My Summer To-Do list

Last summer, I was busy selling a house, packing for a cross country move, and going to grad classes.  So needless to say, it was packed with must dos.  I’ve decided that this year my to-do list is about making me a better educator, parent, spouse, and person.  So in no particular order:

  • Read and then read some more.  I will read to my kids.  I will read fiction, nonfiction and educational books.  I want to read things out of my comfort zone to make me a better person.
  • Play with my kids when they ask.  Too often I find myself watching instead of joining in even when they ask me to join them.
  • Go on dates with my husband.  We (I mean me) are guilty of putting our relationship last(ok second to last-I know that I fall last) on the priorities.
  • Travel.  We moved here to be closer to family.  Everyone is home this summer.  It is time for road trips to see the family and friends that are near.
  • Scrapbook. I am so far behind that I am currently scrapbooking July 2013.  My kids love looking at them and talking about the adventures.  Little Bit deserves more than her first few months scrapbooked.
  • Garden.  I want to figure out my yard.  Where is the best place to put my tomatoes?  How do I keep the squirrels from digging my bean seeds?   So many questions and I am looking forward to finding the answers.
  • Cook.  I missed cooking every night for the family this year.  I will help take up the challenge.
  • Learn-I plan on attending some conferences and a couple of EdCamps.   I will make my list of questions for my new job and find the answers.  I will make time for twitter chats.

This list looks long but I know I will enjoy accomplishing this list.  My sweet son made his list:

IMG_6569 His list included making art, picking strawberries, riding bikes, and on walks.  I hope that I can help him complete his list too.

Dear Megan-A year in review

This blog post is a response to a challenge that Todd Nesloney he posted here.

Dear Megan,

Wow! What a year!  On that first day of in-service, someone told me that they took a risk on me.  I thought at that time I also took a risk too.  I am glad that our mutual risk paid off.  As I look back the year, I am amazed by how much I grew professionally and personally.

As the school year began, you realized that air conditioning that was considered the norm in Texas was extreme in Iowa.  For example, you dress for the season in Iowa.  It will be hot in the building in the summer and cold in the winter.  As opposed to Houston where the air conditioning makes you dress like winter in the summer.

I am amazed about how much you learned about discipline once it left the classroom.  I am proud how you are able to use the Boys Town skills to teach about classroom expectations.  You learned how to have hard conversations with parent this year.  You also became their ally to help the negotiate the medical system.

I also learned how to count on others in many ways.  In the classroom, I was alone and felt like it was all me.  In this role, I learned how to delegate and take help when offered.  I love the team approach that existed at my school.  Everyone from the lunch ladies and custodians to the principal has the same goal: education of the whole child.

I am proud of the events you organized: Iowa Assessments, Green and Growing, WIN, EdCamp, and TJ’s bucket filling assembly.  You learned how to think ahead and not just react.  You helped to make Monroe a better place because of your organization.

One of your greatest achievements this year is your blogging.  You overcame your complex about being a bad writer.  Your blogging helps you reflect on your role and others enjoy what you write.  Thank you for being honest and real on your blog.

Finally I am proud of the relationships you created this year.  You laughed and cried with parents.  You gave tons of hugs and told students you loved them.  Every day you provided smiles for people who needed them.  You helped teachers, paras and others.

It is with a heavy heart that you will be leaving Monroe for your next step on your journey.  I am excited to see how your new role as Lead Teacher Support for Davenport Community Schools impacts you and the people around you.  Congrats on your great year as a SAM and congrats on your new job.

Love you bunches,

Megan

Ode to My Principal

This year I was lucky enough to cut my teeth with the best principal I have ever worked with.  Unfortunately for me but luckily for my district, TJ will be the Director of Federal Programs in my district next school year.  As we were talking this year about my blog, he said his blog would the Bullet List.  In honor of my principal, TJ Schneckloth, I wrote what I consider the truisms he modeled for me this year.

Relationships are key.  

  • As I pulled into town, he sent me a text to see if I needed help the next day to empty the moving truck or if I needed to borrow his truck.
  • He sits at his table in the office so his back is at the door when he is having a meeting. It communicates that the person he is with is the most important person in the world.
  • He talks to everyone.  He gives everyone his full attention.
  • His favorite interview question is: What does the following quote mean to you and how does it relate to teaching? “When all else fails…the relationship prevails.”
  • He introduces himself to every new student and parent when they register and also to every new guest teacher.

snap

When working with others, remember to have a heart of a coach.

  • As a first year SAM, I make mistakes.  He has always been respectful.  Read about one example here.
  • As a first year, he also used a gradual release model to help me become the SAM he needed me to be.  I am glad we went slow because now I am a confident that my decisions will reflect his vision for our school.
  • He also gives high quality feedback.  I love that when I receive feedback from him because I know my next steps.
  • This year we implement teacher leaders on my campus.  It went smoothly because he preached, modeled and taught about having a heart of a coach.
  • I watched as he had difficult talks with parents about the next steps for their student.  They respected his vision because the parents knew that TJ wanted what was best for their kids.

When in doubt read and surround yourself with books.

  • The first time we met in person, he handed me a book and told me to read it.  He explained that this is part of his philosophy for reading education.  This moment made the week of unpacking/moving worth it.
  • He always has a stack of books to the side of his desk.  Books fill his cabinets.  His current favorites are on his counter.
  • He creates book study groups for different groups and shares his reading with others.
  • He invites people to our school to share the love of books with the students.  He reads to our students and models good reading habits.

Words cannot do justice to role my principal has played in my professional growth.  I am profoundly impacted by this year.  As I look forward, I know that I will take these experiences with me and also the World’s best interview question.  So Thank You TJ!  I can’t wait to see the impact you will make next year.

Lessons Learned from the Dunk Tank

On Friday, I checked something off of my bucket list.  I always wanted to be a part of a dunk tank.  I excitedly volunteered to be dunked at Monroe’s Fun Night.

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I was the last one on the list to be there.  It was funny to watch how fast people came to line up to get a chance to dunk me.  The first few people hit the target but I did not fall, so my supportive principal willingly pushed the target.  “Just to make sure it works.”  Don’t worry.  It did.  I got up and did for an amazing half hour.  Some people knocked me off and others were not as lucky.

Being a lead learner can be just like sitting on a dunk tank bench.  Our learning is on display for all to see.  Some people do line up to watch you fail.  It’s OK that why we love reality TV, too. When you do fall in, it’s how you handle that shows the strength of your character.  A great leader climbs up with a smile and put herself back out there.

IMG_6541I also learned that just because you hit the target, I may not fall in to the tank.  Even when we do everything right, the results will not always be as expected.  Again, this is another chance to show your character.

My two big take-aways are:

  1. Always volunteer to be in the dunk tank.
  2. When you do fall, get back up, laugh and wait.

Bonus Tip: Always fill the tank with water from a mop sink (keeps it warm).

Worth reading 5/10

I had great plans of sharing what I read, but I got distracted-work and the let down of blogging for a month.  I feel like these are just few of what I read that was great.

What: 5 Tips For Managing a Fast Paced Twitter Chat

Who: Craig Kemp

Why: I have been a part of many twitter chats that seem to move so fast and with many participants that I get overwhelmed.  I see several tips that I will use for #read4fun chats.

What: Speaking out about race, poverty, riots, and our students

Who: Angela Watson

Why: She is being brutally honest about what is being said.  I felt like saying “Amen!” throughout this article.  I have seen poverty and the effects of racism on students.  She is not lying or exaggerating.  This is a must read.

What: http://tammyneil.com/2015/05/02/must-follows/

Who: Tammy Neil

Why: I love her honesty about creating your PLN on twitter.  We must all make our own way.

What: http://mrfarnum.weebly.com/ed-blog/when-we-talk-about-school-reform

Who: Sean Farnum

Why: He discusses the role student should play in educational reform plus at the end he recommends another great blogger.

What: http://risktolearn.blogspot.com/2015/05/loved-supported-and-appreciated.html

Who: Ryan Steele

Why:  This is the letter all principal want to write to their staff.  So often the words escape when you want to express these feelings but Ryan nails it.

Thanks to Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts that I thank some of those teachers in my life that have influenced me.  You can read the first one here.

