Thursday, December 8, 2011

Help Me Change The World **Updated**

If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I am a HUGE fan of the work of Peter H. Reynolds. In August, the book "I'm Here" debuted and I am completely blown away by that book. (Starred review from Kirkus!) The message of the book, originally intended to be about autism, speaks volumes to every person who reads it. I truly believe it belongs in every single school library in the country (and world). Since I don't have the $1,073,696.52 it would take to make that happen, I came up with this idea.

If you want to help me change the world, buy a copy of "I'm Here" and donate it to a local school. Send me an email ( and let me know your name and address, along with the name of the school that received the donation, and you will be in a drawing for a signed print by Peter H. Reynolds. If there is a tremendous response (I am praying for that), I will offer multiple prints.

Of course your local bookstore probably has this book, but if you want to make a double difference, you could purchase it from FableVision Learning! FVL is the company that Peter H and Paul Reynolds started to change the world. Their mission is to help all learners 'reach their true potential'. I do 'work' part-time for FableVision Learning leading an educator group, but I do not make any money from sales. In fact, the print is going to be from my personal money, because I believe in the message of the book and want kids to have it in their libraries. Purchasing things from FableVision Learning (and there are LOTS of awesome products) will be put back into their mission to create more wonderous things.

Until 12/31/11, purchases of $20 or more at FableVision Learning are 20% off with the code FabFall20, so if you want to purchase several books, you can save some money. Buy one for yourself, who doesn't need a powerful message of 'you are not alone' in your library. "The Dot" and "Ish" are awesome for kids to have in their life arsenal. If you buy from FableVision, email with your order and she will have the books signed by Peter!!

The more schools you buy for, the more chances you have to win. The drawing for the print will be around 12/31/11, but continue to help change the world as long as you are able!

**After reading about what I am doing with this event, Peter H. Reynolds tweeted this:

Now one person will win an ORIGINAL piece of art and another (or more) will win a print. I am blown away and thrilled by the response so far, please keep it going!!

This video will give you an idea of the book!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Friend or Follow: My Rules on Social Networking with Students

Dear Student Who Wants to Follow Me on Twitter:

For as long as my Twitter stream is completely open, you may follow me and I may follow you back. Because everything that is posted on my Twitter account is open to the public, this seems appropriate as a way to have interaction. This type of communication would be similar to if I left a note for you on my classroom door. I will follow back anyone in chorus, and perhaps others with whom I have some sort of cordial relationship. IF the time comes that I choose to make my stream private, I will unfollow and block all students to avoid the look of inappropriateness. Nothing I have on my Twitter stream is inappropriate, but I may grow weary of blocking spammers, at which time, it would not be completely open.

Second, anything you post (in an open account) is visible to the entire world including me. Because I care about you enough to follow what you are saying on Twitter, I will also care enough about you to report any inappropriate behavior that you post. There will be no exceptions to this rule. If you post about a party, expect good conduct investigations at school. Please do not put me in this situation, though it won't be fun for me, I will follow through. Be aware that nothing on the Internet is private and it is not a good idea to post inappropriate behavior. Plus, the reason there are good conduct policies in the first place is to help you avoid things that could hurt you and your reputation.

You should not send me direct messages as I will not respond to them. That is the only non-publicly visible part of Twitter and I want to avoid any appearance of impropriety or favoritism.

If you are interested in 'friending' me on Facebook, you will have to wait until after you graduate. I have a very closed network on Facebook and have everything set to 'friend only', so it lacks the openness I would need to communicate with current students.

I love my job and my students. I enjoy the opportunities this provides for us to have a richer experience in the classroom. However, I wanted to make you aware of where I stand on some key issues.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More Great Gifts

My friend, Lee Kolbert (@teachakidd) was so inspired by a tweet from Dean Shareski that she wrote a blogpost . Dean wrote:

As soon as I read this, my mind raced back to the first time I met Lee in person, which I will get to later.  I first remember interacting with her on two of my blogposts in the very early days of blogging. The first one was my most popular post for a long time and it was about people describing where they were from and cultural differences. Lee made a very detailed comment about her area. That was June 24, 2008.

