Tag Archives: #teaching

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

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You may have heard the phrase… “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.”  It was true… until my sabbatical.  What is a sabbatical you may be asking?  It is a time to reflect, a time to renew, a time to reenergize, and a time to start fresh…
Some spend time during sabbatical researching, writing books, focusing on different work, and/or relaxing on location.  It provides an opportunity to try something new and to stretch professionally in ways that have been imagined during stressful days…or unimagined.  My imagination originally directed me toward writing a book and relaxing. At least that was what I imagined when my sabbatical seemed far off.   As my sabbatical began approaching my imagination had a new image in mind, which would require an intense amount of time, energy, and emotion. You see my sabbatical experience took on a life of its own in a PK-2 school teaching English learners full-time.  Yes, that’s right – full-time.  I became a teacher, a caretaker, an advocate, …  full-time.  There were days that I laughed so much my cheeks hurt.  There were days that I cried so much my eyes hurt.  I became 100% invested in my opportunity to change lives.  I thank my colleagues for allowing me to step away from my position on campus to walk in the shoes of an EL teacher.

What did I learn from my experience?  Well, some of you have been reading updates of my adventures throughout the past few months and want to know – so here goes:

Teaching strategies…sure
Implementing best practices…you bet
Assessments and data mining…check

But there really is so much more…

*Life is bigger than any one person or job.

*Giving to others fills up the soul with joy and sparkles and feelings of nice.

*Learning English can be fun!

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*Go on a letter hunt instead of a bear hunt!

*Be kind.  Everyone has struggles.  Don’t judge theirs…it’s not your job or mine.

*Work hard, play hard.  Enjoy life and work.

*Be with family no matter what you are doing.

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*Not to clean the house sometimes when it is important and to clean it when it is important and to know the difference.  If that doesn’t make sense, it may someday.

*Rest does not necessarily happen on the couch or with a nap.  Energize the soul to feel rested.

*Incremental rehearsal works.

*Take risks – appropriately of course.

*SIOP is for all teachers and learners.

*Don’t be late to the teachers’ lounge on sunshine treat days… you will never get it back.
This is a lesson learned long ago but needed to be revisited.

*Candy is still a tactful way to bribe learners to do their best – whether youth or adults.

*Keep learning, trying, and growing. Stay curious.

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*Field trips are exciting at any age.

*Learn another language – and keep using it.

*Observations do not have to be scary when you are in it to grow and be better than you were before.

*Teaching is more than what the written curriculum is and what the lesson plans say… it is about caring and sometimes saving.

*Forget the small stuff – even though it may feel big sometimes. Learn to let go.

*If I have the necessities and the greatest gift, love, I have all things.

*Professional Development should be lifelong.  Never stop learning.

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*Snow days are nature’s way of giving us a break from the pressure. Still love them at my age!

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*Sometimes kids need a hug.  Sometimes kids need clothes.  Sometimes kids need food.

*Do not be an island.

*Learn about someone else.  Take a sincere interest to learn about him or her – culture, religion, language, …favorite color.

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*Culturally responsive teaching makes a difference.

*Brain breaks and a little dancing can do us all some good. Just move it!

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*Missing addends are important to know but learning manners trumps that. Please and thank you can make all the difference.

*Food on the table each day for each student is not always a true statement.

*Hugs and smiles can fix tons and keep the world going around.

*Be flexible…things may change and that is a constant.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect to be great as long as “I do my best” in the words of a certain kindergarten teacher at Park Side. 🙂

*Be humble and kind.

*Be passionate and positive, not stressed and negative. Change will happen either way.

*Just like the saying, “Students will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”


I was truly humbled by my sabbatical experience.  I taught children. They are smart. They are bright. They are kind. They want to learn and grow. They happen to be learning English as an additional language to their native tongue. They taught me just as much as I taught them – if not more.

