A Few Hours from 31

Well, I was doing so well with blogging in September!  Then October came along with meetings, conferences, Odyssey of the Mind tryouts, professional development and it just got crazy.  I’m going to get back in the swing of things and maintain my focus on what seems to be my word this year: intentional.

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So with that in mind, what better way to start being intentional about blogging than to do so on the eve of my birthday?  It’s almost the start of another year of my life and aside from New Years and the start of a school year, a great time to set goals.  I’m going to get back to blogging on a more regular basis.  I can forgive myself for the past month considering all that’s been going on but the self-reflection and community that comes with blogging is fantastic and so useful.

Right now I’m gearing up to have a pretty awesome birthday weekend…  Tomorrow I get to do a really fun Amazing Race activity with one class, Genius Hour with a yearlong group, a Socratic Smackdown discussion around the topic of terrorism and prep a different group for a group project.  Also, the kids think it’s hilarious and awesome that my birthday is on Halloween.  On top of a fun teaching day, it’s Red Ribbon week and tomorrow is TEAM shirt day so you can bet I’ll have on my New England Patriots jersey.  After school I’m heading to join some friends for a Halloween movie and pumpkin carving.  On Saturday my parents and my sister are coming up from South Carolina and we will be trekking across Charlotte going to Ikea, a giant antique mall called The Depot, hitting up Red Robin (I LOVE the parmesan garlic fries!!!), Clothes Mentor and Versona.  Sunday is the epic Brady vs. Manning game and I can’t wait for that.  Plus my Fantasy Football team has been KILLING it (led by my main man Brady).  Good weekend.  Good weekend to turn 31.Snl-so-freakin-excited

(This is me about the game on Sunday…  And pretty much everything else this weekend.)

I shall return soon with a new post…  If life at 31 tomorrow becomes drastically different from life at 30 today, maybe a reflective post (haha).  In all likelihood it’ll be probably be something I am really finding myself grateful for at 31 that I would never have appreciated as much earlier on in life.  It’s always good to find and talk about those connections.  It shows growth.

Sunday Scoop

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I saw this on 180 Days to Happy and thought it was fun and a quick way to do an update.  Great idea from Teaching Trio!!

Lots going on this week with a workday and parent teacher conferences, 2 projects I’m getting students started on, staff meeting, Odyssey of the Mind tryouts to set up, run and judge, teams to create, a roadtrip to Roanoke, VA to get ready for (investing in a new church campus!)…  So much to do.  It’ll be a fun, exhausting, hopefully productive and enjoyable week.

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Ta-Da Tuesday: How I Stay Connected

What a crazy week it has been an it’s only Tuesday!  So much going on at school in the next 2 weeks with the end of the grading period, conferences, new rotation classes, OM tryouts, meetings, etc.  I’m exhausted so that will probably be a quick one!  Thanks for the fun post topics, Racheal (180 Days to Happy).

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Ta-Da Tuesday: How I Stay Connected

Connecting has been the running theme for the month.  Connections are important to create and maintain.  It’s also hard.  We’re in a world that is connected 24/7/365.  No matter where you are there’s always something or someone you are quickly and easily connected to even if they are several states, countries or continents from where you are.  Now, the following won’t rock your universe and aren’t brand new ideas or apps but they are some great ways to connect on different levels.

I have family and friends spread across the country and as with many others, Facebook is one of the fun ways I’m able to stay connected with them even if we don’t get a chance to talk and go deeper all that often.  It’s a joy to see friends from high school and when my family lived in Maine in pictures with their 5 kids they’ve adopted from Ethiopia.  It is a joy to see the hilarious work posts my college roommate posts when it comes to her job (her humor remains the same).  I love seeing teachers from high school and professors from college post about what they’re up to – sabbatical in Mexico, a new musical at Eastern, searching for a prop for a play at the high school I went to…  It brings back great memories, excitement and a connection that means something.  With family in New England and across the south, Facebook let’s me peek in on my sister’s job as a photographer (Top in NH for the last THREE years!), her new journey as a newlywed.  My Grandmother even uses Facebook to try to keep up with all of us!

Instagram has many of the same qualities but we all get to think we’re fancy-shmancy photographers/photo editors with all those filters. :-)  I like following teachers in my PLN via Instagram too.  It is a fantastic source of inspiration, motivation and fun!

