Sunday, January 24, 2016

Brain Candy!

I'm finally caught up in my #leadupnow Voxer group! Of all the weeks to not be on social media at all, I picked a doosey! There was so much that happened while I was away! I'm still not caught up on the blogs and Twitter, but I'll get there.

It took me several hours to catch up and the whole time, I was just thinking of this PLN Voxer group being brain candy!

I'm usually impressed with all of the great insights from my PLN. Honestly, there have been some discussions that have just blown me away. Every day is a treat! But this past week was special. Maybe it was a blessing to get behind because I was able to savor every tidbit of sweetness, replay, take notes, and pause to reflect on my thinking.

I'm making a sketchnote of all of the greatness from this week. But, for this blog post, I want to share a couple of highlights.

The topic was Friction-

First of all, this was a week of quotable quotes and metaphors! One minute I was geeking out with my love of science and the next, I was learning a music lesson! I loved it! I'm not an accomplished musician, but I do (or did at one time) play the piano. While listening, I was laughing out loud one minute and in deep self reflection the next. I was touched, inspired, and moved. The resources, pictures, and thoughts are treasures. I've starred almost every Vox!

What I'm happiest about is that #leadupchat is expanding and is starting another Voxer group to include anyone that wants to join.  This will be such a great opportunity to connect with more like-minded educators and learn even more! I'm so grateful for this tribe. I missed them this week.

Amping Up Student Energy and Enthusiasm- House Sorting!

Tuesday was my first day back to school after the holiday break. I wanted to amp up the student engagement for this next block of time. We go off-track in April for a month and return in May for all of the end of year testing. So, THIS is it! I have three months to see how far I can take the kids.

I'm not a Harry Potter fan, but the kids love the books, and so I'm a fan because they're a fan. To engage the kids at even a higher level, I planned a House sorting ceremony. Initially, I was trying to figure out how to make sure that the houses ended up with an even amount of students, boys/girls, and academic ability levels. Decide Now is an app that is a spinner. (Think Ron Clark) I wanted an even number of kids in each house, and so I nixed the spinner. Instead, I cut some paper strips for each house color and had the kids draw out a card. They put on the magical glasses (sunglasses) and drew out a card.

The ceremony was a BLAST! I found this playlist of music from another teacher's blog. When the kids came to school, they heard blaring music coming from my classroom that piqued their curiosity. (I'm in a portable classroom.) The kids came dreading starting school again, but the minute they walked in the room, their eyes lit up.

We danced around for about 10 minutes. Honestly, the only reason we stopped is because of tech issues. For some reason, Air Play stopped projecting from my computer, and that stopped the music. It was a bummer! But, we're very used to just going with the flow. I took the opportunity to take care of attendance, pledge, etc. Next, I explained that our class was going to be sorted into three houses and the significance of the name, color, and animal mascot. These were brief overviews. We'll talk about each one in more depth later. The fourth house (Arete) in the picture is what I'm introducing this next week. I decided to make the fourth house include our whole class.

Sorting Ceremony: (I was going to bring my fog maker, but forgot it as I was rushing out the door.) Oh, well. I had music playing, kids dancing and cheering. Each kid came up to the front of the room, put on the magical glasses, drew a card out of the hat, was rewarded with a necklace of jewels (dollar store) and sat at a desk in their house. Everyone was full of energy and enthusiasm! It was fun! Kids welcomed each other into the respective houses with cheers, claps, high-fives, and fist bumps! As a teacher, I could see the positives of forming smaller families right from the start.

Once everyone had a house, kids moved all of their belongings to a new desk. The only rule that I made was that they had to mix up where the boys/girls sat at each table. I let them sit where they wanted to sit. All of my worries about kids being evenly distributed were for naught. Probability worked in my favor! I have all academic abilities represented in each house, the boy/girl ratio is pretty even, and even behavior issues were dispersed among the three houses. Whew! The simple solution if it had not worked was to have different seating charts for various subjects. (It's an idea from my kids last year.)

