Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reflective Teaching, Day 30: Facing Fears

Day 30--What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?

I look at my teaching life and see a lot of things I could fear, but I realize that I cannot let my fears overrun my wisdom and faith if I want to advance instead of retreat.  I have to fight the paralyzing effects of fear.

As I contemplate what fears I have about teaching, I run the gamut from silliness (showing only movies for the rest of the year without the fear of reprimand)  to poor judgement (saying exactly what I have always wanted to say to an apathetic parent without the fear of reprisal) to illegality (smacking an annoying student over the head without fear of repercussion).

So what would I do if I weren't afraid?  Would I chuck the standardized test prep out the window because I know that the students cannot be judged by a blanket test that tells us more about the state of their minds on the day of the test than whether or not I have taught them?  Would I take a stand against the pressures of administration, school board, or even community in order to hold my ground on curriculum matters?  Would I try some out-of-the box teaching style that scares me because it is so different from what I'm comfortable with?

Fear is a paralyzing thing, as the quote says.  I fear that I'm not good enough.  I fear that I will not make a difference.  I fear that I will not connect with my students in a meaningful way that makes them want to learn.  I fear that am not living out my calling when I allow my fears to govern my life.

While I believe in Roosevelt's quote about how fear is paralyzing, I also know the cure.  Love casts out fear.  I teach high schoolers who often make loving them difficult, but I do.  Teaching this level of student is my passion.  If I remember why I teach these kids, my fears fade in the face of that pure light.  I see these kids who are filled with their own insecurities and worries and fears every day.  

I must let my love for them and this job overcome any fears I have about my ability.  I have to throw that fear out and be willing to be vulnerable about who I am in order to connect with the students who are feeling so vulnerable.  I must cast away any trepidation so I may do my best job each and every day.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Reflective Teaching, Day 29: Personal Growth

Day 29--How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

Timeline: August 1996. I walked into my first classroom (not counting student teaching). Bulletin boards were up, my desk was organized, my lesson plans were made, and I was nervous. I was filled with exhilaration and fear. Would I be good at this? Would the students pay attention? Would they learn? My fingers shook as I wrote my name on the board in anticipation of the students coming in. I had to erase my own name three times, at least, until it looked like an educated adult had written it. The bell rang, and students came into my classroom. Thus began the first day.

Fast forward eighteen years to August 2014. I walked into my new classroom. Bulletin boards were up, my desk was organized, my lesson plans were made, copies of my syllabus sat, stacked, ready for distribution. I was anxious and eager. I wondered if I were any good at this, whether my students would pay attention, and, most of all, if they would learn. Eighteen years later, and I still had to rewrite the information on the board several times before I was satisfied with how it looked. The bell rang, and students came into my classroom. Thus began the first day.

I have changed since I first started teaching, but I still have that thrill of nerves as I begin the year. I am more confident in my abilities. I use technology that didn't even exist when I started. I have grown in knowledge. My classroom management style has matured throughout the years. I'm a better facilitator, leader, and teacher. My teacher tool bag has grown, filled with tools gained at conferences, trainings, and loads of professional development hours.

Time has flown, and I hope that my skill set has grown with the years. My education philosophy of building cathedrals or searching for ponies has grown out of my experiences. I pray that I have become more adept at my calling. That's not to say I still don't have bad days when I am little more than a worker piling bricks or shoveling poo. I just have to continue to work with the knowledge that my Audience is more than my students, my peers, my administration, or even my community. If I can keep moving further up and in to the goal set before me, I hope to hear my Master say, "Well Done."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reflective Teaching, Day 28: Who's in charge: curriculum or technology?

Day 28--Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice-versa?

The quick answer is no, technology should not drive curriculum. It is a tool, not the whole kit and caboodle.

The longer, more involved answer that I don't have the time to answer (nor do I fully HAVE the answer) is that technology has become intertwined in education and curriculum since the first day someone brought a bit of papyrus and a reed pen with ink made from some berries to a teacher's lecture. Each innovation in science or technology brought with it new inventions to help the teacher teach and the students learn.

But, the simple answer is still the best. Whether the most modern technology a teacher has is a piece of chalk and a slate or the most up-to-date interactive Smartboard with all the newest apps, the technology is a tool the teacher uses to facilitate his/her teaching and the students' learning. It shouldn't be the end all and be all.

It is important for us teachers to learn about the technological advances; the students we teach, after all, are digital natives; they've never lived in a world without Smartphones or personal computers. It's the "age of the Geek, baby" (to quote Hardison from Leverage), and we are seeing technology advance at an ever-increasing speed with which, unfortunately, schools cannot keep pace.

Despite the importance for us to be as up-to-date as our budgets and comprehension can handle, it is still the content that is important. We still need to teach math and science and language arts and social studies and fine arts and practical arts and physical education and all the rest so that our students can be productive members of society. How we use the tools available to us is secondary, and that is a good thing to remember.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 27, Days Off!

Day 27--What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

"Everybody's working for the weekend" says that classic Loverboy song.  All week long I work late into the night grading papers (my sister tells me that I can avoid that by assigning no work; however, I think that my administration would frown on that), and I look forward to Saturday morning when I can sleep well past my normal weekly alarm.  However, as we teachers know, there is no real "weekend" for the teacher during the school year.  I don't know how it is for other teachers, but I also spend a lot of my time during school holidays on my work, too.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Spring Break--I always have work to do.  I grade papers, plan lessons, and look up information to share with my students.  The summer is not always a break, either.  Before I took over the Intro to Sign class, I took classes during the summer to prepare for that.  I know a lot of teachers who use their summers for similar reasons or to advance their degrees.

I always have a bag filled with grading over the weekend, not to mention the lesson planning that goes on for the next week.  While I do take advantage of sleeping in on Saturday and the requisite afternoon nap on Sunday, I spend most of my time on my weekends doing things for work.  I have to do laundry and and dishes and clean house like everyone else, too.  I don't know how teachers who have children get anything done on the weekends.  I don't have children, and I don't get everything done.  (Confession time: I still have Easter decorations on my kitchen table because I've not taken the time to put them away.  Why I didn't do that over summer is beside the point.)

