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Stages of Grief

When my paternal grandmother passed away a few years ago I flew home to Wisconsin.

I always knew her as loving, loud, and goofy in her dramatic bawling-at-greeting-cards and thrift-store-treasures way. What I did not truly understand until after her passing is just how strong she was. For reasons too personal to explain here, many times she found herself a single parent, raising multiple children, on a waitress’ wages. She chose to leave when she had to protect her family, dealt with lose when it arrived suddenly, and then arrived again. Raised children while limiting their sense of the struggle, working for their happiness.

She was a fighter in a way I am sad to say I only better understood while sitting at my parent’s dining room table, with a small box of photos open on the blue table cloth. Holding one of grandma, a now-yellowed black and white, of her in her senior year of high school. Curly-haired, flowered-dressed, sitting on a short fieldstone wall and smiling like the world was hers to take.

When I got home the day before, to Wisconsin, we all hugged and held and cried. The stroke a year or so earlier left her a fighter in a different way.

The pastor from my parent’s church came for a home visit in preparation for the funeral. We gathered in my parent’s family room, arranged on the big beige couches, with boxes of Kleenex (we call it by it’s proper name).

My quiet father cried. We shut up and let him, and cried silently, too.

Then she began, “I want to give you some advice I have learned: Everyone grieves differently after a death. Some will rage, some will cry, some others will never cry and not understand why they can’t make the tears come. Some may even laugh. Others may go about things as if it’s all normal and fine. You may do a bunch of these, too.

“You need to be forgiving of others, right now. Their grief will not look like your grief.

“At times you may find yourself angry with them, ‘why isn’t she crying?’ ‘why doesn’t he listen, doesn’t he know what I’m going through?’ Know that they are grieving, too, even if you don’t understand it. Forgive them for not being their best selves when they are not. Forgive them for not grieving in ways that make sense to you. Forgive them and give them the space they need.

“You also need to be forgiving of yourself. You need to take the time to stop when your body says stop. Excuse yourself for not acting how you think you should. When you mess up with someone, or yourself, try to understand this is how you are grieving right now. It is okay.

“There is no one way to do this. There is no one correct way. All ways are okay. You need to know that and allow that of others.”

 

This, of course, did not mean we should be dismissive. Being from the midwest, we have a knack for biting sarcasm. This did not mean to think, oh how cute, you’re mad, you’ll get over it.  Instead, it was a reminder that we should continue to work our hardest to empathize, or at least sympathize.

It was also a caution that fights could break out, disagreements could be had, but to recognize that whatever form took place, it showed bodies at work. Bodies grappling with shedding the skin of “let’s go visit grandma” to emerging new in “she is gone.”

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Last Wednesday, early morning, waking up to the final deciding polls coming in, was a death.

For me, it was a death of a promise that we are not as damaged as a country as we probably actually are.

A loss of the innocent, privileged notion that we are just so close to being a loving and inclusive nation. Of course, that’s not true, or at least not that close. A summer of police murders of black men and women, after a year of immigrant detention centers, after years of mass incarceration, after decades of bleeding rural towns of resources, after a century of uneven education access, of course we are not close. Yet, the past years also have had streets full of activists, raising of critical conversations, Supreme Court triumphs, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and more, all of these held the hope that even in our evils, we could reject a candidate that so openly rode on them.

That hope died Wednesday morning.

There is real danger now and ahead. It looks as if it will only get worse. People are in real danger. There is no sugar coating that fact. There is no wait and see. Gay families are rushing to adopt the children they have been parents to for years. Children are crying at school under the real threat their parents will be deported. Walls, schools, streets, and online are covered with open hate that is louder and more emboldened. We feel this in my family, in my friends, and in the news.

What I know I need is to find the strength to pick back up and start anew, fight.

But, I will be honest. My grief right now is lethargic defeat. I have not cried, yet, “the tears are right behind my eyes,” as we say in my house. Every news item touches my skin and then reverberates like a foot that has fallen asleep from leaning on it for too long. It echoes hurt against hurt. I can literally feel it pulse across my nerves.

I am not there, yet. It is privileged to not be. I recognize that and, honestly, self-hate that. But it is what it is. For now.

Grief for some is taking to the streets. For some it is breaking and burning. For others it is decrying those actions. For some it is making safety pin illustrations. For some it is challenging them as not enough. For some it is “I told you so.” For some it is “I give up.” For some it is turning off. For some it is turning on. For some it is documenting public hate. For some it is pointing out it has always been here. For some it is calling for coming together. For some, like me, it is rejecting that. Grief for me, in this moment, is writing this. It’s turning my twitter photo black and feeling how silly and pointless that is but doing it anyway because I need that right now.

For millions of others it is millions of other ways. There are as many ways to grieve as there are people, as the saying goes.

Maybe, my grandmother sat in the sun, on that day, in the flower dress, imaging a future for herself. Or maybe not, maybe she was just laughing as she often liked to do. I picture that in the times she did imagine her future it was glamorous, happy, and full of love. Hard for sure, she knew it would be, but decidedly full of promise. I picture that her imagination did not contain the traumas that arose. No one can predict those, no one would write those into their future stories.

I like to think that her vision may have included the hope of the loves she would find, the children she would raise, perhaps the thought that at some distance point she’d have grandchildren who loved her deeply and found her silly and loud.

Her life did not always go the ways she hoped or planned. It went others. Countless others, good and bad and good.

Yet, still, it went.

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Photo Credit: Horia Varlan (under Creative Commons)

Why We’re Opting Out of Testing

Our oldest is in third grade in New York. This means Littlest Pet Shop and Shopkins have flooded her bedroom; fractions and division have overtaken number lines and addition; and she is growing faster than her pants can keep up. It is joyful (and for this dad, yes a little bitter-sweet) to watch her grow.

There is one thing in New York State that feels decidedly not third grade, however. Decidedly disrespectful of the eight and nine year olds’ developing minds and of the teachers who are guiding them through another year of transition in their mental, emotional, and social growth.

