Friday, June 24, 2016

Set the Stage to Engage, Part One: Get Your Teach On Conference!

Happy first week of summer for me! Teachers finished last Friday but could I just be done with school after that?!?! Nope! I went back to school on Monday and Tuesday. I know, crazy right?!? Our school is a STEM school and we have four STEM days throughout the year on our early dismissal days. So, we planned lessons for those days, which was fun and productive!

Since I have time now that school is over, I can finally blog again! I definitely need to manage my time more this year with school and the blogging world but I will get there! I know this post is long overdue but I can't help but share it!

At the beginning of March, my three coworkers and I went to the Get Your Teach On Conference in Orlando, FL. It was run by the great Deanna Jump of Mrs. Jump's Class and Hope King of Elementary Shenanigans and a teacher at the Ron Clark Academy! It was amazing to learn from the best and I am not going to lie, I was a little star struck! 

It was a whirlwind of a day and I soaked in every moment I could. I loved that it was a professional development that showed you how to incorporate engagement but also allowed you to try it for yourself. The conference was split with Deanna in one room with K-1 teachers and Hope was in another room with 2-3 teachers. I have watched Hope's periscopes before and knew that she talked fast but she certainly talked faster in person! She didn't want to miss telling us a single thing and I was grateful for that! 

Hope has so much energy and it is definitely contagious! She would bounce from one end of the room to the other and would stand on chairs and tables. This is a method that is common at the Ron Clark Academy but can definitely be applied in any classroom. As soon as you are unexpected, you have the students' attention! She taught and used several call and response chants to get our attention throughout the conference. She expected that 100% of us would respond and when we didn't, she made us do it again. It was a great model of what we should expect with our students. 

I could go on for hours about the things that I learned at this conference but I will share three big take aways. The first one is that we should aim to engage our students but the rigor of our content should be there too. Hope showed us pictures of room transformations, sang songs that correlated with content, and taught us different games that we could use in our classroom. Every single thing she showed us had rigorous content to go with it and she held her students to high standards while they were working. She suggested to use the most boring content that you don't care for teaching and make that into an exciting and interactive lesson. I think many times I have cute, fun ideas but the content of those ideas aren't as rich as they should be. That definitely changed my thoughts on how I planned lessons and activities!

The second take away is that there are many different ways to incorporate engagement, you need to find your gift or expertise. Even within the group of women I went to the conference with, we each had our own preference and comfort level. For myself, I like room transformations. I love the idea that when the students walk into the room, they enter another world of learning and they get excited to learn! I will go into more detail in my next two blog posts about my experiences this year with room transformations.

The third take away is simple but can be lost in the shuffle...choose joy. Unfortunately, we can get lost in the gossip, difficult students and parents, and frustrations with administration or education in general and forget to celebrate the good things. I have been teaching for 10 years and at times, I can get in a rut and lose my excitement in teaching. I am so quick to complain but have to really think about the positives of my job. This concept hit hard for my teammate and I and we decided to do something about it. When we came back to school after the conference, we started taking walks outside on our planning time. We would start by sharing positive moments from our day. This definitely helped us to be in a better mood and was a good break in our day. Now, we still had difficult days and needed to vent but we tried to say something positive first. Just think about how if one or two people in your building can choose joy, how quickly it can catch on!

This conference was a breath of fresh air and got us excited about what we could do in our school! We came back home and within a month, we gave a PD to our staff called Engagement Island. In my next blog post, I will share about that PD and how we applied what we learned at the conference. It is sparking some new and exciting things for our school! 

I will leave you with a couple of final pictures. Deanna and Hope were not the only blogger celebs that were there! While I was waiting in line to sign in before the conference, I met Hope's husband, Wade, who also works at Ron Clark Academy. Of course, I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture with him! Then later, I was able to meet Chris Pombonyo of Famous in First (soon to be Famous in Fourth)! He was his county's Teacher of the Year and Ron Clark crashed his classroom before the school year started. He is super nice and I am going to get to see him again at a teacher conference in August at Penn State Altoona! (Ron Clark is speaking at that conference too! It's going to be crazy!) 

I also met Amy Lemons of Step Into Second Grade with Mrs. Lemons! She was so gracious to listen to me babble when I came up to talk to her. (I was also shaking I was so nervous!)

It was awesome and inspiring to be surrounded by so many educators! I am very thankful for my experience and excited to continue to apply it to my teaching!