Friday, September 23, 2016

Busy in the Best Kind of Way

    One of my biggest fears in taking this job was that I wouldn't have anything to do. As shown by my blog post "But what do I do on the first day?" I have an ongoing uneasiness that people will not ask to work with me, or find value in sharing their precious prep time working on my ideas. This week, however, I was BUSY! The kind of busy where you are watching the clock to make sure that you aren't late to your next classroom, where you are wishing you would have scheduled a couple extra minutes to get from place to place, the type of busy that leads to apologies for being late to your next meeting. It is a different kind of busy then the busy you face as a classroom teacher. This kind of busy is not just for the students you teach, but accountability to adults and their students. It is the kind of busy that I look back on and think, "who would help if I didn't take this job?" It is the kind of busy that makes me feel appreciated, and needed, and excited about being busy again next week. 

I thought I would take this opportunity to brag about the amazing people I work with and the things that have kept me busy all week. Here are a couple of highlights. 

I would never have guessed that I was the type of person to like meetings. However, my meetings this week included planning amazing Project Lead the Way curriculum, getting teacher buy in to google classroom use, initiating digital assessment with google forms in mathematics, setting up our Global read aloud partnerships, becoming a pilot site for some pretty awesome 3D models, and leading JEDI training on Interactive documents. It was a busy week, but that's the way I like them. I enjoy being busy when it is busy in the best sort of way. Busy teaching, busy learning, busy helping other people impact the lives in even more ways. have a great weekend everyone! I hope it is busy in the best sort of way!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Motivation for Next Week

Sometimes we get to Fridays and say, "where did that week go?" Other times we get to Fridays and say, "Thank goodness we finally made it!" This week I got to Friday and thought, "Wow! What a good week!" This job is a work in progress. There are still moments in my day when I admit to myself (and sometimes others) that I am not sure what I am doing, but I think that is part of any job. The reality is that thinking you know what you are doing all the time leaves very little room for growth. Admitting that I don't know what I am doing gives me an opportunity to grow in that area and I think that is great. 

This week there were things that came up that challenged me as an educator and as a person. I could take that challenge and use it to feel defeated. I could take that challenge and use it to do better. I could take that challenge and ignore it. It is how you choose to accept that challenge that defines who you are as an educator. The role that I have been placed in means that I have the opportunity to impact every child in the district! If I work my days right I get to contact two building principals, classroom teacher K-8, students K-8, and everyone else who makes this school what it is. That is a huge privilege that I didn't have trying to manage the day to day happenings in my own classroom with my own students. There is a quote...

but I would argue that with great privilege comes great responsibility as well. I have the privilege of being in every classroom, but the responsibility that high level science education is being delivered. I have the privilege of seeing countless children's faces light up when they get something to work on their computers, but the responsibility to support their teachers in providing those opportunities. I am challenged to be better, because we should all be challenging ourselves to be better. 

As part of my new role, I built on the ideas of our middle school teachers and started a website called Merton Science Scholars. the idea of the site is that 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who are interested in science, reporting, photography, website building have place to showcase their skills and share their work. I talked to three grade levels of students during the second week of school and 31 of them have signed up to take part in this project. I have 13 reporters, 24 photographers, 3 guest bloggers, and 7 website editors (I know that adds to more than 31...some kids just wanted to be part of it twice!) 31 kids who agreed to take time, outside of school, to work on science, to write about science, to share their love of science. Today I took all of their responses to the question "Why do you want to be part of science scholars?" and dropped them into a word cloud generator and this is what emerged...

This is why I will embrace the challenges of this position, the challenges of education in general. I want to create a generation that is all of the things that this graphic embodies. I want to create a generation of Merton students that truly LOVE SCIENCE!

Friday, September 9, 2016

So i have survived the first two "weeks" of being in my new role. We are well past the 'what do I do on the first day?' and onto the 'what can wait until tomorrow?' question. I had a staff member comment today that I looked really busy. The good news is I AM! 

