Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

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The PLN Blogging Challenge

 
cc licensed image shared by flickr user photologue_np

cc licensed image shared by flickr user photologue_np

 
I love a great challenge! And so, when the enternally positive, optimistic and supportive elementary school principal Vicki Day invited me to the PLN blogging challenge I accepted her call. Constantly stretching my thinking, Vicki is a frequent participant in #educoach chats (dedicated to instructional coaching techniques for all educators) which I co-moderate and a moderator of #NYedchat; the voice of New York educators.
 
 
In the PLN blogging challenge  you get to answer some questions, pose some questions and shout out to the bloggers you want to welcome to the challenge. Here goes, Vicki.
 
 
HERE ARE THE RULES OF THE CHALLENGE:

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition and a little blogging love!
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

11 Random Facts About Me…

1. When I was young, I dreamed of being a novelist, wrote short stories and was founding editor of my school’s newspaper and literary magazine.

2. My daughter, a senior in high school, is planning on majoring in elementary education in college and dreams of being an elementary school teacher. She will be at Drexel University next year. I am incredibly proud!

3. I used to say I would NEVER have a dog; yet my two children succeeded in convincing me and my husband and now we have two – a cockapoo named Oliver and a jack russell terrier named Max. I love them both and am so glad they are part of our family. We also have a parakeet named Cielito.

4. I earned a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and although I am not currently training I am coordinating a Science and Social Action Academy at my school through which we train students in martial arts therapeutic techniques to assist peers struggling with illness and disability.

5. I enjoy animated children’s movies and although my own children are teenagers, I still unabashedly watch when I can.

6. I am a co-moderator of #educoach with my dear friends (who I have not yet met face to face) Kathy Perret and Jessica Johnson. Kathy, Jessica, and I are currently writing a book together tentatively titled, “Putting on the Coach’s Hat: How School Leaders Can utilize Instructional Coaching Techniques to Support Teacher Growth”.

7. Each day, at least several times a day, I try to remember to pause and consider things small and large for which I am grateful.

8. I love those few days of the year when I don’t get out of my pajamas and without guilt allow myself to do as little as possible.

9. I am enjoying my first year as Head of School at The Solomon Schechter School of Queens, and am appreciative of the many strengths in the school and community on which to build.

10. It is my 17th year as a school educational leader leader (associate principal, principal, Head of School).

11. I am awed by the dedication and commitment of classroom teachers and honored to be in a position to support teachers in the sacred work they do for our children.

Answers to Vicki’s Questions…

1. What is your favorite song? List song and artist.

Someday by Rob Thomas – My daughter introduced me to the song during a challenging time in my life and it is a song that fills me with hope during difficult moments.

2. What educhat do you recommend to follow. List no more than 3.

#educoach, a chat I co-moderate, attacts some of the most positive, kind, encouraging people I have ever had the privilege to know. Dedicated to supporting one another to help others in our schools using instructional coaching techniques, #educoach chats and conversations leave me feeling energized and inspired.

3. Share your thoughts on education reform in the USA.

I worry about the term “education reform”. I prefer to strive constantly toward enhancing quality of learning and community in our classrooms, beginning with building on positives and successes. So many of our classroom teachers are doing so much that is right. Learning from what works and adapting from those successes to meet the needs of individual learners can propel us forward. There will not be a “one size fits all” for students, for teachers, or for schools. We will benefit from many additional  respectful, job-embedded supports and professional learning opportunities enabling our teachers to build on their strengths, stretch themselves in areas more challenging, reflect, collaborate, and continue to learn and to grow throughout their careers. 

4. What does it mean to be a Lead Learner?

For thoughts on being a Lead Learner, I turn to Jon Hattie. Learning Leadership, according to Hattie, is leadership that emphasizes student and adult learning and occurs when leaders promote and participate in teacher learning through such approaches as providing coaching over an extended time, data teams, a focus on how students learn subject matter content, and enabling teachers to work collaboratively to plan and monitor lessons based on evidence about how students learn. (see Bausmith & Barry, 2011) In distinction to the minimal impact of transformational and instructional leadership, Hattie found the impact of learning leadership to be an impressive .84, placing learning leadership as among the most significant positive impacts on quality of student learning in schools. (Hattie, John (2012-03-15). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (Kindle Locations 3889-3892). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.)

5. What makes you get up in the morning and go to work other than a paycheck?

I am blessed to be in a position in which I can make a positive impact in the lives of children, primarily by supporting their teachers to build on their own strengths, grow, thrive, and improve the quality of learning and community in our classrooms.

