Microsoft Innovative Educator

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back to What??

As the end of summer is fast approaching (sad but true), and educators begin to focus on the new year ahead, it is always a good idea to reflect on the true essentials of your calling. This Blog Is Why you will be reminded why it is you do what you do and all that truly matters. Another special thanks to a Facebook friend for sharing this article. Make this a part of your 'Back to School' first days with staff.

Summer Reading Blog #7

This article made me think about the many, many great teachers that I have had the pleasure of knowing. The ones that you never forget. The ones that had a major impact on your life. They may even be the reason that you decided to become an educator. My thoughts here went in two different directions: as a student and as a teacher.
As a teacher, sometimes you may forget the impact you have on others or maybe you never get to see or know the results of your actions. Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing some of my former students. While I may not have taught them in a class, I still claim them as mine! Their grandmother is very near and dear to my heart. She worked as a custodian in a school where I taught and quickly become my "mom" away from home and a dear friend. I was in town and stopped by for a visit. Her welcoming hug was just what I needed. It also warmed my heart that she called all of the grandkids to let them know I was there and my heart swelled even more when they rushed over to see me. In that moment, I learned that not only do you touch students' lives, but they also touch yours. They make you a better person. Everyone wins.
As a student, I remember being a senior in high school and not exactly sure what I wanted to do with my life. In my Teacher Cadet course---that we were all taking just for the college credit---the teacher asked us a question that really changed my life in that moment. She asked us, "Who do you want teaching your children?" and went on to tell us that we were the best and the brightest. She said if we weren't interested in teaching our children, then who would. It was definitely something to think about. I wanted to accept the challenge. If we truly were the best and the brightest, then that was what I wanted for future generations. To be taught by the best.

My big take-aways from the reading:
1. The tougher the situation, the more important it is to remain positive. This one is tough, but it is definitely a keeper. Sound advice.
2. Teachers inspire. Students are looking up to you. Be cautious about the message you are sending.
3. When you look into the heart of a teacher, you should find an all-around good person. Have you done your heart check today?

You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe by email to as I continue to share my summer reading list.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No Excuses

A few short days ago I started on a journey that my brain has needed all summer. I love learning. But more than that, I love sharing with others and feeling as though I can impact the world --or at least a few people in it. Some may view blogging as a platform for educational issues, trends, and politics. And it can be that. At the same time, it can be a source for reflection, quiet pondering, and continuous growth. Thank you for taking this journey with me and I look forward to all the destinations where this wonderful path will lead. And so, This Blog Is Why I am setting a new goal for myself: focus on these 3 take-aways in my career (see below).

Summer Reading Blog #6
Twitter: @ScottRRocco

One of the hard lessons that I had to learn as an administrator came from this golden nugget of advice: Don't make lists. Valuable lesson. Why? You may ask. It only causes you stress and headaches because your job is never done. You will never accomplish everything there is to accomplish. Why place that extra stress on yourself of trying to cross things off of a never-ending list. Now, I'm not saying that I always followed that advice. But those words rang in my ears every time I started one. At any one time, I might have two or three lists going at the same time until I realized I was wasting more time making the lists when I could just be getting the work done! Well, that's what the blog in the link above made me think about. The hard work. Education is hard work. Anybody that says otherwise must not be an educator. I know we make it look easy. But the struggle is real. Real and worth it. Those who put in the hard work, the long days, the extra hours are truly committed and dedicated. That's what education thrives on. That's what it takes to move schools forward and prepare students for the world. 
It's not just about those two characteristics, though. Risk-taking is also an essential component. Giving educators permission to fail or at least get it wrong sometimes. Where would we be without those 'mess-ups'? That is how we get some of the best, most innovative inventions. Someone willing to ask, "I wonder what would happen if I tried this?" and then doing it. It takes us to the next level. If we want classrooms full of students that think critically, then we must have educators that feel comfortable pushing the envelope. That comes by creating an environment where it's okay to make mistakes. That's where true learning occurs. In a place where you are allowed to grow and get better. Like a baby taking his first steps. He may stumble a few times, but soon his stride shows no signs of his struggles. 

