Thursday, December 31, 2015

Winter Break PD

I proclaimed that I was taking my winter break to rest my brain because I so needed it after finishing up my semester of grad school and from the craziness that is trying to teach in the month of December.

Well, that didn't happen. Let me tell you why:

Some time ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I heard of an app called Voxer. Over the last several months I've heard it referenced here and there but never thought much of it. When I went to ECET2MI at the beginning of December, it was suggested that we create a Voxer group to keep in touch with our Colleague Circle. One of the people in my circle did not want to do that but since I kept hearing more and more about Voxer, I decided to look into it more and try to figure out why it was continually mentioned as the next "go-to app".

I came across a gal that works in my district who had a group and asked her to add me to it (because as of this moment, you can't really "search" for groups on Voxer--you have to know someone in a group and have them add you to it). From there, I was added to a group for doctoral students....and that was the end of any relaxation time over my winter break! :) 

In the group for doctoral students, they mentioned there was an EdCampVoxer event happening from December 23-December 30. So I signed up, not sure what to expect. There were many groups but I was only part of a couple and boy I learned quickly that it was not a bad thing to only be in a couple of groups; they kept me busy!

I learned about PersonalizedPD, collaboration through peer observation and learning through mentoring and being mentored. I spent the vast majority of my time in the PersonalizedPD chat and brain has been zooming with so many ideas. It wasn't the restful break I had planned but it was rejuvenating in a way that sitting around on my bum wouldn't be.

First and foremost, the connections I have made with other like-minded educators from all over the country is absolutely invaluable. It is always a good thing to connect with other people who share your passions but also are willing (and able) to push your thinking. And boy did that happen over and over. The push back was probably the best part; none of the push back was disagreement, instead it was more "what about _______?" to get others to think of another side of it. Very powerful and so, so inspiring. I have made connections with other educators who I know I will keep in touch with via Twitter or through other groups and chats on Voxer who will continue to help me grow professionally by pushing my thinking a little more each time. That is, by far, the best kind of professional development there is.

Additionally, I love the notion of true personalized PD. Why can't we use the Twitter chats, Voxer groups and ideas and inspiration from Pinterest as professional development? I guarantee that I get so much more from those things than I do from the traditional "sit-and-get" PD that our schools typically provide. I know a lot of that "sit-and-get" style is what has always been done and some of it has to be delivered that way because of state mandated information....but why can't we flip some of the meetings? Why can't we allow teachers to have differentiated PD where they are getting information that they NEED and will USE instead of a one-size-fits-all approach? 

99% of the time, the sit-and-get PD doesn't teach me anything new....and I don't think I have ever actually turned around and utilized any of the stuff offered in those PDs with my students. Because let's be honest....sitting and listening for hours on end without being able to DO anything....wipes the excitement for whatever is being offered out. 

I was chatting with one guy and mentioned how often I'll sit in a PD and hear a great idea and I want to do something with it right then; I want to create or alter a lesson to incorporate whatever the new learning was....but then they go on for an hour or two (or more!) and by the time they are done, my excitement for whatever it was is gone and therefore I end up doing nothing with it because they droned on and I lost my excitement. How often does that happen to us? Too often, I think.

So my "relaxing" vacation was full of professional learning and I'm so glad I was part of it! I will go back to school on Monday renewed and excited to look through a different lens with respect to some of the things I am doing and really try to be better professionally every day than I was the day before. That's all I can promise, right?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Break (and a break for me)

Whew! We made it to winter break! My goodness, it's so hard to keep young people going the week before a break. I do the best I can to make sure we follow our usual structure as much as possible, but whew....those little people are just massive bundles of energy all month long.

But we made it and no one left injured so that's good ;) We've been very lucky the past two years to have a community partner come in and do a celebration for our school. Last year and this year (despite my change of grades), my class was in the last group and it was a great way to end the day. Plus, I didn't have to go crazy with a big in-class party either so it worked out very well. I keep gifts low-key for my students because a) I don't make enough money to go crazy for 29 students and b) they get so many things from so many places that they don't need a ton from me. 

We read Sideways Stories from Wayside School earlier this year so I bought them the second book Wayside School is Falling Down since they were $1 through Scholastic. One of the girls commented, "I knew you'd buy us books because you love to read!" ;) #truth

The Youngest officially becomes a teenager tomorrow so we will be full of celebration for that. Then I really plan to just hibernate over the break. My brain needs a rest from grad school and teaching. So I will take it. 

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season! See you in 2016!

Friday, December 11, 2015

{Five for Friday ~ December 11}

What an amazing week we had this week! I busted out my camera finally and we did a lot of awesome things.
I started my week at the ECET2MI conference in East Lansing. It was a full day event (7 am - 7 pm!) and I had a great time connecting with other teacher leaders. I did not stay until 7 pm as I had not slept the night before and had a 90 minute drive home. But what a wonderful time it was to connect with other like-minded educators and share my why!

On Wednesday we began our new math unit on Fractions. The students participated in a Chalk Talk activity to show me what they already knew about fractions from previous years. This was a silent activity (hard for 3rd graders!). I'll be sharing a more in-depth post on this later.

I got a Donor's Choose grant funded in November and one of the items in our grant were these dry-erase sleeves from Lakeshore Learning. I have had some in the past and I LOVE them. We used them during math to help correct misconceptions the students were having with finding parts within parts for fractions. Love!

 This week for writing the students wrote paragraphs on whether or not it is ever okay to lie. We talked about how sometimes you have to tell white lies such as when your mom asks you if she looks fat, you should say no so you don't hurt her feelings. Some students pointed out that Santa doesn't like liars. *wink* This friend had my laughing out loud with this line because I say it all the time!! They do repeat what we say :)
Sadly today was also the last day for our student teacher. On Tuesday she was out for her last PD at her university and we made this cute tree! I used green stamp ink to dip the kiddos' fingers in to make the leaves and then wrote their names beside it. How adorable! Plus she can keep it forever and ever. :)

Friday, December 4, 2015