I started this blog just over a year ago (April 15, 2015 was my first post, on getting tabs back in Chrome) and it has truly been the best year of my life. I got engaged to the most wonderful, loving person, traveled to Italy which has been a dream of mine since I was little, made professional connections that have blossomed into great friendships, snagged a pair of jobs that I am so excited to start, and really began feeling like I know who I am and want to be.
It was my aim to post once a week for a full year, and, with the exception of my no-tech time abroad, I have accomplished that goal with 58 posts over the 52 weeks. So, I have decided to cut back on blogging and focus my energies on the changes ahead. I’m certain this won’t be my last post, but I can’t say when my next will appear. Until then, with many thanks, goodbye!
It’s official. What started as a dream, became a goal, and is reality for me now is a career as a tech coach! I am so excited to join the faculty at Notre Dame Cathedral Latin, or NDCL, this fall. Falling asleep last night was a struggle, what with the roaring storm of ideas. I really can’t wait!
Time. The lack, or mismanagement of it, is what holds us back from doing the things we really want to do. On technology and other surveys conducted in my district, time is always mentioned on the questions like, What’s the biggest obstacle to implementing X? or What else do you need to do X? I don’t have time to check out every single tech tool that I’m interested in, because:
I’m interested in so many, that it is literally impossible
I am unwilling to upset the balance on time spent in other enjoyable pursuits
I’ve spent nearly 100 hours on this blog since last April, when I started it. (98 hours, according to the blog logs I keep in Google Sheets, so I can get credit from Lake Erie College). There’s one thing I do, that I get flack for doing, that gives me some extra hours to be able to write. If you want more time, and you can swing this thing, do it! Don’t worry about the naysayers, it’s your life.
This morning, on my first day of Christmas break, instead of feeling obligated to clean my house (as I only would have time to truly scrub and tidy all rooms on days when I am off work, and at home instead of instead of in Cleveland with my fiance Igor), I was able to go into the woods, for over an hour of wandering and restoring my sense of peace.
On my way home, I stopped at the library and found a book that my sister recommended, and a new one in a series I started reading last year. I love reading, and have to put off reading anything too good before bed on school nights, or else I don’t go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
This afternoon, I started the 3 hour process of replicating my mom’s homemade sauce and meatballs, to share with my soon-to-be in-laws on Christmas Eve. It is simmering on the stove now. I’ve had to get up to stir it at least 3 times since starting this post.
All of these things, I was able to do guilt-free in part because the house is already clean. Yesterday when I mentioned the cleaners at our staff Christmas party, one lady was surprised and said, “But your house is so little!” and “I feel bad for Igor.” Yes, I have a small house, but to clean it well takes me over 3 hours. I don’t get a sense of accomplishment from it. I want it done, but I don’t want to do it myself. And as for the comment about Igor, well, he has all 4 limbs and a brain just like I do, so he’s perfectly capable of cleaning just as well as I am. Or paying for cleaning. He and I, we’re alike in that we like a clean space, and do fine with maintaining cleanliness, but we’d rather spend our time in ways other than doing deep cleaning.
Look at how you are spending your time, and evaluate if that aligns with what you truly value. (Like, I played Farmville when I was in college and that was a black hole that I realized I needed to escape after a few weeks. I avoid Pinterest for the same reason). If you find that you spend too much time doing things that aren’t making you happy or don’t make you feel productive, figure out what you can do to get yourself doing things you really love or want to be doing. Outsource the rest. Don’t feel bad about it. Think of it as a gift to yourself (and your family/colleagues/students/etc.) Merry Christmas!!
Today I attended and presented (on Google Classroom) at WVIZ’s Tech and Learning conference. Usually after conferences, I feel like there are so many things I want to look in to, but then, I only ever get around to one or two. I thought it might help if I immediately made a list that I could return to later. Also, in case you couldn’t go, I could help you find something useful! Since I don’t know much about these things, they will just be links and maybe a sentence description.
As a “specials” teacher of 9 week courses, I get to have the first day 4 times a year. Today was my 2nd first day, with a whole new batch of students. What’s great about this is I have a chance to improve upon my 1st quarter units and lessons. Or completely abandon what didn’t work and isn’t worth fixing. I’m not just making these decisions alone though, because I asked my Q1 students some questions to guide my practice in Q2.
