Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day 13: Name the 5 top edtech tools you use on a consistent basis, and rank them by their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

#5. Elmo
I will never forget the first time I heard about an Elmo or document camera. It was truly a turning point in educational technology. It was the first step towards creating a tool that allowed a teacher to engage students in a new way. Students could now project their work onto a screen and examine their thinking, share their writing or ask the class for help. They could share a passage from their book and point directly to the language they wanted to speak to. Not to mention, no more overhead projector and transparencies...woo hoo! I thought I would never have access to such a useful and exciting innovation. When I returned from a two-year maternity leave though, I came back to a classroom that was not only equipped with an Elmo but an interactive white board as well. In just two short years, the Elmo was being bypassed by other tools. While I don't use my Elmo as much as I had first imagined, it's benefits are still impacting my teaching and the way I am able to engage my students to share their thinking and work.

#4. Cell Phones
While I know cell phones are still viewed with trepidation in the classroom, especially in middle school, I have tried to demystify them for my students. When you tell a student that they have to keep them in their locker or not even allow them in the building, they are devalued and students aren't asked to maximize the potential that they hold.  We use our phones to take photos of our work, research a question, email reminders, write a blog post or upload media to WeVideo. They are time savers not the time wasters they have been cast as. And when a student commits a social cell phone faux pas, I use it as a teachable moment in using that powerful tool in a responsible and respectful manner.  Lord knows, they aren't going anywhere. 

#3. Chromebooks
I haven't had my Chromebooks (CBs) for a full semester and they are already an integral part of my teaching. Gone are the days of scheduling precious computer lab time or feeling guilt over how many days I had reserved the laptop carts. What a difference it is not having that one layer of stress (in a profession that has too many layers and new ones continued to be added) in my day. Being able to integrate technology and give students the time they need to work in class instead of outside is a relief for us all. It allows for more time for instruction on how to use a particular application, troubleshoot, and then go beyond the basics. My mantra with students is that, "You can't break Google." This a line used to encourage their curiosity and asks them to delve into the apps we use without my direction. Some would but lots wouldn't. Having CBs allows us to explore a bit more together in order to get them comfortable enough to venture on their own. I'm hoping to see a big difference in having CBs in my room this year, for a full year, and seeing students ease with the technology grow and deepen each quarter.

#2. Google Apps For Education (GAFE)
When I found out that my district had secured a domain using GAFE, I was beyond excited. I and a few other teachers across the district knew the potential they held and begged for the chance to begin using them with our students.  Student accounts were configured, and a page had been turned in my teaching. I used the final days of my summer participating in a digital workshop on using Google Sites to create student portfolio websites. I now had digital tools available to both me and my students that would allow for work that I had only dreamed of. I had two administrators observing that first class in the computer lab as I asked students to log in to their Google accounts. Easier said than done. It took forever troubleshooting, resetting passwords, and translating to my ELL students who didn't speak any English. A more sane teacher would have called it quits right then. But I am a true glutton for punishment.  And as I look back on that frustrating and comical start, I am amazed at how far we have come as a GAFE school district. More and more teachers are taking advantage of the usefulness in asking their kids to utilize these tools. This year, I learned, that our district will be making a move towards all students having a portfolio website. It makes all of the wondering I've done about if the work my students and I have been engaged in has all been worth it evaporate, and I'm pretty proud of what we have accomplished together.

