Time to Mask Up

As many of my readers know, I decided to take the plunge and pursue an administration job. I am super psyched about all the learning I am doing this summer. However, I am going to be honest and say it’s hard. This summer is hard; hard for me, hard for my family, and hard on the people I work alongside of every school year. We are ALL navigating a new reality, the least of which is my new job. We are all worried and want to do our best for one another, but no one has all the answers and knows exactly what the other person needs.

I am reminded often by others to smile, to relax, and give myself time. However, time seems to be dwindling away and the work is getting more demanding. I am not going to stop chipping away at the work, but I am going to drop the water line and say this year is hard on everyone! Top down!

There are no easy solutions, magic buttons, or instruction manuals for reopening schools amidst a global pandemic. Thank goodness we’ve never had quite the same situation in schools prior to today when we have the ability to offer choice to our families to explore learning online or continue to progress in tradition education if that is what works best for their child.

All of us worry, all of us need reassurance, and all of us will remain in this together. We cannot let our fears prevent us from moving forward. Our students need us and deserve the best we can give them; virtually or face to face. Just like no two students learn the same, no two districts are reopening in quite the same way. The needs of the community, students, faculty, and administration are different in each district as well. We need to realize that no one is in the same boat, even if we are all on the same wild ride.

For now… I am adopting the MASK Mentality.

M– Make every moment count. Instead of getting caught up in the what ifs, I don’t knows, and we don’t haves, focus on the possibilities, the relationships, and the WHY behind your decision to be an educator.

A- Accept the feelings and fears of others. People have emotions that are all over the place regarding the reopening of schools, mask effectiveness, and Covid-19 in general. We don’t have to agree with everyone, but we do need to accept the fact that each person’s perception is ultimately their reality.

S-Seek solitude, practice self-care, and walk away from social media. Take time to regroup, read a book, or rest up for what is sure to be a super exciting year.

K- Keep kids first. We don’t have to have all of the answers today. What we need to have is the right attitude, a fail-forward mentality, and a focus on students and their needs. After all, Maslow proved if basic needs aren’t met learning takes second place.

As this year commences, I will don my mask and ensure I keep my MASK mentality on point.

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A Journey Begun…

I stepped outside of my comfort zone… AGAIN!

A position was posted. It caught my eye. It waved at me and I said, “Why not?”

I prepped, interviewed, and triumphed.

Now the real fun begins.

Learning, reframing, and rolling up my figurative sleeves.

An administrator I am.

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Shine Bright, Eternally

I miss you.

Our paths crossed 3 times a year, max.

Regardless, life will be less because our paths will cross no more.

Your passion and drive were unparalleled.

Kids, young and old, always stayed at the epicenter of your WHY.

All who knew you, loved you.

An angel walked amongst us and now she walks amongst angels.

Keep shining your light upon us as we serve; our schools, students, profession, and communities

Gone. Never forgotten.

Lighter of stars, collector of hearts.

We love you.

RIP Rosie.

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Reflections from Remote Instruction Island

The 2019-2020 school year is rapidly coming to a close. What a ride it has been! I can’t believe what a topsy turvy experience this year has been. Despite the fact that schools literally assembled the jumbo jet that was “Remote Instruction Island” overnight and while in flight, educators showcased their ability to be responsive and determination to meet our students needs over and over again. I am so proud of all we accomplished and the teamwork that happened throughout the process.

In hindsight there are some things that could have been done differently, but when planning for the unknown we worked with our hearts and minds to offer the best we had to give. Were there setbacks? Yes! Were there frustrations? Most assuredly! If we have to do the same in the fall will there be changes? Undoubtedly! As educators we always reflect, make adjustments, and reiterate. Remote instruction will be no different.

In considering the student experience, it is easiest if we step out of the role of the educator and into the role of the student. Knowing some of our student population had never encountered our learning management system prior to this unexpected dismissal, I feel we all weathered the storm and learned A LOT! It might be fruitful to examine some of the courses of your colleagues more in depth. What do you see that you like? How is your course similar? How do your courses vary? How would you tackle learning from courses that navigate differently in every class without a guide to steer you in the right direction?

Here are some of my takeaways from “Remote Instruction Island”….

