Wednesday, July 16, 2014

They Will Remember How You Made Them Feel

Today's Big Time Literacy Blog Challenge (#BTBC14) is supposed to be to tell a story about a memorable student.

I was a fourth grade classroom teacher for seven years. During that time I had approximately 190 students, plus all the students that came to me for science, reading and math when we had a departmental model. I can't say that I remember each and every one of them without looking at a class composite. They all gave me something. I never met a kid I didn't like (I never understand when teachers say they hate a kid - I've been very frustrated by my students, but I don't think I ever said I hated any of them). I hope I gave them something too. I am very lucky to teach in a district that hires many of its alumni and community members. I currently work with six former students. Two of them are currently in administrative roles. Not all of them are teachers. Two of them are in our custodial and maintenance department. I see most of them on a regular basis. Most of the time when I look at them I see the student that they were, but I am so proud of the adult they have become. I know it is not all because of me. They had great parents and came from great families with a strong support system in place. As a young teacher I always envied the my colleagues who had students come back to visit them. Usually that was from an exiting grade, either fifth or eighth grades in our district. I am so happy that I see some of my former students on a regular basis and they keep me updated on some of the others that they still talk to on a regular basis. I am honored to call them colleagues! When we have site visits I am always quick to point out to our visitors my former students and those staff members that are D100 alumni.

One of the proudest moments of my career was being recognized at our January Institute day by one of my former students +Bill Jacklin , who is now a PE teacher in our district. He gave a speech in front of the whole district about how +Jane Monaco and I impacted his life. He told a funny story about when he was a student. At the 8:30 mark in this video Bill starts his speech. You can see in the video that I am wiping away tears. I was so touched to be honored by Bill. +Zach Pros , the boy the man, on the far right in the picture above is also a former student. We were presented with flowers and a plaque.

I have this plaque hanging in my office to remind me that every day I have an impact on the lives of the children of South Berwyn, and that I should make all my interactions positive ones. Your students may not remember what you taught them, but they will remember how you made them feel. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I bleed Cubbie blue

Since we have no vacation plans for this summer because we went to England for 12 days last summer I will blog about yesterday's topic - Which team do you cheer for? I am what we call here in Chicago a Die Hard Cub Fan. It is really a blessing and a curse. I remember as a kid, my mom would be folding clothes in front of the television when I would come home from school. She would be watching the Cubs' game. Cubs' games always started at 1:20 pm. She would throw a ball of socks at the television when they made a bad play. I don't remember going to my first game, like some people do. I do remember going to games as a kid. It was always a lot of fun. We usually went on a bus with a lot of friends from our town. I went to games with friends as a teenager. Bill Buckner was my favorite player in the 1970's. I met him at my little league banquet when I was about 9 or 10 years old.

I spent my 21st birthday at Wrigley Field with friends. We had a very good time sitting in the bleachers. I went on my first date with my husband to a Cub's game in June 1990. We got engaged at a Cub's game almost 1 year later, May of 1991.  The funny thing about that day was that I had had such a rotten day at school that I was crabby and picked a fight with him. We did not have cell phones and the plan was already in motion. Our friends were sitting in right-center field and we were in upper deck box seats. In the middle of the third inning they held up a huge banner that said. "MONA WILL YOU MARRY ME? MIKE" Of course I said yes. We went to a Cubs game the day after our wedding with some friends from out of town. We have been to Milwaukee, St. Louis, Phoenix, and Houston to see them play. We have also been to Spring Training several times. Now we make a trip to Wrigley Field a few times per season with our sons despite the fact that team has not won a World Series in 106 years (it's safe to say they won't win this year either). I love the Cubs!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What makes a good 1:1 wireless device program

So the goal of the BigTime Literacy Blogger Challenge (#BTBC14) is to write everyday. This is truly a challenge for me. It is the 5th day of The Challenge and only my 2nd time writing. I have good intentions of writing on a daily basis. Being a mother of 2, who works 2 jobs is a challenge everyday. I have never seen myself as a strong writer. I was a strong speller but not very good with grammar when I was in school. But I'm thankful to +Michelle Brezek for The Challenge!

