Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The "Bad Kid" Label Sticks: Let's Remove It!


Sometimes, ok many times, she could be loud.
She rolled her eyes and twirled her neck. Often.
Her behavior was everyone else's fault, never hers.

But as the school year progressed, she changed.
She evolved.

Was she perfect? By, no means.
Did I require perfection from her?
No, why should I?

But I observed waaaaay less yelling, bullying, eye rolling and neck twirling.
Way less.

In my End-of-the-Year card! :)
I never yelled at her.
I  talked to her, not "at" her.
I listened to her.
I would allow her to lead.
Let her use her voice for good.
I resisted the power struggle.
Had to, because sometimes she would take me there.:)
And we grew together throughout the school year.

We grew to understand each other.
She knew I "didn't play", but I loved her anyway.
She knew to grab that Ipad, set the timer for 5 minutes, and go to the buddy classroom because I needed a timeout. :)
I learned there was a girl who needed to know she was more than a loud, bullying, eye-rolling, neck twirling child.
We built a relationship.

As the school year ended, I chose her to be the mayor at JA Biztown.
She was amazing!
Everything ran smoothly, she gave her speech to the "citizens."
I was so proud. What a leader!

But here's the thing with the "bad" kid.
Some educators don't want to let go of the label that has followed that student for years.

"I can't believe out of all the kids in your room, you chose her to be the mayor!"

Really?

I have this pesky habit of believing in the "bad" kid, just as I believe in all my kids.
I believe in giving kids a fresh start, and not believing the hype that follows them.
I believe educators should stop chasing down the previous teachers to get the "scoop" on a child and then continue to treat that child the same way they were the previous year.

Thre's no magic wand to change a child.
And sometimes, what is tried, fails.
This year, give the "bad" kid a chance to be viewed as good, or at least as worthy as everyone else.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#WhatSummerBreak vs. #SummerBreak- A Teacher's Hashtag!


Why do I often feel the need to convince "others" (Meaning people who are not teachers, do not work with teachers, or are not married or partners of teachers.),that my summer vacation is well-deserved and/or not really a break at all?

Which, by the way, is exactly what I am doing in this blog post! LOL

This post stemmed from my participation as a delegate at the NEA RA (National Education Association Representative Assembly). The delegate who proposed this hashtag felt that the #whatsummerbreak was needed because so many "others" felt that teachers just get the summer off to do absolutely nothing. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) The delegate wanted teachers to post using the #whatsummerbreak to prove to "others" that teachers really don't enjoy their summer break the way other people think they do.

I guess this is a good time to mention that the RA lasted a week, I attended Friday through Wednesday. I worked 10 hour days, including Sunday and the 4th of July. (Ahem!)

Anytyway. The point is there are many, many, many, many, teachers working their way through their "summer break." Some of them are really working, as in, they have jobs. Jobs they MUST have in order to survive until school begins again, or this is their all-the-time 2nd job in order to survive.

Then we have the teachers who are doing, we'll call it "school stuff." Conferences, classes, summer school,(Wait, that's a job), and .or book studies.  Some of them are home, or in their classrooms, preparing for the new school year. Whether it's redesigning rooms, adjusting or creating new lesson plans, etc... I changed grades last year, so most of  my summer last year was spent getting ready for the new curriculum.

So yeah, for thousands of teachers around the country, the #whatsummerbreak does apply.(Watch this video)

But for those educators, or anyone else who deals with Other People's Children, do not, as I find myself doing much too often, feel the need to justify why you are off! EVER!

For 10 months you do what most people could not. You deal with parents, their children, other teachers, coaches, administrators. You write lesson plans, grade papers, attend PD, arrive early, leave late, give up countless hours of your time, coach, run after-school programs, and you never,ever, stop thinking about those kids, "your kids.".

And, before the "others" say it, yes, you willingly signed up for this job. But this job, this job can suck the life out of you.

