Notes & Voice Typing

pexels-photo-355988.jpegMy students constantly amaze me. They come up with great ideas and are innovators in their own right. Not only do I enjoy hearing their thoughts and ideas, often times we implement them in our classroom. I also feel fortunate enough that my students feel comfortable enough to share their ideas with me; knowing they will be taken seriously and not ridiculed.

Recently, one of my resource students (one with an IEP for both reading and math) created her own accommodation. We have been reading Tuck Everlasting and using a Hyperdoc to help guide us. While discussing one of the slides in the Hyperdoc, I noticed that the student had written some notes in the ‘Speaker Notes’ section. I found this interesting. It also made me a bit giddy as she was taking full advantage of our discussions. I privately talked to her about taking notes to tell her how impressed I was with her choice. She then revealed that she put on ‘Voice Typing’ during the conversation in order to capture everything that was said. Not going to lie, THIS really impressed me. Honestly, not sure I would have thought to do something like this.

student using voice typing

Later, I shared with the class what the student had done. Expressing how I felt it was a good use of technology, but shared with them my expectation that if they used this strategy, it is to be used as a means of note taking and all responses should be in their own words.

The next day, we were discussing the events that took place at Lexington and Concord – studying the American Revolution. At one point a group of students had ‘bug eyes’, began giggling, and pointing to their computer screens. I walked over to find out what was so entertaining. Sure enough, someone in their group had turned on ‘Voice Typing’ to capture the information. All I thought was, “Go kiddos!”

Arm the Teachers

As with any ‘hot button’ issue, we all have our own opinions. And we hold on to those opinions tightly, maybe too tightly. One thing I can say that I truly believe, not a single one of us holds the answer; at least not on our own. Another thing I feel certain about is that a single solution approach ISN’T the answer either: banning guns or arming teachers/schools.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

As a teacher, I have enough on my plate. In many districts things like paper cutters, hand sanitizer, air freshener (I agree with this one), and many other household items are banned; now someone wants to arm us with a lethal weapon? Yes, I understand it would be voluntary, yes the gun holders would be trained. But who is going to do the training? Will there be extra pay for the teacher carrying? Where’s the money coming from? We just had a massive tax cut; that’s where the money comes from. We are already underfunded. What happens if an active shooter is on campus? Police come in looking for a person with a gun. Now they have to decide if the person holding it is good or bad? And who’s paying for the guns? Will the teachers be held to a higher background check standard? Districts can’t afford to hire the staff they have, requiring them to hire armed personnel will make class sizes larger and limit resources for kids. Will armed personnel be able to help in my classroom? Will they be visible (meaning will we all know or suspect who’s packing)? If visible, what psychological impact would that have on students who come from traumatic backgrounds (of which I see more and more of each year)? Fighting fire with fire has never been an answer. In addition, the accuracy of a handgun is low in a situation against a semi-automatic. Then there is crossfire. So instead of bullets coming from one shooter, we have them coming from two, possibly coming from two different directions. What happens if said teacher shoots a student in the crossfire?

pexels-photo-264109.jpegThis is a complex issue with many moving parts. The solution will have to be multifaceted in order to address the many components that make up this issue. Simply arming teachers (dumb idea, I’m hired to educate let me do my job) or placing law enforcement in schools isn’t the answer. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the perpetuation of the school to prison pipeline – locked & fenced campuses with armed guards.

I also want to ask where was the outrage when we got rid of PE? Music? Arts? Shop Class? Auto Class? When we began overtesting? When our classes were filled to the brim? When students were sitting in broken down classrooms? When students had to share books? When we started looking at teachers and questioning their ability? Which led to legislators mandating what to teach, when to do teach, and how to teach? Where was the outrage when we begged for psychologists in every school? Maybe if we had a bit more of that support we wouldn’t be where we are today. The defunding and dismantling of public education goes back decades. Maybe it’s time we start putting kids first, REALLY putting them first. And before anyone jumps all over me telling me that simply by funding education won’t fix the problem, you’re right. At least in part. It won’t fix it now, but it will fix it for the future. It didn’t get this way overnight and it won’t get fixed overnight.

As I’ve stated, this is a complex issue. There are many stakeholders. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s out there. I believe that it will be a combination of several factors.

Go forth and be good to one another.

