Monday, September 30, 2019


"Who are your EduHeroes?" The question was asked.  Who has made an important impression on me that has affected the course of my educational life in some form or fashion?  I could go for the easy answer and give the names of several authors whose books I have read, whose Keynote speeches have inspired me, but can I honestly say that they have had the deepest impression on me?

Everyone leaves fingerprints wherever they go. Doors, phones, tables, chairs.  But have you ever thought that you leave fingerprints on people, as well?  Maybe not an actual fingerprint that can be dusted like you see on crime movies, but a fingerprint just the same.  The smiles, words, interactions, and relationships that we have with other people on a daily basis leave an impression even if we are not aware of it!

A smile for a teacher that might be having a hard day, a hug for a student that is needing a comforting touch, a note of encouragement for a coworker that is having personal struggles, a suggestion to try something that they haven't tried before, a listening ear for a friend that needs to get their words out so that they can think clearly.  These are the fingerprints that can leave the biggest impression when shared on a regular basis.  The deepest impressions become bonds that can continue to support and uplift even after the initial contact is no longer present.

The EduHeroes that have left their imprint on my educational life include people like Carol Gunnels (@gunnels5G) who encouraged me to get on Twitter for Professional Development.  Although originally hesitant, I made the leap and soon made connections through Twitter chats.  The contacts that I had on Twitter helped me grow my professional reading library, learn about educational conferences and Edcamps, and extend my learning to Voxer!

I joined a Voxer book study on The Four O'Clock Faculty by Rich Czyz (@RACzyz) led by Matthew Larson (@mlarson_nj) and Ricardo Garcia (@rokstar19).  The connections that I made through this book study were so incredible that at the end of the book study, no one wanted to leave! I talk on a daily basis with educators from all across the United States, from all levels of teaching (classroom, coach, specialists, administrators).  Hearing the perspectives of others encourages me to examine my own beliefs, understandings, and my Why. This group, the #4OCFpln, has become, in a sense, a family. 

This family has not only bonded together to encourage, grow, and support each other, but we have also made an effort to share our beliefs and our learning with others on Twitter, Voxer, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook, etc.  Some of us had an opportunity to share our story with others at #ISTE19 in Philadelphia this past summer.

So when people ask me who are my EduHeroes, I would say they are the people that have made an indelible imprint on my educational life. Their fingerprints on my life have brought me to the path I am on today as a connected educator. And for that I am truly grateful!

Who has left their fingerprint on you?

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Student Voice Deserves to Be Heard

It has been a goal of mine to move toward a more student centered classroom.  A room where students have more voice and choice.  A room where they feel the freedom to speak their mind and be taken seriously.

Many of the 3rd-5th students that come to me for Reading Intervention a couple of times a week are already at the point in their school career that they act like they don't care, because it is easier than admitting that they don't know, or that they need help.  They feel defeated and they compensate by being a distraction to the teacher and other students so that no one will notice what they consider to be a weakness.  These students need their voices to be heard just as much as the other students that seem to be more successful.

One of the students on my class list this year has already been particularly challenging for our school staff.  I prepared for him by having a personal chat with him before my classes began meeting.  I asked him, "What do you want me to know about you?"  I gave him the opportunity to share about himself and his personal challenges.  He made me aware of how he demonstrates his anger and some of his coping mechanisms.  We agreed on a plan of action if his anger became an issue, and I came away feeling great about the conversation.

What was not addressed was his tendency to talk over others, interrupt, and make negative comments which was evident in the very first class period he attended.  I have several students with those same tendencies and it makes teaching very challenging.  Keeping in mind that I want to give students more voice and choice, I plan on putting the ball in their court.  I will put the problem out there for them to discuss and come up with a solution.  If the solution comes from them, they will have more ownership in the implementation.  I plan on having prepared questions to prime the pump of discussion, like:

How can your voice be heard?
What kind of response is helpful to you?
How can we learn from each other?

Whatever the outcome of the discussion, there are a few things that I want my students to understand this year:

You are important to me.
Your voice deserves to be heard.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Knowing Your Why

"Knowing your why is essential when attending an educational conference.  What is your "why" for this year's conference?  What are you hoping to learn?"

This was one of the questions that dropped in the #isteten chat earlier this week.  #Isteten is not a chat that I normally participate in, but I jumped in at the invitation of a friend.  I quickly dropped in my response, which was "To help my #4OCFpln family share the message about taking charge of your own PD! Secondary, to connect face to face with my #PLN." 

To be honest, my initial 'why' was just to be connecting face to face with a group of educators that has impacted me greatly in the last year and a half.  I am not a technology teacher.  Some people might question why I would even want to go to a technology conference like ISTE.  I believe I can learn something from any conference I attend, but I would not be attending ISTE if it wasn't for my #4OCFpln. 

