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! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Monday, August 5, 2019

PLEASE "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!" Using DonorsChoose.Org!

Many times people bemoan and lament about teacher salaries, how educators don't get paid enough, that no teacher should have to pay for anything out of their own pocket, and than they do nothing.

Well, here's a way for those who can, to do. Put your money(๐Ÿ’ฒ)where your mouth is! is an amazing non-profit whose sole purpose is to "connect the public to public schools." In other words, get financial help so that teachers can continue the great things that are happening in their classrooms. Read their About Us page to get some background on how and why they began.

I have had over 20 projects funded, and I am looking forward to funding many more. (Hint, hint)I have received mice, headphones, Ipads, a rug (Do you know how much classroom rugs cost?), wobbly chairs, and just recently, a mini studio creator so that my students could create podcasts. I believe in DonorsChoose so much, that I am a DonorsChoose ambassador, letting teachers know that this resource is available to them.

Teachers request many things, like basic supplies, clothing, sports goods, tech, professional development, anything and everything that will help them provide what is needed for their classroom. The items are funded for the teacher, but, they belong to the school, so teachers are not making requests for personal items. A special bonus are the personal Thank you's you will receive from the students!

DonorsChoose gets funding from the public and from corporations who collaborate and provide funding for thousands of teachers. There are groups on FB (e.g. Caring Classroooms), Twitter etc... whose sole purpose is to get teacher projects funded.

If you want to give, go the website. You can choose teachers you know, teachers in a particular state, school, there are many options for giving. Any time is a good time to give, but the BEST time to give is when projects are being matched. For example, you give $10, the project gets $20, because a company is matching all donations. In 2018, Ripple funded every single project on DonorsChoose. BestSchoolDay. Literally. That's what it was called.๐Ÿ˜Š

Please, put your Tax-deductible๐Ÿ’ฒ๐Ÿ’ฒ๐Ÿ’ฒwhere your ๐Ÿ˜ฎ is, and help out a teacher today! ๐Ÿ˜Š

What if Teachers Just Stopped...?

This was a FB post and I had to share it.
After being attacked online by some troll who thinks I only work 8-3, and always have 3 paid months off, and who thinks I request school supplies for myself and not for my students, I had to write this rant. I'm getting so sick and tired of how teachers are viewed and treated. 

Teachers in all fifty states should stop using their own money in their classrooms. Just stop.
If the children don't have supplies, go hungry, if the room and supplies get broken down and dirty, whatever, let it happen. Then people can truly understand how much work and money teachers put in behind the scenes. If you paid for any of those decorations, books, science lab supplies, furniture, lamps, pillows, remove them from the classroom; let parents see how bare bones a classroom is without a teacher's input. 

Also, teachers should only work their contracted hours. Mine is 7 am – 2:30 pm. Imagine if I didn't contact parents, didn't grade, didn't lesson plan, didn't sponsor clubs, didn't volunteer to chaperone after 2:30 pm. Imagine if all the teachers stopped doing all of that. Sorry, I didn't call that parent about their child's grade because it was 2:31. Sorry, I can't sell concessions at the Friday football game; ask for parent volunteers. Sorry, I can't sponsor Future Business Leaders of America because it's an after-school club. Sorry, I didn't get that assignment graded yet; I used to grade from 3-4 or 5 pm nearly every day, but I stopped doing that. 

Again, unless we stop making these personal sacrifices, then people will keep expecting us to bend over backwards and take it. And they will never understand all the time, effort, money, and work that we truly put in unless we force them to see it.
What if we just stopped?
We are a profession that is taken for granted.
That "teacher as martyr or Superhero" syndrome has allowed us to be taken advantage of.
That "it's for the kids" line gives people the right to pay us very little, but expect so much.
They uses phrases like, "All in" to make you believe that if you don't participate in everything outside of your school day, even though if you have your own life, that there is something wrong with YOU.
At the same time they are spouting "self-care", they are putting 28+ students in our classrooms.
The list is endless.
What if teachers just stopped?
Think about it.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

I Am A Warm Demander: Caring and High Expectations Are Not Exclusive

If you listen to the late Rita Pierson's TED talk, you have a perfect example of the term, "Warm Demander". 

As I was perusing the latest Edutopia articles, the title  "The Necessity of Having High Expectations" caught my eye. We, in the education field seem to have moved away from this mindset. The mindset of holding our students accountable, expecting the best, their best, from them.

We have led ourselves to believe that because our students are dealing with trauma, living in poverty, or any of the myriad of issues that they have to deal with, we should lower our expectations for them. If anything, as mentioned in the article, we should do the exact opposite, but in a caring, empathetic, manner.

I had never heard the term "Warm Demander" although this term seems to have been around for years.  When I read the definition, I knew it was a description of how I see myself as an educator.

This Warm Demander T chart  places educators in 4 categories, The Warm Demander, The Technocrat, The Sentimentalist, and The Elitist. And while it is not perfect, each category sums up educators I am sure we have all witnessed, some because of their deliberate actions, and some because they believe they are doing what is best for their students.

We can be better for our students. We have to make sure, that no matter what our students' circumstances, we meet their needs, but at the same time, hold them accountable and let them be successful without lowering our expectations.

 It is possible to do both. Be a Warm Demander. 

Warm Defender T-Chart Credit: "Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain" 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Podcasting in the Classroom! Giving Students a Voice!

One of my classroom goals last school year, was to have my students create a classroom podcast.
It was literally the end of the school year when they worked on making it happen Literally, maybe two weeks left, and not even full days. But they did it!

I asked who would be interested in working on a podcast. I chose a leader and they put together a committee of willing workers. I was the facilitator, and provided them with samples of podcasts and articles on podcasting. They developed their own format, which included an interview with our 2020 Teacher of the Year, original content, and a brainteaser.

I ordered a Tascam Mini Studio Creator from Amazon through DonorsChoose. I have to be honest, I did not have a clue what to do with this equipment, but my kids did! Not right away, they taught themselves, and of course, then they taught me. They used Audacity to record it and I, yes I, uploaded it to Anchor. (I learned this at ISTE).We also got some help from soneone I know in the communications field who was willing to come out and guide the students as they worked on the podcast.

Watching my students, who had never done any podcasting, work on this was amazing! The way they put it together, added sound effects, developed intros and outros, figured out how to edit it,was such a learning experience for them and for me. Imagine what they can do with this knowledge in the future!

I attended many podcast sessions while I was at ISTE2019, and realized I didn't know as much as I thought I did about podcasting. Jeff Bradbury has a site called Educational Podcasting Today that you should check out, it's full of information that can help with your classroom podcast journey.

My eyes were opened to the various ways we would be able to produce the podcasts and share them, Synth, Anchor, and Garageband are just a few of the tools out there.

I wish I could share everything I learned at ISTE19, (International Society of Technology and Education), but this post would go on forever.:) Hopefully though, the information provided leads you in the right direction!