Third grade, like in many parts of the country, is the start of statewide standardized testing, the kind ushered in under NCBL more than a decade ago. The kind that, left unchallenged, will now be a part of her school year, every year, for the remainder of her schooling.

The kind that takes up well more than the smallish sounding “2% cap” the US Department of Education called for last year. Any teacher in a testing grade knows the additional weeks and months spent on test prep lessons, test prep books, practice tests “for stamina,” “Saturday Academy” for test prep for “struggling” test takers, and after school hours. Some schools make all of March a “Test Sophistication Unit.” Others find themselves in test prep on and off all year. I have even see textbooks and programs that added “bubble in the option” test prep questions starting as early as kindergarten.

This testing is the kind that since Race To The Top has been a primary factor in determining a teacher’s worth. Several years ago NYS released this cheerful, pro-Value Added “Growth Scores,” animated video to explain the then-new system and how it “allows every teacher to have a chance to demonstrate effectiveness.”

Of course, effective teachers already know that you do not “demonstrate effectiveness” with standardized testing. Instead, you find it by witnessing the developing relationships, deep thinking, joyful energy, risk-taking, and love of learning we support in our students.

Do Not Lose Hope: Act

There is a glimmer of hope and one we must grab in this moment. In a dramatic turn in policy, this past December the governing education body of New York State, our “Regents,” voted to temporarily remove test scores from teacher’s evaluations (at least through 2018-19). It was the first significant policy shift against testing or its reach.

Where did this shift come from?

Many sources, including The New York Times, draw the line to one major factor: Parents Opting Out. 2015 was the largest, to date, show of students refusing to sit for the test (this graphic from NYT shows the dramatic explosion across just three short years, 2013-2015).

In the months that followed dramatic actions took place at the highest levels:

Once again: where did these dramatic shifts come from? Voices. Voices standing up for children and the teachers who dedicate their lives to raising them.

So, my family has decided to join that chorus. For this first time we are able, we are joining the Opt Out movement and refusing to have our child take the NYS tests.

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Photo Credit: Horia Varlan (under Creative Commons)

How to “Opt Out” of Testing

While not a tough decision for us, it was still one that made us feel nervous. How do we do it? How will the school react? Will they understand our reasoning? Luckily, there are communities of active parents across the country to help.

For example, in New York we turned to the NYS Allies for Public Education. Their website, www.nysape.org, contains resources, sample letters, and explanations of how to refuse the test and what to do if you face trouble doing so. I also spoke to other educators, parents, and educators-who-are-parents, for advice. Principals, teachers, and non-educator parents shared the steps they took. Here is what we did:

Steps to Take

  • Set a meeting with your child’s principal. It’s often nice to talk in person about your reasoning and it gives him or her a chance to respond. Be sure to share the ways your decision is intended to support educators and children. We also found it helpful to point out how the school already, without standardized testing, makes us aware of our child’s progress. We feel very clear on both of our kids’ growth because of the many formative assessments teachers give and their continued contact with us.
  • Follow-up with a formal letter detailing your request. This letter not only helps you be clear with your wishes, but in politically-charged districts gives the administrator and teachers “cover.” They can refer back to it if questioned.
  • Check-in shortly before testing. We will follow-up once again a few days before the tests begin and send our child to school with plenty of books to read and activities to do during the hours of testing.
  • Lastly, I would add: be vocal. The movement grows only by the voices of those involved.

 

The conversation with our child’s principal was terrific. She was open and curious about our perspective, gave us time to discuss our reasoning, she raised NYC Department of Education concerns about a child not testing, and then described for us the accommodations already in place to meet what NYC Department of Education, under Chancellor Carmen Fariña, stipulated in the Parent’s Testing Guide: “If a student is in school and refuses to take a State test, the school will make every effort to arrange for another instructional activity, such as reading or completing another project or assignment.

We left feeling like we were respected and heard, whether she agreed or not, and that we had a partner in raising our children in her and our school community.

Hope

In the years since NCLB, and then more dramatically since Race To The Top, our profession has been under fire and the shape of our children’s education dramatically challenged. Few people would question these initiatives if they delivered what they once promised. However, we have years of testing data without real solutions. Like getting a cholesterol check year after year that shows your levels are dangerously high, and then not investing in exercise and a better diet.

I hope that with further action, and more families committing to end harmful testing practices, we can further reduce the effects of testing on our children and colleagues.

Without the fear of evaluations built on the backs of a single test, schools and teachers can feel free to continue to open (or reopen) their curriculum and school day to arts, making, hands-on science, increased time for physical education, curiosity-driven math, and the kinds of reading and writing practices we know change students lives and skills but in many districts (including much of NYC) are pushed aside for textbooks that had promised “test-alignment.”

I also hope you will join me. Join this movement in progress if you have not yet or continue raising your voice if you have. Voices matter. The pioneers that came before us gave my family the strength and faith to take up this cause and action ourselves.

If you live outside of New York and have other resources to share, please feel free to add them in the comments section, or share your stories as a parent and/or teacher.

Thanks for all you do for children, for colleagues, and for this great profession! Together we build the future.

 

About My Whiteness

I am white.

So are the vast majority of public school educators across the United States.  The National Center for Education Statistics puts us at over 80% of the public school teaching force. While the percentage of projected white public school students has dropped below 50% for the first time, ever.

I grew up in suburban Wisconsin, attended school K-12 with majority white students. I had then and have now diversity within my friends and family, but the majority of my upbringing has been within a suburban white experience.

I began my teaching career in New York City, in a Middle School in the Bronx. One day, during my second year, a name-calling battle broke out amongst my seventh graders. It was more play than fighting.

A few kids starting saying back and forth, “You’re white!”

“No, you’re white!”

“No, you’re white!”

To which I called them all back with an assertive laugh, “Hey, hey, hey. No. Definitely, no. The only white person in this room is me.”

