Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#D100bloggerPD Crew's Book Study on Hacking Education- Hack 6: Marigold Committees

Welcome back for another #D100bloggerPD Crew book study!  If you haven't already been introduced to us, the crew consists of an assortment of Berwyn South School District teacher learners (as well as a few administrators) who enjoy blogging, are smitten with social media and make use of their PLNs as an irreplaceable source of powerful content, hence the hashtag #D100bloggerPD.  We love to stay connected.  The crew embraces change, strives to better themselves professionally and desires to join forces with others to share what we learn because... Together we are better!  Joining forces brings on the positive energy.  Don't you agree?  Provided you do agree, learn with us, then pay it forward.  Remember, generosity is the key to success.
To read the hacks already discussed in the #D100bloggerPD book study, click HERE, or head on over to Kristin's blog, Reading and Owl of the Above, for the kickoff post.  Supposing you didn't know, she is one of my favorite Reading Specialists in the district and has become a good friend.  Let's get started! 
If you haven't already read Hacking Education, I recommend you do. It is truly an invaluable book.  Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez provide practical and user-friendly ideas and tools for each hack that can be implemented in your school straightaway. This is post is dedicated to Hack 6: Marigold Committees~ Nurture New Teachers With a Circle of Mentors.

After happily serving as a Cooperating Teacher for nine student teachers over the years, I jumped at the chance to take part in my district's mentoring program when it was first implemented.  I delight in celebrating the successes and supporting the challenges new teachers in the district face as educators.  I've been a mentor for more than a handful of years now and absolutely love it.  The right set of circumstances has allowed me to meet an abundance of amazingly talented mentee-teachers, some first-year and others experienced, within my school and throughout my school district. One of the #D100bloggerPD crew members, Angela Gonzales from Miss G Does 5th, is just one of those remarkably accomplished first-year teachers I've had the honor to mentor. ;)

Even though I'm an assigned mentor to a specific group of new teachers each year, I tend to take others under my proverbial wing (you know who you are!).  The Marigold Committee is exactly that, which is one reason I wanted to discuss this hack for the book study. The committee is about lifting up and supporting new teachers.  At the start of this section in the book, there is a quote: If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else.  
It's similar to A rising tide lifts all boats, which is another favorite of mine.  These quotes are all about giving back to those around you: colleagues, the community, family members and so on. Sharing your successes with others, so they may learn and grow as well, is unparalleled. 

At some point, we've all needed a little lifting.  For those of you who are veteran educators, visualize your early days in the field.  Were you able to ask questions in a non-threatening environment?  Did you have access to a confidant who allowed you to speak freely without being judged?  Did you feel acknowledged, valued and supported?  If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you're among the lucky.  Not everyone has had the same experience.

As we all know, teaching can be relentless.  It can require an excessive amount of one's time and energy, no matter if you are fresh in the teaching field or a veteran teacher.  Barnes and Gonzalez touch upon the reality of our educational system having poor teacher retention.  No wonder.  Quality teaching commands hard work!  "According to most estimates, about a third of new teachers leave the profession within the first three years, and about half leave within the first five (Barnes & Gonzalez)."  Unfortunately, those estimates are astounding and will not improve unless something is done about it...something like...(drumroll, please) the hack known as Marigold Committees.

One reason new teachers leave Education is most of them are hesitant to ask for support.  They don't want to be viewed as incapable, so they continue throughout their first year(s) feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and downhearted.  A further explanation could be that new teachers make connections with the wrong staff members or those who have a negative influence on them.

Jennifer Gonzalez wrote and illuminating post called Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers, which further advises what new teachers should do when entering the field of teaching.  I've passed this article along to many of my mentees as a positive way to heed warning.  Making use of Marigold Committees can reduce the occurrence of negativity in our schools and help new teachers associate with people of good quality.  
Let's take a moment to consider characteristics of an effective educator.  What comes to mind?  Just to name a few, I'd say enthusiastic, optimistic, collaborative, reflective, inspirational and comical.  I included comical because teachers who know how to laugh and use humor in their classroom are able to reduce the everyday stresses that come with managing a classroom full of students.  Teachers who encompass most or all of these characteristics can be considered those with the it factor.   

