Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Surprise Gifts on a Sunday Afternoon

It began with a simple request from my sister in law: "Hey, Joanie, do you want to join us tomorrow singing Christmas carols at a party for the Ambassor of Kenya to the U.N.? Her neighbors go to our church and work with her, and she wants some singing at her party. We don't really know what to expect..but it will be fun to sing as a family."

The "all of us" meant my musical Patitucci family: my brother John, a bass player, his wife, Sachi, an amazing cellist, their musically gifted daughters, Gracie and Bella, my sister Renee, a professional singer, and her family, my sister Mare ( another talented singer) and her family and I, with 12 of us altogether singing. Since my sister, Renee is music director of their church, and John and Sachi are professional musicians, their friends invited them to sing. Even though I do love to sing, I must admit that I get a bit intimidated by my siblings' talent, though I couldn't miss the opportunity.  

Fast forward to the Sunday afternoon….

We arrived about 20 minutes early, pulling up to a beautiful house in a neighborhood in Scarsdale.  We sat outside around the corner, not wanting to arrive early and inconvenience anyone. We practiced a bit to be sure we all knew each song. This was going to be fun! I had no idea what an inspiring time it would be..

 Here are some of the serendipitous gifts of our afternoon:
  1. Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo was a wonderfully gracious host. Although my brother's friend Karen had given us a quick briefing about how to show respect by greeting her with the proper title, we were all a tad nervous.  Ambassador Ojiambo insisted that we eat before we sang: delicious Kenyan food. She personally took my niece's plate and gave her a sample of each special dish, explaining what each one was. We learned about white corn being a staple food and chapati, a delicious bread, as well.

  1. Not only did we get to sing carols for Kenyan Ambassador Ojiambo and her family and friends,  but  also for her friend: Ambassador to the U.N. from Nigeria, Joy Ogwu.  We were fortunate to talk with her after we sang; she is quite an inspiring woman: a leader among the female ambassadors to the U.N. as well as a member of the Security Council. She shared that she was about to lead some very important talks about arms this week, and felt so grateful to be at a party, relaxing and recharging for her busy week.

  1. As we sang, I felt overcome with joy. With my brother John next to me, and my sisters in front of me, we shared smiles and tried to hold back spontaneous giggles as we recalled the Christmas carol records of our younger days.  Sharing music with my brothers and sisters is something I miss so dearly, as we live across the country from each other.  After several encores, Ambassador Ojiambo thanked us; I whispered a message to my brother that we should thank her for the gift that she had given us in her invitation.  Tears welled up in all of our eyes as we shared our thanks with her.

  1. After being invited to stay at the party, and meeting many of the friends and family members of Ambassador Ojiambo, we sat by ourselves as they all disappeared upstairs to prepare a song for us. Little did we know that minutes later we would be singing and clapping along to songs from Kenya. They even made a percussion instrument out of the dome from the cake! It was a joyous time of sharing.

  1. As we said our goodbyes, I was touched by the grace and warmth of our host. Ambassador Ojiambo told us that the afternoon far exceeded her expectations. We had made her birthday/Christmas celebration memorable. We left, uplifted by our experience. What was to be an hour of caroling turned into an afternoon of music and sharing. Priceless memories for all of us!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Letter I Won't Send

The Christmas Letter I Won’t Send ( but should?)

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope this holiday season finds you joyful and well, basking in the glow of a year of fond memories of time with loved ones, as well as of inspiring moments spent making a difference in this crazy world of ours.

I pray that your family is healthy. I know that many educators like me spend holidays fighting the myriad of germs that threaten to invade our bodies after being around germ-spreading little ones all day. Of course, you know that I wouldn’t trade “my kids” for anything.  Despite spending many Christmas eves coughing and sneezing my head off, I still sleep peacefully, knowing that I have lived out my passion by being with these kids each day, often caring more than some of the people who perhaps can’t, due to the daily struggles they face.

So back to that making a difference part. So often it seems as though we believe that it takes a grand act to "make a difference." Maybe you went on that one week mission with your church, posted hundreds of pictures on Facebook, as we all applauded your generous and courageous spirit. I probably even clicked “like” and added an honest, inspired comment.  Or maybe you sent in a donation to a local charity. Of course you can celebrate such a gift! I challenge myself, and all of us, to seize opportunities each and every day to share moments of kindness and generosity. You just never know when you may be giving someone exactly the words they need to "keep calm and carry on" in this very trying time. 

