Professional Development

We need more (not less) diversity in the classroom

I had to write a blog post style assignment for a recertification course I took this spring, so I figured I might as well share it here too!

All too often the culture and diversity of the adults are on the periphery. But in order to navigate the intersection of student and adult cultural diversity, we must first acknowledge and understand our adult beliefs and practices.

A Classroom Where Everyone Feels Welcome, Wyatt-Ross)

As an educator who is tasked with “engag[ing] [their] students in literacy practices that develop awareness, understanding, respect, and a valuing of differences in our society,” it’s imperative that I first do my own development (South Carolina Literacy Competencies for Middle and High School Content Area Teachers). As a white cis-woman who grew up in a middle-class family in a homogenous community in Michigan, I have immense privilege. If I am not willing to dive into my own biases and educate myself on the diversity of the human experience, I have no business being an educator. 

…classroom teachers should view their school or classroom spaces as culturally inclusive classroom communities where everyone is welcome.

A Classroom Where Everyone Feels Welcome, Wyatt-Ross

Once we view being human as the thing we all have in common, we can then embrace our diversity. While this can happen in all facets of our lives, the education system is where we should be intentionally creating safe spaces for students to be exposed to diversity (cultural, racial, gender, ability, etc.) and process their experiences.

No matter where my students come from or how they identify, one thing I love about teaching French is that it naturally lends itself to “build[ing] upon the students’ cultural and linguistic diversity” (South Carolina Literacy Competencies for Middle and High School Content Area Teachers). The ultimate goal of learning another language is finding the “intersection of language proficiency and cultural competence, or Intercultural Communication (The South Carolina College- and Career-Ready Standards for World Language Proficiency). As world language teachers, diversity is part of our standards!

It is impossible to teach students to communicate across cultures if we do not also teach students about and expose them to the diversity that exists in the world. Some of my favorite experiences in the French classroom have been when students are “Investigat[ing] Products And Practices To Understand Cultural Perspectives” and “Interact[ing] With Others In And From Another Culture” (The South Carolina College- and Career-Ready Standards for World Language Proficiency).

As content teachers and lovers of language, it can be easy to forget about this cultural objective. My students in South Carolina rarely left the state, let alone the country. Understandably, they wondered about the purpose of learning French if they were never going to use it after they left my class. It was my responsibility to provide them authentic experiences to use their new French skills and expose them to French culture and all of its diversity. One learning experience I will always remember is when my students tweeted with a class learning English in France. This activity allowed me to formatively assess their writing in a way that captivated my students. At the time, I reflected “My students not only were able to communicate in French with students in France, they were also able to learn about their culture.” I can’t think of a more exciting outcome for my students! If my students can walk away from my class having “develop[ed] awareness, understanding, respect, and a valuing of differences in our society,” I feel successful as their teacher. 

To be antiracist is to think nothing is behaviorally wrong or right- inferior or superior- with any of the racial groups. Whenever the antiracist sees individuals behaving positively or negatively, the antiracist sees exactly that: individuals behaving positively or , not representatives of whole races. To be antiracist is to deracialize behavior, to remove the tattooed stereotype from every racialized body. Behavior is something humans do, not races do.

How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

As a white, privileged human being and educator, I am a work in progress. It is essential that I continue learning in order to best meet the needs of my students. During my 13 years as an educator, I have taught in 3 countries (South Carolina/USA, Kuwait, Beijing/China) and never taught in a school that serves the white, homogenous population that I grew up immersed in. This makes it even more important that I am attuned to the diversity around me and how my bias might impact my students. 

Whenever I move to a new place, I should start by learning as much as I can, in a broad sense, about my students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This is usually made slightly easier because I also live in these new-to-me cultures. However, I still have to be intentional about taking the time to learn and grow while acknowledging and exploring my biases. Then, I need to put aside my new knowledge and get to know my students, and deal with them as individuals (Recognizing Individual Characteristics, Strickland). 