My big take-aways from the reading:
1. Commitment-Get the job done.
2. Dedication-Enjoy yourself.
3. Responsibility (Risk-taking)-Learn from your mistakes.

You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe by email to as I continue to share my summer reading list.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Breaking the Ice

Sharing ideas. That's one element I enjoy about reading blogs. Even though I didn't write my own post yesterday, I read some really good ones (keeping up with my blog-a-day challenge). But I couldn't decide on one to write about. My biggest fan/critic has been adamant that I need to use my blog to showcase my own ideas, thoughts, and experiences. While I understand that, I am also a life-long learner and I don't mind sharing from that point of view as well. I get the point, though, and This Blog Is Why I plan to discuss one of my favorite activities... ICEBREAKERS!!
(**Scroll to bottom for update**)

Educators in the summer are in plan mode and may be searching for the perfect team-building activity. I want to share a couple of my favorite icebreakers that you can use in a classroom, faculty meeting, or a conference session. The first one is really easy and only requires you to have pictures of four different shapes: a circle, a square, a triangle, and a squiggle. Before starting, you will set them up around the room. Next, ask your audience to answer the question: "What Shape Is Your Personality?" and instruct them to go stand beside or under that shape. They must choose only one. There may be some groans. Yes, you have to get up out of your seat and move! But once the discussion starts, those groans will turn to laughs and "aha" moments. Finally, you will read the descriptions for each shape and invite your audience to move if they decide they made a wrong choice. The last time I did this activity with my faculty/staff, I found myself in a room full of squiggles and I was one of only two squares. What a lively bunch! Poor me, or poor them. You decide. 
The links below can help you create descriptions to use with this icebreaker:

The next icebreaker takes a little longer and requires the use of a computer. I love using it with my college level students because I think it helps them learn how they prefer to work. It has also made group projects easier as they begin to understand each other and what makes someone else tick. The conversations that arise from this activity are well worth the time and effort. Now, this is a cheap/free version of the popular Meyers-Briggs assessment, which I highly recommend educators invest in at some point in their career. I completed this in college and again in my Principal Induction Program. My results scream: "Hey, this is just who I am!" and they were exactly the same both times. In case you're wondering, I am an 'ISTJ'--quiet, serious, earn success by thoroughness and dependability. Yep, sounds like me. I even gave this quiz to my biggest fan/critic. Better than couples therapy. ;-)

The link below is for the "Jung Typology Test":

When you find that this little quiz improves your school's culture, builds a positive classroom environment, or saves your relationship, you can thank me later. Just drop me a line!

This is one of my favorite icebreakers to share during my in-person sessions. As participants enter the room, they select a piece of candy that best describes their personality (or just pick your favorite). Next, I have them divide into groups and share why they decided to attend the session or something they hope to learn. Each person shares and then I read the descriptors. At this time, people can switch groups if the personality type doesn't truly fit them. Fun, easy, and you get the room talking.

                                            Photo Credit: Alyson Carpenter @alysoncarp1

You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe by email to as I continue to share my summer reading list.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Author Todd Whitaker describes three types of teachers. One of those, the most elite group, he names "Superstar" teachers. "Superstars" represent a small number of your overall staff, but these are the teachers that can have the most influence. That is, if administrators recognize and value the power they hold and make them an integral part of the school decision-making process. These are the teachers that must be protected, encouraged, and supported as they assist with leading a school in the right direction. This Blog Is Why we must appreciate and celebrate those educators who go above and beyond. The future of our students depends on it.

