Social media is more than posting pictures of your dog or finding new recipes. It’s one of the most powerful ways to refine your craft as an educator. For teachers, social media is a valuable resource for collecting new ideas, activities, and methods to bring into their classrooms.
In this video, Tch Laureate Kristin Gray talks about the impact of social media on her practice as a math specialist.
Social media, Twitter specifically, is a high impact form of professional development. In my time as a connected educator, I’ve gained more from my conversations on Twitter than any professional workshop, conference, or summit. This includes collaborating with teachers and administrators from around the globe, connecting with authors of popular books and subsequently Skyping with them during my classes, participating in Twitter chats, building relationships with nearby teachers and attending conferences together, and more. With today’s ever-changing world, teachers can’t afford to be disconnected from this platform. We owe it to ourselves and our students.
Whether you’re a new teacher and thinking about how you can join in the magic, or an experienced teacher looking for a way to grow your practice, follow these tips to help you get started.
Summer is here, so you’ve probably been off from school for at least a few weeks. Your brain may have finally shut off its “teacher mode” and that can be a great feeling. But believe it or not, some educators may already be wishing for the return of the connections and conversations teacher mode brings.
When I first started teaching and didn’t have kids of my own to deal with over summer break, I actually got a little lonely sometimes. I even opted to teach summer school (regretting that decision later!) because I missed my students and colleagues.
If you’re one of those educators missing that connection, here are a few ways you can stay in touch with colleagues without necessarily joining the summer school crew.
When the school days are whizzing by and you have a thousand things to do, it can seem easiest to just power through on your own. But we are truly better together! Effective collaboration helps us save time, enrich our ideas, and consider different perspectives. Plus, it can be fun and provide a much-needed opportunity to interact with other adults.
Whether you have a strong collaborative culture at your school or not, you can take steps to get better at collaboration this summer. Use these ideas to get started.
Why We Hang In There
Deep sighs, rolled eyes, slumped shoulders, and hanging heads, met with eyes yearning for hope… No, it’s not a summons for jury duty, it’s the reaction I get from teachers when I say, “student collaboration.”
#realtalk for a moment: Getting students to work successfully in a group is REALLY hard!
And yet, despite the complete exhaustion it brings us, we hang in there. Why do we do it? Because we know our students need it. And not just because there are flashy frameworks and graphics that tell us collaboration is important in school. And not just for their future career, college, relationships, or global competition; but because it helps students develop into more empathetic and cooperative human beings. And regardless of what our future looks like, we’re going to need those!
Why It’s Hard
If you’re responsible for any number of human beings, you know that it’s difficult to facilitate effective group work — whether you’re working with children or adults. It’s hard to work through our differences — actively listening, embodying selflessness, and orally communicating one’s thoughts is a challenging process to navigate. Not to mention that issues of status and equity rear their ugly heads during any sort of group discourse (see Horne, Boaler, and Cohen). That’s a lot to manage in a classroom where available minutes continue to shrink with competing initiatives and demands. But all hope is not lost. With some basic systems and structures in place, the conditions for effective classroom collaboration can be established — read on to find out how.
Have you ever taught a lesson and realized too few of your students learned what you taught? You’re not alone! We’ve experienced this numerous times in our years as classroom teachers and in our current roles. In this blog post, Gabe shares his experiences from teaching and his role as elementary school principal. Together, we share insights from our collaboration and shared experiences.
After 20 years of working with elementary school children, I finally started to find answers to the pedagogical questions nagging me since my first days teaching mathematics. I also realized how powerful it is to expand my understanding of math concepts beyond the narrow scope I’d experienced — and taught — my entire life.
As a systems thinker, I’d constrained math instruction to a series of prescribed steps, completely disconnected from the mathematical concept. I streamlined tasks into a sequence that could be introduced and modeled — steps that students could rehearse as many times as necessary. Most lessons were a version of,
“Here’s the lesson objective, relevant vocabulary, and the steps we need to follow. Now, we will practice these steps as many times as we can before lunch.”
Over the past two years, I began to emerge from my constrained view of math instruction. More than any other aspect of teaching, math instruction is the domain I would revise if I could revisit my years as a classroom teacher. Now, as the principal of an elementary school, my role is to be the lead learner. To me, this means I must first experience the steps it takes to learn new instructional strategies and implement them in classrooms at various grade levels. To do this, I schedule the time to co-teach math lessons in classrooms at the school where I work.
Making Teaching More Manageable
We all have days (or weeks, or months) when we feel like we can’t keep teaching. Often these times come at the end of the year, when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed. The good news is that sometimes small tweaks can make all the difference, giving you the energy you need to power through.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try these tips:
I’m sure by now you’ve heard — a brilliant star went dark in the cosmos.
Dr. Stephen Hawking, British theoretical physicist who overcame ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) to publish wildly popular books probing the mysteries of the universe, died on March 14th at the age of 76.
On August 17, 2016, I was invited to meet with Dr. Hawking at Cambridge University’s Research Centre for Theoretical Cosmology to talk about community access and voice output machines. As I noted in an article for the Oregon Education Association’s quarterly magazine,
“Over the years as a special education teacher, I have had over a dozen students who use voice output devices. To inspire my students, I have shared videos of Dr. Stephen Hawking. ‘If he didn’t use his talker,’ I told one student, ‘nobody would know he was the smartest man in the world.’ Believe me when I say that Dr. Stephen Hawking is my hero.”
As a new teacher, the demands of the career can be overwhelming at times. During my first year of teaching, I felt alone and I was unsure about whether I was doing a good job. So I turned to the internet, and I was both surprised and delighted to find that there was a bustling teacher community around every corner.
Building community is essential for teachers to feel connected, supported, and to share their ideas with peers. And when teachers feel heard and supported, they’ll be more satisfied with their career and more likely to stay in the classroom with the kids who need them. If you’re a teacher with a strong support system, online communities and social networks can be a welcome addition. But if you feel a little more like you’ve been making a go of it alone, these spaces can be a much-needed lifeline.
Teacher blogs, Facebook groups, and Twitter are three online resources that have helped me to stay connected, engaged, inspired, and to continue learning with a community of like-minded educators.
When teachers solve problems, they inspire their students to solve problems, too. How can teachers use their best strategies as a launching pad for deeper learning and professional growth? And how can curiosity, co-creation, and collaboration before a lesson idea is formed be a game-changer for classroom practice?
On this episode of Tch Talks, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair, Instructional Specialist and Deeper Learning Coach for Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Kentucky and 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, joins us to talk about her work with School Startup. This pilot program is where three cohorts of Teacher-Founders are engaged in the design process to rethink and redesign deeper learning in their classrooms and professional learning communities.
She also shares her recent adventures as founder and CEO of Curio Learning, an app that helps teachers discover new ideas and curate them in a personalized way. The app also facilitates collaboration with other educators in order for them to grow as professionals and find the ways to best help their students.
Ashley believes that if every teacher woke up to the awesome influence he or she has, there would be a drastic overhaul of the system and that — bottom line — it takes a teacher to transform learning.
Whether you’re teaching or coaching, it’s easy to get into a rut. But these five videos are here to help! Clocking in at just five minutes each, these videos will expand your ideas about what coaching can be and push you to try new strategies.