Last night I had the privilege of giving my first Ignite talk at an event called “Ignite Your Passion for Discovery: The Vancouver Edition” hosted by Dean Shareski. Here is Dean’s blog about the evening: http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/blog/2014/11/20/ignite-your-passion-for-discovery-the-vancouver-edition/ … Due to technical difficulties, there was no video recording of the event, but I’d like to share my slides and story for those who could not be there. I was one of 14 speakers, all of whom inspired me with each of their talks. I hope I inspired some of them, too.
I’m sure you are thinking that my title is a complete overstatement, but honestly, it’s not. My online and real-life PLN really did give my career a much needed wake up call to save me from being a teacher who had lost her passion. I was stuck in a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad RUT.
You see, being a half-day Kindergarten teacher is a very lonely job. I call it being in the Black Hole of Kindergarten. I didn’t have recess, and my lunch break was at a different time than the rest of my staff. Teaching two half-day Kindergarten classes didn’t allow me to connect with anyone.
I joined twitter because I was curious about social media, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon #kinderchat that I was invited to expand my horizons and change my professional world as I know it. Amy Murray was leading a discussion on using twitter in the classroom…with kindergarten students.
Connecting with #kinderchat each Monday night at 6pm was something I began to look forward to each week. It was a time that made me think, to become ignited and excited about teaching once again. That spark has now turned into a burning flame and I have an online PLN cheering me on and keeping me grounded.
Every Monday night I look forward to engaging with Kindergarten teachers from around the globe to discuss a myriad of topics. We compare and contrast education systems from around the world, but the main focus of every single discussion is “What is best for kids and what works in our classrooms?”
#kinderchat isn’t all serious. We have had a full 15 minutes of a chat filled with talk about grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes we’ve had theme parties like when we all changed our avatars to ugly Christmas sweaters. These snippets of time help to build relationships and community.
One of the biggest turning points for me was when I joined the Kindergarten Around the World Project. I was paired with Tasha Cowdy from Yokohama, Japan and together we helped our classes connect via twitter messages, snail mail, blogging and yes, even an after-hours Skype call. What a powerful year of learning!
My class wrote in blue and Tasha’s class wrote in red. We outlined characters, setting and plot before we started drafting the story. We even published it on iTunes. None of this could have happened without Amy Murray of #kinderchat pairing our classes together.
With so many connections and friendships happening in the #kinderchat conversation stream, it felt natural to wish that we could all be sitting in the same room sharing our stories face to face. So an idea was born…we would piggy back on a new phenomenon called #edcamp…
And the first #edcampkinder was born! Ten of us from all corners of the globe met in Las Vegas for four days to talk Kindergarten. Even my Kindergarten Around the World partner, Tasha, came all the way from Japan! Now THAT was a truly mind-blowing experience. Our connection was real and important.
You see, I found MY PEOPLE. We felt like old friends coming together for a reunion. We Skyped in other members of our group that couldn’t be there. Karen Lirenman was stuck at the airport waiting to come and meet us, so we FaceTimed her into our conversation, too. I connected via Skype with Jason Graham…
He and I asked Ben Sheridan to have our classes collaborate on a project. We passed a Book Creator file back and forth via Dropbox, each class added a page or two and then passed it along to the next class. We didn’t start out with an end story in mind, but let the children create as they went along.
Because #edcampkinder was so successful in Vegas, I wondered how I could recreate that magic back at home. Meg Unger helped me to organize and host #edcampkinder Abbotsford. We had 42 teachers from 4 districts join us. Many said it was the best day of collaboration they had ever had.
I was the only one attending ConnectED Canada from Abbotsford, BUT I was meeting up with my #kinderchat friends. To foster a sense of team I had #kinderchat jackets made. Each time I wear my jacket it feels like a hug from my #kinderchat family who are spread out all over the world.
At that conference I met Dean Shareski. He tweeted this shortly after I met him, so I asked him if he meant that we inspired fear or respect…he said BOTH! What a humbling and empowering statement. People outside of #kinderchat were noticing what we were doing!
I was lucky to spend a day at George Vanier School seeing the amazing things they were doing there. But best of all I had the opportunity to deliver Team Liam bracelets so that Antonio, Gallit, Hugh and Jodi could show their support for Meg Unger’s son who was fighting cancer. See? We’re all connected.
This past year I started on a journey towards getting my Masters degree and met some amazing people. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I am not able to continue on that path right now, but being a part of this “Brady Bunch” was a great opportunity to learn from the shiny brilliance of everyone in the class.
Just last week I had the opportunity to FaceTime into a learning session about the FreshGrade portfolio system. Here you can see me and Kim Anderson in Abbotsford on the iPad chatting with teachers from Prince George who were visiting Ian Landy’s school in Sorrento. Collaboration is not location dependent.
But sometimes what we all really need is to take the time to stop our work, get out of the building and really connect on a personal, meaningful level with those people who walk the same road as we do day in and day out. There is power in hearing “Oh yes, I’ve been there, done that. I understand”.
I hope that you have already found YOUR PEOPLE. Being AWESOME alone is never any fun. Thank you to all of MY PEOPLE…many of you are in this room. Your AWESOME is what INSPIRES me every single day and I hope that some of the things that I share help to inspire you, too.