Summer Reading Blog #5
Twitter: @Mr_B_Teacher

A few days ago, I presented myself with a personal challenge: read one blog per day. Of course, I took to Twitter for some suggestions and was pleased with the suggested blogs that came my way. Here, I was introduced to Justin Birckbichler's blog (link above). I am excited to learn and grow with this inspirational 4th grade teacher. His story of Jack reminded me of a touching/inspiring story from my past that I like to keep in the back of my mind. I am sure that many educators have had some encounter with  this story from 1974 written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. It was published in Home Life Magazine as "Three Letters from Teddy" and still has relevance today. I will attempt to summarize the story: It is the story of Teddy Stallard and his teacher Miss Thompson. Teddy started out as a good student who began to have problems in school after the death of his mother. One Christmas he gave his teacher (Miss Thompson) used gifts that had belonged to his mother. The teacher immediately thanked him and made a big deal about them in front of the classmates that teased him. Their relationship changed in that moment. Teddy would go on to attend college and become a doctor. Later in life when he got married, he invited Miss Thompson to sit in his mother's place at the wedding. Demonstrating the impact that her act of kindness had on his life.
Teddy's Story

As an administrator, when I have had a student in my office for behavior concerns, my ultimate goal is for them not to come back (unless it's to read me a story or share some good news). It's not about fixing the child, it's about building a better relationship. A relationship where he/she wants to do better because they know it will make you proud. Better yet, just because it will make them a better person. Nobody is perfect and we all have struggles. We can't forget that when dealing with children. Often a child that is acting out, is crying out for help at the same time. It's a test: "does this person care enough"?

I will take this opportunity to share a resource as well---the 2 x 10 strategy. I think it's a great management tool and worth a look if you are not familiar with it. For that one student that consistently acts out, set aside two minutes a day for ten consecutive days to build a relationship with her/him by talking about his/her interests. Try it. You may be amazed with the pay off. Aren't your students worth it?

I can just hear the responses now:
Superstar Teacher: Oh! I already do that. I call it (insert cute/catchy name here).
Backbone Teacher: Sure. It's worth a try. I'll try anything!
Mediocre Teacher: I have already tried everything. Nothing works for (insert student name).

My big take-aways from the reading:
1. You may not be able to make every sporting event, birthday party, or dance recital, but your presence in the community/life of a child speaks volumes. I love seeing students outside of the school setting. You get to enjoy them in a new and different way.
2. Don't forget to have fun. School can be stressful---for everyone. Enjoy those silly moments. Create a few too.
3. Mr. B is truly a superstar teacher!#EnoughSaid

You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe by email to as I continue to share my summer reading list.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Do It For the Hashtag!

In my last blog post, I shared with you how I got started with Twitter. And the fact that I am always trying to spread the love. Once again, I will mention my awesome PLN, which is where I found the link below that has me excited to share. This Blog Is Why I love Jimmy Fallon (Hashtag #WatchTheVideo). I am super guilty, but not ashamed to admit: I love hashtags! I use them the wrong way all the time, but I do know how to use them correctly. Sometimes, it's just fun to break the rules!

Summer Reading Blog #4
Twitter: @BethHouf
***Warning-The video in the link is rated "Mature Adults Only"***

Summer is typically a perfect time for planning. That is, when you are not vacationing! The information included in the above link could be your next professional development workshop. What I especially like is that there are a number of resources that you can pick and choose from. For example, if you think the video is totally inappropriate--no worries, don't use it. The layout reminds me of the workshop that I attended with the step-by-step instructions for getting started on Twitter, complete with suggested professionals to follow. As an added bonus for someone like me who is already established, there is a section/link "Social Media for Educators" that introduces other social media platforms. Twitter has been my social media 'comfort zone' and I am excited to explore some of the other options that are becoming increasingly popular.

On the subject of hashtags, I would be remiss if I did not mention my favorite one, #satchat. I am really not sure how or why I got started with this particular group, but I have grown to love it. Which is mind boggling to me because the group connects every Saturday morning for an hour starting at 7:30AM/EST. To know me is to understand that I am NOT a morning person (really, I'm not) and I LIVE for weekends (and summers and holidays) when I get the chance to sleep in. I think it goes without saying that I must be dedicated to the group and my professional growth to miss out on those precious minutes of sleep. I can truly say that it is well worth it. The best part is that my professional development comes to me and I can even learn in my pjs. The moderators for the group: @bradmcurrie, @ScottRRocco, @wkrakower will tweet out the topic and questions ahead of time which makes it super easy to follow along and jump back in if you get sidetracked. You will get sidetracked, because someone will say something interesting or inspiring and you simply must follow that train of thought and engage in sidebar conversation. Nothing wrong with that! It's about connecting, learning, growing, and sharing.

