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Sunday, December 31, 2017


I drank the kool-aid and decided to jump onto the #OneWord challenge that is going around Twitter. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, it means that we pick one word that will be our strive, our passion, our legacy for the year. The challenge is based off of Dan Britton's book, "One Word That Will Change Your Life." 

To find out more about #oneword and the book, check out the website and the Twitter

Checkout the 2018 Twitter Stream for #OneWord here

With that being said, which word did I chose? I thought and pondered on this for a couple of days. I had many words pop into my head but one in particular kept creeping back in: IGNITE.
Why ignite? In 2018 I want to ignite my dreams, my goals, my dreams and watch them grow like a wildfire! I want my family, my students and my coworkers to ignite their passions! I want to help others ignite whatever it is that's in their heart. I want to ignite a change in education! I know that whatever it is that comes to mind,  I will give it my all. 

#OneWord #Ignite! I cannot wait to see the rest of the amazing words that everyone comes up with for theirs! Share yours with me directly @stella_pollard on Twitter! 

The Power of PLN

I have always been a people person. You know, the person who can talk to anyone about anything. My dad always told me I would talk to a wall if it would listen and my husband has told me more than once that it's awkward to just spark a random conversation with someone that I haven't met before. However, for me this is a gift. I mean yeah, I probably talk more than the average person and yes sometimes I make things awkward. However, sometimes those small sparks of conversation turns into something magical. 

In our profession, we cannot work alone. In this day and time where collaboration is so easy to achieve with technology, why would we ever decide to work alone? The power of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is life-changing. For me, my PLN grew significantly when I decided to begin using Twitter as a professional instead of using it as an individual to talk politics. Since I made the switch during the Summer of 2017, I can say I have significantly grown as a teacher. 

Are you interested in growing your PLN? I have made so many connections by participating in group chats on Twitter, listening to podcasts and reading books. However, the largest growth has come from being social in Twitter chats. 

What are Twitter Chats? -

A chance to talk with like minded educators on a variety of topics during a specific time frame. 

When are Twitter Chats? 

Here is a list of Twitter Chats: This includes the dates and times of chats, but some of them are not listed here. 

How do you participate? 

  • To participate, one must first know when the chat is and what hashtag is being used. (example: #HackLearning is at 8:30 am every Sunday morning). 
  • You follow the hashtag. You can search for the # and then click "latest" to have them filtered by the most recent post. This is really important if you want to keep up with the stream. 
  • For me, it's easiest to use TweetDeck to help keep track of the chat. The best thing about TweetDeck is that you can filter different columns to show what it is you want to see. I usually have a column for my chat, a column for my notifications, and a column for my home feed. TweetDeck has been a lifesaver for keeping up chats (especially when I have multiple chats that I'm trying to participate at one time). 
  • Here is a video to show some of the basics of TweetDeck. 

What are some of my favorite Twitter chats?  (all times are in EST)

  • #EdTechChat 8 -9 pm 
  • #LearnLAP  8-9  pm
    • (Learn Like a Pirate- also a book but a personal community as well)
  • #TLAP  9-10 pm 
    • (Teach Like a Pirate - a Dave Burgess book & chat)  
  • #P12Leaders 8-9 pm
    • Preschool - 12th grade leaders
  • #KyLChat (every other Tuesday) 8 pm
  • #KyTechChat (second Tuesday of each month) 9 pm
  • #EdChat 7 pm 
  • #2PencilChat 7 pm 
  • #ShiftThis 8-9 pm
    • Joy Kirr book and chat to discuss shifts in education 
  • #XPLAP 10-11 pm
  • #122EdChat  8 - 9 pm
  • #KidsDeserveIt 9 -10 pm 
  • #SciTLAP 9 - 10 pm 

  • #Games4Ed 8 - 9 pm
  • #MasteryChat  8 - 9 pm
  • #EduAR 9 - 10 pm
  • #NGSSChat (every other Thursday) 9 -10 pm
  • #TeachMindful 9:30 - 10 pm
  • #Saskedchat 9 pm
  • #DitchBook 10 - 10:30 pm
  • #EngageChat 8-9 pm
  • #StuCentClass 9 -10 pm
  • #SatChat 7:30 am 
  • #BookCampPD 9 am 
  • #EduGladiators 9 am 
  • #LeadLAP 10:30 am 
  • #HackLearning 8:30 am 
I love all of these communities and I love to participate in as many as  I can weekly. I always get take aways from each of these! It's easy to get pulled in, but remember it is important to also keep in mind that you have to find the balance for you! 

