Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hacking the Common Core with #D100bloggerPD

Welcome to the kickoff post for #D100bloggerPD's newest blog book study- a look into Michael Fisher's Hacking the Common Core. This is one of many books in the Hack Learning Series- all of which are short, beautiful (both written and appearance!) books that help teachers employ and ignite change in their classrooms immediately!

Photo Credit to Colleen @litlovegal1

This isn't the first Hack Learning Series book that #D100bloggerPD has tackled; we read and studied Hacking Education back in March/April of this year and you can access all those posts here if you'd like to check them out.
Be sure to follow @HackMyLearning and @MarkBarnes19! 

If at this point you aren't totally sure what #D100bloggerPD is- please be sure to check along the right side (scroll down and look right!) of this blog and click the #D100bloggerPD label- which will take you to all of my previous posts and all the previous studies and you'll find everything you need to catch you up to speed.

Basically, #D100bloggerPD is a fresh take on blogging and professional development that was started (almost!) a year ago by my #teachertwin Colleen- a colleague in Berwyn South School District 100- hence the D100. She had completed a blog study a while ago with a different group of people- and not only did I participate- but I loved the idea- so we got together and came up with the idea of brining this blogger professional development to our school district. That was in November of last year and since then, we have studied four books (this study being the fifth) and involved many staff members or administrators from across our school district.

Aside from learning and having fun ourselves, we've caught the eye of the authors of the books we've been studying- and some have even been gracious enough to help us along the way with materials, with ideas, or by participating in a Twitter Chat (#d100chat) in our district. We are incredibly appreciative of all the help we have gotten along the way- not only from these authors- but also from our amazing colleagues/bloggers who, without them, these studies wouldn't be possible. 

Speaking of those fabulous bloggers- here is the schedule for this blog study- and the date and location of which to find each post. As they are posted, I will link them here for ease of accessibility.

As you can see, I've been charged with writing my reflection on the Introduction as well as Hack 1 of Hacking the Common Core.  I love starting these blog book studies because I get so excited at the thought of kicking off these great events of learning. So without further ado, let's jump right in. 


The introduction to this book addresses the question implied in the title of the book. Why do the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) need to be hacked anyway? Well, if you're an educator and you've been breathing for the last 6-7 years, you've heard of the CCSS. You've also probably cursed them, had them come up in dinner conversation with non-educator friends, and also had to explain them to a frustrated parent- all while attempting to hide your inner disdain for these lovely standards. I'm about as positive person as there is in the world- and even I will admit- these standards drove me kind of crazy. Notice how that is past tense. Yes, they were new. Yes, they're a little wonky. BUT- I'm a teacher- and I have students to educate here- so I got over it and moved on. 

The rest of the world of public opinion did not. Not a day goes by where someone doesn't share/reshare those viral posts on Facebook about the "new math" or "ridiculous things we expect of students these days" and- make no mistake about it- the world of public opinion HATES the CCSS. 
So what can we do?

Well, for one, we can realize that the CCSS did not swoop in and replace the need for quality, caring teachers. For another- we can pick up this handy book that we are discussing right now, and jump into 10 easy 'hacks' to make the CCSS make sense and work for us and not against us. I LOVE how Michael Fisher points out in the introduction, that regardless of all the change that the CCSS have brought upon us, our "students still need their teachers." (Hacking the Common Core, Page 18) This sometimes (strangely) overlooked fact is a fantastic reminder that while we, as teachers, are getting nervous, frustrated, etc. over these new standards, there are still students walking into our classroom everyday wanting to learn. There is still a task at hand- even if it may be a bit more confusing now. He reminds us that we can't just stop teaching these students. They deserve our best effort and we definitely owe that much to them. To me, being frustrated over the CCSS doesn't seem like a fantastic excuse to not be the best teacher you can possibly be.

