More than just an echo chamber

It’s 8:58 on a Tuesday night. I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my Laptop open and Twitter pulled up, one tab for Notifications and one tab for the #xplap chat (I know Hootsuite and Tweetdeck can do this in one tab, but this is easier for me). I have a snack next to me and I’m ready for an engaging discussion about gamification in the classroom.

This has been my Tuesday night, almost every Tuesday for the past two years. By this point I know most of the people in the chat and feel like I’m at a point where I can help others in their gamification journey like others helped me a few years ago. I look forward to this chat each week.

This isn’t the only chat I’m a part of. You can find me engaged in Twitter chats on Monday nights at 8 (#tlap and #ksedchat), Thursday nights at 9 (#ditchbook), and the occasional Saturday morning (#leadlap). I love feeling like a part of a community and I glean a plethora of great ideas to implement in my classroom. Being a part of these chats is like hanging out with friends every week. It’s the source of my best professional development.

I’ve started to notice something about these chats. You have a group of passionate educators gathered around a common interest, engaged in a share session of some of their best/most creative ideas. Scrolling through the chat you’ll see affirmations galore, teachers encouraging each other, cheering others along when they start to doubt themselves and generally putting a positive vibe in the world about education. This is phenomenal and there are many days this is exactly what I need. But there’s no push back.

There are times when I need affirmation, but there also times when I need to be challenged. I need someone to tell me when my ideas aren’t on track with my classroom goals. I need someone to ask me deep questions that challenge my stance on classroom issues and helps me solidify my beliefs or alter course to something that will better suit my needs.

How do we prevent the Twitterverse from being an echo chamber where everyone agrees and we never move forward or push the boundaries of what education can be? Maybe it’s the medium itself. 280 characters isn’t enough to engage in a deep discussion.

I also see the value of positive affirmations after a tough day. Is it possible to do both?

We could all use a little grace

A couple of weeks ago I missed a meeting at school. It was one of four meetings I had for various groups I’m a part of. It’s that chaotic part of the year where everything is flying at teachers at once and many of us are trying to just stay afloat. It’s always challenging, but we’ll find ways to get through and start cruising along later in the year.

I know a lot of teachers are feeling this right now. They are feeling the pressure to constantly stay on top of schedules, grading, family lives, meetings, curriculum, and expectations. Everyone is posting reassuring memes on social media to support each other and reminding each other that you don’t need to be perfect, you can’t do it all.

I 100% agree with all of this. Teachers are bombarded with tasks to tackle and things to balance. Every once in awhile things will fall through the cracks, and we need to give one another some grace and respect.

This is where I get on my soapbox. There are teachers who share all of this and then go back to their classrooms and deny their own students that same respect and grace. How in the world can you ask for help filling out your professional development points at the last minute because you didn’t keep up with it all year like you should have (this was me this year) or show up 10 minutes late to a meeting with administrators (also me) because you didn’t understand the new schedule and then count students off for turning in late work (fortunately not me). Or you criticize students who wait until the last second to finish a project but turn an important document to administrators seconds before it’s due.

“We could all use a little reminder that kids have chaotic lives just like we all do.”

We are adults who have control over the majority of our day and yet we are asking developing minds to be more organized, more thoughtful and more together than we are on any given day.

Please don’t read too much into this. I work with amazing colleagues. I’m not trying to call out any one person. I’m just pointing out a trend in education where we hold students to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.

I just think we could all use a little reminder that kids have chaotic lives just like we all do. They could all benefit from a little grace.

GUEST BLOG: The Fellowship of the Tweet: A Grateful Member

by Carol McLaughlin

I’ve always felt a little odd. A lone wolf. I usually don’t mind, but you rarely grow in isolation. You need others to encourage you. To push you. To inspire you.

I had no idea I needed a Twitter PLN. I didn’t even know what a PLN was until 8 years ago around this time actually. I was in the last PD session before we were out for Thanksgiving holidays. To say we were all ready to go was an understatement.

The PD was edcamp style and the last session was entitled, “Building a PLN.” I went to it because the others were all on academics areas and I wanted to learn something totally different.

However, I  had no idea this session was about to change me in so many ways.

I went to the session and was introduced to Twitter. We all joined and I sent out my first tweet. I enjoyed the session but I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue using it. BUT…I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

If you like what you have been reading continue at An Educational Pheonix

Guest Blog Post: Gratitude & Kindness: Appreciating & Creating a Colossal Dose Of Sunshine One Ripple at a Time

by Jennifer Lee Quattrucci

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the many blessings and opportunities I have had these past couple of months.  As many of you know, I’ve taken on a new endeavor and after teaching kindergarten for 22 years, I am now an extremely grateful brand new second grade teacher. I’m in the same school so some of my students are the wonderful children I had in kindergarten two years ago.

