Who am I?

MYP Humanities Instructor.  International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. Americorp Alumnae. National Board Certified Teacher.  Traveler & TV Watcher.

This is where I think about these things.

To see what’s going on in my classroom, visit my class blog

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Learning in the 10th Circle of Hell: Learning at the Middle School Dance

Here is my talk from Learning2 Manila. Thanks for letting me have the stage, Learning2. I’m realizing how much fun it is up there!

Watch this talk if…

….you have 8 minutes to spare and you’re running out of internet to read

… you have memories from your middle school dance and need to find a like-minded community

…watching adults awkwardly dancing to Boyz II Men makes you happy

…you think middle schoolers are resilient, amazing people.


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Project One School: Empowering Kids Two Days at a Time

I’m behind. I have about 10 blog posts I need to write. But my words all seem to be going to other spaces…Coetail blogs, report cards, emails. All those places words go. But I’m blogging now. And that’s my little victory for today. 

I’m starting this off with the statement that this wasn’t my project. I was there for support. And ideas. And feedback. And support. But this entire project was the brainchild of Cari Barbour, English teacher extraordinaire. But I did want to blog about it, so I don’t forget.

The Germ of an Idea: Where did this idea come from?

  • Where: At the EARCOS middle school conference
  • When: 2 days in  May 2015
  • Who:  A bunch of middle school teachers from YIS. Just having the group of teachers with time to talk and laugh meant that we could make something happen
  • What: Could we take our middle school kids off of timetable for a project based learning week?

First Prototype: What did we first think would happen?

  • Who: All middle schoolers in mixed grade teams
  • When: One week at the end of the 2015 school year. Beacause we don’t do anything
  • What: Students would create something based around something that interested them. Students would be grouped around themes like “Arts” “Sports” or “Service” We would include sessions about Approaches to Learning.

It was pretty obvious from the first discussion this was a step beyond where we actually were. A week was too much time. The idea of something was too vague. And we were too tired to actually make it happen.

Second Prototype: What we actually did 

  • What: In your groups you will design, organize, and present a new idea to bring together a new idea to bring YIS together.
  • How: The three winning pitches (who met the criteria according to three judges) will be funded by a PTSA grant (thanks PTSA!)


So you want to run your own PBL days and you want to steal some stuff (please do! And then share how you made it better!) 

If you want to see what things actually looked like, check out the Project One School googlesite. This was the resource the kids had and you can see the schedule for the day, what skills they kids worked on, and information about the idea of the pitch and the rubric for the most successful pitch.

  • Reflection: 
    • It was amazing. You should do it at your school. Kids are fantastic and they always step up. They handled the freedom of being off timetable, with minimal teacher supervision, with responsibility and a sense of pride.Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 3.13.56 PM
      • Teach your kids how to do action plans. It’s worth it, even though it sounds boring. At leadership day last year, a bunch of kids were introduced to an action plan and used it to plan events and activities. And with the kids in lots of different groups, there was at least one “expert” who could help the kids create a two day action plan. And now kids are using for dances or for GIN-CAS concerts, etc.
      • I loved watching kids go and talk to people they don’t normally talk to. They interviewed the principal. They found the service learning coordinator. They interviewed grade 3 kids. They surveyed high school kids. It was a great way to get people talking and letting the kids take the lead. When do our kids have the opportunities to do this. Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 8.05.56 AM
      • We need to involve more teachers. I think there was a core group of people who knew (kind of/sort of ) knew was going on. We need more teachers involved next year.
      • Even though kids were off-timetable, logistics were still a nightmare. How is that even possible? Each group had a logistics manager…they needed to know where there was supposed to be and when.
        • Do brain breaks. We had one kid in each group lead people with brain breaks.
        • There were stakes and they were very real. Every group had to present. Everyone had to contribute. There was a winner. This was negotiable.  This is vital to giving energy to the days. Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 3.11.17 PM
          • Kids were practicing all the skills we want them to: Creative commons presentations. Public speaking. Collaboration. Making connections between classes. Collaboration. Collaboration.
          • Here are the kid’s reflections. If it’s possible for a google form to be entertaining, this might be it.
          • Process is more important than product. Do I really need to expand?