  1. EVERY course looks a little different. This definitely indicates that our teachers are unique and have their own organizational and teaching styles, however as a parent, or a student, every page was unique and took time to orient to and navigate. Just when we figured out one course, another came and it was like starting all over again.
  2. Agenda are awesome, but when they are linked right to what’s expected to be done it eliminates the Go Fish feeling of reading and wading through the stream in the modules to find each required assigment.
  3. The announcements are awesome and very helpful, however they are even better when the most recent are pinned on the top of the homepage for easier access.
  4. We want instruction. Providing resources is no better than a packet. Give students some suggestions, share expectations for the week, offer a tour of your course, but put your face on the camera. They need to see you to connect with you.
  5. I love buttons, they are cute and clickable, but when you see a sea of colorful buttons it becomes a game to click them all, kind of like whack-a-mole! In this case, more is a mess and fewer is best! When a parent or student lands on your homepage it should be clear which button goes where.
  6. The calendar view is our students’ bestfriend. No where else is it quite as clear what is due and when. It crosses out assignments they’ve submitted and makes it clear to them what is still on the to do list. Show them this tool, for your sake, and theirs.
  7. Test things out in student view… EVERY time. Sure there will be snafus, but you can avoid a lot of them by viewing assignments through the lens of a student.
  8. Label modules clearly, as in crystal! If I am doing work for the week of May 26, 2020, I should be able to locate the dates in the module to eliminate any confusion. Chapters are great when you are face to face, but in a remote setting no one knows what chapter your resources derive from.
  9. Parents want to help, but don’t always know how. Hosting Zoom meetings for parents to share how your course is set up, the calendar view, and expectations for Zoom and work completion is very important. If we want the home and school partnership to be effective, we need to ensure we treat our parents as partners and inform them. We also need to consider their feedback when reiterating the remote instruction experience.
  10. No learning experience is ever perfected overnight. We will reiterate this model. We will have time to reflect, rethink, and reconstruct. We will be more prepared going forward and there will be different expectations for teachers and learners. It will be hard work, but we can do it!

Now that the year is ending, take time to reflect before you run for the border and abandon Remote Instruction Island. How can we ensure our learners successful navigate and learn without getting caught in the quicksand and shark infested waters?

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The Magic 8 Ball Says…

I keeping shaking it and shaking it and the response never stays the same. It is clear, that for now the future is, “Hazy, try again later.” The Magic 8 Ball is about as certain as the future of public education. The only thing that is certain is that school as we know it has changed and will continue to change going forward.

Years from now our school-aged children will share stories with their children of the shift in their lives caused by Covid-19. “I remember when I went to school, long before Covid-19, and we….”

These stories will all start the same and we have no clue, now, how far the ripple effect will extend. The scenarios are as endless as the possibilities.

…never returned to a brick and mortar school.

…we missed our classmates and teachers terribly.

…we began going to schools in cycles, one day on and one day off, to allow for social distancing.

…we were there one week and gone for 6 months the next.

…it felt like we’d never see our schools again.

…seniors graduated with little celebration, lockers crammed and abandoned, and teachers emptied classrooms in masks and gloves.

…parents became homeschool support staff.

…the teachers did everything in their power to provide opportunities to their learners.

…the world mourned the loss of a beloved traditions of learning.

The truth is no one knows how these stories will end, or if they will all end the same. Some schools are already discussing reopening, while others have closed until 2021. In these times of uncertainty the only thing that is certain is the need to make changes, to reconnect with learners, and to ensure we have the means and ability to connect with learners if our buildings should ever need to close for any reason, ever again.

Change is coming. I asked the orb and shook the Magic 8 Ball again and again and the response was, “Without a doubt.” The only certainty at this time is that there will be change. Are you ready for it?

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Realism from Remote Instruction Island

Almost a month into “Remote Instruction Island”….

What are your thoughts? Are you embracing your new norm? Still stuck in the land of denial hoping to wake up from a nightmare? Or are you finding a few sparks have been lit and you are stoked to try something new? Perhaps you’re cycling through all three, just like me.

I love technology. After all I am a self professed tech nerd of epic proportion. However, I do not love teaching remotely. In fact some days I just plain hate the REMOTE in remotely. You see, as much as I love tech.. I also love teaching and connecting. I miss smiles, high 5’s, Aha moments, and routines. Most of all I miss the kiddos and I want to know they are safe, secure, and being cared for in this time of uncertainty.

