Tag Archives: mentoring

New Beginnings….

As summer starts to fade away I am thinking about another wonderful year inside/outside of Kindergarten.  What will it be like? How will I connect and engage alongside my students and families?  What do I need to do and how will I be inviting others to engage in the learning that is happening? How will I accomplish all of my goals? student goals? parent goals? So I have decided to just breath……

I have to admit that I do some of my best thinking when I am walking or swimming.  I always wonder about the connection with exercise and fresh air, so important!

Anyway like many of you I am about to begin a new year.  I am so excited and of course my lists seem to be never ending, but I have decided to share a bit about some of the ways I connect with my students and their families before we meet.  The relationships that we build are very important because this is where we are able to develop ways to have conversations, engage in meaningful collaborations and connect.  This is the heart of our work, our students and their families. They matter!

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Last week I offered families opportunities to stop by while I was setting up Kindergarten.  This was so successful.  Not only do I get to say hello and reconnect with former families, but I also get to meet new people as well. Right away children engage with what interests them. Also former students are great helpers too because they have a sense of some of the things that need to get done and are very welcoming in helping others.

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Right away friendships are formed and the children begin to explore materials and their new learning environment while also helping create places for learning.

I always find that parents want to be involved and connected.  I think it is so important for all of us to think about this as we begin to create our own learning environments.

I also invited families former and new to engage with our summer reading blog.  This was another way that parents could begin to connect and explore what they were reading as well as begin to have a conversation with me about the books they were reading. Again, my intentions are to begin to model “how to” use digital tools in ways that demonstrate how I will be using, my parents and students to highlight ideas and experiences we are exploring as well as how we will be connecting.

I have been thinking lately a lot about the value of learning from each other as well as learning alongside each other.  For me I think their is a distinction between these ideas.  When I am learning from someone I am watching, listening and asking questions.  When I am learning alongside someone I am exploring an idea together with them.  We have conversations and opportunities to learn from our interactions.  I am thinking this is important because I want to be able to model the value of both ideas.

Some ideas to help build your relationships with your students and families….

  1. Invite people into your classroom to help you set up the learning environment.
  2. Look for opportunities in your community that offer ways for new families to connect like an ice cream social, library night, popsicles on the playground!  These are all ideas that our community offers for new Kindergarten families, very successful.
  3. Offer frequent celebrations of learning before school where parents can stop by on their way to work.
  4. Offer digital tool sessions for your families where they can explore the digital tools you are using as well as how they will be used.
  5. Invite former parents/students to attend digital tool sessions you offer.  This is so successful and has a huge impact. A nice way for parents to hear from other parents as well.
  6. Set up a class blog!  This is a wonderful way to engage and share daily, weekly the how, what and why you are involved in.  Your students will look for this as a way to share and have face to face conversations at home about their days in school.
  7. Project based learning opportunities are a wonderful way to engage families, students and the community you work in.  I always begin by asking my students;”What can be we do to help others in our community?” You will be amazed at what your students are aware of and want to do.
  8. Twitter is a wonderful way to share important ideas and things you are exploring also.  Twitter has been a great way for me to be in touch with families and also as a way to model “how to” have a conversation globally alongside others.
  9. Kidblog is an amazing platform for students.  Some of my families have really enjoyed sharing their child’s blog with extended family members outside of Vermont.  The children really get excited to think that others are not only interested in their learning, but might leave a compliment too!

Here are just some of my ideas.  I look forward to learning what you are doing too.  Though our sharing we are able to inspire each other and have our thinking challenged.  Wishing everyone an amazing beginning inside/outside of your school!

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Appreciation, Gratitude, Kindness

Appreciation, Gratitude, Kindness……

I am so grateful for many things that I thought I would begin to share the importance of how showing appreciation, gratitude and being kind is important and vital not only as a teacher, as an educator, but as a person.  Through our own ability to display gratitude and kindness we are able to make connections, show appreciation towards others which gives a feeling of confidence and comfort.

When I think about gratitude and appreciation and how important these ideas are, I am also thinking about how can I begin to model and support these ideas.  I want to encourage my students to also begin to see the value in having gratitude and being able to appreciate acts of kindness throughout our busy days together.  I think it can happen so easily, yet I am reminding myself how important it is to share this idea and feeling with my students so they in turn become and display how being grateful can encourage others, offer connections and give recognition to others.

