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Finding My Voice

October 8, 2011

Ever since I was a little girl I loved to write. I savored each and every writing opportunity I would have. I was even part of the school paper for several years. What’s more, my great uncle is a poet and once wrote a poem for me, saying I would be a poet one day too. I used to share my writings with him. I would get a kick out of hanging out with him, just talking about our writing. And, I was only 9 years old…

Years passed by and I wasn’t exactly going through the best of times. Unfortunately I totally lost my inner voice. I couldn’t write anymore. Even though I tried and tried, words wouldn’t come. I had writer’s block for several years.

As I became older and more connected with my passions, teaching and technology, the writer inside me seemed to be waking up. Words kept swirling inside my heart and my head. I even signed up for this WordPress account, but I still couldn’t write… Something inside me was changing… yes, but I still couldn’t get my thoughts out.

As I got more and more involved with my Personal Learning Network, I began commenting on other blogs. Boy, it took me so long to write a comment! But I was just thrilled words were finally coming out. One day, I received a message from my friend, Pernille Ripp. She was asking me to write a guest post for her blog, she asked me to share an Aha Moment. I was so honored and humbled. Despite being thrilled about it, I was also absolutely freaked out but I admire her so much that I couldn’t say no and dived into the guest post adventure. Magically words began to flow and I wrote my best piece ever. A story that changed me and my teaching. As I began getting feedback, questions and thoughts from other people, I felt the strong urge to start writing again. I felt this deep need to share my passion, my classroom adventures and my thoughts.

And that’s how my blog, About a Teacher, was born. I haven’t blogged as much as I’d love to, but blogging has definitely changed me in so many ways. I’ve found my voice, I’ve found myself. Thanks to blogging, I have been able to reconnect with the writer in me.

Furthermore, my teaching has changed too. Writing for an audience helps me deepen my reflection. I know my classroom walls have been knocked down thanks to blogging. The happenings in my classroom are now shared with many other educators from all over the world.

I’m not just a teacher in a classroom anymore. I’m a teacher who blogs, which means that, not only has my writing an audience, but also my teaching does too. It’s powerful to know that amazing educators from all around the world are interacting with me. It’s amazing how much I get to learn from them. I also find reading other blogs absolutely beneficial. Conversations happening in blogs are powerfully inspiring and always challenge me to think differently. I’m a learner and a teacher. Blogging connects both aspects in an immensely enriching way.

Yes, blogging has helped me rediscover my voice but what’s more important is the fact that blogging keeps inspiring me to step away from my comfort zone. It also makes sharing what happens in our classrooms and our success stories possible.  Leaving our fears behind and reflecting on our teaching are essential in a world that keeps changing. Stepping away from our comfort zones and sharing what we do are essential if we are to transform education.

I have written this post as a response to the Rockstar Meme – How Blogging Changed Your World. I would like to invite these 5 amazing bloggers to share their story. Can’t wait to hear them!
Edna Sackson
Joan Young
Kelly Tenkely
Nicholas Provenzano
Tania Ash

Kids Motivating Other Kids to Blog!

September 5, 2011

As we get ready to start our blogging journey, we decided to host a special event in our classroom. We invited my last year group to share their blogging adventure with us. What would be more motivating for my students than to learn about blogging and commenting from other kids?

It was amazing to see how engaged in the conversation every kid was. It was powerful to see how everyone wanted to participate either to ask questions or to answer them. There were no shy kids, no quiet kids. Everyone had something to say or ask. Blogging is meaningful not just for my former students but also for my group, which is surprising since they haven’t even started to blog!
Since, I can’t share the video, I carefully picked some of the things they said, which show how much blogging means to them and how important it is for our kids to learn things which they are really passionate about.

The blog was awesome. I wrote stories and Marcos, my uncle who lives in Spain, read them and left comments for me! MiliR said proudly.

People READ our blog. Greta read our blog too, but we got comments from all over the world,” said Alex – “Don’t forget, the map!, interrupted Tody.