I was honored this past week to be asked to tell District 100's story of our 1:1 journey to a district in Springfield, Ohio. I spoke with them for about 55 minutes over the phone, but I could have gone on for at least another hour. I started the conversation with visionary leadership. Which is necessary for any successful 1:1 program. Ours started, in part, with a definable, measurable goal crafted by our Superintendent Dr.  +Stan Fields and endorsed by our school board. Berwyn South School District 100 will rank within the top 25% of districts in the State of Illinois as evidenced by state testing. It is posted all over the district and every staff member can tell you our vision statement. When we started the 1:1 program we also saw it as a chance to improve and redefine teaching and learning for all of our students. At about the same time we also implemented full day kindergarten, use of the co-teaching model for instruction, got rid or all of our desks and bought tables for more collaboration and group work, overhauled our lunch program, started a fitness based PE program in the middle schools using Fitnessgram, invested in eChalk as our LMS, hosted parent universities to get more parent involvement, just to name a few. 

The biggest change was bringing in the laptops for instruction. Infrastructure is huge when starting a 1:1 program. We had some growing pains, but due to the quick work of our tech department this was easily rectified. To me the second most important part of a successful 1:1 program is good professional development. In District 100 we have made a very conscious effort to have targeted, differentiated professional development sessions. We started at our spring 2012 institute day and have been doing it ever since. We went 100% 1:1 in fall of 2012. If you are interested here is a look at our District Professional Development Page.  Check out the Summer 2014 Brochure. There is a little something for everyone, reading, math, science, social studies, PE, tech, art, music. This year in our summer PD we have even gone farther by differentiating within the session as well. Some of our sessions this summer follow the flipped model so that all the attendees get the most out of their experience and the teacher leader(s) can facilitate the sessions better. On the call I also discussed how we rolled out the program. We started with 1 elementary teacher +Shannon Soger and a team at the middle school. Others who wanted to have 1:1 in their classrooms either had to meet with or write up a proposal telling their building principal why 1:1 would work in their classroom. Those who spoke the loudest were rewarded with computers in their classroom. These were just a few of the things I talked about on the conference call. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Taking on the Blogging Challenge

+Michelle Brezek of Big Time Literacy has challenged all the bloggers in my district to blog daily in the month of July. You can check out the details here. I think this is such a great idea. She did a professional development session yesterday. She helped 10 staff members create 7 new blogs for our district. We have such great stories to tell in South Berwyn. This is very exciting! Writing on a daily basis will be a challenge for me, but I love a good challenge.

For the Challenge, Michelle has provided some prompts in case we don't know what to write about. I missed yesterday's but I have already covered that topic in this blog. The prompt was, "Tell us what brings you to your new blog! ". Today's prompt is, "How long and in what capacities have you been in education? "

I started in 1990 as a reading and math Title 1 teacher. I provided small group instruction for those needing a boost in reading and math. This was a teaching assistant position. When I started there were not a lot of teaching jobs available in my area. The following year I was a teaching assistant in an intermediate cross categorical classroom. The students in this classroom had learning disabilities. I had finally finished paying my dues. My third year I was a first grade teacher. I took over for a teacher who was on medical leave. First grade was not really my strong suite. I was not that great with the younger students, but again I looked at it as a challenge and I needed a job. My fourth year I changed buildings and moved to fourth grade. I was finally in a grade that suited me perfectly! I believe every teacher has their perfect grade. I stayed in that position for 7 years. I really liked teaching fourth grade, but after having two children I felt it was time to leave the classroom and go into a support role. In 2000 I became the computer teacher. I should have started a blog then. If I knew then what I know now, right? I enjoyed that role immensely. I traveled between two buildings but that didn't seem to matter at all, in fact I really liked being a traveling teacher. As our district moved to the 1:1 model my position in the computer lab was no longer working. I saw the writing on the wall, soon my position would no longer exist. I moved into the role of instructional coach where I am now. It is the perfect blend of tech, kids and curriculum for me!