Sunday, December 27, 2020

Should We Let Go of EXPECTATIONS?

There was a post on Twitter about a mother who sent her kid to school knowing they had tested positive for COVID.

As I am wont to do, I dived into the comments.

 A constant stream ran through the thread, noone should be upset with the adult. Instead we should blame society, the school, etc...., anyone but this adult who made the choice to send a kid to school with COVID.

Have we gone too far with expecting very little, or nothing at all, from our students and parents?

Was it too much to expect this parent to keep her child home when he had COVID? A disease that could be fatal to his classmates, their family, the teacher, and his/her family?

And this "not expecting much",didn't start during the pandemic, this "low or no" expectations, started years ago. 

Why can't I expect my students to be on time? 

To complete their work and do it to the best of their ability?

To ask for help if they need it? 

To not lie on their beds while they are learning?

Why can't I expect my parents to read the notices I send home and respond?

To attend parent-teacher conferences?

To support their child to the best of their ability?

To ask for help if they need it?

And I know, we have to be flexible, especially now. I know everyone has a different situation, especially now. But this didn't start with COVID.

How many times have teachers found themselves blamed by a parent for their child's lack of progress, after not meeting any of the classroom expectations? And this, after the teacher has bent over backwards for the student and the parent?

What happens to our students later in life, when they have flowed through a world where noone expected anything of them? How do they adapt to a world where suddenly there are expectations that they are required to meet?

I have expectations for ALL of my students. Sometimes they are all able to meet them, and sometimes they are not.But the expectation is there. 

Here's an example. I start class at 8:45 a.m. I open my Waiting Room at 8:40 a.m. which has a timer counting off the minutes. I expect my students to be on at 8:45 a.m. because that is when I start Morning Meeting. In the beginning, they would wander in whenever. By the 2nd month, most, if not all, are there at 8:45 a.m. every day. (5th graders)

If they're late, I don't fuss, I greet them. I don't know the circumstance that made them late. If it becomes constant, we have a conversation. (That's why building relationships are so important.)

I will ADJUST where necessary, especially now. 

I will BE FLEXIBLE, especially now.

 I'm just not letting go.

Image provided by unDraw

Sunday, December 13, 2020

"12 days of Christmas" Mini Math Activity- Christmas Price Index (CPI) 2022

Christmas is here! Or the holidays, the break, or whatever you wish to call it.

But one thing is for sure, whatever you call it, the kids are excited, and you still have to teach!

So I figured, why not use something that goes with the theme? Something the kids could get excited about? Something that involved Math, but not endless computation or word problems?

The PNC Christmas Price Index was perfect for what I wanted to do.
They have a site for educators complete with lesson plans.
It's geared toward middle and high school students, so I modified it for my 5th graders.

I used the information they provided on the Price Index and created a table  for the students to fill out using the information in the Price Index.

We  sang the "12 Days of Christmas" before we began. (See video below).

They really enjoyed  creating their own "12 Days of Christmas" chart  I revised the chart again a little this year. Most of them shopped online. .
The holidays are always hectic. This is a great way to maintain structure, but also allow the kids to have fun!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Schoology Updates with a Dash of Bitmoji!

When I learned how to create a Bitmoji slide, it was a game-changer for me. 

When I learned how to add the slide to Schoology and post as an update, I was over the moon! 

Yes, it's the little things. 😎

So, every week , I change my updates. I saved the template, so all I have to do is switch out the image.Ta-da! 

My updates include the message on the board, our "quote of the week" poster, somewhere to sit, and myself,  via Bitmoji, with my motivating message. It's not interactive, just an image. If you want interactive, this video is great.

I change my Bitmoji every week, the walls and floor sometimes, and the furniture.

This week, I added a window because we studied moon phases, and I wanted to make them aware of the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse.

It's just something easy that I do to give my students something to look at when they enter Schoology for the umpteenth time. 

And a little creativity to help me keep my sanity in this virtual classroom world!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

"If It Was Raining Meatballs..."

I know DESMOS was made  for Math , but I have been using it for my Morning Meeting activities. I try to switch up the things that I post for them to do.

I found this list of "50 Icebreaker Questions for Kids" during my frantic search for ways to break the ice in September. 

