Saturday, December 3, 2016

Don't Stop Believin'

Holly Dupont
Elementary Special Educator


Last year I had a memorable student with a unique obsession-the band, Journey. My student is of Filipino heritage, as is the current lead singer for the band, whose name Arnel Pineda. Both were born in the Philippines, and have emigrated to the United States. My kiddo could air drum, air guitar and sing along with any of the Journey videos he was able to watch online for his breaks. Not only did he choose Journey videos as his reward, his token chart had the band’s images embedded into it. Knowing that my student loved Journey so much, I was able to get him two tickets to their concert last summer. Also, thanks to technology, I was able to reach out to Arnel Pineda via Instagram, and he set up a meet and greet for the student and his family. Though this wasn’t a particular day of teaching per se, it was one of the most rewarding experiences to be a part of. “Don’t Stop Believing!”

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Andy Gibson
High School Teacher

Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 10.34.58 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-05 at 10.29.31 AM.pngMy best day of teaching is always the culmination of my class, which is the day of the AP US History test. My APUSH Jedi Knights, as I call them since I am a proud Star Wars Nerd,  have a procession to our multipurpose room to take the test, with music playing from the school band, horns, flags, lightsabers you name it. Over the last 6 years I have had an average of 110 students take the test.  Every year my brother designs Star Wars & US History themed t-shirts which are pictured on the right.  I want my students to walk into the test with confidence and swagger, and they always do.  After the test is over, everyone meets back in my classroom for lunch and they are always excited about how they performed...well most of them :)  Every year I have done this, my students always have said that this is their favorite day.  Mine too :)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Susie Charles

My best teaching day ever was last winter, during one of the worst winter storms of the year. Before our school was closed early at noon, we decided to investigate how to build structurally sound snow forts. Students researched, designed and then headed outside to build. Students also built obstacle courses for the younger kids. BEST DAY EVER.

Growth Mindset and Relationships

I think it is pretty difficult to choose one day that was the best ever so I am just going to focus on a  specific moment that happened this year. One of the behaviour students in my class this year, who has a reputation for refusing to complete work and a defiant attitude, showed a great growth mindset during our reading response writing. I had told the students that they should be able to write a full page in their response books. This student came to me with about half a page written. I told him if he thought he had included enough to meet the rubric he could be finished as he had worked hard. He told me that I had told them they should be able to write a full page so that was what he wanted to do. This meant a lot to me as it made me feel like I was developing a good rapport with this student as well as that he was working on changing his mindset, which set the tone for the rest of the school year. We’ve had our moments still, but I believe that we will have a successful year together.

Andrea Kerr

My best teaching day was a day of making art outside - "plein air".  I visited two outdoor classrooms - one at the Rose Garden and one under the tree outside their school.  It was a gorgeous day and so wonderful to see both students and teachers deeply engaged in the creative process with professional artists.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Danielle Ganley
Mama said there would be days like this....

I may have serendipitously stumbled upon one of the best days of my teaching career three years ago. Not a lights turn green as you roll up to the intersection-coffee is fresh and warm-first parking spot available-kind of good day, but rather one that is nothing short of transformative and magical.  A day that may come so rarely and one that needs to be reflected upon in order to see its true value.  I do fear that even upon reflection, some of that magic will be missed, a comment not heard, a line of poetry unsaid, a student's thoughts not fully captured.  But even with those fears facing me,  I still feel a call to ruminate and reflect on the magic and mystery of it all.  

The day began with a simple email from a student. She asked if I might consider showing a slam poem video on YouTube. The student covered all her bases by suggesting that we could review technique and also explore the classes view on the poet.  The title of the piece was I love learning but hate education.  This was the intro to our poetry unit and the day that will be stamped on my teaching passport forever.  There was something housed in that request, in that video, in that room and in the darkness that spun magic.  Students connected with that video, the message and the medium.  We talked for 80 minutes.  We laughed.  We cried.  Okay, I cried. Just me. But there were tears.  We talked about what we love about learning and what we hate about school.  We connected.  I can close my eyes right now and immediately see the young man who pulled me aside at the end of class and told me he wanted to be a poet.  He said he didn’t know it was a job.  Until this day.  I see the angry girl who never handed a thing in, who never spoke to me, who never showed up…. I saw her hang by the door and shove something in my hands.  Her book of poetry.  She placed her ideas and dreams in my hands with explicit directions to NOT SHOW ANYONE and give it back by noon.  