A few months later, I was whining on Twitter about the fact no one read my blog(and that is still basically true). I made a Blogpost about blogging and Lee made the very kind comment below:

Lee said...
Keep up the blogging and search to find your voice.


However, the thing that I look at as a watershed moment was meeting Lee in person at the Constructivist Consortium prior to ISTE (then NECC) in Washington, D.C. I am always a bit nervous about meeting people in person whom I have met online. I am afraid perhaps I won't be the person they think I am. I always thought of Lee as a celebrity on Twitter. Everyone knows her and loves her. I was more nervous than usual to meet her. What happened when I met Lee just blew me away. She gave me the warmest smile ever when she realized it was me and she hugged me. Every piece of nervousness I had ever had about meeting people I had 'met' online was gone. I now hug almost everyone I meet (so be forewarned). I am going to say it right now, I feel very lucky to have Lee in my Positive Loving Network. 

Diane Cordell @dmcordell & Linda (Bilak) Lattimer @lbilak :

Before I attended ISTE in San Antonio, I was blasting away on Twitter about my time there and how I would be there with FableVision Learning. I received some extremely rude DM's from someone I was following and they were hurtful to me. I made some sort of comment about leaving Twitter (forever) and instantly received DM's and replies from Diane and Linda. They told me how they hated adult bullies and that I should just block the person and move on...that my voice mattered. 

First of all, WOW, that was very sweet. Second of all, WOW, they were awesome. My life is definitely richer because of the relationships I continue to make on Twitter. I try to be 'that' person on Twitter too. . . When the resident bully starts bashing people, I try to talk to them and help them see their contribution is important. 

I got to meet Diane in San Antonio and again in Philadelphia. I call her "The Great One" on Twitter because she is always there for people.

I followed Angela Maiers @angelamaiers for awhile on Twitter and then had the opportunity to meet her at ITEC two years ago. Her movement of #youmatter is such a wonderful thing and so important. You will see me tweeting that a lot!!

I interacted with Shannon Smith (@brachsmith) on Twitter after I made a very naughty joke. I tweeted "You know what it takes to be a principal? A Masters degree and two losing seasons." Fortunately, she has a very good sense of humor and she enjoyed the humor (maybe because she is married to @principalspage). I had the good fortune to meet her and her lovely mother @nbrach in Washington, D.C. (@principalspage was too scared to meet me-- he made some excuse about being busy). 

Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) and John Schumacher (@MrSchuReads) are two people I met through Diane Cordell. They are two of the most positive and kind people in the world. These two are extra special to me because they helped International Dot Day participation explode this year! 

I know I have connected with many other awesome Tweeters....but these are a few that made a huge mark on me. 

Readers: I challenge you to write your own blog post doing the same. Be good to the Blogosphere and be sure to link back here and then challenge others to do the same and link back HERE and to YOUR POST. Leave me a comment letting me know that you've written your own blogpost about this please. Thanks!

In case you missed it above, Lee's original post is

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Greatest Gift

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a meeting and a colleague mentioned that she had accidentally received student teaching materials from one of my former students. I thought that was a strange coincidence, but what happened next was even stranger. The student had mentioned me in the materials. The colleague said that it was very complimentary, and I was moved. I was sitting in a completely useless meeting with tears in my eyes. The combination of knowing that I have given so much of my life and heart to was valuable to someone, combined with the complete random nature of me finding out was overwhelming.

As soon as I could get to Facebook, I messaged the student (I can't tell you how much I love that I can still be connected to former students) with my thanks. She offered to send me the personal reflection and I received that this week. I read the student's words and, although I sometimes feel I don't measure up to them, I was moved beyond words. 

The same day I received a tweet from a very special former student after I had wish him a happy birthday on Twitter. Again, the kindness of the message blew me away. 

I try to frequently touch base with former students via text message, tweet, or Facebook message. I admit I am a sappy idiot, but I want them to know I am proud of them and I am cheering them on (because I am). This week, that warmness came back to me exponentially. I am truly blessed to have the best students on earth.

