Friday, December 30, 2016

Thankful for These 50

2016 was an amazing year of growth for me both professionally and personally.

Professionally, I earned my administrator's license and learned the importance of being a connected educator.  Through this I not only gained more knowledge, but more importantly, a large group of educators that I know I can reach out to at any time for inspiration and motivation.  Personally, I gained a local group of friends who encouraged me to move more and I completed 14 races including a quarter marathon.  I’m so excited to see what 2017 brings in both areas of my life!

As I stated above, I am better educator because I found that social media & being connected makes me better.  Below is a list of 50 educators, chats, and resources that made me better in 2016.  Each one is a little different, but their overall goals are all the same - DO WHAT’S BEST FOR STUDENTS. I encourage you to follow them if you aren’t already.

Educators that make a difference!

Twitter Resources:
Flipboard (must download the app!)

Chats to Join:
#ohedchat - Wednesday @ 9:00 EST
#satchat - Saturday @ 7:30 EST
#spedchat - Tuesday @ 9:00 EST
#wvedchat - alternating Tuesdays @ 8:00 EST

My Blogging Tribe:

Must Attend Conference:
WGEDD - What Great Educators Do Differently

Books to Check Out

Above the Line - Urban Meyer
What Connected Educators Do Differently - Casas, Whitaker, Zoul
Innovator’s Mindset - George Couros
Kid’s Deserve It - Todd Nesloney & Adam Welcome
Start With Why - Simon Sinek

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

High 5 Challenge

Blog:  High Five Challenge
Author: Derek Oldfield

Paul Bailey, Jodie Pierpoint, and I are in a Voxer book chat group reading Kids Deserve It with some other friends.  The three of us were Voxing each other recently about developing authentic relationships with students.  Born out of our conversation is this fun challenge we considered posing to our PLN via Twitter.  Our purpose is to get more educators engaged in the extra effort that is required to build true relationships with tough students through positivity.

maya .JPGWe have designed a challenge where educators keep track of “positivity points” daily by giving high fives, writing handwritten notes, or making positive phone calls home. We use the word points loosely because we will not be posting a leaderboard, giving away a million dollars, or any other award. The only reward given will be a smile on a kids face, the gift of being a champion for a kid, or joy from the happiness in a parent’s voice. Utilizing points will provide feedback for the participants to track if they are being positive throughout the school days. The hashtag #high5challenge can be used to post photos, point totals and/or goals and gain ideas of how others are promoting positivity within their buildings.

We value the power in turning negative behavior through a simple high five or a sincere handwritten note.  In a lot of ways, managing tough kids isn’t hard, it just requires effort that few people are willing to put forth.  Meeting that tough kid in the parking lot as they get off the bus in the morning, just to slap him five and tell him you’re glad he’s here, doesn’t require a PD session or a training day. These simple gestures send messages to kids and we believe every kid deserves to be recognized.  
This is not designed to be a competition among adults. It is set up to be an easy challenge for individuals to begin promoting positivity within their building. Fourteen points one day with a goal of twenty the next ultimately means there will be more positivity shared. However, individuals are not to be discouraged if a colleague earns fifty points in a day. Together 64 points (plus the points of other staff members in the building) of positivity were shared in one building on one day.
Please share and spread the positivity! Join the #High5Challenge when you get back to school!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Great PD gives you goosebumps

Last weekend I was lucky to get to spend the weekend at a What Great Educators Do Differently conference.  I spent two days listening to people speak about education with the same passion I have.  I saw their emotions and dedication come up in front of my eyes. I had rich conversations with people who want change and who are taking steps to do things differently to make it better for the students they serve.  At the end of the conference I tweeted out that GREAT professional development is such that it gives you goosebumps.  This conference did just that!

I’ve read many of Todd Whitaker’s books, but listening to him speak and being able to talk with him in small group sessions was a truly remarkable experience. But it wasn’t just Todd, it was EVERY SINGLE PRESENTER that was there.  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  Honestly, having to pick only three sessions was the most difficult part of the weekend.

I first chose to attend Dr. Joe Mazza’s (@Joe_Mazza) session on Family and Community Engagement. Joe stressed the importance of meeting our community and family where their needs are, not our needs.  Having a family night?  Curriculum night?  Then make sure that there is a way for parents who are unable to attend get the same information.  Make them feel like they were there and make sure they feel they are important too.

Dr. Joe Sanfelippo’s  (@Joesanfelippofc) session on Leading Learning set the tone that we should see opportunities such as these as professional growth for ourselves and our students. He stressed the importance of having passion in what you are doing, and through every minute he spoke, you could see his passion.  As educators, do we know our passion, are we doing everything we can to reach it?