Happy 2018 to all of you amazing educators! Happy chatting! 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What Does it Take?

I spent my undergraduate days in accounting and business administration classes. I loved the idea of dressing nicely and networking with others. However, I was not passionate about the business world. Six months after working for a local bank caused me to take a good, hard look at myself and reflect on what I wanted in life. I wasn't sure, but I knew it wasn't sitting at a desk and crunching numbers all day. 

I loved math, science, and helping people. I went to our local community college one day after getting off from work. I went straight to one of my friends (Cluster Howard) and sat down in his office. I remember the conversation we had about how I didn't feel fulfilled with my current position and how I didn't know if this would ever work for me. I was 23, I didn't want to spend my life chasing a dream that my heart wasn't in. 

He said, "Well, what do you want to do?" I said, "I was thinking about nursing or medical coding." He replied with, "Okay, now what does your heart tell you to do? Because I can tell you with your personality, those aren't the fields for you." He pointed me into the direction of education. I will forever be grateful for the mentorship and advice that he gave me that day as I took a step towards gaining my Masters of Arts in Teaching. 

What does it take to become a teacher?
You can have more than one type of teacher in the world but how do you want to be remembered? If you go into this profession because of the breaks, (which are nice), then I highly recommend that you take a step back and reevaluate or you will be like the young accountant in the story above. You'll get tired of this profession quicker than a snowflake melts in the summer. So what does it take to become a healthy, I enjoy my job, I love this life teacher? PUPILS.

  • Patience- an understanding and calm voice during circumstances that make you want to scream. Whether it be a student who has cussed you out or a student who will not stop talking or a parent who thinks you are terrible or a co-worker who is continuously slamming your efforts or an administrator who is being just a little too hard on you. Just like with any other career, you have to know when to bite your tongue. However, in the teaching profession you are being evaluated by the most important audience- the future generation. When you use sarcasm with a student, chance are they'll pick up on that, but what if they don't? What if the only thing they remember about you is that time you sarcastically slammed them for not having a pencil? 

  • Understanding - Not all of our students come from a loving environment and that breaks my heart. Each and every child should have an opportunity to come to school to learn and go home each day to be loved. This isn't always the case. Some kids come to school to be loved because maybe their single-parent is working 3 jobs just to make ends meet and the student cannot get the help he/she needs on homework. Maybe the parents have a different circumstances. Whatever the circumstance might be, sometimes your students do not come to school prepared. Sometimes your students just need a smile. Sometimes students need the confidence to know that they can. Content is so important but without mutual respect, you will not get anywhere. 

  • Passion- Passion is the most important part of our job. Are you passionate about the subject you teach? If not, can you dig deep and try? You can be the most knowledgeable person in your content area but if you don't have a passion to share that with others you will find yourself burned out quickly. Why? Your students will be bored with lectures in about 3 minutes. You have to dig deep within to figure out what it's going to take to get your point across. 

  • Involvement- Can you commit to being involved with a group of like minded educators? Can you find your tribe that will push you to your best potential and give that back to them in return? Can you be an active part of a professional learning network (PLN)*? Or are you someone who likes to keep all of your ideas to yourself and not share them with others? Let me tell you, this job is so hard if you are the second type of person. Working as an individual is draining but when you work together as a team the possibilities for you and your students are endless. 

  • Learner- Are you a professional learner? Can you practice having a growth mindset and be open to new ideas? Truthfully, educational philosophies change so fast! One year one strategy works, the next year it doesn't and administration wants you to try something different. Are you willing to have an open mind to change? An open mind to receiving feedback and reflecting on what works best for your students? If you struggle to hear feedback, teaching is going to be a difficult profession for you. It honestly is a field that requires growth, reflection, and an open mindset of change. 

