Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Did It Again

Today is Part 3 of our #CyberPd event. We will be discussing chapters 5 and 6 of Who Owns the Learning by Alan November. Laura Komos will be hosting the event today on her blog, Ruminate and Invigorate. Be sure to stop by and add the link to your post and check out what others have to say.

Why is the title of this post, "I Did It Again" you might ask? Well, it is because I did again what I often do when reading a professional development book(s). I let myself become intimidated by the ideas in the book I was reading and began to feel like I could never do this - or never "catch" up with all of the learning that I need to be a good teacher in this time of major change. Phrases like "global audience", "global communicator", "synergies", and "the legacy of student contribution" had me feeling like this was all too much or too big to be able to handle. (I was going to add "in a primary classroom" to that last sentence but it is a lot at any level.) It didn't help matters that I also was dipping into several other professional books at the same time while reading blogs and tweets. All of this converged and I felt like maybe I could not do this job anymore.

Random bits of paper and gum wrappers used as bookmarks show how quickly I was grabbing books to read and putting them back down again.
But here's the thing. I can do this job and I want to do this job (this blog is called My Primary Passion for a reason) so I had to slow myself down and think. I read a few blog posts and watched a few TED talks that helped me think about slowing down. Here are a few samples:

Unhurrying the Hurried Educator: A Convo about Personal Learning and Passion by Pam Moran
Why you should set soft goals for your classroom this year by Vicki Davis
The art of having your own back by Sarah Berry
TED Talk: Cloudy with a chance of joy by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Now these links do not have anything to do with the reading that we did this week but I think it is important that we all take care not to overwhelm ourselves. It is especially important when so many things are being requested of us by so many people. (Or when we are even being overwhelmed by people reminding us to slow down and have fun.)

So how do I normally handle these feelings? I STOP. I stop letting my thoughts spin. I take a break from twitter, blog reading and professional book reading. What happens for me during this time is that ideas percolate in my brain and begin to come together for me. I did just take a break like this and when I was done, my family noticed that I was extra chatty during dinner about all of the things that I was going to try this next year in school - the ideas began to come together for me. Taking that break allows me to remember that I am me - not Alan November, not Kathy Cassidy, not Kylene Beers, not Frankie Sibberson, not Cathy Mere, not Laura Komos - even though I love these teachers and the ideas that they share. I am me and I will never be able to be exactly like anyone else.

What works for me is to read and read and read without really taking notes or highlighting or anything. Then I let the ideas simmer for a while in my mind and play against each other. Then I create my list of things that I would like to try in my classroom. This list is always just a suggestion of things I can try. I do as many as I can when I feel like the time is right. I also often notice things happening in my room that I can attribute to my reading and thinking but that were never on my official list. If I let go of my need to do it all, I end up doing a lot.

So what are a few things I want to put on my list for next year? Here are a few ideas from this week's reading that I am sure I will add to as the summer progresses:
  • Create a class Twitter account to begin to connect more with other classrooms. (If you have a class Twitter account, I would love to know your thoughts about how it has worked for you along with your Twitter handle.)
  • Actively work on building a global audience for my students using twitter, blogs and possibly epals. (We do have an audience outside of our classroom but it is still rather small.)
  • Create a research folder of apps on our classroom ipads to make researching ideas easier for my primary students.
  • Reread and browse the #cyberpd Pinterest page that Cathy created for all of us to contribute to and use.
  • Participate in more Skype calls with other classrooms, authors, grandparents, etc.
  • Think about the "big picture" of what I want students to know and be able to do using tech tools to make sure that I am being purposeful.
  • Breathe. Every month. Every week. Every day. Let things happen and be willing to go with new things that come up even if they feel scary.
Our #cyberpd event consists of multiple parts:

July 3rd: Chapters 1 and 2 - Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community

July 10th: Chapters 3 and 4 - Hosted here at My Primary Passion

Today: Chapters 5 and 6 - Hosted by Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate

July 22nd: Final chat about the book on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd

 You can participate in several ways:
  • You can write a blog post with your thoughts about the section we are reading for the week and add the link to your blog in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can add your thoughts directly in the comments of the host blog.
  • You can share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd.
  • You can come up with another way to share you ideas. We would love to see a new, creative way to join the conversation.
We hope that you will join us as we read, reflect and share our ideas about this book.

If you are interested in past #cyberpd discussions, here are some links for you:
2011 #cyberPD:  Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop
2012 #cyberPD:  Opening Minds
2013 #cyberPD: Who Owns the Learning (posts from the event so far)


  1. Jill, you read my mind and we are living similar lives. " I think it is important that we all take care not to overwhelm ourselves. It is especially important when so many things are being requested of us by so many people" I had to stop and take a break because all of a sudden I felt like it was March again and same familiar feeling came back to me Thank goodness for summer and long walks. Thank you for organizing this summer #CyberPD

    1. Maria,

      Exactly! I was feeling like it was March, too. I am also so thankful for long walks, too.

  2. I often feel the same way. And although I've done some of the things on my "to do" list for summer, I haven't read nearly as many books as I'd hoped. Good luck with your list! I'll be cheering you on!

    1. Catherine,

      Thanks. I know that those "to do" lists can get long but somehow they always get done.

  3. Jill,

    I totally empathize, which BTW means "to understand and share the feelings of another" in contrast to sympathize which means "to feel or express compassion, as for another's suffering". I share your feelings of having a mile long list of things I should do, but limited time to learn and implement. And, the self-flagellation that often accompanies this.

    One of the things I've found helpful has been Jim Burke's Teacher's Daybook. I am not a representative of Heinemann, just so you know, but this plan book has been my little splurge each year.

