Becoming an Educational Influencer

It’s pretty exciting seeing things I’ve thought of, go from paper, to implementation. Since I started in my new position, I’ve only just begun to bring new ideas and experiences to the schools I serve. Things that I used to use in my own classroom, or that I thought would be perfect to expand, I now seeing taking shape. My first influential move is bringing theatre education to our elementary schools. The first phase began with 3 schools, and now expanded to 5 schools integrating theatre into their students’ fine arts experiences. With the knowledge, strategies and skills I learned with creating my own elementary theatre program, I’ve been able to help others build their own programs, which have in turn spawned excitement with other campuses. Using things I’ve learned within my classes in the graduate program I’m in, I’ve been able to bring some positive change to almost half of the schools I serve. As I continue, my ultimate goal will be extending the programs to every elementary school in our district. I am also actively working with a digital learning department in my district to bring my innovation project, implementation of ePortfolios, into fruition at our School of the Arts.

Growth Mindset

Why the whole educational world hasn’t moved into developing growth mindsets, I will never know. Even though I knew about the concept, even taught the basics of “yet”, I never dove deep into what it could really do to change the way my students learn, the way I learn. It’s seriously a GAME CHANGER. I’m excited to learn as much as I can about the Growth Mindset in my current graduate class. If anyone could benefit, it’s our students.

Fine Arts For ALL

I’m always looking for new experiences to expose our students to. Today, we gave 3 schools the opportunity to participate in a performance by a local string quartet. I didn’t know how our students would react. Would they like it? Hate it? They LOVED it! For almost an hour, students were enthralled, mouths open wide with awe and excitement. My arts driven heart was bursting with pride. Most of our students get little to no arts experiences at home. It’s up to us to give them these unique and memorable experiences that will live with them forever. Last month, we exposed almost 2000 students to a performance by the San Antonio Philharmonic. I’m also working with several schools on a theatrical production for elementary students and have been rehearsing for another one with students with special needs. I am thankful for the move into this new position because I’m able to expand what I was doing at my school and am able to give all our students in our district the same types of opportunities. It’s something I never stop thinking about. What more can we do? What can we expose our students to? Whatever it takes to give them once in a lifetime experiences. It’s not something we should do, it’s something we MUST do. They deserve it.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Being in the Education field, you need to learn to go with the flow and change path in a minute’s notice if needed. To often, there are people that just cannot handle this type of environment and buckle under pressure. As teachers, if you can’t, you might as well start looking elsewhere. I’ve worked with a few colleagues that, no matter how hard they try, can’t seem to do this. But, what I think helps is planning. You have to plan accordingly, with backup plans and things that can be done if something goes wrong. You must plan, plan well thought out, engaging lessons, if not, students will see right through it.

YOU First!

It’s so hard, being in the Education field to remember that you MUST take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. For educators, there’s ALWAYS something we have to do. Whether working on creating for our classrooms, planning, grades, it’s always something. When we get home, that educator mind doesn’t shut off. After a while, things start to pile up in our brains, we start to lose focus, get stressed, and fall apart on Friday afternoons. Even though I say this, most of the time, I don’t do it either. So, I’ve decided, every day after I get home at the end of the day, I’ll set aside an hour to just relax. Then, if I have work to do, I’ll work on it for an hour, then I’ll take another break, finish up my work, and done for the day. I may not always stick to this, but I’m slowly implementing it into my life. On Fridays, after I’ve had a very long week, I also allow myself to buy something frivolous, a “want” not a “need”. It really helps with my mental health.

In the Room Where It Happens

Right around this time of year, I start losing my drive and inspiration. I start thinking of my yearly winter trip to New York City and that helps keep things moving along. When in New York, I try and soak up as much inspiration for work as possible. They say, when you find someone or something that inspires you, you try to get as close to being in the same room as that person to internalize the same energy. It’s the same for me when I go see theatrical productions in NYC. I take in as much information as I can to bring it back to my programs and students. This usually gets me motivated throughout the rest of the school year and into summer, where I take another yearly trip to New York. This year has been tough because unfortunately, I was unable to make any trips in the summer, as I moved into my new position at the district. So, right now, I’m running on theatre fumes. All will be restored in December.

