I am filled, during this season of thankfulness and gratitude, for the opportunity to have learned so much in our EDCS480 course. I have to reflect back to the first days of class (and the cohort!) where I struggled to simply toggle back and forth between Blackboard and Youtube without inadvertently kicking myself out of class. Or that frantic moment  or two (or 10) where fellow classmates were feverishly typing on the white board and I couldn’t even find a cursor to get started. From the beginning of this course, I often equated myself to Deedee in the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory:

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However, within the span of months, just in my basic technological abilities, I have grown in  leaps and bounds. I am writing my own blog (which I LOVE!), creating slide shows, using Google Classrooms, Padlet, Adobe spark, Quizlet, and my exit slips in my classroom went from 140 bent and crinkled post it notes I had no ability to  make rhyme or reason of, to Google Forms where I am presented with real life data on how my classes are doing- using data to inform instruction right on the spot. I am excited, amazed and feel a sense of invigoration that I haven’t had as a classroom teacher in a long, long time. My husband, who is also a classroom teacher, but has taken the year off to serve as Temporary VP for our school told me today, “By the time I come back next year, I will be the dinosaur in the building. You need to help me get on board with all of this new, awesome technology!” With that, I did the old look over the shoulder…who could he be talking to? Me?…Yes, Me!

I’ve always been a firm believer in learning and growing. You cannot be stagnant and just let the times change around  you. To move forward  we must go along with the tides of change and make mistakes, pick ourselves up and keep on learning. “Fail Forward” as one of my cohort members says (Graves-Grantham, 2016). And when we learn, grow and change, turn around and share that wisdom with others. Always be open to the possibility of new and better, and with that notion, truly embody  what it means to be a life long learner. As George Couros says, “In schools, where we focus on our students in the future, growth can no longer be simply an option,” (2015).

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But this course has reminded me and taught me so much more. As new teachers, when we leave our cohort and take on our very first classrooms, we do so with the intention to change the world. Give students choice- rap a poem, write an essay, create a puppet show. We have the underlying knowledge that the impossible is always possible if you work hard, make the students part of the decision making process, and create a learning environment where students sit in groups and talk, share and learn in a real world, collaborative and harmonious way. Until the reality of the real “real world” sets in and you are following a prescribed curriculum, over testing students on a regular basis, analyzing the data, following more prescribed curriculum to remedy the pitfalls of the first curriculum, and then wonder why kids are bored, hate school, and can’t wait for recess. It is this that slowly dulls the sparkle of any teacher, and we must not let it.

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When I read the Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros, and took part in the weekly MOOCs I couldn’t help but nod in silent agreement with what seemed like every word I read. I highlighted so many pearls of wisdom that resonated with me. One section that really stuck  with me is when Dr. Katie Martin, as quoted in the Innovator’s Mindset, states that, “Right now, we are at odds in many systems because we say we want kids to be critical thinkers, productive citizens, responsible decision makers… an then we only measure ‘success’ by how they perform on a test…” (2015).  This reality is a daunting one. On one hand, as a teacher you know what you need to do with regard to what is best for kids. On the other hand, you are constantly being thrown data and are required to analyze it- with “the test” as the center of the universe. The truth is, we cannot simply be ok with things remaining the way they are. As educators, it is our responsibility to find that spark that set our soul on fire to become a teacher in the first place –and find a way. A way to allow student voice and choice. To find a way to circumvent the prescribed curriculum  and “Innovate inside the box” so that students are still meeting the standard but doing so in a way where they can, as Richardson says, “Bring their kale to school.” A way to get kids passionate about what matters to them and make it work. A way to use technology to connect to the Global community. A way to use Youtube and Snapchat in positive learning activities and instead of telling kids what they can’t do, show them what they can do and how it can help them learn and grow and thus, allow them to feel inspired and empowered too.  A way to make learning and not “the test” the center of focus. To let them know we care about them as people and as thinkers and that we value them for the amazing, unique individuals that they are. I have learned that I cannot be chained by the bureaucratic red tape of the times we live in, but rather I must use it to inspire me to be more creative and… find a way…

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So with the seeds of change that I take away from the course, I will go on to plant new opportunities, for both myself and my students.  George Couros states,that we must “Never stop asking questions or pushing the boundaries of what is possible for learning for our students and for ourselves; this is where the true learning will happen,” (2015). It is with this notion that I will charge on, with the love of my students and what is best for them in my heart, always looking toward what I can do to make learning new and better, and carry with me always the spirit of a pirate and an Innovator’s Mindset. What an amazing semester it has been. In the spirit of the season, in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, “I am not the man I was.” Change is indeed a beautiful thing.

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