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Skype and FaceTime have proven useful in staying connected.  My cousin Erin and I are the “oldest” among the cousins and are very close.  We have had annual trips for the last 4-5 years.  She’s come down to stay with me for a week or two during the summer.  We are constantly talking across several mediums – Facebook, Facebook chat, Instagram, text, Skype, FaceTime.  We’ll plan a night during the week to talk – sometimes during our favorite shows just to talk and gauge each others’ reactions while the show is on.  We will talk for hours about the most pointless things but our connection grows stronger regardless of whether it is in person or not.  We send each other voice messages (recorded and send in texts) just as a laugh.  We’ll plan our trips months in advance – we have the trip to the Hunger Games filming location in NC, mountains, Carowinds, Patriots Place/Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, comic store and Backstreet Boys concert in Boston last year thanks to those discussions across many platforms.

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Email and text are also huge.  I am one of the crazies who emails herself to do lists and sometimes to do lists in the subject line so I don’t forget.  My mom and I talk on the phone once a week if not more.  My sisters and I are busy at such different times from each other that it may be a phone call or it could be texts or group texts that keep us all in the loop.  Oh the pictures and Gallagher humor that have been shared…  Full disclaimer: my sister and my mom were in NH on the hunt for a wedding dress and this was how my mom kept us all in the loop – including my dad.  His response was typical Gallagher humor.  Pictures speak for themselves.

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As Rachael does, I like to send handwritten notes.  This year my 7th graders are doing handwritten letters to pen pals in Hungary.  They were resistant but I think it’ll pay off and be a great memory for them!  On the weekend when I am volunteering at church as an area coordinator I like to write a thank you note or two to the volunteers I get to serve with.  I just put the name on the envelope and they take care of getting it in the mail to whomever it is addressed to.  Getting a thank you or any handwritten note takes the connection with another person to a new level.  It says you took time to notice something and wanted to let that person know what you saw and why it was awesome or important.

In a similar way, you can easily connect simply by being on time and showing up somewhere.  We recently instituted a team huddle where I volunteer at church and it’s earlier than some people would maybe want to show up but the time to eat breakfast together, talk, prep for the day together, answer any questions, pray and not be rushed – that is priceless.  Communication and community are an important part of connecting with others.

Many great memories can come from connecting and taking the TIME to connect.  Even if the person isn’t in the same city, state or country you can invest in the relationship, the friendship.

The Best Yes and the Strengths Finder

the-best-yes-wornoutwomanA couple of years ago I was going on all cylinders.  I was teaching, coaching an Odyssey of the Mind team, volunteering on the weekends at church, coordinating an area at church on Sunday, helping lead a group that met during the week and I got to the point where I was worn out.

I have a hard time saying “No.”  I will admit I am a people pleaser, detail oriented and a worrier.  I want to make sure everyone is taken care of, that things are taken care of the right way and will think of every possible outcome (good or bad).  Those 3 things combined can be lethal.  At that point in 2009-2010 it was getting to that point.  I don’t think I was depressed but I was frustrated – why was I in this spot?  Why didn’t I enjoy some of the things I love?  Why was I on the verge of tears so often?

I was tired, not in the best mood all the time, didn’t have the pep in my step during the week sometimes I wish I had and volunteering on the weekend sometimes felt more like an obligation than an opportunity.  I spoke with one of my good friends and stepped back from the volunteer role for a little while during the summer.  I also found a book.  It was called The Worn Out Woman and WOW – did I need it.

That book made me cry.  It was exactly what I needed.  It reminded me I didn’t have to have all the answers all the time, I didn’t have to get it right all the time, it was ok to say no and that I need to take care of myself sometimes and just STOP.  I spent some of that time at a nearby park reading and just sitting in the quiet of what surrounded me – a lake, the trees, birds.  I remember sitting on my porch reading it one Saturday and as hard as it was for me to admit, I finally told myself – you ARE worn out.

That was a tough season.  It taught me a lot though and while I still have those 3 traits I mentioned above, I am getting better at learning when to stop, say no and when to hyper focus on the details.  I mentioned in an earlier post that this year I’ve had the word “intentional” on my heart and mind a lot.  That manifested itself in many ways (morning routine, planning, etc.) and the things I see myself doing now…  Oh if I knew then what I know now.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

This weekend at church Lysa TerKeurst was preaching.  She recently wrote a book called The Best Yes.  One thing she said really stuck out to me, “Wisdom makes decisions today that will still be good tomorrow.”  What an incredible perspective that puts on our everyday choices, the big ones, the small ones, work, family…  It goes back to that word echoing in my mind – being INTENTIONAL with our choices.  I love that.

