Monday, December 28, 2015

Just Because Our Students Are Living in Poverty...

Ban Ki-Moon

Many times we allow stereotypes to rule our perceptions of others, whether it's race, gender, or socioeconomic status. We allow these perceptions to cloud our judgment, and we make decisions based on these misconceptions. We believe if it is true of one, it is true of all. How unfair to the students who walk into our classrooms every day.

A child "living in poverty" seems to be a hot button issue right now, and rightly so. But how much do we let the fact that any of our students are living in poverty affect how we relate to them? How does the fact that our students are living in poverty, change the way we teach ALL of our students?

I'm just thinking out loud. We need to make sure that we put the "brush" away, and see our students as individuals, and not a statistic.

Just because they are living in poverty, it does not mean that:
  • we should not have high expectations of them, and only expect minimum effort.
  • their mother is an addict, Dad is absent, and no one has a job.
  • they can't read, write, or do math.
  • they can't make it to school most of the time.
  • they are not gifted.
  • there is not anyone at home who wants them to be successful.
  • they will behave poorly in class.
  • they should be provided with limited or non-equitable resources,
  • they can't compete with other students.
  • they are unable to participate in any extracurricular activities. (STEM, Mystery Skype,etc...)
  • they are only capable of test prep, higher-order thinking escapes them.
  • can not graduate from high school or college.
  • we are better than them, that we know better than them.
  • they don't want more, from their teachers, their community, their world.
  • they don't dream BIG.
Living in poverty comes with many struggles, but we should still provide our students with an education they could use to escape it.

Please take a moment to listen to this TED talk by Mia Birdsong," The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn't True."

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sharing and Caring: This Can't Be Found in a Textbook!

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in curriculum, pacing guides, and standardized tests,that we forget that there is so much more we can teach our students. Or better yet, allow our students to learn.

As I mentioned in my last post, when students contact me, none of them remember how much math I taught them, or what they scored on tests. That's not the lessons learned.

Every Monday, during Morning Meeting,I share a Kid President video with my 4th grade students.A quick 3-4 minute video that engages my students, and starts their week off with laughter and/or a message.

It was the end of October, and we watched the Kid President video about Socktober. My students decided they wanted to participate. Of course, I said yes, but on one condition. I would be the facilitator, I would not be in charge. This was their baby!

I could go through the standards and demonstrate how they met a variety of them with this activity, but I won't. Instead I'm going to share the hard work they put into making this happen.

They ....

  • chose a chairperson and created a committee
  • turned in a letter with what had to be done and when it needed to be done
  • wrote the letter to get permission form the principal.
  • wrote a script and created the video( so cute!) that was posted in Smore and emailed to the staff.
  • made "Socktober" posters and hung them all over the school.
  • wrote a message that was read over the loudspeaker during Morning announcements.
  • decorated paper boxes in order to create "Socktober" boxes that were placed in the front of the school.
  • picked up the socks from the front office every day
  • took photographs
  • hung up names in the front of the school thanking the people who donated
  • counted out the number of socks in each box
  • chose another chairperson to head up sorting the socks by men,women, and children.(It was funny watching and listening to them figure out which box they should go in.:)
  • wrote the final thank you message to the school and read it during Morning announcements
  • will  present the socks to the representatives from the homeless shelter

And Most of All... cared enough about their fellow human beings to do this!

I am proud to be their teacher.I am happy that I was open to giving them the opportunity to do something that can't be found in a textbook!

Monday, November 9, 2015

How Will Your Students Remember You?

I have taught for 30+ years, and over the years, I have connected with former students.

On the street, their jobs, emails, and visits. Last year, 3 siblings surprised me with a visit. I had each of them in my classroom. One had graduated from college and was working in D.C, one was in college, and one had just graduated from high school.They not only thanked me, but they talked to my students, gave them some of their wisdom and let them know how fortunate they were to have me.:) A student from one of my 3rd grade classes in the 80's, found me on Facebook, and remembered her experience in my classroom.

Hearing about the impact I have had on their lives makes me proud. Proud as in "I am so happy that I have made a difference", not "look what I've done."

Presently, I work with one of my former 5th grade students, she is a para in my classroom.She told my husband that I was good, because I was the only teacher she still remembered.

Here are some things I have done over the last thirty years that I believe has affected the relationship I had with my students.

I was not mean.
This does not mean I never raised my voice, or laid them out. It doesn't mean that I never let loose with sarcasm,(I have really become a lot better at controlling this!). It means what it says, I am not mean. I have never spent day after day, belittling students who have very little control over what happens in their lives. I have never made them feel like less.

I loved them.
And they knew it! It didn't matter if I was fussing, angry, impatient, they knew that I loved them. There were times I did not like their behavior, (to be honest there were some that were hard to like), but nonetheless,I loved them like they were mine. My expectations for them were high. I treated them the way I wanted teachers to treat my kids.

