Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ed Tech Specialists in Schools

Several weeks ago, I shared a Google Form that I had made to gain insight on what teachers needed/wanted in ed tech specialist support at their schools. I received 15 responses (I was hoping for more, but I am incredibly grateful to the 15 of you). Here are some of the common themes...

What teachers are hoping for...

  • Co-planning & co-teaching
    This allows teachers to step out and do something a little more risky, knowing that someone will be there to help them!
  • Observation/feedback/coaching
    I love that people are willing to grow! An important distinction is that this is non-evaluative feedback.
  • Help in keeping up with tech trends, tools, & ideas; deciding what to purchase/implement
    With so much out there, it is hard for teachers to keep track of it all, but they are interested in recommendations & ideas about what will give the most "bang for their buck"!
  • Sample resources
  • Leading or co-leading PD in the building

What teachers do NOT want...

  • To be told what to do
    They know their curriculum, content, teaching style, & students best. Honor that!
  • To be taught about tech tools with no thought given to classroom integration
    Context is everything - it might be a cool tool, but how does it apply in my classroom?
  • To feel judged
    Not everybody is tech-savvy - and people need to know that it's okay!
  • Lack of communication or availability
  • Doing it for them, rather than teaching them something new


Forms response chart. Question title: When are you most likely to want to collaborate with an ed tech specialist?. Number of responses: 14 responses.
Not surprisingly, teachers want to collaborate during time already built into their day. We may feel like 1:1 help is not as efficient, but it may be the best way to really meet a teacher's needs and create bigger ripples of change!

Final Thoughts

If nothing else came through clearly, this did...RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS! Building positive relationships is a crucial foundation to any other work being done. But that shouldn't be a surprise, right? It's the same with students.

Thank you so much for your feedback - I am carrying these ideas & perspectives with me as I head into my year. Hopefully they can help other tech coaches out there, too - feel free to share!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Hamster Wheel

To be perfectly honest, I'm sitting down this morning to blog, feeling like this:

So much to do.
Always going.
Never stopping.
No end in sight.

Welcome to the beginning of the school year! I thought it would get easier if I wasn't a teacher. Somehow, it still seems just as crazy. It's draining! And exhausting!

As the pace quickens, my chances for reflection dwindle. I find myself struggling to keep up with it all, let alone take a minute to step back and think about if this is the best way to be tackling my work. Go. Go. Go. The beat drums ever on.

Unfortunately, I feel that exhaustion creeping up at me in all areas of life. I have been making more mistakes than usual at work. I come home with no energy to do even the simplest things, so housework is piling up. I'm mentally exhausted, and anything that requires thought feels like a big task (even when it isn't really).

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, especially at this time of year! So what can be done? I'm sharing these things not because I am great at them, but as a challenge/reminder to myself.
  • Sleep makes a huge difference. When I want to stay up to get things done, I have to remember that I am so much more efficient in the morning after getting some rest - it's worth it!
  • Eating well is important too. It's easy to turn to junk food (don't ask how many pieces of chocolate I've had this week!), but it doesn't fuel you to be your best.
  • Exercise, for me, is a great chance to push my body while letting my mind wander. I don't typically listen to anything when I swim or run, I just let my thoughts run wild. I end up doing a lot of mental processing during these times, which allows me to "file" thoughts and organize my day better.
  • Mindless activities are okay at times. I generally don't like watching a lot of TV, but when I come home and can't bring myself to do anything, sometimes zoning out and watching a show for awhile gives me the chance to recover and regroup so I can do what needs to be done for the rest of the night.
  • Take a break! [Insert Hamilton music here] Do something just for the fun of it. That's all. We aren't made to work, sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat, repeat. It's okay to disconnect for awhile!
  • Remember the bigger picture. Something at work/school can feel huge to me, but there are really much more important things in life. Remembering that helps put things in perspective.

What do you do to keep your sanity during stressful times? Any/all advice is appreciated!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Am I Welcome?

It's back-to-school time for many of us! In my district, students will start on Wednesday. As students, families, and even teachers come into the building after the summer break, there is a question that many are subconsciously asking.

Am I welcome here?

Can I be myself here? Will I be accepted, with all of my strengths, weaknesses, and quirks? Will people care about me? Will I make friends? Will I be left out? Is this a safe place for me?

Am I welcome here?

As I walk into a school, what cues do I use to help me answer that question?
  • What does the space physically look like? Does it look kid-friendly? Are there lots of signs, rules, & regulations?
  • How am I greeted? Am I even greeted? Is it with a smile? Do I feel like a guest, or like somebody who is interrupting others just to ask how to sign in?
  • Do I know where to go? Are there signs? Does anyone offer to help me find my way?
  • As I observe others in the building, are they happy to be there, or does it look like a struggle? Are there procedures in place? Do kids know the expectations of different areas?
  • What is on the walls of the hallway? Are they boring and institutional, or are they used to display and foster learning?
  • Does this place have its own culture, history, and identity? Is it a generic "school", or do they have pride in who they are?

Am I welcome here?

As a traveling ed tech specialist, I get to go to many buildings. They all have a different feel - part of the fun is seeing how each building has its unique identity! Some schools are older, some are newer, some are more strict, and some are more flexible. All of these are okay! And every school, no matter where they fall on those spectrums, can be welcoming. But the flip-side is also true - and I have seen both.

I had the privilege of visiting a school for the first time since I subbed there (once!) about eight years ago, and it immediately struck me as such a welcoming space. Even though students aren't there yet and most teachers were in training, I came in and was greeted by the office staff. I was a little early for my meeting, and I was welcome to sit down and wait (and get some work done!) in any of several places. I ran into a teacher, who gave me a tour of the building, told me about some of the work they are doing, and introduced me to other staff members. I saw smiles and waves, and was able to talk to several people around the building. I did not feel like an intruder - I felt like an outsider who was being welcomed in. And it felt good!

I know life can get busy. Spaces get neglected, we get absorbed in our work, and we don't always have time to give a tour. But education is a people business, and people are the most important thing. Even in the midst of a crazy day, we can always smile & greet people warmly, and let them know that,

"Yes, you are welcome here."

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Empowering the Voices of Others

Over the past year, I've learned that I enjoy speaking/presenting at conferences. But there's a different kind of joy found in empowering and raising the voices of others!

My district hosted its annual Innovate@BVSD conference this week. Rather than leading sessions (for the most part), my work was behind the scenes, making sure everyone else was good to go. And it was awesome! I loved seeing friends and teachers in our district share their learning. They had amazing things to say! I loved seeing the conference attendees engaging in the conversations and soaking in everything they could. I loved the buzz and energy of a group of educators ready to start a new year.

Having fun is an essential part of conferences...right?
I think my favorite part, though, was seeing some teachers who were nervous to present absolutely rock it! As one of the people organizing the event, I fielded many emails & questions in the days leading up to it. Many were from first-time presenters who decided to step out and share, even if they didn't feel 100% ready (newsflash: no one ever feels 100% ready). I remember being there a year ago...heart pounding, wondering if I was good enough or if anybody would want to come to my session or if it would be a total flop. If you feel that way, you are not alone!

Seeing friends step past their nerves and grow in confidence was amazing. As a teacher, I loved seeing my students step up and grow. As a person who works with teachers, now, there's nothing more rewarding than seeing them become leaders in the district and beyond! Their voices are so much more authentic than mine, because they are doing this work every day in the classroom.

Teachers, we need you. We need your voices. We need to hear from you.

And just like that, I've learned another cool facet of my job. Happy August, everyone!