Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Through the Looking Glass

-Lewis Carroll

Typically, my posts are about the most important part of teaching - the relationships. And true to form, this will be too, but in a different capacity. I just wanted to take a moment and consider the power of a thank you and how much someone giving you an opportunity to be yourself can play in continuing to foster and keep passionate teaching going.

"The Twinkling of the T"

It's been quite a few years now since I got to know Tom Murray. He's been my colleague, my boss, my "tech guy", my friend,  and most importantly a positive beacon in a sometimes dimming time in education. If you don't follow him on Twitter - you should. His posts are always positive and encouraging and he's a source for anything you need to know about technology. He epitomizes what it means to "lead by example". I've been meaning to do this for awhile - Thanks for everything bud.

"The White Rabbit"

Sometimes we feel like we're chasing that white rabbit and we're never going to catch him. Sometimes he shows up and we just have to realize he's there.

Check out this series of tweets:

"Burning With Curiousity" 

Before these tweets, we exchanged a few texts and I couldn't stop talking about this to my wife and kids. My wife's reaction was a bit along the lines of  "What a nerd," and my kids' reaction was something along the lines of "That is so cool." My kids' at school had the same reaction as my kids at home. 

It's moments like this that make me realize there are endless opportunities around us. We just have to make sure we see them.  There have been moments where the day seems "impassable", but it just takes a moment for you to stop, look around, and think what the door said to Alice, "Nothing's impossible."

"The Adventures First...The Explanations Take Such A Dreadful Time"

I haven't had a chance to try them yet, but my mind has been freshly boggled by the possibilities of using such a tool in the classroom. I'm not sure about the cool factor of wearing them, but at the sake of looking like a nerd, I'll give it a shot.  I was reassured by my amazing PLN that being a nerd  is okay:

I will be sure to post and blog about my experiences with Google Glass. Who knows what journey it will take my students and me on?

“Every story has a moral you just need to be clever enough to find it
- the Dutchess” 
― Lewis CarrollAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Monday, December 2, 2013

Edublog Award Nominees 2013

Success isn't just about what you accomplish in your life  It's about what you inspire others to do.

Edublog Award Nominees 2013

Social media has opened up doors for me over the last two years and I feel it is necessary to take a minute to recognize a few of the outstanding people that I have had the opportunity to get to know, interact with, and learn from. I nominated in the categories that I have had personal experience with. I wish I could nominate you all. Every one of you I interact with on Twitter has made me a better teacher and person. Thank you.

  • Best individual blog: 
  • Best group blog:
  • Best new blog:
  • Best class blog: Joy Kirr's classroom blog is full of resources and inspiration for teachers, parents, and students Scholars in Room 239
  • Best student blog: Written by a 6th Grade student who "just likes to make people think" The Art of Knowing
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog:
  • Best teacher blog: love reading Starr's work 
  • Best library / librarian blog - This was a tough one because I know some amazing librarians, but Shannon Miller is at the top Van Meter Library Voice
  • Best administrator blog:
  • Most influential blog post of the year:
  • Best individual tweeter: @thomascmurray
  • Best twitter hashtag: #COLchat - the Culture of Learning 
  • Best free web tool: Livebinders
  • Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast:
  • Best educational wiki:
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series - Edcamp NJ - with approximately 300 educators attending on Saturday to learn, what more has to be said.
  • Best educational use of a social network - A Virtual Homework debate involving four schools and eight judges (including Will Richardson!)
  • Best mobile app: 
  • Lifetime achievement: 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dream Things that Never Were And Say Why Not?

I asked my students to explain this quote as our warm-up and discussion into the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  One student’s words stuck with me – “Learning is the most important thing we can do to achieve our dreams – if I learn, it’s going to help my dreams come true. If my dreams come true, I’m going to be helping our country and the world be a better place. The cool thing is Mr. Storm, we may not even know how we are affecting the other people around us and making it better.” Isn’t that the truth?

