Monday, October 29, 2012

A Week of Firsts....

Since presenting at the SC EdTech 2012 Conference on Friday, I've just been stepping out of my box all over the place!  I have FINALLY uploaded product to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  It's not a biggie, but it's something that I do with my kiddos every year at the end of the quarter. 

My classroom is focused on REFLECTION, REFLECTION, REFLECTION.  We reflect in ALL areas - socially, academically, manners, etc.  Students write learning reflections after difficult lessons, we reflect on weekly grades by setting goals and making action plans to move us forward.  So, it is only natural that at the end of the quarter I require my students to reflect on their performance over the entire 9 weeks.

I started doing this consistently after completing my National Board Certification in 2010.  I saw so much value in it myself, that I couldn't help but carry it over to my students.  Now, my students really are held accountable to their performance in more ways than a standardized test.

If you want to check out this product and show me some love click the image below.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Flipped Over Screencasting

Today I had the opportunity to share at the South Carolina EdTech Conference.  What a fabulous experience!  This was my FIRST experience presenting by myself in such a large forum.  I naively thought - small classrooms, a few people.  Well, when I found my room, I think there was room for 200 people in the session.  I immediately became sick to my stomach.  My stomach hit the floor and I became dizzy as I sat and watched the previous session.  The entire time I was terrified - my speakers were too small, will the tech work, can I fake an injury and leave early without anyone knowing, can I pay someone to do it for me.  The session before me was amazing and I felt stupid for even signing up to present.  I was going through that whole poor pitiful me routine that I've become pretty good at over the years.

Well, cue 9:45 - my session time.  I looked out among the faces and found a few familiar ones who came to hear what I had to say - me a little classroom teacher who doesn't know diddly about iOs operating systems, or app writing.  Me who was just sharing her story about a group of kiddos and a teacher stepping into unknown waters. 

Things went smoothly, there were lots of positive comments, great questions, and smiling faces.  I had a blast and felt completely validated about the things that I do every day in my classroom.

So, here is the presentation that I used.  I know there are some things that need more explaining.  So, if you have questions, let me know.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

First Steps Make Me Nervous...

There's this little shop that I like to frequent, maybe you've heard of it...TeachersPayTeachers.

I have a shop.  It has nothing in it.  I've been a member for a few years, but I haven't taken the time to fill my shop with the amazing cuteness that everyone else has.

I'm not the cutsey teacher that the top sellers are.  I don't create things with lots of fun graphics and borders.  My students create their own graphic organizers on notebook paper or white paper.  My copies are limited, so I don't spend my time creating stuff that I can't copy.

My Promethean flipcharts take hours to build, but I haven't uploaded any of them.  What kind of people would buy them?  Would I get negative feedback because I've embedded videos that require an account to places?

How do I determine the price for what I do?  How do you put a price on the time that you spend developing something for your kids?

I'm a nervous nellie when it comes to putting something out there for others.  I'm nervous because I don't want someone to tell me it's crap.

I have things in the works, but I haven't submitted yet.  They are sitting in my TPT file.  Waiting.  Waiting for the right moment.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Perfect Motivation

There are moments in every teacher's career that are easily remembered.  There are moments that are just as easily forgotten, and then there are moments that regardless of what you do, they will never, ever come close to being matched because they were that phenomenal.

I wrote earlier this week about a dream coming true for me.  Ron Clark was coming to town and I was going to be his personal host.  I have spent the last few days in an euphoric cloud of dreamland trying to figure out what I would say - would I stumble on my words, make a fool out of myself, etc.  I spent hours picking out the right outfit that looked perfectly professional, but not to over the top.  It was like preparing for prom or a first date, really.

For years I've read everything I could get my hands on about Ron Clark, watched every YouTube video, taped every episode of a talk show that came on, just to get a glimpse into his classroom.

Last night, I didn't sleep.  AT ALL!  I was hyped up like it was Christmas Eve and I was waiting for Santa to arrive.  The last time I couldn't sleep like this was the night before I got married.  I woke up every hour thinking about today. 

At 5:00, I woke up and brewed a pot of coffee and then began to get ready.  I realized that it was still before 6:00 and there was no way that I could leave that early.  If I had, I'm sure I'd have been sitting in a dark parking lot.  At 6:20, I decided that if I arrived at 7:00, that would be perfect.  Then I could help where needed. 

I pulled into the parking lot right at 7, and headed into the door.  It was empty, but bustling with energy.  We hung signs, set out books, found microphones, arranged the lobby.  All in an effort to provide other teachers with a phenomenal experience.

As the lobby began to fill up, my heart began to race.  At 8:15 on the nose, Ron arrived and we headed to the green room.  There were no normal introductions with Ron, he greeted everyone with a hug and a huge smile.  As we sat in the green room waiting for the news to arrive, we talked about the greatest challenges as teachers.  It was hard to narrow things down to one, but I responded with time - time to teach all of the standards to all the kids, time to take care of myself and my family, time to do everything that is expected and more. He was fantastic.  He asked about my kids, what my favorite subject to teach was, what I enjoy in my spare time.  I thought it would be me asking all of the questions, but he genuinely wanted to get to know me. 

If you have never had the experience of seeing Ron speak, you really are missing out on great entertainment.  He interacted with the audience, climbed on the back of pews, danced, rapped his way through algebra, taught us how to have a good handshake, and more.

The most profound thought out of the entire day was this, ...we have to stop teaching to the middle and to the kids who struggle.  Teach to the highest kid in the room.  Engage them, make them work for it.  If your lowest kid only achieves half, it is way more than if you would have slowed down. (completely paraphrased)  He stated multiple times that if our challenge/gifted students don't have to work for it, they create a poor work ethic and that does more harm to our country than anything.  I wanted to stand up on my pew and shout a hearty, "Amen!"    I learned that Finland, China, and India put 90% of their educational funding into gifted/challenge programs and they are the top educational systems world wide.  The US, well, we don't do that. 

