What did you do in school today? with Rich Czyz

Today I asked our question: “What did you do in school today?” of Rich Czyz, a director of Curriculum and Instruction living in Pennsylvania and working in New Jersey. This series of blog posts includes responses to our question from educators from all over the world, of all content areas, in all grade levels, and in various teaching assignments so that together, we will have a better understanding of what is happening TODAY IN SCHOOL. For more information about this series or to write your own response to the question, please visit this page.

June 25, 2015

For the last few weeks, I have been involved in our district’s interview process to fill several vacant positions. This process can sometimes prove to be tedious, sitting through multiple interviews, listening to similar answers, and often working through lunch.

However, on a day like today, the positives outweigh the negatives. Today was one of those days where you come to appreciate why you became an educator in the first place. Today was one of those days when you realize that there is a generation of new teachers who are looking to make a difference for students.

Several candidates interviewing for teaching positions demonstrated a particular confidence, an honesty in detailing how they would help struggling students, as well as the right amount of humility in admitting that even they don’t have all the answers.

RCwordle2What impressed me most about the candidates that we interviewed today was their commitment to students. One of the questions that we asked each candidate was: “How do you help ALL students in the classroom?” As a teacher, you often encounter a wide range of skill levels and abilities in your classroom. Many students might be on task but require some assistance. Some students may be struggling, while others have grasped the concept and are ready to move on. One of the most difficult things to do as a teacher is to be able to meet the needs of ALL students. Most of our interviewees alluded to this fact, but were still prepared with a variety of suggestions and strategies for how they would address this same situation in the classroom.

Not every answer was a perfect answer, but for those successful candidates, they demonstrated a commitment to doing the right thing for students. On my first day of teaching, my mentor gave me a very simple piece of advice. She said, “Every decision that you ever make should be made in the best interests of students.” While sitting through a full day of interviews, I was again reminded of this wisdom. The interview process can sometimes be overwhelming, when it seems as if you can’t find the right candidate. Today, however, was different! I again renewed my belief in educating children-why we wait for the right candidate, the person who will make a difference in the lives of children every single day.

PbqWXjAj_400x400Rich Czyz is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in the Stafford Township School District in New Jersey. He is a former 5th grade and basic skills teacher. Rich is the co-creator of the Four O’Clock Faculty website and education blog, which can be found at www.fouroclockfaculty.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RACzyz.

What did you do in school today? with Ellen Deem

Today I asked our question: “What did you do in school today?” of first grade teacher and Phillies fan, Ellen Deem. This series of blog posts includes responses to our question from educators from all over the world, of all content areas, in all grade levels, and in various teaching assignments so that together, we will have a better understanding of what is happening TODAY IN SCHOOL. For more information about this series or to write your own response to the question, please visit this page.

I can’t stop thinking about Ryne Sandberg. He’s in the Hall of Fame. He knows more about the game of baseball than most. He spent years teaching players skills in the minor leaIMG_2948gues before he became a major league coach. Despite his best efforts, his team, my favorite team, the Phillies weren’t improving. When he knew he had done all he could, he stepped aside. He put the needs of his players ahead of himself. Ever since I heard the news that he resigned from his position as manager I have thought, “he put his students first.” I’m not suggesting that I want to resign from teaching. I need to resign from teaching the way I have always taught. I need to throw out a career’s worth of lesson plans. Like Ryne Sandberg, I need to let go and start with a fresh new approach to my calling. 

The best lesson I learned this past school year is “It’s all about the kids. It’s never been about me.” When I made the decision to make creativity a major priority in my teaching, miraculous moments started happening. I no longer had to teach communication and collaboration. My students were teaching each other how to communicate and collaborate. They were solving problems every time we tried a new app. In a matter of 30 minutes a Target bag full of toilet paper tubes was transformed into an entire zoo of wild animals. When it came time to make their Genius Hour projects they chose a variety of formats to present what they learned. Their construction paper projects were three dimensional. I had students begging me to make Popplets and Keynotes during their free time.

