TRUE Confessions of a “Global Classroom Teacher”!

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” 
~ Albert Einstein

What follows are my TRUE confessions as a “global classroom teacher”. Oops … did I say that? I meant “reflections”! Ahh … well … maybe this will be a BIT of BOTH!

I have JUST completed my SECOND year in a “flat classroom”. What does THAT mean, you ask? Well, for the past two years, I have been FORTUNATE enough to have been BLESSED with piloting a classroom blog. It came about innocently enough … as a way of sharing the connection we made, the year prior, with an NGO working in Peru. Along with my partner Tannis Emann, who was taking her Masters, we began to delve into some of the amazing classroom learning being shared through Twitter. Suddenly, it struck us … blogging would be a PERFECT way to share our Grade Three learning journey! True confession #1 … prior to that … I had NEVER given blogging a first OR second thought. Yup, you read that right … we were SHOCKED to discover that people had been blogging with their classrooms for YEARS before we tentatively began to wade into the water. I STILL can’t believe that it took me THIS long to discover the POWER of learning with a global audience once you have flattened your classroom walls.

Connecting and learning with the world = engagement + deep powerful learning.

Connecting and learning with the world = engagement + deep powerful learning.
Photo by Global Grade 3s

True confession #2 … it’s not always easy. This is where the “frogs” that @iEARNUSA talks about come in! Often, you have to eat a  LOT of frogs, as @iEARNUSA so aptly says! There will be problems … Skype connections won’t always work, technology will fail. Sometimes your PEOPLE connections aren’t as reliable as one would hope. These are all FANTASTIC learning opportunities for our students. I like to call it “grace under fire”! That’s not to minimize the frustrations this can create, because these issues can ALL cause angst. But, as Einstein so brilliantly stated, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” With persistence, patience, passion, perseverance AND occasional perspiration, the ENTIRE adventure is absolutely worth it. I will NEVER go back to teaching alone within four walls EVER again. There, I said it. I am a complete and TOTAL advocate for blogging with children. I firmly believe that the YOUNGER they start, the SMARTER they will be … responsible, aware, safe GLOBAL citizens with a CLEAR insight into what it means to be a MEANINGFUL member of the GLOBAL community.

There are SO many incredible books out there to help you learn ABOUT the world ... learning WITH the world DEEPENS that learning. Photo by Global Grade 3s

There are SO many incredible books out there to help you learn ABOUT the world … learning WITH the world DEEPENS that learning.
Photo by Global Grade 3s

After all, connecting and learning with a global audience provides both you AND your students with immediate experts in the field … it’s like a global PLN, (professional learning network), for your classroom. Who WOULDN’T want that? This global connection, whether it’s from comments left on your blog, or people you are Skyping with, can push the learning within your classroom deeper than you could have ever imagined.

True confession #3 … it’s OFTEN messy. Learning IS messy. When you pursue student questions, you connect with experts in the field, you learn … and …  INEVITABLY … you walk away with MORE questions. Talk about personalized, meaningful and engaging learning! FURTHER pursing their questions and curiosities is where the passion, enthusiasm for learning, personalization for your students and deeper understanding comes in. It’s a WIN win situation. Again … who WOULDN’T want that?!?

True confession #4 … time will ALWAYS be an issue. For us, it was finding a balance between the prescribed curriculum mandated by our Province AND pursuing, in depth, our inquiries and global “focus”. From the beginning, it was ALSO important for us to model effective skills for replying to our readers … and … this commitment gained us some faithful and INSPIRING readers who OFTEN pushed our learning even DEEPER. You would be RIGHT if you recognized that THIS commitment ALSO took time. This was truly time WELL spent! Surprisingly, although there was amazing learning shared in each of the posts, even DEEPER learning frequently occurred within the comment section through our interactions with readers!

During these two years, my students and I have been TRULY blessed to interact with and learn from the BRILLIANT Ross Mannell. Although a retired teacher, this AMAZING man frequently leaves comments for children on their classroom blogs. When I say comments, this does NOT do them justice. As a matter of fact, Ross has a SPECIAL blog he writes to provide students with EXTENDED comments. IMAGINE my students’ SURPRISE at reading this extended comment … AND receiving a VERY treasured surprise in the mail … all the WAY from AUSTRALIA! Echidnas have nothing what so EVER to do with our curriculum. But, animals and life cycles sure do, and … you should have SEEN the fingers flying on our iPads, as students conducted FURTHER research on our new echidna! The excitement in discovering MORE about our new class pet, Spike, was palpable!

