Sunday, November 16, 2014

Who Said 1st Grade isn't Fab Lab...ulous!

This week I was lucky enough to spend time with first graders in our state funded Fab Lab. It was incredible! Actually, that probably isn't a strong enough word to describe it. This opportunity came about because of some amazing 1st grade teachers. I've been lucky to be invited by them to work on several projects and every time, it just gets better and better...and bigger if I'm being honest. Check out their amazing classroom work at

A huge thank you goes out to my partner's in crime on this project, Doug Jones, Shane Shoaf and Sandy Willmore. We couldn't not have pulled it off for those amazing students without our teamwork! If you want to know more about the work our first graders did in the MIT Fab Lab, email thoma.1@napls.us.

As if that project wasn't enough...I also had our fourth class of Foundations of Innovation. This group of educators leaves me speechless time and time again. This week our class focused on Human Centered Design Thinking. We worked together to build empathy for each other around the challenge: How Might We Redesign Professional Learning? We went through a rapid cycle design challenge. The reflection piece at the end is always my favorite but I especially loved sharing with the group that the entire purpose of pushing them through a design cycle in an hour was actually to build empathy for our students...I hope it worked!

Here are some photos from the night! Can't wait to see this talented group of teachers in December!



Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Thankful Heart

I fell in love 11 years ago...with my school. That really deep kind of love where you know that there is a reason this love came into your life. I pulled into the school with my parents for an interview at age 24...and knew this was my home. Over my 11 years I have worked with amazing students, families, teachers, and administrators. We have seen successes and failures together...but nothing could have prepared me for the things that were to come.

I didn't know that I would meet my professional soul mates. The ones that challenge me to be better. The ones that became my role models. Those teachers that stand next to me and cheer me on with each step I've taken towards an administrative career. I didn't expect that I could love a profession this much. I didn't know how the person across the hall could change my life with just a few positive reminders about what we believe education should be like for all children. How lucky am I?

I did know however, that I could love children to the end of the world and back and it still wouldn't be enough. Only after I had my own children, did I learn why I am a good teacher. It's because I love them. I love all of them. Everyday. I used to loose sleep over worrying about a low test grade, planning a lesson that would connect with my kids, or learning the 15th strategy for addition that the state wanted me to teach. Here's the thing, I don't take lightly that I get to spend more time with someone's children in a day, than their own parents do. I know what a great responsibility it is to make sure that every one of those children have a day that inspires a passion for learning and pushes them to strive to identify personal growth goals. I love them everyday. To the end of the world and back, I will always try my best for the students. How lucky am I that I work with these amazing children?

I've watched my former students grow up to graduate and become fireman, naturalists, and so much more. I've seen shy students come out of their shell and turn into leaders of their student body. I've cried with families as we struggle to figure out ways to tackle homework stress, divorces, sibling fights...you name it, I've lived it with the students and families I love. 11 years and I still smile everyday when I park my car and enter my school. The parents I have worked with have changed my life. Sometimes it was because I made a mistake, other times it was because I solved a problem, and sometimes it was just a connection between a teacher and a parent gushing over the number of words read correctly in a minute. How lucky am I, that I got experience the opportunity to work with hundreds of families on building a better future, one student at a time?

Those are just a few of the reasons I am grateful. There are thousands more. But all of these grateful heartsongs would not be possible without that school that I love. The one that will be changing dramatically in just a few short months. So while some want to complain about how they didn't know anything about pay to play fees, and others spread untruths about how the district is spending money, or my personal favorites of how our board of education and superintendent didn't listen, I choose to continue to search for my grateful heart. I will remember that bus drivers are losing their jobs in December and may not have a way to make ends meet, and I'll look at two of my dearest treasures and try to keep my head up knowing their jobs are gone and I may never work with them again...I will promise myself that I will make the most of the position I am in for the remainder of the year until the position is eliminated. I will work harder to make the greatest impact I can. I will cherish every moment I have, because I am in love with the school I work at. 


Saturday, October 25, 2014

"I Commit"...Let's Get It Started

I'm sitting here, reflecting upon my week, and deciding that tonight is the night I start my own "I Commit" action steps. I've been given the opportunity to lead a group of educators through a class that I am calling "Foundations of Innovation". This class started as an idea for my principal internship course work. It has become so much more to me. I leave these classes feeling inspired, motivated, and hopeful that we will be able to change the way we "do" school. I believe that education should be first and foremost...fun. Yes, it should be hard work and full of rigorous curriculum but aside from that, it should be fun. This course is plain and simple...fun. We are studying concepts like creating a culture of innovation, sparking creativity, and how to create and use flexible learning spaces. How can that not be fun? This week I wrapped up our Saturday session (that's right, teachers came and worked on a Saturday!) and held an invigorating Wednesday evening class where we had the opportunity to have New Albany High School Principal, Dwight Carter, speak to us about developing a Professional Learning Network. He focused specifically on Twitter and how this tool can be used to grow your professional development a million times over. It was inspiring to say the least and extremely informative. This work, while it has been life changing, has come at a cost, and I sometimes wonder if I am making a difference with this. Then...I opened my Twitter account and saw six teachers from my class actively involved in telling the story of what we do at New Albany. I got emails from these teachers late at night telling me what they were learning and sharing and how excited they were. So I guess, maybe...I am making a difference. Here's to the innovators and here's to accomplishing my own "I Commit" list!
Kick off to Foundations of Innovation in the 1-8
The Wednesday group studying "Reinventing Education...Defined"
Dwight Carter teaches us about PLN's
Prototypes for Design Thinking


Looking for ways to create a culture of innovation