Which brings me to my other favorite quote of Fisher's from the introduction, the unforgettable notion that "we teach students, not standards." (Hacking the Common Core, Page 19).
While I feel like this is a no-brainer- the fact that it needs to be said illustrates the point that teachers can no longer worry about just teaching their students. There's  battery of tests, an endless list of questions, and on top of those- a brand new group of standards by which to teach these students. If you've read my blog before, you know how highly I praise educators because of the simple fact that teaching is hard. Teaching is a complex art that cannot be faked, cannot be done well if not totally prepared, and ultimately, cannot be brushed aside in the media as a job any less worthy of our respect than any other profession. Throughout this introduction, Fisher brilliantly balances society's frustrations of the Common Core while also giving hope that this book will ease those burdens and lessen those fears- a task which seems impossible sometimes- but one that is achieved by the masterful hacks in this book.

Let's dig right in and look at Hack 1: Shift Happens. I mentioned earlier that I am a positive person- or at the very least- I'm always trying to 'look on the bright side', so the fact that this hack (chapter) starts with an amazing quote from actor Chris Pine, one I had never read before, made me so happy.

This quote, shown in the picture and from page 21, sums up exactly how I feel about being in a difficult situation. He's right- we can't control everything. We can control our own attitude. This piece of advice is often easy to hear and hard to follow- but it's one that can do certain good when forming our attack plan on the CCSS. We aren't going to wake up one day to a news story that the CCSS have been abolished and something new and perfect is magically in it's place. That's just not going to happen. So instead of complaining- let's find a way to make them work for us. Fisher explains in the opening to this chapter that teachers often become so frustrated with these standards that they choose to do nothing in the place of something. Let's revisit what we learned in the introduction. Our students still need us. We cannot sit idly by and do nothing. So here's where Hack 1 comes into play. Fisher encourages teachers to "look to the instructional shifts" (Hacking the Common Core, Page 22) and break down the standards, and in turn, our confusion. Fisher explains that, "If we remove the sometimes overwhelming breadth of the standards from the curriculum conversations and instead focus only on the shifts, capacities, or practices, we can start moving toward intentional actions" (Hacking the Common Core, Page 22). These shifts are found by examining the standards and breaking them into these 'shifts' for a much more clear approach.

In the Hack 1: Shift Happens chapter, Fisher also provides steps that you can take tomorrow as well as steps for full implementation of this hack. I love that this set-up, common to all Hack Learning books, gives teachers a quick fix for tomorrow and a solid plan for the future. No one is going to wave a magic wand and make these 'Hacks' happen tomorrow- but at least the book provides a place to start. I also happen to think that the steps Fisher outlines as a "start tomorrow" plan, happen to be a darn good outline for any plan we devise in our life. In short, his four steps for starting tomorrow are:

1 Access and read.
2 Set a purpose for understanding.
3 Think of intentional actions.
4 Choose one new thing from the capacities or practices and just do it.
I challenge you to think of an obstacle in your life, right now, that wouldn't benefit from these four steps. I mean, seriously. First, learn about it. Then, set a purpose and think of something intentional you can do. And ultimately, pick something and DO IT. This is the beauty of this book- and specifically this chapter- the fact that after reading it, you feel empowered and compelled to start change in your classroom. Not to mention, you feel capable of doing so. That's pretty astounding. Fisher goes on to be so kind as to provide a menu for full implementation of this hack, as well as address some potential pushback that you might receive along the way. 

Overall, this opening Hack to the book is not only clearly written and concise- but it provides a basis for the rest of the book that can only lead you to more success in your classroom and in navigating these Common Core Standards. If you want to learn about Hacks 2-10- be sure to stick around for the rest of our #D100bloggerPD study by using the schedule at the top of this post.

Also, if you have questions for Michael Fisher, he'll be joining us for a special edition of #D100chat on October 18, right before the completion of this blog book study.

I'd love for you to leave any questions or comments below- and don't forget to check out Teaching and Learning Redefined on Wednesday, 10/5, for Hack 2 in our ongoing study.

