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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Ta-Da Tuesday: Why I Connect

I don’t do a ton of these blog link party things but I’ve really enjoyed the heart behind 180 Days to Happy so here we go…

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The theme for the week is: Why I Connect

Here are 3 reasons I connect:

1. Inspiration – I have found, read, followed and been so inspired by the teachers and others I have found on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, other blogs, etc. Hearing about the amazing things others are doing motivates and inspires me to continue pushing myself further in the profession and in what I create and do with my own classes. When the day has been long or tiring or had it’s frustrating moments, seeing posts, tweets, etc. from so many great people keeps me going and reminds me it’s all worth it and it’s FUN too.

2. Classroom Impact – The hashtag #GeniusHour (on Twitter in particular) has literally transformed how I teach. When I came across it early summer last year I was intrigued and embarking on a new journey making my global studies class yearlong with a section of students in 7th and a section in 8th. I’ve always enjoyed the creative/innovative side of teaching and giving fun projects to students related to content but the idea of letting students take learning into their own hands, learning and creating within parameters THEY make, and inspiring and motivating themselves and each other – I couldn’t pass it up. It’s made me a better teacher, forced me to continue to think outside the box, given students who thought they didn’t have a lot to offer the confidence to believe they do… Connecting on twitter one Thursday a month with others for #GeniusHour talk, following teachers who use #GeniusHour – I can’t quantify the impact it’s had. Going into the second year of implementing Genius Hour it is only getting better.

3. PLC/PLN – That might sound like it goes with what I shared above but for me following the blogs and Twitter accounts of other teachers, teacher leaders, etc. really makes me think and reflect. Sometimes there’s that post that makes me think about something I haven’t considered before, a new technique or idea for how to handle that student that gets on your last nerve, an overview of a new web tool and how it could be used… I soak up that kind of thing and it stimulates growth since it makes me in turn think and reflect on my teaching.

Thanks for the link up!

Intentional

We’ve finished a full week of school and moving forward!

After spending a lot of August thinking and planning I’ve been excited to put things into action. I want to be more intentional this year across the board both with school stuff and the rest of my life (hello, teachers have personal lives too!).

So what do I want to be intentional about this year?

1. MY Morning Routine – I set up for myself a specific morning routine that I hope to keep up with throughout the year with specific goals for reading, exercising, blogging/writing and just some time to breathe and wake up with a cup of coffee before feeling too busy. I attributed that previously to having reading What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. Each part of that routine I’ve set up has a purpose that reaches beyond just my physical health, professional life, being something I just enjoy or want to do – it’s helping me set up a better day and getting in the right frame of mind before I head out the door.

2. Set up of my room – As I am sharing my room with two other teachers when I do not have classes, this is important. I got a few extra storage containers and bought some super fun classroom labels to put up in the room so that I know where things are and my students also know. Below are a few pictures – you might notice a theme.

10600450_787053227163_6936515045868811633_n 3. ISNs (Interactive Student Notebooks) – I decided to dive into ISN territory mid-late summer this year. I’ll do a longer post at some point about why and how but I like the organization and what the end result should be for both myself and my students. It’ll keep me on track, keep us all organized and hopefully be a keepsake that shows student accomplishments. Here are the pictures of my 8th grade and 7th grade notebooks. Again…a running theme in there somewhere. :)

10612893_785015680423_467666731524791280_n10600615_791661562023_7204521443238324421_n4. Bringing the fun – I love what I teach and have had the chance to create and adapt a lot. I am already taking it to new levels with the chance to use the ISNs here and there (not every day) but also in subtle ways like what I’ve put up around the room, student creativity, etc. At some point you have to make the little things fun not only for the students but for yourself too which is why I likely ended up with a more Doctor Who themed classroom this year. :)

995605_782718648693_4889919761394396761_nYou have to bring the fun personally too so I did a fantasy football draft. Done a little trading, adding and dropping. Still a work in progress but I’m quite happy with the QB (go Pats!!).

10645316_791823252993_4530896318761634420_n-1**If you’re curious, the fictional location signs, classroom labels and planner I printed came from TeachersPayTeachers.

