2016.   A new year.  A new focus.  A new journey.  Where will this year take me?  As I was thinking about writing this first post, I was thinking about the New Year and New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t usually make them, because after just a few short weeks, I have usually broken them.  Then, as I was looking through some conversations on various Twitter chats, I came upon some posts about #oneword2016. I thought that this path might be better for me instead of a bunch of things that I probably would not follow through on anyway.

So, once I decided to focus on “one word”, the challenge for me really began.  How was I going to decide just one word?  I thought about what I really wanted to accomplish this year in all aspects of my life: family, work, and personal time.  I thought, and thought, and thought (you get the idea).  Now it is half way through the month, and I think I finally have my word.  Drum roll please…. My #oneword2016 is Growth.

Why Growth?  Well, there are so many things I want to do and learn this year in all areas of my life.  For example, I want to figure out how I can balance work, home and personal time more efficiently.  As any working adult with a family knows, it is sometimes hard to just sit and relax.  For me I sometimes feel a little guilty when I just want to sit and read, watch a movie or TV or play games.  We all need this time to just stop and think, and rejuvenate ourselves.  I know for myself, that if my weekend is filled with hustle and bustle, it is sometimes reflected in how much I get accomplished at work.

Secondly, growth will help me focus on my work.  In what areas do I want to learn more?  How can I learn more about my faith to help those in my youth groups grow in their faith also?  There are many areas of education that I hope to learn more about with the help of my PLN. For example Standards Based Learning, Badges, PBL, Genius Time and a few others.  What books will I read to help me grow as a professional.  I don’t have as many opportunities to take part in Twitter chats this year in real time, but am going to make sure that I look back at the archives.

Lastly, I hope that my growth will help me to work with others to help better serve those that are not as fortunate as myself.  I am not always very comfortable working with those that might be homeless, or in nursing homes.  My youth group really wants to live out the Year of Mercy by helping those less fortunate.  As we plan for some work in our area, I know that not only will I be growing in my faith, but will also be helping others in this Year of Mercy.

I hope that your year will be one of great promise, and if you chose “one word” for the year, that your word helps you focus on the important things in your life.


To Purge or Not to Purge, That is the Question

If any of you with kids has ever read the book,The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need,  and have ever had to pack and move, then you may know how I feel right now.  I feel like Mama Bear as I look through my son’s room and try to decide what we can donate, what needs to be thrown away, and what we need to keep.   I really should be working in his room, but really don’t feel like it.  We really do have too much stuff, and I am trying to purge a lot of things.  Since I was not going to work upstairs, I decided to write this post, because it is a goal of mine to try to write once a week. I know it might be  a bit of a stretch, but as I work throughout the day to purge things in my home to make our move easier, I thought about education.  Are there certain things we as teachers can purge in order to make education better for all?

After taking part in the most recent #edchat, which focused on 21st century education, I really thought about the road we as teachers are on in regards to providing students with experiences to strengthen their skills and make them lifelong learners.  The first question from the chat asked about the role of the teacher and how it has changed over the centuries.  What should the characteristics, functions, and duties of a 21st century teacher be?  There were many great responses to this question throughout the chat, but many focused on the teacher being a coach, facilitator, collaborator, and tech savy.  Does this then mean that in order to be 21st century teachers, we need to throw out traditional means of educating the students?  Is there a time and place for lecture, or other forms of direct instruction?  I want my classroom to be very student centered where students have choice, and where students learn to become leaders.  I would have to say there is sometimes a need to give students background information, but it needs to be limited.

Another question that was brought to the chat was whether or not someone could be a 21st Century  teacher without tech skills?  This past year I was in a school where the technology was not quite up to where I wish it could have been.  Most days the Wifi did not work, and it was usually when I really needed it to work.  Instead of getting too frustrated about it, I just went ahead with the lesson anyway.  I was able to teach many of the 21st Century skills without the use of a lot of technology.   My students collaborated with one another, problem solved, and even did some PBL. Would it have been more interesting or beneficial to try to collaborate with another school?  Sure, but as teachers we make due with the resources that we have.  I cannot wait to work at a school where technology is important and is used to enhance and support the educational goals of the school.

I have also been thinking a lot about PD.  I am a firm believer in providing teachers with the best type of PD possible, and right now my PD has been greatly enhanced through my participation in Twitter chats.  Almost every time a chat is done, I come away with so many ideas that I want to try or to research a bit more. Do we throw out traditional PD and replace it with something new? I think that there could be a mix between traditional and individualized PD.  Sometimes there needs to be school and district PD that brings the teachers together so they can focus on building and district goals.

