A few days ago I saw #500c in multiple tweets as I scrolled through my Twitter feed. #500c is a challenge for school leaders to get into 500 (or more) classrooms for informal visits throughout the school year. That's a lot of classroom visits!
When I went through the tweets, most of those accepting the challenge are building principals. They were sharing about how much they've enjoyed being out from behind their desk and in classrooms throughout their buildings and districts.
As I was reading this, I was reflecting on the life of a coach, my goals for this year, and how I wanted to jump in and join the challenge as well. Sometimes, the life of a coach can get computer heavy, especially at the beginning of the year. I've spent a lot of time getting students put into different assessment systems, setting up asynchronous learning opportunities that staff and students use, and making sure our system is ready for the first round of state supported assessments. While all of this is important and must be done, creating online learning accounts and making sure our assessment system is up and running isn't why I became an educator, teacher or teacher leader. I became a teacher because I really enjoy kids and watching them grow and learn is one of the greatest blessings I get to experience as an educator. I become a teacher leader because I feel that my purpose in life is to serve. I want to serve teachers, students, and families. Serving them requires living in the space they learn and grow in!
Every time I walk into a classroom, l learn something new. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspired and passionate educators at Benton CSD. When I go back to the classroom someday, I will be a completely different teacher thanks to the many teachers I get the opportunity to observe and learn from in my current position. I also get the opportunity to be coached by my instructional coach team weekly. They teach me so much, push my thinking, and help me understand new strategies, methods, and approaches.
I started my #500c today! Pictures from some of my visits can be found below. I will be sharing pictures from some of my #500c classroom visits on Twitter and Facebook. Follow me at @AnnaUpah, #keyrocks, #BentonCSD or Keystone Elementary to see what I'm learning from teachers at Benton CSD.
What makes you lean in? Why do you lead? These were just a few of the questions asked in a session at #EdCampIowa yesterday. I attended at the Southeast location in Cedar Rapids at the Geonetric Building which houses IowaBIG and NewBoCo.
You know that feeling when you with you could be in two places, maybe even three places, at once? That's how I felt most of the day while at EdCampIowa. Every session was full of passionate educators sharing about topics themed around transforming education for our students, creating student leaders, integrating technology, social/emotional needs of students, and adult learning.
StuVoice was loud and clear throughout the entire day. I appreciated the input from students on what they feel is happening in education and what they feel like needs to happen in education. The way these students approached adults, shared their concerns, and offered potential solutions was inspiring. Many of these students are learning in "non-traditional" systems. They were students at either IowaBIG or the Kenwood Leadership Academy, both in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I left thinking, "What are we doing to teach students "soft skills" and allowing them time to practice for a variety of audiences?" I also wonder what we are doing to get authentic feedback from our students. One thing that I noticed while listening to students give feedback, not one educator in the room got defensive. Every educator in the room listened intently in order to understand what the students were saying.
There is so much more that I need to learn. As a coach, I couldn't possibly have all of the answers to the questions that come at me throughout the day. One phrase I'm beginning to master is, "I don't know, but we can find the answer together." EdCampIowa opened my eyes to resources that I didn't know existed. It also provided me with an opportunity to grow my PLN and have a supportive group to ask questions to.
Most sessions began with educators sharing their role and the district they work for. It made me incredibly proud to say that I am from Benton CSD and then hear it repeated by other passionate educators in the room. Our presence was strong and I'm proud to be a Bobcat.
Visible Learning is an idea brought to us by John Hattie. Beyond reading different books by Hattie, I have had the opportunity to learn about Visible Learning from Steve Ventura. Grant Wood AEA has hosted opportunities for area educators to learn from Steve the past two years. At one of his sessions this year, he shared a visual created by another district that he had worked with that describes characteristics of visible learners. We put own out Benton CSD spin on the visual and now have it posted in classrooms throughout the building.