We had discussed the possibility of submitting a proposal for a session at ISTE.  When the deadline for proposals came around, one of us stepped up and submitted a proposal for a panel presentation on Taking Charge of your own PD.  (Thank you @leachteach4 for doing that for us!)  All of us were thrilled when we heard that our proposal had been accepted!  I knew at that moment, I wanted to be there!  With no funding from my school, I paid for my conference fee, housing, and travel expenses, because this was important to me.

And then this question of "why" comes up in this #isteten chat.  I have become very familiar with the question "What is your 'why'?" because it comes up in our #4OCFpln chats every week!  (Thank you for bringing us back to our "why" @emercedlearning !)  It has also come up in a book study I am participating in with #2menandabook, Divergent EDU by Mandy Froehlich.  She says that teachers need a why and then references a video on YouTube, Know Your Why by Michael Jr. (2017).  If you have not seen this video, take a few minutes to view it.  I promise you it will be worth it!  My favorite quote from this video, which Mandy uses in her book is as follows:
"When you know your why your what has more impact because you're walking in and toward your purpose."

I truly want "To help my #4OCFpln family share the message about taking charge of your own PD!".  But looking back at the original question, I did not answer the last part, "What are you hoping to learn?"  I am hoping to learn how I can more effectively implement the use of tools with which I am already familiar.  If I learn about new tools while I'm there, that will be a bonus!

Do you know your 'why'?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Keep Sharing Your Passions!

Stumbling and sliding down the riverbank, I followed a small crowd of people all intent on keeping up with the man dressed in khakis, boots, and a floppy hat.  His purpose was singular, to share his passion for hunting arrowheads and other artifacts.

The rubber boots that I had tucked my jeans into made my steps awkward.  I struggled to catch up with the leader of the group as he began to disappear around a bend, his excitement increasing the pace of every step.  I managed somehow to keep my eyes both on the water in front of me and the general direction of the group as they crossed the riverbed.  The once clear water, made muddy by the foot traffic, hid rocks, ledges, and holes that I anxiously watched for wanting to avoid an unceremonious dunking in the cool water.  The fear of missing out hastened my steps and resulted in a rushing cool sensation as I stepped off a ledge into water deeper than my boots.  With heavier steps, I continued moving upstream hoping that we would soon arrive 'there'.

Our guide settled on an area roughly 100 yards upstream that was made shallow from the deposits of gravel, rock, and other debris.  As I got closer I could hear him talking to whomever would listen of the history of this river, the artifacts that had been found here, and what we could expect to find today.  He patiently answered questions as he walked slowly, head down, scanning the ground in front of him.  It wasn't long before he bent down and picked up a rock that turned out to be an arrowhead with the tip broken off.  He explained that he had seen the blade edge  sticking up out of the rocks which is how they often land.  His decades of arrowhead hunting experience had trained his eyes to notice things that other people would overlook, and often do!  He handed the find to a child and continued walking, talking, and looking.

Choosing an area within earshot, I began to look carefully at the ground before me.  Lots of gravel peppered with shale, river rocks, sticks, with the occasional glass, bones, and other debris.  Several times I reached out to what I thought might be an arrowhead only to be disappointed by a sharp edged rock.  Moving slowly as I searched, I overheard some excitement as our leader identified a shark's tooth.  The small group around him leaned in for a look as he continued to talk about the history of this area.  Another child was awarded the find as our guide resumed his hunt.

After a time of staring at the ground, occasionally depositing interesting rocks in my pockets, I began to look around me at the others that were on this hunt.  Several young children were occupied with digging in the riverbed with shovel and bucket.  One teenager could be seen sitting in the water swishing the water around him.  A mother was documenting the day by taking pictures with her phone.  A few young people were collecting sticks they found by the wayside and one was carrying an interesting piece of driftwood.  Overall, most were walking with head down, scanning the ground for the next find.

At the end of our hunt, we were going home with shells, bones, driftwood, rocks, shark's teeth, petrified wood, and pretty rocks.  The prize of the morning was a second arrowhead, also found by our guide who kept this one for himself.

On the way home I considered what our leader had accomplished by sharing his passion for hunting arrowheads and artifacts.   Did everyone find an arrowhead today? No. He was the only one who actually located any arrowheads.  Did everyone find some type of artifact? No. Some went home with dinosaur vertebrae and shark's teeth, but most went home with rocks, shells, and sticks.  Will everyone become an arrowhead enthusiast because of this trip? No.  Some might return for another try at an arrowhead find, but most will move on to something with which they think they can be more successful.  Why would someone take the time to share their passion with so little return on their investment?