Also, be sure to celebrate the 1st birthday of #D100bloggerPD on November 9, 2016! Check Twitter and follow with our hashtag as we celebrate one whole year of this fantastic, teacher-led, 'my time' professional development!

If, as a birthday present (I won't tell #D100bloggerPD that it's for you), you want to get your own copy of Hacking the Common Core and follow along with our study, you can get your own copy here:

Thursday, August 11, 2016

#D100bloggerPD on #WhatTeachersMake

If you have been following the #D100bloggerPD hashtag this summer, you noticed that we have been very busy with our latest blog book study- a close look at Taylor Mali's What Teachers Make- In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. This blogging experience started way back in the end of June when, on June 28, we held a special edition of #D100chat and featured Taylor Mali as our special guest. In case, although I'm not sure how it would be possible, you are wondering right now who is this Taylor guy I keep talking about- better watch this amazing video before we go any further.

Here's the thing- I've seen that video at least 20 times- nothing in comparison to the millions of views it has- but the point is- every single time this video pops up on my Facebook newsfeed, I must watch it. And let's be honest, around back to school time, this video probably does pop up more often, making a strong comeback into the limelight.

Now that you know who Taylor Mali is (and no doubt love him as much as I do!), let me make sure you are caught up with this edition of #D100bloggerPD. If you are reading my post as the first in the #WhatTeachersMake series, here's what you missed- and let me tell you- some really amazing teachers/administrators/instructional coaches came together for this edition and Colleen (my #teachertwin and co-founder of #D100bloggerPD- PLUS the brains over at Literacy Loving Gals) and I are so proud and thankful for them all!

Teaching and Learning Redefined: Chapters 2 and 3
Miss Kaczmarek's Classroom: Chapters 4, 5, and 6
BigTime Literacy: Chapters 7, 8, and 9
Learn Teach Grow: Chapters 10, 11, and 12
The Bazz Blog: Chapters 13, 14, and 15
Miss G Does 5th: Chapters 16, 17, and 18
Responsive Literacy: Chapters 19, 20, and 21
Grammar Mamma: Chapters 22, 23, and 24
*Which brings you to me for Chapters 25, 26, and the Epilogue!*

It's almost the middle of August as I type this, and teachers have been on summer vacation at this point for about 2 months, give or take. Which, to teachers and those who love them, are married to them, or simply try to keep up with them know that "summer vacation" is really just code for 'work from home while maybe getting to go out to breakfast on a weekday' sometimes. Sure- I've enjoyed my summer vacation- but rarely a day goes by where I wasn't thinking about school, actually working on school things, shopping for my classroom, writing and rewriting my curriculum, or pinning ideas on how to make this coming school year the very best. Being a teacher is not a 'pick up and put down' kind of job- it's always on your mind.

I feel like I owe it to my readers to fess up to something right now. I wrote, rewrote, and erased that paragraph about ten times. Because in those deleted words, I allowed myself to fall into, by trying to defend, the negativity surrounding teachers (and I know I don't even have to get into examples for you to understand) but then it occurred to me that I am not that person and I won't let them steal my joy. In case you haven't heard of #edujoy, it is a shortened term for educational joy and if you are ever feeling 'down' about education, go look it up on twitter. It's positively motivational. It reminds me about my core values as a human and as an educator- many of which are the exact same. 
Here's a few:

I believe in good and in always trying to see/bring out the good in others. 
I believe in the people who go to work everyday and give the best they can.
I believe that there is power in being positive. 
I believe in students. All of them.
Not just the ones who can sit politely in a class and play school. 
I believe, in place sometimes of their own ability to believe, in the students who struggle. 
The ones who's biggest concern in life is FAR GREATER than my latest homework assignment.
I believe that together, we are better. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
I believe in second, third, and fourth chances for those who are eagerly and honestly trying to improve. That mistakes are signs of growth and not failure.
I believe that being a teacher is a challenging, rewarding, emotional, and high-stakes job- 
but that if I go into school everyday with 
a smile on my face, determination on my mind, kindness in my heart, and guts in my belly- then 
I believe that I really can change the world.
I believe, as Taylor Mali says, that I make a difference.