The houses compete against each other for points. They earn points by turning in their work, getting a personal best score, positive behavior, volunteering, and all of the soft/leadership skills that I'm trying to reinforce. Kids earn tickets for an end of the week drawing and each ticket is also a point for the house. (The little containers for tickets are from the dollar store.) I also add points for the whole house for having quick and quiet transitions, performing their house cheer with passion, or other team building competitions. The E on the table is a special award for demonstrating "Excellent Effort". Each week, the students vote for someone from their house who shows extra effort throughout the week.

Dividing the kids into houses was one of the best things that I've done. I've always done a lot of team building as a whole class. I've also always had kids in groups of 4-5 students. I'm still doing that for class management reasons. But, I saw a lot of instant "house" bonding. For my three kids that have an especially hard time making friends, belonging to a house is really positive!

One thing that I did to amp up the energy was focus more on bigger celebrations for individuals. I've always done some classroom cheers and songs for brain breaks and a little fun. But, I wanted to level up a bit.  A quick Google search helped me to find more easy cheers and chants. I changed the words to some to fit our school and classroom. I taught the kids to cheer for their classmates based on my verbal cues. For example, if I say a generic "good job" to someone, no one will stop working. But, if I say, "Lindsey, that was an awesome question you just asked!" then the kids spontaneously cheer for 3 seconds. We had to practice cheering "loud and proud" and then sharply stopping and going back to work. They LOVE it! I LOVE it! (If you haven't done this before as a class, make sure to spend time practicing. We practice at the beginning of the year "being wild" and then in 3 seconds, on a quiet signal, to be back to work and focused. They end sharply at the quiet signal so we don't waste any time.)

Our favorite cheer this week was "I Believe!".  I let the kids stand on their chairs, move around the classroom, etc. while another student leads the cheer. It's fun! (We say it 5 times and then it's silent!) It cracks me up! Why are we saying that we'll win? I needed a rival- a target for some competition- and so I looked up the testing scores from a neighborhood school. They are also a magnet school for the gifted and talented. Their scores are always some of the highest because a fourth of their students are enrolled in the gifted program. They don't know it, but according to my kids, they are "the enemy" and we have a "secret plan of attack"! Academically, my students are MUCH lower, but we're improving! I also have the belief that kids will meet whatever expectations that you set. I wanted to raise the bar a little higher. If you want to read about my philosophy about student expectations, go here. Why not let my kids work and try to get a higher score on the end of level test than the magnet school for the gifted? My kids know that testing scores are not our focus, but the competition adds a fun element.

For one of my math lessons this week, I used for practice. Our goal all year has been to make it to the Smart Goal of 80. I upped the challenge to make it to 90. Every time someone made 90, we all paused and did our 3-second cheer. The energy was palpable! The kids worked so HARD!!! Not only were they working hard, but they were coaching everyone in their house. My three lowest math students didn't quite make it to 80. Without me prompting, one of my students started the cheer, "I Believe" only changed it to "you" and the kids encircled these three students with their cheers, high-fives, and gentle slaps on the back. These three kids were grinning from ear to ear! I pulled them aside at the end of the day to tell them how proud I was of their efforts. They let me know that they were going to go home and try their hardest to get to 80 or higher. And you know what, they did! I was able to see their time/answers online at home that night. I can't even express the happiness in my heart! The next morning, we celebrated the success of these kids! They had each earned a score of over 80! Wow! This was huge!

We had to take a math test this week, but kids were confident. Our starting class average for the district math benchmark was 7% and on the test this week, our class average was 79%! I am tickled pink and so proud of my kids! We have really worked!

Our closing ceremony for the week on Friday was awesome. I chose one ticket from each house for a special treat, but everyone and their effort throughout the week was celebrated! According to the reflections that the students shared and the 5 min. journal entries, mission accomplished for this week! I raised the bar and the energy! I know that it's only been a week, but I have the momentum in my favor, and that's a good feeling!

**I used some of the House names from the Ron Clark Academy and one of my own. The words, colors, animals, meanings have personal connections to me and are some of my values and passions. Some are personal connections to me because of this particular group of students.