We were able to talk about Visible Learning and student-centered classrooms during professional learning recently. During the session, teachers reflected their current reality of knowledge and implementation and on what is getting in their way of implementing some of the ideas behind Visible Learning in their classroom. Every conversation teachers had about what gets in the way went back to knowledge. We need to learn more about attributes of student-centered classrooms and characteristics of visible learners. If we want our students to learn in student-centered environments and embody the characteristics of visible learners, we have to build the ideas behind them into everything that we do and make it part of our culture. This will be a focus for us moving forward. We have started by using the Innovation Configuration Map, brought to us by the Iowa Department of Education. We are excited to use this tool to guide our conversations in the future.
The day of learning walks was one of my favorite days as a classroom teacher. I didn't know I could love it anymore than I already did, and then I became an Instructional Coach. I get giddy with thought of all of the deep reflection that comes out of learning walk conversations.
We changed a few things about the learning walk process this time around. We considered the feedback that we received after our learning walks from earlier this year. Teachers wanted more flexibility in where they went and what they saw. All doors were open at all points throughout the day for this round of learning walks. At first, there was some hesitation in the air around the idea that no one knew when their colleagues were going to enter their classroom. This was very different than past learning walks where teachers got to choose when their classroom would be open. My standard response was, "Just do what you'd normally do. No one is coming in with a critical lens. Do what you know is best for your kids."
Teachers added their schedule and/or lesson plans for the day on the schedule board. When it was your team's turn to have room coverage, you came and looked at all of the schedules and decided where you wanted to go. Most teams went to three or more classrooms throughout the day. While working through this process with teams, I heard a lot of comments like, "I've never been to.... Let's go there!" This was also a good opportunity to grab a piece of chocolate! (Another learning walk necessity!)
Teams observed for a few minutes in each classroom they walked in. After the observation, most teams met in the hallway for a brief reflection of what they saw and heard. This is by far the most rewarding part of this process. I heard many teachers make comments like the following:
Teachers will provide each other with feedback from their observations. This was always one of my favorite components of learning walks as a teacher. I wanted to know what other people saw and heard and what questions they had that would challenge my thinking.
My biggest take-away from the day was that our students want to talk about what they are learning. I asked a number of students about what they were working on when I entered classrooms throughout the day. All of them were excited to share what they were learning and why they were engaged in a specific task. This sparked some deeper reflection. What are we doing to create a culture where they have opportunities to do this outside of the 3 or 4 times a year we have learning walks? What kind of audience are we exposing them to? How can we start embedding this into our classroom and building culture?
We are so fortunate to be surrounded by so many talented, passionate educators. There is so much we can learn from each other.
Some might say this is cheating, but my One Word is moving with me from 2016 to 2017. I look back at this post from last year and think about ways in which I've grown to be more intentional and ways in which I need to continue with this as my focus.
I read One Word at least once a year. I appreciate what it has to say about resolutions verses the One Word idea. The One Word approach is deeply rooted in individual reflections. The authors of the book artfully ask reflective questions that draw you towards one word that integrates goals and action. Let me know if you'd like to borrow my copy. It's a quick read!
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Back in July, we decided no matter who was going to stand on the West Front of the United States Capitol and deliver these words, we were going to be there in person. On Friday, January 20th, 2017, President-elect, Donald Trump, will take the oath of office and become the 45th President of the United States.
800,000 people are expected to embark on the city for the 58th Presidential Inauguartion. We will head to the National Mall to watch this historic event in person. The only thing that worries me more than standing in the possible freezing tempertures for twleve plus hours with my nine-year-old is the logistics of getting around the city with that many people there.
ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, etc will be ready to provide you with the best (and warmest) view of the day's events. However, typically none of these stations show any of the preparation that goes into the big event. They have already started building the stage for the inaugural address. On Thursday, January 19th, we will live-stream the sights and sounds in the National Mall and bring you a glimspe into the final preparations before the big event. We hope to be live around 9:30am CST. We have also reached out to Senator Grassley and Senator Ernst to meet with them during this live-streaming event.
We will be using Periscope to live-stream the event. Periscope allows easy access to video content via Twitter or a link. The other benefit to Periscope is the interactive feature. Viewers may comment or ask questions in real-time. The easiest way for you and your class to join us is to follow me on Twitter at @AnnaUpah. If you are not a Twitter user but you're still interested, I will send you a link to the event via email. Please CLICK HERE to fill out this brief survey if you're interested in joining.