When those holiday bell ringers seek my spare change on a cold winter’s night, I smile and say that I am a teacher, who devotes myself and my change each and every day through the time, care and my own “change” I spend on supplementing my classroom to make learning joyful.  I give of myself all year round, 24 hours a day to this profession, as I spend nights dreaming of lesson ideas, ways to meet challenges with students, and worries about keeping my job.  I know thousands of other teachers who similarly give of themselves thanklessly each day.

At this time of year, as many of us send those “family lists of accomplishment” letters, cleverly designed to make us feel like our lives are worth a darn, my heart is peaceful, knowing that despite the many frustrations and barriers in my profession, I am doing exactly what I was meant to do. I hope that as you reflect on your year, you celebrate those gifts you share each day, and also that you are following the call in your heart. 

At this time of reflection and new beginnings, may you search your heart and check it twice. Are you on the path that brings you meaning and joy? How are YOU sharing your gifts with the world?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gift of Blogging

Yesterday, I was invited by my wonderful friend Greta to participate in the #Rockstar Meme - How Blogging Rocked Your World . Her beautiful post, about her journey as a blogger, inspired me to think deeply about the role that blogging has played in developing my voice, both as an educator and as an advocate for kids. 

My first response, I must admit, was one of feeling a bit overwhelmed with the task. Being succinct about subjects I am passionate about is not a strong point for me. I decided to write out a mind map and approach this task much in the way I encourage my students to plan out their writing.

As I drew out my concept map, I decided to use the Showme app to talk about my experience, instead of putting my thoughts into paragraph form. I took a picture of my map, inserted it into Showme, and took it from there. I hope you enjoy the results!


As the challenge has requested, my final step is to ask other inspiring bloggers to share their stories. I am tagging these individuals, who have shaped my blogging and thinking in recent months:

 Lisa Dabbs @teachingwthsoul 


 John T. Spencer @johntspencer 


 Patrick Larkin @bhsprincipal


Tracy Watanabe @tracywatanabe


Linda Yollis @lindayollis

Saturday, September 24, 2011

3 Reflections for This School Year

Every year, I seem to grow more reflective in my practice, which is both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps you can't see why it would be a curse, as we are encouraged as educators to reflect on what we do.  Accomplishing tasks like curriculum mapping and lesson planning, however, take more time and brain power now because I  require so much brainstorming/processing time before I even get to the part where I can write anything. Hopefully, as I gain more experience as a 4th grade teacher, this process will take less time!

In any case, I have been working on these "big ideas" for myself as a teacher, and as always, I find great benefit in sharing with my wonderful network of educators around the globe.

  • Students need to reflect!  If we value an assignment so much that we allow an extended period of time for its completion, then we need to take the time afterward for students to reflect. Perhaps you already do this with student rubrics or some other method of reflection, but I recently found it very helpful after students read my comments on their work for them to respond with their opinions. Questions I asked included, "Do you think that this piece reflected your best effort?" "What were some of the challenges for you?" "What will you do similarly or differently next time?"  I received feedback from both parents and students indicating that they found this process helpful, especially for identifying issues of time management and developing plans for future success.
  • When integrating technology, it's critical to ask: "Am I just adding more 'stuff' to my curriculum or using technology as a way to let students process and showcase what they are learning?" I am working to synthesize the curriculum that I have with apps like "Showme" where students can use a screencast to demonstrate their process and understanding. Viewing their Showme's later has given me such an incredible window into student process! Isn't this the epitome of formative assessment?  So far, in math this has worked out extremely well, and I plan to use it this week for lessons with writing mechanics, beginning with comma use.  My plan is to then email the link to the Showme to the student, attach a few comments, and engage in a dialogue about their process. I see great opportunities for metacognition. 
  • When we offer students extra support, we must be careful to send the right messages. I am sure that I have, at times, ( more often than I care to admit!) impacted student efficacy negatively by jumping in too fast to alleviate confusion. Perhaps I have even given the impression that I believed that they "needed my support" to succeed.  We must be patient in the messy learning process, pause, and give students the opportunity for the "aha" experience. Of course, this is so tricky when so many other kids are clamoring for our attention, right? We must somehow be present, available, and open for them to discover their own benefit in seeking help and make it part of everyone's learning to need help.  I really want students to know that it is a sign of strength to make mistakes, as well as solicit feedback and clarification! 
I am thinking of many other topics, of course, but hope to write again soon on those. Intrinsic motivation, behavior management systems, and parental involvement are at the top of the list!
    What are some thoughts, reflections, questions on your mind as you get into the school year? Please share! 