Phew! Sorry (#notsorry) for that rant, but I'm telling you, every time I watch that Taylor Mali YouTube video, I get so pumped up and I just had to get that out! Ok, now onto my reflection!

I had two very short chapters and one epilogue to read- all of which were the perfect end cap to this amazing book. The first of those chapters, The Quest for One Thousand Teachers is a great little piece about how Taylor Mali realized that his words and works were impacting and imploring others to become educators.
 Finding this neat (of course!), he figured he would try and keep a tally how many people actually became teachers because of him- and to top it off- he set a goal of inspiring one thousand teachers in six years. Spoiler alert: he didn't meet this goal. Not even close. Instead of just giving up and throwing in the towel, he decided to take a closer look at this quest and how he was approaching it. He made some tweaks and got some help, and finally about a year later, he was making steady progress toward that goal. Like all good teachers, he reflected on his practices and realized that, partly, this new growth was because, as he says, "I was finally ready for it to do so." (What Teachers Make, Page 180). If you open yourself to opportunity, it will likely come, If you remained closed and believe it won't happen, it probably won't. I really appreciate how Taylor Mali was able to admit that his original path didn't work and that he had to rethink and revise it before he achieved success. 

My next section, and the last 'chapter' of the book, is called There Can Never Be a "Lost" Generation. While quite possibly the shortest of all the sections in the book, it gives me two of my most favorite quotes from the entire book. The first: 

I feel like it goes without saying (although I guess I kind of already said it during my I believe rant up there...) but we can't give up on kids. We just can't. There's simply too much at stake. Yet somehow, even the most positive and hardworking people feel beaten down sometimes. Wait, I take that back. It's not somehow. I know exactly how. Back up to my rant- being a teacher is challenging! It's downright hard and some days, it's wholeheartedly exhausting. So yes, people get beaten down. People get lost on their path. But in the end, we must never, ever take that out on students. We must always believe in them and their successes.

The next of my favorite quotes from that section comes immediately after the one above. Here it is: 

I just love it. This is the goal. This is why we are here. So whether or not you are a new teacher, a "middle" teacher (like me, hello 9th year!) or a veteran teacher- remember that promise. Remember why you became a teacher in the first place. I highly doubt it was for summer's off, discounts at the local coffee shop, or even your love of school supplies (though I suspect those may have played a role!), it's the kids. It's always been about the kids. Don't ever forget that.

I want to make sure that I thank Taylor Mali one last time for being so amazing during this entire process. He was kind enough to participate in a Twitter chat with us as well as offer his help in any way we needed. All of us at #D100bloggerPD truly appreciate you and everything you have done for us and, of course, the field of education. Keep fighting the good fight!

P.S. Speaking of kids, I'm following my passion for teaching middle schoolers back to the middle school classroom. This will be my 9th year of teaching- the first 6 of which I spent at Freedom Middle School before moving (within district) to Pershing Elementary School. I loved that position and am taking everything I learned about the literacy set-up of our wonderful district and bringing it back to Freedom as the new Strategic Reading teacher. This is a position that is going to be challenging and exciting all at the same time. I am more than ready to work tirelessly to improve the reading of my students and instill a passion for reading in their hearts at the same time. I can't wait to get back in front of full classes and (shockingly) I even can't wait to get back to the complicated and imperfectly perfect lives of middle school students. My heart is happy and my mind is racing. 
It's going to be a fantastic year.

If you enjoyed this #WhatTeachersMake blog study, be sure to follow the #D100bloggerPD hashtag on Twitter for all the latest news and announcements of upcoming studies!

If you enjoyed reading my blog, be sure to click the Bloglovin' link on the top to follow and never miss a post! Or follow me on Twitter at @MrsKRichey!

