Sunday, September 10, 2017

My Biggest Fear

Fear is the number one thing that stops us from doing something. If we think we are going to fail then we tend not to try. I have two fears that I am working on conquering this year:

  • I fear that I won't help each of you grow into better people.
  • I am worried that I won't pass Officer Candidate School and become a 2nd Lieutenant. 
So, I have two choices. I can let this fear stop me, or I can face it head on. Every day I come to class I want to challenge you to do your best. I only have 9 months to help you develop your passions. Which may seem like a long time to you, but it is a short time. We have 9 months to learn together and to help you become independent young adults. I will conquer these fears by working hard and being determined. Letting my fear control me does not help me reach my goals.

I fear that I will let you down. You are the future of our community. One day you may be my doctor, or an engineer building bridges that I drive on. When you leave my classroom is it my job to make sure that I gave you every opportunity to learn. Every day we need to face our fears. They can not stop us from reaching goals.
Below post on a fear you hope to conquer this year or one goal that you have:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Teach Any Topic in 2 Days

There is never enough time! Every educator has a similar compliant. It is the chief excuse given when teachers are asked to try new teaching strategies. There isn't enough time! And I agree! This is why we have come up a way to teach any topic in two days. This strategy was inspired by this article from Edutopia.  It is a three station system. Each station last 20 minutes which fits into our 47 minute class period. The first day you introduce expectations, and divide students intro three groups. My co-teacher and I work together to fit these three stations within both of our classrooms.

Station 1: This is direct instruction. Students will have a traditional style lecture, with note-taking and a demonstration. We do this to facilitate students in note-taking and listening skills, which are life long skills they will need.

Station 2: Edpuzzle. If you have not checked out Edpuzzle then you need to! It always you to pick videos for students to watch. You can edit the videos to include questions that students have to answer, and students can not skip through the video either!

Station 3: This is a short hands on lab that we will do. It is something that takes about 20 minutes. This helps to hit on the hands on learners. It can be inquiry based or more structured.

Station 1 and 3 require most of the teacher's attention. While station 2 is student led. We split the laptops between our two classrooms so half of the students on computers are in my room while the other half are in my teaching partners. This allows use to more easily monitor the students on the computers while we are doing station 1 or 3.

How do I know it works? Well our data tells us!

And we often hear comments like this!

This strategy has worked well for us and I hope that you find similar success! Leave comments with any questions or if you would like more detailed lesson plans. If you try it let me know how it works out! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fancy Teaching Strategies Don't Matter

When you follow teachers on twitter there is always some new trend. From #Ditchtextbook #GameBasedLearning, #BreakoutEDU, Project Based Learning, flexible seating and getting rid of the teacher's desk. It can be overwhelming. Then I realized something. Honestly, none of that matters! Your students could care less if you had a teacher's desk or you have cool new furniture in your classroom. I am not saying that those are bad things. I am saying that those things do not make a great teacher. There is only one main thing that your students care about:

I am not saying that the above listed strategies are not effective. But, they are not effective if your students don't think you care about them. Any teacher that cares about their students will of course try anything to help their students learn. But, we have all seen teachers try different strategies and not be successful. Then they complain about how promoting student choice and creating autonomous learners is a waste of time. The students are too lazy, too immature, or a myriad of other excuses about why students are failures in their classroom. The solution is easy. The first step is for students to know that you care. And since as an educator you care, you will do everything that you can to find a way to engage all students in your class in learning. Which will lead to you trying new strategies. As every teacher knows once you have a relationship with students there is no telling the amount of learning that they can accomplish! So, stop stressing out about trying every new strategy that you hear about! Relax. You are doing your best! You care, now just do your best everyday to show your students that you do care about them. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Why do I Teach?

You! You are the reason that I teach. I teach because there are scientists like you out there that walk into my classroom. Because, you are the future of my community. One day when I am old you will be in charge. That means that you will be the doctors, lawyers, engineers, political officials and anything else that you can imagine. So, when I am in class frustrated because we are taking too long getting materials out, or too busy talking, it is because I only have a year to learn with you! One year to help you become a better version of yourself.  One year to help shape the future of my community. We don't have time to waste! Our time together is much too valuable.

I teach because you matter. Yeah, I could make a lot more money doing something else. I have a degree in chemistry and have been offered much higher paying jobs. But, those jobs are not more important than you. Yes, you reading this blog. I teach because you are my future. And no amount of money is more important than that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blogging is Stupid

Blogging is stupid. That is what I thought up to about 2 months ago. I barely have time to update my Planbook  (a great online way to track what standards you teach) so, how do I have time to sit and write about what I do in my classroom, much less take time away from curriculum to have students blog in class? After one night of beer drinking and wing eating with  +George Couros (which is the best way to reflect upon teaching) I was determined to give this whole "blogging" thing a try. The next week I had students creating blogs and videos about how to comment on blogs appropriately. I am not going to lie, this whole time I was thinking that George was wrong and there was no way that this was going to work.

