International Dot Day

{Sent this out to my staff today.  Every Friday, I send out a Tech Tips/Tricks email to all faculty/staff/admin/Board.}

This is Exciting!

OK, so it’s not truly Tech related, but it could have a lot of tech components…
International Dot Day is September 15.  #DotDay is a celebration of creativity and individuality that was created by a classroom teacher, Terry Shay, when he read the book “The Dot” to his class on September 15, 2009.  Since then, the anniversary of that reading has become a huge annual event, with (as of today!) more than 1 million participants from 61 countries signed up to participate this year.  There’s even a Dot Song (and a Dot Song Video with lyrics) available this year.
I think it would be great to have everyone in D90 make their mark and sign it (you’ll have to read the book to understand) on September 15.  Take lots of pictures or videos, and then we (I or another volunteer) can make a movie of our district’s celebration to share out to parent, families, and fellow classrooms worldwide (and when you get your classroom blogs, you can put it on there).  I challenge each of you to make your own Dot, sign it, photograph it, and send me the picture.  I will then collate them in a publishable format.  We could even show the video of all the adults’ dots to the kiddos as an anticipatory activity (or we could post pictures of them and guess whose dots they are…).  Here’s mine, made with some leftover jewelry pieces:
 2014 Dot
Since collaboration is a big piece of this event, I would suggest connecting with another class in another building in the district prior to the event.  If you’re feeling brave, connect with another classroom in IL, the US, or even the world.  Then, read the story and make your dots in the morning, and then connect with your partner classroom and share your dots in the afternoon (of course, if you’re in different time zones you’ll have to plan accordingly!).  To find far-flung classes, jump onto Twitter and ask for a class using the #DotDay hashtag.  If you need me to be an intermediary, let me know.
Speaking of #DotDay, the author, Peter Reynolds, and Terry Shay, the creator of DotDay, are often on there:
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So, check out the website and see what’s up.  Be sure to watch the videos of what other classes have done.  Another good resource is this blog post by Terri Eichholz.  She has links to Celebrity Dots, Pinterest Boards, and an Educator’s Handbook.  Check out FableVision’s blog that has a list of 20+ educator blogs that celebrate DotDay.  For those of you with iPads, yes, we have the ColAR app mentioned in some of these blog posts (we used it at Math/Science/Tech night at EK last year), and you can use that to make 3D dots.
If you need help, let me or Durrelene, our literacy coach, know.  We have so many ideas for this day that it’s a bit ridiculous.  Stay tuned for this semester’s No Worksheet Week and the annual Hour of Code coming soon!
Enjoy your long weekend and be safe,

Breaking in to Corporate America: (Im)possible?

In my inbox today, I found an email from LinkedIn telling me about a job that would be perfect for me:  Manager of Curriculum Development at Charter Communications (a huge cable TV/network company).  The title made it sound like it was right up my alley, so I clicked through to read more about it.  The initial paragraph sounded like a head of Professional Development for a school district.  Great!  Sign me up.  Down at the bottom, under “Preferred Qualifications,” (and aside from the ‘knowledge of cable television products and services a plus’) it sounded like everything a teacher or school administrator does.

YET nowhere under “Education (level and type)” did it mention Education as an acceptable degree.

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When will educators be recognized as having experience in training?  Who else has more practical knowledge of content delivery systems, facilitation, and presentation?  It just irks me that we are not respected enough to be considered as viable candidates for the corporate world.

I think I’ll apply and see what happens.


New Job Prerequisite: Failure



I ran across this poster from Startup Vitamins about a year ago when I toured the T-Rex complex in downtown St. Louis.  My copy of it now stands on display behind my desk.  It reminds me to take a chance, to push myself outside my comfort zone, and to take the occasional risk.

I think the teaching community needs to add a prerequisite onto all our job descriptions – a criteria that needs to be met before a candidate can even apply for his/her first job:  “A successful candidate must be willing to take a chance, and to have experienced a painful failure at least once in their life.”  By talking in the interview about how the candidate learned from that failure will speak volumes about their character, and about how they will approach the challenges of their career.  I would rather hire a teacher who had started out as an entrepreneur and had lost everything than someone who had never missed an ‘A’ in school.

There is something to be said for being able to get up, dust yourself off, and get right back in there teaching big and on the edge again, teetering between epic fail and epic win.

Who fails? The teacher.  Who wins? The teacher AND all his/her students.

To me there is no alternative.

The Ideal Teacher

Spring marks the interviewing season – the time when schools replace retirees, and swap teachers and administrators.  Schools frantically pencil in the next year’s schedules, negotiate Handbook revisions, and compile summer maintenance lists.

But what if I wanted to start over from scratch?  What if I had an idea and some money, and wanted to hire a teacher?  What if State Certification didn’t mean anything, and I could hire anyone I wanted?  What would that ‘Ideal Teacher’ look like?

EDUCATION: How important is a teacher’s own education?  Do they need a Master’s? Bachelor’s? High School diploma?  Is my liberal arts education from a private college that much better than an engineering degree from a public University?  What about the all-important GPA?  Does it really matter?  My dad (also a teacher and principal) told me one time as we were driving that his best teachers were ‘C’ students because they knew what it was like to not understand everything on the first try.  I would posit that the ideal teacher’s education would be a bachelor’s degree, and should be in their subject area (grades 6 – 12), or in any subject area (grades pre-K – 5).  Education classes in college should be an introduction to education that explores current trends and a brief history so professionals have a sense of place, and then an intense series of practica with extensive online reflection, dialogue, and research.  An active professional Twitter account would be compulsory.

TRAITS: While their education creates the skeleton on which the rest of their pedagogy is built, I would argue that their personal learning habits are more important than their education.  A teacher should be curious and constantly learning.  Do they surf more than just their hobbies?  Do they listen to more than just hit radio?  Do they watch more than just network television?  A teacher should be open to new ideas – or at least to the possibility of new ideas.  They should be caring.  Their humor should not default to sarcasm.  They understand that the world is not just black and white, yes or no.  The successful teacher will have a strong sense of personal morality.  They will make friends easily.  This doesn’t mean that every teacher should be an extrovert; rather that they should smile easily and not be awkward at conversation, whether started by them or by another person.

It doesn’t matter what their personal background is – their age, religion, race, orientation, etc.  What matters at the bottom line is what they bring to the students.  Do they care and can they articulate what needs to be said?

The interview would be an unedited videotape of them teaching in an existing classroom over the course of several lessons.  After I watched the footage, they would come in for a debriefing of their reflection on the taped lessons and how they would progress if it were their class, or how they would do it over if given another chance.

I’m sure that in this rambling post that helped me, at least, define good teacher characteristics, I’ve forgotten something vital.  In the future, I’ll think out loud about the ideal facility, the ideal curriculum, and probably the ideal schedule.  Comment below and let me know what other characteristics make up a Successful Teacher.