Thursday, February 19, 2015

Schools Closed, Educators Connect

For my fellow Chicagoland friends, you have felt the frustration with the Snow & Cold days we've had this winter...

Apple Academy February 2013 Graduates
Berwyn South School District 100 hosts site visits every few weeks, and we had an exciting visit planned for Noblesville School District in Indiana today. I was particularly excited for this visit, because my fellow Apple Academy graduate +Andrew Swickheimer and I recently reconnected via Twitter to talk about our upcoming conferences we are planning, iEngage-Berwyn and iPadpalooza Indiana. Andy was hoping to bring his amazing 5th grade iPad pilot team out to some Apple Distinguished Schools/Programs in IL. So, they packed their bags and took the 4 hour trip to the Chicago Suburbs. They visited Gurnee School District 56 and Aptakisic School District yesterday; then they ventured closer to Berwyn and got a hotel room so they were close for their Berwyn visit today. At 6:00 last night I received the dreaded text... "School is closed tomorrow due to the extreme temperatures."

Nooooo.... I wanted to yell, we have a site visit! Hiawatha Elementary and Heritage Middle School were ready to host visitors and our IN group was already HERE! We thought quickly on our feet, and tried to get a small Berwyn group to join the Nobelsville team for at least an hour discussion since they drove all this way. Several texts and a few phone calls later, Superintendent Dr. Stan Fields, Instructional Coach +Jordan Garrett, Principal +Marilyn McManus and 4th grade teacher +Christina Betz committed to meeting, even though school was closed.

Before we could get through the introductions, we realized we were ALL on Twitter... Seconds later a Today's Meet was started to share our Twitter handles and other links we talked about during the discussions. (What like-minded educators!) We focused the conversations around the 5 categories of an Apple Distinguished Program- Visionary Leadership, Innovative Teaching and Learning, Compelling Evidence of Success, Ongoing Professional Learning, and Flexible Learning Environment. Teachers and coaches from both districts scurried down notes and kept asking, "Wait, what app was that? Oh, we're doing that too. My students are Appsmashing... we use Blendspace to help differentiate our classroom learning outcomes..."

An hour later, we wrapped up the discussion... everyone stood up and started chatting even more! What conferences are you going to next? What did you learn on your other site visits? How are you integrating instructional coaches? It was "district to district love at first site." (Ha, it's still February!)

Instructional Coaches from Nobelsville, IN and
Berwyn South, IL sharing ideas
The point that I'm trying to make is that no matter where we are located, or what our demographics look like (Nobelsville & Berwyn South couldn't be more different on paper), we are all in this teaching and learning world together. We are all trying to integrate the technology into our curriculums, differentiate our teaching, meet the needs of our students, engage our school communities, offer time for professional learning, mold our teaching to match the standards, etc. Let's do this together, let's connect, let's share. Whether you crawl out of your home on a -30 day, attend a conference, or connect with your PLN virtually, continue to learn from each other because your students, OUR students everywhere deserve it.
Nobelsville, IN & Berwyn South, IL teachers, coaches, and
admins connect on one of the coldest days this year