Dare to Care

Creating, Contributing, Communicating, Connecting, Collaborating & Curating

March 19, 2014
by Denise Krebs

Versatile, Liebster, Getting-to-Know-You, Merry Sunshine, Blog Meme Nomination

Versatile Blogger Award / Liebster / Getting to Know You Meme Sunshine Blog Post

I figured before two years go by, I should finish this blog post! It started with this post from Nancy Carroll in July of 2012. Yikes! Now, since then, I haven’t responded to these posts by Laura Coughlin, Marsha Ratzel, Jeremy Inscho, Joy Kirr, Tracy Watanabe and Paul Solarz. Now, Sheri Edwards’ post is the latest, and I finally decided to finish them all in one post!

First 11 Random Facts About Me

  1. I’m in my third year of taking a photo each day. Do you want to join in?  #T365Project (or for once a weeker’s try #TFotoFri
  2. So far in 2014, I’m failing miserably at number 1.
  3. I recently moved to the island kingdom of Bahrain.
  4. When I moved to Bahrain, I stopped drinking Diet Coke. Now my drink of choice is mango nectar. (I think they’ll serve it in heaven.)
  5. Friday and Saturday are my weekend days now.
  6. I have a birthmark over my left temple, which is always an interesting conversation piece with young children.
  7. I buy plain yogurt in 2 kg tubs, one a week, and I eat most of it. It’s my new favorite food.
  8. I haven’t driven a car since December. Mostly I walk–according to my fitness app, 4-6 miles a day.
  9. I’m always happy baking in the kitchen.
  10. Whenever I see a bag of peach rings in the convenience store, I want to buy them and eat them all. Typically I don’t.
  11. I’m trying to learn Arabic. (Right now I’m still in the intensive listening stage.)

Questions Answered

I’m answering a couple questions from each of the friends who tagged me for this post. Thank you, friends. It was fun to answer them.

  1. Why do you blog? I blog because I’m a writer, not a great one, not a professional one, but a writer nonetheless. It’s a way for me to write more than just for me in my journal. Plus, the best part, I have become friends with fellow educator-writers around the world and we can share our joys and challenges through blogging.
  2. What’s the most important thing a teacher can do for his or her students? love them
  3. Best place you ever vacationed? One very cold and snowy December, I flew from Michigan to the Florida Keys with my 2- and 4-year-old daughters and my husband, who was going for business. The air and water temperatures were in the mid 80s, and it was the most relaxing vacation ever. It was magical.
  4. If you were going to go out to eat, what kind of restaurant would you pick?  Chinese, Italian, Mexican or New American. –  My favorite has always been Mexican. I grew up in southern California, so it’s fairly second nature to me. I miss Mexican food in Bahrain. Now my favorite restaurants to go to are Indian.
  5. Who has had the biggest impact on your teaching practice? And who has altered the way you think about teaching? I could say many people, but in recent years, it would have to be Angela Maiers and Daniel Pink. Through them, I’ve learned more ways to allow children to take ownership of their learning.
  6. Who is your favourite author and book? E.B. White and The Trumpet of the Swan. Louis the swan is such an amazing character–full of perseverance, hope, integrity and grit. It’s a great love story, comedy, and adventure all rolled into one. I’ve read it to students in second through eighth grades. I wonder if my kindergarteners would sit still for it?
  7. Introvert or extrovert? – Definitely introvert. I can be outgoing when necessary, though. I enjoy a good social event, but when it’s all over, I am happy to go away alone to recharge.
  8. What is a favorite quote of yours? “The teacher is the chief learner in the classroom.” Donald Graves 
  9. What is coming up that you are excited about? Spring break. It will be a lull at school after a long season of grades, accreditation visits, pre-kindergarten testing, parent-teacher conferences, and more. In addition, there were no Monday holidays or snow days, like I was used to in Iowa — just a lot of five-day weeks in a row.
  10. What is the most rewarding thing about being an educator? Getting to know a roomful of unique human beings.
  11. What advice do you have for educators today? Love and trust the learners, listen, and be honest and humble.
  12. A Song that moves you – and Why? “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie” I’m not sure why it moves me so much, but when I was in eighth grade this song by Don McLean was popular. At the time, I was reading Flowers for Algernon, and to this day whenever I hear the song, it reminds me of Charlie, and it makes me pensive.
  13. A Book that moved you — and Why? Wonder by R.J. Palacio – I was confronted with my own experience as a childhood bully. It was a painful and healing read. “A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.” Franz Kafka
  14. You: in a six word sentence – Not quite a sentence, but today it’s “on a journey with my shepherd”

