Classroom Strategies

Be an Ally!

September 24-28, 2018 was an incredibly important week, and I didn’t see much in the EduTwitter world about it — it was GLSEN’s Ally Week!

According to GLSEN, “an ally is a member of a privileged group who advocates against oppression. An ally works to create social change rather than participate in oppressive actions.”

Being an ally

Part of being an ally means speaking up and standing with the oppressed group, but not speaking for them. We recognize that each individual’s experience is unique, and part of a complex web of intersecting identities (including age, race, religion, culture, region of the world/country, etc.).

As a cisgendered heterosexual individual, I have not experienced oppression based on my gender expression and sexual orientation. (Cisgendered = my biological sex and gender identity match; heterosexual = attraction to opposite gender)

How can we, as educators, be allies to our LGBTQ+ students?

  1. Use inclusive language. Examples: “y’all” “friends” “students” (instead of “you guys” “girls” “boys”)
  2. Respect preferred gender pronouns (read more about pronouns here)
  3. Confront anti-LGBTQ+ behavior, bullying, and language. For example, if a student says “that’s so gay,” respond by asking them what exactly is bothering them, and help them pick a different description word, such as “that’s so boring.”
  4. Post a safe space sticker and/or poster in your classroom, office, or workspace. Download yours here!
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Inclusive question on a recent school-wide form. Categories brainstormed by our GSA members.

Awareness is our first step, and is always a growth process. Little things, such as making inclusive and non-gender-binary questions on forms go a long way for supporting our students!

Remember, if a student shares information with you, it’s confidential. I know I have students who are more open about one or more of their identities at school, but cannot safely tell their families outside of school.

Celebrating Ally Week at school

My school was on Fall Break for Ally Week this year, so our GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) had our Ally Week celebration early, during our weekly lunch meeting. Thanks to the support of a GLSEN San Diego friend and recent grad of our local high school, we had some teacher resources, stickers, buttons, and ideas to plan our party. Students brought an ally friend, and my co-advisor and I brought snacks. We defined allies and how we can be upstanders at our school, then enjoyed spending time together!

Our Ally Week celebration!

The next day, with teachers we hosted a similar lunch club with snacks! After discussing how to be an ally, we went through some gender and sexual orientation vocabulary, including playing a vocab matching game from the GLSEN teacher guide. Overwhelmingly, our teachers appreciated this learning opportunity, and are already asking when we’ll host the next one!

For both groups, we used these slides to share some basics and lead our discussion.

This is one of those times where I know I’m not the expert in the room, yet I’m not going to let that hold me back from supporting my students, colleagues, and friends. Because that’s what an ally does: we advocate, support, listen, ask questions, and unconditionally love. I am constantly going back to the GLSEN Teacher Resources to make sure I’m using the correct language, and making my classroom an inclusive and safe space.

If you are a GSA advisor or work with LGBTQ+ youth, I’d love to connect via Twitter & email!

 

 

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Class Introductions with Flipgrid

One of the biggest lessons I learned in EDS 250, one of the first education courses I took as part of my Masters/Credential program, was the value of names. Our professor, Dr. Luz Chung, read us a poem called “T-shirt” from a selection called My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River. The lesson in this poem is that George finally stands up for himself, and tells his teacher that is name is Jorge (Spanish, pronounced HORhey).

My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River by Jane Medina

That distinct moment imprinted on my heart, always reminding me just how essential it is to pronounce a student’s name correctly.

The beginning of the year can be stressful for teachers, with many new names to learn, and not all of them are familiar to us. However, each name is special to the student and their family, and deserves time and respect to say it right.

As I go slowly go through my roll on the first few days of school, I try my best to pronounce everyone’s name correctly. I’m often asking, “say it again for me, please,” because “close enough” isn’t good enough for me. Other times, I push a little and ask a student, “how does your family say it?” because that will tell me if they truly are a George or a Jorge, an Angel or an Ángel, or an Andrea or an Andrea (ahn-Dray-uh).

Class Introductions on Flipgrid

As soon as my students received their iPads, one of their first assignments was to complete a class introduction on Flipgrid. I created the class on Flipgrid, and the default first assignment is called “Introductions!” The prompt says, “Welcome to our classroom Grid! This is a space where we will learn together and share our ideas. Introduce yourself in 90 seconds or less and share something that makes you smile.” I changed our time limit to 30 seconds, and gave my students the space to record. Some stayed inside, and some went outside. Most of my students were nervous in front of the camera, but were up for the challenge.

Students recording their Flipgrid class introduction videos outside.

I appreciated going through and listening to my students’ responses! Not only did this help me attach names to faces, but also it was review in how to pronounce their names. There were a few I had to rewind a couple times, just to hear them say it again.

If you work with adults as either an administrator, TOSA, librarian, etc, it would be useful to do this with our staff. I know there are a handful of teachers at my own school whose names are unintentionally mispronounced! Model Flipgrid at a staff meeting by having teachers introduce themselves and share a success, happy moment, something they’re especially proud of, or goal for the year.

Future Iterations

In the future, I would adapt this topic to be more name-centric, such as “Introduce yourself, and tell us the story of your name.” (was it “engraved in a passing ship on the day your family came?” In the Heights reference, for my fellow musical nerds.)

And, I’d love to teach students how to appropriately respond to each other on Flipgrid. I’d love to do an “It’s nice to meet you, _____, I’m _____. [Add in a question or comment or other prompt.]” in preparation for connecting with other classes in the future.

I know I’m not perfect, and I always wonder if there are other students whose names I am not saying right, but they’ve resigned themselves to “good enough.”

PS. It’s useful to tell you that my name, Mari, is neither Mary or Marie or Madi (as in, non-Spanish-speakers trying to roll their r’s). It rhymes with “sorry” and “safari” — my best friend calls me Calamari, and she is Squidney. And, Ven-tur-eee-no (Italian).

Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Analyzing Teamwork with Google Forms

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Saving Sam, one of my favorite teamwork challenges. It’s one of the activities my kids talk about all year! And, it’s how we begin our discussion to build our teamwork foundation for the year.

Saving Sam in 7th grade science

In addition to the labs and activities in our science class, I also use Breakout Edu to have students interact with content and practice their teamwork skills. I have even had my classes create student-created Breakout Edu game.

So, how do we continue these conversations surrounding teamwork throughout the year?

Teamwork observations with Google Forms

I love having students observe their peers and evaluate how effectively they are working as a team. Early in the year, before we work in teams, we create our Teamwork T-Charts. This helps us develop common language around our teamwork conversations.

Then, I take my students’ T-chart responses, and put them into this form (make a copy). We use this form throughout the year for teamwork peer, group, and self evaluations.

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Teamwork Evaluation Google Form

Students evaluate themselves and their teamwork in different ways. Sometimes it’s through a fishbowl observation (see below), or I’ll set a timer and everyone must freeze and evaluate. Always, at the end of a lab or teamwork challenge, we reflect.

Fishbowl observations

Talking about and reflecting on teamwork is great, although sometimes it’s hard to recognize the nuances of how we work together. When we really want to dig in and analyze how we work in teams, I use a fishbowl observation. This can easily be done as a whole class, or in multiple smaller groups. And, not only is it great for kids, it is also excellent for adult learners and professional development.

Adult learners playing a Breakout Edu Digital game, fishbowl observation style

Typically, I use a 1:1 ratio, where half are working on a teamwork challenge, and half are observing. At the end of the challenge, students switch roles, and we begin a second challenge. Shorter challenges work best–I aim for short, 5 minute challenges. There are only so many boxes the observers can check, and after they’ve spent a few minutes observing, they may get distracted.

Always end with a debrief

As with any teamwork activity, it is essential to build in reflection at the end. No matter what, this is the most important part! It can be a quick exit ticket, or a more active walk and talk.

Try using these debrief cards as part of a walk and talk (make enough cards for size of class + 5), partner or group discussions, or as quickwrite prompts.

Teamwork is a growing and evolving process, and it’s essential for us to honor and cultivate this journey with our students!

 

 

Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Daily Exit Tickets with Google Forms

Around my school, I have a reputation as the techy one. My friends look at me, and know I’m about to say something like, “we need to make a Google Doc!”

Somehow, within this reputation, there is a misconception that I already know everything, and I have nothing left to learn as a teacher. I walk into some colleagues’ classrooms for an informal observation, and they nicely wonder why I’m there and how I could possibly learn something.

will do
Observing other teachers is essential to my own growth!

