Dear HUMANS of America….?!?!

Dear Humans of America,

This past year and even down to the last few months or so have ultimately made me numb. The senseless and unexplainable acts of violence and shoddy behavior have become all too commonplace. This is not a norm that I am willing to embrace and it is certainly not one that I am inclined to make “normal” for my family.

 

It baffles me that  as a country we maintain to stand united but then we cast stones at athletes that refuse to “stand” with hand over heart in allegiance to our bad behavior.

Do not misconstrue my remarks and take away from the idea that I applaud and am grateful for those that have made great sacrifices on battlefields and battlegrounds protecting the freedom of all.  Families across this nation, including my own, can rest easy on most days from outside attacks (though internal ones may arise and prove a great threat as well). On the other hand, I do not forget those that also stood in sacrifice but somehow never had their names recorded or etched into a wall that we could forever remember.

It baffles me that you want me to play along in this parody of greatness.

It baffles me that our quilt of many colors has faded—not to black—but instead to the absence of color.

It baffles me that we have gained so much ground over time and are now backsliding into ways and behavior that once were considered to bring shame. That is troublesome!
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As an educator, what message of hope do I offer my students? Who am I supposed to pretend to be? What lesson do I teach that includes their many voices and that of their ancestors?

I am remiss because you have found the foolish, naive, guileless and innocent parts of me!  I  thought that the educated side of me with a decent career and earnest and honest way of living would give me a seat at the table. Ahhh–Pardon me! I do hear and see very clearly now that you aren’t even hiding your hand or muting your lips on how you really feel about your “fellow man”!

SHAME ON ME!

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When one of our fellow humans is affected, we should not shun them but instead stand with them. Let me not be the chronometer of your moral compass but instead do allow me the right to simply speak from my perspective and experiences. A few years back, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke of the Danger of a Single Story in her Ted Talk  and it resonated with me because I am mindful of the feelings of my students, colleagues and those I engage with daily. My only mission is that WE all can honestly and openly acknowledge that WE have all contributed to helping this nation RISE! If that makes you uncomfortable or you find it to be untrue then please do a fact check on the many people that made America great. In this podcast episode of This American Life, the talks of fear, lies, and accusations are explored even more. It is amazing how when individuals become fearful they begin to create lies and sell it to the point where it resonates as true. The sad part is the throng of people that blindly follow without any substantial proof or evidence.

Nonetheless, I do not want to get into finger pointing and blaming because there is not a sum of a single group of people that are altogether good nor altogether bad. I cannot find a justifiable reason to cast any person aside because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual preference.  I know what it feels like to be cast aside because of someone else’s insecurities. In a previous workplace, I was demoted from a lead position not because I couldn’t get the job done but because someone else was able to craft a set of lies and sell them to a group of “followers.” Well, like the old saying goes “one monkey don’t stop no show.” I’ll save the details of that story for another post!

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Overall, individuals or groups of people can move their agenda forwards based on lies. I love how HONY weaves a common thread and highlights an important fact —We are Humans! If we do not see the value in connecting the dots and uniting our stories from state to state, country to country,and beyond then I shake my head in disappointment but raise my voice because my silence would not otherwise change or call out the behavior.

I try not to get involved in politics, it is just not my passion or area of strength but this  election has taught me that I truly care about my country and the progression of mankind. It is not solely about the money but of course it is important for us to stabilize our economy. More importantly,  I value the idea of people feeling dignified, appreciated and part of a global community. I cannot ignore the feelings of division that seem to be growing greater. I think I have pinpointed the root of the problem as The FEAR! But why?

This theme plays out in works like Tell-Tale Heart, Monkey’s Paw, and Twilight Zone’s Monster’s on Maple Street. It is also evident in many historical events that magnify some of the darkest moments in our nation.

Most recently, Sara Bareilles and Leslie Odom collaborated on this piece. I had my students annotate the meaning of this song.  They will get the opportunity to answer questions with some educators in my professional learning network (PLN) through Voxer and then ask some questions of their own while blogging from their personal sites.

The opening line of Seriously begins with “Let’s start with hope..” and honestly, that is where I want to keep my focus. That hope and dream isn’t dead to me because I see evidence of the goodness of my fellow Americans when I watch shows like UnderCover Boss. I weep like a baby at the end of each episode. When I see many videos that go viral with the goodness and longing in the hearts of Americans for something greater and better–then I am left to hold onto HOPE! We cannot allow lies and fear to control us as a nation. We cannot tear ourselves or each other down  and be stripped down to the bare bones. We cannot resurrect the spirit of McCarthyism from the 1950s which influenced Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. This cannot become the Salem Witch Trials all over again. Let us not do this again to each other while other countries sit back and watch us tear ourselves apart!

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This country represents the hope that may dream of and we cannot wear this shame and regret for eternity. There is time to fix it and that time is NOW! Follow your heart and take all that is at stake but most importantly be selfless and think of one another my dear fellow Humans!

