Category Archives: Thoughts to Ponder

There…a message about being here.

Note:  I delivered this message to middle school students a few weeks ago.  I began by reading There  by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.  If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest getting yourself a copy to remind yourself of where you want to be in life regardless if you are 5, 55, or 105.

Often we seem to be at a crossroads between here and there.  We are always wanting to be there…wherever there might be for you.  It begins when we are just babies.  Sitting and drooling becomes not good enough and we want to crawl, climb out of our cribs, or throw a fit just to get there.  Once we master that and are walking and talking, we want to be like the big kids and go to school.  Yes, there was a time that you couldn’t wait to start school!  Then, it seems like the cycle never stops.  Once you are in preschool, you want to go to Kindergarten, once you are in Kindergarten, you want to go to lower school…even in lower school all you want to do is be a fifth grader.  But when you are in fifth grade, you want to be in middle school…yet, ask any middle schooler in here and they’ll tell you they can’t wait to go to high school.  The 8th graders are really experiencing this right now.  They have all found out which secondary schools they have been accepted to and are beginning to rule out some schools and wait on others.  They are so ready to be there because they know where there is for them.  Yet, in just 6 short weeks, we’ll be in Canada and they will want to be here…with their class more than anything.  Eighth graders, I hate to tell you this, but you have just 12 more weeks to be…here.  The funny thing is that life will move on and you will be thrust into the crossroads between here and there for the rest of your life.  It will begin again in high school when you are looking at colleges, which will follow with possible grad school, travel, career, marriage, kids, career changes, and then you watch your own children go through it.  I’m sure you experience this with other facets of your life be it sports, music, and even friends.  It is really hard to manage everything while trying to be present…or here in the moment.  Most people these days attempt to do this with multitasking.  Listen to this podcast from NPR called, “Multitasking Teens May Be Muddling Their Brains”.

Multitasking – here, but not really

Now, I’m a self proclaimed multitasker.  You’ve seen me…I’m a phone checker. I have three kids, work full time, serve on a community board, write a blog, I just finished grad school…even my job splits me in two between teacher and curriculum specialist.  I have to admit that if I’m not doing a million things at once, I’m bored or I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything.  But, I’m experienced enough to know when enough is enough.  When I have down time on the weekends or vacation, it is down time…I’m talking hanging out in pjs, reading a book, going for a walk with the kids, and especially cooking.  I bet most of you don’t know that I love to cook…I’m obsessed with the food channel and eagerly await my foodie magazines each month.  I scour the internet and use pinterest to organize my recipes.  From this creative outlet, I have started a tradition in my house on Sundays by having my parents and sometimes my sister and her boyfriend come over for Sunday dinner.  Often the kids will help me cook or Reilly will whip up some awesome dessert…she’s the baker…I’m not.  But, what I have found is that it is a few hours that I am guaranteed to be here…with my family.  There is something to be said for the time spent and memories made each Sunday…even if we decide to have a low key spaghetti and meatballs night.  I encourage you to do something you love that would normally be part of your multitasking routine and turn it into something you really focus on.  It would be easy for me to microwave some nuggets, do the laundry, check twitter, and help a kid with a school project, but I make the choice each Sunday afternoon and evening to be here with my family.

When I was writing this, I kept thinking about the old saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side”.  It is like we are convinced that there is always something better and what we have or where we’re at is not good enough.  This is really hard when you are your age and people talk about the vacations they go on or the gadgets they have, but you know what?   It’s just stuff.  Stuff is replaceable and changes as you get older.  The stuff you want now is not the stuff you want when you are my age…believe me.  Each time you find yourself wanting something your friend has, put it in an imaginary box in your head…after awhile what will you have?  A box of stuff.  Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the Christmas when I was little and I got a pink townhouse dollhouse…not the grand white mansion I wanted.  My parents still talk about it to this day.  I didn’t get the thing I wanted, and you know what, I think I’m ok.

