My Story as an Ignite Teacher

Today I had the opportunity to share my story as an ignite teacher. What a pleasure it was to share and listen to my fellow Ignite teachers stories.  I shared my story about how my learning evolved with the support of technology and how opportunities for developing meaningful and deep relationships were created. I believe that because of the connectivity and my willingness to be transparent in my own learning, I am able to learn alongside my students daily as we share our voices globally.

Here is my story………

I am learning how to connect and learn about the world alongside my students. Together we are exploring how digital tools and platforms offer opportunities to have conversations with others, who like us want to make the world a better place.

In the beginning, I had computers in my room that I did not want. I asked to have them removed because I wanted the space for other things. The computers stayed, collecting dust. I did not understand how technology could be used and why did we need computers anyway?  I kept thinking about why do I need these machines, what purpose do they have, and how will they help with my learning and that of my students?

In 2008 I participated in a blogging workshop. I was immediately intrigued by how I could use blogging as a way to share what we are doing in Kindergarten, why it is important and how learning evolves. So I started a class blog and immediately my students and their families connected and our conversations and relationships deepened and learning became the focus. Blogging helped me experience the value of audience and how by sharing a variety of perspectives, relationships develop and we open up opportunities to have conversations about our learning. Now parents, students and others globally can read and listen to what we are learning about and how. I thought about how wonderful this will be for parents especially. Families had access to our day of learning, our stories…Families were in a way being invited, daily to see what is happening inside and out of Kindergarten anytime they wanted to, no more losing and misplacing endless pieces of paper about our days. Our learning was always available. Parents and their children would have a way to begin a conversation about their day.

One of my students was from Africa. He traveled by himself to the United States where he met his new family and school. With the help of his mom, we were able to use Skype as a way to say hello and learn a bit about Africa. My student introduced his Mother to us as his African mother, Rita. The children were mesmerized by this conversation, and as my student introduced his classmates, I watched the expression on Rita’s face, one of happiness. Then his mother asked her son, “How are you? Do you like your school?” Right then, at that moment it struck me about how important conversations are and the value of developing relationships that share who we are and where we come from. So at this moment, we all learned about how technology can be used to create a bridge to connect. Later my students asked why this child had more than one mom. He shared; “I am lucky because I have an American mom and an African mom.” We learned about the value of acceptance… and our perspective of family widened, we learned that families look different.

Later another child’s parents were traveling in Japan. They shared videos and photos of what life was like there. The children were really intrigued by the speeding trains. When the child’s parents connected with us using GoogleHangout, their child was able to say hello. As he softly cried, when he saw his parents on the screen. he told his parents how much he missed them. In those moments he was reassured that he would see his parents tomorrow. The other children immediately spoke kind words and told him that it would be okay. At that moment we experienced empathy and the webcam that was once put in mouths and licked was now a portal to connect and speak with people who care about us and our learning. Through our interactions with each other, we learn about the importance of friendship and empathy. 

As we explored Global Goal #13 this past year, and previous years, Climate Action, the children were able to learn about waste.  As we explored what waste, how it is created and what might be some possible solutions we connected with Recycle Rhonda from the Chittenden Solid Waste District. We learned about ways that we could be less wasteful through hands-on workshops. We created a padlet to ask others globally what they were doing to be less wasteful. Then during one of Recycle Rhonda’s visit,s one of the children asked if she was on Twitter. She replied, “No.” Sothe children explained to her what Twitter was and if she joined Twitter we could talk to her. So she joined! The children now share their positive actions around waste with her via Twitter. The children, at the ages of 5 and 6 are modeling and teaching an adult about how to use this social platform in a safe, kind, and responsible way.  The children begin to experience and understand how this platform can help us make connections, share our learning and have conversations with others who are interested in our learning. Now we, together with experience understand how we can deepen our learning through the use of technology. Twitter becomes a platform to have conversations.

I’ve decided not to try to keep up with it all, but to focus on the things I’m using while being open to new ideas.  Another challenge is being explicit and intentional about what digital platform to use and how. I have been inspired by the authentic, personal experiences that myself, my students, my colleagues, and their families have shared in regards to how technology has enriched and enhanced their understanding and connection with each other and the world. For me, learning is for everyone. I have hope that technology will offer endless opportunities for everyone to share their voice and connect with others who have a passion for what is important to them. Learning is always the focus… the technology is a tool that offers a bridge to the world. Through our ability to be transparent, we model how we can all learn from and alongside each other in positive ways to make the world a better place.

 

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A Culture Of​ Learning: Global Goals

As a kindergarten teacher, I have the privilege of working each day with young children who are eager to learn and connect with their learning environment. I look forward to being inspired by our busy days together.

