Is it me?

Here we are, a month into school and at the end of the day I drop into a chair in the school office while sighing with relief.  I adore the kids in my class, I really do.  They are so wonderful, each in their little person ways.  Yet, I am terrified about all that I haven’t gotten to.  I look around at how some teachers are ahead of me by whole chapters.  These students are a chatty, chatty, wild little bunch; I spend half the day bringing their attention back to the lesson.  Then I read the tale of a teacher in the The Sisters weekly tip.  She talks about trying little by little to have her students work independently and when she “turned her back” for just a second, the class became unglued.  It really helped me!  It let me know, it is not just my class.  I will get them there and I will catch up.  I look forward to them working independently and maybe then I can begin small group and individual work again!

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Tinkering in education

While tinkering in education sounds as though we are just dabbling in the art of educating, it refers to the “tinkering” that is now a part of our Web 2.0 world.  Web 2.0 refers to the “new” world wide web where users are pushing the content.  It is a daily feed of thoughts and creation by the users of the http://www.  This week, we were asked to use GoogleDocs as a tool for working as a team with a partner to create a lesson where students would be able to use the tool to create a document.  In a previous blog, I had mentioned some of my thoughts regarding using GoogleDocs in this way.  I had previously used it for a group assignment in a class myself and it was fantastic.  It allowed us to create a document and presentation together without losing work and being able to see the progress made.  We were able to do this without face-to-face meeting.  Which in the views of some, could be a downside.  Yet, as we were all adults who had email addresses and no concerns about potential thwarting of our social skills growth by not meeting face-to-face, again, it worked great for us. Continue reading

To use or not to use…

This week in my online class, we were asked to review some of the technologies we have used over the course of the first few weeks.   When I was finished, I thought it made sense to put that information here as well. I am sure as I go along I can find some place to include this and add to it, creating a usable review format for others.  Until then, grab a cup of coffee and skip the parts you don’t want to read. *For those in the class, sorry if you are seeing this twice.

A classmate mentioned that GoogleDocs saves the issue of the ever forgotten flash drive.  He also asked the question of kids really being interesting in blogging if it isn’t for social reasons.  I agreed that GoogleDocs and GoogleReader are great! I used GoogleDocs for a group project & presentation last semester. It doesn’t get much easier than that for 6 people who have jobs in schools and families to produce a document and presentation, all having input and not losing any of the work. I nearly forgot how wonderful it is until this school year when I left my flash drive sitting in my computer at work. I digress; for your sake, I will address each technology independently.  Do not hold me to high writing standards on this one though, as time doesn’t permit for perfect publishing. Continue reading

Schooled! AGAIN!?!

When people ask questions about my own kids like, “Where will they go to school?”  I have learned to say, “I really won’t know until it happens.”  My reason- It seemed over the years every time I said something, especially with regard to my kids’ education, I was WRONG!  It happened completely differently.  Not one of my children was going to attend full-day kindergarten!  I was dead certain.  Yes.  You know where this is going.  For various reasons, not one of which was my going back to work, all of my children were enrolled, one after another, into full-day kindergarten.

It has happened AGAIN!  But this time, with my other kids.  Those in my classroom.  Since I began giving presentations in schools years before going back to “teacher school,” I have had a growing aversion to hand symbols put in the air prompting students to come to attention and stop talking.  At school after school, teachers and support staff put hands in the air and slowly, VERY SLOWLY students began to follow suit.  I watched horrified as 5, sometimes 10, minutes passed.  It felt as though the students all saw the hand symbol and treated it as their cue not to stop immediately and give attention, but to finish their important conversations with peers before maybe looking quietly at the person standing next to the principal who was waiting to begin.  HORRIFYING TO ME!  Call me old-school, but I decided then, “NO!” In my classroom, when I needed the attention of the students, I was not going to wait for them.  They were to learn to immediately respond respectfully to the instructor in the room.

Depending on the time of day, class and where we are, I sometimes use a small bell, a 5-second countdown, clapping rhythms, or sayings to quiet my class, get their attention, give direction and transition to our next activity/lesson.  Yet, the end of the first week of school I stood with an aide in my room and mentioned my amazement that sometimes the minute the students stop the clapping rhythm, they just turn to their classmates and continue talking.  I attributed it to the first week of school.  These little first graders are just learning how to behave in my room. They will adjust accordingly.  When the aide mentioned the hand symbols and I relayed my annoyance at them- WOW was she GOOD!  More evidence she works well with students with special needs.  She just nodded her understanding and quietly mentioned favoring the message the “quiet coyote” symbol sends to students as it concurs with research that students this age are programmed to still respond more quickly to visual as opposed to audio cues.  SCHOOLED!!

There it was!  I had just been SCHOOLED as my own kids say.  I can’t be certain of the meaning of this urban lingo as it is called, but if I had to guess a definition, it was what just happened to me.  DUH!  I knew that!  We teach kids to use pictures in addition to words to understand the meaning of stories.  We use visual lessons to support auditory per Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  I feel like I got hit by a flying dunce cap!  I realize after not being able to get her one simple, direct, and incredibly correct statement out of my head for the last 24 hours, that my aversion is not to the visual symbol provided to students in order to get their attention.  It was their reaction to it; likely, what I was seeing had to do more with the expectations and enforcement of it. Students took their good ol’ time complying and they were by no means first graders during the first week of school!

So, here I am.  I have looked up and made my own sign for our new classroom symbol, the “quiet coyote,” which includes expectations.  That does not mean I will not continue to use the other methods that have so far been tried and true for me in the last 2 years I have been in other classrooms.  It also does not mean that I will not transition away from using this symbol later in the year as the kids grow.  But for now, I have been reminded of the one thing I actually DID KNOW starting this year. There is SO MUCH MORE for this teacher to learn.  Later, I’ll let you know if this teacher regains some of the voice she lost this first week while she rests it when using our new classroom hand symbol.

Really? This wasn’t in Teacher School!

There are so many times I just dump myself in the door of the Principal’s office and say, “Help! They didn’t teach this in the Teacher School.”  It is not uncommon to have the experience that the “on-the-job training” is so much different then what was learned in the classroom.  Teaching is no exception.  There is so much to know in teaching that they could not possibly teach you in the classroom- unless you never want to progress from student to teacher.  But there are a few things, some seemingly funny, others as serious as trying to help that struggling 6-year old to read, that I swear someone secretly didn’t tell us in order to laugh like the Joker when we learned it.  Some of those things I hope to include here.

Most of us have bought that First Year of Teaching for Dummies only to think later that we were the dummies for thinking we’d have time to read it.  Either way, we are all in this together.  The face of education is changing and it is as important as it has ever been.  We have loads of kids who could blow us right on by if only they could read and someone cared enough to help them get their homework done.  We want to be that person and if we work together, as they say, divide and conquer, maybe we can get it done.