I am grateful to work on a campus where informal observations and walking into others’ classrooms is welcomed and encouraged. I am always seeking to be a better teacher, and I have so much to learn! Each year, I set goals and growth areas, and constantly reflect on how I’m doing.

Over the last several years, I watched my teacher neighbor effectively use exit tickets at the end of every class period as he dismisses his class. I love how he signaled the end of class, was able to check in with each students, and had a quick formative assessment for each lesson. When I told him I appreciate his use of exit tickets and I was going to start using them in my classroom, he looked at me like I’m crazy for learning something new from him.

So, I’ve taken his exit ticket procedures and merged it with my favorite tech tool: Google Forms!

I already use Forms for our daily check-in and warm-up–so now our class periods are book-ended with Google Forms.

Using Exit Tickets

Exit Ticket Slide

With about 5 minutes left in class, I project this Slide and have my students reflect on their learning for the day by filling out the daily exit ticket (make a copy). As my students are silently filling out their exit ticket, I also reflect on how I felt they day went, and what changes I will make for the next class.

Not only is this a way for students to reflect on what they learned, but also it’s instant feedback for me on how the lesson went, including many social-emotional factors, such as “today in class, I felt treated kindly by my teacher.”

Reflecting on the Data

I watch my students’ data come in on the response sheet to see if there are any students I need to check-in with after class. I have had students mark “disagree” to “I felt treated kindly by my teacher,” and it forces me to immediately reflect on our interactions in class that day, and how I handled a situation in class.

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Daily Exit Ticket data, using Conditional Formatting to show Agree in green, and Disagree in red.

In the response sheet, I inserted a row below the questions to calculate the percentage of agree with each statement. [Formula: =(countif(I3:I, “Agree”))/counta(I3:I), then Format > Number > Percent]. I also use Conditional Formatting to fill “Agree” cells green and “Disagree” cells red.

Header row and % Agree data from our Daily Exit Ticket.

As you can see, I’m getting my butt kicked for not challenging my class academically–we’re a month into school, and while we have been doing all the science basics, this tells me I need to build in some more engagement and meaningful work.

I am grateful for another way to reach my students, address their questions and curiosities, and receive consistent feedback on how we can make our class better.

How do you use exit tickets in your class? What kinds of questions do you ask?

 

 

Classroom Strategies

Saving Sam! — A Team Building Activity

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”
-Steve Jobs

Confession: I struggle to teach teamwork well.

Teamwork is one of those things that are essential for students to learn, especially in science. I could blame it on never having PD or solid instruction on how to teach teamwork, but I don’t think that’s it. I always hope someone else would teach it and my students would walk in being awesome team players. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

In the last few years, I’ve worked on facilitating team building activities in class, and include the crucial debrief process after we’re done. Below, I share my favorite team building activity, which is great for both kids and adults!

Saving Sam

Every year, I look forward to Saving Sam! It’s a collaborative challenge activity where participants have to work together to get a gummy worm into a gummy lifesaver, only using 1 paperclip per person.

Students collaborating to Save Sam!

Here are the Slides I use with my students–it’s all set up to push out via Pear Deck! I love using Pear Deck with my students, because it keeps my students engaged. Students who wouldn’t normally speak up in class are willing to participate on the interactive slides.

Students work in groups of 4. Each group needs 1 gummy lifesaver, 1 gummy worm, a small paper or plastic cup (dixie cup size), and 4 paper clips.

Gummy worms, gummy life savers, and paper cups can be reused for each class period, paper clips get bent and need to be replaced. No, you may not eat your gummy worms and lifesavers–refer to the lab safety rules!

Teamwork discussion

Together, we start by discussing teamwork, watching short video clips, and analyzing how teamwork was used in each.

Then, students make a 3 column T chart (or is it a TT chart?), to list what good teamwork looks, sounds, and feels like. I usually have students make quick posters on 11×17 paper, though it can also be done digitally (template). It’s fun to watch students work in teams to make these, because they need teamwork to accomplish it!

Saving Sam: The story

First I need to captivate my students. As I tell the story, they’re imagining my human friend named Sam, and are quite shocked when I pull out a gummy worm. Here is my dramatic version of Sam’s story:

“Have I told y’all about my friend Sam? No? Ok, well, they are one awesome person. Sam loves spending their weekends out on the ocean in their boat. They loves hanging out with their friends, and they’re a big fan of boating safety.

