Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How To Start a Makers' Club in Ten Days

Today I gave an "idea talk" at the WVIZ Ideastream conference. Unfortunately, I got the "wrap it up" signal long before I was close to done... Here's my speech with all "ten days." Not great writing, but I wrote as though I was speaking...

Hellooooooo.  My name is Morgan Kolis and I am a special education teacher, intervention specialist, behavior intervention specialist, reading specialist…Though, I am currently being disguised by my district as a reading intervention teacher.  This is my 13th year of teaching in Ohio and, I am also currently studying to take the Board exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  My real passions, however, are special education and inclusive environments.

So, like I said, my district is currently utilizing me as a reading intervention teacher.  Reading intervention is important and crucial to students in elementary school and is… just not my dream job.  Again, there is nothing wrong with reading intervention. It’s just not what I believe I was made to be doing.

So, it was in this job as a reading intervention teacher that I have found my own need for more creativity and more fun in school.  You see, reading intervention is… well, a little dry.  Again, I truly believe that this is an important job and I’m sure there are people out there who love it. That’s just not, well, me.  By nature, doing interventions with kids is rote and repetitive and as engaging as we try to make it, it’s … a little lacking in creativity.

This is where the story really starts.

I started searching for something.  I wasn’t sure what that something was, but I knew something in my life was missing that used to be filled by my job as a special education teacher. And now it was gone.  

And in the way my life often works, there was some divine intervention and…I got an email.

I got an email from this guy named Sean Wheeler. Some of you might know him. He was the keynote here last year and he writes this great blog called Teaching Humans; and he’s now doing some incredible work at the Design Lab in Cleveland that everyone should be checking out immediately. I mean, after this talk, of course.

But I got this email from Sean.  At that time, Sean was working on starting a entire Makers’ School and got a grant to support that mission.  And Sean decided to ask a few educators he knew if we’d want to participate in a teacher makerspace to put ourselves in the place of our students, in order to remember what it feels like to be in a space where you’re not sure what you’re doing and you’re not quite sure what might come out of it.  He said “Let’s do a six week class where you learn to make some things and get to talk with other educators.”

Okay, I’ll bite.

Then he wrote “it’ll be a woodworking class at a woodshop.”


Okay, I don’t know about you, but wood has not really ever been my preferred medium.  I’m more of a canvas, clay, scrapbooking, really great creative lesson planning kind of person.  But wood?

This was NOT my comfort zone.  I really do not engage in stuff I am not going to be great at.

I was really not sure about this, but, here I was, searching for something. And maybe this could help me find it.  

So, about ten people said they would join the six week class and we all met at this amazing community woodshop right outside of Tremont called Soulcraft. It’s in this old, creepy, factory like building where they used to do meat -packing called the Hildebrandt Building.  REALLY out of my comfort zone. And these two guys, the owners of this “community woodshop” offered to be our “teachers.”

So, we met there.  Some of us knew each other from twitter but had never actually spoken and some of us were total strangers.  Even more awkward and somewhat uncomfortable.

And there we sat on that first day at Soulcraft with all of these exhausted and inspiring and excited and terrified educators from all different districts and walks of life… educators like Tom Grodek and Julie Rea and Karen Wheeler and Jeremy Shorr and Vicki Turner, some of whom are even here today.

And then Peter and Jim, the owners of Soulcraft, started talking about the properties of wood.

And all I could think was “What in the hell am I doing here?”

So, long story short, it’s now been about 57 weeks since we started this six week course and about 5 of us make it back to the shop a few Saturdays a month to continue this experiment with “making” and talking. Lots of talking.

And I’ve gotten so much out of this experience that I was thinking, how can I bring this back to my own school?

And it was through this inspiration that I was able to start a “Makers’ Club” at our school where I currently teach… reading intervention.