Some white teachers fall into the trap of “positive feedback bias” with students of color, providing less-critical comments in an attempt to protect the self-esteem of students they see as vulnerable. Teachers need to provide honest feedback, belief in students’ capability, and specific suggestions on what needs to improve. One study showed that the best combination is critical feedback accompanied by a clear statement that the teacher believes the student is capable of reaching their high expectations, along with strategies for reaching them.

The Power of Asking Why?: Attribution Retraining Programs for the Classroom Teacher, Graham & Taylor

I recently read this Graham & Taylor article and saw connections between this quote and the topic of diversity in education. I appreciate their focus on clearly communicating your belief in the students’ abilities. As Wendy Nelson-Kauffman shares in the CREC Culturally Responsive Teaching video, I must build strong relationships with my students by showing them that I genuinely care about them, address the differences in my classroom, and be cognizant of the types of assessment that I use. One way for me to do this is by paying attention to the types of text and other learning materials that I am selecting. 

An enabling text is one that moves beyond a sole cognitive focus—such as skill and strategy development—to include an academic, cultural, emotional, and social focus that moves students closer to examining issues they find relevant to their lives.

Enabling Texts: Texts that Matter, Tatum

I believe that creating opportunities for students to both be exposed to diversity and see themselves in the content is at the heart of a good curriculum. It is my responsibility to advocate for diversity in the published curriculum and to ensure that the taught curriculum in my classroom reflects the diversity of the world.

Exploring Technology through Guided Inquiry

An Inquiry Approach to Introducing & Exploring Tech Tools

As an educator, I wanted a systematic way to introduce new technology tools to students that could be repeated regardless of the tool. I wanted them to begin by experiencing the tool, with as little direct instruction as possible. I wanted to shift the narrative about how we introduce and use tech with students.

With the support of thinking partners from around the world, I’ve had the opportunity to refine this learning experience over the past many years. Here are some previous posts about the process. Here is a folder with all of the resources I’ve created & collated, including slide decks I’ve used with classes and for PD sessions.

Feel free to copy, reuse, and remix anything, as long as you re-share your work in the comments below!

Exploring Technology Through Guided Inquiry Learning Experience Template

Inquiring into Technology Learning Experience by Lissa Layman is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

International Ed, Professional Development

Using Flipgrid to Inspire & Facilitate Discussion

We’re in the midst of an eLearning adventure in Beijing! As we approached our 3rd week, it was decided that we would use a day to come together as a staff for professional learning. Educators in the Office of Learning were asked to give 30-minute sessions on various topics. It was awesome to see the variety of presentations/roundtable discussions and have so many ISB educators sign-up for the sessions!

I originally used Flipgrid in COETAIL Course 3 to promote discussion about Harro’s Cycle of Socialization. This made me wonder if there were more ways we might use Flipgrid to inspire & facilitate discussions in an asynchronous learning environment. Below is the recorded session, a Flipgrid to share ideas about how you might empower every voice during virtual learning, and the slides from the presentation.

I would love for you to contribute to our Grid with ideas for how you might use Flipgrid to allow your students to engage in discussion with each other, no matter where they are or when they connect.

Empowering Every Voice During eLearning

International Ed

10 Strategies for Surviving When Working from Home

COVID19 has caused a bit of a stir in our international education community. Starting on February 5, schools across China closed and began implementing eLearning for students. This also means eWorking for us educators! Whether you are working from your apartment in Beijing or a beach in Thailand, working from home can be a challenging shift. When I first began working from home part-time 3 years ago with Eduro & COETAIL, I wasn’t always sure how to find balance. I still sometimes struggle with being productive when there are so many distractions. Every day, I continue to learn how to be my best self without physically being in a school.

Below are 10 strategies that have helped me transition from a structured work environment to the flexibility of an online work environment. I’d also love to hear your strategies in the comments!

If you’d like to watch the 5 Minute Friday version, scroll down for the video.

Be Patient

First and foremost, practice extreme patience for yourself. Some days are going to be harder than others but remember that this is a learning journey and your perception of success will probably ebb and flow daily. Your colleagues and students also deserve your extreme patience. For your students, learning independently and the daily deluge of information has the potential to be just as, if not more, overwhelming as it is for you.

