GCI Energizer

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend an Energizer event for Google Innovators. And it was energizing!

Roughly 60 innovators were welcomed to the Google Campus to learn, grow, and become energized! Most importantly, we were able to connect with colleagues we haven’t seen in a while, have only met online, or connect for the first time here. I’ve talked about how I need my tribe. These are my people. They all do amazing things in their classrooms/districts.

I’m still processing all that happened and reflecting on how fortunate I am to be apart of this amazing group. Thank you to Google and Innovators for a great time!

I Am a Lazy Teacher

Yes, you heard me correctly; I am a lazy teacher. Or so that’s how I feel. Being a 5th-grade self-inclusion teacher is hard. Now, I have nothing to compare this to, so I’m not saying that my job is harder than anyone else’s. I’m just saying that my job is hard. And I get lazy. I’m really hoping I’m not the only one.

So what do I mean by lazy? Well, there are days – more when it’s closer to a break – that I pull out the curriculum and do what’s next in the TE. I barely modify it, if at all. See, lazy. I hate this, but sometimes I’m tired and it takes a lot of energy to come up with engaging lessons for all areas of the day. I love Hyperdocs, Hypermaps, Breakouts, Ditch the Textbook philosophy, and all things engaging. But sometimes being an island in your own school/district is hard.

I want to BE the Rockstar my students think I am!

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So, this is why I am vowing to come back from break with more gusto, enthusiasm, and most importantly, engaging lessons for the students. They deserve it! I’m finally going to start that 50 states lesson I thought up last summer, we are going to read The Mouse & the Motorcycle by Beverly Clearly and the unit will include Flipgrid discussions. Science Camp is also scheduled for later in the week. And Math. I just received my copy of Jo Boaler’s new book: Mindset Mathematics Grade 5. It’s the perfect time to revisit certain concepts that they are struggling with.

No more lazy teacher! My students deserve better. I am capable of better. I will do better!

CUE18

 

A few weeks ago I was able to get together with a few of my closest #EdTech friends. I say friends, but really they are more like family. They are my tribe. I learn from them, I grow because of them, and THEY are my people.

This is my reflection.

It always takes me a bit to process all that I have seen, heard, and learned at one of these conferences. Not only was I able to learn from some of the best, innovative educators around, I was blessed to be able to share my love of #HyperMaps with others as well.

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I believe this was my 8th year attending. A drop in the bucket as CUE is celebrating its 40th Anniversary. They did it up in style! There were many nods to the originating year: the logo, to the Alludo ‘Groove’ game, to the display at CUE Hub.

As a result of going, I am incorporating new techniques and strategies in my classroom. One such item is Classcraft. This is a behavior management/game/parent communication tool (and so much more). I had heard of it before but never took the time to check it out. As a part of the Groove game (which my competitive nature drives me to participate in), I checked it out. I was able to talk to co-founder Shawn Young and gain some further insight. Needless to say, I was intrigued and am giving it a go.

Another solution came in the form of a hallway chat with Sam Patterson. He is my go-to person for all things MakerSpace. I didn’t have a MakerSpace problem; I had a Genius Hour problem and KNEW Sam was the person who would have a solution. Sure enough, he did. For years I have struggled with the accountability and general planning (on my students’ part) with Genius Hour. Afte a quick hallway chat, my teaching partner (Bret Harrison) and I had our answer. Sam was kind enough to share his resources. Bret and I modified them for our needs and our first Genius Hour after CUE18 went way more smoothly! Thanks, Sam!

I was able to attend several sessions including Nicole Beardsley and Katie Herr’s on HyperDocs. Remember #FileMakeACopy. Then there was Kevin Fairchild’s Maps & Legends. Loved his non-linear presentation design. And I LOVED the openness of Jeremiah Ruesch‘s introduction of Wonder Dots. Great stuff for number sense and number talks! I also sat in on Tara Martin’s talk on BookSnaps. Wow! Such great ideas. And of course, I could never forget to mention the other amazing people I get to see: Nancy Minicozzi, Tracy Walker, John Miller, Lisa Delapo, Brian Briggs, Ryan O’Donnell, and the numerous others I am fortunate enough to call friends, inspirations, and colleagues.

There was a lot to absorb and I’m still taking it all in. I’m reviewing my notes and those of my colleagues. As always, this was an amazing time surrounded by amazing educators. Thank you all! See you next year!

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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.