Snowday+#NCsnowchat+Reflection = synonyms


This post is about the value of reflection and the opportunities that provide it!

What a gift these past two (about to be 3) snow days have been. I have been given the opportunity for Snowflection!

When it snows in North Carolina, it is a good gamble to assume school will be closed for a handful of days.


The expectation is that the day becomes a teacher work day; from home if you document your hours or at school if you can get there.  Hands down, I work harder, longer and more deeply at home than at school. Although my body is less tired after 2 (going on 3) snow days, my mind and spirit are both happy and exhausted. I have accomplished much physical documentable work, but have spent countless hours reflecting internally. How do I (can I) document these reflections as hours worked?  Even if I cannot, I close out the week working/reflecting from home feeling energized and extremely accomplished.  

Late last night I received an email delivering good news I had been hoping for, congratulating me for being accepted as a Google for Education Certified Trainer; an accomplishment I had, at one time, consciously decided I would NOT pursue.


But with that notification came a huge relief and I began to reflect on those who cheered me on, supported me and assisted when I had doubts about my success. I have SUCH a tight media-tech team at my school @atrowell and @LeoLibraryDog.  I don’t even feel whole without them.  After I texted them the news, I was overcome with gratitude for their support and texted them what now feels like (and I chuckle about it now) an acceptance speech:

I don’t discredit you two in your role in my certification. You two are the reason I had any hope at all…the editing but keeping the words true to me and the tech knowledge to get it done! Not to mention the confidence you showered me with!”

Another teacher friend of mine @cathy_vogt tweeted a question to me today asking me what this Trainer Certification means for me. When asked that prior to today in anticipation of the “what if” I was accepted , I had answered something along the lines of, “Nothing really. Although it makes me more credible”. It “meant” a lot to me but I wouldn’t get a raise or a promotion for it. Today, my brain was in reflection overdrive after my challenging #NCsnowchat  (more on that later) and I had a much better, more true answer for her.

Screenshot 2018-01-18 at 8.10.18 PM

It means I met a challenge head on! It means I realized I had more in me than I thought I had. But it also means I am charged to teach others how to take advantage of what Google can do for learners and leaders. I am now obligated to do so…and I want to!
From this Google Certified Trainer acceptance @Google ET I have spent a good part of today appreciating and realizing my PLN, my accomplishments, and what drives me…and why.  I feel purposeful and SO part of a team who wants the best for each other. I am surrounded by and am part of a group of dynamic teacher leaders which ironically leads to more reflection I had the honor to partake in.

A colleague of mine who I call a friend and a co-teacher leader needed my help. Amanda Gary (@AGarysClass) is a grad student and 2nd grade teacher where I work @underwoodgtm who needed to choose a teacher leader to interview; one who she admired!  She chose ME!?  And followed her request with words I do not take lightly:
“I  look to you as being a leader in our school in so many ways. You are a risk taker and a think outside the box teacher and your ideas always inspire me to want make a change in my classroom and thinking…to me that’s important in leaders 😊 so if you are willing to fill this out and be as detailed as possible I  would greatly appreciate it.


I spent nearly 2 hours answering her 6 questions. More accurately, reflecting on her 6 questions.  Here is what I had to reach inside myself to articulate:

  1. How would you distinguish the difference between a good teacher and a teacher leader?
  2. How would you define your roles as a teacher leader?
  3. What do you consider to be characteristics of an effective teacher leader?
  4. What are some of the greatest challenges of being a teacher leader? What strategies have you used, or seen used by others, to address these challenges?
  5. What skills have you learned over time that has helped you become a more effective teacher leader?
  6. How have you seen the role of teacher leaders change over time and what are your predictions about the role in the future?

I got to know myself pretty well after those 2 hours. It took much time to answer honestly because I felt like I knew what the right answers “should be” but if I were being honest, my whole being had different ideas. It was like when you know what people want to hear but it actually conflicts with what you actually do? It was like that.  I also knew that she would be influenced (hopefully inspired) by my responses…no pressure there! So I soul searched and had to differentiate between what I “wanted” my answers to be and what was true to me.  At first glance, the questions might seem pretty straight forward, but I challenge YOU to really think about them. How would YOU answer those for someone who YOU consider a leader; one who admires YOU for being a leader.  I did it. That was one more reflection opportunity for me and 2 hours I documented on my work log sheet.

Moving on.

Amanda’s Question 6 made me think about a twitter question put out there by another leader I admire; Kyle Hamstra @KyleHamstra. (Check out his blog #Hamstrahilights if you want to really go away thinking deeply!)

