Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Was an #EduWin Guest

Did you see!  Did you see!!!!!

Saturday I was honored and well.... over the moon giddy with excitement to be part of the the EdReach #EduWin Weekly.  

This weekly podcast is hosted by James Gubbins with show contributors Carlos Fernandez , Michelle Russell and Cheryl Lykowski.  They share #Eduwin's from across Twitter and blogoshere and put a spot light on FANTASTIC things happening throughout education.  Did I mention I could not have been more over the moon excited with giddiness to be a part of it all and to top it all off it was recorded using Google+ Hangout geeeeee and eeekkkkk me on video.  After some minor technical difficulties I had the honor of joining them as they shared their weekly #EduWins and then got to share all of the amazing things that have been happening in my classroom.  

Here it is...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mission Possible

Duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh.....duhduhduhhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duh duh... 

Mission Impossible theme song in your head yet?!  


Well I need ya there with me here is some help Mission Impossible Theme song (not that Tom Cruise Mission Impossible stuff...old school Mission Impossible Peter Graves style)

Ready now?

Duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh.....duhduhduhhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duh duh...

Your mission if you choose to accept is to transform this wagon into a school pride float...
...if you accept it and you are caught or put in detention the Principal will disavow any knowledge of your action...

So we began our TOP SECRET mission!

Collaborative group work is something that generally does not happen too much in my classroom.  When students goals are to improve their individual student skills and independence, close the gap of reading, math, written language and language skills through intense direct instruction and need a predictable, structured environment and it does not leave much room for the unpredictable navigation that goes with group work.  

I was not sure how much support they would need to get this very important mission done was a school wide activity and we were all in.  

Mission accepted! 

One of my teaching assistants (bless her) googled wagon decorating ideas.  I decided I would decide on the theme, thus eleminating that time consuming complicated step, but the students would be incharge of everything else.

My teaching assistants and I decided this would be our inspiration...
CLICK for Source
My students and I met in the hallway for our first planning session.  Excitedly we all spread out, their eyes focused on me.  They were giddy and ready to hear what we are going to do.  I showed them our inspiration and with paper and pen in hand I ask them what supplies or what will we need to make to create this.  Eyes stared back at me for a moment.  I suddenly was over come with worry.  They were going to need more help then I thought.  

Then this happened... 
CLICK for Source
Ideas started flowing.... 

Each student began excitedly shouting out their ideas of things they wanted to add to the ship and materials we needed.  In ten minutes our TO DO list was made and students were off getting the needed materials.  My students came back to our spot from all areas of the building.  They proudly carried their supplies.  I crossed off the things from our list that were done and instructed them on what needed to be done to build the base of the ship.  

Some students cut, an other drew the pirate flag and another was using You Tube to figure out how to make a pirate hat.  My students giggled, smiled and spewed happiness.  As the ship began to take shape the unexpected happened. 

"Let's try this Mrs. B!"

"Let's try this Mrs. B!"

"I have another idea Mrs. B!!!"

"What about this!!!!"  

Ideas flowed out of each of them like I had never seen or herd before.  And not the, "Oh that is a good idea, but it's really not going to work ideas."  Awesomely fantastic ideas!  Awesomely amazing ideas that kept adding to the ships greatness!  Suddenly some of their weakness, things that were challenging for them  to do before, were gone!  

I could not have been more energized and proud!

Finished Pirate Ship  

As we proudly added the finishing touches to the project I knew several things...
1)  Group projects MUST be part of their education next year
2)  Genius Hour (a concept I thought was beyond my students abilities) may be exactly what would enhance their educational experience
3)  In addition to all the direct instruction I do with them I must find a place for this type of outlet because it is awesomesauce!!!
4)  NEVER under estimate the power of creativity to pull out the best in your students!
5) My students make excellent pirates!  You should hear their arrrgggggg!  

What has been a newly iPad 1:1 class for over 8 weeks suddenly had a lesson in old school creativity.

Our mission was accepted and we TOTALLY ROCKED IT!!!!!!! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dear Jen

Dear Jen,
A year ago I was a passionate special educator who even after fourteen years still found incredible joy in working with students with significant disabilities, recognizing their strengths, tapping into them as learners and empowering them to over come their weakness and be amazing students.  Still, with all this passion and the successes I was having in the classroom, there was a part of me that was left feeling empty.  It was an emptiness I did not even know existed until this year.

As you know this whole blogging is nothing new to me.  In fact, for the last three years I have blogged anonymously as a mom, a wife, a sister and a friend.  I have learned about the power of words.  I have been warmed by the amazingness of the connections that can be made through sharing words. I have been blown away by the incredible power of social media and the connections it offers. Most of all I have learned the power of my voice.  My experiences in that space filled me, enriched my life and brought priceless amazingness to me ... and yet these experiences never entered my classroom.

Then it happened... 

In November you encouraged me to submit to present at the Illinois ICE conference.  I remember thinking, who the heck is going to be interested in what I am doing in the classroom?  What I am doing is not more interesting then all the other fantastic educators out there?  You were persistant, encouraging and gave me the bravery I needed to submit my idea.

In December I decided it was time for me to start this blog.  Not a blog as Carrie mom and wife.  Start a blog as Carrie Special Education teacher.  Not a private blog for only my parents and students, a blog for everyone to see.  A blog that would be a hub of resources for my students. A place I would use to share lessons I was doing in the classroom, new ideas I was trying and things I was learning about.  You listened to me as ideas brewed inside of me. You smiled and celebrated with me when I told you about the idea.  You supported and cheered me on when I was ready to hit the publish button.  

In February after a fantastically inspiring, energizing Illinois ICE conference I told you I wanted to my classroom to be a 1:1 iPad classroom.  Without hesitation you took my idea and went to work looking for resources and creating a proposal for me.  By March I had enough iPads to pilot being a 1:1 iPad classroom.

March came around and several classes in our building were piloting collaborative learning desks.  I thought...Those would be great for my classroom.  We are constantly collaborative. I want to pilot those desks too.  You encouraged me to ask administration if my class could pilot them too.

April brought emails from our district technology department.  Opportunities to be trained to use an iPad mini and an open call for teachers who want to present at our district technology academy.  I completed the form and  submitted it.  Fingers crossed that I would be chosen to try the iPad mini.  I filled out the presenters form for not just one session but two.
A year ago fear owned a part of me.  Fear kept me asking.  Fear began to limit my creativity.  Fear keep me from sharing.  Fear left part of me empty.  Fear of kept me from using a skill that was a huge part of my life away from the classroom, a part that I am incredibly passionate about.

Jen, you brought energy, a joy, a giddiness, a passion for technology and all of its fantasticness into my life.  You suddenly lit inside of me something I only shared with others outside, away from my classroom.  You were patient as you filled me with information, new tools, new ideas.  You listened to me as ideas brewed inside of me. You smiled, giggled and celebrated with me when I tried new ideas in my classroom and they began to work.  Then you waited, listened and supported me when I was ready to take my fears throw them aside and begin to share more.

I can not begin to thank you for what you have given me.  By giving me this you have not just given me a gift, you have given my classroom and my students all of this and so much more.  You have opened a whole new part of me that was tucked away.  I am a risk taker, an adventurer, a jump into the deep end without a life preserver, try new things...kind of a teacher. You have given my students the same teacher they have always had and so much more. Now they have a teacher who is also a global learner: learning from the world and not just from training sessions, my school or district, a global teacher: who doesn't just teach them but all shares her lessons with others, a risk taker: who is willing to try new things, fail or succeed and then try again.

For all these things and just so very much more...

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