Day 15 – #AprilBlogADay – Social Media

How has social media changed your classroom?  Personally? Professionally?

Social media has changed my classroom and me–both personally and professionally. Here’s the back story.

It started with this very blog. I wrote my first post on October 17, 2009. My blogging purpose was to help my students publish their work in an eMagazine, of sorts. I had heard a bit about blogs, but that’s all. We fumbled our way through the first steps of blogging, learning together (and with the help of the @Edublogs staff) how to add images and widgets to all of our blogs.

When we got our first comment, I thought it was magical and special. Someone had read our blog post! Looking back, I see I was talking to some vague audience. (I probably thought it was parents who might be reading.)

Well, little did I know at the time, there was a huge community of teachers and students connecting and learning together. I found out about this community through the Edublogs teacher blogging challenge, a whole year after our first comment came. The first post I did for the blogging challenge received 18 comments (a couple by me in response). What a difference! I learned early in the challenge that there was a conversation going on, and I could be a part of it. That first week, I met friends like Sheri Edwards, Nancy Carroll, Marsha Ratzel, Malyn Mawby, Theresa Allen, Tracy Watanabe, and Jee Young Kim. They were also participating in the challenge, and they commented on my blog. It was magical and special, but much more so than the one comment I had received the year before.

OK, so that was how I got started. Prior to that I didn’t really use social media. About the same time as the blogging challenge, I started using my inactive Twitter account. Soon after I got Facebook and a myriad of other accounts.

So, yes, social media has changed my life. Not all for the good, but I’ll leave that for another post.

My classroom has changed–I have used social media in education with kindergarteners, junior highers and college age students. It has broadened our vision and given us experiencesexperts and great resources. The world is not limited, as it used to be, by the walls of our classroom. Now, we have pen pals we can talk to every day on the other side of the world through our blog. I share pictures of my students on Instagram for their parents and friends to enjoy a bit of kindergarten.

I have changed personally. I connect (or at least keep up a bit) with childhood, high school, and adult friends on six continents through social media. I keep connected with my children (all of us on different continents) through Instagram, Facebook, What’s App, and blogging. Not only my children, but siblings, nephews and nieces, and cousins I had all but lost track of. I’ve written more than ever, thanks to social media outlets. Some of the new friends I’ve met on social media, I went on to travel to their lovely communities and meet them in person.

Similarly, I have changed professionally. I go to conferences, meet a new friend and can stay in contact with them through Facebook. I’ve created vlog posts, which is very unlike me. However, challenged by my friends, I was willing to give it a try! (I wish I would have know these people earlier; I probably would have tried harder at singing.) I’ve led more live sessions and webinars in the past five years, than I had all the previous years of my life.

All, of this is not the product just of social media, of course. The experiences, connections, challenges, friendships, and learnings have happened because of people. These relationships with people are sparked, nurtured, and able to grow stronger because of social media. And I’m thankful for that.

How has social media changed you?


Day 14 – #AprilBlogADay – Why I Teach

Why I Teach

Occasionally during excruciatingly busy times in my years of teaching, I’ve dreamt of quitting and becoming a receptionist in a sleepy office where I didn’t care about the service or product.

But I never did.

I’ve stayed in this crazy world of teaching–teaching kindergarten through undergrads (not quite everything in between, but most).

No matter how excruciating the schedule, I want to be here. I care too much about the service and product. Really I care about the sweet souls that I am privileged to rub elbows with, the unique little humans that I get to know and love.

I am honored and humbled that I would be entrusted to teach the precious people in my charge.

I fail a little bit every day, but every day I also have joy in being there to tie a shoe, listen to a story, inspire a writer, and see a light bulb appear over a learner. Every day, the children are why I teach.

What’s your WHY?

The assignment was to write Yy, but the extra message is from one of the reasons I teach.
The assignment was to write Yy, but the extra message is from one of the reasons I teach.

Day 13 – #AprilBlogADay – Literacy

How is literacy critical to the advancement of society today?

I’m going to assume we all believe literacy is critical to the advancement of society. Literacy is so multifaceted, though, I wonder what are all those facets of literacy needed to advance society?

Here are just a few random thoughts on this, a busy day in the middle of #AprilBlogADay!

  1. The world is so full of the artifacts of all of us literate people. It’s overflowing. Of course, writings, recordings, and videos can beautify, provoke, delight, challenge and ignite. But not all. Some harm. Some mislead. Some cause death and destruction. Some are banal and useless. More than ever before we need critical literacy to wade through the flood of what is available to us to consume.
  2. If we are to be heard, we have to also be able to produce literacy — writing, speaking, graphics, multimedia.
  3. Literacy in reading is so much more than just the letters and their sounds, plus sight words. I can teach my kindergarteners to sound out decodable words and memorize sight words. I’m reminded of this daily. If I’m not focused on comprehension, even at this early age, I’m doing them a disservice.
  4. We also need digital literacies, like in the ISTE Standards for Teachers (below) and Students. I wonder how long we will let teachers get away with saying, “I’m not very good at computers.” I’ve been hearing it for 16 years, since I went back to teaching, and each teacher had a computer in his/her room. Really, it’s time.
  5. What other literacies did I not think of?