I engaged them.
Oh yes, pre-computers! Back in 19something or other, I used to take a huge cardbox and drag it into my room. I am not making this up. I would turn out the lights and we would time travel during Social Studies. The other kids would put their heads on the desk.The kids would "wake up" and we would be wherever I was teaching. No computer necessary! I used to write plays and have my students perform them.(Aaaah,. pre-standardized testing days).

Be human.
Dance. Sing. Smile. Laugh. Tell them about your kids. Your husband. Your life.

I was, (and still am), a life long learner.
It doesn't matter what your profession is. The minute you stop learning, you are done. If you are teaching from the lesson plan book you used in 2010...(and you brag about it???) Keep it fresh.

I adapt.
If you keep doing the same thing the same way you've always been doing it... I'm paraphrasing, but you get my drift. I always switched it up because a bored teacher means bored students. Should I refer back to the lesson plan book from 2010? This is why tech and I are besties right now, completely transformed the way I teach!

I was passionate about teaching!
Everyone who is teaching does not feel the same way that I do. To some, teaching is just a job, a means to a paycheck. Others, really enjoy it, but at the end of the day, they are done. Teaching has been my passion since I was a little girl in my friend's basement with an easel and some neighborhood kids. It's in my blood, as my girlfriend says, I am a "teacher's teacher." It's just something that I love!

Yesterday, via Facebook, I realized that one of my former students had become a teacher. She has been teaching for 9 years. I congratulated her, and she responded, " I always think about you and Ms.Turner and hope I'm doing half the job you did!" What a wonderful way to be remembered!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Google Voice Typing- YES! or BOO!?

When Google Voice Typing was announced all over the Blogosphere, I rejoiced!
And just like a teacher, I thought about how I could use this in my classroom, and I was happy.
I introduced it to my class the other day, and they were happy.

BUT, now I'm thinking... am I interfering with their ability to learn how to write?
Am I interfering with their ability to navigate a keyboard?
What about spelling? Will it help them become better/worse spellers?

I guess this is one of those Pros and Cons type of things...

I'e watched students struggle to write a single sentence. It wasn't because they didn't know what to write, it's because they couldn't write.

I think about all those assignments that take forever to turn in because the kids have to type them.
And I mean forever!

The other day, a student who is usually very, very, quiet surprised me. First, he said, "Mrs.M, don't forget to turn off the speaker, because otherwise it will type anything you say." Loved that he discovered it, love even more that he decided to share this, out loud. When he was finished "voice typing' his story, which by the way, he had already written in his notebook, he came up to my desk, HUGE smile, to tell me his story was published, and how happy he was with Google Voice typing!

I think I will still have my students, who are capable of writing, write their stories in their notebooks, and then "voice type" them. The ones who can't write, they can use "voice type" from the beginning. It's difficult for me to think that they should sit and struggle to write 3 sentences, when they could "write" 2 paragraphs in that time.

I'm going to have to give Google Voice Typing a YES! 
Your thoughts?????

Now let me go and work on my Great American Novel, it should be out next week! :)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How Can We #Rethink Discipline?

On July 22, 2015 educators gathered at the White House to Rethink School Discipline.

"The conference sought to advance the national conversation about reducing the overuse of unnecessary out of school suspensions and expulsions and replacing these practices with positive alternatives that keep students in school and engaged in learning, but also ensure accountability."

As I participated in the Twitter conversation #rethinkdiscipline, I began to think about ways we could avoid reaching the point where we have to suspend students. Just as we find ways to prevent illness using preventive measures, there are preventive methods we can use to reduce suspensions and expulsions. These methods are not a cure-all, but it can help stem the tide.

Build a relationship with your students
I think Rita Pierson said it best in her TedEd talk, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like."  Teachers do not have to be a child's best friend. But we do have to show them that we care. Compassion and empathy are great tools to use in the classroom.
We are not going to like all of our students, but we don't have to let them know it. Can you imagine being a child, who comes to school every day, knowing that your teacher doesn't like you? Many of us have felt that way about some of our students, but we can't let them feel it. Rita also stated, "James Comer says that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship." Take a little time to find out about their circumstances, that may bring some comprehension to why the child is behaving in a negative manner.

Give students ownership
It's time to let go of the traditional, "This is my classroom, and you will do as I say".. You do not have to relinquish your authority to the point where your classroom is in chaos, students appreciate structure. A teacher-friend of mine had trouble with a student all year. She stated, "We were in a constant power struggle, I was not going to let him win!" Think about the war that was going on in that classroom. But, imagine what would happen if our students were given control of what happens in their classroom? Start small, let them create the rules.  Read articles or use tools that help you manage a classroom, so that you are comfortable enough to loosen the reigns.

