Thursday, February 26, 2015

True Teacher Collaboration - Workshop Style #tcrwp #savmp

Without even looking up an official definition for 'collaboration' it's really simple for me to find a relevant example! Yesterday at John Swett we had our first annual Anchor Chart Party with almost our entire staff and some teachers/TSAs from other districts.

Fully the brain child of @mwatkins0913 and I was so extremely excited with the idea, as we're in year two of Writers Workshop and trying so hard to build the work. We're also submitting applications today for six of our teachers to attend the August Writing Institute in NY! (please say yes TCRWP!)

A few 'must haves' for any anchor chart party!

- chocolate
- Mr. Sketch markers
- big anchor chart paper, my staff prefers the self-adhesive kind
- extra folding tables to work
- really great music
- grahm crackers
Pinterest - so many amazing resources for educators
- awesome TSAs like @r75rnee1 who I also consider a friend - recommends for resources!
- energy, excitement, passion for kids writing, Twitter, cameras
- what happened yesterday at John Swett was true teacher collaboration
- see all the Tweets from yesterday here, and more photos below!

Kicking off with super brief intro!

Proudly displaying their work!

 @NikDonnellyJSE - How to Writing!

 Go @mlastrico go, love the Robot!

@KairrieA (teacher from another school!) + @DNeely2590

 I want to write about Octopus!

 @NikDonnellyJSE almost done

 Not quite done, need to check out the finished product!

 Former student teacher @megandenny + second year teacher @MsLeonardJSE who ROCKS workshop!

 Little consultation!

 My staff loves Pinterest, check them out for great ideas!

 Selfie w/ @KairrieA

 Selfie w/ @megandenny

 TSA/teacher/friend + workshop master @r75rnee1 selfie from SRVUSD

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why Team Kid #YourEdustory #savmp #teamkid

Prompt: "People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it" Simon Sinek - Why do you do what you do?

When I met my wife three years ago one of the first things she told me was that she appreciated I had a 'helper' job. That thought never had occurred to me before and growing my dad taught 2nd/3rd grade so being around kids and supporting them was just second nature.

Now in my fifth year of administration, this blog topic has much more reflective power. Being a Principal, exhausting, impactful, challenging, time consuming, maddening at times, so extremely rewarding and I don't want to leave the job to someone else.

There have been MANY times throughout my twelve year career in education when I've thought about leaving and exploring new endeavors. Those thoughts come and then they quickly fade, because education is where I belong.
The saying 'Team Kid' is the core of our belief system at John Swett Elementary and that's the reason I do what I do, to support kids in this challenging journey of life!

Past three years of our yearly theme with Team Kid!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

10,000 #savmp #teamkid

We just surpassed 10,000 Tweets for our @jseroadrunners school Twitter account! The impact of Twitter and social media at our 540 student elementary school has been so profound. 

Our entire teaching staff is on Twitter which has enhanced learning/collaboration exponentially, see their handles here!

What is 10,000 Tweets?

- 10,000 moments of sharing!
- Collaboration amongst our teaching staff!
- $70,000+ in Donors Choose grants, no way this would happen without Twitter!
- Learning beyond our school and connecting with other educators throughout the country!
- Giving families a sneak peek into their child's school day.
- Connecting families with Common Core implementation on a daily/hourly basis!
- We've taken control of telling our schools story!

What some parents have to say! 
It's amazing getting a glimpse into what my kids are learning in school!
- Continual positive reinforcement of teachers with student engagement!
- Pictures, pictures, pictures, love all the pictures!
- Love being able to see what's going on daily at school!
- We don't follow on Twitter but love that they're all embedded on the school website!
- I love seeing the collaboration and excitement for learning from the teachers, so refreshing!
- Connection to the school anytime during the day!
- 'Real-life' and 'real-time' photos of classroom activities make my day!

Our first Tweet in August of 2012, I'd been Principal at John Swett for eight days and wanted to see what would happen with Twitter!

4,000+ photos have been shared, providing visuals is so important!

10,000 and counting!