Ever since I can remember I have loved to learn.  As a small child it was a sense of curiosity and yearning to know as much as I could. I would read anything I could get my hands on, and I remember at the age of 8 going on weekly trips to the grocery store with my grandmother convincing her to stop at the local five and dime and purchase a book for me. Often these books were in the clearance or discount section, but it didn’t matter – I knew I was going to find something new out.

The other part of learning that I loved was hearing from other people – I loved hearing their stories. It always fascinated me that people had these amazing experiences, and thinking back now, I believe that all of these stories, more importantly listening to all of these stories has helped to define (and continue to define) me as the teacher I am in my classroom today.

On a brisk Saturday in November, I had the opportunity to get some learning a majorly discounted price – FREE and even more importantly, I had the opportunity to experience, share, and listen to stories from amazing educators. I attended Edcamp New Jersey 2013 alongside 296 other educators – including superintendents, principals, teachers, and even students. The people that I interacted and shared with exhibited passion, enthusiasm, and excitement for learning.

This was my first experience with an edcamp and I didn’t know what to expect. Believe it or not, I was a bit nervous and was up before my alarm to read over my Twitter feed and read blogs about other’s experiences with edcamps. I was not disappointed. Even twenty-four hours later the passion for learning I felt from others is still reverberating around inside of me. I’m re-energized to head back to my classroom on Monday.

Many of the pressures of education these days, has taken a toll on some amazing teachers and created a major tone and sense of negativity. Roughly 46% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, but what happens to those teachers who can’t or don’t leave? Negativity, pessimism, low morale, disinterest, not wanting to try “new” things, complaining –these things begin to permeate the “veteran” teacher’s life. Two years ago I was one of those teachers. Despite my passion for learning and teaching my students, I was feeling isolated and alone and beginning to think of alternatives to teaching – despite the numerous kudos from parents and students. 

Then I became re-engaged on Twitter and met teachers just like me – passionate, but dealing with almost all of the same concerns and issues I was.  Through “edchats” and conversation in 140 characters, I was able to feel energized again and refocused on what really matters…my students. I came back to school with the attitude that my decisions were always going to be made, not for me, not for a new “initiative”, but for those smiling faces sitting in front of me on that first day of school. Those kids who were starting school with dreams and hopes, just like I was, only my hopes and dreams were for them to achieve theirs.

 I shared my experiences throughout the day via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and I am excited to share with my students that I spent a whole Saturday learning in a middle school with 296 other people. And when they ask, “Why?” – my answer will be the response,which, knowing my students will lead to amazing discussion.  I will share with them the words President Kennedy's brother, Robert, often used to end many of his speeches (based on the words of the author Shaw) “Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back to School - Be Courageous

Be Courageous

This year I decided to set my classroom rule up based on one idea. Be courageous.

After discussing this with my classes , I shared a video about Zach Lederer. I have found that sports offer so many lessons about life, and had recalled seeing this video, Zaching: A Display Of Strength And Courage
 on ESPN. The symbol Zach uses in the video inspired me to share it with my class and encourage them to use it as a symbol of our team.

My Student’s Courageous Moment:

Tessa’s (name has been changed) class was the first one I shared it with. At the time, I wasn't even thinking about the background of the students in my class. I was thinking about what my transition would be to the class, questions I may have to answer, and just being a teacher at that moment.

After the video, I asked for some thoughts from the class and Tessa was the first to share – she said, “That happened to my brother.” Tessa’s brother had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor when he was a student in my class a few years ago. My heart sank and I struggled to come up with the right words.

Fighting back tears, I replied “I know. He’s pretty courageous isn’t he?” She smiled, nodded her head and softly said, “Yeah, he’s very courageous”. This may have been one of the most touching/powerful moments I have ever had as a teacher and again it reminded me of what teaching is all about.

We never know the impact we will make on our students. We need to be courageous in the face of all these changes and tough times in education and do what is right, and often not easy for us to do.  Choose to be courageous today.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Will Your Verse Be?

