How It All Began
How did this whole crazy Sister Classroom Project start anyway? Well, it all started with a tweet, as I’m sure many of the best ideas do; this particular one came from Brian Wyzlic…
[Brian’s note: when I sent this tweet, Jillian didn’t know it, but I was strongly hoping she would respond. I didn’t know much about her yet, but I could tell that we gelled very well, and I thought it would be awesome if she’d be on board with it. But I couldn’t just ask her to be my sister classroom. That’s like asking someone to go to the Glarsinary with you. I mean, what’s a Glarsinary? You have to ask lots of people if they want to create a Glarsinary, and then hope the right person responds. Mission: accomplished.]
[Jillian’s note: Now, I was already twitter "friends" with Brian, and I knew he taught middle school in Michigan, but I had no idea how our relationship would grow into "siblings" from my simple response to him.]
The first tweet was followed up with this:
[Brian’s note again: Jillian was the only one to respond. It was fate. Or just. . .that we’re the only ones this crazy!]
[Jillian’s further note: Thus began one of the most fun experiences I've had since I started teaching - and I can only imagine how much further it will grow.]
What We’ve Done
In the past year, we have:
- had a ton of fun
- grown as teachers
- become more creative
- pushed ourselves to do what we can to connect our students more
- helped our students . . .wait, that’s the next point. Nevermind.
Last year our students:
- became more motivated to increase their reading volume through friendly challenges
- enjoyed book talks from their peers across Lake Michigan
- created and voted on March Book Madness brackets for their favorite characters (the ultimate winner was Peeta from Hunger Games in case you’re wondering)
- had two #throwdown friendly competitions (everyone wins when they read more!)
- read hundreds of books
This year we hope to:
- continue to do the awesome things we have going
- create even more Awesome things to help our students connect about the books they are reading
- connect more via video to bring the person into the room even when our schedules don’t line up for live sharing (silly time zones)
- come together, after reading Wonder, for some sort of public service campaign to #choosekind
- have our students create more online content to share
- collaborate on a new blog (which you know, since you’re already here, I suppose)!
Reflections & Realizations
This experience of sister classrooming has not only grown us as teachers [we tend to be a little competitive and seem to push each other to get more creative], but also grown what our perspective of the classroom walls can really be. You may not always have someone in your own school that you feel you can really collaborate with in a way that makes you push yourself further (lucky for you if you do!), but you may be able to find it somewhere else. One thing we know is this: teaching is NOT a solitary job, and we all benefit when we put more smart minds together to build on each other’s ideas to create even better ones.
Our Challenge to You – Find Your Own Sister Classroom!
So, if you’re interested and find this intriguing, our challenge to you: Go start your own Sister Classroom Project! If you’re in need of partners – try just throwing it out there on twitter. And link back to us and we’ll help with retweets and whatever advice we can give because when awesome ideas come around, we need to share them!
Jillian & Brian’s Top Ten Things You Might Want to Consider in Looking For a Sister Classroom Teacher:
1. A compatible level of snarkiness – trust us, this one has kept us sane this year!
2. Someone who has the same “do ahead” or “do last minute” personality as you. [Note: this blog post was discussed in May. And June. And July. And August. And September. Finally, it was actually created in September (after a lot of work by Jillian in May/June). We might be “do last minute” people.]
3. A teacher who is willing to communicate via twitter, text message, facebook, email, or phone call (sometimes all at the same time!).
4. Same or adjacent time zones can make for more convenient communication.
5. Think of how you interact with your own siblings and their personalities. Now find a teacher with whom you interact in the same way. Guaranteed success! (or so says Jillian; Brian refuses to guarantee anything. OK, fine, Jillian amends to “almost guaranteed” success-should probably have added that it only works if you like your siblings in the first place.) [See: compatible level of snarkiness]
6. A teacher who is willing and able to be flexible with his/her schedule/curriculum to allow for collaboration
7. Sharing a brain makes things very efficient. As evidenced by every now and then, tweeting the same thing at the same time, without consulting each other. (While not strictly following the laws of physics, I can’t count the number of times we were emailing/commenting on something at the same time the other one was thinking of it.)
8. Look for a teacher who has a similar educational philosophy as you. It can be centered around one thing (love of books and choice!) or multiple pedagogical areas, but it helps to be on the same page.
9. It’s small and subtle, but it probably helps if they’re on the same #hatback team (Go #teamdeer!)
10. Someone who lives in a state that has cool things to send to the other. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t love a delivery of fudge or cheese curds? (Jillian secretly adds that Brian has no idea what Wisconsin item he’s going to be forced to display in his classroom this year.)