So, during lunch time every Thursday and Friday, we host a Makers’ Club for the students at our school in second and third grade. And when I say “we,” I mean my awesome co-reading intervention teacher, Sharon Wiesler, who has graciously also given up her time to help me with this and has dealt with the great amount of “treasures” that we have collected for the club.  She really jumped in with both feet and I couldn’t possibly thank her enough for going with this...

And now I’d like to share with you How to Start a Makers’ Club in 10 days.

Day one.  Think.  What do you want your makerspace to be?

I knew immediately that I wanted our space to have very little structure.  Reading Intervention and special ed are VERY structured and I wanted a place that would be 100% opposite.

I also knew that I wanted to incorporate STEM activities, but I didn’t want the club to be solely based on STEM activities.  I wanted this space to be a place where kids make their own rules about what they create.

We have very few rules but we did need to set up a little bit of structure for second and third graders so they know what to expect.

First rule, you must share.  Second rule, be respectful.  Third rule, if you make a mess, you clean it up before you leave.  Last rule, be safe.  As the club has gone on, we’ve also made the rule that you may not create a weapon and if you do, it may not leave the room.

Day Two, get rid of your crap.  By crap, I don’t mean your physical crap.  I mean your own personal crap.  

Here’s an example of my crap: I was great at playing the game of school.  I could rock a test and loved to read.  But the other day, I was telling my friend about this “talk.”  And he says “Why are you worried? Have you ever failed at anything in your life?”  Okay, that’s exactly my “crap.”  I don’t typically put myself in situations in which I COULD fail, so NO, I DO NOT fail, I am actually TERRIFIED of failing. 

And I have to let that go for our club.  Because how dare I pass that on to our students?  Why would I give them my crap?  

Days Three and Four, start collecting crap.  Now you need actual junk.  Junk that people are about to toss away is perfect.  We collect popsicle sticks, toilet paper rolls, cardboard of every kind, leftover pieces from crafts that the class has done, scrap paper, plastic containers, straws, plastic forks and spoons, styrofoam… if you can think of it, we probably have it.  Ask for donations,  It’s amazing the things that parents will dig out from their basements to bring for you.

But PLEASE learn from my mistake here. Know where you will STORE these items BEFORE you start collecting them!  Currently, we have crap spilling from the reading intervention room out into the hall and down half the hallway...

Day Five.  Find a funding source. There will be stuff you can’t get donated.  Next week, we’re going to make “electric dough” also known as “squishy circuits.”  I needed to buy the items for this one.  At first, I didn’t mind just buying the stuff myself, but then I realized that between 40 and 60 students go through our room every single week, so I needed some funding source so that I didn’t end up broke.

Our funding source has mainly been our PSO and now our STEM department in the district.  I believe our principal also kicked in money from her principal’s fund as well. 

And just last week, we received a grant from our Schools Foundation for almost $2500 to buy items from LEGO education to introduce some LEGO Robotics.  Grants are all over the place, if only you can find them and write up a blurb about what you need and how it connects to learning.

Day Six.  Decide on some challenges.  You don’t need a hundred ideas, just two or three to get started.  There will ALWAYS be more ideas.  Someone will always share their thoughts with you, you’ll always have the internet, and you can always ask the kids, and I really don’t think Pinterest is going anywhere.

Day Seven. Decide on how you’ll share what the kids are doing.  This is crucial.  If you are doing great work in the classroom, that’s awesome.  But if you’re sharing what your kids are doing with the world, that’s even better. This is tough for second and third graders to do on their own.

One thing I try to do every week is remind the kids to keep “making” at home.  I let them take materials with them if they haven’t finished their project to be able to continue at home.  I ask them to take pictures at home and even send them to me.

I also take a million photos during the club and post them on our website and on our PSO Facebook page.  It seems like the parents really like this and parents comment that their children have already told them all about the project we did that day.

I’ve started to use my twitter page to share out actual quotes and thoughts from the kids.  This is almost more important to me because then I can reflect on what the students are telling me they need or want each week.

Days 8, 9, and 10.
Figure out how to INCLUDE ALL KIDS.

