Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's The Point?


A recent news story has me questioning why some school districts even bother with going 1to1.  In Los Angeles, the district began a 1to1 ipad initiative in at least three high schools. They blocked access to all social media sites, both at school and at home. In about a week, over 300 students figured out how to breach the security on their ipads and surf the Web and get on Facebook and Twitter at home. The districts response was to no longer allow the ipads to go home with students and to postpone the rollout of ipads to other students until they were able "to ensure it has 100 percent control over what is accessible" on the ipads.

Check out the story here: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/25/program-halted-after-la-students-breach-school-ipads-security-in-week/

We are a 1to1 school this year. All students from kindergarten through 12th grade have an Apple device of some kind (K-5 have ipads, 6-12 have MacBook Airs). As teachers, we have talked about the distractions that present themselves when students have constant access to the internet. Discussion of cyberbullying, digital citizenship, and time management happen among teachers daily. The question has been asked, "What do you block?"

In our district, we have chosen not to block most sites in the high school.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest are all accessible to students and staff. Yes, I have to remind students once in awhile to get off of those sites, but I also have students access those sites. I find that accessing social media is more of a classroom management issue (and sometimes a time management issue) rather than a technology issue. We must teach students when its's OK to use those sites and when it isn't.

In Creative Writing, students and I have been known to tweet out pieces of our writing. Students are now creating a Digital Storytelling project. They'll be creating a movie using pictures and videos they have created. Want to know where today's students archives most of their pictures and videos? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine..... How can they access those sites if we block things at school and at home?

Freshmen English students write blogs. We are now sharing those blogs with students in other parts of the state. I'd love to find classrooms in other parts of the country....the world.... to  connect with. They are beginning to get comments from people besides me. Remember your first blog comments from strangers?  It's pretty exciting.

Speech and Drama students create projects that require them to find information online, to access free images and sounds. They can't do that if we block their access to the internet or certain sites.

I'm not trying to say that going 1to1 is without it's hiccups, that everything is pie in the sky wonderful. It isn't. It takes work. You have some additional things to teach. But it is so totally worth it.

So, I don't understand handing your students the world in a device and then tell them not to explore and use that world. I don't understand limiting the resources they need to think about that world and get to know it. I don't understand not teaching them how to get along in that world. I'm sure there is fear involved, but fear needs to be conquered. No great discoveries were ever made locked inside a box.

I just don't understand.

But if you are going to hand them the world all the while telling them they can't be a part of it, spend your money on paper and pencils instead, and call it good.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

To My Kindred Spirits

This blog post is the result of several conversations I've had on Twitter the last three days (#iaedchat, #flipclass and #tlap started them all) and a surprise gift in the mail yesterday. All of these events made me realized how lucky I am to have surrounded myself with some of the best minds in education.


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TwoWritingTeachers
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It wasn't that long ago that I felt like a cheesy sit-com teacher because I always tried to see the best in my students, I wanted the best for my students, and I gave my best to my students. Aside from a few like minded teachers,  real life didn't seem that way. I wondered if I cared too much. It was hard work to stay positive and do what I knew in my heart was best for my kids.

And then, I met all of you--my blogging buddies and Twitter tweeps.

My PLN--another "cheesy" term, according to some. Made me an "overachiever" to others (and why is that a bad thing?).

But

The more I listen, the more I learn, the more I engage,
the more I see that the "real teachers" are just like me.

You see the best in your students.
You want the best for your students.
You give the best to your students.
You are cheesy and gushy over how much you love your job and your kids.

You give virtual high fives to celebrate and  hugs when they are needed.
You share your hopes and fears and yes, even lesson plans.
You understand the struggles because you are going through them too.
You cheer at the successes because who doesn't need a standing ovation once in awhile.

So, to all of you, a simple thank-you. The conversations I experience on a daily basis are the things that inspire me to improve. My life is so much richer because of all of you--my kindred spirits.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Reminder

Most of you probably don't know, that Greg and I have six grandkids. And that is because I don't write about three of them very often. Not because we aren't in their life, not because we don't love them as much as the others.

I don't write about them because of a scary person in their life. Someone we try to keep from them.

So, no pics online, no names, nothing. The school, the teacher, family, we all know the rules.

But last week, a local newspaper placed a picture of one of them on the front page of the paper (and of course online), complete with first and last name, age, grade and school.

Anyone can now find them.  Including the scary person. All because the newspaper didn't think to get permission before printing a photo.

So I'm writing this to remind everyone to get permission before you post pictures, student work, videos etc. anywhere online. It might seem like an insignificant thing to you. But to the family asking you not to post those pictures, etc, it's important, and it doesn't matter what their reason is.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flying....

Last night, I read a blog post by Dave Mulder. I began to comment on it, and then realized, it was probably a blog post. Go ahead and click over there to read what he said.

I'll wait....

I substitute taught for a few years before I began teaching. It was probably one of the best ed classes I ever had.

One year, I took a long term sub position for an elementary teacher in our district who was actually quite well respected (at least I thought so). She was having a surgical procedure, so I had time to meet with her before she took her leave.

The day we met, she proudly showed me a file box on her desk.

Inside it were 180 notecards.

One for every day of the school year.

Her lesson plans.

They never changed.

She was my Carl. She lived in her little classroom and never changed a thing. She was too afraid to fly...although I don't understand why, she had some great ideas.

As a sub, I was thrilled. Here was every thing I needed to teach in this classroom for six weeks. No calls to the teacher. No having to fake it. No work involved.

Plans!