There are deeper meanings/symbolism but in short:

Amistad- Spanish for Friendship Mascot: Hummingbird 
Reveur- French for Dreamer, Creative, Innovator Mascot: Dolphin
Isibundi- Zulu for Courage Mascot: Tiger
Arete- Greek for Excellence Mascot: Falcon (school mascot)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Few Things That Work

I've been asked many many times to share some of the things that I do in my classroom over the years. BUT, I'm not a cutesy Teachers Pay Teachers/Pinterest kind of teacher with cute downloadable resources. (I sometimes wish I had the talent to make cutsified units.) There is nothing here that is especially creative or Pin worthy. I'm just sharing a few things that work.

 I assign partners for the day- mostly for math. Even though I teach 5th grade, a lot of my teaching is from the carpet area. Kids sit on the floor next to their partner. They decide who is Partner A and who is Partner B. The math problems on the board are a short spiral review. I have all of the kids' names on a half of a 3x5 card on a ring. One year my class named them the "Cards of Death" and the name stuck. It puts everyone on notice that they'll be responsible to answer a question. I let the partners discuss how to solve a problem. Then, I let a kiddo "cut the deck" and I call on a person to go to the board to teach the class how to solve the problem. They can't say that they don't know. They can get some coaching from their partner. (I spend a lot of time teaching kids how to coach each other.)

If there's a chance to teach some vocabulary/spelling during math, I always jump at the chance.

 Whenever there's an opportunity to use a picture book for teaching a math concept (especially for introductions) I use them. There are many books available now that do an excellent job of teaching math through a story. It helps the kids make connections. And...I also use the stories to help teach reading/writing skills.

This particular lesson that introduces division is found here

Schools everywhere are building Makerspaces. My school is not to that point. I certainly can't fund building a Makerspace. I'm starting small.

The cupboards are deceiving. It looks like I have a ton of storage, but in reality I have none. The counter is barely as wide as a piece of paper. I could go on but...

My makerspace items are tucked away in the bench, the stools, and the wicker chest. There are little items in the boxes on the counter. I have a file cabinet to store a few more supplies. I was able to get some grants. With that money, I purchased some MakeyMakey kits and Sphero balls. It's not much, but the whole point is to give kids a chance to create, right? Paper, markers, cardboard, and glue goes a long way.

Epic Fail 2,001 And What I Learned

Today I was the guest moderator of #satchatwc. I was excited to be asked! Unfortunately, I put off until the last minute to plan and prepare. (story of my life) I thought that I came up with a good idea: Moving from Good to Great with the theme/ graphics etc. centered around moving. The questions would be based on Jim Collins' book. I planned to have a Voki dressed as a mover "moderate" the chat. Such were the plans....

But, this week was one of those hectic weeks! It was a great week, but all of my energy went into my kiddos. I didn't make time to prepare things for the chat. Last night, I tried to get everything ready but could not stay awake! I went to bed but was up at 2:30 am forcing myself to prepare for the chat. Being so tired took the fun out of the process.

Making the Vokis took a lot longer to make than I had anticipated. I didn't have time to make the graphics that I pictured in my head. I quickly made some for the questions in Canva. They were not pretty! The questions were pretty standard- somewhat lame. I scheduled the tweets. Luckily, I checked everything about 30 minutes before the chat started. I'd forgotten to add the hashtag to all of the tweets! I guess I was so worried about the Voki/graphic being the same that I overlooked that important detail. I hurried and rescheduled them, but Tweetdeck kept freezing up on me. I was exhausted but got a second wind.

The chat went fine- sort of. I think the Vokis took time to load and that it made it hard for people to follow along and respond. Some didn't even see the Vokis. I had everything on a Smore (luckily!), but it's still hard to follow a chat if you're switching between two screens. I'm sure that it was harder on a phone.

I love the people on #satchatwc! They are my friends in every way, and THAT's why the chat turned out at all. People came to support me. They were positive and kept the conversation going even though I sensed that things weren't going that smoothly. The Vokis did NOT work for a chat! I will not use them again!

I tried something new, and it didn't work out so well from my point of view. I'm grateful that Shelley Burgess is so gracious. She's extremely kind and didn't mind too much that I experimented. Some people genuinely enjoyed conversation with each other despite the tech issues. More than anything, I feel like I let the #satchatwc community down. I wasn't as prepared as I should have been and I felt it. I'm embarrassed but moving forward.