I saw this picture (to the left) on Pinterest, and I totally agree with it.  Especially when I'm grading essays, I'd love another full day off during the weekend.  I'm not alone, either, because Monday morning when I am asking my colleagues about their weekends, they often say, "It wasn't long enough."  I'm willing to bet that teachers are not the only people who think this.  I know that other professionals work weekends--I'm not saying teachers have a monopoly on that at all.  However, most professionals have that 9-5 thing going on (insert Dolly Parton song here), and they can leave their work at work and not have to bring the work home unless they are wanting to get ahead or working to impress their bosses.

While I do have to bring work home, I do also try to get some down time.  If I worked all the time, I'd be no good for my students during the week.  My mom and I were talking just last night about how much sleep I get on average during the school year.  We figured that it averaged five and a half hours a night.  Part of that is my fault because I am a night owl, so I like staying up "late."  I just can't get to sleep at a time that would give me the recommended eight hours.  If I did, I would be going to bed by 8:30 pm.  If I get home at my normal time between 5:00-6:00 pm, I'd have only two and a half hours before bed. And, unless I'm not feeling well, that just doesn't happen.  There'd be hardly any time for dinner, TV watching, Facebook viewing, email checking and/or Pinterest playing because I'd still have grading to do.  I try to limit the amount of grading I do on a weeknight to one class or one assignment a night, but if I want to give the feedback that is timely, sometimes that plan doesn't work.  Thus the weekend or a holiday break is that much more important for when I need to have that personal time.

No matter what career or job a person has, that person is working for the money that helps to pay for the things they do in their time off.  That's why it is frustrating when the general public thinks that teachers work for three reasons: June, July, and August.  I know that people who do work all year around work hard; I'm not denying that.  Some jobs get holiday pay; some get vacation days.
Weekends and holidays are important to my teaching because they give me the time I need to relax, regroup, and rejuvenate.  Summers, holidays, and weekends (even when I have work to do for the week) are important because I can go back to school on Monday with the passion I have for my calling renewed. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 26, Go-To Resources

Day 26--What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

I go to a number sites for help. I have mentioned several in this blog series already. In Day 13 I talked about several edtech tools I use to help me with my teaching. In Day 22 I talked about my PLN and mentioned several places I go to for help.

In addition to those, I like EnglishForEveryone.org.  It's a site filled with printable grammar worksheets.  I like it because it lets me get good quality resources for free.  Why reinvent the wheel if you need a quick worksheet for a lesson or if the kids finish their work early when you have a sub?

Another site I go to for resources is Teachers Pay Teachers.  This site is a great place to get help all the while helping out another teacher by purchasing a lesson or power point some teacher has worked hard to create.  It's a win-win.

A third place I go for helps and tips for my teaching is Tammy's Technology Tips for Teachers.  I've gotten a lot of technological tips from this site.  I saw her in person at a Tech conference, and I have used her website ever since as a resource.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 25, Ideal Student Collaboration

Day 25--The ideal collaboration between students–what would it look like?

The ideal collaboration between students looks a lot like discussion.  Guided discussion, granted, but discussion.  Students who collaborate share the knowledge they have in order to gain even more knowledge, especially if the students are grouped in ways that benefit each other.  If you only put people together who are at the same level, they don't necessarily push each other to higher levels.  

In my sign language class, the students share knowledge as they practice their signs.  Some are better at making the signs than the others, but when they practice together, they both get better.  Sign Language is all about participation.  It's not just about what they learn from me, but it is about what they learn from each other, too.  Just today one of the students told me that she liked the conversations she was having with the others because she was learning how to sign and read the signs better.

In my creative writing class the students share their poetry with each other to get feedback and suggestions.  Later this semester, when they are writing prose, we have a couple of assignments where the students actually collaborate on their writing by doing a collaborative writing assignment.  The students plan a story and write it together on a Google Doc so that each of them sees what the other is doing as he or she is doing it.

In my English classes we use a site called CollaborizeClassroom that allows the students to put forth their ideas about a topic onto a forum for discussion.  The students who would normally not talk out in class are more willing to put forth their ideas here.

The students who can learn how to work collaboratively will later be better equipped for the workplace and other real world situations they will inevitably find themselves in.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 24, Learning Trends

Day 24--Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.)

I am at a loss as to what learning trends are.  I feel that one thing I'm learning about myself as I continue this blogging challenge is that I do not pay enough attention to the changes in my own profession.  I have become immured in my own "world" in my small-town Mid-America public high school.  I was asking a colleague about this very post earlier today...and I said I had no idea about which  "trend" I was most interested in because I didn't know any.

I am not a trend follower, in general.  I never have been.  I didn't do the mile-high bangs in the 80s; I didn't go "grunge" in the 90s; I never even understood the trends of the millennials.  I think it's because I am a lover of classic things (music, movies, books) that I am finding it difficult even wanting to jump on to the bandwagon of some new trend in education.  

So many trends in education are cyclical.  Right now it's hip to do "this" or "that" but, really, it's just a new name or alphabet soup of acronyms for something that teachers have been doing for ever.  I guess I'm feeling a bit cynical about whether it makes sense to go all out for some new learning fad because something even shinier and newer will be coming 'round the bend.

I say all that to say that I don't know enough about the current trends to be able to say which captures my attention.  In the meantime, I will chastise myself for not being more aware of the changes in my own profession and set one of those goals I talked about in the first blog post of this series: find out what the trends are and do some research to find out if any of them appeal to my educational philosophy, content, and teaching personality.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 23, Community Involvement

Day 23--Write about one way that you “meaningfully” involve the community in the learning in your classroom. If you don’t yet do so, discuss one way you could get started.

I wonder what it means to be "meaningfully" involved? I have used the local paper in my classes. I have encouraged my students to volunteer in the community. I have had the kids actively participate in donating food and clothing to the local food bank.

I have not, however, involved the community beyond those things.  I teach Intro to Sign Language, and next semester I will be teaching Intro to Sign Language, II. The second course will be more about having conversations and interpreting. I hope to invite the Deaf community to be involved in my class so that the students can experience authentic signing. So far, that is my plan.  I haven't progressed beyond that point, but  I'm still working on it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 22, My PLN

Day 22--What does your PLN look like, and what does it to for your teaching?

