A first time for everything #iste18 #wcpssiste18

A first time for everything #iste18 #wcpssiste18

Today is the last day of ISTE.  I’ve learned my lesson and am sitting in the first session of the day (8:30am) 45 minutes early.  Unfortunately, lines have been part of the memorable experience that is ISTE.  Even with the lines, it has been a fabulous experience and my mind is so full of ideas and promise.  I’m already excited for #ISTE19.

As a first timer, I was quickly overwhelmed with the whole conference.  I spent some time reflecting on the Uber to McCormick Place on what recommendations I would make to future first timers.

First, don’t let yourself feel any pressure to get more out of the conference than you can.  I understand that if your school or district is paying for you to attend, there might be some expectation of making it worth their while.  Yes, get as much out of the conference as you can, but don’t stress yourself out doing it.  Following Twitter, seeing all the lines, overhearing excited conversations, seeing people walking around with great swag can make you feel like you’re missing something.  No matter how hard you work to pack learning into every minute, you are STILL going to miss something.  So embrace the FOMO.  Plan a full day, but also don’t hesitate to plan a break and/or processing time.  Whatever the number of sessions you attend, you are walking away with some amazing learning.  Focus on what you got and how to take it back over what you missed.

Second, think about your conference strategy.  What are you here to get?  For me personally, this year, I focused on learning and sessions.  I know there is SO MUCH more including networking, the Expo Hall, before and after hours social events but I needed to get comfortable with the conference itself before I could tackle some of the other things.  I’m hitting up the Expo Hall today, on the last day, but I’m not walking in with any expectations.  With a billion vendors, all I’m looking to do is explore the layout, get a feel for how things work, and maybe pick up a free gift or two.  (C’mon, we all know teachers LOVE their free stuff.)   It’s OK to not do everything.

Think about what kinds of topics you want to learn about.  Browse through the conference schedule to get a feel for what’s being offered and go from there.  I knew I wanted to hit up some AR/VR sessions so I found a couple of those to add to my calendar.  Don’t get overwhelmed with the HUNDREDS of session offerings.  It is literally a logistical nightmare trying to decide which session to attend at which time.  I relied heavily on the ISTE app using the Favorites and Agenda feature.  I browsed through the session offerings for the day and anything that sounded interesting and related to my goals, I favorited.  Once narrowed down, it was much easier to decide what to attend and when and these were added to my agenda, almost as a “final draft”.  Also, be prepared with a backup plan.  If your session fills up, be ready with a second choice.

I’m not sure if this is the case for all ISTE conferences, but the lines for sessions were an issue this year, especially anything from Google and Apple.  If you want to get into the Google sessions, plan on getting there at least an hour early.  Apple sessions sold out almost immediately in the morning, so go EARLY to get tickets.

Hit up the Poster sessions.  Seriously.  They’re basically like big science fairs around different themes.  For instance there were poster sessions on STEM/STEAM, Early Learning, Libraries and Media, Coaching, etc.  I was skeptical as I am not great at talking with strangers and I love a sit and get lecture, but some of the best learning was here.    I found it easy to talk to the “presenters” and networked like crazy here.

All in all, I had a blast.  Some sessions were better than others, which is to be expected, but I am walking away with so many ideas and so many things I can’t wait to take back to my team.  I am very fortunate that I have been able to attend.


Changing for the better #globalteachers

Changing for the better #globalteachers

This entry is going to deviate a little from the previous “here’s all the amazing things we did today” type posts.  We’re currently at the start of a five hour bus ride headed from Freiburg to Munich.  The countryside is absolutely beautiful.  It’s almost like driving through the Appalachian Mountains with the curvy roads, valleys, and forests.  Only the beauty is magnified by 1000.  It seems like around every corner is a little village nestled between green hills, the spire of the church standing up from the town center.  Since we’ve left so early, many people are sleeping and it’s given me some time to reflect on what this trip has meant to me.

If I’m being completely honest, I am not, by nature, a very adventurous person.  I am a homebody and often find it difficult to spend time with a lot of strangers or crowds.  The weekends are spent with my family playing at home or going to the park.  But during this trip I have been surrounded with amazing people whose only goal has been to see and do as much as possible.  Getting caught up in their enthusiasm, I have spent my evenings exploring picturesque villages, seeing buildings over 500 years old, and trying foods that are absolutely delicious.

The memories from this trip will last me a life time.  But what I’m starting to realize is this trip has sparked in me the desire to make more memories.  I want to travel more with my husband.  I want to experience more beautiful places like this with him.  I want my girls to remember a childhood filled with adventure and excitement.  More importantly, I want to be a role model for them and help them see how powerful it can be to see and do new things.

One of the goals of the Go Global NC organization is to foster global awareness and connections.  I already free like I have learned so much here.  While much of what we have learned isn’t necessarily in my sphere of influence to change back home, I still feel a connection to the people we have met and the organizations we have heard from.  That connection makes me want more.  I want to learn from more people.  I want to see and hear what other countries are doing.  I want to make those global connections.  And I think that is exactly the point of this program.  I feel so lucky to be a part of it.