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    A New Year: Designing the Learning Environment

    We started school this past Thursday, and I feel like I have been in a whirlwind ever since! Even though we only had 2 days with students, I have lots of planning and organizing to do to set up for the month of September!
    These pictures represent the classroom environment, "pre-students, " except for the picture that shows the students' "getting to know you wordles" from an exercise shared by the fabulous Paula Naugle, a teacher in New Orleans. 

     This table is currently too close to the wall and will need to be moved out a bit before we use it. I plan to work with small groups of students here.
    The fun paisley border represents the colorful, unique voices of the writers whose work will adorn this board.
     The director's chair is mainly for student presentations. I probably will only sit in that chair when I do a "read-aloud."

     On the far wall, I have a global map ready for us to mark our Skype calls with people around the world. I am hoping to connect my students with students, teachers, and experts all around the world. We will be participating in the Mystery State/Country Skype project and have also already scheduled a Skype an Author call.

     Our "All about Me Wordles" look fabulous hanging via suction cups on our big windows. I know that I am fortunate to have these big bright windows and beautiful trees outside of them.
     Another view of the room, this time with my desk visible in the corner. I have it shoved so far back that I can barely get behind it. The fact is that I so rarely sit at my desk, I am contemplating not having it in the future. One step at at time, though...
     Those cabinets are for storage and our desktop computers. I plan to utilize those computers as well as a shared laptop cart and a small number of ipads to integrate technology in meaningful, productive ways.
    The purple stability balls on top are awaiting inflation and will be used hopefully this week. Students are so excited to use them!

    On our second day of school, students spent some time brainstorming about their ideal classroom. They came up with this list of class agreements and then wrote and illustrated them for our bulletin board.

    I look forward to sharing more pictures as I set up the rest of the classroom. I am awaiting a new carpet for a community discussion space, as well as some fun cushions and ottoman type seats for comfy reading spaces.

    I would love to hear from others about how they have set up their classrooms for optimal learning. Please leave a link to your blog posts or resources that address this important topic!

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Brave New Year: 5 Ideas to Venture Forth

    It's been awhile since I have written, partially due to taking on a writing job in July that took WAY more time than I anticipated, and partly because I sometimes don't know if the topic in my head is right for this blog or another forum. Although all of my posts somehow relate to bringing out the potential in kids so that they flourish, some of my writing is more specific to the classroom.

    Today I am thinking of ways that I plan to venture out with my students, try new things, and model being a learner. Here are some ways I hope to enliven my new class:

    1) Leaving some design decisions to the students: I am a little bit conflicted between allowing students the opportunity to "own their learning space" and my personal desire to have things completely organized and ready to go at the beginning of the school year. This year, I will give students more responsibility and ownership. They will determine the class jobs we need, help with some room layout decisions, and be active decision makers. I am excited to see how this change impacts their enthusiasm for school.

    2) Diigo for educators:  After going to Vicki Davis' workshop, led by Suzie Nesticos at ISTE11, I decided that I should really work with my students to collaborate better on group research. Diigo for educators allows me to create a class group and is an amazing tool for sharing, and a safe way to allow my students to share highlights of resources, annotations, and suggest and bookmark items of value for the entire class. This could be a bit of a risk, since this tool may be new to parents and even to colleagues. I will let you know how it goes!

    3) Kidblogs for individual student blogs: Last year my students blogged on a class blog, but I did not see the enthusiasm and ownership in them that I had hoped to see. I can pinpoint several reasons for this: having to write about events from the class and not items completely of their own choice, students not getting to decide the name and appearance of the blog, blogging was a class job for 3 students per week, and more. I think that having a Kidblogs class account where each student will have his/her own page, opening up my blog to comments from the world using #comments for kids, and allowing students to write about their passions will give them a more engaging blogging experience.

