I’ve CLOUDED my site.

In following David Dodgson‘s idea, that I discovered via Naomi Epstein‘s tweet, I “CLOUDED” my website and discovered some very interesting insights.  To begin with, I didn’t get the results that I expected.  Blog Cloud 03_31_11

  • What does it tell you about the content of your writing?
    • I find it interesting that the most repeated words in my blog are technology, students, and teachers.  When I considered the project, I really expected my focus to be mentoring, reflection, and 30_Goals.  I wonder if way I code phrases (using underscores instead of tildes – which would keep the words together in a word cloud).
  • What does it tell you about your writing style and use of vocabulary?
    • To be honest, I seem to use a lot of words, but my vocabulary, I feel, is limited to simple words.  I think I might need to use more sophisticated diction — not so much that my blog becomes illogical and unreadable, but I think I my blog should be more reflective of my verbal speech.
  • Is there anything that surprised you?
    • My primary focus seems to be technology.  I have joked that I am a “closet geek” in my joy of discovering new technology.  This seems to confirm that I have “come out of the closet.”  Fun, huh!

So … thank you David and Naomi for this very cool reflective activity.  I’m going to want to repeat it often, now. 🙂

A Moment of Reflections – 3 Experiences I’m Learning From

3 Experiences and What I Learned

1.  Mentoring new teachers provides amazing opportunities for self-reflection. reflection 1.11inch
As a full-release mentor in my district, I wear two distinct hats – mentor and evaluator … yet n’er the two shall meet.  When I mentor, I observe and conference to provide data that can guide our conferences toward growth for my mentees.  When I evaluate, I must collect data in an effort to provide accurate feedback based on a criteria for impacting student achievement and student learning.  For me, however, I use these times to often reflect on my own practice.  Did I practice what I speak? Is what I am saying practical for a teacher? a new teacher? (And the big Whammy question …) Am I guiding new teachers or creating ‘mini-Me’s”?

I often have to discuss these self-reflections with others in an effort to find perspective.  When discussing this idea with a colleague this evening (and bless her for listening!), I was reminded of a lesson a pastor spoke to me and my husband in pre-marital counseling.  He said, “the man who believes ‘I will never have an affair,’ is often the one who finds himself in that dilemma.  The one who is ever cautious will guard himself against the temptations of having an affair, and is more likely not to have one.”  (Go Dan Southerland!)  Translation:  If I continue to reflect on my own practice as a guard against trying to clone myself and share best practices instead, I can empower my new teachers to success.

2.  I am never too-seasoned to not learn from a training – educational reflection.

I am in the middle of a wonderful training – Discipline in the Secondary Classroom.  I am taking this as part of my district position – we are asked to attend all trainings that new teachers are required to attend so that we have a greater understanding of the information our new teachers are learning.

What I truly enjoy about this training is the changes I will be making to my own future practice!  It’s not that I did not have a well-managed classroom before, but I have found that there are some adjustments that I can make that will improve my practice.  For example, I need to reward effort.  (In the past, I thought this was just a “behavior management restart” idea.)  If I “begin with the end in mind” (thanks Stephen Covey!), then I would calculate approximately how many points I might offer, then take a percentage of that to determine a weekly participation grade.  (In the example provided in our text, the teacher determined 20 points each week.  Each child would start with 15 points and earn/lose points based on effort.)  This practice helps students connect hard work with learning.

3.  Tonight I started “Master Trainer” – a train the trainer course — experienced reflection.

I must be honest – I signed up for this class because I wanted to “hone my training ability so that I could help my participants become better teachers as they impact student learning.”  In other words, I was confident that I was pretty good and just needed some fine tuning … right?  Wrong … AND I’m not in any way discounting this first night or suggesting that it was a negative experience.  It was enlightening and gave me cause for deeper reflection.

As a trainer, I recognize the need for adults to have their needs met, for trainings to be practical, for learning modalities to be considered.  I’ve also considered more lofty goals such as the inclusion of movement and creature comforts.  So … what did I learn? in just one night?  My greatest “AHA!” was that training is about the needs of the group – even if the training is a pre-scripted curriculum, I am still required to respect the needs of my learners while maintaining the fidelity of the material.  And when a participant has a lot of questions or experiences to share or things the information reminds them of, I (and I love this word picture!) need to “wrap up their experience in a beautiful package and appreciate the connections he/she is making as a result of this training.”  Because in the end, it is about the participant learning the material.  (Isn’t that cool! Hopefully, I have paraphrased Sabrina accurately!)

