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?”

Related posts:

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! 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Try a Book Study via Twitter

Lately, I've been sharing with several people about a summer PD activity we did a few years ago for our teachers. I want to share the details in this blog post, and encourage you to give it a try.

Holly Sutherland and I were working at the same school at the time, and we offered a summer book study of two books, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Do You Know Enough About Me to teach Me? By Stephen Peters. Our teachers let us know if they wanted to participate in a book study, and we ordered a book for those who wanted to join us.

The format of the book study was the similar for both. For each book, we would meet 3 times. The first and last meetings would be in someone’s home or at the school. The second meeting would be “on Twitter.”

For the meetings on twitter, those who wanted to meet in person met us at the local Panera Bread 30 minutes before our start time so that we could get everyone signed on to twitter and ready to go. (The really neat thing was that both authors joined us for the chats!)

Below you can see some of the tweets from the book chats:

To host the book chat on twitter, we needed a hashtag. We created one that was unique and shared it with the group, and we agreed on a "meeting time" on twitter. Everyone used the same hashtag to follow the conversation about the book.

You can see from above that we had someone join us who was not a teacher at our school, and that was a cool way for our teachers to see the power of connecting with other educators on twitter!

For our second book of the summer, Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me?, we had our third meeting at one of our teacher's homes.

At this meeting, she provided homemade popcorn + seasonings for our snack. Each of us wrote our goal for the next year on our snack bags. It was a really cool way for us to share our goals with each other!

For the last meeting, author Stephen Peters joined us via Skype to answer questions from our group. It was a powerful experience for two reasons: 1) to be able to talk with the book's author about such a meaningful topic was extremely moving and inspiring, and 2) it modeled for our teachers the ease of bringing in an expert via technology to create a deeper learning experience.

I'm forever grateful to these two authors for giving their time to our teachers. They created an awareness and understanding, and they empowered our teachers to keep striving for greatness for the benefit of our students.

If you need any assistance getting started with a book study on twitter, please contact me via email or twitter.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The 5 C's of Hiring

Over the last three weeks I've participated in a webinar series with the Bobby Dodd, Dr. Neil Gupta, and Craig Vroom, where our goal has been to assist educators during hiring season. We've got 77 years of combined experience, and we put together the series so that others can learn from our successes and failures. 

Part I of the series was for pre-service teachers looking to get hired, and Part II was for teachers making the transition into administration. In Part III, we shared our insights on hiring the best candidate to our target audience of school and district leaders.

If you’ve ever been involved in the hiring process on the hiring side, you know that part of the process is interviewing candidates. The questions that are asked should really get to the heart of what a leader is looking for in a candidate.

When crafting questions to use in an interview, make sure they fall in the following categories.

The 5 C’s of Hiring

Character - I consider this to be one of the most important areas and requirements for hiring a candidate. You need to insure that the person you hire to teach and influence students is a person of high character and someone you can trust.

Compatible - I hear school leaders say that they are looking for a “good fit.” This is when the school leader follows instinct. It’s knowing and understanding the personalities of the team, department, or group that the candidate must mesh with in order to be successful.

Competent - The candidate must be skilled at what is required of them. They should be knowledgeable in their content area, excellent instructors who use solid instructional strategies, and relationship-builders with students, parents, and other stakeholders. Ask candidates to share evidence of their skills and successes.

Committed - Hiring new candidates takes time and money, resources that are short on supply in education. You want to be sure to hire a candidate who is passionate about being an excellent educator. The candidate must understand that effective teachers have reputations and longevity in a school, where they can positively influence students, colleagues, and culture.

Culture - Find out what the beliefs and values are of the candidate. They should align with the school and district’s beliefs, values, and goals.For example, if a core value of a school is risk-taking, you want to hire a candidate who is willing to learn and try new things in their role. Hiring someone who is confident in what they’ve always done and doesn’t see a reason to change could not be in alignment with a culture of risk-taking.

Monday, May 2, 2016

6 Free Inspiring Graphics for Teachers

Please feel free to download any or all of these and print for your classroom, school, office, or other! (To download, right click on the image and "save as")

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Do you see a weed or a wish?

As kids come to us at school, they don’t always feel like they owe us anything - including their respect, care, concern, or attention. Sometimes this is because they’ve been burned by adults in the past. Adults they thought they could count on. Adults that were supposed to have their backs. Kids learn to avoid trust. To count on someone else. To feel like they deserve happiness. 

When you meet kids like that, do you see a weed or a wish?

Some kids come to us who look like we do. They say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” and they sit in their desks straight. They write neatly, and they always turn their work in on time. They say “Please” and “Thank you,” and they always get to class on time. 

What about those kids? Do you see a weed or a wish?

Some kids come to us with dirty clothes and unbrushed hair. They are always late to their first class because they are getting their free breakfast in the lunchroom, the first thing they’ve eaten since their free lunch the day before. 

Some kids don’t read easily, and they don’t seem to care about their grades. They don’t do their homework all the time, and they don’t ask questions in class or volunteer to give input in class discussion. 

Some kids are loud and active. They want to sharpen their pencils or walk to the trash can at least once during the class period every day. They can’t sit still in their desks, and they forget to raise their hands when answering a question. They can’t find their work without going through their backpacks, which are jammed full of papers and other school supplies. 

Do you see a WEED or a WISH?

The awesome thing is this: It’s a choice. OUR choice. We get to decide how we will view all kids. While the kids may come from different backgrounds, with different baggage, they all enter our doors where we choose our expectations for them. 

What will you choose to see?

"When you choose to see the good in others, 
you end up seeing the good in yourself."