Disconnected and It Feels So Good

I went on vacation with my husband last week and truly disconnected myself from my profession for a few days. I didn’t go completely AWOL from Social Media because we continued to post pictures from our journey on Facebook and Instagram for family and friends. However, I did make the conscientious decision to stray from Twitter and Voxer, and even my e-mail account, my highest concentrated means of communication with the education community.

I was really nervous at first. What if I missed an inspiring chat with my PLN or a link to an excellent blog post that would help me navigate the upcoming school year? I was afraid of missing the littlest piece of teaching advice to gargantuan news about educational legislation and everything in between.

But I did it. I disconnected. And it felt really good. The education community did not have it’s hooks in me for a few days and I felt…relief. Happiness. I felt like I was free.

Is it okay to feel this way? I thought a few days into our trip. Shouldn’t I feel like I’m missing something? Shouldn’t I feel remorse that I’m not more interested in what’s happening? Is it bad that I’m not constantly checking my Twitter feed? 

No, I thought. I’m focusing on my family right now. I eat, sleep, and breath education most of the school year, and way more than the average educator. It is more than acceptable to take a break. 

My husband and I enjoyed a day at Estes Park, CO and the Rocky Mountain National Park on our vacation.
My husband and I enjoyed a day at Estes Park, CO and the Rocky Mountain National Park on our vacation.

I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation with my husband. But now I’m back home. Twitter, Voxer and my email are awaiting my inevitable return. A part of me can’t wait to jump back into my old habits and incessantly toggle back-and-forth between all of the social media apps on my phone  But another part of me is stopping me from jumping back in so quick. How did I let social media become such an addictive and controlling part of my life? And what can I do to keep it from grabbing a hold of me again? All of a sudden, a childhood memory came crawling back…

When I was eight years old, my parents bought me a Super Nintendo system. I received the game as a birthday present in late June. Since it was in the middle of the summer, my parents were understandably worried that I may waste my summer away with Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. Therefore, they gave me the gaming system under one condition: I could only play Nintendo games for one hour – sixty minutes – per day. I could choose to play in chunks of time or for a straight hour but once that hour was used, I was done for the day.

Well, I think it is time to re-institute Mom & Dad’s Nintendo rules and apply them to social media. I’m going to try the one-hour limit per day. I am going to start my timer on my phone before each time I run the Twitter or Voxer app. When I hit the 60:00 mark, I will choose to be done for the day. How fast will 60 minutes feel? How will I optimize my time? Will I choose to spend my time on Twitter engaging in chats or following links? Will I listen to full two and three-minute voxes or skim through the conversations? Honestly, I can’t wait to find out!

A Mid-Summer Teacher’s Dream

With hours of rest, relaxation, and reflection during the long summer days, comes an abundance of time to brainstorm new ideas for the classroom. I have spent numerous days lurking on Twitter, reading professional books, attending (un)conferences, reading blogs left-and-right, and planning – no, dreaming – how I want to facilitate learning in my new classroom in a little over one month!

I have so many ideas but very few plans, which is a terrible state to live in for a planner like myself. (You can read a previous blog post about my obsessive planning here.) But the plans will come, so I just need to be patient. I have an opportunity to meet with my new team in two weeks, which is when many of my ideas will be able to solidify into something more tangible. Until then, I continue the flow of ideas:

Creating a Vision and Mission statement (done) that truly illustrate my vision for the classroom and my purpose for being there in addition to making posters to hang in my classroom.

Gamifying my classroom. While I’m sold on this idea, I still haven’t pulled the trigger on 3DGameLab or ClassCraft. What am I waiting for? I like both sites, I really do. However, I can’t commit until I find out if any of my teammates use either site. I desire consistency and cohesiveness for the sake of my students, so I’m willing to forgo my first choice if it means I’m matching what my teammates are doing.

LMS. Which system should I use? I have experience with Edmodo and Google Classroom. Our school district just purchased Canvas but my teammates have experience using Google Classroom. Again, since I want consistency above all else, I’m waiting on this one.

Introducing my students to my classroom Instagram/Periscope/Voxer accounts. The three things I’m dying to accomplish this year: 1) Watch my students grow, 2) Teach, and 3) Share all of the amazing things my students do this year! I can’t wait to integrate acceptable formats of Social Media in this classroom. I plan on Instagraming and Periscoping (with families) during the day and using Voxer for homework.

