The Fear of Not Being Enough

Usually, on blogs or social media, we tend to display the highlights of our lives. The best of the best.

And what are we too afraid to put online? Our inadequacies.

Why?

If we write someone on paper, we can toss it in the can and forget its existence. When we write online, it is imprinted forever.

But, in this post, I want to be vulnerable. My hopes are that through this post, I can help others feel that they are not alone.


To give you a little backstory, within the past couple of weeks, I have moved, gotten married, and will be starting a new leadership position.

A lot of change; Good change, exciting change, but still change nonetheless.

Throughout these recent and pivotal changes of my life, where I see all I have ever wanted before me, one question keeps hitting me harder than the rest:


Am I going to be enough? 

  • Will I be a good enough wife?
  • Will I make my husband happy?
  • Will I be able to make the positive impact I dream to make in my new leadership position?
  • Will I be able to give students and staff everything they deserve?

Although my husband and I have dated for years previously to our marriage and in my career I have had a myriad of educational leadership experiences, I cannot help but feel the feelings and ask myself these questions.

Change in all areas in life is incredible. But, it still looks like and feels like vulnerability.

But, I am learning that a part of being human means we have to start allowing ourselves to feel the feelings that come along with it. To be honest, to be raw, to be authentic.

We were born to be imperfect; To have polarizing emotions. Some days I feel confident, other days I do not. No one may ever know or be able to tell if I confident or not, but it still does not mask my inner feelings.

This is a message for you (and me):

Asking yourself,  “Am I good enough?” does not make you any less of a person or educator. It does not mean you cannot handle challenges. You absolutely can.

Being brave enough to ask that question means that you care deeply; You love people and want to help more than you can even describe.

I can feel, even as I write this, that opening myself up to unknown and embracing it, rather than feeling inadequate because of it, is the best thing I could do, not the worst.

Remember: You are enough.

You will continue to make a difference because you are the difference. Click To Tweet

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6 Ways To Build a Love for Writing in your Classroom

Writing. This one word can evoke extreme emotions among students and adults. People, unfortunately, can sometimes see writing as they do math; They think they are either a natural or they are not.

As a child, we gain these insights based on our experiences. Some believe they do not have anything that they view as important enough to share, some have not found their voice yet, some are nervous to share their thoughts, while some only associate writing with academics. As children grow older, some will still see themselves as “non-writers,” even into adulthood.

I think writing is more than putting a pencil to paper or typing words on a screen. Writing is one of the most solid approaches to practice and fully engage in critical thinking. As you write, you are constantly trying to find the best words, anecdotes, and analogies to bring your thoughts to life in the way you see them in your brain. For example, on one blog post, I may spend several hours at night creating a graphic, organizing my thoughts, revising, deleting, and re-reading; While on other occasions, I have words that ignite my brain like a spark and I am unstoppable for 30 minutes.

Moreover, by sharing my work with others, I can get feedback to see what resonated with people, who relates to my ideas, or who sees things differently and why. All of these facets of the writing process helps myself and other writers out there become better at their practice while becoming all-around better thinkers.

Through my own process, I have developed a passion for helping students see writing differently, too. Here are some tips I have used in the classroom that have worked well with students from elementary, middle school, and beyond: 

1. Be a writing role model: Write on a blog, website, or another forum

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” – Gustave Flaubert

In my opinion, this is non-negotiable. In my experience, this has also been one of the most influential factors in building writing credibility and importance in my classroom.

When we think about reading teachers, for example, many rightfully assume that reading teachers love reading, read for fun, and are knowledgeable readers. But, when we think of writing teachers, often the focus is, “Can the teacher teach writing well?” I believe that in order to coach other writers, you must be a writer yourself. This does not mean you need to be a published author or to have written a book. However, I do encourage teachers to begin writing on a blog, website, or another forum. Once you start writing regularly yourself, you will understand how difficult and scary the process can be at first. We expect kids to be able to write without fear, yet we forget how deeply personal and frightening it can be. Through this experience, your newfound awareness will help you relate to your students.

