T is for…

Transition! This year I am switching contents from Math to English. Call me crazy, but one of the reasons that I pursued life as a #speducator is because it was intriguing that you are certified/licensed to teach any subject (grades K-12)…That’s what my license says, anyway. I’ve never been one to make these easy for myself. I like a challenge and I like to keep things exciting. Just a forewarning: this post may be more for me emotionally, than insightful and earth-shattering for anyone else, but it is necessary nonetheless.

Although I have enjoyed my time teaching math, I feel like I can make more of an impact in English. The other harsh reality is that I was never a #mathnerd and I mean that in the nicest way possible; I was never a natural when it came to math. I have learned to develop an appreciation for math, and strongly affirm that my struggles as a student (and in “re”-teaching myself math throughout my first year teaching) led to my success as a math educator. That’s not to say all of my students passed their standardized #soltest (which is the one of the most cruel acronyms in education… #SOL); they did not. However, I know that I inspired them to think creatively and not to fear math. In my book, that is a tremendous revelation and success. I hope that my students will continue to believe in themselves and in their ability to achieve understanding and success…even in math!

Because I was never inherently good at math, I lacked the unyielding passion that the majority of my colleagues hold in the math department. Try as I may, I couldn’t shake the daily woes of “I hate math…” and “math is the worst class ever” and (my personal favorite) “Ms. Cronin, I don’t hate you…I just hate this class!”. I tried to persevere and reassure my students. “Come on guys! Math isn’t that bad!” I made math fun for them, as my students told me. However, it wears on you to keep hearing the negativity and trying to keep your chin up. I was honored to attend the Virginia Teachers of Promise Institute this past spring, and it was one of the most motivational and inspiring anything (not just training, conference, etc.) I’ve every attended. I got to meet several recipients of the Milken Educator Award and 2 teachers inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame (which I didn’t even know existed)!

Side note: If you aren’t familiar with either of these organizations, I strongly encourage that you learn a little about them…their missions are inspiring and encouraging in a field that rarely gets the recognition we are due! Just to give you a frame of reference, Inductees to the NTHF are honored at the White House and one of the inductees from 1999 was Jaime Escalante, a math teacher in East LA who (along with his students) inspired the movie Stand and Deliver. If you haven’t seen that movie, rent it or buy it immediately! It’s truly inspirational and even though it’s set in the 1980’s, my students are still able to make connections with the movie and the characters and be inspired by the potential for success.

Back to the Teachers of Promise Institute, I was nominated by my grad school professors at George Mason University (THANK YOU, by the way!) along with a handful of other future educators, each one of us selected by the professors in the departments in which we studied/were studying. I was there to represent #speducators and was truly honored, but back to my point…There were several speakers, presenters, mini-sessions, etc. of meaningful and enlightening tips, words of wisdom, encouragement, positive energy, and rejuvenation (which is always appreciated in the midst of #marchmadness during the school year). One of the presenters, Dr. Alex Carter was highlighting the key aspects that define the difference between a good teacher and a great one. I already felt a connection towards this guy because he also attend JMU for his undergrad #godukes and he now lives in Colorado, which after living there will always have a special place in my heart.

There were 3 key points that were highlighted, and I wish I could share a transcript of the presentation because it was truly captivating message…What makes a teacher great?

  1. Passion–for content
  2. Excellence in pedagogy
  3. Ability to have a rapport with students

Without a doubt, number 3 is the most important! “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” (John Maxwell). I’m not exactly a seasoned veteran from my mere 3 years experience in teaching, but it’s enough to know that #3 is without a doubt, paramount. That is a quality of mine that I consider a strength. #2 well I think “excellence” is a strong word, but part of knowing is being open to learning new things. I am always learning new things and seeking training that will help me to be an even better educator, so I think I have that covered too. #1 passion for the content…math? I can’t exactly argue that I have an undying passion for math. So I decided that’s something that I can control, and so begin my #transition. In that moment, I knew it was time to switch content areas. If not forever, at least so I could share my passion for what I truly and naturally enjoy. You guessed it: writing! Obviously reading is a tremendous aspect of English, but the 2 go hand in hand. Arguably, the majority of my students will graduate from high school and never again use Algebra in their lives and that may be true. However, it is inevitable that they will write. I want to help my students to build that skill and help them unleash their creativity through their words. For me, writing can be an outlet and a powerful coping mechanism. I hope that my students will be able to experience something so profound, but if not, just the basics of grammar, how to format documents on Microsoft Word and Google Docs, and digital literacy will help them to be functional and contributing members of society!

I know this is getting long, but I wanted to introduce my #transition as that is something that is inevitable in all of our lives, in various forms. As a #speducator and #casemanager one of my responsibilities is to help my students develop a #transitionplan to help prepare them for life “post-secondary school” (aka after high school). This is such an exciting opportunity, and there are a ton of awesome resource that make this a lot easier. Sure, everyone wants to be a model (maybe just me as a child) or a professional basketball player (most of my male students), but that’s typically far from realistic. No matter a student’s goal, part of the transition plan is to identify a goal to work towards and figure out what steps (training, education, experience, etc.) are necessary to achieve the end goal of their dream job.