Some of these children had food.  Some of these children did not.  Some of these children had a fresh change of clothing.  Some of these children did not. Some of these children received hugs at home. Some of these children did not. Each day I gave what I could to these children – from the alphabet and numbers to a bag of food and clothes.  I consider all of these children “my kids.”  My own children at home have learned as much as I have during this sabbatical experience about giving to others and resigning from judgment of others.  All of these children have a special place in my heart for the lessons they have taught me.

My goals were so grand in my sabbatical plan…
but I learned so much more than any plan I could create.

Some One must have had this plan for me…
Live – Laugh – Love – repeat… and to share this wise advice with others.

Helping children in need doesn’t have to happen across the globe.
It can happen right here, right now.

During my sabbatical experience, I was often smiling at all the possibilities there were to help others.  I hope to take this – along with all the lessons learned – to campus with me as I return to teach and guide the next generation of teachers.  No pressure but the world is counting on them.

 

A special thank you goes out to Ms. Prior for creating the video and teaching me a thing or two while I mentored her during student teaching. Good luck in your new position as an EL teacher. Take care of “our” kids.

Stay Calm & Live Life, Laugh Often, Love Much!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

 

Trick or Treat…Spell and Read…Give Me Something Good to Teach

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So we already know that we teach learners and not subjects.  It is a tricky question when someone asks a teacher “What do you teach?”  The answer is very simply “learners.”  It is easy to think “social studies” or “math”… but it is always “learners” first.  So something good to teach?  You bet – our kids!  Now what to teach and how to teach is a different question… In a world of canned curriculum and a sea of sailing ships of educational trends, it can be tough to decide if it is a trick or treat when it comes to knowing what is best for our kids (aka – learners).

Recently I had the privilege of attending the Minnesota English Learner Education Conference (MELEd) with colleagues from Marshall Public Schools.  Some of you may be thinking “privilege” might be stretching the truth some, but it is so true!  (I know; I know… I am completely addicted to learning.  But would you want a teacher any other way?! 🙂 )

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The sessions that I attended focused on best practices based on research to use in our teaching repertoire.  One of the top sessions in my humble opinion was on the topic of differentiation for linguistically diverse students.  Amy Faust Fraser, WIDA expert, shared with the attendees a variety of ways to differentiate for English learners considering the literacy domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  What was really great about this hands-on session was that differentiation helps to support English learners as well as all learners.  One concrete example was how graphic organizers support the WIDA ELD (English Language Development) standards in our teaching.  For example, the Venn Diagram allows learners to compare and contrast two entities. Ms. Fraser provided examples of incorporating the diagram into social and instructional language, the language of language arts, the language of mathematics, the language of science, and the language of social studies.  It is more than just implementing an organizer.  It is about appropriately matching it to the content, the language, and the learner.

Another great take-away from this session was creating a class portrait and student portraits using the WIDA Can Do Descriptors based on ACCESS scores – and knowing who our students are.  EL teachers can collaborate with classroom teachers to provide a list of supporting strategies by the literacy domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).  These portraits should include assets, contributions, and potential for learners.  This provides insight for the teacher as well as the learner as it is important for each student to recognize strengths and challenges as well as help set personal goals.

Speaking of challenges and goals… Dr. Cari Maguire presented a session that discussed linguistic scaffolds for writing language objectives, highlighting expressive language.  Basically, language objectives address how students are learning concepts considering the literacy domains: reading, writing, speaking, and listening while scaffolding provides learners with stepping stones to climb the hill of learning.  The goal here is that teachers – whether EL teachers or classroom teachers – should be aware of more than the content of their teaching.  We need to know how students are using their literacy skills to learn.  Language objectives look something like this… “Learners will (active verb phrase) using (language target).”  The more concisely we can state what learners are expected to do and how, the more learners will flourish in our classrooms.  That is simply the trick to teaching – learnings flourishing in our classrooms – and it is a special treat when it happens for them all.