In the beginning days of school, I began to build a learning culture with my students through a big idea. This year our big idea was sustainability. We began by asking what we could do to help sustain and keep the world healthy. As we began to explore this idea I introduced the Global Goals for Sustainability because these goals were at the center of our learning. We put a poster of the Global Goals in our classroom and it became an easy way to weave the goals into our daily learning explorations. I explained to my students that these goals are promises we can make to make a difference in the world. I shared that if we make a promise to help, we are pledging our help to save the world. My students immediately become excited about this idea and wanted to know what they could do to help. I began by asking a simple question, “What do you do if you are cold?” The children responded with: I get a jacket, snuggle with a blanket and put a coat on.  I used their examples as an opportunity to connect the goals. I asked my students to imagine that the goals were a large blanket that wraps itself around the world.  The blanket represents the goals. The goals are around so we can all help sustain the world for everyone to enjoy.

Why does this matter?

The world needs everybody’s help. The Global Goals provide endless opportunities to build awareness and create a plan of action. The goals also translate to my local community as I began thinking of possible needs and opportunities we have and ways my students could engage in a positive manner to build an awareness for change. Children want to be a part of solution-based problem solving, and this can begin in kindergarten. A good place to start is with teaching how our actions of kindness can help create people who care and have empathy for others.  

Getting Started:

There are seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, and I chose to begin with Goal #16 because it is about being kind, advocating for others who may need help and promoting fairness. A good place to learn more about the goals on the #TeachSDGs site, there is also a Twitter conversation around this hashtag.

This goal sets a positive tone for risk-taking, support, and encouragement.  Young children need experiences and opportunities to feel what it is like to support others and be kind.  Through establishing these ideas in the beginning of Kindergarten we all begin to understand that it is about what we can do together, not as individuals that offer invitations for everyone to participate.

Creating a Culture of Learning

We created a culture of learning, by noticing and sharing our actions of kindness towards each other. Through our actions of kindness, patience, and collaboration my students felt connected to Kindergarten and each other. As we built trust, took risks and learned from each other we created a culture where all students feel safe, valued and inspired. Once my students felt connected to a classroom, we painted a map of the world as a way to show that other people live outside of Vermont and this Kindergarten class. I also began connecting with other educators and people around the world using Padlet, Skype, Google Hangout, and Twitter.  As we connected with people I took photos so my students were able to see where people are from globally, but also how we were having conversations with them.

Connections with Content:

As I began exploring how to teach about the SDGs, I looked towards the content I was teaching to determine where the goals and the content meshed. I first looked at the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), these standards are a wonderful way to begin to think about where you want to start and what goals you will explore. As we explored Goal #13 Climate Action and Goal #15 Life On Land, my students were able to connect that through our ability not to be wasteful, we can have a positive impact on land and climate. Since the goals are displayed on my wall, the students make connections about being responsible for waste every time we recycle, compost, and reuse. This helps my students make a connection with an authentic action. I found a good place to start is by simply putting up a Global Goal in your classroom where your students can make a connection. Just by adding Goal #6 to our sink area my students are being more responsible for not wasting water. These visual reminders are helping to build their awareness.

Another idea is to ask your students to make a pledge or promise to the world.  I have found this to be very impactful in my Kindergarten class, as students highlight the goal and what their action will be. I then ask my students to read their promises aloud, as if to the world, and they all feel proud. We created a board outside our classroom as a way to highlight our promises.

In my class, we are currently exploring forest life, and this offers opportunities to explore and expand on two Global Goals: #13 Climate Action and #15 Life On Land.

Through our weekly nature walks and explorations outside, my students are beginning to develop an awareness of the outdoors and why we need to take care of it.  Through Padlet we were able to share what a tree/forest looks like in Vermont as well as what trees look like and need in other countries. To get started with this activity, we first shared our Padlet on Twitter, and I also asked families to share with family members and on their Facebook pages. I also shared on my Facebook pages with other teachers. We received responses from Hong Kong, Egypt, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, London and Australia. My students were so excited to see that people from 5 continents added to our Padlet! I printed the photos off from each country and we made observations about the trees and forests, then we put the images on our map of the world.  This allowed my students to see where the trees grew globally.

Through our forest exploration, my students were able to reflect on what things trees need to grow and survive no matter where they are in the world.

This is what they came up with:

  1. All trees need a seed.
  2. All trees need water.
  3. All trees need soil.
  4. All trees need sunlight.
  5. Trees need people to care

My favorite response was #5 because when we take care of things we are modeling and demonstrating how we care.  This idea comes back to no matter what the content. These ideas turned into a belief statement for my Kindergarten students. We now connect all of our learning explorations to the global goals.  

As an extension to this project, we made a connection with a Kindergarten class in Hong Kong because my sister is a teacher there and she put me in touch with other teachers who are interested in connecting globally with another class.  Now we connect monthly using Padlet and/or Twitter to share what we are exploring. Twitter and Facebook teacher groups are also great places to post projects and ask if others are interested in joining my class explore a specific learning idea.