I will also be taking a Ricoh Theta camera along. This camera has the ability to capture 360 degree photos and videos. If there is a specific monument or landmark you'd like your class to see in DC or NYC, please identify that landmark in the survey. I'll send a link of the photo/video to you upon our return. Earlier this year, Buddy and Brooke Berry shared Google Expeditions with the elementary staff. This camera will take the same type of image that Google Expeditions provides.
Below are links with information about inauguration ceremonies of the past.
Feel free to contact me with any specific questions!
Guide to the 2017 Presidential Inauguration
The 58th Presidential Inauguration
Library of Congress Resource Guide - Inaugurations by President
"The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment." - Judd Gregg
Veterans Day at Benton Community is an event like no other. Seeing the inspiring display of patriotism by students, staff, and community members is a true honor. The amount of time and work that goes into the preparation by high school administrators, staff, and students and elementary music teachers and students makes this event a must-see by so many.
A group of third grade students at Atkins Elementary took it upon themselves to raise money to support veterans on an Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. This group of third graders came up with the idea with the help of their teacher, Kim Lynch. They decided to have a day where families could come into the school and have holiday card pictures taken. The money raised would then be donated to the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. During the planning stages, students wrote letters to photographers asking them to donate their time. We are so fortune to live in a community where talented individuals are ready and willing to help students in any way they can. Students did all of the work in planning and preparing the event from drafting the letter to families about the event to writing the speech that would be shared at the district assembly and memorial dedication. Students were all-in all of the time with this project. They felt ownership over what happened within their project and were drivers of where they were going. Students knew that obtaining the outcome they desired was dependent on the work they were willing to put in. Thanks to the amazing work of students, Mrs. Lynch, and many other volunteers and families, the group was able to raise approximately $1,400 to donate to the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight.
Not only did these students learn about different reading and writing ideas, they learned about what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves. They also learned what it means to be part of a supportive community. When I think of what it is that makes Benton Community "A Place to Belong", my mind goes to opportunities and experiences just like this. If you,or someone you know would like to contribute to this project, please contact Kim Lynch at Atkins Elementary.
Recently, Jonathan Wylie, our Tech Consultant at Grant Wood AEA asked me to reflect on how I've used Web 2.0 tools with students. Check out all of the resources on Jonathan's blog or listen to The EdTech Takeout, a podcast put on by Jonathan and Mindy Cairney. Below are my reflections. Please let me know if you are interested in reflecting on these questions with me or if you have any questions about my reflection.
1. How do you decide which tools to use with your students?
In order to decide on what tools I’d like to use with students, I think back to my purpose. As a first grade teacher, my students needed extra practice in some specific skills like word building. If my purpose was to provide them with a practice opportunity of a skill they needed to build, I would give them a tool that helped them fulfill this need. Most often, I like to use technology to help students go deeper with their learning by sharing what they know. In these situations, I provided students with a choice of a few different apps that would allow them to share their learning with a more diverse audience outside of the walls of our classroom. Other factors I considered when deciding what tool to have my students use was how intuitive the tool was for young learners. Could students use the tool with little to no adult support? If I could answer yes to that question it was a tool my students used often. They need to be in control of their own learning and work the some of the struggles they encountered through using the tool on their own.
2. What obstacles, if any, need to be overcome to obtain permission to do a project with Web 2.0 tools?
Using Web 2.0 effectively requires a mindset that is open to failing forward. Teachers using these tools must be flexible thinkers and make meaningful connections to student or teacher passions and content that already has to be covered. Teachers using these tools also must be willing to be the facilitator of learning rather than the driver. Students can use many Web 2.0 tools independently to share what they know. Teachers must be okay with allowing students to be creative in building and sharing their knowledge. As far as permission goes, teachers need permission from their administrators to try something new and know that it is okay if it doesn’t work the first time. Also, obtaining parent permission to share student work is important. Almost 100% of the time, parents are okay with it when they realize the teacher isn’t sharing first and last names and see and understand what type of learning is occurring when students are given permission to share. In my experience, all it takes to cure a hesitant parent is to show them the work of other students. After seeing other students showcase their learning with Web 2.0 tools, they ask to see their child’s work. They, in turn, share with grandparents, aunts, uncles, on Facebook, etc.
