Friday, March 25, 2016

6 Tips for making the most out of your internship/student teaching year

As I come to the end of my school administration internship I have started to reflect on what I did differently this time than the previous times as an intern and as a student teacher.  I fully believe that we must grow and help one another, so hopefully I can offer some tips that made my most recent internship experience a valuable learning opportunity.

Use social media
Joining Twitter has been one of the best educational choices I have made. Building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) will help you grow as an educator and as a professional.  You must connect with others in the field.  Joining chat groups is instrumental.  You will connect and meet others in the field and learn from their experiences and knowledge.  Some great chat groups include #satchat, #edchat, #edbeat, #TEDEdchat.  Most states have their own chats too - I’m partial to #ohedchat. Then find one that specifically relates to you: #spedchat, #apchat, #leadupchat.  You can easily find a chat every night.

You can also utilize other forms of social media - Instagram, Facebook, Voxer (Voxer offers a lot of interactive chat groups as well). There are great videos on YouTube you can use in your classrooms and schools. Find the time to learn from these free resources!

Read, Read, Read
Yes, more than likely you’ll be reading for classes that you’re taking, but you need to read more than that.  It is important to know the pedagogy behind what you are studying, but you need to know the practical side as well.   There are great, quick reads from people in the field that will improve what you do on a daily basis.  You can find short articles from Ed Week and Edutopia.  Educator’s personal blogs are another great resource (see below).  Again, make the time to improve and grow yourself.

There are hundreds of great educators and leaders that write phenomenal blogs about personal experiences, educational insights, current issues in education, and tips and strategies for innovation. They do this to help others grow.  These educators and leaders are the same ones that you see at national conferences! You can learn from them each week by simply following their blogs.  Here are just a few that I personally follow (again, found through Twitter): Bobby Dodd, Neil Gupta, Jennifer Hogan, Jimmy Casas, Craig Vroom, Jonathon Wennstrom, George Couros.  Each of these blogs will lead you to many more.  

You should also try blogging yourself.  I am just beginning my blogging journey, and recently joined a blogging tribe #compelledtribe.  Even if you're not at the same level as the above mentioned leaders, you have experiences to share and a story to tell.

Connect with Others
This is more than connecting with others through social media, this is actually face-to-face time connecting with others.  More than likely you will do your required internship / student teaching time in a designated location with a designated mentor.  That’s not enough.  It’s unlikely that your job will be in the exact position you're assigned to.  Stretch yourself - during planning time, visit other grade levels and/or departments. Days off; not this year.  Visit schools that are open.  I emailed principals at all levels this year and asked if I could shadow them for a day.  A good leader/teacher won’t deny you an opportunity to learn. Observe and work with as many people as you can so you can see as many aspects to the job as you can. 

Start a personal journal.  Reflect on things that you see in your school or other’s classrooms.  Reflect on what you read about.  Write about what you want to try or accomplish when you get the job of your dreams.  When you see or read about something great, write it down.  Write down all the advice and strategies that you hear from others. Take pictures and put them in your journal.  Inspirational quotes are great too!

Find A Mentor
This by far is the best advice I can offer.  Do some research.  Who are experts in the field you are going into?  Reach out to these people and ask if they would be willing to work with you and mentor you. You may be placed with a teacher or a leader, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find further opportunities on your own.

I literally sent out an email to my now mentor last spring.  I simply asked if he’d be willing to work with me in an untraditional internship setting. Exceptional leaders who are passionate about their profession will want to work with you and build the profession.  A great mentor may be one you don’t see every day or even every week, but one that you can email or message with “Help!”, “What if…” “What do you think about…”.  A great mentor is honest and won’t provide “fluff”, but truthful advice that makes you think and will move you forward to your ultimate goal.

This is your year, make the most of it.  It will be exhausting, time consuming, and draining, but if you feel those things, it’s also likely you’re moving in the right direction!

Good luck!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

You have to try to GROW!

A year ago, I sadly couldn’t even tell you how to “tweet”.  That was for people a lot cooler than me.  A blog?  Ummm... that’s what journalists did right?  An EdCamp?  Do I have to sleep in a tent?  EdChat groups?  Aren’t chat groups what college kids participate in that aren’t really appropriate??????