Additionally, I loved sharing my website with my students and the growth I made as a writer. I shared with them true stories about my writing life. Here are some of the stories I share:

  • I always loved to write as a kid in my journal, but I was terrified to share my thoughts with anyone, yet alone the world
  • I thought to be a true writer, you had to be an author of a book
  • I created my first Xanga blog in 5th grade, but I never shared my name because I was scared people would not like what I had to say
  • I met my first published author in college; She was the first person I shared a personal piece of writing with and was the person who, without knowing, gave me the inspiration to write publicly
  • It was not until I was a teacher that I discovered my niche; I would write a blog for other educators and share my journey.
  • I constantly evolve and change as a writer. My voice as a writer has changed even in the last two years. With each blog post, I gain more comfort and confidence

2. Have thoughtful conversations about writing to break down barriers and inspire

 “The desire to write grows through writing.” – Desiderius Erasmus

Through opening myself and my writing to my students, I then see my students do the same for me. Due to this, I cannot tell you how many personal writing pieces students have sent me. Students will send me digital copies of their work with comments such as, “Ms. Welty, will you look at my piece and give me some suggestions?” 

Relationships with students have grown stronger and writing becomes more than just an assigned task – It is simply what we do!

Over time, you will see that students will be more real with you with their writing. This allows you to break down barriers on writing, their potential fears, and to give you a chance to inspire. You will find that while trying to inspire them, that their writing and authenticity will inspire you even more.

Tip: My middle school students and I would write quotes on the board each day to frame our thoughts and we would talk about them. Here are some quotes I love:


“But when people say, did you always want to be a writer? I have to say no, I was always a writer.” – Ursula Le Guin

“You may not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

“Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Isaac Asimov

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway

“You can make anything by writing.” – C.S. Lewis

“Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start.” – John Grisham


3. Give writing opportunities outside of academics

A couple of years back, I specifically remember discussing the power of passion writing projects and writing for fun with my students. After class, a few of my students walked up to me and shared that they were already doing this. One student shared that she wrote fiction regularly on an anonymous blog forum (she had thousands of readers, by the way), while another student shared with me that she carried around a writing journal with her everywhere to log ideas, inspirations, and sketches.

I realized in that moment that we often lecture kids about how important these matters are but somehow manage to forget to ask if some are already jumping into it.

Soon after, I asked these students if they could become our writing leaders and coaches for the class. They were delighted to accept. Not only did I learn a significant lesson from them, but through this connection, we were able to gain ideas of how to embed these non-academic writing opportunities into the classroom as well.

4. Ask students what books, blogs, YouTube channels or websites that matter to them

“Prompts require kids to write. Ideas inspire them to write.” – John Spencer

I regularly ask students what they are reading and watching on various platforms to give me an idea of what they are interested in and what excites them. I am always so intrigued to hear what they say. Writing and media formats have changed drastically over the last ten years and they will continue to develop with each passing year. No matter how young or old we are as an educator, we have to remember that our students are growing up in a different world than we did.

This is not a bad thing. We just have to be aware that as relevant and “hip” as we try to be as adults, we can never fully relate to what it is like to be a student today. But, that will not stop us from trying. So, ASK students what matters to them and who influences them. Whether it is a book they love, or who they are following on Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube- These things matter. If we can better understand the voices that matter to students, we can help students share their voice, too.

5. Find ways to differentiate writing

In the last couple of years alone we have seen huge innovations to technology and assistive technology that can make a huge impact for your students. Google Docs has embedded text-to-speech features that allow you to talk into your device while you see the words appear. Some of my students who had difficulties with fine motor skills, or found it tricky to process their thoughts while thinking about what to type, LOVED this text-to-speech feature. Although the technology still has room for advancement and speech variations can make it harder for accuracy, it is still astounding.

To use the feature, go to docs.google.com, and then click the menu option Tools (at the top) and then scroll a little down and click on Voice Typing. 

Also, check out this article on other assistive technology ideas by Reading Rockets to give you, even more, ideas you can embed in your classroom.

Important note: Meeting with students about their writing, whether it is individually or in small groups, is a beneficial way to connect with your students and to give them a chance to talk out their work with you. There are many great ways to type comments and give feedback digitally as well, but never lose sight of the power of dialogue in person. In the digital age we live in, make a conscious effort to create personal connections with your students as much as possible.