What Will Your Verse Be?

10,175 minutes

Food for worms boys…we are all food for worms.” Not a rather jovial thought, but as Robin Williams so eloquently stated in one of my favorite educational movies, Dead Poets Society, the thought hits home. We only have so many days on this planet – what are we going to do with them? We only have so many days with our students, what are we going to do with them? As a sixth grade teacher I will meet with my students 55 minutes a day for 185 days. Will I make each day memorable for every one of the students who will be learning in my class this year? I get to do sixth grade again; they don’t.

YOLO in Latin

Carpe Diem. Seize the day. My plan this year is to truly focus on what my students are learning and allow for them to take advantage of as many opportunities for learning as they can. I created a livebinder for my students and parents to provide them with the resources  I will be sharing this year. 

One of the key aspects of my teaching this year will be what I call “The Learning Code”. Check it out here

That Summer Wind

Like painted kites, those days and nights went flyin’ by- a great verse from Frank Sinatra. It’s exciting to think that in a few short days, I’ll be standing in front of one hundred plus students – eager to start their middle school career and "write" their verses.  As I look out at their faces, I will see eyes filled with hope, anxiety, fear, and expectations. I will smile and think to myself, “Let's make some moments."

As I think back on the last fifteen years in education, it’s those moments that I recall – the laughter, the tears, and the relationships that were built, both with my colleagues and most importantly with my students. As I tell the new teachers, and some of the rather seasoned ones,  remember these moments – our students will not always remember what you taught them, but they will always remember how you made them feel, and most importantly, they will not forget the moments you create for them. 

How will you make moments this year? What will your verse be?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

So Many Colors In The Rainbow

Join the Parade

“Your son marches to the beat of a different drummer, but don’t worry, we’ll have him joining the parade by the end of the term.” These are the opening sentiments to Harry Chapin’s 1978 folk song Flowers Are Red.

Here’s the video of him performing in 1981. I like this version because he offers the background to why he wrote the song. (The actual song begins at 1:51)

Here is a link to the lyrics as well.

What Does Our Palette Look Like?

Teaching is an art (and yes, a science). In the world of high-stakes testing, does it make sense to continue to tell experienced teachers how to teach? There are schools where teachers are told "these are the most effective strategies you must use with kids", "these are the programs that you must do with your students", without ever seeing them in action, or seeing them in action only through compliance, rather than real engagement. Does a one size fit all program work? What is the cost of this to our kids? Do we do this to our students? Do principals do this to teachers?

 A Blank Canvas

As each new school year starts, I tell my students this is a new year – the past doesn't matter. You start today to make this year a memorable one, to create moments that you will never forget. I get to do sixth grade again next year, you don’t. This is the time you can start to paint the portrait of an amazing sixth grade year. As an educator, what do we want our students’ portraits to look like?

Painting is fun – shouldn’t teaching be fun? Learning be fun? There must still be a way for us to see:

There are so many colors in the rainbow

So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Hardest Days

It happened

It was our last “real” class of the year and one of my students approached me with tears in her eyes – “Mr. Storm, I’m really going to miss you- tomorrow is going to stink.”

That evening I went home and drew one of her favorite cartoon characters and added a quote to it:

The next morning I handed my student this picture and could tell it was what she needed to get through the day. There were a lot of tears, but mixed with those tears were big smiles.

It’s moments like this that make me realize why I teach.

Finding Your Purpose and Meaning

When I was hired for my first teaching job I picked up a book that would forever change my outlook on teaching and on life; Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. It's  helped me get through those last days - both professionally, and personally.  If you haven’t read it, you should.

One of my favorite quotes from that story is this:

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." (p.43)

15 Goodbyes

Over the past fifteen years of teaching, I have had fifteen “last days of school”. Fifteen goodbyes, fifteen have a good summers, fifteen see you next years, fifteen of the hardest days of the school year.

Teaching is about developing relationships. I am lucky to have found the purpose and meaning in my  life, and it’s called being a teacher.