowerment is a feeling that comes from a place where you feel confident to try new things. I don’t think I have been a force of empowerment for many of the teachers with whom I work. The feeling of relief and/or gratefulness are not the same as empowerment. The empowered educator feels confident in trying new things and asks for someone to offer feedback and suggestions. Don’t get me wrong, I do have that relationship with some teachers, but my goal is for that number to grow. The “trick” will be to not only be there to help solve the problem but to follow up regularly about how things went. These follow up meetings are where the best learning takes place because I can help walk them through some self-reflection about the lesson. The more we self-reflect, the more that we can feel empowered to make tweaks and improvements to what we are doing.
I know that I can be persistent. Some might even call me annoying. My goal over the last five years as a Technology Integration Specialist has been to get educators out of their bubble by making contact with educators outside of the city/state/region where they teach. While some educators took me up on my offer to help them connect, most of the times my pushing was met with quite a bit of resistance.
“I don’t have time for it.”
“How do I know the people I make contact with are good teachers?”
“Social media is stupid.”
“What I have been doing has worked so far.”
Thankfully, I have continued to be persistent/annoying because this year has been different. More teachers and administrators in my district have been taking to Twitter and Voxer to get outside of their bubble. I beam with pride (sort of like a proud poppa) when I see these new interactions on a variety of social media platforms. Consider these examples…
The 7th-grade math teacher who wants to flip his classroom began Voxing with the author of Tech with Heart, Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo) about her nine years of experience with flipping her math classes. There are no other “experts” on flipping a math classroom in my district, so Stacey has provided reflective, just-in-time answers to his questions. I sense his increased confidence level with every interaction.
The 3rd-grade teacher, Kelley Friedrich (@KelleyFriedric1), who wants to change up what and how she does things is getting involved in Twitter and making connections in order to learn more about topics like #geniushour. Kelley also wondered if there was a better way than charts and points to handle discipline in the classroom. I helped her make connections with Elizabeth Merce (@EMercedLearning), founder of #DitchtheClips, to discuss her experiences and expertise in social-emotional learning (#SEL) with early primary students. These conversations have taken place on Twitter and Voxer.
The high school social studies teacher, Jaclyn Smith (@JaclynSmith21), who wants to rework her classes to better meet the needs of her students is jumping into Twitter and Voxer to make connections with others who are on the same journey. I have had more contact with her on Voxer and Twitter this summer than I was able to have most of the last school year! That goes to show you that social media can connect people who aren’t all that far apart.
The elementary administrator, Michelle Peterson (@mbpeterson719), who was on Twitter but didn’t do much with it (she didn’t even have a profile picture) is now becoming an active contributor. She has also jumped into Voxer to have discussions with Jacyln Smith about the recent Strobel Summit sessions (@strobeled, #StrobelSummit). Imagine that…a high school teacher and elementary administrator having a discussion about teaching and learning!
The high school counselor( now elementary principal), Stephanie Brown (@brownfamoffive), who has gone from an inactive to active Twitter contributor also made the leap to Voxer. She is now an actively contributing member of the #4OCFpln on Voxer. This group has been a game-changer for me professionally! She jumped right into the new platform and is not only active in that group but brings her #SEL and trauma-informed instruction expertise to the group members. She even joined forces with two other #4OCFpln members (@jchandlerteach and @jmartinez727) to offer a Voxer book study on The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog.
The kindergarten teacher, Haley Veldhuizen (@HaleyVeldhuizen) who is new to Twitter but is jumping in with both feet! She has used this new medium to share her learning as well as finding resources for incorporating Seesaw (@Seesaw) into her classroom next school year. I can only imagine how she will use Twitter to share out about her class next school year!
Social media may have its faults, but it can and is used for good. If you are reading this and don’t consider yourself very connected, find something for which you are passionate and connect with others who share that same passion. If you are a connected educator, reach out to others (be persistent/annoying) and help them experience the power that connecting with others through social media can have on your classroom, students, and you as a professional. This is the domino effect…you push others, they get involved, and they push others to do the same. The end result is the positive impact that all of these professional connections will have on students!
My #OneWord2019 is dissonance. That word is especially important to me because I think we all could do more to delve deeper into what we believe and whether those beliefs transfer into our actions. The act of self-reflection is vital to becoming a better educator. Let’s take a look for a moment at a simple and often used statement…”I like.”
I like pizza.
I like to vacation in Hawaii.
I like dogs.
You get the point. However, let’s think about what that phrase means when used in our classrooms and schools.
I like the feel of the paper in a real book.
I like to use a pencil/pen and paper.
I like a classroom that is quiet and organized.
Here is where I may make some educators uncomfortable (maybe even angry). When educators make these types of statements, they are really verbalizing their likes, not the likes of their students. There is nothing wrong with stating your likes and how you learn best, but the danger is when your preferences are mistaken to be the preferences of others.
I think what is important is to give learners, no matter their age, some variety in how learning can take place. Let them find their preferences through a variety of activities and experiences. I am someone who reads almost exclusively on an electronic device. For me, it is much easier to have reading material always at my fingertips. I don’t need to have access to a pen or highlighter with which to mark essential passages and ideas. Often overlooked is the fact that I don’t carry a purse; there is no place to carry a book and pen! I can read at night without the awkwardness of finding the right lighting. I read more than ever because of the ease at which I can access the printed word. When I have mentioned my preference to teachers, many respond by saying that they could never do that and that kids need to touch and feel the pages. I have no problem with the personal preference they express; my issue is with assuming that kids have that same preference and need to handle paper to make reading a meaningful task.
My challenge to you is simple. Try to be more aware of how your personal preferences impact your classroom. Give students the ability to experiment with different modalities. Let them find out what they are comfortable with and will help them learn best. Try to resist forcing your way of learning onto them.