To which, my students almost collectively said, “Wait…. you’re white?”

What seems dangerous is not our hearts. I know a lot of white educators who care a whole damn lot.

What seems dangerous is not our convictions. I know a lot of white educators who work hard to make the world better for everyone.

What seems dangerous is how much we are not aware of. How poorly we listen. How little we see. Even when we think we see the most.

I was reminded of my whiteness over this past month. In the kind of world-shaking way that I have the luxury to not feel if I don’t want to. But I want to. So, I am writing this to you but also as a mile-marker for myself.

The first was shortly after the attacks in Paris.

In a self-righteous way, I noticed the media outcry over the events in Paris compared to the near silence over suicide bombings in Beirut. There was wall to wall coverage of the shaken city in France, but almost none of one father’s act of heroism that likely saved hundreds more in the Middle East.

I was easy for me, at home, on Twitter, to think myself the better person.

Look at this media. They are unaware (or probably not) of their privilege.

But then a brunch happened.

During an impromptu brunch with two of my favorite people, Kristin Ziemke and Sara Ahmed, the topic of Paris came up. Which moved to talk about New York and the United States.

I’ve shared this with Sara’s permission.

Sara spoke of her parents. She said she calls them in situations like this. Here mom and dad are largely loved in their suburban midwest community. A piece of this love is for how outspoken they are about their faith and about all people coming together. They visit churches and speak about being Muslim. They began a mosque with community support. They are great neighbors and many people’s friends.

Sara explained that despite all of this, she worries.

She calls when times like these arise to tell them that she is afraid for them and to ask them to be more vigilant.

In an effort to provide some comfort, one, and in a greater effort to believe the world is better than we fear, I responded to her vulnerability with:

“But you know. After September 11th there was so much hatred against Muslims. But it seems to me, in my limited view, that this time things are different. I’m reading—on Twitter and online and hearing the news and people I talk with—that many are trying to actively separate terrorism from a religion or group. It seems better out here this time. Like things have thankfully evolved.”

She sat for a moment then told Kristin and I the story of the Muslim cab driver in New York who couldn’t pick up passengers for hours after the event in Paris and how his story went viral.

I fumbled through an apology at the time. Blamed my ignorance. Shared my, “I’m so sorry”s. Then, the three of us moved into some other silly, superfluous, unrelated conversation likely about designer rice pudding in New York. (Yes, that is a thing).

That evening I went back to Twitter.

With the cab driver, her family, and Sara’s own experience, in mind, I saw things I had actively missed before.

I stopped looking at who I have chosen to follow and started to look at other conversations and hashtags I was not a part of. Not a part of because my privilege allowed me to decide to ignore them.

The hate was clear. And it was piling on fast. From every day people, to broadcasters, governors, and presidential hopefuls.

I was shaken by my white blindness.

Despite my good heart and good intentions. I was foolish. I was naïve. I was dangerously unaware.

I texted the start of an apology. We began a long conversation that still continues on.

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While I was shaken by my white blindness. I am even more shaken that I can still go blind if I choose to.

Or, perhaps, more accurately, that I am blind. I will never know what it means to be Muslim in a world that questions your motives based on your faith.

I am blind and can continue to be so.

Which scares me more, because there are so many of us that can do the same.

 

Then, Chicago was next. And forgotten Minneapolis.

Release of dash cam video showing an officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times, shortly before the announcement of that officer’s indictment—one year after the killing—led to mass protests in Chicago.

As part of my life is lived on social media, I took to the hashtag. Another black, young man whose upbringing, birthdays, laughter, struggles, regrets, challenges, hopes, and stories ended up as a hashtag of his name, after his murder:

#LaquanMcDonald

 

Amidst the activity on Twitter, the video, the outrage, the shots of protests, the outcry;

amidst all of this was another now-too-familiar reality.

What the nation is talking about and what White Educators are talking about.

While evidence of our national legacy of the fear of black, young males reared up in social action on the streets of Chicago and the streets of social media, many of the well-meaning, good hearted educators I follow chatted about technology, books, and Thanksgiving.

Tamara Russell and Jessica Lifshitz drew my attention:

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I flipped off of the hashtag and onto the open feed. I saw what they saw.

What struck me more is that the edtech, turkey, and books, tweets were not from a mass of people I don’t know. Instead, faces of white educators I have eaten with and laughed with and talked about change with.

I was taken back to my conversation over brunch. The danger of not being aware. Not listening.

While some of us may have been opting out of the #LaquanMcDonald conversation. I suspect a great many more were not aware that the conversation was even going on.

Part of the gift of social media, and the current media landscape in general, is that we can hear news that matters to us. This is also the danger. If our “Following” list is limited to only those voices that we most identify with, we run the risk of only hearing what we think we want to hear.

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Again, I found myself somewhat self-righteous. I had not missed this story. I also found myself more understanding. I began to invite others to the unfolding story directly and I retweeted throughout the night.

I felt I had done some small part. I knew there was a limit to what I was able to do, but I felt that I had been a better person that night.

Then, I was reminded.

Over the weekend, prior, thousands of educators spent days in Minneapolis for the NCTE Annual Convention. I was one of them. A miraculous and inspiring weekend of learning and connection. Hours filled with conversations, sessions, and roundtables about issues and ideas in education and the shared belief that we all can do better.

I left exhausted but filled.

It was only later that I learned that there was other news in that city, the one we were in. It took me returning a thousand miles back home to find out that #BlackLivesMatter protests were organized around the death of an unarmed black, young man. Protests and a story not far from the Convention Center.

A story I knew nothing about. I was caught again in my whiteness.

Earlier this week, after my return, those protests that led to white gun fire on the crowd.

Kate Roberts said it best:

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What seems dangerous is how much we are not aware of. How poorly we listen. How little we see. Not because we choose to not listen. Because we do not have to.

Then, Chicago again and Colorado Springs. And a book.

