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

Enhance Learning with Pear Deck

As an educator and a student of educational technology, I’m always on the lookout for new tools that increase student learning and student engagement. I strive to authentically teach my curriculum in ways that students have fun at least some of the time and that students will remember after they leave my classroom. It’s not always an easy task to accomplish, but I like to think I work hard at it.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled on a tweet from Alice Keeler that linked to her blog, Teacher Tech with Alice Keeler, specifically a post about a new Google Slides add-on that purports to increase student engagement and give every single student a voice. A common theme in this blog, and in my teaching, is making lessons more student-centered and engaging all students in learning. So, I was understandably intrigued. I spent an afternoon exploring the add-on, which led me to the full resource, called Pear Deck.

I am now 100% a Pear Deck supporter for the following reasons:

  1. It’s simple.
  2. It projects onto the student’s devices.
  3. Every student answers every question.
  4. The dashboard shows me all responses and gives me control from anywhere.

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Fall2017 Part 1: Kicking Butt in LDT

Well hello there, friends and followers. It’s nice to see you all again.

This semester has been a challenge, to say the least. Between starting a new job with very different hours and taking three graduate classes, I’ve been a bit stressed out and just a smidge busy. I am looking forward to reviving my ailing social life and adding some material to this blog. However, it has also been one of the most rewarding semesters. I’ve learned and accomplished a lot and I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. I have a lot I want to post regarding the new job and my current classroom shenanigans, but before I do that, I want to reflect on my graduate classes.

Like I said, I took three classes this semester for the first time: a Learning, Design, and Technology Seminar, a Professional Seminar, and a class on Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling. Today’s post will focus on the LDT seminar. Continue reading

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.

#summer

*cough* Ahem. *coughcough*

Man, it’s a bit dusty over here.

My poor neglected blog appears to have collected a couple of cobwebs and dustmites, and I have a list in my phone’s notepad of a half dozen blog topics sitting as lonely ideas waiting to join Internet permanency.

So far this summer, I’ve completed two more masters classes in which I crafted a full presentation on why Schoology is awesome and learned about and administered the Ekwall-Shanker Reading Inventory to two students, attended the ISTE 2017 conference in San Antonio, spent a couple days enjoying the Guadalupe River in Gruene, Texas with my husband, and played roughly 1.3 million hours of the Sims 4.

Ok, not 1.3 million, but the game did give me a notification this week that I’ve played 100 total hours. The game called this an accomplishment, but it felt a little like it was shaming me. “You have work to do! You have a blog to write! Lessons to plan for next year! Books to read! Another class to get ready for! And here you are playing the Sims. Shame!” it seemed to say.

But, no! No, Sims 4. You are wrong! I am not ashamed of my 100 hours of Sims playing time since I installed it on this computer in May. I’m not ashamed that my Sims family is now working on the fourth generation. I deserve that playing time. All teachers deserve to spend time in the summer doing what they want to do, what they enjoy, what makes them happy. We sacrifice so much of our personal lives during the school year, some more or less than others, for the sake of our students. After school hours grading, lunches spent shoveling in a salad while reworking the flopped parts of the day’s lesson for the afternoon classes, even late nights trying to sleep but worrying about that one students having so many problems at home. Like the meme I keep seeing on Facebook says, teachers don’t get summers off, we just collect our overtime. And let’s be honest here, most of us still do quite a lot of actual work during the summer to get ready for the next year.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook “I have a carefully crafted reward system that involves to-do lists and The Sims. #gradstudentproblems.” I found this system to be incredibly effective. Both of my classes thankfully provided a calendar of due dates and assignments for the duration of the month, making it easy for me to create lists of what I needed to get done for both classes each day. If I completed my list for the day, I could play the Sims. If I didn’t, no Sims. I mean, hey, we all use positive reinforcement on our students, why not use it on ourselves?

So, in a way, those 100 hours of Sims playing time just shows how many things I actually did get done in June.

Even if writing a blog post wasn’t one of them.

(Posts about ISTE, my classes, and other topics of actual substance coming soon!)

I’ll come up with a witty title later…

There’s something exhilarating, and somehow relaxing at the same time, about sitting at the keyboard with a blank blog post open in front of me, something silly in place of a final title, words slowly making their way across the blankness to form a new post. I have missed this.

So, why haven’t I been here the last couple of weeks?

I have been feeling the end of the school year drag hardcore since April 1st. The day my classroom countdown hit 60 days – just 2 more months until summer – my internal motivation and energy crashed harder than the stock market after Brexit. Of course, two months is far from being finished, and still left me one whole month of my graduate classes to complete. No matter how tired I am, there’s no giving up just yet. Continue reading