The Power of Introverts

[This post originally featured on He’s the Weird Teacher blog, as part of the #WeirdEd chat on 10/5/16. Here’s the chat storify.]

Trends in education focus on buzzword categories of students: English Learners, special education, homeless/foster youth, gifted, etc. If we’re not analyzing data, then we’re busy talking about getting students to collaborate and work together more. What happens when a student doesn’t prefer to work with a group? What happens when a student is an introvert?

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, discusses how western culture has made a shift from the “culture of character” to the “culture of personality” where extroversion is dominant, and introversion is considered inferior. She names this the Extrovert Ideal, defined as “the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight.” These are the values we intentionally and unintentionally translate to our classrooms, schools, and workplaces.

The biggest misconception about introverts is they have less to say. In reality, the major difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts prefer to process the world externally via social interactions, while introverts process the world internally via quiet thinking. Introverts have just as much to say as extroverts, but won’t readily speak it out loud.

In social situations, there may be extroverts who will not wait for others to speak, and overpower the quieter voices. We call these steamrollers. In any sort of collaborative grouping, an overpowering person can be dangerous for the group’s process and rapport. Helping these extroverts identify when they tend to steamroll is just as important as empowering the introverts to advocate for their own needs.

Many introverts, such as myself, can be “functional extroverts” for short periods of time. If you’ve met me in real life, you might not automatically know I’m an introvert–especially if I’m at an edtech conference. However, after I get home, I need plenty of time to decompress. This is a learned skill that took time to develop.

In our classrooms, we value students who are collaborative and vocal. It seems that we’re condemned as “bad teachers” (gasp) if we don’t have our students constantly working together. After auditing my own classroom, I see how many of my lessons that the voices of my extroverts, and leave my introverts quiet and alone. I’ve been more intentional to build in opportunities for both introverts and extroverts to shine.

So with this being said, how do we provide our introverts with an authentic voice in our classroom and world?

PS. Not sure where you lie on the introvert-extrovert continuum? Take this free Myers-Briggs Type Indicator quiz to find out.


ISTE 2016 Reflections

[This post was originally featured on Kids Discover on July 6, 2016, Teacher Tips: How I survived ISTE 2016.]

There’s something powerful about being in a location with over 16,000 people who share your passion for technology in education. The annual International Society for Technology in Education conference took place from June 26 – 29, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. There was a wide range of learning opportunities, including sessions, workshops, panels, poster sessions, keynotes, and an expansive expo hall.

As an ISTE first timer, I downloaded the ISTE app and immediately realized I was in over my head with the whole experience. I found myself very overwhelmed with the experience, and relied on the advice from friends.

Here’s what I learned from my first ISTE:

1. Get connected on Twitter
Even those who were not able to attend ISTE in person benefitted from the learning opportunities by following the #notatISTE16 and #ISTE2016 hashtags. If you’re not already on Twitter, sign up! It is the best place to share and learn with other teachers and educators from all over the world. Following the #ISTE2016 hashtag gives you access to presenters’ resources and the incredible learning opportunities at ISTE. When introducing yourself, exchanging Twitter handles is a must. This allows you to keep your ISTE learning going long after you arrive back home. I loved meeting many of the people I’ve connected with online.

2. Go to a meet-up
It’s ok if you’re an introvert, I am too. Find a meet-up for something you’re passionate about or interested in, and attend. There are plenty of meet-ups each night at a variety of local locations. Introduce yourself to at least one person, and ask them about that shared interest that brought you to the meet-up. Better yet, find your extroverted friend and tag along with them. Face-to-face conversations are often the best way to dive deep into your interested and learn more from others.

3. Don’t be afraid to make your own sessions on the floor
One of my favorite ISTE sessions this year wasn’t an official session, but instead a group of people sitting on the floor in the Bloggers’ Cafe learning about creative thinking and sketchnoting. Multiple other pop-up sessions occurred throughout ISTE in the Bloggers’ Cafe and on Twitter; the easiest way to learn about these is through Twitter or word of mouth. I was lucky to be in the Bloggers’ Cafe to watch Sylvia Duckworth, sketchnoting master, give a short impromptu session. Gather a few people, sit down, and share something you’re passionate about!