The conference highlighted many best practices based on research.  I recommend it for any colleagues looking to learn more teaching English learners – and that’s no trick! 😉

Stay Calm & Teach On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

Teaching 101

So after 18 years in education, I attended “new teacher” workshops to start off my 19th year. You see I am on sabbatical this fall to rejuvenate, relearn, and renew. I am headed back to the classroom after almost seven years away to restock my teacher toolkit and soul. I will be an EL – English Learner teacher for the Marshall Public School district. I am so pumped up for this as I join this classy group of “new” teachers pictured here.

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So what is new or what is important to renew in the teacher toolkit? LOTS! You may find blog posts this fall to read somewhat like a journal entry in the life of a new teacher. 😉

First impressions are important. They can be lasting. If it bombs, however, it can be changed… but it is no longer a first impression of course. 😉 This summer I had the privilege of attending a session with Justin Patton. Incredible experience! If you ever have an opportunity to hear Justin speak or be coached by him, you will not regret it! Some takeaways to consider… We are all just people so we live and learn and sometimes change. We need to do our best to respect others and forgive them for messing up as we hope the favor is returned in kind. No matter if the first impression is stellar or not, communicate honestly and build authentic relationships with people as we are all on this adventure together. Make your presence count. One of my favorite quotes from Justin and now one of my own mantra phrases – “Take responsiblilty for the energy you show up with!” Okay – I am pretty fired up about Leading with Head & Heart so look for more on this in upcoming posts. I hope to share this with my students and fellow staff-mates. Now – back to school, folks…

The cycle of morale exists somewhat for all levels of experience in education and possibly other career fields, too. In the new teacher workshops, the Director of Teaching & Learning shared a great visual about the phases of the school year in the life of a teacher.

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When searching for the image, I stumbled across this one as well. Made me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul and morale.

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There are highs and lows in school and in life. Be there to support others and know that “this too shall pass” is a phrase to live by. Laughter is inexpensive medicine to cure the “common cold” in education, too.

Knowing the cycle – continue to learn and grow – and not because you are told to do so, but instead learn and grow because you know it makes you whole. Here is just one example… For any teachers out there who make it to MEA break, join this Pirate crew if you can!

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It’s critical to remember that we teach kids not content. As much as I love me some good content, it’s the kids who matter and will remember. I received two fabulous reminders of who great teachers are and what they do because they care.

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Thanks to Principal Darci Love for sharing “Great Teachers….” with me this week.

Thanks also goes to Director Amanda Granger, who shared about standards-based grading this week and reminded me it’s up to all of us to repair the broken…

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I could really jump on the soapbox here with grades, but I will hold off for another time to “fix” that. My teacher candidates have heard some ranting and raving about this before. I am passionate about kids and not grades, I guess. (I know there are some of you out there who cringe at the word “kids” so insert your own words; I like it.) Another saying that I really like was tweeted out by our very own Dr. Wendy this week. It is so, so true.

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So to recap because I lost track… kindness and communication matter, continuing to learn and grow matter, and having hope and spirit matter. So what else have I learned?
Take care… and take a nap. We should really be learning from our kids’ habits. They nap and are like the Energizer Bunny. Wherever, whenever (it is legal) – take a nap. There is no warrior badge for the teacher who goes without a nap, a message, leisure reading, … The list goes on and on. Teachers don’t keep up like the Energizer Bunny if they skip over enjoying some of that list. That list is actually called life. Teaching can consume the teacher, and what’s left isn’t a pretty picture. Love yourself so you can love others.

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This could go on and on but frankly, I’m exhausted from the week and all the adrenaline in this anticipation phase. My no-longer-21-year-old self can’t keep up quite the same as when I started almost two decades ago. But that’s okay because I love what I do, I love the people I serve… and I love a rare nap much more than I ever thought I could when I was forced to take them as a toddler.

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Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

10 Reading Strategies for Use in Any Classroom

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Reading is one of the three critical pieces of learning; reading, writing, and discussion, as proposed by Mike Schmoker, are “…the foundation for a well-equipped mind: the key to equity, access, and economic opportunity” (2006, p.72).


The following are useful B-D-A strategies to use in any classroom:

Before Reading Strategies: used to motivate, build and activate prior knowledge, introduce vocab, and develop metacognitive awareness (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz, 2011).

