Who Are We?

Opening Slides

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Who are we? Where do we come from? What makes us who we are? Is it nature or nurture? For me, my family and the traditions that I was brought up with are so much of who I am that it is engrained in everything that I do.

I believe that I should be better today than I was yesterday.

I should have a disregard for the impossible.

My Bubeh and Zayde (great grandparents) came from Russia as young adults. As a child, I used to walk my Bubeh to the restroom because she couldn’t read English. In spite of not having a formal education, she raised four children. When school called, she had learned the formal system; she showed up, and whatever that teacher said was right! And boy oh boy, you didn’t mess with her! All that in spite of not reading. That perseverance came in handy; I remember her telling stories of the Cossacks raiding her village time after time as a child growing up.

My grandmother: she was the kid whisperer. Even though she wasn’t the most social person, she could strike up a conversation with any child whether we were in line at a store or wherever. She had an innate ability to bond immediately with them. When my sister and I both became teachers, she started buying books for each of our classroom libraries because, “They need to learn to read!”

She became a widow way too young and got the equivalent of a minimum wage job to support her four young children; she saw to it that each made it to college graduation. Her youngest, much to her dismay had a dream of being an actor. But she saw to it that he lived out that dream and went to Juliard on a full-ride scholarship to live out that dream -it wasn’t her dream but what her children wanted she saw to!

So how does this connect to my vision of education and to me?

That risk-taking of my grandma and bubeh?

As a first-year teacher I found myself in the inner-city where most of my second-grade students couldn’t read the pre-primer words. Innovation was where it was. The grade level text wasn’t going to cut it. Business as usual wasn’t cutting it for those kids. I knew that like my family before me I was going to have to take a risk and do it differently and get my students through several years of school in one year. Because after all, we all know the research: jail cells in Georgia are built based on the number of third-grade students not reading on grade level…and I wasn’t going to let my babies be part of that statistic! So as a twenty-two year old fresh out of college I broke the mold and I set the course for my career.

I was going to be a risk-taker. I was going to be an innovator.

These are beliefs that I have never stopped.

I have lived my educational career this way. I believe in this growth mindset. This is the legacy that I want to leave. We have to be innovators if we want our students to be.

What if we all committed to learning together? To innovating together? To figuring it out together.

Beginning of the School Year Message

 CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)  by Gerd Altmann

CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) by Gerd Altmann

As the new school year is starting, I have so many things that I want to share with teachers. Here is my (for now) consolidated list.

1. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your classroom. We don’t learn and become better educators, or better people for that matter, unless we take a chance. There will be times that we will fail; it is in those times that we learn the most, though. Pick yourself up, be reflective, be transparent, and move on.

2. Build great relationships. Relationships are the first step to having a well-run classroom. Without trust from students and parents, it is difficult later to engage students in learning and discipline students when necessary. You don’t want me as the administrator to have to save the day often because that weakens what you have established in your own class. Also, build relationships between your co-workers. We spend so much time together and rely on one another. Collaboration and teamwork is imperative. You are one another’s most amazing resource.

3. Become connected. This term has a whole new meaning today! With Twitter it is so easy to collaborate with people across the country and the world. I have made friendships that I never before imagined due to social media. I have learned so much from connecting through Twitter; from read my feed and from participating in weekly chats. Find some that apply to you and it’s personalized learning at its best! Start small and follow a few people and lurk if you are unsure. Join in a content or grade level chat. You will be amazed at how much you will learn. Now I have discovered Voxer and Voxer chats which have opened up a new world of voice collaboration.

4. Find one new idea that you will try with fidelity and use well all year long. Maybe it’s Edmoto, Remind, Evernote, Padlet. Whatever it is, commit and use it well all the time –not just every now and then.

What do you think is the message we need to give teachers? What is most important as we open the new academic year?

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