Monday, December 30, 2013

Hopes & Dreams/ Goals & Action Steps for 2014 
I heard someone say that hopes and dreams are really good, but goals and action steps are better. I like both, though I agree, when you have goals and create action steps instead of dreaming and hoping, more things get accomplished.

Here is is, my goal for 2014, it goes with my only first grade rule. BE BRAVE. To that I will add BE STRONG and  COURAGEOUS.

Be Brave, Be Strong and Courageous! 

One way I do this is to figure out my verse for the year from scripture that keeps me centered. So, I will start with that.

Joshua 1:1-9 (MSG)

After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:

“Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel. I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses. 

From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River—all the Hittite country—and then west to the Great Sea. It’s all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. 

Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.

As I seek to further myself by studying Educational Leadership, I will make these action steps:

1) Embrace the truth around me be being very alert to others and their needs.

2) Lose the excess baggage. Dump the junk. Personally, that will mean something else. Professionally that means really focusing on things that matter. The heart of the student. I want to be willing and able to deviate from the routine of "doing school" and get better at cultivating learners which I would propose, is not the same thing. There are things that I have learned and still desire to do better like really teaching to how each student learns instead of teaching in a one size fits all method. I can always, always do better. I want to know how to create ILPs (Individual Learning Plans) for each student and to use them to help the student form their own learning journey instead of telling them HOW to do school. Give them more authentic ownership in their learning.
3) Walk in humility. I do know a lot about teaching, but I do not know it all. I am far, far from being the teacher that I want to be or the future principal that I would like to be. There is a lot of work to do in me and a lot of work I have to do! It is a continuous journey and not a destination! What I do know is that this love and passion for teaching and learning comes from the Father, my God and my job is to point it all back to him. For him to get the glory. I live to hear him say to me, "Well done, Kimberly...well done."

4) Seek excellent mentors. We look like who we hang out with. I hang out with amazing educators in my PLN and though I can't name each one, there are mind blowing amazing educators who have shaped me and molded me this past year. So instead, I want to say thanks to the PLN in the following hashtags/and learning opportunities:

  • #iaedchat on Sundays at 8 CST
  • #Colchat and #tlap on Mondays at 8 CST
  • #mnedchat and #VidEd on Tuesdays at 8 CST
  • #LivEdchat and #sbgchat on Wednesdays at 8 CST
  • #arkedchat on Thursdays at 8CST
  • #satchat, #satchatoc and #satchatwc on Saturdays
  • #edcampmsp 
  • #edcampmn
  • #edcamphome and #edcamphome 2.0 
  • #edcampchicago
Courageous: Casting Crowns

I have learned so much and I can't wait to learn more. So much to learn, so little time! Proverbs 31:25 says: "She puts on strength and honor as if they were her clothes.
She can laugh at the days that are coming".  (NIRV)  Laugh at the days to come. Full of joy. Full of strength and bravery and courageousness. Lofty goals, but thankfully, I have great friends and a PLN to help me! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making A Habit Of Differentiation Part 2

Meet CTW. He went by his whole name. He was a zany kid with a faddish for paperclips, especially colorful paperclips which he created chains out of an stole from teachers to the dismay of his parents.

CTW was a lad who was a a genius in so many areas but his struggles were out in living color and made his learning difficult. You see, for CTW to write was an act of God himself! CTW had excellent ideas and when talking to you, created a beautiful detailed story, but when asked to write, nothing would be on the page.


To watch CTW during testing...testing of any kind, was painful. His inability to focus on the task at hand created a long testing period. My last testing with him his fifth grade year resulted in over 5 hours needed for him to complete the spring state test we call MCA.  However, through coaching and time, he pulled out great scores that sometimes took him above the level of his peer group.

Often though, his struggles led him to be in for recess because he could not "get his work done on time."  He needs help" would be the talk among the teachers, but not many helped him. I mean, really helped him.

And by that, I mean looked at his way of learning and adapting their style of teaching to how he learned. Some teachers believe that students should adapt to our teaching. After all, it is we who have the degrees to prove that we are "smart." We are the ones who know what we are doing. They are not.

I would suggest that this limited thinking traps us as educators. It traps us in to a box that was not meant to be there in the first place. The snare catches us at our weakest part of ourselves, assuming we are here to educate YOU. What if the students are here to educate us? What if that is really what it is all about?

