This year I began using ‘Classroom Economy’. The students have jobs, earn money, and rent or buy their desks. Students have several opportunities to earn extra money. This is important because their monthly paychecks are less than their rent ($1000).
One way they can earn extra money is to solve math problems. I post two problems for anyone in the class to solve. I will only take the first correct answer. One is generally more difficult than the other thus allowing students to challenge themselves. The harder problem will earn them $50 while the easier one will earn them $20.
I was able to snap this photo of a student, who NEVER passes up the opportunity to make extra money, practicing the skills that she has learned. Added bonus, we leave the process a student takes on the board for all to see and learn from.
I don’t normally write about my personal struggles here. Struggles in the classroom, sure. My personal life, not so much. As my grandfather used to say, “No sense in complaining, no one wants to hear about it.” However, I have talked with several educators who have similar thoughts/feelings to varying degrees.
So, here it is. My job might be killing me. It’s definitely making me sad, depressed, anxious, worthless, and invisible. Not everything is specific to my site or even my district. Things like ‘the test’, ‘preparing for the test’, advancing students – whether it’s EL’s, those in reading, those in math, whatever. It’s all becoming too much. Notice, nowhere in my list did I mention that students were the issue. My students and I have a comfortable routine and a great relationship.
“Fidelity to the curriculum”, “innovation”, “assess”, “you don’t have a ‘can do’ attitude”, “fix your face”, “fill out these forms to have a meeting about your concerns”, “assess”, “analyze”, “reflect”, “assess” it’s all becoming too much for me. While all this may not be my personal experience, it is our experience as teachers. I have a pair of shoes that say “Do what you love” and “Love what you do”. I wear them to remind me that I love teaching when it’s just the kiddos and me. Unfortunately, it’s becoming harder and harder to remember this.
I’m struggling and I know I’m not the only one. Those that are making decisions are not doing so with the best interest, or even what’s right, for the students. It is taking a toll on those of us who are ‘the boots on the ground’. I could go into the ‘why’ behind it all, or at least what I perceive as the ‘why’ but there is plenty of reading out there that documents this. No need to beat a dead horse as they say. We can continue to point out the why but I would rather actual change start to occur.
So to any others who may happen to read this, know you are not alone. I don’t have any answers. I only know that I am one of those that are struggling right now. Hopefully, by writing it down I can release some of the crummy feelings I’m experiencing and get back to a happier place.
So what’s the big deal with 92%? A lot when it comes to having 3 weeks off and the likelihood that none of my students practiced their multiplication facts.
Monday was our first day back after winter break. As we do every day, we practiced our math facts using the Fast & Curious Eduprotocol. I had an anticipated drop from our usual 96% – 98%. I predicted, to myself, it would drop to around 89%. I wasn’t too concerned as I knew that they could easily get it back up to our normal within a week.
Well, to my surprise, my class scored 92%. Seriously, I was happily surprised that they really didn’t lose as much as I had feared. YES! The continuous rep practice has worked. The facts are sticking.
I was so giddy, I needed to write this quick post to celebrate the success my class is finding. I was sold before, but now I’m a believer for life!
I will admit, I was reluctant to use any sort of ‘timed tests’ for math in my classroom. The research does not support it. However, my students were sorely lacking in their multiplication skills, a skill they should have mastered by now. At conferences in September, I spoke with each parent about the need to practice at home and easy ways they could help their child. After a month, there was little improvement. THEN, I had a conversation with Jon Corippo.
Jon suggested I use the Fast & Curious Eduprotocol with math facts. I knew he had convinced Cori Orlando to try this with her 3rd graders previously. She balked at first then became a believer. I still held out. He gave me the same spiel he gave Cori. I begrudgingly tried it. It felt too much like timed tests. At first, the kids loved it; it was something new. But then, they kept asking for it day after day. This lasted a while. Several months later, they STILL beg for it.
Does It Really Work?
Simply put, yes. The data speaks for itself. In the beginning, we were averaging around 56% as a class. That’s 56% correct on a 10 – 20 multiplication question quiz. As a class, we could only score 56% on a quiz. And some quizzes we were a bit lower (48%). YIKES! Within two months, as a class, we score between 96% and 98% no matter the quiz I give them. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t have kiddos who are struggling, I do. I still have kiddos who take an incredibly long period of time to complete it. Some day, I have to end the quiz before everyone can finish. But let’s face it, going from 56% – 96% is a drastic difference. I’ll take it!
I use Quizizz, a computerized gaming review system. It’s a mouthful but if you’re familiar with Kahoot, it’s very similar. I choose a multiplication quiz. No need to make your own, just do a search and you’ll find one. Set up the quiz in classic mode and have the students sign in. On day 1, we take the quiz twice. The first time is cold, we write down our score (Quizizz is great that it’ll average your class score for you), review the questions, then take it again. We keep our first score then we record our second score to see how much we’ve improved. For the rest of the week, we take the same quiz. If our score goes up, which it should, we erase the last high score and replace it with the newest score. We repeat this process with a different quiz the following week.