See? Stuff of dreams.   My kids were connecting and building and dreaming over poetry. The poetry had brought them comfort and connection.  Poetry has always brought me that and we were sharing in the love of words together. Finally, I shared something with my students.  I have always cherished a line of poetry that has brought me great solace over the years. David Whyte's poem entitled "sweet darkness"  has a line that resonates with me,

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

Ever so often a moment becomes magical, transformative and reminds you why you were meant to be on the earth. This day reminds that poetry can bring you alive and can be overwhelming large and welcoming.  

Martha Miller

Teaching Technology for adults and children
My best teaching day was … a collection of moments I think. I’ve had a number of times when I’ve suddenly looked around my room and realize that good things were happening. One where it was silent - the students were so involved in what they were doing that all conversation stopped and all you could hear was typing and breathing. That silence didn’t last long as it was broken by sounds of successes and sounds of frustrations, but to have all 20+ students so absorbed was pretty cool. Another moment that comes to me was in audio terms quite the opposite, a room full of the sounds of engagement! Students excited about what they were doing, sharing their ideas, their successes and their frustrations - the sounds of students sharing positive energy to pull everyone forward.

Isabelle Moore: A Moment of Success

I teach French in a boys school. Sometimes this can be a very daunting job. My best teaching day was  in my first year of teaching when one of my boys who struggled historically in French took a risk to participate. The look on his face when he realized that he was capable of communicating in this language, that until then seemed totally inaccessible to him, was priceless. Every so often it happens again, but nothing has been quite as joyful as that first moment of clarity and success.

Light, Ray, Blaze, Gradient, ...Sue Dunlop

It’s been some time since I was in a classroom, so I will talk about a great moment that can happen anytime.  

When you’re working with a learner and the light dawns on their face, and they say, “ohhhh.”

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Cynthia Nixon: Amazing Number Play

One of my most memorable teaching moments was in a 3rd grade class teaching math.  Really...math?  Yes!  I love math and I love those moments where my students catch the spark and learn to love number play.  We were discussing large number subtraction where there are 0s in the top number.  Throws kids off - every time!  It is tough for them.  I had a student come up with a strategy that amazed me - and I’ve used it ever since!  Think about a problem like 2001 -  326.  Students need some more ones to subtract from since 6 is larger than 1.  Most think - “There are no tens in 2001.”  This student thought - “I need a ten.  There are no tens in the tens place, but I have 200 tens in this number.  I’m going to take one of them away so now I have 199 tens left and I now have 11 ones to subtract the 6 from.”  I stopped the whole class and we talked about the strategy and why it works.  It was an incredible conversation!

Expanding Their Horizons: My Wilson Girls

Mickey Sullivan

It is difficult to select just one best day of teaching.  Most of the time, these experiences happen in the classroom, but sometimes the most rewarding ones fall outside of the school day, for example, running into a former student . . . However, a very memorable experience for me was taking three of my Wilson girls to a girls science event at USD one weekend several years back.  It was St. Patrick's day, knowing they may have nothing green to wear, I gave theme each a sparkly broach.  I also wanted to start the day off right, and took them all to breakfast at Coco's, which they had never even heard of before . . . during the event, we were separated, and I did not get to observe the marvelous experiences they were involved in.  At the end of the day, on the drive home they shared stories of conducting forensics experiments, and meeting other girls in science from all over!  The next week they generated hand written thank you notes to me . . . and I have since seen a few of these girls, and they are very fond of these memories.  I love that I was able to get them involved in something so memorable and relevant.  I only wish I could have taken more girls to this awesome event!  Here is a link to the Expand Your Horizons page, very much worth the effort.  Get your girls there! And, more importantly, expose your students to science!

