Episode 008: What’s Most Powerful in a Parent-Teacher Conference and the Power of Student Blogging

This week’s podcast is proving a point to me.  I keep learning more and more about our school, our educators and our students as I work to produce these podcasts.  It just reminds me that you can learn a lot when you are preparing to share information with others.  Awesome stuff.

This week I wanted to see if I could involve the parents of our learning community in the podcast.  It’s always interesting to see peoples’ reactions when I ask them to be a part of a video, podcast or even photo.  Many are hesitant but they always, always end up contributing something great when they do jump in.  Podcasts have proven to feel safer for folks, which I’ve found interesting.

As I was asking the different groups about parent conferences I was really struck by the difference between, what I called, our “habits of parent conferences” and what people really centered on when we talked about the power of a parent-teacher conference.  For example, I feel like sometimes, as a parent, I get into the habit of sitting and listening at a parent conference…and it’s not until I’m in the car after that I wish I had asked more about something or heard more about something.  As I talked to teachers and families, and we got past those habitual responses to parent conferences it boiled down to much deeper human connections.  Most interesting or striking was that generally parents wanted to know what their student was like at school and teachers wanted to know what students were like outside of school.  Does this speak to the idea of knowing the whole child or what!?

In the second half of the podcast I was able to connect with some great work being done by @darcierankin around blogging.  In particular, commenting.  The students have been working with paper blogs and using post its to practice leaving comments and then also responding to those comments.  It was truly powerful to hear the students talk about the experience and say things like “Wow…I got six comments!”  I think it was interesting that they were making comments like that not out of the realm of that obsessive need or self-fulfillment of having a ton of followers, but more from the standpoint of having people genuinely interested in what they were sharing.  We even had one student take the learning to a whole new level and create their own blog!  You can check it out at http://evalovessharks.wordpress.com/ 

What a great week!

How Do We Promote Self-Confidence in Educators and Learners

This morning as I was scrolling through my “Watch Later” videos and came upon this one from Dr. Ivan Joseph via TEDx Talks channel.  There are several things that resonated with me throughout the video and helped me think about how we instill self-confidence in education…some things we do really well already and others we could extend upon in the future.  Here are a few points from the talk that really stuck with me because I think they apply to how we are with our students as well as how we are with each other as educators:

  • We often talk about how we value flexible thinkers in our world.  Dr. Joseph talks about how parents often shared with him as the head coach of a soccer team that their children were excellent at “seeing the whole field” or at “kicking goals.”  What he really valued was self-confidence.  I think that connection is true in our world.  When learners represent skill in one or two areas we appreciate that and value that, but when a student can demonstrate the flexibility in thought to learn and experience learning in multiple areas…that’s really powerful for us as educators and for the scholars themselves.
  • Dr. Joseph references self-confidence as a skill…one that can be taught and learned and that it is “the belief in yourself to accomplish any task.”  The first strategy Dr. Joseph presents is repetition.  When we are in a situation where the task feels comfortable, we’ve done it a bunch of times and that nervousness is gone…that’s when we see self-confidence increase.  Think about this in terms of the classroom.  I don’t interpret this to mean that we drill and drill until a task is so mundane that learners aren’t intimidated by it but instead to mean that we practice and practice and practice being open to learning, feedback and risks.  If our scholars have the opportunity for repetition in this experience and gain that self-confidence in taking risks, being wrong and learning, then I think we’ve succeeded in instilling the right kind of self-confidence in our learners.  Dr. Joseph does a great job of recognizing the hardest part about this repetition…sticking with it.  It’s hard to keep repeating something when you don’t see the immediate success.  That perseverance is the hard part and that’s our job as educators…keep our scholars going!
  • Self-talk is the next strategy for strong self-confidence.  We see this everyday not only with our scholars but in ourselves.  How often do we avoid situations that we aren’t confident in?  How often do we see or hear students sharing that they don’t feel confident in something?  All the time!  Thoughts influence actions.  We need to model these positive affirmations for our learners.
  • Thirdly, Dr. Joseph shared that adults, coaches and educators should think about how we support or impact our learners’ self-confidence.  Do we point out the positives (catching them while they’re good) or do we point out the negatives?  It’s a simple strategy but a powerful one to bring into the classroom, the hallway…every interaction.  The results of this strategy speak for themselves.
  • Self-confident people interpret feedback the way they choose to.  That perception is what makes us different, helps us power our own belief in ourselves.  That’s where true self-confidence comes from.

This was a great video for a Sunday morning!  In my searching I also came upon this post that features a conversation guide to accompany this video.