    4) Connecting globally via Skype: I do believe that Skyping must have an intentional place and not just be an "add-on" cool thing to do. My first experience last December, Skyping with my friend Greta and her class in Argentina was memorable and one I will never forget.  I have some ideas to incorporate Skype into my social studies curriculum as well as my language arts curriculum. I am excited about this project, the Skype mystery state project :

    5) Trusting my own judgement: Last year I was a bit nervous because I was new to both 4th grade and to my school. There were times that students reached out to me on google chat when I was checking email, and I wasn't sure if I should respond. What I know, now, a year later, is that those students who reached out to me still want to say hi and consider me a trusted adult to talk to. Many times, students wanted to ask a quick question about homework or invite me to look at their work on a google doc. Since relationships in teaching are SO important, I will be glad for the chance to connect with students via the web.

    I am sure that as soon as I hit "publish post" I will think of many other ways I plan to do things differently this year.  What do you plan to do to engage and excite your students for a wonderful school year?

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    The Gift of Mentoring..a Year Later

    It's been a year since my fabulous intern, Nicole, aka "Miss Harrington," and I went our separate ways. At the end of last school year, as she got her credential and wondered how she would ever find a job in this terrible economic climate, I moved on, to a new grade at a new school, hopeful for her and thankful for the wonderful year we spent as intern and mentor.

    In August, I was thrilled to get the call that she got hired at my former school, just days before school began, was going to teach in kindergarten in "our" former room, with lots of the goodies I gifted to her as I left for my big move to 4th grade. Many hours of my commute this year were spent listening to her and brainstorming ideas with her about her very young class. Each conversation left me inspired and grateful: not just to know her, but to have learned so much from our time together in the classroom and to continue to learn as we hashed through problems aloud, laughing our way to possible solutions.

    Today, as I wandered through my old weebly blog of my kindergarten class (2009-2010) I serendipitously stumbled upon her beautiful portfolio video that she made at the end of our year together.  I  messaged her immediately, asking if I could share it here. As I've gotten more involved in working with new teachers, with my friend Lisa Dabbs and her awesome work with Edutopia and the New Teacher Boot Camp and chat, I know that stories can inspire, especially when times are tough.

    So, sit back, enjoy the video, and think about how you might be able to support and learn with another wonderful young teacher like Miss Harrington. Here's to you, Nicole!

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    What Happens When You Close the Windows?

    When I close all those browser windows, those tabs of mass distraction on my computer, I am left with me. Just me. Just the random, rambling thoughts and the deep down recurring whispers reminding me that I am supposed to do something meaningful.

    Do what?  It’s summer time, and I’m supposed to be recovering, rejuvenating, learning, planning for back to school, right? Something inside me shouts, "yes," and then, in a split second, "not so fast!"  For years I have been brewing thoughts about the important intersection between positive psychology and education. I've written posts about these ideas here and here. Thanks to my husband, who shares my love for psychology, we have collected, read and discussed books from inspiring writers and researchers like Tal Ben-Shahar, Barbara Fredrickson, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ed Diener, Ellen Langer , and countless others. Many Saturday mornings have been spent evaluating the ideas of a “meaningful life” “optimal brain functioning and learning” and what it all means to us.

    And all of this brings me to a question. Maybe not one you think about..or do you?


    Why can’t we learn from psychology mavericks like Martin Seligman, who went from studying what’s wrong with people to what’s right with them? How can we apply this process of “strength and passion finding” to our floundering field of education?  I say,“our field” because I am a teacher. I walk into a classroom each day with a grand hope: to instill a love for learning, a passion for self-discovery among my students. In my heart though, perhaps I am still a psychologist. I suppose I can be both, right?

    I was never licensed as a therapist, though I finished my M.A. in Clinical Psych and earned my hours doing therapy and social work, for nearly 7 years. I worked in the trenches, got burned out in foster care, as I donned my superhero cape each day, trying to save foster care placements, pleading with families to give the kids another chance. I was almost ready to take the California MFT licensing exam when I decided that I could impact more kids in a deeper way by being with them in the classroom each day. I thought I was throwing in my superhero cape..but wow, I was wrong.