Friday, I took my kids out for breakfast in our neighborhood. We sat in a small diner, with amazing pancakes, under a television screen.

There the story of Tyshawn Lee was on full volume.

That evening, Colorado Springs filled the news.

Each hour I found myself wrapped farther into the layers of contradiction: Officers who solve cases and save lives. Those who take them. Violence between gang members. Gang members living in social constructs the majority white culture have promulgated through red-lining and resource starvation. Politicians who cover-up. Politicians who bring perspective. Activists who march. “Terrorist.” “Thug.” “Lone Wolf.”

It only fills me with a deep sadness.

And what feels worse about this sadness is that may largely be self-indulgent.

I am aware that I do not have to feel this way. None of this has to matter to me. I can turn off the news and watch the Twitter stream I want to.

My whiteness means I do not need to fear in these same ways.

 

I have felt at times like an outsider. Moving into my first neighborhood in the Bronx. My travels and work in the Middle East and Asia.

I have been called names because of my perceived race and status.

But I also have come to learn the outsider feeling was often more about my fears than those of others. And, ultimately, I also could easily shut the world out with my privilege.

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I have started and stopped versions of this post too many times to count. I began back after that brunch in New York. Then a new version again after the first night of protests in Chicago. Then again I stopped as these past days’ events unfolded.

Each time I couldn’t find the right words because I didn’t know which words were there.

So, I did what I always do when I try to make sense of a world that has no sense. I read.

Many news accounts. A lot of Twitter. And Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.

I am not searching for answers. No source offers that. And Coates’ memoir even more so is unapologetic in its honesty.

Instead, I find myself consuming a diet of reminders and challenges because I want to be challenged. I want to wake up from my simple sleep.

My well-meaning heart ache, but my self-indulgent tears feel thankful for the stories shared and my ability to read them.

This passage, from the memoir, struck a chord:

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I have nodded my head at police cameras. I have also allowed them to absolve my role in the need for them.

I needed to be challenged, otherwise I may not know how.

 

We are dangerous.

These moments, in such a short span, remind me of the danger we hold as white educators.

One that our hearts and hopes and college pennants on the walls and hugs and after school heart-to-hearts cannot solve, alone.

We have the danger of not hearing. Not listening.

We have the danger of trying to tell other people’s stories for them.

We have the danger of assumption.

We have the danger, the greatest danger, of spilling our experience and blinders onto the children we serve.

Whether we teach in a classroom ripe with diversity or one that is unfortunately, characteristically, largely monocultural, we educate not just with our lessons, but with our conversations and our awareness.

There is no Unit of Study on listening in this way.

 

My largely white schooling and upbringing had glimmers of looking beyond ourselves. I can’t recall them exactly, though.

Maybe they were somewhere in our 3rd grade “Save the Rainforest” paper-cut mural. Maybe they were somewhere in the church mission trip to repair houses in the West Virginia Appalachians. Maybe there are others, there must have been. However, they are not all vivid.

Without those moments, however small, of my mostly white teachers looking beyond our whiteness, I would not be as socially minded and (hopefully, increasingly) willing to fail, but learn, in conversations about race.

From these small steps, I think the majority of my seeking stories beyond my own came post high school, by luck of a liberal University and eventually moving to New York.

The world won’t grow on luck, however.

Listen more.

Last year, when Ferguson, MO was burning, I approached my friend and colleague Dana Stachowiak for advice.

I had big dreams of what The Educator Collaborative could and should do. We should have a virtual Town Hall. We should run a blog series. We should, we should, we should.

Dana is Assistant Professor of Diversity/Multicultural Education Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and I know I can count on her learned and blunt advice.

She told me to stop. And listen.

To paraphrase, her advice was something like: “You’re intentions are good, but this is not your experience or your story to tell. If you insert yourself you run the risk of running over the voices of people directly involved, because of your privilege and status. Instead, amplify the voices of others. Help their stories be heard.”

I wish I could say I took her advice clearly and with a full heart. I did not.

I agreed on the part about amplifying, that I had not thought enough about.

I did, though, argue that I should say something, that is was almost my duty to: “But, I’m part of the problem. Not enough white educators are talking. I have to say something.”

She returned with advice then, that she echoed did just a few days ago:

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I now see this as a critical part of my diet as a white educator.

I have not figured out the best ways to do this, and I keep failing along the way, but I know it is as much my professional development as any.

I am sadly aware that cannot change the world—as much as I want to—because I am a part of a white world that through purpose or accident or both keeps the value of non-white stories suppressed.

We Need Diverse Books. We Need Diverse Teachers. We Need Diverse Politicians. We Need Diverse Schools.

Or perhaps another way to think about this, is that I cannot change the world alone. And we, white educators, certainly cannot do it alone.

I know I need to wrestle with more experiences and stories that help me see beyond my whiteness. More. Many. Often.

The gift of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, in the face of tragedies, is that these stories are in our faces.

As have been the stories of gay rights activists, Muslim activists, and others I know I have yet to connect with.

The stories exist. They always have. I just need to make the point the connect with them.

We are dangerous as white educators because we teach children and young adults.

We can accidentally allow our non-white students to be overlooked in ways we do not intend, but allow to happen; we can allow our white students to be as unaware as we are.

This is my story.

My mile-marker on my journey.

My gratitude for the Sara’s, Tamara’s and Jessica’s, #BlackLivesMatter’s, Kate’s, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s and countless others.

My reminder that I have a lot of work to do.

My mission that the students and teachers I serve cannot wait.

I am white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#nErDcampLI or How I Caught the Edcamp Bug

This weekend I attended #nErDcampLI. It was my very first Edcamp experience.

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Now, we’re friends here, so I’ll be honest. I was scared.

Edcamps have always seemed to be what the cool kids are doing—and, let’s just say, I was always in corduroys when everyone else was wearing jeans with rolled up cuffs. I don’t know how Edcamps work, I don’t know what to do, I assume I will make a fool out of myself.

