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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

All Work, No Play, Makes a Teacher.....

Much is said about the fact that teachers (technically) have two months off!  Truth be told, most of us find some kind of summer job to keep a paycheck coming in.  Others take on the daunting task of full time parenthood.  As a mother of two active boys, I often tried to unionize the other mothers on the beach to fight for a 35 minute, duty-free lunch….but alas!

Hit the Refresh Button
Many of us do try to schedule a vacation “while we have the time”…and there is something to be said for traveling.  Getting away in a tent, motorhome, bed and breakfast or hotel, gives you time to refresh and sometime to build memories with your own children.  Often our destinations are selected to fuel our passions – for art, history, or the great out of doors

Teachers in the Real World
The fact is, you need life experiences to be a teacher.  How can you relate the reasons for learning something or offer authentic experiences if you don’t have any yourself?  Even going through a museum –the same museum you have been to many times with students- is a different experience when you are not spending the whole time counting heads!   Why, you can even read some of the signage!  There are so many opportunities that you use to connect your life experiences to the world to academics in the classroom.   

In addition, it is also good for your students to actually know you have a life.  How many times have you seen the look on a kids face when they “catch” you outside the building?  There is usually a look of shock, a whisper to their mom, “That’s Mrs. Wozniak,” followed by a big grin that they have somehow caught you in the act of living.   Of course, the encounter usually happens when you are buying toilet paper in Shoprite, having a beer at the bowling alleys or sunning yourself on the nude beach (just seeing if you are paying attention – I actually wear one of those 1920’s bathing suits with the pantaloons unless I have left the state, but I digress. )

The bottom line is that, teachers do have two months outside of the classroom, but it seems like we never stop thinking about it.  Once we have hit the refresh button, our minds go back to the many possibilities for connections in the classroom.  How does taking a break make YOU a better teacher?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Plan Now: Start Small, Think Big and Celebrate!

Well, I started my summer off  in the Mecca of PD- at the ISTE 2013 Conference.  There was sharing and problem solving, presentations and conversations, tweets and chats.  I am wondering if my PD Certificate will cover all that I learned:
on the bus
 in the elevator
in the cafes
in the ballroom with 5000 thumb wrestlers
in the open space classroom of the exhibit hall
                                                      in the frozen tundra of a classroom for 500
                                                      on the plane, in the van, and even in the classrooms.
Here is what I learned:
  1. Passion is catching…that’s right, you pirates out there, passion does not just get passed to the kids, but we can share it with each other!
  2. Giving teachers a voice and a choice is invigorating.  Again, this is something that we know works with kids.  Surprise!  Educators respond well to taking control of their own professional development, seeking out what they needed, finding what they were interested in and looking for answers for their kids and their districts.  What is good for the goose….
  3. There are tons of great ideas, activities, tools, collaborators and colleagues out there happy to share so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel!

So now what do you do with all your new found knowledge? How can this lead to change in your classroom, your teaching, and your students?  It can seem overwhelming.

Small Changes, Big Differences
In a July/August 2013 article “Small Changes, Big Differences” in Teaching Exceptional Children (Council for Exceptional Children), Barbara Ludlow states that change happens with many small improvements over time.  She points to the Japanese term, Kaizen, which is a combination of the characters for “change” and “good.”  She says that term expresses the belief that change comes from the efforts of workers rather than researchers or leaders.  Applying that philosophy to education the change would happen in the classroom with the workers being both teachers and students.  Barbara adds that not only does change come about with small continual improvements, but that those same small changes should be celebrated!

So how does that translate to us?
“Small improvements over time” means that you can take that huge pile of ideas, activities, and suggestions and start small.  Tweak a lesson, a unit, or a procedure with the things you have learned.  Make your classroom an endless cycle of continuous improvement and celebrate those improvements.  Change does not have to be overwhelming and in fact is happening on a regular basis at the hands of millions of practitioners in schools every day.
So, start your plans now, start small, think big…but don’t stop there – celebrate your successes and share!