After he spoke, I spent the next hour and a half manning the book signing table.  Ron took the time to talk to EVERY single one about what they taught, where they taught, what they thought the biggest challenge was, etc. 

The day was perfect.  It was exactly what I needed.  I'm ready to plan for next week and plan to knock their socks off each day.  Not in EVERY single moment, but something small every day - working a math problem on a balloon, teaching with sunglasses, etc. 

The day challenged me as a 13 year teacher to make it new.  What worked one day, may not work the next.  Keep adding to the bag of tricks.  Get to know your kids - This is my favorite part.  Visit their houses, show up at their ball games, serve their favorite foods.  Building relationships will go much further when there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. 

Yes, these are things I know and do, but it doesn't hurt to hear them again. 

If we make it fun for the kids, it will also be fun for us.  I LOVE what I do, but I find that I love it more when I've taken the time to make it fun.  I challenge you to read Ron's books and choose one idea to work into your room this week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Dream Coming True

When I first started teaching, I stumbled upon a little book that really set things in motion for me.  Many of you may have read it.  It's title:  The Essential 55 by Ron Clark.

  I remember very clearly the year that I started reading the book.  It was my first year of teaching in a real school :)  I had 20 4th graders in my class and I was trying to teach them manners.  I was from the south and was living in the northwest.  Manners and northwest aren't as natural as they are in the south. There were many days when I just wanted them to say "Yes ma'am," but that was so culturally different for them.  Somehow this little book landed in my lap.  I latched on and began to implement many of the rules - not all.

Over the years, I've read his other books, watched the movies, etc.  I have been mesmerized by the impact that he has had on the field of education and on students.

I don't think that he does anything extraordinary, or anything that is necessarily unique.  But what I do know is he does something to build relationships with his kids and his parents.  Through my career, that has been my goal.

No, Ron Clark is not the reason I became a teacher, but he does have a lot to do with the reason that I remain in the classroom.

This week, I finally get to meet one of my educational heroes.  My school is hosting him for the day.  I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.  But, the BEST part is...I get to be his personal host.  Ya'll, this is big time.  Yes, me - a 4th grade teacher who is exhausted, stressed, and wondering just how much longer I can put in 14 hour days.  

I'll be posting afterward to let you know how things turn out.  Stay tuned for  lots of pics.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October Currently

Listening:  It's the evening soundtrack in my house.  Hubs loves to play some Black Ops.  The constant rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns is a bit taxing, but it could be so much worse!

Loving:  This past weekend, it was cool.  Long sleeves cool.  Loved it!  Now, it's back to humid and hot.  Wanting fall to arrive in full force - sweaters, boots, socks!  Bring it on!

Thinking:  Went to the doc this week - well the minute clinic - and was prescribed 10 hours of sleep a night and 10 glasses of water a day.  I laughed!  Out loud!  Is anyone on the planet aware of what teachers do?

Wanting:  Every year I go through the same thing - coveting every pair of boots that I see.  Alas, my short calves make it impossible to find a pair that zips.  Looks like I'm destined to wear cowboy boots.

Needing:  SLEEP, someone else to grade all of the papers!  They are piling up and I always wait until Sunday to start.  Think I'd learn after 13 years.  Also need more people to sign up for our Williamsburg trip.

Book:  Hands Down:  Wanda's First Day and Halloweiner!  LOVE them both!  Wanda isn't really about Halloween, but it has witches and fairies and the illustrations are just too cute.  And, if I had a dachshund, you better believe I would dress him up as a hot dog!  I would name him Andouille Sausage Link and call him Dewie or Link!

Linking up with Farley at O, Boy 4th Grade!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Some Days...

Some days, teaching is easy - and by easy, I mean things click.  You hum at a great pace and everything gets checked off of the lesson plan.  Your kids are on task, there are no disruptions, and learning is at the forefront of everyone's mind.

Some days, teaching is HARD - yes, that is with all capitals.  Hard as in your day starts off bad - pouring down rain, sick, forgot computer at home.  Nothing is clicking, Stella has lost her groove and then some, and to top it all off, you get observed.

After 13 years, I've had both.  I'd like to believe that I've had more "easy" days than "HARD" days.

Today was one of those easy days.  My kids were in sync with me from the moment they arrived.  I'm thinking it had to do with the way I was dressed.

When my students arrived this morning, I was dressed as a Southeastern Native American Indian.  Why, you say?  Well, that's the way I teach.  My students learned all about the daily life of Southeastern Native Americans first by what I had on.  Students had to infer the materials that the clothing was made of, observe the turkey feathers that I had in my hair, discuss the possible process for making the arrowheads that I had in my basket, create meals based on the three sisters (corn, squash, and beans), and then create a rope with their team.

These are the days that I LOVE.  I finally feel like I am back where I belong in the upper grades.  The Social Studies is fascinating, and I have to admit, this round of 4th grade, I find myself enjoying it more.

**I know this is normally a Tech on Tuesday feature, but I don't have any fabulous tech right now.  I have been working with the website  to help my kids navigate websites.  You simply input your websites and it gives you a shortened url for students to visit.

Once students arrive on that page, the websites are shown as picture icons.

 I haven't used it yet, but I have it in my plans for next week.  It sure beats having kids type the entire address, hyperlinking on my webpage, or creating a word document.

I Don't Have the Answers...

It's taken me all weekend to begin to process what happened in Parkland, Florida.  I put it aside and compartmentalized it until I...