At the end of this day, his return on investment may appear to be small, but it will take years to determine the depth of his impact.  Someone shared their passion with him decades ago, and that impact was felt on this day!

The next time you are sharing your passion with others, don't be discouraged by an apparent lack of interest.  Consider that if you have influenced just one person, your impact can be more far reaching than you know!  Keep sharing your passions!

P.S. Our passionate arrowhead hunting guide shares his passion on his YouTube channel, as well.  His alias is Idiana Smith.  Click here for an example of one of his arrowhead hunting adventures!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Falling in Love with Books

"Mrs. Isham! I just fell in love with one of your books!"  Nothing sounds sweeter to a Reading Teacher's ears!

I would love more than anything to create the perfect parameters to repeat that scenario over and over again on a daily basis.  What was present in this instance that was the catalyst that brought about this type of reaction in my student?

Lots of books. A wide variety of genres, authors, and reading levels.

Free choice.  Students allowed to self-select the books they wanted to read.

Time to read.  Time during school for students to get lost in a book.

Model reader.  A teacher that models an active reading life.  This year, as I have every year, I read aloud to my students.  When students are reading in my class, I am also reading.  I have also started posting the covers of the books I am currently reading outside my classroom door. 

When I finish a book, the cover is moved to the cabinet door inside my classroom, which is a running list of books that I have read this year.  I have also posted a reading goal of how many books I want to read this year.

I will continue to provide my students with large library of books, free book choice, time to read, and a model reader in myself.

My goal for my students is for them to become life-long readers.  What better way to do that than to fall in love with books? 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Accepting a compliment

Have you ever refused a gift? Something that is given freely to honor you?

That is exactly what you are doing when you deflect or dismiss a compliment directed towards you. 

I grew up watching my mother work outside the home, sew clothes for her daughters (as well as friends and family on the side), teach Sunday School, and cook.  Whatever she did, she did well! Except for accepting compliments.  It was not uncommon for her to receive compliments on her cooking, sewing, and her teaching.  It was just as likely for her to deflect or dismiss the compliments given to her as though they weren't deserved.  I was delighted that others saw what a talented mother that I had, but frustrated that she didn't see herself that way.

Recently I have found myself doing the exact same thing my mother did when she received compliments.  Dismissing the value placed on my acts, deflecting the honor given to me as a gift.  Even though it is something that I am learning that I struggle with, I feel that accepting a compliment gracefully is something we all need to know how to do.  It honors both the giver and and the gift.

It has been said "It is better to give than receive," but I feel like everyone is on the receiving end when a something is given, especially when the gift given is a compliment.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Sharing the Learning!

Love Isn't Love Until You Give It Away...

Would the same apply to Learning?  Learning isn't Learning until you give it away?

I recently had the opportunity to attend the TCEA Conference (Texas Computer Education Association) in San Antonio for the first time.  Let me state....I am NOT a computer/technology teacher.  When my principal asked me if I was interested in attending, my first question was, "why me?"  "Is the computer teacher not able to go?"  My principal explained that they want different people each year to have an opportunity to go.  She continued by saying, "I know that you will bring back what you learn and share with others."  I was honored that she saw this in me, so of course my answer was, "YES!!"

Five of us had an opportunity to get to know each other better over the course of four days as we drove to San Antonio and shared rooms in a hotel on the Riverwalk.  Three teachers and two technology directors each with a different perspective of learning and technology.  I felt like a parched and thirsty person trying to drink from a swift moving river.  I drank in as much as I could and let the rest wash over me as I enjoyed the atmosphere.

I also took advantage of the opportunity to meet up with some of my #4OCFpln whom I have never met in person!  A few of us met up one morning for breakfast and fellowship.  Later that evening, a larger group of us met up for dinner on the Riverwalk.  We did not feel like strangers at all!  It was just a continuation of the conversations we have everyday on Voxer!

I was thankful for the opportunity to attend such a rich learning experience and couldn't wait to share my learning with others!  A coworker and I put together a Wakelet of presentations and notes that we collected from the sessions which we had attended, and set a date to share what we had experienced.  We offered a voluntary, after school PD session that teachers could sign up for if they were interested.  Technology Tidbits from TCEA was the title and a tasting was what we offered.  We briefly touched on some of the tools we had learned about and asked for feedback on what they would like to learn more about.  We had seventeen people that chose to stay for an hour after school to hear what we were excited to share.

The night before, I spent time reviewing the tools I would be speaking about.  I know from experience that one way to cement student learning is to have them teach what they have learned to others!  Being able to share my learning with others would not only benefit them, but me, as well.  It also brought back a little bit of the excitement I felt when attending those sessions in TCEA.

I feel that I get more out of new learning when I share my learning with others.  So, to me.....

Learning isn't learning until you give it away.