Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Spark 2015

Summer Spark, 2015?  I think not; it was more like Summer Explosion!  

Imagine a "red carpet" experience.  There was flash photography everywhere and "celebrities" just kept pouring into this beautiful venue that had been set up for a two day conference.

"Look!  There's Michael Matera!"  

"And OMG, there's Pernille Ripp...I read her blogs all the time!"  

"Is that Dave Burgess?  The head pirate himself?"  

"Hey, there's Chuck Taft, the guy who was the visionary for this whole red carpet experience."

"So glad I brought my book Ditch That Textbook because there's Matt Miller!  I'm going to ask him to autograph my copy."  

"There's Will Piper!  I recognize him from twitter!"

With a shriek of happiness, I exclaimed "Joy Kirr!"  There she is!  I had been wanting to meet her for over a year and now there she was, standing in front of me!  She was so incredibly helpful when I wanted to implement #geniushour into my room.

"There's Ben Brazeau!  I chat with him every Thursday night on #sstlap and now we're standing next to each other!"

"Pinch me now!" I thought to myself.  "All of these rock-star educators under one roof... and I get to spend the next two days with them?  That's amazing!"   

The list goes on and on...

What I was more amazed by is how authentic, kind, friendly, and helpful everyone was. The relationships began on twitter and just grew from there. Being able to meet all of these wonderful people face-to-face was almost an indescribable event.  

So now that seeing these people, taking pictures, and saying hello was over, we could move into more in-depth discussions that impacted my students, my teaching, and my school.  When there are so many people coming together to share their skill set, you cannot go wrong!

Everyone got to experience the amazing and always inspiring Dave Burgess.  He rocked the house with his key note address on Monday morning.  If you haven't read his book, Teach Like A Pirate; please, put it on your summer reading list now.  It is a total game changer.  

After that, delegates got to pick their own sessions to attend. Yes, you heard me, delegates had a choice in their professional development!  What could be better?  I chose to see Matt Miller who showed us amazing tech tools that we could use in the classroom.  

Next, we were treated to a delicious lunch in a beautiful lunch room where educators continued to connect and get to know one another.  Note here though that I had to leave lunch early to prepare for my upcoming workshop at 1:00. This was going to be my first conference presentation ever! I was so excited to present, and it ended up going very, very well.  I had over 20 people in my session and had a blast doing it.  The afternoon was filled with more workshops that, again, were chosen by the participants.  It was mind blowing what educators are doing out there on a daily basis that impacts kids and makes their learning so much better. 

Another "pinch me moment" was coming up. That night, I went to dinner at a local pub and grill called the Chancery with a bunch of influential educators including Sandy Otto; a teacher from Minnesota who stayed with my family and I at our house, and came to the conference with me, Dave Burgess; the creator of the #tlap movement, Jay Posick; the principal at Merton Intermediate where I work, Tom Whitford; a principal in northern Wisconsin, and Matt Miller; the author of Ditch That Textbook It was a dinner that I wish could have lasted all night; and in a sense; it did because at 8:00 we held a live #tlap twitter chat right from our table!  It was awesome!  

So ended our first day at Summer Spark... I was so excited that I could barely sleep!

The next morning I met up with friends, grabbed some breakfast and went to more workshop sessions.  At lunch we planned an "unconference" which is similar to an edcamp. Topics grew organically and we let our feet do the learning; one word: gamification.

Thank you "Summer Spark"... I mean, summer explosion! I will definitely be back next year.  I cannot wait! 

See video of Summer Spark below:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

One Word...

I am excited to share my first blog of 2015!  Our principal, Jay Posick, asked us to pick a word that would guide us throughout the year.  A word that would mean something to us and that we could keep in the forefront of our minds as we go through each day.  Only one word?  Are you kidding me? Out of all the wonderful words out there I have to pick just one?  After a lot of thought, I came up with my one word:  APPRECIATE.

I thought of this word with two sets of people in mind:  my students and my colleagues.  I think of my students in the context of APPRECIATE because far too often I am concentrating on the "next thing" and not living in the moment.  What is their potential?  At what can they become better?  How can I help them improve?  And while all of those are great questions, I think we are always on to the next thing and do not take time to APPRECIATE the moments we have in front of us at that specific moment in time.  There is always room for improvement.  However, there is also room to APPRECIATE and celebrate where we are right now.  I also want to APPRECIATE the WHOLE student.  They come to us with hidden talents, worries, victories, problems at home, and hobbies they love.  This makes them who they are and if I am going to build a relationship with them I want to APPRECIATE everything they bring to the table. 

My colleagues are not much different than my students.  I want to APPRECIATE everything about them!  They too have hidden talents, worries, victories, problems at home, and hobbies they love.  I want to APPRECIATE them as people and celebrate what each of them contributes to their students, the team, and our school.  

With all of this APPRECIATION going on, I cannot help but think that this would make people feel all warm and fuzzy inside and I like that!  Adults and kids alike can sense when you are taking a genuine interest in them and not just a fly by of "How are you?" when you do not even stick around for their answer.  Showing people they are loved, validated, and APPRECIATED is like spreading sunshine around the world!  So when my students and my colleagues show up on January 5th , I am going to look at them with a new sense of APPRECIATION and reverence.