I remember one of my students learning how to use a new app to create and design patterns.  The student was nervous about asking for help, yet really wanted to explore this new app.  I watched as another student walked over with an iPad, sat down and began working alongside this student to show how the app worked and within a few minutes this student was off and running!  The smiles exchanged were beautiful as well as the conversation.  “Thank you”, I didn’t know what to do”.  The student who offered to help just said; “I got stuck too.” I recognized both students in sharing how collaborative and kind they were being.  Then I have an opportunity to highlight what happened and have the students share how it made them feel and introduce the word gratitude.  This now becomes a special word in our classroom and everyone wants to be able to not only use the word, but explore opportunities with others as well. DSCF3067Think of a place in your classroom where you can display important/special words that you want to your students to use.

During a read aloud time one of my students was trying to find a place to sit and be comfortable.  Another child offered his place and gave me a thumbs up!  I smiled.  Later the student came up to me and asked me if I noticed that he gave his seat up.  I said I did and he thought that he should share that with the class because he was being kind. Right away my students are beginning to explore and experience what it means to help someone out, share something you are comfortable with, be a mentor, a friend.  This is how we begin to model and explore appreciation, gratitude and kindness.

When I offer opportunities for my students to share through role playing and talking about the kind deeds they notice, we then create  a special place in our classroom to post the important words we use.  Appreciation, kindness, gratitude now become part of our oral language as well.  This helps to begin to establish a culture of learning, connections, collaboration and also where children will take risks and try new things.

School is starting soon for many of us and I am so #grateful for how social media, blogging and other digital tools have helped connect, engage, challenged my thinking as well as offered opportunities to be inspired.  I have made many friends thanks to social media who have supported me and collaborated in many different ways.  I am grateful and humbled by the time and energy that others give so freely. Working alongside others enriches learning for me.

IMG_3178 I strive to model and offer invitations to my students, their families, friends and colleagues who, like me, are also trying to make a difference, one idea, one kind gesture at a time. This is at the heart of our work.

I Blog Because…………..

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Why I Blog

In 2008 I was introduced to this idea, blogging idea because I was in a workshop that my school offered by an amazing technology educational integrationist, Bonnie Birdsall. I was inspired by her presentation and all of the possibilities that blogging could offer. I remember my mind being flooded with all of the possibilities that I started to think about in regards to communication, relationship building and perspective.

So my journey began….

Here I am 6 years later.  I manage 5 blogs, in my 5th year of using Kidblog and have had many opportunities to blog on other Blogs like SmartBrief on Education, Teach.com, Kidblog, Eduwin and I have also had the honor of writing a couple of articles for the ISTE Leading and Learning with Technology magazine.  These have all been amazing opportunities for me to share my voice using an asynchronous tool to be transparent about what I am exploring and discovering in regards to learning and how technology can really enhance learning experiences for myself and my students.

If you are thinking of blogging, do it!  Take a risk at sharing your voice with others.  I have found that the rewards of blogging have been inspiring and engaging.  I have had my thinking challenged, my perspective is wide and I appreciate what others have to say and ask in regards to what I am sharing.  Through this type of online conversation I am inspired, my thinking is challenged and I begin to connect and learn from others, collaborations develop.

I began by creating a classroom blog.  My goal was to create a place where my students and I could create posts about our learning explorations that we experienced inside and outside of kindergarten.  As I began exploring blogging with my students, I found the children to be very excited about it.  They enjoyed seeing themselves, hearing their ideas and asking each other what they noticed.  This was the beginning of something wonderful for me in regards to not only becoming more transparent, but also how this asynchronous tool was about to transform my learning as well.

What I noticed….

  1. Opportunities for conversations:

As a kindergarten teacher I want to make sure that I have plenty of opportunities for my students to engage in rich, meaningful conversations in regards to what they exploring.  These conversations are extremely important because they validate the thinking and ideas that my students have.  When a child can hear and see themselves in a photograph, a video, a podcast they are immediately engaged and naturally begin to make connections and observations.  This is a wonderful way to begin to validate and highlight the conversations that are happening inside of your classroom.  Then when you post on a blog, you begin to model explicitly what can happen when you share your thinking with others. You are thinking about how you can share outside of your classroom walls. Your students will be intrigued by the blog and how it can be used to highlight what they are exploring.

