PD, Weekly Musings

Weekly Musings: Hmmm…

This year I have been involved in several district PD sessions as a teacher leader. I have never been more excited about the vision my district has regarding Professional Development. In many districts, PD is seen as an “Uggghhhh…” or “Not this again!”, yet I did not feel this way this year. Our district is working toward creating engaging Professional Development with a more differentiated approach. I had the pleasure of being a part of my district’s #knightshift teacher leadership Professional Development earlier this summer. It was the best two days of PD that I have ever experienced. This was one of the fun activities we did!

Teacher Super Powers!

We focused on new initiatives during PD this year, (yes, we have them pretty much every year, too) but also focused on partnerships and creating a welcoming environment for all. On the first opening day, a friend and colleague of mine (follow her @msthinkaloud on Twitter) lead a #StayingGolden activity about finding our “Why”, originally created by Meg Burke, (@megburkeNPSD on Twitter) who is a friend and colleague of mine as well. Finding your “Why” is so important. Why do you do what you do? What are your goals? When the days get tough and it is often hard to remember why you are here. It is then that you need a reminder of why you are here and doing what you do. We created fortune cookies to remind ourselves of our why.

I also co-lead PD about Pathways to Distinguished in Charlotte Danielson’s Framework. One of the activities was a Goose Chase, an interactive scavenger hunt for educators. I have never heard so much laughter and joy as I did helping to facilitate this activity. Creating an environment for learning starts with creating an environment where teachers are having fun and care about one another. That environment is easily facilitated by creating memorable moments.

Last, but not least, Convocation… I really did enjoy convocation this year! There was a LOT of dancing! We do not always have the opportunity to bring the entire school district together, but when we do, it is really amazing how many people work for our district. The bottom line, it was fun! (Do you hear that word?) Check out one of the videos my district produced for convocation below.

So, what’s my point? The reality is, teachers are learners, too. We enjoy having fun and learning should be fun. So why can’t PD be fun? I have enjoyed being a teacher leader and I will continue to do so because I love what I do. I enjoy sharing my passion for education with others.

Enjoy what you do, become professionally developed, and have fun… in this Crazy Teacher Life!


PLN? Say what?!

PLN? Say what, now?! In education we have a tendency to over use the alphabet soup… But look no further! This is one of the most important acronyms you will need to know for your own personal benefit. As mentioned in a previous post, PLNs are Personal Learning Networks. I really enjoy learning from colleagues and other resources, so I have created my own community of people that I really enjoy learning from, collaborating with, and sharing ideas with. Twitter has been an invaluable resource for creating my own PLN. I have made connections with teachers that are excited when I have a success in my classroom… and I have never met them! They are just champions for the teaching and learning that is going on in my classroom.

I also have connected with teachers who are doing creative lessons in their classrooms that are in my own district. I teach in a very large school district in Pennsylvania, so face to face time with EVERYONE is virtually non-existent. However, I have followed other teachers in my district and they have followed me. Fun story: So, recently, I was at a summer leadership PD for two days in my district. In the parking lot, I was chatting with a colleague of mine who is PHENOMENAL and a TDA guru (follow her on Twitter @megburkeNPSD and on her website tdyay.com). Anyway, a fellow teacher, who I have been following and who has been following me on Twitter comes over and, tada! We finally meet… and it feels like we have known each other for a long while through Twitter. Pretty awesome.

So how do you start. Go on Twitter. Follow me or someone you like and just start scrolling. Consider following hashtags, like #3rdChat. Here you will find so many people who have a lot of great things to share. On hashtags, like #3rdChat, I have joined weekly chats and, even, a book club. Don’t feel like you have to chime in at first. Feel free to just lurk and see what other’s have to say, but start to follow those individuals or organizations who have great ideas that you want to learn more about. Soon, you will have a great PLN to build upon and add to your teaching toolkit.

Go build yourself an awesome PLN… in this Crazy Teacher Life!

PD, Summer

Summer Time (Kinda Long Post – but worth it!)

It’s summer time in (insert your happy place here in a sing song voice). Ahhhhh…. time for relaxation, family, maybe a vacation, and all around a mental break from all of that end of year drama and school year stress. YASSS! But… if you are like me, your brain keeps going, your fingers keep scrolling through those Pinterest-tastic classroom arrangements, and man, do those activities on Teachers Pay Teachers look pretty good! But STOP, you say! This is summer… time to turn it off! Right?!