Next Steps:

  • 3 groups won. They now have mentor teachers and are working towards getting it done
  • Non-winning presentations may still happen. You don’t have to win to bring the school together.
  • We will do it again. Bigger and better. Stay tuned


Photos found at the YIS Smug Mug


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Learning from Each Other: Getting Meta with Professional Learning

I have recently taken on a new role at YIS…In-School Professional Development Leader. More to come on what this means, but it’s really thinking about how we support teacher learning while at ELC to grade 12, whether in meetings, PD days, or through the  Professional Growth Plan. I’m both excited and overwhelmed with the possibilities.  This post is about the first initiative with this new role. 

Our school, on the somewhat isolated country of Japan, value learning from each other. We also believe in punching above our weight. These are powerful qualities to have in a school. Around 20% of YIS teachers have led a professional development session of some kind outside of school. For a small school, this is a pretty impressive number. And even more teachers have lead workshops at school.

With this is mind, in my new role of in-school professional development leader, was to organize a learning opportunities for teachers who lead PD sessions, at school or away. I wanted to take advantage of the expertise we had of experienced presenters. We have the amazing Kim Cofino, who presents around the world, at our disposal and I wanted to steal ideas from her. And we had design-teacher extraordinaire, Joe Martinez, who does gorgeous presentations. And, equally important, I wanted to help empower other people so that they felt confident in presenting to other adults in a professional setting.

So I sent out this form

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 1.17.14 PM

And I got these responses:

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 1.19.50 PM

Again, I can’t stress enough how small our school is. And at the end of the school year, to see so many people, some of them unexpected, willing spend time thinking about professional development was pretty impressive.

The Three Sessions

Based on the feedback, we ended up having three voluntary sessions, open to all staff. I sent a pre-survey to the people who said they wanted to go to help out Joe and Kim and they did amazing things.

Session 1: May 27th (4-5PM): Designing an attractive and effective presentation. Run by Joe Martinez, this session will look at tools, templates and styles that will allow you to create attractive and effective presentations.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.11.36 PM

For this one, I wanted to give people options other than Presentation Zen. We, as a staff, are pretty good at using images instead of bullet points. I love Presentation Zen, but Joe’s style suggests there might be a next level. As simple as adding lines or pushing Google Presentation to the max, it’s amazing what we can do.

Session 2: June 1 (11-12PM): Creating an one hour workshop: This session will focus on how to plan for a one hour session with adult learners run by Kim Cofino. Kim will address how to create a plan, how to engage learners with with different activities, how to tap into prior knowledge, share ideas/resources and reflect.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.12.21 PM

This session really broke down Kim’s thinking about how to structure, plan and engage adult learners. Practical things like grouping and different protocols for collaborating.  No one knows this stuff better than Kim*. We were beyond lucky to have her as a friend and colleague and this session was just one more example of that.

Session 3: June 11 (4PM-5PM) –Creating an extended session created by Kim Cofino: This session will look at how you plan and organize an extended session for adult learners. This session will address engagement of adult learners (before, during and after), storing/organization/sharing of your PD resources, supporting reflection, and differentiation for adult learners.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.12.34 PM

Have I mentioned no one knows this better than Kim?

Wrapping it all up

The first session had almost thirty people show up. The second session (held on a day with no students) had about 25 people. And the third session, definitely a more niche topic, had about 12 people. It was amazing to see a room with teachers from all different parts of the school, including almost all the administration team, sit down and talk about adult learning.  I wish I took pictures, but I was too busy learning. It’s  pretty meta having a PD session about how to run PD. Kim’s fantastic sessions, in particular, focused on how to run a meeting, by using strategies she uses to run a meeting or learning session. It was a bit trippy. And all three sessions were excellent. I’m not sure of the impact of these sessions yet. I want to do more and I think people want more. We want our teachers to be leaders both at YIS and beyond, because they have so much to share. And I do know that the Head of School ran a end of year meeting using some of the ideas for Kim and Joe’s session. And that can’t be a bad thing.  