I'm not sure that moderating a chat is for me. When I've done it with someone else, it's been fun. I enjoyed talking with my friends today, but maybe not the responsibility of the chat. I'm STILL having a hard time keeping caught up and finding the questions in other chats. I feel bad when I miss responding to tweets. I don't want to ignore anyone.

Today, I could beat myself up because of a public fail. But, I did something different, and I'm proud of that. Sometimes you have to risk to learn!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sound of Silence: Bullied Teachers

I've been accused of purposely making other teachers look bad, not being a team player, having too high of expectations for kids, being a bad teacher, being incompetent, and not being friendly. I've also been accused of being the most negative person on the planet, a trouble-maker, and a poor excuse for a teacher. This is the short list.

I will be the first to admit that I haven't always followed along with the crowd. Even as a first-year teacher nearly 30 years ago, I was the teacher that didn't teach page by page out of the textbook and workbook every day. I was the teacher that arranged the desks into tables versus straight rows. I was the teacher that created a comfortable reading center, used games and simulations for learning, decorated my classroom according to various themes, and played with kids during recess. My classroom was different than the traditional classroom. I was different.

Because I marched to a different drummer, I was the target of a teacher bully and her clique of other teachers who were powerful within the school community. The stares, gossip, public shaming, false accusations, isolation, and mistreatment was unbearable at times. The more effort I put into providing opportunities for our students, the more intensified the bullying became. Teachers even stooped low enough to humiliate and mistreat my students. And that was when they crossed the line.

By nature, I'm a pretty quiet person. Being the target of a powerful school bully was not easy. I tried to remain positive. I attempted to ignore as much as I could. But, when it came to bullying students to get to me, I broke my silence. What I found out was that the majority of the teachers were behind me, supported me, agreed with me, but were too afraid to speak up. They knew of the bullying, probably had been bullied as well through intimidation, but chose not to say anything. I don't blame them. It's a common phenomenon. Even I didn't speak up for a long time because of being afraid of more retribution.

In the book, Crucial Accountability by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler, they talk about their research into our human nature to stay silent.

"Speaking of workplace reticence, 93 percent of the people we polled work day in and day out with a person they find hard to work with, but no one holds the person accountable because other employees believe that it's too dangerous."

Unfortunately, I don't think I'm alone in my experience. In fact, I know of another situation close to me where a teacher was bullied by an administrator. The stress was a factor in her having a stroke. I was not silent, and I did pay a price. That's another story. However, I'm glad that I broke my silence.  It took a lot of courage, and it wasn't easy.

The purpose for me writing this post is two-fold. First, to be a voice for those suffering in silence. Administrators are often not aware or in denial about bullying happening on their campus.  The bully isn't easily identifiable in many cases. Bullies and those that form the posse are often masters of PR and deception. Don't be fooled. They cause a toxic undercurrent in the school culture.

And secondly, as colleagues and co-workers, we know who are the bullies in the school. Staying silent is not an option. We can no longer turn the other way, pretend not to see and hear, and ignore this behavior. We need to have courageous conversations and stop this practice in our schools. I'm speaking to myself. I wish I had a rewind button and could go back in time. I wish that I had had more courage to speak out. Bullying hurts...everyone.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

You May Not Realize It, But You're A TL!

