In April I started writing. Writing is something that doesn't come naturally for me. Singing you a song-yes. Doing a funny dance to make you laugh-yes. Running into glass doors-yes. All of those things come naturally for me. Writing, not so much. It has streached me and caused me to be open and vulnerable. Some of the things that I have written about have been silly and some have been serious. However all along this journey I have learned more about myself that I could have ever thought possible.
Back in June I participated in my first #oklaed Twitter chat. That first chat was an incredibly overwhelming expereince. I had no idea what I was getting into. Okay, fine I still have no idea what I'm getting into each week. I had no idea that the educators that I would connect with challenge me both personally and professionally. I had no idea about the amount of ways that it has encourged and grown my teaching.
So why are both of these things important to me? Why do I do them? Why do I put my heart on the line and bare my soul? Why do I spend an hour on Sunday nights glued to Twitter? My answer is simple.
Because it is all about my students. Blogging has helped me get my students' stories out there. Blogging has given me a platform to write about things that happen in my classroom and to write about things that effect my classroom. It has given me an outlet to express everything in my hot mess mind, and most of it is unicorns and rainbows. Twitter and more speifically the #oklaed Twitter chat has helped me forge contact with other educators. Educators that lift me up. Educators that challenge me. Educators that make me laugh. Educators that inspire me. Educators that allow me to be my unicorn and rainbows self. The educators that I have had the oppertunity to connect with are the best of the best. They are amazeballs. They have encourged me to become a better teacher, and since that is happening it is all about my students.
So why is this post, just part one? Well #oklaed the next part is all about you! Tweet me, email me, or send my letters via carrier pigions. What is your why? Why Is It Important To You? Why do you blog, participate in Twitter chat, go to EdCamps, etc? I will make a list and you will see it soon!
Thank you for being the best!
Monday, October 19, 2015
Are you an educator or have an interest in education in Oklahoma? Are you on Twitter? Are you participating in the #oklaed Twitter chat? Here are the answers to the questions that I wish you answered: Yes, Yes, and Yes! Since participating in the #oklaed Twitter chat on Sunday nights at 8 pm CST, I have grown a Professional Learning Network of educators that are only seeking to do what is best for kids but to connect with other educators. Please join us, it is totally worth your time. This post inspiration comes straight from last night's Twitter chat over the newly minted Oklahome ELA and Math Standards.
Webster's likes to define a standard as "an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations" Another definition is "a level of quality or attainment." In education we talk about and hear about them all the time. ALL THE TIME. FOR THE LOVE THEY HAVE TAKEN OVER OUR LIVES. Broken record. If you are an educator in Oklahoma you know the fight. You know the battle. PASS Skills, Common Core, OAS...the list goes on and on. Teach these standards. These are the ones that you will need to use. Oh wait....never mind, use these. Yeah, those right there, teach those. Nope, sorry don't teach those teach these. HOLY COW. Please don't get me wrong, we need standards. Standards hold us accountable. Standards help us understand what students need to know and how we need to get them there. It is a blueprint. So as a music educator my standards are pretty murky. While there are national standards for Music Education, I have found in my own little world and in my own little classroom I need three. We call CPR in my classroom.
CREATE music of high quality.
PERFORM music with excellence.
REFLECT on the work I am doing.
Now yes I teach all of the musical terms and ideas that they need to know but these three things are the most important things that I want my students to know and understand. I want them to create, perform, and reflect. I want them to create amazing, beautiful, and exciting music. I want them to perform that music with excellence. I want them to reflect on how they are working and take ownership for the work and music they are creating. So simple but yet so powerful.
Have we made things too complicated? I understand that my subject area is very different. I understand that what I do in my classroom doesn't translate over into others. But all I am asking is there a happy medium? A place were we can challenge students, prepare them for the future, and not completely overwhelm the teachers? I think we can, how do we get there?