As always, I love reading your comments or thoughts- so please feel free to leave some responses!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A (School) Year in Review

I am about to wrap up my 8th year in education- a number that frankly seems impossible, because the time has flown by.  Although I have worked at two schools (soon to be three- but I'll get to that later), I have spent all 8 years in Berwyn South School District 100. I consider this district to be my little niche of happiness. I am allowed and encouraged to be myself and to flourish- and yes- teaching is hard- but I get through it with the amazing friends and work family I have created over the years.

I like to consider myself a very reflective teacher- it's something that I consider vital for growth in any field- but especially the land of education. Because of this, I wonder why, until this post, I have yet to sit down at the end of a school year and record my thoughts. Getting ideas down on paper is so powerful, and maybe because this year has been so full of changes (good and bad), I am excited to embark on this journey.

This blog, which I only started last year, has given me so much. It has provided a place to grow, learn, share, be vulnerable, be excited, make connections, and more! It has given me an audience to listen and share with, that in turn, I have read blogs and learned with and from people around the globe. Things I never would have stumbled upon before have entered my life because of blogging- and I am forever grateful for that.

So without further ado- I know you’re dying to actually get down to the nitty gritty and hear about this school year. SO much has happened, some things are changing, and some things will always stay the same.

Let’s start with some really positive and exciting events. This was the inaugural year of #D100bloggerPD, which I co-founded with fellow D100 Reading Specialist Colleen Noffsinger. Safe to say that if you have read my blog before, you know about #D100bloggerPD.  This is where we select books (from all areas) and do a blog book study (kind of like a jigsaw) with other members (both teachers and admin) from around D100. We have done 3 books this year: Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, Move Your Bus by Ron Clark, and Hacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. Each one has gotten better and better and the impact of #D100bloggerPD has been amazing. We have involved so many teachers, from within D100 to all the way across the country, and we are all learning and growing together. Even though the school year is ending, #D100bloggerPD will keep going- in fact, we just announced our next blog study, and it will be on the book What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali. Even better news: Taylor Mali heard about our blog study via Twitter and had reached out to help and participate in a Twitter Chat. Hello, power of Twitter! And the power of good people getting together to learn and improve themselves. Not for pay, not for recognition- just for the purpose of learning. 

Also exciting this year was I continued doing something I love- presenting at #edtech conferences- and this year I got to bring my husband in on it! We co-wrote a presentation called “Educator Expectations in the 21st Century” and were able to share this with audiences at Illinois State University’s T21CON (Teaching in the 21st Century Conference) in
September, Waukegan Google ’n More in January, and ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) in February. I love this presentation because it’s not about one buzzword in education. It’s about motivating people to be the very best they can be while fusing in some 21st century skills along the way.
There is no “trick” to teaching. There’s just good teachers who never give up and surround themselves with a PLN (professional learning network) of other like minded individuals, and then they all make a vow to never stop improving. And yes, that is as hard as it sounds. But you work at it. Constantly. I also attended EdCamp Chicago- which was held at my husband Peter’s school (Churchville Middle School in Elmhurst, IL) back in April with some D100 friends and some of my extended D205 family. It was a fantastic day of learning and growing (organized by the amazing Ben Hartman and his EdCamp Chicago Team) and days like that make it very obvious why EdCamps are so popular! 

Speaking of conferences, I get to knock something off my bucket list next year thanks to my proposal acceptance to present at the IRC (Illinois Reading Council) Conference. As a reading specialist, this conference is the top of my ladder. All the best voices in reading attend and present at this conference- and I am MORE than excited that this will be me next year. I will be presenting on Using Technology to Improve Reading Instruction- a presentation geared towards Pre-K to 3rd grade teachers that will focus on infusing technology into the core building blocks of reading instruction.