Be Fair
I have taught for 30 years, and I have seen this situation played out over and over. As much as we would like to deny it, race and gender are factors in how students are disciplined. When Johnny and Jamal exhibit the same type of behavior, Johnny is, "spoken to", or strategies are devised to help him work out his issues. Jamal is kicked out of the classroom, suspended, or expelled. It doesn't happen all the time, but it happens too many times. Our students are aware of the differences in the way they are treated, and it creates animosity in the classroom.

Fresh Start Every Day, Every Year
This is difficult. One year I watched the new teacher, sit next to the old teacher,class list in hand, and ask for information on each student. Depressing, isn't it? Any chance of that student starting fresh,gone.
When a student that has been disrespectful, taken a teacher to the brink of insanity, comes in the next day, the tendency is to hold a grudge.  Let go at the end of the day.  Speak to them before they leave. Let them know tomorrow is another day, a day to start fresh. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but give them that chance.When they enter the classroom the next morning, begin again. 

Hire More Teachers of Color
There has been a push to hire more teachers of color.  Our students of color, deserve to have teachers that look like them. Our students deserve to be taught by teachers of color, who may share some aspects of their culture, that other teachers may not be privy to. They need to know that they can becoming an educator is an option. All students, deserve to see people of color in their schools in the role of an educator. Will the race of the teacher erase discipline problems? Of course not, but, it's a step in the right direction.

Give Second Chances
Zero tolerance was one of the worst policies created, it helped create the school to prison pipeline. How many times have adults been given, not only a second chance, but a third or fourth one as well? Instead of treating each situation differently, we give all infractions equal weight. What is wrong with giving a child a chance to redeem themselves? What might happen if we showed them that we believed that it was possible?

Engage them
I used the term, engage, and not entertain. If a student is bored, then he or she is more likely to become a behavior problem. Don’t be afraid to incorporate technology in your classroom. Try lessons that make students think, debate, talk to each other. Make connections with other classrooms, experts, and teachers. Standing in front of the classroom talking, or yelling, at students is not going to create a classroom of fewer discipline problems, but creating an environment where students feel engaged probably will.

They are children

They are someone's child; I always consider them mine. I always thought of my own children sitting in a teacher's room, and the way I wanted them to be treated.Think of strategies that might work. Take a deep breath. Work with their parent. And if there is no parental support, find a way to work without it. Find their passion. Make them a leader. Love them. Remember, "The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways" Russel Barkley. Let's #rethink discipline, there has to be a better way.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Voki, Speaking Avatars!/GiveaWay!

Okay, imagine this. Your students are completing biographies on famous people. You could go the traditional route and have them write a report. OR, you could use Voki.

How much more interesting to hear the report from an avatar that represents a biographical figure, a character in a book, even the student themselves!

The great thing is, Voki can be shared with a link, email, or using the embed code!

I have used Voki in my classroom for years.The students are engaged as they customize their avatars and bring their words to life! Voki definitely has a place in my classroom, which is why I was willing to be a Voki ambassador! Now you have a chance to try it out as well!

Check out the Youtube video below to learn how you can use Voki in your classroom, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 3, 2015

Everybody Get Up! Using Brain Breaks in the Classroom!

If you are still teaching in the traditional, "sit down, be quiet, don't move", method it is time to let it go!

Research has proven that, just like adults, our kids need to move, young or old. The fact that we, as adults, don't want to sit in one place for hours on end, should give us a clue that we shouldn't do that to our students.

This year, I used part of the money from my iEducateDE Honoree money,(Thanks @RodelDE), to purchase a standing desk. (Those things are expensive!) But, I believe it will be worth it!

So you think, "What to do? What to do?" "Stand up and stretch", can get pretty boring. Try GoNoodle! Once you use it, you will be hooked for life, or, at least, as long as you teach.:)

Check out the 5 minute presentation below to see how you can bring GoNoodle into your classroom this year. You won't regret it! Pop Se Ko, Pop Pop Se Ko!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What I Learned at My First NEA RA Assembly!-July 2015

NEA stands for the National Education Association.

RA stands for Representative Assembly.

I attended my 1st NEA Representative Assembly as a delegate. What an amazing experience!

Update: I am at my 3rd NEA RA, still trying to make a difference.

My observations:

  • One of the delegates spoke about using the words of the oppressor. How many times do we, as educators, use the words, "the union", as if it is not "our union?" WE are the union. WE are what makes up the union. When we address the union as " the union", we are giving others the message that we are not part of it, that it is a separate entity. What does Chris Christie say every time he opens his mouth about educators? "The union..."

  • If you don't like what your union is doing, you have the opportunity to make your voice heard. I sat in a convention hall with about 10,000 educators who were doing just that, raising their voices. We supported an item, or we didn't. Delegates, including one of my own state, wrote items that they felt were important to us all. Some were supported, and some weren't. Instead of standing in a hallway, or sitting in the Teacher's Lounge, denouncing the union, (I know, I've done it), ask how you can become a delegate.Move up from delegate and sit on your executive committee, or even the National committee.