One of my biggest fears of leaving the fast paced, busy environment of the classroom is that I would be bored in my new job. I am not the type of person who would do well sitting at a desk doing the same task day after day. I didn't even have a concept of what that would be like. My fear has been extinguished as I finish my week with a to do list already in the works to work on over the weekend and tackle head on next week. This week had some low points (Imagine spilling a tray of hundreds of VEX parts all over your office floor. That was me on Tuesday), but when it came down to reflecting on each day I was able to find high points, and continue to be reminded why I took this position. Here is one of the highlights of the week... 
I get to teach Pallet to Project an amazing opportunity for our 8th graders to try out woodworking. Today we started breaking down our pallets. It was hot, the kids struggled, there were bees flying around, and not a single child complained to me. I said to our District Administrator that I wish kids embraced struggle in ever class as well as they embraced it today. They came into the building, put their stuff away, and started talking about the great ideas they had for projects to build. When I brainstormed the class I figured we would have some picture frames, a birdhouse, maybe a stool. But today a kid told me his group is building a wooden biplane! Amazing! Not only did they struggle through the experience, they came out the other side ready to challenge themselves even more. 

Have a great weekend everyone, and gear up for a 5 day week!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

But What do I do on the first day of school?

Since accepting the position as the Science and Technology Integrator for our district, I have had one question that I have asked repeatedly "What do I do on the first day of school?" Having been in the classroom for the last 5 years, the first day of school is often filled with getting to know you activities, team building, talks of summer break, and establishing of routines. It is sometimes filled with hallway confusion as sixth graders first learn to navigate a schedule with different teachers for each subject, and panic as students try their combination for the 5th time only to find that the locker is still locked. After 5 years in the classroom, I knew how to manage a first day of school like that listed above, what I didn't know how to manage was a first day of school where I didn't have students to be responsible for, or a schedule to fill my day. This led me to the repeated question of "What do I do on the first day?"

Then, yesterday, it came to me, that I really needed to decide for myself what I was going to make of this first day. I could sit in my office and say I had planning work to do, and read up on the new technology innovations I could help people integrate. I could stand in the hallway and help kids read their schedules and unlock the lockers that are just too hard to unlock on the first day. I could do whatever I wanted. I was free to make the day whatever I wanted it to be. 

I decided that in an effort to be visible, around, and not in my office all year, I needed to start on the first day by being just those things. I decided to spend my first day of school documenting everyone else's first day of school. I made it my priority to visit every classroom at least once during the day and photograph the looks of the kids as they found their cubbies for the first time, or came to 4K for the first time, or came back for their final year at Merton school. I documented the teachers leading their spaghetti tower building contests, burning balloons to show chemical reactions, and playing name memory games to get to know there students. I was introduced to class after class of students as "This is Mrs. Iwanski. You will see her a lot because she is going to help make Science awesome for you!" I had contact with more individual students and teachers then if I would have been in my own classroom. I branched out of my zone of comfort and into the zone of my new job and in doing so experienced the first day of school in a whole new way. 

Here is the quick list of some things I would have missed if I had my typical 6th grade first day of school:
  • A kindergartner offering that a class rule should be "Don't pee your pants"
  • Meeting our 7th and 8th graders with "Happy New Year" hats and noise makers
  • 5th graders learning to live out of cubbies instead of desks
  • Hearing a group of students react when a teacher introduced me as a Tech JEDI
  • Getting to help problem solve and make a solution to a video problem so the primary building can have Merton Way day tomorrow
  • Laying on the floor of the hallway coloring with students from last year creating our mural of hands for the hallway
  • Seeing in person how hard all of the teachers at Merton work to make it the best place for kids to learn
There were moments today when I missed having my own classroom, but then I remembered that if I was in my classroom then I would have missed all of the other moments I was having in my day, and all of the moments I was able to capture. All in all it was a great first day on a new adventure. All I am left wondering is "So, what do I do on the second day of school?"