14 April is Leaders for Literacy Day.

Day 12 – #AprilBlogADay – Passion

What’s your passion project?

I’m not sure it’s a project, but my passion is baking. I love to bake, anything really, but especially breads and cookies.

Over the past year, I have had a bit of a passion project. I had to find new ways to bake my favorite recipes with different pans, different ingredients, and different kitchen utensils and appliances in my new country of residence. Actually, this is still a project in process!

I love to bring my familiar favorites to share with my new friends. I’m always happy when I’m in the kitchen.

The MOMs group baked cookies together.


Day 11 – #AprilBlogADay – Reading

What are you reading, either professionally or personally? Why?
If you aren’t reading, why not?

Ah, today I like that third question. When I’m not reading, I like to be reminded of it. I like to be asked that question. It reminds me that a book is the ax for the frozen sea within me. (F. Kafka)

Those times when I need it most are the times I stop reading. Most often, I blame my busy schedule.

Despite the busyness, though, I try to take a bit of time most days to read the Bible because I love Jesus and want to know God better. And there is no better ax.

Despite the busyness, I am reading kindergarten books because I spend my day with kindergarteners who love to hear stories and are learning to read decodable books.

However, in addition to those books that I am reading, I need to add others. I need a book that makes me think, challenging me and my small visions. I need a book that makes me cry, laugh, get-away-from-it-all, or hone my craft as a teacher. I want to do all the reading!

I’m glad you asked, #AprilBlogADay, because I love when I have a book I can’t put down. Now, I’m going to find a book and read it!

Day 9 – #AprilBlogADay – Advice

What would you say to your beginning teacher-self?chief learner banner

I would give two pieces of advice to my beginning teacher-self.

  1. Don’t be such a know-it-all. You don’t know anything, really. It’s OK to not know. It’s OK to admit your ignorance. It’s OK to have questions. In fact, you will not begin to succeed until you become the chief learner in your classroom.
  2. Don’t do any harm.  Don’t take a child’s behavior personally. Hold your tongue. Hug instead. Only love.

Day 7 – #AprilBlogADay – Champions

Public domain image found on Check ’em out. Maybe you’ll want to buy ’em a cup of coffee.

Has anyone ever helped you in your career? Been your champion? How will you become someone else’s champion?

I’m thinking of Barb Davies. She was my instructional coach when I went back to teaching in 1999 after a ten-year baby raising break. My experience teaching in the 80s was very different. We were given textbooks and several teacher guides, and we taught what was in the textbooks.

Anyway, I came back to school in the new world of state standards, but I didn’t know. When I was hired, I assumed teaching was still the same.

I had a science book and a class of hungry-for-learning second graders. We did a picture walk through the whole science book, and I let them vote on which chapter they wanted to learn first. (I guess I could be a little innovative in the olden days.)

It didn’t surprise me when they chose dinosaurs. It was early in the year, our first or second week. We got to work making a bulletin board with 3-D trees and rocks. Paint was flying, kids were making dinosaurs. It was a big, beautiful mess.

In comes Barb after school for our first meeting. I thought she’d be impressed with the students’ mural. I’ll never forget our conversation that ended in my tears.

What are state standards?
What do you mean second graders in Arizona don’t study dinosaurs?
Why would it be in our books if they don’t study it?

Anyway, it was a memorable point in my development as a teacher. Over the next three years, though, Barb helped me, like no one had before or since, to become a good teacher. To understand pedagogy like I had never understood it before. It was all good. She was a mentor and my champion.

Three years later, when there was a new reading specialist position opening at our school, she recommended me for the job. I’ll never forget you, Barb.

How will I become someone’s champion? That’s a good question to ponder. I suspect I have helped some people along the way, but I like the question. I need to do some thinking about who and how to do that in a more deliberate way, as Barb did for me.

Learn more about the #AprilBlogADay here.

Day 6 – #AprilBlogADay – Awe-Inspiring Moments

What was your most recent “awe-inspiring” moment in the classroom today?

My students always inspire awe. There are many reasons–the fact that they can communicate so well with me in English even though their first language is Arabic (or another language) is one of the major reasons.

We just finished a ten-day spring break, and I thought they may have forgotten a lot. Instead, they came with enthusiasm, great minds and memories, and created spontaneous learning opportunities, like this when they began to make the letter of the week, Y, with their bodies.

Making Y's