The 2016-2017 school year was an amazing year. It marked my 11th year in education and my 7th year as a full-time teacher. During this year, I pushed myself to do more than I had ever imagined and accomplished goals that I did not know would exist a year ago. I grew professional, personally, and formed a PLN across the world. It’s been a crazy, wild ride but I’ve loved every second of it.
My Classroom & School Site
I never realized the enormous impact Twitter would have on my classroom. By joining Twitter and collaborating with teachers all around the world, I was introduced to a variety educational technology and instructional strategies to use in my classroom. During this year, I found myself creating more digital and interactive curriculum. I regularly created assignments in Google Apps where students could view, edit, write, and annotate. I created game-based learning opportunities through BreakoutEDU Digital. I built and implemented my first HyperDocs to create a relevant and engaging learning experience for students. My students built fidget spinners, conducted surveys, created “Create Your Own Adventure” stories, developed a road trip, budgets and compared cell phone plans. In addition to this, I created opportunities to personalize their learning experience by flipping the classroom and implementing AVID tutorials into the content classroom. Overall, I feel that the curriculum developed this year truly balanced the content, skills, and real-world applications. It was a lot of time, energy, and effort but I loved the learning environment of our classroom.
Besides being a classroom teacher, I was also the Team Technology Leader (TTL), AVID Coordinator and Electives Department Chair. As TTL, my co-TTL and I developed an EdTech Bootcamp to personalize professional development for teachers on our campus. We also sent out a weekly EdTech Tips. Although I a major technology nerd, I find myself most excited about the progress of our AVID program. Our AVID team is composed of some amazing educators. The team worked well together to develop lesson plans, learning opportunities, and on-campus and off-campus events. Our students had the opportunity to visit multiple colleges and even attend a UCLA football game. Our AVID team hosted movie nights for the school to create fun and safe after-school activities for students. Finally, our AVID program grew! Last year, our AVID program had about 160 students. Due to recruiting from our tutors, our program will have nearly 300 students in AVID this upcoming school year. I was so excited to announce this at our end of the year certification because I truly believe AVID is good for students.
Blogging, Presenting, Oh My!
When I started out this school year, I did not use Twitter nor did I blog on a regular basis. I had a Twitter account but I didn’t use it. If I remember correctly, I am pretty sure I had about 5 followers (all family) and 3 tweets (all on ComicCon). Impressive, right? Now, I did have a blog…with about 10 posts and no updates in a year. However, after reading Kids Deserve It and attending an EdTechTeam Summit in September, I knew I needed to get involved in the online educator community.
Little did I know how it would change my life.
First, I challenged myself to blog on a weekly basis. I’ll be honest – blogging is hard. It is a challenge. Sometimes I will sit on a post for several days (maybe weeks) and still find myself with writer’s block. Even though it isn’t easy, it has helped me to be reflective and to share resources with other teachers. By sharing my blog posts on Twitter, I quickly found that I was not alone. I am so thankful for some of my early friends on Twitter that retweeted, liked, and commented on my blog posts. If it wasn’t for these people, I am not sure that I would be blogging today. After all, who wants to talk to an empty room? About 10 months later, I have written over 60 blog posts and have made some amazing connections with educators all over the world.
My next challenge was to begin presenting at conferences and summits. This was a big one for me. I’ve always been a writer because, well, it’s safe. When you write, you have time to think and process what you want to say. You also don’t have to see the reactions of the people that are reading your posts. Some people might think that I am totally crazy from reading my blog posts but, guess what? I would never know it! When you present, you are actively engaged with a group of educators and you can see/hear exactly what they are thinking about your presentation. Will they be receptive? Friendly? Engaged? Even though I found the idea of presenting to be intimidating, I found myself signing up for several summits during this current school year. And, I loved it. I had the opportunity to present at the LA County, San Gabriel Valley, and Riverside EdTechTeam Summits and truly enjoyed the opportunity to share with other educators. As a presenter, I was able to learn so much about supporting teachers and greatly enjoyed the conversations I had with them. There is still so much to learn but I am glad I went out of my comfort zone and presented.
New Googley Adventures
Once I joined the Twitter community, I realized that many educators had Google certifications, such as a Google Educator, Trainer, and Innovator. I was immediately intrigued by this idea and became a certified Google Educator in October. I decided that I wanted to go further and submitted my application to be a Google Trainer and was accepted into the program in January. Becoming a Google Trainer was a huge encouragement in going and presenting at conferences since I am required to complete 12 trainings per year to maintain the certification. It was exactly the push that I need to get me going on this new adventure.
After I became a Google Trainer, I decided that I wanted to apply to become a Google Innovator. As a part of the application process, I discovered a problem in education and proposed a solution. I completed a written application, a Slide Deck, and created a Vision Video. I submitted my application in February and was accepted into the Google Innovator program in March. Honestly, this was probably one of the most exciting moments of my professional career. From there, everything moved very quickly. I attended the Google Innovator Academy in London in April and have been working on my Google Innovator project. On top of this amazing experience, I was assigned an even more amazing mentor – Lisa Highfill. Lisa has been an encouraging and thoughtful mentor which is making the Innovator experience even more rewarding. Over the next year, I will be working on my Google Innovator Project – BoostEDU. BoostEDU is a program that will support teachers in transforming their traditional lessons into 21st-century lessons through an inquiry-based process. It’s in the beta stages but I am so excited about this project and how it can support teachers and students.
Books I Read
During this school year, I tried to put a focus on reading books that would help me to grow as a teacher, teacher leader, and as a Google Innovator. Here are some of the books I read:
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon
- PBL Starter Kit: To the Point Advice, Tools and Tips for Your First Project by John Larmer
- Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers
- Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome
- Dive Into Inquiry: Amplifying Learning and Empowering Student Voice by Trevor MacKenzie
- The 20Time Project: How Educators Can Launch Google’s Formula for Future-Ready Innovation by Kevin Brookhouser
- The HyperDoc Handbook: Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis
- The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools by Liz Wiseman
- Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything on the Internet by Jeff Walker
As an educator, it is so important to read and continue to learn. As I look back at the books I read this year, I can see how each book has had a positive impact on me – both professionally and personally.
The Known and Unknown Future
For those of you that have been reading my blog posts, I am sure that you can tell that I am a planner. I regularly set goals for myself on things that I want to accomplish. Yet, as I sit here and think about my future goals, I find myself very sure on some goals and leaving an open door to others. During this year, I know that I want to:
- Develop and release my Google Innovator Project – Boost EDU.
- Read 8+ educational books.
- Improve and refine my presenting skills by presenting at conferences.
- Continue blogging once a week.
- Continue to create engaging, 21st-century learning experiences for students.
Although some of these goals are specific, some are also a bit vague. Why? If there is one thing I have learned, there is so much that can change in the month before school begins. New ideas, new opportunities, new products, and so much more could arrive and it is important to leave room for those options. It is good to create goals and to begin planning but it is also important to not put yourself in a box. Create large, non-specific goals then refine and narrow them as the school year grows closer.
No matter what I do next year, I do know one thing: I want to continue to grow professionally, create engaging and relevant learning opportunities for students, support and train teachers, and enjoy every second of it. At the end of the day, all that really matters is that I enjoy what I do and that I do what is best for students. Everything else will fall into place.