Not necessarily. Personally, I take the time in the summer to work or not work as much as I want. Bless you if you have unlimited free time in the summer, but most likely, you are like me: friends to see, family/young children to spend time with, maybe a side hustle, or even a full time job to make extra cash, and to take those vacations that you NEEDED back in, oh say, October! But if you feel like you want to take the summer to feel ready for fall, here are my Top 5 Ways to stay professionally engaged over the summer:

*Join a Book Club: Right now I am involved in a Book Club on #3rdChat on Twitter. Right now, we are reading Math Recess by Sunil Singh and Chris Brownell (Click for link to book on Amazon). I know you are saying to yourself, “Huh? A book club on Twitter?!” I said the EXACT thing when I first heard about it. But let me tell you, it is a blast! I have something to look forward to each Wednesday night and it is something that I can do from the comfort of my couch on my phone. A colleague of mine has also committed to reading one personal book and one professional book. I will be posting more about joining chats on Twitter, book clubs, and books I recommend soon.
*Lurk on Twitter: NO, this is not as creepy as it sounds if you are unfamiliar with Twitter. I signed up for a Twitter account, years ago (follow me @crazyteachergo), but never did anything with it. About 9 months ago, I was introduced to the idea of lurking, which is basically following people you know or organizations/companies (think NEA or FOSS Science) that you love and just see what is getting posted. If the extent of your twitter experience is spent lurking and getting amazing ideas off of Twitter, consider your summer work done! If you want to be more interactive, start responding… and if you are brave, consider posting. I have learned a lot from lurking and have ventured far beyond in the Twitter-verse in a short 9 months, building a following of educators I adore and love as a part of my PLN (Personal Learning Network). I will be posting more about PLN’s in a future post.
*Peruse TPT: Okay y’all. I know Teachers Pay Teachers gets a bad rap, but hear me out. When one goes beyond the “dreaded worksheet” and searches on TPT, you often find amazing resources that you can add to your already amazing collection. On TPT, I have found escape rooms, knockout games, interactive digital activities for centers, and great printable games that my kids LOVE to use and practice with during center time. When you go on TPT with the mindset of enhancing what you already do well, you find a treasure trove of resources that are not worksheets, I promise you. Through this mindset, I have found awesome resources and have learned to make my own resources to suit my specific needs. I will be posting soon about how to create your own TPT-worthy activities and resources. But TPT is there, especially when you are in a pinch… and you have ALL been there! Best of all, you can browse TPT on your phone and add resources directly to your account for later. I frequently will browse while I am sitting at the doctor’s office or while I am waiting, quietly, for my kiddo to fall asleep before turning on the TV.
*Watch YouTube Videos or Listen To Teaching Podcasts: You KNOW that long car ride to the beach is coming up, and if you are me, you travel at night to make sure the kids sleep through the ride without complaint. So, what do you do during this time. If you are one of those lucky people who does not get car sick, consider watching teachers on YouTube. Find someone funny to follow, learn more about a resource you want to use in your classroom, or find a how-to. I will be posting some how-to videos by the end of the summer on this blog and on YouTube. Admittedly, I am not the lucky few who can watch videos in the car and actively look for new podcasts to listen to. Look for a future post about awesome Podcasts and follow my colleague Ron Martiello on his podcast, Math Knights, about shifting your thinking and teaching about math to new heights.
*Learn a New Teaching Tool: If you are anything like me, you hear about all of these amazing teaching tools and platforms, but have ZERO time to teach yourself, let alone implement in the classroom, during the school year. Here are a few ideas of resources to investigate, if you so please:
Screencastify: A screen casting/video recording tool. One of my faves!
PearDeck: Interactive presentation tool – My Absolute Favorite!
BoomCards: A self-correcting, interactive task card site. Kid favorite!
NearPod: Interactive presentation tool
Kahoot!: Interactive game site
FlipGrid: Video recording tool
Goose Chase: Interactive scavenger hunt app
iCivics: Teaching games and activities for teaching civics in the classroom
Go Noodle: Brainbreaks
MentiMeter: Interactive presentation tool, with super cool options
Piktochart: Presentation tool and digital handouts
Newsela: Leveled news articles
Venngage: Presentation tool and digital handouts
Google Earth/Google Expeditions: Interactive map tools and VR experiences
Class Dojo: Classroom management and parent communication tool
Edpuzzle: Video lesson presentation tool
Thinglink: Turns images into interactive graphics
This idea does take more time than the other options that I have presented, but may be the most beneficial.

Enjoy your summer and enjoy as much, or as little, personalized PD in this crazy teacher life!
Love, Ainsley