I hate to admit it, but I had to look up "PLN" to see what it meant...and then I did the whole "face-palm" thing because, while I didn't recognize the acronym for a "Professional Learning Network" (PLN), I do have several.

Our school as been part of a Professional Learning Community for many years. That means that we get into groups like our Content Teams to share ideas and give help. We have Content Teams, Vertical Teams, and Lead Teams. All these teams form our League of Professional Teachers. We work together to make decisions that shape our curriculum, focus, and plans for the year.

Another network I use for professional wisdom and help would be Pinterest and Facebook. I know those don't normally sound like places to network, but they really do have ways to connect. On Pinterest I follow boards and people when I see that they have Pins that I could use in my own classrooms, and the network grows when I see that they follow me, too.

Facebook, too, is a networking place for me since I can connect with former colleagues and teachers and, if I need to, ask questions and get advice.  I am on Twitter and follow various blogs, but I know I don't use them to my advantage in this area. I am still new to the technology, but I am learning how to use it more and more.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 21, Hobbies/Interests in the Classroom

Day 21--Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

I have a few hobbies, but crocheting and making cards are not part of my content area. I do like singing, and I often incorporate it into my classroom as participation. The kids enjoy the random songs we burst into almost as much as they enjoy the extra points they can earn when they do.  I'm also a bit of a fangirl, so I enjoy using examples from my favorite shows and movies in my teaching.  The kids find it amusing, too, when I geek out about some of the same shows they like.

One of my interests is writing, and that I do indeed incorporate into my classroom teaching. I like it when the kids and I share our thoughts about writing. In my creative writing class I do the same prompts that they do and share them to show that it's a process. If I'm not afraid to share my rough drafts, they feel more comfortable in sharing theirs.

Another interest is reading, and I enjoy bringing that to the classroom.  So many of my students claim to not like reading (heartbreaking, I admit), but when we start talking about our literature, most of them begin to realize that the reason they didn't like it was that they hadn't taken the time to really understand it.  We talk about reading strategies and the tricks that good readers use to help them understand what they're reading.  We practice those strategies until they, too, see that maybe reading is not as bad as they thought.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Days 19 & 20, Student Reflection and Curating Work

Yesterday (Day 19) was homecoming at my school, and I was a chaperone for the dance, so I was unable to post a blog (let alone write it), so I'm going to post two challenge days today in one blog.

Day 19--Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.
  1. Response Journal
  2. Self-Assessment Tools (like rubrics and self-checks)
  3. Tracking progress
The way help students reflect on their learning is actually a combination of a couple of those ways. I've always used rubrics to help the students reflect on their work; they can see what they need to do in order to succeed and make a plan to get there. I also have them track their progress. We do a pretest before a unit and then as we continue through the process we track their progress through formative assessments. It is fun to see the students actually get excited to see their scores grow from the "guessing" they did at the start to the "I get it" at the end. Our most recent tracking and self-assessment has to do with errors in their writing. I created a spreadsheet on Google listing all the different conventions and mechanics errors I see most often, shared it with them, and after each writing assignment they'll fill in the spreadsheet with the errors they made in that assignment. Then we'll have a chat about what they can do to keep from continuing to make those errors with the goal that by the end of the year they will not have to mark anything onto the tracking sheet after their writing assignments.

Day 20--How do you curate student work–or help them do it themselves?

Since I work with students in high school, I feel they are able to keep track of their work themselves. And, since we use Google Chromebooks, it is pretty easy. They can save all their work to their Drive, and I encourage them to create folders to organize their work. I help them with giving ideas by showing the way I organize my Drive with folders, etc... I also have shared a "Shared Documents" folder with them so that they will access all notes and work from that folder.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 18, Teaching Philosophy

Day 18--Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…”

A teacher is a cathedral builder and a searcher for ponies.  I have written about my educational philosophy in my blog on a couple of occasions, so I'm going to just give links to those posts because tomorrow is potluck day at school, and I have to make my dishes to pass.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 17, Challenges in Education

Day 17--What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

The most challenging issue in education today is having to do more with less. I don't know if that is a new issue; I rather think it isn't. We go into this profession because we feel called to bring knowledge to the next generation.  Most of us go into this career to make a difference.  Few become teachers assuming we'll make a lot of money.  In spite of low salaries and long hours, most of us welcome the ups and downs of the school year.  However, we public school teachers are facing extreme pressure to push our students harder in order to match the scores set by students in other nations while at the same time getting less support from the public.

School districts all over the US are tightening their monetary belts, and that increases the challenge in education. I know people who think that education gets enough financial help, and if only they (read: schools, school boards, departments of education) would manage their money better everything would be okay. That is likely true. However, that thinking does not help the teacher in the trenches with an over-large class of students who are reading below grade level. The resources that might have been there in the past to help have dwindled to trickling. The school that used to pay for after-school tutoring can no longer afford to, yet the teacher is still expected to offer tutoring. The teacher used to get a decent supply budget, but now she is finding that she spends almost $1000 a year for basic classroom supplies out of her own pocket. True, she wouldn't have to do that, but then there would be kids in her classes who didn't have paper or pencils or resource books or a healthy snack when they needed it.

Pressure to excel adds to the challenge in education with test scores becoming the litmus test of teacher ability. High standards in education are absolutely a good thing; however, when a teacher's job is on the line because of how well his students do on some standardized test that they do not have any personal stake in, that's not a good thing.  Too often the students do not care about how well they do on those tests because they are not held accountable for their scores.  The teacher is, however.  Because of this, teachers find themselves spending more and more time prepping their kids for that high-stakes test.  Especially in smaller districts where the poverty level is high (and that is often judged by the free and reduced lunch percentage), teachers are expected to reach almost impossible standards with students who are more worried about whether they have enough to eat than whether they master the content.

With less support, we face more challenges.  These challenges are not going away any time soon, so those of us in education must gird ourselves for the battles we are bound to face.  Luckily, we teachers are good at doing more with less.  Whether we should have to be good at that is an issue for another day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 16, Superpowers!

Day 16--If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

I would want superpowers for lots of reasons.  I'd love to have the ability to move things with my mind especially if I've just settled myself on the couch with a TV tray full of papers to grade only to find that I left my pen on the table across the room.  Of course, that one would be a superpower for use at home, not in the classroom.