4. There’s a lot going on, don’t fear the “fear of missing out” 
The official ISTE schedule is massive and there’s always at least a few things I wanted to attend during each session. I prioritized sessions and activities based on my current energy levels and which resources I could peruse on my own. Sometimes I found it more beneficial to browse the poster sessions with one or two in mind, then spend thirty minutes in the Bloggers’ Cafe recharging my laptop and my brain.

5. Differentiate between cool and engaging
At any technology or education conference, there seems to be an endless supply of cool things to learn about. There’s nothing wrong with going to a session to play around with something you’re interested in. Ultimately, you must ask yourself “how will this increase my students’ learning.” It was often difficult to prioritize which sessions to go to. Luckily, many presenters post their resources and I was able to preview their session and determine which I’d get the most out of. If you attend ISTE with a friend or colleague, it’s easy to attend different session and share resources via Google Docs.

6. Rest your brain! 
This is probably the most important takeaway from ISTE–you must give yourself time to process everything you learned. I hit the ISTE wall on Monday at 4:30pm after moving a million miles per hour for the first two days (I came early for pre-conference activities on Saturday); I took some time to relax in my hotel room before venturing out again. Find something to do that is not conference-related, such as going on a walk, sight-seeing, or eating with a group of friends with a strict no conference talk agreement. This helps give your brain a needed break to recharge and get ready to learn more.

Overall, I’m thankful for my experiences at ISTE 2016, all the new people I connected with, and all the incredible learning that took place over 5 days. Hope to see you all in San Antonio for ISTE 2017!


Reflections on 2015-2016 School Year

Started off 2015-2016 with a district-wide teacher/staff rally!

The 2015-2016 school year was the busiest school year I’ve ever experienced, in all my years as a student and as a teacher. Busier than 10th grade with Mrs. Gatewood for English. Busier than the year I did my masters and credential, student taught, was a TA for the lower division Education Studies class, and was an RA for graduate housing. I have no idea how I survived this year, but I did it! However, it’s not a badge of honor I’d like to wear, especially when I have multiple people coming up to me telling me I need to stop working so hard. Noted, friends. Next year there will be lots of personal mindfulness activities planned to keep me from working 24/7.

SO many great things this year. I’m thankful for all the wonderful opportunities and incredible people that have come into my life this year.

Breakout EDU – So it is well-known among my friends and colleagues that I am absolutely Breakout EDU obsessed! I ran my first game with students in February (read more here), and introduced it to my Tech Tuesday lunch crew in March. It has been so cool to have students dive into learning, and be excited. Even though my students weren’t successful on their first time, they begged to do another one. The conversation afterward allowed students to express their successes and frustrations, and brainstorm on how they can problem solve more effectively in the future.

Met my partner in crime and awesomeness in real life!!

Met the one and only Greg Bagby while in Nashville!

Breakout EDU Digital – In March, Justin Birckbichler and I took our Breakout EDU obsession to the digital world, and created Breakout EDU digital games. Soon after, we were contacted by the one and only James Sanders to officially become Breakout EDU Digital (read more here). Since then, we’ve created 16 games, established a sandbox of user-created games, and presented at conferences.

FlyHighFri – In July we started #FlyHighFri (read more here) to celebrate the positives at school, and to combat the negatives we face each day. I’m incredibly thankful for Nicole Link for hosting us in her classroom each week, and sending out a reminder email.

EduRoadTrip – Last July, Justin Birckbichler, Greg Bagby, and I released the first episode of the EduRoadTrip podcast. We have had a blast interviewing all kinds of teachers from around the United States and Canada, and meeting them at metaphorical places around the country. Through this process, I’ve grown in my confidence and ability to speak in front of an audience (even if that audience is asynchronous). At first, I was terrified to have my voice out on the internet and have people hear me; now, I don’t feel that nervous energy as we’re about to start an interview.