    And now, I often feel in the same role as an educator: convincing parents not to give up on their own kids, or reminding other teachers that we need to change our lens:  it’s often not what’s wrong with a student but what’s “right with them” that’s in need of discovery. Why is it so hard for others to grasp that the way to get a student interested and excited about learning is through tapping into their strengths and passions?

    In this drawn out ramble, there’s a message for me, and perhaps an invitation for you.  I need to get some of these ideas down, revisit the numerous notebooks and sketchpads where I have exposed my inner thoughts, and begin to weave together the message and stories I want to share.  I need to let go of the perfectionist fears that stifle this creative expression each time the ideas bubble to the surface. What’s the worst thing that can happen if I share my ideas, stories, plans? Do I have to please anyone? Intellectually, I know the answer to that question. 

    What is that key message I want to share? That what we believe and what we do every day with kids matters, whether our role is teacher, administrator, parent, counselor, or advocate. Yes it matters that we  teach them what the curriculum requires, but more importantly, we teach them how to learn about themselves. Creating a belief, " I can do anything I set my mind to,” and facilitating the skills of how to reach out and ask for help are critical.  That’s what I want for all kids: self-efficacy, self-regulation, and the social skills that will allow them to follow a path of passion.  

    Now that I’ve shared mine…what’s your inner voice saying? What is it that calls to you each day when you dare to close those windows and be quiet with your own thoughts?

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    11 Mistakes I Made At #ISTE11

    Ok, so I know that I usually strive to share upbeat, inspiring, positive posts, but I think it's also valuable to share those moments when I goof up.  I model this important, "learning from mistakes" business for students all the time, so why not model it for adults I collaborate with.  Although I had a fabulous time at #ISTE11, learning so much and meeting so many wonderful people, I made quite a few mistakes, some of which I will share here!

    1. Too polite! Really? Can someone really be "too polite?" Well, there were so many times that I was right by people I wanted to meet and share my gratitude for all the work they do with kids and share with their PLN ( Professional Learning Network) but I didn't talk to them. Why? Well, on several occasions, they were already talking to someone else. Check out how silly I felt this morning when the gracious Sylvia Martinez and the hilarious Steve Dembo set me straight!

    These tweets tell the story! I will not be reluctant again!       

     2. Miss the events prior to the conference, like EdubloggerconSince I was a newbie to #ISTE11, I did not realize that this event precedes the conference every year. A free conference, open to all who arrive just one day earlier..ugh..a no-brainer! How did I miss out? I was in the midst of the school year when all of the arrangements were made, and I was writing up a grant proposal so that I would get to attend. Anyway, this is a mistake that I will NOT make again. I heard some awesome reports on Edubloggercon so I will definitely be watching any recordings and catching up soon!

    3. Didn't make specific plans. Although I read several posts with great advice about what to do and not to do at #ISTE11, I did not make specific, "let's do lunch" or coffee plans with times/dates.  I did make connections with people, texting and meeting at Bloggers Cafe, but I then got caught up in a flurry meeting others and didn't have time to really talk in depth. In case you are someone I happened to be with and perhaps walked away from, I apologize. I was highly distracted by the excitement of meeting so many people. I am also a shy kid at heart so my anxiety perhaps also kept me not as attentive as I could have been.

    4. Sight-seeing: There I was, in historic Philadelphia, and I only took a couple of hours Sunday afternoon to see Independence Hall with the gracious Ronnie Burt escorting a group of folks to a tour. Thanks Ronnie and Edublogs! There were many sights I wanted to see, but didn't want to miss any of the conference.  I did manage to do something right and got a few photos!
    So lucky to be with my buddy, Nancy, a wonderful 3rd grade teacher I get to work with every day!

    Inside the Visitor's center

    Thinking of all who sat here! Wow

    George Washington really sat here?

    George's Sunrise Chair       

    5. Taking adequate time to choose ticketed sessions carefully : I had a tight deadline at my school and had to choose my ticketed sessions way too quickly. My fault for not taking the time for me!  Next time, I will anticipate the early bird registration timeline and read the options more carefully. 2 out of 3 of my ticketed sessions were fabulous, but one really let me down, as it was selling a platform and I didn't really note that as I signed up.

