What Exactly Do Great Educators Do Differently?

April 1, 2019

I woke up ready to find out the answer to this question…exactly what great educators do differently?! I anxiously packed for a trip to Houston, Texas where I’d find out the answer! I was anxious because, although I’d been on a plane before, I had never navigated an airport alone and would be going the furthest west I’d ever been.

Maybe you just learned something new about me. I’m not exactly a world traveler (yet). I was pretty worried about this trip. I checked off a lot of “firsts” while finding out what great educators do differently… first solo airport navigation (including security, where I learned that multiple Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books stacked at the bottom of my carry-on looks suspicious enough to merit a bag search), first flight alone, first time renting a car, first time being in Texas (I’d only visited TX long enough to stop at the welcome center when I was a teenager visiting friends in Louisiana), first time driving in the city, first time driving through a toll (yes, seriously), first time attending a conference alone, etc, etc. You get the point. For someone with generalized anxiety disorder (ahem, me), this was a HUGE undertaking.

I made it to the Texas airport, and as I was approaching the line to get my rental car, I hear my name. Nervously I looked around and (insert squeal of delight) THE Pirate Captain is coming down the escalator! I’ve never been so happy to see a friendly face in my life! That might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much.

That evening I had the privilege of meeting & chatting with several of the speakers for the Houston 2019 What Great Educators Do Differently conference – David Geurin, Jimmy Casas, Amy Fast, Katie Martin, Jeff Zoul and I got to reconnect with my dear friend, Derek McCoy and my awesome publisher, Dave Burgess! Heading to bed early, I was ready for the upcoming fast-paced day of learning!

April 2, 2019

As always, Dave lit the room on fire with his Teach Like A Pirate keynote. It reminded me that this month is ONE YEAR since I experienced his keynote for the first time. I wrote a blog about it here. (Spoiler: It changed my life; literally a Life-Changing Lesson, or LCL as it’s referenced in the book.) I saw it again in June 2018 in Florence, SC, so I was pumped to take it all in again. This was the perfect way to start the day. From Dave’s keynote, I got that great educators create experiences, not just mere lessons; for “lessons are easily forgotten, but experiences live forever!”

Following up on this idea was Jeff Zoul‘s session on classroom management. It is unrealistic to expect every student to be engaged every second of the day. It had been a long time since I’d engaged in a best practices session on classroom management, so I was excited to hear what Jeff had to say. I was affirmed in this session because many of the management strategies I already use, Jeff shared. What I learned about great educators in Jeff’s session is summed up in this tweet. Don’t copy someone else’s management techniques… they have to be YOU!

Perhaps one of the sessions I was most excited about was Jimmy Casas’s session. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t care what the author of Culturize (and more) presented on… it could have been oompa-loompas, fairies, or proper techniques to watch paint dry… I just couldn’t wait to hear from him! (Culturize left me in pieces – read more about that in my #DBC50Summer blog post.) He did NOT disappoint. His session on addressing underperformance was a clear reflection of his passion and purpose in developing a strong culture in schools. I learned from Jimmy that great educators don’t shy away from the difficult conversations. Great educators have the conversations and offer help, not just in that moment, but checking in & following up with those who are struggling.

As if the day couldn’t get any better, it was time for our lunch keynote from Rick Wormeli. Yep… THE Rick Wormeli, one of the first National Board Certified Teachers, international speaker extraordinaire, and the man who made me realize that traditional grading practices are asinine during his #HiveSummit interview with Michael Matera (author of Explore Like A Pirate) this summer. Lunch was delicious, I met Aaron Hogan (author of Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth & a new book coming soon – so excited), AND Rick owned the keynote and taught me that great educators “never sacrifice sound pedagogy because someone above [them] isn’t there yet.”

It was time for the final session and I wanted to see David Geurin, Derek McCoy, Amy Fast, AND Katie Martin speak! I would have LOVED to clone myself in that moment. I split my time between Katie Martin and Derek McCoy. Katie’s story about her own child’s struggle in school reminded me that great educators know their learners. Great educators focus on the strengths of their learners and grow them from where they are. Derek got me when he said, “we can’t spend any more time building schools based on what adults need!” From him, I learned that great educators are focused on the students.

By the end of the day, I had chatted and learned from these phenomenal educators and several of the participants!