We have Social Media Interns as well, all Tweets from them are hash-tagged #kidtweet - We feel it's important to model for our students acceptable use and responsibility with Social Media!

A great book to help you get started is The Power of Branding from Corwin Press. Tony and Joe do a wonderful job of laying the foundation for Principals to get started, order their book for sure!

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Is Connected Learning #YourEdustory #savmp

What Is Connected Learning?

I was reminded again this weekend what Connected Learning is. EBCUE Cool Tools was on Saturday and three of my teachers came with me for the day. I'm constantly reminded how #eduawesome my staff is, especially at a tech conference.

It's second nature to them now, they're always learning, there isn't a particular time of the day. At EBCUE they/we were.....

- Tweeting
- Google Docs for notes
- Connecting with other educators
- Texting me for all the new toys they want
- Tweeting again and again and again
- Tweeting/texting their grade level teammates with all their new ideas.

The best thing is, this all doesn't/didn't stop at the conference, it's how we operate at John Swett. This morning we had a visit from a few Directors and our Superintendent. Our Superintendent must have said six times....

"Oh, I follow her on Twitter, she is amazing!"
"I saw that on Twitter last week from your school, awesome!"

If you're connected in the way like the three ladies below, then you're a Connected Learner!

 #selfie with my EBCUE crew! + @mrsfadeji

My sister @mrsfadeji 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Meet our Social Media Interns #savmp

Meet our first ever Social Media Interns at John Swett Elementary! Sully and Callie have been on the job this past week and are absolutely running with their new positions!

- All Tweets sent by students through the @jseroadrunners account will be tagged #kidtweet 
- They have an iPad to take photos throughout the day and then meet with me to compose Tweets together!
- They're also taking photos for our @flickr account, see that archive here!
- We really wanted some 'sharing' from a student angle, how do they view John Swett Elementary!
- TONS of other kids have already approached me...."I want to be an intern Mr. Welcome!"
- This 'position' is new and will of course evolve over time, we're super excited at the possibilities and so are the kids!

- We must be the Social Media Stewards for our kids and show them the appropriate path to follow. Social Media is not going away, responsible use is the best conversation to have!
- There have been lots of recent articles about colleges checking out applicants Twitter and Facebook profiles when considering applications. You can read more here and here. 
- This is a quick post with an update coming next week, there are LOTS of reasons why this position is needed and warranted, more to come! 
- They even Tweet at the United Nations, read here!

Callie Tweeting away!

 Working together and learning the ropes! "How do I mention a teacher Mr. Welcome, I know everyone here at John Swett is on Twitter?" #greatquestion

Here they are, a few of their first Tweets!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Connecting Parents with Common Core Through Remind and Twitter

This is also being posted on the Finding Common Ground Ed Week blog as well!

How often does this conversation happen for parents? “How was school today, what did you do?” We all know the response -  “nothing, not sure, can’t remember, don’t know” etc.

At John Swett Elementary (@jseroadrunners), we’ve torn down the classroom walls and are connecting parents with school life and Common Core implementation on a daily, even hourly basis! Remind and Twitter have profoundly changed our communication flow from what’s happening in the classroom to directly connecting with parents, via their phone.

We feel that with Common Core, SBAC, Technology Integration, Genius Hour, Writer’s Workshop and Number Talks we need parents to be connected with school more than ever! As Principal, I keep our community connected all day long, and do it all from my iPhone!

Are you relying on the monthly newsletter that’s published and emailed to your parent community? Do you post updates to your school website, hoping parents will read them? Are you still making newsletter hard copies to send home in student backpacks, hoping they actually make it home?

Schools make their ‘money’ in the classroom with kids, showcasing all that greatness brings parents so much tighter into the loop. When parents know what’s going on, they know better how to support their child, this is when lasting change happens, especially with Common Core!

Why should school leaders provide so many updates to their community on a daily basis? We feel it’s important to tell our story at school, sharing the daily nuggets of #eduawesome has made our school culture even stronger! Daily sharing helps our parents know how to better support their child with new Common Core math, it looks a lot different from when they were in school.

