Sunday, June 7, 2015

Dinner with Pam: A Discussion about Learning Commons

Last night I had dinner with my good friend, Pam Harland aka @PamLibrarian. Even though we got together for personal reasons, we couldn’t help but delve into many professional discussions. (Pam wrote The Learning Commons: Seven Simple Steps to Transform Your Library and is a national speaker.)

We discussed many aspects of libraries. As always, Pam continued to blow my mind. Her statement that has resonated with me the most was, “Libraries used to be designed for consumers and now they need to be designed for creators.” YES! That’s why all libraries should be transformed into learning commons. I want to work in a space designed for students (by students, teachers, parents, administration, and librarian) so that they have everything they want and need to learn by creating.

As a classroom teacher, I would have loved my students to have such a space to use.  Now, as a teacher librarian, I want to create a learning commons for students to question, explore, read, write, collaborate, get messy, learn by mistakes, reflect, thus grow.

We intended to take a selfie once we left Martingale Wharf...oops, we forgot!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 2 of the #100Words100Days #engchat Challenge: Transparent Writing?

Day two. I’m still excited about the 100 Words for 100 Days #engchat Challenge; however, I feel too much pressure to transparently share my (at least) 100 words for all of the 100 days. So, I decided I will publish the pieces I am comfortable with onto my blog and I will keep the other drafts to myself.

I’m okay with my translation of the challenge because my goal is to regularly write more for myself, beyond what I write for work. I can achieve my goal regardless if I make my writing public or not.

Never a Day Without a line
Horace 65-8 BC
I am extremely grateful for Don Murray, who gave me this sign that hangs above my desk. Don didn’t share all of his writing, nor will I. The point is that I write everyday, so everyday I will write.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 1 of the #100Words100Days #engchat Challenge: Maureen Barbieri

After participating in last night’s #engchat, "How We Write: Learning from the Process of Writing," hosted by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher, I am motivated to write a series of reflections about my gratitude as I embark upon the 100 Words for 100 Days #engchat Challenge.  

While I was in graduate school (in the Education Department) at UNH, my cooperating teacher, Nicole Outsen, persuaded me to take a course at the NH Literacy Institutes (in the English Department). Thankfully I listened to her because this suggestion drastically improved my life.

So, in July of 2003, I took my first writing course at the NH Literacy Institutes and was fortunate to have Maureen Barbieri as my teacher. Maureen taught me so much; and, if I had to summarize my epiphany of that summer, it would be that Maureen instilled into me that writing is therapeutic

Above are two of Maureen's books (published by Heinemann)
I ran out to purchase as I was taking her class (which was not required). 

Eleven years later, I’m still not ready to share the work I wrote that summer with the world, but I shared the poetry I wrote in Maureen's class with my students every year I taught in a brick & mortar classroom. And I’ve kept Maureen’s meaningful feedback close to me too.

On July 18, 2013, Maureen responded to a poem with a lengthy letter that began with, "Dear Rachel,
Knowing that you love to read poetry reminds me why you and I have this bond; we are kindred spirits."

Last November, I attended NCTE and ran into Maureen. (A future post will explain my purpose, and gratefulness, for being at NCTE.)  I’m so thankful to have reconnected with Maureen and to have her in my life on a more regular basis. For fun, I'm helping her use Twitter and it feels incredibly wonderful to share a tool with someone who brought so much healing and joy and enrichment into my life.

Pictured left to right: me, Maureen and Beth Stacy (a colleague who was in the same class),
reconnecting at NCTE, 2013.

(A special thank you to Meenoo Rami for founding #engchat!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

When are Schools Going to Change?

Today I read, Looking for Alaska by John Green.  (I was lucky enough to catch a cold so I had a great excuse to stay in bed all day and read!)

It was a fabulous, captivating book!

John Green provided some questions he was asked via Twitter and Tumblr.  (So cool.)  A student asked, "What were two major symbols in the book and who was the enemy?"  I SHUTTERED as I read this.  If my high school teacher had asked me to answer these questions in an essay, I probably would have hated the book.

There are so many deeper, and more interesting, aspects of the book to discuss (and I will, with my bookclub). When are schools going to change?!?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Life-Altering Decision

I made a pretty big decision this past school year.  I left teaching in a brick and mortar school, at least for now.  It was a multifaceted decision that was not easy.  (I've wanted to be a teacher since I was in the first grade.)  I love guiding students to become passionate lifelong learners.  I love teaching students how to utilize technology in order to be globally connected and to be transparent about their deep thinking.  I love so much about teaching...

Ever since Tony Baldasaro brought Powerful Learning Practice to the school district I used to work for, I have been inspired to make positive meaningful changes to the world of education, beyond my classroom.  I spent an entire school year infused with connected learning and teaching which was the most meaningful learning experience I have ever had.

After that year, I found it difficult to cultivate all of the change I wanted to make in my classroom and into the district for which I worked. It is an excellent school district; however, it is a district very much infused with tradition, making big change was hard for “just a teacher” to make.  I was able to make some change happen; however, it wasn't enough for me.  Plus, I got tired ruffling a lot of feathers and not being able to fully implement all I was learning from my Professional Learning Network (PLN).

So I left.  Now I'm teaching Literacy at the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) so I'm still a teacher teaching a subject I'm extremely passionate about.  I'm also an educational consultant.

My friend, Jennifer Lowton and I have been consulting for the Lead Faculty at the Granite State College Education Department.  It's been extremely meaningful work.

During my first day with the Lead Faculty, Jenn and I listened to their goals. They want to better prepare their preservice teachers to be successful teachers in today's complex and ever changing world.  

I suggested that the school look at Google Apps for Education because Google offers many tools that make quality learning and teaching more efficient and meaningful.  Mary, the department head said, "Okay- let's do it!  Let's go Google before anyone tells us we can't!"  My jaw literally dropped.  

After the meeting that day, I helped her deploy Google Apps for Education.  I was mesmerized.  I had been stifled as an educator for so long and here was an administrator indicating that she was going to make her department "Go Google" right away.  Such a dichotomy!

Later, as the Lead Faculty, Jenn and I were going over the ISTE Standards and creating a rubric, the discussion of portfolios came up.  I chimed in (truly expecting to be immediately shot down) and shared that I thought the preservice teachers should start a blog during their first class at GSC so that they could record their reflections and have an authentic audience to push their thinking deeper throughout their education and beyond.  They could create their very own blog so that they can see their progress from the very start of their career.  I wish I had started blogging when I completed my full year internship for my masters program in 2002… I would have thirteen years of documentation! The department went for it!

(Disclaimer- I am a writer.  As Don Murray ingrained in me, writing is thinking.  However, most of my writing is lost on zip drives and/or computers that I can no longer access.  I love, love, love that all of my recent writing is in the cloud!)

The next day we met, I showed the lead teachers how to create a blog and they started blogging so that they can model their reflection documentation to other GSC staff members and to their pre service teachers.  Their pre service teachers can model their reflection documentation to their students…such an amazing cycle!

I also introduced the lead teachers to TweetDeck in order to help them manage and use Twitter more efficiently.  They've been tweeting away ever since.

I always felt successful when I was teaching in a brick and mortar classroom.  (Clearly I made tons of mistakes along the way, but I always reflected upon my mistakes and grew from them.)  Though, I didn't always feel successful changing the culture of the school district for which I worked.  

As a consultant, I work in the schools who want to change and that makes all the difference.