Posted in Edublogs

What Leadership Means to Me

leadership_edublogs

Hello Reader!

First I want to address the new theme for my blog! I had changed it when I left the classroom to something rather neutral while I transitioned into my new position as a Teacher on Assignment in our new Linked Learning department. Since beginning the #edublogsclub blogging challenge I have felt my blog take on a new feel which called for a new look! I hope you like it, because I sure do!

Now onto business. This is the 3rd post of the #edublogsclub challenge. This week’s prompt was: Write a post that discusses leadership, peer coaching, and/or effecting change

I had really wanted to stay on time with my posts, but this one made me pause to think for a while, and then life happened and prevented me from really and truly thinking about it. I have probably written this post over about three times as I wrestled with what I really wanted to say about leadership. What brought it together for me in the end was a quote I was introduced to as a part of my school district’s aspiring leadership program:

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
– Jack Welch, former GE Chairman and CEO

We had been presented with several leadership quotes that day and had been asked to move toward the one that spoke to us. There had to have been at least 10 quotes plastered around the meeting room we were in and the one above was the one that stood out the most to me. It gave me cause to reflect on all the great leaders I had worked with at my last school site, Dorothy Grant Elementary (aka DGE). Now I am going to try VERY hard not to go on a long rambly, nostalgic post about how amazing this school is, but this school changed the trajectory of my teaching career. The truth of that fact was something I had never given conscious thought to, but when thinking on leadership and the qualities of a good leader, and the type of leader I want to be, my experience at DGE has everything to do with outstanding leadership.

I arrived at DGE just after my 5th year of teaching…a rather crucial turning point for many teachers. It is widely recognized that a significant number of new teachers do not make it to or past their 5th year of teaching. I needed to be at DGE. I had already suffered through 2 previous schools with significant leadership deficits. I was transferring to escape them, to hopefully arrive at a school that was right for me and equipped with an inspirational leader. I wonder if I would still be here 12 years later and in my 17th year as an educator had it not been for DGE and its leaders.

I was very fortunate to have met and been selected by Dr. Ken Decroo to transfer to the open 4/5 combo position that was available. DGE was a shiny new school then, only one year old. As I had shared in a previous post, I had NEVER gotten to work at or attend a new school, so this was certainly a perk for me. Dr. Decroo was new that year, but he was very well liked and did a lot for the school’s climate. I remember enjoying his handling of the school and interaction with the staff. He was by far the most mellow, friendly and knowledgeable principal I had ever had at that point. While he and I had several interactions over that year, one in particular has always stood out to me. I remember being in his office, talking about something I don’t recall at the moment (and likely never will) when he said to me “You should consider becoming an administrator.” I remember my reaction. Shock. I remember backing away from him as if he was trying to infect me with something and shaking my head and waving my hands “What? Me? Oh no…no I could, never… Was that the bell?” Now I could be paraphrasing just a bit, but that exchange really did occur and it has stuck with me. I don’t know what he may have seen in me, being too caught of guard to really ask and too quick to dismiss it.

Dr. Decroo’s time at DGE was far too short for me when he retired the next school year. Chris Ridge was the next principal assume the office. Mr. Ridge was driven. He had a mind for innovation and staying ahead of the academic curve. He wanted the best for DGE students and it showed. Some teachers didn’t care too much for him because of his drive, but I did. DGE was in at the top of the elementary rankings in our district, we were leaders in trying new techniques out like RTI and data driven decision making. Talk about data! Mr. Ridge was always equipped with a report of some kind. I had never looked at data so much in my whole life, but he took great care in explaining to us why we needed to spend so much time with the data and how doing so could help drive our instruction and in the end help our students achieve. I amuses me now to think back on it. Data driven decision making is so common place now, just as is RTI, but thanks to Mr. Ridge I was exposed to both a lot earlier than others in and out of my school district. Mr. Ridge stayed at DGE several years and then his time came as well, not to retire, but to pursue other opportunities. I was sad to see him go, I had learned a great deal from him.