I am convinced the greatest gift you can give the people that matter to you is the honest appreciation for their impact in your life....say it, write it, draw it....just let them know. I can't think of a better gift and, in this season of mass consumerism, it's free. 

In the words of my dear friend Angela Maiers, let them know #you matter!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EDUBlog Nominations 2011

  • Best individual blog-
    • Mr. Bogush is a wonder to me. He seemingly exposes the inside of his brain, down into the deepest regions, for all of us to learn from or have a cathartic experience with. 
  • Best individual tweeter - @dmcordell
    • I call her 'the great one' because she is friendly and supportive of every person she comes in contact with and she works hard to support teachers, even in her retirement. I always count on her to answer every question I pose on Twitter. She is the best friend to have online. She has introduced me to amazing people!
  • Best group blog -
    • Shannon Miller and John Schumacher are two of the most positive and energetic people on earth. This blog makes me smile because they have great ideas and they are willing to share with the world.
  • Best new blog-
    • Again, positive, wonderful, energetic, and informative. Passionate educators are awesome
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog -
    • Most of the new websites I have found are from this blog. I ALWAYS recommend it to new people just getting into blogosphere.
  • Best twitter hashtag #youmatter
    • @angelamaiers has started using the phrase "You Matter" and it is such a wonderful thing. Teachers are beat up in the media on a daily basis, this simple phrase is SO important and so true. What we are doing does matter... What is awesome is that Angela FEELS this way also, it's not just a hashtag.
  • Best teacher blog-
    • Again, Paul's blog ALWAYS makes me think and more importantly, feel something. Highly recommend.
  • Best librarian / library blog -
    • If every school librarian shared books the way Mr. Schu does, we would have amazing learners in every classroom. He is passionate and shares that with his own students and with the world. 
  • Best School Administrator blog
    • A blend of insight and humor...but don't tell him I said that, it would spoil our relationship.
  • Best free web tool- Twitter
    • I leave it at times, but keep coming back because the conversations and the resources are second to none.
  • Lifetime achievement - Lee Kolbert 
    • Funny, smart, and oh so knowledgeable. Lee is an amazing resource and she willingly shares it in a sweet and fun way. Lee was one of the first people I met from Twitter and I am so impressed by what she has accomplished. 

Of course I also loved #DotDay, but since I was involved, I didn't select it. But I LOVED watching all the creativity flow in from around the globe!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What I Believe

I believe every kid in school wants to have limits. I believe every kid is capable of greatness. I believe every kid is the result of what they have experienced, which is why they don't act the same way we do -- different experiences. I believe that every kid, at the core of it all, wants to be loved...just like us. I believe in trying to find a student's 'true colors'. I believe teachers should look at the kid, not just his/her behavior.

I know I am currently failing with some students...and it's difficult for me.

I believe that the current demoralizing push to 'reform' education is actually going to drive the teachers who believe in kids to find a different line of work. We didn't sign up to attend more meetings and have our heart-felt work judged by test scores. We got in this career to change lives. Yes, there is room for improvement...nothing I have seen on the 'reform' front will get us closer to greatness.

What do YOU believe in?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Registry Hall - Ellis Island

I created this Photosynth after my trip to Registry Hall on Ellis Island. This is a great way to remember places you have traveled. Photosynth is PC only, but once you have created it, you can view it on any computer and embed it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's Easy to Be Creative....It's Hard to Be Brave Enough to Share It!

The inspirational Peter H. Reynolds challenges everyone to "Make your mark and see where it takes you" through his amazing books, "The Dot" and "Ish." If you haven't read his books, stop reading this right now and go out and get those books. If you have read them and shared them with every one of your friends, continue.

I have listened to Peter speak many times and have been inspired beyond belief. I have never considered myself much of an artist, but I really enjoy doodling and playing with watercolors. One day during a meeting, I started doodling and realized it is a great way to reduce the stress that meetings cause. So, now I draw people in the group, creative letters, or just random art.