Not to harp on books (but I do love them…a lot), I recently went through the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 with a friend in looking at leadership and I took the StrengthsFinder test online.  The results were right on – that I was a learner, achiever, connectedness, responsibility and intellection were where I had strengths I should focus on.  A great point that was made is that if we focus on developing our weaknesses, what are we doing for our strengths?  It is very easy to point out weaknesses these days and our culture fixates on making them better.  But to what end?  Do we truly know what our strengths are if we don’t invest in or learn about what they are?  I liked the idea because if we know our strengths, we CAN develop them, make them work for us and have a broader impact.  If we know our strengths and the strengths of those around us, we can balance each other our when our weaknesses come in to play.slowtherushI don’t exactly know what brought all 3 of these books to my mind but it’s been a powerful reminder that being intentional with ourselves, who we are, our time and resources and knowing our strengths can make us better.  It can bring us joy, peace, happiness and a fruitful life.   Though they are 3 different books with 3 different points, the conjecture of all 3 is being intentional.

This song immediately started running in my head – the chorus especially.

Shine Your Light on Us – Robbie Seay Band

I’ve been holding on
And I’ve been holding on
All that is inside of me
Screams to come back home

And if you feel lost, if you feel lost
Sing along
And if you feel tired, if you feel tired
Sing along

And if you feel lost and tired
This is your song, yeah

And I’ve been broken down
And I’ve been broken down
But I ain’t giving up
Love will come back around

I highly recommend all 3 of these books…  Seeing where I am right now and what I am learning and what I was going through just a few years ago – I’m grateful I had that experience. I needed it even though it was tough. It’s made me a better person and made me more aware of who I am and who/what I surround myself with. The best is yet to come.

Ta-Da Tuesday (on Wednesday): This One Time…

Well, I’m a day late but it’s been a long week since last Tuesday. Lots going on that I’ve needed time to process (in an out of school) but life continues and I’m enjoying my time in class with students.

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Today is about that one time I connected with someone via social media and how it impacted my real life. I mentioned in a previous week the hashtag #GeniusHour…

My little story involves Joy Kirr. She’s a 7th grade ELA teacher. I came across her name last summer. I don’t remember exactly how I found or started reading about Genius Hour, what it is, how teachers use it in the classroom. What I do remember is the gold mine of resources related to Genius Hour that I came across that were connected with her name. I was very intrigued by the idea. At the time I was also reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (HIGHLY recommend). It is possible I came across the Genius Hour idea as I looked through the #tlap tag on Twitter. The two ideas seemed to meld together very well – teaching with passion and students learning about things they are passionate about.

As I mentioned, I found several sites that were treasure troves of information on Genius Hour. I’ll share those links below. One site I found listed the names and Twitter ids of teachers who use Genius Hour in their classroom (Joy was one) and that the 1st Thursday of each month there is a #GeniusHour chat on Twitter for teachers to get together, ask questions, share ideas and discuss. I learned so much and absorbed the archives that were saved.

As I started out on the journey, Joy tweeted me a couple of times with ideas, suggestions and encouragement. She’s retweeted questions and ideas I’ve shared. Her help, insights and encouragement as I was starting out on the journey of implementing Genius Hour in my classroom was invaluable and so appreciated. I’m now in my second year implementing Genius Hour and it’s better than ever. I’m also using my school Instagram account (@globallycre8ive) to post pictures of student work to share their genius with the world.

Thank you, Joy!! Even though we’ve never met face to face, you are making an impact beyond your classroom walls and in turn touching the lives of my students in North Carolina with your Genius. :)

I have to also mention Gallit Zvi and Hugh McDonald because they have been huge in my Genius Hour journey as well with their resources, insights and presence on social media. Thank you both!!

The 3 of you are Genius Hour pros! Because of the community of encouragement, ideas and support that’s grown through the #GeniusHour hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, etc, I know I’ve become a better and more passionate teacher. It’s the forward, positive, dynamic and innovative thinking and ideas that come through those monthly chats that are truly making an impact on teachers and students. This is moving forward with education and going beyond memorization or tests – this is reaching students where they are and challenging them to push themselves (not just because a teacher said so or because of a due date).

Coming across this tag on Twitter and the community and people I’ve had the chance to interact with – I’ve gained a new perspective on education, what it is, how it’s done and it makes me excited for the future and possibilities that are out there. A connection on social media can have a huge impact in your every day life if you let it and are open to it.