Then by adding a map widget on your blog you begin to help your students develop the idea of audience and perspective. Your students begin to think about the value of what can happen when they share.  I always tell my students that this map is the world, it is a way that we can share what we are learning with others.  Others are interested in what we are exploring and learning.  This is another opportunity for me to explicitly to model how a conversation can begin through blogging.  We begin to notice, look at others blogs and make comments about what they are doing too.  Through this type of modeling I am beginning to take steps with my students about what it means to be a safe, kind and responsible digital citizen.  The map on our blog now serves as a place where we notice all of the attributes blinking.  This is motivating for my students because they get interested where people are in the world and that they are interested in what we are learning.  Engagement and interest is high.

Communication became fluid, available, enriching, variety of tools: Communication is vital.  I want my students and their parents to be informed about daily kindergarten life.  Blogging is a great platform for this to happen because it is always their.  Sending paper notes home is really inefficient for me because folks loose the paper, forget dates, etc.  Using blogging as a platform is one way that I can consistently share what is happening inside/outside of kindergarten in regards to learning.

  1. Parents want to be informed and be able to contribute and have conversations with their children about their day in school.  Blogging is a vehicle to help make this happen.  The blog is a way for parents to engage and have face to face conversations with their  children about their day in school.  The photographs, video, etc. offer an opportunity to share and reflect. Here parents can begin to see and hear how learning is enriched through using blogging as a platform. Through blogging I am able to open up opportunities for parents to ask questions, post comments and share with other family members.
  2. In Kindergarten I have many opportunities throughout the day to capture what and how my students are exploring their ideas and what they understand about them. When I am able to photograph and/or use a video I offer another way for my students to reflect and explain their ideas.  As an educator this also gives me a way to listen to what my students understand and how they came to their justification of what they share.  Through face to face conversations and turn and talks that occur authentically I am able to use my class blog as a way to share not only what my students are learning, but how they are learning. Here is where excitement and engagement can really be ignited!
  3. I have seen how all of my students become more confident and take risks with sharing their ideas because they enjoy seeing themselves and their work.  When I model and share their learning I am offering them an opportunity to share their perspective globally.  All students want to share and talk about what they are doing.  The blog offers a way for my students to get positive compliments and feedback.  The commenting that occurs has been thoughtful and positive.  This inspires my students to take risks and share more!
  4. When others connect with us we also have an opportunity to model and share our ideas. Without always being aware of it my students are mentoring their learning for others.  This is also inspiring and offers time for my students to reflect and share what matters most about what they understand. Once we begin to share our voice, we capture what is important and give others opportunities to try what we are doing and the tools we are using.  All it takes is an idea and the willingness to try.  The opportunities unfold on their own.
  5. We are modeling how to be safe, kind and responsible because we always share about what and how we are learning.  Our online etiquette is the same as it is when we are having face to face conversations.

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I blog because……..

1.Opportunities for conversations=Builds Positive Communication

  1. Family engagement, Connection
  2. Authentic Learning
  3. Positive Self-Esteem=High Engagement
  4. Collaboration can lead to mentoring opportunities
  5. Digital Citizenship: safe, kind, responsible, explicit modeling

Blogging has offered me endless ways for my families to connect and engage in their child’s learning.  As a professional I continue to grow, learn and be inspired through my own learning, my students and others who take risks and chances in sharing.  I am able to make a difference because I care, but I am also willing to be transparent and share and engage in global conversations with others who strive each day to make learning fun and meaningful.

So when others ask me why I blog, I say;”Why not?”

 

Impressions: ISTE 2014

I had an amazing opportunity in June to attend ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was like nothing I have ever experienced before.  Not only was this my 1st time attending, but I also had the honor of presenting a 2 hour poster session too.happy

Professional development is so very important, but interactive, engaging and inspiring development that challenges your thinking is really the best.  I found ISTE 2014 to be this and more.  From the moment I arrived until I left I found all volunteers, attendees and other educators to be nothing but supportive, energetic and passionate. I really appreciated the variety of presenters as well as the formats.  By having a variety of formats it really opened up possibilities for many educators to participate in ways that were conducive for their topic.  I appreciated this a lot and I was able to make choices not only on topics, but how the topics were being presented and/or shared.  Again, this is awesome because we all learn in different ways, at different paces, so the variety was great!

