Tag Archives: #teachers

Choose to Be the Top 20

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Collaboration is a key ingredient to success.  We can do so much more together than we can alone.  Recently, SMSU Provost Dwight Watson shared a text with us – Top 20 Teachers by Paul Bernabei, Tom Cody, Willow Sweeney, Mary Cole, and Michael Cole.  We had seen this book once upon a time, but its message was one to be renewed for us.  According to the authors of the book, success is the summation of great results and a great ride.

“Great Results are those outcomes we desire when we go to work each day… Great Ride means we want to enjoy the experience. We want to enjoy what we do and have meaningful relationships with our colleagues.  We wouldn’t consider it a great success if we attained great results in our work but hated going to school every day.  Nor would it be a great success if we enjoyed hanging out at school every day but never accomplished anything worthwhile” (2010, p.1).

Teachers can make the learning experience both – a great ride with great results.  “In essence, teachers have power to activate the potential in their students to make a positive difference in their lives” (2010, p.2).  The authors point to being part of the Top 20 when potential explodes into great results and a great ride.  We are all top 20.  We are all bottom 80.  Sometimes we are the best self we can be.  Sometimes we are not the best self we can be. It is how we handle situations – how we think, how we learn, and how we communicate that determines where we place ourselves – in the top 20 or bottom 80.  “The Top 20 and Bottom 80 labels in this book are not intended to be a comparison between people.  Rather, they are simply a way of understanding two dimensions of our own selves” (p.4).  Where do you choose to be?

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The authors share a variety of topics as they consider Top 20 Teachers.  A few areas of focus include: seeing things differently, creating a positive environment, creating connections, and listening to understand. We thought quite a bit about our teaching and learning and what we do to positively impact our learners.  We are in the business of promoting and modeling the art of being reflective practitioners.  Considering this, we decided to invite some of our colleagues to respond to the following question. How do you make a positive impact on your students and build a culture of curiosity in the teaching and learning process?  Their responses were thoughtful, and showed us their Top 20 qualities to help students experience great results with a great ride.  This is what they had to say…

“I draw extensively from the work of Ellen Langer, Harvard social psychologist, related to mindfulness.  The forty plus years of work she has done on mindfulness focuses on how to foster flexible, creative and critical thinking processes in the classroom, business settings, delivery of physical and mental health services, etc. (The construct of “mindfulness” that Langer has evaluated is not the same as what is described in the mental health literature that draws from Eastern traditions such as meditation, yoga, etc.) I have used four of her publications as texts in various psychology and LEP 100/400 classes since 2004 and students consistently note the content in Langer’s publication to be the most transformative for them among readings I assign in class with regarding enhancing curiosity, increasing their openness to new experiences, enriching their personal relationships, increasing their willingness to take risks, and enhancing their creative thinking capacities (for example).”
~Dr. Christine Olson
SMSU Professor of Applied Psychology

“At the age of 15, Eleanor Roosevelt traveled to England to study, and there she encountered Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre, who would mentor her for three years. Together, they traveled to Europe, visiting places of poverty and spender. Eleanor studied literature, art, history, languages, and in the process she gained self-confidence and confidence in her ideas. In her autobiography, Roosevelt wrote of this experience: ‘Mlle. Souvestre shocked one into thinking, and that on the whole was very beneficial.’ That is what I do to build a culture of curiosity in the teaching and learning process. I try to shock my students into thinking.”

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~Dr. Jeff Kolnick
SMSU Professor of History

“I like to think I make a positive impact and build a learning culture by first teaching students about social skills.  I like to make sure I learn each kid’s name and where they are from, and I constantly challenge them to do the same with their fellow classmates.  If they feel like you care about them, then they are more willing to learn and curiosity will come naturally.  I encourage social interaction that doesn’t involve technology, small group communication during class, make them debate a topic, and take a side even if they don’t agree with it.  I make them be involved in the community, more than just the campus of SMSU, it forces them to talk to strangers.”
~Brian Frana
SMSU Asst. Football Coach & PE Instructor