1—Anticipation Guide

2—ReQuest

3—Story Impressions

 

During Reading Strategies: used to connect reader to text with structured guidance so students distinguish importance between ideas, understand relationships, and activity respond to meaning (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz, 2011).

4—Discussion Web

5—Admit Slip/Ticket to Enter

6—Guided Reading Procedure (GRP)

 

After Reading Strategies: used to clarify and extend emerging concepts (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz, 2011).

7—Save-the-Last-Word-for-Me

8—RAFT

9—Reciprocal Teaching

 

Drum roll, please…

10—Spread the wealth to others… share our blog and read again!
Happy Reading!

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

What Happens When a Retired State Trooper Becomes a Substitute Para?

http://www.cafepress.com/
              http://www.cafepress.com/

Had coffee the other day with a friend who recently retired from the Minnesota State Highway Patrol. She had a 3D retirement party—Dining, Dancing, and Donuts. Go figure. 🙂

Anyway, she shared that she was just finishing up a nine week substitute job as a paraprofessional. That made the ‘ole eyebrows shoot straight up!

Really??

She was working with a few young children who needed a para with them because of possible seizures. She was also working with other children with special needs.

Her stories brought some belly laughter and also a few tears. Educators beware…honesty is shared here and some of her words may offend you.

Her first story was about a little cherub who experienced seizures. She shared:

“I’d rather go to a car crash site any day, than to watch a four year old have a full blown seizure. That was a tough situation to witness! I had just visited with this little girl about having to go back into the building soon, and she went to the top of the slide one more time, waved at me, then collapsed.

Right there at the top of the slide.

I hustled up there to get her, and carried her down. The school nurse made the call to wait just a little longer than the three minutes of seizing before giving her medication. Shortly after that time frame she came out of it. Thank goodness I was able to climb up the jungle gym. The other teacher was unable to make it up there.”

Teacher candidates…have a plan! If you are unable, for any reason, to climb up steps to get a student off the play set, have a plan. Who will you ask to help you? How will you get that child down? Having a plan in any type of emergency situation will prevent chaos later.

One student this trooper-turned-para was assisting was extremely naughty. Totally out-of-control behavior. Without thinking she asked the classroom teacher, “Where’s your Taser?” She was kidding of course. 🙂

Teacher candidates…what intervention ideas do you have up your sleeve for students with exceptionalities? A Taser is not an option. A website that is a great resource for you can be found at www.interventioncentral.org. This website offers academic interventions, behavior interventions, and tutorial videos. It is worth a visit!

When lunch time rolled around, this retired highway patrol sat in her vehicle and ate her lunch alone two days of the week. She found the teacher’s lounge to be a tad unfriendly and negative. She admitted:

“This was my first time working with all women. I was used to working with guys only. Not one of those ladies would talk to me. When a few of the paras did speak a few words to me, they questioned how much money I was making. I responded with, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t ask.’”

Teacher candidates…be cautious of the teachers’ lounge. National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association (1987) reported that if you are in a positive mood and you walk into a negative place, it will take a mere 7 seconds to become negative yourself. Do not let that happen! Be the change agent in that lounge!

One little girl the trooper/para worked closely with had gotten blue marker on her nose. It was the end of the day and this little girl did NOT like having her face washed so battles were picked, and the marker on the nose was left alone. When trooper/para took the little girl to meet her mom, she apologized for the marker on the little girl’s nose, explained the situation, and left it at that. The next day, trooper/para had to report to the Director of Special Education. The director explained that the parent had sent an email demanding that her daughter be cleaned up every day. Well, the retired trooper, not even thinking of the marker, asked, “I’ve never gone into the bathroom with her. How do I make sure she is cleaned up?” After finding out that the mother meant the marker NOT toileting help, trooper/para let the director know she had apologized to the parent the day before. When the director heard this, she stated she would take care of it.

Teacher candidates—most parents are your allies. Some will complain now and then, however, for the most part, they want to be helpful. Remember, your students are number one in the eyes of their moms and dads. Parents just want the best for their children! Do your best, and remember QTIP when it comes to parent comments…Quit Taking It Personally!

