The Heartbreak of Hurricane Harvey

Today is Sunday, September 3rd, the day before Labor Day, what should have been the weekend between the first and second week of school. I should be spending my afternoon looking through student data sheets to get an idea of what my students like to read, what their hobbies are, and what sports they play. I should be finalizing my lesson plans for the four-day week to come, lesson plans that should be digging deep into the heart of the fiction-centered first grading cycle curriculum.

But none of that is the case.

Instead, Hurricane Harvey happened.

I have not yet met my 2017-2018 students. School didn’t start last week. School won’t start this week. If all goes according to plan, I will finally meet my students next Monday, the 11th. I don’t know them yet, but they are already in my heart. The local newspaper reports that Hurricane Harvey has deeply affected more than 5,000 students in the district. 5,000 students whose homes are damaged, if not gone.

Our district actually got off relatively lucky. Our campuses didn’t sustain any major damage. None of our students will need to be relocated to other campuses in the district, as is happening in so many schools around us. And I am grateful for that.

None of our students are on the still-growing list of lives lost in the storm. But I’m only just starting in this district this year. The last three years, I worked in a different district, one that was hit much harder by Harvey. One of my former students is on that list. One sweet girl, who brought me a box of Shipley’s donuts on the last day of school as an apology for always being late to my first period preAP English I class. She wrote “Please “do-nut” mark me tardy!” in pen across the top of the box and signed it with her name and a heart. She didn’t deserve to have her life cut so short by this horrible storm.

Overwhelming trauma will be felt throughout the community for weeks, months, years to come. Rebuilding will not be easy and it will not be fast. It will be years before southeast Texas is the same again.

But I can’t think about years from now. In a week, my classroom will be filled with 8th graders. 8th graders who would normally enter my classroom maybe concerned about what supplies they need or how much homework I’ll give, but will now be entering wondering about where they’ll live or where their friends will live. Even students spared from losing everything will have friends and family deeply affected by this storm.

Normally my first day of school I will tell them my strict expectations about assigned seats and cell phones. I tell them about growing up in Ohio where it snows. I tell them about all of the animals I have.

This first day of school will be different. And I don’t know what to tell them.

Text Me, Maybe

If there’s one thing that my students can all do well, it’s texting. Yeah, sure they do all kinds of things on their ever-present smart phones. Most of them use Snapchat (I don’t even want to know how many of their stories I accidentally made an appearance). Some use Twitter or Instagram. But they ALL text. (On the other hand, one thing that none of them can do well is discreetly text in class, but that’s a different post.) After fighting them all year, I decided it’s about time to put that skill to good use. Continue reading

Get Into My Flippin’ Classroom!

Who actually needs a teacher to deliver instruction when you’ve got the internet? All of this technology could surely replace teachers. We’re really just babysitters anyway, right?

Ha! No.

(Seriously, Betsy DeVos, if you’re reading this. No. Teachers are the backbone of education. Get it together.)

One textbook or article or video from this semester mentioned a phrase that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. Should teachers be the “Sage at the Stage” or the “Guide by the Side”?

Sage at the Stage

The generally accepted method of delivering instruction is that the teacher has all of the knowledge and it is their job to dump all of the information into the children’s heads. I’ve seen plenty of cartoons, both political and otherwise, depicting this idea through numerous metaphors. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many instances where this is the case. However, I think it’s safe to say that the overall feeling of education is shifting toward…

Guide at the Side

When my grandma was trying to text on her new phone, she kept saying “Don’t do it for me! Show me how so I’ll know!” Now she also asked “So when I want to put a space, I push the spacebar?” but that’s beside the point. My grandma is a smart woman. Students, from preschool to social security, generally need to DO in order to LEARN. This is why patience is such an important quality in a teacher. How often have you heard “Oh, never mind, I’ll just do it myself!” or “If you want it done right, do it yourself!”? Teachers need the patience to watch students make mistakes and figure them out for themselves.

This is the idea of Guide at the Side. Continue reading

Existentially STAAR-Crossed

Welcome to STAAR Season 2017! For those of us teaching courses with EOCs (end-of-course exams administered by the state), this is the most stress-filled, anxiety-ridden, headache-inducing time of year, and that’s not just my allergies speaking (hello, Spring!).

