Teachers: The Profession Has Chosen You

You don’t choose your profession. The profession chooses YOU! You have been chosen to be an educator.

This thought right here is my lightbulb moment. I previously wrote a small piece about the importance of teachers and I want to follow up with more.

I think we live in a day and age where it is time for educators to come together and support one another. Support through online channels, face to face at conferences or coffee shops, sharing within a building, a district, across state lines and across district lines.

It is time to remove the mindset of education as competition and think about education as collaboration. If we were to all support one another, share best practices, engage in ideas, and come together as one unit everyone wins. More importantly all students win.

As another year kicks off I think it is very important that all educators remember how powerful their profession is when it comes to the impact they can have on lives. I don’t doubt for one second that any teacher forgets this, but it helps to have a reminder.

As the year kicks off I also know that there will be dark patches throughout the year. So, I have started to curate a playlist of videos and resources that any educator can use at any given time when needed. These are reminders to keep doing what you do best and that is teach!

If you want to add to the playlist, then simply reach out to me and I will add to it. The more we have the greater the power in helping spread the word that teachers have been chosen for a reason – you are awesome and the students need you.

I cannot thank you enough for what you do.

And here is a small gift of a playlist of voices to remind you when you need it that educators are great!

 

 

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Google Classroom: Sort Stream With Topics

The latest batch of updates from Google is so great. I previously provided a walkthrough about the update to add parents and guardians to the Classroom and today I must share the next great update.

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Adding topics to posts in the Classroom.

So what this means is that we can now organize our assignments and posts by topic. What this will create is a column on the left side that students can click a topic and all posts will appear. Think about this for a minute. You can now sort by unit, standard, project, chapter, etc. Whatever works for you as a teacher can now be done.

No more strolling for days to find that one post from a month ago!

Check it out and let us know how this can help your classroom organization.

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To All Educators

I know my opinions don’t carry much weight, but I want all educators to know that I think you are some of the best people the world has to offer.
 
I have felt so blessed to work with so many amazing educators in my career.
 
You have done the work.
 
You have put in the time.
 
You have had those tough conversations with yourself and your team and others.
 
You have put in endless hours on top of endless hours because you care about students. You care about your colleagues. You care about your job.
 
You are dedicated. Sacrificing weekends, nights, time from family, friends, and other events because things simply need to get done because it is the right thing to do.
 
You put in the time and work not to win awards and recognition(however, these are nice reminders when they do happen), but because you want what is best for students and your school.
 
You care. You work hard. You work tirelessly. You exhaust your emotions and energy and have to go home and find ways to muster an extra dose of these things because your family needs you also.
 
You have grinded through a lot of work when perhaps there were more pressing matters at hand because you know the long term impact the work can have for students.
 
You meet all expectations and deadlines and duties while still trying to find ways to be the educator you want to be.
 
As a parent I am so grateful for all the educators that work so hard to provide my kids an atmosphere of learning that allows them to grow and learn in a positive environment.
 
As an educator I don’t know where you can find a more dedicated group of people anywhere else(and I know many other professions have great sacrifices and by no means am I downplaying any other occupation).
 
As a colleague to so many amazing educators, I am impressed by how you continue to work through obstacles and issues time and time again to do great work.
 
As a friend I thank you.
 
I know I am a small voice, but the work that so many educators do all over the world does not go unnoticed. I appreciate you. I appreciate your work ethic. I appreciate what you do for students.
 
Thank you for being you. Thank you for being an educator.
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Google Classroom: Guardian Notification is Here!

Finally, after months of waiting and impatiently checking each day for this update to be released it has finally dropped.

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Google For Education announced the parent access to the Classroom and it is as simple and productive as Classroom is for teachers and students. This update comes with an addition of other updates that look just as promising.

For now, let us just be super happy with the parent piece of Classroom. What this will allow you to do is invite guardians to access Classroom. Classroom then becomes a one stop shop for you to enter assignments, questions, announcements for students and parents. Students get notified and documents are created as you are already aware. Parents will receive an email daily or weekly depending on their preference about all the activity taking place in the Classroom. It organized missing work, upcoming work, announcements, questions, etc. Parents are now able to see everything and there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to not be aware of what is going on as long as teachers push these through Classroom.

