Friday, September 12, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 12

How do you envision your teaching changing in 5 years?

This is such an exciting question!  This is what gets me jazzed up! I think we are in a VERY exciting time in education!  

I think the main components of change will be...
  • a change in grading - moving to standards rather than flat grades
  • common standards that drive the skill learning and big picture projects to practice and use the skills
  • personalized learning for students and staff - learning that is delivered in a wide variety of methods
I am involved in a pilot project on Blended Learning this year.  I am an observer who will provide support for the classroom teachers - I won't be doing the actual teaching.  As we learn more about Blended Learning - I think it has the potential to bring all these pieces together in one place.  Teachers need to be very well versed in the standards and skills that their students are required to learn.  Those standards are presented to students in a spiraling curriculum in a wide variety of ways - with technology, collaboratively with other students, and independently on their own.  Students demonstrate their learning of these skills through both formative and summative assessment.  I think this is all brilliant!!

But - what gets me even more excited is students learning what they want.  I don't mean complete freedom.  But, if students are given the opportunity to be responsible for their learning and apply it to a project that is authentic I think the sky is the limit!!!  So what this looks like is - teacher requiring specific skills - students demonstrating those skills in the research and presentation of an authentic problem/solution project.  I feel like I need to take a breath after I type all that!  

I have been reading Who Owns the Learning by Alan November. He explains that long ago in an agriculture based society children were needed to run the farms. Their work was directly related to the success or failure of the farm. They had a purpose.  What is our students' purpose today?  Who is working the hardest in the classroom?  Are we more focused on teaching rather than learning - and so more on the teacher than the students?

And then there is assessment. In 5 years - I truly believe that assessments will figure out how to match!  Please oh please!!!!

I am excited about the opportunity of having a part in both the pilot this year and the next 5 years!!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 11

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

image from iClipart for Schools

I have heard so many teachers say that their favorite time is whenever the students aren't there.  That just makes me sad!  I know it's a joke - but it is a tired and depressing joke. 

So what is my favorite part of the day? The times when I could be myself with students - when I was less Mrs. Swantz and much more Beth.  Those times came first thing in the morning - at recess time and when we were getting ready to go home.  It was at those times that I felt like students really showed me who they were and I showed them as well.

I have thought about that a lot. I believe in rules and limits and the need for distance between students and teachers.  I think all that is really important. But, I also think we, as teachers, lose something if we hold to that persona all the time.  I have taught with too many teachers who never showed their true self to their students - or the rest of the staff for that matter.  They believed that the distance was a requirement for respect and learning. I disagree - I think that distance can mess things up.

When I was little, my kindergarten teacher was married to the school custodian. When they saw each other in the hall they would nod their head and say and say "Mr. Long" or "Mrs. Long."  I thought that their real names were Mr. and Mrs. I don't think that is all the uncommon - I know kids who believe their teachers live at school.  All of that creates an aura of teachers who are not real people.  I think it makes teachers and learning scary and inaccessible.  And there are many parent who would also believe that.

We need to be reminded of all those stories of teachers impacting student lives.  They seem to have a common thread - the teacher became more than just Mrs. to the student. So - I need to look for those moments and embrace them whenever I can find them!

New Tech

Love being in a classroom where the teacher is honest about new tech. 

Things I saw
-students helping one another to get started.
-an ongoing dialogue between tch and st about how the process was working or not working
-tch reminding the students that this is all a learning process
-"sorry that was my fault, completely my fault." From tch to st
-remember this isn't for a grade we are just practicing the procedure

Concept Speed Dating

I hung out in a Sociology room this morning and watched a great teacher prepare her students for a test.  

Through the course of a block the students experienced a variety of ways to dig in to the content.  I watched a debate over immigration policy, personal time to process what the debate incapsulated and the speed dating.

And what you may ask is Speed Dating?  Students were assigned a concept and had a minute to share that concept with a partner before the right side of the table rotated to the right.  In a very short time students were able to jigsaw a complete study sheet. But, that wasn't all, after the concept speed dating students self assessed each concept by circling a yes or no on their sheet. 

Mind work + movement = effective review

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 10

Share 5 random facts about yourself, 4 things from your bucket list, 3 things you hope for this year as an educator, 2 things that made you laugh or cry as an educator, 1 think you wish more people knew about you.

