Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Popular Posts of 2013!

Honestly, I have reached that age where I can't even remember what happened in 2013. Life has become a blur. The years are whizzing by! 

One of the highlights of 2013  was having the governor of Delaware visit our class to start off American Education Week. We had a Mystery Skype and he LOVED it! We need to show our politicians what we can do besides test!! 

"Now, here's what I need Gov.Markell!"
Another highlight was meeting our Spain pen pals via Skype. The kids were delighted to meet each other "in person!"

With the help of Blogger's page views, I can pinpoint my most viewed blogs of 2013.  I share those with you. And if you didn't get a chance to read them when they were written, now is your chance!

Enjoy and Happy New Year to the best audience ever! May 2014 bring you what you need, and, what you want!

Here are the Top 5 posts for 2013!:

"I Apologize": An Open Letter to My Students

Math Worksheets Land: A Different Kind of Worksheet

Teachers, Targets, and Test Scores

Digital Yes! Native No!: The Myth About Digital Natives

Bill Gates: Experienced Educator:$50 Million Dollars Doesn't Lie!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Operation Feedback! Just Give Me 30 Minutes a Week, and You Too Will Be an Amazing Teacher!

I should have known something was wrong when the faculty meeting started with a video of Bill Gates EEE (Education Expert Extraordinaire) talking about what teachers need.

What does Bill think we need more than anything in the world? Feedback! I don't see anything wrong with feedback, but on a Top 10 list of things teachers need, this is not it.

But, what do I know? Who am I to contradict what Bill Gates has to say regarding any educational issues? So I sat, and stared mindlessly at the video, inwardly becoming more and more agitated as I listened to....

I couldn't imagine what this video had to do with why we were at this after school faculty meeting that had 30 extra minutes tagged onto it.

And then there it was, the A.N.T (Another New Thing)...Operation Feedback!

This is what I have to look forward to when I return to work in 2014:

  • An administrator or coach(my peer), will make an announced visit to my room, every week, for the rest of the school year.
  • They will watch me,  observe me, take notes, (or videotape me if I allow), for 15 minutes, every week.
  • They will read their notes and come up with an "action step" to correct whatever they observed that could be improved on. No, they will help me become a better teacher by pointing out my flaws every week. No, they will praise me, and then tell me what I am doing wrong, every week.
  • I will meet with them for about "15ish" minutes, every week, so we can discuss the "action step."
  • When they return the next week, they expect that I would have corrected what was discussed the previous week. (But do not despair, this is NOT evaluative!)
  • Then the process will begin again, EVERY WEEK
I do not mind an administrator coming into my room. I welcome feedback from administrators, peers, students, and parents. Even after 29 years, I am still learning. I can take constructive criticism, key word, constructive. As a matter of fact, I am one of those people who apply constructive criticism immediately. A good idea is a good idea, whomever the source.

I wrote a question on my Exit Ticket; 'What if you don't find anything to write an "action step" for?" The presenter who collected my ticket, read it, and laughed. "Are you saying you're perfect?"

Feedback is important. It helps us to grow in whatever profession we have chosen. But this, this is...I have no words. :(

Is this happening in any other schools? If so, is it beneficial?

photo credit: Caro's Lines via photopin cc

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy New Year: An Educator's Resolutions!


Have a Wonderful 2018!

 I resolve to:

  1. treat all students fairly, regardless of race, gender, age, behavior, a parent's nasty attitude, the comments from last year's teachers, or seemingly lack of interest in learning 
  2. continue to follow Rita Pierson's advice, and be a champion for my students
  3. to realize that all children can learn, but not always at the same pace
  4. stop using sarcasm as a disciplinary tool, no matter how effective it may seem. 
  5. speak in a quiet, even,tone, even when yelling seems to be the only option. (It never is!)
  6.  realize that I could be the only good thing that happens in a student's day 
  7. grade papers in a timely manner, and use their grades to guide instruction
  8. meet all deadlines, and if I'm late, don't make excuses
  9. stop gossiping! (Hard one for me sometimes)
  10. share with my colleagues, we are not in competition with each other.use technology as a tool to engage and empower my students, technology is not a subject!
  11. be involved in fighting what is happening in, and to, public education!
  12. be a lifelong learner (I am very good at this one!)
  13. don't just complain, get in there and work to make changes
  14. stand up for my beliefs, and what I believe is good for my students
  15. continue to be passionate about my job, and if I'm not, retire.:) 

Are there any resolutions you would add?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Gift of Teaching:The Joy of Doing What I Do!

Today, I am going to put on my blinders.

I am going to, for the moment, forget all that plagues public education.

Teaching is a gift.