Principal El (@Principal_EL) has such a passion for working and meeting the needs of our toughest kids.  We share this passion.  I root for the underdogs and will put everything on the line for what is right for my special needs students. Principal El speaks with such passion you can’t help but to want to do EVERYTHING you can to help students. He asked "Would you want to be a student in your classroom?"

Although I couldn’t attend sessions by Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein), LaVonna Roth (@LaVonnaRoth ) , Kayla Delzer (@TopDogTeaching), Kim Hofmann (@hofmann_kim), Kirk Humpreys (@kirk_humphreys) and Erin Klein (@KleinErin)  I caught up with friends and read the twitter feed about their sessions.  (next time!!!!!)

Even the four short IGNITE sessions on Saturday presented by Derek Oldfield (@Mr_Oldfield ), Alyssa Mick (@amickthesparks), Elisabeth Bostwick (@ElisaBostwick) , and Bobby Dodd (@bobby__dodd) were great examples of educators who are passionate about students and what they get to do every single day!

It’s true, we ARE so fortunate to get to work in the greatest profession ever.  As we get ready to head into 2017, think and reflect on these:

“Every kid wants to be part of something”
“Treat every student with respect and dignity every day, all the time”
“Say hello to every kid you pass by them in the hallway. You never know when it matters most”
“Two things to do every day - care and try”
“Make rules for the 99% not the 1%”
“Greet ALL students in halls - make all visitors feel welcome when entering building”
“Surround yourself with people who inspire you to aspire to greatness”
“Kids should run into classrooms because they are so excited to learn, not out because they can't wait to leave”
“You’ve got to know your WHY”
"Would you want to be a student in your own classroom?"
“Success only comes before work in the dictionary”

Thank you Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy)  , Jeff Zoul ( @Jeff_Zoul), and Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker) for inspiring, caring and sharing your passion.  I’m a better educator because of role models like you!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Too Close To Home

As any true Buckeye fan, I arrived at work Monday morning still on a high from Saturday’s win over our longtime rival University of Michigan (for those that don’t know -- the game went in to TWO overtimes and the final score was 27 - 30 Ohio State!)

As I was teaching I received a text message from Ohio State - “Active shooting on campus. Run, hide, fight.”  (although I no longer attend classes there I’m still on their text list.)

The texts continued to come.  As I taught my students my mind couldn’t help but to wander off to the people who I knew were on campus that day.  Were they okay?  Were the students and staff at OSU, at my alma mater, safe?  

Quick texts and check-ins from friends allowed me to be comforted.  We later learned that the university police was on the scene in less than a minute and all victims should recover.

OSU was lucky, but that hit too close to home.

This was a wake up call for me. We all need to be vigilant, aware, and prepared.  More importantly, we need to be thankful for every day and appreciative of those in our lives. Reach out today, this week, and make sure someone knows that they matter, that they have made a difference in your life. Make each day great!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Forever Thankful

There are many reasons for me to be thankful.  I am lucky to have many wonderful people in my life that make me a better educator and person.  These people need to be recognized (in more than 140 characters) for their dedication and thoughtfulness.

Allyson Apsey
Everyone needs a spark of happiness and joy in their circle, and Allyson is exactly that!  Allyson shares happiness and hope in every conversation I have with her.  She is a cheerleader of all cheerleaders.  Allyson is strong female leader and I am encouraged by her dedication to those she serves. She is a true role model and friend.

Bobby Dodd
Bobby is a true mentor.  He graciously accepted a random email from a stranger that said “would you be willing to work with a high school admin intern?” and guided me through a year of learning and growth.  I truly wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today without him.  I know I drive him crazy (still) with my questions and messages, but he will always be someone whom I look up to because he was willing to take a chance.  He was, and is, willing to take the time to make a difference in the lives of others.  Truly great educators do that.

Jon Harper
Jon has taught me that making mistakes is not only okay, but a good thing!  I am so thankful for his caring thoughts that he shares so openly through his blog.  His podcasts are extraordinary!  They allow all educators to see that we all make mistakes and we all learn and grow from them.  Jon writes and speaks from his heart, and it is truly refreshing.  Jon is truly an inspiration!

Jennifer Hogan
When I think of strong females in education my mind immediately goes to Jennifer. She is someone I know I can reach out to with questions and support.  Although I have never personally met Jennifer, I know that I will someday, because I am determined to do so. Her positive outlook, genuine kindness and heart of gold is truly something I admire.  I respect her position and desire to make women in leadership positions grow. I am honored to call Jennifer a mentor and friend.

