Wednesday, January 21, 2015

10 Rules for Students and Teachers

I stumbled across the 10 Rules for Students and Teachers, written by Sister Corita Kent in 1968. Sister Corita Kent was a peace activist, artist, and college professor. You can learn more about her at 

10 Rules for Students and Teachers

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined: this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything. It might come in handy later.

Feel free to download by clicking on the picture above. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The point where we realize we're out of time

As the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter, the difference in the score was great, but we still felt a sense of hope for our daughters. We wanted them to come out on top, to be winners, successful in their efforts. It would take a lot on their part, but they could still come back. 

But as the clock ticked and the game got closer to the end of the last quarter, we reached the point in the game where everyone realizes that there’s just no way to win. There’s too many points that are needed and not enough time to get them. 

All hope lost, the realization washes over me. Out of time. The game is too far gone and there’s nothing left to do but keep playing and going through the motions... trying to improve skills that can possibly be used in a win in the next game. But this game, it's over. A mark in the loss column.

Sometimes we cross paths with students where we feel like we’re out of time. They’re “too far gone” for us to do much for them. We have hope in the beginning, but our efforts don’t amount to enough within the time that we’re given. And we lose. 

We lose an opportunity to make a difference. We lose a student to the grind of an unhealthy lifestyle, or to a negative family situation that perpetuates itself through another generation. 

But we don’t lose faith or hope. We believe we've done everything we could have. We hope we’ve gotten better at cracking the code. Better so that we won’t lose the next student who passes our way. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. - Alabama's Twitter Chat

There are many inspirational and important quotes spoken or written by Martin Luther King, Jr. Tonight's twitter chat (Alabama Education Chat) will focus on seven and how they relate to educators. We hope that you will join us tonight from 9-10pm CST as we celebrate MLK day and his inspiring words.

Everyone is welcome to join us Monday nights 9-10pmCST for #ALedchat. We value the insights, perspectives, and experiences of those in our PLN.

Here are the quotes and questions for tonight's chat to get you thinking in advance:

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Does your school embrace this? Give examples.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.” How does your school/system encourage acceptance of others?

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a constant attitude.” How does forgiveness play a role in what you do? 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted…” Give examples of how kids learn to do their best no matter what the task is.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” How does your school answer this question? 

“The time is always right to do what is right.” Do you think students find it hard to follow this? How do we help them understand this quote?

“…if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Give examples of how kids can learn persistence.

Bring your experience and passion to #ALedchat tonight, 9-10pmCST.

Please click the time converter link above to convert 9pmCST to your time zone. 

TIP: If you have never done a twitter chat before, you may find it helpful to go to tweetdeck and enter the hashtag #ALedchat. Sign in with your twitter account. The website will "filter out" all of the other tweets except for the ones with the hashtag #ALedchat and put them into one column.  (P.S. The hashtags are NOT case-sensitive.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dealing with Distractibility in the 1:1 Classroom

Here is a presentation I shared in a workshop titled Dealing with Distractibility in the 1:1 Classroom. Feel free to use or share!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Does Assigning Projects = Project-Based Learning?

While Twitter is my professional learning space, Facebook is my space for personal friends. Having moved many times while I was young, I have been able to re-connect with friends from elementary school and junior high that I never thought I would “see” again. Now that I’ve been in education so long, I can connect with former students now that they are out of college (one of my personal “rules” about my Facebook account.)

Over the holidays and periodically throughout the year, I read posts from my friends lamenting the projects that their children are assigned at school to complete at home. 

I know I assigned projects during my 12 years as a classroom teacher, and I remember the dread that I heard from students (especially the Rube Goldberg project they had to complete!) And while I had hoped to increase motivation and learning through hands-on projects, what I assigned would not have been considered part of "project-based learning."

Project-based Learning, or PBL, is defined as "a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge." (source

There is absolutely nothing wrong with projects, but assigning a project may not fit the definition of project-based learning. 

As we are looking for ways to “hook” our students and engage them in authentic, relevant learning, the chart below from Amy Mayer helps us to understand the difference between projects and project-based learning. 

Project based learning

The three differences that stand out to me are:
  • A project can be outlined on one piece of paper by the teacher, and PBL includes many "Need to Knows by the students and teachers.
  • Projects happen after the "real" learning has already occurred and are just the "dessert," where PBL is how students do the real learning.
  • Projects are turned in, and PBL assignments are presented to a public audience encompassing people from outside the classroom.

While students may not get fired up about PBL assignments, there are many qualities about the assignments that make them relevant and rigorous. Also, they can't be done without the assistance of the teacher. 

Simply, project-based learning is about the process, and projects are about the product.

I wonder if I would see the Facebook posts from friends if their children's teacher's used project-based learning in the classroom instead of assigning projects to complete over the weekends or holidays. 

Do you or someone you know use PBL strategies? Please share in the comments. 

Want to learn more about PBL? Click the link for a compilation of 2014's Most Popular Blogs and Hangouts on the Buck Institute for Education website.

