Okay friends. I have a LOT to say. Buckle up and brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one. This day…this WEEK was one of the best in my 10 years of education.
My first year as Instructional Technology Coordinator for the entire district was a little overwhelming. Going from 750ish students and 30 teachers in a building to 14,000 students and over 1000 certified teachers can cause a gal to feel a little anxious. I wanted to do ALL the THINGS for ALL the PEOPLE in ALL the PLACES! I couldn’t. I was having a hard time finding a way to be effective and efficient in training teachers because it was difficult to build relationships with people that I saw once or twice a quarter. I wanted to find a way to show the teachers that I cared. I felt like these teachers were my students and I wanted to how much I cared.
Flashback to ISTE in July of 2015, during the pre-unconference (Teach Meet ISTE) there was a quick 7 minute session by Crystal Kirch, a technology director in southern California, on school-level instructional technology coaches. I fell in love with the model. Now that I was experiencing my own difficulties as a district level tech coordinator, I reached out to Crystal for more information. She was gracious enough to share her vision and processes. I wanted all of our schools to have a person on whom they could rely. Additionally, I wanted to create a community that thrived on collaboration rather than competition. I wanted to create a space for these amazing teachers where they could rely on each other and share ideas.
While Crystal’s model worked well in her district, I knew we did not have the funding to place a full-time coach in each of our 22 schools. I began brainstorming this idea with our Director of Technology in the fall of 2015 in order to come up with a similar solution but on a much smaller budget. I wrote a KySTE outreach grant in December 2015 for the #HCSInnovate Teacher Fellowship. It was the first step in putting our own vision on paper. We were not awarded the grant but it didn’t stop our momentum. Our Director of Technology believed in this model and began to find a way to fit this program into his budget. After receiving formal approval from the HCS leadership team (Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent,Chief Academic Officer, Chief Operations Officer and Director of Public Relations) we released the program to our entire staff and officially opened applications for the 2016 #HCSInnovate Teacher Fellowship. We had close to 100 applications district wide. Teachers were excited and were clearly craving the district-wide connections. Applications were reviewed and the teacher fellows were announced in July 2016.
From the moment I sent the first email, I knew I had finally found my HCS tribe. One teacher from every school, same energy, same enthusiasm, same passion. Friends. I’m literally tearing up as I am typing. These people are so special to me already.
We had our first training on August 26th. Training teachers is what I do, literally, for a living. I don’t get nervous, I don’t usually over-prepare. But THIS training had me feeling all the butterflies. I wanted to set the tone with them for entire year but I also wanted them to connect with each other and really build a community together. I wanted to treat them right, make them feel incredibly special but most of all…enjoy the day.
I recently attended the California Google Teachers Institute. I walked in that room and was overwhelmed with the positive energy. Our table was decorated, balloons, stickers, tattoos, the whole nine yards. Our team leader for the institute, Jerome Burg, treated us RIGHT. I wanted to re-create that feeling for our fellows. I snagged some swag from the Google store in Mountain View for them and decorated all the tables. According to Bluegrass Middle School #HCSinnovate fellow, Sarah Cross, “Balloons just make me happy.” Me too, girl, me too. Balloons were a must.
The best part of the morning was spreading our excitement with our central office staff!
Lattes all around!
We kicked off the morning with an excruciating lesson in growth mindset by Jami Reynolds, Instructional Program Specialist at Bluegrass Middle School and Hope Street Group Fellow. Jami was the mastermind behind this whole thing and it was truly one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. We started by giving the fellows a “fun, little icebreaker” with the following directions.
So our plan was to give them a difficult, near impossible task (at least with THOSE directions). Let me tell you something about this group of people. After about 5 (EXCRUCIATING) minutes, I looked at Jami and said, “If we don’t pull the plug on this, someone is going to figure this out and ruin our lesson.” She forced me to let it go on a little longer. I was so shocked by the amount of perseverance, determination and sheer grit that was present in that room. I am 110% sure they handled this better than I EVER would have.
Kim Crowder, Howevalley Elementary School fellow, installed a split screen extension and had Google Sheets on one and Alice Keeler’s badging instructions on the other. I about died.
Sarah Cross, Bluegrass Middle School fellow and Brooke Cato, Radcliff Elementary fellow, went straight into that script editor like a boss. Susan Carson, John Hardin High School fellow, (I’m 100% convinced) is not scared to try anything. Bless.