  • Smile- Okay. I know you've probably heard the old wives tale floating around the mill about how teachers shouldn't smile until Christmas? Some teachers still swear by this mindset and I know a lot of them probably have great classroom management. They're also great teachers! However, I (personally) have found out that my students connect better, are more engaged, and feel more comfortable sharing their ideas with me if I have built a relationship with them. For me, that includes smiling. Find out what works for you and your students, and work on building those effective relationships with each other. 
There are so many factors that go into our job. We work hard and our reward at the end of the day isn't a lot of money or tons of fame, it's knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of kids. We have the ability to help change their mindsets about learning, self-confidence, and their futures. To me, education is the best career in the world. 

PLN- Professional Learning Network recommendations

- Social Media (my favortie is Twitter) examples: #HackLearning, #TLAP, #KYGoDigital
-Professional Development Books (Teach Like a Pirate, Hacking Engagement, Ditch that Textbook)
-Podcasts - (Google Teacher Tribe, House of Edtech, Read to Lead, Hacking Engagement, Hack Learning)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Students + Screencastify = Magic

Chances are you have probably heard about Screencastify before. You know, the Google Chrome Extension that will allow you to record what's going on on your computer screen? The tool is amazing for teachers because it allows us to reteach, give directions, or leave detailed sub plans with ease. Have you ever thought what would happen if we were to put this tool into the hands of our students? I have and the possibilities are endless.

Helps students demonstrate and create visually with their VOICE

1. Ready... Set... Animation!

Students can create a flipbook animation by duplicating slides and changing things on the screen little by little! Then record the animation with screencastify. Students could tell a story with just images.

Ideas would include the reenactment of a historical event, a part of a book they're reading, or a poem. For math they could show a flipbook showing how to work a problem or create a story for a word problem. For science: recreate mitosis/meiosis/cell division, symbiotic relationships, wave movement, potential and kinetic energy models, energy transfer, moon phases, and so much more! 

2. PresentationzZzZz

We have all had this great idea to let students create some type of group or individual presentation! The plan always seems great... Let the students work for a few days to perfect their presentations and then let them present it to the class. However, whenever the students are presenting, the rest of the students are bored to tears. Insert Screencastify! Students record their presentations. Take it a step further and app slam this by asking the students to post their presentations onto a padlet board for their classmates to watch. Have the classmates select three presentations to reflect on. 

3. Rethink, Reteach, Enrich!
Can be from the teacher… Can be from a student leader? Enrichment activity? Student absent for a long period of time? Reteach? Find out which students are passionate about the topic you are currently teaching and ask them if they would be interested in making a reteach video for struggling learners.

4. Be the Expert

Sometimes when we are beginning a new unit, we want to give the students all of the vocabulary and facts. Why not let the students explore it on their own? Students can “deep dive” into a question/scenario. Turn them loose and let them explore then teach the class about
their findings via screencasting them! After all, when one teaches others, that is when we know they fully understand the concept.

5. Newscast
Students can be take a topic they have been learning about in class and make an informative newscast to share their knowledge! This can be a current event that will allow students to do a mock-cast about. A breakthrough in science!? A history-book moment? The rise and fall of stocks? An increase in gas price? Maybe a reenactment of a historical event? All of those could be the perfect opportunities for this activity. 

6. Virtual Field Trips (on a new level!)

This is one I am passionate about! Allow the students to create their own Google Maps by pinpointing locations. Students take their viewers on a Virtual Field Trip by using Screencastify to record. With each location, students make connections to the content the have been studying. Take it a step further and have student make a Google Site for their trip. Have students embed their screencastify video and their maps as well as any additional information they can.

Science I did this when my students were studying biomes. Students each picked a Biome, then used Google Maps and Screencastify to take their viewers on a Virtual Field Trip to different locations of their biome.They made their own maps by pinpointing locations. I then had them embed the maps and their screencast video to a G site to share with the community. On the sites students talked about the biotic/abiotic features, symbiotic relationships, and human interaction into their G Site. So much fun and so informative!

Let students do a virtual reality tour of the body parts for body systems! The students go Magic School Bus style into the body systems using VR tools such as this or this! Studentts become the expert as they explain each organ, tissue, cell, bone structure, etc.

In astronomy, use tools like Google Sky and Google Mars to have students make connections to our solar system.

Math VR for math? Oh, but yes. Let students explore 3D Geometrical realities so they can make connections to their learning! Applying real world math? Yes please! Allow students to "shop" online websites to make their own equations. WHAT?

Language Arts Allow your students to explore the setting of the book you are reading, go to the local spots of the characters, go to the restaurants/parks/etc and allow the students to make connections.