I would enjoy being able to transport myself to school from my house instantaneously so I would be able to sleep longer and avoid the traffic.  It would also be nice to be able to get papers graded in a flash so I could enjoy relaxing evening at home during the school year.  Wait... those are also for not in the classroom.

Okay, if I am serious about a power I'd want in the classroom, I would want one that deals with time.  I'd love to be able to manipulate time so that a lesson lasts exactly the amount of time so that the students don't get bored, but also just the right amount of time so that the students get the most amount of learning done.  Sometimes, even after so many years as a teacher, I don't always time things correctly.  I want to use all the time from bell to bell, but some classes move through the material faster than you planned, and some take forever over the same material.  Yes, I think I would like to be able to make the class last just the right amount of time for optimum learning.

What spider do I need to get bitten by, or which gamma-ray array do I need to be radiated by, or which scientist do I need to be "discovered" by in order for me to get that superpower?  Sign me up.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 15, Strengths

Day 15--Name three strengths you have as an educator.

Three strengths I have as an educator:
  1. Content knowledge--I love my content: English Language Arts.  I have enjoyed reading and writing for as long as I can remember.  Analyzing literature for themes and deep thoughts, writing fiction and nonfiction of varying genres, using proper grammar--presenting all that information to my students so that they, too, can get the same joy from the written word as I do is one of my strengths as an educator.
  2. Willing to learn and try new things--My grandfather used to tell us that a day's not been wasted if you've learned something.  When we can learn how to help our students grasp our material in a better way (or deeper in a way that we already knew), or when we can learn how to use a technology that helps us do our jobs better, that's a great thing, and I think that is one of my strengths.
  3. Desire that students succeed--When a teacher knows what a student can do, she can inspire the student to do even more.  Sometimes the teacher is the only one in the student's corner--not even the student is always in his or her own corner.  My students always know I am their loudest cheerleader even as I correct their papers and push them to better scholarship; my desire that my students succeed is one of my best strengths as their teacher.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 14, Feedback for Learning

Day 14--What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?

Feedback for learning is one of those new "it phrases" in education, but it's been around for a long time.  Of course, people are now are telling us that data says how teachers have given feedback for generations (the grade, the "good job," the "you could do more," or the sticker) is not enough.  It's not helpful.  That kind of feedback is not "for learning" because it doesn't make the student think differently about his/her work or do any kind of self-assessment.

I guess I have a hard time understanding that.  When I was in school, the feedback given at the top of the page always had me doing some self-assessment.  If it was a good grade, I felt validated that my hard work had borne fruit.  If it was a "you could do more" then I looked at my work to see what I had not done to fulfill the assignment.  I still have some of the scratch-and-sniff stickers that my elementary teachers gave me; I attached them to a folder.  They were badges of honor and pride that I showed my friends, and I kept that portion of that Critter Sitter folder (see picture) because it was covered with the proof that I was doing the right thing by doing what was expected of me as a student.

Somewhere along the line something changed and now that kind of feedback is not enough.  Feedback for learning is giving feedback that will not discourage a student while at the same time showing him/her what he/she needs to do better next time.  It can come in many forms, but all studies agree it should be timely, specific, and focus on the positive.

Timely: When you teach high school English, as I do, it can be hard to give feedback beyond the grade or the rubric or the now-frowned-upon "Good job!" because I teach four sections of the same class, and that means I have over 80 pieces of work each time something gets handed in.  I try to be timely in returning the work, but sometimes I'm not as good at that as I would like.

Specific: Adding specific comments to over 80 English II essays and 20 Creative Writing poems in a night (or even over the weekend) is sometimes hard to do.  I try to do it, but sometimes it's difficult to weigh the need for cleaning/laundry/dishes/personal time/catching up on sleep with the time that it takes to write specific feedback about the student's work on each paper or poem.  So, I'm still working on that.

Focus on the positive: I really try to do this beyond the "Way to Go" or "Nice" or even the smiley face.  This is when I'd love to be able to just put a sticker on the paper and be done.  I know that I'm supposed to avoid just marking the errors in a paper because that will make the student feel defeated.  I know that I'm supposed to point out the good things the student did to encourage him/her.  This is where I have the most issues in this feedback for learning, though.  I am still working on a way to make the student not feel defeated while at the same time showing him/her what he/she did wrong so that next time he/she can do better.

So if I were to rank my success at giving feedback for learning, I would say that I am still working on it.  Do I get a sticker for that?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Searching for Ponies...

A person once defined positivity this way:  two little girls were shown two identical rooms filled with... manure.  One little girl folded her arms, stuck out her bottom lip, and began crying.  The other little girl gasped and jumped into the room, digging into the nasty-smelling stuff with joyous abandon.  When she was asked why she was doing that, she replied: "Well, with all this poo, there must be a pony in here somewhere!"

Sometimes in education, what we have is a lot of poo. We have meetings.  We have meetings ABOUT meetings. We have deadlines.  We have ofttimes conflicting standards coming at us from the local, state, and federal governments.  We have to have 100% of our children at or above grade level in all areas.  We have to follow rules and regulations set down by school boards or government agencies who often don't know much about the daily business of teaching.  We have to make sure that each of the students is testing at high levels, even when those students don't care about the tests, because those test scores may determine whether or not we get rehired.  We have to create life-long learners out of students who only live in the moment.  We have to... well, shovel a lot of poo.

And no one likes to shovel poo.  I guess there could be a few people out there whose job it is to shovel poo around and they wake up each morning thinking... "Hooray! I get to shovel poo!".... but on the whole, none of us like that job.  It becomes exceedingly easy to complain about the smell, the grossness, the very baseness of the whole thing.

I can look at the pile of essays on my desk, the inbox a mile long, the calendar overflowing with IEP or 504 meetings during my prep time, and various and sundry required trainings and think, "How can I possibly get this all done and still have a life?"  I can fold my arms, stick out my bottom lip, and cry.  (And, to be honest, I sometimes I do...I don't claim to be Little Mary Sunshine all the time.)  OR I can take a deep breath and plunge in to all the muck with the hope that all this muck is just covering up the very real possibility that I will find a pony (metaphorically).

