Over the last few weeks I have come in contact with several new and veteran teachers who want to try doing innovative activities in their classrooms, but they are overwhelmed with where to begin. So I decided to share a few of the resources that helped me on my journey, many of which I use regularly even 4 years into this.
1. Twitter - This is one of the greatest untapped source for many teachers. I am fairly active on Twitter. I only follow those with ties to education. I participate in chats (#ditchbook #tlap #learnlap #svtchat #cvtechtalk are a few good ones, but you can find ones specific to your grade/subject/interests). Some of my friends tell me the chats are too hard to follow because they go too fast. I agree, at times. However, the great thing about Twitter is that you can read the stream AFTER the chat to get all the great resources without having to rush through it live. Because many educators are tweeting out what is going on in their classrooms, you can get ideas that spark a change in your own. Another thing I love is that when I have a question about an activity I am doing or an idea I can’t fully form, I just tweet it out the the twitterverse. I usually get responses within a hour from educators all over the world. Where else can you have such a great PLN at your service 24/7?
2. Books - As teachers were are always encouraging our students to read. However, a lot of us don’t use books for our own professional learning. I was one of those until a few years ago. That is when I found some great authors sharing what they have used in their own classrooms that I could apply to mine even though they weren’t teaching the same grade levels. Most of these tend to come from Dave Burgess Consulting. As a former teacher, he gets what teachers want and need to grow because he has been there. Another great source to check out is EdTechTeam Press. Just of a few of the books I have read and loved (not in any particular order): Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller (great blog as well!) , Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney, Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solaris, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, The Writing on the Classroom Wall by Steve Wyborney , and Shift This by Joy Kirr. These books all have Twitter chats that continue the conversation beyond what is in the book.
3. Conferences - Up until a few years ago, I had only attended less than 5 (over 15 years!) professional development opportunities outside of my own district. Part of it was because of the cost. No one was going to pay for me to continue my learning and I certainly didn’t have the extra cash. Once a little money came into my district for this specific purpose, I jumped on it. Now I realize I should have been doing it all along. Between the innovative practices that are shared at conferences and the networking (meeting Twitter peeps in real life!) opportunities I try to get to as many as I can. My students are better off when I am learning to do new things on a regular basis. If I am stuck in a rut in my teaching so is their learning. As I write this I am getting ready to head to the CUE National Conference in Palm Springs. While there may not be as many sessions that will bring new ideas into my classroom, there is always something I can use to make what I do better or that one idea I hadn’t yet thought of. That alone makes being out of the classroom worth it.
4. Visit other classrooms - So often the only teachers I see outside of their classrooms are the first or second year teachers that are checking out what is happening in other schools as part of their beginning teacher trainings. This is such a sad thought. So many teachers are doing great things, a lot of them on our own campuses. We need to find a way to get out to see it. Ask your principal if there is someone who can cover your class while you watch another teacher on your own campus doing something different. Team up with a co-worker and cover each other’s classes. While we prize our sick/personal necessity days, taking a day to visit other schools is totally worth it. There is no longer a reason to hide in your own classroom cut off from the rest of the educators.
These are just a few ways you can get started in changing up your teaching. The great thing about education right now is that there are so many educators who are sharing what they are doing because it’s about the students not about the teachers. Let’s make schools better for all of us. Choose just one new thing and give it a try.
Education is changing and not in the way it should be. Discussions are no longer focused on how do I teach this subject differently or how can I meet the needs of my current students. Instead there is great debate about whether or not I should arm myself with a gun. There is a lot that this debate says about our what is happening around us. Here are just a few ideas of what to arm me with instead of a gun.
1. Arm me with … adequate behavior training. I remember my teaching training program (even though it was ages ago.). There was very little training in classroom management. It was one class, one semester long. Now I did get more in the moment hands-on experience through my student teaching semesters. This still seemed too little. As I have progressed through my career I have been given PD on many different academic aspects. I can probably count on one hand how many times I was given help with students who needed extra support in social-emotional needs. Hopefully this is changing in the current teacher programs, but based on what I am reading through social media and in various conversations, I don’t think so. A parent contacted me the other day to pass on to our principal how proud she was that our school practiced lockdown drills so the kids know what to do. While I did what was asked, I cringed at the thought that this is what is needed. However, at least I know our school (and those around our district) is taking measures to help train us for the worst case scenarios.
2. Arm me with … resources. I am lucky enough to work at a school where student social-emotional needs are part of our culture. We have multiple staff members to go to when a child is showing signs of distress or lashing out. Sadly this doesn’t happen everywhere. Too often budgets keep schools from employing those with the proper training to help these students. There is only so much I can do. Anyone who has taught knows our job is no longer just to teach. Without proper resources how can we do what must be done for the kids.
3. Arm me with … support. While I am lucky in having support with the current administration in my district and my school, I know others don’t. Yesterday I went to an #edcamp where many of the conversations revolved around student safety. Sadly I heard many teachers talk about principals and superintendents who created policy regarding safety that was not necessarily realistic in the classroom and/or didn’t bring teachers (the ones to enforce those policies) into the planning. Many teachers complained about how unsafe their schools are in terms of location or structure. Some even mentioned that policies are in place but there is no consistent follow through by staff. How about we work together with all parties involved to keep our kids safe.
These views are my own, but also reflect many of the conversations I have had with others. My wish is that this conversation would never need to have taken place. Not one more child or adult will lose their life. However, giving me a gun is not the answer.
Last week I was tagged in a challenge to share why I love teaching by Brett Bigham as part of #LoveTeaching week. With so many factors working against the teaching profession, it’s a great way to think of why we continue to do it. I thought I would share just a few of my reasons here.
These are only a few of the reasons I love teaching. No matter how many hours we put in a day or the lack of respect we often receive from those outside education or how many heartbreaks we see in our students, there is no other profession that would I ever want to do. I would love to hear your reasons.
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching