Don’t Take It Personal

We have been in full swing of crazy here.  Anyone else feel like that?  These are the months that are full of activities, long days, early mornings, and busy weekends.  However, somehow we make it through.  I think the exciting holiday talk, decorations, days off with family and friends, and overall spirit takes over and gives us the strength.

This isn’t a lengthy blog, but me simply getting my feelings out about something on my mind right now.  There is one thing I always try to keep in mind when these months arrive each year, but I will admit that it is much easier said than done. Especially when we are extra tired and sensitive.

This quote right here:

In a recent tweet by an inspiring educator, David Geurin, he said “Reminder: A student’s behavior usually says far more about what they are going through than what they are trying to put you through.”

 I appreciated this little tweet more than he knew that day.  I believe this to my very core and I’m grateful for quotes to remind me to check in with myself.  Sometimes I take a behavior personally before pausing and asking myself if I am calming them or joining their chaos.  We are all human, right?Chances are, this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with what is going on in their little world – and in most teenager’s worlds at the moment the littlest thing is HUGE!  I get it. We were all there.
During these next few weeks (and every week) I plan to pause and check in with the things they are NOT saying that speak loudly.  Check in with the behaviors that are crying out in the not so obvious way.  I hope to do this not only with my students but with my family as well.  I hope to bring calm and not join in the chaos.

Through The Eyes Of A Child

Yesterday was World Read Aloud Day. I am sure that like me, you saw Social Media loaded up with tons of pictures of kids, authors, teachers, grandparents, principals (Thank you, Mr. Kinney), and even superintendents reading to children! 🙂 (Thanks, Dr. Ryan!) What an amazing day it was! We owe it to our children to read them stories that interest them, use the funny voices, and make it exciting.

My principal friend, Matthew Arend, reached out on Twitter for people to connect with his school and discuss The Most Magnificent Thing. You can read about this awesome experience here.  We were able to connect 7 classes from O.C. Taylor and a few more even have plans to do so this Friday!!  So many very cool things happened.

Here are some of the things we learned:
1. Plano is NOT in another country.
2. They like to read and we do too!
3. We read the same exact book and got to talk about it!
4. We brainstormed Magnificent Adjectives for a richer vocabulary.
5. Both schools had kids who want to be professional soccer players!
6. Both schools set goals!
7. Both schools reflected on their learning!
8. We HAVE to do this again!!
9. We, as teachers, felt like we made new friends. Instant connections with like-minded people. (Just think, we are only down the road from each other and all it took was reaching out to say, “Hey, want to talk about a book?”)

As wonderful as it was seeing all the people read aloud, discuss books, and knowing that our children are blessed with this every single day, what stood out to me was something else.

It was the look of absolute amazement on the faces of the children simply from connecting with other kids less than hour away!  This small thing amazed them! Do you know how much time that took on the teacher’s part?  Not very much.  Do you know how much meaningful learning happened in the short amount of time?  A bunch!

I was lucky to guide a 3rd grade class, and be part of a 1st grade class during their Google Hangout.  During the hangout with the 1st graders, they had a group of “tweeters” who were responding to Q1/A1 format questions. FIRST GRADERS, friends!  This can happen.  They had clearly been guided and practiced with their amazing teacher, Mrs. Tiffani Griffard!

On the side screen I had Tweetdeck open with our school hashtag, WRAD hashtag, and the other school’s hashtag where the responses were going. I thought I would sit by them while they typed and just be there to help, if needed.  Well, let me tell you….was not needed, nor did they want my help!  Then, I showed them the screen when their tweet went live.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The smiles spread across their faces like they had just met a superhero!  They were so proud and so amazed!  THAT….was my favorite part. THAT is why I love what I do. Seeing children get so excited about learning and the possibilities.

It really shows that something we may not think twice about (connecting w/Google Hangout, blogging with other classes, tweeting responses) can excite these kids and make learning more meaningful for them!  They need to be connected learners, just like we do!