“Set a comfortable tone to the classroom. I begin each day with a corny joke and a ‘thought to ponder’ on the board. I also work at learning the students’ names and something about them. These may seem like silly little things, but I have found that students look forward to coming to class and remain engaged. Also, interjecting personal stories and experiences to bring the information into real-time for them.”
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~LeAnne Syring
SMSU Assistant Professor of Special Education

“In my courses I allow for student choice in completing and designing projects. In the end, I want the project to be part of the bigger final outcome so the assignments or projects leading up to that are scaffolded ideas that should easily fit into the end capstone project. I have received positive feedback indicating they like this format that provides them opportunity to actually prep for the final project, while building understanding of the topic and content. Generally, we discuss in the classroom then move to an open room where students collaborate with peers and work together. As they work I provide feedback or clarification as needed. This format works well and engages student’s curiosity as they work toward their final goal.”
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~Dr. Mary Risacher
SMSU Assistant Professor of Education

“How does a teacher create a positive climate to optimize students’ learning? Through the demonstration of unconditional positive regard‎ (Rogers, 1959) a teacher forms the foundation upon which exhibited elements of invitational theory and practice‎: Respect, care, optimism, intentionality, and trust (Purkey & Novak, 2015), sows a fertile learning community.  This emotionally nourishing environment then produces  a bounty of student exploration, innovation, and critical thinking!”
~Dr. Chris J. Anderson
SMSU Assistant Professor of Special Education

“To build a learning environment that fosters creativity, thinking, and the development of curiosity, I have embraced constructivist practices and create learning experiences based on learners’ passions.  This has been remarkable in the online classroom as I watch students develop relationships, understanding, and knowledge with classmates that they have never met.
Currently, there are English, ELL, reading, math, and more instructors creating magic together, not in isolation.  Everyone has a powerful voice. Their ideas and their passion are giving insight not only into content, but to practice.  This has been a joy to watch unfold as learners embrace ideas and cheer for each other.
This has been facilitated by “being there” – all the time.  Not only merely assessing, but adding and questioning.  Joining in the joy and the passion that drives teachers.  I am excited for them and for their students.  Education is changing. I am surrounded by brilliance.”
~Dr. Toni Beebout-Bladholm
Marshall Senior High School English Teacher
SMSU Adjunct Professor

What did we learn from all of this?  We teach alongside rockstars, who are shaping the world one student at a time, one day at a time.  It is not just great results that lead to success. Great results and a great ride equal success.  Teachers can make all the difference. We choose our Top 20 selves to guide, mentor, and care for our learners.

Stay Calm & Choose to be the Top 20!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

 

 

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This is NOT a Cat Lesson

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You can’t always be certain.  Sometimes what it appears to be just isn’t so.  Sometimes it is something entirely different.  Sometimes it is what it is.  Most times this is the truth.
It either is or isn’t – a cat.  Right?


Recently, Minnesota author/illustrator Mike Wohnoutka addressed the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council hosted on the Martin Luther College campus in New Ulm, Minnesota.  I was privileged to attend with a former student-teacher gone teacher and two teacher candidates.  It was an evening filled with learning, laughter, reading, reflecting, doodling, and discussion.  What does a cat got to do with it, you ask?  Let me tell you….

Growing up with three older brothers, Mike Wohnoutka loved to draw, and he was determined to do well. From early on he would go to his room to read to get away from a little of the noise. He displayed talent early on, and his Headstart teacher noticed right away.  She wrote a note on his report card indicating that he was an artist and that he should continue to draw. Later on in life his high school teacher suggested that he go to the library to learn about and study others’ works.  He then went on to enter a contest in high school with a portrait of his dad, which drew him on the path to an art school in Savannah, Georgia with a 4-year scholarship.

Fast forward to today, and you will find that Mike had multiple opportunities to try out his talents – sometimes noticed and sometimes unnoticed.  His talent is obvious and telling. He drew a cartoon masterpiece within seconds right before our eyes. It was incredible.


