Friday, August 22, 2014

A big, fat, public THANK YOU to every teacher and volunteer at Open House!

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Last night was a very different Open House experience for me.  Last night I was not an employee of Brenham ISD.  I was not an Instructional Technology Specialist.  I was not the tech lady or the fixit girl or the problem solver.

Last night I was just a mom.

My oldest is entering kindergarten and last night we walked the halls of his new school with all of the other wide eyed, beaming, proud parents.  The walls were decorated, the staff was smiling, the school was alive!

I'll be honest.  This was very different and somewhat uncomfortable for me.  I usually walk those halls with confidence and purpose.  But last night I panicked filling out the PTO form.  How much does everyone else donate?!  What size shirt would Jake wear?!  Do I put my personal email or my school email address?!  How do I pay?!  I don't even have a checkbook!

Thank you to the sweet volunteer who held my hand through the form and chuckled when I said I was a first time mom.  :)

We found Jake's new room, which was beautifully decorated, and I was happy to see some familiar faces.  Of course Jake's new teacher was wonderful and friendly and Jake was thrilled to find his desk.  I, on the other hand, panicked again filling out more forms.  Bus rider.  Car rider.  Parent conferences.  Health cards.  OMG.

Thank you to Mrs. Wall for opening your classroom and your heart to our sweet boy ... and for finding me down the hallway because I forgot to sign the back of the blue card.  :)

Thank you to Mrs. Davis for taking Jake's shoe off in the middle of your classroom and even removing his sock to turn it the right way because it was bothering him.

Thank you to Mrs. Plagens for letting Jake tackle you in a bear hug on the floor in your dress.  :)

Thank you to Aunt Lisa for being just on the other side of the hallway in case Jake needs anything.

Thank you to Mrs. Bolcerek for being a mamma bear like myself and for watching out for my baby this year.  (I know you'll squeeze him if he looks like he needs a squeeze!)

Thank you to Mrs. Mason and Mrs. Schwarze and Mrs. Mueller for working TIRELESSLY on scheduling and prepping and planning to get ready for the new year...and then for looking SO PUT TOGETHER at Open House.

Thank you to Mrs. Bogan for hugging my little "chimpanzee" and making sure I left the school last night with a smile on my face.

To all of the teachers and volunteers across the globe who stayed at the school late, arrived early, prepared breakfast, picked up lunch, had your husbands come help, stood on chairs, stapled and folded and packed and painted...


Your effort does not go unrecognized and although I have been there, last night I realized just how important every little detail is and I am so grateful to share this profession with all of you.

Cheers to a great year!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why this bumper sticker ruffled my feathers...

Pin It I know it's hard to read...I had to quickly snap a pic while I was at a stoplight...but it reads something like... "I homeschool because I care about my kids."

I had my two boys in the backseat, including my 5 year old who will enter kindergarten this year in a ... GASP ... PUBLIC SCHOOL ... and I was really offended by the insinuation that I don't care about my child so I am sending him to public school.

Upon some further research when I got home, I found other similar bumper stickers like these...

Now, before the homeschooling people get mad at me and leave nasty comments, let me state this ... I am amazed and impressed by those who homeschool their children and do it well.  It cannot be an easy task and I admire the dedication and discipline it takes to be successful.

However, I am a product of public schools ... I work in public schools ... and I plan to send my kids to public schools.  I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, but at the end of the day I still feel like public schools are the best place for my children.  I am a fourth generation public school educator and I would be honored if one of my boys continued that family legacy.

So, in conclusion, to each their own ... homeschool ... public school ... everyone has the right to choose what is best for their children (ahhh, the beauty of being a parent!).  However, I would ask that we all have compassion for the other side and refrain from one-upping and making statements that suggest one way is better than the other.  Can you imagine what we could accomplish if we all worked together?!  :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Learn along with me at #TCEATOTS!

Pin It I am back again this year at TCEA's annual Tots and Technology conference for elementary teachers in Galveston, Texas.  I am eagerly awaiting the start of the first session - App Smackdown!  Below are my live notes for this year's conference.  I will share all of my favorite tidbits so you can learn along with me!  Hope you can grab a few new ideas along the way!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"When I got into this [education], I knew it wasn't going to be for the next 40 years."

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Several weeks ago a dear friend of mine, who is also a teacher, said this to me:

It hit me like a knife through the heart.  I thought, when I got into this I HOPED it would be for the next 40 years!  (I wish I'd had the nerve to say that to her at the time.)  I am a fourth generation educator.  My mom is still a HS Physics teacher and THIS IS her 40th year as an educator.  I am SO PROUD to share this profession with my mom AND my dad AND my sister (and my grandparents AND my great-grantparents!).  To think that someone would consider this a temporary situation or a stepping stone or anything other than a lifetime commitment hurts me.  When I was little, I played school.  When I was bigger, I loved school.  And today, I cherish the gift of school and my role in education.  I love to come to work {most days!}.  I would hope that anyone in this profession who does not see it as a calling ... as a passion ... as a burning desire ... would step aside and let those of us who do have that fire step in for you.  There are a million jobs in the world.  I implore you to choose a different one if you feel the way my dear friend feels.  Or if you just need a professional pick-me-up, team up with a colleague or an instructional coach or technology specialist for some new fresh ideas.  Life is short, but for the students in your class, the year is long if you aren't enjoying this journey with them!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When the curriculum and instruction and technology stars align, it's nothing short of MAGIC! #PBL #edtech

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MA-GIC, MA-GIC, MAAAAGIC...MA-GIC, MA-GIC, MAAAAGIC...  I swear I heard Sting singing in the background last week when Pam Plagens ( - KES Instructional Coach)and I were planning a second grade PBL unit at #keswired with two traditionally reluctant teachers.  It was possibly the best day of my year - a day when everything I am trained to do paid off and I wanted to run singing through the halls!