6. How do you stretch yourself to be the best of the best?

 Quoting from Ethics of the Fathers –

Ben Zoma says:
Who is wise?
The one who learns from every person…
Who is brave?
The one who subdues his negative inclination…
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
Who is honored?
The one who gives honor to others…
(Talmud – Avot 4:1)

7. How can schools help with poverty in our communities?

Perhaps the most significant way schools can help with poverty in our communities is preparing our children with the commitments, habits, and skills to make a positive impact when they become adults. We can help in some ways more immediately, through offering a range of services in our communities with our children and parents as volunteers as well as recipients when appropriate, yet we can potentially have an even greater impact on preparing our children to help with poverty in the communties they will inherit as adults.

8. What should each teacher or administrator know before they start their new job?

Before starting a new job each educator should know the mission of the school and/or community she or he is joining, as well as what current members of the community view as strengths of the school or community on which to build. 

9. How do we infuse technology into our school?

Offer teachers support and focus, not primarily on the technology, but upon the learning. Among my first decisions as Head of School this year was to hire an educational technology coach and was very blessed to be able to recruit Rebecca Penina Simon (yes, we met on twitter). Our approach has been to work with those who want to try technology to enhance learning, offer support before expectation, and celebrate successes small and large. In the few months since Rebecca has been in our school we have become a google apps for education school, implemented a new educational technology curriculum (including strands in digital citizenship, digital storytelling, programming, office skills, research, and basic technology tools and skills), ordered chromebooks and iPads for use in classrooms and are beginning deployment, set up a blended learning pilot in some of our classes (first grade, one fourth grade class, fifth grade, and seventh grade), and organized a regional edcamp style conference on use of educational technology and social media to enhance the quality of learning in our schools.

10. How do we infuse Social Media into our schools?

Share with teachers, parents, and students the benefits of connecting with others in order to learn. Create valuable opportunities to use social media and celebrate even the small steps forward.

11. What is your eduwin of the week?

My eduwin of the week (or rather last week) was organizing an educational technology and social media to enhance learning edcamp style conference for educators in Jewish day schools in the greater New York area. My eduwin of this vacation week is slowing down and spending meaningful time with family.

The 11 Bloggers I would like to challenge… 

1. Rebecca Penina Simon

2. Jeff Bradbury

3. Jennifer Bradbury

4. Ken Gordon

5. Gilly Cannon

6. Dr. David Timony

7. Ron McAllister

8. Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross

9. Greg Miller

10. Sonia Di Maulo

11. Brett Clark

 11 Questions for my Blogging Friends…

1. When you were young and people asked what you wanted to be when you grow up, what did you answer?

2. What is one piece of advice you have to offer a first year teacher?

3. What is one piece of advice you have to offer principals?

4. How do you like to spend time off from work?

5. What is your most important professional priority in the coming month?

6. What inspires you?

7. If you could learn anything new (time, effort, practicality, and difficulty aside) what would you want to learn?

8. What makes you laugh?

9.  What is a goal you have for yourself in the coming year?

10. Who do you admire?

11. What are you currently celebrating?

Thanks for the challenge, Viki! And thanks to all in my PLN for supporting me to learn, to wonder, to imagine, and to strive. Best wishes for a joyous, healthy, and meaningful New Year!

Celebrating New Bloggers

Today is the first anniversary of Sharing Our Blessings.

I celebrated, in the past several days, in a way I could not have imagined possible when I wrote my first post: Introduction of a Reluctant Blogger. I celebrated new educational bloggers. I remember my own excitement and gratitude when Edna Sackson (whatedsaid.wordpress.com, @whatedsaid) and Cristina Milos(ateacherswonderings.posterous.com, @surreallyno) commented on my first post. I didn’t imagine that the just one year in the future I would be welcoming new bloggers, not as an “expert” but rather as an accessible role model and guide, providing encouragement, support, and gratitude for the learning and insights these educators are sharing.

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Sunday I commented on new blogs by  Joey Sagel(principaljoey.wordpress.com – What Keeps Your Engine Running,  @principaljoey)  and Rabbi Michael Bitton – Rabbi Mike’s Edtech Blog – How To Blog (rabbimichaelbitton.blogspot.com,  @RabbiMBitton).

In addition, I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing a good number of educators, many of whom at least do not yet blog, reflect recently on blogging on a Community of Practice I am privileged to facilitate YU2.0 (yu20.org). These include: Welcome To Blogging by Chagit AlpertResearch Projects And Blogging by Molly HazanBlogging Concerns by Miriam StrulowiczThe Power Of Blogging – It’s Much More Than The New Persuasive Essay by Rebbeca Penina Simon, and Not All Who Could Should Blog by Rabbi Pollock. I love engaging and learning with the skeptics as well as the committed bloggers.

Why do I blog? I blog because I long to learn with others, contributing what I can, reflecting in order to stretch my thinking.

Happy Birthday Sharing Our Blessings! Looking forward to the learning the coming year can bring!