Here are some links if you’re curious about Genius Hour or want to check out the Genius of these folks:

Joy Kirr’s blog My Own Genius Hour

Genius Hour LiveBinder (put together by Joy – BRILLIANT resources)

Twitter: @joykirr

Gallit Zvi’s blog Integrating Technology & Genius Hour: My Journey as a Teacher & Learner

Genius Hour Wiki (put together by Gallit Zvi)

Twitter/Instagram: @gallit_z

Genius Hour: What Students Can Learn From Failure (CNN story featuring Joy and several other schools/teachers who use Genius Hour)

Hugh McDonald’s blog Today is a Great Day for Learning

Twitter/Instagram: @hughtheteacher

Ta-Da Tuesday: How I Connect

Linking again with 180 Days to Happy for this.

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Ta-Da Tuesday: How I Connect

Today’s post is about tools teachers use to connect.

When I taught Spanish at the elementary school level I mostly used my Moodle page.  Now that I’m at the middle school level I’m using email, Moodle and Google Apps for Education a lot.

Last year when my principal approached me about teaching a hybrid yearlong class combining global studies and the creative side of Odyssey of the Mind, I jumped at it and it’s been amazing.  I wanted to push myself further with reaching out and being able to share the awesome things that we were doing in class and that my students were creating.vFpQP39LB60dli3n-rJnVvTM07dsvIzxrCL5xMiy1V4GV4unC1ifXkUExQ4N-DBCKwI=w300

I love to look at pictures and see what others are doing to be inspired.  I also knew my students have their phones and many of them have Instagram.  So, a few days before school started last year I created a school-specific account.  I also created a Twitter account.  I find myself using the Instagram account more than the Twitter but I linked the Instagram to the Twitter account so that it’s shared in both locations.  That way if a student, parent or someone out there in the worldwide audience happened to be following they would see the picture and info.  (You should be able to click on some of these to enlarge if you would like to see a bigger version.)

photo 2I LOVE being able to share PICTURES of what we’re learning, what we did on a certain day, what students have created, projects, etc.  It’s a great way to CONNECT with students outside the classroom, get them excited about something coming up and letting them know that what they’ve done in class is being SEEN and SHARED with the world.  It’s also a great way to CONNECT with parents.  I have a good number of parents who follow the account and it’s nice for them to see what their kids are up to, know what is being covered, see projects, etc.

A few tips and ideas:

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  • Keep your SCHOOL/CLASS related account SEPARATE from your PERSONAL account (just like anything else – email, Facebook/Facebook groups, Twitter, etc.).  Sidebar: That picture is from one of the most fun units I’ve ever done with students.  Absolutely hilarious but lots learned.
  • Don’t post pictures of students (and if you do, block out faces somehow – protect their privacy).  Cover names if it’s on paper.
  • Likewise, don’t follow students while they’re your students.  I am only following students with the school/class account once they’ve moved on to high school or beyond.

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  • DO post pictures of bulletin boards, completed projects, works in progress, part of a slideshow or presentation, etc.

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  • Follow other school/teacher/classroom accounts around the world as well as news agencies, global organizations, etc. (BBC World News, CNN, Kid President, World Bank, Global Post, etc.).  These can offer great inspiration but also awesome pictures/accounts to share with students and encourage them to follow.
  • Use pictures you find on Instagram for warm ups – where in the world a picture was taken, describing what students see (visual literacy), etc.
  • Try to post at least one picture a week.
  • Share some personal pictures – remind students you have a life too.  I’ve posted a few #ThrowbackThursday pictures to give them a glimpse into more of who Ms. G is and what she’s like.  Post only what you’re comfortable with.

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  • Hold contests or give out bonus points to students who read an early morning (before school) post.  Example: During the Olympics this year we did a creative unit designing mascots for upcoming Olympic Games.  One other thing we did was a Scavenger Hunt.  Students had a paper they were given and they were filling it in throughout the Games with names of gold/silver/bronze winners in different sports, facts about the Olympics past or present, medal counts, etc.  Every couple of nights I would post a picture of something we did in class or something from the Olympics that caught my eye and I’d add a hint for one of the scavenger hunt questions.
  • Use the account to give a preview of upcoming lessons or units.  Pique student interest with a picture!

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  • Use the account for reminders.  I know some of my students are checking their Instagram before school (when they have to turn phones off and leave them in their locker) so this is a great use.  Another example:  Earlier this year I used mine before school to post a picture reminder for students to bring in clippings (pictures, magazines, etc.) that inspire them.