Science – As always, I had so much fun with my science kids this year doing hands-on activities and labs. This year was tricky because I was working on so many amazing projects, and I had to keep reminding myself not to abandon my first love. I’m thankful for my science students for learning and growing along with me; we participated in many great opportunities beyond what was in our standards, including growing tomato plants for Tomatosphere, chatting with real scientists through I’m A Scientist, and using photography to dive deep ecology and animal adaptations through the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts.

MVA Teachers at SDCUE Tech Fair

AVID 7 – I was lucky enough to teach two periods of 7th grade AVID. It was wonderful to have some of my AVID kids also in science, which allowed me to get to know them even better. Some of the highlights in AVID include career projects and mock interviews, Genius Hour projects, and college field trips to San Diego State, UC Irvine, CSU San Marcos, and UC San Diego.

Blended Learning Specialist – This year I had .2 (one class period) as a “Blended Learning Specialist” where I had the opportunity to share my love of technology with my colleagues, and help them implement technology (we’re 1:1 iPad) in a meaningful and useful way. Every Tuesday, we celebrated Tech Tuesday at lunch, and shared tech tools, lesson successes, brainstormed new ideas, and troubleshooted things that didn’t work as planned. Additionally, once a month, I hosted a Parent Tech Breakfast to share how we use technology at school, and teach parents how to access technology, such as our online gradebook, to help their students.

#EduHike, April 2016

EduHike – In April I hosted the first ever official #EduHike (read more here) at Cowles Mountain. I’m hoping to plan another one for August. There’s nothing like outdoors and less screen time to stimulate our brains.

Conferences – This year I attended and presented at some amazing conferences, including California Science Teacher Association conference, Fall CUE, SDCUE Tech Fair, EdCamp Silicon Valley, GAFE Summit LA County, National CUE, NSTA, San Diego Science Education Conference, GAFE Summit Imperial Valley. Next year looks just as packed with conferences. Can’t wait for even more learning opportunities!

Other Edtech ventures – I passed the Google for Edu Certified Teacher Level 1 & 2 tests last summer and fall, and was onboarded as a Certified Trainer last December. In May, I was accepted to the Google for Education Innovator program!!!! I’m so excited to join my #COL16 cohort in Denver at the end of June. Additionally, Ari Flewelling and I started EdTech Adventures with Ari & Mari (episode 1 & episode 2), an informal and somewhat goofy YouTube series of us talking about edtech things.

#COL16 here I come! 

New friends!! – It’s always amazing to meet members of my PLN in real life! You all are the “how” to my “why.” Thank you doesn’t even begin to express how much you all mean to me.

I know there’s so much more…

What did I learn from all of this? A few important lessons: First and most importantly, I need to take care of me (including the boyfriend and the dog) so that I am able to take care of those around me. Second, connecting and sharing are essential for growing myself as a teacher and learner. Third, I love what I do, and I always have to keep my students’ needs as my main priority.

Sometimes you have to stop the keynote speaker and ask him
to go back because you need a selfie. 

Looking back, this year has been incredibly busy but amazingly productive. I’m thankful for everyone who has been on my team, supported me, allowed me to vent, and cheering me on. As we say on the EduRoadTrip, “Sometimes teaching is smooth highway, and other times it’s a bumpy mountain road. As long as you’ve got your friends with you, it’s bound to be an adventure!

PS. It took me over a week to write this post. I hypothesize that the amount of awesome in the last 12 months is slightly overwhelming and hard to process in just one sitting!


Five: A Blog Survey

I’m very thankful that I have the opportunity to work with some amazing people, including Amy Illingworth, our district’s Director of Professional Growth. She recently wrote a blog post called “Five: A Survey” which is also this week’s featured #LeadLAP challenge. I met Amy a few months ago when she did classroom walkthroughs with my principal, and I was flattered at her genuine interest in my classroom, my teaching, and my students. I’m so lucky to get to work with Amy on a few technology-related committees and future events. 

Here is my Five Blog Survey reflection: 

Five Places I’m Dying To Visit 
– Kayla Delzer’s classroom. Student-centered, flexible seating, filled with student choice and student voice. 
– ISTE! Excited to check this one off this June in Denver. 
– Smithsonian Museums. So much learning and science! 
– Tijuana, Mexico. I’ve been before to volunteer at an orphanage in college, but that was rural and outside the city. Many of my students have immediate family and deep connections in this city, I know I need to experience it for myself. 
– Finland. Both to visit my penpal of 10 years and to observe in their schools. 