5 Random Facts
1.  I was born in Athabasca, Alberta, Canada and became a naturalized United States citizen when I was 16.
2.  Coconut is my favorite food 
3.  I married my high school sweetheart 31 years ago.
4.  In the first 7 years of our marriage we lived in 7 different houses.
5.  I have a dog named Penny, and yes I knock 3 times before I say her name.

4 Bucket List Items
1.  Visit all US National Parks
2.  Write a book
3.  Learn to play the piano
4.  Hike Pikes Peak for the second time

3 Things you hope as an educator
1.  Build relationships with teachers in the districts I serve.
2.  Build my skills as a presentor of professional development
3.  Become a Google Certified Teacher

2 Things that made you laugh or cry as a teacher
1.  Laugh - Puns and dumb jokes from my 4th graders- I loved their humor and dearly miss it!
2.  Cry - reading aloud Where the Red Fern Grows every year.  I cried when I read about the dogs every single year, even when I could practically recite parts of it!

1 thing I wish others knew
I am excited about almost everything, while that made me a great elementary teacher it can be a bit irritating to normal adults.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 9

Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in teaching that no one knows about.

Inage from iClipart for schools
His name was Josh.
He was the student who drove you completely crazy.
He was annoying
and grouchy
and an under-achiever.
He was a little boy wrapped in a cloak of bravado that pushed people away because he had been let down so many times.  He came to my 4th grade classroom with a file a mile thick and a chip on his shoulder just as big.

Josh and I spent many, many recesses together working on his daily work or his attitude or his apology to another staff member. When he realized that I wasn't budging from his desk no matter what kind of growl he dished out we came to an agreement
and then we came to appreciate one another
and finally he came to trust me.

And then he moved.
He just disappeared in the spring.

At the start of the next school year - on one of the early days in August when I was working in my room I got a phone call at school from Josh's new school principal.  We had a great conversation - I was able to share a bit about who Josh was - not just what his file said.

That conversation was probably 15 years ago - but I still remember the final sentence from that long forgotten principal, "Wow!  You really knew him, Josh was lucky to be in your class."

That sentence has come back to me at hard moments.  I am proud of the relationship we built together that year!  And I hope that there are times when Josh remembered that 4th grade classroom and Mrs. S!! I certainly haven't forgotten him!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 8

image from iClipart for Schools
What's in your desk drawer and what can you infer by those contents?

  • Post it notes in so many sizes and shapes
  • pens - both felt tip and ball point and fine point
  • notepads
  • notebooks
  • paperclips - silver and colored and weird shaped
  • small containers to keep the stuff in place
  • nametags
  • scissors
  • clips
  • bookmarks
  • ethernet cables
  • odd cords for past electronic equipment
  • more post it notes
  • poker chips
So - I basically have a Staples store in my desk drawer.  
And yes - I have a problem!! 
Oh well!  I love office supplies!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 7

Who was/is your most inspirational colleague and why?

I have had the privilege to work with an amazing colleague - Phyllis Casper.  She is my friend and my cheerleader and my inspiration.  Phyllis has always been willing to take on a task that pushes her and stretches her and makes her shine as she rises to the challenge.

I have learned so much from her - about technology and about friendship and about living life to the fullest.

Phyllis retired as our district's elementary teacher librarian a few years ago and I wrote a blog post saying goodbye to her.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 6

image from iClipart for schools
What does a good mentor do?

I work for a school district that is part of a very special consortium. This group of 12 school districts has hired a set of full time mentors to work with all their first and second year teachers. These are trained and practicing teachers who have been released from their home district for 3 years (the length of the current grant) to mentor new teachers. They are trained by our Area Education Agency and then they focus on the new staff.

There are several things that we have noticed since this pilot has been going.  New teachers are much more apt to be honest about their practice when they are working with mentors who are not part of their school district.  Mentors are much more apt to put their whole selves in to the process if this is their complete job.  This is a brilliant program and we hope that it can continue beyond the grant!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 5

Post a picture of your classroom - What do you see?  What is one thing you don't see that you would like to?

Well - I don't have a classroom.
I haven't for the past 6 years.
In that time my classroom has been a school library and a wide variety of classrooms across my school district.

Much of the past two years I have spent planning for, setting up, demonstrating, troubleshooting and enjoying these chromebooks!  We had a pilot with 7th graders at the MS last year and I had the privilege of supporting that! So - when I think of my 'classroom' chromebooks are front and center! This year the pilot grew into a full on 1:1 with 6-8th graders. It has been great!!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 4

The thing you love the most about teaching.