    6. Taking "outside" breaks! For two days, I suffered with a sinus/migraine headache that may have been related to so many factors, one being recycled air!  Next time, I will invite people I want to talk to on a walk somewhere, out of the unventilated inside air.

    7. Eating right: I know what you're thinking. She ate too many Philly cheesesteaks! Actually, I honestly forgot to eat, which only happens when I am deep in learning or creating. When I did remember to eat, I ate very healthy foods, but there were times that I literally forgot to eat. Thanks to my roomie, Nancy, we picked restaurants with yummy healthy food for dinner.

    8. Pictures: I did take several pictures of people as I met them, but there were times I was a bit shy about it. Next time, look out! 

    9. Losing track of ideas inspired by conversation: Some of my conversations generated creative bursts in my head; new apps I want to develop or ways to use a tool. I did take notes and record sessions in an app on my ipad, but I should have just done a quick voice recording each time an idea hit me.

    10. Sharing my own work: I never want to be one of those people who pushes their "stuff",  but I really should have passed out more of my cool business cards that I made just for the event. I am sure that my publisher would have appreciated a few mentions.  Oh I stink at self-promotion! 

    11. Getting my feelings hurt:  Yes, I am one of those people who has been told, "You need to develop thicker skin." Don't worry.. I know this and work on not taking things personally quite often. Anyway, to the point...
    There are people I regularly converse with on Twitter, and in the months preceding the conference, I imagined how fun it would be to hang out and talk live with them. Most everyone I met was so gracious and warm, and the experience of that glimmer of mutual recognition upon sharing our Twitter names, followed by a huge hug, was incredible! Unfortunately, when I finally did meet one of these people I thought I "knew", I was not met with a warm welcome. I was taken aback and a bit hurt.  I realize that this person's behavior could have been related to so many factors and even tried again later to connect. Once again, I was dismissed.  I was sad, but realized that this is one of those parts of social media that we don't talk that much about. People are not always who they "project themselves" to be. I then thought of how kids feel when not one of the, "cool kids."
    I also had the experience of introducing myself and telling someone I follow on Twitter how I appreciated what she shared there. She gave me a half-smile, half-blank look and turned away. Wow, I looked at her profile later and saw that she hardly followed anyone, was presenting at ISTE11, but perhaps was too important to talk to someone like me. That's life, I guess. Next time, I will be prepared for that response. 

    I will definitely be sharing more about what I learned at ISTE11. What mistakes did you learn from at #ISTE11?

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    I Promised..

    I promised myself and my friends out there who are not here at #ISTE11 that I would blog, tweet, and keep them in the loop with the events, learning, connecting happening at lightning speed here. This is one attempt, as I have been here since Saturday night and have barely had time to capture a coherent thought, never mind convert it to the written word!

    Here are a few highlights so far, and I am sure many more posts will enter my conscious mind when I jump on that plane to come home tomorrow night. ( which, now at the time of this edit, is actually tonight.)

    First, I've heard others say, "I've learned more in conversations with my PLN than I have in official conference sessions." For the most part, I must say, that's been true for me as well. Although I have attended a few sessions with "new learning," much of the resources I have already become acquainted with through my amazing PLN. Here's a picture of just one example of collaboration happening in the Blogger's Cafe, which is a big open space where people are connecting and sharing.

    Kevin Honeycutt leading a great jam session!

    My most favorite part of the conference has been meeting people that I have learned with, collaborated with, shared deep conversations with through Twitter, blogging, online conferences and Skype sessions. Here are a few photos of meeting these wonderful folks!
    So thrilled to meet Jana @Mollybmom and Jennifer @Saskateach from Canada. They are wonderful ladies who share so much!

    The wonderful Karen McMillan or McTeach, as I know her on Twitter, meeting up for the 2nd time ever! 

