It started over a decade ago as my personal style of teaching; a manner of integrating the music I love into my teaching. In no time, I began to write down my ideas and lessons in a book entitled Inspired by Listening, published it and started selling. Soon it was a personal mission to get the good news of the arts out into the world of education: to help teachers realize their potential, their hidden abilities in the arts and their ability to use those talents in their teaching. Advocacy, lesson ideas, workshops and still, the promotion of my book. But in the recent months, The Inspired Classroom has become so much more and I see it fitting at the end of this school year in particular, to take a moment and reflect on the new, re-focused direction that has become TIC.
Back in October 2009, I was yearning to revamp my website. It was looking outdated. It had some good content, but it was not user friendly. Incidentally, my older cousin, Greg Boghosian was also starting on a new website venture, igetnewengland.com, and we talked, and talked and talked about resources and ideas. For a short time, I used SocialGo, but for it to fully do what I wanted, I would have to pay quite a bit of money. I spent a month on it, but knew, in the long run, I would need something different. Greg told me about WordPress.org and after too much time researching it online, I finally bit the bullet and started designing. (How addicting widget and add ons can be!) What you see now is still a work in progress, but I am very happy with the basic layout and function of the site. (P.S. I’m always looking for some constructive criticism on the look and use of the website, so feel free to let me know what you think!)
I was also starting to dabble in blogging. Not too sure what it would mean for me, I figured I’d give it a try. Every so often, I’d get on my soap box and start typing away about what was on my mind in terms of education and arts integration. I started on blogger.com and then also posted my blog on SocialGo. Finally, I made the complete switch over to WordPress and my new website. The best thing I did with blogging was find some cohesion to my posts. Through a marketing idea I received from Published and Profitable, I got the inspiration to do monthly series. I’ve been working these series since January and have found them most motivating. They keep me focused and give me a purpose to blog regularly on my publish days of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Through the years of giving workshops and doing book talks, I had a decent collection of emails from educators interested in arts integration – but had never done much with them. Constant Contact had been growing and so I thought I would give the 60 day free trial a try. I was not lacking for content and was soon building a short, but sweet enewsletter to send out. My 60 free trial only lasted 20 days because I had such a good list of contacts and I outgrew the free trial limit! (This was a good problem.) By November 5, 2009, my first newsletter was live!
Things were finally starting to really click, but by now it was time to move into social networking and that meant tackling Facebook and Twitter. Up until this point, I had no desire to join, but felt it necessary, so I did. It was fun to get onto Facebook, reconnect with people from my past and start a fanpage for TIC, but Twitter was what really changed helped me to evolve. I met so many interesting and wonderful educators and was soon building my own PLN online!
The thing I am most proud of doing with The Inspired Classroom is that I have stayed true to my mission to reach out to teachers. It started with my “non-threatening” approach to exposing other teachers to arts integration through my book and workshops. But that turned out to be just the beginning.
Back in November 2009, with the help of my colleague, pal and fellow rump shaker, Beth Cavalier, The Inspired Classroom launched the first Teacher Field Trip. These are arts-based events that help teachers with the “get inspired” part of teaching. Our first trip was to go out dancing, next we went to the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. We have listened to music, read poetry and made pottery. This is only the beginning.
One of my favorite things to do still is give workshops and my focus always remains on integration whether it be music, storytelling, poetry or technology. This past year, the principal at my school, Lou Charrette, gave me the go ahead to start a PLC that focuses on arts integration. I call it PLaiC. Our group consists of seven teachers in the district from PreK-12 and we are looking forward to working together again (maybe with other teachers too) as we share ideas, resources and inspiration.
The Inspired Classroom has been able to reach out to other teachers is through guest blogging. My first one was a teacher I worked with in Hampton, NH: Pam Harland who teaches library at a high school in Plymouth, NH. Last month I had five guest bloggers ranging from teachers I have worked with to educators I am fortunate enough to have in my Twitter PLN. Ted Souppa, a third grade teacher in Florida has been a guest blogger for two series on The Inspired Classroom. I love that TIC has been able to reach out to teachers in this way, helping their voices be heard.
Finally, this summer my sister-in-law, Kristina Peterson, a high school English teacher and I started a summer book group that is meant to be just for the pure enjoyment of reading: something we often forget to do! We started a Wiki and have a group of people who are reading and discussing our book choice of Eat, Pray, Love.
The word inspiration, when put in the context of a teacher, sheds light on such a variety of topics. Still, near and dear to my heart is the arts, my specialty being music. But inspiration means so much more and I am embracing and running with that idea. The real focus is teachers because when we take care of ourselves, then our students reap the rewards. When we are inspired, then we can be inspiring to them whether that be through the arts, technology, a method of teaching or a point of view. The Inspired Classroom has really stuck to the “get inspired” part of the motto. My hope is that anyone who attends a workshop, a field trip or visits the website will somehow get inspired and bring that inspiration to their position in education.
Join us… It is my hope, my desire to have many teachers visit the site often and share knowledge as well as collect it.
THE FUTURE OF TIC
My most recent journey at The Inspired Classroom, in an odd way, reminds me of the evolution of American music. It has not been a one track trip from point A to point B. Instead things are an intertwined web of resources, outlets, tools and people. I am constantly challenging myself and being challenged, making mistakes and picking myself up again, trying new things and finding yet another cool tool with every click I make. It is hard to keep up, I’m not going to lie, but I am enjoying the ride. So, for as long as I can, I’m buckling up!