Well this blog is proof that I have to eat my words. Creating classroom blogs has been one of the best things that I could have done. It has created a level of transparency in my classroom, that I did not believe possible. Don't believe me? Here is what a couple of my parents said:
Blogging has allowed parents who work hard to support their students, to still be involved in the classroom. The response has been overwhelming positive. If you ever need a self-confidence booster, start having your students blog. I have gotten so much positive feedback from parents. However, we all know that teaching is not about us! It is about our kids.

What about the students?

Well, the students have gone above and beyond with their blogs. When they saw the first parents post on their blogs, they were hooked! Students who hated to write were fighting over who got to write the blog post for their group! All of a sudden I am taking myself out of the equation. Students and parents are communicating with each other directly. Here are some examples of how our blogs turned out:
Buffalo Bloggers
Science Squad
Spartan Blog Squad

Yes, middle school students are no longer saying that they did nothing in school! The blogs have provided a platform for parents to have topics to discuss at the dinner table (or while going through drive through to pick up dinner) with their scientists. That is powerful! Blogging has transformed my classroom into a true learning community. Parents included!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Don't Send Students to the Office

I don't send students to the office. This statement can have a couple of implications in the teaching world:

  1. Wow.. you must have crappy classroom management (I don't!)
  2. This must be the easiest class ever (It's not!)
  3. Your administrators must suck and not do anything (Which they do not!)
 Discipline is part of the student relationship building.  I have always handled classroom discipline myself. But I couldn't explain why until I heard @gcouros talk about it at a the #TIE16 conference in South Dakota. When I send a student to the office, I lose an opportunity to build a better relationship with my students. Students mess up. My job is to help them work through those moments and come out the other-side better for it. Why would I involve the principal in my relationship building with my students? It would be like involving my mother-in-law every-time my husband leaves the toilet seat up. That is a part of marriage. Discipline is a part of teaching. If I don't think the behavior problem is worth my time to correct, then why is it worth anyone else's time? 

Discipline also provides a great opportunity to collaborate with parents. Every-time I call home about a concern, it provides an opportunity for me to grow as a teacher. I ask them what I can do to better help their student learn. The answers won't just help their child, but expands my toolbox so I can help other students in the future. Don't let an opportunity to improve yourself slip through your fingers by letting your administration handle your discipline! 

This post is inspired by this article from Edutopia:
The Dances of Student Discipline

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Importance of Parents

Parents. To me they are some of the most over looked resources in education. I started my teaching career in Torrington, WY. If you ever want to feel like you are in Torrington simply grab some beets and cows, close your eyes and take a deep breath. As a young teacher in a small community I quickly realized that word can travel fast. Whether good or bad, your reputation and relationship with your students can depend a TON on your relationship with the parents. Since, then I have done several things to make sure I work to make my classroom more transparent for my parents.

I use  This allows me to communicate with parents through text message. And thanks to the great chat feature parents and students can reach me out of school hours. But, you can set office hours so you aren't getting texts at all hours of the day and night.

I make sure to call EVERY 108 of my students' parents with a positive phone call home within the first month of school. Yes, this is a lot of work, but it makes the rest of the year so much easier. They know you care about their scientist (that is what I call my students) and it makes tough conversations down the road so much easier!

We have a school twitter account, #spearfishms. This allows us to share out all of the great activities that our school does!

Respond to parents' emails and inquires in a timely manner. You would think that would be common sense, right?? But, it is not. So, often if you respond right away, the parents are so appreciative it makes the conversation much easier.

Go to all the events in your community you can! That is where relationships are built. You can talk about topics outside of school and build a great community for yourself! If you have a relationship with the parents, then it is easier to work together for what is best for your students. It builds trust.

My new adventure is having my students blog. We then are asking parents to comment on those blogs. This will allow parents with a 9-5 job to become more involved in the classroom. I believe @traceykracht calls them digital volunteers.

If you take the time to bring your parents into the classroom, I guarantee that you will notice the difference. We are all working so hard to make sure that their scientist turns out to be the best versions of themselves! Why would we keep parents out of our classrooms? One of my favorite quotes is, "It takes a village to raise a child." Make sure to utilize your village! Don't believe me? Just listen to one of my amazing parents: