‘Sunday Morning’ – Matoma (feat. Josie Dunn)

Before we get too far into the school year, it’s so important that we remember to take time to recharge and maintain balance. Staying at school late into the evening and poring over school things at home sounds cavalier, but what’s most important is the work we put in when we are present with our students. We can’t do this unless we hold precious our “Sunday morning” moments and other times when we can invest in ourselves spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Don’t end up “drowning in the deep end” this school year–remember that sometimes the beat thing we can do to better ourselves is to better ourselves.

‘Don’t Hold Me Down’ – Lökii

Well, the school year has begun, and I have found myself with less time to write than I would like. My goal is to do a few short vignettes when I have the time now that I have so little of it.

With every new year brings new everything: curriculum, systems, protocol, teammates, procedures. It’s easy to get bummed out about the things that are different when one may have been in their groove last year.

My challenge to educators as they begin a new year is not to let the minutia of running a school or classroom get them down. There are so many influences that are outside of our control, that allowing them to get in the way of reaching our students can be quite easy. I’ve said it once before, but it beats repeating–we are the magicians, the creators, the producers! There is so much that each of us is empowered with in order to make tremendous learning experiences for our students. So what, our schedule isn’t ideal? So what, we have to devote a certain number of minutes to a particular subject? So what, we have a new textbook? No one can take away the ability that we have to weave engagement and wonder into a lesson.

None of us got into teaching for the academics. The call we answered was one for children–students and young minds ready to grow into thoughtful, well-rounded, responsible young adults. By allowing pettiness to hold us down, we aren’t serving the whole child that sits in each one of our desks.

Take a deep breath. Hush the madness. Teach.

‘You Make Me’ – Avicii

It’s time to head back to school. Whether you are headed back to the same position you had last year or a new one, you need this goodness from my friend Thomas McAuliff.

Think back to your first year teaching. Remember all the feels. Yes, ALL THE FEELS. One day you might say to yourself, “I can do this!” and then maybe a few hours later or the next day wonder what have you exactly gotten yourself into. Everybody has this feeling but it’s eventually how you respond. Stress can motivate us to do better, and be better.

I’ve recently accepted a new position in a new school district. With this comes a new district, new schools, new faculty/staff, new….see a reoccuring theme here? One particular day a couple weeks in with all of the “new-ness”, the feeling of being overwhelmed hit me and I had a moment of tears. I’m convinced a good cry every now and then is good for the mind and soul. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my new position and team, but everything happens fast. I spent some time with Induction teachers (teachers new to the profession) this week and seeing the look in their eyes, I knew sharing my story of WHY I have become an educator might bring some encouragement. Hopefully through my transparency, these teachers were able to see that moments of struggle exist happen for all and one great group of community were the other educators walking the same path along them in the room. I reminded them that this group of teachers would be where power lies because they are all on the journey together.

I’m reminded by the song “You Make Me” by Avicii. A portion of the songs says, “we are one…one for sure…all united.” It relates so well to the message I shared with those teachers, and served as a great reminder to me too!

You’re learning and growing. We will all mess up, but it’s how we respond. Do we decide to doubt our abilities or do we offer ourselves grace? Keep working way and making a difference because we have the capabilities to impact in a positive manner.

There’s also support in numbers. Finding a group of educators who share the same vision as you for students. Ignore those who spend their time complaining because that’s definitely not a part of the solution! I’m personally thankful for my educator friends who cheer and encourage me during good times and the bad.

Calm your nerves, collect your thoughts, and rock it out this year with your students, and co-workers because at the end of the day we are ONE FOR EDUCATION!

Thomas McAuliff is an Instructional Technologist for Anderson District 1 schools.

‘Overthinker’ – INZO

I turn a year older tomorrow. And all staff return to school for a new year on Monday. This has my mind consumed a little, obviously.

The monologue featured in this track is from a talk by Alan Watts. Take a listen, and get out of your head a little.

This school year, don’t think so much. Step out of your comfort zone and do something audacious for your students, your teammates, your school.

…time to wake up.

‘The Girl and the Robot’ – Röyksopp (Chateau Marmont Remix)

Are you in love with a robot? Don’t be that girl (or that guy).

It’s the first year of 1-to-1 technology (or “personalized learning”) for many in my state. It’s easy to think one of two things: 1.) “Tech is taking over–no one appreciates good teacher teaching anymore,” or 2.) “Yay, I can put my kids on their devices and my life is so much easier now.” Neither of these are correct. As educators, we are STILL the number one catalyst for student learning and engagement. Our thoughtful expertise allows us to dictate how students use their devices. We know when tech use is beneficial and when it’s not. If the devices are stashed in a cart during a lesson, that’s okay. If the devices never see the light of day, that’s not okay. Consider these thoughts when using tech in your class this year.

  1. What is the standard and learning target you are trying to get your students to achieve? If this isn’t considered first, forget the rest.
  2. How will you know that your students have mastered the information? Is there a specific outcome you’d like for your students to reach in terms of assessing their understanding? Is this a a formative assessment? Quiz? Test? Essay? Project?
  3. Consider the SAMR model. Will tech use serve as substitution, augmentation, modification, or redefinition of the task you are placing before your students? The further away from substitution you inch, the more you are transforming learning for your students.
  4. What technology will you use? Out of the myriad of apps, programs, and tools that are available, which one(s) will help you achieve the most purposeful and meaningful learning experience for your students? If there’s not one that is purposeful and meaningful, leave the devices out of it.
  5. At the end of the learning, how will the use of tech have served in accomplishing your goal? Have students achieved learning in a way that has effectively been impacted by the use of tech? What larger understanding have they achieved through the use of technology? How have they been able to impart their knowledge and understanding to individuals other than you, the teacher.
  6. REFLECT. Good use of tech or not? What will you do differently to achieve greater results?

