Dare to Care

construct, create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

17/Jul/2019
by Denise Krebs
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Implementing our Plan

This post is week 6 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

How am I planning to implement change next school year? My BHAG of improving English language acquisition and literacy at my school will be implemented throughout the school year, beginning even today:

  • I am taking two unexpected online courses called “Fierce Teaching” and “Six Traits of Writing.”
  • I am working on my year plan as I study my TESOL course.
  • I have bought 175 early readers to fill up my suitcases to bring back to our classroom collections.

I have no doubt that I and my colleagues will continue to implement the goals we have for the next school year right through next June. One step at a time. One student at a time.

 

 

08/Jul/2019
by Denise Krebs
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BHAG – My Big Hairy Audacious Goal


This post is week 5 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

This week Penny asks, “What goal is so powerful that you are compelled to move toward, yet respectful of its immensity?”

A big hairy audacious goal–the idea of BHAG, which was new to me today, is from Jim Collins’s book, Built to Last.  

I do have big goals, which include:

  • To finish strong at my school, where I just have one more year to teach, helping all my students grow in English acquisition.
  • To build our English department and curriculum, so it will continue as staff changes occur.
  • To improve student growth of English acquisition in the elementary department. Over the years, we have seen marked improvement of those making adequate yearly progress–from about 25% to 50%. That needs to grow more!
  • To hire more paraprofessionals, so we can have two adults in every literacy period.
  • To hire a reading specialist.
  • To assess all students in concepts of print, phonological awareness, and phonics at the beginning of each school year.

Is my goal hairy and audacious?

From what I read about BHAG and the example of Boeing bringing commercial air travel into the jet age, my goals so far aren’t easily articulated as one BHAG. It is not a vision statement that will fit on a t-shirt, for instance.

Jim Collins explains another BHAG about getting to the moon in the 1960’s: “…the goal itself—the mountain to climb—was so easy to grasp, so compelling in its own right, that it could be said one hundred different ways, yet easily understood by everyone.”

My list may be the smaller steps to reach a bigger goal. As yet, it is not easily understood by everyone. Perhaps they are the many steps to get to a BHAG that I have yet to articulate.

I need to think about this, and perhaps read Built to Last.

What do you think?

Can you see a BHAG for our school emerging from these literacy goals?

06/Jul/2019
by Denise Krebs
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Optimal Conditions for Learning


This post is week 4 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

What are optimal conditions in which to learn, for you, and for students? What a great question. I have spent the last decade really grappling with this question, but not taking time to really try to come up with the answers.

When I became what I called a “connected educator,” I learned so much. I became the chief learner in my classroom.

I passionately tried to teach my students to love learning and go for broke.  Some of my thoughts from 2012:

Then I moved to a new country, where the culture is so different. The educational values are not what I was used to. Education here is what I describe as more traditional. Students and parents are more competitive and good grades and being on the honor roll are the pinnacle. I have weathered my share of storms as I try to navigate this new educational landscape.

Now, this week, for the #8WeeksofSummer challenge, I was asked the question about what are the optimal learning conditions for me and my students. Today, I have a more nuanced answer than the 2012 writing above.

I have never before stopped to articulate what I think about the colliding of my experiences in eastern and western schools. I’ll take a stab at it today, but really these are just some random thoughts: I’ll keep grappling!

  •  East or west, I am still the chief learner in my classroom.
  • I use technology in the classroom, but not as extensively to connect and collaborate as I did when I was teaching in Iowa. We use Google Drive to write poetry, pen pal letters, novels, and more. We write blog posts. We create cool things like animations on brush.ninja.
  • I don’t sit at a student desk any longer. Actually, I didn’t sit at the student desk or teacher desk when children are present. Now, a student is usually sitting in my teacher desk during class.
  • I am up front at times, but always strive to get the students speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English.
  • Teaching English language learners has been a long and upward learning curve for me.
  • There are so many wonderful opportunities to bring English to students who are learning to use the language. English truly is one of the windows to the world.
  • I am working hard to teach a love for learning. I am constantly on the lookout for ways to do this beyond the seemingly all-important grades–I ask students constantly to self-reflect and subsequently self-grade, students help develop the rubrics used, we have Pearls of Wisdom, geniushour, we use Instagram hashtags that bring language use outside the classroom (#arsvocab and #arsreading).