  • People of color and women need to be involved in our union. Shout-out to Eric Brown and Shelly Moore who were elected to the Executive Committee! There were more people of color present this year than any other year! If we want our issues that are hurting people of color heard, then we have to be there creating items against social injustice, pushing an agenda that includes hiring more teachers of color, and combating institutional racism. The wonderful part is it was not just people of color pushing, or supporting, these items!

  • Social media works! What happens when thousands of educators gather, and they are using Facebook, Twitter, and emails to contact their government officials? What happens when these messages are shared over and over by people outside of the convention, and they contact our officials? Change happens!

  • It is not a vacation. I was thinking, "Yes, I'm going to Orlando!: I woke up at 5:45 a.m and saw the inside of the hotel and convention hall until late in the evening. By the time, we left, I was exhausted. (No complaints, we were getting things done!)

  • @Lily-NEA rocks!  This was also her first RA as President, and I think  she did a wonderful job! As a matter of fact, those women in positions of leadership, rocked!:)
Update: These 3 ladies were elected to serve 3 year terms again.
  • We are a powerful union. That's why the Scott Walkers, Koch brothers, and Chris Christies despise us. A delegate questioned why Papa Johns, who is not a friend of unions because of the way they treat their employees, was allowed to be a vendor at the conference. Many delegates responded by not spending their money there. Item supported, don't hire vendors with horrible labor practices to an union event!

  • Educators are being besieged all over the country. We connected while waiting. Waiting to catch the bus to the hotel, waiting to get food, waiting for the registration line to open. Wherever we waited, wherever we stopped, we connected, and talked about what was happening in our states. Educators, we are under attack!
Update: Donald Trump and Besty DeVos.

  • I read a Facebook comment reacting to one of the many evils that are being done to educators. It said, "Teachers are sheep." We don't have to be.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Techfully Yours" Youtube Series- Sharing My Passion for Tech One Tool at a Time!

I decided to start a Youtube series. I've always wanted to do this, but didn't have a clue how to. Also, I was in the midst of work, now it's summer, and I have some time.

I learned about Snagit right before school ended, trying to make up those snow hours. But, it was PD I wish we had more often, something productive that I can use!

Take a peek, or two. Share with friends. Use it. Watch for new episodes. Episode 1 is about the fake tweet generator by


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Many "Karen Fitzgibbons" Are Still Teaching Our Kids?

Karen Fitzgibbons, a teacher at Bennett Elementary in Wolforth, Texas, wrote that she was, in all-caps, "ANGRY" over the officer's resignation, blaming "the blacks" for causing "racial tension," according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. 

"I guess that's what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education," she continued. "I'm sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn't care. 

"I'm almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin....GO! #imnotracist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasatagedcommunity" 

As an educator, when I read Ms.Fitzgibbon's quotes, all I could think, well after my initial thought of, "What an idiot!", was about the children of color who had the misfortune to be in her class.

Didn't anyone know how she was? How could she have hidden it so well? Maybe she didn't. Maybe she didn't have to. The teacher's Wall of Silence is just as pervasive as the police. You usually have to do, or say, something horrible, for another teacher to expose you. (If you see something, say something!)

After I did some research,  I realized she probably posted it because she thought she could. After all, Wolfforth, Texas is a red state, less than 2% of the school is African-American, and the population of the town is 2.5% black. Worrying about how others would respond probably wasn't a priority.

If Ms.Fitzgibbons had chosen to speak to her friends privately about her #imnoracist viewpoint, she would have been fine. She would have continued to go to work, views packed away on a "need to know" basis. But, I guess she was so ANGRY, she was going to let the world know how she felt,(By the way, if you #imnoracist, you probably are), damn the consequences.

 I don't believe she really thought there would be consequences.She could say what she felt about "the blacks", and everyone would cheer her on. Kudos to those who called her out, and kudos to her district for firing her!

Ms.Fitzgibbons, maybe you should have read your district policy before you posted your vitriol.

Here's the thing, Ms.Fitzgibbons is not alone. In a world where the majority of public school students are children of color, and their teachers are white, there are one or more in many schools around the country. The only difference is, most have enough sense not to post it on Facebook. They save it for the Teacher's Lounge, or vent in the privacy of their homes.

These "Karen FitzGibbons", destroy children of color, one day at a time. Put-downs, insults, and sarcasm are their weapons of choice.They label them Special Education at the drop of a hat, dole out multiple suspensions, advise parents, (although they have no medical degrees), to medicate their children,  keep them out of gifted programs and AP classes, and/or tell them they cannot go to college.

It's not difficult to get away with these attacks, because, for many reasons, parents of children of color, do not, or have no idea how to, advocate for their children.
So, it continues.