Sadly, DGE had a year of administrative uncertainty after that which is really not relevant to this post apart from saying that in year where we did not have stability in our leadership, the overall DGE community had already become so strong that we weathered that storm just fine. Thankfully we did receive another solid leader in Anne-Marie Cabrales. I have to say that I wasn’t certain about Mrs. Cabrales when she first arrived. She wasn’t like any leader I had before. It has been hard to put my finger on, but in the end I believe it was that she still felt like one of us. She felt like a teacher. She did not feel like a principal to me, and I don’t say that in a negative way at all. It was just something about the way she carried herself and how she got to know the staff. There was something very personable and humble about it. Mrs. Cabrales became very well liked immediately. She fit right in with the staff and was very passionate about DGE and its students. She works tirelessly to keep DGE at the top of the rankings and has continued the trend of keeping DGE at the front of the pack when it comes to new approaches to education. She did a great deal in supporting me and the various projects I wanted to do with technology and our kids, and it was she who encouraged me to consider a position at the district office level. I remember conversations with her turning toward me branching out and getting known in the district so that I could advance beyond the classroom. Dr. Decroo’s words would echo in my mind at those times. I had tried for district positions before, only to not be selected. My home was DGE, and I took the fact that I was not selected for a position as a Teacher on Assignment for Instructional Technology on more than one occasion to mean that I did not have what the district wanted for that position and that I was best suited to my work in the classroom at DGE.  I had become a teacher leader at DGE – in technology as a site coach and as a part of our leadership team where I spent a several years being a grade level leader. DGE had become my cozy, comfy blanket that I never wanted to be without.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
– Jack Welch, former GE Chairman and CEO

So here is my favorite leadership quote again. It expemplifies the leadership that I experienced at DGE in the 11 years I was there. 11 years that felt nothing like 11 years. I was having so much fun there I had lost track of the time. I felt successful in the way I had grown as an educator and the way DGE had nurtured that growth. Dr. Decroo, Mr. Ridge and Mrs. Cabrales were all amazing leaders in their own right for their own reasons. I have recently realized that they were helping me to grow so that I could be a leader too. I cannot thank them enough for that. This post has likely already passed the point of rambling nostalgia, but it has captured what leadership is to me and that is the kind of leader I want to be – one who creates a space where leaders can grow.

Always a Volunteer,
Mrs. Ruiz

leader

Posted in Educational Technology

The First Several Weeks

It has been some time since I posted on my site. I have wanted to post, but have been uncertain as to what I wanted to post and what direction I wanted my site to go in now that I am out of the classroom.

Adjusting to leaving 16 years in the elementary classroom was an experience I could really not prepare for. I have gone from a highly structured day to one that is much more free form and full of meetings and collaboration. I also left a classroom environment. My classroom was my home way from home, my rather large office, and something that was mine. I had a great deal of control over my classroom. Presently I am in a space that is nothing like a classroom, and while nice, it doesn’t feel the same. I think in making this transition that was something I worried about the most. The space I live and work in is very important and has a good deal to do with my mental well being.

One view of my new work space
One view of my new work space
Another view of my new workspace
Another view of my new work space

I will have to share more images of what my work space looks like now. It is certainly less sterile and more organized looking. It is a communal space shared with two other Linked Learning TOAs. It is a temporary location and I am looking forward to seeing where we really end up and what it will be like when two more TOAs are brought on to complete our team.

Logistics aside, I have done a fair amount of learning. I hope to get some additional posts up soon focused on the trainings I have attended and how the information learned might work into the elementary classroom. My plan for my site as this point is to post my reflections and learnings and hope it might entertain and/or educate those who care to read.

Posted in Apple Applications, Class News, DGE Events, Educational Technology

Computer Science Week

The class is eager to begin coding!

This week is Computer Science Week and to celebrate, Dorothy Grant Elementary is participating in the Hour of Code. Yesterday my class had a special lab time to explore programming and they had a blast!

Matthew G & Jaythan work together on a bit of Minecraft coding.
Matthew G & Jaythan work together on a bit of Minecraft coding.
Madelyn explains how to do some coding to Samantha.
Madelyn & Samantha work together.
Dalia and Malachi explore coding together.
Dalia and Malachi explore coding together.
Brandon is excited to have completed his Hour of Code.
Brandon is excited to have completed his Hour of Code.

I shared the Code.org website with them and there they got to choose from three tutorials: Star Wars, Minecraft, or Frozen. I had them share their selection with the class via an Edmodo poll and after the hour in the lab, they were to return to my post in Edmodo to share their experiences.

edmodo poll snapshot

edmodo post 1

edmodo post 2

The Hour of Code website has been added to the class website on the “After School Links” page. I also wanted to take a moment to share Tynker, one of the more widely known coding apps for tablets. I know it is available in the App Store (for Apple devices) for free and it may be in the Google Play store as well. I will be installing it on the classroom tablets this weekend for the class to continue exploring coding. I recommend it for any personal tablets for students who particularly enjoyed the coding experience.

