Take Aways and Reflection from #CELI15

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Dr. Bill Brennan shared this poem as he opened CELI15. Immediately this poem resonated with me, I looked around the auditorium and I could feel the energy, passion and dedication to students and learning. Sure, I have seen this in other educational gatherings, but CELI15 was different, these educators were all connected educators gathering on Long Island. I could feel the future so close in front of us and immediately I felt assured that we are in fact in good hands. These innovative educators had energy and clarity and I was joining in and sitting at the table with them to engage in forward thinking and innovation in the spirit of increasing student engagement and achievement. Connect. Share. Learn. These three words on listed on the website for Long Island Connected Educators Summit, this promise was one that was more than fulfilled on this day. This learning experience was so different from anything I have experienced in my professional development so far. I left with so many ideas about how I can grow in my own professional development as well as the professional development that I facilitate.

“In writing and speaking, three is more satisfying than any other number.”

-Carmine Gallo Talk Like TED

As I have been reflecting on this day and attempting to formulate some clarity in written expression I came across this quote from Carmine Gallo and then it occurred to me – Connect. Share. Learn. Three words.The rule of three can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece where three words were used to convey an idea. Carmine Gallo points out in his book numerous examples of how the rule of three is ever present in our world throughout history ranging from life liberty and happiness to the Three Little Pigs, three primary colors and Newton’s three laws. In fact there are so many threes in nature and in literature this could go on for a while and I might never get to my three take aways from CELI15.

The number three is all around us and so in the spirit of three I will name my three take-aways from CELI15 – which is long overdue since this was on March 28th! Better late than never, and truthfully it was challenging to only name three takeaways from such an inspiring day.

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Just as teachers are guides on the side, Dr. Bill Brennan and Tony Sinanis did an amazing job of facilitating the conversations throughout the day from the opening to the closing. These two individuals are authentic leaders, who spoke honestly and inspired the Long Island educators who gathered on this last Saturday in March. Impressive to say the least!

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Professional development does not have to cost a lot in order for you to learn a lot. In fact it can be FREE!  Each session I attended was created by an educator or educators who cared enough to share their ideas. There were two morning sessions and one afternoon session. As I was presenting at the first session that narrowed my choices and I found myself wishing each session was recorded and blasted out on YouTube so I could watch and learn later, in a way that I can check out Storify after a chat that I cannot attend. I do admit it is not the same as interacting in the discussion live, but it could help to share ideas further. I greatly appreciated reading the #CELI15 Tweets that came out of the day. The sessions I did attend were conversations that inspired and gave me cause to reflect.

 I attended Tony Sinasis‘ session, “Transparency: Keys to Building Trust and Social Capital.” I had to admit to him that I was in fact stalking his Twitter #Catiague and working at my school to tell our story. In truth, I learned so much more from him in this session because he was friendly and so willing to share how he told the story of his school and built trust among his community through using social media. Ideas that Tony shared I know will serve me well as I engage in leadership roles in education. It is no surprise that Tony received the honor of being designated as 2014 Principal of the Year in NY.  Quite an amazing leader to learn from.

The next session I attended was part of the “unconference” developed during lunch on a whiteboard, it started blank and soon filled up with many more sessions to attend. Again, difficult choices to make. The literacy based topics really were pulling me, “Reflective Writing” and “Literacy Lovers,” how could I choose?  In the end, I opted to go outside of my literacy comfort zone and attended “Making Thinking Visible” presented by Louisa Cataldo and Tina Guarnashelli. They shared with us Peardeck as well as a learning experience from attending  Project Zero Summer Institute at Harvard. I purchased the book they recommended, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart. I started reading the book and so my learning that began at this session continues. I am grateful to Louisa and Tina as they have sent me on a continued learning journey. This brings me joy.

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I can push myself out of my comfort zone and share good ideas. At first I heard about this event through Carol Varsolona– a year earlier in fact. I was not able to attend CELI14 due to another commitment, however when I saw CELI15 being shared on Twitter and I realized many educators I follow on Twitter and chat with on Voxer (Talks with Teachers)  were going, I signed up right away. I learned so much from them in the connected sense through social media, I couldn’t wait to meet them and learn from them in person.