It happened by chance that these teachers asked me a question about a unit assessment.  Now, I was fully prepared here to tell them I have NOTHING to do with assessments and walk away, but then I realized the problem was that there WAS NO unit assessment and they were freaking out.  No unit assessment?!  WHAT-EVER WILL WE DO?! about look at the performance indicators for the unit and plan a PBL unit?!  :)  (Man, I was glad I didn't turn my back when I heard the word assessment!  This was an OPPORTUNITY!)

It took 2 hours to plan 10 days, but it was as if the heavens opened and shone the good light down on Pam and me!  We were on FI-YAH!  Pam brings such great verbiage and strategies to the table.  (I was taking notes of things to say in future planning meetings so I can talk the talk!)  Her perspective as an Instructional Coach is SO VALUABLE to me.  I was able to interject with technology resources and PBL planning steps, strategies and documents.  It was amazing to feel so alive with Pam and also with two teachers who were surprisingly on-board not afraid to let us guide them!

At one point I went to make a copy of a rubric (yes! we even created rubrics!) and ran into our district Writing Curriculum Specialist, Alex Ratcliff.  I asked her if she would stop by our planning session to see if she could add anything.  It was awesome!!!  She advised us to change the word convince to persuade and suggested letting students create a rough draft of the brochure we had planned so we could cover some writing TEKS as well.  Such a simple thing, but with such BIG impact on helping the teachers see it's really quite easy to plan cross-curricular activities!  Alex even had the idea to have students write a mock letter as a reflection (which we revised to postcard) instead of the same old "journal entry."  FUN!

Since then, we've created a Google folder with planning documents, rubrics, and supporting materials.  We shared the folder with other Instructional Technology Specialists and Instructional Coaches in the district, as well as all of the 2nd grade social studied teachers in the district so they can contribute and benefit, as well.  Everyone is excited and I think they really see the advantages of putting our heads together ESPECIALLY in the PBL planning process, which can certainly be daunting alone.

The moral of this story:

TEACHERS - trust your support staff (Curriculum Specialists, Instructional Coaches, Technology Specialists, etc)!  We can HELP YOU.  We WANT to help you!  Together we're better, right?!  Help US help YOU!  ;)

SUPPORT STAFF - don't give up!  Be ready to step through the door even when it's just open a crack!  I happened to be in the right place at the right time last week and it was amazing.  And WORK TOGETHER!  If coaches and techs and curriculum peeps present a united front and work together as a team with teachers, it really is pure magic!

If you would like access to the unit we developed, please comment below.  We are more than happy to share it when all of the materials and planning documents are ready.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is going #paperless really enough? How can we take it one step further?

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A few years ago when I was re-entering the education field after a brief hiatus to work for my husband, the big industry trend was "going paperless."  I remember thinking what an awesome idea this was and how it could really push educators and students into the "digital age."  Teachers were going to the cloud, reducing worksheets and embracing services like Edmodo to engage their students online.  Fast forward 5 years and in some regards I feel like we've gotten stuck in the paperless rut.  I am afraid that some teachers view online versions of worksheets and assessments as technology integration.  Please don't get me wrong, the reduction of paper waste and use of technology tools in place of traditional worksheets and assessments is great and definitely a step in the right direction.  However, I am curious to get your thoughts on the following:

  • How we can move past the going paperless rut and take the next step to true technology integration?
  • How can we get teachers to move past substitution (simply digitizing their traditional worksheets and tests) and move toward augmentation ... or even modification!?
  • What tools are you using that could possibly replace traditional worksheet activities (ex: research reports, vocabulary practice, reader's response, etc)?

I am anxious to read your thoughts on this topic and maybe get some ideas for my teachers!  We're all in this together and I would love to brainstorm with you!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Goo in the Loo is ALIVE thanks to #GTACHI!

Pin It Yesterday I received one of the best tweets I've had all year!  Thanks to +Marek Beck and +Mike Arsenault, I learned that the Goo in the Loo posters I created (with lots of help!) for my #GTACHI Action Plan are alive and being used!  This was a dream I had during my time at Google Teacher Academy Chicago and I immediately set to work on crowdsourcing the Google Certified Teacher and Trainer community for the best Google tips out there.  I managed to get a poster created for every month of 2014 and then 2014 hit me like a freight train.  My life has been a bit tumultuous, so I've been doing the best I can to stay afloat.  Unfortunately, that means my Goo in the Loo roll-out has been put on hold.  HOWEVER, I have a renewed excitement about the program after seeing these tweets yesterday!

I pledge to fulfill my Goo in the Loo promise and post these flyers on our campuses in the fall.  I also pledge to follow through with partnering with local businesses to try and spread our Google goodness throughout our community.  I can't thank you enough, Mike and Marek, for the reminder that this program is simple, fun and effective - our BISD Tech Dept motto for this year!

If you would like more information about this program, please visit  I would love to hear if you're implementing this program in your school or organization!