How might your expectations of what you are able to accomplish in a day need to change? How might your expectations for your students need to change?

Create Space

I have lots of places that I am comfortable and cozy in our apartment, but those spaces haven’t always supported my productivity. If you don’t already have one, create a space where you feel productive and inspired. While you’re working, minimize distractions by putting your phone away and turning off notifications on your laptop.

How might you create a dedicated area that allows you to focus? What might it look and feel like?

Find Balance

Working from home doesn’t have to be all work or all play. There have been days where I have worked way too much and other days where I have not worked nearly enough. Just because you are no longer restricted by school hours does not mean you should work all day, every day.

How might you find or create joy during your day? How might you incorporate play into your day?

Keep a Schedule

Make time each day to review your to-do list and map out what your day will look like. We’re used to a very rigid schedule, and now it is up to us to create our own schedules. I have a daily (paper) planner where I schedule my day and keep a running to-do list. Electronically, I have also used Asana to keep track and stay focused.

What will you do today? When do the tasks on your to-do list need to be accomplished? Which hours of the day are you most productive? How will you chunk your day and hold yourself accountable? How might you keep track of your various projects and tasks?

Treat Yourself

Celebrate small successes. Did you just spend 50 minutes dedicated and focused? Allow yourself 10 minutes to relax and give your brain a break. Read a good book, go for a swim, play in the snow.

How might you use ordinary moments to reward yourself?


We’re used to being in constant motion, standing 6+ hours a day. Working from home reduces the reasons to leave the house, making it easy to inside for days on end. But, our brains need us to move. Be intentional about getting up and being active. Find reasons to leave the house. Use the resources at your fingertips to get up and move:

  • Two of my fav online workout channels: Pilates (she also has an awesome monthly membership & an upcoming 5-day challenge!) and strength.
  • More online workout ideas: here, here, & here. And some Barre videos here.
  • Not into videos? Do these 7-minute workouts on your own. Or, set yourself an alarm every 10 minutes to get up and do 10 repetitions of an exercise of your choice. Have a trampoline at your disposal? Go jump on it for a few minutes!
  • Looking for more interaction? Join Victoria’s virtual Zumba classes! If you don’t work at ISB, contact her for more info.
  • Hate exercising? Walk around while listening to these podcasts.

How are you making the intentional choice to move? How are you sharing your success with others?

Make Time to Collaborate

We’re used to being around people all day, popping across the hall to ask a colleague a question, meeting with team members to design authentic learning experiences. When I first started working from home, it was often lonely. Finding ways to embed collaboration in your daily schedule will allow you to share your successes, get support for your wonderings, and alleviate the stress of feeling like you have to do everything alone now.

How might you be intentional about connecting with colleagues? How might you use the tools that are available to us to support collaboration? How might collaboration benefit student learning?

Find Your Jam

Did you know that Spotify has all sorts of playlists for the workday? Get a confidence boost, find your focus, visit your favorite coffee house, get through the whole workday, or stop procrastinating. Silence more your thing? Revel in it!

How might you find your unique jam?

Collect Data

When I first started working from home, I had no concept for how much time I was spending actually working or what tasks were taking up my time. Keeping track of what you’re spending your time on gives you concrete data (I use Toggl) that you can later reflect on and learn from.

What data might you collect? How might you collect it? How might you use this data to support your future productivity?

Brush Your Teeth

This is might seem silly or obvious. But I have found that getting out of my PJs and brushing my teeth before I begin my workday has been beneficial for both my productivity and sanity. Do the people in my virtual meetings know that I’m dressed & have clean teeth? Nope. Do I feel better about myself? Yup.

What rituals will help you transition into and out of your workday?

Your turn!

What strategies have you found useful as you have undertaken the adventure of working from home? We’d love for you to share in the comments below so that our ISB community can benefit from your experience!

Cross-posted from the Learning@ISB blog. Also on the Living in Laymans’ Terms & Eduro Learning blogs.

Kuwait, Social Media

Social Media Isn’t a New ‘Problem’

An AISQ8 student approached us to contribute articles for his teenage handbook. It wasn’t until later that I put 2 & 2 together to realize that he was an MYP 5 student and this handbook was part of his MYP Personal Project. I love it when their projects are unique an relevant.

Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer

At first I wasn’t sure what to write and waited until the last minute to start writing. His questions helped guide me and I ended up enjoying reflecting and writing.

Please answer the following questions:

  • What are your personal experiences with bullying during your upbringing/coming of age?
  • Do you find technology a “great escape” to relieve yourself from anxiety and stress?
  • How can information technology cause teenage issues?
  • How can information technology alleviate teenage issues?
  • What is the impact of integrating information technology in school subjects?
  • Should technology be used as a source of education despite its harms?

I was in 7th grade when AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) was released. Social media was basically invented during my teenage years. But no one quite understood its power or how it might affect our well-being. It hadn’t been around long enough for teachers or parents to know that it added a new dynamic to our already complicated teenage lives. Creating fake accounts was easy. Bullying a former friend anonymously wasn’t difficult. And, while I think we knew it was wrong, cyber-bullying wasn’t a topic that was discussed yet. I was not always a nice teenager. And sometimes technology gave me an anonymous alter-ego who struggled to be principled and caring.

I’m not sure the scenario has changed much in the last 20 years. Maybe now people are less concerned with being anonymous and their alter-egos have been replaced by their egos. We have to acknowledge that technology has an important role in our lives. And, it’s not going away anytime soon. We are all on a learning journey to harness the power of technology to make principled contributions to our global society. In order to do this, we need to be able to learn and live with technology. Technology has the potential to enhance teaching and learning and inspire open-mindedness and collaboration. However, this must be taught and practiced and re-enforced. Everything can be harmful if you have too much of it, even water. We must be purposefully balanced with technology in order to support our well-being. Parents and educators are the key to supporting children and teenagers in learning how to be balanced, principled and caring. If we don’t talk about and use technology at home or at school, how will the adults of the future (you!) be able to make principled contributions to our global society?

Technology helps us connect to other people around the world, both local and global. Technology does not tell us how to act; it simply gives us the platform to act. We, the users, are the problem. Not technology. Technology causes issues when we choose to use it to inflict harm on others. Technology alleviates issues when we choose to use it to find like-minded people to support us during our life journey. When we choose to use technology to disconnect from our lives and numb our feelings, it can actually increase our anxiety and stress. When we choose to use technology to support our productivity, enhance our learning, communicate and collaborate with others, and stay in touch with family and friends, it can help us experience life deeper.  

Technology is powerful. What type of power it has in our lives is up to us. What choices will you make to positively impact the world? How might your IB education support you when learning and living with technology? What choices will you make to bring others up, instead of taking them down?


COETAIL, Collaboration

Connected Classrooms: What’s your WHY?

Two blog posts in 2 days…I’m on a roll! And maybe I have a request too 😇

From the time I can remember (really only middle school for my brain), I wanted to learn another language (French) and use it. It might have had something to do with my aunt & mom both studying abroad in France. Maybe the fact that that same aunt was my HS French teacher also had an impact 😉 The strong connection I felt with France after living there for almost a year stayed with me when I started teaching French in South Carolina. Except my students didn’t share my connection. So why the heck would they want to learn French?! Many of them had no plans to leave the city, state or country. Why should they care?

That is how I realized that it was essential to my students’ learning that I create a connected classroom. Being able to connect with French speakers around the world allowed my students to be able to authentically use the French they were learning. Since my time in the French classroom, my passion for supporting connected classrooms has only increased. Living in Kuwait can feel isolating, however, opening up the world to students makes me feel invigorated.

connected teacher.png

So, in addition to my new COETAIL role, next month I will also start as the Academy mentor for the Eduro Learning Connected Teacher Micro-Credential. I wasn’t sure it was something I could take on. But my passion for supporting educators in creating a more connected world for their students won out. I can’t think of many things that I love more! In addition to being a mentor, I’m also contributing to one of the courses.

local to global

That’s where you come in!