Derek Oldfield
Derek is my #EduBrother and I am so grateful for our connection.  Derek is a passionate leader and educator.  When I think about Derek I think about a true innovator and change agent.  Derek is so dedicated to changing education in such a positive way for his students and staff. There’s not a week that goes by that Derek doesn’t push my thinking and make my desire for change even greater.  Derek is going great places, and I am glad to watch him in this journey.

Jon Wennstrom
When I think of an educator that loves his profession, loves his job and loves his students, I think of Jon.  He shows his dedication through the many pictures and stories he posts of his school.  I love how he celebrates his school and staff each week.  He truly motivates me and has been an inspiration to me and my blogging. Jon has such a positive influence on so many and is inspiring through his work.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

ALL students OUR students

As a member of the #CompelledTribe of bloggers, we were charged with the theme of Unity this month.  I thought and thought and then it came to me after watching this Ted Talk by Dr. Victor Rios.

I was moved by his words.  It’s so true, we can no longer label students as “at-risk”, we must see them as students of promise and be there for them when they are ready.  I loved the statement “Our students are like oysters.  We must be ready for them when they are ready to open up to us.”  As educators we need to educate the whole student, and sometimes it means digging a little deeper within ourselves to do so.  It’s a mindset change, and takes a huge amount of patience and understanding.  It’s hard, but if it can change even one student, then we have been successful.

As a special education teacher I’ve always believed “All Means All.”  All students within the schoolhouse should be treated as equals.  The students on IEPs, the students who are identified as gifted, as ELL, as “at-risk.”  We have to unite and work together to meet all their needs.   

Today, more than ever, we need to unite for our students.  ALL students are indeed OUR students.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Powerful Words

I was recently communicating with a parent about an upcoming IEP meeting for her child and she stated “Even if you have a few words to exchange with someone, individuals, youth as well as adults, can sense genuine concern and kindness.”  


This message really made me think about not only how we are interacting with our students, but with one another. We all are affected by words, or at times, even a lack of words or communication.  Think about how rewarding it is to be tagged in a post or have someone “like” what you have shared. It allows you to believe that someone is thinking of you and values you.  Think about how powerful “that was great”, “thank you” or a smile is to you. Even an emoji response can be a day brightener! 😊

I think back to Friday where I just wanted to end my day, go home, and start my weekend (we all have those days, right?).  The bell rang, I headed to my office and in followed one of my students.  

“Miss Pierpoint, Miss Pierpoint!  I forgot to tell you to have a great weekend this morning.”

How horrible that my thoughts were that I was going to have to put out another fire and he just wanted to wish me a great weekend. Shame on me. I am so grateful to end my day this way. You see, kindness matters and his words mattered.  This 15 year old knows that.

Words and actions DO matter. People can sense who genuinely care about them and have their best interests in mind. It’s a small “hello” message, a “thank you”, a tag in a picture, a “I’ve got your back”, a 😃.  It’s reading through blogs, books and a Twitter feed of positive messages that can make you realize how powerful words and messages can be.

In this month of being cognizant of what we're thankful for, I will reflect more on my words and of those who uplift and encourage me. I will also do my best to do the same for others.

****Follow these educators as a sampling of those who post positive, encouraging messages!****
@Teach4SpclNeeds   @smgaillard      @LennonCorey   @jon_wennstrom
@Ms_Holliman    @LaVonnaRoth        @AllysonApsey       @DavisWelcome

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Inspiration for a RECHARGE!

It’s November. The newness of the school year is wearing off, markers are drying out and summer PD seems decades ago. Daylight is getting shorter and darkness sets in sooner.  The first half of the school year is winding down, and it often seems that this is the time of year that educators start to feel the mid-year “blues”.   

It’s time to reset and recharge!  You deserve it!

I reached out to some of my role models and friends in education and asked them what they do to stay motivated through these times.  Hopefully you’ll find their advice as useful as I did!

Seek Out Positive People
When days seem tough, Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan) said she recharges by being around positive people. Jennifer will also seek out people who may need help and assist them.  Tia Holliman (@Ms_Holliman) agreed.  Being out of the office/classroom and around others simply keeps her grounded. Whether it’s visiting classrooms or chatting with colleagues, this time allows you to reset your mind frame.
Takeaway ~ Don’t give in to the negative feelings or surroundings.  
Seek out those who lift you up.  Better yet - lift others up!

