Tag Archives: PTChat

New Look to PTO Agenda Includes Students and Community

student center - nisce org

This last year, Twitter chats and #ParentCamp have been beyond inspirational to me. I truly love the constant, 2-way discussions between parents, educators and students. I cannot get enough of the global learning and collaborating. I really wanted to see our school and home & school association (PTO) take those two things and turn our meetings into mini chats/sessions. Having dialogue between school and families in ways such as chats and #ParentCamp can do nothing but benefit every school community.

During last week’s #PTchat we discussed student-centered parent group meetings. To me, this is the change all groups need to make. Making the students the center of all discussions has helped improve our meetings. The change aided in the issue of attendance, and also improved the quality of discussion between those attending. During the chat, I shared the agenda we planned out for our home and school meeting’s new look/layout. I shared more about the planning and pieces of it in my post here….but as excited as I was about the schedule we were building for the new year, it wasn’t at a point where I felt comfortable sharing. It is now pretty well set, and we’re ready to share. This is our first year doing something like this – so yes, there is plenty of room to grow.

To start, I set the spreadsheet up in Google Docs to simplify the ability to collaborate. If someone had an idea, they could add it on their own, for all others to see immediately. Each month has a theme that relates to what we have coming up at our school/effecting our families. The components try to compliment that theme, or address an additional upcoming event/concern. Given that we built this during summer break – a few of the student voice segments are still unfilled. As the school year gets up and running and classes and clubs start forming, planning and learning, we will fill the remaining openings. As far as the “Edu Voice” piece…this is our opportunity to really bring in the community. Yes, many of those months may be filled with our own teachers, but I hope to also use this to highlight the many professionals in our community near and far who can offer insight on a given topic.

To give you a clearer picture, I am sharing the full agenda/schedule, but it is only the outline which I believe can be carried over from school to school. Every school will have their own unique events and issues that are important to their families. It is those things that will be the focus of their meeting.

Knapp Elem Home & School Association 2013-14 Meeting Agenda

2013-14 Knapp H&S Meeting Agenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are volunteering because of the kids. We are here to make today better than yesterday for them. To do so we need to make sure all voices are represented and we are a go to resource for information.

image credit: nisce.org

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Summer Reading Incentives

reading together

I am not a fan of incentives…especially for something so important to learning and success (be it financial, emotional, social) as reading is. Before giving in to incentives, I think we need try to make reading fun. Build a reading nook, act out scenes together, write a letter to the author, read together out loud, visit a location, make a craft or cook up something related to the story, or form a book club with friends. BUT….for those kids that don’t have that passion to read, if providing them with an incentive entices them to read, I think the pros outweigh the cons.

Reading incentives are aplenty out there. They don’t cost you a dime. Below is a list of a few national businesses that offer incentives if your child reads. Please add any others in you might know of in the comment section. And, don’t forget to check out your local library.

Business

Incentive

Incentive Dates

Website

Barnes & Noble Read 8 Books – Receive a Free Book 5/21 – 9/3/2013 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/summer-reading/379003570
TD Bank Read 10 Books – Receive $10 deposited into savings acct 5/6 – 9/30/2013 http://www.tdbank.com/summerreading/
Pottery Barn Read All the Books from 1 list – Receive a Free Book thru 8/26 http://www.potterybarnkids.com/design-studio/articles/summer-reading-challenge.html
Chuck E Cheese Read Each Day for 2 Weeks – Receive 10 Free Tokens Year Round http://www.chuckecheese.com/discover/rewards-calendars
Scholastic Books Log Reading Minutes – Earn Digital Rewards 5/1 – 8/31/2013 http://www.scholastic.com/ups/campaigns/src-2013

 

Need some reading suggestions? Some of my fave sites….

www.pragmaticmom.com – search & read reviews

http://www.lexile.com/fab/ – search by reading level or grade

http://whatshouldireadnext.com/

http://pagescorner.com/storycraft-box/ – purchase book with a related craft kit

Get ideas on inspiring kids to read can be found in the archives of the #PTchat conversation on “Encouraging the Love of Reading Beyond the Required Text”

 

I am not associated with or compensated by any of these websites or companies.