#1. Promethean Board
As I said before, returning to the classroom after a two-year leave, I discovered I would have an interactive white board or Promethean Board. Luckily I had gone to check out my classroom in early August and saw it mounted on my wall. I couldn't believe it. Yes, I was happy to see such a surprise, but I also couldn't figure why no one had bothered to tell me. I soon realized there was no training being planned for me. Geez, I didn't even know how to turn the thing on.  Panicked and determined not to look stupid in front of my students, I was fortunate to find a workshop being offered at another school that was giving a basic training. I signed up and left with so many ideas of how I could engage my students. There are so many bells and whistles (literally and figuratively) that I still feel after three years of teaching with my Promethean Board that I know I have only scratched the surface. But the power of being able to save my students' thinking, pull it up on another day, or show one class' thinking to another (sometimes even different years) has added a depth to my teaching that I could not live without.  It allows us to utilize different forms of media to inspire us and to enrich us. I am sure in 10 years I will have an even more amazing version of it, but for now I can't imagine teaching without it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Taking a break from the blogging challenge so that I can think through one of my classes yesterday. It was one of those classes that you wish you could hit pause and then rewind and try again.  There was a small vocal minority of the class that were behaving in a way that, I felt, was rude and disrespectful. And I let them get the better of me.

I have expressed how challenging this year feels. Class sizes are larger and student needs are diverse. I am truly taking it day by day. But yesterday afternoon, I was running low on patience and I allowed my attitude to mirror that of those few students who tried to steer class in a different direction.

I have decided that tomorrow I will offer an apology to that class.  First to the majority who sit patiently, who actively and appropriately engage in class, and who not only have to suffer through when other students act up but when I allow those students to upset me.  Why is it so easy to let a few negative people take hold when the majority are positive?  I want those kids to know that I let them down yesterday, and I am going to not do it again.

I am also going to apologize to those that were acting up.  If I expect them to come to class and respectfully interact and participate, then my losing my cool isn't really the best way to model that.  I am sorry for not being able to handle things differently yesterday.  It won't happen again.

I am also going to offer the kids a chance to let me know how they felt about yesterday. I plan to offer them to write me, anonymously if they so choose, about their role in Wednesday's class and what they plan on doing differently. I will begin by offering up my own mea culpa, but I am not taking the full blame.  Everyone one of us who was there contributed to the attitude of the class. From those that chose to not act appropriately to those who gave attention to the negative behavior and, knowingly or not, reinforced and made it acceptable by laughing and smiling.  We all have to commit to making a change or nothing will.

This might sound like a simple discipline issue but for me it is more than that.  I structure my class in ways to try to create a safe community where we can talk and listen to each other. Yesterday was not that. It was uncomfortable and at times disrespectful. At so early a point in the year, I need to see if we can get back on track or else that class might have to look very different from my other three. I don't want to see that happen.

I took this as an opportunity to look back at the evaluation my students last year filled out on me and my class.  I was feeling pretty low yesterday and thought maybe my previous kids would give me some insight into how I might need to make things better this year. I found a lot of great constructive criticism that I had already realized in my own reflection on last year.  The trouble was that the very structures they praised, like the freedom to choose things in my class, are the very things that I am now questioning. Am I throwing the baby away with the bathwater if I make changes due to the actions of a few?  I'm hoping for a redo with this group so that we can move forward and learn from the situation instead of having to create restrictions.

Lastly, looking through last year's evaluations was definitely something that helped to buoy my spirits.  And I want to hold on to all the positive things those kids had to say.  One question had them choose one word to describe me as a teacher.  I created this word cloud to save it as a reminder and not get so discouraged:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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

This question has had me thinking and writing for days. The first day I took the glass-half-empty approach. After 10 minutes I had pages in my notebook railing against NCLB to RTTT, APPR to CCSS, King to Cuomo on to high stakes testing and the decimation of school budgets. I imagined how the effects of all these deforms (yes 'de' not 're') are pushing us further back in time. All of the progress we have made in education over the past 30 years is slipping through our fingers. I imagined all of these data-driven decisions leading us back to tracked classes and teaching at Farnsworth Junior High because our middle school philosophy had been eroded over time.

Then I took a deep breath. I downshifted  into trying a glass-half-full perspective. I imagined those who are speaking up and fighting back actually making progress and turning the tide. I see the focus returning to preparing our students to be better citizens and worthwhile human beings and not simply college and career ready. I envisioned allowing students to be co-collaborators in creating curriculum that is designed to allow them to follow their  passions and pursue their curiosity about the world.  I hope we will be tasking them with improving themselves and our world.