6. Give students opportunities to share their work with an audience of their choice

With Google Apps for Education, KidBlog.org, and various other digital blogging platforms, children have more opportunities than EVER to share their writing by sharing with classmates, students across the world, families, and educators.  I advise you to research and find out which platform would be best for your students. Hashtags like #GAFE and #KidBlog on Twitter are great starting points.

Further, ask your students who they want to share their writing with- We often forget this piece and do not give students a choice. Not all writing pieces need to be shared and some students may not want to post personal pieces. On the other hand, some students can get creative and will want to share their work in varying ways that you did not even think of. Listen to your students.

With all of this considered, when students have an audience, their love for writing grows, along with the meaning behind it. The power of clicking the publish and send buttons are transformational. As soon as they click publish, they begin to see that they do have a voice. Through this, students gain ownership and what they do begins to matter.

Soon after that, students can be a part of the thought provoking conversations and ideas that emerge through sharing with an audience…and that is where the real magic happens.

 

How do you build a love for writing in your classroom?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Leveraging Data to Support Students

Recently, George Couros wrote a blog post titled “From Data Driven to Evidence-Driven.” George brought up several superb points, one including this, “If we are going to change the way we teach, we need to also change how we assess, not just what we assess.” I agree with this thought process- As we become more innovative, we also need to let that innovation flow into everything we do as teachers: Teaching, learning, collaborating AND assessing.

I similarly read another post on Evidence Based Practice from the Data Science Association that I found especially informational. Within this post, Walker says that the three reasons why Data and Evidence Based Practices are not effectively used are due to ineffective talent, processes, and technology. Though Walker was referring to how these reasons were applied in the business world, I find it fascinating to figure out how we can cross over approaches.

We all believe as educators that being student focused is our first and most important compass. What we do day-to-day should be all about students, not the data. However, I do think that data often has a bad reputation in the educational sphere. I venture to say the problem is not with the data, the issue is HOW we use data ineffectively. We lack vision on where we are going with the data, which leads us often unequipped to analyze the abundant information headed our way. I believe there is a place for both data and evidence-based practices to have a happy marriage in education. Although, in this post, I will stay focused on leveraging data, some of the principles can apply to evidence practice as well.

Leveraging Data to Support Students

  • Vision

    If you do not have a vision or purpose for why you are using data, then it is usually done in a trivial and lackluster fashion. If this occurs, change your path and ask yourself: “What are we trying to achieve?” and “Why are we interested in data?” 

  • Value

    If data does not truly help teachers teach and students learn, then no one will ever find value in it, and rightfully so. To find value, begin viewing data as an asset, rather than the “end all, be all.” Whenever data is the main word mentioned in meetings or in e-mails, students and staff will be immediately disengaged. No one gets inspired by data alone, but data is informational when used properly.

    As a Mentor Teacher and Technology Integrationist, I used Google Forms to track my day-to-day plans with teachers. With the data, I was always able to view in pie graph form and in charts how often I met with each teacher and team in the building, future plans we had for instruction, which subjects and standards we integrated technology with the most, and reflections on the lessons. All of this curated information was easy to insert and view, which allowed me to take action to meet with teachers in a timely and meaningful manner.

  • Target

    Sometimes when data is collected, it feels like you are tracking anything and everything there is to track, which can be enormously ineffective. The best kind of data is purposeful and targeted for optimal results. Similarly, think of your intentions as you collaborate with students and staff: Through the data, do you hope to make small instructional changes or to have huge radical changes? Your answer can guide your plan.

  • Data Management

    Once you have the foundations covered, it is crucial to have conversations with your staff and students to determine how often data will be collected and maintained. Be proactive and clear. Teachers want to feel prepared to plan and teach adequately with the data they receive, rather than always wondering when the “data is due.” Make the data management and maintenance process as streamlined as possible.

    Also, will students track goals and progress? Students love to see their own personal successes and to share them with you, others, and their family. I always loved embedding goal setting into everything I did with my middle school students. After inviting students in on the journey with me, they would keep me in check. If I went a day without talking about goal setting, they would say, “Ms. Welty, you forgot to talk about goal setting today!” Moreover, they always created such fun and creative ideas to track and visualize goals and visions for the classroom.

