Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 17)

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 17)

Topic: What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

I think the most pervasive challenge in education is the continued negative feeling attached to the profession. How all the failings of the country are settled on our shoulders. That the media more often than not focuses on the few negative things happening instead of focusing on the good. I believe that other nations are outpacing us in education not because of excessive more hours spent at school or on school work but because of the general attitude of the nation on education as a whole. You have countries that view their educators as professionals, and are paid as such- it's not the pay, it is more the attitude attached to teachers in this country. The well known saying, "Those that can't do teach..." that is exactly what is wrong with education in this country, because it simply isn't true. 

It even goes to the family connection, the value that a family places on education over other activities, in our country we are obsessed with our sports & celebrities. At the middle level so many of my students believe with their whole heart that they will become a professional athlete, a rapper, or the newest one a YouTube personality. YouTube Famous! We have a serious problem where we aren't placing enough emphasis at HOME, not just at school, on the importance of a good education- no matter what level you finish at. 

I honestly could go on an on with this topic, even talk about the attitude of the majority of teachers but I don't want to ostracize anyone... Just note that as a hard working teacher, one that wants to constantly learn and become a better teacher then I was last year, I make other people uncomfortable. I do feel like a lone wolf a lot of the time...  This got too personal and I am not sure if I am ready to write this much yet...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 16)

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 16)

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

Oh man, this proves how much a nerd and fangirl I am for Harry Potter, the only thing that comes to my mind is the time traveling necklace, the Time Turner, that Hermoine wears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I often get really good at the actual teaching of the lesson by the end of the day. My first period of the day is always my guinea pig class, and I always feel bad because I feel like they are missing out of the better instruction. So I would probably use the time turner which really isn’t a super power but would at least allow me to go back in time to reteach my first period after I have gone through the whole day and perfected the lesson. 

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 15)

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 15)

Topic:Name three strengths you have as an educator.

  1. I have gotten better at being flexible in my lesson planning, I used to be very rigid and would move things along faster than they probably should have been. Now I have more emphasis on the learning that is actually taking place and on when students are ready to move on.
  2.  If I don’t know the answer to something, or it isn’t working I know the channels to ask for help and I am not afraid to do so.
  3. I am a perpetual learner, I can’t stay stagnant and teach the same thing over and over. I like to try new things and learn how to get better at the craft of teaching.

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 14)

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 14)

Topic: What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?

To me when I see feedback I automatically start thinking about rubrics and information that comes back on all assignments, journal writes, and verbal feedback in the classroom. Lately my department has been working on creating rubrics using Google forms and the script autocrat. We have developed forms for our ease of use when grading essays. All the feedback that goes to the students have been made in a progressive manner. For example instead of saying, “Essay lacks clarity.” We are using statements like, “You need to work on your sentence fragments, sentences that are not full complete thoughts, they make it hard on the reader.” For an middle school English teacher, we have to grade a lot of essays. Even if we say, spend only 5 minutes on each essay, at 150+ students that is over 13 hours worth of grading. So anything that we can do to provide amble feedback, in a timely manner, that doesn’t take days and days of grading it helpful.
I do have to admit however; while I am great at grading most assignments quickly I avoid essays like they are going out of style. I know this about myself; it is constantly a goal of mine to get better/faster at grading essays. The feedback given is always great and robust but not always timely on essays.

I have always given positive feedback to behaviors in the classroom that I appreciate; yes even middle schoolers like to be told that they are “rock stars!” We use the PBIS system and we have slips of papers called Titan Powers to use to reward good behavior. In the past I have not been good about handing these out, this year I have made an effort to hand them out and not just the verbal, “you’re awesome!” and/or a candy or something but also to use the Titan Powers. I think overall my feedback is good, just needs to be timelier on grading of essays. Instead of two weeks turn around it would be great if I could do it in one. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 13)

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 13)

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

  1. Schoology
  2. twitter
  3. All things GAfE (kind of cheating but docs, spreadsheets, forms, sites)
  4. Screencasting tools (airserver & quick time)
  5. iMovie


We are a 1:1 iPad school so using a good LMS is important, I think Schoology is growing, and growing fast. So my hope is that they will continue to develop their app for schools like ours that the students are largely using only the app to access the content. I would love for the app to function more like the browser version, and they have promised that is their mission in the next year or so. I love that it is a more robust LMS than edmodo (of which I used for several years before moving to Schoology). 

I am pleased with the course content building, and the quiz/test features, again more robust then other LMS's I have seen. I am constantly learning knew ways to use the system and increase the productivity for my students. Also, am really loving the access and tools for parents as well. The e-mail digest feature that I learned about at the first ever Schoology #NEXT14 conference in Denver this summer by the fantastic Cherry Creek School District was a revelation. 