My big take-aways from the reading:
1. I have so much more to learn---about Voxer, Google Hangouts, Tumblr, etc. And I can't wait to get started!
2. Did I mention that I love hashtags (#)? One of the advantages of hashtags is that you can follow and connect with like-minded educators/professionals that share your interests. My favorite educational hashtag is #satchat. Check it out!
3. This is more of a share or workshop extra. Create a unique hashtag for your group to use and display using Your audience can see their tweets projected and it builds excitement. If you are at a conference and there is a general hashtag, you can even use that.

You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe by email to as I continue to share my summer reading list.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Twitter Confessions

Catchy title, I know. But, there won't be any earthshattering confessions here. This summer I decided to challenge myself to read more blogs. Anyone who knows me can say with confidence that I am a true advocate of Twitter for professional learning and connections. With that being said, I am also guilty of seeing the blog links in my PLN but rarely taking the time to read them. This Blog Is Why it is my new mission to take the opportunity to learn and grow by subscribing to (and reading) more educational blogs. I invite you all to join me on this journey.

Summer Reading Blog #3:
Twitter: @gcouros

It was the title of this particular blog post that caught my attention ("Not Everyone Is You"). How many times do we as educators forget that? My other confession...sometimes I forget. Especially when it comes to Twitter. When I first started on Twitter, it was really to follow my favorite reality TV shows and stars. Not very educational, but very entertaining (another confession). Generally, when I try to introduce others to Twitter, I hear about how confusing it is and I agree because it took me some time to catch on as well. But once I figured it out, I was hooked! What made it even better was when I attended the Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, SC during the summer of 2013. One of the sessions that I attended was focused on building your PLN (Professional Learning Network---Warning: I use this a lot and don't always spell it out). The moderator explained the lingo to us, suggested professionals to follow, and provided general tips for getting started. At that moment, I had my new wings and began to soar using Twitter in a completely different way than before. What I enjoy most about learning through Twitter, is that you can make the learning your own. I am able to locate resources related to any topic and I am not forced to travel or wait until the next big conference. I have access to authors, speakers, and experts without a fee! As an administrator, I have often shared resources with teachers that I gathered from Twitter. But, as a true leader, I want my teachers/staff to be as empowered as I am. So I always encourage others to join. Confession Ahead...I also get discouraged and frustrated when they don't take full advantage of this tool. For example, I see one of my friends/colleagues back on Twitter, but she is still an "egghead"! That's the first rule of Twitter professionals, no eggheads! Here is where I remind myself "Not Everyone Is You" and she will find her own way in her own time. I can appreciate that.

My big take-aways from the reading:
1. Technology has its place in education. Not everyone will agree what that is and there will be varying levels of comfort and use. Respect that.
2. Great leaders listen and seek to understand, instead of trying to get everyone to where you are. Powerful!
3. I found a new blog to follow: Check it out!

You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe by email to as I continue to share my summer reading list.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Reader In Me

The reader in me wants every child to experience the joys of getting lost in a story. I want every reader to nurture an imagination that allows them to experience worlds unknown. What happens when that luxury does not come easily for a struggling reader? This Blog is Why I was happy to come across a teacher's response to how parents can help unlock this treasure for children that have struggles. A special thanks to my friend that shared this link on Facebook (gotta love Facebook)!

Summer Reading Blog #2:
Author/Contributor: 6th grade teacher, Beth

When I began to read this article/blog, I immediately took notice of the teacher's writing style. It is just my cup of tea (insert Kermit meme here)! Perfect for the intended audience, parents of a struggling reader. She provides some easy to implement tips with just the right touch of humor and sensibility. She also includes a listing of books that children might enjoy. A great resource if you're not up to speed on the latest playground banter. As an educator with a focused passion for reading, I am always on the lookout for new reading strategies, tips, techniques, and/or resources to share. This is one that I will definitely continue to share with parents and even teachers that are searching for ways to help motivate those students that just don't like to pick up a book. Can you imagine that? No? Me either!