  • Data Infrastructure

    This subject is almost never talked about, but it is essential. Teachers and principals spend so much time working with improper technologies, infrastructures, and operating models that make data analysis time consuming and frustrating. Once the data is collected, the technology should do as much of the work as possible to sort, organize, and tell the story.

    I hope we can begin spending more time on reflecting, planning and determining how to develop better instruction for our kids, and less time dealing with faulty systems and processes.

    But, with fields like Data Science booming, there is a lot that will continue to change for data in the future. The skill-set needed in this area, and in big data, is in HUGE demand. Over the next couple of years, I am eager to see how developments in this area can directly benefit school systems.

    What does your infrastructure look like at your school and what programs or tools do you use to track data and progress?


Image Credit- LinkedIn

In the digital age we live in, we need to stay focused on our people first, while still keeping an eye to how data will change and how platforms will integrate better with technology over time. With collaborative apps like Google Apps for Education and student reflection video services like Recap, I see a bright future where data is not always a number and students have more agency.

As Carly Fiorina says, “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” By focusing on insight gained rather than data or information alone, we can take the action that will help our students soar to new dimensions.

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Twitter Tips for Educators

Two years ago, I did not even know that educators used Twitter to better themselves or to help students; This was not on my radar. Teachers at my school were not using it either, so as far I knew, it was not a resource geared for teachers. When I envisioned Twitter, I assumed it was for celebrities and their millions of fans.

I will never forget when I attended a conference led by the lovely Julie Smith.  She said, “Educators are the fastest growing group on Twitter.” I was absolutely shocked by this. Furthermore, I did not want to miss out any longer, so in that moment I decided to join Twitter. This monumental decision I made was the single best thing I have ever done for my students learning and my own personal growth.

Whether you already have a highly collaborative team at your school, or you feel like a silo, Twitter can help you become deeply networked and supported while you gain new perspectives that you never knew you needed.

While you continue reading this post, remember this: You do not have to jump in and do every single tip I mention right off the gate. Just like any other learning adventure you decide to board, do so at your own pace in your own timing. As long as you are learning, you cannot go wrong.

Twitter Tips for Educators:

1. Keep your Twitter handle simple.

A twitter handle is how people identify you. You can use your first and last name, just your last name, your title: Mr./Mrs./Ms. with your last name, or something creative if you feel compelled. Nevertheless, do not over complicate it. Besides, you can always change it later if you want, so do not feel “locked in” to whatever you choose.

2.  Add a professional photo of you as soon as possible

Change the default and gray Twitter picture so people can see you are a real person.

You do not have to hire a photographer- My Twitter photo was actually taken with an iPhone. Yet, when I say “professional”, I am referring to choosing an appropriate and positive picture that displays you as the respected professional that you are. A headshot photo with a smile is always friendly and inviting. Feel free to add your own burst of personality as well.

3. Add a bio that lets others know who you are

A bio solidifies who you are and helps others in similar positions with common interests connect with you. Include your job title, passions, and interests.

4. Tweet and Retweet (RT) thoughtfully

When you send an idea or tweet out, it will show your profile picture and Twitter handle next to the tweet

When you RT, it will repost someone else’s tweet to your profile. RT ideas, blog posts, photos, and videos that resonate with you. Be respectful and always remain professional; Recognize that your followers and the global community can view and find anything that you post or RT to your profile.

Replies also give you the opportunity to respond back to ignite a conversation with others.

5. Follow other educators and leaders and follow back those who follow you

I love this well-written graphic created by @sylviaduckworth
You cannot grow a meaningful network or Professional Learning Network (PLN) if you do not follow other people. Plus, following others shows that you want to grow as well. When educators and leaders follow you, follow back those who you know you can learn and connect with. But, be sure to check out their profiles and tweets

When educators and leaders follow you, follow back those who you know you can learn and connect with. But, be sure to check out their profiles and tweets BEFORE you follow back. Stay far away and never follow back spam accounts who post inappropriate content and be careful of people who pose as educators, but are not.

Important Note: Do not worry about the number of followers you have. Just be you and authentic- That is what counts.

6. Report and block spam accounts

When you see an inappropriate account, report them. You can also block accounts when necessary going to Settings > Block Accounts.