* In many ways, the inspiration of this session was to take full advantage of the last days of Kim at YIS. 

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“You’re just like Kris Jenner, Ms. Madrid”

“You’re just like Kris Jenner, Ms. Madrid”.

                                                -Grade 11 DP History Student on May 8th, 2015

That was a new one for me. I’ve never been compared to the matriarch of a family known for living their life on reality TV. So when I was compared to someone Urban Dictionary describes as “a fame hungry control freak who wishes she was 25” I got a little scared.*

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.42.03 PM

But it was a compliment. I swear.

My grade 11 DP history kids created some kick-butt Crash Coursestyle videos. The videos were funny, informative, and clearly my kids had worked hard on them. I may be a little prejudiced, but I think they’re fantastic. So I wanted to share them with the world. I asked them to change their YouTube settings to public and I asked for permission to tweet them out. These kids, who moments before were squirming in their seats when their 10 classmates were watching, wanted me to share them as quickly as possible. And when I was having issues with YouTube the same kids were posting them on blogs that are looking a little dusty.

And it was in this confusion of sharing and technology snafus that I was called Kris Jenner.

When I asked my student to follow up her statement, she said I was trying to make them famous like Kris Jenner made her kids famous. They were excited I thought something they shared was cool enough to tweet out to my 2000 followers.** And of course they’re not going to be famous because of my one tweet. Nor do I want them to be. But I do want their voices heard. I hope they will feel special that I cc’d @johngreen on the message. And I hope they might get just a tiny bit excited when this blog post pings back to theirs. And if they hit double digits on their YouTube videos, that might be kind of cool. This isn’t about keeping up with the Kardashians***, but about telling my students that I think what they have to say is worth other people hearing.

Sometimes I check in with myself to make sure I’m using Twitter and building my PLN for the right reasons. But if I can give my students a voice outside the room, then I think I’m doing okay. And it’s little moments like this, when I’m compared to a woman who (according to the New York Times) “not just invaded the culture but metastasized into it”, that I think I might be doing something good.


* There are days I wish I was 25, though. And there are days I might be a control freak.

** Kris Jenner laughs at this measly number, but it’s been 5 years building up to this point. Still surprises me people press that follow button.

*** I’ve actually never watched this show, so I have no real opinion on Kris Jenner beyond what I’ve learned just by being alive in the internet age. Not because I wouldn’t (I love terrible TV), but because I live overseas.

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Leadership Day 2: Empowering Student Leaders in Middle School

You can’t make the term “project management” sound fun. Or cool. Or like anything you want to think about ever. Every consenant sounds harsh and the concept sounds like something out of The Office.

So with that said, I had a blast talking about project management with 30 middle school kids.

First semester, we instituted our first leadership day (blogged about here). In classic YIS fashion, we decided to up our game and take 30 kids off campus to talk about project management. Now this sounds insane/boring. Instead, it was one of the best days I’ve spent with middle schoolers.

The goal:

To help students learn how to manage big projects that they are responsible for outside of the classroom.

The who:

Students who have been identified as leaders. This was the student council, members of the service committee, and members of GIN-CAS (Global Issues Network-Community & Service). Some of the kids didn’t know why they had been identified as leaders. But teachers and admin saw something special in these kids and so they were invited. It a wide-variety of kids.

Defining Leadership

I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us. We’ve made into something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world. And we’ve taken this title of leader, and we treat it as if it’s something that one day we’re going to deserve, but to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do that we’ve convinced ourselves that those are the only things worth celebrating, and we start to devalue the things that we can do every day, and we start to take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it, and we don’t let ourselves feel good about it –

Drew Dudley- Ted Talk, Everyday Leadership

Some of the kids didn’t know why they had been identified as leaders. But teachers and admin saw something special in these kids and so they were invited. It a wide-variety of kids, from all grades and different social groups. Susie found this great TED talks, which helped us as adults shape what we wanted our students to be: everyday leaders. This helped our kids realize that they don’t have to be the most vocal, or outgoing, person to be a leader. They just had try to make a small difference. This seems manageable to a middle school kid.