SO, if for 2 months you want to sit on a beach, travel around the world, play with your kids, binge on a  Netflix, (substitute any streaming device here), show, talk to your significant other about something other than school, then do it! You deserve it, and don't you ever feel the need to justify it. #summerbreak

Please feel free to post to either hashtag #summerbreak or #whatsummerbreak and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Monday, May 29, 2017

"Tell Me About Your Number!" Adding a Little Somethin',Somethin' with QR Codes!


I try to switch up what we do for Morning Meeting activities.

And once it warms up, I try to make whatever we do take place outdoors.
So I came up with this little activity,"Tell Me About Your Number!"
You need devices, but you do not need Wifi, just download a QR code reader. I use Inigma.

First, I created QR code sheets using the QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator. When I created them, I only put the number and an asterik because all I wanted the kids to see was a number when they scanned it. Once you create your "quiz", it is very easy to print the QR codes, they are made for you.

I have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) classroom and a couple of Ipads, so the kids were split up into groups of 2 or 3. Each group was given a worksheet to write their answers, and a QR code sheet. The students had 2 jobs. They had to go around and scan the other groups QR code and a number would appear.

Next, when the number appeared, they had to write the number AND an equation for that number. It could be addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division or a combination of operations. The team with the most equations completed won. They were timed, had to vary the operations, and of course, their equations had to be correct.

I loved watching my students work. They really enjoyed this. They were engaged the entire time and came up with a number of ways to represent each number. My students love competition, but you could always take that out of the equation.:)

The kids had fun, solved problems, were engaged, and collaborated.! Adding QR codes to this activity was a way to take something simple and pump it up!

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Everybody's It!" - Building Relationships With Play!

I can't join in because of my knees, but I watch.
I stand on the sidewalk, outside our back door, and watch them engage in our Morning Meeting activity, "Everybody's It."
When the weather warms up, we head outside for our Morning Meeting activity every day that we can.
I am fortunate, I open our back door, and they hit the blacktop.

I do not remember where I found "Everybody's It". I didn't make it up, but I love this game and what it does for my kids.
It's exactly what it says, everybody's it. Anyone can tag you, and you're frozen. But, anyone can "unfreeze" you.

I set my timer and let them loose, and I watch.
They have evolved since the beginning of the year.
Everyone used to be out for themselves.

Now, they find a way to double back and unfreeze another student.
They call out the names of students that are frozen, knowing that they can't get to them, but hoping someone else will.
They unfreeze, not only their friends, but any of their peers who are frozen.
They run like crazy, no one thinking they are too cool to play.
They have fun, and don't take themselves so seriously.

I think one day before school ends, I'm going to put on my sneakers, and join in. With my knees I'll be easy to catch, but with the relationships I've built with them. I know I won't be frozen long!:)


Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Marble Run Challenge!"- STEMazing!

Sometimes you get tired of the "new" thing in education.
Well, I was tired of  hearing, reading, and/or discussing "STEM"or "STEAM", whichever you prefer.
I really didn't understand what the big deal was until we participated in Jen Wagner's "Marble Run Challenge."

Now don't get me wrong, my kids code, we integrate tech, etc, but I had never done a STEM project.

The concept was simple. The kids had to design a structure for a marble to run through. We started out with time limits, but realized, due to our limited time, we would just concentrate on seeing how long it took the marble to make it through the structure.

Notice the use of the word "we". This was a project that was guided by the students.

I wish I could teach like this all year. Talk about engagement! Every day, and I literally mean every day, they  BEGGED to work on their structures.

They worked on it during Quiet Time, so essentially it wasn't Quiet Time anymore, but who cares? They worked on it during... whenever I could sneak some time in.


You know what? More learning went on in those moments...
The conversations.
The research.
The dedication.
The team names. Hilarious!:)
The collaboration.
Designing.
Troubleshooting.
Getting their own supplies(I was supposed to get the supplies, but they got tired of waiting for me.)
Calling, texting, using Google chat to talk to each other at home.
Resolving problems among themselves.(And calling out the slackers.)
Parents sending in supplies for their kids.
The willingness to try over and over and over.