I decided to become a teacher because I wanted to hold a teacher's manual in my arms.  I wanted to have all the answers.  I remember watching my elementary teacher walk around during math class with that big fat manual in her hands and she knew EVERYTHING!!  That is what I wanted!

So - when I became a teacher 26 years ago - I had that manual in my arms and I loved it.
At least I thought I loved it!
But - I began to understand that knowing the answers wasn't really teaching.
Google knows every answer there is (at least I think it does) and it certainly isn't a teacher.

So - my thinking changed.  If it wasn't the answers what was it?


When I was student teaching I had the privilege of working with two amazing teachers!  One of those, Mrs. Gugel, told me a story that I have never forgotten.

She had before school duty one morning as a 5th grade teacher. She was standing in the hallway talking to other teachers as we do when we arrive at school.  One of her 5th graders walked up to her and paused a little - she looked down and asked what he needed.
He looked up and said, "My dog died this morning."
She said, " uh huh," and turned back to the teacher dismissing this young man.
He walked away down the hallway.
It was then that it sank in what he had actually said.

That horrible feeling of missing your moment with a student had never left her.
She made amends - but she never felt like it was enough.
I watched her build relationships with everyone of her students- and she traced it back to that moment in the front hallway of Washington Township Elementary school.


I loved knowing that I had a whole year with my 4th graders.
I had a whole year to share the United States and math and Where the Red Fern Grows.
I had a whole year to introduce myself to them and for them to introduce themselves to me!

We built relationships!

That has always been my very most favorite thing about teaching.

As a teacher of adults - my classroom has changed.  But I still believe it comes back to relationships.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 3

image from iClipart for Schools
Mention 1 'observation' area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

Since I am new to my position - everything I do is sort of an 'improve on!' But, this makes me think about what I want to start doing - what i want to build in to each contact with other teachers and administrators. 

One of my pet peeves as a teacher has always been outside people that come in with all the answers.  That looks a little different from the other side. The truth is that many poeple look to us, as consultants, to have the answers.  As I think about what annoyed me - it wasn't having answers that bothered me as much as the feeling of being less or 'dumb.'

That means even more now, because I am living in a world of technology.  And there is nothing that makes people feel as 'dumb' as technology does.  

So my goal is to empower. 

To help people feel like they already know a lot.
I am only helping them move to a different place when they work with technology.  

I hope that will be observable to anyone who wants to watch.

In any way that I can - empower

Everyone that I can - empower

It is a heady emotion!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 2

image from iClipart for Schools
Write about 1 piece of technology that you would like to try to incorporate this year into your curriculum.

What technology would I like to incorporate?

Since my jobs as both a Learning Design Coach and a Technology Consultant focus on helping teachers with technology it seems like an easy task to make this choice.  But, in both of these roles I am supporting teachers as they use technology.  It isn't really the technology that I am using - but their students or they are using.

So - what about me?

I want to spend time digging in to BrightBytes and they data that I can carry to my schools from this survey.

BrightBytes is a company that gathers data from teachers and students about technology use in our schools.  This data is gathered yearly and the BrightBytes company collates and organizes it into a format that is easy to understand.  It explains both high and low points for school districts as well as suggesting areas to work on and possible solutions.

I am excited to dig in to this data and put it to use!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blog challenge: Day 1

image from iClipart for Schools

Write Your Goals for the School Year

Goals for this year. . .

Sometimes it is hard for me to think goals rather than to do lists, especially when I am doing two jobs part time in this transition year.

So - I want to focus on bigger goals - not the to do list that I carry with me all the time.  But I want the goals to be doable.

  1. Remember that relationships are at the center of my job - hold this in my mind at all times
  2. Commit to returning emails within 2 days 
  3. Put your all into each and every day - no matter what task you are working on.
  4. End each contact by focusing on the wins that the teacher has experienced

30 Day Blog Challenge

I saw this tweet in a list of retweets and it sort of intrigued me!  I have been very slow to blog and this might be just the kick I need.

Anyone want to join me??? You get a snazzy badge to add to your blog and a whole month of reflective prompts to start the year off right!

Click here for a link to the information.

If you are not up to blogging yourself - maybe you would like to read another teachers reflections and add some comments. That is another great way to get your own reflective juices rolling!

Click here for a link to the google doc of other participants.

And happy blogging!