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.

 

 

 

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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#BackToSchool: The Old Posterboard Is Now Outdated

This post was written by Valerie Lewis. She is a teacher, entrepreneur, technology fanatic and forever learner from Atlanta, Georgia.

As teachers and students head back to school for another amazing year; the planning is as lengthy as the teacher supply store lines at WalMart. There is a sea of overzealous parents overspending in order to be certain their young learners have everything they need. On the other hand, there are some parents frustrated with the wish lists of elementary and middle school teachers requesting staplers, borders, paperclips, pencils, markers, tape, notebook paper, and colored copy paper!

One item that teachers add to their collection annually is……POSTERS! How could we ever do without plastering our walls with quotes, memes, and infographics?

Classroom walls

Howver, the typical posterboard has run its course. Over these past 2 years, I have come across a tool which allows my students to display complex information in a concise way. An alternative that’s digital and custom.

Piktochart.

It all started when my 8 year old came home with one of those infamous “All About Me” projects that have families running to their local CVS or Walgreens to print out family portraits. It was a daunting project, but I knew there had to be a better way. After reaching out to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) to vent, they suggested Piktochart and we set out to create his digital poster.

This is the result! Superb for an 8-year old boy!

Carsyn's Infographic

Getting Started

Creating an account

The first step is creating your Piktochart account. We already had an account so I did not need to create another for him. However, if you haven’t created yours, go to www.piktochart.com and click Sign Up. You can use Google+, Facebook or email. You will then need to create a username and password. Once you are in, you can decide which of the 4 formats you’d like to use: Infographic, Poster, Report, or Presentation.

Piktochart's format picking

Selecting a Template

There are 12 FREE templates for you to begin with, including a blank canvas for you to customize and format to your liking. I have found the benefits of the free account rewarding but upgrading to a Premium account will give you access to so many additional features. Once you have selected your template, you are ready to begin!

A great tip is using the search bar to find what you are looking for. For instance, if you need to work on a project with food, you can search for that. Odds are you’ll find a beautiful template that will suit your needs!

Picking a template in Piktochart
The Creation Process

The process is a very simple drag and drop motion which allows you to resize, change font appearances and colors or simply delete what is already there. This reminds me of the interface of Microsoft Word when you are adding an image or Word Art. On the left side of your screen is where you can find various graphics to include shapes, lines, icons, photos, and photo frames.

You can also upload images to your canvas from files that are already saved on your computer or external drives. The benefit is that you can save these images within the site and they will become part of your gallery for future use. You can also change the look of your background, add text and charts and the latest feature allows you to import external tools and embed into your infographic (i.e. SurveyMonkey).

Piktochart's editor

If you would rather watch an instructional video first, I suggest you start with this one by Michelle Shaeffer. I showed it to my high school students and my 8 year old. Or, you could simply use the Tour button within Piktochart to get familiar with the many features that will help create a great piece of art.

Finishing Up

Just like any cautious being, I would advise you to save your work as you plug along and give your masterpiece a title so it is easy for you to locate under the My Saved Piktocharts or File icon the next time you log into your account. You can preview your completed work and share it out through Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. If you level up to a premium account then you can export to SlideShare and Evernote as well! If these aren’t an option for you then you can download your infographic as a JPEG or PNG but with an upgraded account, you can download a PDF version of your work and remove the Piktochart watermark from your finished product.

Bonus: Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing Ideas

I remember having a discussion on Twitter one evening where one of the teachers mentioned wanting to see things around her classroom that would be culturally relevant and reflect the students she would be teaching. I suggested creating posters of African-American scientists that were innovative and contributed things that we still use today. She loved that idea and was excited to see if she could print the final products in larger dimensions from her school’s printshop. This was so she could cover her classroom walls with quality contributions by her students, all the while demonstrating the knowledge they had gained. One of my fellow Edumatchers from my VoxSquad, TimmonsTechyTips.com uses Pinterest to pin her work and mentioned how Piktochart is a great way to share information learned as evidenced by the infographic she created on 3 ways to Read an Anchor chart.

