All posts by kfoleysharp

Oops! Living on a Lonely Island No More…

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It is week #3 of the #DCSDblogs challenge. The theme for week three is Oops! Please tell us about a mistake you made this week, how you handled it, and what happened in the end.

First off let me preface this with an apology, Oops, that this blog post was not done in a timely manner. Good thing I don’t blog for a living – my family would starve!

So, back to the topic at hand – Oops! When you are the building Teacher-Librarian you are sometimes on an island unto your own. We have amazing fellow TL’s that are only an email or phone call away, but sometimes not having immediate, or fairly immediate, access to that colleague (like most departments in a building do) can be hard. As a TL we were many, many hats. Sometimes trying to keep track of all of those various hats can become overwhelming and that is when mistakes happen.

Mistakes can be innocently made in not getting a work order put on the log in a timely fashion, or answering an email question from a colleague. It could also be being short tempered when you have 4 people needing your attention at the same exact moment. Maybe it could be that the Iowa HS & Teen Choice Award winners that are sitting on the card teasing you because you haven’t had time to get them in the system and ready for student check out. Those are innocent mistakes – we are all guilty at times of being too busy – simple mistakes happen.

When you are really the go to person in the building for technology it is sometimes overwhelming. Believe it or not I do have a lot of knowledge stored in my head, but sometimes I just don’t know and can fall into the trap of acting like I know what I am doing and really don’t and that can be a big mistake! What do I mean by this? Sometimes there is someone else in the building who might know the answer. Well, again lets go back to that being on an island – or that “go to” person “who knows everything” in your building and that island can get pretty lonely.

So how do we cure the loneliness of the island? How do we help cure our island blues?

  • Know your areas of expertise – what can you answer, who can you help get what they need etc.
  • Know when to send the person on to someone else who knows more about the topic.
  • Ask for clarification on the issue or idea.
  • Admit that you don’t know the answer – but that you are happy to find out and get back to them.

I try to practice all four of these actively. The one I struggle with the most is the fourth one. I really want to provide answers right away – that is my customer service to my staff and students. Sometimes, things don’t have to be answered within the first two minutes of the conversation. Most are satisfied with the “I will get back to you” answer – as long as getting back to them is a #1 priority. As a TL my primary job is helping staff and students to find the correct information. When I admit that I don’t know the answer, but am happy to do a bit of research and get back to them it takes out the whole problem of making mistakes.

Mistakes tend to happen when we are rushed and don’t ask for clarification – my goal is to be more mindful of things that are asked of me and continue to practice the four steps above. This in turn will help me welcome people to my island!

Thankful to learn from others

It is week #2 of  #dcsdblogs challenge. The theme for this week is Teachers Learning from Teachers.

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In my role as a TILT (Technology Integration Lead Teacher) and Teacher-Librarian many feel that I do or should know everything. What I can say is that is the furthest from the truth! I wish I could store that much information in my brain – but it might explode!

So as I was thinking of ideas of  what I wanted to write for this blog I kept coming back to the resources/teaching that I gain from my PLN on Twitter. We might not be in the same place or even the same time zones, but the ideas that I gain from my Twitter PLN are teaching me  new things and in turn I can then teach others! I am also fortunate enough to also work and learn from a great group of TILT’s (Technology Integration Lead Teachers). We share many ideas that are simple – but having those simple conversations in person or via email help to improve my learning which in turn helps to improve my teaching of others.

What it all boils down to is keeping it simple. Many might call that a “growth mindset”. Just like the quote above, if we are stuck in our own way of doing things we are not growing in our learning, which in turn affects how we teach our students and other teachers. It doesn’t always have to be an all day workshop, it can be a simple conversation in passing that help to increase our learning.

What are you doing to learn from others?

It is the small things that count (#DCSDblogs Week 1)

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As I begin this blogging challenge starting off with the challenge of blogging about “One Good Thing” that has happened in our week.