I know that the greatest amount of learning has not come from me teaching, but from me studying the students and their lives and their God given abilities and trying to figure out who this blessed human is that has been given to me for this season of the educational journey.

I had CTW for two years as a student during which, I brought him to SAT at school, evaluations were done, and a process took place that put him on an IEP. My goal was to get him help now in his elementary years that would carry him through to MS and HS. I hope it has.

I saw CTW this fall at a multi-aged school function K-8 for the yr round program (his school 6-8, is in another building). He was walking around with a clipboard. He was a leader and a young man with a plan as he helped to organize groups for the nature walk tour. He was in his element and immersed in his gifting.

I came across a quote that I used in my other blog about differentiation by Seth Godin.  Here is entire manifesto: It is a powerful manifesto. To read it once does not do it justice. 

God didn't make us all the same. He made us entirely different from one another. Those differences are there to unite us, to cause us to become interdependent on each other.  We waste so much time fixating on differences as a reason for alienation. Really, if we thought better of each other, of humanity and of the fact that each of us, EACH OF US, is made in the image of the Most High God, we would do what Steven Covey asks of us, seek first to understand. I would like to suggest as well, that before Steven Covey asked it of us, God asked it of us first. Take the plank out of my own eye!

As it is, I am sitting here a few days after Christmas working on assignments because I know what my life is like when school starts. Its crazy. I prefer learning in the stillness of time like this with a quiet house and coffee. But as I sit here and reflect on my students and my own children,  tears are just pouring down my face. I can't seem to control my emotions.  I feel like I am caught in a system that only says it wants differentiating learning, but still boxes in children. I admit, it is easy to revert to old practices that are not best practices because differentiating the lessons takes work.

Solid. Mind blowing. Hard work.

I close this out with hope. I sometimes feel like a ultimate failure because I believe like Liam Neeson said as Oskar Shindler in Shindler's List, I could have done more as I reflect back. I could have done more. I know that I can do more and knowing is half the battle. As a professional educator, I want to be an agent for change and I will do more. I do not claim to understand differentiation, but I do claim to desire knowledge so I can further my understanding. That is the journey of learning. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Making Differentiation A Habit

Though this post is intended for use with my grad school course at Bethel University called Intro to Differentiated and Responsive Teaching,  I am attracted as a learner and seeker of knowledge to the title of which my blog post must be about.

  • First of all, that of being a habit. 
  • Second of all, differentiation and what that means.

So, what is a habit and how long does it take to form a habit? Habits come out of repeated steps, whether intentional or unintentional and it takes about seven weeks to get anywhere close to the foundation of a habit. Take for example running, keep it up everyday and you will go farther by week seven. Read everyday and you will be surrounded by a wonderful world of words and imagination by week seven. Take up smoking and by week seven, you will be hooked.  Undoing habits, I suggest, take different work as creating the habit does, yet, both the process of doing and undoing are important in the world of habits.

What is the purpose of school? 
So to create a habit where I differentiate my classroom is VITAL to the process of currently UNDOING things that I have learned to do for the past twenty years, well less that that...because I have worked hard in the past three years to work on differentiated instruction, but I digress. It is important for me to pay attention and make action steps to undoing a bad well as make action steps for generating a great one.

Working on building a differentiated learning environment has steam rolled this year into other things. I
question every app I I need this, is this the best app for what I want students to know, why am I standing here at this printer? Who remembers worksheets anyhow? Who ever said, thanks for this differentiated worksheet? No one.

I wonder then, if differentiation doesn't come from books or worksheets where it comes from? Look for example at this infograph from Carol Ann Tomlinson. You will see that it is not a set of tools that you whip out from your files. "Bam, I differentiated today!" Instead it is a organic way to think and to learn. To me, that is why I like differentiation, genius hour and edcamps. Organic. Pure. Learning!

That is why I LOVE and fully believe in #geniushour. The best way I have seen in recent years that not only captivates students, but it incorporates the multiple intelligences as well. I am looking forward as well to our January 10th date for #edcampfirstgrade with my students and the trails of learning they will take us down that morning.  The more student voice that comes into the learning journey, the more students will learn.

Now, I have been working hard at this. I have! But I also realize that I am too, like my students a work in progress. I have many things that I want to still know and understand. I am very excited for this learning journey through my new course that will help me gain skills and confidence so that I can be a better lead learner in my classroom setting!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Teacher Mom In Me, Just Me Being Real....

