"I feel so stuck. Nobody seems to get my ideas or feel my passion for teaching."
If you are like me I am sure you have said this at least five times a day. What is a lone nut to do? I was surrounded by others who were great teachers, but didn't want to change. I was stuck. That was until I found the magic of a PLN (Professional Learning Network) and since then I haven't had to utter those words anymore. I finally feel accepted, understood, and supported by amazing educators.
How can you do it you ask? Easy. Here are the ways that I built my PLN, just take the first step and you will never want to go back!
1. Twitter: Sure, some merely think of Twitter as a website used for those who want to stalk their favorite celebrities' every selfie and food habits, but the site has take a new turn for educators. Using Twitter in an educational setting for the past year has been my best asset. Whenever I have a question, need help with a lesson plan, or need to find the coolest thing to do in my class, Twitter is where I turn.
Once you are on the site, go find some of the educators you look up to (and tweet to them), find companies you use in your school (tweet to them as well), and join an "edchat". There are "edchats" for just about everything in education ranging from state-specific discussions (Like #NVedchat for Nevada educators) to edtech (#edtechchat) and grade-specific. There is bound to be a chat that you can join and learn from.
The golden rule with Twitter is you don't have to follow everyone, only follow those who will help you become a better educator.
Sign up right this second (Seriously, stop reading and go sign up).Don't know where to start? Tweet to me @MsGeekyTeach and I will help you out.
2. Meetups: Meetups are a great way to connect in real life with friends from Twitter, emails, and more. Meetups can be anything from a small meetup like BrewCUE, CoffeeCUE, or EdCamp, to a large conference like ISTE, NCTM or the annual CUE Conference.
Some are free, while some you have to pay for, but I'll tell you this--it’s well worth your money and time if you get to connect with other educators, especially those you otherwise would have never come across.
3. Voxer: Voxer is, simply-put a walkie-talkie application. Why not just text or call, you ask? Well, Voxer allows you to ensure that your question or comment gets the love it deserves. With the Voxer app, you can send text messages, photos, and instant voice messages to individuals and groups.
My PLN, I use this with many other educators to throw an idea around or to get feedback on a failing lesson plan. Since my message is there for them to listen to when they get the chance, I don't have to worry about my message being forgotten about. This also ensures that I will get a thoughtful response once my PLN members get the time to respond.
4. Point: How about sustaining your PLN by sharing articles? Point is a newly discovered favorite Chrome extension of mine. You can share articles with friends, highlight parts of the article that you find interesting, and with the extension you can easily retrieve your favorite reads.
This has changed the way that I read articles, but it's even better for my PLN: I can now share the coolest new edtech findings with all of my edtech friends with one, simple extension. It's like sitting next to another person and chatting about the latest newspaper article!
These are just some of the ways that I stay connected to my PLN. I challenge you to check out new ways to connect, and if you find one, let me know in the comments section below!
NOTE: This article is part of EdSurge's Fifty States Initiative (representing the state of Nevada). Interested in representing edtech in your state? Apply here.
Have you ever been so excited to do something with your students that you just jump in? And after you jump in, the kids have fun but what you thought would happen didn't and the product you get is a failure? Yeah.....that is what happened when I jumped into blogging with my students. So here is my tale of how I messed up and how I am fixing it.
Over winter break I was so excited to blog with my students. I couldn't WAIT for school to come around and so the first week back from break I told them we would be blogging the next week. They were excited, I was way more excited then they were and so we jumped in. I used Kidblog and signed up all of my kids, sent home a letter with information about Kidblog and how we would be using it in our classroom.
My students were working on silly animals stories and I was silly enough to not go over the rules and procedures of blogging. I let them loose and they started typing away not really knowing why we were blogging, they just knew that we were going to share our stories with family, friends, and other people online. I didn't go over procedures for how to leave good comments, or that whatever you put online is stuck online. The kids had fun though but the product was not up to my expectations.
So what do you do when you mess up and feel like the worst teacher in the world? I decided to start again and ask my PLN (Professional Learning Network). Man oh man did I find some great things from fellow class blogger Victoria who did a GHO (Google Hangout) with me and broke down how she successfully blogs in her class. She referred me to Pernille Ripp and her fantastic tips on blogging. After all the talking and reading I knew I was ready to start again.
Next week, my class and I will be using paper blogs to start our journey, we have been going over internet safety rules and how to be safe online from Common Sense Media. I felt so disappointed that I rushed in, but my kids are excited to blog again. Sometimes you have to mess up to figure out how to become a better person (or teacher).
Hope you have a great school week this week!
Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you have ever done a lesson that was a flop and if so, how did you fix it?