Brandon Maze: A painfully great Townhall Meeting

It is hard to choose, so I will stick to my best day so far this year. I teach 11th grade History at San Marcos High School (both AP and CP). We were focusing on the build up to the Revolutionary War in my AP class and I had the students choose an historical figure from the time. Some of the choices were from the Colonies, a couple from Britain, and one or two from France, some of them were Patriots, others Loyalists. On Friday, after having done their research and made some inferences, they role played a town hall meeting discussing whether the colonies could/should declare independence and why. The discussion was absolutely great. It was my favorite day, though, because the students were also absolutely hilarious; my face literally hurt as the bell rang.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tina Roy Best Day Ever

I am a sixth grade math teacher who has been trying to teach my students how to be real world problem solvers.  What I have been doing is having them look at an exemplar problem.  I had students examine their work against the exemplar.  They first made a list in their notebook of how their work was different from the exemplar.  Then they did a pair share, then a group discussion and finally a large group discussion.  Students created a list of strategies for solving problems.  I tried to embed the work in how they approach writing to make that connection.  This group discussion is the beginning of a year long growth process.  

Celebration of Learning

 4 Had meaning.JPG

One of my favorite teaching days was the culmination of a project-based learning unit. Students had studied an element of local history and their goal was to simply share their learning with the community.  Students had the opportunity to view student-created exhibits, websites, performances.  Students also participated in a student  film festival.  Members of the community were invited to give students feedback on their work.  It was an awesome celebration of their learning.

Alex Schwartz

One of my favorite teaching moments is from 2011 in Namibia, Africa.  I taught English to secondary learners who were used to traditional rote methods (vocabulary regurgitation, copying down sentence’s, etc.)  of learning the language.  Instead of using these methods, I redesigned a unit that centered their learning around designing a new national park for the wildlife in their area.  They were required to use english vocabulary and other ESL staples in an advertisement to attract tourists, the signposts throughout the park, etc.  DSC00976.JPG
Throughout the project they were overjoyed at the idea that they were able to work in groups, draw their parks, and contemplate creative and attractive English sentences.  As I watched them, I realized how important it was to make learning authentic to students.  This deeply shaped my pedagogy and educational experience.

Mi mejor Dia

Michelle Traub

¿Mi mejor dia?

My best teaching day ever? I have been teaching for six years and I still don’t think I could I pick a favorite day. My favorite teaching day is a cumulation of all of the little moments. The moment when a child who has had a tough time raises his hand and answers a question correctly, smiling proudly ear to ear when he gets it right. The moment when a student hears Spanish out in the “real world” and comes bouncing into class barely able to contain herself with excitement of waiting all weekend to tell me. The moments when students say “Gracias” when they leave my classroom and really mean it. The times when I can really see the light bulb turn on or when I see a student do something really nice for someone else without looking for recognition. The many memories of students humming Spanish songs in the hallway and parents telling me that they learned a new Spanish song at the dinner table from their student. The reassuring hugs from a co-teacher after a difficult day or the understanding from students when I share that something outside of school is affecting my teaching and I may be a little off that day. There are so many moments, from so many days that make up my favorite day. I don’t think it is possible for me to pick any single one.
Jennifer Gembala
One of my favorite teaching moments was last year (and this year), when I was teaching a writing technique for my AP World History classes. I teach APWH to 9th and 10th graders, but when I teach the DBQ, I teach the technique to all of my World History classes, no matter the level. When I teach it, I emphasize the technique of “grouping docs” by using actual candy as my documents. So I pour a bunch of candy (chocolate, hard candy, chewy candy, sour, etc) in front of each group of students, and then tell them to organize the candy, title the groups of candy they’ve created, and identify why the candy group is called that. They then have to write a thesis paragraph, that responds to the question “Analyze the impact the diversity of candy offered during the 2016 Halloween season has on American health.” They love grouping, talking with each other, and eating the candy, and it just really makes me love my job on days like that :)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Amorette Hernandez Third Grade Teacher

I recently began a study about our Desert habitat focusing on the High Desert.  We were studying the Water Cycle and learning about condensation, evaporation, and precipitation.  The class was split into groups and their task was to plan for what their habitat would look like (Desert).  Then, research on their chromebooks using KidRex or Dinosearch animals, plant life, and landforms in the desert.  They were to write one fact next to each plant and animal that described how they survive in the desert as a prey or predator.  Then they needed to place illustrations and places where condensation, precipitation, and evaporation was taking place in their habitat drawing.  They also added how our desert animals survive with minimal water.  We made a gallery walk in the classroom, and took turns with group presentations of their work. We took questions from other groups, and offered to add critiques to each group drawing.  We posted these pictures up in our lower grade pod for back to school night.  Students were able to explain what they did with their parents that evening.  I love when my students teach each other about what they learned! It’s empowering for them and gives me a backseat view to their learning!