Think about this, the New York Times doesn’t publish just once a month, once a week, or even just once a day, they have continous updates throughout the day. Schools should have and need the same! Businesses, news stations and even friends are constantly sharing during the day, why should schools be any different?

When thinking about Remind and Twitter, picture a venn diagram. They have similarities for usage, and also are very unique by themselves. Only parents that subscribe to your Remind account will receive messages. This now allows them to be instantly and constantly connected to their Principal and teacher! You now can send your entire community text messages about whatever you want – communication is key to student success. Information is key to parent understanding with all the profound change we have in education.

Here’s a sample of what we share daily via Remind:
  • Teachers take photos of number talk anchor charts in math and parents can ask their child, “Tell me 5 ways to put together these numbers.”
  • As your child reads with you, think out loud with them saying things like - "I wonder" - "This makes me think about" - "The funny thing is"
  • Everything can turn into a story - waking up, going for a walk, being stuck in a long line, etc. Have your child tell you a story with details!
  • Ask your child about the current book they’re reading! Has something surprised them? Has something confused them? Any other fun details!?!?!
  • What is your child reading this week? What made them choose that book? Why do they think they’ll enjoy it? Have them tell you more!
  • Taking turns reading with your child is fun!  For example, "you read a page, I read a page...." - Always ask questions for deeper conversation!
  • From one of our 2nd grade teachers - “Sneak preview of this week’s learning goals presented today during our morning meeting.”

The amazingness of Remind really hit me two years ago after I’d been piloting it with my PTA Executive board for a few weeks. I’m known to ride the tricycles in our Kindergarten playground and during one ride I remembered there was a Remind message to send out. I simply pulled over on the tricycle (during Kindergarten recess) pulled out my iPhone, sent the message to my group, and went back to riding. At that moment I realized how simple and effective this tool was and I had to use Remind with our entire community. New this week, Remind just released a Spanish version, making it easier for bilingual students and families to use.

Twitter works differently than Remind and is our daily sneak peek into classroom life at John Swett Elementary. Twitter is our yearbook, it connects our parent community, it connects our teachers throughout the day in a way that wasn’t previously possible, it connects all the schools in our district, it connects our district office personnel into daily life. As I’m writing, our @jseroadrunners feed has 9,000+ Tweets. We want parents to know what’s happening in classrooms with Common Core, the more they know the better they can support their child.

We have twenty-six teachers with 530 students and being visible in every class every day is my main priority. You can’t know where you need to go if you don’t know where you are. Organized workflow is the key to success. Principals often complain, “I don’t have time” -- the thing is, once we use these tools, you will have more time. Being a mobile principal and connecting with kids in the classroom builds stronger relationships for everyone.

We have survey results as well, our community LOVES our Twitter feed and Remind messages, here’s some of what they have to say!
  • It’s amazing getting a glimpse into what my kids are learning in school!
  • Continual positive reinforcement of teachers with student engagement.
  • Pictures, pictures, pictures!
  • Love being able to see what’s going on daily at school!
  • We don’t follow on Twitter but love that they’re all embedded on the school website!
  • I love seeing the collaboration and excitement for learning from the teachers, so refreshing!
  • Connection to the school anytime during the day!
  • ‘Real-life’ and ‘real-time’ photos of classroom activities make my day!
  • Keeps me in the loop, with 3 kids at 3 different schools I can sometimes feel disconnected, Remind and Twitter don’t let that happen!

Some closing ideas!
  • When communicating with families, think about how they will be reading it on their devices. Multiple pages doesn’t work, messages/information must be short and concise.
  • I schedule lots of our Remind messages on Sunday for the entire week. Think about the time of day for messages to go out – 8:15am during morning drop-off is not ideal. If you’re hoping to have parents work on a reading strategy with their child, have the message send at 6:00pm, dinner is probably over and kids are relaxing before bed!
  • Our entire staff is on Twitter which has made EVERY day @jseroadrunners Open House. Teachers Tweet from their classrooms and I’m constantly sharing the #eduawesome that goes on with our kids! Get your staff using Twitter today, I guarantee it will change your school for the better!
  • Start out using Remind with just your PTA Executive board or Leadership Team, get them comfortable first and also so you can practice!
  • Once you’re comfortable with Twitter, check out IFTTT and put the internet to work for you! Every picture I Tweet gets automatically added to our Flickr page and is our pictorial archive for the year.
  • Our entire community isn’t on Twitter, so we embed our feed on the school homepage. Parents tell me they will have two screens up at work, gotta love the daily sneak peek into classrooms.
  • Print off the sign-up codes for your Remind messages and add to your new student packet, have parents get our their phones while they’re in the office, the time to be connected is now!
  • Get your teachers using Remind with their parents also, then you can subscribe to their messages which will in turn keep you more connected with each class.