Listen Then Respond

pexels-photo-604897.jpegStop and listen to one another. This is something we have been taught since we were children. Yet, in this age of instant communication, I have noticed that we talk more and listen less. Listening, to me, means to take a moment to process what the other person has said or written. We seem to wait politely until there is a break so that we can have our say. We’re doing it wrong.

This has become more and more apparent in a social media context. Recently, I wrote a blog post and shared it on different social media. I admit that I did put a ‘catchy’ question in the headline as my ‘hook’. This is where I noticed things took a turn in the comments. What I quickly noticed was that several didn’t read what I wrote, rather formed an opinion based on the hook. This then lead others to read the comments and form their own opinions and comment. Let me be clear; all the opinions were valid and welcome. My fear is that this is happening quite a lot on various posts and articles; not just on what I write, but on political posts, social issue posts, etc.

We teach our students to read for facts; form opinions based on research. We want our students to think critically and consider all sides of an issue. However, in our daily lives, we aren’t practicing this. I get it; there is so much information being thrown at us from various directions it’s easy to forget to STOP AND LISTEN. Maybe we should be a bit more selective in what we respond to; what we ‘listen’ to. From now on I plan to STOP, LISTEN/READ, and take a moment to understand the information or viewpoint. And, I don’t always have to respond.

How Was Your Break?

pexels-photo-551590.jpegThis is one question I try not to ask. This and “Did you have a good break?” When dealing with many students from differing backgrounds, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has a ‘good break’. It’s a natural question for many of us to ask. We come back not really ready to be back. I mean, we all love to sleep in and get things done around the house or hang with family/friends or go on trips. But for many students coming back to school is a welcome break from their home lives.  And for that reason, I no longer ask students these questions.

I write this because I was reminded over my break that not all our students have ideal home lives. Some are dealing with the threat of a parent being deported or being evicted from their homes. Others are visiting a parent in jail over the holidays. Some don’t have money for presents. And yet others have had to deal with trauma and situations we can’t imagine. For these students, school IS their safe place; school is a welcome break from their everyday lives.

So what do I do? What do I say to my students when they come back? I’ve found that questions and statements such as: “I’m so happy to see you,” or “Are you glad to be back?” work well. “Are you glad to be back?” allows students to tell me about their trips to Mexico, all the toys they received, or the family they spent time with.  While allowing those in less than ideal situations to feel safe to say, “Yes, I’m happy to be back.” Many times they follow that statement with, “It was so boring.” Knowing their lives, I know this isn’t really the case, but rather they are happy to feel safe for 7 hours out of their day.

And it’s not just our students who don’t always have ‘good breaks’. Some of our colleagues have had to deal with situations that were less than an ideal Holiday. Remember: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” – Ian Maclaren.

Facebook Notifications

Many of us use a variety of social media outlets to collaborate, collect information and new ideas, and learn. One that I am using more and more is Facebook. There are several great groups to be a part of there. However, one thing that drives me batty is the ‘follow’ or ‘.’ in a thread. I understand why it’s done – to get the information when someone posts – but am still driven crazy by it.

Facebook allows you to ‘turn on notifications’ on a post without all the ‘follow’ in a thread. By turning on the notifications, you will receive all the comments without cluttering the thread with ‘follow’ or ‘.’. And it’s easy to do!

In a post, click on the three dots that appear in the right corner of the post. One of the options will be ‘turn on notifications’. That’s it!

FB Notification


About a year and a half ago I began imagining how Jon Corippo‘s 8 p*ARTS of Speech might look in a math classroom. That’s when I started on my journey of #MathReps. It was small, and originally just for me. I had no problem sharing it and did so freely. Since then, I have been encouraged to expand to other grades. Working with other teachers, I have begun creating and collecting #MathReps for grades K – 8. It is an ongoing process.

#MathReps Example

Feel free to share with others. All credits are given to those that helped. And to them, I thank you!

First Graders Breakout!

First Grade WorkWhen a first-grade teacher expressed interest in doing a Breakout, I was thrilled to help. As she had never seen one in action she asked if I could lead. Of course, I said yes!

We worked together to find a Breakout that would work for her and her class. We settled on ‘Number Ninjas’. It’s all about numbers to 100: great for first-trimester first-graders.

There was LOTS of excitement and enthusiasm during the game. The students worked well together after they got the hang of it.

In the end, all the groups broke out.

So, to all those naysayers who think that first grade is too young to do a Breakout, we proved you wrong. This will hopefully be the first of many Breakouts in this classroom. And this will hopefully inspire other early elementary grades to give it a try!