Sunday, October 18, 2015

The New Age of Professional Development: Social Media Inspired

I work at a title one, year round Elementary School in Knightdale, NC.  It is a place of passionate teachers and students who love to come to school.  We, like many schools are trying to search for the "why".  Why are students not performing on assessments? Why students struggle with concepts that are essential for addition, multiplication, reading comprehension, and writing at a higher level? We are spending time in collaborative planning making lessons each week with our IRT's (Instructional Resource Teachers) that have been written for us by our county, like many other schools across the US.  These lessons are very similar to the lessons that have been provided for years.  Some of them have changed because of the rigor of the common core, but almost all of the math lessons include a worksheet, and all of the comprehension lessons include books that I grew up reading. (Which don't get me wrong, they are great--but there has got to be a more creative way to reach students.)  We spend hours each week trying to provide a fun and engaging learning experience for our students while still using the parameters of these lessons and main topics that MUST be covered.  

We have to make some changes, to make the current curriculum interesting to our kids. 

Like I said, I work at a year round school--meaning I get 2.5 weeks off 4 times a year.  Well...I am just finishing up my fall break and I want to share what I have learned over my "trackout" (vacation).....because you all know that teachers don't actually take breaks! 

I decided with all of my 'spare time' that I would do a little research about how I can reach my students in a new and creative way and help discover the "why".  What I found was an amazing group of creative and collaborative educators on Twitter, Blab, Periscope, You tube, and Ted Talks.  Teachers all over the world provided me with professional development this track out.  It was absolutely amazing, mindset changing and my curiosity was sparked.  

I started my track out watching some of the best teachers I "know" on with their #chalktalkedu.  These three ladies are providing professional development on different topics each month. Jen Jones, Erin Klein and Kayla Delzer provided me with great places to start with who to follow in the social media professional development world.  They gave me ideas like: #edbeat @smgaillard, @sheilajteaching  and it has totally changed how I am looking at professional development and deciphering the "why" in my classroom.

I have now participated in my first #edbeat chat.  #edbeat is an amazing twitter chat all about inspiring others, positive interactions and helping educators reach their students! The first #edbeat that I participated in was with Erin Klein and she talked about non-traditional seating options and learning spaces.  I have always been interested in redesigning my classroom -- so this was the perfect place to start for me.  I learned that students need choice, comfy furntiure, and cozy learning spaces in order to get the most out of what they are learning.  Think about your own choice when you have to get some work done.  Do you choose to sit in a hard chair, at a cold table? Or do you choose a comfortable seat, in a cozy quiet space.  It is the same for our kids.  They NEED choice.  

This #edbeat conversation led me to begin my first grant project with donors choose.  An amazing organization that allows teachers to write grants for much needed materials for their classroom.  After rethinking my kindergarten classroom design, I decided that I must provide the best for my students.  I must provide them a non traditional learning space.  My project for Kindergarten Classroom Redesign will include a bunch of new seating options in my classroom.  As long as I get funded, my new classroom will have wobble seats, bean bags, sofas, comfy chairs, exercise ball chairs, and balance discs. I have until February to get my project fully funded, and I am working hard to make it happen :)  

My students currently have the option to work on the floor or at their tables, they need more choices.  This image will bring you right to my donors choose page--take a look, you will be inspired, i'm sure! 

This track out has been the most beneficial to how I look at my students, to how I will engage them in their learning and how I will think about learning spaces within my classroom and school.  I was always a little nervous to join into a twitter chat--because honestly--I had NO CLUE what I was doing, but "the opportunity outweighs the fear".  Just do it, jump in and start, because I promise, you will not regret it! And if you have already jumped in to this fast paced PD, feel free to add comments of who you follow and your current inspiration :)