The Newspaper Challenge

Most teachers who has ever been to a workshop based around team building/creativity have done the newspaper challenge. You have a limited time and limited resources to build a freestanding structure. For teachers this is old news. For kids, this is new and exciting.

PicMonkey Collage

This was used to talk about all the aspects of project management that we had identified: success criteria, planning, time-management, teamwork, and overcoming problems.

Project Management System

I just added the word system to make it an even more boring phrase. Click here if you want to see all the cool work the kids did to discuss all the phases of managing a big project. It’s way more exciting than anything I can time

Project Work Time

The afternoon was spent working on any upcoming projects.

  • Student Council: Assemblies, Sports Week, and Movie Night
  • Student Service Committee: All-school service fair
  • GIN-CAS: Red and White Concert

PicMonkey Collage

They worked so hard. And they worked because they had something important and something that mattered.

Final Reflections 

  • We need to give our kids time to do these projects we are asking them to do. At YIS we turn a lot of control over to the kids. They run assemblies, put on fundraising concerts, and organize all sorts of things. But like adults, they need the time to do this. To take them off campus and to to give them 3 hours to just work together was incredibly valuable.
  • Project management may not be sexy, but it’s necessary. I’ve already noticed that my student council has been more self-sufficient when it comes to planning. They know what they need to do and they do it.

    This is entirely student generated. I wasn't even shared on it until last week.

    This is entirely student generated. I wasn’t even shared on it until last week.

  • I’m so grateful to my school in how much they support this initiative. The PTSA who helps fund it, the always fantastic Adam Clark, the get-things-done Susie Clifford, my principal and Head of School who took time out of their day to stop by and work with the kids. It’s such a gift to work in a place where the default is “yes, and what can I do to help?”
  • Yesterday, the PE department identified 15 kids (different from the ones who we took on Leadership Day) to help run Elementary Sports Day.
    Grade 8 at ES Field Day

    Grade 8 at ES Field Day

    That means that we have about 45 kids identified as potential leaders, all with different skills. That is a powerful investment into their future of our school.

  • There is nothing out there to help support middle school student leaders. Susie and I ran a workshop at the EARCOS Middle School Student Conference in April.In preparing for this session, neither of us could find any resources for supporting middle school students as leaders. And there should be. So for anyone out there looking for stuff here is our presentation.


  • The Red and White Dance last week and the Service Fair this week were awesome. Kids had all sorts of roles…behind the scenes and up on stage. They did it all. And I truly because our job in middle school it to help them learn and then trust our kids to do amazing things. Because they can do awesome things. Grade 8 running the concert like a boss

Red and White Concert


This is written as part of my Professional Growth Plan focusing on Student Leadership

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Live Tweeting a History Class


 I’m starting this with the fact that I stole the following lesson from Ilja van Wering and Russel Tarr. They are the ones who came up with the great idea of a Historian’s Dinner Party for DP History students. The idea of having students investigate and play the role of historians studying WWI was all their idea and I unashamedly stole their idea. And my students seems to really geek out on role playing a debate and arguing a point of view even if they don’t believe in the position of their historian. And it can make historiography, something that can be a little dry, come alive. With that said, I wanted to talk a little about the process of live tweeting the conversation. I have had a historians dinner party twice…once discussing the origins of WWI and one more time today talking about the origins of WWII. And both time, my only job was to live tweet the conversation. I was the recorder and as such I was silent. And some of my kids joined in the conversation. We use the hashtag #16HISYIS so that we can follow the conversation without following each other. And in the process of live tweeting the conversation, I’ve noticed some real advantages of flipping the script and having me be the notetakers. 1) The conversation can just go. They don’t have to take notes and they don’t have to worry about remembering everything. I’ve shared my tweets with them and they know they can use that to go back and remember the conversation. 2) They don’t need me to talk. Today they talked for 40 minutes without me saying a word. They were in charge of the conversation. And if there was an awkward silence, they had to deal with it. 3) They really listen to each other.