One of the main reasons I wanted to give this talk today was to talk about including girls in technology education. Last year, during THIS conference, did you realize that every single speaker was male?  Include girls in making.  Include girls in technology. Include girls in robotics and coding and in EVERYTHING that boys are doing.  

And just buying pink duct tape is NOT what I mean.  

We had the high school robotics team visit and there was ONE girl.  Where are we losing them?

Surprisingly right now, girls are the majority in our Makers’ Club each week.

So PLEASE INCLUDE THE GIRLS!  Make an extra effort to get them in.  If one girl comes, tell her to bring two friends the next week.

INCLUDE them. 

PLEASE include them!

You will find out so many things about so many kids through this process. 

You’ll find your makers.  You’ll find the problem solvers.  

You’ll find the leaders and the followers and the kids who HATE doing projects like this, but HATE going out to recess even more.  

You’ll find the gifted kids who can’t problem solve but rock the “game of school.”  You’ll find the students who naturally help the kids with special needs.  

You’ll find the kids with special needs who stink at the “game of school” but who ROCK at making and problem solving.

But, realistically, how can you include ALL of these kids?  Well, some kids will need to come with their aides.  

And some of these kids will need a visual schedule.

And some will need to know about the project ahead of time.

You may have to put in a few extra minutes, but including ALL kids will make all the difference.


I’ll tell you a short story about one of my favorite kids on the planet.  His name is Luke.  He is funny and playful and smart and curious and empathetic (always saying “Miss Kolis, don’t be sad.” if he notices I am not over the top happy).  He’s brave and he’s amazing.

He’s in third grade, and he also happens to have autism.  He was my student for Kindergarten, first, and second grade and since then I’ve been tutoring him privately.  

He comes to Makers’ Club every. single. week.  His amazing parents talk about it with him at home the night before.  I tell him, during our Thursday night tutoring sessions, what the project is that we are making.  And one week, I needed to give him a visual timer so that he would know how many minutes were left in the club.

But, here’s the great thing about Luke.  Until he started coming to Makers’ Club, even after knowing him for 5 years now, I didn’t know that Luke cared much for other kids.  He never seemed to notice them and he certainly did not appear to care who was around.  He’s always been verbal, but he’s never necessarily been conversational about other kids without some kind of prompting.

Now?  Luke joins me for lunch before the club so we can chat about school and prep for the project.  Luke repeats “Hello everyone.  I’m waiting for the kids to come” over and over throughout the lunch.  He LOVES the other kids!  He can’t wait til they all get there! 

Every week, on Thursday, Luke asks “Makers’ Club on Friday?”  And my heart is broken if we ever have to cancel a session and I have to say no.

Luke is my proof that Makers’ Club is working.  He is the reason that I believe this club is successful.  Because every kid can get what they need from coming to our club.

Some kids need some freedom.

Some kids need to have an outlet during their week.

Some kids need to engage in the creative and problem solving process.

But some kids, like Luke, just need to be around the other kids.

And there it is, How to Start a Makers’ Club in 10 days!  You can do it too!

Please tweet me or email me if you do!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Are You "My People?"

I'm frustrated. That's nothing new. I'm typically frustrated when I feel that others are not doing what's right for kids.

And when I hear the following statement, I know that there's people who aren't doing what's right for kids.

I also know that if you say the following, you are not "my people."

The statement is this:

"We are only responsible for providing the Chevy, not the Cadillac."

Regardless of your actual car manufacturer preference, this crap is just NOT RIGHT.

This is NOT what I believe about public schools. This NOT what I know about public schools.

And now I'm angry.

You're telling me that you don't have the time to differentiate because we only need to provide the Chevy. That's not right.

Students with special needs, students who are gifted, And students somewhere in between should be served together in elementary school. The kids are five. Six. Seven. Eight. And nine. If not now, when?

I know how to differentiate for different levels. It takes work. It might even take the Cadillac of your work. It might take more than the Chevy. No, it SHOULD take more than the Chevy (or Ford or VW or Chrysler). 