As an educator, I have had my students create cultural projects, advised other teachers on how to use these projects to set the school tone, climate, culture and spirit during the school year and even let my 8 year old start his “All About Me” project (which sadly, his teacher wouldn’t accept because it wasn’t on old fashioned poster board). I have even created infographics for a Reading, ESOL, and Gifted endorsement class that I took because I just simply wanted to try something fresh and easy. Though, my skills were very basic at the time, it certainly allowed me to stand out amongst the other submissions which all shared the same presentation format.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating with Piktochart. I would think that school administrators, reading coaches, instructional and tech coaches can create informational materials to help parents, teachers, and students all “get connected” and remain in the loop in order to have a successful school year. To be able to walk in school hallways throughout the year and see work created by students, administrators and faculty would certainly contribute to the learning environment we’d all love to see!

My New Summer Love

Summertime is made of all things nice: cookouts, swimming and tanning poolside, chilled watermelon, lemonade, family, friends, concert series, good books, sandy beaches, festivals and PROFESSIONAL DVELOPMENT! Hmmmm? < insert Scooby-Doo voice here>. Unfortunately, the ipod and playlists will not include Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s Summertime anthem! 

Here we are mid-August and on the 2nd week of school and I am asking myself “where in the world did the time go?” I made plans to clean out closets, empty out the garage that is harboring God knows what, and taking care of those home projects that the school year holds me hostage from flirting and dancing with. I guess you can tell that my summer went by too quick and I did not get to the many things I had hoped to accomplish. This is true but an unexpected surprise made this summer feel like the Bruno Mars and Mark Brunson collaboration…TOO HOT!!!

I had an affair and cheated on my husband and 3 kids with a large group of strangers. It was more than just a one night stand—- BUT don’t judge me! In fact, this group gave me a new lease on my professional career. Where did your mind take you? SMH! Things that I wanted to learn about and even things I didn’t know I needed or wanted to know were “gifted” to me. They massaged my mind and electrified everything within me. For certain each day and every night I was summoned by the 3 chirps in notification form to come to the fold for more mind stimulations and I….. DID…. NOT…. REFUSE!! I longed for more of this good good loving and to top it off–it didn’t cost me a dime. Usually all things come to an end but this relationship seems to be going 1,000,000 miles fast!

The rush and the thrill of this new found love causes me to keep tight grips on it. I’m holding on tight and have this baby in the palm of my hand. That’s right…I’ve got it in the bag. The exchange is so deep that I am propelled to new dimensions. I don’t even need gravity to keep me on my feet because My VoxSquad (in my Ice Cube- Straight Out of Compton voice) now holds me down.

I have learned more this summer about the things that matter to me. I have had professional development my way. It’s been individualized and personalized. The “sit and gets” are for the birds and the “you’ve been trained” in a manilla folder of printouts or death by powerpoints should never resurface.

Voxer is Twitter on steroids! Subtract the 140 character limitations or inability to hear or read tone and Voxer is where it is at. You feel connected to the voice on the other side of this walkie-talkie app. These strangers have upgraded to accountability partners, friends, and sometimes feel like family. The affair we’ve had has blossomed into a relationship of several months now so I feel comfortable disclosing some names. SatChat, Teacher VoxLine, PoCEdTech, EduMatch, Hack Learning, Admin2B, DocVox, TeacherPreneur, and Google Education Certification Support all have my back and best interest at heart! No hidden agendas…just great people wanting to share their knowledge and to help in whatever way they know how. The names are too many to send individual shout-outs. I could never forgive myself by playing “favorites.” This thing has my mind so crazy that I’ve gone so far as to have more of them in a multitude of ways that I upgraded to a Pro account/user. Though summer has sadly ended before I could cross most things off my list but I am glad to announce that this sizzling affair will continue to run its course into Fall, Winter, Spring..and of course..next Summer!

More specifics on Voxer and how you too can get in on some dirty dancing will be part of a future post!