On Favorites – Edublog Award Nominations 2012

I don’t often have favorites. At times I wish I did: a favorite color, a favorite season, a favorite holiday, a favorite movie, a favorite book, or a favorite food. I imagine there is a comfort in favorites, something to turn to that is familiar and beloved. Yet, I relish in variety, option, and possibility, finding it virtually impossible to choose a favorite of anything. And so, true to form, I struggle with the edublog awards. Should I sit it out; not nominate and not vote as there are so many who are worthy? Or might there be value in participation, however imperfect?

Two years ago, new to the world of connected learning, the lists of nominations for the edublog awards directed me to the very first blogs I followed regularly. Last year although I didn’t nominate, I voted. Sad that I couldn’t vote for more educators making a positive impact on my own learning, I was nonetheless grateful to be introduced to bloggers new to me with whom I continue to learn. This year, I’ve decided to nominate a few educators important in my own journey as a learner. While they are by no means the only educators from whom I learn, they are individuals who regularly offer me valuable insight, perspective, and wisdom.

On October 17th, 2012,  Radical Learners returned after a long hiatus during which Jim Knight was writing his new book  High-Impact Instruction, which I look forward to reading.  Two of his prior books: Instructional Coaching and Unmistakable Impact have made an “unmistakable impact” on my practice as an educational leader, assisting me to incorporate coaching mindsets and skills into my work as a principal. I’m grateful to now be able to learn not only from his valuable books, but also from weekly reflections on his blog, published every Wednesday.

TeacherCast, a place for teachers to help other teachers, takes four of my nominations: best group blog, best educational use of audio/video/visual/podcast, best mobile app, and best educational use of a social network. Just a year and a half old, TeacherCast continues to expand its offerings as a community of practice dedicated to bringing teachers together to learn, share, and dream about what is possible in education.

Described as a blog on globally connected learning, and not educational technology per se, Silvia Tolisano is wise in her use of implementing educational technology, thoughtful in the global connections she facilitates, but even wiser and more thoughtful in her reflections on ways of improving the quality of student learning, often with the creative use of technology.

Inquisitive, creative, humble, energetic, and passionate, Maureen Devlin provides insight into the journey of a master teacher, focused on her own students’ learning while connecting her experiences as a teacher to essential questions facing the field of education more broadly.

“Remember everything. Capture anything. Access anywhere. Find things fast.” The promise of Evernote is fast becoming a reality for me and while it is the app I use most often, replacing any other place for creating or storing information, I feel I have only scratched the surface of this remarkable resource.

Edcamp Leadership, which took place this past July in New Jersey, was an extraordinary learning experience for me, which I wrote about here. Highlights for me included learning with Dr. David Timony and Mike Ritzius, two educational thinkers who have since become important members of my professional learning network.

For a truly generous spirit, I nominate best individual tweeter and lifetime achievement award to Jerry Blumengarten, otherwise known as cybraryman. Jerry Blumengarten has personally selected more than 20,000 relevant educational links from the internet for students, teachers, administrators and parents. On those rare occasions that cybraryman does not have a page on his web site on a topic of educational interest, he is tremendously skilled at connecting educators within his vast network with one another in order to learn and to share.

There are so many more worthy of award from whom I learn frequently. To all, a huge thanks!

Introduction of a Reluctant Blogger

My almost sixteen year old daughter and I recently shared a good laugh (deservedly at my expense) remembering the time I told her she was never ever to blog. It must have been about five years ago, which now seems an eternity. Listening to nervous naysayers rather than investigating and learning for myself, I perceived blogs to be personal diaries inappropriately and self-indulgently shared with the world. I openly confess; interacting on the internet frightened me. Web 2.0 was a term I only vaguely understood and I had not yet heard of a “digital footprint” or “digital citizenship”. As an educator and a parent, I was warned by wise experts in the field to teach my students and my children Internet safety. Dutifully, I brought in speakers about internet safety to school. Like so many parents, when I allowed my daughter to  have a Facebook page I reviewed with her my expectations, which included that she never ever accept a friend request from anybody she hadn’t actually met. Be careful, I warned. The advice was heartfelt and appropriate. It’s just that I hadn’t yet recognized my responsibility also to support her, along with my son and my students, to be creative and collaborative.  Sharing, albeit with appropriate caution, is vital.     

In time, I realized how misinformed I had been about blogging and social media, developing the habit of reading the blogs of educational thinkers from around the globe on a daily basis.  I can no longer imagine professional life without interactions with a wide network of individuals writing from the trenches – principals, teachers, instructional coaches, parents and even students.  These reflective musings have become a blessing to me, as I have learned from the successes and also from the mistakes of others willing to share. And so, albeit a reluctant blogger intially, I join in conversation, hoping to reflect, struggle, dream and engage with others exploring ways to nurture our children’s learning and support our children in building character.

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