Keep in mind: When you follow an educator and they follow you back, or vice versa, then both individuals can direct message one another. This is another reason why it is so important to check profiles and tweets before following others. You can also always unfollow people as well to eliminate their ability to direct message you, if necessary.

7. Check with your school district about social media policies for teachers and students

Through meeting other educators across the nation, some educators say that their districts require all school Twitter accounts to be public, while some say that they are required it to keep the accounts private. Additionally, some educators say that their district does not have social media policies for Twitter and/or other social media outlets.

Not every district is the sameMake sure that before you begin a professional Twitter or classroom Twitter, that you always verify with your school district to gain the proper information on policies.

For the past couple of years, I have collaborated with my school district on developing clear social media policies and presenting those policies to our staff and families across the district to keep them in-the-know and to propel connected education. Once you gain the proper information and approval, share that information with others, too.

Lastly, do not follow students or communicate with students via the private direct messenger. But, some districts allow teachers and students to publicly tweet one another, where everyone can see, with school related questions. With this said, do not assume your district policies. Read them and then double check with your building principal; Student safety is always paramount.

With this said, do not assume your district policies. Read them and then double check with your building principal; Student safety is always paramount.

8. Hashtags are used to join communities, conversations, or to solidify a point

You can use a hashtag day-to-day to connect with a community or to add the hashtag onto your tweet where it is applicable.

Many educators use Twitter Chats to conversate with other educators and leaders in subjects or topics that are important to them. Some join the chats just to read and gain content information, while others join in and send tweets back and forth. Do what you feel comfortable with and ease your way into the chats over time.

There is a Twitter chat for almost every topic and interest, while new Twitter Chats are always popping up. Twitter chats are usually once a week at the same time that lasts between 30 minutes to an hour. But different chat variations are also out there like “slow chats.” During slow chats, usually, one question is posted throughout the week for people to respond to at their own pace.

You can also start your own hashtag for your school or classroom to unite your school community AND to share awesome learning with families and staff! I have done this and seen such astounding results! Search other hashtags on Twitter before you start your own hashtag to assure others are not already using it.

My top 3 favorite hashtags that I love to look at are #TLAP (Teach Like a Pirate), #tcrwp (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project), and #InnovatorsMindset.

  • The Official Twitter Chat List is HERE, too. Search for keywords on the website by clicking “Ctrl+F” (PC) or “Command+F” (MAC) to quickly decipher chats that would interest you.
  • Check-out the full educational Twitter Chat Schedule HERE to find what day and time the chats occur. Don’t forget to choose your time zone on the left-hand side once you are at the website.
  • Use Tweetdeck or HootSuite to organize your chats and hashtags (I prefer Tweetdeck).

9. Build lasting connections that will last a lifetime

My favorite part about Twitter is not the “tweeting” itself, but the lasting friendships that I have built over these past two years with other educators and leaders. It takes time to build kinships, but it is the most valuable piece. Get to know other educators and leaders that can help push you to new levels and see things differently.

Nothing can substitute a good role model, and with Twitter your role model can live anywhere in the world! Having others that you can build bonds with and ask questions back and forth, at any time of the day, is priceless.

10. See every contact as a way to help students

A Google Hangout on Climate and Weather with our Missouri students and a classroom in California
Every person I have “met” on Twitter has made me a better educator for the colleagues and students I serve. Having the opportunity to help connect students and staff on a GLOBAL scale is always my goal. When other educators share what they are doing, it ultimately helps my students. ALL the students in the world are OUR students. What helps one, may help all.

Moreover, Twitter is often the springboard for other ventures. Just this year alone, we helped connect our students in our school to other children’s authors, teachers, students, classrooms across the world, and field experts in areas like STEM through outlets like Google Hangouts and KidBlog. Some experts have even traveled in person to our school!


I often present about being a connected educator, and due to the phenomenal powers of Twitter, I am able to see the growth these educators make over time as they become connected. It is compelling beyond words. One educator even told me that,“Being connected saved her career.” I have found that Twitter is less about the tool and MORE about the power it has to change our lives and the lives of our students.

I wish you the best of luck while you continue to venture into Twitter. Whether you are new or a veteran to Twitter; We are all in this together.

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