Do you remember when you were a kid and you could spend hours in a sandbox or building with blocks? That sandbox could become anything — a medieval castle, a turtle, or maybe even a bakery serving up sandy snickerdoodles. The possibilities were endless.
Being the type who likes to research, when I first noticed my students’ obsession with Minecraft, I began researching and found that Minecraft was described as a “sandbox game.” My gaming knowledge was limited at the time so the term was unfamiliar to me, but it brought me back to playing in the backyard as a child. Later, I learned the term references the few limitations put on the player. However, much like my childhood sandbox, it requires creativity.
Creativity is a 21st-century skill that our students will need as they continue to grow and engage in the work of solving global problems. With the wide-spread availability of information, the need for creativity is higher than ever. Students become innovators now in the classroom and take those skills into whatever profession they grow in to. Technology even allows students to make a global impact and be active citizens solving problems.
So as an educator, how do you purposely develop skills like creativity?
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a
difference in our lives.”
— John F. Kennedy
It’s The Little Things
A thank-you note or a kind word — even a simple smile goes a long way for a teacher. We often underestimate the influence of the little things or think what we have to offer is so insignificant — what’s the point?
But I know teachers who cherish notes from students scribbled on scrap paper and well up with tears when one of their “kids” says thanks. It’s just as powerful when this kind of everyday recognition comes from parents, colleagues, or administrators.
“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
— Native American Proverb
Leadership is hard; it’s littered with the unknown, filled with the unexpected, packed with the unanswerable, and bursting with challenges great and small. Yet at its core, leadership is an essential element to successful school culture — to developing, building, and even changing the ways in which schools operate, teach, learn, and grow.
When exploring school culture and its correlation to leadership, though, it’s essential that we think of the term of “school leader” in a more global sense. At their core, teachers are leaders. And when the “leaders” of a school realize this fact and empower teachers to help enact change, welcoming them into the STORY of their school, the impossible becomes the reality, the unimaginable becomes the routine.
You see, teachers are leaders because they’re at the center of the humanity within the work; living in and yet simultaneously crafting the story of the school, the narrative of the culture, and this is absolutely essential because the reality is this: a story entertains; it engages; it endears us to others; it enrages; but most importantly, it EMPOWERS. Without the story, we’re left with blank slates. Simply put, we — and our school cultures — are incomplete. As Michael Margolis, CEO at Get Storied said, “If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. If you want to change a culture, change the stories.”
A teacher can learn a lot by taking a close read of the classroom.
However, the pace of a typical school day doesn’t allow for much time to step back and take it all in. That’s why video is a great tool to help teachers understand what’s really happening in the classroom as students engage in learning activities.
In the videos I collected of students, I began to notice there was a pattern to their conversations. Based upon the task at hand, my role was to be a facilitator. As teachers embark into NGSS territory, it will become more obvious that students are highly engaged in their tasks. They’re excited and need help making sense of their thinking.
Our new series, Women Leaders in Education, shares powerful narratives from female trailblazers in education. Our first interview is with Linda Darling-Hammond. An educational leader focused on bridging education and policy, Linda Darling-Hammond is an advocate, author, reformer, professor, and policymaker. She has been instrumental in shaping many areas within the education ecosystem, including teaching standards, assessments, educational systems, and education policy. Teachers across the nation continue to be inspired and encouraged by her powerful and thoughtful messages.
Co-teaching has recently become a hot new buzzword in education; something at which veteran teachers might normally roll their eyes as they wait for the pendulum of best practices to swing back the other way.
After spending more than a decade serving English Language Learners, it’s a bandwagon that I’ve wholeheartedly jumped on. I’ve spent the last six years co-teaching my ELL students in a variety of settings — from self-contained and sheltered classrooms with push-in support, to a resource role where I pushed into several K-2 grade level classrooms.
My push-in support typically was scheduled during a balanced literacy block for an hour each day. As a resource teacher, I collaborated with my K-2 classroom teachers to provide literacy and language support during guided reading and Writer’s Workshop. As we became more comfortable as co-teaching partners, we expanded our work to include Problem Based Learning units in science and social studies, and technology integration with in-flipping and Google Tools.
Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Executive Director Basma Rayess in our #anewkindofPD podcast episode found on iTunes and Stitcher.
Michael had suffered for years as the result of his mother’s alcoholism. A teacher encouraged Michael to participate in a program where students could write about their experiences with violence. Michael wrote a powerful poem describing the disappointment, anger, and fear he felt with the situation, but he had no intention of having his mother read it. However, he needed a parental signature so he showed it to his mother with great trepidation. When she read it, she was silent, but something tremendous happened. The poem helped his mother make a commitment to get sober and she has been so ever since.
Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by GoFundMe.
As a 1st grade teacher in an urban Boston public school, I know that summer can be a challenging time for many of my students who have parents working long hours.
I wanted to do something to help my kids and their families have resources for fun, healthy activities to keep them busy and engaged while out of school, so I came up with the idea for “summer baskets.” I just needed a way to raise the funds for the baskets, and that’s where GoFundMe came in.
Asking a teacher to do anything teaching related on a Saturday is just as terrifying as being at the wrong end of a firing squad. How can we do this and expect educators to attend? These thoughts, and many others, were racing through my head as I logged off the Skype call with the team planning an upcoming Teacher2Teacher Engag(ED) Exchange Event in Washington, D.C.
But you DID come out on a cold damp winter day. You came from within the city of Washington, from Maryland, and from Virginia. You traveled down from Philadelphia… and even from Mississippi. You came!