At some point I came across the call for proposals and suggested to my in district colleague Jeanne-Marie Mazzaferro that we submit a proposal. We just wrote and were facilitating an in district collegial circle titled “Making Social Studies “Social” for the 21st Century Student.” We were using technology and social media such as Twitter, Voxer, and Google Apps, to share all that we learned through the process with other educators seemed like a next step. We submitted our proposal and were more than excited when it was accepted.  We were going to be sitting at the table with these innovative, connected educators on Long Island and we could not wait to learn and share our story of learning. Here is the link to the description of our session. The QR below or this link will provide you with a view of our presentation as well as the participant folder we shared with the educators who joined us as we shared how our waves of learning spread.

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Connect. Learn. Share. The three words I first saw on the website for Long Island Connected Educators’ Summit (#CELI14, #CELI15), now there was a fourth word, ACT. Now is the time to ACT.  Once we have connected, we are always learning and sharing, but we need to also act. In reflecting on my experience this day, that was my first call to “ACT.” I believe that it is worthy to spend time sharing and spreading what you are passionate about, especially in learning when it can help others. This post is yet another “ACT” and although it took long for me to publish it, it is finally published. I could have continued to deliberate my reflections and revise and revise for several more weeks.  I could probably revise until CELI16, but I will take the advice of Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook, “Done is better than perfect.” I thought by tying in the idea of the rule of three I could somehow keep my reflection short, things don’t always go as planned.  We are all works in progress and while I continue to connect, learn, share and act I will no doubt continue to revise. For now, this post is done and that is better than perfect.

March 15, 2015 Day 15 Slice of Life Challenge

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h Practice in Literacy, in Teaching and in Life 

Yesterday in my blog I wrote about my daughter and her puppy Ezra, and how we attempted to make him a shirt. Yesterday we ended up with a scarf. Today my daughter, independently with just a bit of lean coaching in from me completed a shirt for Ezra. In fact I only coached in at the beginning and at the end just nudging her along with a tip and answering a question or two. The bulk of her practice was independent while I was out shopping and taking my son out to practice driving.

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Practice

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word practice means to do something again and again in order to become better at it.  As a literacy coach I often talk about how students need to practice repeatedly in order to improve.  For instance, in the mini lesson of reading or writing workshop we ensure students have guided practice in the gradual release of responsibility model that we follow.  Here students have an opportunity to practice with a partner, with the teacher close by, listening in to assess for the next steps.  Once students go back to independent workshop time students will need to practice the skills or strategies that they are working on.  This works well for habits, skills or content that most of the class will need to practice.

If we meet with students, set individual goals related to either habits, skills or content students will then need to practice that skill for sometime. They will need to repeat it many times until they become better at it.  I believe this is where the most important practice happens.  It is especially important to carry these goals for a long enough time that they do improve and maintain the habit, skill or content understanding.

This also made me think a bit deeper about practice in all learning experiences, as adult learners do we allow enough time for our own practice? It seems to me that teachers and other adults in the education community forget that teaching is a practice, and as such when we are learning something new would then need to engage in practice along with approximations along the way.  I usually refer to the process of learning as a messy process and we often say embrace the mess when you enter my office which is also our professional learning community room.  I wonder though, if teachers really are allowed enough time to practice new instructional practices and are they allowed approximations in that practice.  I wonder if we as teachers allow ourselves that time to learn.  So many times I see teachers who are hard on themselves, often not allowing for practice time or any sort of approximations.  Sometimes this turns into resistance to any sort of change, because it is really fear of failure.  If we believe that as research shows we have learned more about the brain in the last 10 years than any other time period in our history it seems imperative that we embrace teaching as a practice and that we seek to continually improve our practice.  To do this we have to allow time for practice, space for mistakes, trials or approximations.  We need time to practice, to do something again and again in order to become better at it.