But it didn't take me long to start thinking about that little box on her desk. She had made it quite clear that I needed to make sure to put the days card in the back of the file box each day. I shouldn't write on them. I mustn't lose them.

She used them every year...and was proud of it.

Years later, when I took my first job teaching 7th grade English in the district, there were no plans, no ideas, no curriculum for me to follow. I asked the head of the department what I needed to teach. He told me, "Anything you want."

I longed for that little file box on the desk.

So I started. I made things up. I tried and failed. I tried and succeeded.

I flew.

And I kept all my lesson plans in a notebook (not a file box, mind you). But I did things a bit differently--- I wrote all over my plans. The notes were reflections on how the lesson went. What worked well, what needed to be canned. I also wrote ideas for the next year all over the place.

Then I started using binders for each unit.  And in the binder were always ideas for improving, new things to try. I seemed to instinctively know that I couldn't teach each new class the way I taught the old one. Heck, I couldn't teach each kid in one class the same way I taught his classmates. They were all so different!

No two years were ever the same.

And then, after seven years, I was a little bored. Our district was studying literacy and how to teach it. It excited me, so I switched over and began to teach 7th grade reading (English and Reading are two separate classes in our middle school).

Same thing. Binders full of units and ideas. No year was the same as the last.

And after seven years, I was bored again.

So I went to the high school. And instead of teaching one class, I teach four. And that could change every semester. I love it.

But, as a seasoned teacher, I understand the file box on the desk. It certainly makes your life easier. You don't have to fly into the unknown. Every day is predictable. Every day in the same.

Nothing changes.

It's comfortable.

It's boring.


Change is good for a teacher. 
Trying new things is good for a teacher. 
Failure is good for a teacher.
Learning is good for a teacher.

So each day, I remind myself to try something new, struggle with a new idea, and try not to be afraid to fail.....

Ugh. Cheesy.  I know. But I really do try to remind myself of this. 
Because each year, 
even though it might be your 25th year 
in this class, 
it's your students's first...






Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How About a Little Cheese With That Whine?

It's not right.
I'm not doing enough.
I'm not organized enough.

Aaarrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhh.

I am not liking how Creative Writing has been going. I don't feel prepared enough this year, and I think it's because I'm trying to do it all at once...

  • flipping the units
  • trying to be my own version of Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher
  • not being perfect
  • conferring with 40 kids in two classes
  • 1:1 and going paperless (really? in a writing classroom?)
  • and, oh, yeah, my other five classes
I should be reading drafts for tomorrow, but instead, I'm whining in this blog post.
I should be at least voice commenting so they can really work on revising tomorrow, but instead I'm whining in this blog post.
I should be creating a video on getting rid of linking verbs and writing in active voice, but instead I'm whining in this blog post.

I'm really good at whining today.

I need a plan.

"Do you need it perfect or do you need it tomorrow?"  The line that keeps reverberating in my head. I kept hearing that at Flipcon when I was there in June. 

I need to record it and play over and over to myself until I get it. 
I need to make myself a daily schedule so I get my "homework" done.

Really, I'm as bad as some of my students. I let myself get off track a lot. It's easy--TV to watch, a Twitter chat, email to check, a blog post to write....

I need a plan. Really, I think I need a someone with a whip and a chair to keep me on track.

But on the other hand--I can't work 24/7. I do need some down time.

But how in the world will I ever get organized?

Enough whining--time to make a list!

See you next week.....


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Affirmation


We all doubt ourselves once in awhile. We all look at our classrooms, our teaching, and wonder if we're doing the right thing. We wonder if it's time to retire. Do we have the energy? The patience? The passion to keep going.

Friday was day 11 of our school year. Trust me, I'm not counting down already.  But I am so tired some days when I come home, I just don't have the energy to spend more time on school work. Those little thoughts creep into my head. Can I really keep doing this for six or seven more years?

But on Day 11, I marveled at the relationships and the trust that have developed in that short amount of time. Little moments. Little moments that reaffirm this life I have chose. Little moments that reassure me I'm still doing the right thing and can continue on for a few more years.


  • "Mrs. Day, you are in the best teacher in school" from a student I've never had in class
  • a student sharing details from his life that I know he doesn't share with others
  • a football button
  • a group hug from from boys both past and present
  • a student who asked to come and work in my room because he can focus there (and a teacher wise enough to let him come. He was having issues on Friday)
  • a head's up from the guidance counselor about a freshmen who already feels comfortable enough that she believes she could talk to me about a her life
Notice, not one of those little moments have anything to do with curriculum. It's all about the relationships. Because the one thing I've learned in my years of teaching....

You can't teach 'em and they won't learn if you don't love 'em. 

And I do love them.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Great Thing About Seniors

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We met with our homerooms on Friday for a short time. One of those days where information needs to be handed out and gathered. Homeroom tends to be the easiest way to do that. In our district, you start with a homeroom when they enter as freshmen and keep them until they graduate. It's easy to build relationships with them this way. This year, my kids are seniors.


It didn't take long for me to take care of business and there was quite a bit of time left before they could move on to the assembly. As freshmen and sophomores---maybe even juniors, they would have whined about this, tried to sneak off, or some would have gotten downright belligerent. 


But as Seniors, all they wanted to know was if they could hang out outside my room in the little space where I keep my comfy chairs. So that's what they did. Hung out. And laughed. And sang along to youtube videos. And laughed some more. "You know you'll miss us Mrs. Day," they kept telling me. 


And I will miss them. Because next year, I will have freshmen again....


And, yes. This is a senior boy.