We had a competition at the end, what they had all worked so hard for. Parents were invited. Some of the marbles went all the way through, some didn't. But that was okay. They talked about the whys of their design. Ran the marble through their structure.(Or not). They had 3 chances and they could make adjustments. Loved hearing the conversations as they discussed what they could do differently to make it work.


video
Team Valor won! We all won. An amazing project that made a STEM believer out of me!



Monday, March 13, 2017

Student Voice = Student Passion: TED Talks Part 2

I could have assigned the Natural Disaster Research report
It would have been soooo much easier.
It's already written. We've used it before.
It has a rubric, complete with strict guidelines on what must be included in order to get the best grade.

But I couldn't do it.



After getting my feet wet with TED talks last year, I couldn't do it.
Last year, I allowed my more "capable" students to create a TED talk presentation.
This year, I included all of them. Out of 28 students, only one did not complete it.
One. (Yeah, he completed his over the weekend!)
And they had a ball!

Not only did they complete their presentations, but they also got a chance to present to their peers, the principal, our reading coach, and their parents.

Here were my guidelines:
Choose a topic you are passionate about or interested in.
Write a speech, not a research report.
2  minutes or more.
Research must be included to support what you are sharing.
Create a slideshow that correlates with your speech. It may include video and/or images.(No random images or video) OR a title page.
Write the speech and post script on Telemprompter. (Teleprompter Pro is better because it has unlimited scripts)
Cite the sources.
Practice your speech out loud. They videotaped themselves with our Swivl when they practiced.

Although the students chose their topic, there was a teacher component. You have to break them out of the research report mode. The "just the facts" mode. Or the "What do you want me to say?" mode. One on one conferences are a must or this is not going to work.

They were amazing! They were awesome!
As I sat, and listened to their presentations, I was in awe.
An example of awesomeness; the adults learned about an app that would freeze their child's phone screen during the "Too Much Screen Time" presentation. Immediately the adults in the room began writing down the name of the app!  Needless to say, her peers weren't too happy with her.:)
They did this.
They worked and worked, and the product was stupendous.

Things I would do differently:
28 presentations in one day is too much. I ended up dividing the days.
Make sure all the scripts are on the same Ipad.
Practice public speaking all year.(One of my students was so nervous, he kept one hand on his head throughout his entire presentation. I don't think he was even aware of it!:))
Use the stage. More authentic feel.

I didn't grade them.I felt that placing a grade on this would diminish  their work. However, what they learned during this project, can now be applied to the Performance Task they have to complete, which will be graded.

Looking forward to the passions a new year brings!







Saturday, February 18, 2017

Betsy Devos, Secretary of Education - Let Her In!

The other day I smiled as I watched the video where Betsy Devos, our new Secretary of Education, was blocked from entering a school in D.C.
"What a way to humble her!", I thought.
"Now, she will understand that everyone cannot be bought, there are still free thinkers, my thoughts rambled on.
Then I read a statement from the AFT Union President Randi Weingarten, where she stated that Devos should be let into public schools.

Yes. let her in.
Let her in so she could see what public schools are about.
Let her in to see in many of the public schools of children of color and rural schools:
the lack of supplies and resources
cramped rooms
large class sizes
no Recess
digital inequity
inexperienced educators
stressed and depressed educators
"whole child" ignored
children suffering from trauma and/or poverty
excessive testing
high turnover in teachers

Yes, let her in.
She can also view:
teachers working miracles with what they have
educators with empathy and compassion
students learning who deal with things adults couldn't
educators going above and beyond to do for "their" kids
a sense of community
out of pocket purchases for the students
happy parents
teachers meeting the needs of the "whole child"
children succeeding
children learning how to code, build robots,collaborating globally

Let her see the reality of public schools, the positive and/or the negative.
I don't expect miracles, she is a billionaire who has a charter school agenda. But maybe if she visits public schools, she will come to understand why we love them, and work hard in them.