Because I'm better than average. I am better than the Ford model. I am a Cadillac of a teacher. 

And I believe that public school kids should get the Cadillac. The Ferrari. The Beamer. The Jag.

I'm not the freakin' Chevy. 

And neither are my services.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being Schooled at Soulcraft by B. Stupp

The post seen below was written by my colleague, art educator extraordinaire!  Enjoy!

Being Schooled at Soulcraft

I entered the Soulcraft educator cohort this past January encouraged by a colleague who expressed her overwhelmingly positive experience.

I am an art educator, have been for 25 years. I am retiring at the end of this year. My selfish interest in Soulcraft was to learn for myself, as an artist, how to make things out of wood. I am a painter and a fiber artist and am interested in how to tie my work with fiber into wood working…but, I am not a sculptor, and I know nothing about wood working. I also am lame at constructing and making something structurally sound. I am all about the form but not so great at the function.

I am already a maker. I understand the intellectual rigor that goes into making something…how in the process of making one must construct content and knowledge, solve problems, and persist to make meaning-the creative thinking process. I love working through this process with my students. At the level I teach, K-3 grade, the kids are wildly creative.

I teach, however, in an environment of non-makers. Making is not valued and domains of learning are compartmentalized to the point that art teaching is marginalized. In this environment, art class is: for students who cannot succeed academically, a planning time for real teachers, not measured with big data so really has no relevance, pretty pictures hung in the halls to make administrators look good to parents.

In this environment, art class is never thought of as a space where students actually learn. Art teachers have some responsibility for this, always scrambling to meet mandates that seem to require art to be measured, like….jeez, I don’t even know. It’s never about innovative ideas to further art education.

So, I am done as an art teacher. I am retiring partly because of this frozen state of art education. I was not sure if this experience at Soulcraft would influence me as a teacher.

It was a tough and chilly January for me and my attendance at Soulcraft was erratic. Each Saturday I was there, Peter and Jim took the time to support my formal ideas and teach me the tools and provide the materials that I needed to realize them. Each educator in the cohort was working on their own project. Each brought their level of skill and knowledge to the studio. I needed a lot of help…but every time I met a block, the community at Soulcraft was always there for help. Each person was working autonomously on their own unique idea. Observing all these ideas and their processes was truly inspirational and taught me even more. Sean, Dave, Morgan, Karen, Julie and others I can’t name…were always willing to answer a question, help find a tool, help me put together my shelves…unbelievable generosity and kindness. The enlightened conversations I have had with this community have been so different from those I have in my work environment and reaffirmed the value of my job as an art educator and maker.

I have taken away much from this experience. First, as an artist, I have a lot more to learn about making things out of wood, a lot more mistakes to make and a lot more questions to ask. I made a simple set of shelves that I installed in my kitchen and they actually function. I crave the ability to make freely at Soulcraft, to use the tools and methods as needed to create. Second, as an art educator, I want to explore the idea of projects that that open out to unexpected possibilities instead of pre-determined channels. I tried this for our art show in March. I had 200 second and third grade students create a project of their choice based on a theme. 200 students working with unique and different ideas and mediums…it was crazy and messy, and so exciting and meaningful. They envisioned their ideas, they explored and stretched mediums, they made mistakes and problem solved….The results were outstanding (I could go on about this, but…time and space.) Third is the idea of creating within a community. I owe so much to the community at Soulcraft for my learning. When my students were creating their projects for the art show, they were so engaged with each other’s ideas and processes. They critiqued each other, they
helped each other. They communicated their assessments and meanings with me and their fellow artists (all quite informally.) It was amazing, a real open studio, artistic, aesthetic experience in the classroom…but no one in this environment noticed…the projects were hung, the students artists’ statements were attached, the halls looked pretty for the administrators and parents, but no one took the time to look and read the individualized ideas of the students…so how do I communicate? This is my soul dilemma in my work environment.

I have been so schooled at Soulcraft.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week 75- What IS this thing?