I am so excited and cannot wait to add this element to our school as we go 1:1 with Chromebooks this year.

What are your thoughts about this feature? I am hope you are as excited as I am!

Check out the walkthrough of the feature below

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Make Your Own Makerspace Decorations

Makerspaces are still all the buzz and for many reasons they should be. I often state it is the start to changing how schools will operate because makerspaces are the one place in school that do not feel like school. This is the reason why students and educators all over the world love them. In these spaces real learning is happening and not just education(two very different words often used back and forth).

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As we head back to school and begin to prepare for another school year(I know many of you have already started) it is time to think about our learning spaces. This summer I decided that I was going to add a few color splashes to the Coffeechug Cafe to give it a less industrial feel and more welcoming to hopefully bring in more students.

There are so many amazing ideas and things to buy online to get you started, but that really goes against the essence of a Makerspace culture doesn’t it?

I decided to make a sign of my own from scratch. I am far from a expert when it comes to tools and decorating so if I can do it you can too!

Step 1: Find some scrap wood or buy some cheap boards like particle board or fiberboards. In my case I had a bunch of these sheets of scrap wood from an old project.

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Step 2: In my case I cut the boards to create 2×2 foot piece. Using a vinyl cutter and 12×12 sheets of vinyl I knew it would be easy to center and apply the letters I wanted to add to the picture. Using a table saw I marked my lines and cut them to size.

Step 3: Once the boards were cut to size, I applied two coats of a white paint with primer as I wanted white as the backdrop. You can pick whatever color you would like for your sign.

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Step 4: I opened up the the Silhouette Cameo software and typed the letter M onto the page. I sifted through all the fonts until I found one that I liked and stretched it out to be as large as I could on a 12 x 12 sheet of vinyl.

**Be sure to center the letter and line up your vinyl properly**

Repeat this process for each letter. In my case I was spelling the word MAKE so I swapped out each letter and cut them out accordingly using this same process.

Step 5: Pick out the letters from the vinyl. We are making a stencil so the letter itself is not needed. Once you have the letters picked out, then pull back the vinyl and apply each sheet to the board. These act as stencils. We can now paint the letters without risk of messing up the white paint.

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Step 6: Decide what paint colors you would like to use. We used the cheap acrylic paint that we had sitting around. There are a ton of color varieties so make sure you are organized. Who knew there were so many shades of red?

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Step 7: Paint. Decide how many coats of paint you want depending on if you want the brush strokes to be seen or letters to be solid. You come up with your own artistic touch. For me, I painted two coats for an in between feel.

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Step 8: Peel the vinyl. It is time to pull back the vinyl. Go SLOW! I went too fast and because of this the paint from the letters tore off around the edges. EEK!(see the edges of the M and A!!!)

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Step 9: Repair. I used a straight edge and repainted where the paint ripped off. Be patient and take your time. No rushing! Patience is a virtue and it will pay off!

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Step 10: Next is building a frame. I took some old pieces of 1 x 4 boards I had sitting around and cut them into 1 x 1 strips using the table saw. I measured and marked the lengths of each side and cut them to size to make sure it was all good.

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Step 11: Paint the frame. I used acrylic paint once again to paint the frames a nice bright orange. Of course when they dry you now have a keyboard to sing the ABC’s!

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Step 12: Glue the frame! I used wood glue and glued the frame down to the board. I glued one piece at a time and used clamps to hold them in place. Be sure to have a damp cloth to wipe off excess glue. If you want you could also staple from the backside if you want more support. IMG_4408

Step 13: Hang and enjoy! I will update once I have it up in my makerspace, but I will be using the 3M strips to hold on the wall. I have to wait as I am organizing my room as I found out I am sharing the room with another educator this year.

I hope you enjoyed this piece and let me know if you have questions. More importantly let us be sure we don’t only do lip service about education ideas, but lead by actions. Get out there and make something. And then please share your work as I love being inspired by others and learning new ideas!

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Join the Roadtrip To Success Book Group

Hello everyone!

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It has been quiet here on the Coffee For The Brain home front for quite some time now. I have been away hanging with my family, doing some new projects, reading, traveling, and more.

I am back. I am ready to get back into the flow of things and I am going to do so with a big announcement and idea.