The ParentCamp Experience

ParentCamp

Below Lisa & I have shared our ParentCamp experiences

We first began discussing the idea of hosting an un-conference at our school for parents in the fall, at one of our monthly home & school meetings. Our principal, Joe Mazza, had attended something similar for educators called EdCamp, and hosted an EdCamp style staff meeting for the teachers. We all agreed that this style of learning could greatly benefit the parents not only in our school, but in our community. For me, I envisioned all of those parents who aren’t on Twitter, experiencing the learning and sharing like those of us who have connected on and participated in chats such as #PTchat…only this would be live, face-to-face two-way discussions.

I’m not going to go into all the planning details in this post – but I will say the hardest part was explaining what ParentCamp was about, and how it could benefit those attending. For educators, many have heard of, or attended this style of conference – but for parents this was a foreign concept.  Because this was so new to parents, we decided that it was best to line up session leaders in advance. (At actual EdCamps attendees write in sessions that they wish to lead once they arrive at the “unconference”) It wasn’t until we shared the session descriptions, that we really began to see people registering. As far as educators participating in this, it didn’t cross my mind before the event that some (or maybe many) would be uncomfortable with this style conversation – especially face-to-face with parents. We did have far fewer educators than parents attend, but the ones that attended added great balance to the conversations they participated in and were excellent leaders of discussions and not just lecturing.

At our school, we see some of our most diverse and largest turnouts at educational focused events. This was no different and no less awesome and amazing to see so many people from all different cultures, communities, beliefs and lenses sharing their thoughts and asking questions, all while not judging the other’s because of their opinions. Not only did parents attend together, but we also had a few Principals attend with their parent association leaders (the ultimate sign of wanting a home-school partnership).

To start the day off, we had Melissa Bilash as our keynote speaker. She shared snapshots of what role parents, from all around the world, play in their child’s education. This would have been a great presentation no matter where it was shared, but with such diversity in the room, I feel it was a homerun.

In the sessions I attended, I witnessed parents from different schools learning together about the potential of parents connecting through social media to how to plan for the big expense of sending their children to college. I caught a few minutes of parents and our district admin learning about iPad apps together; a custodian sharing one of the most powerful first-hand experiences with losing a child to drug use and ways we can hopefully prevent that same tragedy in our own homes or community. There was another session with teachers learning with parents about better ways we all can support our children’s emotional well being together inside and out of school (this was one of several sessions that had pro-active parents of children not starting school until this coming September).

In the session I led with a few other members of our home & school board, we started out with sharing the ways live streaming our monthly meetings has improved participation, communication and relationships in our school and finished up with the importance of, and ways to successfully lead positive, productive and constructive meetings. These views, ideas and suggestions came from a room of parents, other PTA/HSA leaders, teachers and principals from our district and a few others. I was only a portion of the conversation, everyone contributed their thoughts and experiences, and we all took away pieces that we felt would improve our own schools.

I love participating in chats on Twitter. It really is something else (and almost addicting) to be able to learn about how other people view and approach the same task as you from other parts of the country or world. BUT….I also think it’s as equally as powerful in building up a community when you have a physical room of people together sharing thoughts on how to help each other with an issue, learn a new way of communicating, or improve on current efforts.

I hope after leaving #ParentCamp, if they didn’t already, people saw the benefits of ongoing communication between one another, at all levels. That speaking with each other a few times a year is not enough. That, conversations need to be on a deeper level, where schools and families come away with new knowledge. These conversations can and should be had, as often as possible in our communities. They don’t need to be big, grand events, nor do they need to be limited to face-to-face. The more often we all speak AND listen to each other, the better we can make decisions on what’s best for our family, schools and community.