Learning from Germany #globalteachers

Learning from Germany #globalteachers

On Sunday we visited the Reichstag, home of the German government.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that and their political system.  The biggest political difference between the United States and Germany is the fact that we have a Two Party system and they have multiple political parties.  This has some really desirable effects and creates some unique requirements for their elections and government.

The biggest advantage to their system is that no one party can get enough spots in the government to govern independently.  They HAVE to work together as parties in coalitions.  Because of this, their political season is much less contentious.  It’s pretty hard to cooperate with someone when 6 months ago you were yelling about what a terrible representative they’d be.

But one of the most profound things I’ve seen in Germany is an unwillingness to forget their history.  It seems at almost every opportunity they take the chance to acknowledge the terrible role their country played in the war.  The site we visited with a long section of the Berlin Wall and the WWII museum is called, on their website, a “documentation center”.  There seems to be this unspoken understanding that being upfront about the mistakes of the past contributes to not repeating them.

This, of course, leads me directly to thinking about our own situation in the United States.  We have had some pretty horrific events/eras in our country as well.  But we want to believe that they are in the past and don’t affect us today.  The thing is though, they are not in the past.  Prejudice and discrimination is still alive and well in this country.  Whether it’s against people of color, the LBGTQ community, different ethnicities, or even women, we can’t pretend this isn’t an issue that needs to be continually discussed, documented, and rectified.

In addition, the idea of compromise and bipartisanship has practically disappeared.  We view people of different opinions as someone to beat in a contest.  It’s either our opinion or theirs, someone has to lose.  Even I’m guilty of this.

How do we bring back openness to new ideas and the spirit of compromise for the better good?  How do we learn to work together to solve huge problems.  Does that need to start in the classroom?  I’ve been hearing for years kids who say, “I don’t want to work with them.  I don’t like them.” or “I can’t be in their group, I don’t work well with them.”  When did this become okay????  It isn’t a big leap from “I don’t want to work with them” to “I don’t want to be around them” to “They shouldn’t be allowed”.

I really don’t have any answers.  I think there are things that Germany can learn from the United States (especially when it comes to their educational system), but I KNOW there are things we can learn from Germany.  Namely a sense of cooperation and an awareness of how our past is still influencing our present.

Every day is a new day

Every day is a new day

I’ve been thinking a lot this year about coaching.  I want to learn about coaching, how to coach, be called a coach.  So, it makes sense that I’ve started reading about coaching.  I’ve finally made the time to start The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar.  First of all…wow.  Like, I hope to be a tenth as reflective and insightful as she is.  Secondly, I love how she approaches coaching from the belief that “We can transform our education system.”  Because I agree.  I firmly believe that we can change school to be meaningful for children, not to mention prepare them for life.

Aguilar states that our beliefs drive our actions.  She shared a tool she uses to help people get to the root of their actions and beliefs.

Ladder of Inference
The Ladder of Inference-Elena Aguilar


So it has led me to question my beliefs.  I have spent this whole year talking about coaching and taking action towards becoming a coach.  Why?  What beliefs do I hold?  What assumptions and conclusions have I made?

I believe that coaches are taken more seriously.  That what they have to “sell” is required to purchase.  I have heard the coaches at my schools talk about their position and what they do.  But I’m realizing I have not taken the time to watch a coach in action or talk to the people being coached.  There is a lot of “data” out there that I have not seen.  I have assumed a lot about their role.  I’ve assumed that magical changes are happening just because of the formalized relationship between coach and teacher.  I think deep down, I want to rely on the title to help me do my job.

Well.  That’s not good.

Fortunately, the infinitely wise Ms. Aguilar has something else to say.

We're all somewhere

Each day is a new day to be a little better.  Learning coaching skills might be the right thing for me to do (and I really do think it is, despite some misguided assumptions), but I can work on addressing those beliefs about WHY I want to learn how to be a coach.   Changing my title won’t magically get my job done.  I still need to put in the work and time.

So think about your actions.  What beliefs are driving them?  Where are you and where do you want to go?


Everyone is telling me to fail.

Everyone is telling me to fail.

You’d think these posts would get easier after the first one.  That having done one, I wouldn’t be as worried about the rest.  But I guess a perfectionist procrastinator is always a perfectionist procrastinator.  That’s what I get for surrounding myself with amazing #eduheroes as inspiration.  Totally worth it though.

Over the past few weeks I have found myself at various conferences and professional development and noticed an emerging trend.  Everyone is talking about failing.  They’re talking about how important it is to teach our kids that it’s ok to fail and even as teachers we need to throw away our fear of failure and take risks.  One thing that I think hasn’t been getting as much play though is HOW to fail.  We talk about being ok with failure, but what do we tell kids (and ourselves) to do after they actually experience that failure?  For a lot of us, once we fail, do we know what to do to get back up?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Because frankly, I’m in a fail cycle.  I have had a few setbacks as a coach and as a tech facilitator and I’m feeling a little lost.  I already feel as if I fight an uphill battle and when I make mistakes or through no fault of my own (I’m looking at you Cold and Flu Season) let down my teachers, it’s as if I’ve fallen that much further down the hill.  I worry that I won’t be able to gain back what little trust I had and that teachers will hesitate to buy into what I’m selling because it hasn’t worked out perfectly before.