And tonight, I realized something else about the next five years. As I drove home with my husband from our daughters' elementary school's open house, I realized that in five years both my daughters will be with me at the middle school (in my class if you ask them today). This realization made me take another deep breath and hold tight to that glass being half full...for them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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

If you knew the day I had today, you would know how challenging it is to respond to this prompt. But I think that my inability to name a "favorite" part after what felt like a never-ending day, is evidence that teachers can't really have a favorite part. A teacher's day is too unpredictable. The moving parts, that are our students, make feeling totally comfortable in any of it an impossibility. 

I deal in 12-13 year olds. I'm pretty sure it is the most difficult time in life where you are constantly in flux with highs and lows. I never take for granted that I can't count on who is walking through the classroom door. No matter how engaging the lesson, we might be having a bad day.

And so for today, my favorite part is this moment. Sitting on the couch in my sweatshirt and sweatpants typing away this terrible, rotten, no-good very bad day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day 10: 5...4...3...2...1

Share 5 random facts about yourself:
1. I am the 6th of 7 children.
2. I won a singing contest...once.
3. I have been in love with Johnny Depp since I was 12 years old.
4. I have given birth twice but have never experienced labor pains.
5. My daughter's name, Jane Beatrice, is the reverse of what my mom wanted to call me (Beatrice Jane...BJ for short!) but my Grandma Beatrice wouldn't allow it.

Share 4 things from your bucket list:
1. Take my daughters to Disney...I have never been.
2. Go to Paris, France, with my daughters when they are adults.
3. Be within 20 feet of JD. (Maybe in Paris?)
4. Become an avid golfer...once again!

Share 3 things you hope for this year, as a "person" or an educator:
1. Sell my house.
2. Buy a new house.
3. Not to go broke doing #1 or #2.

Share 2 things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator:
1. Cry- Saying goodbye to amazing colleagues as they move on or retire.
2. Laugh- My students make me laugh everyday, and I try to make them laugh.

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you:
That while I can overreact and get over zealous at times, that it comes from a place of true caring for my profession, my colleagues and my students. I can't help it...I love what I do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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

After a very long day of teaching and then Open House with my students' parents, I figured I could use that as an excuse to skip a day in my blogging challenge. Understandable, no?  After all, I had been mulling this prompt over for the past 24 hours and had not been able to come up with a single thing. Teachers usually aren't people who like to toot their own horns.  And even though this prompt suggests writing about something minor, mundane or even silly, I was at a loss. 

Driving home at 8:30 p.m. this evening, it dawned on me that I had discovered what to write about. You see, I have a very real fear of public speaking. Strange, I know, as I have a job that requires me to standup and talk to a group of people. But those people are 12 years old, and that crowd I have no trouble handling. Adults, on the other hand, cause me to tremble, my voice shakes and I have trouble catching my breath. Every year as Open House looms, I try to not think about my fear and tell myself that this year will be fine.

After having a lovely home-cooked meal with my entire team of colleagues, cooked by the one and only Mr. Wolf, I entered FMS and immediately began to feel my heart start to beat a little faster. As I set up the computer display, the adrenaline starts pumping and my hands shakily tap the keyboard.  My mouth runs dry. Here we go again.

I am proud that I am able to make it through Open House each year all the while trying to control the inner panic that tries to take hold. I think I do a pretty good job. But I also know it is because I am surrounded by my amazing teammates, who help me feel safe and secure in the fact that we will get through it together.  It was a very special night that I won't soon forget (even though I am glad it is over).

Monday, September 15, 2014

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

Hmmm.  Today's prompt is tricky because, well, I simply don't have a desk drawer.  When I returned to the classroom in 2010 from my two-year maternity leave, I came back to a room filled with new technology: a Promethean Board, a projector, and a teacher work station that included my desktop computer and an Elmo Projector.