I have been working on a book now for quite some time. Believe me, it has been a journey that has pushed me to brink of excitement and frustration more times than I care to count. However, I believe in the message and really think I have something that can resonate with many of you.

Instead of just publishing it outright I have decided to reach out to all of you in hopes that you will join me in a little experiment. I would like to release the book in small chunks over the course of the next few months. I need some readers to give me feedback, test out the ideas, experiment with the challenges, and help make the book better than the current draft.

I am hoping that this person is you!

All you have to do is sign up by filling out this form below

Join the Roadtrip to Success Book Group

* indicates required




 

Once you fill out this form I will be in contact with you starting on August 1st. We will be providing all sorts of powerful content such as:

  1. Chapters to read for free by agreeing to provide feedback and complete the challenges
  2. Podcasts and videos of myself as well as you the readers sharing your stories
  3. Challenges and contests
  4. Help with artwork, resources, and journaling
  5. Creating a network of people ready to map their journey to success to help each one another accomplish our goals

If you are ready to preview and read Improvement Is No Longer The Challenge: Designing the Roadtrip to Success, the simply fill out the form above and starting August 1st you will receive the first segment and other surprises.

This book was written for my kids, but with educators in mind. I hope you will join me and I promise this is something that you will benefit from by participating. I cannot wait to start sharing with all of you.

As a bonus I will send out the intro when you sign up. This will give you something to chew on while you wait for August 1st to come around.

Are you ready to no longer be average and hit that milestone you have been wanting to reach for a long time? Then this is for you!

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Learning is not difficult, it just takes time.

This summer I am disengaging from nonstop education thinking and just clearing my mind, body, and soul. If you have followed me online so far this summer it is really been saturated with my training workouts, books I have been reading, and family. I have decided to train for a marathon. I have ran one several years ago when I was in shape, had less children, and my body was not in the state of terrible fitness it is currently.

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So far, things have been going pretty good, but I have only been training for a few weeks.

To get my mind back in the mode to complete the runs, not miss workouts, and to make sure I don’t second guess myself when it comes to track workouts and long runs is the real challenge. These are the things that I am currently working with my kids.

My son is one who is not loaded with confidence and positive self image because he has yet to realize what potential he has inside him. Just the other night he was quite upset that he had to go to a basketball skills workout. He thinks he sucks. He thinks he is the worst player and that everyone looks at him. I tried to explain to him that he has the ability, but two things are holding him back.

  1. He does not believe in himself. 90% of being able to do the drills is to simply believe. I shared that just yesterday Ava finally decided enough was enough and she taught herself to ride her bike. She wanted zero help. I kept telling her to believe she can do it. Don’t doubt yourself when you start pedaling. Just keep pedaling. After 15 minutes she was riding up and down the street like a pro.
  2. It takes time. He was mad and arguing that he did on session and did not see improvement. I explained that one hour won’t make anyone a pro. This realization has come in my own life as well.

To reach our goals is not necessarily difficult… It just takes time.

And that is what we all need to learn.

Most things aren’t actually that difficult. But learning them does take awhile. The hardest part is devoting time to get better and to reach our goals.

Running isn’t overly hard – it’s just complex and learning a new skill takes time. This is why I am training with a group that provides the training plan. I just need to show up and do what is planned. Not that difficult. I just need to not skip a workout.

Running a marathon isn’t very hard. The numbers showcase that over a half a million people run a marathon each year. However, the number is deceiving because less than .5% of people have ran a marathon. We are all plagued by the notion of time. Can we really commit? Are we strong enough to do so?

What I am trying to showcase to Aiden and my daughters is that things are not really that difficult, but that our goals take time. This is a monumental mindset shift. They don’t understand and in the moment Aiden does not want to hear it. He does not like basketball and so convincing him that he could like it if he opened up his mind. More importantly, we tell him that playing various sports and games is good for his hand, eye, feet coordination that will help him in football which he loves.

I am happy to report that a few weeks into these workouts and sessions he has a new sense of confidence about himself. He smiles more. His shoulders don’t slouch. He does not cringe when it is time to go. He enjoys it. Maybe not the sport itself, but the challenge, feeling the improvement, connecting with friends. Most importantly he is starting to realize that maybe he can actually do the things he puts his mind to(although he won’t admit any of this!)