Speaking of parents, at this age, it is also easy to think the grass is always greener at your friend’s house.  You might be convinced that your friend has the coolest parents ever and you got stuck with the meanest people on earth.  Guess what…I bet your friends might think YOUR parents are the coolest parents ever….and…I bet you might be happy to have Sunday dinner with them when you are my age!

It’s not always easy to take the time to be “here” when you are pulled in a million directions or would rather be somewhere else.  Here are a few things to help you be present:  (adapted from this article)

  • Take notice of the world around you.  Find something beautiful each day and be thankful for it.  It doesn’t have to be something monumental.  This weekend, I had a daffodil pop up in my yard.  It happened to catch my eye as I was doing a million things, but I stopped to notice this happy little sign of spring, which made me smile.
  • Focus on whatever you are doing.  Be mindful and pay attention with all of your senses.  Try not to multitask and really focus on one thing at a time…I bet your work will improve and you might manage your time a little better!
  • Smile when you wake up.  Believe it or not, making yourself smile in the morning tricks your brain into positivity.  If you are happy, you are more likely to want to be here than there!
  • Commit random, spontaneous acts of kindness.  When you bring joy to the people around you, it gives everyone a sense of being present and happy.
  • Minimize the activities that dull your awareness of being here.  Unplug from everything and do something active or just go outside and soak up some sun.  See how long you can go before you start to twitch.  And if that happens, you should try unplugging a little bit longer each day.
  • Be thankful for what is.  Think about what you are thankful for now…things that are already here with you.  If you start wishing or hoping for something that is “there”, remind yourself to be thankful for what is in the present.
“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!”   You know, that Doctor Seuss is one smart guy.  I think there is a reason he keeps finding his way into our daily lives.  So on your travels from here to there, notice things around you…something might surprise you, make you laugh, or lead you to a friendship you had no idea could even exist.  Take a look around you today and remember that YOU ARE HERE.  Make the best of your day by choosing to be here.

Meet Me in the Middle

Middle School Mindset:  Connecting with Students through Engagement, Trust, Respect, and Opportunities

Recently, one of my blog readers made a comment on one of my posts.  I hope that she doesn’t mind, but it has been swirling in my head for a few weeks:

I am curious how you got your students to start thinking about their hopes and dreams. I find this to be a hard concept with middle schoolers. Any advice??

I was having trouble answering the question because in the 17 years that I’ve been teaching middle schoolers, I haven’t come across this situation.  So I’ve been wondering why.  I do ask my students to write about their hopes and dreams, their identity, where they are from, what they believe, who makes a difference to them, and I push them to think about what is right, tolerance and acceptance, forgiveness and justice, as well as broken, realized, and dreams deferred.  Every time they rise to the occasion and are able to explore their truth within the walls of my classroom. How do I know this?  I see them “go there” through their words, the emotion that sometimes overcomes them, and when I’m sitting in my pj’s on the weekend sobbing while reading their latest memoir chapters.

In really thinking about the dynamics of my classroom for the past 17 years, and the strong connections I still have with many of my students, I believe I have my “sentence”:  She connects with students by trusting them, by respecting them, by engaging them, and by giving them opportunities to find their own truth, passions, and identity.  If you haven’t written your sentence yet (or have your students write their own sentences), watch Dan Pink’s video below:

Ok, so it is more than a sentence.  It is a mindset.  I am from the mindset that middle school kids are people too, so I treat them that way.  I value their opinions, I think they can handle tough topics, I believe in them…I respect them.  I also laugh with them…a lot.  This mindset has helped me create a classroom culture of respect and equality that has become integral to teaching in learning within the four walls of the room, within the school campus, and within the digital spaces we have created together.   I believe in pushing them to be passionate about life and learning while taking pride in their work.  It is easy not to care when you are 13.  It is also easy to just cover the curriculum.  When the lines of learner and teacher are blurred, both sides become invested…this give and take is the key to the middle school mindset.

