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 https://www.remind.com/  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:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Open Letter to My Classes

Dear Scientists,

Teaching is hard. There are moments when you just want to curl up in a corner and cry. However, I would never do anything else! It is the best job in the world. I am in my 4th year of teaching, and it has not gotten easier. Everyday, I have 90 minutes to help young scientists become the best versions of themselves every other day. Which is a lot of pressure. But, the young scientists that I see are worth every minute of my hard work.

Things I have learned from my scientists this year:

  • Teacher's can talk too much and it is better to let the student's do the talking
  • It is better to let the student's teach each other, than for me to teach them
  • That sometimes I may need to slow down and talk slower in class
  • If I am excited, then the scientist's will be excited
  • Being goofy and myself in front of you is good!
  • It is not always easy to be brave, have integrity and be kind. But many of you do it everyday! And sometimes, I do not give you enough credit for that. 
  • Just because you are talking in class, does not mean you are off topic.
Sometimes I do get frustrated with you. That is because you are not showing your PRIDE. I know that a lot of times you think, what do you know Mrs. Wangeman you are just a teacher. But, if you only knew how many nights I lose sleep over you.. Yes, you! The one reading this post! I lose sleep because I want to help you be better, show your PRIDE and give your best. I have come to realize that the only person who can change you is you. That is right. Not your parents,  and not me. You are the only one that can chose your path. I want the best for you, but more importantly you need to want what is best for you!  That is the one lesson I hope you take away from my class this year. Just because you will leave my classroom, all too soon, does not mean I will not be there for you. If you ever need anything you know where to find me!