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Saturday, November 29, 2014


We teach to inspire our students and change our small corner of the world. Sometimes, we need a little inspiration ourselves. So, here's a pick-me-up for teachers of good things that make our world a better place. 

featured
Unilever Project Sunlight Partners with HatchKids to teach that even the smallest act of sharing a meal can change the future of a child. Could you feed a child for a week on $36.50? These kids are going to try.  Such a small but powerful way to teach about childhood hunger. 
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What the Slow Food movement can teach the United States about education reform: A fascinating article from The Atlantic on slowing down our instruction to create more meaningful engagement.
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Ten Soul-Feeding Quotes on Writing from The Gift of Writing
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#RulesoftheGame: How Project Love is Teaching At-Risk kids How to Use Values to Succeed
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Super Cool Science: Watch as a White Blood Cell Chases Bacteria - Extraordinary!
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30 Historic Moments in Photographs ~ Lots of Close Reading of a Picture Possibilities

Kids traveling to school through the Indian Himalayas & other amazing journeys to school from around the world.
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Rita Pierson: Ted Talk
If you haven't seen this TED Talk yet, make time to watch it today! She understands the impact of turning an ordinary moment into an extraordinary connection.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Legacy of Excellence Awards

Wow!  What a memorable experience!  On Friday, November 14, I was deeply honored to be recognized as the 2014 Fulton County Teacher of the Year. From being surrounded and supported by mentors, colleagues, and family to parading into the ballroom behind the Centennial High School drum line, the day left me filled with love and appreciation for the educators in our county. Since then, I've had several requests to share my speech.  I've posted it below. My challenge for all educators:  How can you turn one moment of ordinary into the extraordinary?

“How long is just one second?  Sometimes, forever.”
-Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Forever.
It’s infinite, undefinable, and our most motivating agent of change.

One second.
It’s a moment in time that may feel like the briefest whisper of extraordinary, or the longest exhale of the ordinary.

When put together, one second and forever, defines our impact as teachers.

And as an Auburn graduate, I know that my fellow Auburn alumni understand how much can change in a just one second.  War Eagle!
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I’m standing up here today in a moment of both gratitude and holy terror. J It is such a blessing to be named the Fulton County Teacher of the Year.  This is an honor that I could not have an anticipated, but one that I will remember forever.  I have to be honest, though.  I’m out of my comfort zone standing before you to speak.  But, the one thing I know for certain is that my life as an educator continues to evolve each time I find the courage to speak up, share my ideas, and serve as an advocate for my students. And, I find, that a single moment of courage, a willingness to be a little different, and a motivation to push a little farther leads us all out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
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One second. Forever.

It’s really about courage and risk, hope and action, and changing our thinking to embrace an uncertain future.

It’s about jumping off script for the teachable moment, taking the deep breath rather reacting, just showing up to do the next right thing, and telling ourselves that we are good enough to change the world right now.  The change in our thinking that we make in a single second has the ability to impact the lives of our students forever.

 I don’t know about you, but I feel that being an educator gets harder every day. Our students seem hungrier for attention, desperate in some cases for an extended hand, and more distracted than ever from rapid changing technology. There’s an unspoken gaze that seems to say, “Please make sense of this world for me.”

 The pace of change is increasing exponentially, and creating an uncertain future for our students.  We now have robots that perform surgery, educators who teach online instead of in a classroom, and cars and trucks computerized to drive themselves. Of course, we’ll still need doctors, teachers, and engineers, but we can’t exactly predict the workforce skills needed for 21st century careers. 

 As educators, we have a deep desire to fix this for our littlest, most vulnerable people.  We’re faced with adapting to changing curriculums that will develop problem-solving, reasoning, and perseverance. The movement away from by-the-book teaching towards higher-order thinking is both challenging and exciting.

It can be overwhelming, though. We’re human and we seek comfort in what is familiar and known.  We seek comfort in the small moments of ordinary.

But each day, we have a choice of whether to operate in our zone of Comfort, Risk or Danger.

This zone of Comfort is usually a place where we feel at ease.  We have a good grip on our environment, and we know how to navigate occasional rough spots with ease.  It’s the “go-to” lesson that students have loved in the past.  There’s a time and place for it, but not every day. 

 The Danger Zone tends to be the angry, stubborn place that we latch on to when we feel unable to adapt, move ahead, or unsupported. 

The Risk Zone, though, involves adapting to new circumstances, and it’s where passionate learning takes place. It’s where people are willing to try something new and be ok with not knowing everything.  It’s where people will consider options or ideas they haven’t thought of before.  The Risk Zone is where innovation and creativity partner together to spark the energy and engage the imagination of students. 

And it only takes one courageous second to move into the Risk Zone.  That’s what I’ve noticed about teaching. One courageous second of thinking innovatively and acting decisively to impact the life of a child. Forever. 

………..
I am humbled and honored to be standing here in front of you. Thank you Dr. Avossa, Dr. Murri, and the TOY committees for recognizing me as the Fulton County Teacher of the year and allowing me to share my vision of education.

I have a village of family, friends and mentors that I want to take a moment and recognize. 

Dr. Maisha Otway and Patti Blalock, Hillside’s administrators, have allowed me to flourish under their care, by being receptive to my out of the box ideas, and constructive, yet gentle, with my even wilder ideas. Thank you for helping me work in my risk zone.

Kelly M. and Meagan E. have served as my mentors and life support as I’ve found my footing in teaching. Kelly and Meagan are my models for creating the extraordinary out of the ordinary seconds of the day.

My husband, kids, mom, and in-laws…I simply could not serve as an educator without you being there to lift me up, reminding me to have courage and strength, greeting me with joyful smiles, and being understanding when I fall asleep on the couch, or in the car, or at the dinner table, at 6:30 at night after a challenging day of teaching. 

I'm very appreciative to my close friends that have seen me through my highs and lows, and whom have been an endless source support for my kids as I balance working with raising a family.

As I think about these moments of encouragement and support that my village provides for me, I’m reminded that each occurs in an ordinary second of time. And, it forever changes my life and the lives of the students I teach.

My favorite teaching quote comes from Sir Ken Robinson, in which he says,

We will not succeed in navigating the complex environment of the future by peering relentlessly into the rear view mirror.  To do so, we would be out of our minds.”
--  Sir Ken Robinson
Now, before I end, I have a challenge to you as the best and brightest in your school:

On Monday, how can you turn one second of ordinary into something extraordinary? 

It only takes one courageous second of change to impact forever.

Thank you!
The Centennial Knights Drumline escorts me in.  So cool!

I finally made a Jumbo Tron!

The Red Carpet Treatment ~ If only all teachers could be greeted like this daily!

A Pic with Dr. Avossa (right), Superintendent of Fulton County Schools, and my husband, Steve (left).

A Pic with my supportive Hillside ES Admin Team

Yes!  I really won a car! Thank you Wade Ford of Smyrna!

Striking a pose with the Atlanta Falcon Cheerleaders...I'll leave the cheerleading to these ladies!
A Pic with two of FCS top teachers, Meagan E. a Hillside colleague, and Amy B., the High Point ES Teacher of the Year.

*Resource for the Zone of Comfort, Risk and Danger: National School Reform Faculty