Social Studies/Arts and Humanities So many opportunities for SS and the Arts! Social Studies teachers, pinpoint locations on a Google Map and allow your students to explore the part of the world you are currently visiting. Capture students initial reactions or have them connect to their schema they have obtained in class. Arts and Humanities use the Google Arts and Culture, allow the students to see the work you have been talking about and make connections.

I am sure I will think of more opportunities for Screencastify once I press send and when I do, I will be sure to add them. If you have any questions about how I use screencasts to allow my students to find their creativity, reach out to me on Twitter @stella_pollard or at - I will be glad to help you!


8. Chromebook Experts!
It's the beginning of the year and we have brand new students entering the school. Most of which who have never touched anything technology related other than a cell phone or an iPad but now have a Chromebook. Maybe it's just after Christmas Break and you have three new transfer students who haven't ever used Chromebooks in a classroom. You could sit down and show them how to use their new tech. However, why not allow your techy students to use Screencastify to teach the new students and their parents how to use Google Drive, Google Classroom, and all of your favorite sites/apps/extensions? This will empower the student who is assisting, give your new student(s) a feel of the school, and save you a lot of time!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Google Drawings In the Classroom!

We know this is true. As adults and as educators, we are continuously taping into our creative senses every single day to bring forth the very best learning opportunities for our learners. Just look into any classroom in America. You have teachers who spend their weekend's planning, creating, and searching for the perfect week of activities and learning experiences that will help enrich their students as they learn the content. However, we are always faced with some interesting challenges that sometimes, scare us from changing our role with teacher-centered classrooms towards a more modern student-centered one. 

One of the largest factors for me was, "not every student is creative." I never considered myself to be a creative person until last year. Whenever I was asked to create something I would moan and groan with complaints. I despised being asked to create. Say what? I was an educator but I was afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone? How could I possibly ask my students to create something if I was afraid to do it myself? 

Then, one day, this all changed. I applied for and was granted a cart of Chromebooks. I knew the change that this would bring for my students would be revolutionary. It wasn't until this situation that I realized that we are all creative! So what if I can barely draw? I can be creative in other ways! Like writing this blog, or making that image at the top of this page with Canva. Then, I started slowly becoming more comfortable with letting some of the normal teacher-centered things go. I haven't done a powerpoint since, nor do I use any type of lecturing platform, I just don't do it! Instead, I turn the ropes over to my students and I allow them to be the mastermind of content. 

One of my favorite tools for allowing students is a commonly over-looked tool within the Google for Education Suite: Google Drawings. When you are first playing around with Google Drawings, you will notice that it is a lot like Microsoft Paint, but it's harder to paint on it. That's okay! Let me show you how my students have taken control of their learning by using Google Drawings and why it is hands down my favorite G Suite tool! 

1. Drag and Drop Review Games- I know this one is more of a teacher creation, but it's too good not to share!
Create a way for students to test their knowledge OR allow them to create their own for their peers. Using the "shapes" tool, insert two circles. 

Venn-Diagram: Click on the paint bucket to make the circles be transparent, then thicken the border with by changing the border weight (4 lines, I like the 8 pt thickness). Students then can just drag and drop the boxes into their correct circle. Click here to get a free editable copy of this example. 

2. Allow students to show what they know by creating a poster

Students love to have a choice, why not allow them to use the Google Explore key (bottom right corner of the screen, its a star!) to find images to relate to the days content? This is a great exit-slip ticket that will allow the students to take control of their own learning. Choice = voice = confidence! 

Student example:

3. Allow the students to create infographics:

Similar to number two, but with more detail. Allow the students to apply what they have learned by making an infographic with the knowledge they have obtained! 

Student example: 

4. Student made brochures! 
Allow students to give readers a tidbit of information in a brochure style Google Drawing! 

Student example

5. Models! 
Have your students express their learning by creating models in Google Drawing: 

6. Want-Ads! 
Do you have a unit in your subject where the students' could make want-ads? Maybe in math, they could make one for a solution to an equation? In social studies, maybe a reward for a mystery? In English a want-ad to go along with a book or even for a topic of a book? In science, we made one for symbiotic relationships! 

7. Timelines
Have your students create a timeline over a period of time, add pictures to prove points, and have them cite the sources of hyperlinks.

