It’s been 4 months! 4 months since I’ve sat down in front of my computer and typed up a reflection, a thought, a fun fact. 4 long months to forget some of my favorite memories from my first year as a teacher. I’m sad this happened, especially considering my last blog post was about how I need to take time for myself…that worked out well. Sometimes life gets away from you, and then some.
Despite my absence, I find my return to my blog is only fitting. At the start of last school year, my incredible mentor and the amazing face behind Literacy Loving Gals, Colleen Noffsinger, took me under her wing and asked me to join a book study with some other teachers across the district, and I haven’t looked back since. #D100bloggerPD is one of my favorite “tribes” and is compiled of some of the most incredible educators I have ever met. We read quite a few books throughout the year and have even had the chance to connect virtually with some of the authors of our book studies through Twitter, Periscope and Facebook. These connections, both with the teachers in my district as well as the authors of these incredible works have been nothing short of life changing and I cannot wait to see what year two brings. If you missed the post from the incredible, Bazz you can follow the link to her blog here.
For the past two weeks, we have collectively been reading “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali. If you’ve never seen his TED talk or read his poems be sure to check them out before continuing on. The book is a small, short read, packed with power, sentiment and praise “of the greatest job in the world,” teaching! You can find my reflection on the next three chapters of the book, below. If you missed any of our book study, make sure to check out the schedule at the bottom of this post to back track to the beginning.
My Bad (Apologize and Mean It!)
In this vignette, Mali talks about what an apology truly means. He opens with a quote stating, “learning how to say you are sorry is a skill and an art, and an absolute necessity” not only just for teachers to do in their life, but for them to model and teach their students as well. In a society where sarcasm is at the heart of what we do, saying sorry, or being mindful of others feelings can sometimes be hard. Mali says an apology does not consist of “I’m just joking!” or “just kidding,” because if you were truly “joking” two people would be laughing not just one. I have always made this very clear to my students, we do not laugh at the expense of someone else’s feelings, and I still hold true to that this day. However, I am definitely guilty of ending sentences with, “I’m kidding” to my sister or my mom, and have either been seriously worried about the repercussions of the comment or faced the serious repercussions of my comment. On the flip side however, I feel I say “sorry” too much. It’s always been something I’ve done and people close to me and others who I work with are consistently and actively telling me to “stop saying sorry.” I do it in stores, restaurants, anywhere, mostly when there is nothing to apologize for doing. I’ll start a sentence with, “I’m so sorry to bother you” (in fact I think I did that to my principal two days ago) as means of not upsetting anyone. I hate to inconvenience people, or make them upset, so I over apologize which likely in turn annoys people, and makes them upset anyway. With all that being said, don’t over apologize, making your apology worth nothing, and don’t end your apology with a “just kidding” because both or all people should be laughing, if you are telling a joke. Be sure to model this with your students and explain to them the importance of apologizing and meaning it, and furthermore not having too much pride to even apologize in the first place.
MEG: Mali’s Electronic Grade Book & Teachers Make Technology Work
I decided to combine these two sections of the book because they are both related to technology and tie in nicely to one another, essentially I’m hoping not to be repetitive in my post.
In these two sections Mali discusses technology in his teaching life and how much of a role it played for him in helping him complete tasks more efficiently and effectively. I am lucky enough to work in a 1:1 district, meaning every student is given a device to use throughout the school year, and is able to take it home with them. I am also allotted a device through the school. This has helped transform both my teaching and my students learning in ways I could have never even imagined. We are able to personalize learning in a classroom of varying needs and give individualized attention and feedback whenever necessary though the use of these devices. The students are able to keep track of their work in student portfolios and learning management systems and I as well am able to do that on my end with products such as Schoology, Evernote and Google Classroom.
In these two sections Mali talks much about an electronic grading system he developed and coded to do much of the bulk work surrounding equations that would calculate student grades. All Mali would have to do by the end of the semester was finish typing in the numbers into cells on an excel spreadsheet and it would not only generate the grade for that student, but it would also generate a generic comment for that student’s grade as well. Today, we have many platforms allowing us to do this in education. In our district we use a system called PowerTeacher. However, what really stuck out to me about this section was not necessarily the technology, but instead, his wording surrounding the grades themselves. We utilize Standards Based Reporting in our district which allows students to be assessed specifically on the standard itself, and in my opinion or my teaching style, allows for students to be provided with authentic learning opportunities in the classroom instead of asking the question “what do I need to get on this test to get an A in the class.” To be honest, I’m not concerned about my students grades, as much as I am about their authentic learning, and if they can comfortably sit with me and show me their understanding of the content. I want to be able to consistently and constantly say, “I know where each one of my students is learning at and why,” and that is possible with conferences and SBR.
He also references utilizing technology in the classroom the right way and making it work. Our district is really great about this because, with the use of the SAMR & TPACK model, they are able to assist us in taking our teaching above the line. In essence, we don’t want to be utilizing technology in the sense that we are taking a worksheet and uploading it to Notability and that’s all we do. We want to use technology to enhance our lessons and do something that was never possible before. For example, in the book he talks about creating whole class virtual flashcards that could then be used to study at home that the students all compiled together. This is a great use of technology and a wonderful demonstration of doing something that could never have been done prior to technology. I myself experience this daily in my classroom, when I connect my class with other math classrooms across the world to do PBL’s or when I’m able to watch their responses of their in class math work live on my computer thanks to the incredible platform goFormative. Using technology to enhance your lessons and give students learning opportunities they otherwise may not have had, is the proper and appropriate use of technology in the classroom and is something that all teachers should strive for. To read more on SAMR, here’s great blog post from ADE, Shannon Soger.
Up next in the #D100bloggerPD is the amazing, Leah O’Donnell over at Responsive Literacy. Be sure to follow along with the rest of the crew as well as catch up on any posts you’ve missed by using the schedule below. I hope to have an end of the year reflection up before school starts up again just to start off on a fresh and positive note. Thanks for joining us!