A few weeks ago, two boys were arguing about how much work I give went sort of like this:

Student A: Mrs. Pal, you give us so much homework.

Student B:  Dude, no she doesn’t, you just can’t manage your time.

Student A:  But it is soooooo much.

Student B:  Just follow her little deadlines…she makes small little due dates so you don’t have so much work.

Student A: (whining noise)

Student B:  It is so easy. Mrs. Pal sets it up so it isn’t hard.  It’s like Mrs. Pal teaches you to walk while still holding your hand.

Me:  tears (he gets it)

So how do I get students thinking about their hopes and dreams?  I ask them.  I share with them. And I give them the opportunity to only share with me.  They are free to push themselves, but I will always be there as a safety net…and they know it.  I will always meet them in the middle.

Overload. Avoidance. Balance.

Where I’ve Been and What I’ve Been Up To
Combating Human Deficit Disorder
There’s Only So Much You Can Multitask
I Have a New Position…I’m Really Busy
I’ve been avoiding this blog post because I was overloaded with tech and now I’m trying to find balance.

I did it to myself. I thought blogging every day for 90 days was going to be an amazing learning experience…and it was. The problem is that it became a burden. During my Summer of Learning: 90 Days of Metacognition & PD , I did what I do best…learn something, and then share it.  So here’s the problem…it was not a natural process.  I found myself scouring twitter and Google Reader every morning to “find” something… anything to learn.  It was fun at first, but then I found myself constantly thinking about what I could learn each day and where I could find it.  I was spending more time looking for things to learn than actually learning.

So…why am I here now and where have I been? I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and it wasn’t until this morning that my friend Kami sent me a video that put it all into perspective for me.  Take a moment to view it here:

I really had a light bulb moment…I had experienced technology overload, which made me avoid most social media since September.  My Google Reader had the evil “1000+ unread items” for months on end.  I occasionally posted a “happy birthday” to a friend on facebook.  I popped into twitter for about an hour a week…a virtual space where I would spend at least an hour a day interacting on.  Google+ was a black hole to me.  My blog…what blog?  Social Media had become more of a burden than a place where I was free to learn and collaborate, so I avoided it all.  I had a new position as Curriculum Specialist, was designing new initiatives and professional development at my school, was reading a ton of young adult literature instead of the latest edu-books, and was spending time with my family.  I have been truly engaged in my own world while just about shutting out the virtual world.

I’ve also been really interested in Richard Louv’s message regarding Nature Deficit Disorder.  Now, I am no nature girl…I think I had zero points on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence test in that area.  But I get it.  I see what getting outside does for my children…and my students.  My school campus requires us to be outside to get from place to place all day long.  So, for me it isn’t about picking up rocks and digging around dirt…it is about stepping away from the tech and resolving Human Deficit Disorder.  It is about finding connections in the real world, but balancing connections in the virtual world.

So where does that leave me?  Right now, I’m working on balance.  I’m reintroducing the virtual and social media world to myself by choosing the connections that I have found encourage my own learning and sharing.  I strongly believe in supporting new teachers, so I make the commitment each week to join Lisa Dabbs and Joan Young on #ntchat on twitter.  This purposeful and supportive chat has helped me narrow down my time on twitter while making meaningful connections.  I am in the process of scaling down my subscriptions on Google Reader in order to stay up to date quickly each morning.  As for Facebook and Google+, I’ve decided they really aren’t necessary in my life right now.  I’m supporting teachers in my school with purposeful technology in the classroom.  I’m making great use of my Kitchen Aid mixer with my daughter.  I’m playing ping pong with my middle son, and learning how to make oragami and bucky ball shapes with my youngest son.  I’m reading great YA Lit and sharing my recommendations with my 8th grade students.  I have given myself permission to not have to do everything, be everywhere, or try to keep up.  I’m going to use my blog for what it was intended for…as a reflection of my teaching and learning experiences in middle school.  It will not be a burden and I will not try to give myself time guidelines for posting.  I will post when I can reflect on a teaching and learning experience that has meaning and relevance…you know…something worth sharing.  It will be a natural extension of me and what I love to do…transparent, honest, and reflective.

