Saturday, July 12, 2014

From Edu-Hoarder to Edu-Minimalist in 3 Steps

Let's face it. Most of us teachers are really hoarders in disguise. Sure, we may only hoard school stuff, but still...And it makes sense. Most of us walk in to completely empty classrooms and there are many years with no instructional supply money. The result is that we gladly take anything that just about anyone will give us and hold on tightly to it. After all, we never know when it might come in handy. It is nice to have on hand the things you need to work with students every day, which is why we constantly collect. (Most people would be appalled if they knew how much teachers put into their classrooms from their own budgets).

It wasn't too surprising that I had a very hard time parting with all my accumulated stuff when I left the classroom for my new position as Instructional Partner. Logically, I knew I didn't need all of my stuff, but I had worked for such a long time to get it all that it was a huge step to let it go. Seriously, who really needs seven different sizes of pocket charts? But there we were: my husband, son and myself hauling all of my classroom stuff out and moving it yet again.

So, how did I go from hoarder to minimalist?

  1. I realized that my "stuff" was hindering my work: In my new position, I had no use for most of my old items, and finding places to store them was extremely stressful. I was having a difficult time planning, organizing, and generally getting started on any of it because the task was simply too overwhelming. Getting rid of a lot of it was a major relief!
  2. I took honest stock of every item. The key here was to answer myself truthfully. I sifted through them with two main questions: Will I use this in my work with teachers and students? Will teachers come and borrow this to use in their classrooms? If the answer was no, out it went!
  3. I got rid of it: This one seems like a no-brainer, but actually getting it out of my possession was the final ending. I gave away most everything and sold my massive collection of books (aside from a few personal faves I knew I'd use). 
I feel like now I'll be able to really make a fresh start as instructional partner--a blank slate, so to speak. How about you? Have you done something similar? Which side of the spectrum are you on? 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014-2015 Ultimate Editable Binder

My binder's done! Now it's official. I can start my real planning and school work! Because I changed positions last year mid-year, I didn't have a great organizational system for my notes (especially going back and forth between two schools). It was crazy! I would go to one school, only to realize I'd left that school's notebook at home or at the other school. It wasn't working for me at all. This year, I was bound and determined to consolidate my three notebooks and calendar into one simple all purpose book. I can't wait to get started using it. (If you'd like to check out the 200 page file, here it is in my TPT store). 

I made loads of blank, editable filler pages and divider pages, and a 12 month calendar complete with week-day pages. I printed out just the pages I wanted to use for myself and had it bound at Office Max for $5.50.

I used sticky file folder labels ($1 at Walmart) to make my tabs. School info, Calendar, Principal's info, Teacher Requests, PD plans, Schedules, Reflection, and Miscellaneous

Behind each two-page month calendar are pages for each week so I can write things in more detail.

I made a filler page here to put both of my school's information on to one sheet. I've also printed several contact sheets so I can add in teacher information.

I use this for writing down things my principals have asked me to do. I printed two colors of filler pages to go behind the tab-one color for each principal. 

I added this into my binder because I wanted it close by for when I meet with my supervisors if I needed it.

I'm a big list maker! There's something so satisfying about being able to cross something off of a list. Plus, writing down what I need to do helps organize my thinking. 

Okay, I have no idea why this picture is sideways...It's not this way on my computer, but something happened during the upload. Anyway, I have a bunch of filler paper behind this section so I can jot down questions that teachers ask of me. I have a horrible memory, so writing down requests is a must for me. 

I can't wait to put this to use! I chose the gray and turquoise color scheme because I think it will be calming and looks crisp and clean. I'm really hoping that I've come up with an organized solution for keeping track of everything at my two schools. 

I organized mine like this...
  • School info (pages behind with school info and contact sheets)
  • Calendar/Planner
    • 2-page monthly calendars
    • pages behind each month labeled by day (2-page weekly spread)
  • Principal Notes
    • filler pages with lines for writing notes during meetings with my principals
  • Teacher Requests
    • filler pages with lines for jotting 
  • To Do Lists
    • LOTS of to do list pages
  • PD Plans
    • premade charts so I can list the titles of PD I need to do, and spaces to check off and date when they are finished at each school
  • Schedules
    • pages for notating or pasting classroom schedules
    • pages for notating or pasting school schedules
  • Reflection
    • lined pages for reflecting on my work
  • Miscellaneous
    • lined pages for anything else
    • password page for listing websites' passwords for both schools

...but the possibilities are endless with all the editable pages in this product. Check it out here for more info

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It Starts with a Dream...An #Edcampconnect Success Story

Farrah (me) and Cara explaining how an edcamp works

About two years ago I attended my first ever Edcamp with my good friend, Cara, and we were completely blown away! Having never even heard of an UNconference, we didn't really know what to expect but our experience was completely amazing. The next year we visited another edcamp and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. It is so amazing to go to a professional development day that has a schedule literally planned by the participants. The networking, the collaborative nature of the sessions, and the fun atmosphere of it all really drew us in. We even led an impromptu session!

It was on the ride home that we agreed we MUST do something like this in our own area. In our county there are three school systems. In addition to having participants from all around join in, Cara and I envisioned our three local school systems coming together to share ideas and collaborate on our first ever edcamp, which the team decided to call Edcamp Connect. 

That's what's so amazing about Edcamp Connect. It turned out to be a great success, but it all started out as a dream to do something for the educators in our community. I began sending emails to our central office staff, and they agreed to be a part of the team. They pulled in team members from the other systems, and before we knew it we were having monthly planning meetings, soliciting sponsors, and designing our website!
EdcampConnect Planning Team

I feel extremely blessed to be a part of a system and have neighboring systems that not only support the type of learning that takes place at an unconference, but are part of the organization team. Two systems' superintendents were even present yesterday! I've learned so much and enjoyed working with the members of the other systems. Each team member contributed and was a valuable part of the team. To me, the partnerships we've forged have been the most meaningful thing to come from our edcamp experience. It feels a little like my twitter PLN, but having them close by is a bonus. 

Going in to this my biggest worry was that people would not show up. Then I worried that if they showed up, we would not have a full schedule board. Thankfully, neither of those things happened! We had over 150 participants from numerous school systems, and about 7-8 sessions per time period. We had plenty of food and drinks, and the feedback so far has been positive. I can't wait to get started planning next year's edcamp!

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped organize, facilitate, donate, pray (yep, Edcamp Connect was on my church's prayer list), participate, tweet, sponsor, or work in any way to make Edcamp Connect a success. There are too many of you to try and list here on this blog (cue the Academy Awards music), but please know that I am grateful to all of you. Edcamp Connect may have started with a conversation in the car, but the final product was due to lots of collaboration and hard work on the part of many dedicated individuals. 

Check out a few of our highlights:

If you were there, I'd love to hear any feedback you're willing to leave. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Edcamp Connect

Educators, are you looking for something to jump start your professional learning this summer, or maybe something a little out of the ordinary? This Monday, July 7, from 8:30-3:30 we will host the first ever EdcampConnect at Gadsden City High School. Attalla City, Gadsden City, and Etowah County school systems are working together to create this exciting, free UNconference, complete with free breakfast and lunch and door prizes! We would love for you to come and join us for a day of professional networking and learning. Register soon: There are only two spots left on Eventbrite and 10 spots on STI PD.

For more information, follow us on twitter @EdCampConnect and Facebook. We'll be live tweeting all day using the hashtag #edcampconnect.

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