A six week Saturday morning class.  Is that what I agreed to?

It's now week... I don't know what number... and I am still going back.

Soulcraft Woodshop.

How has this journey changed me?

Well, it's hard to say.

In September of 2014, I was working a job at school that I didn't want.  I was told I needed "a break" and basically put into time out.  I was searching for life outside of my career.  I was going home at a normal hour each day and truly only working the 8 hour day.  That was brand new to me after 11 years of working 11-12 hour days.  I was unhappy.  I missed my team.  I missed my students.  I was getting to know new students, but it wasn't enough.  I was searching for something.

Fast forward to March 2015.  I am begging for spring break to get here.  I am still not totally happy in my job, mostly because it just doesn't feel like enough.  I could do more.  I give a lot of assessments.  I follow intervention scripts.  But, I do feel like I am making a difference.  The kids are growing and changing and that's success.  It feels good.  But I am not defined by my career anymore.  I am not defined by my school district.

Being part of Soulcraft has given me some courage.  It's given me even more voice than I had before.  It's helped me hone some of those communication skills that were still less than "diplomatic."  I've met great people, formed some incredible relationships, grown professionally and personally.  I found the thing I was searching for, though I'm still not really sure what that is.

Conversations with Pete, Jim, and Sean are sometimes above me.  I shake my head and hear their words and most days I go back to my car and Google something they were talking about.  I don't always understand their political references or even their references to literature that I have not yet read yet.  The cool thing is, if they know that I am clueless (sometimes), they don't show it.  OR, if I'm particularly brave that day, I ask or say "I don't know what that means."  And they explain it to me.  Hopefully without judgement.  Or it seems like without judgement...

Conversations with Julie and Karen... Ahhhhh... I wish we could all work in the same building.  Strong women.  Empowered women who know who they are and what they stand for.  They don't let others get in the way, and if they do, they reflect and go back.  They put kids first.  They vent. And then they move forward.  WE move forward.  They help me to move forward.

And there's Tom.  Tom and I see eye to eye. And it's just comfortable to be there with Tom.  With all the men who don't appear to be judging my skills as a woodworker or furniture designer or artist at all.  They are there learning too.  "Who knows how to use this machine thingy over here?"  Yeah, I might, and I can show you.

One realization that I have almost weekly is that I don't like to do stuff that I am not good at.  And for my first few projects, I was great.  Realizing now that Pete and Jim had a LOT to do with that skill, I am a little humbled at the fact that in the past three weeks, I have screwed up at least 100 times.  I really messed up those dados.  And I typically would trash them, never speak of them again, start over, and excel at it the next time.  But WOW, I REALLY screwed up those dados.  And I can talk about it. And even laugh.

I'm not good at the measuring.  I'm not good when something needs to be perfectly measured or perfectly symmetrical.  I stand in awe when Jim says something like "well, it's just about 7/16ths."  Again, I was great at math, but in regards to the tape measure, I have no idea what this means.  I smile and nod.  And I don't think he judges the fact that I have no idea what this means.  He probably does realize it though. I'm not so good at the hiding of facial expressions.

So, I've had some time now to really get to know what I'm good at and what I'm not.  And for some reason, I keep coming back to this thing that I am not particularly great at.  I wonder why.

I told someone yesterday, "I'm not sure if I actually like making things out of wood, or if I just like the people here enough to keep coming back, or both."

Courage to be honest.

So this adventure has also given me courage in my own school building.  Last year, I couldn't say or do the right thing to save my life.  This year, I decided that I needed to still stay true to myself and maybe it would work out.  It has.  I had the courage to ask if I could start a Makers' Club.

Makers' Club has taken off like I never knew it would.  As I felt like my job as a reading interventionist was lacking creativity, and I knew that what I was doing on Saturday mornings was meaningful, I wanted to incorporate the two.  On Thursdays, second graders (any who want to on any week) come to my room and make stuff.  Usually I give them a challenge.  Sometimes I give them prizes for fulfilling the challenge.  Second graders are really working on how to share, how to ask for someone to share, how to put their ideas together.  On Fridays, third graders come.  They get a slightly more detailed challenge, and typically blow my mind with what they create.  They are better at sharing, better at working together, and need little assistance in their "design thinking."