3. What advice would you give to a teacher seeking to replicate your efforts?
Try something! Start somewhere! It is easy to keep the iPads in your classroom stacked in the corner without a charge. However, it is even more rewarding when you get to witness students creating and using the tools to share what their learning as a result from being exposed to the content you’re sharing. I encourage teachers to start with an area of interest of their own and go all in. Think about a thematic unit or topic that you love. What resources, books, posters, etc do you already have? What can you find online? How can you facilitate experiences for your students to learn more about the topic? What skills in reading, math, and science do you have to cover? How can you embed those skills into this topic/content? Give it time. It’s okay to spend a month or more on a specific topic. We need to be okay going deep instead of just stopping at the surface. Going deep takes time. Create an experience your students might never get to have if it wasn’t for you as their teacher. Connect with an expert on that topic. Most of the time, experts are excited to hear that students are learning about their passion. Invite families in. They need to know and see what is going on during their child’s day. Giving them a glimpse into what is going on will allow them to support your classroom in more ways than they already are. Share. Share. Share. Share everything along the way. When you’re done, take a day to reflect with your class. You’ll have loved the learning journey so much, you’ll start on another topic before you know it.
Wow. I can't think of a more fitting word to describe the last few days of learning at iPadU hosted by the Digital Learning Team at Grant Wood AEA. iPadU is a three day event focused on integration and effective use of the iPad in classrooms. A number of passionate educators shared their tips and tricks for iPad implementation. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from so many experts in this area.
Clay Reisler (@RecessDuty) kicked us off on Wednesday morning with an engaging, energetic presentation focused on how to use the iPad to help students and teachers increase conversation, critical thinking, collaboration, creation, and contributions. I appreciated his upbeat, comedic approach to presenting. His passion about using technology in education in today's classroom is contagious.
I got to try BreakoutEDU while at iPadU with Beth Swantz (@betswan). This was my first time in a BreakoutEDU session. They always fill up so quickly at other conferences, so I was so glad they offered it at iPadU multiple times. I see so many classroom applications for BreakoutEDU. I really like how the session we broke out of went through a culmination of activities that the fourth grade class it was designed for experienced throughout the year. I also see this being a great staff building activity at any point throughout the year. There are so, so many ideas shared on the BreakoutEDU Facebook page. Always excited to see educators share, share, share!
There are a few themes I took away from the three days of learning.
There is so much power in educators connecting. We've been hearing it for years, but I still get giddy when I meet people I've seen in Twitterverse in person. I also get super excited when I am able to connect with other educators and learn something new and exciting from them. I was able to connect with a variety of educators over the last three days. Some of them are just starting out their journey and some of been part of the education world for many years. I learned something from every single one of them.
Often times, educators connect because they have something to share. I'm convinced that education is the profession that shares the most. In education we depend on colleagues to share and share alike. Sometimes we need help making connections with other educators so we are able to share. iPadU was a great opportunity for so many to connect and SHARE. Mid-summer was a great time for educators to come together around this topic of tech integration and share. We could take it all in without having to worry about tomorrow's lesson plans or creating that assessment before the end of the week.
All of the connecting and sharing inspired a new level of learning for everyone in attendance. It is amazing what we are able to learn from each other. Everyone knows something I don't. I was inspired by all of the educators who really embodied characteristics of lifelong learners at iPadU. As educators, this is the most powerful gift we can give our students. Every single educator in every single session was learning something throughout the three days. That is a LOT of learning in a short amount of time. By connecting and sharing, we will be able to continue to learn.
Thankful is how I feel about the opportunity to share at iPadU this year. I am thankful to have talented colleagues, Kim Fisher (@Mrs_KFisher) and Andrea Townsley (@townsleyaj), to share with at different conferences around the state. I am thankful that parents were willing to share their child with us so we could give educators an authentic maker experience with students. I am thankful that the Digital Learning Team at Grant Wood AEA hosted this event. I am thankful for their dedication to serve districts, teachers, and students in eastern Iowa. I am thankful that the team is passionate, kind, and willing to share. I am also thankful that they can laugh with each other and make the rest of us laugh along with them.
