School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-Eight

This week is a normal week, all things considered, with the exception of an early dismissal on Friday. Next week is normal-ish. The next next week is AIR testing for third grade, and the week after is spring break.

1209672515466464431johnny_automatic_boys_academy-svg-medI state that outright because I think, for a couple of weeks, I forgot why I started writing weekly round-ups. I want to be more reflective about my work. It benefits me in the present, because I can tinker and improve my practice and methods each week. But I hope it will benefit me in the future, if and when I get “stuck” on a particular skill or topic or just at a certain time in the school year. I want to be able to look back on my blog and compare next year with this year. “What did my students learn? Are my expectations of them this year reasonable? Are there things we glossed over, or things we need to more deeply dive into?” And so on.

Lessons: 
I had students continue to use Khan Academy for part of the lesson time, then transition to their choice of math game website, like Sumdog or Prodigy. Before transitioning, I discussed with individual students what they were working on with Khan Academy, how much time they had spent engaged, and what exactly they were doing – practices? Mastery challenges? Vidoes? Etc. I did this less because they needed support in the moment and more to show them that the coach’s dashboard allows me to see that information, in case I need to support them (or hold them accountable).

Support: Some of the desktops in the computer lab hop on to alternate wireless networks instead of our default one. I log in as admin and I change the preferred networks but they keep reverting. It’s frustrating.

Things I Did Well: 
I think I had a good attitude this week. There were a few times we had to play “substitute shuffle,” everyone’s favorite challenge of making sure we have sufficient staffing. There was a professional development day for one whole grade level of teachers this week, plus an IEP release day, plus some illnesses are still going around (at the very least, they’re tracking cases of flu and strep in the school district). At least once I was pulled to teach a different subject than I usually do. Another time I was warned in advance that my flexibility might be needed, but it turned out I wasn’t. Still, I was ready for it. I made sure my tasks got done in a timely manner without waiting til the last minute. (For example, I’m working on getting the yearbook together now instead of waiting til almost the deadline, like last year.) I also want to have a good attitude about this kind of thing because my principal tries her best to let people know with as much of a heads-up as possible, and I want to demonstrate my appreciate for that.

Things I Will Do Better: Nothing! I’m perfect! Mwahahaha!

Nope, that’s not quite right. It was really noticeable to me this week how I tend to peter out on Fridays, especially Friday afternoons. What can I do to support myself being equally present for my students at 2:30pm on a Friday as I am at any other time of the week?


Cold Prickly: 
The sicks are still going around.

Warm Fuzzy: This thing that happened.

School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-Seven

Lessons: This week went more smoothly than last week. I got students using Khan Academy again. I used Khan Academy quite a bit last year, actually because I was asked to present about it at a professional development. But this year it seemed like a lot of work, especially compared to websites and resources that were easier to sync with Google Classroom. Then… Khan Academy enabled teachers to import their Google Classrooms. Sweet! It was so much faster to set kids back up this way. The kids even like it a little better than last year, because we’re starting so late in the year, they’re breezing through the things they’ve already learned. I like Khan Academy for a lot of reasons. I like that it allows me to see how much time students are actually engaged on the site, so I can verify who’s likely goofing off. I like that it allows students to state, “I haven’t learned this” or see a hint. I like that it doesn’t let kids exit and start a mastery challenge all over again – it saves their work. (That last one is because some students have perfectionist tendencies and want to get every answer right on the first try – but that’s not a reasonable expectation to have of oneself at all times.)

Support: We use an online instructional system that has lately caused struggle with Google Chrome. It’s especially a frustration for teachers whose students use older Mac laptops that were reimaged to run like Chromebooks. The system is aware of how the browser issues play out and are trying to support school districts who use it. It’s the kind of thing where you have the first thing to try; if that doesn’t work I have a second, or even third thing to try; and if those don’t work, then I reach out for help. I actually taught a third grader how to do the first thing, and he showed his homeroom teacher. So now I’m thinking I could find a couple of students in every class and train them up in some troubleshooting steps, to help out their teachers and classmates.

Things I Did Well:
 I actually had another genuine sick day (slight fever), and the Google Classroom lessons apparently went slightly askew. But, the students are now familiar enough with it that they were able to tell the sub, “If the lesson doesn’t work, this is the backup plan.” (It’s in a Google Doc in the “About” section of Google Classroom.) And the sub trusted enough to go along with it. So I will have to make up a couple lessons for next week, but I’m really proud of my students!