After 4 weeks of Makers' Club and close to 75 kids a week going through our room, I've only seen 3 kids cry.  Two cried because their project did not work and they did not have time, before going back to their homeroom class, to fix it.  One cried because no one would share.  I've gotten to use my powers of conversation and behavior skills (ha!) to talk through situations with these 7 and 8 year olds and somehow all three came back the next week.

The principal and other teachers are on board with the Makers' Club AND the PSO even sends volunteers and gave me a budget.

So, how has Soulcraft changed me?

It's given me more courage.

It's broken down on typical gender biases (or barriers) for me.

It's given me a group of friends that I can't wait to see on Saturday mornings.

It's helped my communication skills.

It's opened my eyes to learning again.  To starting over.  To failing.  To doing stuff you aren't good at.

It's.... well.... stay tuned. Because I am sure there will be more.

P.S. I am purposely not proofreading this and just pressing publish.  I want this to be honest and open and not rethink everything I just typed.  Please forgive any typos.  Yikes... Here goes... 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

More on OETC15...


I am so happy that my district was generous enough to send me this year, along with several of my colleagues to OETC. As usual, I had a fantastic time and learned a ton.

What's interesting to me, however, as I reflect on my time in Columbus last week, is the difference in my own learning style and learning needs since the last time I was there.

In the past, I came away with tools and tools and more new tools to use at school and with kids. Tools for efficiency, tools for creativity, tools for "drill and kill..." 

This time, it was more about what to do with the tools AND what to do with education.

I learned more about the Google Apps for Educators, tips I didn't know after using it for over 2 years (or has it been longer?). I learned how to find more fonts in a Google Doc which will truly help some elementary teachers to finally make the switch from Word.

I also had time to play around with "add-ons." Typically in a school day, this doesn't take priority but it was nice to know some extended features like EasyBib and the highlighting tools. I realize this is easy and I could've figured it out in time, but I wasn't spending the time to do so. It was nice to have that time. 

We heard a keynote speaker, a woman coder for Pixar. Danielle Feinberg (@dafeinberg) spoke about giving opportunities to everyone, regardless of gender. Of course this keynote felt like it was written for me because of my recent realization of and struggle with these gender inequalities.

I spent more time with my friends Sean Wheeler and Peter Debelak (@peterdebelak) discussing these same gender issues and feeling empowered because they often help me to realize that we can change these inequalities, one by one, slowly but surely. They are big time dreamers and doers. This is why I like them.

I spent time with folks from our district that I normally don't have time to chat with- Jacqui Berchtold (berchtoldj), Kim Taylor (@taylortchr), Scott Kinkoph (@scottkinkoph), and John Schinker (@schinker). We spent time talking about limitations and expectations in our own district while also having fun and gaining new rapport with each other.

Another keynote speaker, Yong Zhao (@yongzhaoUO) kept us laughing for over an hour. Nothing new but wonderfully fulfilling ideas about what's wrong with education and how we should change it. We ordered his book 5 minutes after he was done talking.

Spending time with so many like minded people was refreshing. So good to see Bob (@bob05), Ryan (@mr_collins), Toby (@tobyfischer), TJ (@tjhouston), Nevin (@mathremix), and Stacy (@stacyhaw) again! 

On Wednesday, I spent a lot of times in the "unconference" aka OETCx. The day was filled with conversations, not presentations, about education.  I engaged in one convo about "adult issues vs. student ones" where we discussed how adults should get out of the way already. Our own insecurities and fears are holding kids back.