It’s totally possible to have healthy cohabitation of your robot and your skills. Understanding technology as a tool will keep you focused on student learning and help control the wanton affections that can surface with the presence of class sets of shiny new devices.

‘By My Side’ – Nomra

The school year is approaching quickly. Between social media posts of classroom makeovers and back to school sales promotions, I wanted to drop this wise nugget advice from my friend, Kelli Coons. While you’re preparing for back to school, make sure you have a professional learning network (PLN) “by your side.”

From the start of my teaching career, I was familiar with PLC’s and PLN’s and what their purposes were. But to be honest, it always seemed artificial. Even forced, going through the motions for mandatory professional development. Working in PLN’s became more about what the administration deemed relevant for you to learn more about, and less about your individual needs as an educator. Educators work hard, every day, with little time for social lives and extra curricular activities. We as educators not only need support professionally, but personally. If the way in which your PLN is constructed was determined by someone else, based on your “perceived” needs, there is no way that it will become beneficial for you.

Early on in my career, I was always seeking a “tribe”, that I could trust and would encourage me to be better each day. However, sometimes we work in building and environments in which we feel each day is a competition. And this competition can be a good thing if we are competing with ourselves. But, if we are always competing with our co-workers and within grade-levels teams, it can make it very hard to build a trusted network of support. Often in this profession, those who choose to go it alone, end up burned out or bitter. Around the 9th year in my career, I had developed a very knowledgeable PLN through social media. This PLN provided and continues to provide me with sporadic resources and motivation, yet lacks that legitimate feeling of a true relationship. In any situation of life, we aren’t meant to go it alone, we are better together. Better together during those times of celebration and especially during those dark times. Better together when you are looking to make a career move. Better together when you want accountability to achieve. Better together when you don’t get the job you had your heart set on. Better together to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Better together to rise together.

My most valuable PLN, or my “MVPLN” , is made up of a diverse group of individuals I get the pleasure of organizing Edcamp Greenville with each year. I couldn’t put a price on how valuable this group is to me. They represent the very best in teaching, instructional coaching, technology integration, building-level leadership and district curriculum experts. Their backgrounds are varied and areas of expertise or passion, diversified as well. We not only want what is best for one another, but ultimately what is best for the future of our students.

For me, the people in my PLN, represent everything that I love about this profession. It has never been my desire to surround myself with “yes” people, just because I want to hear how great an idea is. I would rather be disagreed with or questioned by a friend who thought I might be headed in the wrong direction or give me a different perspective if what I was doing could be perceived negatively. You want to think of your PLN as an army you would take into war, and as for me, there is no other group I would rather stand beside on the battleground. PLN’s can help you realize a better you, the smartest person in the PLN is definitely the PLN.

Kelli Coons is a Technology Integration Coach working in Spartanburg School District One through the Dynamic Learning Project. @TooLegitTeach

‘Don’t Give Up on Me’ – Illenium & Kill the Noise (feat. Mako)

Dubstep is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London in the late 1990s. It is generally characterized by sparse, syncopated rhythmic patterns with bass lines that contain prominent sub-bass frequencies. The style emerged as an offshoot of UK garage, drawing on a lineage of related styles such as 2-step, dub reggae, jungle, broken beat, and grime. In the United Kingdom the origins of the genre can be traced back to the growth of the Jamaican sound system party scene in the early 1980s. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubstep

I included a brief explanation of dubstep because it aligns with this post. Words often used to describe dubstep songs are nasty, filthy, and grimy. Usually, the more sub-bass elements, the grimier the song. Sometimes, I just happen to be in the mood for a ridiculously grimy song (this song, not too grimy… take a listen back at ‘Swagga’ for a little more grime).

Anyway, the first day of school is approaching quickly, and class rosters are being distributed. I have to admit that I’m a little salty about this, because I remember being a classroom teacher and not getting my roster until hours before Meet the Teacher some years. At any rate, with the receipt of class rosters, there is sure to be the research on students via recounts of former teachers. Well, this is me begging you not to give up on a kid before you even get to know them.

Hopefully none of your new batch has had teachers who would describe them using the words I used to illustrate dubstep, but it’s possible one or two may use be characterized some words that aren’t far off: bad, horrible, impossible. That was then, this is now. There are a multitude of reasons why that child may have been the way they were for that teacher: a period of turmoil in the home, a medical situation, difficulty with content, or maybe they just didn’t jive with the teacher. We all go through seasons in our lives, and maybe that kid wasn’t having a great one. Here’s another thought–maybe that teacher wasn’t having a great one.

You may notice towards the end of the featured song, there is a reprieve from the tempo and filthy deep bass. Could it be that this year that kid who had a rough time last year enters into a season of growth and success? Could you be the one that helps to straighten their path or rewrite their story?

I challenge you, if you are a teacher receiving a new group of kids this year, to greet each child at the classroom door that first day of school. Look deep in their eyes and remember this song. As you hug them or shake their hand, listen carefully for their silent plea, “Don’t give up on me.”

Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be. -Rita Pierson