Because students can consistently score in the 90% range on the first go-around no matter the quiz, I only do the quiz once on Mondays. I have some added bonuses you can read about.
I have teachers ask if students cheat: help each other, start the quiz over again, tell another student the answer. The answer is yes. But I don’t care. The kids who are getting the answers are clicking the correct answer and reinforcing it. Those that take it again are practicing twice as much as everyone else. It’s really a win-win.
I’m a Believer
Based on all that I have seen in my classroom, I am now a believer in this protocol. The kids still love it months later. The information is transferring. The data doesn’t lie. Even if you’re still reluctant, give it a try. I did and so did Cori!
I realize that this word is very similar to last year’s, Do. At first, I was going to scrap RISK because of what I wrote. In short, I said that I would DO things outside of my comfort zone. Then, I realized that doing something outside your comfort zone is NOT the same as taking risks. Yes, when you step outside your comfort zone it is a risk. However, that’s not what I’m aiming for this year.
Let me explain. When I ‘do’ something it’s scary. And while risks can be scary, it’s not that scare the living daylights out of you, you might be completely insane for even attempting this. THAT is what I’m looking to do this next year.
Many know that my family had a rough year in 2019. We lost my aunt and uncle (married 50 years this year) and my aunt’s brother all within a four-month period. I was very close to my aunt and uncle. They were like second parents to me. They were my dad’s oldest and closest friends. So how does all that relate to risks? Everything! I can choose to do things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or I can choose to take risks. I don’t want to have just done things, I want to find out what the possibilities are if I just take a few risks.
One large risk I am looking at is leaving my current district after 22 years. An even bigger risk, I willing to relocate. Both those ideas scare the living daylights out of me! But instead of having that fear hold me back, I’m trying to look forward and think positively about it all. For anyone who really knows me, you know that I’m not a fan of change. Change is hard for me. One great example is what my district IT head did to me. Knowing that I hate change (most likely tipped off by my principal), he began an eight-month heads up campaign. Actually, it was more like a 10-month campaign. Very early on in the school year, he mentioned that my Apple computer, which I loved, would be taken at the end of the school year and the following year it would be replaced with a PC, which I’m no fan of. I love this story, because well, I got played. Kudos to him! The transition when handing me the PC was smooth. Honestly, he most likely did it to make his life easier. I knew it was coming and wouldn’t freak out. Either way, well played!
So, as you can see, I’m not a fan of change. That was just for a stinkin’ computer. Now, I’m looking at a change in districts and possibly town. THAT is a risk. I’m not saying I want to do crazy things on the reg, just a few more throughout the year.
Over the summer I read an article about this. I was intrigued. I contacted my district’s tech person. After several tries (apparently there is a small checkbox or toggle that was causing an issue), he got it working for me and my students!
I had been thinking about potential uses in the classroom. One idea I had was to use it as a collection tool in the same way many of us use Padlet. I love Padlet but I am a teacher. What I mean by that is that I can now only have 5 for free. If I want to create more, I need to purchase the premium version. I don’t use it enough to justify the cost.
Then this week happened. The week before Winter Break. The week we teachers try to keep it together. So, I did a bit of experimenting. Each year I have students create ninjas using Google Draw. I am 1/2 of TLC Ninja after all. This year’s ninjas were awesome! My favorite was the Ninja Avengers. Normally, I would collect and display them on Padlet. However, I decided to experiment with Jamboard. I did a bit of prep with my class. I told them that all this could go terribly wrong. They were up for the challenge and did NOT disappoint.
After creating our ninjas, we downloaded them as JPEG files. I then set up the Jamboard so that 5 ninjas were on one jam, thus creating a total of 5 jams for the ninjas. The class was super respectful of each other’s work. I was so happy!
That is not to say that the process wasn’t without its pitfalls. First of all, one of my darlings kept selecting the > on the top of the Jamboard which, at one point, created 28 jams. Secondly, all uploaded images upload in the center of the jam. Fortunately, I was demonstrating when a student uploaded hers on the same jam as I was on. This allowed us to stop and see what happens. Great learning opportunity! That happy happenstance helped students to be respectful when uploading.
Overall, I’d say the experiment was a success. I would say it’s an ‘aight’ replacement for Padlet, not great but you can make it work. I can see other uses for Jamboard, too: exit ticket, voting, catch the pulse of the class, and brainstorming. I know there’s more, but like I said, it’s the week before Winter Break.
First of all, the students are loving the ‘teams’ play. We don’t play teams each time, but when they play it creates a fantastic bonding experience with the groups. The app places students into 4 teams randomly. Now, add in the newest feature: redemption question. This means that if a student gets a question wrong they have a chance to redeem themselves by trying to answer it again. There are so many reasons that I LOVE this feature. Immediate feedback, better retention, and not a ‘gotcha’ situation.