I don’t think I have answered the question, but here are a few optimal conditions for learning worldwide:

  • Have a loving and respectful relationship with students. (Last year and the coming year, I have had the joy of knowing my students since they were in kindergarten, as I was their teacher then too. What a better way to love your students than to have loved them since they were little!)
  • Keep the foundation firm. Teach the curriculum that will help them grow as English users, whatever it takes.
  • Trust students to own their own learning. (Optimally, when we can get away from the grades, I believe students will rise to the occasion and enjoy learning more. It’s still a hope of mine that we can take the percentages away from the report cards through grade 5, and just report how they are doing on learning the standards.)

I guess these are conditions that work for me and students.

What about you? What are your optimal learning conditions?

29/Jun/2019
by Denise Krebs
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Leading and Following

This post is week 3 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

How are you both a leader and a follower in your career?

Jesus said some important words about leadership and following. I will answer this question with his words first.

One time when the mother of two of his 12 disciples came to Jesus, along with said disciples. They asked if they could be his right- and left-hand men. Then this happened:

When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” Matthew 20:25-28

Leaders should be servants. That means a lot of humility in dealing with people I’m leading. Though I am too proud, with the grace of God, I have become more and more a servant leader in my life, including my career life as an educator.

Another thing Jesus said is about following.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it…” Mark 8:34-35

Following Jesus is another priority in my life. Thankfully he helps me because denying myself is not a natural inclination.

Leading like Jesus and following Jesus have made me a better leader and follower.

20/Jun/2019
by Denise Krebs
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Inviting Innovation

This post is week 2 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

Who or what experiences have built you up into the educator you are today?

Joy Kirr’s post is the first I read during Week 2 of the challenge. Her story is familiar to me, as I’ve heard her tell it before. It also runs parallel to my own story, which began at about the same time.

I had been teaching since 1984–sometimes to a group of grade 2, grade 3, grade 7, grade 8, as a reading specialist with small groups of children, or for ten years as a stay-at-home mom with my two daughters. I loved all my students and schools. I always felt I was out-of-the-box and looking for how to be better.

However, in late 2010, something switched for me. Two colleagues came back from the Iowa Technology Education Conference and told me that teachers were using Twitter. OK, I thought. So what. They continued telling me about the connections they made, the Web 2.0 tools they discovered, the people that inspired them. They told me enough that I got interested and began exploring with them.

One of my first tweets happened while I sat at a Digital Literacy conference with Angela Maiers. I was at a table with Erin OlsonStacy Brown, Brenda Ortmann, and Eileen Kinney listening to Angela’s challenging message. As you can see that uphill was a steep learning curve for me in more ways than one. I had to figure out the difference between # and @ on Twitter.

Angela Maiers was inspiring and challenging. Here is the post referred to in the tweet below. The people I met on Twitter enabled me to learn much more than I was used to learning. I began to read more books, read and write more blog posts, and I learned in a new and exciting way how to own my own learning, how to take responsibility for making a new way.

When I was searching for my first tweets, I also ran across this one I wrote in 2011 to Jee Young Kim. At that time, I was helping someone find resources to teach overseas. I myself had never been out of North America, but here I was saying, “Maybe someday I’ll be able to teach overseas!” What? I was sure I was making that up to be polite or make conversation. I had never had that thought before. But three years later I was doing just that!

I have now been teaching in Bahrain for six years. Thankfully, the things I learned from others and my commitment to innovation and improvement have not stopped.

I’m still connected with educators all over the world through Twitter.  Even though education is much more traditional here, we are still growing professionally at each turn. Soon we will have the third annual EdCampBahrain. We have quarterly TeachMeets and hashtags to share our learning in the Middle East (#bahrainedu, #edchatMENA)

Then today I humbly received one of my Principal’s Innovation Awards at our school for engaging my students with things like blogging, Pearls of Wisdom, and Genius Hour.

Life is sweet, and there is such joy in this journey. I am very thankful for those who taught me what I know and for those who continually teach and challenge me.

 

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