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Nominations for the 2011 Edublog Awards

November 19, 2011 1 comment
Through his blogs, Matthew Ray shares his passion for his world, his work, his students and anything else that has touched or influenced his life.
I am nominating his blog From the Desk of Mr.Foteah, where he shares his thoughts and opinions penned in an honest and thought provoking way, for Best Teacher Blog.  Sometimes making them laugh, sometimes making them cry, he inspires his readers as he challenges them to change the way they think or teach.
According to Matthew, he blogs because, “I inspire people and that inspires me.”  Therefore, I am also nominating two of his blog posts for a 2011 Edublog Award for Most Influential Blog Post.
The first nomination was featured on WordPress in August 2011 as Freshly Pressed: Dear Me (On the Eve of My First Year Teaching). As a teacher beginning his fourth year, he reflected on his three years of experiences and wrote a letter to himself as if he were beginning his first year of teaching. His lessons learned were heartfelt and certainly inspired his readers.
An avid blogger himself,  this year, Matthew  shared this love as he undertook the  exciting challenge of teaching his third graders, (all children with IEPS) the basics of blogging. He’s written many  wonderful blog posts which follow their adventures with blogging but one of his most influential is 10 Reasons Your Students Should Be Blogging. The practical educational and social reasons for having students blog influenced many members of his own school as well as his PLN to start blogging with their class.
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The Excitement is Contagious

August 15, 2011 2 comments

It’s back to school time and the excitement is contagious. Members of my PLN are tweeting their wonderful ideas for this coming school year.  As I read their blogs, I borrow some ideas and links that I will share with my student teachers.

I am experiencing this excitement on a personal level as well. My son, @MrMatthewRay,approached his principal about using Twitter as a tool for professional development. Her receptive response spurred him to action and he is in the process of developing a presentation for the staff in his school.  Aside from that he is planning for his new class, intent on having them become bloggers, participate in the global read aloud, skype with another class and use flip and digital cameras to record their observations, work and to just take pictures.  My daughter, @teachallkids, just completed a user friendly IEP manual for the staff at her school. She went to advanced training in the use of the Smart Board and already wrote some interactive lessons for her students.  She also attended a class where she could learn to use her iPAD more effectively with her students.

As I read, watch and listen, I wonder how I fit into this.  Being retired, I don’t have the thrill of planning for a new school year for my staff and students.  That’s okay,though, I did it for many years, and though it was exciting and fun,I am glad that it’s not my responsibility any longer. I’m also grateful that I don’t have to worry about how the common core standards  fit into the curriculum of children who do not take standardized tests. Enforcing things that are not educationally sound for the students is over. Spewing “the party line” and saying things that I don’t believe is a thing of the past.  Truth be told, I don’t miss any of this.

What I realized is that, I do fit into the excitement of the approaching new school year.  Being retired I still  have the thrill of planning for a new school year, not for a school of staff and students, but for me.  So what will I do?  I want to be realistic in my expectations of what I can accomplish, so I will start small, hoping to surpass my goals and add to them as I go through this year. 

Since I work with student teachers,I need to do some planning for them. I want to expose them to the wonders of Twitter and the benefits of developing a PLN.  I hope to borrow my son’s PD on the topic so they can have a brief overview.  As part of their assignment, they will be asked to join Twitter and follow some people.   For each topic that we cover in our weekly seminar, I will ask them to find a blog that is related to it and share their thoughts  in their journal. I will encourage them to write a blog post once in a while. I will alert them to the chats that are available and hope that they partake in some. I will tell them about the free webinars and hope that one or two fit into their busy schedules.  I will introduce them to the incredible wealth of materials from @cybraryman1 and the world of advocacy from a parent’s perspective @specialedadvice.  I will ask them to think about how they can include their new found knowledge in the classes they are student teaching in, and in time, their own class. I know that during the term, more will come up and we will add to our bag of tricks.

So I guess, in planning for my student teachers, I outlined a plan for me as well.  Since teachers lead by example, I will do all of the things that I am asking them to do. We will learn from each other and with each other. Yes, the excitement is contagious and I, too, am looking forward to the new school year.

Adding to My Own Bag of Tricks

September 19, 2010 6 comments

When my son suggested that I sign up for twitter, I couldn’t understand why.    He’s the one I rely on to show me the things I don’t know how do do on the computer.  If the dvr has to be set on the TV, it’s him again.  If we still had a VCR, you know who would be responsible.  It’s not like  I’m totally inept.  I learned enough of the basics of computer usage to do whatever I had to do at work or at home, and that was enough for me.

 I didn’t even know what twitter was.  He assured me that I would like it, that I could connect with other educators.  Still not knowing what he was talking about, I decided I had  nothing to lose  so I figured I’d give it a try.   After helping me to set up my account, my son  tried to explain the basics to me.   It’s amazing  how  this creative, patient, talented teacher forgets that he has  all of those qualities when he has to explain something to his mother.   Be that as it may, I, with his assistance, plodded through the initial use.   He suggested people that I could follow , which I was grateful for.   Then I tried to follow the tweets of  those people.   Oh my, not an easy feat.   As you know, those tweets come fast and furious and it is quite a challenge to read them all.    My initial reaction was, this is not for me, people are talking in stream of consciousness, it makes no sense.   Frustration was setting in and I just couldn’t make sense of my relationship to twitter.

The turning point for me was #spedchat.   Here I found my niche.  Though the tweets are fast, the topics are interesting.   Since special education is my field, I felt that I could contribute some valid tweets.  It is clear that the people who come into this chat are caring, committed educators who want to make a difference in the lives of their students and their families.   Along with teachers,  parents, administrators, advocates, and  organizations, participate in this chat.   They are the pioneers of change who are questioning the system.  They are the innovators who understand the importance of not accepting the status quo.  They are the life long learners who soak up knowledge.   Some are new to the field and others are close to retirement, or like me, retired.   No matter what, they are the people who stimulate my thinking.   Reading  their ideas, sharing  thoughts and insights, offering suggestions,  is what twitter  is about for me.  My son, who is a third year teacher, but is teaching children with disabilities for the first time, participates in this chat as well.   I find myself looking forward to Tuesdays at 8:30PM (EST) to get involved in the lively, invigorating discussions .  Thanks to  @spedteacher for organizing these chats and  @damien613 for skillfully moderating them. 

The other part of twitter that I find intriguing is being able to speak to people who are all over the world.   How interesting it is to hear how schools in other countries operate but more interesting, to hear the commonalities amongst the  fabulous educators who  are striving for what is best for their students.  All this, without having to leave my home.

So as I reflect, I must admit, I still don’t get all about twitter that there is to know and I probably never will.  (Hopefully reading  Twitter for Dummies will help.)   What I do know is that I am learning more everyday.  I am directed to posts and blogs that are inspirational  and useful to read. (thanks to @gret for her last blog which inspired me to write this one).  I can make comments on the blogs of children in Argentina (kudos to @gret),  as I read their thoughts and dreams.  I can share information with hundreds of people at once and get immediate feedback. And to think,  I, who didn’t know what twitter was a few weeks ago, now has my own PLN.

   I plan to speak to my student teachers about the benefits of twitter as a way to enhance their knowlege and experiences.   I will  encourage them to sign up,  read some blogs, try some of the chats and develop their own PLN.   I will  tell them that this is a guaranteed way to add to their developing bag of tricks.  

  Many thanks to my son for sharing the innovations of twitter, encouraging me to blog. and adding  something extremely valuable  to his mother’s bag of tricks.