Saturday, April 28, 2018

It Just Takes a Friend

Quick blog post today, as I am at the Aspen #edtechteam Summit! The fact that I am here really shows the power of a friend.

I had seen the emails & tweets about this summit, and it briefly crossed my mind to attend...but then my mind started going. "It's pretty far away...I'd have to pay for transportation & lodging...I might not even know anyone there..." At that point, I just filed the email and moved on.

Until my friend, @staceyduval5, asked me if I was going. She said that she had submitted sessions and was wondering if I was interested in attending. This immediately caught my attention, and at that moment, my decision was made. If I had a friend to go with, I was going!

Never underestimate the influence you have on people. This one act of reaching out brought me here this weekend, and I can't wait to learn and grow!

Saturday, April 21, 2018


I was so excited to receive the email this week welcoming me to the Google for Education Certified Trainers program!

I first heard about this program a couple of years ago, but didn't think it was for me...yet. While I helped people around my school(s) often, I wasn't really leading any trainings or presenting to groups of people. I decided to pursue my Google Certified Educator Level 1 Training. I studied all summer and was excited to pass the test!

I knew I wanted to keep going further, but between teaching full-time and being in grad school, I had limited time and energy. It wasn't until the next summer that I studied and took the Google Certified Educator Level 2 test! While the Level 1 test was a good review of many things I already used in the classroom, the Level 2 course taught me more. It was definitely challenging, but I was excited to accomplish this goal!

As I changed jobs, I realized that I am leading a lot of professional development, and the time seemed right to work on my Google for Education Certified Trainer badge. The problem is...I was still in grad school, and the thought of studying for one more thing (other than my finals and PRAXIS) was just too much to handle. It wasn't until after I finished everything for my degree (February) and took a moment to breathe (spring break) that I completed the application. The Trainer Course was not too time-consuming, since I had already done my Level 2 certification, but the application process made me reflect on how I teach and why I do things the way I do. I answered the short essay questions, and moved onto recording my video. The 3-minute limit filled up quickly! It took me several takes to be as concise as I wanted, but I finally ended up submitting my video at a length of 2:59. *Phew* After a couple of weeks of waiting (I may or may not have been checking my application status nearly every day), the email arrived - I had been accepted! Hooray!

Even though it's only been a few days, I have already appreciated learning from the forums and connecting with other trainers. It's fun when those connections span multiple platforms, as well - finding friends on Twitter in the group or vice versa allow us to strengthen our #PLN connections!

What's next? Well, I've had some amazing friends encouraging me for awhile to work on my Google Certified Innovator application. I've really wanted to do it since first hearing about the program, but just didn't feel like I had the time or energy to really give it the thought that it deserves. [Side note: When I decided to get my Masters, I knew that saying "yes" to that would mean saying "no" to future opportunities - it just took discipline to stick to that so I didn't burn myself out!] But now, the time has come. To be honest, it scares me more than any of the other certifications I have gone for. I know it's very competitive, the odds are slim, and I don't like failure or rejection. Yet I also know that playing it safe and never taking risks is not the way I want to live! Working on the application has already forced me to reflect and grow, and no matter what happens, I am convinced I will be a better educator for it.

I'm sure there will be more posts coming on this blog as I further develop my ideas for #GoogleEI! For now, I will just leave you with this - if you have ever thought about going for any of these certifications, I'd encourage you to do it! They are well-done, applicable, and help you grow in your skills, no matter what your role is in education. Feel free to reach out if you want/need feedback and/or help - I am so appreciative for my #PLN & real-life friends who have helped me along the way!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Other Side of the Table

This week, I was "that parent".

Okay, not truly a parent, but I was there with the family of one of the kiddos I help with (his family doesn't speak much English, so I often help in a parental role with the school stuff).

I was the one in the principal's office, called in because of his behavior. We needed to have a conference RIGHT AWAY, because he was on the verge of losing the chance to go on the end-of-year, overnight field trip due to his defiance in class. On one side of me was his teacher, his assistant principal, and the school counselor. On the other side sat his cousin, his aunt, and him.

I've been in these meetings before, but mostly in my role as a teacher. Or a principal. It is different being on the opposite side.

I have to say that the school did a great job of facilitating the discussion. They were supportive, but clear about what is and is not acceptable. They did a nice job of bringing data & specific instances to the table to guide our conversation. They helped form a plan going forward that included positive supports and ways to ask for help before things escalated.

I still walked away with a heavy heart.

It is sad to see a kid struggling. It is hard to see how his behavior is affecting others, and ultimately, himself. It's heartbreaking to see him open up about where the pain is coming from, a big reason why he is acting out, and be able to do so little about it. I felt helpless. And I felt bad that "my" kid was one of the ones that probably kept the teacher up at night.

This made me reflect on previous meetings I have had with parents, when I was the teacher at the table. Did parents leave feeling judged? Like it was their fault? Upset with their student? Upset with the school? Feeling like partners in education? Feeling like they were told what to do? Feeling supported? Feeling grateful for the help?

All of these things flashed through my mind, at least momentarily.

While these meetings are never fun, what helped me stay positive in this moment was a prior relationship with the school staff. I knew them, and I trusted them. I trusted that they wanted what was best for this student, and the whole class. I trusted that they wanted to help in any way that they could.

It is so important for us, as educators, to be building positive relationships with families. If the only time they ever get a phone call or see the inside of the school is for something negative, it is hard to feel like true partners in education. I know it's not easy. I know that not everyone responds right away. But we can't stop reaching out. We can't stop being creative in how we connect with families. Often, those who are the hardest to connect with need it the most.

How are you building positive relationships with families at your school?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Catering + Interior Design + Marketing + Computer Science

Real-world learning? Cross-curricular collaboration? At this high school, the answer is a resounding, "YES!"

I was recently talking with my brother about a project his computer science class is working on. It all started with a catering class, when they were given this assignment:
Participating teams will demonstrate their knowledge of the restaurant and food service industry by developing a written proposal for potential investors in a new restaurant concept.The written proposal will consist of a defined restaurant concept, supporting menu, and supporting marketing plan."

As a part of this assignment, they added in team members from other classes...
Students in an interior design class became "contractors" helping them design the restaurant.
Students in a marketing class are developing business cards, brochures, and a marketing plan.
Students in his computer science class are tasked with building an app for the restaurant.

Four classes. That's a lot of coordination. But think about what the students are learning!

They are seeing a project through from start to finish, with many different phases.
They are collaborating and working together.
They are practicing entrepreneurship skills.
The computer science students are learning to work with a "client" and design for what somebody else wants (which may or may not be clearly communicated at the outset - very realistic!).
They are putting their unique skills to use to help others.
They are learning to work with people with different strengths.
They are learning that they are just one part of a larger puzzle that makes the world go 'round.
They are breaking down the artificial walls between different subjects and connecting the dots to work toward a larger goal.

I am so inspired about this project and thinking about how it breaks the mold of "playing the school game" and really prepares them for life after graduation. I hope more teachers are encouraged to design learning opportunities like this in the future!