Oh yes! We had a map and we marked all the places we got comments from. It was full of colorful marks“, said Marti

I loved to write on the blog. I got comments from all over the world. We are famous now“, exclaimed Vickucha.

Then one of my students raised his hand and asked, “What did the blog mean to you?

The blog was the best, I blogged all the time, when I was happy, sick, bored… all the time!“, said Vickucha.

The blog was amazing. We learned and had a lot of fun“, expressed MiliR.

Just then, another boy inquired: “Where did you get your ideas to write?

I wrote stories. I wrote adventure stories“, shared Marti. “Yes, she also drew a map on her story“, added Vickucha, looking proudly at her friend.

I blogged about everything I like: my friends, my pet, my thoughts. I even blogged when I was sick and couldn’t come to school“, mentioned Vickucha.

I blogged about my passion: rugby,” voiced Pipita.

I wrote a song and then sang it in our Singing Fridays!”, Ber said joyfully.

I sometimes didn’t know what to write, but I read my friends’ posts and left them comments”, said Lalo.

I wrote about our country and things that were important to me,” expressed Alex.

I was totally speechless… I just let them lead and do the talking. I savored each and every minute. It has been one of my most inspiring moments as a teacher. Kids teaching kids. Kids encouraging kids to blog. It absolutely blew my mind.

What the kids said speaks for itself. These are my former students’ voices. Seeing them laugh and share proudly their work was priceless. Seeing my students’ beam as they heard the older kids advice and experience was incredible. Needless to say, my students can’t wait to start blogging and to be honest, neither can I.

Believing in Our Students

July 8, 2011

We started working on a special project to help build a better community and stop bullying issues. Our first step was to focus on what a group is, how it should work and how special each and every member is.  I encouraged my students to imagine that our class was like a giant puzzle and that each puzzle piece was one of us. It was a highly enriching opportunity to discuss our thoughts, feelings and expectations. I was excited to see how engaged kids were and how everyone spoke their mind. While we were sharing our ideas, Martin* raised his hand and said: “We’ll never be a good group… All the teachers always tell us how terrible our group is.”  I was deeply hurt by what he said and what hurt the most was the fact that Martin was totally convinced of his words. At that exact moment, I remembered a wonderful talk by Angela Maiers on the importance of believing in others and letting them know they matter. I looked at Martin, then I looked at each of my kids and said: “Each of you is a wonderful child. Please, don’t say that again… Yes, there are things we can do better, but I believe in this group and most important of all, I believe in each of you.”

I gave all my students a puzzle piece and invited them to decorate each piece and add information about their likes and hobbies too. They put such passion into their work! It was inspiring to see kids who are usually reluctant to use colors, draw bright colorful pictures. It was amazing to see the shiest kids step in front of the class and proudly present their pieces. It was powerful to hear what everyone had to say about our group; what they thought they were doing well and what they thought they could do better. It was such a special time that we all decided to create a video to treasure the moment forever. Guess, who came up with the idea?… Yes, Martin!

Do you believe in your students? Are you positively convinced you can make a difference for them? I know it can sometimes be hard. All it takes is caring, believing in them, connecting with them and most important of all, patience and effort. We need to tell our students we believe in them at ALL times. How do you feel when someone believes in you? Imagine how powerful this can be for a kid! If we show our students how much we care and trust them we’ll be definitely paving the way for them to thrive.

* not his real name

 

Blogging with Students – LiveBinder of Resources

June 20, 2011

Last #elemchat discussion on blogging with elementary students was really inspiring! So many wonderful resources, ideas and stories were shared! What I loved the most was that a lot teachers expressed their willingness to start blogging with their students and many others said to be really looking forward to continuing blogging next year.

As you might well know I am really enthusiastic about blogging with students. I have shared my adventures through several opportunities and I’m determined to keep spreading the word in order to bring other educators on board.

Therefore, I have created a LiveBinder with useful tools, examples and resources. I thought this would be a good idea to encourage other teachers to get their kids blogging.

