Reflective Teaching Day #30 – IF I weren’t afraid

Day 30- @TeachThough  30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge 

What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?

If I weren’t afraid I would start my own school. I feel the current path that public education is heading down is full of the best intentions but politics and funding seem to rule where the intentions end up. I want to build a school where the world is the classroom. Teachers are the guides. Learning is fun and engaging. Where students don’t have to ask why we are studying a topic because they picked it. Where teachers will show the relevance of topics. Student spend their days motivating teachers and never wanting to leave until sapped of energy instead of the other way around.

Desire to learn is a natural thing. Some how our current society/school model has drained this natural instinct. New schools need to be created without the old school norms. Free from being a political pawn each election season. Where learning is the focus, not day care and seat time. Where a culture of learning is cultivated with the growth mindset.  Students will work at their own pace growing until skills are mastered.

This seems Utopian and full of “buzz words”. It does exist. We have to strive for it everyday. If I weren’t afraid I would stop trying to change my current school and go build a school every child, teacher and community deserves.

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Reflective Teaching Day #29 – Changes in me

Day 29- @TeachThough  30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge   

How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

 I have been teaching for 15 years. If you were in my first class and came to watch me teach now, you would notice many differences in how I teach. One thing that has not changed over the years is my passion. I care about my students, care about their learning and take pride in my job. If these attributes of my teaching change, it would be time for me to change professions. So what has changed?

My teaching style has changed. I no longer have a teachers centered classroom. The room is my students, for their learning. Less lecture, few time reading out of textbooks, no class time dedicated to copying notes from the overhead. Learning targets are posted on the white board and my class website. Students know what they need to learn. I don’t know if I deliberately told them this 15 years ago. I do repeatedly now. I grade far fewer papers, give less homework and have more fun in class. I feel this has created a better learning environment for my students. Due to spending the last 4 years focusing on formative assessment in my classroom, I have students reflect on their learning frequently. 15 years ago, I never had students reflect. I make more accommodations for my students when I see their needs.

I think teachers do change with experience. They see what works, what doesn’t. Since becoming a connected educator 3 years ago, I feel the changes in my classroom have sped up. I am no longer afraid to try new things with my students. I don’t fear failing in front of them. Teaching has to change, our students and society is changing so teaching has to change with them.

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Reflective teaching Day #28 – Curriculum driver

Day 28- @TeachThough  30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge   

Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?

Is this a real question? Technology is a tool that we use to learn and express our learning. Curriculum is the subjects or course of study in school. Should we study technology? Sure. Should it drive what we study? Absolutely not.

Technology is ever changing. When I was studying to be a teacher, I took a technology in education course that featured “Hypercard Studio” as a prominent technology tool. This was 16 years ago. Is this technology tool still around? NO. Technology is ever changing. Curriculum should be more of a constant.  Curriculum should not be based on a tool. Dd we base our curriculum on the pencil, film strip or overhead projector? Teachers need to think about how technology helps students learn and communicate their learning with in our curriculum.

Curriculum needs to be broad enough so that it does not need to change do to the date on a calendar. Curriculum needs to focus on how students learn, not tools they learn with or how they need to express their learning. A few years back PowerPoint was a dominate tool in education for expressing learning. Now look at all the alternatives we can use!

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Reflective Teaching Day 27 – Role of weekends and holidays!

Day 27 – @TeachThough  30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge  

What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

Weekends and Holidays are vital for the teaching profession. They give teachers and students a like a much needed break. An excuse to change gears, learn in a different mode or just do nothing! (We some times need permission to do nothing, I write about it earlier here.) During breaks from school learning doesn’t end, it just isn’t assessed or regimented. For me I participate many professional development activities during my weekends. These range from formal meeting to Edcamps. I spend time with my children as we travel, participate in sports or just hang around the house.

These breaks allow us to return to education FRESH, with a new perspective, new energy and zest to the learning process. Without the breaks teachers and students tend to burnout. Enjoy the breaks, so the learning is more fun!!

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Reflective Teacher Day 26- Go-to -sites

Day 26- @TeachThough  30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge 

What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

Find resources is necessary for all teachers. Content is constantly changing and students need to be engaged with up to date learning materials. Where do I go?

1. Twitter- I am on twitter daily. My PLN is a great resource. One of the first places I stop when I am looking for engaging material is twitter. A quick tweet to the world with the right hashtag or to the right person can turn up resources very quickly. Of course sometimes it also can turn up nothing new. Great first stop on the journey to finding resources.

2. YouTube – I start my class every day with a 3 to 5 minute video to engage and activate prior knowledge. I was going to make a few of my own, until I found the many wonderful teachers have made endless hours of resources for the world to use on YouTube. Thankfully our district unblocked it a few years back. I subscribe to so great teacher channels.

3. The Science Spot – A wonderful science teacher Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm has created The Science Spot. I must go-to spot for any middle school science. The science is well organized, with printable lesson. I find it a great resource for lessons that engage my students. Full of many hands on science activities.

Of course I have many more resource sites I go to depending on my need. I love to explore the internet and find new resources for lessons every week.

A great jumping in point for any teacher is Cybrayman’s Catalogue of Educational Sites.  If you can’t find what you need there, it doesn’t exist on the internet.

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Reflective Teacher Day 25- Student collaboration

Day 25- @TeachThough  30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge  

The ideal collaboration between students–what would it look like?

Student collaboration has many faces in the classroom. From the students leading over to show their neighbor where a question is in the book to a project based learning activity where each students role is dependent on each other. In my classroom I want students to collaborate. A procedure in my class is for student to ask 3 before asking me. This build a support network and promotes a “WE are in this learning thing together” attitude for my students.

Ideal collaboration looks like? This is a tough question to answer, depends on the students and the project. Ideally the students would be dependent on each other for successful completion of the task. It would be seamless. Each student would know their task, its value to the overall product, they would communicate clearly, producing something epic. To me it would be like the harmony that comes form Dave Mathews Band songs.

Many adults have issues when it comes to collaborating so reaching the ideal in a middle school classroom is magic. I do have many collaborative projects in my classroom. Occasionally ideal was near by. Will keep striving for it!

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Reflective Teacher day #24 – Education Trend

Day 24- @TeachThough  30 Day Reflective Teaching Challenge  

Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.)

Over the past couple of years being connected, many trends have appeared. All of them have their place in education, because our world is diverse, teachers need diverse resources and methods to reach ALL students. Not every method is for every teacher or students. Teachers need to find new methods that fit their interest, level of comfort and learning style. (Just like students.) No teacher should resort to ONE style mixing things up allows for students to show their learning in different ways.

One trend that has caught my attention is Genius Hour (Passion Projects, FedEx time, 20 Time). This method allows students to learn what they want, how they want and show their learning in a unique way. There are many ways for teachers to run Genius Hour, but they all start with the creation of driving questions, contain research and end with a presentation to a larger audience. Some teachers guide their students with driving questions based on curriculum others give students more freedom and allow for any “High Quality”, research based questions to be use. The key to Genius hour is giving students control of their learning. This is the future of education. When the students design the tasks, they take ownership, are engaged and learn the most.

For many teachers this can be hard idea to swallow, ALLOWING every student to take learning into their own hands and create something different! When I first gave it a shot in my classroom, I found it took planning and skill to manage every students learning. I had to trust them. I had to give them space and time to explore. I had to let some fail, but we discussed what they learned in the failing process. I discovered that learning happens best in the risks teachers take in the classroom.

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