Finally, being a teacher for a number of years, I have seen numerous fads come and go in education.  Sometimes we need to purge educational ideas for something better;  clean things out a little bit to make way for bigger and better things.  We just need to keep in mind our focus; what is best for the students.  Our classrooms need to be places where students have choices, feel safe to try new things, and where we as teachers encourage them to achieve all they can.  If we don’t allow for growth and fail every once in a while, then we are not really challenging ourselves either.

Summertime Readtime


Summertime is the time for reading “for fun” and professional development (PD). Recently two Twitter chats, #Read4Fun, and #CatholicEdChat, got me to thinking about the books that I want to read this summer. As usual, there are so many books I want to read, but not enough time.  Even though there aren’t as many schedules to follow in the summer, and I stay up too late to “read just one more chapter,” I never get through all the books that I want to.  My “to read” list is really large, so what do I do? I am a person that usually likes to read just one book at a time, but this summer I may read one “for fun” book and one PD book at the same time to get my summer read on.

“For Fun” Books:

1-2 books from my Taylor Caldwell collection. Some years ago, a friend introduced me to Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985).  She wrote a number of books that focused on the effects of big business on society, some historical fiction, and early dystopian style books. She was very forward-thinking and I’ve not read her books for a few years.

1-2 Steve Berry books.  I just found out about this author and his books are action-packed and full of historical locations. So far I have read two of the books from his  Cotton Malone series; The Templar Legacy, and The Alexandria Link. As a history teacher, I love traveling with Cotton Malone as he travels to various locations that I have taught about in the past.

I really enjoy reading YA books, so I am always on the lookout for good YA books.  I do get a few recommendations from my 15 year old daughter.  I think that this summer I would like to continue with the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer by reading Scarlet. This series is a futuristic view of Cinderella where Cinderella is a cyborg.  I love fairy tales, and rewrites of fairy tales.

Another YA series that I am going to work on this summer is the I.Q. series by Roland Smith.  The main characters in this book, Quest and Angela, face adventures as they travel to historical locations in the United States and battle against evil terrorist while traveling with their parents who are recording artists on their music concert tour.

I am sure that on our many visits to the library, that I will find other books to read “for fun”.

Professional Development Books:

The following list is what I hope to read this summer.

Project-Based Learning: Differentiating Instruction for the 21st Century by William N. Bender.

Mark Barnes’ Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom

I am currently reading Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller’s book 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom. Lots of great ideas already.  Can’t wait to try some of them out in my classroom next year!

Learn Like A Pirate: Empower Your Students to Collaborate,Lead, and Succeed, by Paul Solarz provides some great ideas to give students ownership of their learning.

Throughout the summer, I would also like to read some books on blended learning, badges, and game based learning.

I am excited for this summer, and look forward to some great books to read for relaxation, and PD.  I hope that you will also have the opportunity to read for fun and PD while enjoying your summer preparing for the coming school year!


The End of the School Year, Now What?

The school year has ended for me, and I cannot believe how fast it went.  I am not the kind of teacher that starts the countdown to the end of the school year, but I am counting the days until the next school year begins because I already have so many ideas for next year.  This was one of the best teaching years that I have had in a long time, and I think the reason for that is that I taught something new after five years.  This year I taught a multigrade science class (3-5), 5-8 Math, 5-8 PE, 5-8 Art, 7-8 Science and 5 Spanish.  I had never taught Art, PE, or Spanish, but in the small school I had to do whatever they needed me to teach.  I was way out of my comfort zone for most of these classes, but I learned a great deal about myself and the way I teach. Throughout this year, I also have connected to many wonderful people like Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy, Mark E. Weston @ShiftParadigm, Paul Solarz @PaulSolarz, Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp, and Rachel Murat @APGoveME.  Needless to say, because of Twitter chats such as #tlap, #21stedchat, #Caththeoedchat, #sschat, #edchat, and #Iaedchat, my PLN as expanded and given me so much from so many.

So, what will summer bring with it?  Spending quality time with my husband and children.  It’s time for music in the park, and the summer reading program at the library.  It will  be nice to have more time to read for pleasure and professional development (my husband has a list of 25 Books to Gnaw on Over the Summer on his blog).  I have a lot of reading and research to do to make my project based learning classroom more student focused, and I need to reread such books as “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess, and “Learn Like a Pirate” by Paul Solarz. I am looking forward to going to the Summer Edcamp in Clear Lake, Iowa in early July to meet members of my PLN face to face.