I have an energetic, inquisitive and enthusiastic group of seven and eight year olds in the inner city of Providence, Rhode Island. My second graders are always eager to come to school and love to read, write and problem solve in such thoughtful and creative ways. My students are so appreciative of each other and all we do every day. They are culturally diverse and enjoy sharing their own unique experiences with the class. We learn from each other. My school is working hard to build community among families and staff and we have a safe, respectful environment. I am grateful to be a part of the Harry Kizirian Community.

If you like what you have been reading continue at MommyTeacherFashionista.

Guest Blog Post: Gratitude about the Imperfect

by Suzy Lolley

Social media can really skew our view of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but the more I see people’s perfect families, perfect houses, and perfect lives, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. It can make my gratitude meter run a little low. However, in this month of gratitude, I want to be very intentional to be thankful for the imperfect.

Thankful for Imperfect

Three Ways I’m Still Grateful for the Imperfect

Specifically in teaching, when you have a whirling dervish of thirty students or more, there will be imperfect moments. Plenty of them. It’s time, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, to be thankful for those classroom days that don’t always work out as they should. Or the things that seem to be imperfect expectations placed upon us. The tasks that we vow we wouldn’t put on people if we were in charge. If we take time to be conscious of what the blessings behind the imperfections are, we won’t have to yearn for someone else’s happy social media life; we might just have a happier life ourselves.

Imperfection #1: Others’ Expectations

It wasn’t the worst part of teaching, but having to write lesson plans wasn’t the best part either. When I taught at my most recent high school, we had to write very detailed lesson plans. I could get so stressed out trying to write exactly the perfect plan in case of observation and adding all the ways I was going to differentiate or substitute or color code. You get the drift.

But here’s the deal and the blessings in that imperfect expectation. Now I can teach anywhere. Ask me to go to a conference and I can quickly write at least a rough draft of my plan in no time. Ask me even to teach at church, and my lesson is ready to go. I now can form an outline in my head, and lesson planning for any situation is much quicker. As a tech coach, I’m able to quickly direct teachers in their own lesson planning to add the right technology application or lesson hook or check for understanding to their lessons. If I hadn’t worked so hard in my own lesson planning, which was definitely imperfect, I would never have been able to do any of what I can do now.

To Continue Reading go to Suzy Lolley – Gratitude about the Imperfect

Guest Blog: Grateful to Hit the Reset Button

By Adam Powley (@MrPowley)

In the B.C. years of my marriage (that is Before Children) my wife and I rocked Guitar Hero. Neither of us play guitar but ability to pretend to be rockers, enjoy the music, and just be goofy with each other got us through some tough times. We were in the B.C. era because of infertility issues and jamming on together on a fake plastic guitar was one way for us to have what game designer Nicole Lazzaro called “Serious Fun”, or mind altering play. This silly game, with its cartoonish rockers and its Superstar Mode Power Up, was a way for us to escape and find a meaningful connection with each other.

During one of our jam sessions one of our guests noticed that I picked up on new game mechanics pretty quickly and told me it was “evidence of a misspent youth”. I took this to mean that I had spent a lot of time playing video games in my childhood. There was a negative connotation to this but I wasn’t upset because I did play a lot of video games but I did a lot of other things too. Flash forward to marriage AD (Achieved Descendants)* and my new job as an 11th grade US History teacher and that misspent youth began to pay off when I joked with a colleague during lunch duty that school should be more like a role-playing game. This discussion led me on a journey towards gamification and game-inspired classroom designs and has radically improved both me and my students’ classroom experience. There are so many game inspired concepts that I am grateful for but I am extremely thankful for the notion of a reset button.

If you like what you have been reading Click here to continue reading Adam’s post!

Who is your guide when things are tough?

Every year hundreds of people attempt to climb 29,035 feet to the highest point in the world, the summit of Mt. Everest and every year hundreds of sherpa guides, porters and yaks make sacrifices to get them there. Without their help, most wouldn’t make it to the top alive, and many of them don’t come back. The life of a sherpa and porter comes with great risks. Most climb to provide for their families.