Best day ever in the classroom..well, sort of, and broken up by 21 years

Posted on my sometimes-updated blog as well--thanks @jheil65 for reminding to post again.

Michelle and Dustin were in my 12th grade English class in 1995, and they fell in love.  Michelle was a witty and creative soul who had overcome spinal cancer in fourth grade--Dustin was never without a smile on his face, and loved to engage in philosophical discussions that were rather loosely connected to our literature. In other words, they were perfect for each other.  

Soon after prom that year, Michelle missed a few days and Dustin told me that she was having some tests done.  The bad news hit our class like a brick to the skull, and our worst fears were realized as her cancer had come back.

At Michelle’s funeral the next year, Dustin and I embraced for minutes.  We cried, as even now I fight back the tears.  That was the last time I saw Dustin until…

Twenty one years later, I brought by six-year-old daughter to ballet and noticed a man looking at me, then glancing quickly away.  After a few minutes it came to me.  “Dustin?”

Bridget McKenzie, Ballet

We both rose, he much bigger now, a paramedic and firefighter, and me bigger as well, but in a different way that I am less proud of.  We embraced again for longer than the dance moms watching would call a comfortable time.  Tears came again.

He said he still journalled every day because of me, that his own kids--one graduating from high school last spring--would read them and writing was a central part of their days as well.  He said he never forgot our discussions and that he told his kids about my class on a regular basis.  

There were many more questions and answers between us, and we spoke about Michelle who he said will always be a part of him.
She’s a part of me as well.

My best day ever grew out of the worst ever.

Number One

Vanessa Chambers Smith

I taught Junior AP Language and Composition in 2014-2015. One day, a few of my students were chatting in a group about their home lives, and they included me in the conversation. One of them told me that her father makes a list every day of the things and people that make him happy. She said that her placement on the list depended on her behavior, her grades, and any other criteria he felt like using - and that she was usually toward the bottom of his list. He’d say, “Today you are number eight,” or “Nine,” and so on. I thought she was joking, but her friends had been to her house and asserted that this was indeed the case. It just made me angry, that a parent would treat his child this way. I grabbed an index card from a drawer and quickly wrote “1” on one side of it. I gave it to her and said, “I think you are number one.” I would greet her as “Number One” here and there over the course of that semester, and she would smile.

Then I moved schools. She gave me a drawing as a going-away gift (it’s on my wall at my new school), and she added me on Facebook so that she could keep in touch. I forgot about the card until about a month ago, when I received a private message from her:

I didn't realize at the time how much that meant to her, and so it was a good reminder of the effect we can have on students' lives in the moments when we aren't teaching curriculum.

Best Teaching Day Ever?

I haven’t been teaching very long. Perhaps this is why I cannot come up with a “best teaching day ever”. While there are some pretty tough days, many of the days I have are the best ever. It could also be that it’s Saturday morning and I am tired from the week’s endeavors and challenges (and also on allergy medication!) Each day, one student or another makes me smile. Just yesterday, one of my “project students” achieved an 80% on a math quiz. This student was grinning ear to ear! He also turned in his first homework of the year and came in at lunch to get some help. He started the year withdrawn, shy, and just genuinely disengaged. Last week, after about the 20th time I asked him to stay after school for our tutoring program, he finally confided in me why he couldn’t come to tutoring. I understood his challenge. Perhaps this is all he needed?

Best teaching day ever? How can you possibly label one event the best ever? Let’s rename this to “One of the (too many to count) great teaching moments”

A Week of Music

Noreen Gonzalez
One of my favorite teaching days was full of music and history. As a class, we spent a week analyzing music from different eras. Part of the fifth grade curriculum is using and identifying figurative language, so we listened to songs and analyzed the lyrics for metaphors, hyperbole, similes, and the list goes on. Each day we listened to a different song, and we each posted our finding on an interactive bulletin board. My favorite part of the week was discussing the history of musical devices; record players, cd player, mp3 players...etc. It was a good week.    

