Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 30 of my 30-Day Blogging Challenge for teachers from

Here is the link to the site with the 30-day challenge.

Day 30
What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?

It's funny that this would be one of the questions. I was just reading an article I found on line (it was from 2 years ago, but still relevant) called, "Why Teachers are Afraid" and focused on some of the biggest fears that teachers seem to have in the education system today. 

In the article it states, "This isn't about teachers being afraid that they'll be knifed in class, or have their cars stolen in the bad neighborhoods where they teach. Nor are they worried that a disruptive student will threaten them, or that a disturbed gunman will invade their school. It's not about being berated by an angry parent, or accused of being unfair -- or something far worse -- by a student." I couldn't agree more with this. The inherent fear that we all have entering the classroom isn't the kids themselves; it is more of a fear of "rocking the boat," saying or doing the wrong thing, challenging kids to think outside the box and inadvertently offending someone.

In fact, many teachers believe that the message we are given is, "Don't rock the boat. Don't ask questions. Don't bring up the inconvenient truth, say, of a school policy implemented to meet a national mandate that contradicts current research or best practices."  As much as most schools and administrators would deny that they have a similar approach, I think that is just a natural feeling that is always going to exist between teachers and administrators. 

I am sorry if this is a bad analogy, but it is like the administrators are our parents and we are the kids playing in the sandbox. We are more than welcome to build, create and play with whomever we want, as long as we play within the rules. Every so often, if we break the rules we may have to have our hand slapped. 

Now, you can look at this in 2 different ways: 
1. Rules suck and we should be allowed to do and say whatever we want. 
2. Rules are good. They keep order and keep us "safe." 

Honestly, I fall somewhere in the middle here. I cannot say that I have ever been afraid to try new things and experiment in my classroom. I have always been free to teach as I please and have pushed that freedom to the nth degree, but I also tend to follow and respect the rules more than most English Teachers on a regular basis. 

However, I think that has helped me as an educator especially in my relationships with my administration. Instead of being that teacher who is constantly challenging authority, I tended to be a rule follower most of the time, so when I do decide to speak up, people knew it is something that I feel passionately about.

Basically, I am going to teach the way that I want, and throw fear out the door in my classroom. I am going to continue to "do" and sort everything else out later. 


Day 29 of my 30-Day Blogging Challenge for teachers from

Here is the link to the site with the 30-day challenge.

Day 29
How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

I almost laughed when I saw this question. This could be an entire blog in itself.

Sooooooooo, where do I start with this one? 

Although there are a thousand things that come to mind, I would say that the biggest change for me is the fact that I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. 

I remember coming in as an crazed, young teacher who was always taught, "the harder you are on students the more they will respect you." I remember the "best" teachers, when I was in high school, were the ones that students feared the most. They were the teachers that had a crazy amount of notes on the board, handed out a bunch of worksheets and seemed to give a test or a quiz every other day. 

During my first year, I tried to mimic that type of teaching. I was relentless with grades, papers and notes; I was in my classroom every day by 6am (school starts at 7:30 by the way) and I "prepped" my room with notes and activities that, I felt, were making my classroom effective and forcing the students to learn. 

However, as I thought back to high school, I realized that the teachers that I remembered the most, were the ones who "didn't sweat the small stuff." They were the ones who, as a student, who you worked hard for because you respected them, not because you were afraid of them. They were the ones who developed relationships, treated you like a person, sparked conversation and inspired you on a daily basis. This really was my "ah-ha" moment as a teacher. 

My mind immediately went to my senior English teacher from Montini Catholic High School, Mr. Bannon. I remember going into my senior year and, WITHOUT A DOUBT, English was my least favorite subject.  It was a class that I dreaded every year and tried to do as little as possible to just "get by."

In spite of my hatred for English, I knew that I had to do more than I had done up to that point.  I was soon heading to college, and the thought of writing 10-15 page papers on a regular basis scared me to death. 

I remember entering class on the first day and Mr. Bannon has a calm confidence about him. 
In every other class, the first day was riddled with:

  1. Reviewing the syllabus
  2. Rules 
  3. Rules
  4. And more rules. 
Mr. Bannon's class was significantly different though. He took time to get to know the students, tell us a little about himself and got us interested in him before he ever threw a book our way. This may have been the first time I left an English class excited for the next day. 