Now What?

The goals can be woven in and out of all content, standards, and learning. Regardless of the age you teach, the world needs everyone to care, now! What are some themes of study you are exploring? Ask your students how they can make a difference. What is important to them? Think about a global goal that would connect with their learning. Then take it a step further and think about a community need or school need you have.  How can you build an awareness alongside your students and their families?  

To help you get started here are some resources with great ideas: Participate, World’s Largest Lesson, and the Global Goals.

Continue reading

The Global Goals: @vermontkkids123

Collaborative efforts bring awareness, engagement and advocacy from even young children in helping develop an appreciation for the natural world.  It starts through an exploration of what the goals are, why we have them and why it might be important for others to know about them. Then we create a plan of action.

This is our journey…

We created an awareness and listed our goals, talking about why we thought they were important and what they meant to us.  What was interesting is that while we explored them and hung a poster in our classroom, they became part of our classroom culture.  By doing this it was easy for me to connect conversations that we were having with a specific goal.  Through our authentic and genuine curiosity about the global goals, we have all become more aware of not only what they are but why they are important. “The why” is most important because it helped drive deeper thinking and the children then had an opportunity to be reflective.

We have been exploring all year ways that we make a difference for ourselves, our school, our family and community. We started with an essential question…  Where does waste go? So we created an awareness of what we thought and then created a padlet that we could share globally to find out what others in the world are doing.  This was easy to tie into the global goals because as we created our own awareness, we also were able to think about how our actions could impact the climate and life on land.  Yup!  Their just happens to be two global goals, Climate Action #13 and Life on Land #15.

Another way we helped make a difference for others was to build an awareness around hunger.  We were curious if people were hungry, Did children have enough food?  What happens if people need food?  Who helps them?  Again, this is another opportunity to refer to the global goals, goal #2 zero hunger. My students collect food twice a year.  Then we walk to our local food shelf and make a delivery.  This is always exciting for the children.  They have a direct experience with what it means to help others and have empathy.  This is easy to do.  Think of a need that your community has, build an awareness and then create a plan of action that includes your students, families and communities.  Together, everyone begins to connect and weave a thread of caring because it directly impacts a need.  

Now the Global Goals are a part of my classroom culture.  They remind us all of what the world needs.  My students understand why they are important and are creative in their ideas to find ways to make the world a better place. Even in Kindergarten these ideas have an impact.  My students are really genuinely invested in making the world a better place.  I think about the impact this could have if more and more young children were familiar making goals.  Just by building an awareness, through the content I explore, we are finding ways to connect to the goals.  It raises an awareness of the world and really, my students love learning about the world!  Kindergarten seems like the perfect place to begin thinking about how we can collaborate globally to make the world a better place.  We all need each other.  The world needs all of us to care and and make wishes come true for everyone. Why not start collaborating with your students today!

My ELL teacher, Patti Tursi collaborated with me around the goals.  As an ELL teacher she has a special expertise and perspective about students who are from places other than the US.  She becomes a director of our 1st documentary on the Global Goals.  She sets up a filming studio in my classroom with the children and then the children begin to explore the filming equipment and play so they experience what it can be used for.  Later when we film, Patti teaches us about being quiet on the set and other language used for creating a film. This experience is real life and offers my students an opportunity to learn new language with a new expert.

Here is our 1st documentary!

The Global Goals

I paint a map of the world each year with my students.  We add places we visit and people we connect with.  We share how we are having conversations with others and what we are learning about.  Now that I am aware of the Global Goals I can add the goals to our map, as well as when we explore them.  This is another way we can build an awareness, inspire others and think deeply about what we are doing and how.  The why of our ideas is through our own reflection and how we share our voices.

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As our year comes to an end I ask my students to think about why we connect globally?  Why is it important? Do you think others need to connect globally too?

Here are some of their reasons…

  1. When we connect we show we care.
  2. We learn from others.
  3. We solve problems and learn new things.
  4. We like the global goals because the whole world cares about everyone.
  5. I love the world.
  6. We help the world. We love the world. We connect globally because we care.
  7. I love to learn about the world.
  8. It is fun.

I believe in people and have a passion for learning.  I have hope that through our collaborative efforts we will be able to make a difference globally.  This means we all can begin taking 1 step at a time, building an awareness of what we can do.  I am inspired by my Kindergarten students.  They give me hope that we can all learn from each other and work together to keep the world healthy.

Exploring the Global Goals

I have the privilege of being a Kindergarten teacher.  I work in a public school where I am completely supported with my own learning and the learning of my students.  I mention this because as an educator when I am supported by my school, students and their families a very magical synergy begins in a seamless way. This synergy is what supports many different parts connecting and collaborating together to make a difference.

