Friday, May 27, 2016

How #lastbell has inspired a district - Guest post by Rhonda Roysden

Today's guest post is by Rhonda Roysden, Instructional Technology Specialist, in Fentress County Schools, Jamestown, Tennessee. You can find her on twitter at @rroysden.

I want to thank Jennifer for asking me to do a guest blog post.  I warned her that as much as I am on Twitter, I am not blogging yet! She encouraged me to get started with this post!  

Inspiration and motivation began in my district with this tweet from Jennifer Hogan (@jennifer_hogan) on April 25th.  

I saw her tweet, read her blog post, and immediately retweeted.  I thought on it a day or two and revisited Jennifer’s post on April 27th and decided to retweet it again. Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy by Derek Sivers automatically popped in my mind on starting a movement and I thought, why not?

I felt compelled to tell others.   While attending a leadership workshop on April 27th, I enthusiastically shared with district/school leaders and instructional coaches.  We decided that we can join this great movement of making May matter and teach to the #lastbell in Fentress County.  This movement came at a critical time for us, with the issues and pressure of state testing in Tennessee, we felt this would be an awesome way to motivate teachers to share the great things going on in their classrooms.

Our instructional coaches, literacy leader, Federal Programs Director, and I met and began researching and brainstorming some ideas of how we can bridge the idea of #lastbell along with Teacher Appreciation Week.  Ms. Kristi Hall (@kristi_hall), Federal Programs Director, was excited about the idea and eager to support this movement!  We used tips from Jennifer’s blog to get started and decided to use her “I commit to teach” design to print cards for our teachers.  

We started out on May 2nd with the card and a letter explaining the movement to make every minute matter in Fentress County.  We challenged teachers to commit and use Twitter to share the great work going on in their classrooms. (note:  I have been trying to get them on Twitter since 2009!)  

We encouraged the use of Twitter by putting their name in a drawing for a prize for each tweet they tweeted.  We didn’t say what the prize was.  We put together packets to give to teachers and parapros throughout the week for motivation and appreciation of their hard work.

Here are some of the things we shared with them:

Monday, May 2nd:
Teachers--receive note with info and #lastbell badge
Your EXTRA effort in May Matters!  #lastbell (gave to parapros with a pack of Extra Gum)

Tuesday, May 3rd:
M & M s = May Matters! #lastbell (gave to teachers with a pack of m&ms)

Wednesday, May 4th
Use your SMARTS!  Make May Matter! #lastbell (gave smarties to teachers and parapros)

Thursday, May 5th:
Keep Students BRIGHT in May!  #lastbell (gave teachers tealight candles)

Friday, May 6th:​
Stay SHARP in MAY!  #lastbell  (gave to teachers with sharpie markers)

Thanks for being a KOOL AIDE!  #lastbell (gave to parapros with a bottle of Kool Aid)

I was so excited on May 2nd to see the tweets start coming in.  I had mentioned that I could tweet for them, but their name wouldn’t go in for the drawing unless they tweeted themselves.  It was fun to watch the emails and Google hangout chats asking me to check and see if they tweeted right or if I could see their tweet.  That was the highlight for this instructional technology specialist! 

The power of becoming a connected educator along with sharing meaningful student work throughout May was most inspiring!  

Since so many teachers were new to Twitter, I would storify the tweets regularly and share out via email so they could see what was being shared on #teachFentress.  Here are links to the storified tweets:

May 2nd-9th
May 6th-18th
May 19th-25th

May 24th was our last day of school and we ended our #lastbell tweets. We now have 36 teachers, instructional coaches, district/school admin, and parapros that have tweeted!  This is so exciting!  Since May 2, we have had around 280 original tweets(not counting my tweets).  Can I just mention how nice it is to have others using the #teachFentress hashtag rather than just a couple of us!!

On May 25th, an email was sent out announcing the winners for the prize.  We had two donated $25 gift cards to give away and five 8 GB flashdrives for the top tweeters.  For each original tweet, their name went in for a drawing.  So, if they tweeted 43 times, their name went in 43 times.  I did a screencast using snagit to draw for and announce the winners as well as the top 5 tweeters!  I shared the 2 minute screencast to present the news!  

Prior to seeing the #lastbell tweet from Jennifer, another tweet from Bethany Hill (@bethhill2829) resonated with me.

This perspective on counting down the days until summer is powerful and moving!  What a difference we can make in the lives of our students!  Both of these tweets, the #lastbell movement tweet along with Bethany's tweet, urged me to share within our district and hopefully inspire teachers to continue making a difference in the lives of students in May!  Kids matter!  Becoming a connected educator is an added bonus!  

Thanks to both Jennifer Hogan and Bethany Hill for the inspiration!  We never know what tweets might touch someone’s life!  Get connected!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The one phrase that great teachers say

This time of the year, I’m involved in conversations with teachers about their year -- either informally as they share their reflections with me or in end-of-year evaluation meetings where we formally discuss their goals, progress, reflections, and next steps. I recently had two conversations with teachers that  were on opposite ends of the spectrum, and I could relate to both of them. 

One teacher that I talked with made a comment about “certain” students. He was talking about kids who don’t “do” school well. They’re the kids who don’t like to sit still, are unorganized, lacking in self-discipline, or struggle with learning, just to name a few characteristics. In this same conversation, he made comparisons to other teachers. About his schedule. About their schedule. About the kids he taught. 

I could relate because I had done the same thing.