As a tech coach it is my charge to support others as they chose to implement technology into their instruction. I love this role. When I am planning, co-teaching, and developing resources with a colleague¬† I am in my glory. However, COVID-19 said it doesn’t matter where your colleagues are at, we need them to get here… and FAST! This scared me to death. I firmly believe that meeting people where they are at and helping them move involves time and countless interactions. There was no time for slow and steady in the race to prepare for remote instruction.

I chose to have faith in my colleagues and faith in the passion I know we all have to meet the needs of our students. There were definitely some epic fails, tears (mostly from me), frustrations, and timeouts needed (I am a red head after all). However, I witnessed great shifts in ideology, comfortability, and a willingness to fail forward. In this unprecedented time all brakes were off. There was only try until you TRIumph.

Now, almost a month in… how are we adjusting our instruction to fit the needs of our learners?

If we are noticing…

  1. Students failing to submit assignments. Are we reaching out to parents? Are we adjusting the number of assignments expected each week? Are we recording a tour of the weekly agendas and explaining the desired work?
  2. If parents are sending emails asking for clarification, are we offering to meet with them on Zoom and give them the same tour as their students? We all know middle school students don’t like to speak school, so if parents are asking for guidance, why not prep them to support their chidlren?
  3. If we are noticing a certain student is struggling over and over, are we reaching out to a tech integrator, a guidance counselor, or a teammate and inviting that student to zoom with you both and ask the questions they have in real time. Half of the frustration is in knowing that you’re not there to answer them as you’ve been in the past.
  4. Are we exercising grace? Have we asked kids what their current reality is? Do we know if they have shelter? Food? Stable internet? Have we gone out of our way to reassure them that their best is all we are asking for and if their best is attending a Zoom session once a week, then their best is okay?
  5. Have we remembered to celebrate the positives? During this time period the most important thing we can do for our students is connect, connect, connect, and connect some more. If they turn in a worksheet, complete a quiz, or participate in a discussion that’s just icing on the cake. We need to keep our kiddos engaged first and foremost. In a time period when families are unstable, parents are losing jobs, and our students may or may not be essential employees themselves; how are we celebrating their efforts to learn despite their current situation?


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Despite Uncertainty, Learning Never Stops

We began this mission to instruct remotely in a state of disbelief. Surely this was going to go away. We wouldn’t miss months with our students, sporting seasons, yearbook worthy moments, and rites of passage. We wanted to hold onto the belief that all would be well and normalcy would reign once again.

What we quickly learned was a new norm was forming. Social distancing, donning masks when leaving our homes, and fear were the new norms. People stormed stores hoarding essentials such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, medical gloves, and clorox wipes. For those of us who ignored the doomsday prophecies a little too long, toilet paper was a pipe dream for weeks to come.

Another pipe dream, or so it seemed, was education for our K-12 students. Tossed a drift on a Friday afternoon with no real warning, how would we as educators connect and facilitate continued growth for our students if we weren’t allowed to go to school?

The answer trickled out in bite sized morsels. A school organized a teacher parade. Another school started to distribute meals to its students, and yet another school started to distribute devices and hotspots to families without any means to connect.

The schools may have closed their doors, but education is an endeavor that never ceases to happen. Teachers don’t stop teaching because their classrooms aren’t available, and students don’t stop craving new learning when school doors are sealed. In fact, faced with uncertainty, I dare say our students craved the normalcy of school and our routine more than ever before.

So we dared to dream. We reached out to our families. We connected first and foremost. We listened, we practiced empathy, we cried, and we prayed. Then we stood up and soldiered on. We began to build. We crafted videos, we planned professional development, we opened office hours, and we moved to remote learning opportunities to allow teachers to teach and students to learn. We determined the goal was continued growth for all.

Was it easy? No! Was it tiring? Yes! However, this I know, no one perseveres like teachers when their pupils are in peril. In some of the saddest of times I have seen educators do remarkable things to honor a lost life, to support a student struggling, and to help the community in which they serve.

Never before have I seen the silos that are the norm for educators lifted so completely. No longer was the focus on the teacher and his/her students, it had shifted to us and ours. We worked as a team, picking each other up when we were down, to build a bridge between our students and ourselves.

The schools had closed, but our learning had just begun… again.