Help Them Find Their Place

A lot has happened since the end of the last school year. I left my teaching position at a school I was at for 18 years and moved into a higher position at the district level, moving from being a fine arts teacher, to overseeing all 11 elementary fine arts teachers, and more. I am also the director of a special needs theatrical production that will produce its first show at the end of January. Things are moving so fast right now and it’s almost impossible to keep up. But, what makes this all worth it are the experiences I’m supporting at the schools that will inspire and motivate students to reach higher and “go for the gold”. Through the years, I’ve noticed kids, little by little, have lost their drive and willingness to try new things, and with the pandemic, it got even worse. Giving them unique opportunities to use their imagination and creativity will open them up to more. Doing theatre with students for 19 years now, I have seen that it can really make a difference with just about any student, not just those interested in theatre. I have found a place for every kid that may need a chance to shine, may need a place to belong, from the kid that can belt out showtunes to the kid that gets kicked out of class. As teachers, we sometimes forget that they are JUST KIDS. We have the opportunity to change their lives, either for the better or bad. Remember, they may have gone through some unbelievable experiences, seen some unimaginable things, show them you truly care about them and their well being. Show them you are human too, you make mistakes, you don’t know it all.

Change Happens With Determination

Starting off in this new position, working with all 11 of our district’s elementary schools, seemed scary to me. I didn’t know if I’d be able to move teachers in the direction that they all need to be in. At the beginning, it was like herding ducklings, they were all over the place, and I’m including myself in the mix because I was in their position last year. Our group was a mashup of all kinds of talents, experiences, certifications, etc. We needed someone that could oversee everything, see what we were all doing, and bring everyone together. Now, I knew it would be impossible to get everyone on the same page, all the time. But, what I’ve been able to do is bring together what everyone is doing and needs to do. There have been many bumps in the road with some, and I’ve had to make a few my priority, but overall change is happening. I dedicate 2 half days a week to one school where I have been working side by side with the fine arts teacher there. Fairly new, being hired during Covid, and spending a year on an “Art Cart”, she hasn’t really been able to make the magic of teaching spark for her. I’ve set my expectations high, and I’m going to do my best to provide as much support as needed. People have trouble with “change” but it takes determination to make it happen.

Moving My Cheese

If you’ve read the book, “Who Moved my Cheese?” you understand that sometimes our cheese NEEDS to be moved. I think, as a teacher, we need our “cheese” moved every so often to help us be more creative, more innovative and change with our students. As I begin my road through my graduate work, I purposefully chose a digital learning program because it was something that I knew about, maybe dabbled in a bit, especially during Covid, but didn’t have a fully functional model I could say, “Yes, I do that!” In the short weeks that I’ve been in class, I’ve learned that there is a huge gap in the way we are teaching and that we are needing to catch up, and fast! Education hasn’t changed much since I attended public school, but the world around us has, technology has. Yes, we can say we offer the use of iPads and Chromebooks in our classrooms, but HOW are we using them to their fullest potentional? Too many times I see teachers putting kids onto program websites that are supposed to be the “magic pill” to get them to understand the content. These websites are monitored by administrators and leads on campus to make sure you’re using them for “X” amount of minutes a week. The websites go through lessons, whether content was taught or not by the teacher, kids that are able to figure out the knowledge, will pass. I see all of these kids just flying through, guessing the answers but not really understanding any of it, or why. This graduate program will give me the keys to implementing the correct way to engross our students into the digital world, and I’m so excited to see how it’ll help inspire our students to reach for those dreams!

The Beginning of the Journey

It has taken some time, but I have finally setup a website and will be blogging my thoughts, ideas, and more in an effort to begin an ePortfolio. Hopefully, this will be the start of a wonderful adventure to discovery and successful ideas I can put into action, without many potholes in the road. We shall see.

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