Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Influence!

    Yesterday after school I headed to the grocery store on my way to pick up my daughter from Pre-K. After a long third day of state testing, I was exuberant to have about 20 minutes to myself. No phone. No emails. No students. No dear loved ones. Just me and the grocery store. 

     As I turned down the cereal aisle, I saw a woman with two teenage daughters. The woman looked familiar, but then again I think most people look familiar. I rarely forget a face! Needless to say I smiled and pushed on toward my favorite spot, the school supplies aisle.

     Then I heard it. “Mrs. Bailey?!” As I turned around, the woman from the cereal aisle was walking toward me smiling. She said “Hello, you may not remember me. I’m Megan’s mother. You taught my daughter four years ago.” It was then, when I looked at her daughter, I noticed the shy, yet familiar smile.

     Megan. She was so shy and not confident in her academic abilities. I remember her well because I remember I always wanted to know what she was thinking behind her quiet smile. I remember her because for Megan, math was not her favorite subject. She liked Fine Arts classes. I remember her because she was always polite, kind, and tried to stay under the radar. I remember her because I could see a spark in eyes but wasn’t always sure I had 100% buy-in from her regarding math. 

     “Yes! I remember Megan well!” I exclaimed. Megan came over and smiled warmly. She and her mom recanted how much I did for Megan and how well she has done these past three years. “Megan is now a junior! She would certainly have struggled more in math if she had not been in your class. We can’t tell you enough how amazing you were and how thankful we are that you were her teacher” her mom said.  We chatted a little longer, said our goodbyes, and went our respective ways. 

     Then it hit me! Wow! There it is. That conversation is my reason WHY. Students like Megan may not always outwardly express how they feel about my class, math, or even how they feel about me. These are the ones I worry most about. Am I reaching them? Am I making a difference? Confident, outgoing students let you know how they feel and what they think, good or bad. But the quiet ones…well, you never quite know. 

     While these instances may be rare, students like Megan and her family, remind us why our job is invaluable. Our passion, expertise, and willingness to teach is priceless. This is also the reason why our job, while the most challenging, is the most important. 

     Never underestimate your power of influence on the life of a student. Years after they have left your classroom, they will remember. Make everyday with them a positive reason to remember you and how important you were in their life. 

Happy Teaching! 

Jennifer 

    

FREE WEB TOOLS – #EDUBLOGSCLUB PROMPT 5

FREE.

Don’t you just love that word? I do, especially when it comes to web tools, info, and resources I can use in my classroom. I love how the internet has collected us locally and globally to share with what we know, what we learn, and what we create. It is so empowering to share the resources I use most with my department teachers and of course my students. Now, I share them with you…

My 4 Favorite Web Tools: 

Twitter – Of all the social media platforms, I am starting to like Twitter the most. I like that I can post short messages for my audience and connect with others. Currently, I use my Twitter to share classroom info, micro-blog a thought about education (& life), and connect with students, educators, and leaders.  You can follow me on Twitter @deepdishpi 

Kahoot – This is a classroom favorite! My students love it when I play Kahoot! You can create your own or use public Kahoots to gamify your classroom. I generally use this platform to review, but you can use it to introduce new material as well, including discovery and questioning. It’s a great way to keep kids engaged. Students love technology and being allowed to use their phones, tablets, etc. 

Google – Yes. I have drank the Kool-Aid. I love Google! I use it for just about everything, especially Google Drive. I currently use gmail, maps, docs, sheets, slides, forms, and any other google tool that makes my classroom time more efficient. In the past I have used Google Sites – before they created Google Classroom. Then I switched to Classroom, but now use Canvas which our district uses for its virtual classroom platform. Handsdown, Google helps me stay organized and connected. 

Remind – Best idea ever! I wish I had thought this up. Remind is a safe texting platform (mobile or web) that teachers use to stay in touch with their students and parents. This is a great tool for sending out reminders, announcements, attachments, etc. Parents and students can even send a teacher a “text”. One of my favorite things is to send personal notes to parents & students about something positive. They LOVE getting positive texts from teachers! 

The list above our the four tools I use daily. Poll EverywherePinterest, & WordPress / Edublogs are web tools I want to use more of from a classroom perspective. I’ve dabbled with Poll Everywhere and it’s not too shabby for quick survey’s, etc. My goal this summer is to create a Pinterest specific for my classroom. What a great way to house photos and links to my interactive notebook and other information my students need access to 24/7. Some tools  I’d still like to try out are BigHugeLabs, Evernote, Prezi, and SlideShare.  I guess we’ll see how it goes. There can never be enough tools in the tool box. 

Blessings!

Jennifer Lynn

 

PHOTOS – #EDUBLOGSCLUB PROMPT 4

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As a math teacher who has found a love of blogging, I have learned the hard way about fair use and copyright when posting to websites – personal blogs, district web pages, etc. Not fully understanding all the legal ins/outs of attaching photos and documents to a webpage (remember, I teach math), I was notified I had infringed on copyright laws in using my school webpage.

YIKES! Several things went through my mind. The first of which was I had NO idea what the document was or why I was linked to me. Second, I was about to get fired. Third, No way…I’m a teacher and rule-follower. In the end, it was determined that I had inadvertently broke copyright law. A year or to before, by uploading a copy of a resource we had, I had indeed “broke the law”. This was devastating to me! How did this happen?!

