Year in Review

This school year marked the start of my 19th year in education. I have had the privilege of working with an amazing administration team and cadre of teachers during my tenure. I have grown and evolved over the course of my career, and I’m proud to say that I continue to grow each and every day.

I spent the summer pouring over resources and reading published works by a variety of educators. #tlap, #LearnLAP, #geniushour, and #ditchbook became guiding forces in my educational rebirth. As a result, I am a completely different teacher from last year, and I couldn’t be happier!

I vowed to relinquish control over my classroom environment to my students. No longer would the boards be perfectly decorated and color-coded to start the year. No longer would I agonize over every staple and die cut letter perfectly placed on each bulletin board.  Room 210 belonged to my students.

This was my classroom on Day 1:

image

This was the first addition. My students wanted an Art Wall.

image

Each student created a personalized piece of art for decoration.

image

Students created displays to reinforce expectations for the school year.

image

As a  school teacher I always wanted my to students to be responsible for their learning, but I never gave them control of “what” they were learning. I realized that I had only been asking my students to be compliant.  That was about to change! I vowed to empower the students. The work of Paul Solarz and Don Wettrick provided the foundation for student-driven learning.

In his book, “Learn Like a Pirate”, Paul Solarz shares his strategies for creating a completely student-driven classroom. I had many “a-ha” moments while reading this book. The most powerful change I made in my classroom this year was in the use of the phrase “Give Me Five”.    No longer was it going to be used to quiet a room; instead, it was to be used to guide learning. This single phrase has changed the climate in my room. The power shifted from me to everyone in the room, and that has made all the difference.

Don Wettrick introduced me to the idea of Genius Hour, or 20% Time. His book, “Pure Genius”, inspired me to include Innovation Time in my language arts class this year. My students have truly embraced this time, and have been using the allotted time to explore their creativity and pursue their passion.

Here are a few samples from our 20 Day Challenge:

image

 

imageimage

I am blogging for the first time in my career. Why? I want to set an example for my students.  I want my students to engage in writing experiences for an authentic audience. I spent the last few days exchanging ideas with educators during the #EdCampVoxer PD session which focused on blogging. I have gained so much insight from this diverse group, and  I am excited about the possibilities that await my students.

I am proud of the work that my students and I have accomplished, and I know that this is just the beginning. 2016 holds new challenges and new opportunities to learn something new every day…

The Power of a PLN

This school year I implemented Genius Hour, and I wanted to include blogging as part of the reflective process. I am a firm believer in never asking my students to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.  I started this blog as a way to practice so I could better assist my students. My first post was fairly easy to write. I was excited to be implementing this new approach to learning, so the ideas flowed. My second post came out of desperation. I had hit a wall with Genius Hour, and needed help from my mentor, Jody Green.

My third post…

My fourth post…

November and December passed without a single post. Why? Was I too busy? Possibly. Did my life as a mom get the best of me? Possibly. Did my class stop innovating? No. Did I start to doubt that I had something meaningful to contribute to the blogging world? Probably.

I recently joined #EdCampVoxer personalized PD sessions. One of the sessions focused on blogging. I was so inspired to return to blogging, but each time I sat in front of the keyboard I found that I had trouble writing. So many possibilities, but nothing sounded “right”. I have started this draft over so many times that I’ve lost count. Nothing seemed worthy of sharing with others, so I stopped once again.

My fear is twofold: 1) looking foolish and 2) nothing important to say.

I am not an expert. I don’t have all the answers. I am a math and language arts teacher who wants to be a role model for her students. I am here now because someone encouraged me to share.  Thank you David for taking the time to send me a message and provide encouragement. Your words were not only comforting, but inspiring.