    The fun and dynamic, Nick Provenzano, or @thenerdyteacher as I know him on Twitter!
    The fabulous Paula Naugle, @plnaugle who is a gift to all of us in our PLN.
     The dynamic Angela Maiers, @angelamaiers with George Couros @gcouros and Dean Shareski @shareski

    The talented John Spencer, @johntspencer who is such a great guy and fabulous writer!
    The very kind and inspiring Ken Shelton, k_shelton, also from California!
    So great to meet Cory Plough @mrplough07!

    The warm and bubbly Shelly Terrell or @ShellTerrell who inspired me to use Twitter and blog more regularly!

    Meeting these friends, and I do consider them real friends, has felt like coming home. After almost 2 years on Twitter, I have come to know people better than I know some of my every day, face to face colleagues.  There are so many wonderful folks I have met, and I know I will forget some in this list so forgive me in advance: Karen Janowski, Kyle Pace, Deven Black, Jerylene Nemanich, Paula White, Becky Fisher, Marybeth Hertz, Gerald Aungst, Ann Leaness, Katie Hellerman, Angela Watson, Amanda Dykes, Beth Still, Michelle Baldwin, Shannon Miller, Mike Ritzius, Ken Royal, Shawn Ram, Tom Whitby, Jeremy MacDonald, Jason Schrage, Susie Toso, Ronnie Burt, Kristina Peters, Colette Cassinelli, Jackie Gerstein, JoAnn Jacobs, Kevin Honeycutt, and the fabulous Elana Leoni and Betty Ray from Edutopia.
    I was absolutely thrilled to chat with the fabulous administrators and leaders I have connected with on Twitter: Pam Moran, Lyn Hilt, Patrick Larkin, Dave Meister, George Couros, and others I may be forgetting at the moment!
    George Couros @gcouros and Patrick Larkin @bhsprincipal

    It is difficult to put into words how I feel today after sharing and learning with all of these people from around the world. Energized, inspired, and grateful are the feelings that pop to mind. How about you?

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    From the Virtual Conference Room to the Live Action: How I'll be Savoring ISTE11

    I remember this time last year so vividly: scanning Twitter and reading all of the messages about the ISTE10 conference in Colorado. I can't forget feeling sorry for myself that I was not there meeting the people I often shared with and chatted with online.  I attended sessions and learned lots, discovering resources and new people to follow, but still felt a bit envious of those who were sharing the wonder of meeting face to face for the first time, but feeling like lifelong friends. I don't want to forget that experience, mostly because it will remind me how very fortunate I am to be attending the ISTE11 conference this year.

    What will I do to make the most of my Philadelphia learning adventure, or as my Canadian friend, Jen, is calling it her, Techcellent Adventure?

    • I will be open and present as much as possible. I anticipate, after my experience at ASCD11 this past March, that the convention center will be a bit overstimulating and intimidating at times. I will stay in the moment and enjoy the opportunities to share a conversation, meet a new friend, and learn something to bring back to my practice. 
    • I will let go and have fun! Yes, I am there to learn, and that is what I will be doing, but who says a little "Double Dream Hands" flash mob is going to get in the way!  I'm also signed up for the EdTech Karaoke, which will be great fun. Let's see if I get up the nerve to actually sing ;-) 
    • I will tweet and blog my learning: I really appreciated those who were there sharing live, in the moment last year. I have several friends, especially Lisa Dabbs and Greta Sandler, who will be with me in spirit. I want to be someone who gives graciously and shares the learning. We really never know when a tweet will inspire someone else to explore and discover. 
    • I will take care of myself with exercise and sleep! I know that I am one of those people who has a hard time sleeping when I am away from  home. There's that little kid part of me who feels like she might, "miss something," if she goes to sleep too early. I doubt I will be going to sleep early but I will make it a point to get enough sleep to be ready to learn and meet new faces. I also plan to walk everywhere and hope, no plan!, to run at least 2 of the days I am there :-) Maybe I will find some #temt folks to run with!
    • I will spend time brainstorming and debriefing with the 2 fabulous teacher colleagues that will accompany me. We will have a chance to bring ideas back and transform the learning of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at our school. What a gift this will be! 

    Before I forget, thanks to all of the bloggers who have written helpful posts for us ISTE newbies. I especially appreciated this post by Steve Dembo: What Not to do at ISTE and many others that I am suddenly forgetting due to my excited state! 