Just Do It: EdObstacles Launched

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Over a year ago, an idea had been brewing and stirring in the hearts and minds of a few educators across the nation. The excitement of working together was shared amongst all of them but most importantly, a plan was set in place to launch this concept. This would ultimately transform teaching and learning. The team split into subteams to work on differentiated and leveled activities for grades K-6 but had to ensure they were married to national content standards. The creativity and excitement that came from these sessions were so exhilarating. As the magnitude of this project set in and we became engrossed in the process, summer also came to a close. The reality of getting back to the start of the year brought us to the agreement that we needed more time–perhaps another year would be sufficient for us to reveal our plan.

Where Preparedness Meets Opportunity

As fate would have it,  the idea of pushing EdObstacles to the side for another year was short-lived! Tanya Hyman, founder of MakEDU and president of Atlanta Maker Faire emailed an invitation for me to bring EdObstacles to Atlanta Maker Faire as they sought out something more exciting for children and families. My heart began to panic because we were less than 8 weeks away from this mega event. I had no team members in Atlanta nor materials or funding to make this happen. It would have been easy to say “well I am not ready and maybe next time” but Tanya said “start small and do a  mini-version but just start somewhere.” Her words assured me that it was okay to take a risk and give it a try. Wasn’t this the same message I told my students often? I knew  it was time to put a plan in place and execute but I truly wanted students at the core of this project!

Immediately, I spoke to my administrators , Dr.Gene Taylor and Dr. Stephen Black, and they agreed that whatever was necessary to support our students– we could rest assure they would support. I reached out to Tommy Nguyen, lead Math Teacher and of STEM Academy and he knew his 9th graders could use this as a Project Based Learning (PBL) task. From there, Mrs. Nicole Meade-Franklin wanted her Engineering students to be part of it as well.  Once I pitched the concept to students, they were onboard and almost immediately formed teams to create activities and design a course to  bring EdObstacles to life.

Students worked collaboratively with each other but also sought counsel from community advisory members to beat the clock towards our October 1-2, 2016. There were great ideas pitched and those that needed lots more work. There were edits, revisions, materials checklists, budget spreadsheets, rules for each activity, and project design plans.

Ian Bryan played a large part in helping us get logistics in place. He is like that voice of reason that helps you think through things you had no idea you needed to think through. He was a checks and balance guy but also a jack of many trades, including creator of our website www.EdObstacles.com.

Two of my good friends at School Supply Giant sponsored our EdObstacles logo and Fiducia Financial donated monetarily to help towards the cost of materials but our administration took the bulk of the expenses to ensure we executed! The process wasn’t easy but the learning that happened along the way–was priceless.

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The morning of Oct.1st, we arrived at Discovery excited yet quiet because we were about to face 30,000-40,000 people to test our concept. We were uncertain about the results we would get or just how we would be received but I am proud to say WE ROCKED IT  (produced by our student Audio/Visual Department)!

The opportunity fell in our lap and we rose up to the challenge and delivered. This lesson was meaningful and authentic for us all. The raving testimonials received from young participants, their parents, fellow educators, administrators, other Maker organizers, and makers themselves taught us that we had something magical and had a green light to move forward with EdObstacles 2.0 in Spring 2017 for grades 7th-12th.

All gratitude goes to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) and advisory board on Voxer, administrators, the students, community advisory council members and teachers involved that came together and seized this opportunity. I sign off by saying “ The Discovery Titans came, saw and conquered! We Did It!”


 

val-bio-picValerie Lewis is a GA educator of 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Her passion is to empower students but recognizes that One Size Fits One and that students learn best in authentic ways. Her mission is  to transform teaching and learning for the modern student and disrupt the norms that somehow have seemed to disengage students. Find her on Twitter and on Instagram as @iamvlewis

Classroom Deals

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As much as we despise the thought of thinking that in a few weeks summer will come to an end–I must say that thoughts of new adventures for the school year have me quite excited!

Elementary and middle school teachers are already raiding the aisles at Target and Dollar Tree with $1 deals and steals as seen in her tweet. Everything from clipboards, bulletin board borders, Crayola crayons and markers, sharpies, expo markers

Jen William’s Tweet on Target Dollar Spot deals or Rachel from her  blogpost giving 3 quick tips to make your bulletin board standout. I even remember blogging about Piktochart as an easy way to cover classroom wall space for cheap at the start of last school year.

As some school systems are well underway and others getting ready to start in another week, I wanted to talk about classroom supplies. New teachers usually struggle with this the most because they are fresh out of college and are limited in their budget. Unfortunately for most, they may have spent money on moving expenses to be closer to their jobs and away from their families. For others, they are waiting on that first paycheck to come at the end of the month.

While you can make friends with the clerical staff to gain access to the secret stash closets and scour the GoodWill for those great bargains, there is one company making their mark in the area of teaching and school supplies.

School Supply Giant was created by a teacher but that isn’t even it. This website offers a discounted price on items purchased and then gives back 5% of those purchases to the classroom teacher to use as needed. That has never been seen or done before. Not only do you get money back for purchases you have made but the 5% back applies to purchases your parents make when you create a classroom registry or wishlist. The items will be shipped directly to your school for your use.