That was a year ago, and I have grown leaps and bounds! I found a mentor that introduced me to all these types of communicating. I am super excited to now be part of the Compelled Blogging Tribe to grow and learn with other educators and leaders across the United States.

I have to admit that I went into all of these new types of learning and growing slowly, and that’s ok!  I attended my first EdCamp last summer and just listened and watched, but I connected with people and started to follow them on Twitter. I then started participating in EdChat groups by watching at first. I then realized we all have different perspectives and the chat groups are great places to share these.  I grow and learn the most through these!

I then hesitantly started a blog.  “No one is going to read it” I thought, “I don’t have important/breakthrough ideas to share”.  But I reframed my thinking and kept going.  EVERYONE has a story.  EVERYONE has something to share.  We don’t have to be scholars, we just have to be willing to share and be willing to learn and grow with others.  

So, here I go.  I encourage my friends to do the same - it's ok to start slow, but don't be afraid to try.  I may not be a tech genius (still can’t figure out Voxer), but I’m excited to share my story and learn and grow from others!

Happy Blogging!!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Inspirational Leader

I just learned that an exceptionally great administrator I once had passed away.  My heart is heavy and I started reflecting on all the great things about him that made him a great leader.

Bob was a man of integrity. You knew where he stood on issues, but he always welcomed dialog between staff.  Under his leadership was probably the only time I’ve worked as a teacher where the teacher and administration had a healthy, striving, collaborative relationship. We were there to support one another.  There was no pointing fingers or blame, we worked together to better the school and help the students and each other. There was no divide between us, we were a family.

I can recall many vivid images of Bob eating at the lunch table with students, tying shoes, giving hugs to kids as they got off  the bus, high fiving down the hallway, pushing wheelchairs, putting band aids on boo-boos, playing kickball in the gym, dressing in costume at Halloween (different every year!), and drying tears.  

As a leader he did the same for staff; dried tears, advocated for resources, gave constructive feedback, brought in treats for long nights or just as a thank you. Yes, this was before OTES, but he made time for us.  If something was wrong he talked with us, not to us.  You never felt attacked or less of a person by him, you felt motivated to do better and wanted to do more.  He encouraged us to follow our dreams.  He shared personal stories. He made school feel like home.

It was Bob that encouraged me to go back to school and work on my master’s in school counseling. “You can do this”, “I will help”.  And he did.  He’d email me links to articles he had read, helped connect me with people in other districts to talk to and to shadow for a day.  He even mock interviewed me and gave me tips.  I literally was in tears when I had to resign to fulfill my yearlong internship commitment.  He hugged me and said “you’ve got this!” and sent me on my way with a beautiful letter and a letter of recommendation. I still have both letters and I will always treasure them.

I ran into Bob a few years later when he came to my new school - both of us in new positions.  I was thrilled to see him of course and told him how much of an inspiration he was to me.  Both being in a hurry, we went our ways.  The next time I saw Bob was at my father’s funeral.  Yes, he read the newspaper, made the connection and came to support me. I was moved to tears (as I am once again as I type this).  Again, I thanked him for being who he was and promised myself to really take the time to show my appreciation of him.

Then I heard this news.  I missed my opportunity, but I have learned an extremely valuable lesson.  First, to appreciate every lesson learned from those you respect and admire.  To write them down and practice and incorporate the lessons daily in your life.  But most importantly, to tell those people why they made a difference, to take the time to thank them, to honor them.

We need more leaders like Bob.  Thank you Bob - I hope to someday be as exceptional as you!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Spread the Word to End the Word

I look forward to the first Wednesday in March every year.  It is special to me because it celebrates special people.  It’s not a Hallmark holiday, but maybe should be.  Most don’t even know what the first Wednesday in March represents…

Spread the Word to End the Word.

The “R” word.  

Although it’s definitely not as common anymore, I cringe when when I hear “that’s retarded” or hear a person referenced as a “retard”.  Say it around me and more than likely we’ll have a conversation.

I work with special needs students, and have for the past 17 years of my incredible teaching journey.  I can’t imagine not working with these magnificently, differently abled students. They bring joy to my life and make me a better teacher and person.  

I encourage everyone to celebrate March 2nd this year and pledge to Spread the Word to End the Word.  Spend time with some differently abled students, let them bring sunshine into your world. Share a video with your class, promote it within your school. Take the lead in ENDING THE WORD!

You can find many great resources at