I always have admired the twitter buzz around #edcamps, all over the world, and always have pretended I knew exactly what was going on. It was my cocktail party fake out, “Oh yes, yes, those are neat, huh?”

But now it was really happening.

I went for the same reason so many did: JoEllen McCarthy.  Books and awesome learning, too. But first and foremost was JoEllen.

I feel lucky to call JoEllen a colleague at The Educator Collaborative and even more so I’m so lucky to call her a friend. Her inexhaustible joy for teaching and learning is so contagious that anything she says is “worth doing,” you do.

With JoEllen and a terrific team organizing the event, echoing the great work of edcamp and nErDcamp leaders like Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, and the promise of terrific authors and educators all in one place, I decided to take the plunge.

Because walking into a cafeteria alone gives me cold sweats, I brought support: Sara Ahmed and Maggie Beattie Roberts, who came along enthusiastically for the adventure.

And Now I Get It

This is the part in the post where I go from being the unsure outsider to having fully and completely caught the Edcamp bug.

FullSizeRenderI get the “it” that everyone else before me has gotten.

Each session I attended was different in structure but similar in enthusiasm. I love how the “unconference” invitation allows for many different opportunities and styles. About 15 minutes into the first session, in an amazing session, watching the twitter stream spin by, I felt so at home in our profession, so lucky to be in a moment where educators were growing together in a powerful way.

I was able to attend several sessions (and wish those cloning machines I ordered would show up already…).

I sat in on Tony Sinanis, twitter superstar principal (or “Lead Learner” as he refers to himself) and a parent from his district, Lisa Davis, leading a conversation on reaching families. It was great to have both of their voices and be a part of a conversation that grew from their experiences.

I was inspired by how Jo Beth Roberts, a 8-12 librarian, led her session on LGBTQ texts by saying she saw a need to support students and didn’t know how to reach more of them… and then let the room talk through solutions and issues. That was powerful to see and a structure I want to think more about in my own work.

The “Rocks and Sucks” session invited us to pick a side on an issue and then debate across the room. It was exciting, if not scary, to be vulnerable with your opinion. Also fun to watch people switch sides at times.

The day ended with several #TitleTalk sessions on great new books, a whole camp celebration, and then an amazing book signing (here’s the listmy face is there, but I was actually walking around to the other tables instead…).

If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because I am.

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#EduWin

It was a reminder for me of the educator spirit. Of how gifted educators do not need standards or evaluations to be great. They need each other. While the planning team thanked everyone for coming out on a Saturday, that was likely unnecessary. Saturdays out can fuel an overworked soul. But so can Saturdays in with people who think about what you want to think about, who love the things you love, who stand for children the way you stand for children.

Conferences, unconferences, twitter chats, hallway conversations… the more we connect together, the more we grow.

Next year’s #nErDcampLI cannot come fast enough!

_______________________________________________

Note to readers:

I’ve been shamefully away from my blog for too long. While I hope to remedy this, I also want to invite you to visit The Educator Collaborative’s blog: Community.TheEducatorCollaborative.com.  If you’d like, you can join TheEdCollab mailing list to receive the posts in your inbox, along with other updates from us.

#CloseReading Institute at Penn State York this June

I’m looking forward to being a part of this amazing week of learning at Penn State York next month!

Dr. Aileen P. Hower has put together a terrific line-up for immersive study of this topic. Speakers include Dorothy Barnhouse, Kristin Ziemke, Meenoo Rami, and many others leading keynotes and sessions.

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I’ll be speaking on Wednesday, June 24th and talking about bringing sense to the sea of “initiatives” swirling around us. I’ll then lead breakout sessions on both supporting old and young readers.

The institute is open to all educators and includes the option of receiving Penn State Graduate School credit.

For more information and to register see the brochure, here (registration form, here), or visit the institute website, here.

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#TheEdCollabGathering is HERE!

#TheEdCollab Gathering Logo - Online Day of WorkshopsTomorrow! Saturday, April 25th!

This is one of my favorite events that we put on at The Educator Collaborative.  This Spring #TheEdCollabGathering should prove to be another great one.

The day is totally free, no registration required, come and go as you please.  And, every session is archived!

If you join live, you can tweet along with sessions and interact with the presenters.

Event Site

>> Gathering.TheEducatorCollaborative.com <<

 

A day of learning + in your pajamas

(for free!)

 A day of online workshops, twitter conversations and edu-joy!

 

Spring Gathering: April 25, 2015

9:45AM-4PM EST

Online. No Registration. Just join the fun!

Mark your calendars: Fall Gathering: September 19, 2015

Spring Gathering Theme:

Connecting and Collaborating

Sessions on how educators learn from,

rely on, and are inspired by each other.

 

Opening Session:

Live-streaming Twitter Chat

Edu-Inspiration: Who Influences Your Thinking?

with

Christopher Lehman

Kristin Ziemke

Heather Rocco

and you tweeting along with us!

Day time sessions include:

 

 

Closing Session:

Discovering Students’ Voices Through Music, Writing and Technology: Speak With Them, Then Let Them Speak (K-12)

Mike Sal, the founder and CEO of boutique record label Land of ADM (www.LandofADM.com). Mike is a songwriter, engineer and producer based in Atlanta who has worked alongside artists such as Drake, Parliament Funkadelic and J.Geils band.  For years, he has taught digital music courses and spoken at local colleges and art centers, more recently, Mike‘s music education consulting work has expanded to weave deeper into elementary schools around the world where he has helped schools enrich music experiences for students.

 

The-Educator-Collaborative-Gathering-logo

Watch the Fall 2014 archived sessions, anytime at YouTube.com/TheEdCollab!

Information on our next #TheEdCollabGathering will be shared with our mailing list.  Sign-up to stay in the know! 

 

Event Site

>> Gathering.TheEducatorCollaborative.com <<

#TeacherPoets starts TOMORROW!

teacher-poets-2015

I can’t wait to start the new cohort of #TeacherPoets tomorrow(!).