More deals and steals will be offered throughout the year to help teachers with professional development and scholarship possibilities. I was privileged to have a full ride to ISTE2016 in Denver, CO because of School Supply Giant. I love that they are willing to open this up to more teachers in the years to come.

Scholarship on School Supply

So avoid the long lines at Walmart, expensive supply lists that come through the catalog mail or hoping to find someone’s leftovers or garage sale finds and get money back while spending money to help your school year be a success for you and your students!

Visit them on their  website and on Twitter and put the money back in your pocket that we so deserve.

Thinking in a New Design

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Into the school year 4 weeks, I cannot help but to reflect about the great things this summer has taught me. One experience that has truly shifted my mind frame was my experience with my new family at The Teachers Guild in San Francisco, CA.

It is funny how the stars align because in the spring I attended an event hosted at SteelCase on Design Thinking through The Teachers Guild but had no idea that I would later be selected as a Summer Fellow for them. Thank you Jordan Pedraza of Remind for suggesting I apply and giving a raving recommendation alongside my principal, Dr.Gene Taylor.

So my journey began with little knowledge about what Design Thinking was or what I had just gotten myself into. At this point, it was entering a space and time zone (literally) I had never experienced before. I didn’t have a colleague nor my family to travel with but I was excited nonetheless to….LEARN and TRANSFORM!

As I exited the plane, my nerves rattled but I countered them with thoughts of conquering fears and doubts. The train ride from San Jose to San Francisco gave me time to soak in the opportunities that exist daily for us all to “make moves.” As I headed on into the pier, I stopped to smell the roses and literally couldn’t contain my excitement. The view from the pier as the sun hit the water reminded me to sparkle in all I do. There in close proximity was IDEO.

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As you enter the red door into the building, the mission of this space is plastered on the wall so there is no confusion about its purpose.

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I was ready to work, learn, bring the better parts of me to the table and learn from those seated at the round table with me. We began with an overview of our mission and ultimately how design thinking can be married to education. With this being said, we began our summer design on how to build character in students on Day One.

I was so amazed with how supplies were not rationed out in portions with a warning note about making it stretch across the months or year. There were sharpies of all colors and sizes, post it notes, large foam boards, computers, televisions, attachments and cords for their functionality and sharing features, books/magazines that inspire, food, drinks, flexible seating, quiet spaces and collaborative ones alike. This was a teacher’s WonderLand!

As we began to brainstorm ideas on how to teach character but addressing it from the angle of the user, it was clear to me that when we talk about student-centered learning we are approaching it all wrong. Students are usually never given the microphone to amplify their voice. Yet we are putting programs in place for them. This is problematic and made me uncomfortable thinking about how we have convinced ourselves that we alone know what is best for kids.

As we moved into the next phase of interviewing and hearing from the Voices in the Field, we gained some valuable insight. It did help that my co-fellow, Kim Vinh and I were practicing educators. During this process, I understood that questions matter! It is necessary to ask the right questions in order to yield more accurate results. Kim and Emma really pushed my thinking here.

Emma helped me to see the importance on getting the answers to those questions in a timely manner and then being able to act upon them or create a product in a timely manner. Her focus and ability to crank things out was a superhuman ability. She simply ROCKS!

Molly had a zest for life that was proven in her  experiences from traveling the world and ability to speak another language or two or three. Her heart for people was clear on how she interacted with the workers that made sure the building was clean, dishes were cleaned, and food remained stock. She wore a lovely smile whenever you saw her and this made you feel safe and welcomed! I know her classroom would always be inviting and full of a serious case of the giggles!

Brett helped me to realize that how you communicate is important. If you want the work you are doing to have reach and an impact then this matters. I really enjoyed  being able to push beyond the edges in this area to ensure that we explore more platforms where educators hangout. However, we wanted to make sure that there were spaces and forums for teachers to grow and cultivate relationships with each other and the existing team. We moved into Voxer so we the conversations went beyond 140 characters. Brett and Kim both helped to open my eyes on the analytics side of things which gave critical information about our users but also on how to be more effective at the work we were doing.

I cannot forget about Matt as the design King. He could put together any visual, brochure or related item together and make it stunning! I just want hours of sit down sessions so I can create and teach my students to do the same.

The process was chock full of phases and stages which included onboarding new users, hearing existing users’ experiences, and touching base with coaches for their input.

All the meat and potatoes cannot be served in this post but I included a link below that summarizes the learning that both Kim and I shared.