My biggest challenge this summer will be for me to find a teaching job around the Iowa City area.  I have applied for many jobs, but as many people know, social studies teaching jobs are very difficult to get.  I hope that my years of teaching high school and middle school social studies will make me marketable around the Iowa City area. I have had a great deal of success teaching Advanced Placement classes, as well as differentiating instruction to students of vastly different abilities in all content areas.  I am very excited to use technology in my classes, and to connect with others in the state, the nation, and the world.

So, the school year may have ended, but there is still a lot of work ahead.  It seems as though a teacher’s job is never quite done.

Take some time to rest this summer,  and make sure to connect with other teachers.  Have a wonderful or wonder filled summer!

riverside park

kids reading

The Power of Twitter and Professional Development

I have been trying to write my second blog for a few days now, and never could come up with the right words or ideas to share. Everything that I would start to write, just did not seem to be quite what I wanted.  Well, after participating in two great Twitter chats recently,  I knew that I had to write about my journey with Twitter, and Professional Development (PD).

To begin with, I have been an active participant of Twitter chats for only about a year, and wow, I have learned so much!  I have connected to people in my state, the nation and around the world.  There are many bright, ambitious teachers on Twitter who are trying to take teaching to the next level, and challenging others to do the same. It is nice being able to connect and share ideas with them.

I cannot begin to express how much I appreciate and look forward to the chats that I take part in throughout the week.  For example, on a recent #iaedchat, three young men were part of the discussion on #stuvoice.  We discussed the importance of student voice and challenging schools and teachers to meet the needs of the students.  After the chats, I am always excited and ready to try one of the  ideas learned from the chat. I have many tweets favorited or retweeted that I have to go back to read and think about.

Even though we are approaching the end of the school year, some of these chats are making me think ahead to the next school year. How can I connect to other classrooms and collaborate with a group from another city, state or country?  How can I get my students’ voice heard in the school?  How can I help my school tell its story to the community? How can I get those students who are quiet and unsure of their abilities to shine?  Could I use blogs for them to voice their thoughts and opinions?  There are endless ideas and ways to collaborate.

Twitter chats are so varied, that there should be some chat that fits your interests.  I started out participating in just one or two, but now it seems that I have at least a different chat every night of the week.  My kids are actually asking if it is a chat night  or not?  Thank goodness the chats are usually archived, so I can go back if it is a busy night, and I am not able to participate due to the craziness of life.

Twitter has had such a positive impact on my teaching and PD.   I think that colleges and universities should require their students to be part of Twitter.  It would have a huge impact not only on their learning, but the connections made could possibly lead them to their dream job.

I know that there are many forms of PD, but in my opinion, Twitter is one of the easiest forms of PD available to teachers, and everyone should try it.

My Teaching Journey, Part 1

As a veteran teacher and new blogger, I hope that you will join me on my journey into the world of blogging, but first a little bit about myself.

I am a veteran teacher, who for most of my career, have been a middle school and high school social studies teacher.  For the first eight years of my teaching experience, I taught U.S. History, Advanced Placement European History, World Geography, and American Government to students in grades 7-12.  After my second daughter was born, I decided to take five years off, and have two more children.  During those five years, I taught piano lessons, taught an independent AP class and homeschooled my oldest daughter.  Finding out that homeschooling was not for me, I went back  part-time at a high school where I taught World History and Psychology.  After relocating, I found myself hired by a small Classical Academy where I taught 5th grade students in all content areas, and now I am currently teaching in a small rural private school where I teach students in grades 3-8.  My day is spent teaching science, math, art, PE, and Spanish.  Most of my classes are multi-grade.  This has been a challenge, but a good one.  Sometime I feel that a Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of None, but I have to admit there is never a dull moment.  So far it has been an incredible journey, and learning experience for me.  I have definitely learned a lot about myself, and  know that if given a subject that I do not know much about, and with a little hard work, I can be a successful teacher offering my students a positive learning experience.  I have students in my science classes, which I get to have Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday saying that they can’t wait to come to science.  They love it, especially when we get to eat a project.

During these past six years, I have  been at schools that have not had a lot of technology available to use in the classroom.  I have not had the opportunity to try things such as Mystery Skypes, using Twitter to connect to other classrooms, or even for research for students projects.  I have found to be very valuable for video segments, and songs to teach my students new concepts.  We have to gather around a desktop, but with my small class sizes it does not really matter.  I know that technology is not everything, but it does certainly add to the overall classroom experience.  One of my teaching goals for next year is to add as much technology as possible, and where relevant to my classroom.