February 2010 - Nancy Teaches

A Teacher Who Loves to Learn

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Sunday, February 21

"Everyone is at your school...in a virtual way! Love my PLN!"

February 21, 2010 7
It was a typical Sunday morning.  I unpacked my backpack to start lesson plans, grading, and record keeping.  Then, I remembered Friday.  I didn’t like Friday and I began to reflect on the day.

Fridays are usually busy and I like how quickly the day moves.  Also, the students work all week to earn what we call “Free Choice Friday.”  If a student has completed all assigned work and corrections as well as being a good “team member,” he gets to choose any educational activity he wants and work with friends.  (For example, the student can play chess or a math game.)  Selfishly, it gives me the last forty-five minutes of the day to clean up and get organized for the following week. Everyone is upbeat on Fridays.

If someone asked me to describe a typical day in my classroom the first words I would say would be laughter and enthusiasm.   On this particular day, they both seemed to be absent.  My regularly amusing grammar lesson was dull and lifeless.  I love to create raps and rhymes to help the students learn what are typically dull concepts.  The class had mastered action and helping verbs and when we moved onto linking verbs, they seemed lost.  I wasn’t the least bit amusing or clever, either. What was I doing wrong?  Was it poor planning?  Had I moved too quickly?  Had I failed to set the appropriate anticipatory set?  How could they not understand?  Was I failing?  (Yes, I do have a tendency to be a bit dramatic!) This failed lesson left a sour taste in my mouth that I couldn’t seem to shake.  As I moved through the rest of my day, my regular rhythm of tasks and lessons seemed a tick off.  The day just wouldn’t end, and when it did, I was more than relieved. 

So on Sunday morning, with the lesson plan template before me, I wondered and reflected on my frazzled Friday.  In the quiet solitude of the moment I tweeted.  I wrote:

“Not happy with my teaching on Friday. Didn't have my rhythm. Can't wait for Monday to redeem myself. Do other tchrs self-critique?

I wasn’t expecting what happened next.  The first to respond was @peoplegogy who explained that he isn’t a scripted educator and always tries to find the rhythm of teaching.  Then, @librarybecky responded with “'I’ve sometimes told kids I need a do over.”  Within minutes, @debiowens, @sumrthyme, @saune and @flourishgkids had all answered a resounding “YES!” They surrounded me phrases such as “absolutely,” and “don’t be so hard on yourself.” Even @readingcountess tweeted “Yes-some days are diamonds, some days are duds. When they are duds, I limp home feeling like a loser!”  Of course, I immediately returned a reassuring tweet about my admiration for her ability as I followed her blog. 

I was so grateful for this unexpected support that I tweeted the following:

“This is why I love Twitter. Woke up wondering if other tchrs self reflect and now feel surrounded by teacher support - on a Sunday morning.”

“Could everyone come to my school?”

I was so enthralled with the number of encouraging tweets, I wanted everyone to come with me to my school and keep the positive feeling flowing.  I imagined everyone walking through my classroom door and giving me “a thumbs up” or mouthing, “Way to go, Nancy.”  Can you tell we’ve been working on the visualization strategy in Reading Workshop?  Next, in the mentions column of TweetDeck I found:

@librarybecky: "Everyone is at your school...in a virtual way. Love my PLN! "

My somber Sunday was suddenly bright and hopeful.  I am never alone with my worries, self –doubt or self-criticism.  Supportive educators are a tweet away to encourage me.  Moreover, I was reminded that the best teachers consistently reflect on their teaching.  The best teachers are the ones who worry and constantly strive to do and be better.

So, thank you to @librarybecky and all of the others in my PLN.  When I walk into school on Monday, I will hear the echo of the tweets I received on Sunday and wrap myself in them like a great big hug.  I will remember the time you took   to encourage me and share your thoughts.  I can’t wait to return the favor.   I love my PLN.

(By the way, I am working on a new rap for linking verbs.)
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Wednesday, February 17

I have BPA - Blog Posting Anxiety!