Our Learnings from Build Character Design Sprint

In conclusion,  I will share 5 takeaways from this journey:

  • Design Thinking is more than just me putting my ideas and concepts out there and asking others to receive it. In the classroom, we have often “scripted” the learning in such a manner that isn’t relevant to the user and we’ve failed to really be human centered in our design. Asking the “how might we” Question_Card inquiries to get us to go beyond a one and done solution but dive deeper over a period of trials and try agains. This is where empathy and the human-centered approach make their mark.
  • As a system of educators, we tend to function as singletons  and separate the real world from classroom learning. This is contradictory to our mantra for preparing future innovators. Their training ground is flawed and doesn’t equip them for the battle ground. Therefore, I recognize my view on how they should learn cannot be up to me. During week one of this school year, I made sure to redesign how we think and learn. 20160819_142456
  • Every learner is afraid to give the “wrong” answer but the reality is that no idea is a bad one. Those concepts just need to be revisited and improved upon until they are built to become strong! What a magnifying lens on how my students may have often viewed themselves or approached failure! 20160827_133738 (1)
  • Any member on the team can only be as strong as the weakest link. Every individual holds a strength that isn’t meant to dim the light of others but instead brighten their spark. I learned so much through this process about myself from the talents of Kim, Emma, Brett, Molly and Matt. We are the real life Big Hero 6! image1 (2)
  • The future depends on our ability to advocate for them because we are the agents of change. The experiences we design will impact who they become. Our traditional way of thinking no longer has a safe place to nestle with the kids of today nor the ones of the future.  I am thinking in a new design–won’t you join me? Hats off to…SMASHING BOXES!

 

 

 

My Mistakes Were Necessary for My Good!

 

Necessary

No matter what leg you are running in this thing called “life”, the finish line is the end goal and succeeding is the idea that always seems to wrestle with your mind. This is evident through every groan, grunt, climb, fall, contraction, insult, betrayal, slap to the face, bullet wound, lap around the field, poor grades, foreclosure, setback, poor tech connection during a presentation, divorce, separation, bad bill of health, failed friendships, suicide/death, hidden pregnancies, drug/alcohol abuse, loss of profits, feelings of abandonment or violence, whispers behind your back, natural disasters, metamorphosis of caterpillars and tadpoles, and changing of seasons……

IT IS ALL NECESSARY

The pain of failing and losing is never one that you want to experience for yourself or ones you choose to cheer on..but you know what???

IT WAS/IS NECESSARY

When I think about the fact that my mom raised 3 children on her own, it was a sacrifice beyond what she could handle. Despite her mistakes (whether admitted or not) her persistence and determination led her to a Jewish family that would ultimately change the trajectory of our lives. That family blessed us in ways that I know would have taken several lifetimes to become a reality. I was able to gain from her mistakes….

IT WAS NECESSARY

I was placed in a position of leadership over my department during my teaching career and have had some of my colleagues that thought I was less deserving of that position. Maybe they were intimidated by what I had to offer or perhaps they just wanted to keep their clique tight! The lessons learned there tightened my skin and made me more aware of how to move my pieces across the chessboard. Ironically, while they were digging holes for me they lost their footing and became buried in their own “mess”  —no shade thrown but definitely shots fired– POW!!

IT WAS NECESSARY

When growth isn’t happening then it is time to change. When you feel stagnant then something new certainly needs to happen. When the very air you need to breathe becomes polluted or limited then grab a new oxygen tank so you can reach higher altitudes.

As the school year came to an end and the season shifted from Spring to Summer,  so did Season 1 and my journey on Blab with the ladies of DCTV430. We rocked 11 episodes and accomplished something in the educational space that offered something incredible to our viewers. As we part ways and move on to do great things to change the narrative of education…I come to the conclusion again that ….

IT WAS NECESSARY

Despite my imperfections and my let downs,  despite how I am perceived or how I perceive myself, despite the failures or successes I can own–I know the lesson here is one that I can and will teach my students and my children. Life will certainly throw you curve balls. There are things you plan to get right but screw it up instead. On the other hand, there are things you plan to get right and  absolutely will knock it out of the ballpark! You will be misunderstood, you will be hurt, you will feel betrayed and will go through many pains. These things shape and cultivate who you are to become. To finish strong in the end is the goal but the process leading up to that point is so valuable.

None of these things define YOU but instead they REFINE YOU!

You will learn who you are, who your supporters are, what you truly can handle or bare. Your flaws and wills and the innermost parts of you that were protected will now be exposed. Despite all of that you MUST wear courage like a shield and armor to push forward into the DESTINY that you must allow no man to threaten.

It teaches YOU that YOU are YOU and that….

IT WAS NECESSARY….FOR YOUR GOOD!

I leave you with this snippet from one of my favorite singers, Fantasia. Though the appearance of the video is not high quality and imperfect in its appearance– it carries the very message that makes my point very clear. The beauty of life comes through the recognition and transformation that comes from all the mistakes and “mess” that we make. Even Mother Nature has her very way of showing us lessons through the power of change and transformation. Everything works out for our good and is truly……NECESSARY!

 

 

Many Faces of Me

I know this post is several months behind but I am glad I got around to doing it.

You know I get a little bothered when people think they have the recipe for what you should do, how to do it and how much of it you should serve up. I guess somewhere along the way they figured that they were masterminds behind our God-given talents. Though I am open to suggestions and feedback that will build me up– don’t try to puppeteer how to make me dance. I have my own set of drums and choose which rhythm I want to play!

I am cut from a cloth of many colors and because of this my tribe has helped to cultivate some AMAZING things within me –I am proud to say that I am multi-talented. I dream in rainbow colors and my passions cannot be limited to a single digit. I figure there are many of you kindred spirits that come from similar tribes and have matching drumsets.

