Our At-Risk Kids & COVID-19

Since the beginning of this, I have been in constant contact with one of my students. Student A has a rough home life. Student A (SA) is what I call a trauma kid. There is trauma in SA’s life.

I have connected with SA this year. SA has come such a long way and I couldn’t be more proud of SA. Our district hasn’t moved to Online Learning yet. We are a week behind most as our Spring Break was the first week – March 16. So for the past 3 weeks, SA and I have been emailing back and forth. SA reached out. SA reaches out often asking many questions. I have been able to provide guidance and information.

SA has contacted me about where and when to get food. What they should do if a police officer stops them (there was a rumor going around town – untrue). The breaking point came this week. Students were able to pick up computers. Upon hearing this information, SA was excited but nervous. I asked if they wanted me to meet them at school. SA replied, “Yes, please!” Okay, I have a soft spot for them, so I said that I would.

monochrome photo of girl crying
Photo by Mateus Souza on Pexels.com

Today was computer pick-up day. SA called as they left their house. I packed up the pups and off we went. We got there at about the same time. I almost didn’t recognize SA. The spark was gone. In its place was a sad, withdrawn, scared-looking child. We chatted while waiting in line (social distancing the whole time). SA is home alone for a part of the day while mom is at work and the younger brother goes to the babysitter.

SA is not the only as-risk kid. This got me thinking. We talk about equity and the pros and cons of online learning. Yes, there is most definitely an equity issue in our nation. Students with no internet. Rural areas with no or poor access. Equity concerning students with IEP’s. And yes, those are important and should not be overlooked. But what about students like SA who NEED to be connected? Those students who are suffering alone and in silence. They NEED to have the opportunity to connect. I am happy that SA can connect. I’m really hoping that the simple daily meeting help SA.

Please reach out to all your at-risk kiddos. They may not be doing as well as you’d hope. I’ve also had former students (all at-risk) reach out to me.

Quarantine Day 348

55282260-7616-4E30-9406-2D73445B52F8Okay, it’s not really day 348, but it sure feels like it. I’m starting to get into a pattern/groove. My dogs are still loving life. I’ve learned a few new things.

 

 

 

  • My extroverted friends are struggling. To them, I send virtual hugs. I understand the virtual thing and phone calls don’t fill your bucket.
  • Routine is key.
  • Hygiene is still optional.
  • Rolling out of bed and slapping on a hat to have a meeting is GOLD.
  • Former students are reaching out. I have heard from a few former students over the past week. They just send a quick note to say, “Hi.” These students have been seriously at-risk kiddos. They are struggling. They need connections. We need to be there for them.
  • My butt is sore from sitting on a 1940’s dining room chair. They seriously lacked cushioning back then.
  • Getting outside for a walk is GOOD! Not only do my dogs love it, but it helps to make things feel ‘normal’.
  • As I’ve suspected, my dogs sleep all day.
  • The teachers in my district have been amazing. They have tried to do their best to step up and dive into this new way of teaching/interacting.

While things are not ideal, we will get through this. Stay home as much as possible. Social distance when you do go out. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected.

What I’ve Learned From Quarantine

I’ve only been out of my house 3 times in the last 10 days. And those were limited. As a homebody, introvert, I’m good with it! However, a few things have begun to emerge:

  • Personal hygiene has become optional – I’m pretty stinky.
  • One armpit is stinkier than the other.
  • My dogs still love me, no matter how stinky I am.
  • I finally found the time to clean some things.
  • I suck at dealing with paperwork.
  • I got started on clearing out my garden in preparation for the upcoming year.
  • I’m way more like my dad than I care to admit.
  • This week has made me more serene.
    • Homebody
    • Dad: Now that they told me I can’t go out, I want to. (re my rebellious side)
  • My extroverted friends went nuts after 3 days.
  • I do need to walk outside every day; even if it’s to check the mail.
  • I’m still doing laundry regularly. Go me!
  • I will either come out with a drinking problem or being able to run a 10K.
    • Yeah, some of you may think I already have/do both. You’re half correct. But which half? haha
  • I need to step up my stretchy pants game!

 

The Other ‘F’ Word

The other ‘F’ Word

Anyone who knows me knows what my favorite ‘F’ word is. I say it a lot! But this time I’m talking about the Other ‘F’ Word: FIDELITY to the Curriculum. How many times have teachers heard this in staff meetings, PD, newsletters, or collaboration? I know I have heard it A LOT the last few years. And it makes me want to hurt someone.

And here we are living in a very different world than we were just a week ago. California schools are not in regular session, we are all hunkering down in our homes, and districts are scrambling to figure out what to do and how. You know what I haven’t heard? “Fidelity to the Curriculum’. That has been a nice change.

I have seen teachers mobilize, create and share resources, and rise to the occasion. I have been actively brushing up on apps, watching my feeds for ideas, and listening to others. I am amazed at how awesome teachers truly are. One thing I haven’t heard is ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’. And you know what is happening? Awesome things. Creative things. Inspiring things. Innovative things. Teachers are AMAZEBALLZ! Yeah, with a Z!

What can the education world: nation, state, county, districts learn from this?

we got this

Get out of our way! We don’t need curriculums. We got this! We don’t need you to micromanage every minute of our day. We know what we are doing. We are better together. We have banned together to create great things for our kiddos. WE are getting it done. WE are leading the way. What can the education world learn? Teachers will lead. Teachers will get it done. Teachers wait for NO company.

Get out of our way and let us teach!

We have proven to be the leaders in this. We can’t forget the companies that have stepped up to help us out. Although, I am giving them the side-eye. They’re like the crack dealer getting you hooked then wanting money. I haven’t seen one curriculum company step up. I’m sure the testing companies are sad not to tell us how much we, as teachers, suck. We, the teachers, got this. Get out of our way!

Moving forward

So what will this look like in a year from now? My biggest hope is that real education reform will happen. We will change how we deliver content to students. I’m not talking about distance learning. I don’t think it would work well in my community. What I’m saying is that we will move away from ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’ and more to creativity and teacher autonomy. Can you imagine teachers working together to create innovative and exciting lessons? That’s what’s happening now! It’s across districts, counties, and states. I really want districts, counties, and states to take note and make changes.

Believe in your teachers! We are proving day after day that ‘we got this’. We don’t need no stinkin’ curriculum.

Keep being awesome teachers! We got this!

Credit to Kim Voge @KVoge71 for the title.

Extra Practice

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.

Math Practice

 

Struggling

depressedI 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.

92%, Say What?

92%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!

Math Facts with Fast & Curious

Resistant

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!

pexels-photo-1329296.jpeg
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

My Process

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.

Cheating

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!

2020 One Word: Risk

Risk
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

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.

Google Jamboard (The App)

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!

Ninjas: Featuring The Ninja Avengers 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.