With no teacher training whatsoever, this retired trooper was expected to teach one of her students how to do math, and the math curriculum used was head-scratching confusing. Unfortunately, the classroom teacher made it clear that she did not want to deal with the math skills of this student. Trooper-turned-para was slightly upset about this. Her explanation was:

“My perception of this specific teacher was she was passing the buck. What do I know about teaching? I was a state trooper not a teacher. She was expecting me, the para, to do her job. It was her responsibility to teach the math, not mine.”

Teacher candidates—please remember you are the teacher. Your para is there to assist you in many ways, however, paras should not be doing your duties. Treat them respectfully, and, most importantly, thank them often! Do your job, teacher candidates, and do it well!

The retired trooper friend concluded the conversation with how this subbing experience opened her eyes and her heart. She acknowledged, “It is always good to walk in someone else’s shoes. I’ve gained a renewed respect level for the teachers and paras who do this work every single day.”

To all teachers and paras, we thank you for the extraordinary tasks you accomplish every single day. Thank you! Thank you for your hard work and dedication to all those children you serve!

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

*Powerful Communication Skills for Women, (1987). National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association, A Division of National Seminars, Inc., Overland Park, KS

Staying Connected: The Weekly Parent Newsletter 2.0

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                itunes

Harry and Rosemary Wong’s new book, The Classroom Management Book, lays out step-by-step directions on how to teach, rehearse, and reinforce procedures in the classroom. Our SMSU teacher candidates just finished reading about these procedures and then taught their peers about many of the procedures using the jigsaw method.

One procedure discussed was the Home School Connection chapter and how to stay in contact with parents. As parents and as a teachers, we concur that it is vital to keep the parent communication lines open. Involving stakeholders is critical for the success of the student…for the success of the school.

One way to stay in contact with parents is through a weekly newsletter. This newsletter can take on many forms…a note sent home in the backpack, a blog post, a tweet, or a Facebook update just to name a few. The form is not so critical; the important piece is to stay connected.

Thanks to second grade teacher @Webers2ndGrade for sharing a brand new way to send a newsletter to parents using an iPad app called Shadow Puppet Edu. Mrs. Weber’s second graders used this medium to share their weekly activities with their parents. First, they chose pictures of what they had done in their classroom that week, and then they used the voice over to narrate each picture. Once the process was complete, Mrs. Weber’s second graders tweeted it out for the parents to read. Check it out here: @Webers2ndGrade Newsletter.

Teachers can use this app to stay connected to their parents. These newsletters could be tweeted, put on the class webpage, or the class Facebook page. Principals could use this app to stay connected to their teachers. Shadow Puppet Edu could be used to make announcements in the morning, or to showcase teacher accomplishment. The possibilities are endless.

What are ways that you could use this iPad app? How do you stay connected with your stakeholders – parents or teachers or students?

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Seven Pillars of Active Listening

google images, not our dog
                 google images, not our dog

Have you ever been in the middle of an intense conversation with a close friend, when all of a sudden her phone rings and she answers it? Or her text message beep goes off so she picks up her phone to read it? (No idea where Wendy is getting her stuff here…never happens! 🙂 )

We must confess. WE have been that friend sometimes. We are trying so hard to become better conversationalists by ignoring our phones when visiting with others.

A radio station was discussing the topic of listening on the air the other day, and a suggestion given to us on the other side of the radio was to use the acronym “W.A.I.T.” when having a conversation with another person. W.A.I.T. stands for Why Am I Talking? It’s a good reminder to us to remember that actively listening is way more important than actively talking.

So how can all of us become better listeners? Below are seven suggestions to practice so that we can get better at the skill of listening. We call these the 7 Pillars of Listening:

Pay attention by making direct eye contact, and lean in toward the speaker. Try not to send a non-verbal signal depicting you are not interested in what the speaker is saying such as sitting with your arms crossed in front of you (even if it is super cold in the room and you left your parka at home). Smile at the speaker and nod occasionally to send the message “yes, I am sincerely interested in what you have to say.”