Mapping My Summer Learning in 90 Days: An Experiment in Metacognition & PD


You know the old saying…teachers teach for 3 reasons:  June, July & August.  This statement has always infuriated me.  As most teachers, I believe I work with an incredible intensity in the summer months.  The time off from school allows me to regroup my thoughts, reflect on lessons taught, learn new things, read … a lot, attend conferences, and learn for the joy of learning.  These months provide the fuel I will need for the next year and inspire me to challenge myself and my students.

Recently, my position has changed to a more administrative role in curriculum.  Luckily, I will still be teaching, but I am now responsible for professional development, curricular initiatives, individualized teacher support, and a new mapping initiative.  Our first attempt at mapping a few years ago did not go as well as planned and it was abandoned.  Three years later, I have been thinking about how to make the process of mapping manageable and purposeful to the faculty.  I think I’ve got my answer…but that would require a lengthy blog post, so let’s just leave it at…I’ve been thinking about mapping and learning a lot.

June 1st arrived and I was thinking of the significance of that date.  I wanted to find a way to document my learning experiences over the summer so that I could use it to share my summer professional development.  I decided that I would map my learning for 90 days.  I would choose one thing that really stood out to me each day and explore what I learned, my learning path, and further learning. I will consider my Google Reader and Twitter accounts as my true maps of daily learning, but I want to document those things that push me to think differently, encourage me to research, facilitate discussion, and truly give a glimpse into my professional learning experience.

You can follow along with me this summer as I map my learning for the next 90 days here.  I’d also encourage you to do something similar….think about what you’ve learned every day and do something with it…embed it, share it, talk about it.  Reflect on your learning…it’s what we ask our students to do every day.  Be a student this summer for yourself, your colleagues, and your future students…create the kind of professional development you always talk about, but never seem to have time for.

Everything I learned about teaching middle school I learned in 1st grade….


….or passion+projects+technology=engagement

…or those first grade teachers are on to something!

…or teaching is a skill, not a content (or grade level for that matter)

When thinking about pairing projects and technology in my lessons, it actually isn’t even a thought. It has become such a natural part of my lesson design that my students, parents, and administrators expect it. This is not something I was taught in college…it is a mindset that was fostered during an amazing student teaching experience. Believe it or not, I student taught first grade. I was positive that I wanted to be a lower elementary teacher who could inspire the kids at the very beginning. My cooperating teacher, Kathy Horstmeyer, was the best of the best. Her classroom was not traditional…there were no desks, lots of noise, and the room seemed to transform into ponds, space, jungles, or whatever the theme of the week was. Students were always actively engaged in small learning groups, thematic projects, and thoughtful reflection of their learning…at a mere 7 years old. This is where I learned how to be a teacher. This is where I had a sense of how passion, projects, and technology could transform a classroom.

From this experience, I was asked to interview for a middle school position within the district. The thought absolutely terrified me! Of course, I got the job and began my own teaching journey as a 21-year-old teaching 7th graders language arts and social studies. The way that I conquered my fears in those early days is the reason I am the teacher I am today. I consciously decided that I would take what I learned from teaching first grade and apply it to 7th grade, but just at a higher level. I planned my lessons to be cooperative, project based, reflective, as well as infused with whatever technology I had at the time. I was going to replicate that feeling of passion, learning, and excitement that I witnessed in first grade… in my middle school classroom. You know what I found out? Those first grade teachers were on to something! Middle School students completely disengage when taught in a more traditional manner…they are kids who are passionate about different things, who are exploring their individuality, who enjoy collaborating, and who use technology as we use a pencil. Early on, my goal became to learn as much from my students as they learn from me…16 years later, it still is. Passion based learning and technology have allowed me to be a guide within the classroom directing students, and figuring out how each student learns best.

