What are our students doing?

From: Internet Addiction Blog 

“Why didn’t you let me know you were at my house last night?” Griffin’s friend asked as we walked into the scout meeting. Griffin had stopped by the night before to get signed off on requirements for his first aid merit badge by his dad. “Where were you?” Griffin inquired. “Downstairs, asleep! My summer awake hours are 8 pm to 6 am.” As a parent listening to this conversation I was stunned that parents allowed their children to live this way. I asked a few questions. He explained that during the summer he plays Call of Duty with friend online at night. If he is up during “normal” hours he gets bored. Lucky for me Griffin thinks staying up all night to video game online is crazy.

As I reflected on this conversation, I got to wondering what my students are doing this summer. Before school got out, I surveyed my classes about what they were looking forward to during summer. Many responded with “TV, Video games or Movies.” Aren’t these things that students can do year round? Some did share about camping, sporting or trips to see family. A few responded with “Nothing”.  I guess I am lucky, I can spend most of summer at home with my kids. They read, write, and explore many things. This week they spent 3 days at Stony Creek Metropark attending a nature camp.

Photo Credit: T Bloch

Our students need sumer activities to stimulate their minds, challenge their thinking and keep them busy. Yes, children need to have voice and choice in what they do. They need free time to explore on their own, but they also need structured time. Time to explore new things. Time to be challenged. If children only choose what they want to do, how broad will their experiences be? Some children love trying new things but others resist. Children need to be pushed into trying a variety of activities out. Often they find something new they enjoy! My son Gavin didn’t want to goto nature camp, he told me he would rather spend quality time with “Netflix” but he learned he likes making! After building a catapult he said: “Dad can I make a Robot?”

Photo Credit: T Bloch

Society needs to make sure their are plenty of opportunities for students in the summer. Students should not be allow to just sit at home with screens as sitters. Many communities have camps at their churches or schools that offer this opportunity. Hopefully my students are taking full advantage of their summer! I will be tagging all my children’s summer learning with #summerlearningfun on Twitter and Instagram. Join me in shedding light on how our youth should use their open summer time to learn independently.


What would you do?


As class starts, I notice a couple of students in the back of the room focusing their attention to a yellow piece of paper. As a 4-minute video clip plays on the screen in the front of the classroom, I circle around to see what is diverting their attention. Incomplete math homework! Hmm, what should I do? I asked myself as I walked back to front of the classroom as the video wrapped up.

When I started teaching this behavior would have invoked anger in me. I would have quickly snatched up the papers and either ripped them up or passed them on to the assigning teacher to inflict a proper punishment. After 15 years in the classroom, I have realized this does not fix the issue of students focus or homework completion. What do most teachers do in this situation? I just want to make sure students didn’t miss the lesson on the periodic table. The video was an introduction to element groups. I felt it was engaging since Gallium is a pretty cool transition metal.


I had to make a quick decision. I asked the student to bring me their yellow papers and set them on my desk. I quietly shared my concern about missing the science lesson to finish math work. They both wanted to share excuses: “I didn’t feel well last night!” one exclaimed. I just asked them to return and focus on the task at hand. A bit later in class as students were working independently, I looked at their yellow math pages. I quickly noticed one student had no idea what they were doing and the other hadn’t shown any work. I called each of them up individually. First asking how they arrived at their answers to the first question. Neither one of the students could explain how to do the work. Both shared how they were confused with the assignment. One explained that he was ill the previous night the other confessed that sports practice obligations were taking precedence to his school work. Know that their math class was after lunch, I offered the the opportunity to complete the work during our lunch hour. Both students welcomed the invitation.

At lunch, we talked through the math equations. It seemed that students were not recognizing how to set up the ratio equations to properly solve them. After working through a few examples I made up about sports. Each of them independently worked through the 6 question assignment from the math teacher. As I checked over their work giving them high fives for success. “I though you were going to call my dad!” one exclaimed as he thanked me at the end of the lunch period and headed to math class with work completed in hand.

School needs to be a safe place! Even for those that make mistakes, forget to do their homework or are just plain lazy. Teachers need to focus on the individual students needs giving them time if needed to finish. Sure it is frustrating to have students focused on other classes in mine. I bubble of anger rises in my chest when I see students who seem to waste their time and never seem to have work completed. Does expressing this anger help these students? Not usually. Next time you encounter a similar situation, think about how you would like to be treated!

Starting Engaged 

Photo by T Bloch

The start of the school year is so important. Our start sets the tone for the entire school year. Many classrooms I have observed start year with an emphasis on rules and procedures. It is good to lay-out behavior expectations early on in your classroom but is the main goal for the first week of school? Shouldn’t we focus on engaging students? Don’t teachers want to give the message to students that learning in the classroom will be fun? Students should want to go to school for more than just their social contacts.

This year while I set expectations, I had the goal of starting with engagement in my classroom. No seating chart was made, I quickly called roll allowing students to sit in what ever seat they felt comfortable in. Each day of the four day first week after roll call I started class with a ten minute challenge. Students worked as team to complete challenge. I wandered the room watching students work and answered questions during the challenge. I was learning how my student interact, who took charge, who followed the lead and those that just watched others at work. Some groups found success, others experienced First Attempts In Learning (fail). Everyone was learning, especially me. My students we learning how to learn from failures and work as teams. I was learning about my students: how the interact and tackle tasks. Most of all my students were engaged.

The challenges:

Day 1 :

Materials- 1 piece of 8 x 11 paper   Ruler   Scissors   Textbook

Goal: Hold the textbook up one inch above the tables with only the paper supplies.

Day 2:

Materials: Paper, water, and google.