Things I Will Do Better: In reference to the above paragraph, I need to triple check my Google Classroom lessons are posted, er, correctly when I’m sick. Foggy head led to unclear directions. This is why we hate making sub plans!

master-sword-2002961_1280Cold Prickly: My spouse is going out of town this weekend to see our niece and nephew in a play. I couldn’t go because I made a commitment on my side of the family. I’m sad I’ll be missing this.

Warm Fuzzy: A video game I’ve been looking forward to just game out on a new system. So, even though I’m on my own for most of the weekend, at least I get to spend that time with a guy named Link in a land called Hyrule.

School Week Round-Up: Twenty-Six

Lessons: I had the kind of week where the same lesson succeeded among some classes and bombed among others. I think I really need to start doing better differentiation for some of my more challenging groups of kids. They’re challenging because they have different needs and interests, and I need to make the effort to meet them where they are. This does not make them inherently worse students, and it doesn’t mean I don’t want to teach them. I don’t know why I felt like I needed the disclaimer. There’s something in me that needs to state it and read myself stating it.

Support: I’m struggling with a colleague’s request of me, not because it’s particularly difficult. It’s because I don’t see the point of it. She wants students to print out five or so pictures of their subjects for their timelines for the upcoming Wax Museum. (When she originally asked, I could have sworn she said three, not five.) I guess I don’t find printing out photos to be particularly impressive, and not a transformative use of technology in learning. It’s a lot of work for something that’s DOK 1. It would be more interesting for students to create their own — I think I just had an idea. Maybe there is still time!

Things I Did Well:
 I successfully kept all grizzly bears away from school, without resorting to the use of firearms at all!

Things I Will Do Better: I am challenging myself to differentiate better, which will involve more time-consuming and thoughtful prep.

Cold Prickly: Well, first let’s re-visit the issue of HB 49 from last week. Someone named Elizabeth from my house representative’s office did call me back, this past Tuesday. She and I talked about the bill and the overall political attitude towards teachers in the state. She said that she couldn’t speak to what the executive branch is thinking or feeling (as that’s the origin of the bill), but my rep doesn’t want externships to be burdensome for teachers renewing their licenses. She said another rep, Andrew Brenner of Delaware County (chair of the Education and Career Readiness Committee), planned to introduce an amendment speaking to the particular passage I asked about. I have also seen news coverage of people reacting to the passage; Elizabeth said it’s an issue their office has heard about from a lot of constituents.

So while I am partially reassured, I’m still guarded and feeling alert in regards to this. I will be paying attention.

Warm Fuzzy: Just thinking about our school nurse, our counselors, our climate specialists, our cafeteria aides, our bus drivers, our custodians, our parent volunteers, our community supporters… they do so much! They make such a big, positive difference in our school.

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School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-Five

Lessons: I left school early one day this week to go to immediate care. A colleague took over one of my classes. I thought it would be fine, since it was one of the routine AIR test preps we do. But, I guess there are things that are normal in the computer lab that I take for granted, that really throw off other people. My colleague thought things went terribly! She told me she felt like a failure! Sure, she didn’t do things the way I do them, but she isn’t me. But wow. Really reminds me of how much I take for granted, that comes easily to me, but not to others.

Support: I’m going to start at the end: the people who are designated Google admin for our district can shut down the ability to install extensions on Chrome for student accounts. Okay, now the beginning. I have several students who had repeated issues on Chromebooks: they were slow as molasses. Turned out, they had installed several untrustworthy Chrome extensions. Some were intentionally, for changing the theme on Chrome. Others were pop-up ad extensions that probably gave themselves permission to install when students unwisely searched for Five Nights at Freddy’s or something like that.

Things I Did Well:
 Better time management.

Things I Will Do Better: Even better time management!

Uncomfortable Emotions: Instead of Cold Prickly/Warm Fuzzy this week, I am just… having emotions I wish I wasn’t. First, there’s a paragraph on page 1056 in HB 49 that is getting shared a lot between educators on social media. I called my Ohio state senator’s office, and chatted with someone named Anna about it. Thanks, Anna! She told me that it probably won’t make it to the Senate until April, and that it will likely change a lot before then, but their office will keep an eye on it. Then I called my house representative’s office. Well, actually I accidentally re-dialed my senator’s office – sorry Erica! Then I actually did call my house rep, and left a voicemail. They didn’t get back to me. I called again today… and left another voicemail. I have questions and I would like to hear what my rep has to say to them. I am grateful for Anna and Erica in my senator’s office, though.

Also, this week (especially as it was an AIR test-style prompt week in the computer lab) the topic of assessing writing on standardized tests was much talked about this week. There are so many things to consider and to balance – did the student answer a question correctly? Did they cite evidence? Did they write a decent answer, but it doesn’t answer the question? And then, while in the waiting room for immediate care… I happened to catch a particular press conference. I am so disappointed that we seem to be holding eight-year-olds to higher standards of clarity and communications than we do our highest elected official. I hate this.