While the teacher station is technically a desk, it has no drawers.  The room did also have a traditional teacher desk.  A big, wooden behemoth that took up a lot of precious space. One of the first things I did that summer before the kids came was ask the custodial staff to remove it.  This helped to open up the room a bit and allow for different configurations of the student desks instead of just having them in rows.

What did I do with my supplies you might ask? I bought baskets and buckets and made them more accessible to my students.  I wanted to make the most of not just the space of but also the time I would have with kids as well.  By allowing things to be more accessible, instead of stored away in my teacher desk drawers, I hoped to show kids I trusted them with the materials that they might need over the course of the year.  I didn't need them to ask permission but rather see what was available at their finger tips, figure out what they needed, and use it.

I have never regretted getting ride of that teacher desk. I have since tried to shed other items in my class that function more as things that take up space versus an item that is truly useful to me and my students. Too much clutter is not conducive to learning.

So what can I infer from my non-existent desk drawer?  I think it conveys that the classroom that I occupy is not merely mine but rather ours.  By including students in the ownership of our space, I hope to show them that I trust them.  And in doing so, they are more mindful of respecting that space. Now don't get me wrong.  They are still 12 and 13 year-olds who need reminding of picking up after themselves, but I like to think they appreciate it anyways.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 7: Colleague who was or is your biggest inspiration

This prompt is simply unfair. If you read yesterday's post then you know there are too many candidates in the running for this.  I thought I might list each name and say one thing about how that person inspires me. Nice thought but reality is that it is Friday after my first full week with all 110 of my students. I think that list would take me more than a day, not to mention I would be terrified of leaving off the name of anyone.  I can just skip this one, right?

But the more I thought and wrote about it in my notebook today, I realized there is one person who I truly look up to, respect, am in awe of, frankly, and who truly inspires me. That person is Alicia Wein. I knew that many of you who might read this would say, "Yeah, Alicia totally inspires me too." So I figured I should take this opportunity to let her know.

I have been lucky to have a relationship with Alicia that has developed over the years in a multitude of ways.  While we didn't first meet until we both applied and were accepted into the Capital District Writing Project, we had been district colleagues for close to five years. But she was in the high school and I was at the middle school and, sadly, our paths never crossed.

Since meeting her, she has been my 2004 CDWP cohort member, Guilderland colleague, Summer Institute co-facilitator, writing group compadre and, most importantly, friend. In all of these roles, I have always been inspired by her. I remember being amazed during our 2004 Summer Institute at her quiet demeanor but impressive intellect. The depth of her thoughtfulness is something I think most people would identify as her best quality among her many others. This is always inspiring.

As her Guilderland colleague, I often think to myself that I am possibly preparing my students in case they have Ms. Wein (who is just one of the talented English teachers that are our GHS English department).  Former students always sing her praises for being that teacher who challenges, engages and makes you enjoy her class.  One student referred to her class as "easy" because she "gives you credit as long as you do the work." What is glossed over in that statement though is the kind of, dare I say, rigorous work that that is demanding and relevant to students' lives. This inspires the kind of lessons and work that I challenge my own students with. Alicia leads by example, and I am truly grateful for all that she has taught and shared with me.

As a friend, she is the consummate good listener. Someone you can vent to, laugh with, cry with and be quiet with. She is, as we say in our writing group, one of my Bi+€#es. 😊 She inspires to me to be a better friend.

I hope you don't mind this love letter, of sorts, Alicia. But you are a true inspiration to me and many of your colleagues and I wanted to be sure you knew.❤️

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 6: What does a good mentor "do"?

Teaching is one of those professions where mentoring happens no matter if you are in your first year or last year. For me, mentoring is a relationship where people support one another, listen to each other and encourage rather than judge.  A relationship where learning occurs.  Sometimes one person might learn more than the other...but I think a good mentor is someone who learns as well.