Five Tasks I Do Every Day
– Eat cheese, because it’s my favoritest food ever. 
– Give hugs. 
– Text, tweet, or vox with my best teacher friends. I’m grateful that technology can connect me with people, no matter where they are. We constantly push each other to be better teachers and human beings. 
– Read, whether for professional growth or personal pleasure. 
– Reflect on my teaching and how I can make my classroom a better place for my students. 

Five Talents I Wish I Had
– Cleaning: I’ll do it, but only after I’ve done everything else on my to-do list AND taken a nap AND made another to-do list. 
– Run on little sleep: I need 8 hours to function, 7 to sort-of function. Anything less, and I’m a zombie. I suppose this is a good thing, but it makes it tough when I don’t get enough sleep. 
– Chaos navigator: I’m not great at handling chaos. I need calm to allow my brain to process, and then I can handle a bit more chaos. 
– Balancer: I’m working on the whole work-home balance thing, and it’s tricky. My word for 2016 is “intentional” and I’m learning a lot about myself and my own needs. 
– Handle the “WOO”: I’m an introvert, and those with the WOO strength (StrengthFinders top strengths) easily overwhelm me. 

Five Leaders I Wish I Could Work With
– Greg Bagby: principal in Chattanooga, TN & co-host on our EduRoadTrip podcast. 
– Dave and Shelley Burgess: I love Teach Like a Pirate and all the other books from Dave Burgess Consulting. If only I had the opportunity to work under these two amazing people! 
– Shauna Pollock: Author of Creating Class Magic, all about using lessons from Disney and applying them to our classrooms to create innovative and learner-centered environments. 
– Doug Robertson: He’s weird, unconventional, but 100% committed to making his classroom a welcoming place for all students. I admire Doug and his drive to challenge the way we approach education. 
– Bruce Bochy: San Francisco Giants manager. I know he’s not directly in the field of education, but there’s so much I can learn from him. I’d love to be able to observe him in the dugout, making tough decisions under pressure and facilitating teamwork and camaraderie

Five Twitter Hashtags I Love
– #FlyHighFri: Justin Birckbichler and I started FlyHighFri last summer as a way to push back on the negativity around us in our schools. 
– #bfc530: Every morning at 5am EST, CST, MST, and PST there’s a quick 15 minute chat. I love joining in and doing a little learning before I start my day (ok, so usually before I even roll out of bed). 
– #caedchat: Our weekly California chat is fast moving, but fun. I need two columns on TweetDeck, one for the live chat and one for where I’m at in the chat. 
– #TOSAchat: My newest Twitter (and Voxer) community, filled with amazing TOSAs and coaches willing to share ideas and work together to make classrooms a better place. 
– #gafesummit: I absolutely love that all of the GAFE Summits use the same hashtag. Every weekend, I am able to learn along side attendees at summits all over the world. 

Five Blogs and Podcasts I Love (I changed this one to include podcasts)
– Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers (Podcast)
– Level Up Learning (Podcast)
– CUE Blog (Blog)
– Reflections on Leadership and Learning (Blog)
– Jon Harper’s blog and Bam! Radio posts (Blogs)

Five Phrases I Have On Repeat
– “Failure only happens when you give up”
– “Do one thing that scares you every day” -Eleanor Roosevelt
– “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday” 
– “It’s bound to be an adventure”
– “You can have results or you can have excuses. You cannot have both”

Five Things I Always Have in the Fridge/Freezer
– Cheese. At least a few kinds. 
– Peanut or almond butter.
– Ice cream.
– Apples.
– Frozen veggies.

Five Books On My To-Be-Read List
–  Drive by Daniel Pink
– Teach with your Strengths by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller
– Mindful Teaching & Teaching Mindfulness by Deborah Schoeberlein
– The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros
– Wall of Fame by Jonathan Freedman
Now it’s your turn! Use the same categories, or create your own! 