Personally, I think every student teacher should have to teach first grade.  They are the masters of differentiated instruction, project based learning, student centered curriculum, integrated instruction, and use technology  to enhance learning on a daily basis.  They are modeling the 21st Century Skills of creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, as well as communication and collaboration.  Go ahead…hang out in a first grade classroom…you’ll see…those first grade teachers are on to something!

A PLN Connection…11 years in the making!


Each time you make the conscious effort to follow someone, you do it for a reason…at least I do.  For over a year, I have been building my PLN (personal learning network) on twitter with educators, principals, edtech people, or basically anyone that I think I can learn from in education.  I spent time following conferences, attending virtual conferences, following blogs, joining nings, and participating in a variety of chats to connect with people across the world who are passionate about the world of education.  Professionally, I have learned more this way in the past year than I have in any grad class or professional development workshop.  In my opinion, online collaborative learning is the most individualized and inspiring instruction a person in education can get.

Along the way, I’ve met some people that I have truly connected with.  I think of them as my colleagues and wouldn’t hesitate for them to write me a letter of recommendation…they know me that well.  One of those people is Lisa Dabbs (@teachingwthsoul).


Lisa immediately embraced me in the beginning of my twitter experience.  She encouraged me, retweeted my tweets, asked about me if  I hadn’t been on twitter for a few days, commented on my blog, and even began deeper conversations with me over emails.  I think of Lisa as a mentor…someone that I look up to.  I am a few months away from finishing my Master’s in Educational Leadership and my PA Principal’s Certificate.  Lisa has made a career of being an educational leader and was a principal for many years.  I love her strong, open, and caring leadership style.  You can easily pick up on that if you follow her on twitter or read her blog.  Over this past year, these little connections have connected us.  Not only would I call Lisa a colleague, but I would call her a friend.

Now…here’s where things get interesting…

grandpa erin visit 098

Two weeks ago, my Dad and my 17-year-old sister were visiting from California.  The above picture is the moment just before my sister and I realized that we had this unbelievable connection with Lisa.  This is how it looked on twitter:


lisa 1


YES!! Yes, she was her principal!  You can imagine the look on my sister’s face as she was watching this bizarre exchange happen in front of her!  She could not even fathom how her sister in Pennsylvania could be friends with her elementary school principal!  To tell you the truth,  Lisa and I were more than a little freaked out about the situation! After the initial shock, we had a really nice conversation about Erin as a little kid and now a girl on the brink of adulthood…connecting to her childhood through her sister and twitter.  Erin had a fun time remembering things that really made an impact on her…a lot that was Lisa’s doing.  She remembered the caring environment, the multicultural inclusion, the murals on the walls of the school depicting children from around the world, and…her favorite memory…raising the most money for the jump rope for heart contest.  Interestingly enough, I remember sending Erin a check to support her in her jump rope-a-thon.  Here she is when she was in first grade with Lisa on that very day:

Erin - Allendale 001

The connections that we choose to make on twitter are not just random.  We connect with those that we want to learn from, we want to learn with, or want to teach and encourage.  This experience has reminded me just how connected we can be as educators.  Not only have I learned from Lisa on twitter, but my sister learned through her leadership, the teachers she hired, the murals on the wall, and from her heart and soul.  Lisa not only teaches with soul, she shares that soul…that passion…with everyone around her, regardless if it is in the real world or in the virtual world.  For those who think learning or socializing online is cold, isolating, and perhaps even de-humanized, all I can do is encourage them to try it.  Those of us who participate and learn from it daily are transparent…there is no digital divide…we are who we are regardless of the format.  Thank you, Lisa, for reminding me how it is possible to have real connections, friendships, and experiences even if you live 3,000 miles apart!