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Find Ways to Thrive in Uncertainty

Day 2 of the cancellation of school due to the Corona Virus; Teachers are scrambling to explore methods to teach online with new tools and nerves of steel. Students who were excited about some unexpected time off are missing one another and the routines of school, and leaders in the school community are tackling problems and ideas never dreamed of in the school landscape before.

What are you doing? How are you connecting with others, especially your students in these uncertain times? How are you prepping for the in cases, the might bes, or the possibilities of prolonged time off? Have you started to plan, create, or outline your next steps? Or are you using your social distance to avoid facing the decisions being made every day at schools all around you?

For what it’s worth, here are my 2 cents on how to thrive in this time of uncertainty…


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Really!? Another Conference!

Recently I attended #peteandc 2020. It was an amazing opportunity to learn and grow outside of my district. Sure I learn and grow every day at work, but there is something magical about stretching your legs, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and swimming among the “big fish” that are making splashes in ponds near and far. Plus #peteandc moved to an all new locale so even oldies but goodies were noobs this year.

So here were my top ten moments at #peteandc 2020..

  1. Presenting an ignite that shared all the amazing things that we are doing right at West York. I am a Bulldog through and through and love to brag about the home team. Sharing our journey to ePortfolios and student led conferences made me proud to be a Bulldog and really happy that 5 minutes of memorized speech is only 5 minutes. Wow, the nerves are still very real!
  2. I’m not gonna lie, as a Pitt fan it was awesome to be in Pitt! I saw the infamous sink hole that swallowed a Port Authority bus, ate a Primanti Bros. sandwich, and visited the Heinz History Center. I had a great time seeing the sites and learning more about the city I love to visit.
  3. I set up a conference Goosechase for the members of PAECT and enjoyed watching them play; sending in pictures, videos, and sharing answers to missions. This reaffirmed that engagement is high when we gamify. If adults get excited over points, chasing mascots, and answering facts faster than their opponets, our students certainly will too. Haven’t thought of how to gamify your lessons, ask me… or better yet ask John Meehan, the author of Edrenaline Rush. Or better yet, sign it out of our PD lending library… it’s autographed!
  4. Gerry Brooks! I have laughed and shared countless Brook’s videos with my colleagues and friends in the teaching realm over the years. Nothing compares to hearing the man, without the thick accent I might add, telling his truths. I needed to hear what he had to say. I walked out of that keynote with a weight off of my shoulders and a renewed sense of wonder. No one gets it, and that’s ok. If you’re not a teacher those of us who are might as well be extraterrestrials because the stories we share don’t compute and our journey is not comparable. Even more reassuring, no two teachers have the same role and we don’t get each other and that is okay too. Another awesome nugget I took from this keynote was “Aint erybody gonna like you.” I literally snapped a pic of this and kept it on my phone. The reality is no one is everybody’s cup of tea. Without exception, we are gonna have fans, associates, and fiends in our lives. The truth of the matter is it’s okay not to like someone. As long as the decisions we make are what’s best for kids, then we don’t have to like each other, but we sure need to respect one another. This was my golden nugget. And to those of you who know… BOOP! It’s my new favorite tool!
  5. Presenting with my spirit animal always brings me joy! You never forget the people you meet along the way that you instantly connect with and will always regard highly. It doesn’t matter that we live in different corners of the state, nor does it matter that she book nerds so hard, or I am a techie at heart… whenever our paths cross fun is to be had and we… LEARN SO HARD! I was honored to once again get selected to co-present with the fabulous, Kerin Steigerwalt. We enjoyed sharing all things Google in our “Girl Gone Googlier 2.0 session.” We shared some laughter, some tips, and some beads on the eve of Mardi Gras. Everyone, including us learned a little something new and it was awesome to have so many old and new faces in the crowd. (Even cooler seeing our slidedeck being shared in a neighboring district this week! Thanks to my admin’s wife who snapped a pic to share we made an impact/impression on teachers from Red Lion.)
