Saturday, May 2, 2020

This Remote Teaching/Learning Thing!

Just a hodgepodge of thoughts/opinions here!
Thank goodness I have always been a fan of integrating tech in my classroom, that has made this remote teaching/learning situation a WHOLE lot less stressful for me! Whew!

However, I feel for teachers who were not prepared for this, and find it very difficult to navigate this terrain. Especially when it just happened out of nowhere, there was no time to prepare, the expectations are crazy(in some places), and companies are coming at you.Buy/Use my Distance/Remote/Virtual Learning tool! Take my Distance/Remote/Virtual webinar!

If you are an educator showing what you are doing during this time in order to help others, thank you. If you are "showing off?" STOP. You are making other teachers feel "less than."  Have you seen the "Not Every Teacher" image?

Why would someone think it was a good idea to have teachers create a classroom setting virtually? I mean the "sit in front of the kids for hours" type of setting?

Why would teachers give kids SO much work? Especially middle school and high school? Is it required?

Why are kids with devices not completing assignments? My friend had to talk me down from stressing about this. Almost there.

We need to do something to make the education system equitable. I read where some students are still waiting for devices. In April, I mean May?  I am fortunate to work in a district where we were already 1:1. They made sure every kid who needed a device got one. And no, I do not teach in a wealthy district.

I went into this thing thinking I was going to teach 3 subjects a day,  I got over that quickly. Now, I do one subject a day for about an hour. I use what I think will engage. I start with Morning Meeting,(I got this template from Matt Bergman), and edited it.I do a little activity. A fun example, my students love Estimation Clipboard, very cool Math Estimation slides. And then I teach ELA or Math.

I decided I am going to start Math with a Mystery Science video, I miss teaching Science. My kids miss Science.School has to be more than ELA and Math. Nearpod and I are besties. My other buddies are Classdojo, Scholastic Online, Gimkit, Jognog(Not for long though, my FREEBIE is expiring-Boo hoo), Quizizz, and Quizlet, just to name a few.

But those links mean nothing without my kids. The majority come faithfully, even if most don't work outside of "class." It gives us a little bit of "normalcy", I guess. They are pretty quiet, so I let them use the chat to participate. I don't care if they wear a hoodie, or wrap up in a blanket, or show the top of their head. I don't require video, but if you don't answer or answer in the chat, after a while I do know you are not actually there. smh. I do share my screen, so they can show their work, but I switch it right back!

I do let them know I will not compete with their cell phone or television. Choose. One of my students wrote in the chat, "I choose class." I caught him looking up at the television. Does he not realize teachers have these uncanny powers?

I use Zoom. Yes, even after the panic. Zoom was not created for educators. They were not ready. But they quickly adapted and put security into place that has protected me and my kiddos.There is no perfect tool. Hackers will be hackers. Use the waiting room, the password, don't let anyone share your screen...

This remote teaching/learnming thing has taught me some things.
Robots will never take over teaching.
I miss my my classroom with the kids in it. :(

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Monday, February 17, 2020

"I Don't See Color":Why Educators Should Acknowledge the Race & Ethnicity of Students.






"I don't see color".


This was a phrase that was used by a teacher in a Facebook discussion regarding an article about
why more teachers of color are needed. The educator in the group took offense because
she felt that she didn't see color in her classroom, therefore the race of the teacher
should not matter. That's the part that resounded with me.


 We all see color, it's something that can't be avoided.


There is nothing wrong with "seeing color." It's a natural way we use to identify our fellow human beings.
I once had a teacher describe a student  with every identifying feature, but their race. I finally asked her
the student's race.Did she believe that I would misinterpret the identification of the student's race as racist? 


"Seeing color" becomes an issue, when along with a person's racial identity, we focus on the stereotypes
that go along with it. When we assume the Latino children can't speak English, or that they
are in the country illegally.When we assume the black children are dumb, and their parents are drug addicts
and/or alcoholics. Even when we think our stereotypes are "positive", it can still cause anxiety.
For example, the myth that the Asian and Indian children are smart and will always excel in class.


In the article, "Color Blindness" the author states that,"race and ethnicity often play important roles in
children's identities and contribute to their culture, their behavior, and their beliefs." Therefore,how
can we,as educators, ignore something that is a huge part of who our students are?


Building relationships with our students is the most important thing we can do in our classrooms.
How can we build relationships if we ignore a central part of who our students are?


If you "see color", you are more likely to have representation of all students in your classroom.
If you "see color", you will make sure that what you teach provides role models for all students.
If you "see color", you will make sure that a student does not feel uncomfortable in your classroom,
especially if they are the "only one."
If you "see color", you will, more than likely, recognize the cultural dynamics of the
students in your room, and understand that they may not mirror yours. 