Avoid distractions by turning off cell phones, iPads, radios, or televisions. Sit close to the speaker or shut the door if needed. There are too many “squirrels” or “shiny” things to distract you in the world without adding your own devices to the story.

Paraphrase what you heard the speaker say. Quiz your understanding by repeating the information in your own words. Paraphrasing will give more depth and breadth to your comprehension of the words spoken. An example of a paraphrase may begin like “What I heard you say is…Is that correct?”

Ask questions to clarify any uncertainties you may have. Questions should be open-ended, non-judgmental, and non-threatening. You may want to ask questions such as “What did you mean when you said…?” or “How did that make you feel?”

Do not interrupt the speaker unless you need to paraphrase, ask a question or clarify what was said. Any type of interruption can be extremely frustrating to the speaker and can send the negative message that what the speaker is saying is not important to you. We have all wanted to add our two-cents worth when others are talking, however, we must restrain from jumping in with our thoughts and comments. Silence is golden!

Empathy is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “understanding of another’s situations, feelings, and motives.” Try to place yourself in the speaker’s shoes and ask yourself “what would I do in this situation?” Be aware of your own emotions and opinions and know that you may disagree with what is being said. Avoid being critical. Acknowledge what the speaker has to say and keep an open mind and an open heart!

Honor any time restraints that may exist. You may have limited time to listen and the person needing you to listen may also have limited time to speak. If you know there will be issues with time simply say, “I have a meeting in 30 minutes. What you have to say is important to me, so if we run out of time, I’d like to continue this conversation on such and such a date at such and such time.” Or, ask the speaker if there are any time restrictions he/she has that you should be aware of. This sends the positive message that you truly care.

The term listen is a verb and verbs are doing words—they demand action. Be quick to listen and slow to speak! Let’s become role models for all people we know by putting into practice the seven pillars of active listening. Too often we might hear in the classroom, “please listen” or “you need to listen more carefully” without the proper modeling and explicit instruction that is needed. Thanks for listening!

Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.  ~Sue Patton Thoele

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Let’s Chat Naked

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Stopped by the Family Aquatic Center to say hello, and the picture above is what we walked in on. So without thinking, we blurted out “Let’s chat naked.” Yes, every single one of those kids stopped doing whatever it was they were doing with their cell phones and looked up at us. A miracle…they looked up from their phones. Now we had their attention. “Let’s chat…face-to-face. Let’s chat naked,” we suggested.

One of the girls smiled at us and said she had heard the saying of ‘going to a meeting naked’ where no lap tops, iPads, or smartphones were allowed. Hmm…now that’s an interesting concept we think we should try.

We chatted, briefly, and then they all went back to their phones. Made us think of a YouTube video we just watched on someone’s Facebook page the other day called “Look Up From Your Phone.” It’s worth the five minutes it takes to watch it.

In Abraham Lincoln’s closing remarks to Congress in December, 1892, he wisely recommended that we all rise to the occasion even if “the occasion is piled high with difficulty.” That can certainly apply to the use of cell phones in a classroom, can’t it? Even if your students are using cell phones when you think they shouldn’t be, maybe it’s time we teachers rise to the occasion and figure out HOW to use them in class rather than HOW to abandon their use.

Below are five ways we have discovered to be useful when using the cell phone in class:

  1. Poll your students on their opinions. Polleverywhere.com  is a great resource for this. For example we’ve used Polleverywhere.com to poll our Intro to Education students on WHY they want to become teachers, which leads to great face-to-face discussion in class
  2. Ask a question of your students and have all students ‘Tweet’ their answer to a special Twitter account set up just for your class. For example, we could ask our students to name five assessment tools used in schools or ask the students who is the author of a certain children’s book and they tweet their answer to us. The tweets then lead to outstanding ‘naked’ conversation.
  3. Place QR codes throughout your presentation. Students pull out their phones to “follow” your presentation and lesson. It helps with all of the “extras” that may not be shared during the class because of time restraints. It can also be a place for students to go for their assignments.
  4. Students can use their phones to record a lesson or presentation to share with the class. It can also be used to self-assess a presentation. Students can then upload their video to Youtube and let the learning go viral.
  5. Take a fieldtrip with the phone! If you can’t go somewhere, bring the somewhere to you. Students can Facetime with primary sources—aka people—instead of just reading it on the Internet (or find it in a book…the thing with pages on their desk).

