Saturday, April 22, 2017

It Takes A Team

As an educator this year has been one of my biggest years of growth. I have fallen in love with this year and the class that has given it their all. I'd love to take credit for what this year has brought, but then I would not be telling the truth. You see I am a puzzle.

A puzzle with many pieces. Each piece is from an educator that has inspired me, lifted me up, believed in me, and given me a piece of their time. These pieces have allowed my students to shine.

This year I have seen many posts on Twitter naming educators to follow. Whenever I pull these lists up, I always look for the same names. I look for 12 people who have helped make my classroom a place where I call a second home.

I wanted to list these educators who are inspiring every day.

Here are the 12 educators who are a must follow and why:

Mike Stanton @micronmike 
Mike is the real deal. He puts students first and has a growth mindset. Mike is an innovative teacher who breathes Project Based Learning. He has a student centered classroom that changes based on his student's needs. He' s a master with Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which helps his students showcase their work. I have found that I am always two steps behind Mike, but he always gives everyone a hand to get them ahead of the game.
*Mike is co moderator for the chat, More Than A Lesson  #MoreEdu

Teresa Gross @teresagross625 
Teresa is what I call the angel of Twitter. She is one of the kindest people I know. I have seen others have hardships in their lives and she is right there to pull them back up! She is extremely encouraging. She always reminds me to have courage and try. That there is no real failure because it is in the fail that we learn. Teresa has a love for reading that is contagious! She will inspire you with her passion for literacy. Her beautifully written blog is called, Loving Literacy and every post makes me smile. Each one is written from the heart.
*Teresa moderates different book study chats throughout the year.

Oskar Cymerman @focus2achieve
Oskar is an amazing writer who has a heart of gold. He blogs for Bam!Radio
His blog, Focus 2 Achieve tells how educators can best teach their students. His posts are always an amazing read! He is real, transparent, and knows his stuff. He is the author of the book, Crush School! It is a great guide in learning how to master the classroom! What I love about Oskar is his support. Reading his blog over time made me feel I had to give back. He encouraged me to write. Many of times we feel that we have nothing new to say. He reminded me that if it is from our point of view, then it has not been heard before. Oskar is a trail blazer.

Jon Harper @Jonharper70bd
Jon Harper writes for BAM!Radio. He truly writes from the heart. Every time I read his blog, Bailey & Derek's Daddy I strive to be a better person because his post are so impactful. Jon is one who fights for other educators. He wants us all to see we're in it together. He is the host of My Bad on Bam! Radio Network This program highlights great educators and one mistake that helped them grow. Listening to Jon’s program has made me become a risk taker. I have learned that it is in the journey and not the destination that makes teaching great.

Chris Quinn @ChrisQuinn64 
Chris is an amazing educator with a huge heart. He encourages those around him and gives much wisdom. He is always growing and changing in the educational field. His blog, Taking Flight by Being Grounded always calls for deep refection. He has taught for 27 years. He's been an educator, administrator, and is now back in the classroom. His journey is one you will not want to miss. 

*Chris is the moderator for the new chat, #EduMoves

Sean Farnum @MagicPantsJones
Sean is a progressive educator who lets his students shine through student podcast. Sean’s class is known as the #BestClassPodcast. Their podcast is so inspiring. Sean has helped many educators and myself set up their own student podcast. He inspired my school to reopen our sound room and green screen room. What I appreciate with Sean is the love he has for his PLN. He tells his PLN all the time that he loves them...and he means it. You can feel the love in his chat, #2pencilchat. He truly cares about others and their students. 
*Sean is the moderator for the chat #2pencilchat 

Melissa Chouinard Jahant  @ChouinardJahant 
Melissa is a creative and innovative teacher. She sees her position as vocational. Melissa has gone almost paperless in her middle school classroom. Her students are constantly challenged with her real world lessons. Melissa is a master with the maker space and creating student centered lessons. She has one minute check ins with her students to build relationships. Her blog, I Teacher I Mother has a post for every day of the year. 365 posts! It is truly inspiring. 
*Melissa is the moderator for #teachmindful

Blair Smith @mrsmiths56class
Blair is an outstanding educator with the most sharing heart. Blair has an amazing classroom that he allows his students to create. His classroom has flexible seating, white board tables (he created), and amazing IPad recording booths. Blair is willing to share everything with his students and educators around the world. He is a Skype Master Teacher and a MIE Expert. If you need someone to Skype with Blair is your educator. His class is even willing to spend the night at school to have Skype Nights! His blog, Blair Smith Teaching gives you an amazing window to his classroom and his windows are one of the coolest!

Amy Storer @techamys
Amy is the teacher who believes in every child. She builds relationships with students by listening to them, spending time with them, and showing them they matter. Amy is in the know about all the new educational tools out there and HOW to use them to help students learn to their fullest potential. She not only uses these apps for students, but has transformed the way educators use them for professional development. She is an expert with FlipGrid, Flocabulary, and Buncee.

Amy’s blog Converse in the Classroom is a must read!

Marilyn McAlister @RunnerGirl13_1 
Marilyn is the queen of Hyperdocs. I had a presentation for Teachers As Leaders this year and was having a mental block. I needed help. Who came to my rescue? Marilyn! I would call her the superwoman of Twitter. I have seen it many times in chats when someone needs help, she comes right in to give them information, lessons, or even google slides right then and there. Marilyn is also extremely encouraging. It is almost as if she sees you through the screen. She knows the heart of education is the educator and she treats each educator like gold.
Marilyn’s blog, Sunsational Sixth Graders gives all educators an idea of how to be the teacher all students need.