A couple of months ago I became aware of the Global Goals for Sustainability.  This really inspired me and challenged my thinking about how I could bring these ideas to Kindergarten in Vermont.  So I made a large copy of the goals and shared them with my students. I told them that in Kindergarten we all have goals.  One of my goals for each of my students was to teach everyone to read.  This was an example of an individual goal.  When I asked my students about what do you think global goals might be, I was surprised and inspired by their ideas…

“It is when you share your idea with the world.”

“It’s like everyone wants to be kind.’

“I think it is working together.”

“Maybe it is sharing and helping people.”

Then I was able to build on their ideas.  My explanation was simple..  I said; “The world needs our help. Together if we share our ideas we can make a difference.” So we began exploring Life Below Water, then Life On Land and Peace & Justice.  Through our work and exploration of these goals all my students were able to learn new content and also begin thinking about how life on land and life under water is important for everyone.  We created murals, collages, shared our ideas on Twitter and even created a passport where we are collecting stamps of the global goals we explore.

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I now have an opportunity to connect and collaborate with my talented ELL teacher, Patti Tursi, who has a unique perspective and insight.  She offers her time and expertise to have small discussions with the students around the goals we have explored.  Through these small discussions we are now able to create smaller dyad groups where the children can turn and talk about what these goals are and why everyone in the world needs to know about them. Now we have another opportunity to create a movie about these goals and why they matter.

How do I know if these ideas are making a difference?

One of my students was on vacation with her family.  She and her family looked at the global goals and decided that picking up trash in a park was part of goal #15 Life On Land. Children are naturally curious and want to be a part of solutions where they can make a difference.  I share this with my students and they are all now even more interested in making connections with what we are exploring.

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I am grateful for the flexibility and support I have as a public educator.  Through my relationships with my students, families and colleagues I have many opportunities to collaborate and connect.  It is when we work alongside each other, that we are able to make a difference.  It’s not about what we’ve done, but how are we inviting others to learn with us.  Relationships develop, inspiration appears and all ideas are valued and challenged.

Just by having a poster up in my classroom of the global goals I am able to reference them throughout the day.  Giving my students opportunities to make connections and talk about what they understand.  This is an opportunity for me to model ways to care in a global way about the world.  Through our ideas and experiences we are able to share and hopefully others will be inspired by our actions and create their own plan. I think about what the possibilities are to make the world a better place when we all work together.  Endless….

Exploring the Global Goals

Why I Wore Red Today….

Being a public school teacher is an honor and a privilege.  I have the ability to make a difference daily through my work.  The idea that I am able to work with lots of different children and families each year enhances my own learning and perspective.  I am able to support all families and their children as they enter Kindergarten.

Being a public school teacher I do my best daily to ensure quality learning experiences and opportunities that enrich and enhance learning.  My ability to use resources and seek resources that support the growth for all my students is important.  My students and their families count on me to support them, keep them informed and seek my perspective in regards to their children.

I expect nothing less from my country.  I expect the United States Congress to ensure that all children and their families will be valued, supported.  We will offer the best education that we can provide.   We have an opportunity to provide high quality teaching, to  be our best, and to encourage and highlight student growth.

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Today I wear red in solidarity with other educators because…..

I am a proud public school teacher and believe in the public schools.

I believe that communities need to be part of the process in making decisions about what children in their communities need.

I want all children to get the best public education they can.

I support programs that feed families, provide medical care and other community resources that help them and their children learn.

I believe in teacher voice and trust teachers to know what their students needs are and to advocate for them.

I am sad to say that I am not feeling confident in the candidate Betsy DeVos who has been nominated for Secretary of Education.  I expect the Secretary of Education to have an understanding of what it means to live in all areas of socio-economic backgrounds. I think about her limited perspective and how it does not support all families.

I expect that people in high levels of power in our government will be advocates for all the children, that they all matter and deserve the best we have to offer.

I expect education leaders to support teachers’ voices and listen to their ideas about what needs to happen to ensure a high quality education for everyone.

I expect education officials and leaders to be able to speak and be informed about the latest research and current issues we are facing as a nation and have a solution based plan to help teachers, parents, students and other elected officials work together.

I have been an advocate for teachers, children and their families for over 30 years.  The heart of my work is the daily interaction I have with my students.  By learning alongside my students and their families I develop an understanding of what life is like for them, where they come from, what they need and what they are passionate about.  Through my interactions I invite dialogue, discussion and opportunities to learn from them.  My perspective has been enriched and widened.  This helps me explore learning in a more global and inclusive way.

I expect the Secretary of Education to understand these ideas and beliefs.   I ask our elected officials that are representing us – Is this the best you can do for our children?

A Kindergarten Teachers’ Journey…

How Travel Can Influence Education: Kindergarten