Adam Welcome - Principal
John Swett Elementary - Martinez, CA

@awelcome (Twitter/Voxer)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Genius Hour #geniushour #savmp #teamkid

Genius Hour for Elementary kids is so much more than just #geniushour. I can't tell you how many of our students and parents have approached me before and after presentations with amazingly positive comments and enthusiasm. 

- it's amazing
- it's Common Core
- it's fun
- it's collaborative
- it gets kids moving around
- it allows teachers to see students in a different light
- it's NOT worksheets
- it makes kids super excited for school
- it allows kids to work on their presentation skills
- it allows kids to problem solve on so many different levels
- it allows kids to look at problems or ideas in a different way

Some Tweets below from our latest round of Genius Hour presentations in 5th grade last Friday, enjoy! 

Check out our JSE Twitter for all the daily sharing!

Check out our Flickr page for all archived Twitter photos!

Our entire staff is on Twitter also, follow them for all the #eduawesome!

Session Board ready to roll, four presentation areas to choose from!

 Learning about Environmental Damage of the Earth From Pollution

 This session was packed, learning about Gum with free samples!

 OMG - Chicken Nuggets have lots of surprises in them, great presentation Lauren!

 Student turns to me during Chicken Nugget presentation and tells me this, amazing!

 Fabulous example of being creative during Genius Hour! Student using an iPhone, under a document camera to project Sign Language app, way cool!

 Missed the Siberian Tigers presentation but the student shared their Google Presentation with me!

 Amazing iMovie from two boys about Lou Gehrig, well done!

 Sessions happen outdoors as well, learning about Rabbit's!

Sign Language was popular!

 Twin tip ski's, way to go Sydney!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Writing Time #savmp #teamkid

This post has been brewing for some time now and I had to write about 'writing' at John Swett Elementary. Forget that Common Core calls for writing across all curricular areas, it's so much deeper than that!

Writing is......

- Powerful - see first example below!
- Thought provoking
- Relaxing - amazing way to reflect, don't need to sit in a desk either
- Collaborative - with partners, in Google Docs
- During math time in journals - explain your thinking
- Our students have KidBlogs and is a great way to incorporate writing in ALL areas, plus blogging is a career in 2015! Seriously, you can make a lot of money writing a blog! 
- Fun fun fun
- A HUGE part of Common Core

Check out our JSE Twitter for all the daily sharing!

Check out our Flickr page for all archived Twitter photos!

Our entire staff is on Twitter also, follow them for all the #eduawesome!

This letter from one of our 1st graders during Writers Workshop really kicked this post off!

"I really like skinny jeans. If they are not skinny I will have a fit. Today all of my skinny jeans were dirty. I did not like the pants I wore today. Skinny jeans are the best!"

2nd grader last week during Writers Workshop!

 Don't let anyone tell you that Kindergarten students can't write, especially in a super comfy chair!

 More Kindergarten students pushing each other to write! 
"I'm going to add speech bubbles!"
Go for it!

This Kindergarten student told me ALL about a trip to San Mateo he had. He tells me, "I have a lot to write about Mr. Welcome!"
Write on kiddo!

 This student - "Mr. Welcome come check out my writing folder, it's bursting with stories!"

 Kinder student - "Are you going to take a picture of my writing and Tweet Mr. Welcome? I hope so, my mom checks the John Swett Twitter during the day, she loves it!"

 Check-in with students about their sentences on the rug, then off to table groups on Hokki stools for more writing collaboration!