For tomorrow’s assignment and details on how to view and interact with us live, please visit, and considering subscribing to our The Educator Collaborative Community Blog.  Updates will be posted there over the next three weeks.

Here is the direct link to the first #TeacherPoets assignment post.

 

Happy writing!

#TeacherPoets is Back!

teacher-poets-2015

Happy April! Happy #TeacherPoets!

Saturdays ◆ 11-Noon Est ◆ April 11, 18, 25

 

#TeacherPoets is a free, online community/course/experience/cheering-crowd-of-enthusiasm that is joining together for four weeks this month to write, reflect and rejuvenate.

We meet in a live-streaming, creative writing workshop over Saturdays in April. Anyone tuning in can interact using #TeacherPoets on twitter and by visiting our Google+ Page.

Two Ways to Join!

  • Viewing and Tweeting: 
    • Attend our sessions by following along on this page for updates of poems of the week and links to the live stream. Tweet feedback during the sessions, using #TeacherPoets. Interact on our Google+ Page.
  • JOIN THE NEW 2015 LIVE COHORT!

    • YES YOU! Apply at TheEducatorCollaborative.com/TeacherPoets
      • But act quickly, it is only available through April 6th!
    • Join virtually, from a wired ethernet connection, and interact over your camera and mic with Christopher Lehman, members of the new cohort (and perhaps a special guest).

Should you apply?  YES!

Really? YES!

 

I loved working with the 2014 cohort, and it feels like we’re all family! I’m looking forward to working with you this year!

 

Archived Session from the 2014 #TeacherPoets Cohort

Final Days to Register for our online #MakerSpace Camp

Today (or tomorrow) are the last days to register for our The Educator Collaborative MakerSpace Camp in order to guarantee you receive your MakerKits on time!

Cadet and Admiral levels attend the full online camp and, while joining us live, will have a hands-on MakerKit to work along with us.

If you don’t already follow @TheEdCollab or subscribe to our mailing list (TheEducatorCollaborative.com/contact-us).

Two nights of making growing  exploring + true STE(A)M learning!

 

space-camp-logo

maker-space-camp-titles---times-and-dates

maker-space-camp-titles---Keynotes

(Streamed Free To Everyone!  Yes!  Free!)

 

laura newbio

Sunday, March 29

Laura Fleming

Member of The Educator Collaborative Team and author of Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School

 

Monday, March 30

Troy Hicks

 

Author of Crafting Digital WritingCreate, Compose, Connect! and The Digital Writing Workshop

 •●#TheEdCollabMaker●•

 

maker-space-camp-titles---Kits

Kits designed by The Educator Collaborative and our event partner Table Top Inventing

✧MakerKits For Cadets Only:

maker-space-camp-titles---blast-off-beginner-maker-kit

Sunday night: Dive into the kit and “make” right along with us!

☼ Monday morning: Try out “making” at your school!

☺︎ Monday day and night: share your “maker” inventions using #TheEdCollabMaker

Kit includes beginner supplies: paper cut templates, aluminum wire, clothes pins, clips, magnets, batteries and a class set of LED “blinkey lights” and more.  The kit is designed for one participant and one “class set” of additional items for use on Monday.  Additional items may be purchased anytime from our event partner Table Top Inventing.

We’ll invite you to supply a few creative items, too. That SECRET MISSION will come in the weeks before the MAKER SPACE CAMP.

 

✬MakerKits and Advanced Learning For Admirals Only:

maker-space-camp-titles---advanced-orbiter-maker-kit

✪✪✪✪ In Four, Follow-Up Sessions with Laura Fleming: Dive more deeply into the world of making. Exploring STE(A)M concepts that will take your making and makerspaces into the stratosphere.

Kit includes advanced supplies: LEDs, speakers, an oscillator board, an “Arduino” Board, and more.  The kit is designed for one advanced participant.  Additional items may be purchased anytime from  our event partner Table Top Inventing.

We’ll invite you to supply a few creative items, too. That TOP SECRET MISSION will come before your first FOLLOW-UP MEETING.

✬  Admirals = Extended Learning  ✬

Admirals will join Laura Fleming for 4 additional, online, group learning sessions!

Meeting in an intimate group, limited to only 9 members, Laura will support you in advanced makerspace techniques, structures, and robotics.

Admiral Mission Meeting Dates (a.k.a. Online Additional Sessions):

  • April 17th,
  • April 24th,
  • May 15th,
  • and June 5th

When registering, you will select your Admrial Group:

  • Group Alpha meets online 3-4PM EST/Noon-1PM PST
  • now closed, waitlist available: Group Beta meets online 5-6PM EST/3-4PM PST

maker-space-camp-titles---Speakers

 

In addition to Laura Fleming and Troy Hicks, we are excited to be joined by these special guests!

➢ Making as a Path to­—and Beyond—the CCSS and ISTE Standards

ziemkeChris Lehman Author PhotoChristopher Lehman, Founding Director, author of several popular books include Falling in Love with Close Reading (with Kate Roberts) and Energize Research Reading and Writing

➢ Empowering Teachers and Students as Designers: Game-Making as a Pathway to Deeper Learning

instituteofplay_logo_mainScreen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.10.44 AM

 

 

 

 J84A1180An Institute of Play “Making” Event

➢ “A Scoptti logoe and Sequence of Making”: From Leading Kids, To Giving Them The Lead

  • Steve Kurti, Research Physicist and “Chief Maker and Mad Scientist” at Table Top Inventing

 

▸▷>>>>REGISTER HERE<<<<◀︎◁

 Three Levels of Registration! ❖

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 10.02.30 PM

Seats are limited at “Cadet” and “Admiral” levels. Waitlist available once seats are filled.

 

More information is available on our MakerSpace Camp page (link).