Reread Ms.Fitzgibbons' views, they are so full of hate. What type of influence did she have on her students' views toward people of another race? What chance would a student of color stand in her classroom? Do you think a teacher like Karen Fitzgibbons is a fluke?


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

End of Year Projects:Survival Guide for Incoming Students and a Memory Book!

I realize that many teachers are already on vacation, so this is for those of us who are still working our way to the end of the year. :) Or, you can always use it next year.

____th Grade Survival Guide
This idea comes from my teacher-friend, Angela J. She was eating lunch, laminating, and cutting these out , when I spotted it. Since I'm changing grades, I can't "steal" Angela's idea, but, next year...
She was so kind to tell me she didn't mind if I shared her idea with my readers.:)

It is a survival guide for the incoming students. She assigned one sheet to each student and asks them to write the Top 10 tips to survive the 5th grade. Of course, there are so many modifications to this to be thought of, video, booklets, use your imagination! Angela said she leaves the book out, so that the incoming students can read at their leisure, or she might read it out loud to them.

Great idea! I usually have the students write a letter, but I think the incoming students would enjoy this more.

"Remember the Time When"...? Memory Book

I wrote an entire blog post on this one last year.  Click on the link to take a look at how we have done it differently this year. I gave each student their own page with their name at the top.

I added my own page.The kids especially love the fact that we've added the first of the year pic and the end of the year pic at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A "QR Code" Mother's Day Card:Combining Tech + Traditional!


My class and I decided to mix poetry,(April is National Poetry Month),and tech when we made a card for the school secretary.

I suggested that this would also be a great idea to use with a Mother's Day card.

They agreed!

Here is the layout we decided on:

1st page - What else but Happy Mother's Day?! (Had to remind them to use that apostrophe.)

2nd OR 3rd page - depending on student choice - Students typed the poem using the given format. The students glued a copy of the poem they wrote for their Mom on the page. Most of the students chose the cinquain format. Short, BUT, very, very, sweet.I wish I had a color printer, (Hmmm....Donor's Choose?), or a color copier. The poem still looked good printed in black and white.

2nd OR 3rd page -The QR code. The QR code is a presentation of the poem. It could be presented as a recorded video.(Which will be uploaded to our Youtube channel.) It could also be a Voki,(If the device does not have Flash, it will not display), or a Tellagami, it's the student's choice.

Unfortunately, the secretary didn't have a Smartphone, but my kids' Moms do.

This was a great stress reliever after testing! 

Students really enjoyed making the cards!

Can't wait to hear the reaction from the parents!:)

Please add any suggestions!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"I Read to Write"Book Review!

When Zaner-Bloser asked me to preview their book, "I Read to Write:Responding to Sources", I was kind of wary. I am not a huge fan of workbooks. But you know teachers find it very difficult to say no to anything free.:)

It was a nice surprise though, AND my kids enjoyed them. Which of course is the most important part.
For those of us who have to give our kids standardized tests, this is a way to prepare them that goes down easier than worksheet after worksheet.

Here are the features I like:

  • Paperback, thin, and colorful!
  • They come in grade levels 2-6.
  • It covers three genres, Science, Social Studies, and Math.
  • The text sources really are high-interest, my students actually enjoyed reading them.
  • There are "sticky notes" on the side of each page. Wonderful way to teach my students how to take notes, a skill they will need for life, not just for testing.
  • The Read!(Text)Think!(MC and Open Response questions) Write! format.
  • TE has printable mini-lessons on academic and domain-specific vocabulary (Including Vocabulary lists and Flashcards) which can be found online.
  • Printable Graphic Organizers of all types (Compare and Contrast, Pro and Con, Main Idea, etc...)
  • Kid Friendly Rubric for students in the back of the book and one for the teachers to use when, (or if), grading
  • At the end of each genre the student chooses whether to write a narrative, article, or opinion essay, all with guided help via graphic organizers. (And you, of course). This lends itself to student choice, and the student is more invested. Of course, you can adapt the writing to fit your classroom.

I didn't use it as "test prep", although it can be used that way. We enjoyed the stories, practiced vocabulary, and wrote about interesting topics. I also let them take the books home and use for HW assignments.
Kid's Thoughts
"I think that "Read to Write" is amazing! It is a great way to learn things about history, Math, and Science and write about it!"

"I love "Read to Write!" It is a great way to review what you learned in class!"

If you are interested in checking out "I Read to Write", see the information provided by Zaner-Bloser below:

“I Read to Write” is now available nationwide and can be purchased in packages of five Student Editions ($29.95) or in a Next Generation Assessment Classroom Value Package ($175.00), which includes 25 Student Editions, a Teacher Edition and practice exams. Priced at less than $6 per student, schools can outfit an entire classroom for less than the cost of a few cases of printer paper. To learn more about the program and to request a free sample, visit

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Importance of Good Principals:Creating a Staff That Works With You!