I am most excited about the fact that my special friends who reached out and did this with their classes, whether or not they had done this before in some way, have ALL expressed interest in continuing this.  Some even have teammates who didn’t get to do it, but have said they want a class as well!! For me, that makes my heart scream with happiness because that means more kids will engage in meaningful learning!  More kids will CONNECT to inspire and be inspired!

Connecting kids, Building Relationships, Creating Friendships….one day at a time.

Put yourself out there. Take the risk.  Try it. You won’t want to stop, I promise!

First, Digital Divas -> Next, Twitter ->Then, Personal Growth -> Last, CHANGE!

There is a lot of talk about “The Twitter” these days in education.  It almost has turned into a buzzword, and if you are “doing it” at your campus then you are a rockstar and the most tech savy, knowledgeable teacher out there.  Don’t be fooled.  If you are tweeting with no reflection or process, chances are you are not really reflecting, which leads to growing!  If you have never used Twitter or professional purposes, I urge you to connect, but Twitter isn’t the only way to connect.

In this AMAZING book by three amazing educators I connected with on Twitter they elaborate on the idea of connecting through many outlets. These are people I have never met, but I liked what they stood for from participating in a chat session and followed them.  They are so kind and genuine in wanting to connect and help educators.  

As I met with my P2LN the other evening, I connected this to the book I am reading and began to think of what I do differently since becoming connected with them. (Not sure what P2LN is?  The P to the power of 2 stands for Personal and ProfessionalI wasn’t either until I read the book below.  It is a MUST read.  So many amazing ideas and examples.  An ideal campus book club selection!  It will change your life.  .

Here are 2 huge factors that played a role in my connected educational journey, so far!

First, is a group a dear friend and my fellow late night collaborating colleague, Erin Gerdes, started among educators with like minds to meet and discuss the digital changing we were going through. We meet every single month, even through the summers to collaborate, share ideas, learn, and grow.  This turned into our classrooms of students collaborating through Skype and other things across schools in our district.  We are the DIGITAL DIVAS! This is my Professional Learning Network that has turned into my Personal Learning Network of peeps, but now also my dearest friends.  This is what happens so often.

Second, I began “lurking” on Twitter educationally about 3 years ago when I was accepted as a Digital Classroom Teacher.  I finally jumped in and began joining the Chat Groups that interested me.  It was like 2 at first, but what matters is that I began connecting with more people in my district and out in the social media world. (Confession: Along the way, I did delete my Twitter account because I honestly couldn’t figure out what the point was and why only 140 characters! I opened another later on.)

Fast forward to this past summer….my world changed and I was lit on fire by attending iPadpalooza in Austin, Texas!  It honestly had nothing to do with iPads and technology, as much as it did the spirit, passion, and energy from the Keynote Speakers I heard and from the people I met there!  I wholeheartedly mean it.  There is this crazy intoxicating energy you get when you are around people like this at an amazing conference! Check out the youtube channel from iPadpalooza of the mini keynotes.  This is one of those moments when I will look back and say my professional focus shifted at that moment and I am on fire!

I made the decision right then that instead of just randomly posting a pic of my class on Wear Your Favorite Socks day or a Here is what we did in Math kind of pic, I began reaching out to random people because of their thinking.  That’s crazy a thought, right?!  😉

Here’s the thing: The most unbelievable thing happened…they reached back!  Without even knowing who I was!  I thought that was the most bizarre thing since pre-iPadpalooza I would do “research” on someone and their thinking before even considering following them!  So within a short time frame of one “unconference” I had extended my professional learning network a ton with some AMAZING people!  This was only the beginning.