A great trip to Borneo

Shane Haldeman

I arranged for Google Expeditions to bring their new program out to our site and provided my students with access to their virtual field trips using google cardboard.  I took my biology classes on a guided tour of the Bornean Rainforest.  I led them through the forest where we saw the great buttressed tree roots.  We then visited a mangrove swamp and saw the effects of rising sea levels on coastal regions.

After spending some time exploring, we then discussed the effects of Palm oil production on the planet.  We discussed deforestation as well resource management.

My students left the classroom with the amazing experience of visiting a place they may never get to physically visit.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

For me personally, my best teaching days are the days that I feel that I have made a real difference in my students’ lives. I had one of these days towards the end of last semester. This took place on a day when the students had  just received their yearbooks. During one of my AVID classes, I decided to give my students a few minutes of free time at the end of class to sign each other’s yearbooks. I noticed that one my students did not have a yearbook, I am assuming because she could not afford one. This student had made a makeshift notebook out of writing paper and staples and was having her friends sign it in substitution of a yearbook. I am not sure why, but something about this image broke my heart. I had already sponsored another student’s yearbook cost and could not afford to sponsor another one. Then I had an idea; what if I went to the  craft store and made this student a customized autograph book, something that she could really be proud of. I gave the student the autograph book the next day, and it was the look on her face that I’ll never forget and the reason why I consider this my best teaching day. I think it is telling that my best teaching day has nothing to do with content or lesson planning, rather it has to do with being in-tune with the needs of my students, and how a simple moment of empathy followed by action can make a real difference in someone’s life.

Guide on the Side

Raquel Castellanos

My best day of teaching are the days in which I am not teaching.  I sit back and watched my students explore their own thought and feelings, coming to their own conclusions,  With my 7th graders we read an excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s,  A Long Walk to Freedom..  In the unit of student we discuss apartheid in South Africa and Mandela’s background.  At the end of the unit of study we conclude with a socratic seminar.  The students come to class with 3 opened ended questions about the reading and have a dialogue with each other to pull and make their own meaning from the text.  The best discussions come out of this socratic seminar.  We discuss ideas of civic and familial duty, injustice, social justice, courage, bravery and the power of one..  Annually I am amazed at what 12 and 13 year olds have to say and I want them to be empowered to translate their ideals to actions.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Best Day Ever

Best Day Ever

It all started summer of 2015, 3 days of Google training! I signed up to be a Digital 1:1 classroom. Why? At that time I asked myself that question many times until one fine day…..
The school year started all was well, paper,pencil,markers, glue and PAPER (phew). Then THAT day happened, in walked Mr. Lambert and 22 Chromebooks. It was real I was now a digital 1:1 classroom. The Edtech team handed out Chromebooks, 22 of them, did digital citizenship and left. Now what? I remembered the one most important piece of advice. Take it slow, I decided to to set goals my first goal was to have my students create a Thinglink for an animal project. The date I decided on was March 1, 2016.Perfect!!
October 20, 2015, all of my 22 4th graders were presenting their Thinlink projects to our school administration and Edtech department.


BEST DAY EVAH (yes, I’m from Boston)

C Collin
Simmons College
Boston, MA

I teach in a graduate level social work program at Simmons College in Boston, MA.  My best teaching day ever was in my Assessment and Diagnosis Class this summer, where students learn the inner workings of psychiatric diagnosis.  This course can be a total snooze, but not this day!  

The students role-played diagnostic characteristics in a totally twisted version of charades/pictionary/heads up.  Graduate students acting out word-salad, flight of ideas, catatonia, and paranoid delusions galore - slow clap it out.  The intention of the assignment to teach mental status evaluation and help students internalize the meaning of what otherwise can seem like clinical jargon.

A day in the life....

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Getting Polemical!
Jon Resendez
AP Government and Politics 12th Grade
My best teaching day ever was the during my first year teaching AP Government and Politics at Irvine High School in Irvine CA. It was during this year that I began implementing regular policy debates. My students chose the topics that were debated and which positions they adopted. It was impressive to see the students create arguments, demonstrate knowledge and think critically on their feet with only a week to prepare. They worked hard to prepare their arguments, cross examination questions and rebuttals for some of the most controversial issues our society has to offer. We tackled abortion, economic recovery and drug legalization on this day, but since this first foray my classes have tackled over 30 controversies. These debates have been the best part of my government classes and have developed into an institution at IHS for seniors, especially the most competitive ones.