Just Love Them
I say this a lot, but this is a blog were the underlying message is about love and loving the world around us, but love your students. Love them. Know them. Try to understand them. Let them know that you love them. That you know them. That you try to understand them. How do we teach in a world obsessed with ever changing standards? We love. We do what is best for them on a daily basis. We seek to make ourselves better. We seek to become better teachers. We seek to have fun in our jobs. We see the best in every kid, even the ones that you got to search real hard to find. We just teach. We do what we love. We share it with others. We understand that standards are important, but developing young men and women of character is equally if even more important. We do what is best for kids every single day. Things that we are already doing! Just remember you have the chance to impact so many lives. To change the life of a child. Isn't that the best and most beautiful thing in the world?
Educators you inspire me. Thank you for all that you do. For the love, you people are the best.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Comfort zones. I have the biggest ones. The biggest leaps of faith I have ever taken involved me stepping out of my comfort zone. Before I get to far into this I just to be clear that in certain situations having a comfort zone and staying in it is a measure of protection. Sometimes it is okay to stay in your zone. Looking back over the past few years I'm pretty sure I could have saved myself some heart break and stress if I just stayed in my zone. However for the most when I step out of my comfort zone, explore new things, meet new people, and encounter new journeys my life is better for it. Some of them meet seem weird, but they are my comfort zones and I'm a weird person so it is okay.
Leaving Arkansas and leaving my family to go to college in Oklahoma and then to stay in Oklahoma when starting my post graduate career was a huge step out of my comfort zone. I knew no one when left and went to OBU. I knew maybe two or three people when I moved to Broken Arrow to start my teaching career. This comfort zone. This leap of faith. It has been the biggest blessing of my life. Don't get me wrong, I miss my family, but starting out on my own as been an incredibly rewarding experience.
Joining An Adult Kickball League
I am not athletic. I hate sweating. I hate exercise. But this has been fun. I have made new friends. And learned that I'm really not *that bad* at playing kickball.
I thought Kodaly was just for elementary music teachers. I had no idea that when I left the comfort zone of "I think I know my job and what I'm doing, I don't need this" how much I didn't know my job and what I was doing, and oh boy did I need this. My Kodaly training has changed everything. It was scary and hard. It involved me having to do things that I really don't enjoy, and things that don't naturally come easy for me. However it has made me a better musician and a better teacher therefore making me a better teacher of musicians.
All of this has me thinking, what are we as educators doing to move our students out of their comfort zones? How we showing our students to take calculated and well thought out risks? Is it enough? Can we be doing more? In this day of high stakes testing are we just teaching kids the safe way to learn? Each week when I'm planning out my lessons I try to think of one way to move my students out of their comfort zones. In a music performance class, sometimes that concert we have coming up or that honor choir audition is what takes a student out of their comfort zone. For many kids just to stand on stage in a performance is a really nervous experience and if they aren't encouraged and pushed they may never take that step. I have seen so many of my students that have been freaking out before we go on stage, get on that stage and perform their little hearts out, and at the end are begging for more performance time! For the Love it makes me ugly cry every single time. I have one student and he as an amazing voice, last year he really wanted to audition for a solo, but was really worried. He could perform it fine in class everyday, but he was so worried and scared about performing it on stage for his family and peers. I just told him that I was right behind and him and proud of him no matter what. He stepped up the mic and sang his heart out. Girls cheered him on and were screaming out his name, he was like Bono. For a seventh grade boy to have a group of girls chant your name might be the biggest confidence boost ever. He stepped out of his comfort zone. Now this boy asked for a solo all the time and he sings everywhere that he goes.
We should all be doing something to get students out of their comfort zones. I think that easiest way to start to just know your students and love them. Let them know that you know them and that you love them. Once that they see that you know them and you love them, they can trust you. They can trust you with their comfort zones, and they can do more that you and they ever imagined. Just think of all of the cool and amazeball things that we can do in our classrooms when we move our students out of their comfort zones and give them more responsibility for their own learning. I can picture it in my head and I'm just blown away by it!
So I ask you these questions. What are your comfort zones? What is holding you back from chasing your dream? If you are an educator what are you doing to encourage your students to seek out more than their comfort zones? This week I'm going to challenge my students to identify their comfort zones and I'm going to share mine with them, and together we are going to step out of them. Together we are going to do some cool and awesome stuff.