  6. I attended a PAECT dinner with the members and board of PAECT. I always look forward to attending this event. PAECT, the Pennsylvania Association of Educational Communication and Technology is an all volunteer affiliate of ISTE and organization for teachers who are into tech, innovation, and sharing their pride in PA education. I love all of the people I have met through this organization and the awesome opportunities we offer our members to network, learn, and explore new trends together. This year’s dinner was bittersweet. We honored a lost friend. A young man with so much light and joy who advocated fiercely for educators and celebrated gamification and interactive learning as the VP of Education at Goosechase EDU. Phil was infectious! His energy and smile made everyone around him a better person for knowing him. Working with him was always a pleasure and he will always be missed. I am honored that we could recognize him and his family. I am thrilled that his father, mother, and sister (also co-worker at Goosechase) were able to join us for dinner and our tribute to an amazing person gone way too soon. On the flip side of this, comes the sweet. I saw two of my tech heroes, men who guided me along my journey as a KTI Star and helped me grow as a person and leader in and out of the classroom get rewarded for being amazing stars that light the way and lead for those around them. Determination, genuine passions for edtech and educators, and a willingness to give of their time, resources, and ideas has paved the way for many PA educators to grow, shine, and connect across the state and beyond. My sincerest congratulations goes out to Brandon and Scott. Congrats on your Making IT Happen jackets. I love you both and can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to help me along the way.
  7. KTI Konnects! I loved reuniting with all the KTI Stars past and future at the precon event on Sunday. The energy was off the charts! The ideas were flowing and the gamification was competitive and on point. Ever see educators get excited over pipecleaners, popsicle sticks, and newspaper? I have and it’s the stuff dreams are made of, especially when they are used to balance an immense Primanti Bros. sandwich!
  8. Coaching is an amazing job, but there is nothing better than presenting a session on coaching with one of my coaches and friends. I loved co-presenting with Scott, but I also loved conversing with other coaches and sharing ideas with the room. We all know as coaches that the smartest person in the room, is the room! So what better place to learn and grow as an instructional coach than in a room with other instructional coaches. I thoroughly enjoyed this session and made several connections during this hour that I hope to maintain and continue to grow from through my online PLN. In fact, I just tweeted one of them tonight to share some overdue resources. Thanks for asking my friend, and enjoy coaching… it is an amazing job.
  9. I LEARNED SO HARD! Give the girl some beads. I have notes and comments on my notes. I am still organizing and sharing new resources and ideas. I loved all the sessions I went to and I couldn’t wait to come home to share with others all the #peteandc goodies I had passionately curated and learned. I’ve already shared some spiderwebbing, hyperdocing, gamification, and Googley goodness that I picked up at #peteandc with others and I know there will be much more.
  10. Momma. There are few women in my life, besides my own Momma that I love to no end and¬† who shine their light on all around them. Momma Rosie does that for me and countless other “kids.” She’s a wrecking ball disrupting the norm and telling it like it is. After 50 years, teaching, serving as an administrator, and retiring she’s still teaching kids and growing passion for learning and innovation across the state of PA and beyond. Before her big award, Momma handed each of her KTI kids a pickle pin, because to her, if to nobody else, we will always be a big “dill.” Well, Momma, let me assure you that you are a big deal and I was honored and thrilled to be close at hand and recording that magic moment was you were recognized with a Meritorious Service Award. You are a role model for us all.

This is my top ten, but I could go on forever, easily. I love learning and will seize any opportunity to network and learn; near or far. After all, how can one coach if one ceases to stretch him or her self? So the next time I’m out please know I’m coming back locked and ready to go!

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2020 Vision

The New Year is rapidly approaching! What is your goal, vision, one word for 2020? This year my one word is FORWARD. Despite hurtles, obstacles, and moments of loss we need to move forward.

Progress isn’t always a straight line. Sometimes you do the Cha-Cha, Cupid Shuffle and Electric Slide on your way to your goal. It isn’t always pretty, but any step you take is a step in the right direction. As I’ve stated before mistakes, or side steps and slides, are some of our best learning opportunities.

So this year, instead of dwelling on the quagmire, the sidesteps, the slides, or errors I have decided to focus on moving FORWARD despite and because of the hurtles that present themselves along my journey.

Coming back from a break with a major migration taking place in the district I am nervous about what to expect from our instructional technology, however I am focusing on moving FORWARD. I refuse to let any complications or technical glitches shift my focus from FORWARD to the glitches we may encounter. As long as we stay focused on what’s best for our kiddos and moving FORWARD with integrity and positive intent, I know the glitches will come and go and the future will be filled with successes.

This year my vision is 2020 and moving FORWARD.

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