I can’t wait for the next #ParentCamp. It is energizing and exciting to families and schools learning and working together to build stronger partnerships.

keynote

My Experience as a Parentcamp Presenter and Attendee

After being invited to lead a session at Knapp’s first Parentcamp, my reaction was – of course! It was after that immediate YES that I thought, what can I talk about? Joe and Gwen decided a good topic would be “The Blue Ribbon Experience”. While I was first uncomfortable with the topic (only because it could come across as arrogant or elitist), I realized it was a great way to highlight and discuss all the wonderful things happening at Cantiague. So, while the focus would be on the award process, the meat of the discussion would be the characteristics and evidence of excellence taking place at my school. It would also be an opportunity to hear how other schools were approaching the same tasks. At Cantiague, there is always an interest in improving, never settling for status quo.

A few weeks after confirming attendance, we found out that Tony Sinanis, my principal at Cantiague, would be joining us. What a wonderful opportunity for parents and educators to have the perspective of both home and school in one discussion. This was going to be a great session.

The discussion was very informal and fluid. It was constant stream of questions and answers, with not a second of empty space. We began with a description of what the Blue Ribbon award is, and moved onto the award process our team embarked on.

The most enjoyable part of our session was when we spoke about our teachers and staff, the programs used at Cantiague, and the fostering of literacy as a core of what we do. I felt that we were able to present a window into our school – highlighting the relationships between families, teachers, staff, administrators, and students.

I learned from our session as well. There was a principal and incoming H&S president in our discussion. Seeing that team work and dedication was inspiring. A dedicated 5th grade teacher from NJ joined us as well. While many questions did become professionally directed, we were all at the table. This was a wonderful chance as a parent to hear the discussions that often take place in a staff meeting between professionals. The conversation was authentic and real. Everyone was genuinely invested in creating the best learning experience for their students, and it was beautiful to see.

In the end, I hope that attendees were able to take away a few concepts – passion is the foundation for making a truly special school and experience for students, anything is possible – relationships can always be built and fostered, and transparency and educational opportunities that promote constant learning for all parties creates an opportunity for wonderful, creative, holistic learning.

As an attendee, I really enjoyed the ParentCamp experience. I participated in a Parent Engagement discussion led by Dr. Mazza and Tony Sinanis, and the presentation on live streaming Meetings by the Knapp H&S. I loved the format of the ParentCamp. It was very informal, with discussion continuously shifting and changing to address the questions and comments of the participants.

In the first session, the presenters began with the description of a Partnership School from Beyond the Bake Sale. Conversation quickly customized to the parents and educators in the group. Each person shared questions, experiences, and thoughts. It was a very rich experience, with many takeaways to think about.

The next session was about the benefits of live streaming H&S meetings, and bringing meetings and information to all families. The H&S shared their experiences of taking their meetings to the community. It was enlightening and inspiring to hear the benefits of meeting parents in their comfort zones, and how the experience built trust in the school. The live streaming opportunities also bring information to parents who once were unable to participate. We also discussed the importance of keeping meetings timely, respectful, and meaningful for all involved. We were fortunate to have many H&S leaders in the group. Each shared their most positive events and strategies to engage families and bring them into the fold.

Overall, I left ParentCamp feeling more strongly than ever, the importance of empowering families to engage in home/school experiences. I left with abstract and tangible ideas on how to create positive relationships with all home/school players – students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators. Learning with like-minded parents and educators fueled my desire to always improve our efforts as leaders in the parent community. I can’t wait to try some of the ideas at my school!

H&S 2.0 Building Partnerships

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Twitter Chats – Why and How

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Image Credit: http://www.freestockphotos.biz

When the principal of my children’s school first recommended Twitter to parents, I honestly thought he was crazy. Twitter is for celebrities, students/kids, and people who like to foursquare check-in and Instagram, or so I thought. I remember the day I asked my co-President how she felt about creating a PTA Twitter account; she and I agreed to go for it. That began my Twitter education.