I’ve written a similar post in the past. It has the technical info on how to create a Google Form to collect students’ reflections on their learning and your teaching. I’ve learned some things since then though, and that’s why I’m writing about this again.
This year, I thought to mention to my students that it’s customary in college to take an end-of-course survey to help the teacher make the course better. (I don’t know if that’s what they actually get used for, but it’s a good story.) It makes the kids feel important and valued. All people love to be asked their opinion. I was a little nervous about my 8th graders taking the survey for a chance to be funny and ridiculous, but I was pleasantly surprised by their honest, legitimate critiques and by some of the nice things they wrote that I’m sure they’d have never said aloud to me. They will take it seriously and give you real answers, don’t worry.
It was interesting to see the answers to “What are some things have you learned in this class?” I could see trends in what stood out to them the most and what I taught them that I didn’t really mean to, but that came out naturally in the course of showing them how to use the computers efficiently.
I also loved to see their answers on their most & least favorite part of class, and the optional extended response for “Other Comments”. I had written a post called F Words just before school started, and it contained the goals I have for my class:
Frequently learn useful stuff
Freedom of choice, and
Freedom from Fear
From the answers given on the survey, I feel like I am on the right track! Students were able to name many specific skills, tools, or processes they learned to use this quarter. A kid wrote about him learning that it is okay to fail (as long as you keep on trying). And there are 17 instances of the word “fun”. The 8th graders especially enjoyed their freedom of choice, and although no one mentioned freedom from fear, I think that’s because fear was absent. I would not know if these F’s were coming across without the survey. Are you meeting your #classroomgoals? How will you find out?
The other questions I asked were “What do I need to improve on?” and “What did I do well?” These questions help me gauge how I am coming across as a teacher. I experimented with my 8th grade class by not giving as many instructions aloud and telling my students to find out what to do by going on their Google Classroom and reading or watching video instructions there, and then I’d answer their questions or help them if they needed it. One student wrote that he wished I would have given more verbal instructions. That’s something I’ll consider for this new group. Some students mentioned they liked the video instructions I gave because they could watch and pause to do each step. So, I will definitely continue to do those.
Honestly, I don’t think once every quarter is too much for any teacher to ask these kinds of questions. Even if you are teaching a year-long course, it’s good to check in with your students. Then, you can make adjustments to make the rest of the year better. You also get the added benefit of the good-will your students will feel toward you for letting them speak their mind, well, type it. I can promise that gathering data about your students’ opinions is well worth it. And fun!
Here’s a list of my questions, in case you want to use them too. All but #7 had paragraph size, open ended response boxes.
What are some things you learned in this class?
Is there anything you WISH you would have learned about this year in this class?
What was your favorite thing about the class?
What was your least favorite part of the class?
What do I need to improve on? What advice do you have for me to be a better teacher?
What did I do well? Like, things I did to help you learn.
A few weeks ago, I came across the 5 word GPS challenge. Dave Burgess encourages teachers to think about what they want students to say about their class at an end of year reflection, then, use those as a way to guide your teaching throughout the year.
Once I started brainstorming, I noticed a trend. I want my students to think of a lot of F’s!
Frequently learn useful stuff
Freedom of choice, and
Freedom from Fear
First, I want my students to learn skills and habits of mind that are relevant to them now, and for the future. Secondly, I’m going to help them to understand that an initial failure isn’t the end of the line in their learning. It’s just a first step. Of course I want my class to be fun and engaging. Kids learn best that way. Finally, freedom. I’ll let my students make choices about their learning tasks. Sometimes that will be through allowing them to choose a topic and sometimes it will be through allowing them to choose how they show their understanding. Especially at the middle school level, giving students the respect of trusting them to make choices helps them to feel the autonomy they are truly beginning to crave. Freedom from fear is listed last, but is the most important. I want my students to be free from feeling fear while they are with me. I want to cultivate a caring space. A bully-free zone. A room where failure isn’t scorned but is viewed as an opportunity. Kids who are “different”, I want them to feel welcome, comfortable, and valued.
By sharing these thoughts explicitly and acting on them each day through our time together, and I hope that my students will come to feel that we’ve accomplished something fantastic. F? Yeah!
Take some time before your students arrive to consider how you want them to describe your class. Share in the comments!