Throughout his time as a write and illustrator, Wohnoutka has had opportunities to work with a plethora of talented folks.  He shared about his life as an author/illustrator and how each day starts with sitting in his study and thinking. It usually involves some coffee; sometimes there is music, sometimes there isn’t.  “Think about who. Think about what.”  That is telling lesson right there, and one we agree with as a principle.  Dr. Wendy & I tell our teacher candidates that we teach learners, not subjects. We teach who, not what.  When writing This is Not a Cat, Wohnoutka started with character development. That makes sense and is where we all should start – with the who, with us.

He talked about one particular work that we loved to hear about, to read about, and now to share with our students.  This is Not a Cat. It reminded us that what we see is not always what we should believe.  It also made me think about not being too overly confident with a decision; there is room for error in that suit.  The mice in this picture book are pretty scared when they see a cat, which turns out to be a rat in a cat suit.  Later, a real cat hunts that rat.  This made me think of the phrase “what goes around, comes around.” Karma.

So many lessons in that simple but awesome book.  Maybe I am grasping at straws but so be it. I saw the talent first hand. I am no literary award granter, but I like a book that can hook a reader and share a lesson or two.  If it can cause a little suspense and some laughter, even better.

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Southwest MN Reading Council Executive Board Members with Author/Illustrator Mike Wohnoutka

In closing… recently our SMSU colleague family has experienced deaths that have caused us to reflect on what is important.  What is important to you? Find out and stay the course… Life is too important and too short not to know.  Know what is a cat and what is not.

Stay Calm & Draw or Write On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

 

 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

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You may have heard the phrase… “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.”  It was true… until my sabbatical.  What is a sabbatical you may be asking?  It is a time to reflect, a time to renew, a time to reenergize, and a time to start fresh…
Some spend time during sabbatical researching, writing books, focusing on different work, and/or relaxing on location.  It provides an opportunity to try something new and to stretch professionally in ways that have been imagined during stressful days…or unimagined.  My imagination originally directed me toward writing a book and relaxing. At least that was what I imagined when my sabbatical seemed far off.   As my sabbatical began approaching my imagination had a new image in mind, which would require an intense amount of time, energy, and emotion. You see my sabbatical experience took on a life of its own in a PK-2 school teaching English learners full-time.  Yes, that’s right – full-time.  I became a teacher, a caretaker, an advocate, …  full-time.  There were days that I laughed so much my cheeks hurt.  There were days that I cried so much my eyes hurt.  I became 100% invested in my opportunity to change lives.  I thank my colleagues for allowing me to step away from my position on campus to walk in the shoes of an EL teacher.

What did I learn from my experience?  Well, some of you have been reading updates of my adventures throughout the past few months and want to know – so here goes:

Teaching strategies…sure
Implementing best practices…you bet
Assessments and data mining…check

But there really is so much more…

*Life is bigger than any one person or job.

*Giving to others fills up the soul with joy and sparkles and feelings of nice.

*Learning English can be fun!

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*Go on a letter hunt instead of a bear hunt!

*Be kind.  Everyone has struggles.  Don’t judge theirs…it’s not your job or mine.

*Work hard, play hard.  Enjoy life and work.

*Be with family no matter what you are doing.

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*Not to clean the house sometimes when it is important and to clean it when it is important and to know the difference.  If that doesn’t make sense, it may someday.

*Rest does not necessarily happen on the couch or with a nap.  Energize the soul to feel rested.

*Incremental rehearsal works.

*Take risks – appropriately of course.

*SIOP is for all teachers and learners.

*Don’t be late to the teachers’ lounge on sunshine treat days… you will never get it back.
This is a lesson learned long ago but needed to be revisited.

*Candy is still a tactful way to bribe learners to do their best – whether youth or adults.

*Keep learning, trying, and growing. Stay curious.

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*Field trips are exciting at any age.

*Learn another language – and keep using it.

*Observations do not have to be scary when you are in it to grow and be better than you were before.

*Teaching is more than what the written curriculum is and what the lesson plans say… it is about caring and sometimes saving.

*Forget the small stuff – even though it may feel big sometimes. Learn to let go.

*If I have the necessities and the greatest gift, love, I have all things.

