Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stress Relief!

It’s Friday night and I’m tired.  I’ve put in another 5 hours at school today.  My classroom is beginning to shape up.  The boxes are all unpacked, my desk and the front of the room is ready to go.  The back of the room, the classroom library, well let’s just say it’s not quite ready for prime time.  Then there are bulletin boards to get up, lesson plans to write, oh and did someone mention interventions?  Yikes!  I’ve already spent over 15 hours working at school and teachers aren’t officially back to work until next week Wednesday.  Stress level rising……

So after my day my husband suggested we go downtown and enjoy our town’s “Friday Night Live” music festival.  I agreed even though I really just wanted to curl up and fall asleep. And what happened?   We had fun! And I discovered a new method of stress relief that is guaranteed to make anyone forget their problems, laugh and have fun.  What’s the secret?  Polka music!  Yep, that’s right, polka music. As my husband and I were walking through the downtown, we heard an unfamiliar band playing.  We turned down the street, and low and behold, a polka band.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a polka fanatic, but for some reason, after a stressful day, all I wanted to do, was dance to this polka music.  Everything else was forgotten.  Before I knew it we were laughing and hopping along with everyone else!

So how does this help stress relief at school?  Here’s my idea, polka music in the classroom.  It’s not so far fetched.  Currently I play classical music to relax and help me think.  Why not polka music to unwind and distress?  Just download the music on the iPod, turn up the volume, and go!  I’ve already started the download….

Monday, August 20, 2012

Choose Your Attitude

As the first day of school approaches I've been thinking a lot about getting the classroom ready, meeting my new students and getting the school year off to a great start.  Then last week I was talking to my son who just started his new college job. After spending two years as an RA (resident  advisor) this year he accepted a position as a CC (community coordinator).  His job is to help train and oversee the the RAs in his building.  He's finding out it's a whole new mind set.  Now instead of just having to take care of residents, he is responsible for supporting a staff!  "The questions are endless!" he remarked.  But then he shared a bit of wisdom with me that struck me as genius.  He told me that their motto this year is, "Choose Your Attitude".  Any complaints, concerns, questions, first remember to "choose your attitude".  I love this.

So I was trying to decide how I was going to introduce this motto to my new class, when I happened upon one of my old favorite picture books for sale ( only 25 cents!) at the library.  Underwear, by Mary Elise Monsell, was a popular book with my children for many years.  It's the story of two friends, a zebra and an orangutan, that love underwear.  They have so much fun buying, and wearing, outrageous, undies.  Then they meet Bismark Buffalo, who is a gloomy grump.  The zebra and orangutan have a plan to cheer him up, could it involve underwear?  Buffalo is skeptical, but he gives their plan a try......

As I read this book I couldn't help but start laughing.  The story, as well as the hilarious illustrations, are uplifting.  It occurred to me, this book is perfect to introduce "Choose your Attitude" to my class.  Bismark Buffalo has to choose his attitude.  He can either be gloomy and unhappy, or he can join in the fun with zebra and orangutan!  Perfect!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Connected Educator Book Club Reflections - Part 1

What does it mean to be a "connected educator"?  This summer I’ve been on what I call my " personalized, professional development journey” in order to discover what a connected educator really is, how I could become one, how it would benefit me as a teacher, my students, and fellow teachers as well.

How did this journey begin?  How did I get interested in becoming a connected educator?  Of all things, it was a Moodle course I was required to take for my district.  I won't go into the specifics of the course, but the second module dealt with developing personal (or professional) learning networks through the use of Twitter.  I jumped on this.  As the mother of three teenage sons, I'd heard a lot about Twitter, tired it a couple of times, but never really got the hang of it.  The Moodle course was the impetus I needed to dig deeper into the social networking application.  Before I knew it, I was taking part in Twitter Chats, meeting other educators that were passionate about topics I cared about, and started growing my own PLN.

I discovered even more online learning opportunities through videos, webinars, and learning communities.  I was excited to learn that the U.S. Department of Education created the Connected Educators initiative and August is Connected Educator Month.  Even more opportunities to learn and network were now available free!

It was in this spirit of personalized learning and professional development that I decided to stretch further and take part in the Connected Educator Book Club.  I was anxious to read the book, The Connected Educator, and take part in weekly chats and the online community.  This week the group discusses the introduction and chapter 1.  As I reflect back on my notes for this first part of the book, a few ideas really stand out.

First, I feel strongly about the idea of "do-it-yourself learning".  In the book the authors state, "As a connected educator, you have the opportunity to direct your learning, connect, collaborate, and grow your professional practice.  Connected learners adopt a do- it- yourself (DIY) mentality.” As a language arts teacher I am very familiar with the importance of allowing our students choice in both reader's and writer's workshop.  Doesn't it make sense that the same principle of choice should apply to teachers and their learning opportunities?  The push now is to connect to our students, personalize their learning in order to increase engagement, make learning authentic and relevant.  Hmm, is it possible teacher engagement would increase if their learning was personalized, authentic and relevant?  I know if I’m interested in the topic I'm studying I'm far more likely to get excited, stay engaged in my learning and want to share what I'm learning with others.

Collaboration was a second major idea from this section.  The book states that connected learners not only learn from their PLN, they then bring their new knowledge back to their school communities and share with others.  If we invest in our personal knowledge, we will have knowledge to share.  Knowledge sharing... That's sometimes a challenge for me.  I love to learn.  I've found that I like to network and absorb new ideas.  But when it comes to sharing, I admit I get intimidated.  What if someone doesn't share my excitement?  What if someone disagrees with me?  Believe me I've experienced negative feedback/criticism and it is not a pleasant feeling.  So sometimes sharing involves risk taking and this is something I need to improve.  It just takes time.

Finally, the self-evaluation in chapter one made it clear to me that I am still new in this process of becoming a connected educator.  As I read the postings and blog entries on the book club Ning I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge being so readily shared.  There is still much I need to learn, knowledge I hope to gain in part from my PLN, the book club, online learning communities, and other opportunities for professional development.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Twitter Tutorial

Just learning how to Tweet?  Check out this tutorial.....  created by second graders!  Really makes Twitter sound simple, right?  Sometimes  I think as adults we over-complicate things.