As most people in Davenport know the  high schools went to 1:1 Chromebooks late last fall. Needless to say this has been quite a challenge trying to collect permission slips, make sure digital citizenship test of knowledge quizzes were completed and then the actual device, charger and bag handed out to almost 1,200 students. It is a miracle, but we survived the initial distribution! Now comes the most challenging part – dealing with lost and stolen Chromebooks. There are lots of procedures in place, when a CB is reported lost or stolen,  that falls to the responsibility of the Teacher-Librarian. Sometimes even with all of the safety nets in place not everything goes as planned.

Back in February I had a student report his Chromebook missing. I marked it lost in our system, had it disabled by our technology department and encouraged the student to be on the lookout for it. I also told him that if it wasn’t found that it would cost $200.00 to replace. Needless to say he told his parents that he lost his Chromebook and they were very upset with him. A few weeks later he brought a check in for $200.00 to take care of his fine for losing the Chromebook. I asked if his parents were okay with him checking out another Chromebook. He told me “my parents said I can’t have another one until I am more responsible.” I totally understood his parents hesitation and probably would have said the same exact thing to my own children. The student and I talked about the hardship of not having a Chromebook in class would cause him. What I loved was that he totally took ownership of the whole situation and we talked about how he needed to be more focused in class, listening more intently so he knew what to do to complete the assignments on his Google account when he got home. He was also able to come to the library computer lab if needed during the day.

Fast forward six weeks (This is where my One Good Thing happens!) and a teacher comes to me with a Chromebook that had a message on the screen saying it had been disabled. The teacher wasn’t sure where the Chromebook had come from, but they found it in the classroom. I told the teacher that the message meant that the Chromebook had probably been reported lost or stolen. Low and behold, I looked the Chromebook barcode up in the system and found out it belonged to the student who had lost it in February! I was so excited!!! I immediately called him down to my office. The minute he walked in I said, “Guess what has been found?” The look of relief and then the broad smile that came over his face was absolutely priceless! He was so relieved and couldn’t believe it had been found! The student just kept smiling and breathing a sigh of relief as we talked about getting the Chromebook re-enabled and getting the process started for the $200.00 refund for his parents. The student came in the next morning, still breathing a sigh of relief, to tell me that his parents were beyond thrilled that the Chromebook had been found.

Trying to keep up with the 1:1 initiative is a challenge, but when students thank me for helping them figure out something with their Google account or Chromebook it makes it worth it! Sometimes “The One Good Thing” that happens in your week isn’t something that moves mountains. “The One Good Thing” can be something simple and personal that brings a sigh of relief and broad smile from someone in need, to know YOU have made a difference!

 

Writer’s Block ….. but not for long!

I have something to admit. I am a fairweather blogger. I love to read others blogs, I love to teach others how to blog and what blogs to look at, but when it comes to me actually writing a blog it seems as if all that I know flies out the window! What is my problem? I think it stems from the thought that there many more people in the world who have more knowledge than I do on most topics. We are sometimes our own worst enemies!

Our district TLCS (Teacher Leadership Compensation System) has made significant inroads with getting teachers to try new ideas that will help with instructional practice . One of those things is the sharing of ideas. What a better way to do it than to use a blogging format? We discussed it last night during a Twitter Chat, that can be found at #dcsdpln. We discussed our stumbling blocks and also shared some of our favorite bloggers. We had a small, but mighty, group participate – but we shared many great ideas!

Our district-wide challenge for the month of April is to participate in a Blogging Challenge. Here is a link to the  website that describes the challenge:  https://sites.google.com/davenport.k12.ia.us/dcsdblogs/home  I love the format of the challenge. Each week there will be a different topic to blog about. I think this will help those of us with writer’s block to share ideas, but most of all, jumpstart our blogging!

We all have unique talents and ideas we need to share. Those amazing bloggers that I follow all started somewhere. Maybe I will be the next amazing blogger that people talk about?
Are you up for the challenge?

Why Blog?

This is a question that I often wonder about – a lot! I read many impressive blogs, only a daily basis, from educators and a variety of other people. I often think WOW, they are so brilliant and  have great ideas all the time. A friend of mine @mrsmeganmorgan shared a tweet with a blog from George Couros http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7013 that speaks directly to all of excuses I give to Megan for not blogging!

