At the start of each year, we take a step back and think about the goals that we hope to accomplish. I recently came across a quote that helped me get into a positive mindset for 2018 - "Hold the Vision, Trust the Process". This quote is nothing new or extraordinary, but it was such a simple piece of advice. This quote helped me determine that my OneWord for 2018 is  FOCUS! 

FOCUS - the word itself hits you pretty hard. The word alone is a message, a sign, a warning. As we continue through our days, we tend to miss so much because we are distracted. I can guarantee that I am not the only one who feels this way, but as educators, our minds continuously race and almost never are at rest. This seems to sum up my days, and I have to say, I don't like it very much. 

As I set daily and weekly goals for myself, I try to focus on the things that need immediate attention or that are most important to my daily routines. At the top of that list are my wife and two sons! There are times when I am too distracted and I am missing my little guys grow up. My immediate focus is on them, and how I can continue to do things for them - how I can become a better role model, father, and support system for them. 

This idea of focus goes beyond family and work balance. It is also me having an intense focus on the things that will help me get to the point I want to achieve in my career. We all have these passions, goals, and desires that pull us in so many different directions, if you know me, I am no different. I want to make sure that my focus does not waver, and that I continue to push myself to focus on the end goal that I have set for myself (more on that down the road).  

What is your FOCUS going forward? I'd love to hear about it. Please feel free to share in the comments, or drop me a message on twitter @AJBianco. 

The Challenge is Upon Us...

This summer, as part of my personal development, I have decided to create a challenge for myself!

I am going to embark on a journey over the break, where I will be reading 10 Books, in 10 Weeks. There have been so many amazing titles that I never got around to reading, so I feel that summer time would be the perfect time to unwind and catch up on the books that I couldn't get to throughout the school year.

Each week I will choose 1 book from the list below and create a post about my thoughts on the book. The post will not be a review of the book, but something more along the lines of what I have learned, and how it will help my students grow in the upcoming school year.

Drive - Daniel Pink
Play Like a Pirate - Quinn Rollins
Learn Like a Pirate - Paul Solarz
Lead Like a Pirate - Shelly Burgess and Beth Houf
Hacking PBL - Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy
Gamify your Classroom - Matthew Farber
How to Personalize Learning - Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey
The Energy Bus - Jon Gordon
Tribes - Seth Godin
You Are a Badass - Jen Sincero
* Disclaimer: Titles are in NO specific order and will be read depending on my mood at the time!

What are you planning on reading this summer? I am looking forward to this journey, and I hope that you will join me for the ride! If you do, please feel free to share your readings and thoughts on social media #10Bks10Wks.

Follow along on InstagramFacebook and Twitter --> #10Bks10Wks

Why #CoffeeEDU should be part of your PD!

As educators, it is our job to continue to grow, learn and challenge ourselves. One way that I have chosen to not only grow my PLN but to enhance my PD is through monthly meet-ups at our local coffee house. These meet ups are better known in the world of education as CoffeeEDU!  

For those who are not familiar with #CoffeeEDU, here is a brief definition; CoffeeEDU is a one-hour gathering for educators. CoffeeEDU is not about promoting a product or organization, it is about expanding your PLN in a face to face meet up.

This educational "meeting of the minds" has been spreading at a rapid pace and I am proud to be part of it. Over the past year Chrissy Romano, Adam Schoenbart and I have been hosting a CoffeeEDU in Northern New Jersey. Based on the people we have met, the conversations we have had and the growth that we all experienced, I think it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Here's why: 

1. Connect - At our events, we have met so many amazing people that our PLN is constantly growing. This outstanding CREW of people is always helpful and they are the ones that force me to become a better educator 

2. LearnI walk away from each gathering with new ideas that I can bring to my classroom. One of the newest ideas that I am most excited about is finding ways to use Scratch in my Social Studies class. Stay tuned as this becomes a reality in the coming months!  

3. Grow - One idea that I advocate for with all educators is that they step outside of their comfort zone. CoffeeEDU allows people to do this by just showing up! Taking a leap and sitting with new people allow us to do more than we ever imagined we could.  

4. Be Inspired - The stories that people share have been so powerful. Listening to other educators share the work of their students, or discuss their passions about teaching and learning, has been fantastic. When I see that look from other educators, it pushes me and inspires me to do more, or become "better". There have been many times where I walked away from these gatherings with a newfound love of teaching. 

5. COFFEE!!! - I mean honestly, who doesn't love to sit back and have a cup of coffee while discussing relevant topics to you? 
Our #CoffeeEDU North New Jersey Crew, such an awesome PLN! 
Want to join this great Crew for our next #CoffeeEdu??? Contact me for more information! 

Get Involved --> Find a CoffeeEDU near you or start your own! Please feel free to share your #CoffeeEDU experiences and PD story in the comments section.

Connect with us: 
AJ Bianco - @AJBianco
Chrissy Romano - @TheConnectedEdu
Adam Schoenbart - @MrSchoenbart

What If, In schools...

The "WHAT IF?" question is such a powerful thinking tool. We are all trying to improve in some way, whether it is the sports teams we follow, our personal life, or our profession. As an educator, we are always trying to determine what changes we can make within our schools and classrooms to make the learning experience relevant, meaningful and exciting for our students.

After taking part in Week 3 of #IMMOOC and reading The Innovator's Mindset, "What If" questions have come to the forefront of my mind. There isn't just one topic that I am focusing on, but more about what I would answer when it comes to my classroom and my teaching. Here are a few things that are on my mind.

What If in Schools: 
* We allowed students to create the school of their dreams?
* We gave students a VOICE where they record, share and tell their story to the public?
* We changed how our students learn on a daily basis!?
* We had the resources to redesign our learning spaces to create an unreal classroom experience?
* We gave up control and created a REAL student-centered learning environment!?
* We allowed students to follow their passions and not have to be tied down to a curriculum that doesn't interest them!!!!

What keeps you up at night? What makes you think? What are your "What If" questions?
I'd love if you would share them with me in the comments section or through social media.


Learning vs. School

When we think about school, we usually think that students come to school ready to learn. We imagine that students walk through the doors, sit in class and learn what is being taught. I think that today, schools are no longer set up to help students learn, school is set up to feed and deliver information to students. This information may not be important, interesting or make an impact on our students lives, but for some reason they HAVE to learn it.

Today, amazingly enough, our students DON'T NEED SCHOOL TO LEARN! There are so many different, MORE EXCITING ways for students to learn where they are able to find something that is personal to them and can help them reach their personal goals. I reflect on my classroom often and it hits me every day - my students just don't have a passion to learn about early American History! This has to change! I need to find their passions and find ways for them to bring their passions into our daily learning.

After studying and agonizing this image, my charge for this post hit me. As educators, we need to step up and create a school or classroom environment that allows for personal, individualized blended learning! This is more important now than ever before. When we allow for our students to come to an environment where they can LEARN something that they are passionate about, we will change how our students view school and we can bring their passions into the classroom.