(Thanks to my training tonight, I made time to write again!)

So what is the goal of reflection?  In my opinion …

1.  Reflection leads to growth! If “hindsight is 20/20,” then we can change what we did not like, accept what we cannot change, and enjoy the positive things we can duplicate.

2.  Reflection should be natural. As teachers, learners, and trainers, reflection should be a good habit.  The best of teachers, I believe, can reflect in the middle of a lesson … they assess their students’ understanding, they adjust, they re-teach, and sometimes, they continue.

3.  Reflection never ends. Even when we think “we’ve arrived,” if we become satisfied, then we stop growing.  As Jim Collins is quoted, “good is the enemy of great.” When we reflect, we find that no matter how experienced we find ourselves, we can always learn from those around us – other teachers, new teachers, trainers, administrators … even students.

How have you learned from reflection?  Start the discussion.

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Goal #24 … Support Character Development

Goal 24: Support Character Development

“The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity.” ~Paulo Freire

How often have you seen people serving others with kindness?  I am reminded of the insurance commercial that shows people doing kind things for others simply because they witnessed another person performing a kind deed for someone they did not know.  This character development allows students to develop empathy for other people.

Goal 24_Johnny the BaggerRecently, I received a story about a young man from a local grocery store chain – The Simple Truths of Service:  Inspired by Johnny the Bagger (View video for the complete story).  You see Johnny was a simple bagger a local grocery store.  At the start of this story, Johnny had heard a lecture/speech on making a difference in the store, specifically in how to develop loyal customers.  Johnny, being very considerate, thought about what he could do because “I’m only a bagger.”  With his thinking, he began finding an inspirational quote for each day. At home, he would print copies of his quote, and place these in people’s bags.  Pretty soon, the manager started noticing repeat customers … those who would come back on days Johnny worked and would stand only in his line. When asked, some people would say that they found a reason to shop everyday just so they could get Johnny’s quote.

Johnny’s story should inspire all of us to try to positively impact the lives of others.  What can you students do for less fortunate students in your school?  What about students at another school?  What about classes around the world?  In Japan? In Egypt?

The goal of character development is to help students understand that there is a world beyond their own lives.  We are blessed with free public education, yet we take for granted sometimes the safety of our classrooms.  Considers these goals as a means of helping our students to develop character traits that could help them think critically about the world around them.


Short-term – Present a world problem, tragedy, or situation to your students and have them brainstorm ways to improve the situation.

Long-term – Organize an event in which your students help people in a profound way and are able to realize they are able to improve their world.


Passion Driven Classroom by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold

Empower your students to be world changers!

Goal 23 … Integrate Technology Effectively

Goal 23: Integrate Technology Effectively

“The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.” ~ John Naisbitt

Our school district recently adopted the Danielson teacher evaluation rubric as a means of assessing effective teaching with a focus on student learning.  In several elements, teachers are assessed on their use of “resources, including technology.”  This goal asks us to integrate technology effectively.  So how can we effectively ask students to learn using technology?

born_digital_nativeFirst, I think we have to accept the difference between digital natives (most students) versus digital immigrants (most teachers).  As teachers, we often use power point with an LCD projector and expect high results on our evaluations.  If your school is devoid of technology, then that would be considered appropriate.

Yet in this goal, we want to consider what makes an effective lesson that integrates technology?  According to our quote, it is not technology that will advance our society, but a person’s ability to solve problems and to think critically.

I often laugh at my own “geeky-ness” when it comes to my love of technology.  Lately, I have discovered so many Web 2.0 skills that can enhance student learning.  As I share them, people laugh (in a positive way!) at my enthusiasm.  One technology lesson that I did include in my classroom last year was an online discussion board.  Using Proboards.com (this online program allows for heavy security – you could not find my page through any search engine and as an administrator, I had the ability to censor words, block IPT addresses, and accept/reject membership), I set up a discussion page for my students to participate in various conversations – character analysis, voting polls, sharing of websites, etc. This discussion board helped integrate technology and allowed me to continue conversations outside the classroom. (See attached screen shots for a better sample of our discussions – screen shots are strategic in an effort to protect identity of my students.)

Screen shot 2011-03-21 at 5.14.29 PM Screen shot 2011-03-21 at 5.14.52 PMScreen shot 2011-03-21 at 5.15.15 PMScreen shot 2011-03-21 at 5.14.42 PMIn my reading classes, I have often used technology as a means of having students “sell” their books to other students.  My daughter used Animoto.com to create the following video … her project earned her a meeting with the author when he visited their school.