The pony we find in that educational muck might be the student who changes his attitude from apathetic to interested because he finally has a plan for his future after doing that research project.  Or we might find the pony in the girl who was so standoffish and rude but who has since become one of the sweetest girls in your class because you took that extra time to find out what was up with her and helped her through it.  It may take a lot of digging through poo to find, but if we're willing to put on our boots (sometimes hip-waders) and grab our shovels, we will find that all that hard, stinky, back-breaking work was worth it.

Reflective Teaching: Day 13, Edtech Tools in the Classroom

Day 13--Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

As an edtech "newbie" I am still working on becoming more fluent with the burgeoning educational opportunities, apps, features, and general lollapalooza that is the edtech universe.  If I am honest, I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the different ways we teachers can now connect our students with educational technology.  And in the face of all the possibilities, I tend to take things slowly. So I don't jump in the the edtech pool deep end; I wade.  So here are the edtech tools I use in my classroom (and a couple at the end that I am researching) in order of effectiveness (and, not so coincidentally the order in which I found them).

It started out with Google Chrome.  Our school wrote a grant to get more computers into our students' hands; thus four of our teachers were able to get classroom sets of Chromebooks and some Google Training.  It was eye-opening to see all the ways we could use these netbooks in more ways than just using the Chromebooks as word processors.  I use Google Docs/Drive, Forms, Sheets, etc.. in my classroom all the time.  I love the ease with which the students can take quizzes with the Forms (and I can grade those quizzes with the Flubaroo script in minutes and have data about mastery).  I've used these tools for a couple years now, so I feel that these are the most effective tools I use.  I know using a netbook is not a huge leap into all things edtech, but I feel that it is a good basis to then use others.

Once I was using the Chromebooks daily, I found CollaborizeClassroom, a contained chatroom-like platform to get and track student feedback to lessons, questions, polls, etc... There is a topic library for you to browse from or add to, and the kids enjoy seeing what their peers post as feedback to their posts.  The site sends you weekly activity reports, too, so you can see in a glance what the students have been doing.  I want to incorporate this even more as more features are available.   Webinars are available, too, which I like because they help me swim with confidence deeper into that edtech pool.

I also love Quizlet.com as a great study help. It gets the kids to study vocabulary and facts without it feeling like studying.  This online collection of flashcards allows the student flexibility to access his/her classroom content online wherever, even on Facebook.  I can upload our spelling and vocabulary lists, or specialized academic vocabulary terms for specific units into a classroom, and the kids learn the terms and definitions by playing games or taking tests.  To save time, I can even use other people's lists and upload them to my classes if they cover the same things I do.

I then found a great classroom management tool: InstantClassroom.  I wanted a way to get all the kids involved in class discussions offline.  Too often you have only those three kids who volunteer answers and all the other kids allow those three to do all the answering.  If you want to involve all the kids, you have to call on them, and too often just going around the room student by student means the students pay attention only when they see you're coming to them.  So...the key is to do it randomly.  There are lots number of offline ways to do this-- popsicle sticks with their names, a checklist, or deck of cards to name a few--but what about online?  Voila!  I saw this tool one day while I was browsing Pinterest (I'll talk more about this edtech tool...yes, edtech...in a moment).  I loved the idea of the random name generator.  This way the kids can't anticipate who I'm going to call on next, so they are forced to pay more attention.  It is also equal... everyone has to participate.

Pinterest is also a tool I use a lot (though not usually at school or in the classroom) when looking for information and ideas.  Sure, I originally went to this online "scrapbook" to keep track of recipes, craft blogs, and DIY ideas.  However, I quickly found that I could also get ideas about teaching tools, websites, and technology.   I could also get ideas from others who have similar interests and follow their boards.  This may be an unorthodox way to have a Professional Learning Network, but with so many Pinners with boards about teaching and education, I have found any number of really great classroom helps.

I am more than wading now; I'm swimming but am not yet in the deep end.  I like to still have the ability to touch my foot to the bottom until I'm totally comfortable.  So far the edtech tools I've mentioned are those I'm actively using either in my classes or lesson planning or grading.  Here are a couple I haven't used so I can't really judge or rank their effectiveness.

Recently I discovered another free edtech: NoRedInk.  It is a way to help the students work on their grammar and writing skills.  It allows you to create pretests, assignments, and quizzes from their question banks and, when the students take the quizzes or do the assignments, the program tracks their skills for them.  It gives the teacher an at-a-glance feedback chart of which students are mastering the various grammar skills.  The free version is pretty comprehensive, but I'm sure that the premium version (paid) has even more options.  I mentioned another edtech in a previous blogpost in this series: Geddit.  Like NoRedInk, I haven't used this yet, but I am looking forward to using it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 12, Changes in Education

Day 12--How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?

I dislike change.  I imagine most of us do.  We like our traditions and our comfort zones and our sacred cows.  We don't want to have to give them up and try new things when the old way has worked just fine.  But time doesn't stand still.  We must move with it or be left behind.   

Sure, we add computers and gadgets to our classrooms, but we keep our chalk, just in case the new smart board doesn't work.  We hold onto the ancient overhead projector for those days when technology outpaces the capabilities or the ceiling-mounted projector's bulb goes out.  We keep a file cabinet filled with worksheets for the days when the internet is down or a squirrel fries itself in a transformer and knocks out power for half the day.

We teach in schools that have to be retrofit to accommodate the 1:1 classroom.  Teachers who learned to type on type writers, word processors, or Apple IIe computers are now having to figure out the ever-changing digital world.  Our students are digital natives who, while they can figure out proxy servers and back-doors to Facebook through the school firewalls, have trouble with basic keyboarding skills like typing at any speed or maneuvering past Wikipedia during a research project.

So, I predict that in the next five years my teaching will continue to grow more and more "online" as we continue to move into the digital world.  I already have Chromebooks that I use almost daily in my classes, and I see myself using more edtech in order to help the students master my content.  I will have to become more and more tech savvy.  
Already there are so many online tools and programs and curricula; while we teachers hold on to our chalk and projectors, we also are innovators and product testers.  Tech trainings encourage us teachers to advance our skills and knowledge.