As the year went on, my respect for Mr. Bannon grew. He was one of those teachers who took time to walk through the lunch room, stop by your table, sit down and start a conversation; he treated you like a person, not a subordinate. For the first time in my life, I started to understand the purpose of English, find my voice as a writer and really matured as a person and as a student. 

When I finished high school, I knew I wanted to get into education, but wasn't sure what subject area. PE didn't seem to interest me, and History and Math just seemed boring to me (Sorry Math and SS teachers). I remember talking to my college counselor and he asked me, "what teacher do you think you want to imitate as an educator? Think back to one person who inspired you in the classroom...what did they teach?" 

This was obviously a no-brainer for me. Mr. Bannon had such an impact on me in such a short time, that was the direction I decided to go. 

(Seinfeld Reference coming up) 

Anyways...Yadda yadda yadda, I became an English Teacher and taught English for 10 years. (I am now the Technology Facilitator/Tech Coach for my school). The funny thing about my 10 years of teaching, is that I feel that I inspired students, not by my knowledge of English or Literature, but by the way I treated them on a daily basis. 

So my biggest change as a teacher was not really what I was teaching, but rather my approach to students rather than my approach to curriculum. If I have learned anything over the years it is that, (Cliche coming) "You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar," especially with high school kids. 

Special Thanks to Mr. Bannon for still inspiring me 16 years later. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 28 of my 30-Day Blogging Challenge for teachers from

Here is the link to the site with the 30-day challenge.

Day 28
Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?

I actually Googled this question to see what would come up and found quite an array of answers. I found several posts that said, " I don't think technology should drive curriculum, but the curriculum can certainly drive the technology!" 

I could not DISAGREE more with that sentiment; and I really think that the answer to this question has more than just a black and white answer. 

As technology has become more and more relevant in the classroom, there seems to be a feeling from some "old school" teachers that technology is more about the "bells and whistles" than it is about teaching the actual content. However, as technology in the classroom has grown and (as I like the call it) the LMS war has begun, teachers are starting to find an enormous amount of educational value in the technology. We can now use apps like Socrative and Kahoot to get immediate feedback. We can use an LMS like Schoology or Google Classroom to continually give kids instant feedback as well. 
In essence, the technology hasn't changed what we teach, but more changed how we teach. That being said, I think that the technology has begun to drive the curriculum and the need for certain curriculum has driven the invention of certain educational technologies based off of need. 

Just looking around our school (Buffalo Grove High School) it has become evident that technology and curriculum have driven each other: 

  • Homebound students now have 24/7 access to curriculum. 
  • Our Business department has become the CTE (Career Technology Education) department with classes such as Coding and Engineering 

I honestly think that the school that we see today is going to look vastly different in 10-15 years. We need to embrace and foster change in order to keep school relevant and give our kids the best opportunities for growth or we are going to find the teaching profession as obsolete as the overhead projector. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Day 27 of my 30-Day Blogging Challenge for teachers from

Here is the link to the site with the 30-day challenge.

Day 27

What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

So I need to be brutally honest on this one. I used to do a great job turning myself off for the weekends. Friday night was a time to go out, enjoy my friends and turn off my brain for a little while. Basically, I didn't have to act like a "teacher" on the weekends. I got to act like the 25 year old kid that I was.

However, the more connected we have become (iPads, cell phones with emails) I have found it harder and harder to turn myself off for the weekend.

I used to not not even consider checking my email over the weekend. I would merely handle everything when I came back in on Monday morning. However, I feel that now it is almost impossible, especially being the Technology Facilitator for my school.

I have tried turning off the email on my phone, and separating it, but I can always count on at least 1-2 teachers a weekend to call me at home or text me asking for help.

Some of that is my fault as I have made myself incredibly accessible, but I would say that has been one of my biggest faults as a first year Tech Coach. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 26 of my 30-Day Blogging Challenge for teachers

Here is the link to the site with the 30-day challenge.

Day 26
What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

I promise that am not trying to be s suck-up when I say this, but I honestly to love going to for a lot of my resources and articles. I love the way the site is organized and the way it flows with the separate topics related to educational technology. 