Screenshot 2018-01-18 at 8.43.37 PM

I had to really think again. In these changing times, I so often hear the skeptical opinion that digital tools and virtual learning are going to make real teachers obsolete. And I can’t disagree with them more. Statements like that make it easy to also want to quickly answer Kyle’s question with A) Yes research is becoming less relevant.  Look at how many people think this! I almost picked A as well since I believe MEMORIZING is less relevant, but when I really thought about research and its role in my teaching and how I approach it, there was a huge HECK NO moment that overcame me and I had to say B. Research is so much MORE relevant now! And then I went inside myself and made sure I could justify that this was really the case and why it SHOULD be the right answer. More reflecting that I don’t know how to document on a timesheet!  But nonetheless, I am really liking who I am as an educator, but more so, who I am becoming as an educator and leader the more I reflect!

By the way my answer to Amanda’s #6 is as follows:

How have you seen the role of teacher leaders change over time and what are your predictions about the role in the future?

I think in the past, teacher leaders were seen as those who knew something (learned it from someone), taught it and expected others in their proximity to do the same.  Seeing their ideas become practiced by others was gratifying. But it was right in front of them. Now, and in the future. I see the characteristics of teacher leaders becoming so much more global. Leaders don’t lead just those they encounter daily, but they make others they may never see think, rewind, ponder and reflect…and in turn, those virtual colleagues then share back with the world.  Teacher leaders are connected to and challenged by other leaders on social media through twitter and blogging, for example.  A modern day teacher leader seeks out a professional learning community; intentionally building a network of others with a like mindset with an intent to learn new perspectives, gather resources, share experiences, deliberately challenge the philosophies of that and finally seeking out others to add to their professional learning community. They then put those philosophies into their own practice of teaching, mold them as needed, and bank them for use when the right teachable moment arises among their close proximity colleagues.

Your thoughts on this??

This snowy week has provided so many opportunities and TIME  for Snowflection.

I have enjoyed this week’s #NCsnowchat sessions. Especially today’s.

For Day 1’s #NCsnowchat I had quick answers to contribute, I “liked” a few responses (those I could keep up with), and enjoyed the connections I was making.  I found a few more people to follow (I grew my PLN)!  I love how that happens.  But today’s Day 2 #NCsnowchat was a more difficult chat; clearly a topic I should add to my PDP (Professional Development Plan).  I found myself needing to read several responses from others before I could relate and realize I indeed had something to say.  

Reflecting again.

And connecting.

And growing my global PLN.

I found a few more people to follow (again) and read many perspectives on how to interpret issues related to this very important and relevant topic. There are more resources I know about to better myself and my craft. I think I grew a little bit as an educator and was left with much to think further about. I read some answers that fit the earlier mentioned category of “what people want to hear” and I question the real likelihood of such responses. Conversely, I read some that were really thought provoking and brilliant. Now, hours later, still, I think and reflect.

I know I am never going to be my best self personally or as an educator because reaching my potential means I will stop needing to grow and reflect. But days like today bring me a little closer to who I want to be. I realize more who I “can” be.

I am grateful for these snow days, for #NCsnowchats, and for time to reflect.  I don’t know how to document these never ending thoughts on a timesheet, but I know they count for so much more than just documented work. They make me better at what I already do. They help make me a leader, a dreamer, a potential seeker, and a lifelong learner.

And this week more than ever I feel like “snowday”, #NCsnowchat” and “reflect” are synonymous with each other and consume more of a day than one can prove!

My Snowflection results: I am proud of where I have been, where I am, and where I might be going, as well as of all the people who have and will accompany me there!

Thank you Mother Nature for this week of rejuvenation, good news, and reflection.  May it never end!

What did I do with an idea…?

What Did I Do With An Idea…?

I fed it.  I nurtured it. I let it grow. I grew to love it.

In November 2016, I was charged to have an idea. Being creative on demand has never worked out well for me so this was a very frustrating charge for me.

Although it was much more carefully articulated by the professionals facilitating this, the message was the same. Here is what I heard.

“Come up with an idea and do something with it.” Also, “Do this idea with other people. They must agree with you and nurture the idea with you. And in the end, you must show off your idea with pride to everyone else charged with this daunting task, and other professionals in your field who are expecting you to succeed with this idea.”




Stuck.  For months. Stuck.

Days were being crossed off the calendar.  Weeks gone.

What was my idea? What idea was big enough, original enough, and important enough to be worth the investment these people trusted me with?

On day #1 of this journey, I, and many others from the WCPSS Teach Leader Corps #WakeTLC were put in a room to listen to a man named Kevin Brookhouser speak about what he termed a 20Time project. For an hour, he shared the meaning of a 20Time project and inspiring stories of ideas his students had done something with. We were even given a complimentary copy of his book The 20Time Project. And then he finished and we remained.  It was our turn.

“Come up with an idea and do something with it”.

WCPSS had invested money and trust in us to do something wonderful. “Something”. That is all we had to begin with.  Kevin Brookhouser and “something”.

