Saturday, September 3, 2016

Journey - My Angel's Landing's Story

What do you think of when you hear the word "journey?" What images do you see in your head? What experiences highlight the journey of your life or career?

One journey that I recently took parallels a journey that I am embarking on today. Just two months ago my friend, Laura, and I tackled one of "the top 25 most dangerous hikes in the world." (Scroll to #23)  We traveled to gorgeous Zion National Park, Utah, arrived early in the morning and started our climb to the peak of Angel's Landing. 

The path curved into two sets of numerous 'switchback' S-curves that look amazing from the air but are quite grueling on the ground. 

We reached Scout's Lookout with only 1/2 mile to go when we realized the real challenge was just beginning. Chains were erected on the side of the mountain to help hikers with the climb. At times, we had to wait for other hikers who were using the chains to go down so we could have enough room on our ascent.  We kept going up and up and up and the last 1/2 mile took us over 45 minutes. It was both physically and mentally exhausting.

After much effort, we made it to the top and were greeted with a spectacular view! We also felt that undeniable feeling of SUCCESS.  

However, the journey wasn't over, because we feared hiking DOWN may pose even more difficulty than hiking up! 
Luckily, we made it to the bottom unscathed. Overall, it took us about five hours to complete the entire hike.

On our journey to Angel's Landing, there were times that we gripped onto the chains and didn't want to let go. There were times that we reached for strangers' hands for help and support. There were countless times that we gave encouragement to those we passed along the way. There were times that we just stopped to breathe and take in the beauty around us. 

The reason I'm sharing a short account of this story today is because the beginning of the school year is undeniably the start to a new journey. There will be times throughout the year that you (and your students) will be scared, apprehensive, and nervous. There will be times that you will have to depend on others (your colleagues, your students, their parents, and even strangers) for support. There will be times when you aren't sure if this is the path you should have taken. However, be steadfast, have confidence and know that whatever path you are on, is EXACTLY where you should be. Take a moment to breathe and take in the beauty that is around you. Take the time to give encouragement to others and be ready to take advice when others give it too! Have a great school year!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Help Students Find Their Passion with THRIVELY!

Among the many edtech tools, websites, apps, etc. that educators can choose to use is one very unique website called Thrively. Thrively, an innovative company that works with schools and families to help students find their passions, interests and strengths. Thrively strives to put each student on the right path on the JOURNEY of life. 

I began using Thrively with my students in May 2015 and we were immediately hooked. Here is a short video four of my students created on the last day of school just a few months ago (with no help from me) about why they love Thrively:
There are many parts to Thrively that students and teachers love, but it all starts with the Strength Assessment. Students (and adults!) enjoy taking the 25-minute 80-question assessment developed by two neuropsychologists. 

After the assessment is completed, the students receive an uplifting report about their top 5 strengths

In addition, after the assessment is completed, a unique website is created for each student based on his/her strengths, chosen career paths and interests. 

Thrively has curated hundreds of activities, videos, apps, and websites the students can explore that are interesting to them. The site even provides information on suggested activities in the student's local area.

There is a dedicated section for students to explore different career paths as well:

There are also "Values and Skills" lessons and courses that the students can complete in the categories of Social Emotional Learning, Social Responsibilities and the 4 C's (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking)

In addition, students can create a Digital Portfolio throughout the year by adding highlights and tracking goals. 

Teachers can set up "Projects" for collaborative online group work as well. This is a perfect feature for any content area or Genius Hour project. 

Students also are encouraged to write journal entries about everything they explore on Thrively. These journal entries can be accessible to each student throughout the year, and the teachers can view all their students' journal entries to keep track of their progress!

Finally, teachers can view data of their students' strengths, interests and career paths with the click of a button! 

If you have not begun YOUR Thrively journey yet, please check it out: Here is a three-minute video to give you an overview:

I would love to tell you more about how we can help your students reach their fullest potential.   Feel free to connect with me on Twitter at @ArinKress if you have any questions or would like help getting started! Thrively's twitter account is @Thrively.