 

▸▷>>>>REGISTER HERE<<<<◀︎◁

Special Thanks to Our Event Partners:

Table Top Inventing

tti logo

and

Institute of Play

instituteofplay_logo_main

#MakerSpace Camp with @TheEdCollab (it’s going to be awesome)

Over at The Educator Collaborative, we’ve put together an event I’m so excited about.  If you don’t already follow @TheEdCollab or subscribe to our mailing list (TheEducatorCollaborative.com/contact-us) here are the details:

Two nights of making growing  exploring + true STE(A)M learning!

 

space-camp-logo

maker-space-camp-titles---times-and-dates
Explore the world of the Maker Movement, Makerspaces, and truly engaging STEAM instruction, with us! For dabbling beginners and advanced practitioners.
Literacy-minded or tech-integrated.  K-12+
Teachers, coaches, administrators, library-media specialists and more!
If you hold kids at the core of your teaching, this is the event for you

 

maker-space-camp-titles---Keynotes

(Streamed Free To Everyone!  Yes!  Free!)

 

laura newbio

Sunday, March 29

Laura Fleming

Member of The Educator Collaborative Team and author of Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School

 

Monday, March 30

Troy Hicks

 

Author of Crafting Digital WritingCreate, Compose, Connect! and The Digital Writing Workshop

 •●#TheEdCollabMaker●•

 

maker-space-camp-titles---Kits

Kits designed by The Educator Collaborative and our event partner Table Top Inventing

✧MakerKits For Cadets Only:

maker-space-camp-titles---blast-off-beginner-maker-kit

Sunday night: Dive into the kit and “make” right along with us!

☼ Monday morning: Try out “making” at your school!

☺︎ Monday day and night: share your “maker” inventions using #TheEdCollabMaker

Kit includes beginner supplies: paper cut templates, aluminum wire, clothes pins, clips, magnets, batteries and a class set of LED “blinkey lights” and more.  The kit is designed for one participant and one “class set” of additional items for use on Monday.  Additional items may be purchased anytime from our event partner Table Top Inventing.

We’ll invite you to supply a few creative items, too. That SECRET MISSION will come in the weeks before the MAKER SPACE CAMP.

 

✬MakerKits and Advanced Learning For Admirals Only:

maker-space-camp-titles---advanced-orbiter-maker-kit

✪✪✪✪ In Four, Follow-Up Sessions with Laura Fleming: Dive more deeply into the world of making. Exploring STE(A)M concepts that will take your making and makerspaces into the stratosphere.

Kit includes advanced supplies: LEDs, speakers, an oscillator board, an “Arduino” Board, and more.  The kit is designed for one advanced participant.  Additional items may be purchased anytime from  our event partner Table Top Inventing.

We’ll invite you to supply a few creative items, too. That TOP SECRET MISSION will come before your first FOLLOW-UP MEETING.

Admirals will join Laura Fleming for 4 additional, online, group learning sessions!

Four online sessions beyond the Maker Space Camp:

  • April 17th,
  • April 24th,
  • May 15th,
  • and June 5th

When registering, you will select your Group:

  • Group Alpha meets online 3-4PM EST/Noon-1PM PST
  • Group Beta meets online 5-6PM EST/3-4PM PST

maker-space-camp-titles---Speakers

 

In addition to Laura Fleming and Troy Hicks, we are excited to be joined by these special guests!

➢ Making as a Path to­—and Beyond—the CCSS and ISTE Standards

ziemkeChris Lehman Author PhotoChristopher Lehman, Founding Director, author of several popular books include Falling in Love with Close Reading (with Kate Roberts) and Energize Research Reading and Writing

➢ Play-Based Game Design Methods for Fun and Intellectually Engaging Instruction

instituteofplay_logo_mainScreen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.10.44 AM

 

 

 

 J84A1180An Institute of Play “Making” Event

➢ “A Scoptti logoe and Sequence of Making”: From Leading Kids, To Giving Them The Lead

  • Steve Kurti, Research Physicist and “Chief Maker and Mad Scientist” at Table Top Inventing

 

And special guests: Laura’s own New Milford High School students!

▸▷>>>>REGISTER HERE<<<<◀︎◁

 Three Levels of Registration! ❖

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 10.02.30 PM

REGISTRATION DATES:

  • February 24: Mailing List Members receive the Priority Registration Code (Join Mailing List!)
  • February 26: @TheEdCollab will begin tweeting the Priority Code (Follow Us!)
  • March 2: Registration goes live to the General Public (Link will appear Here)

Seats are limited at “Cadet” and “Admiral” levels. Waitlist available once seats are filled.

 

More information is available on our MakerSpace Camp page (link).

 

▸▷>>>>REGISTER HERE<<<<◀︎◁

Special Thanks to Our Event Partners:

Table Top Inventing

tti logo

and

Institute of Play

instituteofplay_logo_main

See you in Indy, Chicago, Milwaukee or online!

I’m looking forward to upcoming events in February.  There’s nothing more fun than getting to see friends and meet new faces across the country.

Registration is open now for each of these. Hope to see you in person (or typy-typing online)!

If you cannot make these, check the link at the bottom of this post for additional events (I’m talking to you OH, MO, TX, IN, PA…).

 

Indianapolis and Chicago

February 4 and 5. Kate Roberts and I will lead a day long workshop on close reading practices for grades 4-12.  There will be tons of practical ideas for close reading fiction, nonfiction, texts and media. And potentially we can get Kate to sing (but don’t tell her I told all of you that).

Registration is open now at this link to Heinemann PD.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 1.20.27 PM

 

 

Milwaukee

February 6. I’m honored to have been invited to speak at WSRA’s annual convention held at the Wisconsin Center.

Registration is open now at this link to WSRA.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 9.07.10 PM

 

Online

Beginning January 21 (then Jan 29 and Feb 11). I’m leading a 3-session online Heinemann webinar called “Energize Your Teaching: Informational Reading, Writing and Research are Way More Interesting Than You Think.  These run on each date from 10-11:15AM EST.

Registration is open now at this link to Heinemann Webinars.