I also had the opportunity to connect with many of my PLN as well.  The people I met face to face for the 1st time were amazing educators that I met via Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, other formats. I think about how when I saw familiar faces that I already knew so much about them because of their willingness to share and be transparent not only about themselves, but their experiences in education. I felt at home and connected.saraphoto 1 (11)photo 2 (10)

 

 

These are some of the most amazing professional educators I have the pleasure of connecting and collaborating with.  ISTE 2014 provided an opportunity for us to meet and again, connect and inspire each other.  Unfortunately I was not able to meet many others whom I have the pleasure of learning side by side with, but maybe another opportunity in the future will present itself!  You never know.

ISTE 2014 Offered Me:

*inspiration: Walking through the trade center you could sense the excitement and support.  I had the pleasure of connecting with familiar faces as well as new ones.  I look forward to learning from them all in the future.

*engaged my thinking: Many of the poster sessions, share and talk sessions as well as roundtable discussions offered opportunities for rich conversations and a variety of perspectives. Perspectives are important because we gain new insights and a variety of ways to think about ideas we explore.

*made lots of connections: I had folks attend my poster session from Canada, the USA and even South Africa! Again, I am thinking about my perspective and the importance of having a global audience.

*time for conversations: It was an opportunity to engage in as many conversations as I wanted to with others in regards to their experience, tools used and other resources. It was really nice to be able to speak with many vendors of some of the tools I use inside/outside kindergarten too!

*#satchat: Being able to hangout and participate in a live #satchat was really unbelievable!  This is a very inspiring, engaging and creative group of educators who are very committed to learning and making a difference in education. ne

*keynote speakers: This was really a wonderful experience to be in an audience with thousands of others to hear from inspirational people share their stories, their journey.  I learned a lot by being there, present to absorb talented people share their personal journeys.

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*PLN: Meeting my professional learning network gave me an opportunity to say thank you and have conversations about our learning.  Collaboration is vital and very necessary for all of us, educators, in our work inside and outside of our classrooms.

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I look forward to the future where I will be connecting and collaborating with others in regards to the connections, conversations and rich experiences that ISTE 2014 provided for me.new

 

 

 

Kindergarten Mentors

As I am finishing up last minute things in my classroom today I was thinking about all the different ways my students have been mentors this past year with each other, helping model how to tweet and blog with other classrooms as well as sharing their expertise with adults.

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Last spring a teacher approached me and wanted to observe how I use technology with my students and was also interested in how I use the SMARTboard as well. I asked one of my students to provide additional support and more 1:1 time after our meeting.  As I watched and listened to the conversation I was really impressed with not only how comfortable my student was with the SMART technology, but the problem solving that took place during this 1:1 support time with a teacher.  I loved seeing the teacher take notes as she asked questions about not only the operation of the board, but what happens when things go wrong and do not work.  Watching my student navigate through how to solve problems as they arise was really wonderful.  k

I am not only proud of all my students, but this experience reminded me of the importance of  self direction, problem solving and critical thinking.  All of these ideas were happening at once and being facilitated by one of my kindergarten students.  As a teacher of young children I have a unique opportunity to model explicitly how synchronous and asynchronous tools can be integrated in a seamless way in regards to learning.  Once my students understood how this tool works, how we use it, then they are able to create and design their ideas as well and make contributions.  Through our contributions and being able to teach and share what we know with others we get inspired, experience positive self esteem and make connections.  This student was empowered because she was able to make a contribution, help another teacher and engage in conversations that challenged her thinking and helped her reflect on what she has learned.  For this amazing teacher, my friend, I think about what great professional development this was for her!

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Really looking forward to summer and ISTE 2014 where I have an opportunity to share what a magical place kindergarten is. Happy Summer Everyone!

Being Intentional: Being Passionate: Being Transparent

Hip, hip hooray!  Tomorrow I get to go to Kindergarten and celebrate the new year with my students!