Holly King @hollysking
Holly King is an educator with courage! This educator is humble, innovative, kind, and sharing. She pushes for everyone around her to shine, yet she shines in every way. Holly started a book chat on Voxer. But with a HUGE twist, Holly was able to get the authors to come into the book chat to listen and share. She has hosted Ditch that Textbook, Learn Like a Pirate, and now Innovator’s Mindset. Holly lit a fire under 12 educators to read, learn, reflect, and move! She is changing the way her school looks at education and the lives of many students/educators in our country. I am forever grateful to Holly who has helped me become a stronger leader. She is what you call a school teacher instead of a class teacher.

Robert Ward @RewardingEdu
Robert is a fantastic educator. He is someone who uplifts and encourages others.Whenever I read Robert's post or his latest book I am always reflecting on my best practices in the classroom. He believes in the whole child and the growth mindset. He write articles for many different groups including Edutopia and Education Week. I am always thrilled to read his newest post or article because I know I will learn a practical strategy I can use in the classroom to inspire my students.
One of Robert's latest books, A Teacher's Inside Advice to Parents empowers both teachers and parents to help children reach their fullest potential.
His blog, Rewarding Education is well written and meaningful in the classroom. 

In education you cannot do it alone. You truly need a team behind you. In the beginning of my educational career I thought going alone meant I was innovative and daring. I now know that I set myself up for a fixed mindset. Over the years I have realized it takes a team to become your best. It takes many different people who will push you, care for you, and give it to you straight, so you can continue to grow. A team is what gives you a true growth mindset. 

I am so thankful for my team! Thank you for who you are each and every day. Thank you for making us all a little better than we were the day before. Thank you for the impact you've made in this world. We are all better because of you!

Alana Stanton is a kindergarten teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 13 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, and second grade. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

OUR Classroom

When I first started teaching I used the words MY in the classroom. 
I was concerned where MY desk would go, about the use of MY time, and about MY classroom set up.

At the time I never thought that the classroom was a collaborative effort that the students could take part in.

As I’ve listened to Jon Harper’s, My Bad Program on Bam! Radio Network I realized that I had a major mistake my first years of teaching: The belief that it was all about me.  

In the past I would be embarrassed to state this, but I have learned it is through great mistakes that we can become the people we’ve always wanted to be. It is in sharing this mistake that I am kept accountable. I have always and will always be on a journey of growth.  It is in the journey and not the destination that I have found joy.

The past two years I have become overwhelmed by the feeling that it is not about me, but about the needs of my students. My new mantra has become OUR Classroom. I use the word OUR instead of THEIR because I am a part of our class family too, but I am only one piece.

Two years ago my school became a Project Based Learning model for our county. Teachers around the county visit Mulberry Elementary, to see what PBL looks and sounds like. I attended The Buck Institute when we started PBL to learn how to implement this into the classroom. Learning about PBL naturally helped me find interest in flexible seating.

This is where my mind and heart really began to change.

The past two years I have noticed that I have become uncomfortable to make sure my students are comfortable. One question I continue to ask myself is, “How can I make OUR classroom a place where students have ownership?” Ownership in their learning, in their behavior, and in class responsibilities.

Through the mantra OUR Classroom, I reflected on how I could take the backseat and allow my students to have ownership of the entire room.

The set up in my classroom this year is flexible seating, but with a twist. The entire classroom is theirs to use. This includes the cabinets, the shelving, the filing cabinets, and the learning spaces. I have no desk in the classroom, but at the end of the day when the students have left I do choose a learning space to finish any work.

My students help set up the classroom. Each 9 weeks or whenever needed the students rethink the room. We decide what needs to be moved, what needs to be added, what needs to be taken out, and where everything is placed. My friend Blair Smith @mrsmiths56class taught me that students can be a part of these decisions. I have realized it is the students who need to make the learning environment. This helps them feel empowered, which helps them take ownership in all that they do.

After reading the book, The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey @jesslahey I also discovered my students need to own the responsibilities of the classroom. I used to spend 20 minutes after school preparing the classroom for the next day, now the students have that responsibility. The students clean up the room, write the board information, make any updates, set up the sections, and make the room a second home. Every student picks and owns a section of the room for 2 weeks. At the end of the day we play fun music and clean our sections together. I say together because I also have a section. This helps my students see I am also taking responsibility for our room.

The students have loved this new change. They are truly owning the classroom. Throughout the day I now find students checking their sections. I even had one child this week let two students know that this was his section. He asked them to please make sure they cleaned up after themselves before they left. My students love their classmates and always go out of their way to take care of each other. After hearing this child say this, those students made sure they cleaned up!

As I end my 12th year teaching I use the words OUR in the classroom.  I think about OUR responsibilities, OUR activities, and OUR classroom set up. Again I use the word OUR instead of THEIR because the educator is not out of the picture in the classroom instead it is a collaborative effort we participate in together.

It is an honor to be a part of OUR classroom each day. As I have gradually released the many responsibilities I had, I have found that my students are more confident and responsible.

I hear many educators discuss the idea of student ownership. In order for ownership to happen in the classroom, we as educators have to change our mindset from MY to OUR. In this thinking our classrooms can become a place where students truly become leaders who own their actions and their learning.

As I continue to teach I will continue to question how I can make OUR classroom a better fit for my students. I cannot wait for this journey to continue.

And if you are reading this right now, I personally want to thank you. You have pushed me to be better and helped me grow my students. And for that…I am grateful. Thank you!

Alana Stanton is a kindergarten teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 13 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, and second grade. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.