"The Importance of Good Principals" is the title of an article in the NY Times.

I've been told that I would make a good principal. I wouldn't. I want to work with children, and I am not the most organized person in the world. You have to run an entire school, an entire school! Because I have taught for 30 years, I wanted to offer my insight into what I believe makes a good principal. I have been fortunate enough to have worked under some great ones.And while they may not have all the qualities I list, they have had many of them.

Open Door Policy
I stand at my classroom door and greet my students every morning. If they need to talk to me about anything, they know they can. If it's not really important, they might have to wait awhile, but they never feel as if they can't approach me.
Be approachable. When the lights are off in the office all time, or the door is closed, and you're the only one in there, what message do you think is being conveyed? If a teacher has a problem, or needs help, they probably wouldn't come to you because the "Do Not Disturb" message is loud and clear.

Treat Everyone the Same
Everyone has their favorites. I think it's part of our DNA. As a teacher, I know there are kids in my class I like better than others, for whatever reason. But, I try my best not to let the other kids know it.
A divide is created when there are rules for one set of teachers, and a different rule for others.Teachers not only resent you, but they resent the "favorite" teachers as well.

Answer Emails
If I'm not mistaken, a teacher has a 48 hour turnaround time to answer parents when they are called or emailed.
I realize principals are busy, and I can't imagine the volume of emails they must receive, it must be hard to choose which ones to respond to. But I think an email from a teacher, a person working with the kids in the school, should also have a turnaround time. The worst part is when a teacher's email is completely ignored, never to be answered. Message conveyed, "You are not important enough for me to take a minute to answer your email."

Make Teachers Part of the Decision-Making Process
There's nothing worse than having someone ask for your opinion, and then do whatever it is they were going to do anyway. I would prefer not to be asked.
No, actually, since teachers are the ones who are actively working in the classroom, they should be asked. Not only asked, listened to. Not only listened to, but taken seriously. Leadership should understand that many teachers know what they're talking about when it comes to their students.

Do Not Patronize
When a student writes an apology letter, I tell them the words mean nothing to me. They are just words on a paper. The words have meaning when their actions back up what they have written.
"Thank you for all the work that you do!" and "You are the best staff ever!" and all the other tired platitudes that are thrown about, are meaningless when the words are not supported by actions.Show teachers that they are appreciated in the way they are treated.

Care About Your Staff
I had a principal who stated at the beginning of the year that our families came first. This was the principal I worked under when my Dad was dying of cancer. Not once did he question my extended leaves to help my Dad who lived in another state. He always said, "Do what you have to do."
Show concern for your staff, their family, their illnesses, or celebrations. Let them know you care. It's important that all the staff be treated this way, not just the "favorites."

Understand Teachers Have a Voice
Imagine how much easier a principal's life would be if every member of the staff did exactly what they were asked to do, every time they were asked to do it? No disagreements, just affirmative nods.
It will never happen. Teachers have a voice, especially when it is in the best interest of our students or we feel our rights are being compromised. Teachers should not be "punished" because they choose to speak up, or refuse to accept the status quo. I know many teachers who just "go along to get along" because they are terrified of losing their jobs or fear being "put on the list." Respect the teachers who dare to speak out, listen to them, learn from them.

Monday, April 6, 2015

What Do "Regular Kids" Miss Because They're Not "Gifted?"

The other day I was at a workshop and the presenter introduced a QR Code Treasure Hunt that he used in his middle school classroom.  He used it with his gifted kids.
One of the attendees asked if it could be used with any kids.
He responded it could, but he doesn't use it with the "other" kids until later.
I wondered why he would need to wait until later, especially when using it with middle school kids.
I use QR codes with my 5th graders.

The other day, I read a blog post about a poetry project.
Many of the comments were from excited teachers who were ready to jump in and participate with their "gifted" students.

I don't have a problem with "gifted" students and/or classrooms.
I was considered a "gifted" kid in a gifted school environment.
I see  nothing wrong with providing them with a challenging environment.
That's not my point.

My problem is when the "regular" kids are not given a chance to do these things because it's automatically assumed that they can't.
Or worse, why bother because it's going to be more challenging teaching them, as opposed to the gifted student.
I know I have kids in my class who can do, and those who can't.
But I give them a chance to "can't."
And the same ones who "can't" one thing, excel at something else.

We can't automatically assume that when things are challenging, our "regular" students can't meet the challenge.
It's not fair that while some build robots, the "regular" kids are just reading about it.
While some write on their blogs, others are practicing grammar on worksheets.

Too many times, we relegate challenges to our "gifted" students, leaving our "regular" students to the mediocre, mundane, routine of classroom life.
I tell my kids there is nothing wrong with struggling, it's not making an effort that's the problem.
Let's give our "regular" kids a chance to struggle if they need to, they might surprise you!

 photo credit: Дешевый телефон via photopin (license)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Foolproof Tips on Obtaining a GREAT Announced Teacher Observation!