Back to the matter at hand. We don’t need special genes and DNA to reach our goals. We just need to be able to devote time to our goals. With time comes patience to not give up, staying consistent, and a positive self image. We can only achieve what we believe we can achieve.

Now I need to adhere to my own words of wisdom as I struggle with dropping weight and getting frustrated. I just need to exercise patience and believe in myself.

 

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Robodogs Sumobot Camp Day 1: Holy Robots, Batman!

This year we added a new camp that is all about sumobots. This is a three day camp that allows us to work with a greater range of students from grades 3-9. We have been asked time and time again about opportunities for younger students and we thought this was a perfect fit. This camp allows students to really do a lot more with robot engineering in terms of building a functional robot and figuring out how to best build a solid robot chasis. The beauty of this camp is that we can teach coding, but it does not require a lot of coding to get started which is perfect for the younger ages.

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Our first day was a great start to the camp. We got everyone settled in and made sure everyone knew the rules and how things would operate. You can check the slidedeck but realize this is a living breathing document and will probably change and be modified today as we continue to work through things.

The basic premise is to knock off your opponents robot from the arena without doing massive damage to the robot and parts.

We have about 30 students in the camp ranging from incoming 3rd graders who have never touched a robot to 8th graders who have a pretty extensive background. In the end it does not matter because they all work at their own levels and in this case experience is not as important as one might think.

The first day students were taught how the robots work, how to create a base using simple parts, and the very basics for getting a robot to move. We had them only focus on adding wheels and a gyro ball and getting the robot to move. Our more advanced students went ahead and did their own thing as they already knew these basics.IMG_4256

Once students were able to build a simple robot base that was sturdy we sat with them and demonstrated how to program using the move blocks in the programming language. Our first step was to basically show them that they could build and program a robot.  Confidence is key with anything we do in life and so the quicker we can instill that confidence, the better the outcome.

After we had the robots up and running, we had the students add a color sensor so their robot could detect black and white which are the two colors on the board.

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If students can begin to understand that they can program a robot to make a decision, then the possibilities start to really take off. In our case we wanted every student to have a robot with a color sensor that detected black and white. If the robot read the color black, then their robot would do “x”. If the robot read the color “white”, then their robot would do “y”. It is at this point that students start to make their robots unique in terms of behavior, actions, and movement.

IMG_4276 (1)As students started to figure these things out, we let them work for a bit on their own. There is a real powerful moment of learning when a student experiments on their own. It is also a very fine balance in teaching where we want them to do the work, but we don’t want them so frustrated they give up. Our real goal is to help these students develop their problem solving skills through robotics.

Finally, once they have a robot that can detect colors, then it is now up to them to build and develop a robot that will win a sumo match. This is where day 2 will lead as many of them have a robot that moves. Most of them have the color sensor working. We will have all of this done early in camp in day 2 and then it will be up to the students to devise a body, attachments, sensors, motors, etc. that will really bring their robot to life.

Already we have seen some really impressive robot designs. The imagination and creative juices of students impresses me time and time again.

Here is a quick recap of day 1 and we are really excited about day 2 and seeing how the robots develop and evolve.

 

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Robodogs Robotics Camp was AMAZING!

Another year of robotics camp is in the books. We had an amazing week working with so many talented, smart, intelligent students from grades 5-8 who came to work every single day for 3 hour blocks of time to push their learning and thinking. We had students coming 30-40 minutes early to get extra work on the robot. We had students studying videos online to learn more tactics and build ideas. We had students asking questions, wondering what if I do that or this.

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I was reminded about how amazing students can be when given the chance to spread their wings and fly. I was reminded that there are so many ways to go about being amazing and solving problems. I was reminded that gender and age mean absolutely nothing when we put our minds to a problem. We witnessed incoming 5th graders solve some pretty complex tasks. We watched girls knock it out of the park. We watched students of various ages coming together sharing ideas, teaching coding, helping with code.

We also witnessed and help to coach and mentor through the moments of failure. We told the students that robotics is about dealing with failure. 80% of the time is working on things that don’t work. There is a great deal of learning about oneself when something does not work for the 50th time. Students were working through the process of moving ideas from their head into the real world.

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We also had students work on their speaking skills. We challenged them to articulate their thoughts, explain why the built the robots they constructed, break down their strategy for earning points, and what they hoped to achieve. We taught them that being able to communicate and articulate ideas is one of the most vital skills we can develop. If we can communicate and problem solve, then we are highly employable and can accomplish great things.