To make this challenge more challenging, the suggested group size was 5-9, more is better.  The group we were able to form was 3.  Me and two others; Star Davis @sanndavis #starshipk and Nathalie Ludwig @LudwigsBusyBees #kinderscan. Me, an ITF, and two Kindergarten teachers from two different schools.

three blind mice

Three Blind Mice (the name we affectionately gave our group, named for how we felt going into this project). Star Davis @sanndavis Tanya Churchill @tanya_churchill Nathalie Ludwig @LudwigsBusyBees

We would only be given 5 other opportunities to sit face to face with our partners (one of those cancelled due to weather and one was presentation day). An idea that was to be wonderful would surely require more time than what would be 3 face-to-face meetings. How were we going to do this?

What were we going to do?



Bad Idea factory.



Curriculum mapping.


Eventually, we came up with a viable idea. Just an idea. We didn’t know what it would look like, but it was an idea. It was an idea unlike anyone else’s in the group which made us second guess our idea. We listened to others.  We watched. We were on a completely different path.

Were we right?  

Was this what they were expecting from us?  

Why weren’t any other groups doing anything like this?

Were we on the right path?

We had been put in front of Kevin Brookhouser for an hour to kick off our challenge on that first day and we felt deeply that there was a reason for this. We were inspired by his stories, and despite no one else following his examples, we knew we must. It was the idea that felt right. We were on the path right for us.

Our idea:


Inspired by Kevin Brookhouser’s 20Time project and the opportunity provided by an investment in our WCPSS Teacher Leader Corp Team, Underwood GT Magnet ES and Washington GT Magnet ES teamed up two kindergarten classes to build empathy, a bonding relationship,  and a concept of community. In the end, these two classes will participate in a service learning project, each class building a better community for the other.

Ok there it was.

To make this authentically THEIR 20Time passion, this had to be designed by the kindergarteners, themselves. We had no idea where this was going to go and what we would need to make it happen. This was as far out of a teacher’s comfort zone as it could get. But we were determined to “do something”.

And we did.  The project grew bigger.  It looked and felt different from everyone else’s. But it was still the right thing to do. We picked it at first, but soon it was picking us.  We just followed its lead. It got bigger. It took more time. It got more and more complex. Resources we hadn’t predicted were required. All the while, it got more and more important to keep cultivating it. It was driving us forward and inspiring us to invest in the ideas the Kindergarteners wanted to bring to life.

What was our idea was now their idea.  We couldn’t have designed it as perfectly as they did.

Fast Forward

The two classes met initially through a google hangout and then exchanged photographs of themselves which they carried with them over a period of a month wherever they went around their community with their own families. They asked to meet in person “to shake their buddies hand”. We told them, “no”, at first. But the deeper the relationships got with their “flat buddies”, the more we realized they needed to see each other.  So it happened. Washington GT Magnet Elementary School’s principal Bob Grant funded the opportunity.


Washington Kinders arriving at Underwood.

Hugs were exchanged. Laughter filled the playground. Tears escaped at good-bye.


A buddy from each school.

The culminating event was and continues to be a service project for their buddy school based on interview results with the students answering how they wish their community could be made better. Survey results determined that both school’s students had big dreams of a better playground.  Their ideas were bigger than they could accomplish on their own so they had to ask for help from their community.   


Games donated to each class for an indoor recess game cart.

Parents donated games to both schools and painted hop scotch stencils on one of the playgrounds. Third graders are writing letters to outside community businesses and neighbors asking for donations. Fourth graders are helping write a grant from Wake Ed Partnership. Two kindergarteners spoke on stage with a microphone to the large, adult, TLC, captive audience on “share day” about their project. How BRAVE and grown up (and empowering) is that!?


Brian Kingsley addressing TLC on final day.

Listening to Kindergarteners share what Community means to them will probably be the most beautiful part of my day. Love matters!


The poster the boys designed to show their perfect community

on stage 4

Our Kinder boys presenting side by side with us at TLC on the final day.

We leave this idea with a promise to each buddy class to enhance the play time experience at the other’s school “to the best of our ability”. Like the path our “do something” project took, we can’t imagine what the best of our ability will look like in the end. And although our sharing out deadline has come and gone, we are not done.  We will continue to feed this project until all parties are satisfied that they accomplished the goals they dreamed. The school year calendar may expire soon, but the work will continue.  Next year’s 1st graders are anticipating promises filled.  Next year’s kindergarteners will continue the legacy and labor of those promises and will fully understand where they were born and how they will impact the school.

Promise (1)

Kinders Promise to each other

So what did I do with an idea? I am not sure I changed the world , yet, with ours as the book by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom ends with (What Do You Do With An Idea?). But I know for sure, we taught some kindergarten learner’s a thing or two about trusting their imagination and dreaming big. I hope they take this experience with them throughout the rest of their school careers and never doubt their ideas. Maybe in the end this WILL change the world.

Don’t Become Irrelevant: Do you “post” or do you Tweet?