“However, last weekend, they went out on their boat alone, and Sam wearing their life jacket when suddenly a large wave came up and capsized their boat! Sam hung onto the top, and their lifesaving device was trapped under their boat. They are still waiting for someone to come save them!

“This (holding up a gummy worm) is Sam. And you all need to figure out how to save Sam! (Pause for laughs and confused looks.) The thing you need to know is that Sam is highly allergic to humans, so we can’t touch them, their boat, or their lifesaver with our hands. Instead, we use these special tools (hold up a paper clip) to save them (some kids will ask how we can possibly setup the activity…they can touch to set it up!). And remember, my friend Sam has feelings, so please don’t drop them or skewer them! Good luck!”

Usually, it takes groups 5-10 minutes to Save Sam. If there is a group of 3, I’ll give one member 2 paper clips.

Remember the debrief!

After all groups have successfully saved Sam, we debrief by talking about how their teamwork looked, sounded, and felt like. Students also identify areas they want to work on. It’s an excellent reflective process, and an integral launching point for more discussions about teamwork, especially as it relates to science labs and activities.

I’m always looking for more team building activities. What are some of your favorite team building exercises?

Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Getting to Know You Survey

Back to school is always an exciting time! I love preparing my classroom for my new students, thinking about how to best meet their needs, and anticipating the fun we’re going to have. I loosely plan out what skills I want to hit, but I don’t lesson plan until I actually meet my kids!

In my first year of teaching, I had the (mis)guidance of the teacher I was taking over for. They instructed me to talk about the syllabus on the first day of school, teach lab safety on the second day, then jump right into content on the third day. Even though I planned out fun first-two-weeks activities in my credential/masters program and talked extensively about building relationships, I assumed this strong-willed teacher knew what was best. So, I did what they told me.

Boy, was I wrong. While I did end up getting to know my students eventually, the class cohesiveness wasn’t there from the start and behavior was sometimes a struggle.

The one thing I did do well was a getting to know you survey (on paper). I used that information to learn about my students’ backgrounds, and incorporate their interests into some of our examples from class.

Fast forward to the present: My biggest strength and emphasis as a teacher are building relationships, and making sure each and every student feels welcome in our class. It’s not always easy, and there are plenty of ups, downs, and mistakes–and also many moments of joy!

I have transitioned my Getting to Know You Survey (make a copy!) to Google Forms. Data collection is easier–and, I don’t have to decode handwriting.

This is the perfect first assignment on the Google Classroom set-up day. Students join the class, then immediately complete their first assignment.

The questions range from simple, such as birthday and interests, to more thought-provoking, such as “when I get mad, I …” I like having a mix, and seeing how my students choose to answer. For example, when I ask “What is something you are really good at?” not only am I asking for their strengths, but also I am checking for self confidence; when a student writes “nothing,” then I know I will need to intentionally search for areas of strength to share with them.

A hidden teacher agenda item in this activity: I can see who is able to focus on an independent and silent task for 10 minutes, and who needs constant refocusing.

After my students fill out the survey in class, I go through the response spreadsheet and highlight interesting and concerning responses. I make a note to follow up with students, bring up their interests in conversation, and share commonalities.

The getting to know you survey is one of the best parts of my first few weeks of school!

What types of questions do you ask in your getting to know you survey? Please share your favorites in the comments below!

Books

Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill

I am so pleased to announce that Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill was published on Thursday, July 26, 2018! It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned so much in this process. This book is a true work of heart.

The journey started in February 2017, and Fueled by Coffee and Love was published in July 2017 (read more here). After publication, I heard from quite a few teachers who missed out on the first call for submissions, and that propelled me to start a volume 2.

Challenges and Successes

The biggest challenges with volume 2 was getting this project rolling. There was a lot of initial excitement for the project, however the follow-through was disappointingly slower than I anticipated. I opened the submissions in September 2017, but didn’t end up closing them until April 2018–I kept extending the deadline, hoping for more stories. Honestly, I was overly excited in getting rolling on the next book, and didn’t dedicate enough time to enjoying the success of the first publication.