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(Left to Right and Top to Bottom) David Geurin, Dave Burgess, Jimmy Casas, Amy Fast, Aaron Hogan, Jeff Zoul, Katie Martin, Rick Wormeli, Derek McCoy

April 3, 2019

As I confidently (because hey, I survived so many “firsts”) packed up my suitcase, careful to separate the books this time to get through security faster, I reflected on my time at the What Great Educators Do Differently conference. I wondered, if I were to sum up what I learned in one or two sentences, what would I say?

I spent the majority of my flight home considering that, and came to this…

Great educators are willing to take risks in the best interest of their students. They are willingly to relentlessly learn and grow, seeking the very best way to teach every learner.

And I realized in a VERY humbling moment… I did just that. I took a huge risk, investing time, money, and a tremendous amount of anxiety to attend a conference to better myself and my practices for every learner I have, both adult and middle school learners. Flying halfway across the country to attend a conference alone, meeting and reconnecting with several educators I admire and respect, was something many around me could not understand. (Trust me, they asked why I was doing this multiple times.) I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend #WGEDD and I highly recommend going to one if you have the chance. I will definitely seek it out again!

**I believe this qualifies as my #DBC50Summer implementation of Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller and serves as a piece of my implementation of Lead Like A Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. I had no idea about this conference during the writing of those blogs, but it certainly fits the implementations of letting go of fear and being relentless, don’t you think?

5 Things I Love About Google

This is a bit unorthodox for me lately. I used to blog more about ed tech tools, tips, and ideas, but since #DBC50Summer, it’s become more about reflection and professional growth. However, the only way I could see sharing my implementations of several books from #DBC50Summer is a list of all things Google! So… let’s go.

  1. Google Sheets: Seriously, friends, if you aren’t using Sheets, you’re missing out! I took a Go Slow course on Sheets from Alice Keeler in the Fall and was blown away by all the things Sheets can do that have nothing to do with formulas and data. From this, I have two suggestions… 1) Take an Alice Keeler course. Any of them. Really. I learned *SO* much! 2) Use Alice Keeler’s Template Tab. This was my #DBC50Summer implementation for Google Apps for Littles and I loved it so much that I shared it with teachers and administration in a PD session this year. It’s amazing. For more info on how it works, check out Alice’s blog post!
  2. Google Keep: It’s sticky notes with all the GAfE functionality that we know and love! We have used this to communicate classwork with homebound students and their parents. Teacher creates to-do list, shares with student & caregivers, and as work is completed it is checked off. I use it at conferences to create a list of sessions I’d like to attend, then create another note with sessions I actually attended for CEU credit. Check it out at keep.google.com! You’re going to love it! One student emailed me after I introduced it as the month’s tech tool, saying, “Google Keep is the best!!!! I can now remember what exactly I have for homework and other things! Thanks so much for introducing us to this!” Using Keep was my part of my #DBC50Summer implementation for Shake Up Learning and Be The One For Kids!
  3. Google Certified Teacher: It’s a thing! I took both of the Google Certified Teacher Exams this winter and learned so much about the functionality of Google and many of the apps I wasn’t aware of! I’m very interested in the next levels, which are Certified Trainer and Certified Innovator! This also completed my #DBC50Summer implementation of Shake Up Learning! If you’re a bit uneasy about attempting these, check out Kasey Bell’s resources here & her reasons why you should get Google Certified hereGoogle Certified Level 1 and 2
  4. Google Classroom: I use Google Classroom as my primary method for delivery of instruction for media classes. Each month’s media class is given a topic (month and year) so students can easily find our activities for the day and reference them as needed. As my #DBC50Summer implementation of Alice Keeler & Libbi Miller‘s 50 Things To Go Further with Google Classroom, I had planned to number my assignments as suggested in the book. However, I found that simply using the topic feature to put assignments and activities had the same results. If I had my own classroom however, I would definitely be numbering assignments!
  5. Google Forms: I have a problem. I’m obsessed with surveys. I teach the entire school, nearly 400 middle school students, and I cannot possibly remember all the feedback I’m given verbally. Enter Google Forms. I create surveys and collect information using Forms all the time! I get information from students and teachers. I ask for feedback on lessons, students give me a numerical grade (1-5) each quarter, and I collect responses to hold students accountable for goal setting and research topics. I also used Forms to collect responses for a bulletin board matching game in which students had to match teachers with their favorite book! Google Forms are quick and easy to make, and the responses tab creates quick charts for you so you can see certain data visually! Recently, Matt Miller created an epic blog post highlighting 40 Innovative Ideas for Using Google Forms in Your Classroom.