A SURPRISE pet ... all the way from AUSTRALIA! Photo shared by Ross Mannell

A SURPRISE pet … all the way from AUSTRALIA!
Photo shared by Ross Mannell

Although time will always be an issue … many, MANY skills can be woven in and THROUGH each and EVERY global classroom  and blog post experience. For us, having a global audience … an AUTHENTIC audience … increased our skills AND our desire to write. It was THRILLING to see students begin to develop their voices … and slowly gain command of “reeling the reader in”! Although our blog has primarily focused on issues in Social Studies … Ross has helped us to delve even DEEPER into some of our SCIENCE and MATH curriculum. I am SURE that, because of his thoughtful and detailed replies to us, SOME of these bloggers may EVEN become GEOLOGISTS!

Scree samples from New Zealand ... thanks to Ross!

Scree samples from New Zealand … thanks to Ross!

True confession #5 … it is SO worth it. If you haven’t tried blogging with your students … do! I have NEVER looked back. Instead … I look FORWARD, in GREAT anticipation of where this journey will lead us.

It is NEVER too late to connect your classroom globally. Go on ... GIVE it a try! Photo shared by Global Grade 3

It is NEVER too late to connect your classroom globally. Go on … GIVE it a try!
Photo shared by Global Grade 3

I wonder:

  • what is one of the most POWERFUL lessons you’ve learned through blogging with your students?
  • what are some of YOUR true confessions as a result of becoming a “global classroom teacher”?
  • what advice would you give to someone THINKING about flattening the walls of their classroom?

This blog post has been cross-posted on The Global Classroom Project.

No Longer Walking this Journey ALONE

I just finished a post for the #globalclassroom January chats and thought it would be fun to do as a “celebration” of our year … collectively and individually … as globally connected educators. I was inspired by the #kinderchat tribe, as they sometimes refer to themselves. But … let’s back this up in time just a titch:

Dare

Creative Commons License  Photo by Krissy Venosdale

This is my FIRST year of involvement with the #globalclassroom chats.  Honestly … it’s my first FULL year of being inspired, DAILY, by my AMAZING twitter PLN and THAT is how I FOUND the #globalclassroom community! Over that time, I have changed MANY of the preconceived notions I held about SM.

I remember CLEARLY lurking through many twitter chats in the early days, feeling, VERY strongly, the “worry” of presenting myself “professionally” and sharing content with “valuable” educational links. Each tweet was carefully thought out. And, slowly, as confidence grew, I began to invest MORE of ME … still professional … still education focused … and my learning community began to grow. Along with that came the relationships. A shared joke, a favourite song, support during struggles, GREAT resources, INSPIRED reading, connections I never believed were possible … SO much more than I’d EVER expected. Who KNEW?

No matter WHERE you go, or WHAT you’re doing … it ALWAYS boils down to RELATIONSHIPS. The bottom  line is “you GET what you put INTO it”! I am inspired by SO many twitter communities and individuals. It was the camaraderie shared between the #kinderchat tweeps, who share, collaborate, joke, support and work hard at cultivating their relationships, that inspired my post for January’s #globalclassroom chat … a celebration of community, relationships, joyful learning and the journey.

Ignite a Fire

Creative Commons License Photo by Krissy Venosdale

I LOVE that twitter is a place where I have done some of the most AMAZING learning in my teaching career. I feel BLESSED to no longer walk this journey ALONE.

WORK – a FOUR letter word for MANY … but … NOT me!

It’s the second week of Summer holidays. My husband looks at me like I am the WEIRDEST person he knows. He may be right. As he heads out the door to work, not his FIRST choice for how to spend this beautiful Saturday in July, he peers at me oddly after I answer his query “So, what are your plans for the day?”

Atlas, it's time for your bath

Creative Commons woodleywonderworks

You see, I told him, through my HUGE grin, that I would be moderating a global classroom chat on twitter! Yup – I was choosing to spend at LEAST an hour dedicating my time to an online chat about the powerful benefits of using a classroom blog to “Enrich Global Citizenship Inquiries”. It isn’t the FIRST time he has given me the look that silently says, “Honestly, Laurie … I CAN’T believe how much you love your job. Don’t you think it would be better to hang out in the garden? Read a good BOOK? KNIT? Paint your TOE NAILS? Rejuvenate yourself before heading back in September?”

Don’t get me wrong. He supports me.  He is THRILLED that I am a learner and he “gets” that I love my job. Truly, he reinforces, for me, just how BLESSED I am. I know SO many people who look at their jobs as JUST that. A way to pay the bills. A means to an end. WORK. That word has so many negative connotations for so many people.

I am not deluded. Teaching is NOT an easy job. It is CERTAINLY not the 9 to 3 with TONS of holidays that MANY people envision it to be. It is fraught with worry. Am I fitting all the mandated curriculum in? Am I meeting everyone’s needs? Am I supporting, pushing, encouraging, INSPIRING my learners to the best of THEIR ability and to the best of MY ability? Am I communicating clearly and effectively with parents? How will they perform on their Provincial Achievement Exams … I KNOW it’s just a “snapshot in time” … but … if I’M this stressed over “our performance”, even though it isn’t a full clear well rounded shot of each of my amazing students’ skills, growth and future goals … how do my STUDENTS feel?