At one of the last meetings, I created the "C" man. Another of my friends, Linda Ragsdale, shows kids how to draw really cool things with simple letters and shapes. I used her idea as a start and created a character using only variations on the letter C. I then animated it with Animation-Ish

One of the things that Peter talks about is to not disparage your own talent in from of your students. The braver you are, the more brave they will be. So, with that thought, I share  "C Man".

What will you share with your students? How brave can you be? I challenge you to create a character and post it online.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Highway 30 Through Iowa

Last week I created my own Spring Break and took two days off to spend with my wife who does have a break. We took off early on Thursday morning and traveled to Chicago on a shopping and resting expedition. We had a very nice time, with the exception of VERY loud neighbors at the hotel.

We took a slightly different way home than we have on our other trips and ended up on Highway 30 in Iowa. I started teaching in a town called Lost Nation and another town called Calamus for two different school districts. Calamus is right on Highway 30 and Lost Nation is 14 miles North. While driving through Clinton, I remembered taking coaching authorization classes with a friend and all the laughs we had during those classes. I have 'retired' from coaching, but those memories were so warm and inviting.

Then we drove through DeWitt and I remembered driving there to play racquetball and a lot of fun times there. As we raced down the highway toward the location of my first jobs, the memories were overwhelming and sweet. I told my wife tons of stories about things I remembered...some not so pleasant memories, like the principal who said he didn't care what the concert was like, but it had better not last longer than 60 minutes.

What was most overwhelming though was the sweet and wonderful memories fourteen miles north in Lost Nation. When I moved there, I had NO idea what it was like to be a teacher and I think I had the absolute best place to learn. I was just twenty-two when I moved to town and immediately, I felt like I was part of a family. It seemed most of the families in town had children my age, in addition to school-aged children, so I was taken in on many occasions and was nurtured along the way. The kids would often hug me and the parents thought that was great. I had an amazing accompanist who always gently steered me in the right direction. I remember only getting two angry parent phone call, one had to do with show choir outfits....although the tone was all wrong, the parent was right. The other one was just a crazy swear festival and I learned a valuable lesson....if someone swears, hang up.

Along with the sweet memories came some very disturbing memories. Losing a kid my first year to a drunk driver and losing another one my second year when he took his own life. These two things became the scaffolding of much of my career as a teacher. I spend a LOT of my day trying to help kids with problem solving situations and trying to get grades and choices on the right track. I want to do everything I can to try to keep kids from making destructive decisions, though I know I can only do so much. The two tragedies in that town make me feel forever bound to that group of kids. I am fortunate to have been in contact with several of them after I moved on. Sadly the school closed the year I left and consolidated.

So, this got me to thinking.....What if new teacher induction was more like this? A warm embrace from the community and nudges in the right direction along the way?? No one yelled at me (with the two exceptions above). I wasn't on any 'intensive assistance' plan, but I surely made about every mistake in the world as a new teacher (well, not every mistake, but enough). What I had was a community of people who worked really hard at molding me into a better teacher through their love and gentle nudges. I think they taught me much more than I taught them. I will be forever grateful to those people for helping make me who I am today.

It seems a basic flaw in this plan is that parents aren't always how they were back then. There is growing animosity toward teachers. However, I maintain we are all on the same team and we have the same goal for kids. Right? I know my goals a pure and honest and with the best interest of the student in mind....I think parents have the same goal. We need to find a way to work together and maybe gently nudge each other back on the right path.

Thanks to the people of Lost Nation for the love and the kindness....Twenty-five years later I think of you all fondly.

Photo credit:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Digital Fabrication

A few times in my lifetime as a teacher, I felt as if I was standing at the edge of the World and seeing the start of a revolution. For example, I remember the very first time I was on the WWW when it was in its infancy. I ordered music from JW Pepper through an early terminal type program called PNMN. It was all words then, but I could order music and interact with other teachers and I felt the world shift.

A few years later, we were all summoned to the, then new, business lab and shown the graphic-based WWW. I was actually sitting in Iowa, hearing audio from the Netherlands. I remember, vividly everything about that experience. My friend, Jenny, was leading the workshop and it was life-changing.