*Professional Development should be lifelong.  Never stop learning.

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*Snow days are nature’s way of giving us a break from the pressure. Still love them at my age!

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*Sometimes kids need a hug.  Sometimes kids need clothes.  Sometimes kids need food.

*Do not be an island.

*Learn about someone else.  Take a sincere interest to learn about him or her – culture, religion, language, …favorite color.

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*Culturally responsive teaching makes a difference.

*Brain breaks and a little dancing can do us all some good. Just move it!

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*Missing addends are important to know but learning manners trumps that. Please and thank you can make all the difference.

*Food on the table each day for each student is not always a true statement.

*Hugs and smiles can fix tons and keep the world going around.

*Be flexible…things may change and that is a constant.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect to be great as long as “I do my best” in the words of a certain kindergarten teacher at Park Side. 🙂

*Be humble and kind.

*Be passionate and positive, not stressed and negative. Change will happen either way.

*Just like the saying, “Students will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”


I was truly humbled by my sabbatical experience.  I taught children. They are smart. They are bright. They are kind. They want to learn and grow. They happen to be learning English as an additional language to their native tongue. They taught me just as much as I taught them – if not more.

Some of these children had food.  Some of these children did not.  Some of these children had a fresh change of clothing.  Some of these children did not. Some of these children received hugs at home. Some of these children did not. Each day I gave what I could to these children – from the alphabet and numbers to a bag of food and clothes.  I consider all of these children “my kids.”  My own children at home have learned as much as I have during this sabbatical experience about giving to others and resigning from judgment of others.  All of these children have a special place in my heart for the lessons they have taught me.

My goals were so grand in my sabbatical plan…
but I learned so much more than any plan I could create.

Some One must have had this plan for me…
Live – Laugh – Love – repeat… and to share this wise advice with others.

Helping children in need doesn’t have to happen across the globe.
It can happen right here, right now.

During my sabbatical experience, I was often smiling at all the possibilities there were to help others.  I hope to take this – along with all the lessons learned – to campus with me as I return to teach and guide the next generation of teachers.  No pressure but the world is counting on them.

 

A special thank you goes out to Ms. Prior for creating the video and teaching me a thing or two while I mentored her during student teaching. Good luck in your new position as an EL teacher. Take care of “our” kids.

Stay Calm & Live Life, Laugh Often, Love Much!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

 

Teaching 101

So after 18 years in education, I attended “new teacher” workshops to start off my 19th year. You see I am on sabbatical this fall to rejuvenate, relearn, and renew. I am headed back to the classroom after almost seven years away to restock my teacher toolkit and soul. I will be an EL – English Learner teacher for the Marshall Public School district. I am so pumped up for this as I join this classy group of “new” teachers pictured here.

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So what is new or what is important to renew in the teacher toolkit? LOTS! You may find blog posts this fall to read somewhat like a journal entry in the life of a new teacher. 😉

First impressions are important. They can be lasting. If it bombs, however, it can be changed… but it is no longer a first impression of course. 😉 This summer I had the privilege of attending a session with Justin Patton. Incredible experience! If you ever have an opportunity to hear Justin speak or be coached by him, you will not regret it! Some takeaways to consider… We are all just people so we live and learn and sometimes change. We need to do our best to respect others and forgive them for messing up as we hope the favor is returned in kind. No matter if the first impression is stellar or not, communicate honestly and build authentic relationships with people as we are all on this adventure together. Make your presence count. One of my favorite quotes from Justin and now one of my own mantra phrases – “Take responsiblilty for the energy you show up with!” Okay – I am pretty fired up about Leading with Head & Heart so look for more on this in upcoming posts. I hope to share this with my students and fellow staff-mates. Now – back to school, folks…

The cycle of morale exists somewhat for all levels of experience in education and possibly other career fields, too. In the new teacher workshops, the Director of Teaching & Learning shared a great visual about the phases of the school year in the life of a teacher.

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When searching for the image, I stumbled across this one as well. Made me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul and morale.