Our district had a chat earlier this week (optional); the topic was “love of teaching” (get it? because Valentine’s Day?). The second or third question was, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I stopped participating because I’m really struggling with that question right now. Gosh, I can’t even see five years into the future. I love the parts of teaching that I love, and I hate the parts of teaching that I hate (the parts that don’t feel as much like teaching). And I know this is a problem I would face in any other career, really. I think it’s a pretty normal struggle to have, actually, in a lot of aspects of life. In the short term, it’s time to re-listen to an episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast. In the medium term, I will be making time for reflection and productive reaction. And in the long term? Time will tell.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/507930318/507930414

School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-Four

February feels difficult. It is cold, lots of people get sick, and it’s still weirdly busy with extracurriculars.

Lessons: I got to play gym teacher this week. Turns out, that’s a pretty hard job! The gym teacher was sick for two days, and one of those days he didn’t have a sub. If this happens to another specialist, he usually doubles up on the classes and has a gym class twice as big. So I did the same for him, combining both our classes in the gym since I only have so many seats in the computer lab. Luckily, I had recently bought a megaphone (because it turns out I really like chanting); without it, I would have lost my voice by the end of the day, surely.

Support: My new favorite thing is to make Google Sites to serve as research hubs for student projects.

Things I Did Well:
 I’m going to give myself credit for not actually getting very sick this week. Felt like I came pretty close, though. 

Things I Will Do Better: I was on an event committee this week and, despite being very passionate about the event, I did not take a lot of initiative to get things done. I followed directions just fine, but a lot of the work of these kinds of things is to actually come up with ideas and solutions, then delegate. I want to do better for the next event committee I’m a part of, I want to take more off of other teachers’ shoulders.

Cold Prickly: Just dragging, physically. Today is Saturday. I slept in. I went to breakfast with my in-laws. And already I want to go back to bed. I’m exhausted.

Warm FuzzyLast night, we had our Parkway Hearts Dance (the event I was on the committee for). I love to dance, and I love dancing with lots of kids. I mostly danced with first graders and students’ younger siblings. I think the second and third graders have started feeling self-conscious, or are just not that into dancing with their overly enthusiastic technology teacher. But gosh, it was fun.

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I really must learn how to juju on a particular beat.

School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-Three

I meant to post at least once more this week. I did not do well on the self-motivating.

Lessons: I had my second formal observation this week. I think it went well. Mostly, it’s just nice not have that hanging over my head. And, I’m glad we did it when we did it. I was observed Tuesday, with first graders working on Google Drawings/Sheets. On Wednesday, our internet connectivity went all spotty and I had to go with a backup activity. So, thank you schedule gods for that!

Support: I actually did end up taking a sick day this week, but it took one coworker several hours to notice. I had my work laptop at home, and she was sending me emails about issues I was having. I kept up until we bumped up against one I couldn’t fix remotely. That was when she realized I wasn’t in the building.

Things I Did Well: 
I thought I did a pretty good job being flexible during lessons, especially as it was the type of lesson this week where some kids finished right away, and some kids took a lot of time. Somehow we didn’t end up with too much wasted time.

Things I Will Do Better: Keep track of important things. Outside of school, I lost my wallet. But, I didn’t even notice. I only found out because my mother called me. The local police had contacted her (after being unable to find my contact information) to let me know they had my wallet. I must have left it at a restaurant or dropped it while walking home from the restaurant. Somebody found it and kindly dropped it in a mailbox so it found its way back to me before I even missed it. So, happy ending! Still, it shakes me a little. I don’t want to get into a habit of irresponsibility.

Cold Prickly: Betsy DeVos.
bitmoji35935645Warm FuzzyA student asked me to sit with him at lunch. I had noticed in the lunch line that he was really struggling with the behavior of another student who was annoying him. While we ate together, he told me that he can feel when he starts to lose his temper, and he sometimes loses control and might punch or hit someone. The kid across the table told him that when he gets really mad at his brother, he runs upstairs and puts his face in a pillow. So we talked about different ways we could handle anger. We can’t change the behavior of other people, but we can still make good choices for ourselves.

School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty

So, this was a choppy week. Today was a teacher work day, so no students; earlier this week we had a snow day. So it was a three day week for kids, and those three days were not consecutive. Always a treat.