Disclaimer: If you read this and swear by twitter, I need you to commit to commenting after reading so I can bring you more educators who have great things to say…read on.

I open with a quote I found on George Couros’  Principal of Change blog this morning that has stuck with me all day.

“I have always believed that you could have been a great teacher ten years ago, changed nothing, and now be irrelevant”

A few teachers I know have been on my mind since I read that. Teachers, I understand, who require simple, slight nudges to step into the lines of change. Teachers I have been patient with as I nudge, nudge, and nudge, yet they only teeter but never take that first tip toe.  I hope they start moving soon because they have so much potential and offer much on a daily basis and invest SO MUCH into their teaching. But at the same time, they are ever so slowly falling behind and being noticed, and noted, less and less.

Then there are other innovative teacher friends out there who, in their schools, remain relevant. But they don’t even realize that they are starving us of their ideas and insights. They still use facebook to try and reach those of us who have chosen twitter as our off-hours PD; we who have realized the career changing potential of Twitter.

Twitter IS career changing.

Everytime I say that I see the look on a peer’s face as freshly as if I were looking at  a framed photo when I encouraged her to join twitter, promising her “skeptical self” that it would be JUST for connecting during NCTIES a few years ago.  I assured her that after NCTIES, she never had to look at it again. The look I was returned with was that of Gary Coleman in the role of Arnold, “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout Willis!?” But she did it. And she has never been the same again. She will admit to anyone that Twitter has been a career changer. Feel free to follow Dawn Vinson @techy_teach1.


Ironic, isn’t it? Twitter is limited to 140 characters but the messages, connections and growth we get from it is immeasurable. Facebook, on the other hand,  allows limitless typing and posting yet I find myself there only for a quick glance for any reminders I might need from my staff or PTA group, or to post pictures for my far away family to stay connected to me or, if I may be so bold,  out of boredom which DOES, admittedly, allow me to keep up with old friends as a residual effect.


While I am on Facebook, I also see some VERY respected and insightful educator friends of mine post what are probably some very insightful and enlightening articles there. These people wouldn’t post anything less than meaningful. But I am not investing my time on Facebook for anything more than a quick update or a family connection.

I pondered most of my Sunday how to gently say what I can’t find a gentle way to say.

I don’t read your articles you put on Facebook.  I don’t Facebook for PD.  I don’t know many who do. But when I click on my twitter feed,I am there because I craved stimulation. I am not on Twitter out out of boredom.  I am there very intentionally; attention undivided, ready to indulge in professional growth and connection.

To my facebook, educator friends:

How can I convince you to step away from Facebook and ask me questions about how Twitter works?  Better yet, can I convince you to go there and explore more? Merely having an account doesn’t count. Not understanding it isn’t growth mindset.  Don’t become irrelevant.  You have too much to share!  I’ve seen it in person!  Share it with those you can’t otherwise reach.  Tweet! Please move your articles you feel compelled to share on facebook to your Twitter feed so I can grow from them!

Here is what I ask of my Twitter PLN.

Please comment after this post and tell why YOU tweet. How has Twitter changed you? Why do you spend your off hours on twitter? I want to tweet (and Facebook) your comments to see if I can get more of my amazing educator friends “twitter-active”. They have so much to share.  We are missing out. And I am saddened to know they, too, are missing out.

A blog entry that came across my twitter feed this evening speaks to this even though she speaks about being connected, in general.  Twitter, itself, connects in the same way as Nathalie Ludwig @LudwigsBusyBees writes about.

I encourage everyone to read her blog after you finish commenting here. The entry is titled, A Whole New World: Being a connected educator. Find it at or by clicking her link on my blog homepage.

I comment, I believe: “I have always believed that you could have been a great teacher ten years ago, changed nothing, and now be irrelevant” ~George Couros.

Follow him, too @gcouros.

My facebook friends: I will nudge you into blogging at a later time 🙂


So, why do you tweet?  Can I get a few quotable comments to tweet…and post to Facebook?

#CSEd Week The Kids Won’t Stop Writing

I needed this this week!

It has been a very hectic few weeks at school amidst a busy holiday season.

The past few weeks have required countless hours of printer inventories, ERDing desktop computers, organizing laptop collections, teaching staff how to backup files; we had our school wide server upgrade this week unplugging the entire school leaving glitches to fix in it’s wake.  I am tech contact.

I have trained teachers to administer the IOWA test, bubbled answer sheets, tracked testing permission letters, made and revised a test plan, organized students into testing settings, and gave the IOWA; I am test coordinator.

I wrote sub plans for two days last week the day after Thanksgiving break, prepared a presentation for the Convergence conference, spent 7 hours over the weekend participating in on-line professional training (#EDUcationOnair); I am ITF.

And despite, I had an amazing week at school with my students.

This is Computer Science Week.

#HourofCode is happening all over the world.