I haven’t thought of myself as a “teacher leader” over the years. Although reflecting back now, I guess I was by today’s definition. In the schools where I’ve taught, everyone had a role and responsibility. Committees with representatives from each grade level met on a regular basis. The team leader was also a representative. Although, he/she was ultimately accountable for getting things done, it was the team that collaboratively made plans and decisions. The responsibility of being the team leader has always been rotated around to different team members. There’s been no fanfare, no clout, no extra recognition. All of the current talk about “teacher leaders” is a little foreign to me. I think it’s just my old mindset that in order to be a leader, you need a title. Read this enlightening post by Eric Scheninger "A Title Doesn't Make You A Leader" if you too have thought that leadership is synonymous with a title.
When I started teaching, I volunteered a lot. If there was a need for something, especially if my principal asked, I volunteered. To me, it wasn’t about leadership, it was about doing something to make our school better and to help out the kids. If I saw something that our school was missing, I volunteered to do it, start it, be in charge of it, or help with it. For example, being a lover of the Arts, I recognized that our kids didn’t have many opportunities. I started a drama club and worked with another teacher to produce a school musical. I also saw a need for a student council and the need for more opportunities for our gifted kids. Another teacher took leadership of the student council as a whole, and I supervised the kids in charge of school communications. I also created an extra enrichment class that focused on learning debating skills and creativity. In each school, I did the same types of things. I saw a need and did something about it. Honestly, people thought that I was crazy to volunteer so many hours. What they didn’t understand was that it was my “play time”! I LOVED it! I would never expect other teachers to do the same especially with how full our plates are now. I don't even do those same things anymore.
My point in telling the story is that teachers don’t have to be the most politically active, outgoing, charismatic people to be school leaders. I’m certainly not. I’ve been in the spotlight because of the musical programs and other things that I’ve done. But those that know me best know that I’m not a person comfortable in the spotlight. I’m all about helping and providing opportunities for kids. Sometimes that’s meant teaching kids, sometimes that’s meant supporting parents, and sometimes it’s meant helping my colleagues.
Being a teacher leader to me is about building relationships with your colleagues, sharing resources, being helpful, and offering a listening ear. It could be a special title or position but not necessarily. I’ve mentored more teachers informally than I have formally. I’ve taught a lot of professional development, but mostly in the form of helping a small group of teachers. I’ve worked with my principal many times, but more often it’s been about just providing information. I still volunteer (or volunteer my kiddos) to help whenever we can. It teaches the kids service at the same time as making our school a better place.
Mostly people look to me as a teacher leader because of my example. (I try to be a good one.) I’m learning! I read books, articles, and blogs. I do what I can when I can and share my learning. I realize that not everyone is in a situation where they can do all of the reading that I’m doing.  I try new things! I share my mistakes, my tweaks, and sometimes really great success stories. It doesn’t take more time and effort. It’s really about doing whatever you can to make the learning for students better.
Do you volunteer? Do you help colleagues? Are you learning? Do you share ideas and resources? Do you take the time to listen and build relationships with students, parents, teachers, and support staff members? Is your school a better place because of your efforts?  If you do ANY of those things, I hate to break it to you, but you are a teacher leader in my book! It's really a matter of mindset. And with being a teacher LEADER comes a little more responsibility.
There can be challenges when you lead out and try new things. There might be times when others will accuse you of "trying to make other teachers look bad". But, if you remain positive and think of what's best for the kids, you will be able to make a difference. Making a difference- that's what leaders do. You are a teacher leader. What difference will you make in your school? How can you use your talents, gifts, and abilities to improve the learning for kids? Have an idea? Talk to your principal and lead up!


Monday, January 11, 2016

"Growth" Check 1


The fog will lift.

A little over four years ago, we heard the mandate from the district office: you will now be required to have a PLC. Now, I'm not usually a negative person, but I did question this new requirement. There are so many acronyms in education; I had no idea what PLC meant. There was no introduction. There was no explanation. It was just a requirement to have another meeting to "talk about student achievement". Okay, I thought we were doing that somewhat already. 

Our team began having this required meeting during our planning time. Honestly, we were trying to be positive and compliant, but we were all thinking of the thousands of other things that we needed to complete before the next day. The tweak that we made was looking at math test scores. The test scores didn't reveal any new knowledge. We knew who was struggling already!

It wasn't long before our next directive came. Implement RTI. I remember asking, "What in the heck is RTI?" Another acronym without an introduction or explanation. It was just a "you will do". Our math textbooks did have a section for RTI, and so we weren't completely in the fog. It was helping the kids that had trouble catching the concept. Right? Why did we have to add another acronym? Haven't teachers always helped their struggling learners?

