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Join @ajbianco, @mrnesi, and @iruntech as we learn through the wonderful world of podcasts!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My Favorite Edu Quote

My favorite quote...

Share your favorite educational quote in the comments below; I'd love to sketchnote it!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tissue 4 of Learning in the Loo

In t-issue 4 of Learning in the Loo I share one of my most often used extension-One Tab and a keyboard shortcut that could save a writer gobs of time-Ctrl + F.

For back tissues of Learning in the Loo, check out these links:

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Teacher's Never-Ending Thanksgiving Plate

Today's question for the daily twitter chat #BFC530 was ....
It got me thinking about the overloaded Thanksgiving plate teachers are forced to pile onto each year. Rarely does a school year start where a school or district isn't adopting a new initiative or two, or three, or four...you get the picture. We are constantly adding the new school year's mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce while the offerings from the previous year get moldy, as we haven't had time to properly ingest them.

I remember one year, not too long ago, when my district started the year with 5 new initiatives without giving teachers extra time to get it done and/or without taking something away. As K-5 teachers we moved from quarterly marking periods to trimesters, from grades based report cards to standards based report cards, from one lesson plan platform to another, we started using a new student information system (think student attendance and grades and teacher evaluations), teachers started incorporating math workshop into their math instruction.

If you are an administrator I implore you to consider what you are taking off your teachers' plates before you add anything new. It's time to cut back on the educational calories we consume throughout the school year. I know I would have a lot more room for biscuits if there was a little less stuffing.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

#PodcastPD: Lessons Learned from How I Built This

I love the show Shark Tank! Early in my viewing history, my boys and I watched it together. Now, I am lucky to have them sit through a few short segments, but I never grow tired of their expressions of awe when the entrepreneurs talk numbers with the sharks, especially when they talk valuation of the startup.

When I discovered that NPR would be producing a new podcast called How I Built This, I immediately downloaded the first episode, which featured Spanx creator, Sara Blakely. I was hooked from the first episode and quickly discovered that my boys are hooked too. When I asked them about their favorite episodes my oldest immediately named the Warby Parker episode while my little guy predictably stated he liked the Atari/Chuck E. Cheese show. Each and every episode has been fascinating. If you like origin stories, this podcast is for you!  If you teach classes in design, STEAM, or business, this podcast is for you! If you or someone you know is a budding entrepreneur, this podcast is for you!

Tonight I share with you the Warby Parker episode, which I recall listening to during winter break. It was an eye opening conversation between host, Guy Raz, and co-founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa. Be sure to listen through to the end, as Guy always features someone trying to breakout with their business.

For more on #PodcastPD check out these posts:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bedtime Stories

Today was a day chock full of reading; my kind of day!!! It started with the completion of the audio book I started 3 days ago, continued with the first book in the series (yes, I am reading them out of order-I had no idea it was a series), moved to reading a loud to my nephew (Elephant and Piggie books are meant to be read aloud), and concluded with the featured sleep story, The Velveteen Rabbit, on the Calm app.

As I started to drift toward sleep while snuggling with my younger son and listening to the story, I thought about the fact that we don't read together anymore. This thought made me sad. My sons and I have listened to countless audio books together: the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson series and most of the other series written by Rick Riordan (that is until hew was able to read those tomes on his own), and many others and we have done a tremendous amount of "lap reading". But book selection has primarily been the job of my older son, and then, once my 9 year old was able to read bigger, harder books on his own, we moved on to other audio consumption...namely podcasts.

As a former 1st-3rd grade teacher, with experience in 4th and 5th grades, I know the importance of reading aloud to a child. There is data to show how the read aloud increases fluency, comprehension, and listening vocabulary. I have always been a fan of audio books; I look back fondly on my days as a little girl sitting with my cassette player playing side A of the audio tape while I followed along with the book, waiting for the beep that would prompt me to turn the page. I recall the pride I felt as I moved to side B and was able to keep pace and turn the pages without the guidance of the prompt. And I remember the sense of accomplishment when I was able to read faster than the narrator and graduated from the cassette tapes all together.

I am proud that I live in a household of avid readers. My 12 year old, if engrossed in a good series, can often be found with his nose in a book. My little guy was slower to grow into his love of reading, but is an avid re-reader of books, despite the number of new titles waiting for him. My husband and I haven't always been the type of couple to share titles, but since we read Harry Potter together back in the early 2000s, we frequently make recommendations to each other, though my husband is much more successful at finding books I will like, recommending titles like Pride and Predjudice, The Book Thief, and the Divergent series (which he and our older son read together).

So, why am I writing about this? Well, in my quest to find balance this year (you can read about my One Word here), I thought that the re-introduction of audiobooks and the read aloud might be one activity to find that balance. My younger son has already instituted a weekly game night; perhaps a weekly game night will be another way for us to disconnect from our electronics and connect as a family. We may cheat a little and use my favorite audiobook app, Overdive, but I think in the end we will come out as the heroes in our own story.

Friday, March 24, 2017

#PodcastPD: Lessons Learned From Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers S3EP14

Generally the plan for the #PodcastPD: Lessons Learned series is to write about one podcast episode from a week of podcast listening (so far I have listened to 9 different episodes since Monday). Each post consists of the accompanying sketchnote I create while listening and is released on Sundays. Today is not Sunday, and I listened to this podcast episode nearly a year ago, but after yesterday's post about how to prepare for a conference requested by your child's teacher, I wanted to follow up with how to prepare for a "Bad News" conference. I have been thinking about the post for a solid portion of the last two days when I happened to look through an old sketchnote notebook and found this...