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There are highs and lows in school and in life. Be there to support others and know that “this too shall pass” is a phrase to live by. Laughter is inexpensive medicine to cure the “common cold” in education, too.

Knowing the cycle – continue to learn and grow – and not because you are told to do so, but instead learn and grow because you know it makes you whole. Here is just one example… For any teachers out there who make it to MEA break, join this Pirate crew if you can!

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It’s critical to remember that we teach kids not content. As much as I love me some good content, it’s the kids who matter and will remember. I received two fabulous reminders of who great teachers are and what they do because they care.

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Thanks to Principal Darci Love for sharing “Great Teachers….” with me this week.

Thanks also goes to Director Amanda Granger, who shared about standards-based grading this week and reminded me it’s up to all of us to repair the broken…

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I could really jump on the soapbox here with grades, but I will hold off for another time to “fix” that. My teacher candidates have heard some ranting and raving about this before. I am passionate about kids and not grades, I guess. (I know there are some of you out there who cringe at the word “kids” so insert your own words; I like it.) Another saying that I really like was tweeted out by our very own Dr. Wendy this week. It is so, so true.

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So to recap because I lost track… kindness and communication matter, continuing to learn and grow matter, and having hope and spirit matter. So what else have I learned?
Take care… and take a nap. We should really be learning from our kids’ habits. They nap and are like the Energizer Bunny. Wherever, whenever (it is legal) – take a nap. There is no warrior badge for the teacher who goes without a nap, a message, leisure reading, … The list goes on and on. Teachers don’t keep up like the Energizer Bunny if they skip over enjoying some of that list. That list is actually called life. Teaching can consume the teacher, and what’s left isn’t a pretty picture. Love yourself so you can love others.

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This could go on and on but frankly, I’m exhausted from the week and all the adrenaline in this anticipation phase. My no-longer-21-year-old self can’t keep up quite the same as when I started almost two decades ago. But that’s okay because I love what I do, I love the people I serve… and I love a rare nap much more than I ever thought I could when I was forced to take them as a toddler.

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Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Culturally Responsive Teaching & Living

 

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As we get ready to go back to school this fall, we are energized from the summer. The fall-like air the last few days is just the right timing to make it official.  Love the summer, but love the fall so much too!  My boys may not be as excited as I am for school supply shopping, but I am! It goes with the territory of being a teacher regardless how much I love summer.

Watching the Olympics this past two weeks has taught us a number of things – including:

*Help each other up.  We are all humans (well – all of us except those of us impersonating humans) and just need a hand once in a while. You may have fallen, but you don’t need to stay there.

*We are different, and that is wonderful.  As the Olympic athletes pour out their blood, sweat, and tears, they are the same in that way, representing their countries and their dreams.

*Be humble and kind.  Winning isn’t everything, but when you do, share the glory.  No one is an island – at least not forever.  Eventually you need a ship for supplies or other life to keep living.

Work Hard – Play Hard!  Repeat!
*Work hard, play hard.  One of my favorites…  and so true.  Both lose their purpose without the other.  Live each day this way. It is a simple recipe for success.

Thinking about these Olympic stories – remember the takeaways as you head to school this fall.  Whether welcoming a student at the door or sending your own student out the door on his or her way to kindergarten, middle school, high school, or beyond – be responsive.

Culturally Responsive Teaching is not a new concept by any means.  It is common sense and incredibly valuable; it just needs revisiting from time to time.  We need to be reminded what we know and what we know is right and just.

What is culturally responsive teaching?  “A pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity.  It accommodates the dynamic mix of race, ethnicity, class, gender, region, religion, and family that contributes to every student’s cultural identity.  The foundation for this approach lies in theories of intrinsic motivation” (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995).

Resources to consider and share when preparing for a culturally responsive classroom or workplace – aka respectful zone where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring to the space.  We can all learn more and grow more from each other starting today.
Strategies & tools:

Have you seen the Ron Clark story yet?  Watch the film – great motivation to be the best teacher possible starting today.