Exploring Blogs with Students

Note: This blog post is an assignment for TEC-950, an elective class as part of the CUE Innovative Educator Certificate. 

Blogs are an excellent tool for engaging students in critical thinking and sharing between peers and beyond the classroom. 
Blogging expectations created by my
AVID students
I have tried out blogging with students and been unsuccessful in maintaining the blogs due to technology and platform issues, as well as getting sidetracked with other assignments. I tried again in January of this year with my AVID classes, and had students successfully publish one post. However, we haven’t gotten around to publishing another post. I am thinking that next week we will write another post to reflect on what we have learned about kindness. I am hoping we can publish at least a few more posts, then share these posts with the digital word to get feedback on our work. 
Together with my students, we have explored multiple Common Sense Media lessons, including Trillion Dollar Footprint, Which Me Should I Be?, and Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding. My students also explored the Digital Compass games to extend their thinking about digital citizenship. It is essential to have these discussions because students will respond to each others’ blogs or even blogs of students outside our class, and they will need to represent themselves and our school in a respectable manner. Outside of my classroom, students are constantly on social media, both creating and commenting on posts, and need to understand the impact of creating a positive (or negative) digital footprint. We modeled and practiced appropriate behavior in structured class activities and discussions. 
According to the ISTE Standards for Students, students should be able to “use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others” (ISTE Standards for Students, Standard 2: Communication & Collaboration). I am excited because my AVID students have been collaborating on a collaborative essay with Rosy Burke‘s 5th grade students as part of a NASA competition. We are hoping to have our students blog about their Genius Hour projects, then use a Critical Friends-style format to share feedback and their projects with each other on their blogs. 
For me, blogging has been an excellent reflective practice, and reading others’ blogs and writing my own has made me a better teacher. I’m thankful for my blogging community, and I can’t wait to continue to empower my students through blogging. 

2016 Goals Update: Books & Being Intentional

My physical”to read” stack
in January 2016

Somewhere a while back I heard that if you can keep your New Year’s Resolution through Valentine’s Day, then you have a pretty good shot at making it stick. Well, Valentine’s Day is just 2 days away, and it’s time to reflect back on the first 6 weeks of 2016.

I didn’t set any formal New Year’s Resolutions this year; however, I did set two goals. Goal #1 is to read and/or listen to at least 100 books. (Past 3 years totals: 2013 = 54, 2014 = 84, 2015 = 57) Of the 100 books this year, my goal is to read at least 52, and fill in the rest with audiobooks. So far, I am at 11 books (6 books, 5 audiobooks), which according to Goodreads is on schedule. Success! My physical to-read shelf is huge, and I have an equal number of ebooks on hold or on my wishlist via the public library.

Goal #2 is my #OneWord2016, “Intentional.” I am striving “to be more intentional with how, why, and where I spend my time and energy.” (Read original blog post here) In the last 6 weeks, I have been keenly aware of my progress on this goal, although I haven’t been doing any formal monitoring (should I?). I find myself better able to prioritize tasks at home and at work to maximize my time. Energy is harder for me to regulate since I’m always “go go go!” and don’t stop to think often enough. Nonentheless, I’m proud of myself for sticking with my one word resolution beyond the initial hype in the first week of January.

#OneWord2016 goal: Intentional

Here’s how I’ve been more intentional: 

  • Less checking work email, grading, and lesson planning at home. When I do, I either set a timer  as a limit or mentally note that this is “work time” and when I’m done, it is no longer work time. And with that, not feeling guilty if I take a break from working, even when my to-do list is long. 
  • I’m addicted to my Passion Planner, in a good way (I have this one).  I have a full size one, and even though it is big, it’s perfect. I love starting my week by looking ahead at what is coming up, setting a focus for each day and a goal for the week. At the end of the week, I reflect back on what I accomplished, and use that to plan for the next week. 
  • Shutting off technology more frequently and enjoying time with my boyfriend and dog, or a book. 
  • Pouring time and energy into great projects with the one and only Justin Birckbichler, including #FlyHighFri (read blog post and Teacher2Teacher feature) and #Teach20s (read blog post). We’re also “well underway” with our EduRoadTrip podcast, featuring Justin, Greg Bagby, and myself. 
  • I have said “no” to some great opportunities, knowing I would not be able to give my full time and effort. As bummed as I feel/felt for not being a part of these things, deep down I know it was the best decision for me. 
Here’s what I am currently working on: 
  • Spending more time at home pursuing hobbies and things that make me happy! Including baking, playing piano, crocheting, and working on my scrapbooks. 
  • Not getting so distracted at work by other people and thi—ooh shiny! (As I was writing this, I got up to play with the dog for 5 minutes. Case in point) Really though, if I don’t number my to-do list, I end up doing half of every task, but not actually getting things done. 