However, I know that there is more to life that :-). 

I have become a big fan of Twitter for educational resources this year. Before this year, I merely used it for following celebrities and SOMETIMES communicating with my students. However, in my new position as the technology facilitator, I have found some great handles to follow using Tweetdeck. 

  •  (
    • Sign in and you can follow several different hashtags and twitter handles at once. 
  • Look for anything with the # iledchat or #educoach
  • Also Follow:

I have also starting using Flipboard a ton and found it awesome for news in the techworld. 

So...give me a follow on Twitter and Check out my Flipboard!!! 

Maybe we can become a resource for each other!!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 25 of my 30-Day Blogging Challenge for teachers from

Here is the link to the site with the 30-day challenge.

Day 25

The ideal collaboration between students...what would it look like?

I think that this question has become (in the education world) like "the meaning of life." 

When I started teaching, 11 years ago, it seemed that the "best" teachers were the ones who lectured, gave out packets and really grinded through class each day. Like most young teachers, I fell in the trap of trying to be like everyone else. 

I came in every day at 6am (school starts at 7:30) and would grade, plan and get my packet or worksheet ready for the day. I was an English Teacher so I had grammar drills ready, stuff written on the board and was ready to rock and roll when the students came in. I would teach bell to bell and leave exhausted, only to come back and do it again the next day. 

I wasn't enjoying myself and really didn't know my students that well; but I was determine to grind through my first few years and not smile until Thanksgiving (advice I was given in several of my education classes). 

After my first year of teaching, I reflected and realized that what I was doing just wasn't working. In fact, I was miserable and was dreading the start of the next year. 

Half way through my second year, I found a thing called Wikispaces (I have since evolved to Schoology and Google Sites..but this was a start). 

I wasn't sure how I wanted to use it, but I loved the fact that this tool allowed me to do on-line discussions with my kids and let them interact on a different level. 

So I gave it a whirl, and after my first week of using it, I kind of felt guilty. My kids had interacted, however: 

  • I had merely posted a few questions and topics
  • I used their work to drive the class and 
  • didn't hand out one grammar packet or give one quiz. 
My kids seemed happier and I felt that our classroom functioned how I always imagined teaching to be. Still, I kept this all a secret. I did't want to be the teacher who wasn't doing grammar packets; and the though of putting their work and discussions on line seemed wrong. I really didn't show anyone until about May when a parent emailed by division head letting her know how she loved the "new approach" I was taking to the classroom. 

From that point on, I really just ran away with the idea of using technology in the classroom to foster student collaboration. I really tried everything from LMSs like Google Drive and Schoology to gaming apps like Kahoot to get my kids engaged with each other and drive the instruction. 

I never looked back from there. 

Whenever I reflect on what my first few years were like, I remember leaving exhausted and depressed and not feeling that I really had made a difference, yet I had worked so hard. 

After I turned the corner and let my kids foster the growth and development of the class while I moderated their learning, I fell in love with teaching with the classroom and with the kids in my classes. 

Honestly, it was student collaboration that made me fall in love with teaching and I believe saved my career :-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 24 of my 30-Day Blogging Challenge for teachers from

Here is the link to the site with the 30-day challenge.

Day 24

Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.) 

Even though I am the Technology Facilitator at my school, I still think that I may fall on the "old-school" side of this one. 

I am a huge fan of mobile learning, as I do think it offers students access to an unlimited amount of information. However, I am not completely sold on game-based learning yet. Now, I do not want others to think that I am being a curmudgeon about this; but game-based learning is the one that captures my attention the most, simply because I do not know as much about it as I do mobile and project-based learning.  

We have teachers in our building who are doing some great things with apps like Kahoot that allows them to play live, interactive classroom-based learning games with their students. However, I still wonder how these games have an effect on the actual learning in the classroom. I know that the teachers who use Kahoot do a phenomenal job of trying change up the class and keep their kids engaged, but I will be interested to see how they feel Kahoot as affected the overall classroom/learning experience for the kids and if there is solid data to support that. 

I am usually the first one to jump on different bandwagons, but this is one that makes me cautious. I guess the jury is still out on this one!!