We as educators tend to underestimate our knowledge and its worth. We are also not ones to bask in praise (at least I am not). In the role of Teacher-Librarian/Technology Integration Lead Teacher, I find myself downplaying what I really do know. As an example, I have an Art teacher,who is an amazing artist and teacher friend and colleague, that has started using technology more in his classroom. It started for me as a simple challenge to him. “How do you think you could use more technology or use it in a different way in your classroom?” The things that he now uses (Google Classroom, Google Apps, Hangouts etc.) have become commonplace in his classroom. I was having a conversation, with all four members of the Art Dept., about how my role in the Art CTT (Collaborative Team  Time)  has helped the them. My friend looked right at me and said “You challenged me to be a better teacher and step outside of my comfort zone.”

WOW! Another one of those ah-ha moments. Of course the first thing I wanted to do was to downplay what he said to me. But then I thought, no, I am going to take some credit for this!

This whole process of blogging falls right into all of this. What do I know or what can I share that might make the difference for even one person?

Blog away….Blog Away!

 

 

Where has the time gone?

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Wow – was it really last April when I last posted? Yikes! What was I doing, thinking or not thinking? My goal was always to blog about things related to education that I felt others would want to read about and obviously, as you can tell, I didn’t meet my goal. It wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to write about – I just ran out of time, energy and was in end of school survival mode.

So you might be thinking to yourself why didn’t she start back writing this fall? That is a good question! I just recently read, that it takes 21 days to really form a habit. This can be both good and bad habits 🙂 I would like to think that blogging is one of the good habits, so I need to be more diligent in my effort! It was also spurred on because I was asked if I would allow my blog to be linked on a district website for other educators. Yikes!

So, with a renewed sense of focus I am back to blogging! My goal is to write one blog a week until the end of the school year. Please help hold me accountable!

Why is Personalized Professional Learning Important?

I participate in only a few twitter chat groups, because of time constraints, and I like them all, but my favorite is #iaedchat. #iaedchat “meets” on Sunday night from 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. cst.  I feel the most at home with this group because of our weekly topics that we discuss. Many of the topics have immediate relevance to what I do as a teacher/technology integrationist and I can apply it the next day! The conversations are so quick that sometimes I get lost! We are fortunate to have the sessions archived. This allows me to go back and check out links that others shared during the chat.  Click on this link to see the archives of #iaedchat.

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The topic this week was Personalized Professional Learning. What does that mean? How does it affect me? It means what are you doing as a professional to grow in your learning? How are you holding yourself accountable for learning new ideas, technologies or strategies that can be used in your classroom? Often times school districts offer canned PD. Everyone is in a large group listening to the same speaker and essentially not always engaged with what is going on in the presentation or grumbling the whole time about having to be there. So, how do we change it up? How do we hold people accountable for their personalized learning? Those are all tough questions that many districts are trying to answer. Do we see better results when we offer educators an opportunity to personalize their learning? When we put educators in charge of their learning we tend to see people that are happier because they are able to choose what interests them. This can be done in the form of Edcamps and mini-sessions.

This year we have offered our monthly technology PD in the mini-session format. We have anywhere from 4-6 sessions that are offered. Each teacher is able to read the descriptions about the various sessions and choose to attend one that fits for them. It can be a big undertaking to get a variety of sessions setup, but the feedback has been extremely positive. Because of these sessions teachers are starting to think “outside of the box” about how that technology might work in their classroom.  When I find a teacher who has attended and implemented some of the technology strategies they have learned, I coax them into leading a Technology PD session the next month!

So, what does it all mean? Just like the quote in the picture above; be responsible for your own learning, don’t put it off as a responsibility of someone else.  When we are responsible for our learning the opportunities for growth not only benefit us, but our students as well!

Summer break is only 9 weeks away!

