My Thanks Givings

Did you know that the Pilgrims would not have considered their first harvest feast a true thanksgiving?  To the Pilgrims, thanksgiving was a day for giving thanks to God for their many blessings.  Their harvest feast was simply a feast, lasting three days in which they sang secular songs, played games, and danced.  Definitely not true “thanksgiving” activities.

It is incredible that the tradition of a true Pilgrim thanksgiving and the celebration of the harvest have combined over the last nearly 400 years.  Most modern day Thanksgivings involve feasting as well as giving thanks to God for the blessings of the past year.  In a world where we are faced with numerous daunting challenges, it is nice to pause and remember the blessings we have received, whether you believe they come from God or not.

My Forever PLC

As a teacher, I have much to be thankful for.  I am thankful for starting over at a new school this year and feeling welcomed.  I am thankful that the transition has been smooth and that, while I’m still adjusting, I know that I have a full system of support from colleagues around me.

I am thankful for my Forever PLC from Watson Lane.  While I don’t get to see them or work with them every day, I know that I can call on them whenever I need.  They are always there with good advice and understanding hearts.

I am thankful for the teacher leadership opportunities that have been introduced to me this past year through Twitter and my #JCPSForward tribe.  Over the past year, I have attended EdCampJCPS, EdCampKY, ECET2Ky, and am helping to plan ECET2Lou.  These opportunities have renewed my teacher spirit and passion for teaching and learning and I am excited to see where they take me.

Having fun at EdCampJCPS

I am thankful for the Bellarmine Literacy Project for helping to transform reading instruction not only in my classroom, but in so many classrooms across JCPS.  I am thankful for my instructors and their ability to constantly fuel my passion for literacy.

I am thankful for a husband who understands the long hours I spend “working.”  I use quotation marks because while I am technically working, this job is a job that I love.  Education is my passion and I would do the work I do whether or not I got paid.

Most of all, though, I am thankful for my students.  My current students, my former students, and my future students.  I do what I do because of them and for them.  I aspire to make the most of my time with them.  Not just for their learning, but mine as well.  I am thankful for their passion for books, their eagerness to learn, their excitement for new things, and their hugs on a hard day.

Take a few minutes to think about what you’re thankful for as a teacher this year.  If nothing else, it will remind you why you get up each morning to do what you do.

Keep inspiring, teachers.


ECET2KY Reflections

I am not a blogger.  The evidence is right here on this blog. I like to write. I journal constantly, but blogging for an audience is a completely different experience.  I’d like to change that, however.  Especially after attending the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) Conference Kentucky state convening this past weekend.  I am ready to share my experience with others!

I have never attended another event that was so laid back, but also extremely professional and packed with inspiration.  ECET2Ky was an experience that was life-changing!  I drove to Lexington, Kentucky from Louisville on Friday night for a meet-and-mingle session and BreakoutEDU game.  If you’ve never played a BreakoutEDU game – either with your students or with other educators – you need to try it!  It is a great way to break the ice and get everyone up and moving.  The best part of the Friday night mingle was getting to meet people that I have followed on Twitter for months.  It was great to finally put a real face with the Twitter handle.

The actual ECET2Ky convening was on Saturday at the Embassy Suites in Lexington.  Over 100 educators from all over the Bluegrass were there to share and learn together.  The day was organized with breakout sessions and short, inspirational speeches by fellow educators reminding us how important our job was and continues to be.

The first breakout session I attended was called “Educational Resources” and was presented by Kentucky teachers Jana Bryant and Kelly Stidham.  These women know their stuff.  They discussed the shift occurring statewide and nationally with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and offered resources to help close the achievement gap.  Some of my favorite resources that they shared are:

They also shared about Educators Rising, which is a program much like Future Farmers of America design to encourage high school students to start thinking about a career in education.  High school educators, does your school have an Educators Rising chapter?  It’s free!
The second breakout session I attended was focused on networking based on the Kentucky Teacher Leadership Framework. The framework itself is a thing of beauty.  You can find it here. This session, moderated by Kip Hottman, Suzanne Farmer, Amy Clancy, Missy Callaway, Meme Ratliff, Jennifer Cox, and Mike Paul (some downright amazing KY educators, if I do say so myself), was all about how to build your teacher networks.  I sat down with Jennifer Cox, principal at East Middle School in Shelbyville, and discussed how to bridge the gap between teachers and administrators.  I walked away with an action plan, probably my biggest take away from ECET2Ky.
from the Kentucky Dept. of Education website
Another one of my favorite parts of ECET2Ky was Colleague Circles.  We wrote and reflected upon individual problems of practice within our schools or districts and then, as a table group, followed a discussion guide to get to the root of the problem and offer solutions.  The intention of the discussion was to propagate a variety of solutions to take back to our individual situations.  My table had a passionate discussion on the disconnect between learning and standardized assessment.  It was inspiriting to see teachers from all across the state come together over such a unifying topic.  And, better than that, each of us walked away with a few strategies to combat the dreaded standardized assessment headache.
We also got goodies.  Who doesn’t love a good professional book?

 I’m not even going to lie to you, my favorite part of ECET2Ky was probably the drive home.  I had almost a full hour and a half of pure reflection.  I was able to process all the events of the day and was able to think about my short and long-term goals proceeding from here on out.  But the most important, most inspiring reflection I had about ECET2KY was this:  It is all about our students. 
I get up every morning for 23 of them.  I get up, take my shower, get myself dressed, and drag myself to school every single day for them.  It is not for the paycheck, though it is nice.  It is not for my colleagues, although they are great.  I get up every day because my students need me.  They expect me there every day to teach them new things, to let them have fun with their friends, to eat lunch with them, and to let them tell me silly stories about their weekend.  I teach them standards, sure, but that is only the tip of the iceberg of what I do.  Our job as educators goes so much deeper than just teaching and assessing.  We have the ability to create the ultimate butterfly effect (see Andy Andrews book above). Each action we make throughout a school day can change the trajectory of a student’s life forever.  The burden is large, but the reward is so much bigger.
I could talk forever about my experience at ECET2KY, but it really is something you need to experience for yourself.  To my fellow JCPS educators, go ahead and nominate yourself or a colleague for #ECET2Lou in February.  You can find more information and the nomination form here:  https://www.smore.com/fty8k-ecet2lou.  I’ll see you guys in February!

UPDATED 2-2-17:  ECET2Lou 2017 was a success!  Check out one of our most memorable moments here.