     I can't wait to get to Philadelphia tomorrow. But first, there's a long to-do list off I go! How will you make the most of your ISTE11 experience, whether live or in the virtual capacity? Please share :-) 

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Fan of Someone's Work? Reach Out and Say So!

    This morning I lounged in bed with my coffee while finishing up the book, Play, by Stuart Brown, M.D. on the ipad. I enjoyed the book so much (even reading it actually for the second time) that I wanted to learn more about the non-profit foundation founded by Dr. Brown, The National Institute for Play. One link led to another and I decided to find out if Dr. Brown would be lecturing locally in the near future.

     I filled out a form on his website with this message:

    I am wondering where I can find information about any public speaking engagements for Dr. Brown. I live in Santa Cruz, Ca and work in Menlo Park, CA so anywhere in N. California would be great.
    I am a teacher and former therapist/social worker and write a blog :
    My mission is to help others understand some of the simple changes and choices we can make to help kids thrive and flourish. I am a huge fan of the book Play and all of your work.

    Please send me any appearance info that is available! I would love to hear Dr. Brown speak.

    Thanks so much,

    Joan Young

    Needless to say, I was delighted to discover the following email in my inbox, not even a half hour later! 

    Hi, Joan-thanks for your interest in hearing me speak. I am about to head for a Brain and Learning symposium in Michigan, followed by a DC presentation. My summer is thereafter focused on writing, with my next presentation in Monterey over the Labor Day Weekend. Kristen Cozad schedules my itinerary, and she is currently on vacation , but will be available after July 5. I enjoyed your blog, and wish you well.


    Stuart Brown

    Sometimes we, (or maybe that should be, I)  get intimidated by others' status or  think that they won't have any interest in us, regular people doing common, but very important work. I am excited when an "expert" in the field whose mission is so closely related to mine takes the time to respond to my questions.  I do hope to meet Dr. Brown and hear him speak in the near future; as you may notice, I have a few past posts here, highlighting my belief in the importance of play.

    This is the mission of the National Institute for Play, which, I think, lies at the core of what can so powerfully improve education and society:

    The National Institute for Play believes that as play is woven into the fabric of social practices, we will dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, the education we provide our children and the capacity of our corporations to innovate.

    And with that, I ask you: How do you utilize the gift of play to enhance your life and the lives of those you touch every day? Please share your thoughts!

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Look Them in the Eyes

    My kids, all grown up!
    **Note: As you read this post, please don't get the impression that I don't understand the importance of cultural differences with regard to eye contact and showing respect. I fully embrace the myriad of different ways that mindful attention can be given between people; as one of my commenters so eloquently reminded me, the point is to remember to be fully and genuinely present to show that you care for others.  

    Don't get me wrong. I am attached to my tech devices: taking photos, checking email, texting friends and family, but I am growing painfully aware of the costs associated with non-stop information and consumption on our most valuable relationships: missing out on important face to face moments with our students, colleagues, and loved ones.

    This year, in my first year teaching 4th grade, I was shocked at how often I would ask students to look at me to show they were listening to me.  This was not an outright sign of disrespect from them as much as it was a product of our culture. When I asked if they looked at each other while talking at home, many students exclaimed: "My parents are always looking at their phones!" I encouraged them to say, ever so politely, to their parents: "Please look at me, so I know you are really listening." I fervently checked my email over the following few days, certain that someone would be angry at my lesson to their children, but not one ever arrived. Maybe no one went home and asked..though I hope they did.  I continued to request that students look at each other as they shared ideas in the classroom. Eventually, it became a least some of the time!

    Of course, I then became aware of my own behavior: when I was not looking at someone talking to me! I often caught myself multi-tasking when others talked to me, cleaning up or writing an email when another teacher came to my room to visit, or picking up papers while a student was asking me a question; I consciously made a point to stop and fully listen.  After all, if a huge percentage of communication is non-verbal, what am I missing by not using the incredible sense of vision that allows me to see the person's revealing facial expression and expressive body language?

    So,  please, especially when interacting with children, look them in the eyes. ( or show them full presence in a way that makes sense in their culture)  For that matter, make it a habit with everyone.  Let them know you are fully listening. The rewards are certainly worth it!