To keep the trend of getting good news going, I found out early May that I will be awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the Illinois State University College of Education in the fall during the Homecoming festivities. This is a HUGE honor and one that I am more than humbled to receive. My husband won this award two years ago and wholeheartedly deserved it- so to not only follow in his footsteps but also blaze this trail of my own is amazing. I consider ISU to be my home- a place that molded me into a student/teacher/person who never gives up and keeps growing. The motto, Gladly We Learn and Teach, sums it up perfectly. We must always keep learning in order to be the best teacher we can possibly be. I just really can’t put into words everything this University and the College of Education has done for me.  If you are a regular on my blog, you also know that Illinois State is where I met my husband (an amazing educator who I talk about ALL the time- sorry!), which is just another reason to love my alma mater. Plus, being able to be ‘lovebirds’ (the ISU mascot is the Redbird) is pretty adorable!

Speaking of my husband, being married to a teacher has its perks. And this year- the perks lined up (for only the 2nd time in 8 years) and we had the same spring break.
We were able to take our baby birds (get it…lovebirds have baby birds…) on a spring break road trip-visiting various museums over the span of five different states. I know what you’re thinking- those poor kids get to go to a bunch of museums while other kids get to go to Disney! But seriously- they loved it! Being the kids of two teachers has definitely shaped them into little adventure-loving learners. We are so proud of the kids they are growing up to be. This year, more than ever, I have noticed them growing up way too fast. 

Brayden (our oldest) just finished Pre-K and therefore starts Kindergarten in the fall. This is impossible. My baby just can’t be turning 5 and going off to elementary school. I just don’t get it.
And Olive….our feisty, take charge, run the world 3 year old- she’s keeping right up with her older brother.
It’s hard to believe (but wonderful) that we are over and done with with all things baby. No more bottles, diapers, cribs, making baby food, and sadly, no more sleepy baby snuggles in the middle of the night. Those days might be gone- but I know I can speak for Peter and say that we cannot wait to fill those days with new memories and new adventures. Watching your kids grow up is a pleasure I didn’t fully understand until now.

So many positive things happened this year that it’s hard to remember them all. I almost forgot to mention the amazing #edtech conference that my district hosts- iEngage! This is an amazing event that just wrapped its second year- both of which I was in charge of all things registration.
This includes the registration website, the schedule website, the logistics of how much food to order (eek! can’t mess that up!), and how many seats to lay down. I wrote a reflection post last year which sums up a lot of the emotions and craziness of organizing this conference. This year the conference was, again, a huge success- due in large part to the fantastic iLead team led by Jordan Garrett. We all had a role and worked together to execute the conference beautifully- of which hundreds of educators from in and out of Illinois came to learn. 

This year iEngage was a little rough for me because, unfortunately, my grandma was admitted to the hospital on the Thursday before the two day conference which happened Friday 4/29 and Saturday 4/30. I spent the evening of that Thursday in the hospital with my family, left late and arrived in Berwyn at 5am to get ready for Friday. Friday was a huge success and at the end of the day, I drove back to the hospital. Stayed late again and was back in Berwyn by 6am Saturday for day 2 of iEngage. Once again, a huge success and then my husband and I drove back to the hospital. This time we spent the night with my family in the room, and sadly, in the middle of the night, surrounded by her loved ones, my grandma passed away. I couldn’t even write in this blog post the millions of things this woman has done for me in my lifetime. I couldn’t possibly put into words the feeling you have when you experience the first death of someone close to you. I have learned to look at this in a positive light. I was only born with 2 grandparents living and I made it until I was 30 years old before they both passed. Another positive- my grandma got to know my kids and vice versa.
This lady who had such a hand in raising me got to enjoy my kids growing up. She will forever be in their memories- in fact- they talk about her often. About her love of corn dogs, banana shakes from Culver’s, playing with toys at her house, and getting to hug and kiss her goodbye. Those memories are priceless. 