My first mentors are the exception because neither of us knew that I would take their example and use it as I figured out what kind of teacher I wanted to be.  They were the teachers I had growing up.  While I didn't realize I wanted to teach until college, once I figured it out, I thought often about those adults that had inspired, challenged and engaged me over the years.  Those were my first mentors as I entered into my education classes.  I would remember and then compare them to what I was learning about teaching.  It helped me to confirm what information was true and what might not be. And let's face it.  If you go through school without ever feeling connected to a teacher, chances are you probably won't enter the profession.

It was in college that I encountered my next group of influential mentors:  my professors, supervisors and cooperating teachers.  These educators opened my eyes to all that had changed since I had been in school.  I was exposed to rich texts, resources and so much more than I had encountered in my own education.  They guided and gave me wonderful feedback as I played with ideas and developed my own pedagogy. After graduating and finding a job, I was lucky to have one of my professors as a colleague in my district.  I knew I was in the right place.

As I entered my school building and my 7th grade position 15 years ago, I was surrounded by the most consummate professionals.  Seasoned veterans. Teachers that had cultivated and maintained one of the most touted middle school cultures in the state.

While they served as mentors in my classroom, they also mentored me as a fellow and new union member.  I was lucky to be surrounded by those that were able to share with me the history of how Farnsworth Middle School came to be.  I learned about battles they fought and won to ensure that teachers had a voice when it came to what was right for kids.

It is because of their tutelage in the ways of our union that I felt confident enough to get involved. I stepped up to be our building secretary, which led to a building rep position on our district Representative Council. Those experiences led to me to run for co-building president, where I take a daily active role in representing and fighting for the rights of the teachers in my building.  It is a huge responsibility and one I don't take lightly.  For as I fight for the colleagues I work with each day, I am, too, fighting the fight of those that came before me.  I don't want to let those mentors down.

And after 15 years, I am still in need of mentoring.  For that I look to my friends and colleagues in my building, in my district, and to those in other districts who inspire me to keep working on my craft.  Mentoring is about learning after all.  And whether you know you are my mentor or not, I appreciate the skill and expertise that I am surrounded by.  I can only hope that I have served others as a mentor.  That I have supported, listened and encouraged rather than judge.  For I would not be the teacher I am today without any of those key teaching influences.  And to them, I say thank you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Day 5: What I see and what I don't see in my classroom

I snapped this photo quickly this morning. I thought in order to respond to today's prompt, my classroom wouldn't be my classroom without my students.  It is a totally different space without the energy of the kids. Sort of like walking into an empty church or empty stadium. The quiet just feels too loud. So I hope my kids don't mind me including them.  After all, during our time together it is our room not mine.

The second half of this prompt really stumps me.  I take it as a possible wish list of sorts for the kinds of things I would like to see in my classroom. I have said before that I am see myself as lucky. There are times where I talk to teachers in other districts or in other states who can't believe some of the ways in which I am supported. From our culture to technogy down to our schedule, I know that I have so much provided for me professionally. To ask for more, seems a bit selfish to me. With the hand I've been dealt, I'll stick.

As for what I see? I see writing. Kids writing in their notebooks. Published writing of my former students hung up around the walls. Writing in the form of books that cover the numerous shelves in my room. Writing is at the center of this room.

I see technology that facilitates my instruction in order to be able to reach all the different types of learners in my room. From the Elmo, to the Promethean Board, to the projector to my Chromebooks, I have the gift of many tools at my fingertips. 

I see students sitting together with a selection of various types of seating available to ensure comfort as we work.  This is indicative of the importance of choice in my room. Students choose their seats and who they sit with; it is a struggle at times with 7th graders. I try to use it as one way to teach them the independence and responsibility that they crave. At the same time they are choosing what to write, whether to use my prompt or figure out their own topic.  They choose.