Early in my career (20 years ago), after teaching for 4 years, I questioned whether or not I was “supposed to be” in education. At the time, I compared myself to other teachers in the building. I didn’t like a system where other teachers got paid more than me simply because they had been in education longer than I. I compared how hard I worked to how hard they worked, and I found it unfair that they had a higher salary that was based solely on number of years working as an educator.

So I left education for two years, owned a business with my husband, during which time I learned, thank goodness, that my calling is to be in education.

Another teacher I recently met with had a different outlook; it’s one that I embrace now. 

The other teacher was talking about the students he teaches, the kids who don’t “do” school well. They’re the kids who don’t like to sit still, are unorganized, lacking in self-discipline, or struggle with learning, just to name a few characteristics. He said, “I think that this is maybe my niche. It’s where I’m supposed to be. I could ask ‘Why me?’ but I ask, ‘Why NOT me?’”

The second teacher is at the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s not comparing himself with others. He asking if he is living fully in his gifts. He is thinking about how he can do his best in the role he is in. 

This point of view is what I choose for myself, too. My life is about how I can be the best I can be so that I can help others to be their best. It’s a mindset and a choice to have “Why not me?” outlook, and it’s one that anyone can have, but it will take some more practice than others. 

Here are 3 ways to deal with envy and create a “Why not me?” attitude.

1. Practice gratitude. Create time to simply be thankful. Whether it’s the first thing in the morning, just before you go to bed, or even on your lunch hour or daily run, consciously list all the things you are grateful for. 

2. Be aware of thoughts of comparison, and repeat a phrase or affirmation over and over until the thoughts of comparison are gone. Sample phrases are, “I am thankful for my gifts of ________ and I will use them to be the best _________ that I can be.” or “The only person I compare myself to is the me that I was yesterday. I am always getting better.”

3. Be honest with yourself about your feelings. Do the feelings of envy/comparison stem from insecurities? Are you concerned with being overlooked or taken advantage of? Are you fearful that your best isn’t enough? Once you determine the source of your desire to compare, work on facing those specific feelings.

Do you ask “Why me?” or “Why not me?”
How do you keep an attitude of “Why not me?”

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

12 Quotes for Day 12 of #lastbell

As we start Day 12 of the #lastbell movement, I'm sharing 12 quotes with you about finishing strong. Feel free to share these on social media, with your friends or colleagues, with your students, and anyone who likes to be inspired!

"Starting Strong is good. Finishing strong is EPIC."  
-Robin Sharma

"Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't."
- Jerry Rice

"Regardless of what came before or of what has yet to come, what matters most right now is how I choose to respond to the challenge before me. Will I lie down, or will I fight? The choice is mine, and I choose to FINISH STRONG."
- Dan Green

"You can throw in the towel, or you can use it to wipe the sweat off your face and keep going."
- Unknown

"Whenever you have taken up work in hand, you must see it to the finish. That is the ultimate secret of success. Never, never, never give up!"
- Dada Vaswani

"You have nothing to lose by giving your best."
- Lailah Gifty Akita

"Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later."     
- Og Mandino

"Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment."     
- Oprah Winfrey

"I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end."
- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, May 8, 2016

What's Your Story

I love the mission statement for the school district where I work, Hoover City Schools. 

It reads,

“In a safe, caring atmosphere of teaching and learning, Hoover City Schools provide each student with opportunities to develop exemplary character and achieve personal excellence through a rigorous and relevant curriculum.”
I know that in many school districts, the mission statements sound similar, the words are posted and forgotten, and the statements are as valuable as the paper on which they are written. At our school, Hoover High School, I see the mission statement lived out each day.

“In a safe, caring atmosphere…” Our teachers understand the importance of developing positive relationships with students. It’s something we value, and we are intentional about creating positive experiences for students. It’s a place where discipline is more about learning from mistakes, where teachers care for and take care of each other, and where diversity is celebrated. It’s part of our story.

“provide each student with opportunities to develop exemplary character…” In Hoover City Schools, we expect, teach, and celebrate excellent character. We have an annual awards presentation of the Finley Character Awards (named on behalf of long-time coach Bob Finley), which is one of the most honorable awards a student or employee can receive in the district. It’s part of our story.

“provide each student with opportunities to… achieve personal excellence…” Whether a student excels in arts, academics, athletics or other area, we create opportunities for students to learn, grow, and excel in whatever areas they can. In addition, we offer clubs, community service opportunities, and leadership opportunities to our students.  This, too, is part of our story. 

“through a rigorous and relevant curriculum.” The standards we set for our student learning are high. We aim to teach through relevant and/or hands-on experiences which require students to problem-solve, work collaboratively, and apply their knowledge. We offer 6 academic academies (Law, Finance, Education, Engineering, Information Technology, and Health Science), a Fine Arts Academy, a Life Skills Academy, an IB curriculum, and many AP courses. This is part of our story.

The story of our school is too powerful to be kept only between the staff and students. Every school has a story, and it’s important to get clear on the message that is shared with the people outside your building, especially with parents and community members. When sharing your school’s story, it’s important to send a clear and consistent message to others. 

Take some time to sit down with your administrator (if you’re a teacher) or administrative team (if you’re an administrator) to start the conversation about sharing your school’s story on social media. Here are some starter questions about getting clear on your message:
~What are we known for? What sets us apart from other schools?
~What do we WANT to be known for?
~What positive things are happening in our school that no one outside the                                     building knows about?
~If your mission statement is stale or not represented, what key words                                         describe what you are about?

Once you get clear about your school’s story, get started sharing it with the world. It is imperative that we dilute the negative messages about education that circulate through the media. We have too many wonderful things going on in schools that we need to share! 


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