It’s great to see heads nodding in agreement. And to see them shake their heads when they don’t agree. And to see them build on each other’s arguments. And to see them reach out to the quiet students to ensure that they are heard.

4) Through my tweets, my kids can see what I consider important. I can’t tweet everything, so I try to tweet what matters. Like anytime you live tweet, I try to capture the conversation as best I can and to showcase the most salient/interesting points. Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.44.28 PM

5) By having a backchannel some of more talkative students can “talk” without dominating the discussion. And I can “talk” with those students using the hashtag too.

6) There is something about having a global audience that tells my kids this is important. I’m not going to lie, my kids are impressed I have more than 125 followers. So when I say I’m tweeting their conversation, they feel that what they say matters. So they take it a little more seriously.

So next steps

1) I would love to have more kids in the back channel. I haven’t mandated that the kids get twitter accounts, but I would like to nudge them to do it more. Because I love what the add to that conversation.

2) It think there is a way to globalize this. I have a feeling Ilja and I will try to do this via Skype.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.51.45 PM
But with a larger group, there may be value to some kids in the backchannel while others play the historians. We’ll see where this goes. But I’m excited to be the silent one and record my kids learn.


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Attach yourself to people not to apps.

In the past 14 hours I have…

Had a text conversation on WhatsApp with my college roommate about her visit from Chicago to Japan in a couple of weeks.


Had a Facebook conversation with another old roommate who lives in Washington DC about JaRule and his music circa 2001.

Rebekah Madrid    But it’s still fun and games for  Aziz  Ansari ...

Had a iMessage conversation with my sister in London about a piece of art of hers I finally framed.

Also, a very important discussion about The Dress.

Also, a very important discussion about The Dress.

Emailed with a teacher (who I don’t know but met on Twitter) in Sydney about setting up a Skype conversation with her class and mine to talk about Japanese culture.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 8.25.34 PM

Had an amazing Twitter conversation with @traintheteacher (Singapore), @itsallaboutart (Singapore), @wayfaringpath (Thailand), and @JKSuth (Switzerland) about visual note-taking.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 8.47.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-09 at 8.47.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 8.47.22 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-09 at 8.47.29 PM

There is no rhyme or reason to why I choose a certain app to talk to a person. I flit between Twitter, FB, WhatsApp, iMessage. I’m as happy on FaceTime as I am on Skype as I am Google Hangout. I don’t think about what I’m using. I’m only thinking about talking and communicating and sharing.  Some of the ideas are silly and some are important (JaRule is important). But I live in magical times where I can talk to all my favorite people in many different ways in many different spaces..

And this is what our kids do. They do not care what tool they use. They have no loyalty to any app or any product. They just want to talk.

I’ve got a post brewing about our Digital Citizenship Week and how we track what apps our kids are using. And if there is one thing I know, what is the app for sharing and communicating today will be dead tomorrow.

So don’t get attached to any one space. The way you talk to the people around the world, strangers and friends, doesn’t matter. Do get attached to people and to ideas. Because they are what matter most.

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Bouncy Ball Revolution

There are are lot of words written about how we need to get our kids to move.