Marigold Committees are made up of these teachers possessing the it factor and are known as marigold teachers.  They are teachers who love teaching, love their students and never seem to run out of enthusiasm.  They are protective and nurturing.  Marigold teachers want to pay it forward and spread their passion for teaching.  They ban together to welcome new or inexperienced teachers. Marigolds want to experience the pure satisfaction of helping someone else be their best self.  Imagine how effective new teachers can become if they have access to this type of *safety net* all year long!
Unlike traditional mentoring programs, Marigold Committees are informal and do not require the typical mentoring program paperwork or formal observations.  No one on the committee is an evaluator of the new teachers.  They are strictly there to reduce any anxiousness, celebrate successes, build relationships, offer tips, answer questions, develop positive mindsets and laugh together to reinvigorate.  Gonzalez indicates marigold teachers are there to look after new teachers by "encircling them in a positive energy and helping them fend off the negativity that can often poison a beginning teacher."

As you know, this book consists of educational hacks to help educators solve their own problems with inexpensive and creative ideas.  Creating a Marigold Committee in your school is FREE!  Yes, it may take some time and effort to organize in the beginning stages, but all well worth it.  These committees aid in preventing poor teacher retention.  Poor retention of teachers "creates a vicious cycle of wasted time as schools must look for, interview, hire and train new teachers every year.  And because inexperienced teachers need several years to develop the skills of excellent teaching, schools with significant retention problems have little hope of ever realizing excellence for their students (Barnes & Gonzales)."  Who wants that? No one.

Hacking Education came into my life toward the end of the school year.  Nonetheless, I've spoken with some fellow marigold teachers at my school to begin collaborating and organizing a committee.  Better late than never.  To get started with a Marigold Committee in your own school, Gonzalez and Barnes suggest starting small, having a question and answer session with new teachers and recruiting additional marigolds.  In my opinion, you can never have enough marigolds in a school setting.  Agreed?  Starting small starts with YOU.  There's no need to wait around for *someone else* to fix the problem.  Jump in there and be a hacker!  
For further information on Marigold Committees, I highly suggest you read the book to access the blueprint for full implementation. You will not regret your decision to read the book.  You will feel inspired that YOU can make a difference and will end up having the pages dogeared and tagged.  I will end this post with some first-rate advice from Barnes and Gonzalez:  
  • Remember that although the Marigold Committee exists to share information, its main purpose is to build relationships with new teachers.
  • Remind teachers that the committees are designed to build camaraderie, as sense of belonging, and a strong community of outstanding educators.
  • Marigolds aren't know-it-alls; they are friends and mentors.
  • A Marigold Committee could be the thing that keeps your teachers with you, growing and learning and looking forward to another great school year.
Thank you for stopping by to learn more about Marigold Committees.  Next up in the #D100bloggerPD book study is the talented Theresa Carrillo.  Her post will appear on her blog Learn, Teach, Grow on Monday, March 28th and is dedicated to Hack 7: The In-Class Flip~ Bypass the Hurdles of Flipped Learning by Keeping It in School.

Happy Wednesday!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to Catch a Leprechaun- St. Patrick's Day Freebie Activity

Spring is coming!  Tonight is the night we spring ahead on the clocks. Something about walking around the house changing the clocks ahead, when I know it correlates to having longer and warmer days, makes me so happy.  Spring also brings St. Patrick's Day celebrations, inside and outside of the classroom.  Today, I'm here to share a freebie I made last year for my students.  If you are looking for a freebie, read on.  I'm reposting a throwback post from St. Patrick's Day 2015. :) 

Ahhh, the time of year when I celebrate my Irish heritage. I enjoy everything about St. Patrick's Day, especially the stories about sneaky leprechauns. While visiting my own kiddos' school last week, I had the most entertaining conversation with them about leprechauns.  
The conversation actually made me miss having a homeroom and a consistent group of students for the year.  Please don't get me wrong because I absolutely love being a Reading Specialist. Working with flexible groupings of students at a range of grade-levels is a dream come true. However, there's something to be said about about establishing a *classroom family* from year to year. Anyone feel the same way? 

Creating a sense of mystery and magic in my own classroom on St. Patrick's Day was amusing. Watching the students' faces spotting chairs tipped over, papers strewn on the floor and little leprechaun feet all over the room was priceless. Writing persuasive letters to the leprechauns asking them kindly to please keep the room tidy while we were out of the room, and then returning to the read letters *written by the leprechauns*, certainly captivated the students attention. Below is a book that was always a favorite of my 2nd graders. 
Anyway, these are the comical memories which initiated my motivation to create a St. Patty's Day writing activity for my students and for you! So, what does it take to catch a sneaky leprechaun?  Find out what your students think with this St. Patrick's Day freebie.  It can be used with a variety of St. Patrick's Day-themed books and may even spark a little magic in your classroom.  
My favorite response from a little girl: "I will pepper spray him!"
 She then went on to explain what she'd do after that.  Oh, boy! 
Happy St. Patrick's Day and thanks to Little Miss I, Sticky Foot Studio and Teaching Super Power for the graphics and Jen Jones and Kimberly Geswein for the fonts! 