I participated….beginning the day my school had no internet of any kind.  And the lessons have had kids pumped all week!


I teach with technology. It is my job.  Two of my elective classes are called Computer Writing and Technology Wizards.  I have to admit, it was challenging me to write a lesson plan to carry me through the day Monday when the internet didn’t exist.  I toyed with having the kids do some research with real books. I thought venn diagrams comparing computer writing and pencil paper writing with fun scrapbook paper would be fun and would look nice in the hallway.

Then I became engrossed in more and more breakout sessions throughout Google’s EDUcation On Air. Code 4 Kids was one session that captivated me.  I code with my students.  Scratch that…I don’t know how to code.  I let my students code.  

They love it.  

LOVE it!

The boys AND girls alike!

But I had always dismissed the unplugged coding lessons not realizing just HOW engaging they really are!  I will never make this mistake again!  During the EDUcation On Air session, I made a connection I hadn’t before. I have been having my students code since the first year I started teaching; longer actually!  I just wasn’t aware of it.

When I prepared my presentation about coding for the Convergence conference,  I included Common Core curriculum standards that coding satisfies. There were multiple grade level goals represented in my presentation and they covered science, ELA, math and speaking and listening. But after EDUcation On Air, I started seeing algorithms (a+b=c) and writing, adjectives, verbs, drafts, editing…never really a final draft.  This was going to happen in my classes beginning on Monday when we had no internet. Yep!  We were going to code unplugged.

We were going to release a beta version of the making of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.



On day two, it was SO amazing to hear 2nd and 3rd graders who I had guest spoken for the day before showing up at the classroom door saying, “WE GET TO CODE AGAIN TODAY!”

Remember: there was not one computer turned on the day before nor would there be all week for this.  Yet they were psyched about getting to code!

This is dumbfounding to me. And the enthusiasm continued throughout the week.

By midweek I was done.  DONE!  I had other lessons to get to.  

We had written code (written in sequence), run the programs (made sandwiches), fixed bugs (edited and revised), pushed out updates (retried the revised sequence of steps….made more sandwiches), pushed out more updates (with stronger and more specific language)…

But honestly, I didn’t want to watch another PBandJ sandwich being mutilated.  However, the kids were not done. They had more bug fixes to make and updates to release. They were not letting this go.  I had to coax them to put the paper and markers down and leave class well after the bell rang each day.   

I had to meet in the middle some how. I started this and couldn’t just drop it..  I finally agreed to release their app to the public (bring home their code scripts and record my family running the program of them making the sandwich for them). After playing the video of my family enjoying the app, they were then free to take their code home and fix their bugs at home on their own time.

I have not seen so much enthusiasm about editing and revising in a LONG long time.  I truly couldn’t stop the kids from analyzing each other’s sequences and revisiting their versions of code.  There was giggling and belly laughing with every failed attempt.  They begged to have their programs recorded to play back and learn from.

Next week we begin “ordinary” coding with computers in my classes. I have done this before with much enthusiasm from the kids. However, coding unplugged has been an “extraordinary” coding experience bringing with it more gratification than I could have imagined.  I am bubbling over with a renewed love of writing, editing, and revision.

I am tech contact.  I am test coordinator,  I am ITF.

I have dealt with a server upgrade, testing, and sub plans this week.

It has been a hectic few weeks.

I have inspired failure and a grueling writing process and with, it persistence.


It has been a fantastic week!





The Community that Surrounds Me

The fact that this is the end four weeks of school already is mind boggling in itself. But the fact that I went from feeling under accomplished to soaring in just one week amazes me. It is time for another blog post!

I spent my summer working through class 5 out of 6 for my Special Endorsement in Computer Education certification The class was not at all strenuous, thank goodness because afterall, it was summer vacation. But then there was this tempting trend among my ITF community for becoming a Google Certified Educator…I bit! When looking into the training I discovered that there was much I already knew and just a little I didn’t know but found very useful. Why not get certified for all the things I used regularly? So I did it. I studied the modules for a few hours and took the test. THAT was intense! I decided that I was glad I got myself a new title for something I was pretty good at already but that was it. Level 2 was going to have to be a future plan. I didn’t really enjoy taking that test for 3 intense hours!  A week later I was taking the Level 2 test. My blood pressure was on the rise and I was pretty sure I failed by the end of it!  That felt pretty crappy because I don’t fail at this kind of thing especially after signing up for that much pressure. I persist, always. But this wasn’t something I could just go back and correct. A retake would be another 3 hours of this harrowing timed performance test.  But three extremely long minutes later I got the result that announced my passing! Time well spent and a logo to call my own for two years….when I have to go through this all again!