When I look at my room, I am proud of what I see. I have tried to create a space that I want to walk into each day. A place that students look forward coming to. I wonder though, what do you see?  What don't you see?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 4: The part about teaching I love the most

Yesterday, I wrote about how a teacher is evaluated and the nonsense numbers that we earn that compose our evaluation score.  I mentioned how teaching is one of the most humanistic of professions.  In thinking about my post for today, I thought at first I would just speak about my students.  It is that cliche teacher response, but we really are here because of the kids.  But as I continued along that path, I realized that it goes beyond just the kids, although they are at the heart of what we do.

What I truly love the most about teaching are all of the people that are in my life because of the job I have chosen.  I started to think about people who work at a desk, work from home or an office.  Do other professions develop work-based relationships?  Of course. But not in the way that a teacher does. First and foremost are the students, who I spend 10 months with.  Reading with.  Writing with. I get to know them personally through the work that takes place within the classroom.  Through the extra time that I spend with them outside of class.  I am someone that they will take with them as they move on, for better or worse.  I am a part of their experience.  And because of social media, I have been able to keep track of so many more of them.  Watching them to continue to grow and become adults, become the people that I hoped they could be.

I realize that other professions have colleagues that become close.  Maybe even are friends outside of work.  But I think that educators form different kinds of relationships with each other.  I have my building colleagues, my district colleagues, and my CDWP colleagues, who all support me in so many ways. Professionally and personally.  The connections I have made are crucial to the work that I do.  They challenge me, inspire me, and buoy me to in a job that can easily overwhelm an individual.  I am so very lucky to have such an amazing network of people that truly care about me. (If you are one of the ones listed above, thank you!)

Lastly is the community in which I teach.  I work within a culture that has always supported its teachers. We are told in many ways how much the work that we do is valued by all stakeholders. While we are currently in the process of negotiating our teachers contract, I have faith that those sitting at the table will do right by the people who, they say, matter.  Who, they say, are talented, creative, and make a difference in our students' lives.  I can only hope that the resolution aknowledges our passion and dedication for what we do.  (Pardon my soapbox.)

To all of the people who have touched my teaching life:  former teachers, mentors, colleagues, and students, know that I am who I am today because of you.  I am in awe when I think of the sheer number of people who I have forged a connection with over these past 15 years.  Too bad that isn't the number that matters most.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 3: Evaluation

Today's prompt is about which "observation" area I would like to improve upon this year.  While I don't have the rubric right in front of me, I am having trouble with this one.  Not with the idea of improving.  On the contrary. I believe all educators should be deemed "developing", which in our current evaluation system, this term is used in a negative way to mean a teacher is in some way sub-par.  I know that I am always trying to improve in all areas of my teaching.  The fact that I might earn a 4 (highest rating) on some of the areas of the rubric doesn't mean that I check those things off.  I don't say to myself, "Well, I have mastered that!"  Teaching just doesn't work that way.

I wonder why the creators of this challenge had to ask participants to use the rubric they are evaluated by to think of how they wanted to improve.  While most would end up choosing something that could be found there anyway, it gives a little too much power to that document in my opinion.  Any teacher who would take on a #reflectiveteaching blogging challenge probably wouldn't have trouble identifying areas on their own.

There are many things wrong with our current teacher evaluation system.  One of which is that the way in which we are judged by an administrator and the tool that s/he uses to write about our skills as a teacher is diminished once a score is assigned to those areas.  Teaching is the most humanistic of jobs.  We deal in people.  To think that you are able to quantify what we do each day is absurd.  Not to mention that at the end of the day, what s/he believes to be true about a teacher could be trumped by student test scores.  I could be viewed during my observations as a master teacher, but if my students don't perform on test day, that is what matters most.