Bobby Dodd (@bobby__dodd) shared that talking with family and like-minded friends who will provide helpful feedback and advice is important when going through times when you need to make decisions or have things on your mind. This post was actually inspired because of the people I know I can reach out to talk to during my “tough” days.  
Takeaway - Build your PLN with people like you; those who share your vision,
those who you respect and look up to, those who “have your back.”

Stay Focused On Your Goals  
Every one of us set goals whether they be personal or professional.  Jennifer Hogan stresses the importance of staying focused during these trying times.  Keep working towards the goal and don’t let setbacks derail you! At times we may have to reassess and reset goals, but never quit!  This Eric Thomas (@ericthomasbtc) clip was sent to me and helps me stay focused!  

Takeaway - Never lose sight of what’s important to you.  
Keep working towards your end goal.  Keep up the grind!

Celebrate Small Victories
Derek Oldfield (@Mr_Oldfield) feels that the best pick-me-up for him is when he is able to celebrate and acknowledge others.  Derek writes handwritten letters to staff members and students to let them know how much he appreciates them and what they are doing. Rikki McCormick Lowe (@DrRikki908) does the same with her staff!  She’ll send notes or surprise someone with candy just to let them know that she is thinking of them.  
Takeaway - Celebrate with your students and staff.  
Celebrate the small victories and show others you care and notice!

Be WITH Students
Why did you choose education as a career?  The students, right?  When times seem rough, get back to you “why” - engage with students.   Jacki Prati (@Jacki_prati) goes into her kindergarten and first grade classrooms when she needs a pick-me-up. “I just take in the magic that occurs in those rooms."  Tim McDermott (@Tim_McDermott1) agrees, being in classrooms is one of the things he enjoys most.  Whether it’s elementary or high school, or in between, being with students and talking with them is a true day brightener!
Takeaway - Take a few minutes each day to interact WITH students, not just TO them.
Go back to your “why” of becoming an educator.

Laughter is the best medicine!  We all know that - so find ways every day to connect with others; students, colleagues, your PLN, your family and LAUGH. Share a story or just reflect on the silliness of an event, but enjoy the time with others.  As Sean Gaillard (@smgaillard) said, “Laughter is the divine voice. It adds years to your life!”.  Jacki Prati loves laughing with her staff when things get too crazy!  Tia Holliman looks forward to times she can clear her mind, be around others and simply laugh!
Takeaway - Find joy in others - take time to laugh!  Live life to the fullest!

As educators it is important to stay up to date and in tune with what is going on in the field.  Both Bobby Dodd and Tim McDermott shared that they often turn to books, blogs, research and podcasts to help them reflect.  Many educators have links to wonderful blogs and podcasts through their personal sites.  Reading is a great way to grow as an educator so ask for a recommendation and be sure to share one when you can!
Takeaway - Stay current in the profession. Take time to read and reflect.

Take Time For Yourself
It’s true, we love what we do, that’s why we do it, but it important to have a personal and professional balance. Jon Harper (@jonharper70bd) stresses the importance of finding a passion and enjoying that fully - sometimes that even helps build relationships with students!  Jon also finds that it is important to keep a healthy family/work balance.  Sean Gaillard shares that his love of music keeps him going.  We all need an exit of release to be able to go to - so whether it's art, cooking, exercise or music, find something you enjoy and take some time for yourself.
Takeaway -  Educators shouldn’t feel guilty about disconnecting
and spending time with their loved ones.  We’re human too!

Almost every one of the educators I asked for input from for this blog stated the importance of self reflection!  Remember your “why” and reflect upon whether or not you're still striving and working towards this every day. Reflect on your daily/weekly practice.  What do you need to better yourself? How can you better grow your students and staff?  Be sure to highlight the positives in your journey during your reflection.  Celebrate small victories!  Encourage and motivate others - you've got this!!
Takeaway - Take the time to reflect on yourself and your practice.
Celebrate the positive and the good in your journey.

OVERALL TAKEAWAY - YOU deserve the best!  Take care of yourself.  

Follow these wonderful EduSUPERSTARS that gave their great advice and input!  
Bobby Dodd - @bobby__dodd
Sean Gaillard - @smgaillard
Jon Harper - @jonharper70bd
Jennifer Hogan - @jennifer_Hogan
Tia Holliman - @Ms_Holliman
Rikki McCormick Lowe - @DrRikki908
Tim McDermott - @Tim_McDermott1
Derek Oldfield - @Mr_Oldfield
Jacki Prati - @Jacki_prati

THANK YOU - I am beyond GRATEFUL for each of you!!!