In episode 14 of season 3 of Truth for Teachers, Angela Watson offers her 10 Tips for Conveying Bad News in a Parent-Teacher Conference. I am pleased to say that RJ's teacher did a great job incorporating many of Angela's tips into ur meeting (which lasted nearly 2 hours-I'm not sure how or why, and it didn't feel that way). I am happy he has a teacher who cares so much; he is in good hands.

What tips do you have for a "Bad News" conference? 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

7 Ways to Prepare for a Request From Your Child's Teacher for a Meeting

If you're the parent of a school-aged child, you have likely prayed to a higher power that his/her teacher would make it through the 180 days of the school year without making the "dreaded phone call" or sending the "carefully worded email" asking you for a meeting (either over the phone or face to face). I have crossed my fingers and toes for the past seven years begging the EDU gods for an incident-free year, and for six of the last seven years my boys and I have had no luck!

Here's a brief history on RD and RJ. RD is 12, in 6th grade, and a great student. He is the type of kid who, if cloned, would make for a class of great students. He's easy to get along with, a good role model, conscientious, and hard working (most of the time). I remember having very little to say about kids like RD in my own conferences. Those kids demand very little from their teachers and are just a delight. RJ is 9 (almost 10), in 4th grade, and a charmer. Ever since he was a baby I knew I was in trouble; his stubbornness could ignite a dormant volcano while his smile could melt the polar caps. He's a tricky one; inconsistent in every way, yet consistently surprising us. I know that if I were ever his teacher it would be a tough year. I am happy to say, most of his teachers are surprised when I say that. Did I mention his smile?

I will never forget when I got my first phone call from the boys' school. I was shocked that RD had beat his brother out on who got the first phone call (both boys got one in Kindergarten, though RD's came earlier in the year). There was a reprieve when RD was in 1st grade and then, for the first three years that RJ has been in school, we have received the dreaded phone call. As a teacher I know I always reserved phone calls for more serious issues, preferring to soften criticisms with tone and inflection, both of which are missing in even some of the most delicately crafted email correspondence. (I truly believe there is a right and a wrong place for email.) The phone calls have always gone well and through conversation and actions, have shown RJ that his teachers and his parents are on the same team-the one that wants to see him succeed and control some of his silly behaviors. Last year we avoided the phone call because we had a heart to heart with RJ's teacher (who we knew well from when RD had her) at Back to School Night. And this year we thought we were going to make it, and technically we did; on Friday of last week we received an email requesting a meeting. After a few back and forths I realized RJ's teacher wanted a face to face and then my heart sank. Aside from Back to School Night and the first parent-teacher conference of the year, I have never scheduled a meeting with my boys' teachers to discuss their progress. 

But I knew I couldn't let the impending meeting defeat me...and I didn't. Here's are the 7 steps I followed to assure I had a successful parent-teacher meeting.
  1. Make sure you know what the teacher wants to discuss. Nothing is worse than attending a meeting you are not prepared for. Make sure you know if you are there to discuss behaviors or academics or both.
  2. Talk to your child about the meeting you will be having. Your child should know you will be discussing him as a student with his teacher. Ask him if he has any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions he'd like you to share on his behalf. If you feel comfortable enough (and you child is old/mature enough-about 5th grade and up), you might even suggest to the teacher that your child attend the meeting with you so that you can develop an action plan together as a solid team. This helps create agency with your child. He will be part of the conversation, adding valuable information and hopefully coming to a better conclusion and outcome overall.
  3. Listen to your child's teacher with an open mind. As a teacher it's never easy to break the news to a parent that their child is struggling in school. If your child's teacher is reaching out to you it's because s/he wants to see your child succeed. A meeting or a phone call with you may add missing pieces to a puzzle that you thought was intact. Listen to what the teacher has to say about the school day, how things are going in writing workshop, about missing homework, or inappropriate behaviors. 
  4. Add to the conversation. YOU know your child best. Help your child's teacher with the missing pieces. If you are seeing the same things at home, own those behaviors and struggles. Being dishonest about how your child presents at home will NOT help matters at school or at home. Now is the time to admit that your child can't sit still long enough to eat a full meal or that she plays with one toy ALL. THE. TIME. If your child hates reading or writing, or struggles with math and word study, let her teacher know. The teacher is an integral part of your child's learning team!
  5. Take notes. Getting any kind of bad news can be overwhelming. Be sure to take notes on key information as it is presented, strategies that have already been put in place and their effectiveness, and steps in the action plan (if one was developed). These notes will help you and your child as you take steps to make improvements.
  6. Fill in the necessary players who may not have been in attendance. If your spouse, partner, or significant other was not able to attend the meeting, be sure to fill him/her in on the details of the meeting (this is where those notes come in handy). Also, share any necessary information with your child, as the meeting was set up to bring about changes that will affect him.
  7. Follow up with the teacher in a few weeks and share new insights (make changes to the action plan as necessary). After a few weeks, check in with the teacher to see if there has been an improvement as a result of your joint efforts. This need not be a face to face meeting, many times a phone conference will suffice. But do meet if the teacher feels this is the better option. Perhaps this time you can bring your child with you. 
In truth, I have not completed step 7, yet, but I have already scheduled a reminder to send my follow-up email and will clear my calendar if RJ's teacher wants to meet face to face (good or bad). I'll keep you posted. 

How do you prepare for meeting with your child's teacher?