After her passing, I was so fortunate enough to be able to lean on so many friends and family to get me through this hard time. Being surrounded by people who love you is a blessing- and I am lucky to say I have a lot of people who love me. A husband who is my rock, kids who, while crazy, are my world, a family of strong people, and friends who would drop anything for me. A lot of those friends are people I work with, and have come to consider family, after working at Pershing the last two years. Being able to work in a school and a district that cares about you is not something I take lightly. 

This brings me to my last change. This is, likely, my last post as a Pershing Panther. I will be moving next year to Hiawatha, another elementary school in our district. I’m excited for change and the new opportunity, but it goes without saying that I will miss the people I have gotten to know these last two years. But I’m really only going about ten minutes away- so hopefully they won’t forget about me and we can grab lunch sometime!
If you’re still reading this- wow! That was so much! When I started out, I didn’t think I had much to reflect on this year. Turns out A LOT has happened. I didn’t intend for this post to get this long, but I’m kind of glad it did. Like I said, reflecting is key to growth. Writing everything down has a sort of healing power to it and it allows me to clear my mind for summer and next year. 

I can’t wait. 

What’s next? I’m going to go enjoy the end of the school year and summertime. You’ll see me back here at the end of June when we start to promote our next #D100bloggerPD- and that will begin July 21st! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Next #D100bloggerPD Announced!

Just announced!! 
The newest #D100bloggerPD will be a blog study on the book What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali.

If that name rings a bell, it's because he is very well-known for his "What Teachers Make" poem- which, speaking for myself, motivates me every time I hear it!

A schedule is coming soon along with a list of the fabulous educators and administrators and the dates for the study. Everything will begin with Colleen over at Literacy Loving Gals on Thursday, July 21, 2016! That's right- a SUMMER edition of #D100bloggerPD! The learning never stops with us!

If you want to follow along with our book study- pick up your own copy of the book and get ready to join in on the fun (and learning)!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

#D100bloggerPD: Hacking Education- Hack 10 & Conclusion

Back in March, here on my blog, the #D100bloggerPD crew kicked off our newest blog book study- which focused on the fabulous Hacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. If you have reached this post without seeing any of the previous posts- or if you are unsure of what a blog book study is- you’ll definitely want to check out my introduction post- which you can access here. If you are a follower of the #D100bloggerPD crew, then you know that
my teacher-twin Colleen and I brought this idea of "blogger professional development" to our district at the beginning of this school year. Ever since then, we have had so much fun sharing, learning, and growing with fellow teachers/administrators as well as new members of our PLN. 
Since the beginning, #D100bloggerPD has tackled blog book studies on (1) Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (2) A "What Inspires You?" Series and (3) Move Your Bus by Ron Clark, and this Hacking Education study has been the most recent. I know I talk a lot about how Colleen and I got this movement going in our district- but we wouldn’t be able to keep it going without some of our most faithful #D100bloggerPD regulars- all of which took part in this study and you’ll want to check out each of their blogs as well! We are so fortunate to all be connected and share this love of being a lifelong learner and I just hope they all know how much I appreciate them! 
Here's a link to all those wonderful people's blog posts as part of this study- and each one of them definitely merits your attention:

Ginny from Hiawatha: Hack 3- Teacher Quiet Zones
Cool Cat Teacher: Hack 4- Track Records
Reading and Owl of the Above: Hack 10- The 360 Spreadsheet &Conclusion 

The last hack in the book, Hack 10: The 360 Spreadsheet: Collect a Different Kind of Student Data, focuses on something I really love- which is data. I am such a geek when it comes to the collection and analyzing of data and it probably gives me more joy than it should- but this hack really puts things into perspective for me. I collect a lot of data- and I’m not exaggerating- but is it always the right data for instructing my students? Sure, I have the required data points- weekly progress monitoring, three times yearly benchmarking, daily anecdotal notes, formative assessment data, and so on and so on forever- but after reading this hack, it is clear there should be more attention to detail and effort put into one more aspect of data- which is really devoting time getting to know my students. It’s not that I don’t get to know them-of course I do- we have the tried and true interest inventories, small book talks, and general conversation- but this hack really made me stop and wonder that, if I spend so much time collecting, organizing, and analyzing the data I mentioned above- why am I not devoting the same time to gather other information to really complete my picture of that child? 