“Movement isn’t a break from learning; movement is learning” – Washington Post

Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep –  “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today”  in the Washington Post

“the use of therapy balls for classroom seating is one strategy that therapists in school system practice might consider when working with children with ADHD who are having difficulty meeting school expectations of staying on task and remaining seated. Additionally, this intervention strategy was found to be compatible with inclusive educational practice and interdisciplinary teaming.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy concluding that in students with ADHD, sitting on therapy balls improved behavior and legible word productivity

I always feel vaguely guilty about making kids sit on the red plastic chairs I have in my classroom. I try to get my kids to move, but I know from my own school days that those chairs are uncomfortable. So two years ago, on a whim, I bought two giant yoga balls to try out as replacements for chairs in my classroom. I’m now up to four exercise balls, of different sizes. It’s really been a case of asking forgiveness not permission. I’m sure the lovely cleaning lady is annoyed by these balls when she’s vacuuming the mess the kids leave behind. And I know the bouncing can drive my principal crazy when he stops by the room (though he’s never ever asked me to get rid of them to his credit).  Other teachers have looked at me like I’ve lost my mind. And all the bouncing can make me dizzy.

But if I could, I would have 10 more in my room.

This is how my kids sit.

Grade 7

Grade 7

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ndbekah

Grade 7 (not sure this meets Health and Safety)

Also not the safest thing I’ve ever seen

These guys came in one day and just started stretching. I wish they did this more often.

Grade 11 after a test

Grade 7s

Grade 7. That takes core strength to sit on the ball on your knees.

This is the normal way they sit. Just like chairs


Sometimes even the adults when meeting in my room will sit on them.

And in the two years I’ve had them, I’ve noticed a few things.

  • Not all kids like to sit on them, but a lot of them do. They have figured out their own system for sharing the balls and over the course of a week the majority of kids will have had their turn on the ball. And sometimes, on grading heavy days, I like to sit on them too.
  • Boys really like them. There have been a lot of studies and articles written about how traditional schools do not benefit boys who often need to move more than we allow them to. The bouncy balls let them move, stretch, and change their sitting position when they feel like it. And anecdotally, I honestly think it helps them focus. Of course my girls love the bouncy balls. But there is a reason a lot of the photos above are of boys.
  • They are rarely distracting. They are literally part of the furniture. You’ll have to trust me on this.
  • They are sitting much better and this helps alleviate some of my guilt for when they are spending so much time on their laptops. The bouncy balls force them to sit upright and use their core. Otherwise they fall off.
  • In a related note, I’ve never had a kid hurt themselves falling off a ball.
  • It’s spreading…since I’ve gotten them I know there is a yoga ball in the grade 1, grade 5, learning support and in the counselor’s office. I wish (and my kids wish) there  more were in middle school classrooms but the bouncy ball revolution is happening.

All photos creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ndbekah

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Why are you here?

My classroom often looks like this.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ndbekah

A mess. A disaster. Craft supplies everywhere. Boxes that contain things like cans of helium, a disco ball, and a witches hat.

And it often looks like this at lunch time.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ndbekah

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ndbekah
Kids running around making messes. And talking loudly/screaming.

They were in my room today during lunch making messes and making noise. Student Council kids getting ready for Digital Citizenship Week. Dance committee kids get ready for this Friday’s dance. And they didn’t have to be there. I didn’t ask them to come. They were just here.

So I asked them, “Why are you here?”  What makes them want to give up lunch to do work?

Here’s what they said:

My job here is a minion, so I help with everything” Oscar, Dance Committee

“I oversee the whole dance committee and …I want to make sure everything is ready by Friday” Kai – Student Council President

“Since I’m leaving YIS this year, I want to leave it…better” Garrick, Student Council, Digital Citizenship Week Committee

‘We’re not done with the decorations yet” Erica, Student Council, Decorations Committee


I’m getting drinks to the refrigerator and I’m doing it because it’s good for the school” Quirijn, Student Council Member, Dance Committee


“I’m here because it makes me feel like a part of YIS…and make sure they have fun and we have fun as well.” Tessa, Decorations Commitee

“I could be eating lunch, but…I feel the responsibility to make this school a better place and a fun place for others” – Lisa

I love the chaos of getting ready for dances and assemblies and all the other things we do. I am constantly telling these students how happy they make me. And they come because they like feeling part of something. And they come because they feel responsible and they care for other students. The projects have value and the deadlines are real. They come because they are the ones in charge. And they come because it’s fun. And sometimes I wonder how I can translate to the other places where I get to interact with my students.