20170112_183237Lessons: Because of the choppiness of the week, lessons went a little funky monkey. I think I did different things with every second and third grade class. But, I did hit on a first grade lesson that went so well, I’m pretty sure it’s what I would leave for a sub in the future. I picked three videos from Art For Kids Hub on Youtube, and posted them in Google Classroom. I provided students with pencils and papers, and they chose a video to watch and draw along. After they were done, they could color their picture (I provided crayons). Then they could add more detail, or try another picture, or move onto a menu of sponge activities to soak up the rest of class time. I wanted to make sure students knew how to pause a video, replay a video, move forward or backward in a video, and so on. I also wanted to use the crayons that never seem to get used in a computer lab. Kids “got” it with minimal fuss or directions, and it wasn’t so tech-heavy that a sub would be totally lost. I used the cartoon butterfly, cartoon octopus, and cartoon pegasus videos. Butterfly was easy to do, octopus was medium (more detailed), and pegasus was most challenging (no symmetry). I also chose those three because they could be any color kids wanted; I expected there’d be fights over yellow crayons if I’d posted the cartoon banana. I’m curious about their easy origami videos too.

Support: I got a Donors Choose project funded (my first!) so this week I was able to distribute 6-port desktop chargers plus lightning cables to teachers who got hand-me-down iPads to use in their classrooms, but not enough chargers to go with them. Plus, the multi-port chargers are going to be so much more convenient for teachers and students, since they don’t have to choose between which devices to charge.

Things I Did Well: 
I have been fine-tuning my last RESA task that I need to pass. It’s not due anytime soon, but I don’t want to leave it til later and stress about it. I feel like I’ve worked really hard on it. If I manage to fail at it this last time, then perhaps this just isn’t where I should be right now in my life.

Things I Will Do Better: I feel like this week was a little experimental, lessons wise. I kind of put out some ideas and strategies to kids without being fully invested in all of them. I wanted to pay attention to how things played out. I know some elements need to be tweaked, and one of them is my own engagement with the students and the content.

Cold Prickly: I’m glad it’s a three day weekend, because I think I’ve got a cold coming on.

Warm FuzzyIs it wrong to admit how excited I am about the Nintendo Switch?

School Week Round-Up: Week Nineteen

We are back from winter break, which makes me happy, mostly. I’ll miss sleeping in every day, but I missed my students more!

Lessons: For the most part, students finished their activities from the week before break. In some cases, students hadn’t got to start it, because of the wifi being down and because we didn’t have school on Friday that last week.

Support: Printers start acting up for such mysterious reasons. No one ever seems to witness the actual moment that they stop working. They just seem to walk into the problem. That’s fine though. It makes me feel more like a detective when I find and solve their issues. (Aside to upstairs: the staple cartridge thing was my bad, sorry.)

Things I Did Well: 
We got back into the swing of things pretty smoothly. The classroom feels almost as comfortable to me as my home does.

Things I Will Do Better: .My time management was not on point this week; I stayed at work late three nights out of four spending my time and effort in the wrong places.

Cold Prickly: Not strictly school-related, but last night my spouse got up at least five times during the night to vomit. First order of business this morning was to1325627622728677631sick20bird-svg-med go to the store and get saltines and ginger ale. The poor dear! And yet, in the back of my mind, if I catch what he’s got, I will be very unhappy about it. A coworker asked me this week if I had missed a day of work yet this school year. I have taken half-day absences scheduled around my non-teaching times to avoid relying on subs, but I haven’t taken an entire day yet this year. I have a personal day coming up soon, though. But I would hate to take a sick day before I get that personal one in!

Warm FuzzyOther side of that token, I was talking about Google Classroom with another teacher. She mentioned that the fourth and fifth grade teachers in another building barely leave any lesson plans anymore, because they can put their lessons on Google Classroom where students access it directly. By now, all my students, even my first graders, are accustomed to the routine of logging in and accessing the day’s activity on Google Classroom. Plus, I can schedule lessons to post at just the right times. So, if I do catch my spouse’s sickness, I don’t think I’ll need to stress as much as I used to over my sub lesson plans.

(No) School Week Round-Up

This week was a break, that lovely end of the year confluence of major winter holidays. Hooray, hooray, hooray! It has been incredibly relaxing. Obviously, I can’t write my normal weekly round-up, because we had no school. No lessons, no tech support issues. Wins and losses, perhaps, but of a distinctly more personal nature. For example, I took charge of the matching family pajamas this year. I began conspiring with my mother and sister-in-law in November to order t-shirts and jammie pants from a vendor local to me, printed with our family crest on the shirts and our name down one pant leg.