Sneak peak: One week of the course will be all about why educators invest in globally connected classrooms. It will include a series of short videos from educators around the world sharing their why. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Share your availability below and I’ll be in touch! Thank you in advance 🙏

COETAIL, Kuwait, Professional Development

New year, new adventure, new resumé

Every time I sit down to write a blog post I look at the date of my last post and I’m like…really!? It was that long ago?! I have only posted twice this year. What?! I have so much more to say than that! And then I remind myself of all the amazing, fulfilling things that are taking up my hours (besides sleep).

  • My full time job as an Instructional Coach (Technology Integration) at #AISQ8 is going as well as it has in my 6 years in the position. We’ve moved offices this year (yay for a true Learning Commons!) and I truly enjoy coming to work.
  • I coached 2 sports last year (u14 girls’ soccer and track & field) and my 1st of 3 seasons this year just started (u14 girls’ soccer, JV girls’ soccer and track & field).
  • I spent an amazing spring break & summer at home in Pure Michigan with family. We just can’t resist our adorable nieces!
  • Jeff and I spent 2 wonderful weeks in Italy (our first time back since he proposed in 2008) and I soaked in every minute of my 8-day Cognitive Coaching Foundation course.

Oh…and I’ve been working as the Managing Director (and Marketing Manager) for COETAIL since March! I bought hardcore into the COETAIL philosophy as an Online ’13-14 participant and I was pumped when they announced that they were hiring in February…so I applied for every position! If you’re a current, grad or potential COETAILer, you’ve probably received an email (or several) from me since March. It’s been busy but I have loved every minute of my new challenge and I feel supported by the entire COETAIL team and community. As Jeff and I continue our life adventure, I can’t wait to see where the amazing connections we have made take us!

I finally took the time to update my resumé (to complement Jeff’s) and thought I’d share it here with my professional/life update. I hope that school years around the world are starting off well!

Click here to view PDF version


Entering the #MYPscience Classroom – Seeking Connections

Some facts:

  • My undergrad major was Chemistry. I graduated 10 years ago.
  • I worked in a raw materials pharmaceutical lab. That was 9 years ago.
  • I am certified to teach Chemistry. I passed the PRAXIS 5 years ago
  • I’ve tutored a few students in science during the last 5 years.
  • I’ve never taught a science class.
  • I will be teaching an MYP 5 science class for the remainder of the 2016-17 school year.

So there’s all that. My biggest fear is that I won’t be able to find the balance to be both a good teacher and a good instructional coach (without going insane). Oh…and I’m currently coaching track & field too. My biggest hopes are that I will make meaningful connections with students and positively impact student learning. Weighing it all, this is a great opportunity to get back into the classroom and experience teaching science with a supportive & collaborative 10th grade teaching team.

As I start to tune in to both the content and the pedagogy of teaching science, I’m looking to connect with anyone who:

  • has successfully transitioned from 1 teacher to another during a school year.
  • teaches MYP 4 or 5 science (I’m especially interested in integrating ATL skills, the IB Learner Profile, concepts, global contexts & statements of inquiry in everything we do).
  • uses protocols with (HS) students.
  • uses visible thinking routines to help (HS/MYP) students better understand science.
  • integrates technology in the teaching & learning of (MYP) science.
  • balances the responsibilities of leadership & classroom teacher.

#AISQ8 has some amazing educators and I’m excited to collaborate with the department. However I’d love to expand my PLN as I take some risks this year. Say hi, suggest educators I should connect with or whatever you see fit. Sending lots of gratitude into the universe!

Collaboration, Exploring Technology through Guided Inquiry, Professional Development

Learning 2 : Re-Imagine : Shift the Narrative

In October, Jeff and I attended Learning 2 Asia at Saigon South in Vietnam. It was (another) great Learning 2 experience…I was reunited with some awesome people, met lots of new ones (several that I felt like I already knew thanks to the internets), explored a new country with my husband and was pushed outside my comfort zone by Jabiz during the Re-Imagine Strand. Who could ask for anything more?

I didn’t want my Re-Imagine project to end at Learning 2, so I’ve been meaning to record it for awhile. Today I finally made the time to sit down and just do it. It got me excited all over again. I hope you’ll join me in shifting the role of tech coaches and technology instruction.