Yup. Just a little insight into the workings of my mind … generally around 3 in the morning … when lots is going on. Never mind the “politics” that can sneak its way into the profession. Or the seeming lack of gratitude, occasionally. Two little words #youmatter … #thank you … so simple, so easy to say … so rare. But, I am not big enough, brave enough or strong enough to have those conversations … yet! Maybe when I am 70!

Despite all this, when I am in my classroom, I am empowered. My students inspire me. Yes, we have our ups and downs … just like ANY family … but we work through them TOGETHER. I love that no two days are the same. I love that I DON’T have to know all the answers … and the POWER of learning and growing together is what fuels me.

So … why are my summers filled with continued learning? That’s who I am! Honestly, I just finished moderating this incredible chat with such inspiring educators … and I am INSPIRED. Each time I reach out, each time I actively participate and join a chat through twitter, I walk away ENRICHED  and EAGER to discover MORE!

This is the second time I’ve had the privilege of moderating a #globalclassroom chat. Our backgrounds and experiences are diverse and THAT is what makes the learning rich! It enhances our own learning and that of our students!

This year has been a year of SO much learning and growth – no time to stagnate or to get “tired” of the work that I do … and THAT is the BEAUTY of teaching. It is ever evolving. And, Twitter has provided me with the BEST PLN and PD to DATE. The learning, the support, the relationships are UNsurpassed. It is a positive space. For THAT I am blessed. For THAT I am GRATEFUL. #youmatter

I feel SO fortunate to be a part of this journey. Never before has the prospect of educating seemed to hold such limitless possibilities for me. Technology and the support of the incredible people I get to interact with and learn from each and every day, online, make being a life long learner SO rewarding.

Don’t tell my husband … I started planning for this #globalclassroom chat at 9:30 this morning. The hour long chat FLEW by. I learned a TON. I made new connections with inspiring keeners like me. I ate lunch. And … then … it hit me. I have to BLOG about this! I am not sure whether I should bless or CURSE the inspiring educator who challenged us all to the “Summer Blogging Challenge”! Just kidding. My personal blog is quickly becoming ANOTHER inspired passion! Shhh … it’s now 4:11 pm. WHERE did the day go?

I wonder:

  • Do YOU have a specific education chat hashtag that you are inspired by?

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!

Taking the Challenge!

When one door CLOSES … another one OPENS.

This picture is SO symbolic for me.  As I sat here thinking about my topic for the very FIRST personal blog post I would write for a global audience, I KNEW that THIS photo would have to be the FIRST.  Why, you ask yourselves?  Well … this was the beginning of my introduction to blogging.  You see, this year I had the honour of piloting the very first classroom blog for my school board.  Global Grade Three: Connecting and Learning Beyond Classroom Walls began as a way of sharing our Grade Three Global Citizenship journey, helping Mosqoy and Q’ente build a library in Q’enqo Peru.  Although this project is in its second year, the learning that both my students and I have done, through blogging and interacting with a global audience, has been so unbelievably rewarding.  So, while one door is closing … it is summer now and students are on vacation … our classroom blog is taking a “break”.  On the other hand, ANOTHER door is being opened.

I have decided that I am TAKING the CHALLENGE that @gcouros has set before us all! The Summer Blogging Challenge came to me just at the RIGHT time.  It is only 6 days into my summer vacation and I am already mourning the loss of blogging each week with my students.  I find myself revisiting our site HOPING to see more “hits” on the revolver globe … and checking for new flags like many of my students did over the 6 months we blogged together.  Ahhh … the true confessions of a learning nerd, (LERD for short … an affectionate label my husband has bestowed upon me).

Let me begin by sharing my “Twitter Love”.  This year has been filled with SO many “firsts”!  Up until November, I must confess that I thought Twitter was “fluff”.  Another SHOCKING confession, I know.  Honestly, though, between teaching and life with two very active teenage boys,  housework, yard work … and staying “sane” … I have to admit that I had NO desire to join Twitter to hear the latest celebrity gossip or discover what my friends had eaten for breakfast.  Boy was I WRONG.  Twitter has provided me with some of the most INCREDIBLE professional development that I have ever taken part in … and I’ve TAUGHT for 25 years!  Once you’ve signed up, lurked for a bit, found inspiring people to “follow”, figured out how to express yourself coherently in 140 characters, or less, and joined a few of the many incredible chats available, you QUICKLY discover that Twitter is NOT fluff.  It is TRULY personalized and available whenever YOU are.  Trust me … you will NEVER look back!

Thank you for the Summer Blogging Challenge, George!  You’ve helped to open ANOTHER door!  I look forward to sharing my learning journey with others along the way.