Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

Being willing to take risks is scary, but trying new things can be the best learning we ever do.

I’m currently teaching a section of a graduate course called “Social Media and the Connected Educator.”  #Connectin5 We offer this course through our school district instructional technology department in conjunction with the College of Charleston.  This fall, I teach a section for middle and high school teachers and my colleague Heather Reit (@hreitDIS) teaches the elementary/intermediate group.

Heather and I at FETC 2014 or 2015!

Working with Heather has been a joy and a challenge (like most good work should be).  I have learned so much from Heather. She has taught the course before and developed much of the content in conjunction with our colleagues who have taught it in the past.  

The joy has come from working with someone who is dedicated and works hard to serve all of her students and teachers.  We both like to focus on what will help our teachers move their learning forward. We also love working one-on-one with those taking the class to see what we can do to help them.

The challenge has come from how different Heather and I are.  I am what many would call overly organized, type A.  It’s just how my brain works; I have to have a clear system and process for everything I do.  Heather is full of passion and energy that flows through everything she does. Heather pushes me to think differently and do more — and I need that.

This fall we have worked side-by-side to blend our styles of teaching and learning, always keeping in mind our learners: the educators in our district.  I think the course and the teachers we work with are better for it.

Midway through the course Heather and I decided to take a leap and create a podcast.  In the course, we require teachers to explore podcasting by listening to a few and creating a single short podcast via screencast or other tool of their choice.  So Heather and I decide we need to put ourselves out there.

We met one evening and brainstormed what we wanted from the podcast.  We talked about many possibilities, but eventually came to the conclusion that we want to share the wonderful things going on in our district and help educators connect with each other.  

We played with a name and tagline and came up with:

Listen in 5 – A short sweet podcast to connect and inspire Lexington Richland 5 educators.

Our #Listenin5 logo – made with Adobe Spark. Love Spark!

Since we work in District 5 and much of our social media presence revolves around “5” ( #Pridein5 #Connectin5 #Teachin5 #FabuDIS5 ), the name seemed to fit. The podcast is meant to be quick to listen to. For now we’re aiming for 5 minutes and can adapt later if needed. We’re using Anchor to record and broadcast and have recorded three episodes so far.  

We came up with five questions that would be the basis for each episode:

  1. What is your role in education?
  2. What makes your school great or special?
  3. What is one project or activity you’d like to share?
  4. What is a favorite tech tool or tip you’d like others to know about?
  5. What suggestions do you have for educators looking to grow via social media?  This could be a tip, a hashtag, or another educator to follow.

We hope that many of our @LexRich5Schools colleagues will be willing to share.  And who knows where we’ll go from here. We believe that our LexRich 5 educators have a lot to offer the world.

I am so thankful for Heather and our collaboration!  

If we had not worked together this semester I do not think I would have ever been willing to put a podcast out to the world. I would have needed to know every detail about where we were going, how many episodes there would be, frequency of publishing, etc. 

But Heather has reminded me that sometimes it’s good to share and move forward even if I don’t know where I’ll end up.  That’s a big step out of my comfort zone, and I need to do that more often. Thank you, Heather!

FYI: Link to the podcast:

Mom, Did you ever think?

It’s wonderful to have a daughter who goes to school where you teach.  It’s even better to have a daughter who cares about what you do during the day and asks you about it.

Last Friday while eating dinner, my daughter asked what I’d done that day (as she does most days).  I told her how I’d helped five biology classes use our Class VR virtual reality goggles to look inside a eukaryotic cell and helped world history students build “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories to demonstrate their knowledge of trade routes.  We talked about how interesting it is to work with students at all levels and with a variety of teachers.

Her next question has stuck with me all weekend: “Mom, a few years ago did you ever think you’d be showing students virtual reality tours of the cell?”

The truthful answer is no. 

When working with seniors in English classes, public speaking classes, and ACT/SAT prep, I never could have imagined all of the different types of teaching and learning I’d be involved in just a few years later.

What my role has allowed me to do with technology is awesome! From virtual reality and digital breakout boxes to student portfolios and live video calls, my role as the school’s Digital Integration Specialist allows me to explore more than I ever thought possible.  

But it’s not just the technology tools that encourage me to grow and change. In my role I observe phenomenal teachers throughout our building and learn from them every day. I have endless opportunities to collaborate with teachers in all departments and in many different subjects.  Through co-planning and co-teaching lessons, I’m able to explore statistics, economics, German, music, chemistry, art, creative writing, engineering, and so much more.  

The variety of students I get to work with is also amazing. I work with students in our highest AP courses and in our honors STEM magnet program as well as with students in our life skills and special services classes.  I have always believed that everyone has something to offer the world and working with our students only confirms this belief.

So, did I ever imagine I’d be showing VR videos of human cells and talking to students about Golgi apparatus and organelles?  No, no I didn’t. But I’m so glad I have a job that not only allows but encourages me to try new things.

I am grateful for the daily opportunities I have not only to teach, but to be a learner as well.

21st Century Skills at DFHS

Post originally published April 1, 2014:

I had the pleasure of talking to students about the 4 C’s and 21st Century Skills.

 See how DFHS students and staff answered the questions . . .

– What does COMMUNICATION look like at DFHS?

– What does CRITICAL THINKING look like at DFHS?

– What does CREATIVITY look like at DFHS?

– What does COLLABORATION look like at DFHS?

Check out the video at: