Friday, January 5, 2018

Message to Educators: Finish Strong. #NoCountDowns

We have come upon a New Year. The holidays, celebrations, and thrill is either over, or for some people still going on (sometimes people don't get down from Holiday high until after Super Bowl). As educators, it is "round 2" for the school year. Depending on where you teach or what level you teach determines how you will begin your second round of school. Some educators are Primary teachers or even Secondary, who will receive the same students. Some, on the other hand, are on some type of block schedule, or you are even in Higher Ed, meaning you have an entire new group of students.

No matter if you have a new group of students or the same students, the challenge will be if we can stay focused and finish the race strong. Maybe you were inspired at the beginning of the school year. Maybe you attended a conference over the summer or beginning of the school year. Somehow, during the latter months of October and November, the excitement may have worn off. You're exhausted from long hours of teaching. You are tired of staff meetings, professional development days, and the holidays couldn't get here fast enough. Beyond this, the holidays went by to quickly, and you didn't even have time to prepare for the second semester.

Kudos to you educators who came in a few days earlier to prepare for the next semester and for those who even stayed late to get everything ready for the "new" students. In my opinion, whether you have a new group or not, they are all new to you.

With all of this being said, I would like to encourage you to stay strong, finish strong, and do not think about counting the days down until school is finish. In other words, #NoCountDowns! Do your best to give your all to your students. They are counting on you, and they need it, believe it or not. Though this may become difficult, especially because of the obstacles ahead, including testing dates, Spring Break, more testing dates, and then summer, here are some things you can do to help stay strong.

Collaborate with other positive Teachers 
Collaborating with other teachers is key to this time of year. They are going through the same you are going through, of course, and what better way to get to the finish line than with other teachers. Notice I mentioned positive teachers. What ever information is fed into your mind will determine how you will finish the race. It's okay to have "venting" or teacher's lounge talks, but be careful on how often you have them. Instead, try taking the time to brainstorm on ideas of how the two classrooms can work together. Challenge each with activities to try with your students. Try that app or do that lesson you wanted to do in the first semester that either you didn't get to or didn't work as well. Hopefully, you can find (or it may be you) that wacky, always excited, ready for the next challenge teacher, and just hang on to their coat. You will be amazed at all of the things you could do before school ends.

Lean on your PLC, or find one/some
Besides having that wacky-tacky teacher to collaborate with, make sure your Professional Learning Community is up to par. As a matter of fact, try to become a part of several. For instance, there are a number of growing PLCs on social media, whether it's Facebook or Twitter, that have great educators who are always sharing great information and are great places to continue to grow and work for the remainder of the year. My advice, get on Facebook or Twitter, find a good hashtag (#Edtech, #flipgridfever, #HipHopEd, #tlap, #BER are some of my favorites), and not only use it to grow your followers, but to actually incorporate some of ideas into your last 4 or 5 months. I look forward to my PLC's twitter chats more now than I did back in September, because I know this is when I need them the most.

Attend Edcamps and free online Webinar/Conferences
I believe that all educators need to attend conferences to network, learn, grow, and share ideas. I also feel that conferences can be used as a time to pickup educators who are drained or uninspired in school. This is critical to have, especially during the second half of the school year. However, majority of school systems may not have funding for its teachers to attend opportunities like this. To accommodate this. I advise educators to take advantage of local Edcamps and inexpensive or free webinar or online conferences.

Edcamps and online conferences are great ways to have that extra pickup for the second part of the year. Both of these events allow you to network with other educators who have possibly gone through the same type of year you have. Better yet, they may have best practices, tools, and other apps that may have worked for them or didn't work. There are great educator led discussions that occur, which leave participants with a new insight and just enough fire to continue through the finish line. Slowly becoming awesomely popular, are your online conferences. What better way to get ideas and listen to other great educators and edtech gurus than to sign up and participate in an online conference. One online conference that comes to mind is the Ditch the Conference that was held online this past month in December. Instead of bringing the educators to the conference, organizer Matt Miller brought the conference to the educators.

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