  • I am fortunate to be bilingual. I can speak and read Creole fluently.
  • I am thorough, detailed and organized (most of the time)
  • I have a knack for connecting with people (tiniest toes to the more established feet)
  • I can help others LEARN and can be TAUGHT by them as well
  • I choose to ENCOURAGE, INSPIRE and UPLIFT
  • I have an ear for music and can hold a decent tune
  • I am a juggler of hats (mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, educator, co-host to DCTV430, teacherpreneur)

The list can go on and on but I won’t—-instead I will just focus on one way I INSPIRE and UPLIFT!

All of this to say that these are The Many Faces of Me! 

When I think of this particular aspect I have to reflect on the tribe and rich legacy of my people. In February, we celebrated Black History Month which may be short-lived but everyday is a celebration for me. I do not look at this as a time to elevate one culture over another but more importantly it is necessary to look at history from everyone’s perspective— from everyone’s truth.

With these HOT times in America —it was important to resurrect the Living Museum after a 3 year hiatus. The injustices can no longer dominate because people are no longer sitting silent and watching helplessly. In fact, they are up in arms and protest vocally on a regular basis about the wrongs happening more frequently than they would like to admit. The quiet Sit ins, Stand Ups, About Faces or Turning the Other Cheek– JUST. WON’T. DO!

My husband (Xavier Lewis “The Antidote to RnB”) is an artist, a visionary and he too wears a coat of many talents. Our blended fibers hold a stinch of 16 years in the field doing great work with young people from Florida, MAryland and Georgia. Creating this production and telling the story of our tribe was not going to be in the form of a SUPER talent show –it needed to be intentional and impactful. This was just not for the attendees but also for the participants themselves.

We live in a blended society (which isn’t a bad things at all) but those church leaders often do not look like me and cannot teach the history from which my ancestors journeyed. Parents are sometimes too busy to give those rich cultural experiences that will help shape the lives of the younger generations. So the story is lost and that is problematic.

So here is my BEEF–the curriculum that is taught boasts stories usually from the powerful or the victors. A 360 view is never shared out and because of this–the story is missing important pieces or ultimately incomplete.  Their history books often do not publish the stories of inventors and innovators that look like them or have contributed in major ways. So we pride ourselves in digging in the crates and finding information on things they did not know and have not learned.

Through the process of creating we recognized that students need to own their learning (outside of our facilitation and advisement) and so we allow them to have voice and choice in their monologues. We push, pushed  and continue to push  them beyond their limits and often into places they never realized existed because “school” has placed limitations on opportunities to cultivate these talents.

To watch the students brainstorm and test out their monologues, collaborate with their peers and receive feedback from others is where the magic truly happened. This was a PBL all in itself because of the varied components involved, mutiple disciplines included, the span of time spent over several weeks researching and gathering, and revealing answers to questions that soothed a painpoint or lead to deeper understanding was the great reward.

One of my good friends Valerie Vaughn, sent me a list which was acquired from http://www.blackinventors.com to assist us (but not limit us) in the process on determining our museum exhibits, props and setup. This was a great spark to conversation not only amongst the students but even in my EduMatch Voxer groups with other educators. The discovery of new information and the dialogue that occurs can be powerful. When you look at the list below, what things can you admit that you did not know before as inventions by African-Americans?

Black Inventors List Part1 Black Inventors List Part2 Black Inventors List Part3

This list gives me life and you can only imagine what it did for students that could see the Many Faces of People that looked like them. We are more than just athletes and rappers but are the foundation of many things within a country that for too may years kept us oppressed.

3D First Place Winner

My goal is not to sit and highlight the wrongs that were done but I also feel that those conversations still need to happen. Because of this, the production is inclusive. Not only did our high school kids participate but the elementary and middle schoolers from our cluster were involved in the production as well as the schoolwide art contests which were displayed throughout the museum. We used tech by incorporating social media, Kahoot! trivia challenges for attendees, and a GooseChase (scavenger style game) which unfortunately we could not get to activate because of the overwhelming numbers of users trying to log into the application.

This wasn’t a movement by blacks for blacks but a movement of humans for humans. Students included the contributions of other races to Black History so we can settle the ignorance that “Black History is only for the black kids!” The support from the community and many sponsors are so apprreciated and speaks to the testament that there are lots of do-gooders that exist!

2D First Place WinnerDuke Ellington

So if I had to pick one stripe to shine a light on for this blogpost then it would be the one that ENCOURAGES, INSPIRES, and UPLIFTS. This video (done by Gwinnett County TV) captures the essence of the program. You missed the whole of it if you did not attend (but there’s always next year).

I am paid in FULL from the joy that fills my heart when students give their testimonial on how much they have learned, reflected on the process, and sparked a lasting impression that has charge them to go forth into the world with their heads held high and their chests puffed outwards because they come from a tribe that celebrates them as an IMPORANT SOMEBODY!

These students, this generation of new innovators represent The Many Faces of Me and I am everyday proud and inspired mostly by them and the great things they will become.

 

 

 

The Power of the Scope: #passtheScopeEDU

On June 16, 2016, 30 teachers continued their new journey of exploring and applying Periscope within the educational context. This wasn’t “simply a test” but rather a thing that seems to have spread like wildfire. It was truly a thing of beauty.