 

English Language Learners: Culture, Equity, and Language NEA Priority Schools Campaign 2012

 

 

SIOP Model overview

 

 

SIOP Model for Teaching English Learners

 

 

SIOP Model & WIDA Standards

 

Check out The SIOP Model resource library

 

Want more? This is the tip of the iceberg folks.  It starts here.  There is so much more out there.  So for today, be more.

Stay Calm & Be Responsive!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

 

We Are Made To Be More

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As we strive to do more each day in our careers and lives, we were recently reminded, what we really need to do – is to be more. We can allow our days to fly by with schedules full, but what does it mean if the days mean nothing at all but items to check off the list?

This past week the NSIC – Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference met for the summer annual meetings. We gather together to consider what has passed – to celebrate successes and to move forward together to strategically plan for future successes. We are an optimistic group! 🙂 By the way, it happens to be the best NCAA Division II conference…not that I am biased!

At the Honors banquet, we celebrated the Willis R. Kelly Award recipient, who is the top female scholar-athlete in the 16-school conference. This award is based on a combination of academic and athletic accomplishments. But really, it is so much more. The faculty athletics representatives in the conference highly consider leadership and community service attributes in this decision. Whitney Burmeister, who will be a senior at Southwest Minnesota State University this fall, was selected as this year’s Kelly award winner. When I asked Whitney to share about herself, one of the highlights for her was being a class notetaker for other students on campus. She shared “it may seem minimal to others, but I love that I can help someone by taking notes for them if they need assistance.” She is also actively involved in the “It’s A Slam Dunk, Don’t Drive Drunk” campaign on campus as well as serving as the SAAC – Student-Athletes Advisory Committee serving as the secretary and working for the IFO – Interfaculty Organization office. (Working with faculty across campus is no small undertaking!) Whitney excels in the classroom as an Exercise Science major and on the court as a key volleyball player. She grew up on the farm milking cows and knowing what work ethic truly is in life, sport, and school.

She truly is an outstanding student and outstanding athlete. Moreover, she is so much more. We share this today because our goal for all of us – is to be so much more. We aren’t “just” this or that. Collectively, when we care for others, we are more.

With the recent death of my nephew, Carter, we learned as tough as days can be, the road would be so much more challenging if we didn’t have “more” from others. The outpouring of community support from family, friends, and strangers has been overwhelming. People truly are so much more. ~SV

Our goal is that we continue to move forward and pay it forward. Let us consider this example and Whitney’s example of how we can be more for others. It isn’t who you are or what you do… but what more you do that counts. As teachers, leaders, citizens, it is our responsibility to be more.

Be more.

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Learning to Connect – Connecting to Learn

BLOG George C itit15What a privilege it was to listen to George Couros speak at the This is IT2 2015 Ed Tech Conference (Instructional and Information Technology Inspiration through Collaboration) held in Pipestone, MN. Mr. Couros employed Aristotle’s three appeals – ethos (credibility), pathos (emotional), and logos (logical) as he addressed his audience, which are the key elements to effective writing and speaking. Sorry for the lesson here, but we are teachers and just can’t help ourselves! 🙂 George connected with his audience by sharing his life story on learning and living. He also shared many great videos and quotes on what it takes to be a great educator. Below are our highlights of his presentation:

Be a Champion for Children: George shared this video, and Rita Pierson hits the nail on the head with her TED presentation on human relationships and making connections. Children will not learn from people they don’t like! Apologize. Students will be shocked. Take a few minutes to watch this. It will be worth your time! http://goo.gl/tFkctv

Engage Learners: We need to run away from constant “mind your own business learning.” Educators must engage learners. The big question George had for his audience was “Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?” Boom! Self-reflection at its best! Go on…answer that one very honestly! Whether your environment is a classroom or office setting – consider it and walk a mile in another learner’s shoes. Whatever your answer, just remember to engage your learners – your people!

 

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Disrupt your Routine: What are you changing in your routine to innovate? Just this last week in a Junior Achievement lesson, we discussed innovation with 4th grade students. Innovation is to improve upon something. We aim to do this in our work and play each day. Thinking about our daily routines, what can we do to change it up just a bit? No one wants to be bored in the classroom – teacher or student. Consider integrating technology that will change the teaching and learning process. Innovate to further create and be better than yesterday. We owe our ancestors a great deal for the lives that we have today. Let’s not disrespect them by becoming stagnant. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new or take a different approach today.

