Friday, June 22, 2012

Take Time To Connect

After teaching for twenty some years I feel confident walking into most classrooms. No matter how many times I do it however, presenting to adults makes me a nervous wreck! The only thing reassuring me about my presentation at the BPS Learning Conference 2012 yesterday was the quality of the material, most of which was generously supplied by Phil Macoun. I helped to facilitate a MoodleMeet with Phil in January, and when asked to present on global collaborative projects by my boss, it seemed natural to revisit the wonderful course Phil had put together.
One of the many resources was a video by Vicki Davis, describing seven principles that can take your classroom global and the current challenges and misconceptions surrounding what it means to globalize your classroom. I’ve watched this video many times and every time I take away a new nugget.
Presenting to strangers yesterday the principle that resonated most with me was the need to take time to connect with others. In fact, the whole reason I was there in the first place was through connections I had made over the course of the last year. Again I owe much thanks to Phil Macoun, who, after a brief meeting at a conference in Vancouver last summer, became my Twitter tutor. Phil responded to every one of my emails about how to find people to follow, hashtags, and chats and in doing so, opened up a whole new world for me. I’m amazed by how much I have learned and how much my teaching has been positively affected by the generous sharing of educators from all around the world. Teachers I can only dream of meeting like Michael Graffin, Miss Noor, Paul Bogush and Vicki Davis herself, by taking the time to answer my questions, by supporting and encouraging and by sharing their wisdom have impacted me and my students in ways they will never know.
Several months ago, Monica Noakes, a teacher from Vancouver contacted me through Twitter and we have since forged a friendship that will I hope, last a long time. Monica was looking to collaborate on a global project and together with our students we created Ingreenious Inventions, a wiki that documents our students growing understanding of the invention process. Working with Monica was an absolute joy. She embodies the qualities that we were trying teach our students in order to be successful: perseverance, flexibility, adaptability, understanding, active listening, respect and trust. She has enriched my personal and professional life immensely and while I will miss our weekly Skype sessions throughout the summer, I am determined to reconnect and continue working with her and her colleague, Natalia Russo, in the fall.
Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Network has been another wonderful way for me to gain a deeper global perspective and next month I am excited to attend the U.S. Forum in Redmond. Being my second time attending I know I can look forward  to learning from my peers from around the country about the wonderful ways that they are integrating technology into the classroom and being provided with the opportunity to make new connections. I am also thrilled to be able to meet up with some of the wonderful people I met last year including Kelli Etheredge who gave me the courage I needed to start this Blog and Lou Zulli who inspires me every day with his wit, wisdom and wealth of experience.
I could go on ad infinitum mentioning the people who have impacted me this year. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have found my new friends. One of my favorite lines from Vicki’s video is, “When you are ripe you rot!” Twenty years of teaching definitely makes me ripe, but by growing my personal learning network and by learning with and from others I’m finding it difficult to find the time to rot. I urge every educator-take time to connect.

Monday, June 4, 2012

We Were Created For Significance

The title of this post is a quote from Angela Maiers in a TEDx presentation I watched last year. It really resonated with me because as a teacher I try to impress upon my students that they are significant, that they positively impact not only me and each other but that they can also have a significant impact on their local community. Over the years my students have designed, developed and implemented several projects that highlight their ability to be agents of change within the community and they have been validated and felt like they matter not only by collecting and analyzing data, but also because of recognition they receive from others though projects like the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge and the Cyberfair program.
I was prompted to watch the presentation again because of two important events that have happened to me over the last few days that have made me feel significant. The first was receiving notification of a successful submission to the Microsoft Partners in Learning U.S. Forum .This will be my second year attending the event and I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of visiting the Redmond campus once more to spend two days learning with and from innovative educators from all over the country. Attending last year had a huge impact on my life as an educator. I was inspired and reenergized and my teaching throughout the year has been positively impacted because Microsoft sent the message loud and clear that as an educator, I matter.
The second event was receiving an email from a local senator congratulating me on the work that my students have been doing to raise awareness of sustainability in our local community. I have no idea how he heard about it and I was just so excited to tell my students that other people are recognizing their significance too. I also realized how much these events affected me personally. This school year has been challenging and rewarding, hectic and exhausting and as we draw closer to summer vacation it has been just that little bit harder to get out of bed in the morning, I’ve struggled to find the motivation to keep up with my Blog and I’ve been feeling slightly overwhelmed with necessary end of year school business. Being told by both Microsoft and a local senator that the work I do is significant and meaningful has totally changed my outlook in the last few days. I’m ready and able to finish the year strong with as much enthusiasm and passion as I started the year with.
The purpose in writing this post has not been to be boastful, but to confirm the message that Angela is conveying in the TEDx talk. Using the two simple words “You Matter” can have a tremendously positive impact on the people around us. All over the country, as the school year comes to a close, educators are participating in their own version of Survivor. As Angela states, big people need to know they matter too. In the last few remaining weeks of school I am determined to remind not only my students that they matter but also my colleagues. I want to let them know that I see them, that I value and appreciate them and that they are significant. I cannot think of a more powerful and simple way to thank my colleagues for another great year of learning.