NOTE: There are a few other new features that have enhanced the app. Check it out at quizizz
If all that wasn’t amazing enough, I have implemented ‘Classroom Economy’ in our class this year. One of the bonuses we agreed upon was 100% (on selected items like quizizz) earns a student $50. So the stakes are even higher and more fun. What my class does with this information and teams is beautiful. They sit in their teams and help one another in order to get 100%. If someone on the team needs help, it’s freely given. They are also aiming to get 100% as a class (this comes with a $100 bonus for all).
They don’t think I see or hear what’s going on. I do, of course, and I how could I ever stop such wonderful energy?
I have been in school for 2 weeks now. On week 3 I decided to jump in with Social Studies lessons. I have been doing a Hyperdoc, Google My Maps lesson on Native American Regions for several years. Each year I tweak the lesson. This year was no different.
2 minutes before class, I revised my lesson once again. As I was walking the class back from lunch I was retooling it in my head. This year, I was going to have the students do an Iron Chef AND THEN have the students create a group My Map to record information. Brilliant!
In years past, students were given the hyperdoc, took notes, and then created the group My Map. This worked, but always took waaaay too long. This time, we completed the first region in 2 days! Do they have the information and understanding that I’d like? No. However, I can now do other projects to help solidify this information. Again, more interesting and fun.
Another advantage of doing the Iron Chef Protocol first is that the student heard the information several times BEFORE digging into the task. It really was so much more enjoyable, at least on my end, this year. I’m sure that the hiccups we encountered will lesson we continue this process with the other regions.
Tonight was Back to School Night. Our school has done it the night before school starts for over a decade. I like it as it helps everyone’s anxiety.
This year I tried something new. I asked parents to write words of encouragement to the 5th-Graders. The words they write were amazing! The families were so thoughtful. I will definitely continue this tradition. This is some of what they wrote:
Here it is, early July. I should be enjoying some well deserved time off, yet I can’t stop prepping, reading, researching, and thinking about how to make next school year even better. It doesn’t help that on many social media platforms, teachers are posting pictures of classrooms, libraries, and resources. Then, there are the ones that post about sales and purchasing items. This is where I get a bit uncomfortable.
I have been teaching for over 20 years so I know all too well the amount of money a teacher invests in their classroom. I was a beginning teacher who spent more money than I ever should have fixing up my classroom, investing in books, and supplies. No beginning teacher earns enough to do that, yet we buy these items.
More recently I have adopted the attitude of, “Naw.” As in, “Naw, I’m NOT buying pencils, notebooks, lined paper, folders, etc. for my classroom.” I have not moved schools or districts. I still teach in a Title 1 district.
So what changed? I changed; my attitude changed. Maybe I’m a bit more enlightened and less naive than I use to be. Trust me this is a new thing for me. I have students who can’t afford back to school supplies. I have students whose parents choose not to purchase supplies. I understand that it’s not the child’s fault. But, when did it become MY responsibility to purchase said supplies? If I have 30 students and purchase 2 folders per student (1 for classwork and 1 for homework/home communication) at a cost of $9.99 for a box of 25 (according to Office Depot), that means I need to purchase 3 boxes (I need 60 folders). That means I just spent $27.97 (plus tax) on my classroom out of MY OWN POCKET. What?! That wasn’t even for the ones with prongs. Then there are essentials like pencils, pencil sharpeners (that NEVER last), bulletin board border (gotta make the room look pretty), organizational tools, and other basics. Then if you want to do flexible seating in your classroom, most districts won’t pay for that so there’s more money out of your pocket (yep, did this one last year). Some of the costs might be minimal. I bought bed risers for raised desks for around $10. Not a big deal, right? Again, when did THIS become my problem?
Teachers, by nature, are generous and nurturing. The system has totally exploited our kindness and has, in some cases, come to expect that we will purchase what we need out of our own pockets. We need to STOP this! I know what you’re thinking: “Schools aren’t funded properly”, “My students can’t afford ____”. And you’re right. Schools aren’t funded properly. Many families can’t afford supplies. However, why should schools be funded properly when we continue to fill in the gaps? Why should schools offer to buy the folders when we happily do it and then feel great when we hit a sale (yeah, hitting a sale and saving money feels great, not gonna lie)? But we need to step back and realize that we are part of the problem.
So, I am trying VERY hard NOT to spend any money in my classroom this year. I will ask my site to purchase needed materials: folders, crayons, markers, pencils, etc. This is not going to be easy, but there really aren’t any other professions (we have bachelors and masters and doctorates; we ARE professionals) that spend their own money to make their environment better and successful. Yes, there are certain items that a professional, such as a nurse who buys her/his own stethoscope, but do they need to purchase paper, folders, pens? No. And neither should we.
I know this was a long rant and most likely not so popular, but I hope it made you think. Until we demand to be treated like professionals, we won’t be. Until we stand up for ourselves and demand districts spend their money on students rather than admin, buildings, etc. nothing will change. If you can’t pay your electric or heating bill will your district do that for you? Most likely not. So why do we pay for things that the district should be paying for?
NOTE: I am fortunate enough to have an administrator who will pay for the basics out of site funds. However, many are not as fortunate. This post was spurred by ALL THE SALES that I see being shared ‘for teachers’.