Rachel\’s Book Project

So … with this goal, how can you plan for and integrate technology in away that promotes rigorous learning? Are you considering Web 2.0 skills that students can utilize from home? … from their cell phones?


Short-term– Share with us an example of an activity or lesson you feel integrates technology effectively. Write down your reasons why you chose this example. The example can be from another teacher or your own example. Try to include a link to a recording or multimedia example of the activity. Embed it in your blog if possible.

Long-term– After evaluating the example, come up with a checklist of qualities that support the effective integration of technology and use this as your guide for your lessons.


Check out this video of Ian Chia’s Send Felicity app. “I love how this integrates the child’s real world with art and curiosity! I hope more apps take this as an example of what learning should be,” states Sherry Terrell.  Check out Ian Chia’s Send Felicity website for more examples of effective technology integration and learning!

Share an example of effective technology integration!

Goal #22 Be a Mentor or Find a Mentor

Goal 22: Be a Mentor or Find a Mentor

“The power we have through networking is humbling, frightening, and exciting. Use it well.” ~ Ruth Cohenson, @tearoof
Comic_MentorAndy Stanley once described mentoring as “duplicating yourself.”  As a mentor, I don’t wish to create “mini-Me’s,” but I do wish to share everything I know in an effort to help someone become more effective as a teacher.  His analogy was described this way … (hopefully, my paraphrase is on target)

As I began my ministry, I played guitar as I led worship.  I found this young man who played some guitar. If my talent could be measured in a glass, I took all that I knew about leading worship with guitar, and poured it into his bowl.  (This worship leader had, at the time, recorded several worship albums.) So, whether you have bowl and you are filling someone’s glass, or you have a glass … find someone to pour your knowledge into.

Being a mentor can happen no matter what your level of knowledge.  If you have a technique, strategy, structure … any instructional or management idea that has worked for you, then you can share it.  When you share, someone else learns!

As a teacher, it is easy to become a “Lone Ranger.”  Fight it!  Be an advocate for sharing … either be a mentor or find a mentor … share your ideas, your questions, your needs – why should we reinvent the wheel?

Isn’t it amazing that this goal is my full time job!  Yes … I am a full-release mentor.  My job is to mentor new teachers in our district.  I get to travel to four school sites and conference/observe 16 new teachers … working with them approximately 90 minutes each week. Yet, you can be a mentor too.  I encourage you to make yourself available for new or struggling teachers.  If you are new to the teaching profession or struggling in your classroom, let me encourage you to ask for help.  Find someone who you respect and trust and ask them to mentor you.  You won’t regret the relationship.


Short-term – Find at least one teacher to mentor or find a mentor online.

Long-term –  Continue mentoring that teacher long-term by communicating with him/her once a week through social media. When meeting with a person one-to-one, use the tools we use for our professional networks online. This is a great way to show them how to use the tools and ease them into the journey.


Mentor another teacher online or find a mentor!

(Comic Strip created at … http://superherosquad.marvel.com/cyoc/)

Goal #21 … Encouraging Creativity

Goal 21: Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom

Our quote for this goal really does a good job introducing the concept of creativity in our classroom for students …

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~ Scott Adams Goal 21_creativity-slide_01

Sir Ken Robinson said that we can’t be creative unless we are willing to take risks and make mistakes.  Kagan trainer, Jeff Dane, once described how our brain functions when we find ourselves in new situations. “When a person enters into a new situation – class, group,team, etc. – his/her brain automatically assesses the safety of the situation — threat assessment mode.  Until the situation or environment is found safe, the student cannot learn” or be creative.

Several years ago, I decided to increase creativity in my classroom.  I have a background in music (piano, voice, violin, cello), and I really felt the need to interest my students in the music of poetry. During National Poetry Month (April), my co-teacher and I taught creative writing with poetry workshops. To encourage more writing, we hosted a “Coffee House Friday” (to 9thgraders we served hot chocolate, to 10th graders we served coffee and/or hot chocolate).

On Fridays, students would share the poems they had written.  At first, we had a participation grade requiring all students to share. Soon, though, CHF took on a life of its own. Students began sharing song lyrics, original poetry, two-voice poems, poetry they found inspirational, and music they wrote.  We had students who did not want to read their material in front of class asking friends to do so.  Students starting contributing to our hot chocolate/cup/spoon supply as well.

There are so many ways to include art in your class.  In the Renaissance time, art was essential because together with all the core areas, creativity helps make a balanced individual.  I remember a quote I heard years ago, “if we take away the arts and music, then what will students have to read and write about.”