Starting a fire….can be a thing of beauty!

Starting a fire can be a thing of beauty!
Starting a fire can be a thing of beauty!

At the closing of the school year, 5 educators on Voxer talked smack about battle rap rounds to show the humanly amazing side of teachers. Because of this conversation, #passtheScopeEDU was born to show the amazing things educators are doing all the time to change the narrative about what is displayed in large markets and mass media. The joy of it all is that learning should never feel like a task or chore but triggers a hunger for more in the hopes of answering questions to our most profound curiosities.

Not everyone in the group is an expert scoper and in fact, some are newbies to the practice but the learning that happens through rich dialogue is unmatched. The group isn’t a secret society either—any passionate educator, administrator, superintendent or education stakeholder is welcome to join.

This Voxer community has gotten so serious about their craft that every 3rd Thursday we (the people) are anxious to see and support each other’s scopes as a form of learning and professional development. What matters most is the content can be shared and replicated within our personal learning environments and spaces. An added bonus is that it certainly doesn’t hurt that passion and creativity are often seen and heard in these broadcasts! That is the secret sauce that is so savory and delicious!

The power behind the scope is that teachers become leaders (in their own right) and gain the ability to share what they know with an authentic audience. Educators gain a sense of community, support and validation that their voice truly matters and that they are celebrated for things that are working well in their classrooms. The conversations are rich and exciting and this passion becomes evident in the scopes. The live and replay viewers exercise the right to comment (appropriately), ask questions or simply “tap it up” by giving hearts on the right side of their screen to show that something resonates.

Jacqueline Rose (@JRose_Edu) out of Texas, Toutoule Ntoya (@ToutouleNtoya) out of California, and Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur) out of Virginia put a spin on supporting each other by coining the terms #tapgamestrong #supportgamestrong to continue to build the community.

Stacy Lovdahl (@braveneutrino), out of North Carolina jumped in without hesitation and began creating  visuals and video scope schedules that would assist the public viewers to plan and follow through on their day of PD accordingly. The learning that came from this using Google Maps and YouTube was a lesson in itself.

Stacy demonstrated visually how to pass the scope from person to person and place to place
Stacy demonstrated visually how to pass the     scope from person to person and place to place

Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19), out of Ohio used his skillset and added this 1 minute #HackLearning podcast (through Spreaker) which features the #passthescopeEDU and periscope tool. The power of moving beyond the classroom walls and bridging educators and global learning has certainly become possible. You can hear that podcast by clicking on the link below.

https://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=8492393&autoplay=false

Derek Larson @lars3eb, out of Utah usually recaps about each month’s broadcast and scope schedule on his blogpost found here.

Brian Romero Smith (@1to1Brian), out of Texas blew us away by creating an aresenal of logos that we fully adopted, digital graphics and multimedia videos to help with the marketing and branding of the concept monthly. This too offered more learning opportunities through Q&As and “How To’s” for the group.

ISTE2016 Edition
ISTE2016 Edition

On the special edition scopecast,  #passthescopeEDU went on its very 1st roadtrip to ISTE2016 (Denver, CO) in order to #bridgetheworld. We were able to share in realtime with those #notatISTE workshops, panels, playgrounds, and poster sessions.  There were about 6 scopemates broadcasting consistently from different areas of the conference using the hashtag in their broadcast title to make it easy to search and find.

The viewers were most appreciative especially of the exclusive interview we gained of Ruha Benjamin (@ruha9) out of New Jersey. I am so grateful Rusul Alrubail (@RusulAlrubail)out of Canada rolled up her sleeves to bring this exclusive post keynote interview where Dr. Benjamin dropped more jewels!

Watch the full keynote address on Periscope (compliments of Jamie Russell (@james_russellMO) here!

Follow the hashtag #passthescopeEDU on Twitter and Periscope for your learning needs or even to catch scopes you have missed in the past. Then consider joining the cast for future scopes or at your leisure. No long term committments are necessary but share when you feel the need.

The next scope date is July21st but go ahead and get in now to secure your spot on the schedule as it is filling up fast.

Let’s bridge the world through learning— one scope at a time!

ISTE2016…Start to the Road Race

So Denver is on FIRE (not literally) but the heat isn’t too unbearable. Teachers are on Fleek and we are  going to #makelearningviral this week.

On Your Mark

Last evening, I arrived at the Denver International Airport and though it is a beautiful facility, it was all a blur. I raced past trains and concourses and out the building to get to the train that would bring me to the Convention Center. Making sure to not end up in another city, was my main concern. I purchased a full schedule pass for $9 which in hindsight I probably should have opted for a special discounted pass since I was just making the 1 trip. The ride was smooth and steady (we were going nowhere superfast) but glided our way into Union Station 37 minutes later.

Get Set

Let me tell you, the city was LIT in many ways as the smells of delicious food, clanging of glasses, and uproar of laughter was a sight in itself. My trek in the race wasn’t over so I boarded the Free Mall Bus Ride, which resembles a city bus headed in the direction of the 16th Street Mall.