With The Refill, I felt like I was a stronger leader. I understood the bigger picture of what needed to get done, and was able to better lead our authors and editors. In the editing process, I was more concise with expectations, including a formalized submissions template and more robust editing guidelines. This greatly helped when I compiled all the stories, and we (Aubrey, Marilyn, Cristy, and I) completed final edits.

We did three rounds of editing: primary editors (looked for writing conventions and story focus), secondary editors (clear focus), and me (all of the above). It helped to have many eyes on each story. Thank you editors!

My Story

Some people have asked me if I’m going to submit a story to the book. The short answer is, “I don’t know.” Deep down, I know this book IS my story. I struggle with feeling like I have something to share in the education world, with so many Big Names and Pontificators out there; when I dig deeper, I see that there are so many other teachers in the same boat who feel the same way, and I want to elevate their stories. Putting my heart and soul into this book feels like I am sharing a part of me.

Both books have been self-published through Create Space, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords. I have used Ray Charbonneau (www.y42k.com) to format the book and get it set up on the online publishing sites. That has been a huge help to me! Since it’s self-published, I know I don’t have nearly as large of a platform as other publishers, and I’m ok with that. I love our authors and I love being directly involved in every step of the process (except the parts Ray does, of course).

So much joy!

Our good friend & author Natasha Rachell with her copy of FBCAL: The Refill!

It is a huge honor create a platform for teachers to share their stories! My goal is to shine a positive light on the successes and challenges we face in education, each and every day–I can confidently say that I have achieved this goal. Anything I can to do spread their stories, I will pour my heart and soul into making it happen!

I do not keep any of the profits for myself. I donate all proceeds to classrooms and education, mainly through Donors Choose.

One of the best parts of this project has been seeing copies of the book in my friends’ hands! I’ve shared quite a few on the @FBCALbook on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Each time I see one posted, I do a little happy dance!

Get Involved!

  1. Buy your copy of Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill (and Fueled by Coffee and Love) — remember, all proceeds support classrooms!
  2. Follow & share with #FBCALbook on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for highlights and news!
  3. Sign up to write and/or edit for future volumes by joining the interest list.
  4. Join the FBCALbook mailing list here.

Thank you all for supporting these books and my vision of sharing teachers’ stories!

Goals, Reflections

2018-2019 School Year Goals

I can’t believe it’s already back to school! I’m starting my 7th year teaching–it’s really amazing to look back at how far I’ve come over the past 6 years of teaching + 2 years of pre-service teaching! Thank you Teacher2Teacher for this awesome #TeacherStats graphic! Make your own here!

My kids start on Monday, July 23rd, and I think I’m just about ready. We’re on a sorta year-round schedule, with a 6 week summer and longer breaks. I really do love it, even if it’s hard to go back when everyone else is still enjoying their summer.

The 2017-2018 school year was stressful for a number of reasons, and I am hoping to really focus on balance this school year. I need to do a better job taking care of myself, managing all the things that stress me out, but are not in my control, and not working nearly as much.

The following are my goals for each area of my responsibility. If you have expertise in any of these areas, I’d love to know and learn from you!

Science

With my science kids, I have two different areas I’m working on. First, as I continue to improve with mastery-based grading, one big thing I’d like to work on is helping my students to be more self-reflective and self-evaluative. Part of that will be teaching them how to provide effective feedback to their peers and themselves, then use that feedback to improve their work.

Second, I’m going to continue to transition my class social media over to my students. I’ve had them post regularly in the past, and I’d love to make it a class job, where we are regularly sharing what we are learning!

AVID

I love teaching AVID, and my 0 period AVID 8 kids are a special bunch. I had many of them in 7th grade science or knew them from popping into their AVID 7 classes, and I always look forward to continuing to build these relationships for a second year.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, and my focus this year is to guide my students in the “individual determination” piece by making the class portfolio-based, and potentially eliminating grades. I’d love to help my students find their own intrinsic motivation, and build their own external accountability, if they feel they need it. At the grading periods, students will self-assess and assign themselves a grade. This will prepare them for both college and adult life, where they are responsible for their own educational path. I have no idea how this will turn out, and I’m a little nervous, but isn’t that how we truly learn?

Blended Learning Specialist

As my school’s Blended Learning Specialist, I have 1 class period dedicated to technology resource and integration. Last year, we became the first Common Sense Media Certified School in our district, and I my goal is to double the amount of lessons taught, and provide a good foundation for our student, not only in digital citizenship, but also in effective searching and internet safety.