We hold on to the past so that we can grow into the future.  I think I will hold on to my traditions as well as embrace the changes that are upon us.  Without roots, the tree will die.  Our chalk and No. 2 pencils are our roots that will keep us steady even as our branches reach for the digital world that is our stars.  In five years I will have taught for over 20 years, and, while I couldn't have imagined the changes that have occurred since I first stepped into a classroom, I know I have yet to see wonders.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 11, Favorite Part of the School Day

Day 11--What is your favorite part of the school day and why?

I like the morning before school starts when I'm at school early so I can get to the copy machine before a line starts and can have some time in my room to prepare for the day.  There is a peaceful anticipation in the quiet halls.  There are no lockers slamming.  There is no hustle and bustle as students shove their way through the burgeoning halls like salmon swimming upstream.  There are no disruptions to the quiet.  Yes, the morning before school is one of my favorite times of the school day.

Another favorite time of the school day is the Professional Learning Community Late-Start time we have at our school  It affords us teachers who teach in the same department a time during the school day once a week when we can make curriculum decisions, work on Common Assessments, pour over data, and have collaborative talks.  When teachers who teach the same content can work together to share their knowledge, the result is greater than the sum of its parts.  So, PLC time is some of my favorite time spent at school.

However, my most favorite time of the school day varies from day to day and hour to hour.  It occurs at those moments I mentioned in my fourth blog of this series. I love those moments in a school day when the kids are involved and actively participating in the lesson.  They are learning.  When the students are working and unaware of the time, when they are surprised by the bell, when they feel that the class has sped by: those are my favorite parts of the school day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 10--5,4,3,2,1

Day 10--5,4,3,2,1

Share five random facts about yourself.
  • I have unintentionally memorized most of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.
  • I enjoy matching my lanyards to my wardrobe.
  • I have books in every room in my house.
  • It bothers me that the three windows in my classroom are not centered on the wall.
  • I pretend to be more organized than I am.
Share four things from your bucket list.
  • I want to see the great cathedrals of Europe.
  • I would love to visit all the National Parks by rail.
  • I want to go to a show on Broadway.
  • I'd love visit Ireland.
Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.
  • I hope that I make a difference in the lives of my students.
  • I hope that my students will take the opportunities the year gives them to learn deeper, go further, and stand stronger than they ever have before.
  • I hope to be a better friend, daughter, sister, teacher, and person at the end of the year than I am at the beginning.
Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.
  • I have laughed because of the ludicrous things some of my students say and do.
  • I have cried because of the ludicrous things some of my students say and do.
Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.
  • I wish more people (and by "people" I mean the person who came up with this particular prompt) would know that I don't like reflecting about myself.  I am not this kind of deep thinker.  Give me a poem to analyze or some interesting discussion about ideas and life and books--I'm all there.  Give me a prompt that asks me to think about myself, and I spend way too much time that I should be spending grading essays on trying to figure out the answers to the prompt. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 9, Unknown Accomplishments

Day 9--Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

One of my biggest accomplishments in my teaching that no one knows about?  I don't know.  I tend to be a blabbermouth about my accomplishments and blow my own horn constantly.

Just kidding.  Mostly.

I think of teaching as building cathedrals (hence the title of my blog and my profile information).  In my debut blog post I talk about my educational philosophy (click here to read it).  I believe that each teacher does so much that goes under the radar.  Just like the woodcarver I mentioned in that post, we teachers do so much that no one ever sees.  He carved wonders that only God would ever see; we spend hours grading, giving feedback, planning for lessons, going to workshops, and more that no one ever knows about.

In addition to all that work that goes, often, unappreciated and underfunded, we accomplish miracles in the lives of our students that may never be acknowledged by anyone.  That one student who finally turns in his work without having to be told (this time... you spent all year nagging...er...working on that skill); the shy student with social anxiety who gives a speech after months of encouragement; the kids who frustrate you all year because they "don't get it" turn out a stellar performance on the State Tests--all these are examples of the marvels that teachers accomplish but do not always get recognized about.

Sometimes the miracle is that we don't strangle that kid who constantly pushes our buttons.  Or maybe it's that we manage to get the students to get work done the day before a holiday.  Or perhaps the great accomplishment is that we are able to make it through a day when we're really not feeling well.  Maybe our accomplishment today is that we were able to stay just that much ahead of our students to make it look as though we really did know what we were talking about.

We do so much that goes unnoticed, intentionally, not necessarily because people do not want to acknowledge us or our work.  If we do our jobs correctly, lesson plans run smoothly, classroom management is seamless, and the day runs like a well-oiled machine.  Our jobs SHOULD look deceptively easy to the person looking from the outside in.  Those of us in the teaching community know that we live in glass houses, and our own particular fishbowl gets a lot of attention when things go wrong.  This is the very reason we attempt to make our daily miracles look mundane.

So, my biggest accomplishment?  I'm not going to tell.  On purpose.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 8, Desk Drawer Readings Available Here!

Day 8--What’s in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?

My desk drawer is filled with the stuff of teachers: a drawer organizer filled with pencils, pens, stamps, stamp pads, ink, binder clips, tape of various styles, and punch cards for discounts on books, etc....

The biggest problem I have in inferring something from this hodge-podge of teacher detritus is that since I moved recently into my new classroom (mentioned in the Day 5 blog post), I'm still unpacking boxes.  I dumped one such box into my desk drawer.

I guess I could infer that I am unorganized, except that I'm not.  Even though the items were dumped willy-nilly into the drawer, they did come out of a box labeled "desk items" and all the pencils, pens, etc... do actually go together.

My desk drawer jumble actually implies that I am a teacher who doesn't mind a bit of organized chaos.  And that is true.  I don't mind a bit of chaos if the results are what I planned on happening.  I have a plan (labeled box and desk drawer organizer), but it's okay if the items have a bit of "freedom" in how they fit in the drawer.  

That's kind of like how I plan and teach.  I have a plan (learning objectives and standards), but I allow a little freedom in how we get to the results.  If that means that we take an extra day to understand something, my week's plan is flexible enough to withstand the disruption.  If that means that I have to go back over the material once my formative assessment shows that some of the kids did not get mastery of it, we can.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 7, Inspirational Colleagues

Day 7--Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why?