February 17, 2010 6
There is something wrong.  I just know it.  Admittedly, I do have hypochondria tendencies that can pop up every so often, but this is real.  Typically, when I do suspect an aliment or injury, I run to Web MD to search for answers.  It was no help at all.  Nothing was matching.  Ever since February 14th, I’ve been experiencing the most confusing symptoms.  I am queasy, jittery, along with a slight itchiness.  After decades of teaching, I’ve got a pretty strong resistance to germs, but this just felt so odd.  What was bothering me and causing these symptoms?  Was I actually feeling… anxious? Could it be true?  Oh no, I have B.P.A…. BLOG POSTING ANXIETY.

It all started on Valentine’s Day.  I had been thinking about starting a blog.  I had been reading so many wonderfully written and thought-provoking blogs that I thought I would try it.  I decided blogging would fulfill my wordy ways, or at least in writing.  I looked around and decided to use BlogSpot.com. I went through the usual mind-numbing sign up procedure.  (Thank goodness for the tab button to keep things moving.)  I was ready to opine. 

Since a slightly (larger than I would like to admit) part of my day involves Twitter and tweeting, I decided to write about the journey to becoming indebted to this wonderful medium.  The words just flowed.  I sat in front of the laptop and smiled as the words poured forth.  It has been such a positive experience and I was so indebted to others that it seemed as if I were writing a lovely thank you note.  Blogging was fun.

Next, I chose a pretty background, put in a visitor map, used Amazon widgets and uploaded my blog.  I didn’t know if it is considered to be bad Twitter etiquette (I had read quite a few blogs about proper Twitter etiquette), but tweeted that I had written my first blog.  Then, people actually read and responded to what I wrote.  I had comments.  My little map started filling up with dots.  (I really wanted to throw in a simile here about how great this felt, but I wanted to sound sophisticated.  Oh boy, those dots created some serious giggles.) 

Then, my little blog inspired another blog.  I couldn’t believe it.  When I read @aredden’s blog, I was in awe.  I actually touched someone enough that they wrote a blog because of my blog.  I was hooked.  I wanted to blog all of the time.  I wanted to fill the Internet with my thoughts, words, feelings, and opinions.  Then, I started to scratch.

I thought it was dry winter skin.  While I was typing, I had to keep stopping to scratch my arm.  Then I noticed that I was feeling a little queasy.  I finished the blog on “Inspiring Imagination” and went to find some Pepto-Bismol without posting the blog.  The next day I thought, “I must not have liked the topic.  I should start over.”  I started typing away and this time the topic was “Teachers without Technology.”  The red welts on my neck were growing and I kept the Tums next to me. 

Now, on day three since I posted the blog, I found myself reflecting.  Why could I write two more blogs in two days, but I couldn’t post them.  What was wrong? 

Suddenly, it hit me!  I have BPA. 

I had jumped in with the first blog, received some positive feedback and I was fearful I would fail and be judged.  I wondered why I felt this anxiety. I do NOT know a single person that I follow, except by their tweets and blogs.  Why did their opinions matter to me?  I thought about it all day…

The answer hit me.  I care so much because based on their tweets and blogs, I do feel as if I’ve come to know some of them.  More importantly, I respect them as educators and writers.  There opinions matter to me.  Consequently,  I was afraid of posting anything I wrote.

Now, I am working on the treatment for BPA.  The prescription: write and post.  I believe that most people lead busy lives and that their time is valuable.  If they come across my blog and they don’t like it, they can move on to something else.  I imagine it to be like changing the channel.  Regardless of the value to others, my blog gives me a venue in which to vent and express my self.  I can work on my goal of writing in a clear and concise manner.  (The concise thing is the challenge.)

So, hopefully, I will continue to follow the prescription for BPA and write and face my fear of posting.  And, by the way, if you are still reading, thanks!


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Sunday, February 14

Why Blog? It was all Twitter's Fault!

February 14, 2010 14





Ok... so I have decided to blog. I've been thinking about it for a while. I have commitment issues, so I'm worried I won't be able to maintain it. A funny thing happened on my way to blogging. I discovered Twitter.