Now, some years later, I am in a very different place watching that same sort of shift. At ISTE Conference (then NECC) 2009, I was privileged to share the stage with Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns and Glen Bull to discuss projects that would get kids involved in school. I watched the skilled Peggy and Glen impress the crowd with the idea of Digital Fabrication in schools and a little machine that would cut out what a student would design. I remember being very impressed, but not fully understanding the implications.

I have watched the progress of this project over the eighteen months since the first presentation and I have been amazed that all around this concept of digital fabrication. I watched the Fab@School project gain national attention and the inventive Glen Bull post the YouTube videos posted below and been totally amazed at this work.

Knowing the software genius, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns, has been one of the true joys of my life. In addition to designing what I believe is the most teacher/student-friendly software on the market, she is a kind and amazing human being. She allowed me a sneak peek at the Fab@School software that is being created for the digital fabrication movement and it is, as you would expect from something coming from Peggy, wonderful.

Keep an eye out for the progress on this software and the digital fabrication movement. I am certain that you will be seeing the next classroom revolution. If you haven't checked out Dr. Peggy Healy Stearn's software, be sure to check out Stationery Studio*, Community Construction Kit*, Diorama Designer*, The Graph Club 2.0, Neighborhood Map Machineamong others

* indicates software that will have relevancy to the Fab@School project.

Stationery Studio will always be nearest my heart because it introduced me to FableVision!

After you watch the YouTube videos, let me know what amazing things you would invent for your classroom!!!! Be part of the revolution!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Several Unexpected Surprises

Dear Neglected TJOJ Readers:

I apologize for the long absence. When I set to writing this blog, I intended to share tools and experiences...after a few months, it got sort of preachy and so I discontinued. Although I never intend to preach, I am so very passionate about education and the way things are going (or not going) in schools. I am going to try for a better mix in the future. 

The first unexpected surprise this week was when I was observed by someone I did not know from an area college. I am offering Professional Development sessions to my colleagues at school in an after-hours format. They can receive college credit for attending. I didn't know what to expect from this observation, but like a regular classroom observation, with me, what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I was reading the observation report when I came upon this quote,  "It is very evident that technology is a real passion of Terry’s and it shows in his energetic teaching and the way he encourages the use of the applications he is presenting. He is obviously a leader in this area and the go-to guy for the staff." Wow. It might not be surprising to know that I am fairly harsh with myself in terms of school, because I always try to make things better. I also have gone through periods of feeling very unappreciated. This was nice to hear from an outside source.

The second surprise may be the sweetest. I received a handmade card from a student (a class assignment, but regardless) from a VERY quiet freshman boy. It had musical notes on the front and the inside said, "Thank you for being a great teacher. I'm sorry I didn't go out for chorus last year. I think you're my favorite teacher in the whole world." That would be nice from ANY kid, but from a painfully shy kid who is not in my class, it's heaven. It is also affirmation that the heart and soul I have been pouring in to kids has not gone unnoticed. Lately, I have been working extra hard to find roads in with kids that seem to struggle. I imagine the casual onlooker might see it as funny. I walked with a girl in PE one day and challenged her to walk faster than her normal snail pace. Not because I care about her speed, but because I wanted her to know she was noticed. 

Both of the things above make it seem like I am tooting my own horn, or holding myself up as an example. That's not really my point, and if you knew me in real life, you would know that is not me. It just reminded me that sometimes, if you want to make a difference, you have to step outside of the normal. You have to put yourself out there. You have to put yourself in a place where you can lead and let your passion for education shine. You have to challenge what the kids believe about school and teachers. The sweetest part of this job is the times that you see a smile from the girl who walks in gym class, or you get a note out of the blue. I am one lucky guy.

Finally, a great surprise last night... A blogger that I deeply respect as a teacher and as a blogger sent a tweet about the absence of blogging. I was humbled to know someone I respect so greatly had noticed that it had been since November that I blogged here. When I made a silly remark back about being sure that the five people who read this were sad, another comment from someone I respect came through. 

So, I make a parallel with my teaching spirituality...Just because you don't know your voice is getting through, doesn't mean that it isn't. Keep speaking, keep dreaming, keep pushing....maybe there will be some unexpected surprises in your future!!