I do know that the decorations committee will be here Friday before school and Digital Citizenship committee will be here on Thursday. Not because it’s required. But because they want to.


As part of my Professional Growth Plan , I am going to be doing the periodic blog post on how I what I am thinking in terms of Student Leadership





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What’s Next: Beyond Blogging

I was lucky enough to be able to facilitate the Beyond Blogging workshop at YIS earlier this month with Jabiz. Trust me that I get the irony that blogging has fallen to the bottom of my to-do list too many times this school year and I was leading a workshop that was nominally about blogging. So with that said (and some inspiration from various participants) here is my bucket of bullet points.

    • It is great not having the answers. Even when you’re supposed to.  Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 4.08.44 PMEvery time Jabiz and I talked in the weeks leading up to the workshop we kept coming back to the fact that we don’t know what is beyond blogging. And I would get a little nervous/excited about that fact each time. We didn’t know the answers to the essential questions we thought should formulate the questions. We still don’t. And it was great that we could be honest with the participants. It can be a bit scary, considering people traveled a long way, to tell a room of adults that we don’t know the answers they came for. But honestly I hope that when I’m a participant in future workshops the consultant/teacher/leader owns up to the fact they don’t know the answers either. But education is too complex for a single answer to the big questions.
  • I’m not doing everything right when it comes to blogging or the things that are beyond blogging. Far from it.  In theory, I have some ideas of how to use digital spaces to encourage student voice and creativity. Sometimes , in practice, I create opportunities for students to use digital spaces (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc) in an authentic way. But in reality, I don’t do enough. I still require too many posts that are just reflections or worksheets online. Despite modeling it, the blogs aren’t living spaces for my students. And I’m still struggling with how to do it. But the added bonus of not being a sage on the stage, was that I could be a learner too. I could have a conversation with people also grappling with these ideas.



  • I was worried about differentiation for teachers I didn’t know and I shouldn’t have been. It can be hard to plan a workshop for 40 educators with different experiences, teaching philosophies, and levels of experience when it came to tech. But it was truly a joy watching people create products that were relevant to their schools and for their kids.

    ” async=”” defer=”defer”>The products (Vines, infographics, blogs, widgets, videos, and more)  were vastly different and met the needs (I hope) of each participant. And it was a blast watching someone geek out with a new way of sharing, connecting, and creating with their students. And to be honest, these people weren’t strangers. Most of them I have met before at various conferences. Or talked to on Twitter. Or worked with a friend.  There are no strangers anymore.

  • Collaborative blogging and blogging for curation is something I want to explore more. Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 4.13.24 PMEarly in the planning stages Kim made the obvious suggestion that we model what blogs could be. I am moving towards the idea that blogs are places of curation rather than reflection. Bubblecatchers.  So in that spirit, I created a collaborative blog for the weekend. Everyone at the workshop was invited to be editor and after some initial set up on my end, it became a place where we put our stuff. I wasn’t sure if it would work. And there were hiccups and things aren’t perfectly organized.  But I really like that the weekends stuff, most of it unpolished, is online. And it may or may not be a place I go back to, but it served a great purpose for those few days. And I’m wondering how I can take this to other projects.
  • I need to blog more. This is a cliche thing everyone who has a blog thinks on a pretty regular basis.  It takes me a long time to blog. I want the perfect picture, the perfect phrase. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m not a perfectionist by nature, so why do I have to be one in this space.  Why can’t I just post a post-it note with a short phrase of what I’m thinking that day? Or an instagram pic? Or screenshot a couple of tweets that speak to the things I’m thinking about? What can I do to keep building this space?


So as usual, more questions than answers. But that is a space I’m normally pretty happy being in.  A huge thank you to Jabiz for being such a great person to work with. And a massive thank you to everyone who came…it’s nice to know I’m not alone when it comes to this stuff.

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