The question that  most recently caught my eye was, "If it was raining meatballs, would you eat them?" 

Their responses made me laugh!

I needed to laugh. I needed to have that moment where the computer was my friend, and not my foe. Just that moment in time, where the stress melted away, and I sat at my desk, flanked by three computers and a monitor, and laughed at my kids' responses.

"No, because no one knows where it came from. And I don't really like meatballs."

"No, because you don't know where those meatballs been."

"I would not eat those meatballs because I don't know where they came from. Somebody could have put something in them."

"Yeah, I would get a plate and eat."

"I would not eat them because they are all on the floor. Plus the Coronavirus and all that is going on..."

"No, who knows where they have been. They might be rotten, taste horrible, be raw, who knows?"

"Yes, I would eat them, but straight out the sky, not off the ground."

"Depends on if they're cooked properly and if they're not vegan. If they taste good, and it's real meat, I don't see why not. I get it if you don't know where they came from...but it's free meatballs.' (My favorite!)

I need more moments like this. WE need more moments like this. 

If it was raining meatballs, would you eat them? :)

Monday, October 5, 2020


 I open my Zoom "door" at 8:40 a.m. every morning. Alexa helps me stay on track. My planning period is at 8 a.m., and sometimes, as you know, we get wrapped up in what we are doing and lose track of time.

Any way, one day as I was immersed  in the Bitmoji  FB group, and I came across a digital "Waiting Room."("Sharing is caring!"). 

 I was like, this is so cool, I want this for my students. I did what I so often do, I copied it and modified it a little. It had the rules, like "Mute Yourself" , a cool electronic timer, a Bitmoji character, and these really cool colors.

Well, a few days later a colleague of mine shared another digital "Waiting Room". No rules. Just a welcoming place to start the morning. And I was like, this is so cool, I want THIS for my students. And of course I copied it and modified it, but I kept the welcoming spirit of it, no rules like, "Mute Yourself."

So now, I have a very cool "Waiting Room". It has the very cool electronic timer, our Quote of the Week, our tools for the day, and of course, my Bitmoji character. (Don't tell anyone, but I change her clothes every week).😉I add messages when necessary.

My 5th graders hang out in there for 5 minutes before class starts. I am muted and my video is off, and that's their time. I sit in front of the screen, with my headset on, chilling, listening. And yes, they know I am there.

Sometimes they talk to each other, most times they don't. Except for my one darling who gets on, bright and cheerful every morning, and gives everyone a rundown of whatever he chooses. Every morning. It makes my day, his innocence.

Update: They talked to him today! Persistance is everything!:)

This was an easy way to make their mornings a little easier in this virtual environment. 💖

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Digital "Getting to Know You" IceBreakers

It's time to go back to school.

And whether you are face-to face or virtual, making connections with your students is vital.

Here are a few digital  ideas for getting to know your students and/or letting your students get to know you. 

The great thing about BINGOBaker is that there are thousands of ready-made cards or you can create your own BINGO. You can post images, text, and numbers on the BINGO card. 
There is a $14.99 LIFETIME fee if you want all the extras. I chose to go with the extras, which are very cool! There are also very simple directions on how to set it up and play on the site. (Looking at my old posts I realized I had written about Bingobaker in 2013)

You will want to generate your own card for this one. If you are creating  a teacher card, you can post numbers, images, and text that apply to you. As you and your students play, talk about some of the things so your kids get to know you. It is a lot of fun! 

You can also create a student one using information you gather from your students. Use Google Forms, Padlet, or Google Slides to get information from them. You will learn a lot about them in a short amount of time, and have fun doing it!

Sample of a 3 X 3 grid.

2. Quizizz, Kahoot, or Gimkit Game
I like making these so my kids could see how much they actually think they know about me.:) 
These three games all have the same quiz game format.All of them are FREE, but Kahoot and Gimkit have a premium version. FREE works.
When you play Kahoot, you will have to share your screen during a a live game.
Quizizz and Gimkit can be played live by sharing the code. 
They can all be played by students on their own.

After you look them over, you can decide which one is best for you. 
My students love Gimkit because they can "make" money. 
After playing the Teacher game, make sure you give the students a chance to ask you questions about what they learned.
Here's a sample of my "How Well Do You Know Mrs. Mims?"