Just like the comment “let’s chat naked” caused all six of those kids to look up from their cell phone, using the cell phone as a teaching tool can enhance face-to-face dialogue. Meaningful discussions will augment our classroom teaching. Using the cell phone in our teaching can aid with the discussion process, which in turn will increase student learning. And that, fellow educators, is what teaching is all about.

What are some ways that you are using a mobile device in your classrooms?

 

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

 

Rev Up Your Year – Full Throttle Ahead

Google Images
Google Images

An indication that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is coming to a close is when you see packs of motorcycles heading east on Interstate 90 in South Dakota. I actually just witnessed that scenario the other day while driving the car to Sioux Falls. I thought to myself “huh, they are all going the wrong way…must be over.”

Sturgis, South Dakota, with a measly population of 6,600, grows exponentially usually the first week in August, sometimes topping 500,000 people. Individuals from all walks of life ride their bikes out to Sturgis to check out the festivities. (Some people haul their bikes out on trailers then ride when they get there…does that count?). 😉  I know a family from the Sturgis area that rents their home out to a doctor from New York during the week of the bike rally and this family gets an astronomical amount of money for that week. Wow…things that make you go ‘hmmm.’ 🙂

Have you ever been to Sturgis? I have. Just passed through so I can say I’ve been there. That brief time was enough for me, though. Maybe you are one who stays for the whole week. If you are that person, then you know you are ‘revved’ up to get to Sturgis and you go ‘full throttle ahead’ to get there.

Doesn’t that paint a picture of what the beginning of the school year is like? Whether you are a teacher or a principal, aren’t you ‘revved up’ to get started and you go “full throttle ahead’ to get ready for the school year? I know I do. Every year is that way for me. A new beginning is always exciting and I actually enjoy the preparation.

Below are some ways that will rev you up to get your new school year going full throttle ahead:

  • Personal Space – Just like your motorcycle is your personal space, how will you arrange and organize your personal space at school? How will you polish and shine what is yours to make it stand out above all others? Where would you like your desk? Where would you like your materials? Others’ materials? What do you want on your walls? How about your space on the computer? Email all ready to go? How about your class/school webpage? Are you a blogger? Would you like to start? Go to wordpress.com to learn more.
  • Surroundings Awareness – Becoming familiar with the best route to take when traveling to Sturgis was a must. Same goes for school. Get familiar with your building. Where is the copy machine? Do you have a code for it? Where are materials located such as construction paper? Become best friends with the school office administrator, the custodians, the cooks. Does the maintenance crew want your chairs up when they sweep your classroom? How do you ask for help when a repair is needed? Will the cooks allow you to use any of the kitchen equipment for a special project? Do they expect you to help in the lunch room?
  • Leadership Plan – Did you travel to Sturgis with a group? Were you in charge of the trip? Transfer that thought over to school. How will you manage your time? How will you prioritize? Do you know what to do in case of a crisis such as a tornado drill or a sudden death? Is your plan ready to go? Continue to add to your plan as the year progresses. There’s a good chance you will be initiated by fire.
  • First Day Jitters – Once you arrived in Sturgis, did you know what you planned to do that first day? What will you do on the first day at school? Will you be nervous? Probably a little. Get a good nights’ sleep if possible. Drink a glass of tart cherry juice before bedtime. Tart cherry juice has melatonin in it to help aid sleep. Eat a good breakfast the first day. A Green Monster Smoothie is delicious and nutritious. See the recipe below. Leave home with a positive attitude. Build relationships. Greet people at the door. Wear a smile. Actively listen to others. Use icebreakers. Check out the link for many many icebreaker ideas. Read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. Green Monster Smoothie Recipe: 1 cup spinach, 1 cup frozen kale, 1 cup unsweetened Coconut Milk, 1 scoop of Strawberry Slim Fast Powder, ½ frozen banana sliced, 1 kiwi fruit peeled and diced, a handful of frozen cranberries, 1 tbsp flaxseed meal. Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour over ice and sip through a straw. Enjoy.
  • Expectations – Were there certain expectations that you had before, during, and after being at Sturgis? Now that you are home from your bike rally trip, did you visit with others on how the trip went? At school, what expectations do you have of yourself? Of others? How will you behave? How do you expect others to behave? How will you dress? How do you expect others to dress? Are you a good role model? Do you depict best practices? Become a reflective practitioner. At the end of each day, reflect on what went well, and what needs improvement. What do students expect of YOU, their leader? Watch and listen to find out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K96c-TGnSf4
  • Make Connections – From the picture above, it’s easy to see that there were hundreds of thousands of bikes and folks at Sturgis. Connections are easy to make when you surround yourself with that many people. Do the same at school. Connect with the students, the staff, the parents, and anyone else you know who are associated with your school. How can you connect? Get to know people on a personal basis. Remember “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Appreciate others, respect others, show others they matter. Connect with others via Twitter. Join a PLN. Actively participate in live Twitter chats. A few we recommend are #tlap and #nbtchat. Once connections are made, all else will fall into place.