Below are some of the things I'm excited to try and bring back to my colleagues at Benton Community. I am thankful for those who were willing to sharing with me.
Flipboard - @j_allen
SeeSaw/Libraries of Life - @TeamCairney
Opinion/Podcasting - @jonathanwylie
BreakoutEDU - @betswan
Canva - @abridgesmith
Aurasma - @jmasrsh77
Splice - @grogers1010
Expeditions - @sbehmer
Find resources for the presentations I was part of HERE. Please contact me if you are interested in collaborating or if I can serve you in the future.
Check out the pictures below of some of our Bobcats sharing their maker tools with teachers at iPadU.
Wow. Even on day 3 of being post-BCedCamp, my mind is still rolling with new ideas I learned from the 115 Iowa edcuators in attendance. BCedCamp 2016 was a huge success. I am thankful for the Benton Community Teacher Leadership Team (BCTLT) who put it together and those who attended and shared experiences as a teacher-leader.
As I transition from classroom teacher to full-time instructional coach, I have a wide variety of emotions. The strongest emotion I feel is excitement. I am excited to get the opportunity to work and learn with staff, students, and families that attend the Atkins Center. I am also excited to get to work and learn with the other members of BCTLT. Nervousness is another feeling I've been experiencing as I continue to embrace the transition. Thankfully, I was able to connect with so many ICs on Thursday and now feel as though I have asupport group within and outside of my colleagues and family.
Connecting and Supporting:
I always get excited when I get the opportunity to meet other educators face-to-face. Connecting on Twitter and other social media outlets has definitely been a way of life for me the last few years, but when I'm able to meet someone in person, it always seems impact me in a different way. Over 100 educators from almost 40 different districts across Iowa attended BCedCamp. That's a whole lot of passion in one building! It all came through loud and clear as sessions got underway. There were sessions on math and literacy stations, instructional coaching, PLCs, data teams, makerspaces, and more. In every single session, there were educators who spoke up and shared their experiences, answered questions, and offered solutions. I did try to attend sessions focused on instructional coaching. In each session, current instructional coaches talked about needing to have a "support group" that consisted of other coaches. I feel fortunate to be joining a team of experienced instructional coaches to lean on. Some in attendance were the only instructional coach in their building or even district. However, people were sharing contact information like email, cell phone numbers, and Twitter handles in order to either gain or grow their support group. It was amazing! There is power in being a connected educator. Connecting with other educators will help you help others. When you are connected, you can be supported by those you're connected with. When you are supported, you are able to be better and do better for those you serve.
This was probably the biggest, loudest, proudest theme from the sessions that I attended. Taking time to build relationships is key for those in a leadership role. Trust is at the foundation of who we are and what we do as educators. For me, it goes even deeper. I enjoy a lot of different hobbies like swimming, biking, and traveling. Everything we do requires trust. We have to trust ourselves and trust others in every situation. Sometimes, we have longer amounts of time to build and develop the trusting relationship. When I think about swimming and trusting lifeguards, I usually get a few days to build relationships and trust amongst the lifeguards I work with. When I think about flying and trusting the flight crew, I get only seconds to build relationship and trust amongst the people who are getting me from point A to point B. Parenting taxes my ability to trust than any other role. I have to trust those who I choose to surround my child with. Sometimes I get a longer period of time to devleop that trust and other times I don't. Without trust, life is adventureless. Taking time to build trusting relationships will be a priority for me as I move into the instructional coach role. Actively listening to my peers and what they need from me will be how I move forward to build relationships.
At the end of the day, I am grateful. I am grateful to have met and been influenced by so many passionate Iowa educators. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to serve a district that I care truly, madly, deeply about as an instructional coach. I am grateful for my family and friends who have supported me through this process. I am grateful that I am a Bobcat.
When I was at the farmer's market the other day, I ran into a man who is chasing his dream. He created a line called The Red Piglet. Check out his online shop. As I stood in his booth and read his message, my eyes filled with tears. I had to get a couple of his shirts and cards because he accurately shares what I feel in so many of his messages. I am grateful to get the opportunity to practice my purpose.