This part was a little more intimidating because of the arrival of night lights and partygoers brushing past me in everyway. To add on to the anxiousness, I had to look at bukding numbers to guage where I would request my stop and then on top of it—my phone was on 15% with the constant chirp chirp as a reminder.

The relief of feeling like I was at home was achieved when my Edumatch family from Voxer greeted me at the door. The sweet smiles and hugs of Sarah Thomas and Tara Linney made me feel more prepared for this race. I had members of my VoxSquad on deck.

Go

As we arose this Sunday morning to the cool breeze and hovering sun, we met more familiar faces that were strangers until our hugs and handshakes over yummy Crepes at the 16th Street Mall. We started our learning with Ricoh 360 pictures, selfies, Twitter DM messages, and Snapchat. We talked out our plans and hopes for the conferences and sessions we want to attend but all of that will happen after the EduMatch/EdSpeakers meetup. To see a periscope about it–find me as iamvlewis on Periscope or search #passtheScopeEDU

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I broke away for a moment between breakfast and EduMatch meetup to grab my  media credentials and write up this first blog.

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You will see me armed and equipped with my tech tools, moving to and fro throughout the building and the city of Denver at lightning speeds. Though I plan to be cute at all times the work I will be doing will be FIERCE and INTENTIONAL.

Game ON!!!

 

Because They Call Me…. M.o.M.

On February 26, 1978 this little brown girl was born to an immigrant mother from Cap-Haitien, Haiti. As a single mom of 3, it wouldn’t be easy but LIFE in the 305 (Dade County, Miami) was going to toughen my smooth baby skin.

The Journey

Let me tell you about a woman who raised 2 boys and a little girl with little to nothing. The funny thing is they didn’t realize that they weren’t exactly rich. The kids were conceived from different dads but you aren’t allowed to judge their mom. You see the first man was one she was in love with and bore a child out of wedlock; but a jealous woman (perhaps a side chic) made sure that their union wasn’t complete. The 2nd man forced himself in and upon her causing her to conceive a man child. She chose not to press charges and the irony is they could come together and co-parent that baby with no hard feelings for over 30 years. The 3rd man had a family and a wife but simply wanted to gain residency in the United States (so the story goes) and I was conceived after their short stint of a “marriage”. But that is neither here nor there—you can read more when I write a full length book about it.

Life is a Journey
http://www.glavoquotes.online

The Lessons

As Mother’s Day approaches, I think about how sometimes my heart feels hardened because she was always just a mother and not a friend. Life was structured, stern and full of RULES! I think back to those embarassing times my friends would dial my number and she would answer the phone singing the first 2 verses of the hymnal. She spent most of her time giving us the side-eye and lectures longer than the Nile. I guess it was her way of being a perfect role model to us but sadly it was the same delivery she was mimicking from the aunts that forced her teenage laboring hands into adulthood.

Mother

The Experience

Fast forward through life and I found myself having to take a series of tests that had been prepared for me —MY LIFE! The things I’ve observed with my eyes and held in my heart would now paint me a colorful narrative. In 2007, I welcomed Carsyn-Piyere in my arms, followed by Xander-Ma’Chi in 2010, and then my beautiful Bella-I’man in 2013.  In this leg of the race, I was blessed with a partner that could share the laughs, wonders, heartaches, and ultimately…happiness.

These tiny and beautiful humans bless my soul each day because they call me MOM! Unfortunately, I  had to give up some kids over the past 16 years and that guilt drives me insane. You see from year to year I spend time with them but then from year to year they are taken away. I care about these kids but cannot live with myself as a M.o.M. knowing that some of their names I have forgotten and birthday cards and special occassions are not celebrated with gifts, balloons, cake or ice cream.  I was only responsible to push and challenge them beyond their greatest dreams.  My challenge was to pull those dreams out of the dark hole that somehow faded to black at some point over the last decade and a half.

The Moment of Clarity

As I reflect on this journey, l do not say how much I love her enough or celebrate her in a  way where she truly knows she is appreciated. She sacrificed a lot to be sure my brothers and I were okay and she fought for the opportunities that would make us better. She was a teacher at home before anyone else would claim that title officially. She moved mountains and oceans so we could go far, deep, wide, and high! She possessed a strength and work ethic that could not be contested even when she answered the call in the only way she might know how. I cannot say that we are BFFs or that I do things the way she would like but she is still my MOM and the one that has given me strength beyond her own.

When a new milestone of a school year begins, I sadly think of the spirits of those lost children which seem to haunt me in some reincarnated manner through the bodies of the new learners that sit at my desks and eventually fill a space in my heart. I recognize that I too am and will always be their M.o.M.  Whether they come back to visit or  not, I am the “Motivator of Minds”! I served and continue to lead as their sherpa in this leg of the journey. As we pay tribute to the mom’s and teachers across the world this week–think also upon the Motivator of Minds (M.o.M.) that have also pushed you to greatness. I am rich because they all call me… MOM!