Goal: Make a cup that holds water out of paper:

Day 3:

Materials:  Paper bag, 4 straws, 1 paper cup, 1 piece of construction paper, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of yarn, and a marble.

Goal: Support a marble as high off of the table as you possibly can.

Day 4 – Marshmallow Challenge


My students came into each day excited to tackle the next challenge. After day one when many were upset with not being able to succeed, student realized that failing was not their destination but a necessary stop for some on their learning journey. I feel I have now set an engaged tone to my classroom. Students come excited to learn. As a result of these activities many students have shared that they now love science, At open house every parent shared how their child was talking about what we were doing in the classroom. Hopefully we can maintain this excitement throughout the year,

Photo by T Bloch
Photo by T Bloch

#MSchat and @AMLE Twitter event 8-14-14 8 pm ET

#MSchat and AMLE are partnering up to bring another splendid Flipped Twitter event to the Twitter-verse, and I would love to have you all to join the conversation.  Much appreciation to Dru Tomlin from AMLE for providing great material for us to chat about and moderating the chat!


Here are the details:

  • What is it? Twitter Event at #mschat about Motivating Students in the Middle Level
  • What else?  Our conversation will be motivated by the “Motivating Students with Teachable Moments” article in the August edition of AMLE Magazine: http://www.amle.org/Portals/0/pdf/amle_magazine/fi/AMLEMag_Aug2014.pdf. In fact, as you can see, the entire AMLE magazine is available for AMLE Associate (FREE!) members. 
  • When?  Thursday, August 14th from 8-9pmET
  • Where? #mschat

Summer Learning AMLE Institute of Middle Level Leadership on Twitter

What are you doing this summer?


Top of my list is to take a break and get away from teaching to reflect on my year. Take time for myself and my family. After my top priority I do want to stay connected and learn a few things. There are so many wonderful Professional Development opportunities out there. For me I want something fast and personalized. Nothing too formal, possibly something I can do as a break from my relaxation. A quick mind turn on.

I would love to travel to a wonderful conference like the Association of Middle Level Educators Institute of Middle Level Leadership but it is not in my budget. The next best thing to being there is to connect with the conference online. AMLE is teaming up with #MSchat to bring to twitter connections to their leadership institute. SO take the opportunity to connect with the best and the brightest while you relax on you vacation!

     What is it? Twitter Event at #mschat about the importance of Middle Level Leadership during the AMLE Institute for Middle Level Leadership! 

·         When?  Monday, June 23rd from 8-9pmET and Monday, July 14th from 8-9pmET

·         Where? #mschat and #AMLELI14

Hope you can join us for a couple of hours of powerful inspired learning!

The needed struggle with change in education

Education is changing at a rapid pace. Over the last two years, my school district has made more changes than the previous 12 that I worked there. Schools are dealing with so many changes teachers heads are spinning.

  • Curriculum changes,
  • Legislative changes
  • Testing changes
  • Evaluation changes
  • Instructional methods changes
  • Technology Changes
  • and of course students changes

Many arguments say it is about time the outdated American educational system made some changes. Educators are trained to ask question, to seek information and find out the reasons changes are made. Highly Effective educators seek research data that supports a change in their instructional practice. ALL schools require data to support changes to be presented as part of school improvement plans.

Currently teachers feel enormous changes come from outside of the school district, based upon legislative agendas. The majority of this “legislative” change has little research and data supporting it. Teachers and Schools lobby to get more data and research but few are listening. Teachers feel threatened by these changes that they had little voice in making. Feeling defeated teachers start to put up walls, not wanting to listen to any ideas about change.

Education at the same time, is attempting to evolve into a better machine for the 21st century and beyond. Blended learning models, flipped classrooms, standards based grading and many other student centered changes are happening. Sadly,some teachers overwhelmed with change, resist the changes that they can. Teachers need to look at these changes carefully. DO they make learning improve in my classroom? Will they help my students become engaged and take ownership of their learning? IS it something my students need? (Are my students performing WELL now?) Are the results there or is it change for change sake?

Educators need to look at change in 3 ways:

1. Change you can’t control- Legislative change we can not do anything about once laws are passed. Sadly many legislators don’t listen to our voice on these issues. We can dwell on this change, just deal and move on. (Knowing we voiced our opinion when we could)

2. Changes where our students benefit-Research shows that my students will benefit. This is a change I have to make and invest time to make it happen in my classroom. This might mean I have to replace a current technique or instructional plan. This change might be hard work, but most things worth doing are hard work.

3. Change for change sake- IF a change shows no value to our students, it should not be made! Teachers have to be careful with all the educational jargon and “sales” pitches on new “programs”. It is always best to talk to teachers who are using the tool to hear first hand how it works and if it improves students’ learning. Remember that what works in one place, doesn’t always work in another. Look for data that shows repeated successes.


Change is an essential element in education. Without change, students would still be writing on chalkboards, watching film strips, and in one room school houses. Struggling with change, is natural. Educators must question changes to make sure it is what is best for their students.

We must remember not to fight the NEEDED change because we can, since we can’t fight the BAD legislative laws that change how schools operate. We have to remember to separate the political fights from our students’ classroom needs.

 Below is a link to an #mschat on Educational Change.


#MSchat 3-20-14 Engaging students with movement

We had a great chat tonight about how movement is necessary to help engage students. Who can sit for an entire class period? I can’t sit still for 15 minutes. Kim Campbell wrote a great article for AMLE  that the chat was based on. The day of a quiet classroom and students sitting neatly in rows is over! Schools need to plan for student movement if they are going to be successful. Below is the archive for the chat.