You can find my school account HERE: @Globallycre8ive and my personal account HERE: @Lindsers83

Remember, Honor, Inform, Reflect – 9/11/01

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When I woke up today I realized something…  Today I was going to be teaching the last group of students I’ll have who were alive on September 11, 2001.  That hit me hard.  That is significant.  Most of my 8th graders were born in 2001.  I actually have a student that was born on 9/11.  Earlier this year she and her family went to NYC and visited the 9/11 Memorial.  It was a big deal for her.  Many of my 7th graders were a few months from being born.  One funny moment from the day as kids were sharing some personal, family or friend connections they had to that date…  A student was sharing that on 9/11 his mom was having an ultrasound prior to when he was due to be born because “…I was being diagnosed with being…born.”  He paused and realized he got caught up in his words and laughed.  “We were all diagnosed with being born!”  So, there were lots of incredible personal connections.  Another student lost her uncle on 9/11.  One student had parents who worked in the Towers.  Her mom wasn’t feeling well one day while she was pregnant (with this student!) and so her dad was running late to work.  He stopped to get coffee and donuts and that’s what saved him from being in the World Trade Center when it was hit.

Anyway, I told my 8th graders that they’re the last group I’ll teach that was alive and present (though they may not have the memories) for this significant event in our country’s history.  I told them that it significant because everyone that comes behind them will have zero connection to that date.  That was why we took time to talk about it.

tumblr_nbqlh3VPQZ1rsadwno9_500I shared about where I was that day (my senior year of high school in Connecticut in a theater class with no tv).  We looked at the headlines of the New York Times both print and web.  The headlines from earlier in the day on 9/11 before the morning tragedy were drastically different from what was on the web hours later (link to those pages are at this link).  What stuck out to me personally were the links to lists of planes that were involved so families could find out if their loved ones happened to be on those specific flights and the links to transit info as the local stations/roads were closed, blood donation centers and other emergency info.  We looked at the front page of the paper on the 10 days following and how wording and images changed.

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This particular front page I spent some time on and we spoke about images and how powerful they are.  We talked about the fact that we sometimes become desensitized to them.  I told them how I feel when I see it and it stirs up very specific and real emotions within me because I remember how I felt that day seeing that happen.  We talked about how differently someone from New York City or DC or PA who lived 9/11 up close would react very differently to seeing images and video like that compared to how someone from North Carolina or California would react.  Of course they would feel strong emotions and heartache at the shock and recollection of that day but those who lived it have a much more raw emotion attached to it.  I asked them to remember seeing these pictures and that they are real.  Sure they look like something we’d expect to see on tv or a movie with special effects for a great explosion but it is not.  There are real people involved, real people hurt and killed, real emotion attached to it.

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We also looked at this wonderful slideshow that the Times put together called “What We Kept”.  It shares about 22 images and short descriptions about what people who were in NYC on 9/11 have kept from that day.  From dust on a car to worn shoes and paper lunch bags it was powerful to read out loud to them the attachment people had to these items and why they kept them though they may not look at them every day because it hurts.

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My 7th graders had many more questions about 9/11 and that is to be expected, I suppose.  They were born into a post-9/11 world.  They had heard stories from family and friends, seen some things in the news or on tv.  Some of them surprised me at how well-informed they were (mentioning the 1993 World Trade Center incident) while others had heard things like “Wasn’t there a tornado afterward?”  What he was referring to and actually asking about (though he didn’t know) was all the dust surrounding blocks and blocks of NYC after the towers fell.  We talked about structural building, codes in the city now, why it may have fallen straight down, damage to surrounding buildings and that it wasn’t a tornado but because of the force and speed with which the towers fell, it spread dust and debris over such a large span of the land/area around where the World Trade Center buildings had once been.

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It was a good discussion. A good time of questions and answers.  Remembering.  Honoring.  Informing.  Reflecting.  It made me further resolved to ALWAYS take time on 9/11 to talk about it with students.  The generations to come will have no attachment to it and it is significant to many people and to our country.  It’s important they realize that this was a real event that affected real people and impacts their lives today.  It’s not just images or a video or something that we talk about once a year.  It’s real, live history.  I think this quote sums that importance up quite nicely and I love that it is in the 9/11 Memorial Museum in honor of those who lost their lives and worked so tirelessly in the minutes, hours, days and months following 9/11.

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No day shall erase you from the memory of time. – Virgil

And with that I’ll leave you with this image.  It sticks out to me at the moment because I’ve currently got a documentary on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center on in the background.  Very interesting hearing the insights and stories of those helping rebuild.  Check out the History Channel tonight to see more.

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