Frustrations…and my Classroom Blog

I feel like an should apologize for this post…the past week has been hard and I just need to let it out so I can regroup and move on. I don’t like to complain, but sometimes things just need to be said. Please forgive me.

Last year when the teachers were in job action and were not completing report cards I tried to figure out a way to communicate with my students’ parents. I wanted and needed them to know what and how their children we doing. My answer? I started a class blog. This offered a window into our classroom and showed all of the learning that was going on.

My blog is a labour of love. When I started, it didn’t come easy. Everything about it took so LONG! I spent an entire day figuring out what theme was best for me…the colour scheme…the cover photo…this was a public declaration of who I was as a teacher and what my classroom was all about. I “broke” things and had to fix them…learn, make mistakes and re-learn how to create my class’ online identity. These were IMPORTANT lessons for me. Starting a website makes you vulnerable…people get a glimpse of who you are by what you post on the net and I always want to leave the best impression possible.

My blog has gone through many revisions. I started off just wanting to post photos and descriptions of class activities, but I became inspired to have my website as a hub of learning in my classroom. I searched out great music videos to use as big body breaks…I added great links like Wonderopolis.org…I embedded the fantastic Symbaloo mixes created by my friend, Matt Gomez…I added a link to our public library and their subscription to Tumblebooks…I added a widget so that visitors could see the tweets we sent to our Kindergarten friends around the world…and I added a link to Kidblog.org so that my students could share their blogs with their families and even blog from home. I added all of my class routines, policies and information for parents so they could get to know me and my class and have that information at the ready any time they needed it. My website became a defining piece of my classroom routine. The parents loved seeing all that their children were doing and liked being able to be involved with that learning at home.

Always trying to refine and improve how my class blog functions as a part of my classroom, I decided to purchase my own domain name. My site address went from start.sd34.bc.ca/kinderpals (which no one could remember) to simply kinderpals.ca. I was absolutely giddy with joy when my kindies started chanting the web address because they were so excited to REMEMBER their place on the web! I did another major overhaul of the site and have arrived at its’ present incarnation you see today. It will likely change as I figure out better ways to present things, but I am extremely happy with its’ functionality right now, and I have had nothing but positive feedback from parents and colleagues alike.

So what am I complaining about, you ask?

After all that work…hours upon hours of revisions, redesigns, mistakes and relearning, I can’t use my blog in my own classroom. The site loads so slowly that I can’t bring up the photos of the students to show them. It takes 30 minutes to load a 2 minute video and by that time the need for the video has passed because at have had to find another way to get the big body break or teach what I want to teach. I am frustrated beyond words (or maybe not, since you’re still reading…)!

However, I do know that my blog is being used. There were 281 views yesterday…and 158 views today…NONE of them by my class! I couldn’t even load the front page of my blog today, things were so bogged down.

Why is this? I am not exactly sure yet. The systems administrator for the government PLNet that provides our tech infrastructure is looking into the problem. The first answer I got said that there was too much traffic on the server. I was told they did not know when this would be fixed.

So, in the meantime, my frustration grows as I wait for an answer and watch the site stats for other users visiting my blog. I hope that very soon my students will once again be able to access our class home on the ‘net. At least I know they can access from home…I’ve taught them how to spell kinderpals.ca. 🙂

Words to Live By

Life is fragile.

Tragedies happen in the blink of an eye. Tonight I am thankful for my family making it through a really tough year. It’s hard parenting teenagers! You hope that you have taught them well, but the world is out there just waiting to hurt them and drag them down.

Some words to live by that help our family get through the tough times:

Hug your kids and your spouse unabashedly.

Show the ones you love that they are important to you. Tell them you love them every day.

Have faith.

Forgive.

Treat everyone with respect…the way you would want to be treated.

Help one another.

Encourage each other.

Be kind.

Have an attitude of gratitude.

Love unconditionally…and hold on to the hope the future holds something brighter if you are going through a tough time.

Work at having a healthy family both physically and emotionally and the curveballs that life throws at you will hopefully seem less daunting.

Support one another in the dark times…and celebrate the joys, however small or fleeting.

Celebrate LIFE!

Updated to add: Live Aloha! 🙂

The Importance of #Kinderchat

***First presented via video recording during Jason Graham’s session “Building Communities Through Social Media” at Learning 2.012 in Beijing, China on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012***

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About four years ago I signed up for twitter, but didn’t really use it. At the time I thought it was an insignificant texting medium for celebrities, so I lurked, but didn’t tweet much, and I certainly didn’t follow any teachers way back then. I didn’t understand the power of making connections. Last September I must have tweeted something about being a Kindergarten teacher and got a reply from Amy Murray, one of the founders of #kinderchat, and an invitation to join in the conversation. I had no idea that tweet would change my life.

Prior to being connected on twitter, I was lost in what I like to call the “Black Hole of Kindergarten”. I was the only K teacher on my staff and I had a different schedule than the rest of the school. I had no daily contact with other teachers even in my own building. District kindergarten meetings were held on afternoons when I had family responsibilities and couldn’t leave my children. It was a very lonely time, professionally. This past year, our school went from a half day K program to full-day K, so I now have kindergarten colleagues on staff and our schedule coincides with the rest of the school. This is a fantastic change, but I still didn’t have much of a chance to connect with other kindergarten teachers outside the walls of my school.

That’s where #kinderchat enters the picture. Through #kinderchat, I have found an online staff who support me, who know me, who are colleagues and truly friends. I cannot stress enough that relationships matter. Having a relationship with someone, whether in real life or online, creates an environment for trust, understanding and learning. Yes, #kinderchat is a professional community of educators, but we also care about each other and in doing so, both our professional and personal environments are enriched.

Our weekly chats revolve around every aspect of kindergarten. We talk play, curriculum, physical activity, professional life, budgeting, technology classroom challenges and so much more. But most of all, we have a mutual respect for one another as educators. We don’t always agree, but we are inclusive and welcoming to all who wish to participate. The dialogue generated is what challenges and stretches our thinking. And that’s a very good thing!

An offshoot of #kinderchat that materialized this summer was #edcampkinder. Our weekly chats had morphed into almost daily contact and many of us thought it would be wonderful to meet face to face and continue the conversation that was ongoing on twitter. So #kinderchat decided to meet in Las Vegas and create an un-conference all about kindergarten, dubbed #edcampkinder. What I didn’t know was that these relationships formed online would translate into meaningful, deeper face to face relationships. To book a trip for four days to be with people I had never met in real life…was I nuts? All I can say is that the four days I spent in Las Vegas at #edcampkinder were the most meaningful professional development days of my career. It was a four day conversation that ebbed and flowed and had real impact on my teaching. To be challenged and encouraged and inspired by the other nine participants was truly amazing. Teachers came from BC, Alberta, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Montana, Texas and even Japan.

How can you get involved in a twitter chat? Your first stop should by the amazing resource at http://www.cybraryman.com to check out what is available. Jerry has catalogued every educational chat on twitter and lists when they happen. Start by checking out some of the hashtags and conversations and find one that interests you. Take a deep breath…and start tweeting! Just don’t forget the hashtag, or your tweets won’t be included in the chat timeline. You will be amazed at what you will learn and what you can teach others as you use social media. Twitter brings the world to you. All you have to do is find the chat that suits you and join the conversation.