Furthermore, my goal is to encourage our teachers to share out the great things they’re doing on Twitter, using #VikingsLearn, our school hashtag. As of now, we have 22 teachers and admin on Twitter, and I’d love to get that number up to 30. I’d added a “Twitter Challenge” section to our monthly Virtual Vikings #PottyPD newsletter with specific things to share, such as “try a new tech tool” or “show off how you engage your students in reading.”

Teaching, in General

One thing I love doing is observing my colleagues! I’m in their rooms quite often, admittedly to say hi, see what’s up, or sometimes goof around (when appropriate, of course…we have SO much fun!). I want to spend more time intentionally observing, leaving feedback, and asking questions to make us all better teachers. We have a paper peer observation template; I don’t mind that it’s analog, it’s easy to grab my clipboard, then snap a picture of my observation before leaving the paper with the teacher. Plus, I can tweet out a shoutout when I visit.

I’m also hoping for more observations this year. When my colleagues walk in, I love handing them my clipboard and asking for feedback. This year, I’m going to add a sticky note or half-sheet of paper with my current goals for them to focus on.

Who wants to come observe? I’d love to have you!

Personal

Very limited work at home. I know no-work may not be possible, but I’m hoping that’s the case 93% of the time (meaning, once every two weeks or less!). I learned how to leave work at work through my “April No-Work Challenge,” and I expect to keep up these habits.

Please keep me accountable and check in with me over the next weeks and months. You have full permission to ask me how these goals are going, nudge me to share evidence of growth, and guide me in a positive direction! Thank you PLN, I love being on this adventure with you all!

Reflections

Geocaching: Inadvertent Adventures as a Beginner

When was the last time you were a total beginner at something? 

This past week, I tried something completely new to me: Geocaching! I’ve heard about this for years, but I was never curious enough to actually try it. It wasn’t until ISTE this past June that my friend Wanda Terral, a super geocacher, gave me a little spark. I downloaded the app, and made a mental note to try it over the summer.

I tried Geocaching!

According to the Geocaching website, “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

geocaching
Geocaching! Download the app and get started!

Finally, last week, I got up the courage to go out and try it. I did a little bit of basic research first (here’s a good place to start), like, what am I supposed to do when I find it? (Answer: open it, sign the logbook, then put it back. Easy enough, right?) Then, I played around with the app for a few minutes before I left home. There was one located about a 10 minute walk from my house, at a local park!

Ollie wanted to come too, so we walked (insert doggie head-tilt at the word walk) to the park together. I oriented myself to the park layout, and figured out where-ish the geocache would be located. Then I searched. And I searched. And I searched. And, I sat down and stared at my phone. What do these things look like? How hidden will it be?

And it was a lot harder than I expected

I almost gave up and walked home. I felt ridiculous, slowly walking at the edge of the park and staring into the bushes. There were other people at the park, surely they all thought I looked strange, walking near the back edge of the park with my dog. In fact, I walked halfway back to the street, before turning around. I felt defeated.

That’s when I realized, THIS is how it feels to be a total beginner at something! It feels awkward, embarrassing, and distressing. I took a deep breath, did a bit more how-to research, pulled up the app again, and used the GPS tracker to get within about 5 feet of where the geocache was supposed to be hidden.

But, I persevered, and I was successful!

Ollie geo 1
Ollie says, “Mama, what is this?!”

Then, I peeked into the bushes, and dug around a little…and found it! It was hooked to the fence, hidden by some leaves, but obvious once I saw it.

I couldn’t stop smiling! I did it! That feeling of exhilaration–I haven’t felt that in SO long. It’s like the first time you are successful in an escape room or Breakout EDU; you know you worked hard, and now you have a great pictures to capture that moment. Plus, the journey felt way more important than what was inside the box/can/container.

I was so caught up on that feeling, I only took a few pictures–all of them Ollie + the geocache!

Then, I reflected on my experience

On the walk home, between meeting new doggie friends, I asked myself a few questions:

  • Would this have been less scary if I had someone like Wanda with me to guide/coach me through my first geocaching experience?
  • Would this have been more fun (and less awkward) if I brought along a friend, even if they’d never tried it before?
  • Was the seemingly endless discomfort erased once I was successful?
  • What needs to happen for me to try this again?
  • How often do I ask my students and colleagues to “just try it,” but then leave them without support?