Later this week I might post on why the word “intentional” has been my personal buzz word of sorts lately not just with school but in my life in general.

Meme-tastic Start to the School Year

Well, 2 days down, 178 to go! A new school year began on Monday. I’m glad I started thinking through my thoughts, ideas and plans for the year ahead of time. Although we had a week of workdays, one was full of off-site professional development at schools around the district, a couple of hours in the morning for two days and then both 6th grade Panther camp and 7th and 8th grade open house on Wednesday and Friday respectively.

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This was for 7th and 8th open house. I set up a quick “photobooth” area with props.

With a variety of shifts we’ve also added a number of students and added a teacher here and there. I now share my room with 2 other teachers so it’s literally being used all day. Glad to do what I can to share the love. The three of us have tried to organize ourselves to the best of our ability to keep make it work for the rest of the year.

Monday went well. I’m excited yet again for my yearlong classes. My 7th and 8th grade global studies rotation classes are good. I’ve got a set curriculum to go through with them while they are with me and I really enjoy the topics I cover with them (culture, perceptions/stereotypes, human rights, refugees, revolutions and terrorism). The yearlong classes – look to be a blast again this school year. After doing a global studies/Odyssey of the Mind hybrid(ish) class for the first time last year, I learned a TON since it’s not one set curriculum the entire time they are with me. We find a balance between the global and the creative. I did a lot of thinking, planning and have tried take what I learned from last year to make this year even better (ISNs, better student project proposal forms, etc.). That’s a post for another day…

I found a really fun idea for using the “Someecard” meme in a back to school activity on TeachersPayTeachers and used it with my students. They had to come up with a school related statement, saying or something of the sort to add to a card that had an image on it. Some went with the infamous “…said no one ever.” Others used “That awkward moment when…” Some blended the humor and slight sarcasm very well.  The yearlong kids got very clever with what they came up with.  Here are several that made me laugh.1544515_793215717483_445389715663162315_n

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10606565_793215433053_3198773681614198258_nIf you can’t read the top of this one it says, “Maybe I should pack  breakfast for lunch,” said every 7th grader ever.  (They have lunch at 10am or so!)

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I wholeheartedly give my stamp of approval on that last one for the use of Doctor Who (ok and maybe Jensen Ackles too).

Pretty entertaining.  They seemed to enjoy doing it and hearing what everyone else came up with.

So far so good!  On to day 3!  Working to remind myself slow down…slow down.  It’s the first week of school!  Slow down.  (I tend to get a little over excited about diving into what we’re covering.)

I might post some pictures of the room, what I’m adapting/planning with the ISNs and how I’m attempting to be more intentional with my mornings (both at home and at school) this year.

I’m Back (and with a plan to be more consistent)!

It’s kind of funny that my last post I said that I did still exist and was going to do better about posting. Then the end of the school year happened and it was just madness. I do have a plan now though! Thanks in part to some great posts from 180 Days to Happy and reading the book What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. I’m hoping to set up a morning routine 2 days a week that will involve blogging a bit before the crazy of the day begins.

But let’s back up before we go any further. This looks long, but there are a bunch of pictures. :)

Right around the time that I claimed I still existed we had three OM (Odyssey of the Mind) teams at my school compete at the State competition in North Carolina. We were fortunate to have 2 of the 3 teams place 1st and get invited to World Finals in Iowa! I’ve coached OM teams for 8 years and this was the first time I’d coached a team to World Finals. Add to that the fact that the middle school I teach at has only done the program for 2 years and that’s an accomplishment! I’d previously coached for 4 years at an elementary school. We had a blast in Iowa competing, hanging out, meeting teams from around the world, trading pins… The Driver’s Test team (yep, they had to build and design a car that completed various tasks) I coached placed 4th in the world out of 46 teams and our How We Rule team (creating a fictional royal court with some specifics from historical courts) placed 8th out of 48 teams. Top 10 in the world! Blown away.

10428646_10203206365177267_264368785360934860_nRight before performing at World Finals

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Pin trading!  We had pins made for the kids and they wanted a zombie theme. :)

10334417_766710778593_5807256804479828294_nI traded for a Doctor Who pin. I was quite pleased.

All of the planning, preparing, financial stuff in getting ready for World Finals (which was at the end of May RIGHT BEFORE EOGs) made things crazy and hectic. I needed a break by the time school ended. I needed summer. It was a choppy kind of summer. Busy and unusual in some ways.

A few days after school was out we had a big family event coming up! My sister was getting married! So I drove up with my dad and my youngest sister to New Hampshire (mom flew up). 16 hour drive both ways but worth it.

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Wedding fun!

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Hil and Derek

A few days after the wedding I went up to my family’s place in the mountains for about a week and a half. That turned out to be the getaway for the summer.

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Right before heading home my OM team had planned a get together nearby in the Virginia mountains. They really got along and liked hanging out, being together and having fun. So I headed up there and we camped and went rafting down the New River.

10412034_748799375184484_7107577262014620324_nAfter we returned from rafting I got a phone call from my mother and sister to get back to them ASAP. My grandfather had passed away overnight. We can’t say it was a surprise but the timing was unexpected. My grandmother had been going downhill with Alzheimer’s after they had attempted living with both of my dad’s brothers and their families for a time. We’d convinced my grandfather she’d be safer and better off in an Alzheimer facility. He was always visiting her but I know he still worried about her. He’d lost a lot of weight over the months of living with my aunts and uncles. A few of them think he likely died of starvation. He also had diabetes and a few questionable changes his doctors made with that prior to his passing. Either way it was hard to hear. We drove back up to New England and despite the circumstances it was good to see my dad’s side of the family.

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All of of the cousins together in the same place for the first time in five years!

I stayed a few days longer to help them start going through things at my grandparents’ house. The greatest blessing in the situation was knowing that just 2-3 weeks before his death my grandfather was able to be at Hilary’s wedding. I LOVE the picture of the two of them below and the one of them holding the picture of my grandmother who wasn’t able to be there.

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After returning home from the funeral it was late July. I think I was home a total of 6 nights (mostly just to sleep) from June 16 to July 24. A couple of days after getting home we had LOVE Week scheduled at my church. I had a blast with it last summer serving at a camp Christ Our Shepherd ran for kids who come from single parent homes. I did it again this summer with a few people who had also served last year. We had a blast!

10530909_781163575073_444287125575795973_nNot long after LOVE Week we had a volunteer event and they had a photobooth they set up. It was a fun night.

10600404_786512101583_5162088201391566880_nAnd now here we are at the end of the workdays. School starts on Monday! I’m ready for the routine and structure again after this summer. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t terrible – just unusual, choppy, busy and emotional. It definitely had highlights and fun times.

I did a lot of thinking, getting ideas and planning (helped a lot by TpT, Instagram and Teaching Teens in the 21st) once August arrived so I’ll have to post about that and how workdays went soon. Here’s to hoping year 9 gets off to a great start!

I Do Exist

Hello world.  It’s been a while.  I’ve been pretty terrible at blogging for the past year, apparently.  I need to get back to it.  And yeah, I know I’ve said that several times in the last year.  It’s been a crazy one though.  2013 was a good year and 2014 is proving to be an interesting one as well.  Very, very busy.  In fact, the last 7 months have been pretty intense juggling teaching and coaching and Odyssey of the Mind team that is now headed to World Finals in a couple of weeks.  It’s been very fun but really draining staying on top of so much.  I wouldn’t trade it though.  There have been so many moments with the kids both when teaching and coaching that I wouldn’t trade for the world and in every way – I would rather than drain me than be concerned about maintaining a consistent blog.  Kids > technology.

But, that being said, I think I could easily do a picture update of the past year via my school Twitter and Instagram accounts and my personal accounts.  So let’s have that be the plan.  Next post is a picture update on life both at home and at school.  It’s been a good one and as the year winds down, hopefully I can get into the swing of things again and consistently schedule posts.  Someone hold me to that. :)

Look for a SLANTbox post soon too.  I’m very excited to be participating.