Bojo's Best Teaching Day (Heather Bojorquez)

Teaching is a compilation of wonderful days and do-overs. I am no longer in the classroom, but I often find myself reflecting on my last year in the classroom with at-risk 9th graders as my best YEAR ever.

It is hard for me to narrow it down to just one day, but I know the best day was when I was teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As an English teacher I discovered the Folger Shakespeare Library’s website. They had a tremendous amount of resources for teachers to bring Shakespeare alive in the classroom. My belief, and the philosophy of Folger, is that Shakespeare is an experience to be seen and heard, not just read aloud (poorly) by 15 year olds sitting in rows. So I transformed my classroom into a production space and for 6 weeks my struggling 9th grade students performed Romeo and Juliet live.

We marched, we recited, we staged, we laughed, and we cried.

The best day came when we arrived to the great feast. My students collectively decided that if we were going to act out a feast, then we should actually have a feast. Every student participated! They brought in food and performed their parts with gusto in costumes created on their own. It is a moment that is engrained in my memory with love and admiration. I watched some tough kids, kids who thought they weren't "school people," recite Shakespeare’s words with passion and appropriate rhythm. They understood the challenging vocabulary and enjoyed every day of class. They walked out of class proud of what they had accomplished. The Shakespeare Set Free opened doors for my students that they didn't know was possible. I had many that went one step farther and created their own video performance of scenes from the play as part of their final project. A few even posted on YouTube!

We did this in February and at the end of the year, when I surveyed my class, almost all stated that our days of Shakespeare were by far their favorite. Every day was a great day in room J19. I miss it!

~Heather Bojorquez


Hailey Frogge- A Rewarding Day

favour_gem_rings.jpgHailey Frogge
One of my best days in the classroom occurred early in the school year last year.  It was my first year teaching and I had a new student within the first 3 weeks of school.  I had put a lot of effort into creating my classroom community, developing class rules together, and talking about the environment we all wanted to learn in. Within several days I began to learn more about my new student and she learned more about me.  It took awhile longer for us to form a real connection when she began telling me about a plastic ring (and several other objects) she took from other students  without permission.  She felt comfortable enough to share that she had done something “bad” without fear of my reaction; this meant the world to me.  Knowing that this student trusted me with this information helped me realize how I approach my students matters and determines the tone of a relationship for the rest of the year.

M. Barron

Since I  blog, not nearly consistently, it was easy to write about the best day I ever had, in recent memory, as a teacher.  I’d blogged about it already.

RedDeathInCostume.jpgSo, I had a bit more fun with "The Masque of the Red Death" this year during my 10th-grade Honors' Poe unit than I usually do besides setting up the colored strings of lights to coincide with the colored rooms.

I was going to try and memorize and perform the story for the students, but I'd been in a car accident, so that didn't happen.

Instead, I bought all the students masquerade masks from Amazon for them to wear while we read.  They appreciated the fact that I bought them something and seemed to enjoy wearing them.

I, too, had a little fun and dressed the part.  I hope the kids appreciate the fact I'm willing to embarrass myself for them.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Christy Turner
Having to select a best day ever is extremely hard.  There are so many wonderful days to choose from.  Every day is a gift, to give  love, hope and knowledge to my students.  I began my teaching career 12 years ago.  I started off as a TA, loved it so much I went back to school to get my teaching certification.  I became a second grade teacher and never looked back.  I taught 2nd grade for the last 10 years.  The way the students came into the room every morning, expecting great things, eyes wide open was truly amazing.  So I would have to say, seeing students understand and learn how to read always made a day worth remembering.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ashlie King ~ That one.