I will admit that I was shy.  I was so afraid to talk to my teacher that I didn’t give her my milk money. This went on for weeks. It was finally discovered when Sr. Helen Ann cleaned out my desk before Parent/Teacher conferences.  My parents described me as a quiet observer. Another example is that I was that I really wanted chocolate milk for snack, but I didn’t say anything so white milk was brought for me instead because I didn’t say anything.  I still took the chocolate milk so needless to say I got in trouble.

The Shy First Grader

The Shy First Grader

I am still shy.  I get nervous in new situations.  This has not stopped me from doing some pretty brave things.  (Moving to Houston & Davenport without knowing anyone.)  I believe it is because the teachers I had during my early years.

What did those teachers do?  What characteristics did these teachers possess?

  • Sense of Warmth I think of my preschool teacher, even though her name escapes me, and I still feel calm and cared for.  She is just one of my teachers that made me feel that way.
  • They encouraged.  I think of Sister Jean who encouraged me to raise my hand. I even remember her calling me the walking dictionary.  Sister Charlene let me write a play for the class to perform.  I attempted things, but I knew that I would not disappoint my teachers if I failed.
  • They told stories of success.  I feel like I can tell Warren Buffet’s story because my teachers often told his story.  He grew up nearby before he became the Oracle of Omaha.  The theme of these stories were “Work hard and you too can be wildly successful.”
  • They saw me for who I am and who I can be.  Yes, I was the quiet, good girl.  I had great grades and did well in school.  I had amazing parents.  It would have been easy not to worry about me when other students had needs, but those teachers reached out and engaged me.

As I began my teaching career and even now, I try to do these things.  I reach out to all students.  I was heart-broken today because I felt like I knew every student in the school and a girl came to me with a concern.  I asked her when she came to Monroe.  She calmly told me she has been here all year.  I apologized that I did not know her.  It was a reminder that as a SAM, I need to see all students not just the students in crisis.   I hope that I help create some brave adults who are not afraid to take risks just like my elementary school teachers.

THANKS:

  • Sister Helen Ann
  • Sister Jean
  • Mrs. Miles
  • Sister Charlene
  • Mrs. Lily

Thanks to …

This is the start of a series of posts that I thank some of those teachers in my life that have influenced me.  Thanks Meg for the inspiration.

Parents-are-our-first

I want to thank my first teachers, my parents.  Yes, I could write about they loved, supported, and helped me throughout the years, but hopefully most people can say that about their parents.  Instead, I am going to talk about the lessons they taught me about education.  Both of my parents are retired special education teachers.  Actually, my dad retired from the public school system and now teaches at a county juvenile justice center.

  • All students need to interact with lots of different types of students.  My dad worked at a school, when I was young, where the highest need students went.  Some of these students were in wheelchairs.  Others had challenges communicating.  My dad made sure that we went to family nights at the school.  They also had us visit during summer school.  I still remember the students’ names and faces.  My mom spent time in a middle school at the end of her career with students with similar disabilities.  She worked with the dean to get some of the frequent visitors to the office to spend time working in her class.  The number of visits to the office decreased because the students loved being in my mom’s class and being needed.  These interactions taught me more about Least Restrictive Environment than any college class did.
  • Be available for your students even after they leave your classroom.  At the end of my dad’s career, he was a high school behavior disordered teacher.  I can remember several former students calling my dad at home when they got in trouble.  He and my mom would calmly work with them to help solve the problem.  My mom also got calls from parents after they moved states to ask how to advocate for their children.
  • Be passionate and reflective.  I still remember my parents talking to each other about educational policy.  They talked about what happened at work and how to improve.  This practice has transferred to me.  On Sundays, my parents and I talk about our week.  They help me reflect on ways to improve.
  • Continue to grow.  My parents are constant learners.  They read, reflect and grow.  They may have each over 30 years but it was never the same year.  They are still current teachers and talk about educational trends.  Both of my parents were inspired by my blogging.  My dad is actively working to create wild readers at his juvenile justice center.  He has some powerful ways and is thinking about how to share this information.  Together we set up a blog account for him.  I can’t wait for everyone to read what he has to say.

Thank you Mom and Dad! I am an amazing educator because you have done an excellent job modeling what a teacher is.  I would not be here without your love and support.

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Dan & Reed Keenan with the future Mrs .Megan Morgan