I have a large immediate family, so rather than everyone buying gifts for everyone else (which would devolve into an expensive, time-consuming hassle), we do a family Secret Santa facilitated by DrawNames.com.  This year, I got my youngest sister, who participated for the first time. I got her a sweatshirt of the university she currently has her sights set on (Tulane, but she’s got three years left of high school so who knows if she actually ends up there); plus some of those pickle-flavored candy canes. (She loves pickles.) My brother’s wife, Brittany, got me. She got me a few years ago, too, and she knocked it out of the ballpark with pencils engraved with my last name that I still have in my classroom. Pencils with the teacher’s name are like boomerangs, because no matter how far away they go, they still end up coming back to you. This year she outdid herself, though: she conspired with my spouse to send and set up a child’s wading pool filled with potato chips. CHAAAAPS!

Another good thing of this season is that my first Donors Choose project got fully funded! The items I asked for will be arriving in January. I’m very excited. I asked for cords and charging stations, since our school received hand-me-down devices from other buildings but didn’t have enough cords and accessories to charge them. The new accessories will make it much easier for teachers to keep devices charged for use in classrooms, rather than remembering to unplug some devices in order to plug in others, and so on.

So not only is today the end of the week, it’s also the end of the year. I intend to go into 2017 with open eyes, clear head, and full heart. Let’s go!

School Week Round-Up: Week Eighteen

WE MADE IT TO WINTER BREAK!

Lessons: I used this activity from from Eric Curts for most lessons this week. The kids really enjoyed it, once they got the hang of it! They had done clicking and dragging before, and they had added images to Slides before, but copying and pasting from one slide to another was a new trick for them. Once they got it, though, they really got it.

Here are just a few that got done:

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Support: This past week I came across this piece written from the perspective of an NPR IT specialist. It touches really well on my support struggle from last week.

Almost everyone I’ve ever helped through a computer crisis has been in that frame of mind, and in more than a few cases fixing the computer problem was much less challenging than fixing the user.

….

Not everyone can be a technical expert, but if you’re going to trust the important pieces of your life to a computer, you owe it to yourself to know the basics of how it does all the wondrous things you wouldn’t want to live without. To do otherwise invests those magical black boxes with more power than they deserve. And it leaves you open to being prey for people who don’t mind exploiting your ignorance for their own gain.

To me, it’s always better to understand why doing something a particular way is the right way — rather than doing it just because you’ve been told it’s the right way.

Michael Czaplinski’s job is to help people with the problems that they have with their technology, whether that problem originates with the technology or with the user. The way I see it, my job is to teach the “magic” – the how and the why the technology works, and what you need to know to work well with it. I want my students and colleagues to become the wizards, or at least know enough to trust only the wizards wearing pants under their robes. (I like this metaphor. It makes me feel like Professor McGonagall from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry).

Also fun, on the last day of school before break started (the day when many teachers are showing movies while students enjoy hot cocoa and cookies as a reward for cleaning out their desks and lockers) our building’s wi-fi went down. And not just our building’s, a couple other buildings in the district were affected. The IT guys spent hours working on it, to no avail. Our improvisation skills were tested!

As for me, I had to do a test-like task with third grade that we missed last week during our snow day. The assignment was on Edcite and sent out to students on Google Classroom… well, at least it was supposed to be. Without internet, that wasn’t happening. Luckily, I had printed out a blank master copy for some reason. I made copies for students, gave them pencils, and had them go at it old school style. It wasn’t ideal, but neither would be waiting until January to do this task… we already have another similar tasked scheduled for then! To their credit, not a single student complained about having to use pencil and paper instead of the computers. Santa, if you’re reading, Mrs. Dawson’s third graders from Parkway Elementary probably each deserve an extra treat this year!

Things I Did Well: 
Improvising. Always, after, I come up with so many other possible solutions I could have run with. But, in a time crunch, I came up with some solutions that I was able to pull off. So did things go perfectly? No. But sometimes “good enough” has to be good enough.

Things I Will Do Better: I was not able to help everyone to their satisfaction this week.

Cold Prickly: This kept coming up in my brain while the wi-fi is down. (For all I know, it’s still down.)

Warm FuzzyOne of the bus drivers is truly a light. (The other bus drivers are probably also very nice, but I usually take the same kids out to the same bus at the end of the day, so I know for a fact that that particular bus driver is the absolute best.) A school bus driver deals with a lot of difficulties — class management, but on wheels! — in addition to weather and traffic hazards. They are not compensated the way I wish they were. It’s a challenging job. So, for a bus driver to be someone else’s light at the end of the day astounds me! She’s got a smile on her face, always, and I hope we help it stay there.