Image result for peak by roland smith

My classes talk about all of this while we read the novel Peak by Roland Smith. At one point in the book the main character, Peak is being filmed for a documentary and the film crew doesn’t want the sherpas, porters and yaks interrupting the shot. Peak yells at the film crew. He explains that without those sherpas, porters and yaks, none of them would be able to climb Mt. Everest. They help carry the needed supplies up the mountain and help guide the climbers when things get tough.

The sherpa guides help lessen the load of the climbers. After we discussed this point in the book, I asked the students: Who are your porters? Who can you not survive without? Who helps carry the burden when things get tough?

They came up with a list of people (mom, dad, teachers, etc.). Then I asked them to dive even deeper: Did you enjoy lunch today? How did you get your lunch today? Do you enjoy going to a clean school? Who do you think cleans it each day? We brainstormed even more people who help out throughout the school day. It was a great moment. They reflected on a lot of people who work behind the scenes to make what we do possible. At the end of the hour I challenged them to find a way to thank those people for making the school day great.

In the future I’m hoping to have them write thank you cards to all of those people who don’t normally get recognized for helping out.

This time of year I’m always reflecting on my own life. Who are my guides up the Mt. Everest of life? Who helps lift my burdens when things are tough?



Each day I’m blessed to have a co-teacher or paraeducator in my room for 4 out of my 5 teaching hours. I know what a privilege that is and I don’t take it for granted. I’m grateful for everything they provide my students. A lot of the students have already shown huge transformations thanks to their guidance and support.

I work with a front office staff that is constantly striving to help teachers get the materials they need, help correctly enter receipts (which deserves a medal), and help get students where they need to go at the right time. They are the hardest working office staff anywhere. They rock.

I work in a clean facility thanks to the hard work of our amazing custodial staff. Our cafeteria staff works hard to make sure that students get the food they need, even if they don’t have the funds to pay for it, sometimes paying for it out of their own pockets.

My wife supports all of my crazy ideas for the classroom. She helps out at home during the robotics season and is my sounding board for all of my ideas. She gives me critical feedback when I need it, encouragement when that’s what I need to hear most, but most importantly she’s willing to listen any time I need it.

Take some time this month to find those people who help you when the burden seems too much to bear and thank them!

GUEST POST: Yes, I’m Telling You to Be Grateful for Stress

by Melissa Pilakowski

It’s been a stressful past two weeks. I was senior sponsor for Homecoming. We’ve had daily rehearsals for our one-act play. I’ve had observations by our local service unit and the department chair of our local college (and as much as I’d like to say that doesn’t make me nervous, it’s still an energy zapper).

I may or may not have eaten an entire bag of cheese popcorn and a bag of dark chocolate chips this weekend.

This was the first time this school year when I felt myself slipping under the water, where every time I crossed something off my to-do list, two more things popped up. I was simply surviving the days, dragging myself home, and procrastinating my ever-growing list. I was missing the proverbial forest for the trees–focusing only on what I had to do and forgetting about my long-term goals, my vision to help others, my commitment to my blog.

Then I ran across this Facebook post:


If you like what you have been reading Click here to continue reading Melissa’s post!


Thankful November…

It’s that time of year again. The dreaded Halloween sugar coma is starting to wear off, the kids are finally turning back into the humans I know and love, and the leaves are starting to change colors.

I love the fall. I love hooded sweatshirts and the firepit in the backyard. I love cool evening walks and playing in leaf piles with my kids. Most of all I love hot coffee on cool mornings sitting on the back patio while my kids enjoy some fresh air.

We’ve finished up the first quarter, so November is a great time to reflect on the things in my life that I’m grateful for. I’ve been blessed with a great family, friends and career. This month I’ll be expressing my gratitude in a couple of ways:

  1. This will be my 2nd year participating in #gratitudesnaps. Each day I take a picture of something I’m grateful for, along with an explanation of why I’m grateful. I love that it forces me to stop my hectic schedule and notice those little moments going on around me. Sometimes it’s something as simple as noticing something special one of my kids does around the house. Other times I take a moment to appreciate one of the little things that makes my life easier.
  2. This year I’m honored/thrilled to participate in a blog exchange. Each day I’ll be posting guest blogs around the theme of Gratitude. I’m truly honored to be included on the list and can’t wait to help share others’ writing with new audiences. It’ll be a fun way to collaborate and connect.
  3. For the third year in a row I’m kicking off Tweet Ups.  TweetUps are little slips of blue paper meant to look like a Tweet that students use to write positive messages to each other. They are a chance for students to put some positivity in the world, tell their classmates why they rock, and tell them they aren’t going unnoticed. For more info on Tweet Ups check out my blog post:

It’s going to be a great November. I’m grateful for all of you!