Donna Rummel the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship manager welcomes the 2nd cohort of Fellows and shares her story. She also shares tips for our job to be storytellers to share from our experience. She reminded all of us that we are experts in what we do and also to share heartfelt stories.
To start the day off with a bit of fun, Melody and Heather lead the ice-breaker "Snowballs". All educators were asked to write down what the turning point was in their career on a piece of paper. They were then asked to crumple it up which caused a slight murmur after everyone had spent a nice chunk of time putting good thoughts down on paper. However, we shared that once they crumpled their paper into a "snowball" they could throw it at each other and have a "snowball" fight in August! You can see above that they got into it and enjoyed a bit of fun
Once the "fun" ran its course, each educator picked up a snowball, uncrumpled it and shared the turning point of a fellow educator's career. We tried to guess who it may belong to before it was revealed.
Our first session was led by Abbie Groff-Blaszak the Director of the Office of Educator Talent and Policy Coordination with the Michigan Department of Education. She shared education priorities, teacher retention and effectiveness strategies.
After Abbie's talk, we were treated to a delicious buffet of food you can find at a summertime barbecue.
As we enjoyed the wonderful food, a group of educators from across disciplines including the 3 Lead Fellows were given the chance to share concerns and ideas with Abbie. I am not sure if we gave her a chance to get a word in. She was very gracious in listening to us and jotted down notes throughout the whole lunch. What a great "working lunch". We look forward to further conversations in the future with her.
Next on the agenda was an overview of the Common Core, State assessment, policy and politics. Brian Gutman from Education Trust Midwest shared the history of the CCSS and assessments in Michigan. He also discussed what legislation issues are coming up in the next year.
Charlie Cummings the Program Director for America Achieves' Fellowship for Teachers and Principals was up for the next 2 hours. The first session was entitled Strategies for Engaging Policymakers. Charlie made us think about what effective communication with legislators looks like. He gave us tips and tricks to navigate the world of politics. We thought about how our story would work for each of us. After a break Charlie led us in the Engaging Policy Makers Workshop. We were given steps to follow to eventually practice our pitch. What would happen if we met our policy maker in the elevator and had only a few minutes to convince them our issue is important?
Our last session of the first day was presented by Nick Anway. He is the Project Manager for America Achieves' Raise the Bar initiative. This is a great website that was created for parents to become more familiar with Higher Standards and also figure out where their children might need more practice. Nick guided us through navigation of Raise the Bar website and how to use this as an effective tool for a Parent Night Workshop.
After an hour long break to check into the hotel and get ready for dinner we headed to the Bistro Bella Vita. What a sight it was seeing over 51 fellows walking the streets of Grand Rapids on our way to dinner. If people only knew what an incredible amount of talent and passion was passing them by! Dinner was absolutely tasty and America Achieves supplied another incredible treat for educators who get excited when there are donuts in the break room!
During dinner we were treated to a talk from Rehva Jones McKinnon the Senior Director of the Teacher and Principal Fellowships. She passed along the "America Achieves" story and the Value of State Fellowships. I used the periscope app on my phone to live stream and also save the footage on my katch.me account. See below the video that shares this story.
Day two started with breakfast and some more rounds to see if more people had downloaded the phone app Voxer so we can stay connected once we leave the convening. We also gathered everyone to take a picture to document the awesome group of educators that make up the 2nd Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship. We were only missing a few fellows in this picture due to other obligations. Daniel Giddings, Jene Kupovits, Abram Miller, Kathy Kanu-Thompson and Erin Mastin.
What could be more bonding than finding a partner to create a secret hand shake with? This was our ice breaker to start our day off of learning introduced by Melody Arabo.
Location for the Convening- Amway Grand Plaza
What an absolutely beautiful location to present and attend sessions. America Achieves chose the Amway Grand Plaza to hold the convening.
The first session of the day was Teacher Leadership: Think like a Teacherpreneur. Lead fellow Melody Arabo shared what the definition of teacher leadership is along with how educators can brand themselves as expert educators but stay in the classroom. She later shared a session called Teacherpreneur 2.o to lead educators through steps of creating their brand; through websites, blogs, business cards and more. Lead fellow Todd Bloch shared a session on blogging. He gave tips on how to create a blog and also how blogging is different from writing and op-ed. After lunch he led a session on Teacher Evaluations and why educators need a voice. He discussed before and after the Ball report, what is happening in other districts and mobility of teachers. I led a session called Technology Integration in Support of Higher Standards. I was thrilled to discuss my ideas on how we can improve implementing 21st Century skills and CCSS using technology. I also shared my tips on how I became a connected educator, conference presenter and now a Lead Fellow. I was excited to share my idea of my lead project of creating a PD website to support educators with technology use.
Donna Rummel Manager of America Achieves Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship held two sessions on Twitter. Twitter 101 was for beginners on creating accounts. For those who wanted to push past beginning Twitter skills, Twitter 201 explained how to use Twitter for advocacy, use hootsuite to organize the flood of tweets that one receives, participate in twitter chats and also tag politicians. Twitter is a must to become a connected educator!
The last formal session for the day was given by Sarah Zuckerman- Program Director of America Achieves' Fellowship for Teachers and Principals. She shared on Opinion Writing. How do we as educators turn our stories into an op-ed? She gave us writing workshop practice and then had the fellows share out their opinions. This was great practice and I look forward to seeing the op-eds that are generated by this amazing group!
Time now for the Lead Fellow Pitch Fest. The room was set up great to try to energize the fellows after a full day of training and brain drain. We 3 Lead Fellows stood at the top of a grand staircase and looked down upon this group of most amazing educators! The song Centuries by Fall Out Boy started and when each Lead Fellow's name was announced we ran down the stairs and took the microphone. We each pitched our ideas for our impact project to share our vision and recruit other fellows to join our causes. Todd Bloch will be working on Teacher Evaluations, I will be working on Technology Equity and Pushing Higher Standards and Melody Arabo will be concentrating on making Teacherpreneurs.
Here is the Pitch that I shared regarding my Technology Equity Project~
The end of the Convening was spent Action planning. Fellows were walked through the menu of activities to choose from and worked on their action plans along with reporting out. I was able to share one last time my tips for joining the Ed Voice Fellow Voxer group. Fellows were given information on upcoming events, post-conference survey, logistics and a wrap up. What an incredible experience for all! Once again I am thrilled to be part of this incredible group along with all the other fellows to raise our voices about the great practices that are happening everyday in our profession!