    Jim reminds me to reflect on my practice, even if it is only 5 minutes a day, but also to honor all the roles I play - teacher, wife, daughter etc. The introduction to the Daybook inspires me every year, as he acknowledges the struggles we have as teachers in a demanding job, but also celebrates the great joy of having the privilege to work with so many wonderful students and staff. (You can read the intro in the preview at the Heinemann page). I feel privileged to meet so many new, and inspiring teachers through this year's #cyberPD. Thank you!

    1. Suz,

      It's funny that you knew that so many people confuse empathy and sympathy. Empathy is one of the 5 character traits that we focus on at our school. The students often have to explain the difference between empathy and sympathy to their parents. It's funny but it shows that they "own the learning".

      I will definitely be taking a look at Jim Burke's Teacher Daybook. I had not heard of it but I do enjoy reading his tweets and blog posts so I am sure it would be something I would enjoy.

  4. Great advice! Thanks. I just took a deep breath!

    1. Pat,

      Thanks. I just took another one myself. :)

  5. We all feel the same way with so much to learn from our colleagues and our students. Throughout the year there are times that we feel as we are spinning in circles and so overwhelmed with school, classroom and board activities. Students' reflections keep me in focus and the joy of exploring with them and learning from them. Thank you so much for this great opportunity and I enjoyed taking part in #cyberpd with such a great community of learners.

    1. Rola,

      You are absolutely correct. It is the joy of exploring and learning with them that keeps us going!

  6. Jill,
    This was the post I needed to read. It is nearing the end of July. I have been reading like crazy, participating in professional development, blogging, and tweeting. When I sat down to write this post I wasn't sure I could do it. I had so many thoughts racing around I wasn't sure which ones to grab. When I finished I just wasn't happy with it. I felt like the ideas needed to percolate a little.

    Your post brought me some calm. I have been thinking for the last two weeks I need to take a bit of time off, that I need to slow down my reading to gain more, that I just need to think about how all of this might work.

    I look forward to following your links and thinking more about your words. Thank you for writing the post I needed to read.


    1. Cathy,

      I am glad to have brought you some calm. I am also glad to know that I was not the only one who needed to slow down. I think your post (well, all of your writing) is great but I understand what you mean. I often have trouble making things sound as good in writing as they sound in my head.

      Thank for sharing your class Twitter handle. I will be creating our account soon and we will follow you.

  7. Jill,
    I almost forgot. We have a class Twitter @snowleopards1M. I really found it helpful in communicating to parents this year, but want to use it this year for more collaboration with other classrooms. Last year, we were blocked at school, but I am hoping to have access this year.


  8. I identified with many of your feelings, Jill. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and let ideas percolate!

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation again this year Rose.

  9. Jill,
    It sure sounds like you speak for many of us with your reminder to slow down!
    I have questions about starting a class Twitter account too. Would you follow the same people you follow on your own Twitter account? Would it be manageable to have kids check that feed? I wanted to do this last year and even started an account, but never followed through, so I want other people's ideas.
    Your other ideas on your to do list sound great!
    Thanks for all of the links!

    1. Erika,

      I am thinking that I would only follow other class accounts with my class account at first. I might add in some other authors or experts later depending on how they tweet. I want to be sure I keep it appropriate for 1st grade. If I kept it fairly small then I think the kids could follow that feed - with some support. I am still thinking about all of this, though, so it is all subject to change.

  10. *breathing in...breathing out...*
    Thanks for this important reminder! I'm going to take it one step further and go fly fishing this weekend. I'll let all my thinking simmer while I focus on beautiful wild places and animals!

    1. Mary Lee,

      I have a shirt that I wear on the first teacher work day of each school year (when I remember) that says "Breathe" on the front and "Inhale/Exhale" on the back. It is a great reminder for me and my co-workers. (I tweeted pictures of it to Cathy.)

      I would love to go fly fishing someday even though I don't really fish. It just looks so beautiful and peaceful when I see photos or read descriptions in books - like the book, "Time is a River". It was beautiful!

  11. This is such a supportive post, Jill. I don't know everyone very well, but assume that since they're here in this group, they are continually reading and thinking and 'trying' to do more and better, i.e. really great teachers. But like so many, we take on too many good ideas and involve ourselves in too many things. I want to tell you that I felt good after reading, and wish you well in all of your goals! It was good to hear your 'primary' thoughts too!

    1. Linda,

      Thanks so much. I am glad to hear that this post was helpful to some others. I have enjoyed connecting with you and hope one day to come visit your school since we are so close. Your school sounds amazing!

  12. Jill,
    Thank you so much for your honesty and grace in expressing what I'm sure so many of us feel (myself included!) Especially now with so many new things on my plate, I have to remember to just breathe and remember the big picture of things.Your words will stick with me!

    It's been another remarkable event! I am so fortunate to be able to co-host alongside you. Here's to more fabulous conversations!

  13. Laura,

    It has been great co-hosting with you, too. You have shown such honesty and grace in all that you are dealing with every day.

  14. Jill,
    Thanks again for hosting this event with Cathy and Laura!
    I appreciate your post and "empathize" with your need to slow down and breathe-I get so excited for all things new sometimes and then it turns into an epic fail because of not giving the pause and sim needed to think it all through first...thanks for the reminder-slow down and relax...
    Also thanks for sharing the links on Ted Talks...

  15. Amy,

    You are welcome. Although I needed to slow down and take a break, I have loved seeing all the wonderful things you, Julie and Lesa have created. They all are so fascinating. Thanks for joining us.