Podcast Episode 007 Finally Up

One of my many goals this year is to increase the level of content that we are sharing with our learning community.  Specifically, I’ve been working on showing our learning and student experiences through our podcast and other social media platforms. This episode features a look at a third grade geology unit.  By sharing student experiences and even just a short listen to the classroom experience my hope is that parents, community members and learners can gain insight into our school experience beyond the opportunities that already exist.

This episode took a little longer to produce than in the past because…we are a victim of our own success!  The podcast has been growing and going so well that it was time for us to upgrade our recording systems…and with that comes a STEEP learning curve.  We’ll get there, but I’m happy to have it complete.  The other thing that has been a great strategy for us is using the podcast as kind of preview to further content.  In this case, we’ll revisit the scholars’ progress at the end of the unit and be able to share the experience after it’s done.

Along with the podcast I was lucky enough to be asked to help out with sharing some photo and video of areas around the school that may have been exposed to erosion.  And yes…I had a blast doing it!

Education Lingo Bingo Resource Share


Lately there has been a whole slew of new education lingo out there.  It’s moving pretty fast!  This year I’ve had many meetings with parents who have the opportunity to hear about new innovations and movements in education and are interested to learn more about my thoughts and the thoughts of our school.  As our staff prepares for parent conferences I tried to think of a way to review and share some of these trends and ideas.  I settled on the idea of a bingo board.  As it turned out I think folks were more interested in the information than in playing bingo which was alright.  Below is the presentation I used during the bingo game as well as one of the bingo cards.  Many of these are specific to Vermont educators, and some are local to our district and supervisory union.  Feel free to make a copy, edit and share.

Listen! Seriously…Listen!

Cleaning between the ears


Today I was recording some audio for a podcast that I’m putting together and I had this aha moment that I didn’t know what to do with.  It wasn’t anything astounding but it was a powerful reminder of how the classroom (or any) environment can be a true challenge for some of our scholars.  Here’s the scenario:

I have a microphone connected to my iPad and another on my iPhone and this group of students are discussing an upcoming geology unit…and it’s awesome!  I love podcasting and I really geek out over good quality audio of kids being themselves.  When I’m in recording mode I’m SUPER aware of extra noises and sounds in the room.  During this session there were things that were amazingly present:

  • Adults in the room can be some of the biggest noise contributors!  This includes me…when the teacher is in the front of the room and extra adults are in the room washing their hands, moving chairs, preparing materials, talking in the hallway, coughing…you name it, it’s noise!  None of this is malicious, but it’s amazing when you isolate your senses to this one area.
  • The student tapping his shoe…just loud enough that I know the audio is picking up his shoe, not the great thing that his classmate just said.
  • The weedwacker running outside the window
  • One student snorting and blowing his nose
  • The iPad that accidentally makes an alert noise

The list goes on.  I’m not saying that any of these things are inappropriate or wrong in nature.  Noise happens…but think about that student that has trouble focussing.  If these things were driving me through the roof imagine what everyday in the classroom is like for that student.  Wow.  It was a great reminder for me to consider the students perspective (or anyone’s for that matter) before I do anything else.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to edit out some noise from the next RESVT Podcast!

Chance to Stretch My Legs…and Learn

photophoto 2

Today I had an opportunity to work with middle school student council members on blogging.  I was amazed at the energy these scholars had toward contributing stories to their school blog.  I asked them questions as we worked and I was just energized by their answers:

  • Me: “Why do you think this blog is important?” Students: “Because we do a lot of cool stuff and people don’t know about it!”
  • Me: “How are you going to work on this during the week?” Students:”How ’bout we set up a shared doc, then we can all work on it together throughout the week. And we can make it one document, write the posts on it and share with the principal!  Oh, and we can send him photos to post on the Instagram account like when we’re at games or events!”
  • Students: “Can you show us how to embed video?  We have a lot of events that would be great to share that way!”

You get the idea.  It was just powerful to hear these students wanting so badly to share their world, and how proud they were of their school community.  It was an honor to get the chance to walk on over across the parking lot and work with this team!  It’s also a reminder of the great collegiality and collaborative opportunities that can exist with schools within your systems.  Great day and I’m excited to see these journalists hit the blogging world!

Episode 003…and Still Learning

Published the third episode of our school’s podcast this week and it’s amazing how after just three episodes I continue to find things to learn and improve!  This week a colleague and I have been looking at how to get our podcast hosted on an RSS feed so our listeners can easily subscribe and get these AMAZING podcasts easily on any device.  

I’m a little bummed because I had a background track all hammered out that wound up not making it into the published version because I set the volume too low. That’ll be the last time that happens!  

This continues to be a great learning experience and has helped me look at how to share learning with our community through a different perspective and that’s been great!