I remember the first experience I had with differentiating in a classroom and man was I horrible at it. Three weeks after graduating college I was put into a second grade inclusion classroom with students who had already had three...yes three teachers before me. It wasn't easy and I got a lot of support from my team. In those six months that I was there, I learned that differentiating isn't easy but is necessary for every child.
Now enough of that, what I'm sure you want to know is how am I making it work now? Now differentiating is easier for me, while it is still not flawless, I have developed a system that has worked for me. Be forewarned, we don't do math rotations every single day. If my kids are struggling with a concept, we do it whole group and just nix the rotations.
Back to the rotations.... I'm sure that most of us have heard of the Daily 5 Reading and if you haven't, it is essentially a different way of looking centers and you let the students have their own choices. Really cool stuff if you ask me. I use the ideas from Daily 5 Reading to create my own version of Daily 5 Math. As you know, I am super geeky so of course there is technology included.
When first starting out, I assessed my students using a variety assessments; AIMS Web M-Comp, 3-minute math quiz, Discovery Education Assessment, and my own simple observations. Once I had decided where my students were at when it came to math, I created the sacred chart. Students were grouped depending on their scores from all of these different assessments. Once the groups were made, the fun began!
Typically, we do a Number Talks for the first part of our math session. My kids sit on the floor while I write a problem for them on the board for them to do mentally. After that, we usually go into a mini-lesson of what we are learning this week. This can range from 5 minutes to up to 20 or so. I just gauge where my kids are at and some days we end up skipping our math groups because I feel that they need more time.
On the days that we do our math groups my students have four rotations: Meet with Ms. Boucher, Sumdog.com (Computers), Math Worksheet/Math Facts, and Math Games.
When going on Sumdog.com (Computers), the students get to play for 10-15 minutes participating in contests, reinforcing their core skills, or practicing the standards that I have picked for that lesson. I can go onto Sumdog and decide how long I want my lessons to last as well as what standards I want my students to work on.
Meeting with Ms. Boucher is the most flexible of the four rotations. We will usually do a math problem in our math notebook (and more recently using the Educreations Application- Free on iTunes) and then reinforce the mini-lesson that we did that day. My students in the past two sessions have learned how to use the iPad and have even recorded their own math problems. (If you would like to see examples, please feel free to contact me).
Math Games come from K-5 Math Teaching Resources and are easy to use. Each game is linked to a standard, has instructions, and even has the materials needed for the games. The kids love to play these and have 2-3 games to pick from each week.
Math Worksheet/Math Facts can be done independently or with a partner, this is really when the students show what they know. The math worksheet is whatever we have learned about that day and should only take 5-10 minutes. I wanted to keep all of my rotations under 15 as I have 11 boys who are bored after that amount of time ;)
When they are done, my students do Math Facts which is just flash cards that I have made out of construction paper. They get a new set every 2-3 weeks, one to keep at home and one set to keep at school.
After I have rotated with all of my students, they get ready to transition into the next subject. I have found this system to work much better than typical lecturing and doing everything with the students. When learning a new skill like we did this week, I kept the students at their desk majority of the time and we used manipulatives and went through each problem together.
I am not opposed to doing this when needed, but I have found that I can really see where my students are struggling when they come back with me that I never want to go back to the old way. I love my math groups, I love the technology used, and I also love the independence that my students are learning.
How do you structure your math time? What works for you and what doesn't?
I would love to hear what you use in your classroom!
Have a great rest of the week and
First off, I apologize for not putting up a blog last week and being a few hours late this week. I had family in town and forgot to post before they came in.
Secondly, I had such a great time at the EMU (Educational Meet Up) sponsored by CCSD last week and can't wait to attend another one! Check it out and join us if you are a CCSD teacher, you won't regret it!
Anyways... enough of that awesomeness (It's a word right?) and on with the show! Here are 5 things (applications, websites, etc.) that have changed the way that I teach both in and out of the classroom.
So there you have it, my list of 5 things that have changed the way I teach. There are a TON of resources out there and there are a lot more that have changed the way I teach. I hope that these 5 are diverse enough to get you started thinking about doing cool and exciting things in your classroom
Keep on searching the internet and share your favorite websites with me!
Have a great rest of the week and don't forget to share your favorite resources with me, I can't wait to see what you use in your class!
Those are the first two words that come to mind when I think about my first year as a struggling teacher. After those two words though, I remember how much a single classroom with 19 adoring kids changed my life forever.
