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.

Taking a Risk with Padlet

One of my best moments in my careers so far has been the inclusion of devices and technology into my classroom. I was chosen to pilot BYOD in my classroom. At the time, I was teaching a second grade class. It was a struggle for me at first to design and implement the activities. After A few weeks of talking procedures and policies with my kids and doing some simple projects. My first big risk lesson was a read aloud activity where the students would respond to different comprehension questions based on their group. The goal was to have the separate groups collaborate to complete the whole picture of the text. It went really well, and the kids loved it. They were engaged and learned. Can’t ask for much more then that.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Best Teaching Day - Adam Lindstrom

Adam Lindstrom
GIS Mapping to Investigate Plate Tectonics
Earth Science, Grade 6

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My best teaching moment.  To set the stage, this was in 2007, before Chromebooks and GAFE.  Students were working in the computer lab.  In the middle of working, two students exclaimed, “Wait. I can do this when I grow up?!”  My students were working on mapping volcano and earthquake locations using ESRI GIS mapping software.  At the time, I took a risk using mapping software to have investigate these concepts - and I once I heard this comment, I was happy I took this risk.  Students were able to work at their own pace, create their maps, and draw conclusions about the concepts of plate tectonics.  They created products, they had a choice while I facilitated.  The comment from my two students had me completely psyched, in that they realized this wasn’t just an activity on a computer - they were using software that they could become certified in, earn a career in, and apply to virtually every industry - from the sciences to business.

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Best Teaching Day: Ed Casal

Ed Casal
Socratic Seminar on Monster and Current Events
Literacy, 8th grade B level

My best teaching moment was when I did a Socratic Seminar on Walter Dean Myers’ Monster and current events concerning race and violence in the media. While reading Monster, students read various articles about double standards and instances of violence in the media concerning minorities and interactions with police. This happened around the time of when Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and Dillon Taylor  were very recent in the news. What made it great was it was so relevant; all students came alive and were animated because we discussed something that was happening right in front of them. Students had to generate level three and four questions about each text and synthesize them within the seminar with text support. I had so many students asking why racial bias exists and if it will ever end; students also related our discussion of the fictional text and non-fiction texts to stereotypes. The discussion even extended past race relations and included bias and stereotypes concerning the LGBTQ community. I work with middle school students, so it is always in the back of my head in terms of how appropriate what each student will say concerning sensitive issues, but everyone was respectful and willing to listen to the views and opinions of others. I’m proud of this teaching moment because it reflects so much of what I emphasized during the year--questioning, analysis, maturity, and most importantly of all: empathy.