But I digress. Where I wanted to go with this blog post is that I let summertime fade to be replaced with excited anticipation of sharing my fresh skills with teachers; for them and for the students. I know that the start of every year is no time to be pushing new learning on a teacher.  And I had PLENTY to keep my days crazy full until the time was right to share. I accomplished elective registrations, beginning of grade testing for 3rd grade, a school technology audit, laptop and iPad dispersal, beginning of grade testing for 3rd grade, technology heat tickets, creation of an elective website, beginning of grade testing for 3rd grade, creation a walk through tool and a collaboration document, an off campus ITF meeting, test training (working through grad course #6 of 6 after hours)…the list would grow if I kept logging.

All the while, I had all these ideas I knew could make the days of my colleagues easier, but the timing was still not right. It was too early to teach tricks. It was too soon for them to inquire about collaboration projects. And I kept telling myself that altho I feel like I am not fulfilling my role as ITF, this was only week 2 and there were many, MANY more weeks to go.  This was only week 3 of school and there were many, MANY more to go.  And then week 4 happened. So much learning and risk taking happened this week!

I didn’t have targets picked out ahead of time and my participants were not who I imagined they would be this early on.  But I moved about with deliberate focus on teachable moments.  And I found several. Even better, I found eager, open minded, colleagues with a growth mindset and a willingness to take a risk or two.

By the end of week four, I had taught 3 support staff friends how to create a google website. This took just 30 minutes to get them far enough along to proceed on their own. They didn’t need me to design the site for them; just to help them create the shell and plant the seed of purpose.  Two of these same teachers were giddy about using an iPad mirroring tool called Reflector for projecting the iPad screen to the white board….remotely (without cords and dongles!). Then it was screencasts and chromecasts for another teacher. One day after exposing her to both of these, she had 6 non english speaking 4th and 5th graders engaged in learning  with the incorporation of a screencast chrome casted to the new lab TV! Later, I found the opportune time to show a class and a teacher the google research tool for inserting images and citing resources.  I am pretty sure the teacher was as thrilled as the students were!  This same teacher sought me out for a Google Classroom lesson. Her “Classroom” and ideas for converting edmodo material to Google Classroom use was born before I even left the room. But this wasn’t the best of it, although this was all pretty awesome!

IDMod II is researching and creating google doc reports already!  One day I was invited to brainstorm tools for researching sea animals and the next day these 10 IDMod kids were in google docs and inserting images from the research tool option. Two days later, all had accessed Discovery Education, engaged with digital content, and more than half have at least one page of their report completed already!  

This was only week four.

And there are many, MANY more to go!

But this is not where I want to leave my readers. The point of this blog post is not to inform of all the impatience I have bottled up for sharing my know-how, or to list accomplishments I have experienced this year so far.

It is really about teachers; teachers willing to take risks with a growth mindset for the good of our learners. Sometimes riding a roller coaster is more terrifying than exciting. Trusting the words, “We can do this” is harder than it seems. To hear, “It’s really easy,” sound like a line of bull when ideas are unfamiliar and incomprehensible. But daily, I am reminded that when someone tells me that it is easy once you know how, I realize it always IS easy once I decide to learn it. They wouldn’t have told me this if it wasn’t true. But it is always my job to trust them. I am realizing more and more that I am surrounded by people who want to encourage me to be better at what I do.  I have come to trust those people around me who have a good thing to share and have confidence in me to, if not embrace it, but to at least give it a shot. Had I have not been this person I would not have learned to chromecast, use reflector, or experience a breakout box all by the 4th week of school.  Thank you for those who have encouraged me.

And after this incredible week of experimenting, sharing, and learning, I want to say thank you to those teachers who are trusting not only me when I tell them they CAN be successful with new tricks and tools, but more importantly, for trusting themselves.  I can’t express how rewarding it is to gain followers who are willing to be the kind of learner I find so gratifying to be, myself.  I am truly blessed to be surrounded by a growing community of risk takers who trust me and each other enough to try and share something new, and to have the confidence in themselves to carry on even outside of my presence. Unless you can trust that new and risky ideas are worth a try, realize that failing forward is a move in the right direction, and are willing to keep trying even when I walk away, my job is not a job well done. This week I feel very accomplished. I have witnessed great things by my colleagues. And not because I did for them, but because they were willing to exercise a growth mindset, trust themselves, and take the reins.  How blessed are their young learners…and how blessed am I!  And how rewarding it must be to be them!

This was only week four.
And there are many, MANY more to go!

Posted by Tanya Churchill _ Staff – UnderwoodES at 10:01 PM

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Minecraft Has That Effect

In the keeping with the authenticity of blogging (posting only when feeling moved to do so rather than forcing something out on a schedule) it has taken me a while to feel moved to post a second blog. But I finally had a revelation which has spawned this post.