Bloggers (Some are Future Bloggers) Invited to Join the Sunshine Blogging Challenge

To these–some brand new and some long-time–friends in my PLN, how about if you take the challenge?

  1. James Kendra (@JamesKendra) – Watch him in a social studies TED Talk too. I want to take junior high social studies in his class!
  2. Ryan Berg (@222Berg) – I’m not even sure Ryan has a blog, YET!
  3. Shamaila Habeebuddin (@Shamaila80) – She has a nice class webpage.
  4. Jennifer Pearson (@mrsjpearson) – And her awesome third graders.
  5. Christine Sturgeon (@c_sturgeon) – Check out her fun librarian blog.
  6. Kris Full (@kristinefull) – Yes, you! Are you ready for a blog?
  7. Caitlin Buchholz (@CaitBuchholz) – She’s got awesome fifth graders. Maybe she’s got a blog too?
  8. Connie Fink (@FinkTeach) – Her profile mentions innovations, mission to inspire and captivate, insatiable curiosity, sharing and collaborating. No wonder she’s learning by leaps and bounds.
  9. Jennifer Rautio (@2jrautio) – Blogging with first graders.
  10. Carol Coutts-Siepka (@CarolCouttsS) – Maybe she’ll be blogging about genius hour soon.
  11. Tracy Sontrop (@sontrop) – Great tweets! Are you a closet blogger too?

 If you take the challenge, here are the few rules…

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

My Questions for You

  1. What is your earliest educational memory?
  2. What is a satisfying high school memory you have?
  3. Favorite quote?
  4. Tell about a favorite book made into a movie. Was it a winner or loser? Why?
  5. What movie is next on your list to see?
  6. If you were given a yacht, what would you name it?
  7. What are three favorite smells?
  8. What do you love to learn?
  9. What is something that changed unexpectedly for you during the past few years?
  10. What can you always be found with?
  11. What, if anything, have you learned or wondered about genius hour lately?

My Six-Word Story

Original image by U.N.  Development Programme in Europe:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/undpeuropeandcis/9929358703/

January 14, 2014
by Denise Krebs

What Changes!

I have been quiet on Twitter and my blogs lately because I have experienced major life changes that have taken all my energy.  I’ve moved from the Midwest in the USA to the small island nation of Bahrain in the Middle East.

I’m eating new food, sleeping in a new bed, and walking across two parking lots and up an elevator (lift) to go home instead of driving past ten miles of corn and soybean fields.

I’ve also said goodbye to junior high land, and have taken on the daunting role of English teacher to two kindergarten classes. I have 50 students in all, and I see each class for 1.5 to 2.5 hours a day, depending on the day of the week. The students are beautiful, loving, fun, and I am fully charmed.

As I’ve always said, I am a lifelong learner. Since I have a million things to learn, that’s a good thing!

I’ve also been “eating my words” when it comes to some of the things I’ve espoused and commented about freedom and choice in the primary classroom. Right now, I have a seating chart and even a behavior chart! These are things I’ve definitely shied away from in the past. So much to learn!

I am in my second week. Actually, even though it’s only Tuesday morning right now in my old stomping grounds, I’m actually 3/5 of the way finished with my second week. The weekend is Friday and Saturday and I’m 9 hours ahead of Iowa, so I just finished teaching on Tuesday, the halfway day. To be sure, I have not gotten used to the days of the week here!