Casto’s Classes for Charity. My fifth grade teacher, Dave Edwards, involved his students in raising money for a wonderful organization, C.A.T.C.H. Since then, I have dreamed of doing the same thing with my students. We will be raising money this year for a charity. I can’t wait to help the community!

Remind. I had a horrible experience with a lack of parental involvement last year. Since I believe wholeheartedly that a student excels with the partnership of school and home, I have decided that I will not tolerate that again. I am going to make sure my students’ families are informed regularly of their areas of strength and growth, and I plan on using Remind to make that communication happen.

Skype in the Classroom. We are going to – somehow and someway – Skype with other classes, other countries, scientists, bankers, CEOs, zoologists, and world leaders!

Giving my students the opportunity to become TedEd enthusiasts and experts in their own fields. Have you been to the most recently-updated TedEd site? Wow! I love the TED Ed Series and how they are grouped together. This is excellent for student research and learning. [I would also love to start a Ted Ed Club…we’ll see if I have time for that, too, this year!]

Formatively assess – early and often. I plan on using Formative and Kahoot for my whole-class lessons and white boards and sticky notes for my smaller, individualized groups.

Adopt a class pet! (Can we even have pets? I don’t even know.)

Discuss the growth mindset. We are all learners. When I began teaching eight years ago, I called myself a “teacher.” Now, I refer to myself as the “lead learner.” That is due to the Growth Mindset.

Green Screen! I haven’t fully pictured how we will use the green screen, but I love the idea of having one for my students to use for projects and presentations.

Whole Brain Teaching. I went to a session on whole-brain teaching last winter and it really resonated with me. While I’m not sure I buy into all of the techniques, I think many of them are ideal for healthy levels of engagement from students. Plus, I think the “Teach-OK” and “Mirror” strategies are excellent for content retention.

Two leftover monitors + Raspberry Pi = serious application of technology! My husband and I found two unused monitors in our storage over the summer. It’s almost like Raspberry Pi knew I was just looking for an excuse to purchase two of their products to put into my classroom for students to explore! I haven’t bought the Raspberry Pi computers – yet – but I can assure you that they are on my Wish List!

Lots of ideas as you can see. And since I blogged about these ideas, I will use my blog to reflect on which ideas worked and which didn’t, and ultimately hold myself accountable. I have so many personal/professional goals, but one of them is to remain innovation-minded and progressive in my field.

So, what do you think? What are some of your goals for the classroom? I would love to know what your plans for the 2015-2016 school year are and if you are struggling in the “limbo” phase (between idealizing and doing) as I am currently. Please share out! And most importantly, enjoy the rest of your summer!

My Vision and Mission Statements

The first time I wrote a professional mission statement was in one of my undergrad education classes. One of our final assignments was to design a “teaching philosophy” that could be streamlined into a vision/mission statement. I remember working really hard on this assignment. But when it came time to get a job, I was more focused on which textbooks I’d be using, the bell schedule, IEPs, and behavior management. My philosophy, although important to me at one time, was thrown out the window.

I am starting a new teaching position at a new school in the fall, and with a new position and a new school comes a clean slate to write on. Therefore, I am reconstructing my mission and vision statements that I made years ago. Both statements have changed since I started in this profession, just like the education profession has changed itself. I’m sure as I advance in my career my purpose and future goals will change again. However, after crafting these two statements, I must say I like where I’m at. I really like the teacher I’ve grown to become and what my statements say to my students and colleagues.

Not only did I create two statements but I also made posters of them and I am going to post them in my classroom, on my blog, and on my class website. I have learned that vision/mission statements only work if you use them. Many schools have vision/mission statements. Unfortunately, not many teachers or students know what they are. In many scenarios, the statements are not posted around the school building or they are not referenced when making decisions for the school. What is the purpose of a mission statement if you don’t know what the mission is? I want my students and I to always KNOW why I am there for them. I don’t want anyone – including myself – to ask why I do what I do. I want everyone who steps foot inside of my classroom/virtual classroom to see me doing exactly what it says on my wall.

Without further ado, here is my vision “statement”:

Vision Poster

and my mission statement:

Mission Poster

…and one last statement:

Choose Kind Poster