Last month, I was very fortunate to attend the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) annual conference for the third year in a row–this time in Chicago! It was my second time co-presenting in an interactive session called “Social Media for Science Teachers.” In this particular session, my colleagues and I shared strategies for use in the classroom and for professional development. Below is our group photo taken before we started with one of Lauren’s awesome hashtag props! From left to right: Adam Taylor (@2footgiraffe), Tricia Shelton, Brad Graba (@mr_graba), Me!, Christine Royce (@caroyce), and Lauren Jonas.
Honestly, when I arrived at Midway Airport late Wednesday evening, it was with a heavy heart. Earlier that week, my colleagues back in Albany and I received official news that our charter middle school was closing at the end of this year. We all worked so hard to fight back last year with rallies, board meetings, and letters to newspaper editors–it never occurred to us that we would actually lose. I was demoralized, but that quickly evaporated as I realized I was where I needed to be in order to heal and recharge—with my tribe!
For those who have not attended our session, part of my talk on using social media for professional learning networks (PLNs) explains the importance of PLNs. As human beings, we search for connections with others. As teachers, we search for these connections through our passions–our passions for learning and sharing what we’ve learned! I found inspiration immediately Thursday morning during a shuttle ride to McCormack Plaza. This type of inspiration came in the form of a special education teacher who has taught for over 20 years; she told me to “keep fighting for my passion”.
Though I had to leave early on Saturday, I came away with a heart full of joy and a mind full of ideas. Even though I had 2-3 months left of school, I decided that I was going to not give up and let the negative behaviors of students and colleagues get to me. I decided to choose excellence and enthusiasm, and go out with a bang by trying out whatever was on my teacher’s bucket list.
So, what have I been doing since I came back from #NSTA15?
I flipped my middle school classroom! In Chicago, I attended several sessions on flipped classrooms and I finally let go of some of my hang ups such as not having enough time to make the videos, or not being able to get my students to watch the videos. I use my work Mac laptop, iBooth app, and a free Screen-o-matic web 2.0 tool to take screenshots of my lectures or concept maps. My videos are less than 7 minutes, and they’re surprisingly fun to make. Even more surprising, my students love them! They appear more engaged and take more notes watching me on the screen instead of watching me in person….strange, but not questioning it! Most of my students don’t have Internet access at home, so I show the videos in the beginning of class and then have them work in groups on problem-based projects.
Other things I’ve started to phase in are more guest speakers to help supplement our lessons and Fun Fridays. I wanted Fun Friday to be similar to Genius Hour where students work on a project they’re passionate about. Finding materials for everyone is tough though, but I’ll guess I’ll figure out the kinks when we get there!
It’s been tough emotionally every day, especially when even my students are giving up, but like I tell them every day now… only you can control your future. Push through and fight for it.