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Posted in DGE Events

Global Cardboard Challenge

This year Dorothy Grant Elementary will be taking part in the Cardboard Challenge. Ms. Matheson and Ms. Belt will be heading up a group of 4th & 5th grade DGE students (selected by a random draw) to create our very own cardboard arcade to be shared at our annual Harvest Festival on October 29th.

This year a group of our students will participate in the “Global Cardboard Challenge.” This is an annual event presented by the Imagination Foundation that celebrates child creativity and the role communities can play in fostering it. Students will dream up [creations] using cardboard, recycled materials and their imaginations ot create a cardboard arcade, inspired by the short film “Cain’s Arcade.”

Students MUST be available to stay after school on Mondays and Thursdays in October from 2:30 – 3:30pm AND work the Harvest Festival on Thursday, October 29th.

If you are interested and your child did not bring home a permission slip, you can download it here: Cardboard Challenge. Permissions slips are due to Ms. Matheson or Ms. Belt by Friday, October 2nd for the random draw.

Any questions about this event can be directed to Ms. Matheson or Ms. Belt.

Posted in Minecraft @ DGE

Minecraft Club Day 2

Mrs. Ruiz at the future site of Minecraft DGE

Our second time meeting on the server went much smoother today. I attempted to deal with any lingering tech issues before we met so I could have the whole time on the server with the kids. I even extended club time from one hour to two hours because one hour just didn’t seem like enough. After two hours today, I felt that was a much more appropriate amount of time and will likely extend the club hour from 4-5pm on Thursdays, to 3:30 – 5:30 pm on Thursdays.

We are still trying to establish our community on the server. I was trying to direct them to build our school, but the kids kept breaking off and building their own homes. I am currently brainstorming ideas on how to bring 20 “lil miners” (as educators in the Minecraft Educator Google+ group I am in call them) into focus. After viewing all of their newest creations, I broke off at the end of the session to try some building on my own. I didn’t want to build our school myself, but perhaps once I give it a footprint, the kids will then be more focused about making it happen.

We are using Edmodo in conjunction with Minecraft and Skype, so I will have to put up some more assignments there, mainly on planning our community, which should hopefully bring them into better focus. I think perhaps assigning them to regions of the school build is a start. I would also enjoy seeing what they have in mind for our Minecraft school, like drawings or blueprints.

Since I am presently unable to use Minecraft EDU, the suggestion of a Bukkit server was made as it allows for more options than a standard server. I am new to not only Minecraft but running a server and mods so it is quite easy to be overwhelmed. This week I plan on focusing my research on what a Bukkit server is like and what additional commands it can allow me and my students that our current vanilla server cannot. I have several experienced “lil miners” who are used to playing with several mods in place and are feeling a bit restricted by our vanilla server. Those experienced miners ask me almost daily (our Skype group is always up and running and chat there is frequent) about when I am going to allow mods and give them more command ability.

Here is a video I put together of some of the kids in the club telling me what they think Minecraft is along with some footage from day 2 in game. Enjoy!

Posted in Minecraft @ DGE

Minecraft Club Day 1

L to R: Carlos, Xavier, Jayden & Daniel

What an afternoon!

After much anticipation (and three Skype orientations), the DGE Minecraft Club was officially in Minecraft together! I expected it to be chaotic and it certainly was. I spent most of the hour in tech support with parents who were not fully prepared for the amount of tech we are using, and I turned 15 students loose on the server I had acquired for our club. I was sad that I didn’t get to be there with them fully for the first meeting, but in the end I managed to get everyone on which should hopefully make meeting 2 easier.

I opened the server again a little while after the club meeting and let the students know via our Skype group. I had a few eager students willing to log back in to help me work out some kinks and we did! I shot a video of what the students were able to accomplish in the tech club hour while I was helping parents. I have told the kids that I am no Minecraft expert and I am looking to learn from them as some have been playing a majority of their years. The video I shot is amusing for many reasons, one being the tone in my voice as I learn from them. Sadly you cannot hear their replies to me since I was wearing headphones, but you will be able to get the idea of the conversation. I just know each meeting will get better and better.

Enjoy!

Posted in Class News

Here We Are!

Thank you to all the parents who signed and returned the photo release form! It allowed me to take this great class photo with my selfie stick. I look forward to posting more photos of the students and their work as the school year progresses.

MrsRuizs4thGrade2015

Looking forward to a great year,
Mrs. Ruiz

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
 Mahatma Gandhi