This list is by no means complete. There are many more creative ways to get revved up for the school year. Please add to this list by commenting below. Whether you proudly ride a Harley or lead on a Honda (…or ride a Trek or Schwinn 🙂 ), go full throttle ahead with these ideas. It will make for a great year exponentially. When you are all revved up and ready to go for this school year, please, just keep your hands on the handlebars at ALL times! 🙂 Stay in control…

Have a fun year and enjoy the ride. Let that bike roar.

 

Julie Carrow
Photo Credit: Julie Carrow

 

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

100 Years

It is Teacher Appreciation Week this week, and we certainly appreciate our teacher candidates!! It’s hard to believe another academic year is coming to a close with finals week and commencement this weekend.

This is always a bitter-sweet time for us ol’ profs. We are elated to have “passed” yet another year. We are excited for all of our teacher candidates’ accomplishments and for them to begin their next chapter. On the contrary, we are sad to see our seniors go! During the busyness of the end of the semester, it is easy to get caught up in our to-do lists and forget what this means.

What does it mean? It means it is time for us to take the next giant leap. It is time to get ready for the next set of intriguing minds. It is time to shape yet another bunch of teacher candidates to work hard and do their very best.

One way our teacher candidates showcase their very best is through an Action Research project— a project carried out over the course of the academic year. Our teacher candidates were paired with area classrooms, selected a topic of study, thoroughly researched it, carried out the action for a specific outcome, and then reported their findings in a poster presentation grand finale. One of our teacher candidates stated “these poster presentations are like the Emmys of our education program.” Yes, we rolled out the red carpet for our kids. 🙂

Action Research provides our teacher candidates opportunities of growth and change based on literature and research. It involves meeting students where they are, and helping them to learn and grow. A few of the Action Research topics this spring included:

The Effects Recess has on Fifth and Sixth Grade Students’ Behaviors
~Researched by: Tyler Glynn

The Impact Written Feedback Has on Student Improvement in Mathematics
~Researched by: Ms. Katie Kienitz

The Effects of Teacher and Student Feedback on Lessons and Homework
~Researched by: Ms. Morgan Peterson

The list of great research goes on…. Great job, Action Researchers!

              

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Action Researchers

Keep on keepin’ on, action researchers, and keep on keepin’ on graduates. Every day is a new day…a gift! Each day brings us a chance to change and make improvements in our teaching. The journey lasts a lifetime, and the future is counting on all of us. “100 Years…there’s never a wish better than this.”

 

Stay Calm & Lead On!

Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.