About two months ago, I was part of some conversations about purchasing MinecraftEDU at our school. At that time I knew nothing more about it than (1) my 5 year old and 11 year old played it at home and (2) it was a craze among my students.  I could also pick out a “character” from the game if I saw one on a tee shirt. However, this was enough to ignite a strong desire in me to explore it. More than explore it, I wanted to master it. Not for me, but for my students.  One month ago, our principal approved the purchase and our PTA paid the bill. I can’t recall the last time I studied so hard and so fast to master anything. My tutorials were a tad unconventional, however.

I did a fair amount of searching online for tutorials and the MinecraftEDU wiki was helpful but it wasn’t very hands on. Mostly, I brought my school laptop home at night. I had my 5 year old use my personal laptop and we would join a world together on a server and he’d show me around and what we could do.  We still do this nightly, a month later, and I am still learning new things!  I don’t know how helpful learning to ride a pig by dangling a carrot on a stick in front of it is, but trading with villagers and navigating the inventory bar has been useful among other things.    I am now to the point where I am teaching HIM new things! And our nightly conversations are quite original!

Now I am also using my students to help me learn and advocate for getting MinecraftEDU into classrooms. Currently, I have a few of my Computer Writing elective students writing a how-to manual for teachers (they know their homeroom teachers aren’t likely to use Minecraft with them if they don’t know how). Obviously, my writers are exceptionally focused and motivated in class! All of the students in that class and my Art of Animation Class contributed to two different padlets; what you need to know to play minecraft and another telling what kinds of curriculum teachers could teach with the game.  My Art of Animation elective class is about to make screencasts of what they can do with the game (we tried modding but that was too much too fast and we wreaked some havoc on the laptops and halted that exercise) and we will compile those recordings as digital tutorials for teachers (and for me, let’s be honest).

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My most current homeschooling is involving downloading new worlds and trying to remember how to access the lesson plans that go with them so I can print them out at school.  And I have begun to journal the few lessons I have taught/co-taught using curriculum standards; area and perimeter to 3rd grade, volume to 5th grade, reading strategies to 3rd grade.   All of this has been extremely time consuming but has been so rewarding to implement. Last week, I was finishing up the volume lesson with a 5th grade class and a girl said she was having so much fun.  She asked it this was really part of the curriculum. I took a picture with my phone of the script for standards 5.MD.3, 5.MD.4 and 5.MD.5 from  my online planbook and had her read the goals. Her response was, and I quote, “Whaoooo, this is a big deal!” My favorite picture that I posted on Twitter was of a 1st grader showing my Assistant Principal how to play!



So that is what drives me. But I have been feeling like I have been overworking myself; and here I sit blogging about MinecraftEDU!  Teachers do a huge amount of school work at home after hours but this has been a bit over the top. And that is when I had a revelation. I can look at this as an unreasonable amount of after hours I am putting in and feel frustrated about that.  Or I can see it for what it really is. I am under the Minecraft spell that has bewitched so many others out there. This just might be a new hobby? I still have no desire to sit and build and craft things the way the kids do.  But I am highly intrigued by how I can craft curriculum lessons from the teaching potential of this game and ignite a new level of motivation in the students at my school. I realize I am not working for free from home as much as I am challenging myself in new ways; ways I NEVER would have imagined would ever intrigued me….ever! And here it all is; posted all over my twitter feed and the focus of my blog post!


Minecraft has that effect!

Where will you be in 5 years?

HaRdEsT qUeStIoN eVeR!

It’s that time of year again.  The “Intent Form” time of year; that form you have to fill out from your school principal detailing what your intentions are for the next school year (does he get to/have to keep you or are you hoping to venture out on a new adventure?).  I was doing real well with my responses until that question happened; Where do you see yourself in 5 years?



I can’t remember a time when I saw myself in one year let alone 5. Even when it came to teaching, I was NOT going to do THAT!  My mother and father were both teachers.  My mother’s 6 sisters were teachers and all but 1 married a teacher.  All of my cousins who were older than me were teachers or in school pursuing a teaching degree.  But that wasn’t my dream.  I was going to be an interior designer (or a pilot…or a rock star).  But my designing dreams were no match the genetic mutation in my DNA called teaching.

But there is that 5 year vision again. There isn’t a job I have ever had that didn’t fall into one of the following categories:

1. I never considered this job.
2. I didn’t go looking for this job.
3. I didn’t compete for this job.
4. Why think about it? Just go for it.

My first job was in high school as a freshman. No, that isn’t the job I am talking about although it was the only job my folks expected of me; full time student. But a neighbor friend of mine worked at a day care center in town and they were short an after school teacher one evening.  She called to ask if I would come that evening so they were in compliance with teacher to child ratios. I agreed and kept the job for 7 years! It was the job I had when I left school early every day during my high school senior year for the work study program.  It was the job I started college with until I *gulp* had to quit to…student teach! That day care changed my life, apparently.  I am still working with kids!