I also stayed to talk about the Soulcraft Cohort with Sean and Pete. If you've been following this blog, you already know about it, but we all (along with Vicki Turner @Vturner8 and Jeremy Schorr @jeremyschorr) got to talk about our very authentic learning experiences thus far. By the way, we still go there every Saturday morning for our "six week class." I wish Tom Grodek (@mrgrodek), Jim McNaughton, Karen Wheeler (@mathcoachlkwd), Julie Rea (@juliesrea), and Christy Neider (@christyneider) could've been there too. Words don't do justice for what we've done with #soulco.

After that. A conversation about motivation and behavior... Since I am studying ABA currently, this was a major topic for me, and as I started the conversation, I realized its still a bit foggy for me, what I believe about intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards and motivation...

Then onto the FRED (Finding Real Education) talks where presenters had 15 slides at 30 sec per slide (or something like this) and shared short bursts of info with us.  Jon Smith (@theipodteacher) inspired me to start using iBooks and Michael Rousch (@mdrousch) had me in tears as he spoke about his daughter with ASD. I cried, not because I pity him (I don't), or because his life is sad (it's not), or even because his story is particularly unique, but rather, because I felt proud. He was showing that we can do it. We can integrate that little bit of "oh hey, remember 'those kids' too when you develop tech and curriculum and school" into a day with folks who are generally apathetic to the topic of special education. He is a great model for me to say "look, it can be done." His preso is here-https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1xg-WFENxgsFd1DLhRkmY4qc1nrkIlL2GLL0LQNmeefg/edit?usp=sharing&pref=2&pli=1

One thing that annoyed me was that there was not one female FRED Talker. I found out later that the document, which I never saw, was open for anyone yet "Why didn't any females sign up?" I believe I would've, yet after over a week pondering it, I'm still not sure what I would've talked about...

The tools I learned are important but the connections and conversations are priceless...

My friend Sean Wheeler (@mrwheeler or @teachinghumans on twitter) says "I became a teacher because I hated school." 

For me, it's the opposite. I loved school and I played the game.  I was great at the game of school. It's only now that I see that our kids today shouldn't be playing that game. They don't have the time.  They are getting ready for jobs that haven't even been created yet. So why teach them with points and grades and worksheets and tests that make them cry?

More of these authentic experiences please!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#OETC15 Day 1

#OETC15.  Here we are.  I'm looking forward to some awesome learning and some engaging conversations.

So far, I've been near some like minded colleagues which always helps make a conference (or any day) better.

Today, there are the pre-conference workshops.

Currently, I'm hanging out in "Google Power Users."  It's a little dry, BUT I've learned some things so far.  I don't typically have time to check out all of the "add-ons" and extensions, but this workshop is show casing these things.  It's nice to have time to sit and look around.

I already found an awesome Google Add-On called Easy Bib.  I'm sure you know this, but, I can get a source cited in APA style right within the document!  This thrills me because Citation Machine has changed and I'm not a fan.  (Remember when we actually wrote out our own citations?  Me neither.)

Who knew that I could make my own memes in Google Draw?

And now it's so cold... I can't think.

Sunday, February 8, 2015



It's the running joke at the woodshop now, that you can always find me sanding.

I'm the master sander.

Okay, not really the master, but I do enjoy the sanding.  I even asked for (and received) a circular sander for Christmas. 

What is it about sanding wood at Soulcraft that I love, I wonder?

Well, first, it's my new comfort zone. While I know how to use other machines there, I can use a sander without any help, not even reminders or prompts. :) I love the comfort zone. I could go back to it every time. Every piece can be sanded. And sanded again. And maybe a little more...

Next, although it's cliche for a special ed teacher, of course I LOVE to take a piece of rough wood and turn it into something smooth and beautiful.

Making something beautiful with your hands is such an experience... 

And the vibrations... I feel calm. And zen... If zen is something you can feel...

And if I want to learn and work this way, why wouldn't a student at school want this? Would this motivate more students? It motivates me.  Would more students want to come to school? Would more students succeed?

What motivates your students to come to class? 

Can you provide them with a comfort zone? 

Can you push them outside of their comfort zone?

Or enjoy their zen state?