Transition Plan Resources:

Transition Planning Resources-Books, Articles & Web Sources

PACER’s National Parent Center of Transition and Employment

US Department of Education’s (DOE’s) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Youth and Students with Disabilities (May 2017).

CareerWise Education-Prep for the Job Application Process & Interviews

National Technical Assistance Center on Transition


P is for…

P is for…Procrastination…at least lately 🙂ambasadorbadgewhite

More importantly, PLICKERS Like clickers…but with a P! I first learned about plickers about 2 years ago from my younger sister who at the time was student teaching in Tennessee…she knew I would be excited about this awesome tool and couldn’t wait to share it with me (thanks Moll)! I’m especially excited about plickers, because I am now a plickers Ambassador!

plickers are basically a combination between QR codes (Wikipedia definition of QR codes if you are unfamiliar), and student response clickers. The way it works is similar to Kahoot…you create questions or sets of questions and can project the question so that students can give their answer.

When you create an account on plickers, you can also create classes. I recommend creating your classes and adding students before creating questions, because that way you can assign the questions to classes as you go (work smarter, not harder).

This is what the main screen looks like when you log in:


Screen when you login to plickers^^^

You can create questions by clicking the Pink +New Question button. When you add questions, you can type the question and your answer choices (multiple choice and/or true/false). You will mark the correct answer(s) and continue creating questions. You can assign or “cue” questions for specific classes by adding them to a class queue. Click “Live View” at the top of the main screen to start presenting the actual questions. Download the mobile app to use your mobile device to scan the plickers cards (which look like QR codes). Cards are numbered and you assign a card to each student (when you create the classes). Here’s a video of what it looks like when you create a class and assign cards.

I want to spread the word about this awesome tool for teachers because it’s a really great way to integrate technology into instruction, create (or transform) a lesson to be even more engaging for students. There are countless possibilities for the uses of plickers, and I love to share my experiences but please feel free to share your experiences, as well! It can be overwhelming at first, but stick with it because it is really an awesome tool and my students love it. There is also a “Reports” feature where you can see question history (how students performed on each question, essentially item analysis), and a score sheet, which shows every student’s score for each item and the total percentage of students that got the question correct. This is GREAT data and it’s there, you just have to click the button. I used plickers for the final exam with 2 of my classes last year and it was so efficient (administering the assessment and the grading…which was instant). I also think students performed better with the plickers assessment than they would have in a traditional testing environment, because they didn’t feel as much pressure and they’re having fun!

SpEducator + Math

I’d like to think I coined the term #speducator but when I googled it, I found that I’m apparently not as innovative as I gave myself credit for, but I still think it’s pretty clever! 🙂

I never liked math when I was in school and I was never a “math person”. Everyone is capable of learning, but some people are just numbers people and it comes easier/more naturally to them. I was never one of those people. However, in teaching math I had come to find at least an appreciation and greater understanding for and of mathematics. I think math is THE most difficult subject to teach. Add to that challenge, students with disabilities that often unfortunately have a horrible track record with experience in math. They frequently have a history of failure, and because of it they not only hate math, they are afraid of it. I love when I am able to have students get to the “a-ha!” moments…you can just see the light bulb go on in their brain and their face lights up and finally, they get it! I like a challenge, but I never could have imagined the challenges I would face teaching high school math (to students with disabilities). There is never a dull moment and I learn a lot from my students. I work really hard from the very beginning to open my students’ minds to math and their ability to succeed, even if they haven’t in the past.

I use graphic organizers a lot. And foldables #forthewin. I create hands-on activities, models and examples. There are a lot of useful resources for these types of things and they can be used for any content and grade/age level, so here are some of my faves:

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Have to start somewhere…

In every aspect of life, I use technology to make my life easier. There are so many devices, tools, apps, programs, features, etc. that allow us to organize our lives and be more efficient and productive humans! Technology is so exciting to me because the possibilities are endless and educational technology is one of the many rapidly growing and evolving aspects of education. The tech world is transforming education. That can be said for teachers, administrators, and students alike. Even parents! I create things frequently (resources, lessons, random things to help with classroom management, and the list goes on…). As I learn more about technology, especially in regards to assistive technology, classroom technology, Google Apps for Education, SmartBoard, and countless other educational software, tools, and resources, I find myself eager to share that information with others. I often teach other teachers how to integrate technology in their classroom, or help with case management for their special ed students with IEP’s, and anything else that I think can be helpful. I’ve created videos and shared lots of Google Docs/Forms/etc.

I’ve always wanted to create a resource for teachers, because there are so many amazing tools and resources available, the key is in knowing where to find them. That’s my goal for this blog: create a landing page that will serve as a sort of encyclopedia of all things education (helpful resources, tools, other blogs, advice, etc.). Several people have told me I should start a blog for this because it would be so helpful…here goes nothing!