Friday, March 11, 2016

Tabletop Twitter Chatting with Students

A few weeks back I came across a notable idea on Lori's blog, Conversations in Literacy.  (She actually has MANY notable ideas, so check her out!)  Her students were responding to their reading via *Tabletop Twitter*.  Lori had posted this image to accompany her post:
Needless to say, my mind's idea-lightbulb began shining brightly.  I decided to try out a version of Lori's activity with my students.  It was a big success and really sparked the students' interest.  Boy, were they engaged!  It's amusing how the students, who usually are hesitant to write, jumped at the chance to grab a pencil and get started because it was on a *Twitter board*.  Note, the board was just a large piece of blue butcher paper. :)
My students are already familiar with and enjoy using Twitter, since they take turns being my *Twitter Pal* each week.  They tweet the events of their group's happenings using our @TeamNoffsinger account. However, none of them were familiar with the process of Twitter chatting.  

We first discussed the format of authentic Twitter chatting.  I showed them how I labeled each question with Q1, Q2, Q3, then showed them how to label their answers with A1, A2 and A3 to keep track of which response was for which question.  Each of my RtI groups that participated in this activity was given three questions based on the book they were reading.  As you may have noticed in the pictures above, the hashtags I used for each Tabletop Twitter Chat included part of the title from their book, as well as #iRead and #iWrite.  
So we could keep track of who was commenting or responding, the students created their own Twitter handle which was just the @ sign in front of their name: @Juliet, @Joey, etc.  After each student wrote their response to a question, they'd rotate spots and draw a box around the answer they wanted to comment on.  This was our "Retweet & Comment" routine.  Reading their peers' responses and writing comments really provided them with a sense of authentic audience. 
When I began hanging their chats in the hallway outside of class for others to view, I realized the pencil comments weren't showing up very well.  We ended up tracing back over the comments with marker.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!  Right?  My tip for those interested in trying this activity with your students: Have the students use markers to write!
After tweeting about this activity and posting the idea to Instagram, I was able to inspire at least one PLN friend.  Thanks to Lori for inspiring me, so I could pay it forward. :)
Well, there you have it!  A simple, yet, engaging activity to get your students to respond to their reading and their peers in writing format.

Have a great weekend! 


Friday, March 4, 2016

Shoutout to Jennifer Gonzalez & Mark Barnes, Authors of Hacking Education

If you've been following my blog, you know I am fond of participating in book studies with like-minded educators.  My first study was dedicated to Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book.  I spearheaded the jigsaw-style book study with a group of teachers I met via blogging and social media.  Even though I've never met many of them in person, we still managed to become close colleagues who rely on one another for resources and ideas.  The group is known as the Reading Strategies Crew.

Because the Reading Strategies Crew's book study was a success, I connected with Kristin Richey, a Reading Specialist and blogger in my district, to recruit and organize a team of teachers who would be pleased to blog about various books which sparked our interest. Kristin and I have worked closely this past year to brainstorm ideas on ways to bring FREE and useful professional development to our district with the support of other dedicated teachers.  Since this amazing group of teachers, alongside some administrators, benefit from and love blogging and using Twitter, we decided upon a hashtag to name our group the #D100bloggerPD Crew.  In the past, we've worked together to reflect on various books, such as Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Move Your Bus by Ron Clark.
For our next adventure, we decided upon Hacking Education by Jennifer Gonzalez and Mark Barnes.  Both Gonzalez and Barnes often make use of Twitter to connect globally with other educators. They caught sight of our promotion for the book study dedicated to their book via Twitter and began *liking*, retweeting and commenting on our tweets.  My conversations with Mark Barnes via Twitter messaging and public comments on Twitter with Jennifer Gonzalez have opened my eyes to how genuine these innovative educators truly are.  Jennifer Gonzalez, however, went above and beyond and decided to give a shoutout to the #D100bloggerPD Crew on her Periscope and Katch Me sites.  Because of this recognition, I would like to return the shoutout to Jennifer and Mark for their dedication to improve our schools with simple and inexpensive *hacks* that can be implemented in schools the very next day.   Thank you for sharing your talent with the rest of us! (Update: Unfortunately, the video has expired on the *KatchMe* site.)  

The #D100bloggerPD Crew's Hacking Education book study has already begun.  Kristin's kickoff post is available on Reading and Owl of the Above, so check it out.  The book study schedule is below.  Stay tuned to learn more about educational hacks YOU can implement in your school! 
Happy Friday!

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