I wanted to take time to not just emphasize robotics, but to talk a bit about the lessons learned.

  1. The impossible happens….only if you try. We challenged students to do things they have never done before. Some of the students had never touched a robot. Some have never programmed before and we challenged them to build and code a robot that would solve missions. Some had experience so we pushed them to do things with code that was beyond their current level of thinking. The big theme was to do things we never thought we could. It is scary to push into this new zone of thought, but the rewards can be great if we try. The ones who were successful realized that if one idea did not work out, then they would be able to devise and create another one. Many times we give up and instead we have to keep trying.IMG_3824
  2. Opportunity is always expanding.  We must continue to learn and grow. Each day students had the opportunity to learn and grow. Some stay focused on the task at hand while some migrated to other ideas, but we all expanded and pushed our boundaries. We must remember that the physical work is not as fixed as we once thought. What schools have taught in the past are wrong because our dreams don’t need to be fixed either. The landscape of the world is changing so we can do anything we want to do.IMG_4243
  3. Dream what doesn’t exist.  Go out and build that robot that nobody thinks you can build. Go out and solve that mission that nobody thinks can be solved in a 15 hour week of camp. We had students score some incredible point values that many teams in 2013 would have loved to score during the 4 month season. I was literally blown away by what the students were able to do. Check out the scores.
  4. Focus is key. Many students experienced what it means to take ownership of their work and learning. They realized that their success and setbacks was a result of them and their work. Nobody was going to do the work for them. In these moments students learn so much about themselves. Students came together to cheer one another on. When students were frustrated we watched others come to their rescue to help build them back up. Many learned a valuable lesson that the obstacles occur when we lose sight of the goals. We cannot solve all of these lessons in one camp, but the more we can immerse students in these life experiences the more opportunity they have to develop the skills and perseverance to endure.IMG_3819
  5. Teaching is a privilege. I love having the opportunity teach coding and robotics. I honestly feel blessed to be able to do these camps and continue to have these moments to teach and learn with students each and every school year. I wish I could provide more camps and opportunities and am working to do so, but regardless I am reminded how lucky I am to work with amazing students and watch them grow and develop.

In closing, we had another amazing camp and I was reminded of these life lessons. I hope the students had the same life lessons. We now prepare for one more robotics camp where we will be building sumobots. Until then keep pushing yourselves and learning each and every single day.

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Previous post about the camp.

Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2: Perseverance http://wp.me/p4covo-1Ev

Information about our camp

 

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Robodogs Robotics Camp Day 2: Perseverance

The second day of camp always proves to be a bit of a challenge mentally. The day first comes excitement and all new challenges and building of a robot. The second day is where students find out if their ideas work. For many, the process typically requires a complete or very near complete overhaul of their original design concept.

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This is a tough moment. Many think their first idea is the best idea. Many have never been in a situation where they have had to endure several versions of their prototype ideas to find out what actually works. This can be challenging, but it is a vital piece in the learning process.

One of the key pieces of learning that is often hard for students to understand is the process of elimination. Today all of them were gaining valuable insights and critical elements of learning by discovering what does NOT work.  The process of elimination is what will allow for success. However, this is difficult for students to grasp because the learning is not always tangible. Points are not being scored and missions are not being solved. But, by working through ideas and noting what works and what does not is one more key step in learning and robotics.

Success comes from ruling things out. This is why in a typical robotics season we invest hundred of hours into our robot as we figure out what works and what does not work in addition to adding new layers to the robot as we incorporate new missions and challenges.

Today we really had students trying to think about strategy. We started off helping them to think about strategy. Do you know the points? Do you know why you are building what you are building?

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This is all new territory for many of the students. They are doing amazing. What the students have been able to create, code, and accomplish in two days is really a sight to see. Each student tackles things a bit differently and that is what makes it unique and exciting.

Day 3 will lead us to checkpoint to see where each robot currently is before our Friday point runs. Today will be another exciting day as they continue to learn so much about themselves and robotics even if they don’t even realize it!

Here is our photo album from camp.

Here is a little video of day 2

Robodogs LEGO EV3 Camp Day 1 http://wp.me/p4covo-1Es

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