How do you gain back that creative momentum after a setback?

Source: lyrafay.tumblr.com

I’m still learning.


Listening IS important

Listening IS important

So I’m jazzed.  I’m spending the year learning about coaching and specifically did not write into my development plan anything about initiating coaching relationships.  As my AP said, it’s ok to give yourself time to learn.  But I couldn’t wait.  (Big shock, I know, for anyone who knows me.)  I’ve been reading and learning so much I wanted to try it out.  So I found some super generous volunteers who were willing to work with me in a coaching relationship to test out my new skills.

My first victim volunteer is a second grade teacher and today was our initial meeting. My main goal for this meeting was to ask questions and listen as much as possible.  I have found that as an ITF I am more often than not a last-minute source of ideas.  Sometimes, teachers want a cool “dessert project” and ask me to come the last couple days of the unit to teach their kids how to use a presentation tool.  Or they want ideas for a good app to teach or practice specific skills.  There is nothing wrong with any of this.  However, if this is all we’re asking our kids to do with technology, we have a real problem.

So most of the time I am viewed as an “expert” (your words, not mine) who is there to give a solution.  It is very much a role I have fallen into and even secretly enjoy (I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like looking knowledgeable).  Plus, I am a problem solver and impulsive by nature.  I can only handle so much discussion before I want to come up with a solution and implement it then and there (ask my husband about our house renovations….).  Don’t get me wrong.  As an ITF, there is definitely a time to be a source of ideas and an “expert”.  But this is not who I want to be when acting as a coach.

Talking is a hard habit to break.  Especially when you’re a nervous talker and like to fill silence.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. - EpictetusSource BrainyQuote

I knew I needed to be prepared or I would ramble.  I came in with the following questions:

  1. How would you describe your class?  What are their characteristics, areas of strength, areas for growth?
  2. What are some areas you’ve had a lot of success?  Why do you think that is?
  3. What are two areas you want to improve?  What do you think is preventing your students from being successful in these areas
  4. What are you hoping to accomplish with our partnership?
  5. What is your understanding of what coaching is?
  6. How do you feel you learn best?  What should I know about you to make our work as effective as possible?

Some of these are my own, some are from this article.  As we spoke, I focused on being present and actually listening to her answers.  Though I haven’t formally read or studied Stephen Covey, I am aware of his work.

“The habit to “seek first to understand” involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”-Stephen Covey

This quote has always resonated with me and I really took it to heart for this meeting.  What it allowed me to do was repeat her ideas back to her to check for understanding.  It allowed me to think of additional questions to further our conversation and deepen my understanding of her needs.  Most importantly, it allowed us to come to a place where we are working on her goals and wants rather than what I feel is important.

In the end, we decided to work together to plan her next social studies unit.  She wants her kids to be more engaged and excited.  I’m so looking forward to meeting with her next week to look at the objectives and start setting up a plan!  I’m also looking forward to the initial meeting for my second volunteer.  I’m looking forward to not just getting the chance to work with another teacher, but to take a completely different journey with her than anyone else because we’re moving based on her needs, not my “expertise”.


“But it was a beginning.”

“But it was a beginning.”

Well, I’ve finally done it.  I’ve started my blog.  I really wanted this to be all pithy and lofty and motivating, but then I got some great advice…and from an unexpected place actually.  Wordpress offers some how-to guides for new users.  One was about choosing a theme that fits you.  Michelle W. said:

“If I put on the skinny jeans, I’ll be self-conscious and will spend all night tugging at my clothes to get them just so. Eventually, I’ll give up and leave them in the closet…”

That really struck home.  Not only because I view skinny jeans as the death of comfort, but because it’s true.  If I try to be someone I’m not on this blog, I’ll spend all my time thinking of the perfect way to word something.  Or spend hours finding that just right graphic.  All of this will be done instead of accomplishing what this blog is actually for: reflection and sharing.

Now, sure, I hope that I will develop some kind of audience (other than the spambots) so I need to be a little polished and well spoken.  In the end though, the main purpose is to help me reflect on my practice to make changes and improvements.  And I know me.  I don’t listen to myself when I get all uppity.  So expect some humour.  Expect some sarcasm.  Expect too many parentheses, commas, and ellipses (I’m a science nerd, not an English major).  But most of all, expect plain talk that probably won’t be made into a meme anytime soon.  Oh yeah, expect a lot of memes too.

So, welcome to my little corner of the world.  Congratulations George Couros.  You have motivated one more educator to take the leap.

Post title courtesy of Robert Jordan.