Collaboration, Kuwait

Technology Integration & Collaborative Planning in #IBPYP

Although my default compass point is West, the last 4+ years in a Pk-12 instructional coaching role have allowed me to hone my East skills. More and more I strive to make a systemic impact on student learning (a large part of why I left the classroom). Below is one small way that this plays out in my daily practice.

After attending the PYP Collaborative Planning workshop in October at AISQ8, my desire for trying to figure out how to better collaborate with my colleagues in order to positively impact student learning increased exponentially (it was already pretty high). Thankfully, Sanja and I were invited to each of the ES grade level planning meetings for the upcoming units. Our goal during this first round of meetings was to be non-judgmental observers, providing input only upon request, in order to better understand the structure and flow.

We still have a lot of (collaborative) work to do in figuring out how to best be part of the unit planning process. However this week we wanted to follow-up with teams. My Eastern (and Western) tendencies came out in taking (extra) time to draft a standard email that we could use across the grade levels. We wanted it to be focused on teaching and learning, not simply technology. I used a What? So what? Now what? structure to guide our communication. Our goal was to make sure teachers felt heard before (re)introducing our ideas. Below is our general structure and an example.

Good morning/afternoon grade _ team,

Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your 3-block planning for the ______ unit. We appreciated the peak into the teaching and learning that is occurring in grade _ classrooms.

What the unit planner says, what we heard them say
During your discussions, we heard you focus on…
We heard you say that technology might be integrated in the teaching and learning in the following ways…

So what
Connection to Learning w/ Technology Standards
In the Teaching and Learning with Technology document released by the IB last year, they introduce the AID lens. The three principles (Agency, Information & Design) are intended to aid and extend teaching and learning. Based on your unit planner and what we heard you say, your unit might be viewed through the ____ lens where ___.

[A future version will focus on our new standards that are in development.] The Learning w/ Technology Standards are AIS standards that are we are currently drafting and piloting. They are based on the ISTE Standards, ALA Standards and IB documents. Based on your unit planner and what we heard you say, your unit connects to _____ (strands). Specifically, the following standards might enhance student learning:

Now what
Our ideas
Based on and in addition to this, some ways that we might be able to support you in integrating technology would be_________. These also connect to your ______ (Common Core) standards.

How can we support you and your students as you continue to create opportunities to make connections outside our school walls?

How can we support you in using the AID lens to consider how subject areas and themes can be combined with technology to create new learning experiences?

How can we support you and your students as you continue to create authentic, real-world assessments?

Looking forward to continuing to collaborate with you in order to positively impact student learning!


Good morning/afternoon grade 1 team,

Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your 3-block planning for the How Do We Express Ourselves unit. We appreciated the peak into the teaching and learning that is occurring in grade 1 classrooms.

During your discussions, we heard you focus on students inquiring into cultural identity and expression. We heard you say that technology might be integrated into the teaching and learning in the following ways:

  • Research
  • Search engines accessible for grade 1 students
  • Netflix (Human Planet)
  • Video recording interviews during the International Day

The Learning w/ Technology Standards are AIS standards that are we are currently drafting and piloting. They are based on the ISTE Standards, ALA Standards and IB documents. Based on your unit planner and what we heard you say, your unit connects to Global Communicator and Collaborator and Knowledge Constructor. Specifically, the following standards might enhance student learning:

  • Global Communicator and Collaborator
    • GCC1: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
    • GCC3: Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
    • GCC4: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
    • GCC5: Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.
    • GCC6: Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
  • Knowledge Constructor
    • KC1: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
    • KC3: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

Based on and in addition to this, some ways that we might be able to support you in integrating technology would be to facilitate connections to other countries, schools, and students and investigate/share grade level appropriate research databases. These also connect to your Speaking and Listening (Comprehension and Collaboration) and Geography (G1 and G2) standards.

How can we support you and your students as you continue to create opportunities to make connections outside our school walls?

How can we support you and your students as you continue to create authentic, real-world assessments?

Looking forward to continuing to collaborate with you in order to positively impact student learning!