Short-term – Have a lesson where your students are allowed and encouraged to explore several options and discuss which one was a success and which not so successful.

Long-term – Support an art, music, or drama, or other creative program in your school. If the school is lacking a program then help students create an event/club that supports creativity. For example, in my church we hosted monthly open mic shows and served coffee and snacks to raise money.

Resources to Consider

My Machinima of an Art Exhibit in Second Life

Find some of my poetry and stories at my blog, Spotted Minds.

Sir Ken Robinson “Schools Kill Creativity


Support creativity in your schools.

Goal #20 … Share Your Resources

Goal 20: Share Your Resources!

“It is no longer enough to do powerful work if no one sees it.” ~ Chris Lehmman

Today, Shelly Terrell encourages us to have confidence in ourselves as teachers.  We are subject matter experts, and we are all great at something.  So, we have resources we can share with others because of our experiences in and out of the classroom.

As a mentor and teacher, I love and completely believe in this goal, and I hope that I have fostered a community of sharers through my conference site and blog.  But if I had to share a lesson that I believe had the greatest impact to student learning in my classroom, I would probably choose one that I stumbled into.  So making it brief …

I was teaching Intensive Reading I to 9th graders, and we were studying word parts – on this day, my co-teacher and I were helping students develop a word tree (Kylene Beers When Kids Can’t Read) using the root word dia (across, through).  As we with dia included, my student asked, “Miss, can we use diarrhea.”  Hoping not to because I was scared of where it could lead, I responded, “I’m not sure, let me look it up.”  They continued, saving a branch for this word, while I looked it up. Long story, short … yes, it fit (dia= across, through; rhea = to flow), so we had to add it.  As we were writing our sentence, my student began singing, a bit quietly, the “Diarrhea Song … If you’re standing at the sink and your pants begin to stink ..” You get the picture.  We laughed, and the most amazing thing happened (as Shelly would say, “it was organic.”), all of my students started making up these rhyming phrases.  In truth, they were playing with words, having fun with words.  And I, the teacher, could not keep up with their ability to rhyme in this fashion. Because of my willingness to let students laugh, our vocabulary lesson turned into a great reading lesson (phonemic awareness in high school, who knew?).

So what is a great lesson you have taught?  Make it a point to share it!  Post it to our mentor conference site or my blog … or your blog! (If you would like to learn how to create one, ask me.  I’d love to share my resources and help you get started.) Chris Lehman_Share Resources


Short-term – Share your favorite lesson.

Long-term – Prepare a presentation for a workshop on online conference. Share your resources and ideas during this presentation.

Mentioned Posts

My First Real Class by Cintia Stella
Shelly Terrell’s lessons that she is sharing
Kylene BeersWhen Kids Can’t Read … Awesome book!

Image licensed under Creative Commons by flickr user ArcaHeradel www.flickr.com/photos/heradel/3257235694/
Quote source: practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/1234-…


Share your favorite lesson.

Goal #19 … Avoid Burn-Out

Goal 19: Avoid Burn-Out

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

First, I would like to apologize for getting behind in our goals.  SO … how appropriate is it that our next goal is to “avoid burn-out.”

This week alone, I have talked to so many teachers – new and veteran – who are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, ARGH! 🙂  This goal really fits what we all seem to be feeling.  Burn-out is the ideas that get planted in our head that tell us that we are inadequate or insufficient, unappreciated and overworked.  When we begin to wallow in our miseries, we lose our effectiveness in the class.

My favorite mantra when I feel like I am in the middle of a hurricane is … “This too shall pass.”  When I feel overwhelmed or pressured by outside forces, I have to remind myself that I can make it, I’ve survived past struggles, and I will survive this one too.  About this time of year, almost all of us are awaiting “rejuvenation.”  So let’s be proactive … take some time for yourself.  Relax with a good book; have a “girl’s night out” or a “guy’s poker game” (without money 🙂 ); or go window shopping or people watching.  Find something that can take you out of your role and responsibility as a teacher (yet maintain your dignity and ethics) – that allows you to be a person, so that when you are at work, you can focus on teaching students.

An old hymn I remember from my childhood days says, “Count your blessings; name them one by one.”  Take time to smile and remember all the good things.


Short-term – Take at least one hour for yourself where you don’t dwell on your role as an educator but instead give yourself time to relax and have some fun.

Long-term – Begin to schedule weekly even daily times where you leave your work as an educator behind and aim for balance. We can’t save them all. We have to try to find a way to let go. How can we best do this?

