Reflecting on the Pandemic Journey

Anybody that is a frequent visitor to this blog probably knows by now that I like to use this as a medium to complete my coursework as much as possible. It helps me to think through the assignment when I reflect on it here, and I think it makes for a better submission than a plain old paper.

This weekend saw the start of my first summer semester of my doctoral program. I’ve taken summer classes in the past, but they were short, intensive 5-week courses. This summer, and my next several summers, will be filled with two full 10-week courses. And this summer, I’m taking Statistical Methods and Distance Learning. One of those courses is much more terrifying to me than the other. Can you guess which one?

Anyway, the first assignment in Distance Learning is to reflect on how the pandemic changed the way we used technology to live and interact in work and school, an apt and timely reflective assignment.

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Defining the Field

It is my personal goal to get back to utilizing this blog more frequently to reflect on all of my roles: Instructional Designer, Adjunct Lecturer, and Doctoral Student. Just as I have done in the past, today I’m going to share one of my assignments with the world. In my Issues in Instructional Technology course, we were tasked with researching the various labels and definitions of the field of Instructional Design and Technology or the field of Instructional Systems Design and Technology or the field of Educational Technology, etc., in order to define and label the field as we see it.

So here is my definition and label of the field where I now find myself fully immersed. It doesn’t have the snazzy, sometimes snarky, tone of other blogs, I think you’ll find it an interesting read.

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Introducing Mrs. Hebert, Instructional Designer (plus a review of Mentimeter)

I think it is time to make my career change Blog-Official. Back on February 1st, I started a new career path as an Instructional Designer, and I have never been happier than I’ve been these past couple months. It was not easy for me to walk away from the classroom, and I spent a lot of time second-guessing my own decision to make this move, but I know this was the right move for me. Considering my career has been on this trajectory since my first Instructional Design course, I’m actually a little surprised at myself for feeling so conflicted.

This blog was originally born from a master’s course assignment and I’ve used it over the past few years as a place to reflect on my work, both as a teacher and student. I’ve talked about different educational technology tools that I’ve discovered and loved. I’ve talked about issues in education. I’ve reflected on my own struggles as a teacher and as a student, first in my master’s program and now as a doctoral student. The important part for me has always been reflection. I’ve learned and grown so much since I wrote my first post here, and I whole-heartedly believe that reflection is the most important aspect of learning and growth. And so, moving forward, I intend to keep that theme. I may one day bring myself to change the name of this website from Mrs. Hebert’s Classroom to something else, but regardless of the name, this will always be my place to reflect and learn from my own practices. If you’re reading this, I hope you are able to learn from my reflections, and I hope that you take some time to reflect on your own practices in your profession.

I chose today to write my first reflection as an Instructional Designer because today I led my first live professional development seminar. In February, I was told that my first topic would be RUBRICS. Throughout March, I designed and developed a 60-minute webinar on that topic, taking my presentation through two rounds of feedback with my team (who are the best, most supportive, intelligent people!). All my effort culminated in a wildly successful seminar today.

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The Future Dr. Hebert

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the end of my last synchronous online meeting of CUIN 3312: Educational Technology, one of my students commented that I am Superwoman for teaching their class while teaching full time and working on my doctorate. I personally don’t think I am Superwoman, but I am probably crazy. This has been a… busy semester, to say the least.

I knew what I was getting myself into when I started. I thought long and hard about whether to continue teaching at the University of Houston once I started my own doctoral classes, and ultimately decided that I just could not give up teaching that class. Teaching CUIN 3312 is the highlight of my week every week. It’s my favorite part of my busy schedule, and there was no way I would give it up. So, I knew coming into this semester that I would be one busy beaver, teaching at UH and teaching 8th grade English and completing two doctoral classes all at the same time. I did step down as department chair because even I have limitations, and I didn’t feel I could commit to the amount of extra time the position required in order to do it well. I probably could have made it happen if I needed to, but I knew that I would not be as good of a leader for my department with all my extra responsibilities.

Of course, I did not anticipate the pandemic. (Who did?) I did not know how different and how impossible my job as an 8th grade English teacher was going to be this semester. I received my acceptance email to Sam Houston State University on March 5th, just weeks before the pandemic lockdowns began. I have thought numerous times about whether or not I would have stuck with starting the program this year or if I would have postponed my doctoral plans for another year if I’d had the foreknowledge of what this semester was going to be like. And if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, I don’t think I would have changed it. What can I say? I’m stubborn. I mean, determined.

And so here I am, once again sitting in front of the post editor on my blog and reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past fifteen weeks of classwork. It’s been more than two years since I last did this, and yet it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. I know that I am just one of those people that is as comfortable as a student as I am a teacher. Even in the two years between completing my MEd and beginning my EdD, I never stopped learning.

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The Professional Development We Need (And Deserve)

An amazing thing happened today. I found myself this afternoon standing in the front of my classroom, desks in evenly spaced rows, a big jug of blue hand sanitizer near the door, my laptop projecting on the Promethean board, my iPad under the document camera, a bright yellow mask on my face. Spread out in a mixture of standing or sitting on top of the desks, a group of English teachers laughed, commiserated, and eagerly listened and shared ideas in preparation of our foray into hybrid education that starts Monday.