Energize Research Reading and Writing

 

For additional, upcoming events: please visit The Educator Collaborative’s event calendar.

#Nerdlution15 – More Happy (Less Injury)

Please come with me into a special rocket ship I had built (I know the engineer, old friend) back to the time when we all could actually get all of our goals accomplished and still have time to relax on the beach.

by Joe Schneid, used under Creative Commons

Yea. No. That’s not real and never will be.

Which is why my friends Franki Sibberson, Colby Sharp, Kristi Mraz and I—and tons of you—are in the midst of another #NERDLUTION!

To be clear. I think many of you have already started your nerdultions and have been posting about it.  I, on the other hand, am still waiting for that rocket ship delivery.  

So here is my day to catch up.

Nerd-what-now?

For the uninitiated, a “nerdlution” is a resolution that we nerdy educators make to better ourselves, or our community, or each other. Or to just simply do something fun. Or strange. Or really anything at all that you want to commit to.

Here is a post from last year where I explain the birth of the movement and give more specific rules on forming your own nerdlution (hint: there are none).

(And when I say there are none, I mean none. Example: Franki ate apples last year.)

(Well, sort of).

Last year my nerdlution was to do 100 push-ups per day. That lasted for longer than I thought. I felt great. And only led to 3 months of physical therapy for my rotator cuff.  Hahaaaaabutreally.

On to #Nerdlution15!

Nerdlution15
by Kristi Mraz

This year I am equally workout focused, but in a more controlled and less shoulder failure way.

My goal is to workout at least 3 times per week (but bonus points if I do more) using a new app that I really love, “Strong,” which basically is a 2.0 way to record weight lifted per rep/set.

I see a trainer… sometimes a lot, sometimes a little… and really want to get better at working out on my own so when I see him I don’t embarrass myself.

What I love about the app, aside from it keeping me focused on completing exercises, is that it totals everything at the end of each workout session.  Meaning, even if the amount I lifted each rep was pitiful, at the end I can lie to myself because it says I lifted, for example—true story—SIXTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS.

FullSizeRender 6
Proof. Clearly.

Which I thiiink makes me the strongest man in the world.

No? No? That’s not how it really works?

So my #Nerdlution15 is to keep a steady gym routine using my app.

You Can Too

Just pick something to commit to. Then tweet and blog about it using the hashtag #Nerdlution15.

Or don’t tweet or blog and just do it.

Or invite your whole class to pick something. Anything. And join in.

Reading a great poem everyday, giving a compliment, running, cooking, spending more time with your kids.

If it will make you happy, do it.

 

Happy #nerdlution15!

#FergusonSyllabus

 

cross-posted at TheEducatorCollaborative.com/fergusonsyllabus/

FergusonSyllabus

We grieve with families that have lost loved ones to brutality, violence, and fear.

We despair with a system that has made great police officers second guessed and poor ones too quick to pull a trigger.

We stand hopeful with the millions of educators, parents, community members, and children who are looking desperately towards a brighter future. A future where we are less ignorant, more aware of our biases, and more open to connecting across race, class, and ideologies.

Today, we recommend you spend some time looking through the tremendous resources being shared over twitter, using the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus.

If nothing else, our history has taught us that galvanizing moments can be turning points—if we so choose them to be.

 

With a broken heart and hopeful soul,

Christopher Lehman and The Educator Collaborative family

 

 

#NCTE14! (and the crowd goes wild!)

NCTE is definitely one of my favorite times of the year.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 6.21.35 PMNothing is better than getting to connect with edu-friends. Or the fun of doing that squinty eye look as you try to sneak-read someone’s name tag as you wonder, “Have I seen your face in a little twitter photo before?.” I’m looking forward to being in the D.C. area and for the energy of this upcoming weekend.

My friends and I at The Educator Collaborative have many events going on and we hope we’ll get a chance to say hi to you.  Sessions, signings, meet-ups…. and we’re really excited to organize an informal meet-up we’re calling the “Professional Book Swamp Meet”!  All the info is below.

Events

TheEdCollab at NCTE14

 

Sunday morning Meet-up and “Professional Book Swap Meet”

TheEdCollab NCTE Professional Book Swap-01

 

 

If you are unable to attend, follow the hashtag #NCTE14 for highlights.

Hope to see you this weekend!

#TheEdCollabGathering Archives! and Final Days to Apply to Coaching Think Tanks

Our inaugural #TheEdCollabGathering was a blast! Over 1,200 educators tuned in live from countries all over the world.  It was inspiring to see the incredible turnout, read the energized tweets, and watch the inspiring sessions.

In case you feared you missed it… you didn’t!

We are happy to share the archives of all of the streaming sessions!

You can find them back on our gathering page: Gathering.TheEducatorCollaborative.com

or on our YouTube Channel: YouTube.com/TheEdCollab

A special thanks to the amazing presenters, volunteers who helped all of the technology run smoothly, and to all of you for attending (or soon to join in through the archives!).

The-Educator-Collaborative-Gathering-logo

 

Final days to apply to yearlong Coaching Think Tanks!

Also at The Educator Collaborative, we are quickly reaching the deadline for applications to our Coaching Think Tanks.  Final applications accepted through October 1st.

Coaches from all over have already joined and we invite you as well.  As long as you can access the live sessions via the internet, you are welcome to join regardless of your location.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 10.06.24 PMWe designed these as opportunities for Technology Coaches, Literacy Coaches, English Coaches, and Coordinators or other leaders.

We know that often coaches and coordinators are the real rocks of their school communities. We also know that in these roles we can often feel alone.   Our Coaching Think Tanks aim to create spaces for these leaders to learn together with experts from our team and also from one another.

Groups work together throughout the school year. Meeting online for sessions nearly each month, completing assignments that put conversations into action, and working together online in Forums and sharing documents.

Learn more, and apply, here: TheEducatorCollaborative.com/project/coaching-think-tanks/

Hurry though, final deadline is Wednesday!