A little background for any readers not in or from Texas: STAAR stands for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. High schoolers take English I, English II, Biology, Algebra I, and US History. They must pass all five tests in order to graduate, and they can retest every time it’s offered (December, March, and in the summer) until they pass it. Every state has their own version of the STAAR test, and as with everything else in education, those tests are constantly changing. Even the STAAR made a significant change this year, removing the short answer response (SAR) questions from the test (which is a whole debate in itself!). Continue reading

Gamify Me, Captain!

Badge earned in Instructional Design

As a part of my Masters program, I am taking a class in Instructional Design that isĀ gamified. About two weeks into the class, I realized that I am 100% the target audience for gamification. I’m a very competitive person, and this Masters program has made me realize how much of a perfectionist I am as well. When I saw my avatar in first place on the leaderboard, I grinned for days. I texted my mom, my friends, even my department head to tell them that I was in first place.

Gamification is one of those edtech buzzwords that has been floating around in the peripheral of my educational experience. I’ve heard of it, but I hadn’t really seen it done.

Now that I’m experiencing it, I’m in love. Continue reading

Pop Quiz!

Schoology Quiz Question

Ok, ok, maybe that’s a little delusional. Let’s be real, Miss Frizzle is way cooler than me. I’m certainly not the best teacher ever, but goshdarnit, I try!

And trying includes coming up with better ways to quiz and test students. They get enough paper and pencil with the state testing. We’ve got to get a little bit more interesting for the day-to-day quizzing.

Today, I’d like to discuss my three new favorite ways of tormenting… ahem… I mean quizzing my students: Quizlet, Quizizz, and Schoology (I told you I’d be coming back to Schoology). Continue reading

A post that’s not about technology

quote-technology-for-the-sake-learning

 

I’m going to let you in on a secret…. I don’t use technology in my classroom every day.

I’m a firm believer that technology should be used for the sake of learning, not for the sake of itself. Sometimes lessons really don’t call for tech, and sometimes tech even distracts from a lesson. I know I’ve made that mistake before.

Last week, I had one of those lessons that worked so perfectly, it had to be a fluke. But then my colleagues did the lesson in their classrooms, and it worked perfectly for them too. It was a such a great lesson that I’m going to share it here, even though the students used zero technology. Continue reading

QR Code Extravaganza 2017

*megaphone voice* Welcome to QR Code Extravaganza 2017! Get ready for a day full of fun and prizes and QR codes! Let’s get scanning those crazy squares!

Ok, maybe it’s not quite an extravaganza and maybe the only prize is a passing grade, but it is a darn cool assignment.

QR codes are those silly little black and white pixelated squares that you see on advertisements every now and then. An app using the camera on your phone or computer can scan it, and it will either show you a picture, some text, or send you to a website. I’ve seen professional development workshops use them as an easier way to send participants to websites with long URLs. Of course, in that case, all you get is a bunch of grown adults trying to aim their cell phone cameras at a code that’s too far away to scan. (Use tinyurl, people.) QR codes are designed to be scanned up close. They’re most commonly used on posters or print ads as a way to send a consumer to get more information about a product.

To wrap up a week of discussing, reading, and analyzing persuasion, I decided to have a fun Friday in the library chasing QR codes. I’ve been working hard this year to make my classroom more student-centered and less the-teacher-does-everything-and-you-follow-along. Sending the students off to scan codes and answer questions while I watch them on the all-seeing LanSchool app seems pretty darn student-centered. Continue reading

Painting with a Technological Brush

Dear World of Educational Technology,

STOP BEING SO CRAZY.

Utilizing technology does not have to mean using the flashiest, fanciest, floofiest of websites with all the bells and whistles. It doesn’t have to mean spending tens, hundreds, thousands of dollars on software or tools. It doesn’t even have to mean using the Internet.

Use Paint.

Yes, that program that has come pre-installed on Windows computers since the dawn of technology. That one that we all used to use to doodle on the slow Windows 95 computer of our childhoods (ok, yes, I’m a millenial – this might not be true of all teachers, but you get my point). Continue reading