Right now I’m getting my tail whupped, but I’m trusting God to fill in the gap.

I also want to listen and learn from you.

A few pictures on a Flickr set:

December 11, 2013
by Denise Krebs

Creative and Authentic – That’s What Parents Save

I’m moving soon. We are on the countdown, and it’s now 12 days to moving day.

This is a move of prodigious proportions. We have sold our house and furniture. We are going through all our additional belongings and saving only the most important. We have digitized VHS tapes, micro tapes, and even home movies on DVDs.

Today I went through all the saved school work from grades K-8 of Daughter #1.

More worksheets

AR certificates, math worksheets, spelling tests

So much of what I looked through was easy to decide what to do with. Into the trash can went high stakes test results, report cards, Accelerated Reader certificates, and worksheets.

It doesn’t matter if a student is a high achiever or a low achiever, no parent wants to have years worth of test scores and reports cards that give little information about who their child really is. Most of the report cards had meaningless letter grades with few heartfelt comments. Year after year of high stakes test results don’t show anything worth knowing about my daughter or her education.

Those A.R. certificates remind me of how teachers over the years required my children to read on their tested level. That’s one way to squelch the love of reading–telling a sixth grader she has to read books on a high school level. Really? What is the purpose of Accelerated Reader anyway? It doesn’t promote a love of lifelong reading.

Worksheets. We have stored hundreds of our daughter’s worksheets over the last two decades. Really, no child has ever been deeply invested in a worksheet, have they? Twenty years later and that is even more evident. These were easy to throw away. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all the hours my daughter wasted on some of these activities.

This looked hopeful…


What was in the proud papers folder? More worksheets.

Ironically, I didn’t save one piece of paper from the Proud Papers Folder.  This teacher didn’t understand that what makes a child proud is not papers marked with 100% or “Great Job.”  Children are proud when they invest in authentic work and do an excellent job because they are passionately involved.

To be sure, there were many items to save. I now have half a tub of  letters, science fair reports, artwork, proposals, (my favorite is a “professionally” written proposal to her dad and me for turning our pool house into a club house for her and her friends). Today, while looking through her things, I had fun reading her beautiful poetry and the personal experience narratives that made me laugh and remember.

Some she did all on her own, outside of class. Some were assigned by teachers, like this Pandora’s box made during a unit on ancient Greece.

But all are authentic and creative.  That’s what I saved.

Horrible things in Pandora’s Box, like spinach and Brussels sprouts

October 11, 2013
by Denise Krebs

The World Needs Your Contribution! How My PLN Changed My Life

I loved telling my story about how my teaching life has been transformed over the past three years, thanks to my PLN. It was called The World Needs Your Contribution: How My PLN Changed Everything

Below you will find the slides from my Reform Symposium Conference session (on Twitter: #RSCON4). The presentation has links to all the resources mentioned.

Here is a link to the recording if you want to listen to the 53-minute recording.

Whiteboard for my RSCON4 session

PDF of Chat from my session

Recordings for all the sessions at RSCON4 here.

More about RSCON4 here.

September 27, 2013
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off

RSCON4 Coming Soon

RSCON4 Attendee Badge

In a few days, thousands of educators from various different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON4.  RSCON4 will be held October 11th to 13th in conjunction with Connected Educator Month. The entire conference will be held online using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide.

Some of the sessions I’m looking forward to are Gallit Zvi on Genius Hour, Jason Levine on Call and Response Tunes to Practice Verb Tenses (sounds fun!), Michael Griffin on Working in the Global Classroom and Chris Wejr on Education Leadership: Creating the Conditions for Passion and Innovation. And I haven’t even begun to look at all of them!

I will be facilitating a session on October 13, Sunday, at 6 p.m. It is called: The World Needs Your Contribution–Really! How My PLN Changed Everything.