Here is what started happening over Twitter:

  •  I began exchanging awesome ideas and Best Practices for the classroom or school with others.
  •  I began reading inspiring quotes and articles people tweeted to build others up.
  •  I began reflecting and seeking out different perspectives in order to grow.
  •  I began sharing GREAT things happening in our school.
  •  I began sharing GREAT things happening in other schools with our school.
  •  I began taking more risks.
  •  I helped connect others for global projects. 
  •  I was having conversations with people I had just met because of a belief AND they TRULY wanted to HELP you!!   
Are you ready for the top reason why you need to build your P2LN?  
IT WILL CHANGE YOU! (There’s no way it can’t, if you are doing it right!)  🙂
Here is what it does for me:
  • Keeps me on FIRE and loving this ever-changing profession!
  • Gives me the easiest and best way to seek out new best practices! You have round the clock access to brilliant minds. Have a question? – Tweet it out!  
  • Provides 24/7 Professional Development!  
  • Sometimes we can’t fly to Chicago for that awesome conference you are dying to go to, but you can follow their #hashtag and still learn so much.
  • It challenges me and stretches my thinking!!  Big time!  Why? The people on Twitter bring such a wide variety of experiences and knowledge and when you connect and gain their perspective, you can’t help but rethink how you are doing things.  
  • There is SERIOUS reflection going!

Don’t underestimate the power of people. If you want to know outstanding people to follow, go to my Twitter @OCTVisser and look at who I follow.  See what they stand for, and if you like that give them a follo.   Build your P2LN and remember…..

Lessons of Growth and Connecting Resulting from the Sadness of Change

Okay, so I know that lately I have been blogging about many things close to my heart….well, this one will not be any different!  Writing helps sort through my thinking, learning, emotions…and I have had such strong emotions about this lately.  This morning something knocked me over the head and said, “Stop focusing on the sad part…Imagine the great things you can do!”  You know what, that something was right!

A few days ago, I went up to my new classroom for the first time since May.  You know that feeling of….”Oh my, where do I even begin?”  You stand there and stare for a bit.  Then, once you start looking around, “Oh yeah, I forgot I had THIS!”  Then, your friend from across the hall comes over and you start talking and…..2 hours later y’all have nothing done!  Or is that just me? 😉

This year was a bit different for me.  My heart was a little heavy as I walked into my room because I didn’t have my teaching right arm, my other half that has been across the hall from me for years. And my dear friend. After staring at this room for a minute, I sat down and checked Facebook.  🙂  Isn’t that what every teacher who is still on summer break, but decides to go get a glance at what lies ahead then gets overwhelmed does?!


I saw that my sweet friend posted she was in her classroom too, and missing me!  I knew right then, we need to find a way to be strong through this and make an even bigger difference in the lives of children.  After messaging my friend that I missed her too, I began to get to work.

In case you are wondering, I did get some things done!  Does anyone think it might have to do with the fact that my friend wasn’t across the hall?  LOL!  After seeing her at a district meeting yesterday, we both laughed at the fact that we were not sure how we could do it without each other, but noticed we got a lot accomplished on this working day because we didn’t have each other there.  Oh, the irony.

So, this brings me to my big A-HA moment of today. As I sat and thought about this, my friend emailed asking about a digital creation we did with our kids on the first day that we ALL loved and that helped us really get to know our kids. As I emailed her back, my mind quickly slipped into it’s comfort of our “thing”……(insert my smiling heart), which is feeding off each other’s ideas, which in turn sparks new ones, which sparks discussion of changing things, and at the end of our conversation the lesson we had in mind is now better than it ever began because we had each other to talk it through

Instantly I knew, we do not need to be across the hall to talk it through.  We just need to reach out to each other however we can.  Isn’t that what all educators need to do? Reach out and connect. Sometimes as educators we are so married to the idea of our “team”, our “grade level”, and our own campus that we rarely look outside the walls of our own little box to get new, refreshing ideas or hear something that just might challenge our thinking. Is it the fear of change?  The fear of standing out alone?  The fear of the unknown?  For me, it was the fear of feeling emotions of sadness that I didn’t want to feel because my known was changing to unknown.