I wasn't "feeling" observations, and this post popped into my head.

Spoiler Alert: Don't take me seriously!:)

1. Create a lesson you will never use again.
It's showtime! Create the ultimate lesson. Spend hours and hours creating the perfect 45 minute lesson. Make sure you have included all the strategies that are being used in that moment. Do things you usually don't in your classroom, like, when no one is watching.

2. Bribe and/or threaten your students.
Use whichever strategy you feel works best for you. You can say, "If you are all on your best behavior, I will give you extra Recess for an entire week!."  Or you can say, "If you all misbehave, you will miss Recess for a week!" Just choose the one you are comfortable with.

3.   Send kids to another classroom.
You don't want to send too many, because your administrator may notice. So, just pick the really, really, "bad" ones. You know, the ones that call out, can't sit still in their seats. Send them to your buddy teacher's class.Choose wisely because "acting out" students can make or break your evaluation. 

4. Practice the lesson the day before.
Practice the lesson with your students.  "Practice makes perfect." The last thing you want is your students showing any signs of confusion. Experienced teachers do not let that happen in their classroom,ever. Think about it. How many mistakes will you make the next day if the kids have already done the lesson? You can only get better the next day. Of course, you will have to revisit #2 because you don't want any of your students to say things like, "Mr. _______, didn't we do this yesterday?"

5. Do not waste any instructional time.
Make sure your students take out every single thing they are going to need. Make sure you have everything available at your fingertips that you are going to need. Real teachers are always prepared. Do not make the mistake of going off topic. If you have a student who is not ready, start without them! Hand out all papers before you begin the lesson. Those 2 minutes spent having one of your students do it, is a horrendous waste of instructional time. Every minute counts, well, except when you're wasting instructional time on hours and hours of test prep and testing.

6. Use technology.
Let's say you created a lesson, and  do not feel integrating technology would enhance understanding of the content. Use it anyway! Turn that Smartboard on, and do something on it! Make up something to do if you have to. Show a video, or let students come up and write on the board.That's always good for some brownie points.

7. Do anything and everything your administrator asks you to do.
This is always a good back-up plan. Your administrator will already love you, so you can do no wrong. Even if your lesson is horrible, there is a very good chance that you will still get an excellent evaluation!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

"It's a Small World"- The Power of Twitter!

Mariama is at Harvard in Massachusetts, and I am in Delaware.
We are over 300 miles away from each other.
We have never met.
Before Mariama tweeted this message, I did not know she existed.

Mariama's professor gave them an assignment.
Visit a Twitter chat, (Go professor!), see what it's all about and connect.
Find out how, and why, this teacher uses technology in their classroom.
Find out the impact of technology in the classroom.
I loved that her professor chose Twitter instead of, or in addition to, a textbook.

We connected.
We spent about 20 minutes discussing tech and Twitter.
I provided authentic, "real world"," in the classroom" information about integrating technology in the classroom.
I also explained how powerful my Twitter PLN and Twitter chats are, how they have impacted my classroom, and the way I teach.
How it has helped knock down my classroom doors, and has allowed my students to collaborate with students all over the country and world.

I hope Mariama came away with information that she could not get from a textbook.
I hope that when she becomes a teacher, she remembers that there is a whole world waiting to connect with her on Twitter. Educators who speak, not only of tech, but all issues that affect classrooms throughout the world.

The power of Twitter. Don't you love it?:)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why I Can't "Teach to the Test"

I know it would make life much easier if I did.
Pull out the worksheets of all flavors;Reading, Writing, Math, mix in a Performance task.
Place them on their desks, one subject after another, hoping that when the BIG test comes, they can pass it, because they have been drilled, and drilled, and drilled.
Put them in labeled groups, those who will fly through the test, those who might pass, and those who don't stand a chance.
"Teach" them based on where they fit in the "testing" spectrum.
No arts.
No Recess.
No engagement.
No fun.
Just test drills.
But, I can't.
Every day with my kids reestablishes my firm belief that this is not what school is.This is not what learning looks like. It is not what teaching sounds like.
School should not be a place where there are no arts.
A place where music, art, etc,,, have no voice, no home.
Scripted curriculum should be banned.
How do you tell different children, all over the country, the same thing, in the same way, with the same words?
Pacing guides should be dumped, giving reteaching a chance.
Giving that struggling child a chance to grasp, and hold on to, a concept.
Because if I did, I would miss the joy and excitement on the face of my students as they heard the students from New Zealand speak for the first time during a Mystery Skype.
I would miss hearing the gasps as they scanned a QR code for the first time.
I would miss...
Watching them work intently on their Passion Project, begging for more time,
Coding, seriously thinking of possibly,just possibly, becoming a computer programmer.
Dancing to Pop See Ko during our Brain Breaks. (You know you can't take Brain Breaks when you are drilling.)
Pulling out their books, eager for me to read out loud, disappointed when I stop.
Competing against their peers in a game of Kahoot,determined to be the winner!
Writing "I Am "Natural Disaster" poems and not being afraid to share them with the world.
If I "taught to the test", I would miss so much of what learning looks like.
And most of all, I would miss being a teacher.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Respect The Experience...Ageism in Education!