Inspiration comes in many forms, and from many different people.  Inspiration is like the wind, an inhalation of grace, a refreshing glimpse of sehenzucht.  With so many diverse ways to be inspired, and with so many people to be the muses, how can I choose just one source of inspiration?  

I was inspired to become an English teacher by my seventh grade English teacher, Ms. Robinson.  She made English--a subject I already enjoyed--into my calling through her enthusiasm, support, and encouragement.  She made literature, grammar, and writing into the building blocks of my desire to become a teacher like her.  Learning was fun and interesting in her class. I don't know if she counts as a colleague, technically, since I never taught with her...but she was teaching in the same district when I subbed one day at my old high school, so I'm going to count it.  While she was not the only source of inspiration during my high school years, she was the impetus. 

College brought a new group of muses into my life.  My professors in the English department at Evangel University inspired me in my quest to become an English teacher--people like Sandy Vekasy, Marilyn Quigley, and Pansy Collins. They gave me knowledge and skills and tools I still use every day in my teaching.  They showed me how to become the teacher I wanted to become, all the while breathing continued life into the desire to be a teacher to my students like they were to me.  Now, I can't technically count them as colleagues because I didn't teach at Evangel--unless you count the tutoring I did in the Write Place or the Basic English lab I taught as part of my major.  So... I'm going to count it.

My first "real" teaching job after graduating was at Grace Christian Academy on Saipan, an island in the Pacific.  My fellow teachers there were definitely inspirational.  I saw my colleagues there give with missionary fervor so much of their time, passion, and knowledge.  One such person was Mary Kinsella.  She was a great help to me, especially my first year.  According to her students, she was a tough teacher, but fair.  I was a new teacher, and her advice to me about classroom management and how to build rapport with my students was an inspiration to me.

When I returned to Missouri after four years overseas, I got a job at Carthage High School, in Carthage, MO.  Once again I was surrounded by inspirational colleagues like Caroline, Donna, and Cathy.  The inspiration I received from them and others in that faculty helped me grow as a teacher.  They helped me learn how to put together curriculum and work with Common Assessments to help our students learn.  I was blessed to have worked with them for three years, and in that time I was inspired any number of times and in any number of ways.

Now that I've been teaching at Buffalo High School for eleven years, I cannot count the times I have been inspired by my colleagues.  Their diligence, their dedication, their desire to give the best education they can to the students we've been given is a daily inspiration.  My colleagues inspire me with how much they sacrificially give.  Each of them has inspired me, from Jill's work ethic to Laura's ability to connect with the students to Gayle's willingness to help everyone. I could easily pick my most inspirational colleague from among them.

My colleagues are my muses.  I look to them daily for inspiration about how to make my lessons interesting and content-filled.  I see the extra work they do before, during, and after school to help the students and community we serve.  We're all working at inspiring our students to become the productive members of our society we know they can be.  How do I choose just one of my colleagues when I have been shaped by so many?  So, I don't.  I choose them all.  Like the old saying goes, it takes a village... and my colleagues have been a large part of that village in my own life.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 6, Good Mentors

Day 6--Explain: What does a good mentor “do”?

A good mentor is, like the screenshot above says, an "adviser, guide, guru, counselor, consultant, confidant(e)."  I especially like the "guru" and "confidant(e)" synonyms.  While it is definitely true that mentors of all professions are there to guide their "mentees" by helping them with the ins and outs of their jobs, an educational mentor needs to be the one someone feels comfortable enough with and around to ask the "stupid" questions (which are not stupid at all, but the first-time or new-to-building teacher feels are stupid because he or she is, after all, a professional teacher and should know the answers): 
  • "How can I go to the restroom between classes if I'm supposed to be watching the kids in the classroom and the hallway?" 
  • "What do I do if I have to go to the restroom during class?"
  • "What is my copy machine password?"
  • "How do I get this blankety-blank copy machine to work?" 
  • "Where is the toner cartridge overflow pan?"
  • "The copy machine screen says there's a paper in there somewhere, but I can't find it; am I crazy?"
  • "Why is the copy machine printing out a bunch of gobbledygook pages when I was just sending one thing to the printer?"
  • "One of my students drew an anatomically correct body part on his desk; how can I clean that off before next hour?"
  • "How do I call the parents when my phone doesn't call off campus?"
  • "I don't have any staples; where are the classroom teaching supplies?" 
  • "How can you tell the difference between the tornado drill sound and the fire drill sound?"
  • "The computer is not working; how do I print off my worksheets?"
  • "How do I sign up for the computer lab online if my own computer is not working?"
  • "How do I send an email about my broken computer to the tech office if I can't access email?"
These questions (and many more, I assure you) are questions I asked my mentors, and some are those my "mentees" have asked me.  A good mentor answers those questions or helps you find the answers.  A good mentor helps you find that jammed piece of paper, the extra staples, and cleaning supplies.  A good mentor lets you use his/her own computer to email the tech office about your broken computer.  A good mentor gives up his/her own chance to go to the restroom to watch your class. He or she also provides the necessary listening ear, comforting shoulder (usually metaphorically), extra tissue, and perfect story of his/her own that helps you when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 5, Picture This!

Day 5--Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.
After six years in trailer classrooms, several of us teachers were finally able to come back inside the main school building; however, for various reasons, we were not able to move our things until just before school started.

I had gone up to school the Friday before the first teacher workday, and the wonderful maintenance guys asked me if I wanted to get my classroom moved "early" (it was "early" because, technically, we were going to be moved on Monday). I jumped at the chance to get my things into the new classroom since I could use the weekend to at least attempt to get settled in.

The guys and I (I'm including myself because I did end up helping move some of the student desks, but they did most of the heavy lifting) got almost all my stuff from the trailer I'd called home for six years into the new classroom.  I say "almost all" because my desk had been built inside the trailer and needed to be taken apart in order to get it out.  It is a beautiful desk, but not one really meant to be moved much after being put together.  That was Friday.

My super-helpful mom joined me on Saturday as we moved boxes around my room, placing them near the bookcases I'd put them on (but not that day because the bookcases by safety laws are required to be fastened to the walls before they get anything put on them) and setting up a few other items.