I have been reflecting a lot about how fortunate I am to have so many passions and also the importance of sharing them as well as modeling how passions can lead to making a difference for others.  Tomorrow I begin a new year with my Kindergarten students and I look forward to reconnecting with them and their families as we move into a new year of learning together.

Passion for me is something that inspires me and captures the essence of what I enjoy and am learning from.  It supports my confidence and gives me opportunities to share my voice. As an educator it is really important for me to have passions that challenge my thinking both inside and outside of my classroom.  Through my challenges I have opportunities to model how I persevere and grow.

This past year I have connected with some amazing people thanks to twitter, Skype, facebook and my amazing and inspiring PLN.  I continue to feel fortunate in experiencing the value of how we can all touch others in ways we never thought possible and inspire change to happen.

Opportunities that appeared for my students, their families, others:

* my students care very much about “filling buckets”(inspired by a story;”Have You Filled A Bucket Today?”)

* students inspired and connected with other classrooms to begin to use twitter and Skype to connect

*my kindergarten students collected food and are finding ways to make a difference for others inside/outside of Kindergarten

*students experiencing and exploring how kidblog can inspire them and give them a platform to share

*students are blogging about what matters to them and then sharing with a larger audience

*students all have voices and are using a variety of tools to share what they are learning

*students are developing close relationships inside and outside of our classroom that support their ideas in regards to learning.

*students are modeling and experiencing “how to” be a safe, kind and responsible digital citizen

*kindergarten students being models for each other and problem solving

* students modeling how to collaborate and have conversations in a variety of ways that promote critical thinking

*kindergarten students discovering their voice and experiencing how to share it

*students are learning how to learn*

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My students and I have had the pleasure of connecting with a grandparent of a couple of my students who has discovered how Skype can support and facilitate face to face conversations.  My students have also inspired and modeled for a Kindergarten classroom in Wisconsin about how twitter can give you opportunities to “talk” to others and share.  We are also experiencing together that the world is huge and amazing and how we can share our ideas.  We created a map that reminds us where and how we are connecting with others.  This has been amazing because it reflects who we have inspired and who has inspired us in regards to our learning.

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I look forward to thinking of how I can capture, model and share not only what we are learning in Kindergarten, but how we are doing it!  I strive to be intentional and explicit and hope to continue to model the importance of how much fun learning is.  My wish is for all students to want to learn, to desire to know and to be passionate about what interests them.  A huge task I know, but a task I welcome because what I do each day is meaningful and it does make a difference. 

Transformation is important because it captures the essence of who we are and all that we have to offer.  This past year thanks to my PLN I have been challenged and inspired as well as supported.  My PLN is full of amazing people that I may never have the opportunity to meet face to face, but they are always available and willing to support, share, connect, inspire and challenge my thinking.  I will be forever grateful for this.

Collaboration Makes A Difference

Last week I was at our iPad cart picking up iPads for my exploration time. One of my colleagues was there too. She asked me what I was doing on the iPads with my Kindergarten students. I shared how we were using Doodle Buddy to create different patterns. I was explaining how this was a great app because it gives the children a great opportunity to show how they are thinking and of course when I ask them to explain how they know they created a pattern, they naturally begin to justify their thinking. I then offered a couple of my students to come into her kindergarten class and mentor her students. Hurray! This was easy to organize and the idea came from a simple question, “What are you doing these days with the iPads?”

So through a brief conversation by the iPad cart kindergarten students are able to be mentors to other students about their understanding of not just patterns, but how an iPad can be used to develop and reflect their understanding as well.

Now my students will have a weekly opportunity to share what they are learning about with other students. Through this sharing my students are able to reflect and make a difference for others. The students we are mentoring will have the same opportunities that we are having, get excited, deepen their understanding of patterns, make new relationships and experience how an iPad can enhance their understanding of what they are learning.

Some comments I heard while watching were; “Let me show you”, “nice job”, “Is it a pattern?”, “How do you know?”, “You did it!”, “That is great!” As a teacher this is so powerful because it gives me an opportunity to connect and collaborate with another colleague and of course I am modeling this for my students as well.Image

Look for opportunities to collaborate and make meaningful connections. The most amazing things can happen and the results benefit everyone!