My team struggled through the PLC process. It was the blind leading the blind. But, at least, our team was attempting to do what we'd been told. Other teams refused to try. We used our time to have confidential conversations about the progress of our kids. That came to a stop when we were told that the whole faculty would meet in the media center to hold PLC's at the same time. Babysitting. The purpose was so the administrators could make sure that teams were holding PLC meetings. These meetings were basically a waste of time. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and we're still trying to function in fog. The difference now is that because of reading and studying about PLCs, and the many conversations with PLN members, I can sense the power behind a PLC. 

Last Fall, our superintendent sent a video out to schools to help people catch the vision along with some modeling. My team watched it because I played it for them during one of our planning meetings. I suspect that many of our faculty members have not yet seen it because there were technical difficulties during the faculty meeting, and the link was emailed out. There has been no discussion about the video or any of the content as a faculty. 

Being in an administrative program now, I'm highly motivated to learn more and actually see functioning PLCs working in a school. I'm also motivated to move our team forward into having more meaningful conversations that will assure that our kids are learning. It's difficult. There are many barriers, especially in a year-round school. By the time we give one common assessment, it's three months after the fact before we can talk about it. We are never together as a team. Someone is always off-track. It's hard to have conversations about accountability when we are all in a different place. I don't see how a PLC can truly function in this situation, but I'm in the fog.

For anyone also caught in the fog, I highly recommend these two books. And it goes without saying, you really need to take the time to study the work of Rick and Rebecca DuFour.

I can see the light through the fog. Everything about a Professional Learning Community speaks to me. When I personally started to shift away from the traditional teaching focus to a student learner focus, I gained a whole new perspective. I believe that ALL kids can learn! The PLC model is powerful in theory. I want to help move my team/school forward. I don't know how that will look-----yet. I'm thinking that it has to start with a courageous conversation. That's a topic for another day.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Shower Fiasco

There I was, buck naked with nothing but a luxurious towel wrapped around me. I needed to take a shower before our meeting at the hotel started. Simple, right? If you are a frequent guest at five-star hotels, you won't relate to the following story. But, this was my first time.

I tried to study the fancy knobs to see how the shower worked. How hard could it be? I tugged and turned and pushed and pulled some knobs. Nothing happened. After several minutes, I felt pretty dumb! I attempted to turn on the shower one more time. Quite on accident, water started to come out of the shower head. I still don't know what combination of a push, pull and turn that I did to get it to work finally. I stepped inside. Luckily, I figured out the temperature control, but the amount of water coming out was less than what I expected. I remember thinking, "This isn't a 'luxurious shower experience.'" Somewhat blindly, I fiddled with a few more knobs and was surprised when a fire hose pressure stream of water came out from the side of the wall into my face!  Between sputtering and laughing at myself, I was eventually able to shower.

After showering, I had the opposite problem of figuring out how to turn everything off. How hard could it be? Once again, I started to play with the knobs, dials, and switches. I couldn't get the water to turn off! The thought of leaving the water running did cross my mind. It was then that I noticed a sign in the shower that said, "Call this number for assistance." I started to laugh! Sure! Really? People call for help when they're naked? I couldn't believe that I couldn't figure out how to work a dumb shower! Finally, with enough twisting of dials, the water turned off! Whew!  My embarrassment would stay a secret forever!

I quickly got ready for the day and left to go to our leadership training. Before our day of meetings, we gathered in a dining area for breakfast. At first, there was small talk and pleasantry. Then one of the other guests whispered that she had to go to her colleagues room and help her turn off the shower. I started giggling and related my experience as well. Someone heard us talking about the shower and added that they finally called for assistance to turn on the shower.  Conversations about the showering experience popped up all over the dining room, and everyone was rolling with laughter. Some had steam showers, some had cold showers, one person gave up and didn't shower. Everyone had a story to tell.

Sometimes as educators, we think that our experience is unique. We think that we're the only one that makes a mistake, or doesn't understand something, or has a lesson that completely flops. In reality, it's a shared experience! When we share our experiences, we not only find the humor in teaching, but we can also learn from each other. We often share our successes because we want to be seen as competent educators. But, I think that maybe we should share our "dumb moments," our flops, and even our failures more often. If we could all be a little more transparent, a little more vulnerable, maybe we could learn some valuable lessons too. And laugh!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Age of Accountability- Beginning

Recently, I connected with Daniel Bauer @_BetterSchools through #leadupchat . Over the weekend, I had a chance to check out his website. It is AMAZING! I read some of his resources and listened to a few of his podcasts. I've learned soooo much!