Monday came and, as all teachers know, teacher "work days" are not really about giving teachers time to work in their classrooms.  There are too many meetings (district, building, content team, etc....) and not enough in-classroom time.  Tuesday we had more meetings and then Open House.  You know, that wonderful evening when you meet your students and their parents for the first time?  Well, my classroom looked nothing like I wanted it to look.  Here is a picture of my classroom on Monday before I left (note that the desk is finally in the room--but it's in five pieces because it hadn't been put together yet:

Monday, August 11, 2014

    Tuesday night (Open House night) 
the room was still in a bit of a mess, 
but at least my desk was together and the 
student desks were clean.  The maintenance 
guys also promised to have the bookcases 
attached to the wall by the next morning.  

 Mom came back up with me on Wednesday 
(since we stay late on Tuesday, the School Board 
generously gives us Wednesday off before the 
first day of school on Thursday) to help me load 
the books onto the shelves, put up curtains 
she made, and generally make my 
classroom look more like home.

    We spent a good portion of the day getting the classroom put to rights, and I am super grateful 
for mom and all her help.  I am still figuring out 
what I want on some of the walls, but as of this
morning, this is what my classroom looks like:

Friday, September 5, 2014

So... when I look at the picture of my classroom, I see a room finally coming together and looking much more like how I want my classroom to look.  I am looking forward to Parent-Teacher conferences so those parents who came to Open House can see how I normally set up my classroom.  However, I see some areas where I still need help--the blank wall on the right, for instance.  

One thing that I know that I would like to see (with a nod to the advice in this blog post about decorating secondary classrooms) is more student-age-related decor.  I tend to make my room comfortable for me... I want it pretty in a personal library kind of way, with lots of books and artfully arranged shelves with greenery and re-purposed decor items.  I know I need to make it more student-friendly, with current images on posters (although Orlando Bloom on my READ poster is classic and not leaving the wall).  I also need to remember that I should think about adding some brighter colors or patterns or something for the students eyes to rest upon when they're looking around the room.  I also would like to post student work in a creative way.  That, then, is what I want to see in my classroom.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 4, What I Love about Teaching

Day 4--Respond: What do you love the most about teaching?

"How do I love thee, let me count the ways" .... I don't love just one thing "the most" about teaching.  I don't know if I can pick just one thing; instead I'll pick my top three.

        I love the light in the eyes of the students as they suddenly understand something they couldn't even grasp before; it's that "Aha!" moment which sparkles out when something we're covering in class suddenly "clicks."

        I cherish hearing that "least-likely" student say that mind-blowing "thing" in response to a question I ask...and suddenly the other students perk up and look differently at the one who bravely spoke his/her epiphany aloud. 

        I relish the moments when we're discussing literature and get so wrapped up in the conversation that even those students who usually have their eyes glued to the clock are surprised when the bell rings.

If I can remember these things I love on the days when I wonder if Christmas Break (or Summer, depending on the time of year) is coming soon enough, I will have the inspiration to continue further on and further up.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 3, Teacher Observations

Day 3--Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

An "observation" area I would like to improve on for my teacher evaluation... 

The area I would like to improve upon for my teacher evaluation would be my use of data to guide my instruction.  I gather a lot of data, look at a lot of data, and yet often don't know what to do with that data.  I think part of my problem with data-driven instruction is that I may not be collecting the right types of data to help me know what to do next.  And that next is also where I feel I need some improvement.  So often I get the data, but, as I'm not a statistician, I don't always see the connection between my carefully crafted spreadsheet and the lesson planning.  I want to figure out how to use the data that is overabundant in the educational world and use it to my students' favor.  I would like to improve the instruction I give them based on the data gotten from them. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reflective Teaching: Day 2, New Technology in the Classroom

Reflective Teaching Challenge.  I was supposed to start on the challenge yesterday, but since I just got the challenge in my email today (well, I just read about it today) I am doing two blog posts to make up for starting a day late.

Day 2: Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.

One piece of technology that I would like to try this year is Geddit.  I just heard about this from my principal.  It is a way to get feedback from my students about whether they "get it" (the "it" being whatever content we're going over in class).  It also would allow for quick understanding checks over a critical thinking kind of   Another plus is that I could use the results for grouping or comprehension checks or a gauge of learning either individually or overall.

I like it for several reasons.

First, I already do a verbal version of this kind of feedback with the good-old "Get it?/Got it./Good."  While the notion of the kids saying "Got it" to my "Get it" is good, I am sure that some of my students are just saying "Got it" out of habit, not because they actually did "get it."

Second, I need a better way to judge whether or not a student did "get it."  This tech would allow me to see at a glance whether or not the student understood the concept and/or felt confident in the material.

Third, I like the idea of letting the students become self-assessors to their understanding.  When the student does the metacognition required to decide how much s/he really does "get it," s/he is using critical thinking skills.

So... I think I'm going to look more into this edtech and see about integrating it into my lessons.

Reflective Teaching: Blogging Challenge: Day 1, Goals

Reflective Teaching

Day 1: Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!
In general, I hate goals. I know I shouldn't... I'm a teacher. We're supposed to LOVE goals. Daily goals, weekly goals, semester goals, SMART goals... My biggest problem with goals is that I tend to think of them like New Year's Resolutions...and I'm not good at keeping those, either.

I start off really well with my plan, but somewhere along the way I lose my focus, whether it's because my goal/resolution is too ambitious--and thus I get discouraged because I can't reach it--or because my goal/resolution is too vague--and thus I get bogged down in all the details of even trying to figure out my goal.

But the goal of this challenge is to make me into a more reflective teacher... so I need to abandon my dislike of goals and make a plan for the year.

Goal 1: Set some goals. Realistic goals. Goals I could potentially complete.

Goal 2: Write the goals down somewhere I will see them daily.

Goal 3: Keep the end in mind: too often I get bogged down in the minutia of the goal in a vain attempt to make it look as though I love details.

Goal 4: Be willing to try again. I've had bad experiences with goal-setting, so I tend not to set goals in order to make it more about my choice than my abilities.

Oh my goodness. I just realized that I'm like my students who choose not to do the assignment rather than "prove" to themselves that they can't do it. They'd rather be labeled as lazy than stupid.

So... Goal 5: Stop being the lazy student. Be willing to be thought of as stupid if I don't succeed at my goal. And then... do Goal 4. Again.