Twitter is my new obsession. While enjoying the summer and doing research on Reading Workshop, I thought I would take a look at this whole twitter/tweet thing. Initially, I couldn't figure out why it kept moving. I typed in the word "teacher," and suddenly, I was seeing a number sign (#) along with "17 new tweets since you started searching." Huh? What was happening? So, being the stalwart searcher that I am, I kept looking around. I was eaves-dropping, but no one seemed to mind. No one told me to leave, so I kept watching and reading. To say I was curious would be an understatement. I was ready to tweet in.

The next step was a user name. Do I go with my full name or think of something cute and catchy? I compromised and came up with "Nancy Teaches." (Well, that is who I am and I was amused.) Then, I needed my profile description. This one was easy; I love to learn and I was learning something new. Profile would be short and sweet: "A teacher who loves to learn." A Twitter account was born.

Once I had the account, I needed to start following. I decided to start with familiar names and organizations I recognized. I chose tweeters such as @teachermagazine, @scholastic, @barbarafeldman and @teachersupport. Each day I added a few more that seemed interesting. I kept watching (stalking?), observing, reading and finally took the plunge. I tweeted. I went back through 656 of my tweets and found my first one. I'm embarrassed to admit that I tweeted about my broken MacBook Pro and how much I missed it. Eventually, I figured out how to re-tweet and my posts became a bit more interesting and relevant. For my 100th tweet, I quoted Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Good teachers do not just happen, they are the product of the highest personal motivation." I was developing my twitter confidence or at least, I was less annoying to others. To my surprise, some people decided to follow me. I will forever be grateful to @AAETeachers, @SaveYour Sanity, and the "pity" follow from my beautiful daughter, @SamLE. I discovered, quite accidentally, that the more I tweeted and followed, the more the favor was returned. This was fun.

So my new Twitter addiction led to the short lived ownership of a Blackberry. (I wanted to be connected to Twitter all of the time.) After a few unhappy weeks, I returned it and bought the Droid. I had a blast acquiring the opinions of others as I weighed the pros and cons of both smart phones. To this day whenever I have a question about anything related to technology/computers/smart phones/tweetdeck/hootsuite both @damian613 and @dancallahan come through for me. I feel as though I have my own lifeline.

The funniest thing happened on my way to Twitter happiness, I started to learn. I began to discover the most amazing, passionate, dedicated, committed educators. I felt energized and excited again. Granted, I've always been an enthusiastic teacher, but I often felt alone and had to tone it down around my colleagues. (More on being the only teacher at my school who uses Reading Workshop on a later blog. Boy, do I have a good story for you.) Suddenly, I found myself in thought-provoking, challenging and invigorating conversations about anything from Lexile Levels on books, to teaching strategies vs. using a basal, to snow days. I discovered @Aaron_Eyler (whose amazing writing intimidates me), @angelamaiers (whose blog and work I emmulate), @Donalynbooks (whose expertise and book The Book Whisperer should be required reading for all teachers), @areaderscomm, @thereadingzone, @ReadingCountess, @growupwithboos, @TWRCtankcom to name just a few. I also found @Tomwhitby and The Eudcator’s PLN.

All of these amazing educators have re-lit my spark for not just teaching, but for learning. I feel as excited about teaching as I did so many, many years ago. I currently have a student observer in my classroom who I overwhelm each day with my excitement. I have been meeting with the technology teacher at my school to share my enthusiasm about Twitter. (She thought it was just for people to say what they were eating for dinner.) I had quite a few pre-conceived ideas to change. I’ve tried to express how it invigorates me, and makes everything new again.

Another exciting aspect to my Twitter experience is the domino effect for discovering the blogs of fellow educators. Each day I receive the gift that their blogs provide. I’m a click away from knowledge and the experience and thoughts of my colleagues. I work in a small private school where change is not embraced or sought. My subscriptions to these blogs are a daily treasure. More importantly, I thrive on passing them to others. Twitter provides me with a perfect venue to share.

So, I’m tempted to write more about my new love affair with Twitter, appropriately on Valentine’s Day, but I must get back to Twitter and catch up on what I’ve missed.

Enjoy!
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