8. You could app-smash with programs like Canva! 
Have students create quotes from books, vocab/defintion pairs, infographics and much more using Canva to help them make their Google Drawings POP. 

9. Comic Strips

10. Annotate an Image ( shout out to @jmattmiller for this idea on the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast!) 
So I haven't tried this one YET but I will be this coming week. What a great idea!? Find an image and have the students annotate on it. This could be so useful in all subjects. EVEN math! :) 

That's it for now! I hope this post was helpful to you! Here's to a more engaging classroom as we work together to better ourselves! 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Observe ME!

A few weeks ago, I decided to implement the Observe Me Challenge at my school in Frankfort, KY. If you are unfamiliar with the Observe Me Challenge, it's a way for teachers to invite colleagues into their classrooms and receive feedback. Teachers sometimes struggle with getting feedback, but that's something we have to change. Feedback can be a very positive door for changing your classroom for the better.

Allow others to come in and watch you, maybe the observer will take something back with them to implement in their own classroom, maybe they can give you some ideas on how to make your lesson even better, or maybe both!

So, with that being said, I promised the #kytechchat community a blog about my new experiences with this challenge. So far, my co-teacher (Mrs. Lyndsay Hite) and I have been the only two to implement the challenge. We have had some positive buy in with other teachers, but the observations have been slow to roll in. Mostly because we have had so many meetings during our planning periods. However, people are talking and talking is good! Our Thinking Strategies Coach was also impressed with the idea.

After Fall Break, I plan to promote The Observe Me Challenge more! Hopefully things will calm down and people will have a chance to utilize this opportunity. I look forward to growing as an educator from this challenge!  I will write another blog after the challenge gets it's feet off of the ground.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Be a Lamp

A couple of week ago, I wrote a post about a teacher who tried to break my spirit as a learner. I know he didn't "mean" to. However, my spirit cannot be broken, by anyone. It's been tried, I have had some pretty tough situations but I always prevail and overcome those. Thankfully, I have had many positive influences in my 28 years of existence.

I got to thinking recently about how it was so unfair that I gave Mr. C his very own post but neglected to praise teachers who helped me overcome that. Before my 8th Grade encounter, I had many teachers who pushed me and helped me overcome challenges. I had educators who went above and beyond and others who were mediocre.

 After 8th Grade, educators who showed me to love and believe in myself meant more. I went to a very small high school that was nestled inside of the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I played every sport they had to offer because if you went to school there and you had just a hint of athleticism, they needed you for everything. Regardless of my involvement in sports, I still wasn't a very popular student and I was extremely hard on myself.

One teacher noticed that I struggled when it came to self confidence and he really pushed me to work hard. His name is Mr. Swartzentruber (Mr. Swartz) and he taught Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry. Mr. Swartz was one of those teachers that made you feel loved, even though he taught challenging subjects. I remember the first actual conversation I had with him was after a Teens for Christ meeting. He was the sponsor of the program. With him, I conversed about my plans for post high school graduation and where I could see myself. When I told him I wanted to be a lawyer, he just looked at me and said, "I believe in you."

In class, we worked a lot on accelerated math. It was the very first class that I can ever remember having differentiated instruction in. He would work one-on-one with students who struggled with concepts. He was also the first teacher I ever had to introduce me to "mathematical yoga" using slope for exercise (which I still incorporate into my SCIENCE classes when we talk about analyzing data).

He sang with us, he encouraged us, and he pushed us. Which was probably extremely difficult for him considering most of the guys in our class were just going to finish their education so they could become coal miners. He made us feel proud of our accomplishments in class.

I took every class that he had to offer and was sad to find out that he moved to a different school my senior year. Every now and then, when I travel back home I have the opportunity to see him and his wife. I also have a chance to connect with him and his family on social media. When I find myself in a challenging situation with a student, I think about my time spent in that small school in the mountains and I wonder how Mr. Swartz would handle the situation.

If he somehow finds this I hope he knows just how much his knowledge and encouragement meant to me and many other students. Thank you, Mr. Swartz for helping me find a passion for learning after the flame had already been smothered. I know you worked hard, I know there were probably days where you felt like giving up, but you never did. For that, I will forever be grateful.


I drank the kool-aid and decided to jump onto the #OneWord challenge that is going around Twitter. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, ...