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Monday we returned, from spring break, to the last quarter of this school year! Usually the first day of a new term is busy with new class schedules, new student ID pictures to take and the excitement that the school year is almost over! What is not so exciting is when the network decides that it doesn’t want to work correctly! After 4 hours of troubleshooting with the tech. dept. and countless times telling teachers that they are working to resolve the issue,  I was wiped out when I got home! I had to just keep reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day and with fingers crossed, the network would decide to cooperate.

My unique position as Teacher-Librarian/Technology Integration Teacher allows me the opportunity to interact with most of my staff on a daily basis which helps to develop those critical relationships that are needed for school culture. However, there can be a downside. Staff tends to become more reliant on you, no matter the situation. This can be overwhelming! Reminding myself that I am a critical piece to the wheel is important and for that I am thankful that my staff feels comfortable enough to come to me with issues. i need to remember that I need to take some time for self-care to make it through this last term. Easy enough to say, but sometimes hard to do. It can be as simple as taking a 5 minute walk through the hallway, or doing some deep breathing. Also, just remembering that in the grand scheme of things it could always be worse! Cheers to 43 more days of school!

Being a Teacher-Leader…..such a trusted role!

 

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The #iaedchat last night focused on Teacher-Leaders and their roles in our districts. The discussion was pretty amazing. Some of the questions that were posed:

What does Teacher Leadership look like in your district?
What are the foundational elements that must be in place to sustain teacher leadership
Share an example of how teacher leadership is impacting your district.
If you could change one thing within your teacher leadership system, please explain what it would be and why
We collect all kinds of data to show improvement. Most ties back to our assessment wall that drives decision making
How do the teacher leader and principal roles differ in your school?
What steps can you take tomorrow to increase/improve teacher leadership across your school and district?

The conversations obviously centered on the questions, but what was one resounding theme? Building relationships of trust and communication with other teachers. Just because we are Teacher-Leaders does not mean that we don’t have other teachers serving in a leadership capacity. We need to continue to encouraging those that might not think they are leadership material to grow in their instructional practice.

It is also vital that we as Teacher-Leaders continue to grow in our own instructional practice. By no means are we perfect – I am definitely far from it!  We, too, should always continue to seek out good instructional practices that help us to model it for our colleagues.

Being in a leadership role can sometimes be tough. There are lots of skeptics out there that think leadership should only come from administration. Fortunately we are in a profession where leadership skills are valued, especially now that we have the TLC program, and through that program have helped teachers reach their fullest potential in their classrooms. It could be as simple as trying a different strategy with a lesson to as far as “flipping their classroom” using technology and other resources. How do we do that? With this program not being evaluative we take the “perceived threat” away. Lots of colleague to colleague encouragement happens in its place.

Final thoughts? TLC has brought many teachers out of their ruts, that some didn’t even know they were in, and challenged them to become even better in their instructional practices. It has many, many benefits if people give it a chance!

Why Twitter is so important to your professional growth

Twitter is such a powerful tool when it comes to professional development. Many people choose to use Twitter for both personal and professional chatting and that is okay. However, some choose to use it only for their PLN. I choose to use it in this way. The vast amount of information that is shared on Twitter can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, but the support from the Twitter community is amazing. I know that if I read something from someone I follow and can’t find it, my fellow tweeters will come to my rescue!

One of the greatest resources that I have found through my Twitter connections are specific group chats! There are many #hastag chat sessions out there, but a few that I am fond of are #iaedchat and #celebratemonday.  #iaedchat is held on Sunday evenings from 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (CST) and helps me to set the tone for my usually crazy busy week ahead. The chats that are held are usually very meaningful and very applicable to most of what I do during the week.

If you have never used Tweetdeck (https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/) give it a try. It allows you to follow many  of your #hashtags in one area. I like to have my tweetdeck open and running in the background so if I get a chance I can see what new ideas are out there that people are talking about. Many people start out on Twitter by lurking and just following people and that is okay. It gives you practice with the Twitter lingo and a chance to see how people interact.

Am I using Twitter to its fullest potential? No way! Am I trying to learn and participate more? Absolutely! Give it a try – you won’t be sorry!