For the past month, I have been a ball of anxiety. I have come home from work angry and upset just about every day. I’ve started chomping on Smoothie Tums like they’re candy, and I’m in the middle of a two week cycle of Prilosec. Like many districts, mine is getting ready to start phasing students back to face-to-face, meaning that starting Monday, I’ll have students joining me in my actual classroom and students joining me via Cisco Webex from home, all at the same time. To increase the anxiety, we’re transitioning from a half day schedule (two groups of students, one AM and one PM), to a full day, complete with a whole new bell schedule and all new rosters of students. For the past three weeks of virtual learning, I taught eight separate 45-minute classes, but starting Monday, I’ll have three 100-minute block classes. Because why not throw a full schedule change into the middle of stressful pandemic teaching?

I consider myself a good classroom teacher; I strive to do what is best for my students every day and to improve my practice through research-based strategies. And I think I’ve done a good job of teaching virtually for the past three weeks that we’ve been fully online. But the prospect of teaching both at the same time… how will that even work?

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Mrs. Hebert’s English Class: ONLINE EDITION

On this blog, I’ve reflected on the successes and failures surrounding my teaching career. I’ve written about the activities and assignments I’ve designed and redesigned. I’ve written about my own views and feelings relating to education and technology. This blog started as an assignment in my first masters class three years ago. I’ve been striving to continue posting here because I believe it’s important to reflect in this profession, on the big things and the little things.

It struck me pretty hard when I opened up this blog and saw that my last post was one from the first week of school, when I had the privilege of seeing Nic Stone speak. How far we’ve come since the start of the school year.

Just a few years ago, I wrote about the heartbreak of starting the school year late due to Hurricane Harvey. Now, I sit here thinking about the heartbreak of closing our school early, and the struggles and successes of moving to fully remote instruction.

Once again, a natural disaster of sorts has drastically affected our school year. The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has shut the doors on schools across the country, but that certainly does not mean that the school year is over.

Just this morning, I posted the handout and assignment for our seventh week of online instruction.

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Dear Nic Stone

While standing on the stage in the Cullen Performance Hall, wearing a stunning technicolor outfit, Nic Stone asked the rapt audience to turn to page 152 in her debut novel, Dear Martin. Sitting four rows back from the front, I eagerly turned to the page to see which brilliant line from the novel she wanted us to read. It was this one:

“You can’t change how other people think and act, but you’re in full control of you.”

Dear Martin, Nic Stone

This quote that I already had underlined in my own copy of the novel. This quote that sums up exactly what I try to instill in my 8th grade students every day. This quote that I myself often fail to remember.

This was only a small part of the brilliance that made up the University of Houston College of Education‘s 2019 First Lecture. I am immensely glad that I attended this year.

Nic Stone speaking at the University of Houston College of Education 2019 First Lecture
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Technology: It’s Not Just for the Students

In case you were not aware, today was #DigitalLearningDay. As far as I’m concerned, just about every day in my classroom is a digital learning day, but I am not one to pass up an opportunity to show off my EdTech prowess and design something extra special for the occasion.

For the past week, I worked with one of my favorite teacher besties who is also my across the hall classroom neighbor to build out an Escape Room activity. It was pretty rockin’ if I do say so myself. Even our admin team thought that it was a great learning experience for our kiddos.

Me and my across the hall teacher bestie with our Digital All-Star stickers and rocking our AVID shirts! ❤
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#ThisIsTeaching

My feet hurt, the underwire in my bra has come free and is stabbing me, I have a papercut on my finger from making copies, half of my lipstick is gone, there are no less than three different hair clips holding together this hairstyle that one of my students described as looking like broccoli (uncooked, not covered in cheese).

Today I had a really good lesson with a mixture of silent choice reading in the library and reviewing a big test they took last week to prepare for the upcoming STAAR. I used non-technology notecards for silent reading trackers. I used technology with Pear Deck for test review and in-depth, very animated discussions.

This is teaching.

Sometimes, well often, I struggle in this profession. I struggle with balancing what I know my students need and teaching to the test, with whether or not I’m doing a good enough job, with how much work I have to take home with me, with how much emotional baggage I take home with me, with how exhausted I always am.

And then sometimes I have a good lesson. Not even an awesome lesson or amazing lesson, and it wasn’t a perfect day. I still had deal with discipline and students who won’t listen or don’t get it. But it was a good lesson.

And when I left work today and thought about how my general appearance started out looking pretty snazzy with the makeup and styled hair and a dress and ended up with the description above, I realized how great this job can be.

If that even makes sense.

This is teaching.

Reflecting on Experiences

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewey

Sitting in a session about the effect of teacher education on teacher attrition and retention, I heard this quote from John Dewey, and it struck me deeply. I have been sadly lacking in this reflection since I completed my masters this past August. Of course, I knew this would happen. Many of my reflections in this blog centered around my masters coursework; in fact, the original creation of this blog was an assignment. However, having earned my degree certainly does not mean I am done learning or done reflecting.

I am, of course, proud of having completed my degree and of my several subsequent accomplishments. I’ve started drafts of posts about those accomplishments, but without a deadline or a requirement, I haven’t completed them. Even this post is coming a solid month after I attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention and heard this quote. Continue reading