How do you define a great teacher?


Come on, you remember your favorite teacher…you remember their name…you remember the grade…you remember how you felt in their classroom.  So…what was so great about them?  My last post was about remembering a time when you felt like you really learned in school, which made me think about the people who were behind those learning opportunities.  Mrs. Edleman and Mr. Tucker were great teachers…interestingly enough, the two learning experiences I talked about in my four question exercise were designed by these two teachers.  Could it be that engaging students in authentic learning allows for great teaching and learning?

How do you define a great teacher?

  • Is it the college they went to or the degrees they hold?
  • Is it their certifications or the school district they teach in?
  • Perhaps it is their ability to teach to the standards or their classes have the highest test scores?
  • Perhaps it is the content knowledge they bestow upon students?

Or maybe you could define a great teacher by…

  • Student growth while in their class
  • Experiences that will be remembered years after
  • Engagement of students on a daily basis
  • Instilling curiosity, creativity, and learning into their lesson design
  • Their ability to collaborate and learn from other teachers
  • Making connections for students through subjects and technology integration…and making connections with each student
  • Learning as much from their students as their students learn from them

When I think back to Mrs. Edleman and Mr. Tucker, I have no clue where they went to college, what degrees they held, what kind of certification they had, or how they ranked in their classes with standardized testing.  I do, however, remember learning, growing, being curious and engaged…the feeling I had when I was in their room…you know, those invisible things that are hard to measure?  We measure teachers by tangible, testable things because it is easy.  As teachers, we have been striving to create authentic assessments for our students, so how about doing the same for teachers? Let’s redefine teaching and focus on those invisible elements by creating portfolios of our work, lessons, videos of projects, student samples, parent letters, and reflection from students…they’ll define a great teacher for you.

While mulling this post over, I received a letter in the mail from my youngest’s first grade teacher.  I can tell you that she is a great teacher.  Why? Because she connected to, supported, and challenged my high functioning autism spectrum little guy.  This is an excerpt of what she wrote:

I wish I could find the words to describe what an honor it was to have the opportunity to teach your son this year.  We have laughed together, learned together and grown together.  He has taught me many things about teaching and life and will always hold a very special place in my heart. His determination to do well, his kind and gentle heart, sense of humor and handsome little smile will undoubtedly take him very far in his life ahead.

Great teachers do these types of things…they are not just a teacher, they are a part of the classroom community.  They teach, they learn, they lead, they reflect, and they grow every year with every child that walks through their doorway.  A great teacher is ultimately defined by the expectations placed upon the person defining them.  It is different for everyone…we are, in fact, individuals.  We can, however, focus on that invisible element…that intangible…to give each student in our classes a great experience.  After all, it isn’t about the greatness of the teacher, but the greatness experienced every day by every student and every teacher.  Next time you hear a student (or your child) say, “I had a GREAT day at school!” smile and remember what that really means.

The Four Question Exercise

I’m currently reading 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life In Our Times by Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel. The book starts out with this four question exercise:

Here are my answers:

Question #1: 20 years ago, I was 17. I had just graduated high school and was off to Rosemont College with an electric word processor with a single sentence screen. Although we had a computer lab, students didn’t go there to write papers. We typed on word processors and wrote things out by hand. We had pay phones in the hallways instead of phones in our rooms. How did I ever survive without a constant line of communication?

20 years from now, the world will be a different place. I have seen so much change in the past 20 years regarding technology, that I cannot even begin to imagine that world in the future. I’m sure everyone will have a smartphone type handheld device and regular computers and laptops will be the dinosaur that my cool word processor had become.

Question #2: Students will need to be tech savvy, problem solvers, cooperative learners, travelers, multi lingual, creative, innovative, and be able to manipulate, sort, and filter an enormous amount of data.