Embracing the mess took time. But what I found was the more I stepped aside and encouraged my students to lead, the more willing they were to help with classroom organization. When they didn’t take responsibility for keeping the classroom clean, they knew we would run out of time to make stuff. Making stuff became their favorite incentive. Whether we used Legos, construction paper, or iPads, making stuff made school more meaningful and more fun. What I realized, probably somewhere in the middle of the winter, is I was having more fun, too. I had rediscovered my passion for education. 

Deciding to be a student-centered educator was a gradual process for me. My principal and assistant principal kept encouraging me to run with my ideas, and my growing PLN on Twitter gave me additional support when I felt like I was running out of steam. I can’t even remember how I found the Twitter communities #bfc530, #Read4Fun, #EdBeat, and #whatisschool which are so important to me now. What I can’t understand is how I taught for so long without my PLN.


Connecting with colleagues at ISTE.

Because of the generosity of my school’s Dad’s Club and my students’ parents, I was able to attend ISTE this past week. Having the opportunity to connect with these educators in person was life changing for me. It was like reuniting with old friends when in reality it was the first time we had met each other in person. We made connections that will benefit our students with infinite possibilities. I can’t wait to see what happens next. The closing keynote speaker, Josh Stumpenhorst, was right. We are our students’ best resource. The more we support each other the more our students will soar.

Today I went to Turner Field to watch my Phillies play the Braves. Adam Morgan was kind enough to sign my photo book before the game. Jesus Tiamo threw souvenir balls to Phillie fans between warming up pitchers. Jake Diekman grinned as I exclaimed delight to see him back in the bullpen, and Justin DeFratus and I talked about C.S. Lewis again. Cameron Rupp watched intently from the dugout, and Pete Mackanin’s faith in Luis Garcia resulted in a scoreless 9th inning. Cole Hamels pitched beautifully for seven innings, and Jeanmar Gomez smiled when Cesar Hernandez made an amazing late inning play at second base. I think I saw Ryne Sandberg, too, though I might have been the only one who spotted him. I saw him in the leaders he left behind. Now you might be wondering who won the game? For that detail, check the Phillies Braves box score for Sunday, July 5, 2015.

Ellen Deem is currently teaching first grade at a Catholic school in North Carolina. Ellen has been image_400x400active on Twitter for a little over a year. Her favorite form of professional development is connecting with other educators through ed chats. Ellen has helped moderate the spark chat #bfc530, and she attended her first EdCamp this past February. Ellen assists other teachers at her school with implementing new technology tools as a member of her school’s technology committee. You can connect with Ellen on Twitter at @deem_ellen.

What did you do in school today? with Kimberly Sutton

Today I asked our question: “What did you do in school today?” of Kimberly Sutton all the way in Sydney, Australia! This series of blog posts includes responses to our question from educators from all over the world, of all content areas, in all grade levels, and in various teaching assignments so that together, we will have a better understanding of what is happening TODAY IN SCHOOL. For more information or to write your own response to the question, please visit this page.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Today was the last day of school before going on winter break.

We started our morning in the same fashion we do every morning and then followed with a lesson about global organisations. My students talked, worked and researched. Today felt the same as any other day.

Recess came along and my kids asked if they could come back into the classroom and hang out. And they did. Like any other day.


“This classroom belongs to my kids. It’s their space. It’s not messy; it’s creative.” ~Kimberly Sutton

Like any other day, some of the boys spent their recess, in the classroom, playing with cardboard boxes. Some of the girls sat by me, asking me questions about what I’d be doing if I wasn’t teaching, they asked questions about what I loved about school when I was their age, they shared stories about what they were up to in their lives. We shared stories and and asked each other questions just like any other day.

And just like any other day, some of my boys came up to excitedly show me the things they’d be doing on Minecraft, and I’d get them to teach me how they did it.

Now I know that this blog post is to share stories about what I’m doing at this very moment. What I was specifically teaching about, learning about etc. However, I’ve made it quite clear that these happenings happen just about every day.. Over and over, day in day out. But you know what? I am not bored by this.. Nor would I ever change giving up my lunchtimes.

I’ve realised how much of a connection I’ve made with my students. The fact that they want to come in at every break, just to hang out, just to ask questions, just to excitedly show me things they are proud of creating.