I am a huge proponent of teacher webpages, blogs, wiki’s, etc. to help kids have access to notes and any other resource they may need when not in the classroom. With the ever increasing surge of teachers using the internet as an extension of the classroom, there are also updated copyright laws to protect the intellectual property of others.

Let me just say I absolute agree with and honor our state and national laws, this one being no less important. This incident was cleared up quickly and positively for all parties. Most importantly, I learned A LOT about what a teacher can/cannot upload to his/her webpage. Bottom line, unless it is 100% created BY ME or found on Creative Commons I don’t upload it!

I don’t blame publishing companies, authors, and other entities for strictly enforcing the laws that protect their content. I want the same protection and I wish I had been more informed several years ago. If you are new to copyright laws, fair use practices, and Creative Commons (or simply need a refresher) read EduBlogs’ post here.

So, with all that said, I still use images in my posts and on my website. I do, however, create them. Especially when I need a piece of clip art. Here are some examples of clip art I created from “household” items using my camera and editing software in PowerPoint and Word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am in no way an artist or graphic designer, but I am more than happy to learn (and I still have a lot more to learn). I like the idea of personalizing my blog and webpages with photos I’ve taken and clip art I’ve created. it’s FUN and it feeds a creative side I didn’t realize I had. Additionally, when I create teaching  materials for my Teachers Pay Teachers store, I can feel good knowing I am within copyright law.

So, my fellow educators, continue to “learn, serve, and lead” and CREATE!

 

Jennifer

Twitter: @deepdishpi

 

 

#EdublogsClub Prompt 3: Leadership

As an aspiring leader, I have no reservations about moving from the classroom into school administration. After 13 years teaching math to eighth graders, I am excited about new embracing new challenges and experiences.

Ideally, I will able to secure an Assistant Principal position for next year. Unfortunately, I fear I will be jumping into a crowded applicant pool. Regardless, I will continue to learn, serve, and lead whether I remain in the classroom or move up. To land “the job”, I need to stand out.

To be an effective school leader, I need to continually learn and grow. I am always seeking out new information and perspectives to help me cultivate leadership skills that are valued both by my stakeholders and myself. The following characteristics are what I feel define an excellent administrator. This is the bar which I have set for myself.

Be yourself.    As Shakespeare has advised us all, “To thine own self be true”. Each administrator is unique and different based on his/her experiences. Whether positive or negative, these experiences influence how we view ourselves, how we perceive others, and how we interact with everyone. It benefit no one to try to be exactly like another leader. Rather we should use the positive qualities we admire in other leaders as inspiration for our own path.

Be committed to excellence.    Leaders should understand what “excellence” means in respect to the stakeholders of the organization and how it relates to a personal understanding of excellence. James Collins, author of Good to Great, advises us that “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” Leaders should inspire, motivate, and model excellence and be vigilant against settling for “good enough”.

Be positive.  This is certainly a struggle for any person who cares deeply about what they do. Many days, it can feel as if the world is against you. This year in particular, as a new leader, I have faced many challenges and much criticism.  Two quotes from author Jon Gordon, “Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” and “Positivity is like a boomerang. The more we put it out there, the more it comes back to us.” have been vital to my mindset this year. I keep these printed out in my room. I have invested a lot of time reading about positivity and growth mindset from authors like Jon Gordon and Carol Dweck. Simply changing how I think about everything has been greatly beneficial during this year. Positivity was literally my lifeline.

Be prepared, detail-oriented, and organized.    This is as natural to me as breathing. I was pretty much born prepared. Attention to detail and organization are two of my greatest strengths. So much so, I am often the recipient of good-natured joking. I am also a “go-to” person on my campus. I love these characteristics and relish the opportunities that arise when I can share these skills and teach others to do the same. While these traits are expected of all leaders, they do not come easy to everyone. In those cases, it is painfully obvious and reduces the effectiveness of the leader. Luckily, with a little grit and resilience, leaders can excel in these areas.

Be accountable.   Accountability goes hand in hand with integrity and vulnerability. Leaders who are accountable to themselves and their stakeholders are viewed as leaders of integrity. Being vulnerable to recognize mistakes in our leadership approach also builds the integrity of a leader. Most importantly, leaders must lead by example and that includes owning up to errors of judgement.

Be near-sighted and far-sighted.   Leaders need to be fully aware of everything happening on their campus and have a clear vision and action plan for its future. Having the right people in the right positions goes a long way to seeing the complete picture of the campus. For myself, this means building trust with all stakeholders and keeping up on current / future education trends in education. Additionally, it requires careful balance between have a short, narrow focus and one that focuses on lofty, unreasonable goals.

Be fair, firm, flexible.   Ah, the soft skills. By no means are these “weak” skills. Setting reasonable goals, expectations, and following through requires knowledge, intuition, and finesse. I feel another to think of this is “do what is right, reasonable, and responsible”. Emergencies aside, it is important to think carefully, respond timely, and act intentionally. Consistent execution of thoughtful actions and systems should also include the leader’s consideration of the uniqueness of each situation and its participants.

Be a leader.    My most important task as a leader is to inspire, motivate, mentoring and coaching teachers in executing their jobs at the highest level. It is not enough to be nice and likable. I must genuinely care about every staff and faculty member, every student, and their families. Educational leadership is about developing effective teaching teams and helping each member care about one another and the team’s goals.

Believe in yourself.     Above all, it is important to love what you do, care about and serve all stakeholders of your campus. These characteristics and beliefs are the heart of my personal mission…”Learn. Serve. Lead.”