Not a gift, as in, this is my calling (although I do believe it is), but a gift as in a present to and for me.:) It is indeed a gift to do what I do.

Where else can I shake my booty to "OMG, It's the weekend", as we all dance to the Morning Meeting circle?

Crack up at corny jokes?

Come up with different ways to snap for correct answers?

Get, and give, hugs ?

Laugh, smile, play, run, and jump?

Watch a child's eyes light up because they "got it"?

Turn a frown upside down with a hug or few words?

Use the "thumbs up" sign and not feel like a dork?

View the world from a child's viewpoint?

Feel excitement as students are engaged in a project, or solving a problem?

Be a momma, daddy, psychologist, and a slew of other jobs ?

Feel pride, as they use all their skills, and guess that Mystery state or country?

Give high 5's that do not feel corny?

Help someone make better choices?

Bring a story to life, along with the joy of reading?

Watch a child beam when they go from frustrated to successful?

Open up the world, via Skype?

Have 20+ children every year?

Create a bond that may last forever?

Be part of the lives of so many people, big and small?

Have a different type of day, every single day?

Not worry about brain cells dying?

The gift of teaching.. a priceless present!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Every Kid Needs a Champion: Rita's Words and This Little Girl!

That quote inspires me.

This little girl handed me a paper with her Dad and Mom's contact information on it. It had their home phone number, cell phone number,  job number, and email addresses. I said, "I already have this information. Why are they sending it to me again?"

She responded, "Mrs.M, you have to understand, (this is how she speaks), for the past 4 years, my parents have been called for every single thing I did. They can't understand why you are not calling them."

I began on the path of champion for this little girl before she even entered my classroom.   Our relationship began the year before when she approached me with sheets of paper with her ideas for her magazine. Afterwards, I was asked to mentor her, and I tried. At the end of the year, I asked to have her placed in my class. I knew she was a "handful", but I also suspected that this image of her was not all there was.

This little girl stood up at Morning Meeting on Friday, and announced that she had the application form for staff for her magazine("KRM Magazine-Kidz Rule!") ready. She wanted to know who was interested, 1/4 of the students raised their hands. I suggested Google forms and a student willingly agreed to help her set it up. At the end of the day, she announced that the application was embedded on Edmodo and could be filled out over the weekend. Today, she announced who she had hired. My heart swells with pride about what she has accomplished, how she has turned around.

This little girl is by no means perfect, and neither am I. We understand each other. I care for her, and she knows this. She knows I want the best for her. 

As we packed up today, I felt arms grab me from behind in a hug. This little girl. I am her champion. We are connected.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

All I Want for Christmas:An Educator's List!

When my siblings and I were younger, my parents had us write a list of everything we wanted for Christmas. Of course, raising 5 kids, we never got everything we put on that list. But it felt so good writing it because you knew you were going to get something on that list.


1.productive professional development throughout the school year- teacher-driven PD,what a concept!

2.smaller class size - this year I learned that 5 less kids makes a HUGE difference

3.a deep-seated belief in my professional judgement- I do know what I'm doing

4.education as a priority - school is not a babysitting service

5.not another "new thing" - made up by non-educators

6.the complete removal of standardized testing- the word "standardized" is a problem

7.returning the arts and recess to public schools- they never left private schools

8.stop the war on public schools - and public school teachers

9.the integration of tech in the classroom - it is not a phase

10. the eradication of education "reform"- need I say more?

12.the continued expansion of my PLN - they make teaching terrific!

And most of all:
11.that I continue to grow and evolve as an educator- 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hour of Code: My Kids WILL CODE!

We missed the first 2 days of Computer Science Education Week because we had Snow Days. As much as I enjoyed those two days off , I was kinda bummed about not being able to have my class participate in the Hour of Code.

Wednesday, I had to leave early to attend a meeting, so we couldn't do it then.

Thursday, I made sure it was part of our day.

I began by discussing Computer Science Education Week (ho hum), and then segued into coding, (bodies fidgeted, eyes lit up, "Can we do that?"). I put  the Youtube video up on the Smartboard, lights went out, and 20 bodies grabbed carpet squares, bean bags, and video chairs and plopped themselves in front of the board. Amidst shouts of "Shakira", "Ashton", "President Obama!", and other assorted celebrities, I think they got the gist of what this coding thing is all about.

At the end of the video I yelled, "Is everyone ready to code?!" and a thunderous "Yeah!" rolled over me. Bodies flew to Chromes, desktops, and laptops to sign up for Tynker. I was prepared, I had placed the code for our class on Edmodo. (easy-peasy, lemon squeezy).