Mentioned Posts

Take at least one hour for yourself where you don’t dwell on your role as an educator but instead give yourself time to relax and have some fun.

Goal #18 … Share a Story

Goal 18: Share A Story

With this goal, we are encouraged to share our story of how we have loved to learn in new, innovative ways.

So this is my story …

While reading an NBPTS brief, I stumbled upon a blogger, Coach G., and how he handled a simple classroom management issue.  It was simple, yet profound.  Soon after, he advertised “Free PD – RSCom11.”  I had no idea what this was, but it sounded so interesting I put it on my calendar.  While sitting in my favorite chair, in my PJs, with my laptop, I learned so much from people around the globe.  I remember the course where a couple from Iowa or Australia discussed the value of looking at the physical arrangement of a classroom.  (I’ve already shared some great ideas with my mentees from that course.)

Since then, I have started a blog, and I have followed the #30Goals initiative started by Shelley Terrell (in Germany).  My story … I have blogged about each of these goals as I have shared them on my email conference site.  As a full-release mentor, I have also shared these postings with my colleagues – also mentors.

The other day, one of my colleagues said to me, “Thank you for sharing your ideas. I am using your goals as a means of reflection with all my new teachers.” (Of course, I had to give credit to Shelley.) Another colleague said, “You know, Sylvia, I steal everything from you.” 

I love sharing my story.  I love finding resources and spreading the wealth to other teachers.  I love sharing great ideas. Why reinvent the wheel?

So what would I encourage you to do? Start getting connected on a global scale.  Set up a twitter account.  I would then download TweetDeck – it helps filter the tweets and allows you to easily follow chats. 

Most of all one discovers that the soil does not stay the same, but, like anything alive, is always changing and telling its own story. Soil is the substance of transformation. ~Carol Williams


 Short-term — Share your story about your accomplishment with one of the 30 goals and how it helped you grow. Write a blog post, do a video, or make a podcast. Also, you can try having your students share their stories of how your way of teaching has improved their learning.

 Long-term — Share your stories about your experiences with your online educator community with your colleagues in order to motivate them. The continuous process of sharing stories will eventually get them curious. We need the patience and faith to believe one day our stories will have an impact.

 Mentioned Posts:

Invite Them In

Dear Class by Greta Sandler

The Beauty of the Sand


Have your students share their stories of how learning with technology or other instructional practice you use that is different than most of your colleagues has helped motivate them.

Goal #17 … Help them Shine!

Goal 17:  Help Them Shine!

Anecdote by David Warr ([ http://twitter.com/davidwarr ]@DavidWarr)- “When I was with Gladstone, I felt I was with the most intelligent person in the world, but when I was with Disraeli, I felt I was the most intelligent person in the world.”

I must admit. It took me a while to understand this quote.  (You’re probably faster than me. J)  The point of this goal is just like what David Warr describes.  His time with Gladstone was inspiring because Gladstone was so wise, and not only was he wise, but he also encouraged and taught David so that when David spoke with Disraeli, he felt even smarter than before.  Gladstone helped David shine … even when he may not have seen David’s “shine.”

I have often found that as teachers, we don’t always see the results of our work; yet that should not change our goals.  I call us “seed-planters.”  We plant a lot of seeds hoping that someone will come along and be “seed-waterers” or “seed-fertilizers.”  Have you ever heard a child say, “That’s just what Mrs. So’n’so said.” If so, then you are a farmer of children, part of that cycle of “shine.”  You are part of the growth process.  When you help them grow, you are also providing opportunities to help them shine!

A colleague of mine always tells her students, “We may not be smart, but we can get smart!”  Through her use of cooperative learning (positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction), she helps students shine as they attempt to pass graduation-required, high-stakes tests.  Through her positive community and culture of learners, she teaches these students to shine even through the difficult reading passages.  Under her leadership, these students will jovially complain when someone else tries to “steal their shine.”

Whatever we do, we have the power to make or break a child’s day, week, month, year, even future. How are you going to use your time wisely, so that when they leave your classroom they feel smarter than when they entered your classroom?


Short-term – Have your students share with the class something they are talented at doing.

Long-term – In what ways can you continue to help your students feel and see their worth and value? How can we continue to inspire confidence in our students so they don’t seek their value in negative outlets?

Mentioned Posts

Some lesson ideas include…
Reflection by David Warr
Have a Couch? by Ian Snyder, @dalmatiasecond


Have your students share with the class something they are talented at doing.