There are two things I have always wanted to be. 1) A Teacher. 2)A Parent. I am lucky that I have had the great honor to do both. Maybe like you, for some of the journey the two have collided at school as they have come where I have taught. It was much, much easier that way and there was a season in 6th grade when I was my son's teacher.

I started teaching in 1994 and I became a mom in 1996 when I adopted my chosen one, Isaiah who is now a senior. It has been a journey together in all arenas but especially in the arena we call school.  He was never a confident learner and that has carried him like a thorn in the flesh for quite some time. In spite of my interventions, other's interventions and in spite of raising him to believe in himself, he still carries a seed of self doubt that holds him back.

He was also the boy who wanted attention. You would thing being someone raised by a single mom for the all but two years of his life when I was married to my daughter's father, he'd feel like he got attention. But he sought it from friends..alas, in goofy and strange ways.

So I put him in private school for HS. It is a nice small Christian school and for the most part, I have been happy with the journey he has had there. It has saved him in so many ways and provided him with great friends and experiences. All drama aside, he wants to go to Northwestern here in the Twin Cities for their Criminal Justice program and be a cop. So he has a goal, but he lost his way in the action steps.

Maybe it is a combination of his learning style, his attitude about things and way too early emergence of senioritis that for about a month, took him and I on a crazy loop. Resulting in me becoming "that mom" who gave a lecture every day and came down hard on him like a pro wrestler in a body slam. I don't want to be that mom. But, sometimes..well, you have to.

I also tried to lift him up too and remind him that there is a perfect plan in the world for him and that there are different ways to be smart. I wrote YOU ARE A GENIUS AND THE WORLD IS WORTHY OF YOUR CONTRIBUTION  on the bathroom mirror and sent it via text messages and over his FB feed.

And I hit the floor with my knees and prayed. Oh, Lord...please watch over my Mr. 17.

But the one thing I keep fighting inside of me (but I am getting so much better at this)  is owning this problem and feeling like I am a rotten parent because my son struggles at school. (You know, the teacher's kid really should do better than that---are the lies whispered in my ear.)

Though this time, through with five months to go and him crashing and having a life and learning melt down on me, I just dismissed the lies that tried to fill my head. My plan of attack was to seek out answers and to help him make the best decisions based on what information was at hand. My plan of attack includes counselling for him to work on these tough issues that seem to creep up..because someday, he will have to be someone's employee (or his own boss) and someone's husband and someone's dad. I have tried to help him as well as my family (we're mostly all educators) but it is also good to realize when your own children need help outside of you.

With action steps in place and with counseling starting..I feel confident and relieved. (Thanks God!)

It is hard too, just like in a classroom when your children learn differently. What one struggles with the other finds easy. The 8 intelligences are alive and well in my home..and I only have two children! How does that lady have 21??? (And why is she still counting?) I'd go crazy. Miss 8 learns differently than her brother. She is a perfectionist and drives me up the wall. She will cry if she can't find the answer to a problem. She will fret about if she even knows the right answer. My battles with her reside in mantras that go like this, "You are not God, you are not perfect. You are just right..just the way you are. RELAX!"

So I have one child who needs to step it up. One who needs to step it down. Lucky me.

Educators are humans too and we are just doing our best like any other parent out there to raise our children. We hit road blocks, we struggle, we wring our hands, we stay up at night, we pray and we love with wild abandon. Our children, all children, are gifts and each gift is precious and I am blessed to be able to be a mom and an educator. I would not have it any other way.

Tonight on #ArkEdChat with Daisy Dyer Duerr, we will be talking about being a parent and a teacher. I am excited about the conversation and can't wait to see where it leads.

You will lose your baby teeth. 
At times, you'll lose your faith in me. 
You will lose a lot of things, 
But you cannot lose my love. 

You may lose your appetite, 
Your guiding sense of wrong and right. 
You may lose your will to fight, 
But you cannot lose my love. 

You will lose your confidence. 
In times of trial, your common sense. 
You may lose your innocence, 
But you cannot lose my love. 

Many things can be misplaced; 
Your very memories be erased. 
No matter what the time or space, 
You cannot lose my love. 
You cannot lose, 
You cannot lose, 
You cannot lose my love.