Even though it’s uncomfortable, it’s good to be a beginner every once in a while. This experience helped to remind me that we all have to start somewhere.

I didn’t go out geocaching to intentionally experience being a beginner, or have all these feelings, or write a blog post about it. I thought it would be something cool to try, and I also expected it to be easy, like walking up to a PokeStop in Pokemon Go–as in, it would just be there, and I’d say “yay!” and move along.

Ollie geo 2
Ollie loves it when he gets to come on adventures, like walks!

I’m sold, and I’m definitely going to try it again. Who wants to go with me? There are lots in San Diego. Or, if we’re traveling at a conference/summit/workshop together, let’s go on a little adventure.

Ok, and seriously, if I’m not already happily nerding on this experience, I also learned that the term for a non-geocacher is a…muggle! Yes, as in, Harry Potter.

GSuite, Technology

Advice for Becoming a Google Certified Educator Levels 1 & 2

It’s crazy to think I took the Google for Education Level 1 and Level 2 tests in summer 2015. 3 years ago! These tests had just been re-released after a complete overhaul; I intended to take them in late 2014, but they were taken down to get their makeover. Since they expire every 3 years, so retaking them was on my summer to do list.

My Level 1 and Level 2 Journey

When I took Level 1 and Level 2 for the first time, I spent time going through the Level 1 fundamentals training and Level 2 advanced training on the Google for Education Teacher Center. I really took my time with each unit, mainly to build confidence. Going in, I had most of the skills I needed, but I was still incredibly nervous! For each test, I took about 2.5 hours out of the 3 hours allowed.

Taking Level 1 for fun at a bar with some friends! We all passed 🙂 

I ended up taking Level 1 again in February 2017, after hosting an EdTechTeam Level 1 bootcamp at my school. A bunch of my friends were meeting to take the test, so I joined in and took it under my school email. Yes, we took it in the corner at a bar (arranged with the manager ahead of time, especially to make sure wifi was stable.)! And yes, we brought our own power strips. And yes, it was a lot of fun!

Going into the tests this summer, this biggest difference for me was confidence. Since taking Level 1 & and Level 2, I’ve gone on to become a Google for Education Certified Trainer (November 2015) and Innovator (June 2016, #COL16!!). I also facilitate bootcamps for EdTechTeam. Sure, I was a little nervous, because after all, it is a test! However, I also have lots of experience to draw on, which I used to remind myself it would all be ok! This time around it took me about 55 minutes for Level 1, and 75 minutes for Level 2. It took much less time because I knew what to expect and didn’t second-guess myself, not because my skills are that much better.

My advice for taking Level 1 and Level 2

  • Prepare with other people: I highly recommend the EdTechTeam bootcamps. Either attend one in your area, or fill this out to bring one to your school/district (you can even request me to come to you!). I wish I had this opportunity when I was preparing the first time to get a feel for the test, receive helpful advice, and build my confidence. — And no, I’m not getting paid to say this.
  • Find a happy place to take the test: I’ve taken the test solo at home in a quiet room and at a loud bar. Both times, I had minimal outside distractions. Yes, the bar was loud, but it was just background noise, not someone talking directly to me. Phone went on “do not disturb” and I closed all the other tabs.
  • Set up your space: Get something to drink, have a snack handy, use the bathroom before you begin, connect to power, stretch, etc before you sit down to take the test. Your webcam is on the entire time for security, so you don’t want
    to have to run to get something in the middle of the test.
  • Take wiggle breaks: I stand up every 30 minutes or so to wiggle around. I angle my laptop to keep my face in view, because test security. A mini dance party keeps my brain from getting too tired.
  • Smile!: Remind yourself to smile before, during, and after the test. You’re a hard worker, and these test are kinda fun! No matter what, pass or fail, remember to smile!

If you don’t pass the first time, don’t get discouraged! Make a note of the topics or tools that gave you the most difficulty, find a buddy, and work on them. Challenge yourself to use that tool at least 3 times before retaking the test.

Have tips for Level 1 and Level 2 first-timers? Leave a comment with your best advice!