Then there was the summer job during college. I was the kid who never spent the night at anyone’s house growing up. I liked MY house. I even lived at home throughout college. That’s why I still don’t know what came over me when I answered an add in the newspaper (the real paper kind), drove 90 minutes to an interview and returned home as a summer camp counselor at a resident YMCA camp; Camp Weona: Where only good Prevails! Yep!  I had to LIVE there all summer (but my mom promised to write to me eveyr day..and she did…and I still have all those letters). It ended up being the best job I ever had until now; one of those times in your life that leaves you with those happy feelings you try to recreate in your adulthood but never can.  I even returned for a second year before getting married and agreed to be the Arts and Crafts specialist.  I also added weekends for winter programs!

College graduation happened after that and rather than pursue a teaching career, I decided to sub for the first year (picking and choosing when and where I wanted to work…or not). I also worked as a banquet waitress at a friend’s family banquet hall on weekends; so much fun! (Another job they were short a person for and needed a warm body…I spent many many weekends there after that nerve racking crash course).

My first year in NC was next in the timeline of my life. Teaching jobs in NY were scarce at best; teachers were not retiring there, holding our for better retirement packages and clogging the market for new graduates. So, knowing NO one in NC, my husband of one week and I moved to NC where I picked up 2 long term maternity sub positions right away.  That first summer, I needed an income so I walked into a random day care (something familiar) where they recognized the value in hiring a real certified teacher for a pre-school teacher. In less than a year I was asked to open their 3rd daycare center as the pre-school director.  It wasn’t on my radar when I was asked to do so but I gave it about 3 minutes thought, and figured, “Why not”. So I was a pre-school administrator for two years.  That just drove one of my after school teachers bonkers. She worked full time by day as the SIMS person for Wake County Schools and came in after her day was done to work a few more hours with us. She couldn’t stand that I was “wasting” my degree as a pre-school administrator even though it was great with me!  She arranged for the principal of Lincoln Heights at the time to interview me for a teaching position.  Honestly, I was not real interested but knew better than to burn a bridge. So I went for the interview. THAT was an awkward interview!  I kid you not…

Principal: Have you ever….?
Me: No
Principal: Do you have experience with….”
Me: No
Principal: What do you know about the NC curriculum?
Me: Nothing.

Thank goodness Linda Starkweather, the IRT at the time, (having seen my work background on my resume) told the principal she knew I had “grit”.  How else could I have been so successful in working my way up in long term positions that I took on a whim without giving any of them much (or any) thought….and been happy and successful in each one!? So, three days into the first teacher work days of the new school year I got the call to be a 4th grade teacher, my understanding bosses gave the OK to go, and in a matter of a day I was a teacher!

No one in teaching needs to have it detailed how consuming that job was.  For years I had put it out there to my administrator that I was interested in a job, ANY job, that was not a homeroom teacher. But turnover on the grade level was high and I was the constant. So taking me out of that position was not favorable. I was stuck until I took it upon  myself to job share the 4th grade position with a friend of mine. I was perfectly willing to work full time, just not as a homeroom teacher. So we planned all summer, made our part time schedules, wrote letters to our future student’s families…and the call came. My principal said the science specialist position came open and it was mine. I did that job for 7 years at that school until the position had to be cut due to classroom numbers. They needed a homeroom teacher before a science teacher. Being unwilling to teach a homeroom again, I left that school after 11 years there and was taken on as a science specialist at a different school (by the same principal who hired me as the science specialist at my last school! Also the same principal who asked me if I would consider being an ITF which required going back to school).

I do not have a master’s degree nor am I nationally board certified.  Back in NY, I completed a 5 year program in 4 years and never wanted to go back to being a student another day in my life. Yet, within a week of that ITF question, I was enrolling at ECU as a student to become an Instructional Technology Facilitator. However, before she could hire me for that position, she got moved to a different school. Thank goodness my new principal gave me that shot and took me on as the ITF just 2 months ago. I could not be happier. I am just as happy now as I was as that resident camp counselor at Camp Weona!

So now we have come full circle to that time of year when I have to answer that “5 years from now” question. Just so I could submit the form, I typed a few sentences after much thought.  But if I am to be honest, the response wasn’t exactly what is in my heart. I pretty much just made something up that resembled what I am doing now only because I like what I am doing and I needed to submit it. But reflecting on it now, a week later in my first ever blog attempt, I think I know what I need to go back in and change my response to.

In 5 years from now, I want to be as surprised as ever in where I will be because so far, my gut and my soul have never once steered me wrong. My grit has never failed me, Year after year gets better and better and not once have I ever seen it coming. For me, I believe that is the way it is supposed to be.  If others can see potential in me, I am intrigued although I do know my limits.  I may not always know what I am doing. But if I have agreed to try, I have agreed to find joy in it and will fight like crazy to be the best I can be…until I am blindsided for the next challenge.

So how about YOU….where do YOU hope to be in 5 years? And how do you know? REALLY….how the heck do you know?