Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lean In and Thank You

This post is dedicated to Lee Kolbert and Lean In:Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.

This past week I had parent/teacher/student conferences.  For those of you new to my blog, I teach fifth grade and my students come to parent conferences.  The focus is on them.  They do the talking, the adults do the listening.  By the time the conference is over, there is a plan for improvement and a general warm, fuzzy feeling of joy about the progress that has already been made.  

My last conference was with a student who is bright, hard working, caring.  All the things we want in a student. The only area of improvement I suggested was that I want to hear her voice more.  The boys in my room tend to take over the conversations and she is too "good" to call out her ideas along with the boys.  I know I could make it a rule that you have to raise your hand and wait to be called on before speaking but I really have difficulty running a class like that.  I like the give and take throughout the day.  But quiet children tend to get lost if I don't force the issue, which I do often.

Since her conference, I have been thinking a great deal about the "good" girls.  And it is mostly girls. The boys who are quiet are still more vocal than the girls who are quiet.  I need to find a way to inspire these girls to speak up, "Lean In", and be a part of the running of the class.  So I started to think about myself.

I know many of you will find this hard to believe, but, when I was in middle and high school, I was shy.  I never talked, unless I was called on.  I let others make all the decisions, tell me what I needed to do.  In fact, I was so quiet, kids thought I was a bitch.  That's what they told me once they got to know me.  They thought I felt superior since I didn't talk to them at all.  The reality is far from their beliefs.  I was so insecure and so shy I was sure that, if I did contribute, I would be laughed at.  So I just kept quiet.

Now, at age 50, I have no problems "Leaning In."  How did this come to be?  It really started with the creation of my online PLN.  I started to know amazing women.  Women who spoke out, who reached out, who were successful and vocal.  Women like Lee Kolbert, who always had so much to offer when I was stuck on some idea.  Like Vicki Davis, who was so successful and so sought after, but still so kind to little ole me.  Like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, who is able to run a successful organization, while still maintaining herself.  Like Refranz Davis, who breaks new ground each year and still laughs about her "faults."  Like Angela Maiers, who is a well sought after speaker who still wears amazing shoes.

There are so many to name.  Stephanie and Karen and Julie and Donna and Toni and Lisa and Liz.  Women who are strong enough to speak up and down to earth enough to laugh at themselves and each other.  Where would I be without you all?  Probably still the bitch I was known to be.  I had no trouble standing up for my students but could never stand up for myself.  

So the advice I give to my girls now is to read about amazing women.  Even in fiction.  Sarah from Sarah, Plain and Tall, is a fiesty woman from the 1800s who tells her husband what she wants and gets it.  And he still loves her.  They need to hear that.

But to all the women still leaning is time.  Lean in, speak up, move forward.  This world is so screwed up.  We need compassionate, strong women to start taking over.  And men to support them when they do. 

Thank you to all my women friends...those who Lean In and those who are waiting still to learn.  I would not be where I am today without you!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Keystones Technology Innovators STARS Summit

This week I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the week's activities at the Keystones Technology Innovators STARS Summit in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.  I had been approached by Linda Nitsche, who was helping to organize the summit.  BrainPOP was a sponsor and she knew that I love BrainPop so she asked if I would like to present with them and then on my own about globalization.  I figured it would be a fun two days in the Pennsylvania countryside and didn't really expect much out of it.  Wow, was I wrong.

First, I love the idea of the Keystones.  This group is made up of Pennsylvania educators, chosen by their administrators as leaders in the field or soon to be leaders.  They come together for, what the wiki calls "the most exhausting yet professionally and personally rewarding week of your life." These educators,

most meeting for the first time when they meet their dorm roommates on Monday night, come together from breakfast time through dinner time and co-hort time in the evening each day.  They experience amazing keynote speakers, attend sessions with forward thinking educators, learn about new and exciting ideas and tools, and create a lasting PLN of Pennsylvania leaders in education.  I wish New York had something like this.  I would love to be part of it.

My biggest surprise?  I was challenged.  I didn't expect that.  I thought I would go and share my wisdom.  I did do that.  But I learned so much more.  

Tuesday morning's keynote speaker was Philip Vinogradov.  How have I never heard of him?  He spoke about gamification and how he, as an AP bio teacher

gamified his entire year.  I was so impressed with his keynote, I went to his session for gamifying elementary classrooms.  I haven't been so excited by a new idea in a long time.  I love games but am not a gamer.  So this was all new to me.  Wow!  Makes me reminiscent of my early DOS role playing games.  I might actually try to gamify one of my units this year.  I'll be sure to blog about it, positive and negative.

Tuesday was also a BrainPOP presentation day.  Katya Hott, from BrainPOP, and I presented on the theme of gaming.  So we showed the Keynotes about GameUp.  But what they really were impressed with was the fact that BrainPOP is so much more than just cute videos.  They loved finding out how powerful a site it really is.  And I loved sharing that.  

Wednesday morning's keynote speaker was Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  I have known Sheryl for years and have had some fascinating conversations with her.  But I have never heard her speak to an audience.  I got more quotes out of her keynote than I knew possible.  My favorite, "If you are concerned that the future means we will be replaced by computers then...if you can be replaced by a computer, you should be and please leave education now."  She is not afraid of technology innovations...she looks forward to them and understands that our role as teachers is to prepare our students for this world.  I love her!

After the keynote, I presented about Going Global in the Classroom.  This is a love of mine so I enjoyed sharing.  And I loved seeing the excitement and experiencing the energy in the room as these teachers learned what is possible.

I left right after my presentation to get back to my life but the whole drive home was spent just thinking.  All that learning was exhilarating.  But that wasn't the best part of Keynotes.  The best part was the conversations at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The chats in the hallways and bathrooms.  The talks as we walked back and forth on campus.  These educators are excited about what they are learning.  Not once did I hear anyone say, "Yeah, but..."  They did speak about lack of technology in their schools, lack of support from administration, and demands from testing and curriculum.  But they also spoke about how they were going to push back in September so they can...use Edmodo for book discussions, connect on Skype with other classes, try out Google Apps useful for presenting, write a grant for a 3-D printer, and on and on.  

So I want to thank Linda and the Keynotes and BrainPOP for giving me this opportunity to meet and talk with educators who are excited and willing to push for what they know is right.  It is so refreshing when mostly what I hear are all the "buts".  Congratulations, 2014 Keystones!  Yours is the best year yet!