Blogging with Students

Kids DO Want to Learn!

June 13, 2011

Jack* was born in the US and moved to Argentina when he was 5 years old. He is now in 4th grade and I had the honor of tutoring him for a couple of months. Although he has lived here for many years, he never felt Argentina was his home. He is an exceptional boy who is crazy about video games, computers and movies. I was amazed the first time I met him. He’s such a sweet and funny boy! I really enjoyed each and all of our lessons together.

Jack was having trouble at school. He was labeled as an unmotivated boy who energetically refused to work and his performance on his English lessons wasn’t exactly the best. I found this particularly odd, because he speaks English so fluently. What’s more, his teacher told his mother that his writing was really incoherent and messy. She even suggested he should undergo psychological treatment.

On our first meeting, Jack did really well. When he focused on tasks he even had little need for explanations! As soon as our class was over, Jack dashed off to play with his PS3 and I had a chat with his mom. She was really sad about the reports from school so we discussed possible tactics to engage him. Meanwhile, in the background, I could hear him playing and interacting with someone in the US! Boy was he motivated to play! It was at that exact moment that I decided not to do the regular school work with him anymore. Instead, I’d use online sites, videos, Skype and, of course, I’d start a blog for him. I thought blogging would be perfect for practicing and improving his writing skills.

Our second lesson was amazing. He so was engaged in learning! It seemed like there was a totally different boy sitting next to me. I could tell how he savored each and every minute of our class. When our lesson finished, he looked at me and said: “Can you stay a bit longer?” I couldn’t believe my ears! He even asked me if we could have two lessons instead of one the following week!

He was thrilled when I told him he’d be blogging and sharing his stories with the world! Needless to say, when the lesson came, he wanted to blog right away! Jack worked really hard and with great enthusiasm on each of his posts. He loved reading the comments he received. It was wonderful to see how all those comments kept inspiring him to share more and more about himself.

Last week, Jack moved back to the US. As we were saying goodbye, he hugged me and said: “Can I keep blogging, Greta?”  I was speechless. He even promised “his blogging buddies” he would get back to them as soon as his family settled in their new home.

Blogging and tech tools have really helped Jack connect with learning. His attitude has changed and so has his performance at school. Jack loves to learn. Jack loves learning English. Jack is a boy who lives in 2011 and his reality is the internet, video gaming, web 2.0 tools and iPods. He’s also an expert iPad user and has even taught me some great applications!

Kids keep proving to me that they DO want to learn when they find learning meaningful. We should encourage our students to pursue their passions; this will empower kids to learn. Unless we do something about it, our classrooms will be packed with demotivated children. We can make a difference: it’s up to us educators to foster the love for learning in our students to really help them flourish.

* not his real name.

Jack's 1st Post

#CO11 – Recording, Slides & Links

June 13, 2011

Classes started on February 28th and I have been extremely busy with school and tutoring since then. That’s why I haven’t posted new stories. Things are settling down now and I am really looking forward to sharing my new adventures with you all.

Presenting “Blended Instruction Using Blogs and Wikis for Young Learners” at #CO11 together with Shelly Terrell in early February was a wonderful experience because she is so fantastic to work with!

You can find the recorded session here

You’ll also find all the links and resources we shared on this Google Doc

These are the slides that were used in the session.

Blended Instruction with Blogs and Wikis for Young Learners

January 26, 2011

I’m so excited to be presenting together with the wonderful Shelly Terrell for the CO11 Free Online Conference. We’ll be presenting about Blended Instruction with Blogs and Wikis for Young Learners. Our session will take place on Saturday, February 5th at 12pm EST/5pm GMT. You can find more details about it here.

We believe blogs and wikis are amazing tools that can help us engage students in their learning. Not only are they really motivating for young learners, but they are also powerful resources to engage parents in their kids’ learning process. Shelly and I will be sharing our experiences using blogs and wikis and we’ll also be providing tips and ideas on how to use them effectively in the classroom.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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