Update: Well, they #letherin and this is what happened...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

"Thank You Mrs.M" - Why Small Group Instruction Works!





I was frustrated.

I knew I was frustrated, and they knew I was frustrated.

Decimals. Place value.
I gave a formative on Quizizz, and I was not pleased with the results.
I looked at the data, and gathered a small group to the kidney table.

We did an activity with decimals, and then reviewed the same questions that were on Quizizz. Most of them did well, in the back, with me.


Here's the thing. Because I was dealing with about 5 kids, I took the time to ask them why they did well at the kidney table and not on Quizizz.


"Because it's timed, Mrs.M. The time was too fast and we were competing!" 


"Duh." Makes sense.  Lesson learned, in small group.


Sometimes a student needs your full attention. And if it's not your full attention, at least not having to split your attention with 27 other students. Small group instruction has become a mainstay in my classroom. It's not always easy when working with 28 5th graders smack in the middle of puberty. But it can be done.



  • Use data to guide your group. I use what I call " Engaging data". Plickers, Quizizz, Kahoot, Edpuzzle, there are so many to choose from. But they all help me achieve the same goal, immediate feedback that helps me form groups.

  • Use ability to form groups not names or the letters of the alphabet. I don't care if they are Group A, someone in that group may not understand.

  • Create your groups. Manage the size. 10 kids in a group is not small group instruction.

  • Change the way you deliver instruction in the small group. What did Einstein say, "Doing the same thing over and over..." Same content, different delivery. Don't just go over the same questions they worked on.

  • Don't hold the students hostage. If they get it, let them go. Give them a chance to work independently, they can always come back if they need help.

  • And the most important piece, manage your classroom. If you spend more time correcting behavior than focusing on your group, small group instruction will not work.


He was the last one left. Everyone else had demonstrated understanding, and left to work independently.. We/he solved a few problems. He got it!

After his high five, he stated sincerely, "Thank you Mrs.M.", and walked back to his seat.


Yeah, small group.  It works!


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ability Does NOT = Zip Code!

I have worked in schools that have been defined by a number of labels. High poverty, large percentage of free and reduced lunch, low income, those types of labels.
When those labels are used, although they shouldn't, they tend to define a school, their students, and the parents.
Generalizations are made.
Well, you know, because the school is  high poverty, the free and reduced lunch percentage is high, and there are many low income families.
Those generalizations lead to beliefs.
Beliefs that lead to an excessive amount of reading and math instruction.
More intervention.
More worksheets.
More computers, just so we make sure these kids don't miss out on all the adaptive programs that are available to them.
But many of them do miss out.

They miss out on STEAM programs, global collaboration, plays,  passion projects, student ownership, being allowed to think!

This year, thanks to a friend of mine and her connections, (Shout out to Michelle!),I was able to obtain a grant for a LEGO Robotics kit. With the Robotics kit came the responsibility of getting a group of  kids ready to compete in a FIRST LEGO League Robotics competition. I never doubted they could do it.

These kids.

I looked at the LEGO kit when it arrived, and wanted to cry.

They looked at the LEGO kit and began to build.

They built Mission models, a robot, and programmed it.(Shout out to Home Depot for building and donating their practice table)
They studied their Core Values and completed their Animal Allies research project. (Shout out to Jillian from +Sharks4Kids!).
Our, the other coach and I, faith never wavered. We believed in them.
These kids from this "high poverty, large percentage of free and reduced lunch, low income" school went to the competition and did their thing.
They went, worked as a team, behaved respectfully, and showed what they are capable of.
They got points on the board for getting their robot to complete 3 missions! (Shout out to to Mr.Bill from Caravel Academy!)
They won the award for the Research category. YES!
I'm  still grinning.:)

Let's give our kids, no matter where they attend school, a chance to be exposed. A chance to experience all that life has to offer. Give them a chance to shine!

Zip code. Does not.  = ability.