So there you have it! Five things I love about Google (and several #DBC50Summer implementations)! If you’re ever wanting to know more about Google Apps for Education, Chrome Extensions, etc, your GO-TO websites belong to (in no particular order) Alice Keeler, Matt Miller, and Kasey Bell!

 

**Helpful Hint: Did you know that you can open a new tab in Chrome and (when logged into your google account) simply type forms.new, slides.new, docs.new, sheets.new to get a new Form, Slides Presentation, Doc, or Sheet respectively?! Yep! Go try it. Mind. Blown.

Creating a Stronger Foundation

Nearly three years ago 150(ish) 6th graders began their first day of middle school. I also began my first day of middle school (well, my first as a teacher) that year, after 10 years teaching in elementary school.

Now it’s the spring break before they leave for high school and I’m already dreading the last day of school. You see, for over 50 of those students, we didn’t just go through the challenges of making a transition from elementary to middle school together, learning the rules, procedures, and PBIS motto, together… we’ve been together since they were in 3rd grade. This is the group of students that I started in the media center with; I have been their media coordinator for SIX school years. We, and their families, have a bond that is super strong. From the time they were eight years old, we have laughed together, learned together, and matured together. To put it in perspective, my youngest daughter wasn’t even a year old when this group of children and I started our journeys. She’s finishing Kindergarten in a few weeks.

These kids have been “my guinea pigs” when it comes to learning and taking risks. I’ve always tried things with them first, just to “see how it goes,” and they *LOVE* it! (So do I.) Seeing them finish eighth grade and move on to the high school makes my heart soar, and it makes my heart break. To say that I love these kids is an understatement. They are a special group. Amazing students, INCREDIBLE minds with way too much knowledge of how the world really works. They are go-getters and I’m 100% sure they will change the world. Many of their stories would break your heart and then you’d see their determination and you’d feel the same pride I feel when I see them persevere and destroy the barriers that stand before them. In the coming weeks, I will take several of them to Washington, D.C. for a three-day field trip and I will attend their 8th grade formal. I will take up their Chromebooks for the last time, removing the labels with their name on it; I will watch with tears in my eyes as they have their final celebrations and sign yearbooks. Then on June 11, I will stand in the hall in front of the media center with waterproof mascara on as we take red-eyed photos together one final time.

I dread that day; no summer countdowns this year as I don’t want to think about the dwindling amount of time we have left to make memories together.

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Eight months ago, 150(ish) 6th graders started their journey in middle school. Nearly 50 of them were in 1st grade when we met for the first time. They had just finished 3rd grade when I moved to the middle school. We had a lot of catching up to do. During #DBC50Summer, one of my goals was to build a strong connection with this group. After reading Teaching Math with Google Apps by Alice Keeler and the late Diana Herrington, I was so excited to use Google Slides to learn student names and imported selfies using their Chromebook’s webcam. I mentioned in Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth by Aaron Hogan that I’ve really struggled getting to know the 6th graders as quickly as I’d like.

Knowing that relationships are e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, I decided to use a portion of our time together in our first media class to have students use a Google Slides template to allow me to get to know them better. I would LOVE to be able to spend the entire class doing getting-to-know-you activities and culture builders, however I see students for media classes once a month for approximately 50 minutes at a time. During this time, we’re getting to know one another, getting acquainted with the media space, discovering expectations, checking out books, and learning a new tech tool and creating something amazing. Oh, and I try to embed standards from English Language Arts as this is the class they are coming from to have media.

With that said, the Google Slides template (my #DBC50Summer implementation) was a success. There are certainly things I will do differently next year, but I like the template itself (I may still add a slide for a selfie.) Next year, I will likely devote more time to this activity on the first day and determine who the student experts are in Google Slides, assigning them as peer tutors. This will give more ownership to students immediately and frees me to walk around chatting with students to get to know them, rather than answering their questions about importing an image.

The template I used is here. You will be forced to make a copy in Google Drive, then you can change it up as you see fit if you’d like to use it with your own students. (If you don’t have GoogleDrive, connect with me on Twitter or Instagram and I’ll happily send it via ppt or keynote).

Using these Google Slides has allowed me to get to know student interests and family dynamics faster than I have in the past. I commented on each submitted slide deck with more questions and responses about what we have in common. Next year I will share these with classroom teachers as they are available as a resource when teachers are designing learning experiences. Creating this as an assignment in Google Classroom made it so easy! If you use this approach, I certainly welcome feedback and even more ideas!