In this article, there 7 tips that are designed to help you stay one step ahead of the game. Trust me, I know what that's like. Each semester I am faced with a classroom full of students that are not shy about telling me how much they hate reading. I try not to take offense. And the one person that is not ashamed to admit they LOVE reading, I always promise them an "A"! Even if that student doesn't earn the "A" that I promised, at least I know they will work hard. That is my number one requirement of students, that they work hard. And when I tell them by the end of the course they are going to love reading, of course they don't believe me. But, it always warms my heart when someone tells me at the end that I was right. There will be those that don't fall in love, okay most of them won't, and that's okay. My goal is to let them know that even in their struggles I am there to support them and we will all get through it together.

That brings me back to the article and those seven tips. Here are...
My big take-aways from the reading:
1. If you think it's going to be easy, it's not. Anything worth it's salt, requires work. Reading is no different. (Hmmm, sounds like my lecture in class.)
2. Be the example. You can't expect someone to do what you aren't willing to do yourself. Well, you could, but don't be surprised by the results. 
3. Make reading a social event. Because it is. That's why book clubs are popular. Celebrate reading, talk about characters that amaze you, and share a book with someone you love. 

You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe by email to as I continue to share my summer reading list.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Introduction: Welcome (Back)

Welcome to my new blog site. You may remember me from my previous blog: "Reflections of a YPAdean" (or maybe you don't and that's okay too!). Summer is the perfect time for learning, growth, and change. My educational mission is to incorporate them all here and This Blog Is Why I will continue to be a change agent for teachers, students, administrators, and anyone else inspired by my words/work. Come along on my summer reading journey as I explore my awesome Professional Learning Network (PLN) and learn from some amazing educators. Let's begin!

Summer Reading Blog #1:
Twitter: @FITinEDU

What is a flipped classroom/model? My loose definition: This is where you require your students/audience to do required reading, research, or work independently---usually at home, so that your lesson can focus more on developing their understanding in the areas of difficulty or interest. Again, this is my very loose interpretation.

The focus of the blog in the link above is the flipped classroom--an intriguing concept for me. In this blog post, the teacher/author Felecia Young, outlines how she has implemented this in the classroom while answering some questions that many teachers and even administrators may have about logistics. I loved the AEIOU strategy. I can definitely see myself using this in flipped faculty meetings or with my college students. At times it can be difficult to think of creative ways to get adult learners involved in the process, but I think this strategy is a WINNER (that is not an acronym)! Thinking about a flipped classroom model made me think of a few questions: How often is this strategy used? What are conversations like with parents? How is student learning/progress assessed? There is some mention of assessments, but it seemed general. I'm sure it would be a great benefit to see this in action. I think I'll plan to use this in my college course(s) scheduled for the fall. As a reading instructor, I strive to find ways to motivate my students to commit time outside of class to assigned readings. While I spend a few class sessions laying the foundation for our course, I inform students that once that is done, the major work of the course falls on them. Incorporating the flipped model into what I already do seems like a natural next step. Stay tuned to future blogs for updates!
From an administrator's perspective, I first learned about the flipped faculty meeting model from author/blogger @PeterMDeWitt, who spoke at a workshop that I attended this past year. If you are looking to make your meetings more interactive, flipped may be the way to go. Instead of having teachers "sit and get" identify topics of study and incorporate open dialogue into your next faculty meeting. What a way to grow together and share ideas that may not be shared otherwise.

My big take-aways from the reading:
1. You must have district/school support for this model to be effective. Resources will be an essential component to the success of the flipped classroom.
2. Students must be held accountable. The teacher will need to find and implement a system that works for his/her classroom and students. This post offers some suggestions/starting points.
3. Flipping the classroom is an interactive and reflective process for teacher and students. The flipped model demands flexibility and encourages a student-centered classroom that thrives on teachable moments.

Be sure to check out @FITinEDU and subscribe to her blog.
You can also connect with me on Twitter @MsClassNSession or LinkedIn:
Post comments or subscribe to as I continue to share my summer reading list.