Transitioning to PBL isn't always easy. Read this blog post by Benjamin Stern, "Can You Just Tell Me What to Do?"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Good vs. Great Teachers

What separates the good teachers from the great teachers? Is it that the great teachers know more about their subject area? Is it that they are funnier, better joke or story tellers, or better communicators?

In my 20+ years of experience, I think what separates the good from the great is the willingness to learn. The good teacher must not only be willing to learn about their subject area and effective ways to teach it, they must also be willing to learn about themselves and their learners, increase self-awareness, and be willing to act on the information they learn.

Former superintendent of Tacoma (WA) Public Schools, Dr. Art Jarvis, stated this about what makes a great teacher:
"Much of what makes a great teacher today is the same as it has always been. It's a passion for a subject, an inherently caring attitude, the ability to trigger receptiveness to learning in children, and a knack for coaching kids in fun ways. But today, that's no longer enough. In education we are facing a sea of change in high technology and higher expectations." 
The only constant in education, as in life, is change. Especially now, with the rapid changes in technology and their applications in education, a teacher must be willing to change, and to do that requires an ability and desire to learn. 

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership produced the following animation: 

Dr. Maryellen Weimer, author of "Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice," writes for The Teaching Professor Blog, and wrote an article titled, "Seven Characteristics of Good Learners."

Here are the seven characteristics that she identifies, which are applicable to students as well as teachers: (see her blog post for more information about each characteristic.)

1. Good learners are curious
2. Good learners pursue understanding diligently
3. Good learners recognize that a lot of learning isn’t fun
4. Failure frightens good learners, but they know it’s beneficial 
5. Good learners make knowledge their own 
6. Good learners never run out of questions 
7. Good learners share what they’ve learned

Teachers, are these the characteristics that you possess or are working on? Would you add any to this list?

Administrators, are these the characteristics  you look for in prospective teachers? How do you foster growth in these characteristics in your current teachers? Would you add any to this list?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Beyond a New Year's Resolution: My 3 Words for 2015

Each year, people make New Year's Resolutions and list goals and dreams for the year, and every year they are broken or not met. When planning for a new year, we list dreams, visions, goals, plans, and methods, but something that is not listed is motivation. When days get long and stressful, what will keep us moving in the direction of meeting our goals?

For me, it's the Three Words I select at the beginning of the year to set my intentions, drive my actions, and align my purpose. Choosing three words is something Chris Brogan has been doing since 2006 (You can read his 3 Words for 2015 here). He sums it this way: 

“The three words are a shorthand representation of your bigger story. It’s kind of like how an icon isn’t the software program. It’s just a way for you to mentally access all the work you’re doing.”

While I had been a fan of Chris for a while, last year was the first year I participated and publicly shared my three words for the 2014. My 3 words for 2014 were Discipline, Intentional, and Balance. Last year was an incredible year, and I believe it has to do with using the three words as guideposts throughout the decisions and actions I made throughout the year.

To decide on the three words for the year, I write down words as I reflect on the year and dream for the future. There's no limit to the number of words I write, then I narrow my focus to choose three that I feel will help me to achieve my goals for the year and have a happy and rewarding year. Publicly sharing the words keeps me accountable, energized, and on track throughout the year.

The first word I chose for the new year is Rhythm. Rhythm is defined as "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." (source) 

As someone who likes to be strong, the definition of rhythm seems like a contradiction of what I want to achieve in 2015. What I have slowly realized is a lesson I already had learned as an athlete and coach. As a pitcher, I had to get in a "rhythm" in order to perform my best. I couldn't muscle my way through a practice or game or force the outcome. Sometimes I had to give in to a weakness in order to gain a strength, and it was something I got better at recognizing the longer I pitched and coached.

Life is like that, too... it has it's rhythms, ebbs and flows. With one daughter headed to college next fall, another daughter who will start driving in a few weeks, a husband who is working on starting his own business, and me wanting to get published in 2015, there will definitely be some ebbs and flows during the year. This is where I will rely on experience (mine and others) to help me get the feel of the rhythm of life.

Educators must be brave. I fully believe this. We have a hard, rewarding, crazy, demanding, magical, inspiring, draining job that we do every day. I want to be braver in what I do. I have always lived with the motto, "If you're going to do something, do it right," which has also stopped me from taking some risks that I could/should take for fear of it not being right. (Oddly enough, there are things I've tried and didn't worry about the outcome... I just want to be more consistent with my bravery!) We all have fears. I just want to be able to look mine in the eyes and face them! 

If you know me well, you know that I believe in healthy lifestyle choices - food, exercise, rest, and positive thinking. To be physically fit, one must exercise regularly, pay attention to their bodies and minds, make healthy food choices, and make time to be physically fit. Fitness, my word for 2015, doesn't just mean physical fitness, it means fitness in other areas, too - including financial, spiritual, mental, and relational. I want to pay attention to those areas, develop them fully, make healthy choices, and exercise them daily.

What are your three words for the new year?