Creating a Professional Learning Network

CreateaPLNNow is your opportunity to join us for #CreateaPLN Challenge!  The goal of the Challenge is to expose each participant to technologically-based opportunities for professional networking.   During the next month, participants will be building their Professional Learning Networks by connecting with other educators around the world.  These new connections will challenge participants to think more deeply about education, technology, and how individuals relate to one another.

Below are some comments from previous participants:

From Micahel Defant, @mrdefant:  Don’t be afraid to try new things to grow as an educator.

From Hana Kim, @LOLearningSMU:  This PLN Challenge gave me fresh eyes to use blogs, Pinterest, and Twitter for educational purposes.

From Erika Wilson, @live02learn:  Challenges aren’t meant to conquer alone. Networking and connecting to the many different professionals has brought me to a completely different outlook.

From Heather Robertson, @her07fsu:  When we began the challenge I was skeptical as to how Twitter would help me connect to other educators and build my network. I thought Twitter was simply to follow celebrities and receive updates about them. I soon learned from this challenge that many professional educators were on twitter posting valuable information. I’m discovering new blogs and resources that pose information that will be useful to me as I continue my career. I’m now excited when I find that the authors of the online resources I use have twitter accounts. If they publish content that I find relevant I may want to explore other ideas and information that they have to share.  As teachers we want to be able to be just as accepting of new uses and ideas as we would like are student to be. I’m glad I kept an open mind about exploring ways to connect.

Join #CreateaPLN Challenge by following this link.  We look forward to growing our PLN and to connecting with you!

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Five Things You Should Know When Deciding to Become a Teacher

I see you

By Hana Kim

Recently, my husband and I bought a house. The process was arduous- it involved daunting paperwork, long waits, and lots of money.  It is such a complex process that it can become overwhelming and, at times, it seemed like we may never close on our dream house.   At the same time I was buying a house, I had also begun pursuing my Master’s in Teaching degree, and I realized that the things I learned in the process of buying a house could benefit those thinking about becoming a teacher:

1. Do not rely solely on the internet; go hunt your house actively.  Online research is an important step in gathering new information, but it also limits your choices.  You have to get out and see the properties. You have to visit real houses and see what features each house has. After visiting a couple houses, you may sense that this could be your house or this is never going to be your house. When discerning what grade or subject you want to teach, don’t just visit a school’s website,  go visit the local schools around where you live. Do volunteer work to see the differences between schools. See how each teacher teaches in different ways. Find out which teaching methods you would like to apply or to avoid in your future classroom.

2. Do not wait until the last moment.  My realtor warned me on the first day we met, “Do not wait until the last moment to find what you want. Good houses are sold quickly.” The same is true for teacher preparation. Participate in educational events or seminars. Be proactive about what you are interested in. Do not hesitate to finish the courses you have to take. Grabbing an opportunity is like a gambling; there is no guarantee. But if you let a good one pass, you will regret it.

3. There is no such thing as “a dream house”.  This was a shocking fact to me. There is no dream house even if you built it by yourself. Humans easily get bored. We always look for something new or different. There is no perfect job in the world. That is why we call it a “job.” Do not feel frustrated if you don’t have perfect settings for your school or class. There are no perfect students either. If you do not like where you are, think about how you can make changes for your school, students, and yourself. There is a reason why those home improvement stores are popular.

4. Work together.  The most inefficient way to finish a task is do it alone. Buying a house involves multiple agencies, a bank, a realtor, and friends and a family. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your peers, teachers, advisors, mentor teachers, and coworkers. Get all the information you can. People generally feel valued themselves when someone asks for help or support.

5. Closing on a house does not mean that you can stop maintaining the house. The final process of buying a house is closing and getting a house key. However, it is not the end of your work with a house; the truth is that it is actually the time to start work on your house. You have more responsibility with maintaining the house. Your house will increase in value based on how much effort you put into maintaining it. Becoming a teacher does not mean that you can stop improving yourself. There is no end to your training as an educator. This is one unique element about becoming a teacher. Usually, when you get a job it is time to work hard and make money. But once you become a teacher, it is time to work harder to increase your knowledge and skills, to prepare your students and lessons, and to build your school community. Never stop improving yourself.

House and Keys in Female Hands

Buying a house is an important step of life. (It is also hard to get a refund once you signed your signature on a hundred pages!) Becoming a teacher also requires a commitment to you, your students, school administrators, and students’ parents. Owning a home is a huge accomplishment–Own your teaching and make a difference every day for those who need you.

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A Look at Differentiated Instruction and Family Dinners

 By Jenny LeTempt

 Jenny Entry

            As students and educators we often encounter many technical terms and find their definitions in textbooks in boldface type.  However, what do these terms really mean when you break them down?  How can we apply them to the classroom if we don’t understand them inside and out?  As educators it is our responsibility to know these concepts, apply them, and understand them fully.  That is why I attempted to connect my own experience with my textbook understanding of these terms in order to develop a better understanding of their true meaning.

            First, I looked at the “textbook” definitions.  Differentiated Instruction involves “shaking up” the classroom, so students have lots of options for processing information, understanding concepts, and expressing what they have learned (Price and Nelson, 2014). 