I accept the fact that I am a work in progress, and 2016 has been a fun journey so far!


2015 in Review

I spent three of my five years at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) as a Resident Advisor (RA) for transfer student housing. These were my adult formative years, where I grew as a person, a student, and as a future teacher. In fact, during my third year as an RA I was a graduate student and student teacher, and my final month as an RA overlapped with the first month of my teaching career. I could write a whole blog post about being an RA, but I’ll save that for later. The point is, during the three-day equity and social justice portion of RA training each year, one of the facilitators constantly stopped us for check-ins for “where we were, where we are, and where we’re going.” I now apply that concept to my own personal reflections.

So, here is my “where I was, where I am, and where I’m going” for 2015

Where I was (December 2014)

  • Third year teacher, finished first semester teaching AVID.
  • Just starting to use Twitter, participated in a few chats. I was barely getting my brain around the idea of connecting with teachers from other states and countries.
  • I had just started presenting at conference, notably a CUE-Tip at Annual CUE (March 2014) and 2 full sessions at Fall CUE (October 2014). Alicia Johal and I applied to present at more conferences for 2015, and were honored to represent our school and district.

Where I am (January – December 2015)

Tech Breakfast
  • I currently teach 3 sections of 7th grade science and 2 sections of 7th grade AVID. On top of, that I am the Blended Learning Specialist (tech coach) at my school, which has become a whole new set of responsibilities.
  • As a Blended Learning Specialist, I host monthly Tech Breakfasts for parents to learn about our 1:1 iPads and related topics
  • I started a weekly Tech Tuesday lunch (read more here) for the teachers at my school. We meet in my room to eat together and share tech tools and goals. I leave it open-ended, although many times teachers come to me with requests of what they’d like to work on.
  • I have tried out new methods, strategies, and tools in my class that constantly push my boundaries and comfort zone as a teacher. This includes mock interviews with my AVID kiddos, green screen videos in science, and using Explain Everything for students to demonstrate their knowledge and application of scientific concepts.
  • We embarked on the EduRoadTrip journey with Justin Birckbichler and Greg Bagby in July! We have released 14 episodes and 5 rest stops so far, and have many more engaging interviews scheduled for 2016. We’d love for you to follow along on iTunes or Stitcher.
  • I began #FlyHighFri in an effort to infuse more purposeful positivity into our schools and work days. Read more about it on my blog.
  • Honestly, right now I’m a little over-committed. I am learning how to say “no” to opportunities if they are not the right timing, or if I simply don’t have the brain energy to put in. This has been a difficult process for me, and I am constantly reaffirming my decisions when I decline a request.

Where I’m going (2016 and beyond)

2016 Resolution
  • I recently got Chromebooks and Spheros from DonorsChoose, and I am excited to spend more time coding with my students next semester.
  • Now that I’m a little more comfortable blogging, I will attempt to blog every two weeks or so. I’m thankful to the #TribeofBloggers and #YourEdustory for motivation, community, and support.
  • I’m looking forward to an exciting and top-secret collaboration project with Justin Birckbichler! Make sure you follow us both on Twitter (Me // Justin) for the latest news.
  • Most of all, my biggest resolution for 2016 is to better balance my personal and professional life, and spend more quality time with my boyfriend, my puppy, my friends and family. This includes intentionally turning off electronics and relaxing!
What are your resolutions and goals for 2016? Who is going to support you and hold you accountable?