I deliberately make sure the images I use in my classroom, represent all my students. When my Muslim
students fast during Ramadan, I find a place for them outside of the lunchroom. I read stories that reflect
the cultural diversity of my room. Little things, that mean a lot. Look around your room, do the images
in your room represent all your students?


We are all human, and whether we admit it or not, we take our biases into our classrooms.
That being said, a teacher who is aware of her/his biases, should do their
best to make sure that the color of their students does not "color" their view of them. Instead, it should
enhance the view, and help develop a stronger connection between themselves and their students.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Read to Self: Just a Kid and a Book.



Date: Monday, January 5, 2020

Place: My classroom

Student: Mrs.Mims, could we start doing Read to Self again because I got this great book for Christmas and I just want to read it.

Here's what's funny, and by funny, I mean ironic. During the break, I was thinking about how I had pretty much eliminated Read to Self from our daily schedule. (Don't worry, I did not spend my entire break thinking about work.😉)

What had happened was... there were so many other obligations to be met, and it just kinda, sorta, disappeared, vanished, was gone.
However, a lot of these obligations were taking place in front of a computer; Dreambox, Imagine Learning, completing their assignments on Schoology, and of course, digital reading websites. I am all for integrating tech, but this was getting to be a little too much screen time.

They needed to read. Just read. Read a book.

I do have Book Club on Mondays and Fridays. Thanks to DonorsChoose, I have plenty of novels the students  can access. But, it's not the same as curling up in a video chair, couch, those comfy flexible seats we just got from, yeah, DonorsChoose, and reading on their own.

Every day. And yes I mean every day, since we have returned from break, that kid I mentioned above, comes to tell me how many more pages he has read during our Read to Self time. Or someone will point out one of our Vocabulary words. Or they will tell me something great that happened in their story. Or, they will share something with a classmate. Or... I could go on and on about how valuable this time is, if... we want to create READERS, and not test takers.

I'm not saying my kids aren't ever going to get reading passages. As much as I detest it, SBAC is real. But, with no regrets, I am going to continue to give them their 15 minutes and let them read to, and by, themselves.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Self Care Vs. Grading Papers!

I'm sitting here grading papers while I "watch" Deon Cole on Netflix. This blog post jumped into my head while I was doing that.
Aaaaah, teachers, forever the multitaskers.
I'm not 100% right now.
I stayed in bed all day Saturday, and while I was in bed, I thought about the papers I had to grade.
I thought about them Sunday too.
Monday, I had a full day, part of which involved me doing something for.me.

And so here I sit, Tuesday, grading papers.
I'm watching Deon Cole because I don't really have to watch it, just listen to his comedy, but at the same time, I can pretend that I am having some time to myself after a long day with my kiddos.

I should have marked them during my planning period. "Laughing hysterically. "

I couldn't mark them right after school because we had our Book Study discussion about a topic noneducators feel they could make some good money off of right now.

So now, I am no longer grading papers...

I believe in self care. But on the other hand, teachers also realize that grading papers at home is part of the self care. Because if we don't grade the papers at home, when are we going to grade them?

During our planning period? Laughing hysterically!

We go in sick because... Substitute lessons plans. Am I right?.

I know. I know. There are people out there who can tell you how to get everything done in a 40 hour week. People who tell you never,ever,ever, take work home.

Here's what I know. I know how to say No when I need to. I know when it's family time. I know how to take time for myself. But I also know, sometimes, just sometimes,we just have to grade those papers at home!:)


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Pen Pals Who WRITE! Using "Snail Mail" to Connect Our Students!

What is the Pen Pals Who WRITE Project?



I decided to create this project because of my wonderful experience exchanging letters with pen pals in another state. One year my class had two sets of pen pals, one in California, and one in New Jersey. In 2013-2014 school year, we were pen pals with a class in Spain, last year, Russia.
While we had fun doing projects using tech, receiving letters was even more fun!
​Sooo... I thought if I could get teachers who were interested in having their class write together..... the rest is history!
Last year, we connected with a class in Australia. The kids got to "meet" each other via Flipgrid. A previous year, we met our pen pals through Skype. So, if you are into integrating tech, you have the best of both worlds.
Every year, I connect with a different class. I make sure I get permission from parents before a child is able to connect. No permission, no pen pal. 
We only write once a month, so that it doesn't feel overwhelming. I usually start my students off with a template we created as a class and it includes a sample of a Friendly letter.
However, every child's writing strength is not the same, so they do their best. I do proofread their rough drafts, and have them fix any errors. You want the other class to be able to read it. I also read the letters sent to them.
There is so much excitement when the letters arrive!:) LOTS of excitement because letter writing is a thing of the past. You should see my kids' faces when their letters arrive!:)
If you are interested, fill out the Sign Out form to add your name to the Teacher Connection form. Click on the Teacher Connection form and reach out to a classroom. Teachers must use school email addresses. 
Hopefully, you find a class to connect with! 😎