I'll get off my soapbox for a moment to try to address the prompt. This year, my department is trying to be more aligned in what we teach.  It will involve tough conversations, open-minds and the ability to take a hard look at our own teaching.  I am up for this challenge.  Collaborating with colleagues is dependent on a school culture that encourages and gives time to allow for this kind of work.  I want to make take advantage of the time we are given to learn from my peers and continue to improve upon my curriculum and my teaching.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Day 2: Technology

Day 2 in the blogging challenge asks: write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why.  This should be an easy prompt for me since I integrate technology into each of my units and am always looking for new things to try.  With having Chromebooks for an entire year for the first time though, I am really looking at the edtech I use and how I might really reflect on how we might use it in a better way.  Because we now have a key ingredient that you need in order to be truly successful with technology and that is time.  Gone are the days of fighting for a computer lab.  Fitting it in when we were able.  We will now have the luxury of time to delve a little deeper into our blogs, our portfolio websites, and the many other platforms that we will use to create with this year. Before introducing more technology to my students, I think I want to relish in the time that we will have in the coming months to allow these 7th graders to really feel confident in how they express themselves in each of these digital ways.

Now that we have daily access to the Internet, our Google apps, and critical tools, which is a truly a powerful thing, I want to make sure to stay true to the one technology that never fails: pen and paper.  I want to make sure my classroom is a balance of all the above when it comes to reading and writing. My students will still walk through my door prepared with a folder and a notebook.  A folder to collect the many texts we will read, mark up, argue about, study and discuss at length. Their writer's notebook will still be used for the silent writing time that I will continue to start class with.  My students will grow in their stamina to write and think independently over the next ten months because this kind of work will facilitate the work that they will eventually bring into a digital form.

The one piece of technology that I will be trying with students this year is a new Google app called Classroom. This will be a resource for students to look up assignments, post questions and communicate with both me and their classmates.  My teammates and I are transitioning to Classroom and will no longer maintain our team website. While I am excited about the possibilities with Classroom and the interactive nature that I think students will enjoy, the one drawback is that parents won't have direct access to it.  By 7th grade, students are still trying to learn independence and responsibility with their schoolwork. Gone are their elementary days of the 'take-home' folder, where they would sit and go through their papers with their parents each night.  My hope is that Classroom could be an almost virtual 'take-home' folder for students and their parents with the caveat that a parent must sit down with their child in order to view, since the student has to log into their Google account.  Then they can view and discuss assignments if the need arises.  I will be introducing this new app next week and am excited to show it to students.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 1: Goals for the year

One goal I have this year is to utilize this blog more.  I came across this 30-day blogging challenge for teachers. I thought it was the jump start I needed since my personal challenge is to blog all 180 days of school. A lofty goal, I know, but I am committed to try.

Fittingly, day 1 of the challenge is to write about my goals for the year. As usual I have many and feel as though I am choosing to reinvent my year once again. Despite my 14 years of teaching 7th grade, I simply can't do things like I did the previous year. I feel that each year, my new students deserve more than for me to serve up the same lessons. First because my last-year students end up teaching me so much.  Learning is definitely reciprocal, and I bring into the next year all the successes and flops from the previous year to steer me in a different direction. Second because the students that I will meet tomorrow are all individuals who I will try to get to know and teach them wherever they are at. Since my new kids are not carbon copies of my formers then how could my teaching be?

I also will be starting September with my class set of Chromebooks. Having these tools have allowed me the freedom to not only dramatically rethink my curriculum but are helping me to realize some of my teaching dreams. This year I have the goal of making my student's learning truly personalized as they embark on a year-long inquiry on something they are passionate about. Something they are curious about. Something they will choose to learn more about this year. In doing so, we will use the 7th grade curriculum to further our inquiries culminating in an end-of-the-year project to present our work.  I am very excited!

I wil end with some goals that for me as a teacher will never change. That my students feel safe in my classroom. That they walk in with relief to be in my classroom rather than dread. That they feel respected to share their thinking and writing with no fear of being laughed at or ridiculed.  That they see me as an advocate who is fair and willing to listen.  I start each year with these and feel I could always do more than the year before. And so I try.