2 Sides to the Education coin…

It is the best of times and the worst of times to be in education. If you read a newspaper you might be hearing many stories about the worst of times. Budget and program cuts, poor school performance, bullying issues and a glut of standardized tests. When you dig deeper beyond the headlines, glimpses of the best of times are evident with stories about Genius Hour, Hour of Code, Edcamp, Maker Movement, and connected educators. Where should the media focus?

It seems the negative stories seem to catch the media’s eye more often than the positive. Many educators tend to dwell in the worst of times world. Our minds like to complain and get drawn in by the negative. It sure can seem like the worst of times. Just walk in to a teachers lounge, complaining about the “Kids today” seems to come up.

Walk into an Edcamp or spend some time on twitter and the education story changes quickly. Hearing the positives starting a day with #BFC530 , a spark chat, starts the day with 1 question for you to ponder. Every day of the week an educator can see the wonderful positives that exist in education. On weekends educators can attend professional development for teachers by teachers in the form of Edcamps.  Edcamps bring the positives from twitter to life in face to face meetings where teachers share what is working in their classrooms. At these events you can often overhear teachers explain how incredible “Kids today” can be!

Both of these worlds exist in education today. Teachers have to make a choice. Do we want to be a part of the negative or the positive story about education? Ultimately educators need to help each other realize that our story has two sides. If we spend too much time focusing on one side we forget the other exists. Our students need us to be balanced. Teachers need to advocate for less testing and more funding for student programs. Teachers also need to share the success stories. Our students do incredible things in the classrooms. It is the teachers job to share these stories for all to see. If we share enough, loud enough the positive stories will hit the mainstream.

From me to you THANK YOU!!

As I wake this Thanksgiving morning to the wonderful sounds of my children excited for the morning parades. I want to thank so many people who make my life more enjoyable.

1. My students: Thank you for being such a wonderfully diverse group. Making everyday different. Sure we have many challenges in the classroom but we conquer them together with a growth mindset. You make my job rewarding and fresh.

2. My co-workers: You are there to challenge my thinking and give words or encouragement when I am down. I thrive on the small conversations we have in the hallways. Thanks for listening to me, hearing my concerns and helping me move forward. I hope I am as valuable to your teaching as you are to mine.

3. My #PLN- This pass year has been incredible. I have learned so much from you ALL from twitter and face to face meetings at all the Edcamps and conferences I have attended. I value each of you. Please keep being awesome. You are there to pick me up and balance my thinking. From #michED to #COLchat our interactions have been a valuable part of my growth. Especially my #mschat community, you have provided so much support in my instruction.

4. AMLE- It is so great having a national organization that supports teachers in the middle. SO much passion found in everything you do. I feel so supported knowing that when I need help, AMLE is present to provide it!

5. Free Technology for Teachers – Being a teacher today has a few drawback but the positives far out-weight them. So many great technology companies are supporting us in our classrooms. From the larger Google to the small Remind from Twitter to Edshelf these tools provide teachers with powerful ways to connect to students.

I especially want to thank TechSmith for being ever present in the state of Michigan. Helping sponsor just about every conference and #edcamp in the state. Without all of these wonderful companies supporting classroom learning, my job would be so much more difficult!

Have a wonderful day to ALL. I am grateful to have you in my life!

First reflections on #AMLE2014

As I sit in the Nashville airport waiting to return home, I want to record my quick reflections from my experience at the conference.

1. AMLE puts on the best conference for middle level EDUCATORS. So much information presented here. You have the best of the best presenters displaying their A game for all to see. Also present are some of the brightest teachers who want to share what they are doing in their classrooms. AMLE works hard to make sure to provide a diverse selections of offerings. Most frequent comment I have heard is that too many great sessions it is hard to choose just 1. I guess that is why so many districts bring teams of teachers so they won’t have to miss a session.

2. The central theme here has been: Relationships in learning centered formative assessment classrooms. Every session that I attended has focused on this theme or part of the theme. I did I miss a summative assessment session? Please send me info if I did. At home in many districts we focus too much on the end results that we forget the path we take to get to the results is what really matters. The passion for student engagement and student learning is so evident in every presenter I have seen here. We need to spend more time on these aspects of our jobs and let the test results fall where they may. (I am betting they improve.

3. Middle level educators are still getting there as connected educators. Twitter was discussed in many session. My session was to show the value in connecting and how to navigate twitter chats. We even held a live twitter chat for #MSchat last night. I was so excited to meet my PLN. We had a modest sized group show up (20) for the chat. As we sat in a circle tweeting and talking it was reflected by most that most educators still were figuring out the connected piece. In a session I over heard a conversation that went like this: “Are you on twitter? Yes but I don’t really use it! Mainly only at conferences.” Well we need to change that. ALL connected educators need to model the value of the twitter connection. We place our time in things we value. When being connected is valued by administrators on down teachers will spend their time there. Can’t just be tweeting out pictures of us with Edu-All-Stars. Need to tweet ideas and thoughts shared to make our learning visible.

4. There incredible value in  the small conversations. My greatest learning moments came in conversations over a meal or while sitting at a table for a session. The keynotes were inspiring, the national level presenters gave lots of great ideas. The small conversations are where the inspirations and ideas are worked out to work for YOU in your district. Teachers can’t just be inspired and given big ideas: they need time to reflect in groups and process the information so it can be placed into practice.

Thank you to all who I connected with at AMLE. You are my friend and family in the middle. I hope we continue to connect over the next year online until we meet again in Columbus. (or other conferences in between.)

Why educators (& Parents) need to VOTE!

Over the past few years, I have heard teachers and parents alike complain about cuts that school districts have made. Whether it is cuts to sports programs, academic offerings, staffing reductions or the quality of the physical plants, school districts find themselves making critical decisions with every dollar. Often stake holders want to place blame on the district. ‘Overpaid administrators or teachers.” or “They prefer certain sports or classes.” The finger pointing needs to STOP. Districts are making business decisions they don’t want to make any cuts, but when funding is lacking, something has to go. Media centers go un-staffed, buses don’t run and classrooms are overflowing. Districts cannot please everyone. Districts funding comes from the state, voters need to elect politicians that will properly fund schools so cuts don’t have to be made.

Politicians like to hold education up as a pillar of their platforms. Have you ever heard of someone running on “cuts to education?” ALL educational stake holder need to hold politicians to their promises, help create a better educational environment or vote them out no matter what political party they are from. Education should not be a political football that is dragged back and forth across a 100 yard field. It is time we hold education up where it belongs, above the fray!

Schools need to have funding that remains stable so they can plan long term. Districts right now are struggling with drastic cuts in per pupil funding in Michigan. These cuts effect programs schools can offer and the pay of district employees. Many districts around the state cannot afford to maintain teachable class sizes or to give their valued employees raises. Many teachers are leaving the profession for greener pastures in the private sector. Sadly fewer college graduates are choosing to go into the profession. Many teachers who love their profession have been forced to take on second jobs instead of focusing on their students learning. Is this what society wants in our schools?

The solutions is voting in politicians that value education and give it more than lip service. Districts need to have a viable school funding plan that allows them to offer the best programming for students while enabling them to retain the BEST teachers. Below is a video that also addresses this issue from a resident of Farmington School District here in Michigan.