Once online, I quickly learned about Twitter chats. I was hesitant but intrigued by the concept. An online discussion led by moderators where participants from all over the world share ideas. I had to try it. After the first chat, I was hooked. #PTChat, a discussion between Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Student, and guest speakers, has become a weekly ritual I look forward to every Wednesday. Chats are great opportunities to see issues through a different lens. As a parent, this opportunity has been not only helpful but enlightening.

To begin, the easiest way to chat is with a third party app like Tweetchat or Tweetdeck. Both allow you to sign on through your Twitter account. By typing the hashtag (#) of your chat, you will be brought into the discussion.

When you first join a chat, it is a good idea to tweet that you are participating in a chat and that your comments will be pertaining to the questions and comments for the allotted time. Once there, you will be asked to introduce yourself. The moderator will then begin the chat with Q1 – question 1. The appropriate response should begin with A1 – answer 1. This way the discussion is more easily followed by participants. When you see the answers, you can choose to favorite, retweet (quote the post to your account), or respond to the post. Oftentimes conversations will linger throughout the discussion as more thoughts are shared in response to original answers to the questions. The more participants on the chat, the quicker the chat will move. This is one reason I enjoy reading the transcripts or Storify after the chat concludes.

If you feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to say, you can always log on and read the chat as an observer. There is no harm in seeing how things work before jumping in. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe that the more you participate, the more you gain.

Please share your advice and thoughts on Twitter chats here!


Passionate Learners – Take 2

For my first blog post I had written a beautiful paper about the importance and significance of being a passionate learner as a parent…..and then I participated in PTChat.  For those of you unfamiliar with PTChat, it’s a weekly online Twitter discussion between teachers, administrators, staff, parents, and students.  Topics change each week – If it’s happening in education, it’s being discussed in PTChat.  This week the subject was “Encouraging a Love of Reading Beyond Required Texts”.  The passion and heart displayed in this discussion went beyond the words; they were felt in each tweet.  I realized something very important – to write about something you really care about with all your heart, you have to write from your heart to the hearts of your readers.  So, gone are my beautiful charts and research.  In their place are my feelings and beliefs on the subject.

All the players in schools today are being pushed and challenged to new levels.  Where students were once compared to peers within the state, they are now being compared to peers around the world.  This new global approach has taken our educators to a new frontier of learning.  Reading, math, science and technology are surpassing the old expectations.  Along with these new “rigors” of education, our children are also expected to be passionate about their learning.  Lifelong learning is the goal.  Preparedness for 21st century higher education and jobs is now the focus.  Teachers, staff, and administrators are on the cutting edge of this new style of teaching.  They too are expected to be passionate learners.  No parent wants a teacher who is “phoning it in”, certainly not now when the stakes are so high.

As parents we need to be in the game too.  Our education is not the same as that of our children today.  This new curriculum requires stronger critical thinking and research skills than ever.  One thing comes to mind as I learn more about the common core standards, parents need to model lifelong learning and passionate learning if we want our children to do the same.

This is what I’ve been doing to be a role model for my children:

  • I took them with me to the library to find that book discussed on PTChat that I re-tweeted (as a reminder to myself  of the title).
  • I registered for a MOOC!  I am taking an online class called “Critical Thinking in Global Challenges” through the University of Edinburgh via Coursera.
  • I’m almost done reading “The Story of the World – History for the Classical Child, Volume 1”, a book given to my son by his 6th grade social studies teacher when he displayed interest beyond the class requirement.  He read it in 2 days, it’s taken me about 3 weeks!
  • AND – I have the best new pen pal since participating in PTChat!  She inspires me, motivates me, and re-energizes me.  Having a partner makes it exciting to challenge myself to learn more and share ideas and thoughts.

How are you challenging yourself to become a passionate learner?  The opportunities are boundless.  The internet never sleeps.  Share your next step here!


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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