Three years ago, I joined in the world of connected educators and learned new ways to teach and learn—things I had not learned in 15 years from other educators around me. Everything changed (and is changing) for me. It wasn’t just about using technology in the classroom; I had always done that. This was much more significant—rubbing elbows with amazing educators in my PLN taught me a whole new set of skills, attitudes, and behaviors in the classroom. Five changes for me and my students include issues with choice, trust, learning, grading, and homework.

I’ll tell my story and leave time for others to tell theirs. Please join us if you have a story to tell, or if you don’t yet and want to learn how to transform your teaching for the better.

I’ll also share a reading and viewing list of the resources that have been most significant for me.

Many friends in my PLN say this with me–we are better educators as a result of our connectedness. I hope you can join with me in this session to share how your teaching has been turned upside down! Stories shared will help others who have yet to experience these significant growth opportunities.

Useful links (click on any item for more information):

We would like to thank the incredible organizers- Shelly Sanchez Terrell, Steve Hargadon, Clive Elsmore, Chiew Pang, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Paula White, Bruno Andrade, Cecilia Lemos, Greta Sandler, Peggy George, Marcia Lima, Jo Hart, Phil Hart, Dinah Hunt, Marisa Constantinides, Nancy Blair, Mark Barnes and Sara Hunter.

We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!

September 21, 2013
by Denise Krebs

If you had $3000…

What a fun question I received in a tweet today:

“If you had $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program, what would you buy?” Thanks, Rhonda!

I just had to write a blog post to answer that question. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure this list is exhaustive or that I won’t think of something additional tomorrow, but for now a couple things immediately come to mind.

First, I hope you already have access to great Internet connectedness and laptops for your students. If not, I’d start there with extra bandwidth and a small set of laptops or Chromebooks or iPads.

If I had enough computers for at least part time access for students, then I would get:

  1. A pro account on Edublogs and pro accounts for any other tools that you and/or your students love. They can each have their own snazzy blog and  join a world-wide authentic community where they will grow in reading, writing, presenting, and 21st century skills.
  2. Video recorders and editing software.
  3. A huge collection of Legos Mindstorms robotics, software, and Legos for students to tinker and create.

How about you? What would you do with $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program?

September 8, 2013
by Denise Krebs

Our Expectations of Creative Genius

Ouch…I just re-read Ewan McIntosh’s post, “20% Time and Schools: Not the Best of Bedfellows.” I must say, as much as I respect his work, I disagree with most of this post. Especially this bolded line, jumping out at us in his first paragraph: But in schools, [20% Time] often seems to fall short of our expectations of creative genius.

When I started genius hour with my students in 2011, I did not have expectations of their creative genius. I had expectations that they would learn to learn and become more creative. That’s all! To go in with set expectations of what creative genius looks like in our students is dangerous to the advancement of creativity and innovation. Every one of us who dares to become a teacher better acknowledge the fact that we will have students smarter and more creative than ourselves. (At any age!)

Giving students time for genius hour is tantamount to creating a climate of creativity. It’s not about EXPECTING students to create works of genius, that I would then set against my standard of what hits the mark of genius. My goal is always that they will grow in creativity. Big difference! Ewan said, “…there are moments of genius…but they are by a small proportion of students, with the vast majority of ideas failing to hit the mark.”

From The Passion-Driven Classroom by Amy Sandvold and Angela Maiers

From The Passion-Driven Classroom by Amy Sandvold and Angela Maiers

Of course only a small percentage of students are going to produce amazing “genius” inventions in elementary or high school. Only a precious few 4-year-olds are going to spend hours begging the world, “Don’t kill animals,” like Hayley did as described in The Passion-Driven Classroom. Our students are not ALL going to be the next Albert Einsteins or Marie Curies or Steve Jobses or Grace Murray Hoppers. However, they can all grow more ingenious, inquisitive, original, flexible, adaptable, persistent, willing to take risks and live with ambiguity. If given enough time, they can become an expert in something they love, which leads to even more creativity, and possibly to genius inventions and problem-solving further down the road.