This is a society that does not, as a whole, respect experience.

Instead of viewing someone's experience as something of value, oftentimes it is seen as worthless.

There is a huge difference between a 30 year teacher who is about to burn out, and a 30 year teacher who is still passionate about his/her profession.

But yet, they are treated the same.

People start to find things "wrong" with them. Lessons that were once phenomenal, are now basic. Test scores from previous years are dusted off and questioned.
Their wisdom, no matter how relevant, is considered outdated.
Pick, pick,pick....until finally, they give up and give in. Leaving behind a profession they were passionate about, and were still willing to do for a few more years.

It seems as if the mission is to put veteran teachers out to pasture, and replace them with "fresh, new" teachers.

I know how many "fresh,new teachers", could be hired with a veteran teacher's salary. I know there are "fresh, new" teachers who will bend over backwards doing whatever is asked, whenever it's asked. I know there are "fresh, new" teachers that will spend every,waking,moment of the day trying to please. But should these be the defining factors of a good educator?

Shouldn't the defining factors be that the job is done? That the teacher is educating the children? That the parents feel confident that their children are learning? That the teacher uses techniques that engage the children of today? That the teacher has no problem staying relevant with the changes in education?

We are a society that is enamored with staying young. Instead of embracing and respecting our elders, we shun and/or disrespect them. Instead of being proud of our veteran experience,we hide it away as if it is a shameful secret.

A woman at my church turned 75 the other day.
Someone said, "How old are you, 29?"
She said, "No, I am 75 years old. I will claim my 75 years because it has made me what I am today!."

That's how I feel about teaching. I have taught for 30 years, and I claim every year of it. It has made me the teacher I am today. I'm not ready to be put out to pasture. I'm like a good wine, I only get better with age.:)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why I (Continue to) Teach!

The other day I posted an article on Facebook that has received a lot of buzz.
It's title, "Why Half of the Nation's New Teachers Can't Leave Fast Enough."

After reading the comments, it's obvious that it's not just the new teachers who are ready to get out.
I have been feeling that way myself, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my students.

I received this message in an email on December 20, 2014.:
Hi This is T. It has been a long time since I have seen you and all the Plv Crew. I am at Del...High School now and am in 9th grade. I have not seen you all in over three years and have been sad that I've gone this long without contacting any of you. You all have had a big impact on my life and now at 14, I realize how much I do miss those times. Time really has flown; I've grown, gone through Middle School, gotten braces, I've been through a lot. I haven't had the time to come by, but I hope I can see you all soon. It's been TOO LONG and would love to catch up with all of you. Have a nice weekend and I hope to talk to you soon. P.S. This is my personal email if you would like to email me back and I am, if you can believe it, I'm 5'8 now.

Then I received this message January 8, 2015, via Facebook:
Happy New Year! My name is T. You were my third grade teacher at P.S.3. I am not sure if you will remember me, because it was so long ago. We are both mutual friends with Ms. T on Facebook.

I am really happy to see you here on Facebook! You have not changed a bit. You were absolutely the best third grade teacher I had! We both moved away from Brooklyn, but I never forgot you. I moved from NY 26 years ago ...where I still live today.
Best Regards,T

I can't even remember the years I taught 3rd grade, I know it was in the 80's though.:)

Tears filled my eyes after reading both these messages. They both came at a time when I needed them. They reminded me that, even with all the mess I have to deal with that has nothing to do with teaching, I will continue to do what I am passionate about, teach!

And while I am teaching, I will keep in mind that I am making a difference!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#whatif@arneduncan: Give Me 140 Characters...

Our Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent out a tweet.

I don't think the answers Mr.Duncan received were what he expected.

And then the #whatif @arneduncan Twitter movement began.

Here's the thing. He could make this work.

All he has to do is read the responses.

No, not just read them.

Listen to them. Listen to the hundreds of educators who stopped grading papers, reading essays, creating lesson plans, researching websites, connecting with their PLN, taking care of their families, or any of the things that teachers are doing at any given moment, in order to tap out 140 characters.

140 characters. Educators asking for a chance to be heard, to be understood, to be acknowledged.

Why not  have his staff go through every tweet, find the common threads, and work from there?

"Aaaah, this is what they want. This is what they need in order to provide a worthy education to the children in their classroom."

Mr.Duncan, you may not have received the answers you wanted, but you got the answers you need.

#whatif @arneduncan, you actually listened?