            My son is ten years old.  I have had the opportunity to stay home with him since I started the MIT program at Saint Martin’s.  I find that I can often make connections between my family life and the big ideas that I am learning about education.  For example, the concept of Differentiated Instruction can be applied to our family dinners.  We all eat dinner at the same table and we all eat the same food.  The size portions might vary depending on the individual (universal design).  My husband needs more food than my son and me to stay healthy.  My son likes ketchup, but my husband does not.  By serving the same meal, but making small adjustments, I am utilizing differentiated instruction.  I could also consider how they will consume the food and offer to let them use their hands, knife, spoon, fork, or have their food blended into a liquid (variation in instruction).  During dinner I might mention strategies or model how to eat certain foods like spaghetti (Conspicuous strategies).  If I serve a meal like steak, and my son is unable to cut the meat himself, I will cut it for him and model how to be safe with a knife (mediated scaffolding).  During dinner if someone does not eat a particular dish, I will inform them of how valuable that food is to their diet.  I could also give them specific information of how it affects their body in a positive way, as well as how their body might suffer if they do not have a balanced diet (Strategic integration).  At the end of the meal, I might ask my son to model how to cut steak safely for me (Judicious review).

            Applying these terms to my life experiences helps me garner a deeper level of understanding of their meaning.  It gives me the ability to look at the big picture and how I can use Differentiated Instruction in my classroom.  After all, it is all about shaking things up and giving students lot of options and ways to share what they know and what they have learned. 

 

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Five Lessons: Building Fences and Making Connections

By Sarah McKinney

Back in March, a neighbor who was moving offered his used chain link fence to me for free knowing that I was looking to set up a fence for my dog. I had it in my mind to install the fence on my own. How hard could it be? Right away, friends questioned who I was going to hire to put up the fence. Skeptical and concerned, few of them gave me the impression they thought I could handle the project on my own. I wondered why this was. Was it that they thought I lacked upper body strength? Or was it that they had never known me to complete this kind of project before?

With friends’ comments ringing in my ears, “the fence” quickly became a project I had to prove I could complete by myself. Despite being determined to get the project done myself, self-doubt swirled in my mind. How much fencing material did I even have? Was it enough to enclose my backyard? Was I strong enough to lift the fencing on my own? Maybe there was some truth to the doubt I heard in my friends’ comments. Still, I set a weekend to complete the project.

Going off of the recommendation of the neighbor who gave me the fence, I rented an auger (i.e. post hole digger). I thought it would take me no more than 20 minutes to dig all of the necessary holes. I could not have been more wrong. Not being a native of Washington, I did not realize that just below the friendly six inch top soil layer lives a layer of potato-sized rocks, which soon sent the auger flying out of control. I struggled to manage the machine and each hole was more difficult than the last to dig.

Over an hour later, hole dug, I started putting poles in the ground. I was happy with my progress. But when I went to lift the roll of chain link, I soon realized I needed someone to support it while I attached it to the poles. Tired and covered in dirt, I was disappointed in myself. I thought I could finish the project on my own, but I was losing steam quickly. My arms had turned to jello. Reluctantly, I texted some friends for back up. Once they arrived, we got to work, developing a system as we went. We had the whole fence completed in under an hour.

While reflecting on the construction process, I realized that what I learned during this simple project sets a fitting tone for the Saints IgnitED blog and perfectly encapsulates what I have learned as a teacher candidate at SMU. Here are five lessons I would like to share:

fences

1. Embrace a DIY attitude
Teaching requires a “go-getter” attitude toward everything from curriculum design to classroom management. You must be the driving force behind innovation and change. Sometimes you have to go at it alone. My fence project felt this way at the beginning. There is a lot to be said for the process of “doing it yourself”. Cultivate self-sufficiency in yourself.

2. Step outside your comfort zone
The idea of putting up a fence on my own was daunting to say the least. Similarly, teaching is not always about being comfortable; it’s about pushing yourself further, harder, and beyond for your students. Try new things. Surprise yourself. The profession depends upon innovation and risk taking.

3. Plan, but prepare for the unexpected
I’m a planner by nature, but my experience as a teacher candidate has shown me that sometimes, the plan will fail. Ever had a lesson bomb mid-period? Things tend to take a turn for the unexpected at that point, and you have to “roll with it”. I did not expect to hit so many rocks in the ground, nor did I anticipate having to call on friends for help. The plan for the day was rewritten, and that’s okay!

4. Collaborate
This is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned during the MIT program. Teaching is collaborative endeavor. As much as it is important to lead in innovation and adopt a DIY attitude on your own, find those people in your program, in your building, and online who are similarly motivated in the field of education. Most of all, collaborate with your students. My fence would not have been completed without the help of my friends. I just had to ask for help. Connect, grow, and learn together.

5. Failure IS an option
The whole time I was working on the fence, I kept wondering what would happen if I could not lift the auger or if the fence would not stay up. But then I thought, at least try! There is no harm in trying to complete this project yourself. With day-to-day teaching, there is always tomorrow. If the lesson flopped and the kids were giving you blank stares, try again tomorrow. And teach your students the same lesson.

The beauty of pursuing a career in education, I’m finding, is that you start to see the learning process unfold in every day interactions and activities where you may not have previously seen them. Think about when you have learned lessons applicable to teaching during the course of your daily routines and experiences. If you think about it for a while, I’m certain you will come up with something that is worth sharing with other educators and that merits personal reflection as you progress through the program and enter the profession.

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