And of course, these games can be adapted by inputting student info so the kids could learn about each other.

Teachers and students do not need an account. This makes it easy to play a game with your students. The students just input the required code.I love the fact that I could add rounds. Reminds me of Jeopardy in quiz form. If you want to use it for quizzes, keep in mind that it doesn't save data. I created a "How Well Do You Know Mrs.Mims?", but using rounds. The first round is "Favorites", next round is "Numbers", etc...

4. JeopardyLabs - Online Jeopardy
Who doesn't love Jeopardy? 
JeopardyLabs has thousands of pre-made games. There is a $20 LIFETIME fee, which I feel is worth it.
This is more of a "Getting to Know the School/Class" game. I usually don't play it until the second week of school.
I add classroom procedure, staff, etc...
I let the kids work in teams, (team-building), and they have a great time.
Of course, if you are virtual, you will have to share your screen.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Reopening Schools: A Decision to Die For!

Would I die for my students? 
Teachers have placed themselves in harm's way for their students countless times.

But, not like this.
Not in a situation where decisions could be made that would keep our students and educators safe. 

A 61 year old educator in Arizonza was infected with COVID19, along  with two other educators who were working in the same classroom.  She died.They still don't know if she got it from her family, and bought it into the classroom, or if she contracted it from another teacher.

It doesn't matter. With all the precautions, all three teachers were still infected.

Our "Secretary of Education" Besty Devos states that we shouldn't worry.
“If there’s a short-term flare-up for a few days, that’s a different situation than planning for an entire school year in anticipation for something that hasn’t happened,” she told CNN host Dana Bash. “Kids have got to be back at school, they’ve got to be back in the classroom. Working families have got to have their kids back in school.”

What do you notice? 
I notice that she does not mention the fact that educators or school personnel can get sick. I notice that she is worried about two things. Kids have to go to school and their working parents need to have them in school. No education personnel are mentioned.

What do you wonder?
I wonder if she cares if educators, or any staff member,that works in the school, becomes ill or dies?
I wonder if she thinks we are dispensable?

I dislike remote learning. Intensely. 
I miss seeing the kids face to face. 
But none of those emotions are reasons to be sent into a classroom when our safety cannot be guaranteed. A situation where there are more questions than answers.

My heart bleeds for the teacher who has to go to work. It's easy to say don't go. 
But when you have to feed your family, the rent or mortgage is due, the bills have to be paid, and you are told to report to work, what are your options?
Take a minute to read this article from NEA,"Returning Safely to In-Person Instruction:What Educators Need to Know" to get an idea of what your rights are.

Remember the good old days?
March 2020? 
Everyone thought teachers were heroes? 
Now they want us to be martyrs.
Would I die for my students? Probably.
But not from  COVID-19.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Shut Up and Teach!:Silence is Golden?

This tweet. (See below)
When I read it, someone else had retweeted it, the first thing that stood out to me was her use of the simile, "like wild animals." Hmmmm.....

So she, and I am sure she is not the only one, has a problem, because educators aren't being silent about the issues America has with systemic racism. Educators had the audacity to bring what is happening in the world into #Edutwitter! Gasp!

She doesn't believe that educators should post their anger, sadness, their emotions, that they should continue to "share resources and build each other up, and model digital citizenship." (She said model digital citizenship and then compared educators to wild animals)

WTH? ANOTHER black man was killed by a police officer!!!!! 

And the world exploded. The world!

And educators should continue to just share resources and ignore the fact that the world is changing? Eyes are being opened?  Why shouldn't this happen on #Edutwitter? We are teaching black and brown children, and they need an ally.
Sharing resources is not all there is.

We should be sharing, even if it makes people uncomfortable, sharing how to be antiracist, sharing how we are feeling, and sharing ideas on what can be done to help the situation.

When I read this tweet, I immediately thought of  Laura Ingraham telling Lebron to "shut up and dribble."

Fortunately, educators are not being silent. They are speaking out, they are using their voices. 

We will not "shut up and teach.", we will not turn a blind eye to what is happening, and we will definitely not be silent!

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