My goal in promoting genius hour is hopefully to help stop the insanity of coloring in the lines and getting candy for doing worksheets and lining up in straight rows and doing only what the teacher says. Remember, that’s dangerous, for many of our students will eventually out-think, out-learn, and out-perform their teachers. We have to encourage that to happen, not stifle it!

This fall I had the opportunity to talk to four new kindergarten students, all with different teachers. My standard question for them was, “Do you learn how to color in the lines in kindergarten?

“Oh, yes,” one said. “Some kids try to color too fast and just scribble to get done so they can do what the teacher said you could do after we finish coloring, like read a book, use the white boards, and stuff like that.” I heard something similar from all of these kindergarten friends.

Yes, kindergarten classrooms are full of amazing supplies and “stuff like that.” How about if we let them use these things, even before they color in the lines with colors that make sense? What would happen if we let them make some learning decisions about coloring or reading or writing on white boards or using Legos or making art or inventions or what have you? I know all the schools aren’t Montessori, but can’t we just let them have some time to have fun learning to learn what they want?

When I first started teaching, I thought second grade was about the age students began to lose some of the joy of school. It got too hard or too demanding or they fell behind in reading. Now it seems to be happening with more kindergarteners. All of a sudden, after two years of lining up to teacher expectations in preschool, they are already finished with the joy and now don’t like school in kindergarten! (Speaking of kindergarten, watch this great video about Lifelong Kindergarten.)

We need genius hour, not because Google or 3M does it. It’s not about taking products to market, as it is for these companies. Ewan suggests that 99% of the products that come from the business world’s 20% time are mediocre, but I disagree that you can transfer that statistic to schools. Student 20% time projects that “miss the mark” or fail to meet “OUR expectations of creative genius” are not chaff, but rather the good seeds of creation.

We are making citizens who can contribute and make a difference in the world. Genius hour gives students and teachers the gift of time to learn to be creative and remember their earlier love for learning.

Give students a class period, an hour, or 20% of their time to learn like this and watch the learning in the other 80%-95% of your week grow and blossom.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

September 7, 2013
by Denise Krebs

A Franciscan Benediction

This seems to be a great prayer for Genius Hour and Choose2Matter:

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep
Within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people
So that we may work for justice,
Freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our
Hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with
Just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make
A difference in the world,
So that we can do what others
Claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to
All our children and
All our neighbors who are poor.


Genius Hour

August 14, 2013
by Denise Krebs

New Chapter


I am a lifelong learner. I’m always saying, “I learn something new every day.”

This summer has been no exception.  However, I only wrote one blog post here this summer. That’s unusual. Typically in June and July I’m busy learning professionally–blogging, vlogging, participating in moocs, attending webinars, tweeting resources on Twitter, posting Flickr pictures and more. This summer I really didn’t. I was sad I didn’t participate in the 20TimeAcademy mooc, Google+ Maker Camp or #clmooc, or submit a proposal for the 2013 K-12 Online Conference. I have totally neglected my #bookaday goal and my friends in the Open Spokes Fellowship.

This summer my learning has been different.

For the past few months, I have been learning DIFFERENT new things every day. I’ve begun a brand new chapter, a major-life-changing chapter.

My husband and I will be moving to Bahrain.  He will be a chaplain in a hospital and a pastor at an English language congregation. After I settle in and when there is an opening, I will be able to teach there too.

We have little international experience. (OK, actually, make that LITTLE.) We’ve never left our continent.  I have traveled to Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana in Mexico and Thunder Bay, Mississauga, Surrey, and Vancouver in Canada. In other words, I’ve driven to Mexican and Canadian border towns.

In February, my husband and I secured our first-ever passports so we could go to Surrey, British Columbia. At the time I thought, Hmmm, now that we have passports, maybe we’ll get to use them again before they expire.

Little did we know, God had a plan for us to use them. You can read more about our story on our new blog, KrebsFollow.org.