I pride myself in my rapport and relationships with my students. I love the fact they get my sense of humour, they know when it hits the fan, they know when to joke around and when to get their heads down to work.

Today in school I laughed, joked and listened to my students.
Today in school I provided experiences which my students will never forget.
Today in school I realised that I am much more than a teacher and educator.

Kimberly Sutton is a primary school teacher from Sydney, Australia. She has been teaching for 5 years and taught a range of children from early childhood (preschool) to first year university EodAt9at_400x400students.

She has been active on Twitter (@teachMissSutton) for the past year and absolutely loves being a part of a global PLN. She co-hosts an edchat on Twitter #aussieED, and moderates and contributes to www.aussieed.com.

Her passions lie in educational technology, Game Based Learning and nurturing a love and passion for learning.

~What did YOU do in school today?

What did you do in school today? with Dan Gallagher

Today I am asking our question: “What did you do in school today?” of a friend and colleague of mine. His response will be the first of a series of responses to this same question from many educators. This series will include responses from educators from all over the world, of all content areas, in all grade levels, and in various teaching assignments. To write your own response to the question, please visit this page for more information.

A Day in the Life of an Elementary Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology

I don’t have a typical day.  Any given day may have me presenting to a group of teachers, meeting one on one with an educator, demonstrating or co-teaching a lesson, pulling students to finish a project, etc.  I’m writing this post around the end of the school year; It’s a Monday.  

My day started in a shared office space with other teacher resource specialists for technology.  I spent some time working on my parts of planning for summer training. We will be rolling out Chromebooks, to students in 7th grade, next year.  Our summer trainings are focusing on shifting the instruction to be more student centered with creation as a main factor.  I researched various tools, which the attendees will have time to “play” with and explore how it could fit their curricular area(s).

Around midday I met with a teacher to assist him with adding items to his webpage. Now this marks the fourth time I have met with him on this same topic.  He has taken hand-written notes, each time, and refers back to them, but, in my opinion, he likes having someone there to verify each step.  I’ve noticed, at least in terms of teachers who are not digital natives (grew up with the technology), that there is a fear.  A big portion of my job is spent trying to relieve the fear of technology.  One of the biggest differences between students and teachers in terms of technology is fear.  Students have no fear, they are what I like to call, wreckless clickers (tappers if it is a mobile device).  I strive to have our educators move past the fear of technology and embrace how it can impact instructional outcomes.

My afternoon, on this particular day, was more hands-on!  I became a ‘commercial producer’ for a third grade project called Biz World.  Students were placed in groups and formed a company.  They needed to select job positions, create a product (friendship bracelets), apply for bank loans, pitch venture capitalist to invest in their company, maintain a ledger of deposits/withdraws and of course design a marketing campaign.  That’s where I came in!  I met with this particular class previously to discuss techniques and show options on how they could create their commercial. Today we took their plans and produced a final, under one-minute spot.  I’m always amazed at student creativity.  A couple of companies understood the concept of getting their message across to their audience and some just wanted to be funny.  

Even though my school day ended, as a connected educator, I’m still actively involved in the digital world.  This night, I moderated a Twitter chat which I had created for educators who utilize a web tool called ThingLink.  Unfortunately, I was the lone tweeter.  Even though it wasn’t as successful as I would have liked, I keep trying to reach out with other educators and share ideas, techniques, experiences,etc.  It’s all about connecting!

Dan Gallagher is currently a teacher resource specialist for technology with a school district in New Jersey.  Previously, he has been a classroom teacher in both elementary and middle school as well as an elementary technology special area teacher and at one time, in PA, a technnsuaCFwN_400x400ology coach.  He is also an online adjunct professor for Instructional Technology.

Dan has a BS in Elementary Education from Lebanon Valley College and a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from Arcadia University.  He is involved in several different educational programs such as SMART Exemplary Educators, ThingLink Expert Educators, Nearpod Authors, Seesaw Ambassadors and Symbaloo Professional Development Pros.  

Feel free to connect with him either by following him on Twitter @Gallagher_Tech or subscribe to his blog – http://gallaghertech.edublogs.org/

~What did YOU do in school today?