Question #3: There are several learning experiences that I clearly remember. In first grade, the King Tut exhibit was coming to the United States. My teacher immersed us in everything King Tut. We read books, acted out plays, made costumes, and even made toilet paper mummies out of each other. Another was a science fair project in 7th grade. My parents were not the type to do my projects for me, so I was on my own. I loved being in control of my own learning and having choice in it. I didn’t want to do a typical baking soda volcano, so I rigged a pump that spewed spaghetti sauce out of it! I won 3rd place…all on my own.

Question #4: Wow. Learning would be a rich, dynamic experience…it would be what I strive for in my classroom every day. Students would be engaged in their learning..making choices, solving problems, and being leaders. I find it interesting that my most memorable learning experiences as a child were project based and integrated. I learned the most in these situations…I was engaged learning about King Tut and Volcanoes. I firmly believe that engagement is the key to true learning. Why? Because if you aren’t engaged in learning…are you really learning anything?

I think every parent, teacher, and administrator should ask themselves these four questions.  I’m betting the old saying “…the way I was taught was good enough for me…I’m a successful person…” would be quickly squashed.  Go ahead…remember that time you were truly engaged in school and ask yourself if that is how your students feel on a daily basis.  If they don’t, then find that engagement key and unlock the door to true learning for you and your students.

Can you see me? Transparency in Teaching and Learning


I’ve been teaching for 15 years…I’ve been learning my whole life.  My passion is the process of teaching and learning together.  I love learning from others, sharing ideas, and collaborating.  It is a part of me…an extension that is so natural, that I don’t even think about it.  Recently, I was sharing and collaborating with a group of teachers on twitter about a google maps lesson when a fellow teacher, Zoe Branigan-Pipe,  wrote this on her blog about me:

Well – I feel pretty engaged. Today, I thank @mrspal, a colleague in Philly that I met through twitter and blogging. Just read her blog: and you will see that she has a passion for education that is viral. She is transparent in her teaching and makes it a priority to share and support others.
After reading her post “take a walk down memory lane”, an interactive, inquiry based activity using Google Streets View, she inspired me to try it out on my own students. Within the hour, she emailed me her lesson plan/student instruction sheet and seemed as excited as I was. Now that is open source, open content, free, creative commons, license free at its GREATEST.

This absolutely blew my mind.  Zoe was able to see me as a person and a teacher within moments of our initial contact.  I wondered if others could see me as well without ever meeting me in person…I really thought about how she was able to do that.  When mulling this over in my head, I realized that everything I do online is an extension of my authentic self.  My digital footprint truly represents the person I am in “real” life.  So, what are the implications of this lightbulb moment?

  1. We need to be transparent in our web 2.0 lives in order for authentic learning and collaboration to occur.
  2. We need to make sure that our digital footprints are reflective of ourselves.
  3. We need to teach our students that it is vital to preserve their own digital footprints by being authentic and transparent.
  4. We need to be transparent in the classroom on a daily basis by being open, fair, accountable, and flexible.
  5. We need to be transparent in our learning.  Our classrooms are not limited to the four walls that hold it up any longer.  By collaborating and sharing, we are modeling transparency in learning for our students.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to step outside yourself  to see what others see.  I no longer see a divide between “real life” and “online life”.  I am the same person…I am transparent.  Thank you, Zoe, for reminding me of the importance of that.

Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids

I am inspired by kids every day; it is why I’ve been a middle school teacher for the past 15 years. I learn from kids about new technologies, interesting books, and daily life as a millennial tween.  I am reminded on a daily basis to laugh, be in the moment, and not take life too seriously all the time.  I witness moments of learning, sparks of imagination, and creative wheels spinning before my very eyes. I laugh, I cry, I get frustrated, I learn, I teach, I care, and I am passionate about what I do.  I clearly remember being a student teacher and having to write my educational philosophy.  Sixteen years later, the last line still rings true for me, “I intend to learn as much from my students as they learn from me.”  Thank you, Adora Svitak for reminding me that I am so incredibly lucky to do what I do every day!