Looking forward to teaching my Tech Guru's about how to create content on the platform and start building Parent Learning modules for even more interaction for the community.


So I use twitter in the classroom to send out reminders to my students about homework, class announcements, and generally just to get my class and content "in their face" as much as possible. Let's face it, students are on social media platforms and gorge themselves on the information, if I can go to where they are then I am more likely to get my message across. 

I also use twitter in the classroom to talk to like minded people and get ideas for curriculum and connections for the students. 


I use google forms to collect data and information from my students like it is going out of style. I also use google docs for the writing process, the amount of revision and really high quality work I am able to get from my students is amazing. I also have my students build google sites, and use it as their e-portfolio for proficiencies. 

Flipping Tools

Airserver for iPad app tutorials

Screencasting tools

Prior to the move to a Macbook I used screencastomatic.com to create my screencasts for my flipped videos. Now that I have a Mac I use quicktime for all my screencasting needs. 

Because my Tech Guru's and myself make tutorials for iPad apps and use of the iPad we also use Airserver for screencasting what we are doing on our iPads. 


I have enjoyed getting to know iMovie and making my flipped videos that much more edited and professional looking. Sometimes if I am not careful I go down the rabbit hole and spend too much time editing and adding junk that isn't really needed for the videos. In the end I enjoy using this for the easy upload capabilities.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 12)

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 12)

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

I feel like my teaching has drastically changed in small ways of the last five years or so. I was a major push for technology integration for my school. I first started using dusty iPads in my classroom four years ago. Then the next year I asked to have them in my classroom 24/7 and pushed the boundaries of most people around me, and I also started flipping my classroom. The idea of backwards planning and creating my own videos was revolutionary for me to be able to keep a good steady pace, and introduce STEM pieces into my classroom. From there the school went into their first year of a 1:1 digital conversion. I was asked to be a tech coach to help everyone through the process, which was an added challenge to my already busy schedule but one that I have really enjoyed. I do all of the professional development for my building on technology. This year I have moved into the realm of student lead tech support so that I have "clones" of myself to help throughout the school when problems arise. 

This year has also seen me fall back to a more balanced approach of paper/pencil activities and writing and being fully paperless. I have also gone into a whole new realm with books, after having read Miller's The Book Whisperer and Reif's Read Write Teach this summer our entire English department is looking at reading and novel studies in a whole new way. So far I feel like this has revitalized my relationships with the students, we are having great conversations surround the books we are reading. 

I was recently talking to a colleague that has also attempted the 40 book challenge with her students and is not seeing success. At this point my students from Sept 10th (our first official library day was the 17th however... so I count that as day 1) have read 127 books! I have 140 students. I am very encouraged with what we have accomplished so far. 

So in the next five years I think we will see a great many changes with technology and new approaches to the traditional classroom, I hope to continue my own professional development to stay up with the times. I doubt I will be teaching with iPads in 5 years but who knows? And, I have to also get this out there... will I still be teaching in 5 years? I don't know the answer to that either. I have been doing a lot of soul searching as of late to what is next for me, do I stay in the classroom or do I move on? A part of me always appreciates those people that are speaking about what is working in their classroom with real life examples. I have a harder time taking people outside of the classroom, not seriously but with the same grain of truth as I might an actual classroom teacher. So I am not sure if I want to lose my classroom. But I also know I will want more at some point. I just have to keep figuring out what that is... I love writing, so maybe I will look into those avenues? 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 11)

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers (Day 11)

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

I have two favorite parts. My first choice is my prep period, I have two one for being a tech coach where I am running around helping other teachers, co-teaching, researching and preparing for professional development etc. The other is for my English teacher prep. I love the creation of content, the researching and layout that comes with putting everything together. I am not a teacher, nor have I ever been this way, that uses pre-made lessons. I like to take little bits and pieces from all over and make them my own based on what my students need and what we are currently studying. It is because of this that I think that if I ever leave the classroom it would probably be after I got my doctorate in curriculum design and moved onto something maybe at the district level. I especially love curriculum design as paired with technology integration. 

Harry Potter House Cup
My second favorite part of the day is my advisory class, it has always been a favorite of mine because it seems like through my personality and my competitive nature I am always able to connect to my advisory kids better than most. The competitiveness allows for me to get the kids actively involved in activities with the rest of the school. We have always done t-shirts for different activities, we get points throughout the year to win the "Titan Cup" which our team really looks forward to keeping our reign. The nerdy HP 4 Life! person in me thinks the "Titan Cup" is our muggle version of the House Cup... so we have to win! 

This year's group takes on an even more important turn with me as they are helping me build a student lead tech support group. They are wonderful kids and I am so excited about the stuff that they are able to do and help the staff and students in the building with. I will be writing about them a lot this year, they are amazing me constantly. 

See this post from last week for more info! 

For more on the 30-Day Blogging Challenge click here!