I want to share this picture I posted on Twitter.  This is my sweet friend, Laura Follett.  I can surprisingly say that where we are great together, it will be this moment where we will be even better because of many things.  For one, we are both in new positions with new people and without each other.  We can learn so many things and SHARE what we learn from seeing a different perspective.  Another reason is that we are growing educators!  We reach out, connect, and want to learn as much as we can from the smartest people out there so that we can SHARE with everyone we know! But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss her to pieces.  🙂  Who will give me MY hug when I get emotional about a child and cry?  Who will remind me to slow down because they are the chillest person I know and I am all over the place?! Maybe those things won’t happen on a daily basis with her, but I DO KNOW we are only a phone call, text, or email away from supporting, challenging, pushing, motivating, and being there for each other!  That’s what matters most.  Connecting whatever way we can.

My HOPE is that every educator has that person to reach out to and talk it through.  Two minds are always better than one!  Hey, go for three or four minds and imagine the possibilities!!  

Collaborating within the school is very important, but so is collaborating across the district, and even more so with the world!  We teach our kids to blog and connect globally to learn from each other.  We want them to experience the ideas of others and be well rounded.  We teach them the importance of making new connections and building relationships in order to be awesome in this world today. Are WE doing this?  I’d like to think that as a whole, yes we are…thanks to Twitter!  (If you haven’t made friends with Twitter as an educational tool, you are completely missing out on the BEST PROFESSIONAL development and relationship builder out there!!)  

We are all in this together for the reason of changing the lives of children!  It’s all about the children.  Always. No great teacher ever changed lives by saying, “I would like to stay in my room by myself and just do the boring lessons I have always done and leave after the bell.”

Reach out to those teachers on your team, across the hall, on your campus, on another campus, on another campus in another grade (getting crazy now, huh?!), on Twitter at another school in your state, or even another country!!  There are amazing people out there and there is no better time than NOW to connect to make a difference! I’m so excited for my year at my new school with all the great people there!!!  I hope your year is full of happiness and excitement in the lives of your students and YOU!

Twitter PLN Infographic using Canva

I want to share one of the best apps I have started using since attending iPadpalooza. It is called Canva!  It can create just about anything you want to and make it look AWESOME!

For our virtual voyage we were given the mission of creating an Infographic.  I have seen these a million times and pinned a ton of them on Pinterest.  Why?  That’s easy.  This is my kind of thinking.  Visual.  Simple. Easy to read.  Do not require much time to sit down and get the message.  🙂  What more can you ask for?
When I thought about what topic to create this on, I drew a blank.  1.  I am on vacation and my mind is starting to drift…. 2.  What do I really have to share using this that people will want to read?  So last night (I will admit, late) when I was scrolling through Twitter reading all of the great articles from blogs and people I follow I felt this nerdy sense of amazement!  
I feel INSPIRED by Twitter and here is why:
1.  There are so many amazing educators out there!
2.  So many of these educators blog incredible ideas!
3.  We are so lucky to live in a world like this where we are allowed to learn!
4.  How lucky are we to learn SO much from simply reaching out to a “stranger” on Twitter!
5.  I am so lucky to have connected with so many FAB people at iPadpalooza and Twitter!
6.  Wow….I am loving my connections on Twitter and how much I am learning!  How in the world did this even start?
THEN….my idea came!  If I hadn’t gone to iPadpalooza, would I have known which person to follow on Twitter?  Would I have even attempted to follow someone I didn’t know on my own? How did I know whom to follow?  
Here is how I start :  I look at a Twitter friend that I follow, respect, and love what they represent.  I look and see who they are following and/or take recommendations!  I figure if my Twitter friend is following them, they must be awesome!  So I check them out.  You can find people to follow so many other ways, but this is what works for me.  
This brings me to my IDEA – I decided to create my Infographic using the coolest app, Canva, and list my top Twitter recommendations!  Now, it’s not a perfect graphic, but I’m learning.  🙂  Hope you find someone new to follow and love as much as I do!