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Change your Mindset: It’s not about skillset, it is about mindset. Change your thoughts and way of thinking and change the outcome. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “school cultures often promote, or at least accept, the fixed mindset. They accept that some kids feel superior to others and feel entitled to pick on them. They also consider some kids to be misfits whom they can do little to help” (p.169). Okay – maybe we are getting off topic here – we will revisit bullying another blog, but think about it. Mindsets shape how we think and who we become. Change yours and see the world from a different perspective.  It does not have a to be a world where it is you v. technology.

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Embrace Technology: We’ve always told our teacher candidates that technology is one instructional tool they can use while teaching. So when George said “technology is more than just a tool” we paid attention. He went on to explain that technology is a way of life for the kids of this generation so we should at least try to understand their world. George’s dad, who could not read or write very well, started to use email. It changed his world. His dad also started to Skype. This dad wanted to be part of the technology world because that is where his son was. Shouldn’t we do that for our students too?

Stay Calm & Lead On!

Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Intentional Creativity

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Who do you think is going to win the race? We have a pretty good idea. When we think about education in terms of a race, we need to consider this illustration to keep us in the lead. “Think outside the box.” This common phrase leads us to consider anything but common practice. It challenges us to think of alternative paths and possibilities.

It is sometimes easier said than done, however. Being creative is not always as easy as it sounds. Writers block is an example of blocked creativity. When creativity is stopped in its tracks or not allowed to even start, it is up to us to make it happen or nothing will ever be different, change, or move forward.

“Brain research helps us to understand how to improve our creative thinking and make creative thinking a habit. The creative drive is a result of the interaction between the frontal lobe (where we generate ideas), the temporal lobe (where we judge), and the release of dopamine (which makes us feel good). Learning creates neutral pathways in the brain, which are reinforced with use. … By practicing creative thinking, students become comfortable making new, meaningful connections and thinking of new possibilities rather than relying on established neutral pathways. With enough practice, this new way of thinking becomes habitual and automatic. … Our brains are wired for success, which means students like to be assured of an outcome where there is only one answer: the right answer. This is not what creativity is about. With creative thinking, as long as students can defend their reasoning, many answers can be correct” (Drapeau, 2014, p.12).

We need to challenge our students (colleagues, friends, family) to think outside of the box and model creative behaviors to ensure creative outcomes. Modeling is encouraged but providing a standard example or answer is not quite the path to develop creative thinking. Our teacher candidates would like to see examples and samples of what is expected. Rethink this – if we show examples of everything we can only expect what has been done. We need to expect what has not been created yet.

Don’t allow this to be you or your class or your colleagues.

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“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” ~ John Wooden

Find a new perspective with intentional creativity. Nurture creativity and make it a habit to try something new and be creative. You want the answer to “just how do we do this,” don’t you? Then go out and create it.

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Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs ~ Dr. C. & Dr. V.

What A Spootakular Idea!

Hallowarts Architect
                   Hallowarts Architect

BLOG Hallowarts post

Sonya: “Let’s start from the beginning.”

Wendy: “Oh, good idea! Let’s!”

Sonya: “Once upon a time –“

Wendy: “Wait…what? What beginning is that?”

Sonya: “Like every beginning ever.”

Wendy: “No, silly, let’s start from the beginning on this blog – it’s purpose.”

Sonya: “Oh – yes – let’s – great idea! Like I was saying… Once upon a time, there was this friend and colleague of ours who likes to have fun and is a little competitive perhaps…or maybe she just knows the rest of us well. She suggested that we engage in a friendly and fun competition of the Great Pumpkin in the SMSU School of Education. This event gave way to other creative ideas to implement at school and home this week for some ‘friendly’ competition. Read these ideas and you are certain to win any holiday competition.