It was an awesome day, Monday, January 3rd, 2012 to be exact. It was my first day as a long term sub position that I would eventually turn into a permanent teaching position. The walk into the school was a whirlwind of emotions. I had only graduated a few weeks earlier and had only been to this school one time for the interview. I had read books on how to teach, went to college for this. How hard could it be? Nonetheless, I was scared, nervous, and overall so excited to have a class to finally call mine. I brought a notebook and pen with me not really sure of what to except.
I was greeted with another teacher and was told that I would be the students fourth teacher of the year. I also found out in the days to come that I was the inclusion classroom. I had students who had fetal alcohol syndrome, low I.Q.'s, Autism, were non-verbal, and one student who constantly threatened lives and could only read at a kinder level. What did I get myself into?
Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the most part. At my first grade level meeting t we got a lot of work done and the lovely ladies in my grade level let me copy their lesson plans considering I was so lost. Then, February hit. Out of nowhere I was hit with a migraine that didn't go away for days which turned into an entire month of hospital visits, I missed my first Valentine's Day party, I had MRA, CT, and MRI scans. Nothing the doctors gave me would help my through the day. What did I get myself into?
What did help though is seeing my kids and how excited they were to play a new game, learn about their favorite animals, or sort our words with our interactive whiteboard. They came in everyday with an eagerness to learn and how could I bring them down? Most days went well, and some went not so well. Tantrums, crying, screaming, and fighting. What did I get myself into?
I was stuck in the "Disillusionment Phase" where you feel that everything is falling apart and you constantly ask yourself "What did I get myself into?" so I decided on 5 simple steps that will help you get through this phase. Remember, "This too shall pass."
1. Leave at 5 o'clock (Unless it is time for report cards then you stay all night)
While I don't really enforce the 5 o'clock rule, I try to only stay as long as I really need to but never past dinner. As teachers, we are perfectionist and we want everything to be perfect. Our bulletin boards, our centers, our books, and everything else. As a first year teacher, it is impossible and that is okay. LET ME REPEAT... it is OKAY! When our kids enter our class, they are not prepared for the end of the year goals so why should we try to be prepared for the end of our career goals? There will always be work to be done as a teacher so just do what is important for the next day or two and go home. Your couch misses you.
2. Rely on Your Peers
I was always so afraid to ask the other teachers for help my first year and that didn't work out so well. I soon found out that I needed them as much as they needed me. Your peers have been through it, so don't feel bad leaning on them. If you don't lean on them then who will they lean on when they need someone? Don't worry, they will tell you if you are too reliant on them, teachers are blunt like that. ;) All jokes aside, your peers either in real life or on the internet, are there to help you. When you succeed, they succeed so don't be afraid. If you are afraid, you can always contact me, I get it, it is a scary world in that new school and the feeling of the new kid stinks sometimes.
3. Remember What the Job is About
The kids. It is all about the kids. Make 'em happy, be fair, be consistent, and don't forget to be fun. If you do that then the kids will be happy too. I always say to work hard and be nice. With that simple of a rule, everything is covered. Even when I had headaches that brought me to the verge of tears, I always made sure to smile for my kids, they need that love. Remember, you might be the only adult they really connect with everyday so make it a positive.
4. Don't Go Back to High School
Gossip is so 90's and so totally lame. Just don't do it. It will make your first year a lot easier. Plus, I'm pretty sure you should be making up cool new lesson plans instead.
5. Don't Give Up
Nothing compares to teaching. It is the greatest feeling in the world to work with a student all year long and to see them succeed. I encountered a student who never ever received one-hundred percent on any of her spelling tests. I told her she would get one-hundred percent and I promised that I would work with her until she got it. You already know that she got that one-hundred percent, and man did she deserve it. It brought her and her family to tears, and I got the greatest feeling of accomplishment. She did it and I couldn't be more proud.
No matter what happens, or what goes wrong. The kids need you and they will remember you. There is nothing in this world that I would rather do than teach. I don't get up to teach for the money, I do it for the kids. Even just a second of an "ah-ha" moment is enough for me to push through the school year. You will feel it to, and you will love teaching if you don't give up. I promise.
There you have it. I know it is rough, but you will make it through. I ended up with no headaches and was crying on the last day of school like a baby. I miss those sweet faces all the time and don't know how I would be the teacher that I am today without a little bit of struggling.
So, just what was I thinking so long ago when I decided to be a teacher? I was thinking that this has got to be the most amazing job in the world. Man was I right.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up in the Contact section above or follow me on Twitter @MsGeekyTeach
“The effects you will have on your students are infinite and currently unknown; you will possibly shape the way they proceed in their careers, the way they will vote, the way they will behave as partners and spouses, the way they will raise their kids.”
― Donna Quesada
Sara Boucher is a K-5 Technology Teacher who is developing her own set of super geeks and loves what she does.