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Why Most Professional Development Stinks—and How You Can Make It Better

At the end of summer vacation, the agenda or itinerary for pre-planning week arrives in the mail, and the feelings take over like the charge of a rushing flood with the thought of “PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.” It happens to the best and worst of us as we ponder what we’d rather be doing in our course teams or classrooms than taking useless PD. Ironically, this summer strummed a different type of emotion within me… I realized that for once, I wanted more–I wanted more from my PD.

Professional development sessions should not be met with frowned eyebrows and a scrunched up face, but instead with a growth mindset and opportunity to improve teaching and learning–yet or even better, as my colleague Dorian stated, PD should make you “fall in love all over again.”

How Administrators Can Improve Their Deliverance of Professional Development

Building administrators and leaders are often following county-level or district-wide mandates when serving up PD to their faculty. These things just have to get done. No contest there! The downside to achieving these goals is that the ensuing sessions often resemble someone standing in front of the group and talking “at” the audience, while we all we just “sit and get”. This torture is usually coupled with endless scrolling PowerPoint slides and a manila folder, which might as well have the stamped words “You’ve Been Trained” handed to you.

Ironically, time arrests that folder, and places it away in a cold, lonely drawer within a file cabinet. It’s always with good intentions that we get back to what we learned, but time usually jangles the keys in our face and laughs hysterically until the mention of that topic resurfaces or the school year draws to an end.

While engaging in a discussion with colleagues through a chat on Walkie Talkie app Voxer, I picked up several pieces of advice on how administrators can better the PD they offer. To kick us off, Aziz Abdur-Raoof (@ziz87 from MD), shared this photo which sums up best what administrators do not want to happen.

With that image in mind, here are some suggestions for how administrators can engage and understand more what teachers are looking for.

  1. Offer teachers some choice throughout the year in things they want to learn about. This is the personalized learning that sparks the flame and makes you want to go deeper without being told to do so. Isn’t this the same thing we want for the students in our class? This can be achieved by collecting ideas on a Google Form or creating a Choice Board where teachers can share their interests. For more largescale changes to the actual event, follow anEdCamp-ish type model, where participants pick their poison.
  2. Observe, in order to differentiate, then decide what the group needs. Just as in writing, know your audience. How do they best learn? Where do they shine? How can you establish buy-in versus push-back? Matthew Mayer from Illinois challenges administrators to do just that here, in this Voxer file.
  3. Be clear and transparent about why something can’t be done. Teachers may often give suggestions as to what they’d like to learn, or at least what they think is meaningful. Tell them the broader lense that you are looking through that may benefit the whole group, or perhaps why this moment may not be the most appropriate for their particular desire.

    How Teachers Fit Into the Equation

    The buck doesn’t stop with school leaders and administrators–teachers should go deeper with their learning and ownership over PD. When the excitement sparks from within, then we can teach our students better and apply our knowledge. For example, my #satchat buddy, @TG_Neil distinguishes professional development from personalized learning (in her opinion) here in this Voxer file.

    Teachers, here are some suggestions for how you can own your PD.

    1. Familiarize yourselves with the local school’s improvement plan and how that helps the district overall. This may not always be what we want personally, but may be what the school needs as a whole towards a common goal. There is always a challenge in education that could be solved with our simple ideas as suggested in Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez’s book, Hacking Education.
    2. Proactively seek out opportunities to share, lead, and earn PLU credits and stipends on your passion areas. I usually don’t wait for an opportunity to fall in my lap, but instead I try to create them by running a parent literacy night, leading a teacher group, or suggesting and teaching an intervention class for students with disabilities. I am honing my craft and leading in areas that I am passionate about. Find your passion, seek it out more in depth, and impact those around you positively
    3. Attend conferences and join professional organizations. ISTE, Miami Device, EdCamps, and those put on by Staff Development for Educators (SDE) and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) are all opportunities to learn deeper and meet like-minded people or those with a different viewpoint. Subscribe to publications like National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) for articles and latest research.
    4. Get connected and establish global connections through Twitter (#gwinchat, #SoFLEd, #EduMatch, #satchat), FB Groups (PoC in EdTech and Hack Learning), Instagram and other Social Media outlets (i.e.Pinterest). Though technology can be a game changer, it is not the only tool out there that you can use to change the game. Remember to find value from the people within your building that offer tons of knowledge and are rich in experience and connect with them first. Remember that you are a “forever learner,” and keep a growth mindset. Learning new things can often be uncomfortable until you try and begin to experience success.

Professional development is what your leaders say you have to do, and that may make you feel like your hands are tied behind your back. However, you hold the greater responsibility to personalize your learning each day, and oftentimes for free. The major cost to you is your time, and perhaps a few moments away from those you truly love.

In the end, for any educator, grow your network to include like-minded individuals (and perhaps even those with a varied point of view) that may be within your building, outside your district, and perhaps even across the country. The perk in this is that you can and will exchange ideas (even simple ones), share resources to improve your practice, and grow through learning in both your professional career and personal passions.


Valerie Lewis is an educator, and can be reached on Twitter at @iamvlewis.

This post is part of the EdSurge Fifty States Project (representing the state of Georgia). The project is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the individual contributors alone and do not reflect the views of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.