Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vegas: Teacher Edition

So when I said I'd be back later this week to post about the teacher side of Vegas, I really didn't think it would be Saturday before I got to it! 

My husband has been working crazy hours since we've been back, so I've basically been a single parent all week. Props to those of you who parent on your own full-time. I don't know how you do it.

It's been a crazy week. 

This is what my kids' playroom looks like. 



How one and a half children can make this much of a mess is beyond me, but I show you this because this was the first lesson I learned in Vegas: 

1. You don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to have it all together all the time.

If you're like me, you subscribe to a ton of blogs and follow all of your favorite teacher bloggers on every form of social media. As you scroll through your newsfeeds, you are bombarded with images of colorful new ideas you HAVE to implement RIGHT NOW in your class, teachers who are perfectly dressed and coiffed, and students who are all engaged, happy, and eating up every word their perfect teachers say. Every lesson appears to run smoothly, no child is left behind, and everyone is happy. 


What I was THRILLED to learn on the first day of I Teach 1st is that we all tend to show the highlight reel. Our favorite new outfit, great hair day, a lesson where we really nailed it with the kids. This doesn't mean those teachers we all know and love have it all together every day, but they are still amazing and are doing great work with kids, and THAT'S WHAT MATTERS. 

Enter one said teacher, the fabulous Mrs. Cara Carroll from The First Grade Parade

Now this woman really does have perfect hair and looked gorgeous every time I saw her, and it's impossible not to be happy when you're around her. Her infectious smile and warm hugs (just call her Olaf) make you want to be her best friend. She is a wealth of knowledge about all things primary and the best practices to use with kids, but she also isn't afraid to admit that she doesn't have it all together all the time.

I went to three of her sessions about her math, sight words, and vocabulary instruction, where she shared GREAT ideas that I can take back and use this year with my own kids.

But my biggest takeaway - as she talked about some of her kiddos who "ride the bus down Struggle Street," worried about tripping over the microphone cord, and apologized to the line of eager teachers waiting to take a picture with her for being sweaty - is that it's all ok.  

When my desk is a disaster, my Promethean board pen has grown legs for the one millionth time, I have to run to the copy machine last minute, or one of my kids just DOESN'T GET IT, I will take a breath and remember that it won't always be perfect. It won't always work. And that's ok.  

I'll learn from my mistakes with a smile on my face. 

And I'll go back and try again tomorrow. 

2. READ!

This is a little out of order since I actually saw him first, but Marc Brown (author of the Arthur series) was the keynote that first day at I Teach 1st, and he was fabulous! 

He was funny and engaging, and he truly respects the work of teachers. 

One thing he said hit home for me. He said, "Our kids don't read books because their parents aren't reading books." I realized that not only do I want the parents of my students to set a positive example for their children when it comes to reading, but I need to put my money where my mouth is and do the same thing at home. I read to my kids, but I don't read with them. 

I need to make a concerted effort to put down the laptop/phone/stackofpaperstograde and get out a book. My four year old loves to "read" now, but she may not always. 

Now is the time to create new habits.

3. There are countless amazing apps and tech tools available, but you don't have to try to use them all at once.

I have been following Erin Klein from Kleinspiration for years, too, and she is an absolute pro. I happened to be in the room already when she and her husband walked in. It was clearly not their first presentation rodeo. She started hooking up her macbook while he opened the suitcase full of samples from her classroom and spread them out on the tables. They were up and running in three minutes flat.

Her presentations were no different - flawless from start to finish and overflowing with amazing ideas.

While she truly did seem to have it all together, her advice was exactly what I needed to hear.

Don't try to do it all at once. Instead of trying out EVERY new app, choose one, use it, and then try another one.

The one (ok two) that I want to try this year are Aurasma and ColAR. I'm especially excited about the latter and hope to use it during the first week of school if I can get my hands on some iPads! 

4. Inspire kids to be passionate about learning.

Even more than her knowledge of all things tech, I was especially impressed by Erin Klein's desire to make connections with kids and help them to achieve greatness. She included several videos in her presentations, but one entitled Caine's Arcade had people in tears. If you've never seen it, click the link to watch.

You will be inspired.

Inspired to let your kids pursue their passions and see how far they can go.

I've already talked to my principal about starting #geniushour in my class, and I can't wait to see what my kids are passionate about.

And finally,

5. Make friends.

Let's face it: our job is tough, and we can't do it alone. More than just connections, it's important to build relationships. I'm blessed to have taught (and currently teach) in buildings where I've made lasting friendships. Without them, I would not have been able to do this job.

I've also been fortunate enough in my short time as a teacher blogger to connect with amazing teachers from all over the country through social media such as Instagram, but it's been even more important to me to be able to meet some of them and call them friends.

I was so excited to get to spend more time with Holly from Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Connections and Krea from Learning in Progress. We met this past March at the Spring Teacher Blogger Meet Up, and seeing them again was definitely a highlight of the trip!

I've also connected with other Indiana teacher bloggers, who are always there to answer questions and help a sister out!

Bottom line: We're all in this together. Let's be friends. :)

I learned so much in a few short days.
I can't wait to see what this next school year brings and to head back to Vegas next summer to do it all again!

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