When I tell you they were excited!!!! Two or three were able to log in,("Mrs.M, I'm in, I got on!"), the rest were disappointed. I explained to them that people all over the world were trying to do the same thing they were, at the same time. The ones who got on went from "What do I do?" to "Hey, look what I did!" in the blink of an eye. My babies never cease to amaze me. Watching them sit and actually watch the tutorial was pleasure enough.

The ones who were not able to log in  were understandably frustrated, but that was good. They were frustrated that they couldn't get on and CODE.They were frustrated because they could not get on and do the work.  I told them not to worry, they could try it at home, and we will try again in school.

This is not a one week event for me. My kids WILL CODE!

Next week is S.M.A.R.T Kids Day at our school. The 5th grade team set up rotations, my rotation is coding. I want to give all the kids on our grade a taste, leaving them wanting more.

I love this idea! I love who thought of this idea! We have to challenge our students. We have to make sure they have the skills for the jobs that are now, not then. We have to teach them to code!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

November's Popular Posts!

Is it really December already? :)

November was a very exciting month for our class because we had a visit from the governor. He observed, and participated, in a Mystery Skype to kick off American Education week! The kids and I loved that he was there to see us do what we do!

Think about trying at least one Mystery Skype this year, you 

won't regret it!

Here are the top three popular posts for November:

Help!: I Cannot Do This "Education Thing" By Myself!

Creating a Caring Community in the Classroom: Morning Meeting!

10 "Gifts of the Heart" Teachers Can Give Their Students!

Of course, there are more than 10 things that we could give our darlings, but these are the ones that stood out in my mind. They're not in any particular order, just the way I thought of them.  Feel free to add your own! :)

1.     A smile. If you are miserable, they usually are too.

2.    Get rid of all those worksheets. Granted, if a student can't figure out 5 problems, they probably can't do 25 - 30 of the same thing.

3.    Talk to them about events  in their life. And maybe, share something from yours. Morning Meeting is a great place to practice this!

4.    Give them a fresh startEvery. Single. Day.

5.   Challenge them.  Don't view the students as part of  "the population." View them as individuals, each bringing their own gift to the table. Challenge them! They might surprise you!

6.    Provide consequencesWhether you believe it or not, they will thank you. 

7.    Remember they are only childrenOh boy, that's a hard one to do sometimes, I know. :)

8.   Try something new.  They don't learn the same way we used to teach. Let's teach the way they learn. Enhance a lesson with at least one new tech tool.

9.   Get off task.  Isn't it great to veer away from the planned topic for a bit?

10. Teach!   Let them learn at least one new thing per day.

photo credit: PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Just Follow the Script:Teaching by Textbook!

I tried.
I really tried.
Maybe there is something wrong with me.

I mean who wouldn't want a nice, new, clean book with every word you should say written out in nice, clean, bold text?

Who wouldn't want each lesson guided?
Each lesson telling you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it?

I tried.
I couldn't do it.

When it told me to say certain words, I found myself saying other words.
When it told me how to write something on the board, I was adding things, making comments.

No, that's not what I am supposed to do.
I am supposed to follow the script.
Why can't I realize that it makes me a better teacher? My life easier? The kids better learners?

Why, oh why, can't I follow the script?

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Productive Parent - Teacher Conferences: A P/T Form That Helps!

Year after year, I have tried to find a way to make my conferences more productive. I had attempted to find a way to share information with my parents so they had a clear understanding of where their child is. I had always felt frustrated, when after a parent had gone , and I would think, “Oh, I forgot to tell her/him….”  

A few years ago I created a form based on  some of the questions from a worksheet that my  Phi Delta Kappa sorer shared with me. There have been some revisions over the last two years, and I am sure there will be more.  The  first question I asked  is ” What are your concerns or comments?” This allowed my parents a chance to voice their concerns first.
We completed the form, using the questions to guide the conference and open discussion between myself and the parent. I felt that the form  answered questions parents have, but  forget or don’t think to ask. 

The following marking period, I reviewed  the first form with the parent, to see how it compared to the current marking period. 

After the form was completed, the parent signed it, providing not only a written document of what we discussed, but a guide for the parent.

When I used the form,  the conference moved along smoothly.  It is important to remember that it is a guide, not the end all and be all of the conference. I tried typing this year, but I gave up after the first parent. I didn't feel as if I was giving them my full attention. I kept the original, and sent a signed copy home to the parent. 

As a parent, I know conferences are not always easy, especially if the child is not doing well. Hopefully, my form made it easier to focus on  the purpose of the conference. Bringing together the parent and the teacher, in a productive atmosphere, to do whats best for their child and my student!

 Parent/Teacher Conference Form