One thing that I loved was the 6x6 strategy for goals. Basically, it's complete six goals in six weeks. I thought what better way to track my progress and stay focused on my one word?

Here are my 6x6 goals. Due date February 12, 2016
  1. Write 6 blog posts.
  2. Read 5 professional books.
  3. Exercise at least 3-4 times a week.
  4. 5-minute Journal
  5. One Thank-You each day
  6. Organize physical space (home, yard, classroom) 15 min. week

The other tidbit that I loved was the 5-minute journal.

1. Start with "I am grateful for __________" Name 3 things.
2. What would make today great? Name 3 things.
3. Write an affirmation.
4. At night- Write something amazing that happened. Name 3 things.
5. Answer: How could I have made today better?

Today as I was organizing things, I came across a leather journal that was given to me when I was the speaker for the Jordan Education Foundation. Perfect!

Along with my goals and journal, I'm adding in a strategy by Tony Robbins. I actually used to do this instinctively during a time in my life when I felt my very best.
  • Wake up early and with energy. (Pop out of bed) This is easy! I'm an early bird!
  • Exercise. (This used to be so easy! Now it's a challenge.) 
  • Say an affirmation. (I used to do this while exercising.) *
  • Breathe (3 breaths in 3 breaths out) This is new to me in the way he explains it.
  • Meditate- (For me this is more about prayer/scripture study/writing in my journal.
*I often play music and say affirmations before I start the school day. It helps me to get pumped up and ready to go before the kids walk in, and we begin the day.

I'm off to a great start! Hope my PLN holds me accountable!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Breakin' It Down- A Simple Thing Teachers Can Do Tomorrow To Move Towards A Student-Centered Class

About six years ago, I decided that I needed to make some changes in my classroom. I had a desire to better meet the needs of my students. One of the shifts that I've made (and am still making) is moving towards an, even more, student-centered classroom and integrating technology. Although I've taught 29 years, I'm still learning and improving my practice.

This is a simple blog post for some of my colleagues that want to know how to start shifting their classroom towards a more student-centered, 21st-century classroom. There are books and articles galore that explain the research and the why’s. The purpose of this post is to show teachers something EASY that they can do tomorrow!

Choose ONE lesson and teach it without a worksheet. I know. Worksheets are cute and comfortable. It’s a security blanket because teachers have used them for so long. Notice that I said to get rid of the worksheet, not paper. Learn how to make a simple foldable and brainstorm ways that you can integrate it into your content area.

Divide your class into small groups of about four. Give each group a section of the flip book to teach.

Let them DECIDE how to present the content and what their classmates should include in each section. As the students COLLABORATE, walk around and interact with them by asking them questions about their thinking.

Give them time to work together. Celebrate their presentations! Build their confidence. Moving to a student-centered learning classroom is a shift for the students as well. Celebrate their efforts!

Don’t grade this project. Focus on feedback while the students are working. Take a FEW anecdotal notes.

After students finish this project, have them REFLECT on their learning. They could even write their reflection on the back of their flip book.

Wahlah! You took a risk and tried something new! You gave your students choice, allowed them to collaborate, and had them reflect on their learning.  Now it’s your turn! What went well? What could you tweak? How did your students respond? Take a moment to reflect on your lesson. Ask yourself how you could give your students more choice, time to collaborate, and reflect on their learning.

Making the shift from the teacher and teaching to the student and learning is a process. My suggestion here is just a step in the right direction. It's only a start. There's so much to learn! Challenge yourself to start on this journey!

I would love to know what you're doing to move towards a more student-centered classroom. Tell me how it's going! For those of you that would like a great book to read with tons of examples and explanations, I'll recommend Learn Like A Pirate by Paul Solarz. His expertise and insights will give you a glimpse of what a classroom focused on learning vs. teaching looks like and can be.