Wendy: “Really? Is that why we started this particular blog entry? I thought it was to share fun fall ideas with our teacher candidates and others who just appreciate a good time. Hmmm…”

Sonya: “So I guess you have your reasons and I have mine… We had better get started before I need to be explicitly reminded of my coaching philosophy – learning, fun, and then winning. Without further ado – read on to be a ‘fun-lover’ this week even in the midst of work and life responsibilities. Enjoy!”

How to Have a Spootakular Time:

1. Enjoy! Take a few deep breaths and remember life is meant to be enjoyed. We get so busy with our “to do” list both at school and home, we forget our purpose, which is to simply live life.

2. Be! Spend time with and BE WITH others. It isn’t about a competition after all, but about being with others and celebrating the good times. Take time to be in the moment instead of mentally tallying the other things on your list that you think you should be doing because of guilt or another competition altogether.

3. Explore! We don’t have to have all the answers and/or ideas. Search and share. In the midst of spootakular exploration, we stumbled across a Pinterest board – “Halloween Spootakular.” Okay – so maybe it was not quite by accident and a somewhat purposeful find in our mission to seek the “Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Needless to say, we became a bit distracted with all the fun ideas so we simply had to share them with you.

4. Share! To go back to something we mentioned before – share. Life may seem like a competition far too often. We need to consider that two pumpkins are better than one when it comes to ideas and growing into something bigger than ourselves. Whether at work or at home – think about your purpose – your mission – and act based on that as your guide. It may be about winning together that is more important you mentioning that you did more laundry this week than your mate or that you are working harder than a colleague. What difference does it make if it is done alone. Get rid of the silo.

5. Do! Have a Pumpkin Carving/Decorating competition. If professors enjoy this activity so will your students, your families, your friends.

Enjoy the season and we wish you a “Happy Fall, Y’all.” 🙂

BLOG pumpkins

PS – Neither of us won, but we sure did have fun! 🙂

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs ~ Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Let’s Do Something!

BLOG Let's Do Nothing!
True story (not that all of our stories aren’t true
🙂 )… Young Jedi, my son JR, walks up to me while I am busy grading away at my laptop and says to me, “Since you aren’t doing anything, could you read me this book?” After several long blinks at the youngling, and considering that life does not slow down so I should take this moment since he will be 18 before I know it, I took the book from his hands and responded, “I would love to read to you, son.” He then hands me the book that has been patiently waiting to be read from Wendy’s children’s literature bookshelf to mine called,
Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile. ~SV

This topic of ‘Let’s Do Nothing’ came up for us because twice in one week, situations presented themselves to DO SOMETHING…

  • A former student of ours (who was/is outstanding by the way) is dealing with some legal issues right now. She is currently unemployed, but not by choice. While visiting with her and listening to her story, she made a profound statement. She said: “While I was working, I always thought to myself that it would be great to have a month to do absolutely nothing. Now that I have no choice, I hate it. I can’t do anything and it is awful. I need to do something!” -CW
  • Our colleague and friend presented on the loss of her son a few weeks ago and one of her comments during that presentation was: “It’s almost worse to do nothing for others rather than do something even if it seems wrong. Do something for those who are grieving.” –TMY

Are you thinking about doing nothing still? Or maybe something now?Are you still thinking about doing nothing? Or maybe something now?

 How often have we wished to just do nothing? In Tony Fucile’s book, “Let’s Do Nothing,” Sal and Frankie have been busy playing games, reading comic books, and baking cookies (sounds like a great time to us 🙂 ). They decide to try a new activity…doing nothing. Frankie is not so good at doing nothing (and neither are we). He gives in every time and so Sal has a new suggestion…let’s do something. We can certainly relate to Frankie. We LOVE to be doing something.

To our former student and friend: BELIEVE that justice will be served and you will soon be doing something.

To our colleague and friend: BELIEVE that people mean well, and we guarantee that WE will do something for those who are grieving.

Well, it’s time for us to go do something now. Until next time, do something or do nothing – however you want to approach it. Just promise us to do it well. BELIEVE and best wishes!

BLOG boys doing something

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs ~ Dr. C. & Dr. V.