We all have that one. That one student that pushes all of your buttons. He maxes out your patience and uses up all of his chances. As my grandmother would say, he works your last nerve. Grinds it to dust and sprinkles it on the classroom floor before he leaves each day. You greet him politely each morning. You say regularly, tomorrow is the day. I am going to do whatever takes to reach this kid. This kid will grow. This kid will leave this classroom changed, even if it’s just a tiny bit.
I had that one. Now, he’s in middle school. I spent the better part of a year trying to reach this kid. I went to baseball games. I let him have special classroom jobs. I hugged him. I let him slide on homework assignments because they were too “hard” and I tutored him. I made him feel special. I let him visit the principal for positive reasons and serve as a reading buddy with first graders. I reached out to his parents. I paid for his field trip when he couldn’t afford it. I started a behavior plan for him. I invited interventionists in my classroom. I let them critique me. I took ownership of my part in this lack of relationship. I loved this kid. I will always love this kid.
Our last track in of the year arrived, we had about 20 days left in school and I resolved to just survive. Put on my big girl pants, smile and nod, kill him with kindness. If he didn’t learn anything else, or grow in any other way, he would leave knowing I loved him, someone cares. Maybe that would impact his life in a much grander way than apparent. Testing came and went. End of the year activities were fast approaching. Students were excited and busy and his behaviors were spiraling out of control. Any progress made had fell right out of the meter and pooled on the floor. We were stepping in the mess of him everyday. Students were treading carefully around, not wanting to set him off. I ignored his puddled and let him sit in his bubble and soak. I admit, I quit.
The last three weeks of school, I planned to allow my students to demonstrate their learning by completing a Passion Project. They could choose anything they wanted. My requirements were very simple and let students take ownership of planning, executing, and producing a project they were passionate about. Day one brought about groans and whines and frustrations. He went to the office. He read a book. He told other students their projects were dumb. However, my best teaching day ever was the next day. Day two brought excitement. Day two greeted me with a hug. Day two told me I was the best teacher ever. Day two taught me that he loved hoverboards and aircraft. Day two showed me that he had learned how to research. He had listened. He had learned. He could apply his set of skills acquired in my class. He absorbed the environment. He recruited a friend to work with him and the two of them created an interactive, animated PowerPoint slide. They also built their own hoverboard using what he had learned in my magnetism and electricity unit.

….to be continued.

Let them Lead!

One of my favorite teaching moments was this year’s student led conferences. I love these conferences, not just because it allows me to knock out all of my conferences in 2 hours, but because of the rare opportunity it gives me to see my kids with their parents. It takes a lot of prep work with the kids, but the payoff in watching them proudly show off their classroom and all they've learned this year is worth it. (Plus, did I mention? 24 conferences in 2 hours!) But, honestly, the kids are the stars, as they should be.

This year, I had nineteen sets of parents that came in for a conference led by their second grader, and the results were amazing. This year I saw.a natural born leader confidently directing his parents directing them through all of the classroom stations easily, with just the right amount of explanation. I saw the energetic excitement of one little boy who literally bounded into the classroom for his conference. This child has been telling me every day for months, "My mom is coming to lunch

today!" and she has yet to show. But she came for the conference, and I thought that child was going to burst with excitement to have his mom in his classroom. I saw my chatty-Cathy leading her mom through an entire presentation, complete with visual aids! The fact that this child was honest and brave enough to give herself a 1 on "I refrain from unnecessary talking" combined with the fact that her mother lovingly accepted (and agreed with) that ranking just made me grin! I saw the quiet discussion in Spanish between one of my little girls and her dad. I have no idea what she was telling him, but the proud smiles on both of their faces assured me it was good. This is a parent I probably never would have met otherwise. I saw the grin on the face of little girl who told me point blank, "My parents have to work--they won't come. They never come to conferences," and when we went over the conference rules said, "My mom will never turn off her cell phone," yet walked in with not one, but both of her parents. And her mom did, indeed, silence her phone and give her daughter her undivided attention. I saw the whispered conversation between my quietest child and her parents. She was so nervous and did not want to do the conference. But she did, and her parents told me later she did a fabulous job and admitted it wasn't so bad :)

My favorite part of the event, however, was the shy smile of a student as I showed her parents the drastic increase in her reading fluency--from 23wpm to 96wpm. This same child had to re-do her conference sheet because she had originally chosen all assignments she'd struggled with and written comments like "I can't do it" and "I'm stupid." With a little encouragement, she instead found assignments to share where she had done well (there were plenty to choose from) and proudly went through her binder with both mom and dad. At the end of the conference I called her parents over, telling them I had something to show them. I pulled up her fluency graph, and showed the amazing progress their daughter had made. The parents both grinned, as they said, “We were so worried, we thought it was going to be bad news. She’s struggled for two years…” This child has worked so hard this year and come so far, it was awesome to see her share that with her parents, and that shy smile on her face made made my year.