R is for…

R is for “regroup”. It’s time for school to start again soon and past time for me to get my…stuff together! When a new school year starts, I find myself doing a lot of things that start with “r” that are probably helpful for all teachers to keep in mind when getting back into the swing of things:

#Refresh material to make it relevant and current (whether that be in my calendar, dates on assignments, google site, blackboard, templates, etc.)

#Reuse Don’t reinvent the wheel! Reuse decorations, examples of student projects, lessons (that went well…tweak it to make it a little better/different), the same template for that back to school night presentation. Keep an open mind and don’t make things more difficult than they need to be.

#Reorganize electronic files. Your desktop (on your computer, but also . Your external hard drive (if you don’t have one of these-GET ONE!). Your web browser bookmarks-put them in folders by sub-topic and rename them so you know exactly what they are. A great resource for web bookmarks/resources is called Symbaloo. Use folders on your computer desktop so that you can find things quickly and easily.

#ReduceClutter. No need to elaborate on this, but…if in doubt: throw it out. If in serious doubt: scan it and save to a thumb drive (save the file with something identifiable so you don’t have to open the file to know what it is), then throw out the paper.

#Reply to emails…catch up from what was put off (if you’re like me, for probably the whole summer)

#Recollect lessons learned from previous lessons, years, etc. When I say #LessonsLearned I mean by you…not what your students learned. When you actually delivered a lesson..how’d it go? Because it my experience, it rarely (if ever) goes according to plan. Be creative and learn from your own experience.

#Routine Get back into it. If you make a little progress, and a little more each day than you did the last, life (and the school year) will be a heck of a lot easier than trying to unpack and set up your entire classroom in a day.

#Realistic see above. also, although summer is often a time for taking advantage of professional development opportunities and learning exciting an new strategies, activities, etc. to use in the classroom #remember that it’s impossible to do everything. try 1 thing at a time (maybe 1 a month to start with, or even 1 a quarter). Do not overwhelm yourself by trying to do it all. As I have to often remind myself: It’s. Not. Possible.

#Remember why you became a teacher. Know your “why”, because it’s important and will keep you going, as you experience the rollercoaster of emotions that the school year always brings. (If you haven’t experienced this since your first year of teaching, good on ya! and please let me know how you do it!).

#Reinvigorate your passion for teaching. If you’re struggling with this one, refer to my post from last year Back to School! with motivational videos to inspire you and make you laugh. Browse some TED Talks Education, read some #pd books, watch videos by REAL teachers like the “sweaty teacher”.

#Realize the impact that you have made in the past and will undoubtedly make this year and for a lifetime. Build relationships and rapport with your students, because in the wise words of Rita Pierson, “Every kid needs a champion“.

#Readyornot here we go! If it hasn’t already, the new school year will be staring VERY soon. Put your game face on.  Kids are like animals…they sense fear. Be confident because we can do this and even if you’re not ready…#fakeittilyoumakeit

#Reward yourself. We work hard. We make a difference. We make an impact. Every. Single. Day. We don’t make millions, but everyone deserves any occasion to #treatyoself (if you haven’t seen this episode of Parks and Rec please watch it…hilarious).

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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

Q is for…

QR Codes (stands for Quick Response Codes) If you want to use QR codes in your classroom, they’re a great way to integrate technology especially for the 21st century learners that have a cell phone glued to their hand. There are several free website for generating QR Codes, but here’s one that I have used: QR Code Generator. You have to create an account and sign-in, but it’s very user friendly and will help you create a QR code for just about anything. You can create a QR code as a link for people to scan with their mobile device (and/or show a corresponding website address). The QR code can open a website, open a new email to a specific email address, open a video, open a Google Form, etc.

qrcode


Quizlet Learning tool that is essentially digital flashcards. You can create your own “deck” of flashcards and/or search for existing decks of flashcards. There are reviews for just about every age and subject area, and even standardized tests (SOL’s) and teacher prep tests (Praxis, RVE, VCLA, etc.). Just search for whatever you need and it probably already exists! You can look at traditional flashcards with vocabulary on one side and definition on the other, have a matching activity, fill in the blank questions/activities, etc. and they are created automatically. This is a great resource for reviews and/or remediation. The benefit of the digital component is that they can be easily accessed by anyone, anywhere, any time (and no one has to write out 100 index cards). This is especially helpful for students that struggle with executive functioning in the area of organization.

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:

plick1

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!

Back to School!

First day back to work was last Thursday and not surprising, I already have NO TIME (for anything)! Not sure (YET) how I’m going to get everything together and ready for students on Tuesday after Labor Day…but somehow I will make it work!

I’m finishing up the last of my professional development classes I’ve been taking this summer and the last one is on Growth Mindset. Our final project was to create something that has to do with growth mindset and the only guidelines was that the theme for the project is: “action”. As in, take action! I want to teach my students explicitly about the growth mindset this year. If you’re not familiar with what #growthmindset means, please read the book #mindset (mindset: the psychology of success) written by #caroldweck

It’s not just for teachers and it’s an easy read. It’s easy to understand and it is relatable. Having a growth mindset means focusing more on the process and effort than on a single goal or final product. There is more than 1 right answer, way to solve a problem, etc. In creating my final project, I got really excited and passionate about sharing this with my students (as is common when I get excited about anything I feel very strongly about and think my students will really enjoy)…I came across some videos that sum of growth mindset and the whole mentality and framework of thinking. They are amusing, inspiring, and entertaining…I highly recommend watching all of them! Some are from Sesame Street and while that may seem ridiculous to share with my high school students who think they are too cool for school, I think even they will find it amusing.

As we all go back to school (even if you’ve already started), HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here’s a video to make you smile. Kid President’s Pep Talk for Students & Teachers