Planting seeds and watching my PLN garden grow!

Japanese Garden, Lotusland

Creative Commons Nelumbo Nucifera

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to take part in some pretty powerful professional development.  A handful of these experiences are firmly planted in my brain … much like the seeds in a garden.  I will never forget … and … yes, I am “dating” myself, the moment I learned about “Mathematics Their Way“.   I spent a glorious week during the summer months, early in my teaching career, discovering the importance of exploring mathematics from the concrete to the abstract with young children.  I am grateful for this professional development because, although my practice has grown and changed significantly in the past 25 years, I still approach mathematics through inquiry together with the use of manipulatives and problem solving.  I continue to use parts of this awesome program even now.  I’ve sculpted it and made it a part of the journey.  Perhaps one of my favourite aspects of this program is the use of the Calendar as a teaching tool.  I’ve used it to explore challenging concepts such as  place value, fractions, decimals, multiples, divisibility … even with students in grade five and six. It was because of this training that I began to fall in love with math.  I can not honestly say that this is how I felt about it while growing up!

Then, there was “Early Reading Intervention”, based on the works of Marie M. Clay.  Wow … I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t learned HOW to teach reading, understand reading development, or how to support the reading process in university!  Later Literacy helped me to work with older students who struggled with reading while working at a school that specialized in supporting students with Learning Disabilities.  Both of these amazing professional development opportunities STILL help me to bring the love of books and reading to students I work with.   The magic of Blended Structure and Style … unlocked the key to demystifying some of the secrets of successful writing.  Honestly, I don’t write using a “formula” and I certainly don’t explore writing with my students by offering them a “formula”.  Writing is such a personal expression of self.  I do, however, pull into mini lessons, many of the little insights I have discovered because of these incredible experiences.

The day I went to convention, several years ago, and discovered the magic of the SmartBoard … well … that’s ANOTHER story! This experience opened the door to the almost limitless potential of the world of technology for me.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a professional “read” on the go. Supporting the reading and writing process and the latest research on literacy development has consistently been of interest to me.  Boys and learning … is near and dear to my heart … I live with two boys and I’ve seen their successes, their struggles and their frustrations first hand as they’ve worked their way through elementary school to junior high and now, gulp,  on to high school.  Even during the summer months, I  strive to grow professionally.

This year, I’ve discovered the power of being connected with educators on-line. The funny thing is, I haven’t borrowed a “book” since first discovering my twitter “love”.  That being said, I am better read NOW than I was when I was pouring through professional resources!  Case in point … my husband and I can be watching the news … and … OFTEN … I will think to myself, “hey, someone shared this on twitter!”

Your Victory Garden Counts More Than Ever! 1941 - 1945

Creative Commons Us National Archives

Twitter has exposed me to so many passionate educators.  I am continually surprised at how this amazing PLN will rise up, share their insights and offer support at the drop of a “tweet”!  Several times I have run into “snags” with my classroom blog.  All it took, one day, was a shout out: “What is the best way to showcase stories my students have written to share on the blog?”  Within minutes, someone put me onto flipsnack and storybird.  There are so many examples of how this group of “strangers” has supported my learning and growth. It is a community that supports, pushes the learning and shares beyond anything I have ever experienced in my teaching career.

The chats … wow … the chats … they connect you with so many people – people you might not even follow.  The exposure to new and exciting ways of thinking and working is immeasurable.  Lately, there have been so many awesome posts expounding the virtues of the on-line PLN.  They have all “spoken” to me on one level or another.  When John T. Spencer wrote “What My PLN Means to Me #whynetworksmatter“, on July 6th, he addressed so many of the issues I feel and relate to personally.  Teaching can be isolating.  It can also be very competitive. Never, however, have I felt either of these issues as I have begun to sow my on-line seeds. People like @johntspencer keep me current, forward thinking AND inspired! I LOVE that twitter has provided me with such a supportive and generous community of people who help me to support and nurture my ever growing PLN garden.  I am SO grateful to be learning from such a passionate and talented group of educators!

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