After letting this go on (way longer than I wanted to, REYNOLDS…HAHA) I fessed up and introduced Jami. I had never sat in on a training specific to growth mindset and it was pretty cool. Here is the breakdown from our sweet fellows. They rock.
Next, we moved into a lesson on personalities. One of my goals of the #HCSinnovate Teacher Fellowship is to invest in our digital LEADERS in our schools. With a STRONG emphasis on the word leader. Understanding personalities that differ from your own and how to relate to those types of people, I believe, is a crucial step to developing strong leaders. We took THIS personality test that a friend had shared with me literally 3 days prior to this training. Honestly, this was my favorite part of our day. I feel like the more authentic and intentional our interactions can be with our colleagues (and students) the more successful we will be and …wait for it…happier!
My results? The Campaigner.
Once everyone had taken the test, we moved into groups with similar personalities. We had a great authentic discussion about what we appreciate from other people and what bothers us. In my group of “Campaigners”, Stephanie Taylor, North Middle School fellow made a comment that I believe summarizes me perfectly. “You know what irks me?! When people complain without solutions!!” She made this comment and the whole gaggle of us cheered. It’s nice to find people who are just like you.
We then moved into groups who were different than us and had the same conversation. When we came back together as a whole group, one of the most powerful things was a comment by one fellow with a very diplomatic personality (“The Consul” I believe). She went to a person in the room, “The Commander”, whom she struggled relating. The conversation was so organic, so transparent and SO POWERFUL. I love learning how best to love others, have sensitive conversations in a completely neutral, unbiased environment. So good.
For the rest of the day we covered several topics ranging from Google Forms, Google Classroom to Google Hangouts with a splash of a fun, little ice cream #SupriseAndDelight in the afternoon!
It was literally the best day.
Oh wait. I’m sorry, did you think I was finished?! Friends, I haven’t even gotten to the best part.
Flash forward to Monday. My Google Hangout rings. **Ring, ring** It was Allison Hahn, Woodland Elementary School fellow, and her partner teacher LeeAnn Yonker. Heaven help. They were working on a card sort in Google Draw for their first graders. TOGETHER, we were able to create a very realistic solution for her first graders to utilize a tool that I NEVER WOULD HAVE DREAMED could work with “firsties.” We are SO MUCH BETTER together. Wow.
Then…I get another buzz on Google Hangouts and this happened:
Right?! The collaboration is OFF THE CHARTS. This is only one example of the NUMEROUS times this week someone has jumped in to answer a question, helped out another fellow, or request collaboration.
This week also happened to be #KyEdChat and we had several of our fellows jump in! Thanks to the amazing, Nick Newton, Rineyville Schools, some of our fellows were celebrated at their school for trying new modes of professional development! Way to go Ciji, Rineyville Elementary School fellow!! (And HUGE s/o to Nick Newton for being #PurpleCow and investing in his colleagues!)
Yesterday was our first PL day of the new school year. About 7:30 AM yesterday, an epic group was established. The SpED Tech Team. This team of dedicated special education teachers, Alison Langley (North Hardin High School #HCSinnovate fellow), Allison Hahn (Woodland Elementary School #HCSinnovate fellow), and Nick Newton (Low Incidence, Purple Cow Extraordinaire) are committed to reaching all special education teachers in Hardin County Schools to help them work smarter, not harder and embracing Google Apps for Education to do just that.
Danna Pearsall, Central Hardin High School, led a session at her school on Google Forms and created her own resources just for them! She also shared them in our #HCSinnovate shared Google Drive folder.
Ashley Woosley, Lincoln Trail Elementary School, created an extensive (SUPER easy to follow) PDF direction sheet to help her teachers ease the stress of iPad signouts, which she was gracious enough to share with our group. Several fellows have already used her directions!
Alison Langley, North Hardin High School, created a successful model for authentic, intentional “tech tool” PD last school year and is currently working on a blog post of directions for the other fellows to use and implement in their own schools.
Joe Stuecker, Early College and Career Center, co-led a PD with me on Google Forms for assessment to help the teachers be more efficient.
Erica Wyatt, Creekside Elementary School, led a session for her admin team on using Google Classroom with staff.
You guys. Do you SEE THIS!? Magic is happening in Hardin County Schools. Just wait. This group is going to do BIG THINGS.