In this chapter, Barnes and Gonzalez touch upon the “I wish my teacher knew” movement that began in 2015 where Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher, created a lesson but the results were more than she could’ve ever imagined. Soon, this lesson went viral and teachers everywhere took part. It was quite simply amazing. Teachers began to open doors that they never knew were even there with their students and the student answers to “I wish my teacher knew…” changed the lives of students and teachers forever. Not just in Kyle’s classroom, not just in Denver, CO where she is from, but all over the world. You can read  (and watch!) more about this lesson here. One lesson. One teacher. One huge change in the way we look at our job (read: our lives) as educators. This reminds me of a quote I like to look at in the beginning of each school year to give myself a little perspective.

So quite simply put, the hack is, as Barnes and Gonzalez say, to “collect data on the whole child” (Hacking Education, Page 121).  In order to look at this whole child, the authors give plenty of examples of where to look for data- things like student passions, family, and activities. My favorite that they mention is academics. At first, you think, well yeah, I’m totally covering the academic side- look at how much data I have! But then you read it and it says, “Here’s where you can put things a standardized test won’t tell you about a student’s academic needs and preferences” (Hacking Education, Page 123). Well shoot. Are you thinking what I’m thinking right now? Because I’m thinking…well…that’s everything.
 What can I learn about a kid that isn’t on a standardized test…just about everything! Once you frame your thoughts around this concept- I swear this hack makes so much more sense and the need for it becomes so much more immediate. 

The book goes into steps you can take right now to get this hack moving- things like “gather the data, build your spreadhseet, and use the data” (Hacking Education, page 125). I mean, how easy does that sound. Being the paperless person that I am, I instantly envisioned a beautiful google doc with all these columns and rows and color coding.

(See, I told you I get geeked out over data!) It’s not like this new chart of data has to be completed tonight- or even tomorrow- but just knowing it is there- with spots to fill with important information about students- just that thought alone inspires me to fill it out. Can I also just point out that I love how one of the steps they mention is to use the data. How true is this?! As educators, we collect so much data. So, so much. But how much of that data are we using (really using) to guide our daily instruction. Time for some honest reflection here. (Which, side note- if you aren't regularly being honest with yourself and reflecting on your teaching...start now!)
I’d be willing to say that if you are collecting a piece of data that you aren’t using on a day to day basis with your students, THROW IT OUT! Stop wasting your time! Everything we do needs to have a direct impact on our students learning. If not, question it. If it isn’t valuable, ditch it. If it might be valuable, revise it. If it is valuable but you aren’t using it, revise it but also give it a good hard look for why you think it is valuable in the first place. Teaching requires so much reflection- it really is a nonstop flow of questioning and thinking and changing. And it is, after all, for a great cause.

So that brings us to the conclusion of this (I’m just going to say it) life-changing book. The conclusion opens with this beautiful Julian Casablancas (an American Musician) quote. It just puts everything into perspective for me. We don't have to go this path alone. We have each other. Everyone has an at-the-ready PLN if they want it (hello, Twitter!) and everyone deserves someone reach to for help when they need it. This book is just the starting point on that. If you read this book and something in it doesn’t change your life- read it again. If you are looking for a little refresher on why you love education and some quick fixes to make your day-to-day life more manageable and better for your students- you have to read this book. It’s a no brainer.  I'll leave you with this last tidbit from Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez.

Please, if you have any questions, comments, etc., please do not hesitate to leave a comment! All of us in the #D100bloggerPD crew love to hear from our readers!

Also- if you enjoyed following along with us on this study- be sure to pick up your copy of Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School (Hack Learning Series) (Volume 1) ! I got mine through Amazon- gotta love free two day shipping!!


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